As the Christmas season approaches I always tend to think of my Grandfather, who died the 26th of December, 1995. George was a sweet man. He married his high school sweetheart. He loved to work on cars. He owned the first car in the neighborhood. It amazes me that my Great Grandparents that lived on the same street were the only house that actually had a garage. The rest of the houses were row houses.
When I came to visit my grandparents I spent my days waiting for Grandpa to come home from work. It worked in the local meat packing plant but still maintained a job as a mechanic, his first love.
My grandfather, on my father's side also had a love of fixing cars.
I do not remember him ever coming to the dinner table NOT smelling of oil and grease.
That was when men could fix something in their cars. They could lean over the engine area and find a problem. They could scoot under the car and see what needed to be fixed. And, there was a certain pride in being able to take care of your car. Not to mention the fact that cars were probably easier to take care of then our modern vehicles.
My grandfather, George would come home, shower and have his dinner. After dinner we would take a drive in his blue Chevy. My grandfather did have some quirks that as a grownup I can see.
He only ever drove a blue car and only a Chevy. He only allowed blue lights on the Christmas tree. I never understood those quirks.
Perhaps, they were the result of the loss of his family? Maybe he just liked blue.
Depression ran in his family. His father had had serious issues with it. He married his nurse, a woman twenty years older than him. George's brother had committed suicide. His remaining sister had raised him but died during the flu influenza. Perhaps blue was his way of keeping touch with them.
Anyway, we took our drive after dinner, winding our way around the country roads. I suspect that this is where my love of going out, with my camera and taking pictures came from.
My Grandfather would stop the car by a field and tell me to watch the tree line carefully. If I could spot the first deer coming out to the field, before him, I got a quarter. My Grandmother, who didn't drive would sit in the passenger seat and huff. She wasn't big on the stopping part, or maybe it was the quarter?
The drive sometimes ended at a Dairy shop where we would get a bowl of fresh made peach ice cream. Sometimes it would end at a roadside stand where my Grandmother would buy fresh vegetables and fruits and leave her money, in a tin can.
I never cared where we went as long as we drove until dark. I didn't live in the country. I grew up in a large town. My parents didn't have the time or the energy or maybe even the interest to take drives. If there was countryside around my town I certainly never saw it.
My grandfather didn't have much to say. I can't really remember him ever even really talking to me. He would come out and sit on the porch glider with me until the ice cream truck would come. Then he would press a quarter into my hand and give me a little shove on the shoulder. He would sometimes grab his jacket and mine and hand it to me and take my hand and we would walk up to the gas station, at the end of the street and I could get a grape soda out of the big old ice chest machine.
When we drove to Helen Repard's cottage, a high school friend of both of my grandparents, for the weekend, he would often hand me a walking stick and without words we would take a walk, in the woods.
He wasn't affectionate but he was caring. He hardly spoke to me but we were in sink.
At night I would hear the three of them playing canasta and I could hear the women's voices but seldom his.
He was just a quiet man.
Remember, I was seeing him through a child's eyes.