I grew up with my grandparents ten minutes away. They were, without a doubt, the shiny stars of my childhood. When we were younger my brother and I spent every Friday night with them. Our evening would begin early with a pick up from school. I can still remember the thrill of racing out of the building on a glorious Friday afternoon, my back pack banging against my body, as I spied their big orange Mercury parked in the gravel lot waiting for me. No riding the bus with the sticky Naugahyde seats for me that day, no way. I would yank open the car door, whip my bag in, and slide onto the backseat as big as a couch.
Slamming the door closed my Grandpa would turn around with a grin already in place. Looking at me with sparkling eyes over the bench seat he’d yell “Well, whaddya know for sure?” His standard greeting, I would grin back and say “Not much Grandpa!” And we would be off to get an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen, which would inevitably turn into board games for hours back at their house.
Many nights after dinner we would strap on our roller skates and “tear around” in the basement while Grandpa worked at his desk balancing the town’s treasury books.
Once I took a particularly bad spill on my tail bone and thought I broke my butt. Yelling out poor Grandpa ran over to find me gulping air and squirming around on the ground. He ended up applying pressure to my butt cheek and assuring me for a good 20 minutes that I had indeed not broken my butt.
We ate Sunday dinners together, they bought me my track shoes freshman year when Mom couldn’t afford them, came to see our school concerts, shook hands with our teachers, collected our pictures in their wallets, and always wanted to watch Night Rider on Friday night. Well, Grandpa did. Grandma would make us snacks and then retire to the other room to watch the Love Boat. She loved Captain Stubing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately. So much so I pulled down a box of pictures from the top shelf of my closet and found several that transported me to the 80s.
It’s 1984. June. Grandpa has on his daily uniform. He likely has sawdust caught in his arm hair with the smell of fresh cut grass trailing behind him. Grandma has on a pair of her ubiquitous orthopedic SAS shoes and a white top she absentmindedly smoothed down all day. She’s holding my arm in a way I’ve always remembered and can still feel on my skin.
I have on my swimsuit which means the sprinkler is on in the backyard, spraying to and fro, waiting for me to come back. There’s likely blades of grass still stuck to my feet. My pink seated bike is thrown down on the driveway. They bought it for me. Of course they did. We walked into the store and later I rode it out the front door. On any given summer day I’d pedal furiously around the block, careen into the driveway, and go straight to Grandma and ask her to make me a sandwich. I would tell her I was starving. I meant it.
For a decade of my childhood I began 90% of my sentences with “Grandpa, can I ——-.” Or “Grandma will you …?”
Grandpa always answered yes and Grandma always would, no matter what the request.
This picture, capturing them in their norm, is especially dear to me and sits on my nightstand. I look at it every night as I take off my wedding band before I go to sleep.