My truck-driving grandpa lived life the same way he smoked his Lucky Strikes, unfiltered.
He died a month before my fifth birthday. It was the first time I learned smoking could kill you. It seemed everyone was just discovering this in 1963.
Before the cancer, he was a husband, father and grandfather. Most everyone respected him, or should I say, they feared him. I was too young to really fear him as much as just awe him.
While I don’t remember any conversation I ever had with him, I do recall family times together. He would greet his grandkids with a smile and a tousle of the hair, that would last as long as we behaved. But as soon as we got too loud or out of control, the bad mood would start. As a small child I was able to recognize how the climate changed in the house whenever he was around.
He kept his teeth in a glass and smelled of Absorbine Jr. His ears stuck out like the opened doors of his 1949 Carryall-Suburban.
As I got older, my dad and his six siblings told stories about grandpa that made the hair stand at attention on the back of my neck. Stories of a different man than I ever knew.
While I didn’t know him well, this is what I do know about my grandpa, the truck driver. He was smart enough to marry Kate, who birthed him seven great kids and kept them clothed, fed and generally healthy during the Great Depression and WWII. He was blessed to have three sons become preachers and two more become deacons, in spite of the fact he never once took them to church. He had two beautiful daughters who grew up to be strong and loving wives and mothers who could spin great stories and make everyone feel loved and accepted.
Grandpa was a flawed man with very little to his name, yet he still recognized the importance and value of family. While it’s true we may pass on some of the sins of the father, let’s not forget, we can also pass on some of the blessings as well. That’s a lesson every grandpa needs to learn.