Hamming It Up With Grandpa: Where My Interest in Technology and Music Started and How I Miss Him

I used to wonder where I got my interest in technology and music and writing. But I didn’t have too look to far to know from which direction the answer came. The writing comes from my Aunt Faris, but that’s a subject for another day. It was from her brother, my Grandpa Eddy that I got interested in technology and music.

He used to work on his Ham radio up in the attic of the house on Wildwood while I would sit patiently in the corner so as not to interrupt him from this magical conversation across the airwaves. I was buried deep in old books that belonged to my aunt and my mom when they were little girls. So we usually didn’t speak and most times no one spoke back from those big black boxes with the tubes exposed that he had built himself from spare parts. But every once in awhile, in-between the static and the occasional “CQ, CQ”, I would hear him say, the magic would happen. There would be a voice from far away. Then he would put me up on his lap and let me speak into that amazing chrome grilled upright microphone. Later, with pride in his voice, he would tell me we were speaking to someone clear across the country. That was just magic to me then. When my brother and I stayed overnight, I couldn’t wait to go up and listen in. But then other things happened in my life: school, band, summer music camp, friends, and soon Grandpa and the little attic at the top of the stairs on Wildwood faded into the static of history. Now when I sit and muse on those times, I realize just how much I miss him.

He was a dark man. So dark they used to call him an Hawaiian. And yet when he was five years old he had long blond hair like the Buster Brown boy. His father was a railroad man and he was killed when my grandpa was five, caught between two cars coupling on the tracks. I often wonder what that really did to Grandpa on the inside. I’ll never know. People in our modern day seem less tough, unable to see a thing through these days. But my grandpa was a steady man and took care of his family by going to work every day at the Chrysler plant as an Inspector. It meant so much to the family that most of them have never bought another make.

He gave all his pay checks to my grandmother because he knew she’d take better care of them. He took a big, black pitched-roof lunchbox, the kind where the thermos fits in the top, to work and brought it home everyday and laid it on the top of the refrigerator in Grandma’s kitchen just as soon as he got in the door. Then he was off to his recliner and some wrestling on TV, adding his wicked-fun commentary on all the commercials in-between.

Yes, Grandpa had his wild side, too. He used to play drums they say for the strippers at some dives in downtown Indianapolis and also for small gigs at the Indiana Roof Ballroom for a few dollars. When he was retired he got a banjo for his birthday to remind him of those days and he would often sit out under the elm tree at Wildwood and pick a few chords as he chewed on an old toothpick and stared intensely into the fret board, squeaking his fingertips across the strings.

You see, Grandpa smoked for most of his life, Camels, until the doctor told him they’d kill him one day. Then he came straight away home and gave his last pack to my grandmother and told her to get rid of them for him. It was the last day he ever smoked. After that he took up the toothpick habit. He “smoked” toothpicks like a 3 pack-a-day man. He used to tell the joke on himself that he was going to die of Dutch Elm’s disease.

I can see him almost right now walking out into the cold midnight air reaching into the sleeve of his suit coat, one sleeve half on one arm and the other empty sleeve hanging in the air while he put a toothpick from the restaurant we had just eaten at into his mouth and begin to chew on it. Odd, how a child codifies the gesticulations and movements of an adult and somehow years later emulates them in programmed homage. I know whenever I pick up a toothpick, my memory banks look up the data and send back the request so that I know just how its supposed to be chewed on.

Sometimes, when I get to missing him a bit, I watch the end of The Shawshank Redemption where Red gets out of prison and walks through the gates of Shawshank with that suit on, that rumpled brown suit hanging on that tall, lanky body. The tie is pulled away from the neck for comfort and the brown fedora brim is creased sideways like a sailor’s cap and set back on his head as if he’d been out after church service too long on a warm day and the clothes were ready to get back on the hanger. I want to run up beside him and grab that arm and hang on him as I used to do. Just to feel the magic of his presence. Morgan Freeman reminds me a lot of my grandfather with his slow, laconic ways and ambling gate. Eddy Myers was a slow man, too. A slow man with a mischievous sense of humor almost like a five year old little boy who was still looking to tease his older sister but he just had too many chores to get done. I sure do miss him.


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