A few weeks ago, Hubby and I drove through the old section of Dora, Alabama. Lots of old buildings and brick shells from a fire years ago. Fascinating for sure. I can imagine my maternal grandfather and his dad walking on the streets or sidewalks. A few pictures below. The ones in color I took on the drive. The black and white are from Pinterest. Several sites showed the same B/W pictures without copyright marks.
Speaking of my grandfather, I’ve been talking with my uncle about him a lot lately. He’s the youngest of my mom’s siblings at the age of 83. I’ve always thought of him being so cool. He is. It’s funny how we see the same man in two different lights. My uncle thinks of his dad as a stern SOB. While I grew up with my granddad as being a sweet, loving old man. My uncle finds it almost unbelievable that the man he knew being that way. My uncle left home at 18. He packed his bags one day, left with some friends for Indiana, and didn’t come back for a long time.
Anyway, here are some of my memories of Granddad.
First, not exactly my memory, but I remember my mother telling me when I was around 18 months old, I was feeling sickly and Granddad was the only one who could comfort me. Every time he tried to sit me down or hand me off to another person, I would cry and hold tight to his neck. Maybe that was why he liked me in particular. I do understand how a child can touch your heart by their unknowing preference.
When I was probably around seven (1963), we were walking to the store to get a dope. (Up to 1929, cocaine was used in Coca-Cola’s formula and since people would act dopey after drinking one, they would call it a Dope. And yes, I thought he mispronounced Coke. HA!) Along the trip, I dropped my dime onto the dirt road. He and I searched for several minutes without luck. He told me to not to worry that he had another dime for me to use. I was so relieved. And I do remember walking into the musty smelling store with him. Several old men were sitting in the back, around an old cast iron stove, and teased him–as they were laughing–but I didn’t understand what they said. The next time I came to visit, my grandfather told me he found the dime and handed it over to me. I remember being amazed. Later, my grandmother said he’d searched for days on that dirt road for the dime. What a sweet guy!
Granddad had two mules: a black one and a white one. My sister and I loved to pet them, whenever they would let us get near. One time, several of us grandkids were visiting, and Granddad decided to hitch up the mules to his wagon and drive us down to the store and back. Considering it was no more than a half of a mile to the store, it was a short trip, but we were all excited about it (some of us were city kids).
Then one time Granddad came to stay with us for a few days. I was in fifth or six grade and he gave me $20. For what reason, I have no idea at the time. You have to realize that amount of money in 1966-67 was equal to $170 today. A whole lot of money for 11-12 year old girl. Thinking about it now, that must have been about the time he was told he had black lung. He’d worked as coal miner possibly from 12 years old (the 1910 census showed at 16 he worked in the mines with two of his brothers, ages 14 and 12). He died in 1971.
In early 1971, he came to stay with us for several weeks. During that time, I would get ready for school in the mornings and would go into Granddad’s room (formerly mine), and grab my clothes for the day out of the closet. He often could be found sitting in the chair between the closet and a window that looked out over the pasture behind our house. One morning, he stopped me and said that he wanted to make sure I finished my schooling. As that he’d been the same man who told his five daughters that girls didn’t need to finish school (none graduated), my mom thought that was strange when I repeated it to her. But he also said he loved me and started to cry. I hugged him and promised to finish school, and that I loved him too and started to cry along with him. A few days later, he was placed in the hospital and then moved to a nursing home (probably hospice care). I visited once and he called me by another person’s name. The drugs they were giving him for the pain caused him to be confused. My mom said it was his sister’s name. That I may have looked a little like her. At the time, I had no idea he had a sister, no less any siblings.
I have several more memories of my granddad, but the ones above are the more personal ones. Though my uncle and his siblings have/had memories far different from mine–he’s amazed by mine–it goes to show how time can change a person. Sure, some people never change, good or bad., but I think many people do. And as I my uncle has said, his dad loved his grandchildren. To me, all of this history I’ve been discovering about my family has enriched me personally, and pushed me to reconnect with my relatives.
As a kid, we don’t understand all of the things happening around us. As writers, delving into the reasons of why people do the things they do, helps our stories. A side benefit is understanding events that happened to us or others prior or currently. Not that writers know everything, but with knowledge comes understanding.
From my research, my granddad’s dad wasn’t a nice man and had deserted his wife and kids when they were needing him the most. And my grandmother never knew her father, as he left when she was little and her step-father didn’t want her or her brother. So when my grandparents married at 17 and 20, they were two souls who never had a regular, loving family. Then they had children and it wasn’t like they could get on the internet or read a book about childcare and raising children in a more understanding, kind way. They only did what was done to them. Sadly.
It appears times changed them, and I like to think their children grew up and worked at being better parents than their own. I would say most didn’t do so bad, and besides, people agree having grandchildren is so much easier.
Love you, Granddad. Miss you.