Growing, Not Dying

Welcome to my insights, ponderings, and experiences. Hopefully they will enrich you in some small way, or at least make you laugh.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Memories of My Grandparents

When I was 8 years old I asked my parents to let me stay overnight with my paternal grandparents. They lived about an hour drive away. Although nice enough people, they weren't exactly "kid" people. Grandma was quiet and always bustling cleaning or cooking. Grandpa was jollier, but in a old man sit in a chair all day telling stories kind of way. I wanted to go because I wanted to learn about them, to have a memory of them.

When I got there I heard my Grandma say, "What am I suppose to do with a child all day? I have things to do!" She was rather nervous. She shouldn't have worried. It must have been a Friday 'cause Grandpa had to work all day and we had a picnic the next day with my family.

After Grandpa left Grandma told me I could color or play with the toys. The crayons were old and worn, each having several colors of wax flaked and stuck on. The books had been used by all my cousins for at least a decade. The "box" of toys was about the size of two large shoe boxes stacked on top of each other. The toys were old and dirty. My older sisters say they had looked that way as long as they can remember and Mom says she doesn't recall a time Grandma didn't have them. Fortunately, I had a better idea than used coloring books and worn toys.

"Grandma, tell me about when you were little."

"Oh, child, you don't want to hear that."

"Yes, I do." Then I asked a couple simple questions, like how many children were in her family. To this day I wish I had a recorder back then. She must of really needed someone to listen. It was a clear blue morning when she started. As she talked she sat down with her back to the window, facing me. If she slowed down a simple question got her steam going strong. The sky clouded over. She talked. A storm blew in, howling winds and buckets of rain. She talked. She was oblivious to it all. She went right on talking. The storm blew over and moved on. The sky cleared. She talked. I sat in rapt attention. Although I noticed the time and the storm I never moved, never interuptiong the world she was in. Even in the moment I felt sorrow I couldn't capture this and keep it forever. It was magic to she her living in her words.

Then it was over. Grandpa came home. She was upset she had "wasted" a whole day and "didn't even have dinner on the table." We had never even stopped for lunch. Grandpa was pretty easy going. He thought it would be more fun to take his granddaughter out for ice cream insted. We could have dinner when we go back. So "the old fool" and I set out.

We drove into town. Apparently the storm had been worse than I had realized. There were tree branches blown down in yards and debris all over the place. When we got to the ice cream shop it was closed. I have he impression it was out of business, but I was young and am no longer sure. Grandpa was suprised, but not upset. He didn't know of any place else in town to go. (It was a very small town.) So, we headed home for dinner, taking a different route back.

Grandpa was a natural talker. He was always telling some story or giving you some lecture. This time it was stories, the good kind you laugh through and want to hear again. As we were driving along down the country roads we came to an intersection where the earlier storm had washed some fence posts and other debris out into the road. There was room to drive around. In the middle of his story Grandpa stopped the car, got out and cleared the intersection. After he finished he got in and picked up his story as if nothing had happened. When he stopped to take a breath I asked him why he had done that. He looked suprised. "Well, someone has to clean it up." Then he went into another story. I never forgot that. To this day I stop to clear blown over garbage cans or other things off the street when I can.

My paternal grandparents are both gone now. I miss them but I am grateful for the good memories I have of them and the lessons they taught me.


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