just ponderin'

… on loving an old yankee man (part two)

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Grampa supervising six year old Gabe at the workbench. Looks like a union job to me.

Months ago, I wrote my first post that had a ‘Part Two’, and I remember that I was completely flummoxed regarding how to start it. I’m serious. There are a lot of stressful moments and two a.m. wake-ups that go along with telling stories. The terror I felt when considering the woeful humiliation that would surely follow if someone picked up Part Two without ever having read Part One was almost too much to bear.

No not really.

I was actually more stressed that I just used the word ‘bear’ and had a flash that maybe I should have used ‘bare’. Then I got literarily discombobulated at the fact that I would either put the image of a bear into your head, or you would be thinking along the lines of something nude.

This writing stuff carries with it a crushing responsibility.

I must be strong.

Okay, so I decided way back when that I liked the idea of following the TV show model of saying “Previously on…(insert title of TV show here)”, because I liked that they used to do that on Gilmore Girls.  But today, I’m going to do things a little different. I think you can handle it.

Today, we’re going to use Kiefer Sutherland’s voice because I like its gravelly quality and I loved it when I watched ’24’.

Ready? Okay.

Previously on Just Ponderin’

Didn’t that sound so professional with Kiefer Sutherland’s voice in your head?

I agree.

I wonder if I owe someone royalties now. I’m sure I can’t just use Kiefer Sutherland’s voice for free…

I’ll have to deal with that later.

Okay, so Previously on Just Ponderin’:

I love Grampa, an Old Yankee Man.

Grampa was in a car accident.

He broke his freakin’ neck.

He did great in surgery.

He lives with us.

Once he created a poo porch.

We can’t wait ’till he gets home.

Okay, here we go. Are you ready? (If you have to go to the bathroom, just hit pause now.)

Grampa was transferred to an acute rehab facility last night. This is a very good thing. He will have a total of three hours of physical therapy each day and should be there, according to the doctors, for about a week.

According to what he told his ambulance driver, he was supposed to be brought straight home to Dunstable, because the x-ray he had (no he did not!) that morning cleared him to go.

This is why my phone number is written on the top of all his charts, with thick red sharpie.

You can’t believe a lot of things that come out of this man’s mouth.

Why?

Because he makes shit up.

Like, all the time.

Here are the things he has made up since his accident (and, no, it isn’t because he has memory trauma from the accident).

1. The aforementioned fact that he just needed a clear x-ray and he could bypass rehab and just go home

How he thought he could get away with that, being that there are a lot of medical people around him with charts and files that tell them exactly what has been – and is – going on with him is beyond me. But am I surprised that he tried it? Absolutely not.

2. That he gets up every morning at 8:30 a.m.

This is crap. Because he goes to bed at about 10:00 at night, and then sleeps two hours, and then gets up and watches television until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. before going back to sleep. I know that he gets up at about 11:00 most days. Where he came up with “I get up at 8:30” is unknown. It is his stock answer whenever he is asked. He tells this to everyone, and has for years. And it is an absolute lie and you should see his sheepish smile when I call him on it.

3. He only drinks two cups of coffee each day.

Liar. He drinks two cups of coffee AT A TIME. And if he doesn’t finish it, he leaves it out and drinks it, cold, off and on until it’s done.  Last night, he said he used to do that, but he doesn’t any more. And I almost fell off my chair. Not any more?! To make that true, he’d have needed to add, “…since Wednesday, when I broke my freakin’ neck and ended up in the hospital where you won’t give me all the coffee I want.”

4. Coffee doesn’t affect his sleep at all.

He actually told this to the nurse last night when she said she couldn’t bring him coffee AT TWO A.M. (emphasis mine) because it might effect his sleep. No I am not kidding. See #2 above (coffee doesn’t effect his sleeping habits. Oy.)

5.  He eats a good diet, considering his diabetes.

He is donut boy.

And because of all this – and everything else we know about him – we have to be right on top of what he has told the doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, or Lord knows what he will get away with.  Even if they slip a little, it could be a major issue. Because Grampa is, I’m pretty sure, the original inspiration for the phrase “If you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile.”

Like with the garage.

Let’s start out generally, and then get more specific.

Old Yankee Men are big on workshops and garages. As a matter of fact, if an Old Yankee Man has access to a barn that he can use for both, you pretty much might never see him again except for meals. At those times, he will mysteriously emerge from the depths of his barn/workshop/garage, trudge God knows what onto your floors and carpets, and leave a few greasy handprints on the walls – and grime on the faucets – in and around the sink where he washes up. He will eat and, in Grampa’s case, drink his coffee. There may be some grunting and throat clearing involved. And then he will head back out to his barn/workshop/garage until dark.

Dark stops everything. This is because an Old Yankee Man is a product of the Great Depression and, other than in automobile or plumbing emergencies (or anything that requires a table saw or power drill), the use of electricity in a barn/workshop/garage is a waste.

The exception is that light-in-a-cage thingy that every Old Yankee Man owns. It has a hook on it so that they can hang it on the open hoods of their cars and it almost always has a neon orange chord attached to it. The light-in-a-cage allows the Old Yankee Man to engage in his favorite pastime, which is to ‘tinker’.  I’m pretty sure they tinker whether the car – or anything for that matter – is broken or not. The light-in-a-cage does not count as an electricity-wasting appliance and can be used at any time, for any purpose.

So, the garage.

Grampa has always had a garage and/or a shed in which to putter and tinker and do secret Old Yankee Man things like storing explosive and/or flammable materials that he mixes together to form other explosive and/or flammable stuff (that he then dips things in and declares those things “sealed”).

