There are those times as a child when certain memories come back like yesterday. For those of us with doting Grandparents these times are even more special. Grandma and Grandpa lived in near Wellsboro, PA. The town was one of those factory areas with lots of farms, and lots of old dirt roads.
In the early days going to Grandma’s house there were a few nostalgic places along the way. One was an area that was flooded and a dam built where there used to be farms and one of those were owned by our extended family. Next was the old store just before we turned onto the old Route 6, the road my grandma lived on.
The road was semi-paved and long and the old store was torn down a few years later with my only recollection was a new road was put in it’s place. The old road also marked the nearness of Grandma’s place and a sense of magic and an accommodating environment. Grandpa was always a bit annoyed at Grandma’s eccentricities and she had a few. But in th end, his love was born out for her even though Dr House probably learned snarkiness from him.
He used to show us the severed finger he suffered while working on an old car that collapsed as his finger got in the way of the hitch. He wore his infirmity with pride and he was also very keen to my dad’s mistreatment of Mom. Grandpa seethed with an inner rage and a few choice words from time to time.
Dad’s father was a bit of a jerk also and his sister would tell how he was beat by own his dad and thus the cycle of abuse was passed down. That inner rage like an old tire tube, slowly leaked it’s venom and poisoned what would have been an ideal childhood, all things considered.
Staying at the house was the feeling that dad was powerless there and that he could only go so far pushing my mom to tears. Something about being patriarchal and fair. But Grandma always had the Charles Chips Potato Chips, cases of soft-drinks and a few cookies to boot. She was in love with her children in the sense that her world revolved us. From the sock cookies to her love of the Pennsylvania Amish. I remember light switches that read, “Outen the Lights” and other relics of a different time in the midst of the present.
I remember one time when Grandpa and Grandma visited us in Fairbanks, Alaska. The bitter cold was relieved by their presence and true to form, Grandma, who my dad despised, was able to help give aid to my mom’s beleaguered spirit. This is where my anxieties deepest fissures stemmed. The memory of my dad on top of mom was a knife threatening to hurt her (kill her) if she ever did whatever she allegedly did.
Being the only child old enough to remember much, it as though something was relentlessly scratching the blackboard in school. I dangled like an ornament precariously situated on a branch and Christmas a kind of detante against the ongoing drama and virtual cold war.
But back at her mom in Pennsylvania was a place of peace, a lean-to and suspending sanctuary against the bitter winds that blew like an angry wind. The best was staying over at Grandma’s during the summer and a few times during Christmas break. I used to watch the traffic on the new Rte 6 and when there was snow, the crunching of tires and the slow procession that followed the ruts in the snow packed ice.
The chiming of the old grandfather clock and the old black and white TV that sat below it. My mom told as kids that they put a kind of tri-colored flimsy on top of the black and white picture to get color TV. The only cable back then was the one that towed your car out of a ditch.
Speaking of ditches. While still very young I was in the front seat of our old blue Ford stationwagon while mom and dad were inside. I decided to go with my first driver’s education class and put the car in reverse and it slowly rolled down the driveway and onto old 6 and against a barb-wired fence. Beyond that fence was about a twenty foot drop. My dad was sheepish at his thoughtlessness and I was pretty scared myself. Afterwards was a warning and a laugh from grandfather that dissipated the pressure of that event.
The old Grandfather clock croaked out the time, it’s face made of copper and ornate arms which spun slowly, methodically and predictably. Calming the tempest in a generally unfamiliar way. The stairway seemed much longer than it really was and the excitement of the old house gave it a kind of haunted house feel.
Grandma’s heart seemed in synch with the old time keeper and my grandfather sat in his chair and winked at us. He had a quiet power over us and though 70ish he was no one to mess with, He was a steadying force in the family, truly a great man in my eyes.
I really feel that he loved Grandma even though his first wife died pretty young. Reminders of her were her spinster sisters, kind of like the Baldwin sisters in The Waltons. He was also a pretty good ball player and played in the industrial leagues that were common then.
Both of my grandfathers played semi-pro baseball and probably where I got my athletic skills. My dad did too though he opted for working hard and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is he was terribly conflicted and full of inner rage. He never went to my sporting events and he missed something special when I was in high school upsetting the number one wrestler in the state of NY in my division (105lbs) LOL>
But Grandma T’s house was a kind of sanctuary and better when the cousins showed up. We rigged an old crate and used a small beach ball and played basketball. The excitement with the prospects of going to our Aunt and Uncle’s House on the Dairy Farm. Days were long with chores and all and since it was a novelty, the fact that it was work was not a problem.
After eating during the spring and summer we played Little League Baseball. With tons of catchers mitts and other types of baseball gloves we would head off to the park. Even cousins who were girls played baseball and this was true even at the fair they had each year near Blossburg in a towned called Roseville. It was Hooterville with our telephones inside but they were party lines. Yeah they did exist and long distance calls in the states, a few miles away were expensive. No cellphones then unless the cans with the string attached could be considered thus.
On our way home we would stop at the Farmer-in-the Dell Creamery were absolutely delicious fresh ice cream was served. Too bad but that place was bought out and leveled in corporate America’s siege of small farming communities and forcing farmers to find jobs in a world that was decreasingly hospitable to the menial-minded laborer.
The only time it was tolerable was when I had my 17 year old girlfriend Marci along for the ride. We stroked each other’s hair and cuddled for the long ride. I was pretty happy at that time. I remember waiting at her parent’s house one day and the song by Gordon Lightfoot ‘Sundown’ was playing. As she emerged to come downstairs, her long flowing black hair felt right at the moment. I was pretty happy with that too. Of course.
As my dad and my mom’s mom grew older my dad actually conceded that it was a nice time though he hated going because I think, it reminded him of what he never really had and the world is sadder when you cannot feel that way about Grandma and Grandpa.