Saturday, we were driving around in the car, listening to the radio, and my perhaps favorite new song came on: “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”, by Panic! at the Disco. Why do I like this song so much? Because, in addition to a catchy pop tune, it reminds me of my Grandpa. Here are the lyrics:
I’d chime in with a
“Haven’t you people ever heard of
closing a goddamn door?!”
No, it’s much better to face these
kinds of things with a sense of
poise and rationality.
I had to laugh, because that “Haven’t you people ever heard of closing a goddamn door?!” sounded JUST like something he would say. He could be in the video.
Which is one way of saying that my Grandpa wasn’t the nicest guy around. He could be downright abusive. He could also be kind and generous and loving. I suspect he was my first introduction to the concept that people can be complicated. That most folks aren’t black and white, good and bad, right or wrong. Loving him as dearly as I did was an exercise in acceptance, I’ll tell you, because he could be a mean SOB.
Anyway, he was my Grandpa, the man I called ‘daddy’ when I was small. He was 19 years older than my Grandma, so I never remember him as anything but old. He had that skinny old man body, too, kind of like George Burns. He had surgery at a young age that removed part of his stomach (I’m guessing due to some infection or another, but I’m not sure), and he could never eat very much, so he was always painfully thin.
I don’t think I ever remember him saying those exact words, “Haven’t you people ever heard of closing a goddamn door?!” but it does sound just exactly like something he would say.
Here are a few of his colloquialisms:
“I wouldn’t cross the street to piss on her if her guts were on fire!”
“He’s so stupid he couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel!”
“For the amount of money I spent on that cat, I could have had a dog!”
“It’s always your friends who stab you in the back because you don’t let your enemies get close enough.”
“If a man is born to hang, you don’t have to help it along, just get out from between him and the rope.”
“2,400 square feet in this house, and you have to sit RIGHT in front of the damn TV!”
“If I had your nose full of nickels I’d be able to retire.”
“She’s six ax-handles across the ass.”
“He sits when he pees.”
“If you ever (did what I’m asking you to do, like get home on time, take out the garbage, etc.), I’d have a heart attack and die.”
“You always take, you never give”
“Who was your slave this time last year?”
“Let’s talk about little dogs with distemper.” (His way of telling you it was time to change the subject.)
Thanks to my mom for remembering most of these. When I started reading, I was cracking up, because some of them are pretty funny. Then I started remembering how it made people FEEL when he said some of that stuff, and I kind of stopped laughing.
But then, I also remember the good things.
That he didn’t make chocolate cake (oh, did he have a sweet tooth) when I was a little girl, because I had just had fillings and couldn’t eat anything but mush that night.
That when I lost my Smokey the Bear, and I was walking around with my hand in a fist, he asked me what was in my hand. I said, my Smokey. That broke his heart, so he went and got another Smokey, and he told me that when he went to the hospital to get his emphysema treatment, Smokey was being wheeled out in a wheelchair, and was ready to come home to me. This was a scene that was unfortunately repeated several times.
That he took me with him to Mr. D’s for burgers and potato chips for lunch. (So fancy! Served in a basket! With chips, not fries!)
That he would hold my hand when we watched TV, because he loved me.
That he came and got me at school when I was sick, and I went to his house and drank 7-Up until my mom got off of work.
That he took me to the pound to get Samantha when she got out of the yard, and he paid the fine for her not having a license.
Is it OK that I still love him? The mean, mean old man? Because I feel very conflicted, knowing the hell he put my mom, my aunt, and my uncle through, how miserable he made their home life as children. So miserable that my mom moved away to live with her Great Aunt. But even so, I love him very much.