He was always kind towards me. I sensed that he believed that I was a good person. He was so quiet, so unassuming. He always let me play with his pipe and hat, there in the sitting room (where the cigarette elephant was) and his beautiful rubber flashlight. He never complained that I kept that light on the whole time I was there. That light, it seemed old even then, was for me a space ship, the light a futuristic thrust that made my rocket fly all around the house. I liked his pipes, and didn't mind the bitter in the stem. I knew from that taste (and from dad's warning) that there was a hot and nasty part of pipe smoking. Once, he gave me money for a gum for me and my sisters. I put all the pieces of gum in my mouth and came home. He asked me about it, and when I told him that I had not shared the gum, he told me he would never give me money again. I guess he never did, but that lesson stayed burned deep into my heart. I've long felt ashamed of not living up to Grampa's standard. I'm proud that it has been my standard as well, since that day. He took me to my first movie. I remember walking hand in hand with him to the theatre. The film we saw, Topkapi, has been on my mind these many years. A film about jewel thievery and Europe and devices employed in the heists. I loved that film. I remember portions of that day clearly.
He gave me his watch and I lost it that very summer. I hung it in a tree across the street from the house, while I played baseball. You can't imagine how many times, years later even, I looked in the bramble for that watch. Begged Providence to let me find it. I was too ashamed to let him know. That day I scrambled for hours, sobbing with the knowledge that I'd been irresponsible, and had lost a piece of him.
I loved how grandpa never got irked at Great Gramma's impatience with him. I can still hear her "Herbert! Herbert!"... and him not even murmuring.
We always called her Gramma, which was a sensitive issue because we called my fathers mother Gramma Ginny. She loved me, as my father once told me, "probably more than any other person ever did or will". He told me that when she died and I was refusing to interrupt my lifestyle to come home and go to the funeral. I knew it. I always knew she loved me. When I was around her, I felt like it was natural for me to take my place in the successful world. Like a young future president. I loved sitting out on the porch in Campello with her in those big wicker chairs (what ever happened to those chairs?) listening to the radio (she would later give me) to a baseball broadcast. I really didn't care about baseball, but she did, and I told her I was a great pitcher, and I remember showing her how I pitched, and I showed her my wind up standing there on that porch and she just looked at me with bright, lively, loving eyes and clapped her braceleted old hands together in delight at my story. (The only position I got to play was way way out in left field, but to her, I was the best by far).
And I loved her cooking. I think that part of her genes must live in me that inform the behavior of cooking for people. (I used to have issues with the fact that she washed her clothes in the kitchen sink. Since that was also where the dishes were washed, it bothered me.) I remember staying there in the summer and them coming to my house on Christmas. I remember Diane living above us and fighting with me about what we'd watch on TV. I wanted Bozo and she wanted Dick Clark. She would say "she's MY grandmother" or something like that, and I would just exult in the fact that I was THE BOY. And the pies --- she would always make me a little pie roll up, with the dough left over from making a pie. And the Spanish cream! She would send me down to the corner market, across the street and to the left.
I remember her telling me about how Dick Nixon was the best, and years later, how it couldn't be that he'd done anything wrong at all. I remember her jewelry box she let us play in. I remember playing in the bean tree in the back yard in Campello, out in front of the house where my dad, standing on the roof (or from the balcony of the second story??) threw down a bundle that contained... a doll, but he yelled that I should 'catch Kristen'.
What else? Her dresses, her perfume, her necklaces, her soft hands, her smile, her eyes. Her amazing, winning, elegant, presence.