February 17, 2013

Ryan's World - I Got That Trait

I have been trying to find the right time to write a column about my grandpa for almost a year. Every time I started to write about him something else would come up and I would go with a different column. This week marks the fourth anniversary of his death. Fortunately for us, he lived to be 93 years old. I know this doesn’t sound like the start of one of my normal columns where I invite the readers to laugh at me (or preferably my wife and kids), but my grandpa was the one that taught me to laugh and to have a good time.

My grandpa was a Pentecostal preacher for over 70 years and there were a lot of people that knew him through the ministry. They only knew that side of him and weren’t fortunate enough to know him as a father or grandfather. They didn’t get to see his grandkids sitting on his lap while he read the funny pages or the prank gifts he would give at Christmas. The grandkids never knew if you were going to get chattering teeth, a can of Lysol or a figurine in an outhouse that when you opened the door would turn around and pee on you.

Some of my memories are intertwined between church and family. We had a progressive church when I was growing, meaning we had a set of drums. My older brother was learning to play and was doing a decent job on them. I was also learning to play and I thought I was doing very well. Somebody got up and commented on how well my brother was doing, but they didn’t mention me. I was crushed. I could feel the tears welling up and I went out the back door off the stage. Obviously, it was somebody that didn’t know anything about music that made the comment because my brother wasn’t that good. My grandpa must have known something was wrong; a couple of minutes later he was sitting next to me. I don’t remember what he said, but he offered me a pink mint. At least I think it was a mint; with my grandpa it could have been Pepto-Bismol.

Nobody in the family was safe from his practical jokes. One of the best ones he every pulled was on my younger brother. My brother was one of those skinny-as-a-rail kids that won’t touch any condiment. His sense of smell was so good that we couldn’t leave an open bottle of ketchup anywhere near the table (hidden or not) because he would whine until it was closed. Knowing this, my grandpa took a little Limburger Cheese (the stinky kind of cheese) and put a little under his plate. His nose kept sniffing and he kept looking around, but he couldn’t tell where the smell was coming from. I think my grandpa laughed through that entire meal.

As he got older he became a little more detached from current events and as I got older I listened more to his sermons. Okay, I didn’t actually listen, but I did catch a few more parts of his sermon. One sermon that caught my attention was when he said something about young people “being hopped up on Novocain.” All I could imagine was a bunch of teens picking at their lips to see if they could feel them. My mind also darted back to the scene from the Carol Burnett Show where Tim Conway plays the dentist and keeps accidently sticking himself in the leg and arm with the needle.

As I look around at our family, I can see how some of his traits were passed down. Some of us got his looks, sense of humor, or dedication to the Gospel. After my grandmother and step grandmother passed away, my grandpa suddenly seemed to have a new girlfriend every week. They would come over and fix his dinner and it seemed they catered to his every whim. He was kind of like Sean Connery; he got better with age. He became irresistible to women. As I was thinking about him, I realized I got that trait.

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