by Kevin Mac
This story is about my grandfather who was responsible for many of my funny tales today.
| A Man To Remember Who Couldn’t Remember
“What the hell did I come in here for?” That question was frequently asked by my grandfather, mostly from the kitchen. He never actually yelled that particular inquiry, but the frustration brought on by whatever senior moment he was having put a little more air behind his words. Even though Papa may have become somewhat agitated by his forgetful situations, he always found some humor and managed to hide what tiny bit of anxiety he was experiencing at the time. With everything he had done and the places he traveled, plenty of memories were created. No one minded if he forgot a few. But looking past his lapsing memory and all of his accomplishments from childhood through adulthood, he was a great big goofball.
He was a man of many interests and hobbies. They did a pretty good job of occupying him around the house. It did not take much to entertain him at all. A brand new dictionary with recently added words or a set of encyclopedias would suffice at times, making his vocabulary exquisite and the time it took to complete a crossword puzzle very short. The verbiage he used always made his funny stories much more enjoyable. He could describe it to you, in such vivid detail, that for a minute you would think it was a memory of your own. I was listening to one of these anecdotes, which seemed pretty farfetched, like most of them did; but he was my Papa, so he could not tell a lie. Little did I know, that later in the day, we would create an amusing tale of our own. This one needs no embellishment.
Outside of the occasional puzzle or box car building that took place on a regular weekend with the grandparents, it was nice to pick an activity that took place outside. I believe that it was truly nicer for Mema because she could catch up on some reading and have some silence in the house, if only for an hour or two. Unfortunately, there were only so many things to do outside with no other children to play with. My Papa loved spending time with me, but that time spent was not playing tag. After all, he was already up there in age and most of those years were spent working for the United States Postal Service. It took quite a toll on his knees. We did play games of backyard putt-putt with plastic clubs and watered the tall, fully bloomed sunflowers in his garden. Time spent with him was time well spent regardless. On this day, we could not help but notice the recently purchased Chrysler Le Baron was covered in dust being blown around from the cool summer wind. The arid, dry heat allowed the pollen and dirt to be blown around freely aggravating his sinuses. Coughing and sneezing had become a big part of the day. If only it had rained recently, we could have saved a few hundred tissues and a trip to the car wash. The trip was not a big deal though, because it was a time when gas was just as flammable as today, but did not burn such a big hole in your pocket. Without a care in the world, we hopped in the car and headed downtown. Nothing could go wrong today, right?
Arriving at the carwash, we pulled into our concrete station and exited the car, ready to start the show. Like most, we did not anticipate our needs for this endeavor, so we hopped back in the car with plans to restart the show. I did not even have to ask. The look on my face was a confused one, wondering “Why?” He went ahead and told me, “I only brought 50 cents.” Later, I found out it was not even enough to turn the machine on, let alone get the car wet. With this minor setback aside, we drove up to Joyner’s Grocery and he exchanged a ten dollar bill for some quarters. It was like Papa to make sure he did not have to make that trip again, no time soon anyway. So, back to the carwash we went.
Take two! Just like the movies, it was time to try this again. We got out of the car for what we hoped would be a while this time. Papa handed me the coins and gave me the most important job of all, starting the washer up. The car was becoming soaked as he was spraying in a fluid motion from left to right. I was being shown how to properly hose down a car, from top to bottom. Being outside only made his allergies worse, sneezing quite a few times in just a matter of minutes. I took over the bulk of the work by scrubbing the car with the soap-dispensing brush while he stepped back to catch his breath. The soap that came out of the brush was fun and colorful, taking my mind off of the work. Maybe the soap people knew that it was going to be the kids doing the majority of the scrubbing. Who cares? I was having fun.
My part was done; the car was covered from top to bottom with rainbow colored soap. That could only mean one thing, time to rinse her down. This, of course, was Papa’s job. He grabbed the sprayer with authority and started to rinse the car off. I don’t know what tickled his nose at this time, but he sneezed. Then he sneezed again and again. On the third sneeze, God put slow motion into effect. His dentures flew out of his mouth as if they were trying to escape from a place where they had been trapped for ages. At that point in my life, I had never seen anything funnier than what I had witnessed just then. Thwap! The false teeth smacked the ground sending a feeling of heart-break and laughter through what I think was both of us. Well, I am pretty sure I experienced more of a belly buster than he did. We looked at each other in disbelief. He was so embarrassed. I felt so bad, but my body did not. I tried so hard not to laugh, I really did. This was a tragedy for him I am sure, but a moment I will never forget. In retrospect, if he would have remembered to cover his mouth when he sneezed, he could have had a chance to catch them. It is one of those things he forgot, I guess.
The ride back was silent. At least he was not discouraged to the point where he did not finish rinsing the Chrysler. I am sure that he knew I was laughing, but he could not prove it, for I had my head turned to look out of the window as not to laugh at the sight of his lips curled around his gums. I finally settled down enough to look at him and say, “I’m sorry that happened Papa.” And he responded quite toothlessly with “I have an extra pair at the house.” He paused for a moment and proceeded to say, “Grandma is going to be pissed.” My Mema was pissed but not surprised that something like this happened to him. Despite all that though, the Chrysler looked good. And yes, he did put his spare teeth in when we arrived at the house. He did complain that they did not fit as well as his original set. At least he could chew again. I love and miss my Papa, after all, he was a goofball.