I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandpa lately, probably because Noah just turned one and we are getting ready to have another baby. I wish that my grandpa had had the chance to meet them. He passed away a few years ago and I was very close to to him. My dad died when I was seven, so instead of being a “Daddy’s Girl” I was always “Grandpa’s Girl.”
Yesterday was my day off and my mom met Noah and me at the mall playground. Noah was a little fussy (teething). When he dropped his pacifier on the ground, my mom pulled two replacements out of her coat pocket. It was funny because it wasn’t like she planned it. We actually met as a last minute sort of thing, and she hadn’t even known she was going to see us that day, yet she had two pacifiers in her pocket. I don’t remember it, but I’m told my grandpa was the same way with me. He called my pacifier my “plug,” and he always had back-ups on hand.
My grandpa was diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy the year I was born. The doctors told him he would never walk again and that he might have to have his legs amputated. He cussed the doctor out and told him he didn’t know what he was talking about. He started walking again with braces on his legs and a walker, then just with a walker, then a cane, and then nothing. Since I was little, I didn’t understand why he couldn’t carry me. He went out and got another cane that matched his and cut it off so that it “fit” me. My grandpa and I walked around with our matching canes. My mom was terrified that I would end up walking with a limp, so Grandpa and I gave up our canes together. Neither one of us used them again.
My mom worked, so I spent a lot of time at my grandma and grandpa’s house growing up. When my mom came to pick me up, my grandpa told me to tell her that I wanted to spend the night. When she said no, he taught me to stomp my foot and say, “I’m tired of this shit.” I’m afraid my mom is going to teach it to my children as payback.
He loved to watch football and basketball, and to gamble. When I was little he would make bets with me, only he would make the “bet” in the fourth quarter of a football game when “my” team was up by thirty points. I never lost. Maybe that’s why I don’t like gambling now. The house is never supposed to win! I embarrassed my mom once when I was about five and we were in Target. She was trying to teach me the value of money. I wanted something and she asked me how I was going to pay for it. We happened to be walking by the TVs and I said loudly, “Mom, I’ve got five bucks on this game and my team’s winning!”
When he got older and had health problems, he would send flowers to the nurses on his floor whenever he was in the hospital. For the rest of his stay, it was always, “Are you doing alright Mr. N~?”, “Can I get you anything Mr. N~?”, “Do you need another blanket Mr. N~”
My grandpa truly was an example of the “American Dream.” He grew up as one of thirteen children in a house with dirt floors and no plumbing, then left home at age thirteen to find work. When he died, he had a house in the suburbs and my grandma drove a Cadillac. He would now have five children, twelve grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren (including our baby in Vietnam), and one great-great grandchild. Those of us who were lucky enough to know him miss him very much.