I was remembering my grandpa the other day. What a great man - patient and kind - the sort of man that never really reacted to the mood and pace of others around him…unless he really had to. When I was younger he would offer me correction, but it seemed okay when he said it - almost like you ought to follow his instruction because it was going to be even more fun than the goofy trouble you were going to get yourself in.
I had a range of interesting male role models patterned in front of me, when I was still too young to choose with whom I would cultivate relationship. On one end was total absence…this, occasionally dotted with crazy moments of interaction like bailing dad out of jail so we could continue getting an old El Camino road-worthy for a late night drive back to New Mexico, and then burying him to drug and alcohol addiction a short time later.
In the middle…there were other men, often quick to offer discipline of solitude. My sister and I would leave notes for one another in the bathroom, and when we dared, chat on the walkie-talkies. It was our act of defiance, and regardless of being ‘grounded’, we were going to have some fun.
And on the other end…was grandpa. For years I would look through the garage for this magical ‘electric paddling machine’ I was so often told about. I was intent on somehow disabling it, so I could do what I wanted without threat of mechanical spanking. I never found it, so I was always weary of grandpa mysterious contraption. But, I had imagined it as some wondrous collection of steam driven wheels, pulleys, belts, and vacuum tubes, all accompanied by the occasional crack of arcing electricity. Whatever it was, it was cool – if not simply ‘cause grandpa had one, and no one had ever seen it.
For me, the best part of staying with my grandparents was breakfast. Grandma usually slept until just before noon. And this was good after an evening of arguing the finer points of any social injustice that may have taken root in grandma’s mind. She liked to read the dictionary, and she enjoyed the excitement of exploring disagreement. So unlike the evening, morning was a quiet time. It was a quiet time with breakfast.
Now no one ever really knew when grandpa got up. But when ever it was, it was always before you. And when you made the decision to visit with him early in the morning, it was always going to be good. The cupboards would have emptied their breads and cereal boxes onto the yellow deco table, and hot water would be simmering on the stove top. If there wasn’t a bowl on fruit on the table, there was some at arms reach (grandpa reach, not mine). He would sit looking at the paper having a cup of instant coffee. [in retrospect, I like to think the instant coffee wasn’t for the taste, but rather utilizing the space-age technology of freeze-dried food – right there in your own home.]
Soon you’d be filled, and he would be offering more. And eventually, he would get to helping you plan your day, occasionally asking a question that might have answers for times farther down the road. And what ever you entered into, however your day unfolded, it was going to be better than what you would have dreamed up on you own.