Many thanks to all that commented on the picture of my grandpa in the last post.
I’ve written before about my other grandpa, my mom’s father, who was the Storyteller; a larger than life tour de force of jokes and songs. He was the guy I wanted to grow up to be.
I wrote a bit about my dad’s father before, too, in a post about going to my cousins’ wedding. In it, I said:
My dad’s father is old school Italian and all of 93-years old. (Then.) He’s so old school that outside The Old School, they have a statue of him. He’s as staid and buttoned down as my other grandpa was flamboyant. He doesn’t say much but when he does, it’s usually something good. So after about 10 minutes of talking to my cousin on video, she asked him, “In conclusion, do you have any words of wisdom for your grandson, the groom.”
Grandpa said, “Tell him that if he takes after his Grandpa, he’ll be fine.”
While Grandpa was good at handing down life lessons, they didn’t always take hold. Like gardening, for instance. As I mentioned in a prior post, my dad did not inherit his father's gardening skills, hence the golf clubs used for tomato stakes.
Grandpa’s garden was a work of art. He grew enough stuff to stock a salad bar all summer long. This is what it looked like:
These shots were from 1992, so Grandpa was in his mid 70s. At this point, he was taking it a little bit easier. You can tell because the tomato stakes aren't exactly the same height, nor are they all painted the same color. But what you can’t see are the boards laid down between the rows, so he could walk between them securely and care for each plant. Also note the grapevines at the top left of the first picture and the fig tree on the right of the bottom picture.
As for weeds? There were no weeds. Ever. I think that whenever a weed dared poke up out of the ground in Grandpa’s garden, he’d stick his head out the back door and go, “Hey, what’choo doing over there? Get outta here!”
The weed would zip right back into the ground.
Grandpa got shit done.
As I wrote about yet another time, he was instrumental in helping us remodel our Barn, directing Dad, my brother and me on how to put a new ceiling and interior walls into an ancient and unevenly built barn.
Another tradition that took hold: the Post-Mass Shots. Even though my family gave up going to church, we’d still go whenever we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa. I wasn’t crazy about going, as I was having my own serious doubts about the Catholic thing, but realized that it was the least we could do, to make our grandparents happy.
Once we got back to their house, Grandpa brought out the shot glasses, for a couple of “eye-openers.” (And I was so pleased once I was old enough to partake in this ritual!) We’d do one shot, then Grandpa would say, “Well, we have to open both eyes, don’t we?” Then he’d pour us each another shot.
If you'll notice, Mom and Grandpa have little shot glasses shaped like beer mugs and are holding them by the handles.
Would you believe I get my height from my mom’s side?
As usual with me, I have an ulterior motive in telling you all this. I want to tell you a story from the family archives, one my dad has told for years. Because it’s been a while since I’ve heard it, I might not have every fact lined up, so Dad, a little leeway here, OK?
In Coraopolis, the little town outside Pittsburgh where my dad grew up, there were train tracks that ran through it. One of the treats we kids enjoyed when visiting our grandparents was watching and listening to the trains rumble by all day long. They were usually freight trains, presumably shipping steel and other goods involved with steel production to and from the plants located on nearby Neville Island. I’m sure that trains were as fascinating to my dad, when he was young, as they were to us.
One night, when my dad was, I’m guessing 15 or so, he and his friends got picked up by the town police for hopping on and off the moving railroad cars. As one might expect in a small town in the 1940s, they weren’t formally “arrested,” but the cops took them down to the city jail for holding while they called all the parents.
Dad knew he was screwed. He knew that his dad would not come get him out of jail. Grandpa used tell him, as a warning to stay out of trouble, “The police pick you up and put you in jail, you can stay right there.”
Grandpa didn’t play. He didn’t have time for that kind of foolishness.
So one by one, Dad’s friends’ parents came by to pick up their sons. And one by one, they led their boys out, usually by the ear, leaving Dad to sit in the jail cell.
“Come on, you know your dad will come get you. He wouldn’t leave you here all night.”
“Nah, he’s not coming. No way he’s coming, he said so himself. I’m going to be here a while.”
Finally, the last of his friends was picked up, leaving Dad there alone to get comfy in his new accommodations.
Then, some time around midnight, to my dad’s great surprise, Grandpa showed up. I'm guessing Grandma made him go. He didn’t say much, as he took him home, but he didn’t really have to.
Message delivered: “Knock that shit off or you’re going to have to get used to that view.”
Now I won’t say that from that point forward, Dad went on to live a squeaky clean childhood. He did, however get better at not getting caught.
Grandpa, enjoying the 3rd decade of his retirement with his son, who is enjoying the 1st decade of his.