Granddad was a natural entertainer. He didn’t burst into “Singing in the Rain,” or any other musical themes. He didn’t quote lines from famous movies. I never saw him dance a step – except at my sisters’ weddings.
Granddad refused to let anyone be bored. If there wasn’t something fun to be doing, he could find a chore for you. I will never forget the afternoon my sisters and I spent on our dirty, kid knees scrubbing the grout in my mother’s kitchen with a toothbrush. When we finished it was almost white and all along I had thought it was a dingy mauve.
Granddad had a knack for making work fun. However, “work shed” is a misnomer from a child’s perspective. When I was young, every trip to Grandma’s house involved a trip to the work shed. There Granddad had screaming saws, tubes and buckets of paint, yard tools and dangerously sticky substances that we were not allowed to touch.
A few years before, the work shed’s space had been a carport for Granddad and Grandma’s RV. What a fantastic invention – traveling in your home! I vowed once that I would never marry, but grow up, get a German shepherd and travel the country in my RV finding work when necessary. When Granddad and Grandma parted with their RV, I somehow forgot about its magic, and that dream faded.
One specific project of mine that emerged from the work shed was a little wooden dog. It was so thin that it was almost two dimensional. It had long, floppy ears. Granddad carved it for me on the circular saw, turning the fine piece of wood with great dexterity following lines that only an artist like Granddad could draw freehand. Afterwards, he set me up on a bar stool, close to his workbench. With a palette of acrylic paints before be, I got busy adding the puppy’s eyes and paws and selecting his spots. In the meantime, the master creator began to work on my sisters’ projects.
I never saw Granddad read anything except the newspaper. But he loved a good story. Grandma had a library of heart-warming novels that she packed on every road trip or read a few lines before bedtime. She also read their daily devotional out loud. One of the mysteries of my grandparents is that I never saw one without the other. They thought the same, loved the same – the definition of persons completing each other.
Granddad and Grandma had an array of movies. To this day, I don’t know how many DVDs they have. We always watched “Winnie the Pooh” and “Mary Poppins” and “Meet Me in St. Louis,” on an old-fashioned VCR. For regular shows, Granddad followed Star Trek with some regularity. I fancied myself a fan, though I never saw an episode in between visits to my grandparents’ house.
One Christmas, Uncle Richard gave Granddad a book of Calvin and Hobbs comic strips. Somehow, someone decided that Granddad loved it and wanted to collect all of the commemorative editions. I don’t know that Granddad ever read one, but for at least two years, I read and re-read them every time we visited. I loved to sit in the glider rocker, in the sunroom and ignore my suddenly “immature” siblings.
The quintessential way to pass time with Granddad always involved a deck of cards. At their house, we learned to play Cribbage and Rummy and Spades and a game with a bad-word name that we re-named “Oh P-shaw!” Otherwise, we could pull out the dominoes or poker chips or dice. Picking a long game was a sure way to stay up late at Granddad’s house.