After reading my story about our Gramps, my sister wanted to add her recollections. The following is an excellent example of our Grandfather in action. I hadn’t heard the story in a very long time and reading it and remembering him got me laughing so hard, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.
My first memories were vague. Being the first child born in the family after many years, my Nana protected me from anything dangerous, evil or disgusting at all times. I was wrapped in a nest of pink at her home in the Oakland hills. I watched her sew beautiful things, prepare tea parties, and make up stories about “Mrs. McGillicutty” the grouchy lady next door.
Enter Gramps, “Christ-All-Mighty Lila, there is no Mrs. McGillicutty. It’s just crazy talk I tell ya. What are you trying to teach that kid? Come with me Linda Lee and I’ll show you some fun.”
Out in the yard we would go. He’d let me play with the garden hose, dig pits, and make mud pies all the while telling me stories about when he was in the Navy working in the sun until his hands bled. Then, Nana would swoop me up and give me a hot bath in a sea of pink bubbles just before the stories got too salty. That is when I realized that the loud, rough, sweaty, grimy man was really fun!
He wasn’t very tall, he was wiry and very strong, with sparse gray hair and light blue eyes behind wire rimmed glasses and smelled of Old Spice aftershave at the end of the day. How could he be Nana’s husband and my Gramps? He was so different.
We were lucky kids having such attentive and adoring grandparents. We were always included in their excursions around the countryside.
One of the most memorable times with my grandparents was when I was 13. Nana, her sister Beth, my second cousin Lynette and I piled in the car for a roadtrip with Gramps at the wheel; careening down to Santa Barbara, and Joshua Tree National Forest. Along the way we were going to take the Hearst Castle tour.
In Morro Bay, we pulled in to spend the night at the Jade Motel just across the sand from the ocean. Lynette and I felt carsick from the hours trapped lurching to and fro…gas pedal to the floor, swerve, slam on the brakes, pedal to the metal again, screeching tires, more swerving, more swearing. Where’s the dramamine?
Gramps told us all to sit tight while he went in to the motel office to wrangle the best deal in this “sucker’s paradise” of a place. Did I mention it was REALLY hot outside and there was no air conditioning and the car kept overheating? A short while later, he comes back outside beaming, stating that he got a good deal from the “GD idiot” inside and we could now go upstairs and get unpacked before he took us out for burgers down the street. He said our room was up on the “second floor, orange door, can’t miss it“.
Nana, Auntie Beth, Lynette and I trudged upstairs with our stuff while Gramps attended to the overheated radiator. The orange door was cracked open a bit, so we went into the steamy room and plopped down on the bed. We were discussing who would sleep where and realized we’d have to rent a roll away bed for Gramps since we four women would get the two double beds.
I was messing with the air conditioner in the window when Nana screamed at the top of her lungs “GET OUT OF HERE! What in the world are you doing in our room?” A poor befuddled man with a towel wrapped around himself was speechless when he saw Nana, Auntie, Lynette and me and all of our stuff strewn about the room. He stammered that WE were in HIS room and what were WE doing?
Then Gramps joined us and asked why we were were in this room. “I said the orange door”! Well, all the doors looked orange in the setting sun. Oh Brother! What a mess. Lynette and I started giggling and ran out as fast as we could. Gramps though it was funny too. Nana and Auntie Beth did not. Gramps went on and on about how funny that stupid knuckle-head looked just standing there in his towel and us just gawking at him.
After dinner, we came back to our room at the Jade Motel and got the air conditioner working. Gramp’s roll-away bed was delivered and we settled in for the night. We quickly realized the air conditioner was so loud we couldn’t leave it on. We opened the window and heard the waves crash instead.
As we lay there sweating, listening to the churning ocean, a new noise began…Gramp’s snoring. And then, Snap! “Damn it! Get me out of here!” Nana flipped on the light to find that Gramp’s bed had folded in two with him sandwiched in between as he squirmed to get out. The blue streak of military swearing was going full force as two of us on either end of the bed tried to force it flat so Gramps could get out. We searched frantically for the locking mechanism and found it.
It took us a good hour for us to stop laughing and for him to stop swearing before we we able to get settled down again. In the room next door, our neighbors were getting a little over-zealous and Nana had to bang on the wall several times to get them to tone it down a bit so we could sleep. Lynette and I thought it was absolutely hilarious.
At last we were breathing softly as sleep was finally came to us when the SNAP…DAMN IT, started all over again. We found the bed lock but now it had broken. Gramps was not to be thwarted! NO! He scampered down the outdoor hall and down the stairs in his “skivvies” to retrieve his famous fix-all bailing wire from the trunk of the car. In no time, he had that bed wired open, NEVER to be closed again. We finally fell asleep just in time for the alarm to go off and for us to get ready to get in line for tickets to the Hearst Castle tour. He was fresh as a daisy and so jovial! We women felt like we had been up all night. And we had!
There were many situations like this with him that as we look back on now, were some of the funniest/happiest times of our childhood. Dear little Gramps, just being himself.
Written October 2009