I don't normally get schmoopy over family, but on this Father's Day, I wanted to say a few words about my grandfather.
In my lifetime, he was a "still waters run deep kind of guy." There weren't many conversations, but there was always love. He and I had a generation between us, and I now get the impression that he didn't quite know what to do with me as I was growing up. I was a wimpy, emotional kid and he was the strong but silent type that probably felt that I needed major toughening up, but never really showed it.
His role at family gatherings was to grill the meat in the summer time, run to the store if needed, and sit in his recliner and watch "60 Minutes" and sitcoms. He would laugh at the family "Remember when...?" stories, but I don't remember him telling many of them.
He'd let me cuddle with him in his recliner, but got distinctly uncomfortable when I asked him why he didn't kiss me like the men and women on TV kissed (I was probably around 5, and didn't know the difference between kissing and *kissing).
When he would get up from his recliner to check on the grill, or make himself something to drink, I'd sit in his chair and wait patiently for him to get back. He'd always act surprised to find me sitting there. "GET OUT OF MY CHAIR!" He'd mock-roar. When I'd giggle and shake my head, he'd pretend to sit down anyway, until my girlish squeals made him stand back up and swat me out the chair.
He always listened to my less than decade-old knowledge of the world, "Bapa, I know the Earth is turning, because I can SEE it! Look at the clouds moving!"
This was a man who'd served in the Army, Navy and Air Force during WWII, ferrying planes around. He taught cadets swimming , too. But he never talked about those times.
Before I was born, he worked many years for US Steel. On the weekends, he drove all over the country showing the Great Danes that he and my grandmother bred and trained. Later when they gave up the dogs, he and my grandmother raised and showed birds. He served on the board of directors for both dog and bird local organizations for years. I have his gavel from when he served at president of the local Great Dane Society from 1962 to 1965. It on a bookshelf in my living room. I also have several pictures of him standing with champion dogs, usually with me crying in the foreground. I never liked having my picture taken.
My grandmother and grandfather always raised veggies and had flower gardens in the summer. At the time, I wanted nothing to do with them. Weeding was a chore they soon learned was not worth it for me to do, as I invariably pulled the wrong things out. Besides, there were BUGS in those gardens! And I hated to get dirty.
When my sister about to be born, my grandfather came to pick me up to stay with him and my grandmother for a few days. I always loved to be there with them, watching TV. Playing in the Japanese rock garden they created in the backyard (no grass, lots of gravel means less bugs, right? Right??) He'd throw marbles out into the gravel and tell me to go look for them. I always brought them back to him, and marveled how they could get back outside so quickly, so I go hunt for them some more. He never let me see him toss them back out there. It was just another miracle of childhood.
One year, vandals twice set fire to the storage space in me and mother's apartment building . Once was directly in our storage locker. We lost a lot of our things, most heart-breakingly all of our Christmas ornaments. My mother, being ever practical (and very poor, though I wasn't aware of it at the time), decreed that there would be no Christmas tree for she and I that year. I spent a weekend at my grandparents house making ornaments to decorate what I thought would be my grandparent's tree. My grandmother and I sat for hours making chain garlands out of construction paper, Santa and Mrs. Santa ornaments out of toilet paper rolls. Those Santas were to become my favorite of all that we made that weekend. Later on that year, my grandfather arrived unexpectedly at our apartment with a large, fragrant Christmas tree, and all the ornaments my grandmother and I had made for "their" tree. Itis still one of the most special Christmases I can remember.
Happy Father's day to the man who was for all intents and purposes was my father. Hope you are doing great things up there, Bapa.