My Grumpy Gramps was born in South Shields, England and lived through the horrors ofWW2. He was a great storyteller and his escapades as a Merchant Navy man were thrilling. During my college years I moved in with him and although living together would prove to be more difficult than I had foreseen he never gave up on my brooding form. One night he called to me.“Carrie, Pet, come here and have a drink with me”.
I threw open the door of my room and stared down the length of the trailer to see him standing with a bottle of whiskey and a two litre of Ginger ale. Now we’re talking old man, I thought to myself.
He poured me a finger full of whiskey and topped it off with the pale pop and I remember being insulted. Surely I could handle more alcohol then that. I drank anyway.
“Good?” He inquired. I nodded my head.
“You spend too much time in that room, girl; you can come out occasionally and we could chat”.
“I know Grandpa” I said non-committedly.
“Did I ever tell you that I used to send money back to my mother; a big chunk of what the Navy paid me I sent back to her. She needed it. And that’s what we did back then. We took care of family.”
I mumbled something about how nice that was and greedily gulped the Whiskey. I was about to thank him for the drink and head back to my room when I glanced up from my glass. There were tears rolling down his cheeks and I was flabbergasted. I’d never seen him cry. I reached for his hand and he drew back, wiping the tears away.
“She saved every pound I sent her. She never spent a nickel of it and she gave it all back to me upon my return. I miss my mum. I’m an old man and I still miss my mum.”
I swallowed hard and felt a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure how to console him.
“She sounds wonderful Grandpa” I lamely replied.
“She was the greatest woman I ever knew. I hope your future kids will say the same about you”.
A long silence stretched out before us as we consumed another glass of Whiskey. I wondered what all of this was about. What was going on? My grandpa finally said, “I’m saving for you too, Carrie.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“The rent money you pay me. I’ve put it away for you, and when you’re ready, you can have it.”
I was stunned and before I knew it we were both crying. We drank together until the late hours of the night and I barfed the entire morning. Despite the alcohol poisoning and subsequent blackout his words have never left me. And while he knew one great woman, I can honestly say I knew an even greater man.