Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Today is my grandfather’s 96th birthday. Even though I know he can’t hear me though the phone (hearing aids are only for old people, he says) I called him to wish him a very happy birthday. My grandmother answered and tried to pass him the phone but he wouldn’t talk. They were on the way out the door to celebrate at the Old Country Buffet with their “buffet friends”. I learned long ago never to interfere with Buffet Time. I’ll have to try to call back later.

My grandfather is a talker. He will talk to anyone for hours on end. When I was younger, this used to make me insane because he’d strike up a conversation with someone in a store and I’d be standing there for what seemed to be forever. What I didn’t realize until I got much older that my grandfather is a great listener, too. It’s no secret that I have inherited my strong “schmoozing” (or shooting the shit, as Grandpa calls it) abilities from him.

He is a very interesting guy and as loyal a person as I’ve ever met. He’s a staunch Republican, also as stubborn as they come and to this day, does not believe that girls should be wearing pants. He says that fashion event alone was the downfall of society. I’m not sure that’s the case, but hey, when you’re 96, you’re entitled to think whatever you want as far as I’m concerned. Still, here I am at 41, married, with four kids of my own and I get in trouble every time I see him because I’m wearing pants.

In his younger years, my grandfather was quite an outdoorsman. My grandparent’s home displayed large mounted fish, antlers, deer heads and antique rifles pretty much everywhere you looked. I always curiously stared at these things, although, I admit, I do remember having a nightmare or two where one would come back to life and jump at me or something.

And just like two deer, Grandpa and I butt antlers on just about everything, but we have a deep respect for each other and that’s all that matters. And well, I learned long ago, that there are topics better left undiscussed :) Like miniskirts, for example. They are not pants, after all, you’d think they’d be ok.

I’ve always been very close to my grandparents, moreso than most people. I was named after my grandfather and when my father passed away when I was young, my grandparents kind of took on a parental role, I guess. In my mind, there is not much distinction between my parents and my grandparents.

My grandfather taught me to do crossword puzzles, to drive, to work hard and to play even harder. He taught me how to play poker, to throw a punch and told me that no matter what shots you get hit with in life, you hold your head high and keep going. He also told me that the people in your life who you love and who love you back come before anything. He usually taught me these things like this alongside teaching me to drive a little motorboat, how to fish and how to shoot rifles.

Grandpa and I were always fishing and once, after months and months and months of preparation, he even took me pheasant hunting along with his bird dog, Gretchen. My grandfather could be the King of Boy Scouts. He is always prepared for anything. Just an FYI, if there is ever a nationwide shortage of toilet paper, enough for everyone can be found in my grandparent’s walk-in closet.

We had prepared for forever for this hunting event, too. I’m sure he was worried about my shooting abilities.

I’m actually quite good at shooting on a range with a handgun, Charlie’s Angels style. The shotgun takes a bit more effort than a handgun on my part, but Grandpa didn’t laugh when the recoil knocked me flat on my butt the first time I shot it. He showed me again how to hold it so it didn’t knock me over and I did it. I wish I had remembered his words of wisdom when I had to pass the shotgun test at the Police Department. That time, I didn’t get quite knocked on my butt, but I had a bruise on my shoulder like none I’ve had before..or since, thankfully. Completely missed the paper target the first time, too. Unlike my grandfather, they did laugh at me at the PD :)

Grandpa didn’t even care that after all of that hunting preparation that when the time came, I hesitated and couldn’t fire. I didn’t even have to say anything. He just knew and he told me not to do it.

“Not everything’s for everybody. We can shoot the breeze instead.” He smiled and so did I.

Now I’m very glad that my grandfather wouldn’t take the phone earlier today. Tonight I’m going to go over and visit and while we’re shooting the breeze, I’m going to thank him for all of these lessons, memories and make sure he hears how much I love him. This is one shot I am certainly not going to hesitate taking. No sir, not by a long shot.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa! I love you!


Scott said...

What a great post. Happy 96th to your grandpa.

TeaMouse said...

What an awesome post! My grandma just turned 92 on Sunday - you truly do have to enjoy all the moments with them.

I was lucky that my grandma came over to my sons grade 12 bbq a few weeks ago. It's so hard for her to get around. She's been in a private nursing home and from not being very active her muscles no longer support her small frame so she is terribly wobbly.

Happy Birthday to your Grandpa.

This Eclectic Life said...

You are so doggone awesome. I can see exactly where you get it! I wish I could go and sit with your grandfather and shoot the shit with him (you could come along). Jessica, this is one of the most poignant "love letters" I have ever seen. Thank you. You gave me chills and tears...happy tears. Tell your Grandpa happy birthday from Texas, OK? How lucky you are. How lucky HE is.

FatBlokeThin said...

Lovely thoughtful post...

Sadly I lost all of my grandparents at a very early age - I don't feel bitter about it in any way (it's not their faut.lol!) but I sometimes wonder if my relationship with my parents would have been better now if i had them to talk to?

It seems to be a tradition to have chldren late in our family and that means grandparenets are thin on the ground for every generation which may explain my difficult relationship with my father.

I really feel I missed out on something there.

Anyway, enough of this whistful nonsense.

Rock on my girl and give him a hug from England as well!

Matty said...

Great post,
There is nothing as special as grandparents or family. You're very lucky to still have your grandparents. Wish him Happy Birthday from Canada!
He's right, its better to shoot the shit, or shoot with a camera.I hope he lives to 100 and still enjoy the 'buffet'. I hope my grandkids will talk about me one day with the same love and respect you have for your grandpa!