I keep trying to remember to write about something other than memory, but I guess I forget, because, guess what? I’m doing it again! Yay! This in spite of the fact that the only comment I got on the last couple of posts were, “I love you, I really do…but you are so weird!” When I asked my dad if he read the memory posts, he said, “Yeah, of course…well, I skimmed them…what were they about, again?” I say, “Readers’ interest be damned! As long as I have that blue meanie on the blog, I will continue to get hits from around the world, making me an international success, even in places where they only like to look at the pictures, so screw you!!!”
Needless to say, this is not my Pop Pop. My grandfather was a larger-than-life personality to me. As a child, I got him confused with iconic historical figures; he was a lawyer, and I imagined everyone in Dallas thinking of him as Honest Abe, striding through the courthouse with spurs on his boots, a la John Wayne, and law books in his hands, working tirelessly for the downtrodden like Atticus Finch. In reality he was a short man who never rodeo’d and practiced tax and estate law. I thought he was the strongest man alive. He could pull me and my sister and six cousins from a tire with a rope attached to it all around the pool, so fast that it almost made me sick, like a ride at Six Flags. He stood on his head like Jack Lalanne and once was a champion gymnast. He swam every day, long, clean strokes slicing through the pool he was so proud of, and I remember watching his brown back ripple through the blue water. He taught me how to swim, patiently and lovingly. He called my grandmother “Pud”, short for Puddin’, smoked a pipe, wore cufflinks, played bridge, and traveled the world. He loved football, the stock market, golf and gardening. He was meticulous in his record-keeping, and had a neat, blocky print, but a lovely, flowing cursive. He loved to eat, and chewed more slowly than anyone I have ever met. For breakfast he liked a soft-boiled egg in a cup into which he dipped his toast. At night he liked to get up and eat a bowl of ice cream with pretzels broken into it. He loved soup. Here is a piece of a poem I wrote about a dream that I had:
Suddenly, back in my grandparents’ house, though it’s been seven years sold to a couple just married
Eager to start their life together, with new china and sheets
Yet somehow I live there, and I am me, but me of all ages: Infant, toddler, child, teen, woman, old
I walk through the rooms, feeling the floors beneath my feet
Cold marble, shag carpet, wood parquet, worn linoleum
I sit at my grandfather’s desk and fan crisp, white papers, sharpen pencils, twirl the Rolodex
Then to the fat corduroy chair that lays back, and then back again,
where, with my cousins, I told scary stories and watched “Love, American Style”
I stroll through the seasons of the seventies
Harvest gold, burnt orange, avocado, sunflower, burgundy
I hear family dinners, Johnny Carson, football, Everyone Knows it’s Wendy, You kids slow down!
I smell brisket and Vitalis, the white linen tablecloth, clean and pulled from the cedar drawer, my aunt’s perfume, Windsong or Woodhue, I think it was
And my cousins laugh with me, and jump on the bed, and sneak a look at the Playmates in Uncle Marc’s bathroom, under the towels, behind the toilet paper
Ghosts in the living room, the attic, under the bed, watching from the pictures in the hall
A faint wisp of Cherry Blend tobacco from a pipe long cold
One time, he was riding home from the law office he shared with my Uncle Marc. Suddenly, a foul odor filled the car.
“Pop, did you fart?” Uncle Marc asked from the front seat.
“Of course I did! Do you think I always smell this way?!”
He died a long, drawn-out, death after suffering with emphysema. He snuck smokes almost until the end, though my grandmother, his “Pud”, quit cold turkey after more than 50 years so that it would be easier for him to stop.
After he died, I was so sad. My mom and sister were out of the country and my dad went on a long, solo road trip to California. I had a dream about Pop, just one, where I cried to him because I hadn’t visited him often enough when he was in the hospital. He listened to all I had to say, and then replied, smiling, “Hospital, shmospital! You did everything you are supposed to do! I love you and I am fine! I played 18 holes this morning and I’m going on a cruise soon!” He laughed, ug, ug, ug-oh, like Popeye.
I woke up feeling better. Pop thought I was a good girl. Over the years, from time to time, I have wondered if he was checking up on me. Sometimes, when I was doing something bad or nasty, I became ashamed. But really, I think that’s all just me. Pop would probably tell me I was just doing what I was supposed to do and that he loves me.