Little Grandpa

While I was cleaning this week, I came across a box of old pictures that were my mothers.  In the box was a picture of my grandpa.  Now he was an unusual little man.  I don’t remember ever seeing him go to work, at least not daily.  When his wife died, he began to drink and I can’t remember him ever being sober, at least not until he came to live with us in Pasadena and mom took away his liquor and would only allow him one beer a day, if he was good.  He hated that, but he obeyed my mom.  He was a little man who resembled Barry Fitzgerald, the actor who played a priest in “Going My Way,” with Bing Crosby.

Grandpa and two of his sons came to live with mom and dad after his wife died and mom pretty much raised my father’s little brothers.  Every day grandpa headed for the Beer Garden, that’s what they called the taverns in those days.  My brothers and I used to make fun of grandpa because he could never walk a straight line, at least in the evening.  He was grumpy and miserable in the morning before he had his first beer, but by evening he was as happy as if he had good sense.  We kids didn’t mind his drinking, because he always gave us quarters when he had a few too many, which was most of the time.  A quarter in those days would buy a month’s worth of candy.  We loved little grandpa.  He was funny, and loved to sing and yodel.  He kept us entertained many an evening, and you will remember, in those days we had no television, just radio.

One day my little brother Fred got mad at mother and wrapped his special toys in a big handkerchief, tied it on a stick like a hobo, and ran away from home.  He was quite small, about five, I think.  Mother called the police.  Officer Pete Sikes, mom’s old boyfriend, came over to get the information about Freddie.  They scoured the town and finally found Freddie sleeping on the steps of the beer garden, where grandpa always hung out.  When they found him, Fred said, “I wanted to make mommy feel bad for yelling at me.”

When we moved to Pasadena, California, grandpa came to live with us again.  His boys knew that mother could handle him better than they could.

Grandpa always sat by the front door in his rocking chair, smoking his pipe filled with Granger tobacco.  It was the smelliest thing, and he would drop tobacco on the rug and in his chair.  But the reason for sitting by the front door was so he could pinch my girl friends as they entered the house.  Yes, he was feisty old man, but the girls would play his game and giggle while trying to skirt his chair.  He never got up, so it was easy to stay a distance away from his grasp.  He loved the game and would say, “I’ll get you next time.”

Mom took care of little grandpa until he died at a ripe old age.  Watching grandpa, with his constant drinking, was probably why I married a man who didn’t drink.  I miss that little old man and his shameless pinching.  I could never figure out how he ever had a six-foot-two son like my father, but I’m glad he did.