Saturday, March 8, 2008

Headlights Pointed at the Dawn

Inspiration is inspiring, isn't it?

Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Character and charisma are usually key elements to inspiration. I am inspired most by good public speakers(Tony Snow), powerful leaders (Reagan, Hitler, Stalin), great lyrics writers (Roger Daltry - The Who, Maynard James Keenan - Tool, Billy Corgan - Smashing Pumpkins, Jim Morrison - The Doors), and the leaders of the free world(Nixon, Truman, Eisenhower). However, inspiration doesn't always come from well known speakers and writers who drive home messages over airwaves and through books. Sometimes there is an inspiration right under your very nose that may go overlooked.

I make the drive about twice a week lately. Go down main street in town, and turn left at Rick's Autobody. Next, I take Webster out of town past Mindy's house...beep twice. I see County Line Rd, and the seemingly endless fields. I see the nice house with all the pines that extend to the road. I see the Amble house, I see Don's house. But the stamp of the whole trip out to Shepherd Road is that abandoned house. It sits on the corner of East Coleman Road, and Shepherd Road heading North. I see it every single trip, wondering if it will be standing the next time I make this trip. As I turn left onto Shepherd Rd, I slow down, thinking that maybe even in their old age my Grandpa and/or Grandma may think I'm 'tearing' down that road at an excess of their usual 8.5 mph; I turn down the radio thinking Grandpa's laser sharp hearing might pick up one of my horrid tunes blasting through the speakers. (I mean come on, you guys can't like the music that's playing on my blog site right now) As I turn in the driveway, I be sure to go extra slow as to not upturn a single piece of gravel, or Grandpa would have to go out there with the shop vac to get them out of the beautiful grass and back into the picturesque driveway. Next, I glance over at the pond and see that beautiful green grass forever circling that deep blue crisp water. The rocks look like they've been placed in the exact spot they were intended to fit in all along the edge of the water. Sometimes I wonder if I'm staring at a painting. I tear my eyes away from the sight and park the car, not too close to his truck, the dust off the driveway might scratch it.

I walk up to the cement porch that approaches that deep red door with the glass panes. I see Grandpa come hustling to the window in the kitchen as if I'm going to leave if I don't see him fast. He smiles and gives a wave to come inside. I walk in through the candy red door and onto that multi colored rug on the floor. I kick my feet and walk up the two steps with the oval shaped rugs on each one (which were imagined to be alligators by myself and the cousins in our younger days). There is yet another rug at the top of the stairs, to the right of those three beams, with a pair of white tennis shoes, and a pair of black cowboy boots, and if Grandma is home, another pair of white tennis shoes; i kick off my brown K Swisses as I walk in. Grandpa greets me with the same thing every time: "Well what do you say, John?" I glance around and notice that everything is in place...the blocks on the small table still say PORTER, there is a magazine or two waiting for me to take them (and they are always placed with about a half inch of table room on each side...never lopsided). And as I glance I take a deep breath so I can belt out, "Not much, how've you been?" in a loud enough tone for him to hear.

We retreat to the living room, which is about the only room that has changed since my lifetime. The long couch on the right side when you walk in is too firm to actually sit comfortably on for more than about 20 minutes. Next, the two Lazyboy chairs that replaced the old orange couch, Grandpa's is on the left, mine is on the right; separated by that old wooden stand with the lamp, which for 2 months out of the year holds a small chipmunk speaker that you can hear cousin Sarah sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." The carpet is still off-white, and is still able to be drawn on with your index finger; not a piece of plastic or a hint of dirt or dust. The TV flashes on, Grandpa says, "Well, what do you want to watch?" We both always agree on the News. Usually, Grandpa is a CNN guy, and I've gotten to where I don't mind it because Lou Dobbs is an Independant, and Wolf Blitzer is favorable to watch really, so we stay away from most of the Liberal bull crap. However, from time to time we watch Fox News.

The conversations are usually among the same topics. Grandpa always says, "Talk to your Dad?" I tell him either not lately, or yeah just last night or so. He then says, "Is he liking it there?" I reply with, "He doesn't mind the area, but he doesn't like the job as much as he did in Virginia." As the conversation goes on, I find out that Grandpa cares a lot more about what I have to say than what he wants to tell me. He opens up more than I ever knew he could. Just the other day he got out some pictures to show me, and was so disappointed when he couldn't find a good picture of his father painting the house; see, he is a real person. I saw pictures of Uncle Carl holding a mammoth of a Rainbow Trout from the pond, I saw pictures of both Auntie C's when they were mere adolescents. I saw a picture of all 4 C's standing in the pond before the water had been pumped in. But most importantly, I saw a youthful Grandfather holding a fish, driving a bulldozer, and sitting in front of me. He was beaming as he looked through these pictures, proud to have lived the life he had. He even told me of how lucky he was to have my Grandmother for as long as he has; so much that he even admits to being lonely when she's gone. He told me he might have to get himself a dog if he lives alone for half the year (a lab or a weimaraner) .

