A little over a week ago my Grandfather, Mitchell, Erin and myself took a 5 minute drive from Dodge Park Rest Home (where he had been staying) up to 12 Hycrest Dr (his home). My grandfather hadn't been home in over 2 months due to a series of hospital and nursing home stays. I helped him go through some of his clothes and some other personal items he had. After a few minutes on his feet he was looking for a place to rest, so we walked down toward the "Living Room". It is furnished with a couch, a glass coffee table, a Zenith radio from 1956, a lamp on a small table, a large bay window and 2 comfortable rocking chairs. My grandfather walked to the chair on the far end of the room and I took my place on the other and we talked for about a half an hour.
Growing up, my brother Chris and I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. It was a win, win, win situation. My parents got a break, my grandparents got to show off two goofy little boys, and we got to stay up past our normal bed times. And as a result, there weren't many protests when it came to spending time at 12 Hycrest Dr. I have vivid memories of waking up on a Saturday morning and watching my grandparents go through their normal routine of cleaning up the house. My Grandparents equally shared in the responsibilities of mopping, changing the sheets, wiping down glass and counters, loading and unloading the laundry, and running the vacuum. I would start out the morning willing to help (as much as a 5 year old kid could), but as the morning rolled on, I'd begin to lose interest in the activities of cleaning. My grandparents, however, wouldn't waiver until they were done with all their responsibilities. And when they were done cleaning, Grandpa would stroll over to the refrigerator, reach into the bottom drawer and grab a couple of red apples. As he shined up his apple, he'd begin to whistle a tune. He'd walk over to the living room and draw open the curtain in front of the bay window. I'd follow him into the living room with my apple, make an attempt to whistle, wait for the curtain to open and stare out the window. Grandpa would say, "Now that we've finished our work, we can relax". He'd sit down on the far chair and I'd sit down on the other and we ate the apples.
At the age of 16 I had been living full time with my grandparents for a couple of years. It was quite a sacrifice for them to make; just think of the cost of food for two teenage boys and you know that many of the plans they had for retirement would have to be altered. My grandfather would pick me up from school almost every afternoon. After getting home I'd put my books down, change up and go look for a snack in the refrigerator. My grandfather was already in the living room on his chair going through the day’s mail; I'd stroll in and sit on the other chair. It was in the spring of 1995 that I said to him, "I think I found a car that I'd like to buy". He looked up from the latest piece of junk mail that he received and said, "Jason, that is a big responsibility... you have to get a loan, pay for insurance, gas and maintenance". I told him that I thought I was ready, so he took me down to the bank to apply for a loan. After having me go through the whole process of filling out forms and meeting with the loan officer, he pulled me aside and said, "I've got an idea... I'll give you an interest free loan for the car and you can pay me back $100 a month." That deal was a lot better than the bank’s offer, so I took it. A few weeks later, I was driving a 1989 Honda CRX. It took me about 3 years, but I paid him back the total that I borrowed.
It was in February of 2000 that my Grandmother passed away after a battle with Pancreatic Cancer. It was a very difficult time for my grandfather. Shortly thereafter, I finished my full time college career and moved back into 12 Hycrest Dr. I had just turned 22 years old and he was quick to point out that I was hardly ever around the house. However, I do remember several times where I would rush into the house with places to go and people to see. I yelled out “Hey-O” as I always did while bolting in to the house. He was in the living room, sitting quietly on his chair, gazing out the window. Most of the time he would call back, “Hey-O”; but he didn’t this time. His eyes were damp and his voice cracked as he said, “I miss her so much”. I didn’t know what to say; I was not used to seeing my Grandfather cry. I joined him by sitting on the other chair and said, “I miss Grandma too”.
It was in these moments in the spring of 2000 that he shared many of his favorite memories of his wife. He told me about meeting her while hanging out at East Park. “She was spunky and cute, and I just knew that she was the one for me” he confessed. He told me stories of the family support they received living together in a 3 decker on Rodney St. He spoke of difficult times and reminded me that relationships aren’t perfect, “but if you work at it, you’ll have way more good times than bad.” He started to laugh when he recalled that, “Grandma was so nervous about buying this house on Hycrest Dr. $23,000 was a lot of money to spend on a house in 1964.”
As I sat there, listening to him talk about how he and my grandmother fell in love and made a life together, it helped to serve as confirmation for me as I was falling in love with my girlfriend and soon to be wife, Erin.
And so, there we were, just over a week ago, on Saturday, May 3rd… now with my wife Erin and our son Mitchell… at 12 Hycrest Dr. It was at this very place that my grandfather took advantage of every “teachable moment” he had.
It was here that he taught me:
· To finish the job before you relax, because you can’t really relax until the job is done.
· An apple a day keeps the doctor away… or at least can’t hurt.
· That owning a car was a big responsibility and you have to take care of it.
· Family needs to come first; help them when they need it.
· That love isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.
And even on that day as we sat there for the last time on the two chairs he was teaching me one more valuable lesson.
· Life is too short to just sit around.
It was after about a half hour that he said, “Hey, let’s get going, I don’t want to miss bingo with old ladies and I think it starts at 10”
And we got up from the chairs at Hycrest Dr. for the last time. I love you Grandpa!