Monday, September 15, 2008

His heart is a feather.

Notes from the wall near the spa. Grandpa's hand.

Most mornings at my grandparents house you'd find my Grandpa, Bob, enjoying the early morning in his spa. Built as an add-on to the house the spa room reminds me a lot of the house I lived in when I was a kid, if only because it has dark paneling. The lid to the spa itself is the covered in brown vinyl. It smells musty, and after the spa has been running it smells a little like a sauna. The spa came with the house and while I doubt it was a buying point for my Grandpa, it sure turned into a treat for him. Which made it a treat for all of us.

Some mornings, when I'd rise early enough, I'd find myself sitting in the kitchen eating Honeycomb, which was always on supply at their house, and listening to the soft sounds of my Grandpa singing from his spa. Now, you had to be careful. Grandpa sometimes treated himself to his spa time al fresco. Since the kitchen was adjacent to the spa room he'd come wandering in the room, still humming, with his towel around his waist. "You're lucky Shellgirl. I remembered my towel this morning." His skin was always so white and pruny. His gray-white hair would be swirled in different directions and it always made me wonder if he might have ben swimming out there, instead of soaking.

Then he'd walk through the house, finishing his song. He'd usually tease my Grandma by grabbing hold of her, twirl her around a little, and sing her a line. Always the same song. In the spa. In the hall. With her. Eddy Arnold's Cattle Call. Silly and simple song.

And my Grandpa thought himself a silly, simple man. At least in the years I knew him best. The truth is, as usual, much more complex. A devoutely religious man my Grandpa had a quick wit, an active mind, and a sharp tongue. He once chastised me publicly during a discussion about parades and then marched out of the room in a successful move to end the conversation. I still have a mix of emotions when I think back on that moment. It stung like a slap.

Yet I couldn't have asked for a better man to have in my life. Every child should be able to get love from whoever is willing to give it and my grandparents shared it with us in large doses. Mediated of course by smaller doses of life lessons and discipline. Some people are lucky enough to have two sets of grandparents who love and treasure them - at least in some version. My Dad's parents never played a large part in our life. Mostly because my Dad's Mom died when I was young. And because my Dad was never close to his Dad. It made us even more fortunate that my grandparents were willing to love us and share their life. Add to that the close proximity in which we lived for the first 14 years of my life, until they move out of state.

I realize that my relationship with my grandparents is not the same one that everyone has with their own grandparents. And that even within my own family there is disconnect and discontent. I cannot control that though, even though I've tried for years. Grandpa knew about it and it weighed heavily on his heart. In his own way he tried to love everyone. I know it wasn't easy for everyone to see past his expression of religion, or his stout opinions. Trust me, I know. Still, you knew what to expect.

You knew to expect the cattle call in the morning. You knew to expect that he'd offer you strange conglomerations of juice. You knew he'd offer a sharp retort to something you said but then always squeeze you extra tight when you left.

And you knew, at least I did, that when he left it would be life changing.

Happy Birthday Grandpa. I know you are happy wherever you are. Just wish you were here still.


Walkers said...

You had to have been crying when you wrote this, it is so beautiful Shell. You made me drop a few tears. I surely do miss that man very much too even though I had not known him as much as you. He sure did make me feel loved and included even though I was not a blood relative. Thank you for remembering sharing.

Diana said...

This is a wonderful tribute.

Cheri said...

Shel I hoped that it's ok that I hijacked this blog as well. I love it. Love to see your insight on things. I wish I was as good at writing what my thought are. Maybe it's because my brain is in malfunction mode and I don't think about anything real deep lately. :)

PS Ilise I would love to hear from you and catch up! You are another of my wonderful cousins that I love so dearly!