It’s nice to get out of the house for a few days; too bad the trip involved my grandfather’s funeral. Airfare to Chicago was crazy high, so I flew solo and left the kids behind.
His name was Paul Dean Standley, but he went by Dean. That’s my son’s middle name. I picture arriving at his house, Grandpa sitting on his recliner, watching old Westerns on TV, with the volume cranked. I’d sit on the couch and he’d reach over, offering me a handful of mixed nuts from his trusty jar. Soon he’d get up and have me follow him into the kitchen, garage or backyard garden. He wanted to show me something. Maybe a coffee mug he bought for a dime at a yard sale, an old wrench he found on the roadside, or a radish that was ready to pick and, “hot as hell!”
My grandpa loved to eat. He cooked a great biscuits and gravy, vegetable soup, or green beans with bacon. “That’s some good eatin’,” he’d say. He loved to talk, mostly about food or politics. His voice was gruff and loud like the engines he tuned at the service station he owned in the 60s. He’d tell funny stories about a nagging old customer, or stealing food from the Army cafeteria during the war, or sometimes a tale about my dad.
My pop passed away when I was 18, but Grandpa lived well into my 30s. I’ll never forget when he hugged me at Pop’s funeral. I had never felt safer or cried so hard. Sometimes I’d look at Grandpa in a certain light or angle, and I’d see my dad.
I remember having breakfast with Grandpa. Just him and me, sitting at the table with newspapers, toast, coffee, and he’d expertly peel off sections of a grapefruit. An easy quiet filled the room but there’s a nervous undertone. I held his opinion in high regard and worried what he’d think of my latest job, or lack there of. Like most men of his generation, Grandpa had worked so hard for every penny.
“What do you think, Ryan?” he’d say, pronouncing the ‘Ry’ part long and slow. I’d look back at him, he’d grin, and I’d know he couldn’t be prouder of me, happier to see me, or more eager to talk about whatever the hell I want.
Funerals are tough. I returned home depressed and tired, hid in the kitchen and cried on my wife’s shoulder. Meanwhile the kids giggled like nuts in the living room.
I missed those little goofballs! Full of such bright energy. I watched them play, played with them, and had to laugh. A generation had passed, but there was a new batch of Standleys raring to go. With Grandpa Dean watching from above.