twas the night before christmas, along I-95
I finally made it here yesterday...after my airport shuttle didn't show up, and multiple calls to other shuttles resulted in "Sorry, there's nothing we can do to help you" after I told them I needed to go from North Beach to SFO, I grudgingly opted for a $42 cabride to the airport (the shuttle would have been $10), and here I am in overcast, yet balmy Oveido, Florida (a bedroom community of Orlando). I'm at my sister's brand-new house in a darling little development named "The Sanctuary" after all the animals and virgin forest that were displaced and cut down in order to build it.
My brother-in-law picked me up at the airport in my grandfather's midnight blue 2002 Cadillac DeVille Pimpmobile, complete with beige cloth roof, whitewall tires, chrome trim around the doors and roof, chrome and gold rims, and a big gold hood ornament. When he pulled up in it and popped the trunk, people started looking around to see who would jump into this stylie American automobile. Laughing, I threw my bright orange 1968 Samsonite suitcase (a hot $2 thrift store find) into the trunk, jumped in, and off we went. When we pulled into the driveway, this enormous bird thing with a wingspan of at least 10 feet flew over the house, making a screaming noise as it flapped overhead and absolutely scared the shit out of me. I swear to god, it looked like a fucking pterodactyl...welcome to Florida, Chad.
Today, my grandfather, who has been known as "Poppas" since my cousin started calling him that in 1966, asked me to drive him to Fort Pierce, which is approximately 2 hours south of here, to visit his girlfriend Peggy. You see, Poppas and Peggy have been friends for over 50 years...he was stationed with her husband in Europe when they were in the army back in the 40's and 50's, and my grandmother and Peggy were friends. My grandmother (named "Mimi" by the same cousin) and Peggy's husband have both passed on, so now...she's Poppas' girlfriend. I say good for them...they're going to buried next to their spouses, but for now, they're enjoying their remaining years together just making googly-eyes at each other and sneaking kisses and copping feels on each other when they think nobody is looking.
I, for one, think it's awesome. They give each other a reason to live and keep that romantic spark alive, even in their 80's. Never, ever underestimate the power of love.
Poppas and I had a nice time, actually...I surveyed damage in Fort Pierce from the hurricanes that came ripping through there, and finally got to see the condo in which my sister had to ride out a hurricane. It's still being repaired, and at least it has a roof now. Peggy is still living with a friend until her condo is habitable again, maybe another 3 or 4 months. Gifts were exchanged, and right before we left, Peggy said in her quiet southern twang, "Wait a minute, I have one more gift for you," to my grandfather. She left the room, and returned, eyes laughing and bright, with a little package, and said, "Just a little something for your Cadillac."
Poppas unwrapped it, and started chuckling. It was a faux leopard fur steering wheel cover. Now the Poppas Pimpmobile is complete.
Yes, my grandfather drives a blinged-out DeVille with a leopard-furry steering wheel cover from his girlfriend. How hot is that?
On our way back to the Orlando area, we decided to pull off of I-95 and stap at a Waffle House for some coffee and a bite to eat. Over a plate of Scattered, Smothered, Covered, and Chunked (if you're familiar with Waffle House you know exactly what that means) my grandfather and I discussed life, love, and good coffee. His ice-blue eyes were sparkling and playful and absolutely danced he told me about a time he saw Jack Dempsey kick some guy's ass on a military transport ship back in 1942, or the time he ran away from home in Chicago and met Robert Mitchum while riding the rails on boxcars on his way to Los Angeles, or the time he hid my dad's car keys as a joke right after my parents got married in 1968. He talked about meeting my grandmother at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, and how he fell in love with her while whisking her around the dance floor. We talked about politics, and I learned, much to my surprise, his politics are virtually identical to mine. He's no crusty old closed-minded coot, that's for sure.
My grandfather is 84 years old, a leap baby born on February 29th, 1920. He has had a remarkable, full, rich life...he served in 2 wars, raised 3 kids, lived all over the world, married and buried the love of his life, and has found love with an old friend in his twilight years...and I'm absolutely honored to be his grandson.
This will be a Christmas Eve I won't forget for a long, long time, and I can't think of anyone else I would rather have spent it with.