I remember that his house was always the end destination for our long summer trips from Northern Michigan to deep in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. It was an old ranch-style home with a gravel driveway, the screen door always slammed shut with a thunk as it rolled past the old wheel door stopper.
The house was divided between the living wing and the sleeping wing. Upon entering through the old screen door you passed through a small utility/mud hall into the kitchen, fully equipped with an old washing machine and a hand crank device that would ring the cloths out before going on the line in the yard. After the kitchen there was the dinning room, which lead into the living room where grandpa inevitably had his feet up on a footstool, was slightly reclined in his rocker, snoring away to the evening news. Pass the TV you found your self on the screened in patio with the old metal glide couch. Had you taken a right after passing through the kitchen, you would have found your self in a large room with three or four beds laid out. Take another right and you stepped up into the pantry room lined with enough canned goods to get your through the first year or two of the apocalypse, and all that food surrounded one very soft bed with goose down feather pillows. I loved it when I reached the age when I was able to talk my parents in letting me sleep in there by myself instead of the common sleeping room with my sister. To the left of the common sleeping hall, the one and only bathroom with its oversized footed tub separated the common sleeping hall from the master suite…which I still don’t think I ever saw the inside of.
This was the house that my grandfather, I have only had one, shared with the love of his life until circumstances forced them into an assisted living home finally to a full-time retirement room, which my grandfather now shares with another man who had lost his wife too. I want to say that I have a ton of memories from my time at this house and with my grandfather, but I can’t.
My parents were also a bit nomadic themselves. My dad joined the Air Force out of high school and away they went. Well, they really didn’t get far. In fact, we all sorta got stuck in northern Michigan for the majority of my youth. But, to an eight-year-old kid, Michigan and New York was a very long ways away. But, we managed to visit for our one two-week vacation nearly every summer. And often, our first stop would be at this old house, which just happened to be next to that other old house with the bats in the chimney.
My grandfather is the strong quiet type…at least I think he was that way, as I have only seen him in his more advanced years, the strong part is a little misleading. But, he was a man of few words, but a good one to all of the neighbors and folks in the small mountain village he lived in. He read the paper non-stop and would take me, my sister and cousins up the road to the marsh for some fishing. He never spoke much, but he helped us bait the hook, cast out the line, and haul in the rainbow trout or sunfish that we caught. He would then take it home, gut and clean it, and give it to grandma to cook for us.
That was him. That is all I have of my one grandfather. I now know that he is a devoted Yankees fan, and even as he is nearing the 100-year mark, he follows his team very closely. I never new it as a kid, but he has a sense of humor too. In fact, I never knew it until he met my wife about six years ago. He just started cracking some jokes and this guy was already over 90yrs.
Over the past 15 years, I have only visited my one and only grandfather about three or four times. I live nomadic and the price that is paid is one to my other family, the one that raised me and helped shape me into the person I am now. I miss my grandfather. I miss the fact that I never really knew him and am saddened knowing that I probably never will get to know him. I love my grandfather and have amazing respect for him and how he has carried on through my grandmother’s dementia and passing, of how he is holding it all together and still passionate about the Yankees and cracking jokes. I just wish I could know this remarkable man a bit more than I do…but choices have been made and I don’t live there; I live here, abroad and all I can do is ponder on what has been missed. But, in my mind, he understands me and is proud of me; and is happy knowing that M shares a middle name with this old Yankees fan up in the mountains of the Empire State.
I love you grandpa.