I was the first grandchild on my paternal side. My grandparents on that side were 42/45ish when I showed up, just the right age to spoil me to no end. And my dad’s sister was 13, needless to say pictures show (and ok she has told me also) she thought I was pretty neat also.
My grandfather was born in 1923. He was the second born (first male) of five kids. As the story goes, he wanted to go out with my grandmother, but felt he was too old for her. Eventually, they did go out and marry and…I’m getting ahead of myself.
His father was Russell and I know very little about Russell. I met him, I know I did, as he did not pass until 1989 (Random fact for you, my dad’s grandfathers, Russell and the aforementioned Pa, died a day apart, odd that). 1930 census has Russell as a Telegraph Operator and 1940 has him as a farmer. That makes better sense to my brain as I mentally see him as a farmer.
My grandfather finished high school and started work in construction, all he while keeping an eye on the lovely Vivian, three years younger. In September 1942, he enlisted in the Army/Air Corps. Heading off to war, he proposed to my grandmother, and she followed him on a train the Texas to get married as he was there for basic training. She came back to Indiana and he headed to Europe to fly his first mission on D-Day as a bombardier. He survived the war but never spoke of it to me. My grandmother didn’t much either, though she loved to read books on history, WW2, biographies and everything she could find on the English Royal Family and the Kennedys.
When he returned, he worked construction, eventually becoming foreman on projects including many banks, office buildings and even some dorms on the Huntington University campus. I had a hard hat (he spraypainted it purple for me as I loved purple) that I wore when I visited the job site, granted I was only allowed in the trailer, but I thought I was quite something. He was a strong man due to his occupation. Always picking me up and holding me in one hand to bump my head on the ceiling until “Darrel put her DOWN” was heard. He and I would grin.
He always had change in his pocket along with his pocket knife. There was a general store two blocks from their house with glass jars of penny candy. We would walk up after dinner on weeks I stayed with them and I would take forever to spend the random change in his pocket (38 cents or 77 cents, it really made no difference, I think it was more about spoiling me and teaching me a little math), but he would never rush me.
He had no feeling in his ring finger on his left hand (I think it was left hand) because it was cut by a saw blade at one time (long before I came into the picture) the lumpy scar would fascinate me. Again, he never talked about it, just let me run my finger over the scar in fascination and wonder. I think of that sometimes when I see my own knee scar.
There was a Schoolhouse Rock song where they tossed these multiple dips of ice cream, and I was enthralled with this idea of more than one scoop of ice cream. I NEED many scoops of ice cream on one cone. He took me out to get a multi-scoop cone, THREE scoops. One of which was blue bubble gum. I ate like a little piggie and then threw up the whole thing. He cleaned me up, not a lecture to be seen. I have never eaten more than two scoops since then. (Another side note: my cousin who is about 18 years younger than I, told me one time that Grandpa took her to Kmart and they got Icees. When they took them to the table, she got the bottom of the cup caught on the table and the whole thing spilled. I said to her, did he get mad? And she said, nope just that accidents happen; we cleaned it up and he got me a new one).
When staying at their house, he and I would get up quite early. Me, because I was a kid full of excitement, staying with my grandparents and no parents around to enforce weird rules like no brownies for breakfast. Him, because between the military and working construction his internal clock just rang at that hour. We would be so careful to quietly sneak downstairs and have “breakfast”. Him with his coffee and cold hotdogs; me with my milk and brownies. We would be sure to clean up the kitchen and then when Grandma came down to make breakfast, we would eat everything to make sure she did not know of our secret plan. It took me WAY too long to put the pieces together that she knew of this because, duh, how did the brownies get there? Such a great memory of him sitting there, hot coffee, plaid robe, bare feet, listening to me chatter on like a chipmunk.
He was such a solid, quiet anchor in my life, I just assumed he would be around forever. He died in his sleep from heart failure at 71. I know everyone’s vision of afterlife is different, but there have been many a time I have been fixing something and I get stuck and ask him to guide me. And poof the idea of the next step pops in my head; still would be nice if I could call and ask him or give him a hug of thanks.