Granddad is my father's father. He lives in a former mining town in the mountains of West Virginia with Julie, his wife, his soulmate, the switch to his light, the yin to his yang. He is one of my favorite people in the world, one of my best friends, and I don't know what I'd do without him in my life. Now, before you go getting all Norman Rockwell on me, let me assure you he just ain't that kind of grandpa. He isn't gentle and kindly, he doesn't smoke a pipe, he doesn't tell a whole lot of stories about the good old days. He's crotchety and grumpy, opinionated and bossy, completely hilarious, and the person from whom I've inherited both my extreme fiscal caution and my ever-present need to get up and go someplace new. He's brutally honest, startlingly frank, and endlessly interested in the world around him. I could tell you a million stories about him that would have you on the floor with laughter, but I don't have time for that right now. So for today I'm just going to tell you about how he, more than anybody else, reminds me of what's really important in life.
Like take the other morning. I called him up, and Julie answered the phone.
"Hi Julie, it's me!"
"Oh, hi, dear, we were just talking about you. You got a boyfriend yet?"
"No, not yet. I've been kind of too busy for that, you know?"
"Uh-huh." Uh-huh is Julie's conversational filler. She says it in this sort of sing-songy way, and it can mean a million different things, from "isn't that nice," to "you're an idiot, but i'm not saying a word," to "my mind is a million miles away from here." She's also got a limited shelf life for telephone conversations, and so within a very short time, she was saying, "Well, here's your granddad. I love you, bye now!" And she hands the phone over to Granddad.
"Hella." Granddad doesn't say "hello" like normal folk, with an O on the end and the emphasis on the second syllable. He says "hella," like it rhymes with "fella." I can't explain this.
"Heya, Grumps, how's it going?" I call him Grumps sometimes. He thinks this is hilarious.
"Well, hey yourself, you old fart! How's things?"
"Oh, not too bad. Lots of work, feeling kind of run down, but all-in-all, okay."
"Run down, huh? You eatin' ok?"
"Cause you should maybe start taking this stuff that my Julie takes -HEY JULES! WHAT'S THE NAME OF THAT PRUNE JUICE THAT'S GOT YOU SHITTIN' LIKE CRAZY?"
(me, inwardly cringing, simultaneously laughing)
"Uh, Granddad, I don't think I need any prune juice." (Not that he's listening. He's still trying to track Julie down, and it turns out she's in the bathroom. From here on out, the conversation really has very little to do with me. I'm just listening in and laughing my ass off as the following bits filter through to me.)
"Hey, Jules, what're you doing in there?"
and my favorite,
"Man, that stuff works good!"
And so on, and so forth. I hear Julie in the background, saying something and they both start to laugh. A minute or so later, he comes back on the line. He's just coming down off a laughing high, and I can all but see him wiping tears from his eyes, trying to catch his breath again.
"Hey, you still there?"
"Yup, still here, Granddad."
We chat for a moment about the magnitude of what had just passed, the laugh they had about it, their plans for the day, which included a trip to Home Depot, Bible study at church, and how I really needed to stop stressing out and focus on the good life.
"I really hope that one day you find somebody as wonderful as my Julie," he told me, for the eleventy-billionth time.
"Yup, me too, Granddad."
"And make sure you drink plenty of prune juice, ok? Looky here, I'll just tear the label off this bottle and send it to you so you can probably pick it up at one of those whole foods places."
"Ok, I will. Love you, Gramps. Give Julie a big hug and a kiss for me, ok?"
"Oh, don't you worry. She gets all the lovin' she needs. I love you, kid, we both do. So much. Take care."
In light of work and stress and comprehensive exams and achey eyeballs, this is why I love my Granddad. Because in his eyes, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more worth having than a loving partner, a good sense of humor, and a well-regulated digestive system. And when he puts it that way, I'm hard-pressed to disagree.
Love you, Granddad. Love you, Julie.