I write a monthly newsletter for my seniors citizens. After 24 years of that, you start to worry about repeating yourself. Instead, I decided to poke a little fun at myself while marveling over the fascinating changes my grandfather experienced. Here it is.
I have one of those “milestone” birthdays this year—much to Mom’s dismay. I turn 60. (She STILL declares herself too young to have a kid my age). I don’t dread it. Any occasion featuring chocolate cake is a win.
An adult once told me, “Age is mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn’t matter.” I believed them. Still do. So while I’m too young to retire or collect Social Security, my brain believes I’m more of an “experienced kid” than real adult. Growing up, I had adults to admire...role models, like road maps on the journey to adulthood. And I still find myself glancing around, searching for those adults. While my reflection in the mirror claims I’m suppose to be one, some days I don’t feel like one. Then again, when you’re my height, you’re often treated like height equals your I.Q. or age.
I’ve worked on my family tree for years, yet I was surprised to realize my paternal Granddaddy was 60 years old when I, his first grandchild, was born. As a kid, I thought he was r-e-a-l-l-y old because he was born in 1898; everyone else I knew was born in a year starting with 19. Plus, he had an “extra” middle name: Dwight Moody Rhett. Even little girl me under-stood why he’d quietly dropped the “Rhett” from his signature.
We lived next door to my grandparents until I was eight. Over time I realized all the remarkable things Granddaddy had witnessed growing up. Born when McKinley was president, he’d known 12 presidents in his lifetime; from the intriguing Teddy Roosevelt and FDR to the disgraced Nixon. After a childhood of horse drawn carriages and telegraphs, he’d witness radio, airplanes, cars, television (B&W to color) and men walking on the moon. During his lifetime he saw the creation of things I take for granted: paved roads, air conditioning, windshield wipers, traffic lights, sun glasses, parking meters, toasters, supermarkets, recliners, clip on ties, the electric razor and cheeseburgers.
Born during the Spanish-American war, I once asked if he’d ever been to war. He replied, “I was too young for WWI and too old for WWII.” In my genealogy records is a copy of his WWI registration card: two months before the war ended, he’d left farm chores long enough to go enlist, which required an older brother’s signature.
There are so many questions I wish I could still ask. I don’t know how much Granddaddy would’ve shared. He was a quiet man. By the time I was 12, he’d had 2 strokes, was bedridden and didn’t speak. But I always knew he loved me. A photo of 3 year old me points excitedly as he rounded the corner in the company truck. He shared his favorite coconut covered marshmallow cookies and Orange Crush, in the brown bottle, with me. And if you were a quiet child during those Sunday rides (to get Grandma out of the house), there was an ice cream cone from the drugstore in your future.
I inadvertently learned more about Granddaddy when cleaning out my aunt’s house when she went to a nursing home. I found a stack of cards/love letters to Grandma. For a quiet guy, he had a way with words. There was a photo of him with his prize possession: a model T Ford. For a kid coming from a horse & buggy generation, that car must’ve seemed like a miracle. I have a piece of that miracle on my mantel: Granddaddy’s small bronze lighter, in the shape of a miniature Model T.