When we were dating, my nearly perfect boyfriend helped Grampa build a second stall onto the garage at his old house. This mainly involved Grampa standing on the ground and barking out orders to John, who was on the roof. There was a lot of yelling from Grampa. And a lot of supervising.  I’m pretty sure that, because Grampa belonged to the Postal Workers Union, he had to follow union rules attached to nearly everything he did in his life. Roofing and siding work was covered by a different union, so Grampa couldn’t do that because it was against the rules. So John, who was not a part of a union, did the work. Which made John a scab.

Which, now that I think about it, explains the protesters holding Norma Rae-like signs at the end of the driveway that summer.

Anyway.

When we moved in all together in 1993, we had no garage because we spent the money we would have spent on a garage on a center chimney for our fireplaces (totally worth it). So we didn’t have a garage until later. So Grampa set up a workshop down cellar, where he spent all his time creating gasoline and creosote concoctions that set off the fire alarms described in Part One. Then we built a garage and Grampa said that he didn’t need any garage space so we only built one big enough for our cars.

And then Grampa spent all his time in our garage.

The first things we began to notice were that items were suddenly suspended.

A little pink bike hung on one wall.

A few shovels on another.

And when we told Grampa that we really didn’t want him to hang things up and organize in our garage, he got mad and grumbled and said something about needing to respect the garage and not use it as a junk pile.

This from a man who’s own garage was a virtual superfund site for the entire time that my nearly perfect husband lived in his childhood home.

So then Grampa stayed out of our garage.

For, like, a week.

Then we came home one day and our garage looked quite spiffy. And when we saw Grampa later in the day, he asked if we noticed that he had swept our garage. And we said that we did notice and told him that it looked very nice and thanked him.

Mistake.

The next day our road bikes were hanging from the wall. This time, he had hung a couple of horizontal pieces of scrap wood (Old Yankee Men have a never ending supply of scrap wood). And, onto the wood, he had screwed some hook thingies. And then, for good measure, he scrawled the date in big thick black magic marker onto the wood. Just in case we needed to know exactly when he hung the bikes.

Grampa. Dates. Everything.

I’m not kidding. If you give him a present, he will write the date on the bottom of it. A card? If he’s keeping it, he writes the date on it. On his own garage walls, he has dates scrawled on the walls, everywhere. Often, you can only find a date – no event description or anything.  He scrawled the date on his old dog’s grave marker in sharpie. It isn’t the date the dog died, nor is it the date we spread her ashes. It might be the day he received the marker in the mail (or ordered it), but we will never know.

You get the idea.

And now, we had our first Grampa-scrawled date in our own garage. Because we gave him an inch, by saying thank you for the sweeping, and he took the mile (going back into the garage to “straighten up” (and begin the process of taking over the care and organization of our garage).

So John asked him, once again and very nicely, not to do things in our garage because we might want to do things our own way in there. And he pointed out, again quite gently, that Grampa had a huge part of the cellar for his work bench and activities, and that we didn’t go in there and mess around with his stuff, so maybe he could respect that we were a bit unnerved when he started messing with ours.

And Grampa agreed.

And a week later, he swept out our garage again.

And he came in – to me (because an Old Yankee Man can be manipulatively passive aggressive, if necessary, to achieve their desired goals) and said that he knew that John had asked him not to do anything in our garage, but he knew how busy John was and said that he did it because we didn’t have time.

Uh. Huh.

But what else could I say to this Old Yankee Man – who was looking so sincere in his endeavor to help us by sweeping out our garage – but “thank you”.

And a couple of days later we had an enormous Grampa-designed (and created) workbench in our garage.

He had clearly begun it in his workshop and was just looking for that chink in our “stay out of our garage” armor, to fly in and assemble a workbench that was so heavy it would have totaled our car had we not noticed it that night, and stopped a few feet short of where we usually did.

And all this sounds so great, right? Because who doesn’t want free sweeping, and hanging, and workbench design and development in their garages? But the thing is, if Grampa does or creates something for you, you can’t ever not be grateful, or throw it away or give it away because that would be either wasteful (Great Depression era, remember?) or disrespectful because he did it or made it for you. And he gets all grumbly if you aren’t grateful for the thing you never asked for in the first place.

So we did the only thing we could think of, once all of our stuff had been hung up, or packaged, and dated in our Grampa-tricked-out garage.

We moved.

Mainly because we knew the 2500 pound workbench couldn’t come with us.

But also to give Grampa his own garage.

Which he set up and organized for himself in about 34 minutes.

Then he began working on ours.

Again.

We have pretty much given up on keeping him out of our garage.

“Stay the Hell out of my garage, old man!” is a common command in our house. And you can tell that when John says it, he has a smile on his face.  And you can hear Grampa chuckle from his apartment before he says, “I never go in your garage!”

A few times, we’ve hit the garage door opener as we are driving up the driveway, and we catch Grampa – moving as fast as he can with two bum knees and a cane – trying to get into the house before we see him.  We think his view is that, if he can make it, it counts as “plausible deniability”.

He still tells people that he is never, ever in our garage touching our stuff. The problem is that – because he dates everything he ever does – he leaves evidence all over the place.  And when you call him on it, he angrily denies even entering the garage. And if you provide dated evidence as proof – he just grins, takes a sip of coffee, and pretends to read his paper.

The guy just makes shit up all the time. And the kicker is, he knows it.

And I love him just the same.

Probably more.

Thanks for readin’.

Epilogue: Things I found that Grampa has dated, some in my very garage (in a feat of technical prowess, you can roll over the pics and see a description. If the description is too long, just click on the picture and you can see the whole thing. This is as technical as I get, people. Hip Hip Hurray :))

Elena Peters

midlife blogger & pinterest master

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