Crystal, over at http://boobsinjuriesanddrpepper.blogspot.com/ posted an entry about her grandparents, both still living but on the downward slide. They're struggling, as are many of our elders, to pay for their medication, their sustenance, their continued existence. Crystal's trying to help them raise funds to pay for their burial plots. Y'all, it's a shame that they should have to worry about where they'll rest. Really. No one should have to choose whether they'll eat today or pay on their plot. These two gave life to generations, are a part of the shared history of this nation, a generation that struggled to rebuild our country from its shaken foundations on up - so the least we as a people can do is let them know they'll rest easy when it's time. All six of you who read this, pop on over to Crystal's site and make a donation if you can. Given the financial stress we're under here, my own donation will be pathetically small, so maybe you can go bolster it with one of your own.
Meanwhile, I wrote her a comment, it started getting long, so I truncated it to post there and am now re-posting it here in full.
This is an incomplete tale...there's not enough room to tell it all. It's long enough, anyway.
My grandfather was the best thing about living with my grandparents when I was a kid. They had custody of me and my brother for four years when we were in our early teens, but before that we would often visit and stay with them for long stretches.
Papa was a man of habits. He woke in the morning, went out to feed the horses, had his breakfast (cereal with half milk, half cream, coffee, several cigarettes). He drove out to take care of any errands he had, and made the rounds of his cronies' homes. Came home and read the papers - The Sakonnett Times and the New York Daily News. Read the Reader's Digest if there was a new one. He'd sit and think, staring off into space, for hours. His chairs were shaped to him, and there were bald spots on the rugs from where his feet sat day after day, week after week, year after year.
After lunch, he would maybe mow the lawn, or go out again. Late afternoon, early evening, he drank scotch, smoked, and watched TV. I watched with him, sometimes. The Dukes of Hazard, Hee-Haw, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, the evening news. We never spoke, just watched, but it was cool.
When my tyrannical grandmother went out of town, he would have to reshape his schedule to accomodate us kids, although not by much. We were fairly free range, back then - it was a different world. My brother, as I recall, was fairly self-sufficient and spent as much time out of the house as he could. He had friends. I didn't. I'd leave in the morning, ride my bike down to Sakonnet Point for a sail, or to the beach to swim, or just ride around aimlessly. Sometimes I was gone all day, sometimes I came home and read, played in my room, or got in the way in the kitchen. On rare occasions I would try to be helpful to the housekeeper or the cook. Doesn't that sound pretentious? They had folks come clean every day, and someone to cook dinner on weeknights...catch Mimi doing housework! I liked to help them, and they were nicer to me than they had to be.
Once a week I had riding lessons, and when Mimi was out of town (which was often ) then Papa would have to drive me because it was too far to cycle. One summer, against Mimi's wishes, Papa arranged for me to have lessons from the daughter of one of his best pals - the much maligned Western style riding. Mimi hated that kind, thought it was for the lazy and the unskilled. Feh. She never had her ass in a saddle, as far as I know, but she knew all the snobs rode English so I had to as well. Papa thought I should know another style, and that was the most fun I'd ever had on a horse. Come to think of it...it still is. After lessons Papa and I would go to a local restaurant and indulge in the things she didn't allow - he'd have a double scotch and clam chowder, I would have a grilled cheese sandwich and mud pie. We were united in our conspiracy to commit gustatory larceny - I won't tell if you don't.
I was a lonely kid, too. Thank goodness for perceptive grandfathers. One summer he bought a little speedy boat and named it after me. He tried to teach me waterskiing...what a spectacular failure that was!! He was a boating man, always had something to motor out on...but those are more long stories for another time. He gave me a saddle and bridle...the saddle got stolen, but I still have that bridle, although I'm sure it would fall apart if I tried to use it for anything besides decoration. He was trying to tell me he loved me as best he could.
He got older, his body retaliated for all the years of drinking, smoking, and carousing when he was young...he had strokes and other health problems, and over ten years he failed to thrive. Well, really, he spent ten years coming to his end. I was moved out, by then, back with mum, but I visited when I could. I'd sit with him, listen to his stories about his mother's rose gardens, feel his frustration when he couldn't speak clearly, be understood. He was well-to-do, so he didn't have to worry about nursing care, medical expenses. There were nurses, home-health aides, medical equipment - nothing was spared. He never had to worry about where he would rest. For that, I am thankful. I wouldn't want to see someone I love so deeply caught up in such a sad concern. Maybe I'll write more about him another day. To this day, the sound of a Zippo opening takes me back to our times together. I have his every-day Zippo - it's the only tangible thing I got after he died, and it's all I wanted. I didn't care about his money or who would inherit it. That's never mattered to me...not about him or my other grandparents, or my parents...I don't care about that. I care about what I carry with me, the marks in the book of my life. He wrote with bold, sloppy, loopy strokes, and I will never forget his boyish grin, his eyes, his laugh, and the sound and smell of a Zippo lighter.
Almost twenty years later, I still miss him.
Crystal's story about her grandfather's watch made me think of all this, think of the Zippo, an ordinary thing that has extraordinary meaning. Thanks Crystal.
Thanks for the memories.
Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!
"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
For old quotes, look here.
For old quotes, look here.