March 2, 2011

"G" is for Gentle Giant

See "Grandpa." 

One of my friends has been posting blogs for ABC Wednesday (click on the link to see more "G" posts), so I thought I'd give it a try.  As usual, I'm a little late getting started, but I'll try to make up A-F some other time.  Here's an excerpt from one of the personal essays I wrote in my memoir-writing class.  I hope you enjoy!

"Through Grandpa's Eyes"

Age 14 was truly magical if you lived in the potato-filled land of Idaho, for that was when you could earn your driver’s license. “Spud-miners,” as we liked to call them, needed help during the harvest, and kids our age were cheap labor.  In order to drive the farm equipment, though, you had to have a license, so the legislature had at some point lowered the driving age, a very wise decision my friends and I all agreed.  I had finally turned 14 in late July, and my mom had driven me to the driver’s license division that very day (after much wheedling by myself, I’m sure) to put my name on the list to take the Driver’s Ed. Class.  Unfortunately for me, there were too many people with June birthdays, so I would have to wait for the next class, to be held in the winter, seemingly light-years away.

Ugghhh! Life was so unfair…


In my exuberance, I slammed the door of my mom’s 1978 Buick Regal shut with a little more force than necessary. A beautiful burnt orange color, the Regal was almost eight years old, but it was the newest car we’d ever owned.   I was still in shock that Mom had handed me the keys and allowed me to drive the entire 15 miles from Rigby to Idaho Falls, in February, in the snow.

Cringing at the loud sound, I yelled “Sorry, Mom!” over my shoulder as I bounded toward the front door of my grandparents’ doublewide mobile home on Vassar Way, leaving her and my little brother, Forrest, behind, still fumbling with their seatbelts.  I hurried into the house, the cheerful jangling sound of the bells hanging on the inside of the front door announcing my arrival.  “Mad Manor” we affectionately called the house because of the never-ending hustle and bustle that went on under its roof: phone ringing, TV blaring, dog, cats, and assorted grandkids underfoot, and always my grandparents’ loving banter. 

I practically danced into the kitchen where grandpa was in the process of cooking dinner.  The aroma of his special cheesy ham and rice casserole, one of my favorites, perfumed the air, and the kitchen was extra warm and cozy thanks to the well-used oven.  In the office, grandma was busy on the phone, booking his jobs for the next week.

Grandpa was a piano tuner by trade, with well over 40 years under his skilled fingers.  Grandma was his “favorite secretary” and had been booking jobs for him just as long, calling in the evenings when people were home, keeping grandpa informed of her progress while he cooked their meals for them in the kitchen. 

He and my grandma also happened to be totally blind.

 “This is Mary Collins, the piano tuner’s wife,” she chirped into the phone nestled up to her ear, snuggled in place by the oversized shoulder rest.  Confirming the appointment, she dug to get one of the 3x5 cards out of the plastic-wrapped packet.  Finally succeeding, she deftly slid it into the Braille writer and started typing up the details – name, date, time, address, and when it was last tuned – the distinctive crunch-punch sound of the cardstock seeming to fill up the room.  After hanging up the phone, she called out to my grandpa in her sing-song voice: “Oh goody!  I got you another one for Tuesday.”   Grandpa, rifling through a drawer in the kitchen in search of a serving spoon, boomed out words of encouragement.

“Grandpa!  Look what I got!” I said, placing the laminated plastic card in his outstretched hand. 

“Well, well… what have we got here?” he asked, with an air of teasing in his voice as he held the card in one hand and ran a finger from the other around the plastic.

“My driver’s license!” I exclaimed.  “I can’t believe I finally got it!”

“I’m so proud of you Kewpie,” he said, pulling me to his side with one of his tight hugs.  Kewpie dolls were little bald baby-dolls that were popular when he was a kid; he had labeled me such at birth, and the name stuck even though I was no longer a baby, or bald for that matter.  Seeing one for the first time I thought they were hideous little things, but the way he said it made it seem like the greatest compliment ever.  In his eyes, I was truly precious, even though I knew better.

From the office, I could hear my grandma calling to me: “I want to see!” so off I went to show her too, repeating the process of placing it in her outstretched hand and watching as she caressed it with her fingers.  “Just think, Frank,” she called to my grandpa.  “Now you have a Saturday driver!”  Because of his blindness, he had to employ drivers to ferry him around to all his appointments. 

Grandma followed through and managed to regularly schedule us a few jobs several days each month.  There were times that I didn’t want to give up my Saturdays, but there weren’t that many ways to earn spending money at that age.  Among other things, I needed the money to feed my Q-Bert habit, an arcade game that sat in the Skyline Bowling Alley and which officially proclaimed to the world that TLV was the “Supreme Noser!”  I had coveted that award for months and had spent hours and hours of baby-sitting money, frittered away one plunked-down quarter at a time, before finally attaining it; now I had my honor to defend.  

Driving for grandpa would give me a steady income, and it sure beat babysitting the neighbor’s little brats. 

TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW... (It's just too long otherwise!)


Roger Owen Green said...

very sweet story. but TBC...?
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Rambling Round said...

What a wonderful memory! Looking forward to the rest.

Gattina said...

Sorry but I couldn't read the whole story, it is a little too long for such a theme, I have to read 13 posts, lol !
ABC team

Ms. Burrito said...

Very sweet.

Please visit my first ABC entry, thank you and nice to meet you through ABC.

I am now your follower, will you follow my blog too?

kris... said...

Sometimes, I would give anything to go back to these days.

Jingle said...

cool reflections.