Thursday, June 21, 2007

Grandad's Grin

This is my Grandad. I know his name is probably supposed to be spelled Granddad - with 3 Ds in the name. But, we always spelled it Grandad, and he had 7 grandchildren. He was known as Dad by 3 children, including my mom. He was the loving husband of 2 wonderful wives, and most knew him by his given name, Loren Washburn. But, back when he was in the service, Grandad's name was "Squint."

When Grandad really smiled, his eyes disappeared into lines, and that lovely feature has been handed down to several of the Washburn descendants. So, when we really smile, our eyes truly show it!

My Grandma Dorothy Washburn died when I was very young, and it has been sad to have missed the opportunity to really know her. But, one thing's for sure...and the pictures prove it. When she was around him, he REALLY smiled.

After Grandma's death, Grandad didn't seem to smile so much. But, I liked to try to make him smile. And, Mom and Dad would work it out so that I could go stay with him for a few days at a time. We always had a routine, and there were several things I could count on during my visits:

* Watching Grandad take out his false teeth at night and putting them back in when we got ready to go somewhere. I was fascinated by them - sitting there in a little dish. Rows of teeth. I'd peer over the sink to stare at them. Sometimes, Grandad had to ask me what was taking so long in the bathroom. I had never seen anything like them before, and at first, they concerned me. But, I remember asking Grandad if he could smile without his teeth - just to make sure. And, sure enough, he was able to do so! That was a huge relief.

* He often had those big, squishy orange candy circus peanuts to eat. Maybe it had something to do with Grandad's false teeth. But, I got hooked on them. I now haven't had them for years, but whenever I see them in the store, I immediately think of him sitting in the kitchen and the two of us sharing the treats together.

* Grandad had milk in glass bottles! Just plain strange. We were always able to drink pop at his house, but we never had pears. Grandad couldn't stand them. His silverware had slim wooden handles, and the toast was always made with WHITE bread. Also strange. (But, it always tasted so delicious to me and seemed like something extra special.)

* I loved to watch Grandad comb his hair before we "went out for a drive." I don't know what he put in it, but later in the day, I could look at him and see the comb marks preserved in his hair.

* When we "went out for a drive," that's exactly what we did: drive and drive and drive... I guess Grandad was always looking at the crops. He was a farmer, and I felt like we were driving by pretty much nothing. But, he seemed really interested.

* After our drives in the country, we'd go into town and stop at The Shack, the local diner, or the Dixie Truck Stop. I thought it was wonderful to sit on the stools up by the counter with Grandad. It always seems like everyone knew Grandad, and they'd come up and talk. About farming, mostly. There would always be a lot of teasing, and Grandad's squinty grin would be in full force again. (Of course, his teeth would always be back in by that time! Thankfully!)

* When Grandad wasn't eating, he was usually smoking. I was so used to it at that time that it didn't bother me. But, when I stayed with him, I'd sometimes play with his cigarette wrappers and his carton boxes. Then, when it was time to take out the trash, I'd collect all of them and "help" Grandad carry out the trash to the burning place. He'd let me put papers in the wire holder, but as soon as Grandad got ready to light the trash, he made me go stand up by the house. Even that far away, I'd love to watch the little paper ashes float up in the air.

There are so many memories I have about Grandad, and I loved my visits with him. When I was in early gradeschool, I was excited to see that Grandad showed up at my birthday party... and brought a very special friend. She was extremely kind to all of our family from the start, and eventually, she became my "Grandma Emma." Grandad was smiling widely once again.

Unfortunately, at the end of my gradeschool years, Grandad became very sick with cancer, and he went through a lot of suffering. There were a lot of years when I really wanted to talk to him, ask him about Grandma Dorothy, ask him about the service and WWII, and reminisce about our visits... but he just couldn't. He was either in too much pain or too groggy from the medicine trying to control the pain. In the latter years, he didn't recognize Mom - let alone all of us grandchildren. I prayed I could somehow find a way to take away the pain and help him smile - just as I had tried so hard to do when he was heartsick so many years before. Sadly, he passed away the summer after my freshman year in high school, and so many things were left unspoken.

Because of my recent dabblings in genealogy, I have been blessed to obtain many photos of my family members, and they are wonderful. The photos provide answers to so many questions, but they create questions about even more topics. I love that I've been able to see the not-so-formal pictures. You know, the ones where someone's hair is sticking out a little on one side. Or, a child is crying or someone is experiencing a full belly laugh. I'm able to see someone's hands.... the creases, the strength, the years of hard work. These photos fill in the gaps between the photographer family studio photos that are taken every 5 to 10 years, and in these candid shots, I am able to see the unique family traits that have been transferred down generation by generation. Oftentimes when I see my mom, my brother, or my cousins smile, it reminds me of my Grandad.... and I long to see his grin in person again. Those squinty eyes. The wholehearted laugh. Thankfully, I have these photos to help me remember, and I anxiously wait to see on what family member his grin will materialize next. The eyes tell it all.


Anonymous said...

Wow strem:

That is why I read your blog that was really cool. It also has a way of lifting me up and thinking of all the stuff going right now of what is important.
thanks for sharing


Anonymous said...

You made your Mom cry. A lot of memories came flying back when I read this. You also had some things to say that I did not know about. Thanks! Mom

Ceridwen said...

That is a beautiful post.

strem said...

Thanks, Alan. Hope we can talk about this over the weekend.

Mom, I didn't know if you would have the computer with you on your trip to GA. Glad you liked the post.

Ceridwen, thanks for continuing to check in here. I appreciate your comments, and hope you and your family are doing well!

Chelle said...

What a sweet post! I miss my own grandparents very much.

lydia said...

I really enjoyed reading this post about your Grandad. (By the way, we always spelled it with only 2 Ds.) As I was reading, I knew that it would bring tears to your Mom's eyes. As sweet as it was for me to read, I'm sure it was even more special for you to write and think back on those special memories of your Grandad.

Dani said...

That was awesome, and awfully sweet to show us the family's eyes. :)