My mom’s parents, my grandparents, were one of a kind. The last breed of their generation. They opened their home to many people to be fed and sheltered. My grandmother was a culinary genius and one of the oldest of 13 children. So she grew up caretaking before she started her own family. She raised 3 children while going back to the university to finish her degree. She was a school teacher as well…home-ec. Now keep in mind, this is in the 40’s. Women barely obtained an education, let alone while they were keeping a home and raising three kids under the age of 9. She gave sage medical advice on diet and first aid, that experts these days still swear by. She didn’t have to go to school to obtain that knowledge, it just came natural to her. She was a highly intuitive and intelligent woman.
I will always remember coming home, via our cross country road trips in our winnebago or our station wagon, and pulling up infront of their home in Oklahoma. I would be the first person to jump out of the car, partly because I couldn’t wait to go pee, but mostly because I knew her shoulders would shrug in anticipation. And I knew she’d throw open her soft arms to envelope me into her warm cuddly hug. The house would always smell of home-made rolls or cookies.
My grandfather was a jack of all trades; a volunteer crossgaurd, a telephone repairmen, an architect, a photographer, a boy scout troop leader, a carpenter with his own home-made hand tools, a red cross volunteer. He even volunteered at the old ’89ner baseball stadium at the red cross booth attending to those that needed it.
He was a stand up comedian before his time. I will always remember his silly pet names for kids on the street. He called all the boys Suzy, especially when they started wearing their hair long in the late ’70’s. I have too many favorite memories to share about my Papa, but will never forget how loved he made us all feel. He made me my own kitchen stove for Christmas when I was 3, with a working light in the oven. He always would cut out ‘Family Circus’ cartoons to mail me whenever he wrote a letter. When he hugged me, his hearing aid would whistle because he kept it turned up too high. My papa would act like he couldn’t hear anything but didn’t miss a beat. His faithful poodle, Lucky, was toted around with him everwhere he went, even if it was just a few short feet from his easy chair to stand and look out the back door. The man never went anywhere without that dog, and it almost killed him when she died. He never lost him humor though…it was in everything hie did…even when he walked, he tapped his cain on the ground a little too many times in a row. He just wanted to see if anyone would tell him to stop. Every action, he did with purpose to get a smile or a laugh.
I was with my papa when he died and I helped take care of my grandma when she was dying. Two things that still go with me wherever I go. They’re presence is always with me, but stronger at times than others. Sometimes I know they’ve visited me in my dreams, and others all I have to do is trully listen and now they’re with me when I’m awake. I can feel them now filling my heart with love.
I often drive by their house. I usually park at the curb just to sit and take it all in. I haven’t dared step foot on it since we sold it. Their humble home sits a few miles from where I went to college, and while getting my education, their home was mine. I was with them a lot, doing laundry–eating–or spending a little time. I don’t say ‘a lot of time’, because as a kid in college — you’re in a hurry to get back to your own life and friends.
Whenever I would leave to go back to my room or class, I would always hear my papa saying, “Hey what’s the hurry. Do you really have to go? You could stay the night.” And I would just roll my eyes and say, “No. I gotto go, but I’ll be back. Love you guys.”
Just recently, I was running errands with my son, and something just said…’come visit’. So I took my son to see where his Nana, my mom, grew up. He’s never been there and I thought it would be nice to bring little T to see where his family lived and loved. So I got him out of the car and showed him the bottom of the driveway, where my mom and sisters in 1945 stepped barefoot in the wet cement.
He took his little vans and placed his shoes one at a time over each set of foot prints to see which would fit best. It was so heart wrenching and warming at the same time. We walked a little further up the drive way and this is where I started to get emotional….I saw my grandparents initials written lovingly in the cement on top one another. In 1945, they loved each other so much. I stood there,frozen, as my eyes watered up. If it werent for my son running off and up the side walk, I would have stayed there staring at it.
It felt so natural to see my son running around the yard and trying to investigate every inch of the place. It was as if my grandparents were waiting inside to sweep him up in their arms to welcome him….and me home. We were home and all the memories of that house came pouring back as I stepped along the walkway. I passed the garden and remembered how I would cut through it to jump up on the porch to bypass the steps. I remembered playing on the porch swings, that were no longer there. Although I felt in a time warp, the realization hit when I saw a sign on the porchthat held the currnet name of the owners. All of the sudden, I felt like I was trespassing. Ringing the doorbell didn’t result in anything. No one was home…in more ways than one.
Coincidentally enough, a college buddy of mine lives next door to my old grandparent’s house. A house I also spent my summers growing up in. I rang to doorbell to ask if it would be alright if I took my little boy to the back yard, where my grandmother used to grow her own grapes for jam. The backyard, where Lucky, our poodle would run circles around me and would let me push her in an antique baby buggy. The backyard, where Papa had a door that led to his darkroom/basement to develope his own photos. The backyard, that we’d have snowball fights in and where I just needed to step one more time in to get a little closure.
Ofcourse I knew he would say to go ahead…the owners wouldn’t care…but I just wanted to make sure.
My son ran around and I took it all in. The grapes were growing up and were rapidly spreading. The owners built a large wooden trellace to support them. The vegetable garden was gone, but I knew where it had been and could still see it: Grandma’ fresh tomatoes and green beans. The yard was precious and now that my little guy had been there it was perfect.
I left and knew that my grandparents were there too. Only this time, I didn’t hear, “Hey what’s your hurry. Can’t you stay a while?” I only felt gratitude that I’d come at all.