As an American with proud Norwegian roots! My heart goes out to Norway and her people in this time of tragedy!
My grandfather was a respected Doctor in the Washington D.C. Area. He was the kind of man that could look at you for a moment and tell you what was wrong when no one else knew the answer. He was an inventor and a pilot, a tinkerer, and creative thinker…but to me, he was just “Pop Pop”. He was the head of our family. I respected him, feared him, and loved him. He was not a big man….but he had a presence that was palpable. He carried himself in some way that made you notice him and seek him out for answers. He dressed everyday for respect; Black slacks, a collard shirt that buttoned or zipped up the front, or a tie if he wore a jacket. He always carried a handkerchief in a pocket along with a pocket watch on a silver chain clipped to his belt. He wore Black leather dress shoes with a rubber sole. He was always clean shaven except for an infrequent slight mustache that gave him an Erol Flynn air when he chose to wear it. He commanded the respect of older days. To me he was a combination of John Wayne and Santa Clause. With Pop Pop around anything was possible….he made magic happen…
I always knew when he was near….the smell of his pipe gave him away. To this day, if I smell a pipe with Borkum Riff or Captain Black tobacco I instinctively look for him. I love that smell. He died in 2001 at the age of 80.
A few months later as my mother and I were cleaning out his house and going through his things my mother called to me from another room…Arnie, come here she said in a hushed voice.
As I found her in the closet of a room off of the basement she stood there clutching. Something
In her arms. Look, she said: and she handed me a can of Borkum Riff tobacco…open it she said.
I twisted the lid off and the sweet aroma of Pop Pops tobacco filled the small room…look inside my mother said and smiled at me….nesting in the pile of shredded tobacco was my grandfathers favorite pipe. I smiled at my mother and started to cry…..something so simple, like a tap on the shoulder….my grandfather’s pipe….I sat down with that can with his pipe in it and cried for an hour. I guess I had been looking through my grandfather’s things for something without knowing what I was really looking for….until I found it….some piece of my grandfather that meant something to me that I could keep. His pipe. It rests in a special place in a cabinet in my house. I look at it often. If I open the cabinet the pipe aroma still lingers and makes me smile….Pop Pop.
I was sitting at the dining room table early on a Friday morning; sipping my second cup of get up and go. My eyes had cleared of their morning fog. The long walk from the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the kitchen and the coffee pot, and finally; the table which seemed like miles, was long forgotten. It was as if the mug of steaming brown water that my hands rested on for support provided the anti-freeze and lubricant necessary for sufficient bodily function. The gears of my brain had begun to click, at first creaking in protest. Another sip of coffee and the sparks flew; the battery of my brain took the charge; and the whole thing hummed in unison.
Body and soul were idling now. I sat quietly sifting through my thoughts. I took another sip of coffee. My house mate lumbered in following the same muddy road I had, trudging down the hall, around the corner, past the table, and straight on until the kitchen. “Coffee” was the only comment she muttered in passing.
I thought to myself as I watched her about how easily we get caught up in mediocre ritual addictions like coffee and cigarettes. We don’t even call them addictions, they are just routine. Her name was Henny. She was about twenty years older than I. We shared a house with three other people of various ages and backgrounds. Henny and I were usually the first ones up.
She sat down at the table with her coffee. I took a sip of mine. Henny followed suite and lit her first morning cigarette. Her engine shuddered in protest at the jump start but settled into idle anyway.
I recall sitting in my neighbor’s house just like this early one morning. In those days the difference between my home and their’s was indiscernible. My small family of three and the brood of seven people, five cats, and a dog that were collectively known as: The Kelley’s fused together to become one. So it was that quite often I could be found seated at their breakfast or dinner table and anytime, In fact, it was not unusual to find me curled up in some chair; or the floor for that matter, asleep whenever things got too quiet.
“Good morning Mr. Slater” Mr. Kelley inspired awe in me. To me he was all knowing, almost omnipotent. He was an engineer for the Navy. At the time all that meant to me was that he was really smart. That scared me. Mr. Kelley built things. He could build ANYTHING! Automobiles, computers, household appliances…whatever you needed; he could build it. It might not be pretty, or look brand new, but it would work!
