Loving Recollections of my Granddad on Father’s Day
Whenever I feel down in the dumps, all I have to do is remember how blessed I am to have known my grandfather. Life with my grandfather was filled with love, happy memories, and great pride. I am so proud of him, so honored to be his grandchild.
Sadly, my hero is no longer with us, but he’ll always be alive in my memory. He’s had a profound impact on me, my values, and my ethics. He was bigger and brighter than the tallest, fully lit Victorian Christmas tree, and just as resplendent with fantasy and color. Granddad was the quintessential patriarch, a fusion of the wisdom of the ages, a brilliant charismatic man who possessed a simple grace… a fine human being.
My grandparents lived in Virginia; we lived 600 miles away in Connecticut. Every summer, when school let out, my sisters and I, and sometimes Mom, would make the pilgrimage south to spend two or three glorious, long anticipated weeks with our Virginian family. Mom couldn’t always go because she was running a business. When she could make the trip, she’d pack us in the car, along with a huge picnic lunch, and we would drive for hours to reach our family. There was no Interstate 95 in those days. The drive was tedious and hot. There was no air conditioning. The times that Mom couldn’t accompany us, we were put on a train, with food, comic books, crayons, and coloring books to occupy us en route. The trip was carefully planned from launch to arrival, which all took place during much gentler times when strangers could be trusted to actually look after kids. Right now, I can’t believe my mother’s courage in allowing us to travel alone.
Aunt Polly would meet us at the station and drive us to our grandparents’ home. It’s said that the sense of smell evokes the strongest memory. I remember smelling boxwood as we entered my grandparents’ driveway, and the soil was red and dense with clay. Every time I smell boxwood now, I get a feeling of euphoria. My beautiful grandparents greeted us with arms wide open. After lots of hugging and kissing, they would take us on a tour of their garden. My grandmother was a master gardener. She had roses, all kinds of succulents, boxwood, fig trees, and apricot trees. My grandfather had a real fondness for fruit. He had a serious sweet tooth. He would pluck sweet ripe specimens from the trees and hand them to us as we walked.
Granddad was very much shorter than Grandmother, who was a tall stately woman. The two of them were like two turtle doves, still madly in love, holding hands. They had nine children together.
Granddad had beautiful hazel eyes. His delicate chiseled features had become blurred with age and weight. He lost most of his hair. What was left, his grandchildren were fond of braiding and twisting in little spikes. He had the patience of a saint.
Granddad’s education happened through unanticipated adult responsibility early in life. When his parents died, as the eldest of four and only a teenager himself, he took on the rearing of his siblings. He did it, magnificently, if not easily. He was a natural businessman. He became a wholesale grocer to support his family. My totally awesome grandfather learned to speak and write in four languages. He was well read and could converse with anyone about any subject. He later got into commercial real estate and building construction. From this, he became financially very successful, but he never lost the common touch. I recently learned how many young entrepreneurs my grandfather helped, not with loans either. He actually seeded their businesses. All he asked in return was that they succeed. Succeed, they did. My grandfather became legend.
As a child, I didn’t know or care about any of this. My grandfather was the person who piled us in the car and took us for rides at 25 miles an hour. He took us to Clover creamery and bought us the biggest fresh peach ice cream cones I have ever seen. He’s the funny man who had a stash of watermelons in the garage. He would grab one after dinner, and bring it to the kitchen table, put one foot on a chair for leverage, and proceed to cut the melon in perfect wedges for his family to eat.
Granddad was the loving presence I traveled to see every summer. The privilege of knowing him was a gift I will never forget. How I miss him. Happy Father’s Day Granddad!
~ Joan Saloomey
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