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Tales from a small town

Short stories about life in a small town. Non-fiction. Great reading.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas past

This is an homage to my grandfather. The older I get, the more I miss him. (He died when I was 18.)

He was the glue that held the family together during the holidays. I have the "Norman Rockewell" Christmas memories because everybody wanted to make him happy.

He didn't put up with my uncle (his son's) radical shit. My uncle likes to stir things up by getting on peoples' nerves. Don't know why, but he gets a real charge out of it. Very annoying.

My grandfather would shut him down the second he started. My grandmother would just roll her eyes, as though she thought my grandfather was being too authoritarian. But, in shutting him down, everybody got along very nicely.

Ever since my grandfather passed, the holidays have never been the same. My uncle starts in on his crap, people get annoyed, and my grandmother thinks everyone is against my uncle, as if it's our fault that we don't get along with him. My uncle listens to her, so she has the ability to keep him under control, but she thinks that everybody's "just too hard on Mike."

"Nobody understands his sense of humor," she always says.

My grandfather was a short, frail man, but everybody listened to him. He was everybody's drinking buddy and a real "good-time Charlie," but he also had a very intense side: when he spoke, people listened. He just had that certain "cult of personality;" you just listened to him, and didn't think twice of it.

I wouldn't say he was a "war hero," but he had letters of commendation from commanding officers for his service during WWII. (He operated a flame thrower in the Marshall Islands.)

After his stint in the Pacific Theater, he got a gig as a sports writer for the Stars and Stripes, and got to meet all the major league baseball players of the day, while stationed in Honolulu.

He was the type who could hold his own with people like that, no question. Why he never tried to get syndicated or get a job in a major market, is beyond me. That just wasn't his style. He had his own newspaper, and as far as he was concerned, that's all he needed. (He lost the paper shortly before being discharged: to his dying day, he suspected my grandmother of torching it for the insurance, but I'm the only one he ever shared that with.)

He got a job with Findlay's newspaper, became the treasurer of the Typographical Union, and retired after 30 years as a typesetter.

He loved his union buddies, his poker games and his wife. He had a well-balanced life, not being too ambitious, but always making sure his wife and children had everything they needed.

He was the glue that held the family together during the holidays, and they haven't been the same since he passed. I always wonder if anyone will ever think of me like that.