I've heard so many stories in he past two years from this man. He never seems to regret much of his life, other than not spending enough time with the kids. He always talks of how he worked a lot, and the other time was devoted to beagling. I hear stories of him waking up in corn fields after a crazy night, and of getting shot and spending the night in the hospital; not to mention a night or two in jail. But none of this matters now, because he is a content man with a much nicer side then I could have imagined really.

So, I encourage you to find inspiration in an ordinary character. Anyone can be inspired by words written in a book or belted out on the radio. I am deeply inspired by these things too, but nothing compares to this. He might not be able to hear very well, but he can communicate.


mickey said...

"I turn down the radio thinking Grandpa's laser sharp hearing might pick up one of my horrid tunes blasting through the speakers."

Okay, either you meant grandma, or I still feel bad about laughing at that at first.

Secondly, yes. I've had the privilege of hearing some good stories come out of that man, and if there's something he's short in, it's not experiences.

Peej said...

It might have been a touch of sarcasm.

mickey said...

Ha ha.


Peej said...

I was basically showing how paranoid I am.

curlz said...

I'm stealing it, John. I'm stealing your words. I dread the day I will need them, but in the mean time, they will make a lovely scrapbook page. I know he thinks you're special. I can't disagree.

Jock said...

Wow that will be a tough post to follow. It is amazing what people will say if you only listen. I must admit I had a tear in my eye and it made the wife cry.

I remember the last summer of Grandpa Young's life when he lived in the apartment by the funeral home with Grandma. I used to go there after baseball practice and wait to picked up by either mom or dad. While I was there Grandpa would start to tell me stories about World War I and what it was like. Grandma would always come and say "Oh Jack he doesn't want to here your old war stories." Oh but I did, they were fascinating and I would sit and listen to him until my ride would come. My best memories of Grandpa Young are these stories, stories I don't think he shared with anybody else. Stories I will remember until I am gone.

He had a lot to share and all it took was someone to sit and listen.

Shae W said...

Aww... I have to admit that I might have teared up a bit, as well. John, you're such a good kid. I have to say I'm a bit jealous that when you yell Papa hears you--no matter how hard I try, he can't quite make out what I'm saying.

You said some really great stuff in here. Maybe you should consider a career in writing?

All jokes aside, this was really special.

JP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JP said...

You have something special with him. Even though I don't have it, I delight in the fact that you do. I'm glad you posted this, you've shared some of it with me already. You couldn't have done it better and it was a great opportunity. Thanks for sharing this and giving a man part of his humanity back. I love you, kid.

carriegel said...

i couldn't respond to your post right away because i wanted to think about it. it is one of the most incredible things i have ever read and to think it is now written down. and i agree with shaelynn, have you ever considered writing as a careeer? you have a real gift.
your story reminded me of a little story about your grandpa. even though he isn't a church going man he has lived his life in a way more honorable than most men.
i was maybe 10-12 and he had a car for sale. one of the indians down the road came by and said he wanted it and would come back later with the amount they had agreed on. in those days, indians were considered the bottom of the social pecking order. they commanded no respect from anyone. most lived off the government on the reservation with others scattered throughout the county.
in the meantime his cousin sheldon had stopped by and found out the car was for sale. when he found out what he was going to sell it for he said he would your grandpa more for it. and your grandpa said he couldn't do that. he had given his word to the other guy and that was that. of course, sheldon's response was "he's just an indian". that made no difference to your grandpa. his word was word. he didn't have to go to church. he lived his life in a way that was much more powerful and meaningful.
thanks for writing that story. it brought back a memory that i am glad i hadn't forgotten.
btw, that house on the corner is really a schoolhouse that your grandpa attended as a young boy.

Peej said...

I thank you all for the nice things, but to answer some questions, I haven't really thought about writing as a career. I am too interested in Politics, which could involve a lot of writing though. I guess I just wanted to get this out there because I feel lucky to have gotten to know him as much as I have.

Shae W said...

You are really lucky. I think, as a generation, we tend to forget about the stories our parents and grandparents have to tell. I, for one, am really glad that you got to hear Papa's. It's nice to hear that he's not always so gruff, you know?

I could live with a politician as a cousin, I suppose. Just keep writing!!

Peej said...

Well, I like to write opinionated papers and such, so don't expect me to quit.

And back to older Aunt C, I have heard that that abandoned house was grandpa's school, I was just never positive that I heard correctly...So I didn't want to feel dumb by saying that.

carriegel said...

you heard correctly, it was his school. i would assume he went there until 8th grade? i know he went to clare for high school from which he barely graduated. i think he was too busy running the roads with his friends!

Jock said...

He did go to Clare but I think he ended up graduating from Coleman.

curlz said...

Confirmed. He graduated from Coleman. With Marv's mom.

Peej said...

he also graduated with leonard urbaniak

monajtracy said...

beautiful tribute to your grandad John. Made me cry because I too spent a lot of time with your grandparents growing up; playing around that pond and the fruit trees and of course the beagling (and by the way my dad and your grandpa were such good friends that even got shot together)! He loved his family very much and was so proud of all of you. He will be so missed <3