There is something about the holidays that make me think of family stories. The holidays are a time when families should be together, and though I can’t always be with my family, I think about the times I have been with them or the stories that we have told to each other. For example, I can’t remember my father’s father because he died when I was one year old, but I have a handful of anecdotes about him, and I carry these stories around like a bundle on my back because they are all I have of him.
I know that he had very blue eyes that sparkled when he laughed, and I know that he was a trickster. He loved playing practical jokes. There was a time that he and my grandmother ran a small, country store. (Imagine one of those 1920s storefronts with a porch that people would hang out on from time to time.) My grandmother’s brother, Coile, worked for some kind of distributor, and he would visit the store to take orders for them. He always planned his route so that he could stay and have lunch with his sister. One such day my grandfather decided to play a trick on his rather serious-minded brother-in-law. While he was eating his lunch, my grandfather put a smoke bomb in Coile’s car. When Coile got back into the car and started the engine, the smoke bomb went off, and he thought his car was ruined. You can imagine what a stressful few minutes that was before he was let on to the joke!
Another time my grandfather decided to put a snake into a friend’s car when he was busy shopping at the store. You must remember that old cars (like the Model T) had steering wheels that were attached to the floor with a long pole. Well, the poor fellow who owned that car drove down the street before he noticed that snake was wrapped around his steering column. I am told my grandfather watched with amusement as his friend ran his car off the road.
My aunt told me that for a while, my grandfather drove a truck for a living. Occasionally, he would see boxes in the roadway, and he was adept at bumping the boxes off the road with this bumper. One time, however, he saw a large box in the middle of the road, and just as he was about to approach it, something told him not to touch it. As he passed, he looked in his rearview mirror. He saw a child sitting inside that box, playing, and obviously unsupervised.
My grandmother was not immune to her husband’s tricks. One year, my grandfather put a huge box under the Christmas tree for her. It was the first present under the tree that year, and he did not tell anyone what was in the box. It was so big that it made the whole family curious. All he said was that it was “very practical.” On Christmas morning, you can bet that everyone insisted this would be the first gift opened. My grandmother opened it to find her “very practical” gift was a huge supply of toilet paper.
My grandfather met his fate on the day after Christmas, 1972. He had a heart attack, and before my grandmother knew it, she was looking at him for the last time through the window of their car as other family members whisked him to the hospital. She told me that his blue eyes were pale and drained of color. Several weeks later, however, as she was a having a difficult time adjusting to her new life as a widow, she said a prayer, wishing she could know if he were happy. That night she had a dream. He was standing in her bedroom doorway, grinning from ear to ear. She said his blue eyes sparkled, and just as they were about to touch, he disappeared.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org