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Friday, November 27, 2009

Funny Things About Grandfathers

I've never talked about some of my grandfather's exploits on this blog, but one of the things you learn as a writer (or a wannabe writer, for that matter) is that your family, friends, and random acquaintances can act as fantastic inspiration. My grandfather has acted as quite the little inspiration bee in the last few years, and will continue to do so for many reasons. But there are some stories about my grandfather that I don't think I can ever replicate in a fiction story. You know the saying, "Life is stranger than fiction"? That's absolutely true of my grandfather at times. Here are just a few of those stories:

Cub Scout Camping
Back when I lived in Washington, my grandfather took my brother, sister, and I on a camping trip to all sorts of pretty places. The problem? Washington is wet almost year round. It's either raining or the apocalypse has arrived and everything is burning to a crisp. Our trip happened to coincide with non-Biblical events, which makes for interesting camping.

During a particularly wet trip we decided to stop and find a nice place to camp. Having set up all our tents, my grandfather set to making a fire. Matches, unfortunately, do little for turning soaked wood into toasty fire, so he decided to hunt down some kerosene. A little while later, he returned with a half-full container and poured all of it over the wood. The result was probably the first real-life mini-demonstration of a nuclear explosion my siblings and I will ever see. A big flame, a little mushroom cloud, and no standing fire.

We gave up at that point and decided to settle in for the night. That's when it started to pour. My grandfather, being the cub scout that he was, had put his tent, which he was sharing with my brother, at the bottom of an incline. Why? I don't know. He just did. And at some point in the middle of the night we all heard the revving of our car's engine. Apparently the rain had created a lovely puddle in the middle of the tent and my brother had secured all of the dry space, leaving my grandfather a freezing pond to sleep in. Eventually he had to get up and warm himself in the car.

We didn't camp outdoors after that.

Stubborn Driver
Many years ago my grandfather had some problems with his heart and had his driver's license taken away for safety reasons. Anyone who knew my grandfather also knew that he was one of the most stubborn individuals ever. He gave up his license, alright, but he sure as heck didn't give up his right to drive. He and I used to climb into this old hatchback (a Colt or something) and tear down the dirt road where he and my grandmother lived. We wouldn't drive all the way into town, though. No. That would be too obvious. Instead, my grandfather would hide the car (very poorly, I might add) behind a small wall of blackberry bushes along the road, and then we'd walk the rest of the way. It was clear that he didn't want to walk up and down the blasted hill.

Some time later I learned that pretty much everyone knew what he was up to (Placerville is a small town). Looking back, it seems somewhat ridiculous that he was so secretive about the whole thing. Everyone knew, including my grandmother, and nobody did anything about it. Of course, I was a little young and didn't know any better at the time. I kept the secret for a while, though, because I'm like that. Secretive and stuff.

Hanging Grandsons
There were other events following my grandfather's early heart problems, but none put my life on the line like his desire to have me help re-paint the house. You see, my grandfather was kind of a "do it yourself" guy, but since he couldn't reach certain parts of the house with his ladder he needed a way to finish the job. That's where I come in.

My grandfather's brilliant post-stroke plan was to climb to the roof through a ceiling window and dangle me over the side of the house by a rope, without a mask for the paint sprayer and held only by a post-stroke grandpa. Yup. I'm not sure how I weaseled my way out of it, but he was quite adamant about putting me over the side of the house. Thankfully it didn't happen.

The Monkey
When my grandfather and grandmother got married, they went on the kind of honeymoon that most people only dream of these days, visiting places like Egypt and others. At some point in the trip they arrived in a place where the locals had a special delicacy that most Americans (and my grandfather was the old rancher-type) would find...let's just say strange.

But my grandfather, as I've said before, was a stubborn mule. Wanting, I presume, to respect local culture, he almost demanded to be served the delicacy, all while my grandmother tried to explain to him that it was not a good idea, at all. Eventually, however, my grandfather won out, as he usually did, and the locals brought before him a remarkable gift: a monkey head with monkey brain soup inside. I'm told that my grandfather turned a shade of white that doesn't currently exist in the human makeup. And no, he didn't learn his lesson, as the last story will illustrate.

The Curse
Never cross my grandmother. Ever. If you do, you'll pay the consequences. Trust me. My grandfather never learned that, but he did help to make a funny story about the power of grandmother's to use subtle magic.

At some point in the past my grandfather had a little sailboat. It wasn't anything special, but it brought him some joy, I assume. One day he discovered a jar of money my grandma had been saving to buy a dress or nice drapes or something (I forget what she was saving it for); she'd been hiding it because, well, I think it'll be clear why. Upon this marvelous discovery, he scampered off to the boat store to buy a set of new sails for his boat. When she discovered where her money had went, she told my grandfather that she hoped his boat would sink.

And? It did. Kind of. If my grandmother was on the boat, everything would go perfectly fine. No problems whatsoever. If not? The boat would fall apart or, well, start sinking. No joke. My grandmother can deal in dark magic.

That's just a little about my family. There are other bizarre things too.

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  1. God, what a silly man.
    Thanks for the stories. Its awesome to know that I was actually there for at least one of 'em.

    And the tent thing? There was a puddle when we went in for the night. He offered to take the puddle side of the tent.

  2. God, what a silly man.
    Thanks for the stories. Its awesome to know that I was actually there for at least one of 'em.

    And the tent thing? There was a puddle when we went in for the night. He offered to take the puddle side of the tent.

  3. I like to keep quiet that we kept you in a cardboard box for most of your childhood...

    There was a puddle already there? How wonderful.