I live in the house that was owned by my grandfather. He was stubborn and cranky and a shit-disturber.
And I adored him.
Some of my earliest memories of him involved my mom driving him, my sister and myself to a bigger town to do some shopping. (My grandfather didn’t drive because when he was a kid, his parents had too many children and sent him to live with and work for another family.) When we’d get close the the stores, he’d pass folded up cash to my sister and I and say, “Shhhhhhh.” If we said our mother would get mad, he’d tell us, “It’s none of her G.D. business!”
This is going to sound weird, but I think he is part of why I’m a romantic.
After my grandmother died, he was destroyed. Destroyed. He drank a lot. (More on that later.)
Years after she died, my grandfather was going to an AA meeting with some men and one of the guys told my grandfather he needed to find himself a woman. That DID NOT go over well. It didn’t help that the man is well known to have had a girlfriend while his wife was in the hospital dying of Cancer.
My grandfather tore him a new one. And then a couple more.
My grandfather made it quite clear to anyone within a few miles that he has a wife. He married her. And that is that. That she died had no effect on his marital status.
I fucking love that story.
My grandmother was a saint. They ran the local jail and my grandmother spoiled the prisoners. When drunks would be released, my grandmother would drive them home and then give them money for food. Which they would, of course, spend on booze. If she took the scenic route home, the prisoner would often have gotten drunk, arrested, and raced her back. The police just shook their heads.
When I was a kid, I only ate junk food. My grandmother stressed about it a lot. So she devised a devious plan. She would keep the liquid from after she boiled vegetables and sneak in into the pancakes she made me. Like a vitamin roofie.
Pancakes still make me happy.
So when my grandfather missed her every single day for the 13 or so years after she died, I got it. I get it.
After she died, he couldn’t sleep in their bedroom anymore. So he moved to the one down the hall.
It’s my bedroom now.
After he died, we found a metal bar under the bed. I assume he figured he was an old man, alone, and he needed some protection. It still breaks my heart that he ever felt like that, you know? We lived across the street. I would have burned a fucking town to the ground if anyone had even looked at him the wrong way.
I tell those stories, to tell you this one.
When I was going to the kitchen this morning, I got a whiff of Aqua Velva. His aftershave. I’m honestly not sure if it was just some smell memory, or if it lives in the walls and comes out to visit sometimes, but there it was.
And I smiled.
It didn’t last long, but it opened the floodgate for memories.
I remember when this house didn’t smell good. It smelled like alcoholism and loneliness sometimes. I’ll never forget that smell. I’ll never forget sneaking in here as a kid just to make sure he didn’t drink himself to death over night. I remember him being drunk and sad and telling me to never start drinking.
I never did.
I remember that smell.
But I remember the Aqua Velva even more.
I remember him sitting in his corner chair, watching the world, and smoking Belvedere Extra Milds.
I remember him cursing at wrestling on TV.
I remember him hosting other alcoholics between meetings when they needed someone to talk to.
I remember him going to their houses when the ride on the wagon got too bumpy for them to hold on.
I remember the folded up cash.
I remember a strongly political Liberal.
I remember him clipping my high school honour roll announcements from the newspaper.
I remember a playful and strong-willed spirit.
I remember it all.
I hope I smell the Aqua Velva more often.