April 14, 2024

Partners in Crime: Looking Back on a Lifetime of Shenanigans with Grandpa Bill.

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If you look through photos from my childhood, it would be easy to see who my best friend was.

You’d see us making silly faces at the camera. Or playing in the sprinkler in the backyard. Or driving around the neighborhood in an old golf cart. Or me sitting on his lap and him making silly faces behind me.

There are hundreds of photos of us together, and we’re smiling in all of them. He was my Grandpa Bill. He was my absolute favorite person and we were inseparable.

During the summers, you could most often find us tinkering around in the garage. We would get up early on weekend mornings, hop in his truck, and drive up and down the alleys looking for goodies. Or as my grandma would call it, “junk.”

Grandpa Bill loved to fix broken things, so we would go garbage picking for busted up lawnmowers and broken clocks. We’d haul our treasures back to the house, and he would use old parts and pieces to fix a different lawnmower he had stashed away, or another clock he had hanging up. Sometimes he would keep these items that he fixed, but most of the time he would sell them at a garage sale or give them away to neighbors and friends.

Grandpa would say, “Missy, don’t tell Grandma about any of this stuff. It’s our little secret.” But, somehow, she always found out. She would yell at us like two little kids and tell us to stop bringing so much junk home. She’d say we were running out of room in the garage. While she seemed serious at the time, I realize now that she turned around and laughed to herself at our shenanigans.

On rainy afternoons, you could find us in the den, lying next to one another on the floor, listening to the police scanner. We would listen intently to the police reports and my grandpa would talk about “so and so” or “Willy down the street” or “Bob behind the alley” getting into trouble again. We would laugh and laugh as he told me that Bob from behind the alley was in a world of trouble when he got home to his wife that night.

Everyone once in a while, we would hear the name of someone that he knew. Maybe it was somebody he went to school with or worked with. Sometimes he would recall old stories from his past about these people. No matter who it was, or how he knew them, he could really tell a funny story. It felt like we were right there with the police, keeping the neighborhood safe, even though we were only eavesdropping on their run-ins with the law.

During the winters, the girls (my mom and aunt and grandma) used to go play bingo on Sunday afternoons. That left me and my sidekick plenty of time to stir up some trouble. In my child’s mind, we were getting up to no good while the girls were gone. Now that I’m older, I realize that my grandpa embellished and elaborated on our comings and goings just to get a laugh out of me.

Sometimes we would stay home and cook something together. After that, we would head down into the basement to shoot our BB gun. Those were some of the best times I ever had. That is, until grandma caught us and we got in trouble. Again. From them on, we were only allowed to shoot at Old Style beer cans in the backyard. Me and Grandpa Bill were devastated at the time.

If we decided to venture out on those winter afternoons, my grandpa would take me to the local family restaurant for lunch. We’d order soup and salad and entrees. One memory I’ll never forget is how my grandpa always made sure the bread was buttered. He would let me order whatever I wanted, and we would sit and talk. We talked about the weather, or he would ask me about school. We never ran out of things to talk about. He would tell me stories from his childhood or about how and when he met my grandma.

As the meal ended, grandpa would say “Missy, I’m going to the men’s room before we leave, so meet me by the car.” I’d go wait dutifully by the car and he’d come charging out of the restaurant, whispering loudly for me to hurry up and get in the car. He’d crank the engine and take off like a bat out of hell, telling me that we had to drive fast because we “dined and dashed.” For so many years, I actually believed that we skipped out on the bill. He would drive a little over the speed limit and look over his shoulder, pretending to make sure we weren’t being followed by the police. Once home, he’d breathe a great sigh of relief. “Don’t tell the girls”, he’d say. But somehow, they always found out. I would hear them laughing and laughing about it later. “Oh, grandpa/dad, you’re so silly.”

I think of Grandpa Bill when I hear someone mention a BB gun. Or when I pass by a garage sale. I smile to myself when I see someone drinking an Old Style. There are so many wonderful memories I carry with me. He really was the silliest man I ever knew. I have tears in my eyes and my heart is heavy as I’m recalling these stories. He was my best friend and so much fun to be around.

It’s been almost a year since he passed, and I miss him every single day. I am forever grateful that I got to love him for 43 years.

Thank you for being the best friend I ever had, Grandpa.


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