They were different from Mr. Kelley’s. Mine had padded, reinforced, metal rings that fit tightly around my arms with Velcro straps that wrapped around to close me in…Trapped! Mr. Kelley’s arm bands were “U” shaped with no straps. This made them less confining, but it also made them easier to drop. This is not such a problem for an adult; but for a child who is totally dependant; dropping a crutch is like losing a leg! The results can be disastrous! The straps on my crutches were a precaution against this problem. However, there are two sides to every story. These prosthetic metal contraptions became like some bionic mutations of my body. At first I was really excited even while I was standing still. I wobbled back and forth like some newborn fawn. The shock came when I tried to move and use my new found “legs”: One step, my arms went forward planting the foot of each crutch firmly on the ground. Unfortunately, my legs did not know what to do. My arms pushed forward like a steam engine. My legs stayed rooted to the spot like a tree trunk. The result was a kamikaze dive, face first toward the ground. Reflex kicked in. My arms wanted to reach out in front of me. I couldn’t , suddenly, I realized that I was strapped in. I could not let go of the crutches to stop my fall! In a split second I thought: “Mommy! This is going to hurt!”—THUNK! I landed on the ground face down, spread eagle like Bambi on the ice. This wasn’t ice however, this was the cement of the front walk of my house. My head hurt, my chin and my nose were scraped and bruised, not to mention my pride. I decided then and there, that I was happier on the ground. I didn’t have so far to fall that way. Yes sir!, those crutches were bad news. No more of that for me! Who needs to walk anyway?
Here is a man that I respected and feared ASKING me, not TELLING me to do something. I didn’t think Mr. Kelley had to ask anybody anything. I felt very foolish and insignificant. I was afraid to say yes, and embarrassed to say no. I was honored that this man, that I thought was as close to God as you could get would even notice me. But, the fear of scraping my nose on the ground and displaying my inept ability to function on my crutches was still stronger than my urge to walk. Walking was hard, and it hurt, so I sheepishly invented opaque excuses, and hurried off to make myself busy with nothing.
That was all it took: “Never DO IT!?” I’d show them! I scrambled across the yard, into the house, into the closet where those contraptions sat. After a few minutes, I had strapped them on and forced myself from the floor into a standing position. I was too angry and too excited to consider the fact that this was the first time I had gotten myself into my crutches and off the floor without help. I stopped for a minute to steady myself at the door, and I stepped out of the house and down the front step to the surprised cheers of my collective family waiting at the Kelley’s front door. The excitement and adrenaline built up in my stomach and worked its way through my body to burst through the smile on my face! I started to laugh. The laughing made me shake and I was afraid it might throw me off balance, so I hid my face by concentrating on my feet: Right, Left, Right, Left…My arms and legs worked in staggered unison. I was going as fast as I could! I just wanted to get there! To the Kelley’s front step, down my driveway, up the hill, along the sidewalk towards the Kelley’s driveway. When I looked up. I almost ran into Mr. Kelley, who had started down his driveway in my direction…Everyone cheered. Mr. Kelley was smiling…
Have you ever had a day where you are bombarded by random thoughts that stir up memories from the past? It happened to me just the other day. In the middle of dictating a test to a bunch of students I was struck with an image from a long time ago…
It was a frigid Christmas Eve evening; dark and cold. I was young,maybe five or six. My family had gone out somewhere together to pass the evening before Christmas. We were on our way home and I remember laying down in the back of my grandfather’s big, beautiful, black, Buick Riviera. It had black leather interior. It was HUGE! I was not, so it was easy for me to stretch and look out of the car door window and up at the cold night sky as the bright full moon seemed to be following me home…on a cold Christmas Eve…The black leather of the seat under my head was cold. I could see my breath in the air by the moonlight in the car before the heat from the heat vents reached the backseat. I just lay there watching the moon chase me in my “Pop,Pop’s” car on A cold Christmas Eve…and I fell asleep.
Now I have no idea why that image would pop into my head in the middle of a test in April almost forty years later…but there it was. the image is so strong that it has not left me yet…So I had to write it down…I could probably draw the image of the moon floating by the car door window…Do you think it’s possible to capture the warmth within that frigid evening? The contrasts it presents is an interesting thought! shoot! I can almost smell my grandfathers pipe too!
This is the begining of my new blog where I post my writings,rantings and thoughts! and hopefully you will post your rants about my writings! Good or bad- but, please- be constructive in any criticisms…not destructive.