The relationship I had with my grandfather was something else all together when compared with the one I had (or didnt have) with my grandmother. He and I were pals and we got along great.
As I mentioned in the last post you could usually find him sitting on the porch in his broken down chair drinking beer and telling stories of his life...usually his younger years. I was never able to learn whether he was telling the truth or just wishful thinking...but I loved his stories anyhow. They were colorful (language as well as use of adjectives) and I never got tired of hearing them.
Because my grandad was an alcoholic most of his life there are only a few occasions when I can remember going anywhere with him. My mother was very careful about that and made absolutely sure he hadnt been drinking before allowing me to go off with him. We'd get into his late model car, roll down the windows and head off down the road...generally keeping traffic backed up for miles as he never seemed to go much faster than 30 mph and for some reason never remembered to turn off the turn indicator. We'd have cars horning behind us in impatient outrage and he'd seemingly be completely oblivious to the road rage he was instigating behind him. While people were anxious to horn in frustration I dont personally remember anyone actually taking him on or gunning the engine and making a dangerous move to get around him...as they are so quick to do these days. We always had a good time together and I do sorely miss them.
I spent quite a lot of our vacation time on the porch with my grandpa...in his garden (while still able to get around he loved his garden) or just shuffling down the road going nowhere in particular....and always talking. When he'd been drinking more than usual I never really understood the things that might come out of his mouth...but now when I think about it I realize he was just as bitter and angry as my grandmother about his "wasted" life and failure to make something of it....but that anger only seemed to come out with the helping hand of alcoholic lubrication. I didnt see it often when I was with him.
Gramps loved to go fishing and we loved going fishing with him. Oklahoma has some pretty fishing holes and plenty of wildlife to look at while your busy not catching anything. I remember once sitting on a small out crop of rocks and was surprised and scared silly to see a cottonmouth snake come slithering out into the water. We all knew the dangers of snakes in that area and this was a bad one as far as snakes go...so imagine my amazement to see gramps calmly stride over, grab the thing matter of factly and hurl it off across the water...then calmly walk back to his fishing. Most people dont believe me when I tell that story but all I can do is tell it the way I saw it...believe it or not. Mom said he was probably drunk and didnt know what he was doing, didnt realize the dangers, but I dont recall seeing gramps drinking that day as he usually didnt when out with us...only at home while sitting on the porch for the most part. I prefer to think of him as my non-drunk hero...sigh.
One thing that stands out more clear than anything else in my childhood was grampas choice of clothing. As you can see from the pic he nearly always wore overalls...I can hardly remember a day that he didnt have them on. He'd get holes in them and demand my grandmother mend them...it was one thing he seemed adamant about her doing despite her protests. He wanted his overalls mended and that was that. She usually did it...complaining the whole time.
Ive loved writing stories my whole life...started when I was old enough to know I could...and I wrote a story about gramps and his overalls while in my senior year of school writing class. I got an A on that paper and my teacher read it out loud to the class...something she hadnt done with other stories up to that point. In my high school year book she signed it saying..."I will always remember your Old Overalls"...which was the name of the story.
As I mentioned in the last post...the last time I seen gramps he was nearly in tears about us leaving early due to grammas constant complaints about everything....mostly me. He tried to talk mom into staying...followed us out into the driveway promising everything would be fine...to ignore her cause she was "crazy" and not let the vacation be ruined cause of it. Mom wasnt listening in her intent to get away. She had had enough and we were gone with barely a hug and whispers of goodbye. I still remember gramps scratchy beard and extra hard hug...promising to see me next time.
I never seen gramps again. I left home and went into the military a few months later...then came to Bahrain. He died the first year I was here and of course I couldnt go to his funeral. When my mother called me and told me gramps had passed it was a feeling like no other. I already felt lonely and isolated here in Bahrain. I felt cut off from the family and all that was going on with them...and cause gramps and I had been so close...I was especially hard hit to have to suffer this grief alone.
A few weeks later I received a package from my mom. Inside was a cassette tape with grampa's funeral written on it. I listened to the tape and was completely overcome with emotion to realize mom had taped pertinent parts of the funeral for me. Gramps favorite song was playing in the back ground. People stood up and said their piece about him....and then something familiar came on...something that I had no idea had even made the trip to OK much less to gramps funeral. My cousin Diane was reading my story...the one I had written about gramps and his old overalls. She started out well enough but before too long she could barely get the words out...and I could hear everyone in the room crying or commenting in some way.
I was completely gutted...
My mom knew I was upset about his death and that I couldnt be there...so she had made sure I was there at least in some fashion....and it was the absolute right thing to do...I was both eternally grateful and overcome with emotion...both incredibly sad and insanely happy at the same time. That cassette was one of my most prized possessions for years...until in a fit of rage my (ex)husband shattered it and threw it away...calling it morbid to listen to a funeral again and again. Why do some people have absolutely no compunction to hurt in this way for no reason what so ever?
I find it strange that my gramps died back in 1988 and so had been gone for many years...but up until I was able to visit OK 6 years ago (before grammas death) knowing he was gone and believing it were two different things. Until I was able to visit his graveside and see his name written on a headstone was I able to finally believe in my heart that he was gone. It was a peaceful day for me somehow.
When my grandmother passed away after suffering a year and a half with Alzheimer's in which my mother cared for her up until her passing...I can honestly say that I didnt feel sad...I wasnt upset...it really meant nothing to me. I feel like an ogre for saying that but its the truth. I was very sad for my mother for losing HER mother...but for me it had no affect. This upset my mother to some degree...she WAS my grandmother after all...but we cannot manufacture grief if it isnt there...and it wasnt there for me.
Incidentally mom says that the last year of grammas life in which she suffered through the destructive deterioration of Alzheimer's gave her an insight into what her mother might have been like if life hadnt kicked her down so hard and made her an angry bitter woman. All though I never seen her myself Mom tells me that gramma died a sweet compliant woman that never complained or got upset with anything. Obviously it was the disease that had made her forget her life and her reasons for the anger etc...but my Mother was very happy that she had got to see what she hopes was her "real" mother. Im glad she was able to see that for her own peace of mind.
I miss my gramps and wish I had that funeral tape still...but I do have my memories...and those will do me just fine.