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Just One of My Grandpa’s Girls

March 4, 2009

I was thinking about my Grandpa yesterday. My father’s father, he worked in factories all his life, sweating and making and producing. He was a pretty quiet guy, and only began to get chattier as he got older, as the onset of dimensia clouded over. He would tell stories about his life, usually the same two or three over and over, but it was good to hear him talk all the same.

When I was a kid, we’d go up to Canada, to Rice Lake, with my grandparents, and spend a week or so there, swimming, fishing, running around. I always wanted someone to read to me, and in his own attempt to fill that need, my Grandpa would take me on his lap, and read me the newspaper. Usually the sports section or news, things I knew nothing about, but I snuggled in because I loved the sound of his voice. He would take out his false teeth to amuse me and my sisters, and would blow his nose with such a trumpeting roar that we began calling him “Grandpa Honk-Honk.”

There is this fabulous picture of him and my Grandma the day they got married. It was in the 1940s, and they are standing in front of this old car. My Grandpa is in a trench coat and fedora, with this very mischievous look on his face, like he knew how lucky he was, and my Grandma is smiling, looking like she just stepped out of a vintage Sears-Roebuck catalog. It’s kind of funny to think of them as young twentysomethings, giddy about things like buying their first set of dishes and holding hands in public, so people knew that they belonged to each other. They were married for over 50 years, and when my Grandma passed away about twelve years ago, it was like seeing my Grandpa slowly revert back to being a child. He was absolutely devastated; she was “his girl” and at her funeral, he looked like a lamb without a shepherd. In the last year or two of his life, he began going to a senior center to socialize. They would play cards and listen to records, and sometimes dance. My aunt came to pick him up one day, and saw him dancing with a lady. When they went to leave, she told him, “It’s okay if you liked another woman, Dad.” He firmly shook his head no, and replied, “Your mother was my girl. I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve forgotten my girl.”

My Grandpa passed away the beginning of my senior year of college. The last time I saw him, I was afraid he wouldn’t recognize me. With his dimensia and health problems, he often got my sisters and I mixed up. That day, it was just me and my dad visiting him. “Hasn’t Caroline grown into such a beautiful woman, Dad?” he told my Grandpa. My Grandpa looked at me, with that old twinkle in his eye, and smiled. “Yes, she certainly has.” He took my hand and held it the rest of the time. I wasn’t near him when he passed away (my extended family mostly lives in Ohio), but in a way, that’s okay. I’m glad that’s the last memory I had of him.

Even now, when I settle down to read and get that intense, burrowed look on my face, I will still picture me sitting in my Grandpa’s lap, listening to his voice. It was a lovely sound.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. ratsekad permalink
    March 4, 2009 10:51 am

    Beautiful. Some peoples’ voices have such magical qualities. =)

  2. Caroline permalink*
    March 4, 2009 12:14 pm

    Thanks, James. 🙂

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