We thrilled to hear his story about the time he had hiccups for four days straight. He tried everything to get rid of them, he said. Every suggestion people had. Eating cabbage, standing on his head, drinking water upside down, walking backwards on a railroad track, everything. Eventually, they went away. Now, he said, he drank pickle juice to keep them away. Eww, we squealed.
She would always let us pick what special dessert we wanted her to make. We always chose strawberry pie. She used huge strawberries whole, and her pie crusts were delicious.
His truck cab was filled with candy. Moderately disappointing to an 8-year-old, however, because every single kind was sugarless. Those pastel discs still remind me of climbing all over the front seat of his truck.
She kept the door to her bedroom closed tightly. The one place in the house we were not allowed to venture-it was a great mystery. When we eventually saw her room after she died, the stacks of organized excess that she kept hidden did not come close to measuring up to the explanations in our imaginations.
His prickly chin would press into your forehead as you hugged him goodnight. He seemed moved when we'd chorus, "Goodnight. I love you, grandpa."
She pulled out some of the old clothes she'd kept for us to dress up in. We put on her fancy hats and dresses from the 50's and 60's, and she'd give us accessories to match-gloves, purses, and jewelry. We'd ask if we look beautiful, and she'd assure us that we did.
He and my grandma had had separate bedrooms for ages. But why, we'd ask? I snore like a locomotive he'd say. His room smelled of shaving cream, cedar, and just a hint of smoke. His was a bit cluttered, and there were piles of letters requesting funds to fight cancer, help children with leukemia, take care of aging firemen, etc. He gave to every one.
In the big grassy lot next to the house, we'd run imaginary bases, creating ghost runners to take our place so we could have another kick or one more swing of the bat. With only two players, we bored of the games quickly. We spent more time making up rules and planning the newest game than we actually did playing it.
That same grassy lot eventually held a lifetime's belongings spread out for people to pick through and bid on next to the small house where my dad grew up. In that one weekend, my father let go of the flotsam and jetsam of his parents' lives, the path he walked to school, and the one he wore into the carpet of his childhood home. He had few strong ties to his hometown anymore and it was unlikely we'd ever be back again. He said goodbye, and he let go so gently and quietly that, as small children, we didn't realize the extent of that goodbye then.