A grand Father's Day memory

I'm going to become a grandfather in a couple of months, and it's gotten me to thinking of late that I'd best get my act together for this "grandpa" business, and pronto. Aren't we grandfathers – when posed a question by our grandchild – supposed to look pensively into the distance, scratch the stubble on our collective faces (because we forgot to shave) and then hit the kid with some kind of awe-inspiring response that would make even the great philosophers take note?

Which leaves yours truly, at least in a figurative sense, up the proverbial creek without a baby wipe. I mean, I remember my grandfather and what he meant to me and how he impacted my life so favorably. He was funny, smart and could do no wrong in my eyes. The guy taught me how to fish – not just catch them, but gut, clean and fillet them – along with planting and caring for almost every fruit and veggie this area would support. How to care for an outboard motor. How to shovel manure. Which reminds me that, most importantly, he taught (warned) me about Cleveland sports.

Grandpa took me fishing with him as far back as I can remember. Once we were a couple of miles out on Lake Erie, had dropped anchor and catching as many perch as we could fit in the coolers (perch were plentiful with no catch limit back in the day), he'd lay back on his meticulously arranged life preservers – one of which I assume I was supposed to be wearing – kick his feet up and say, "Jeffy, my boy, this is the life, ain't it?"

Now that I think about it, I guess he also introduced me to my first rhetorical question, didn't he? There he taught me the fine art of baiting the hook, and he'd chuckle when I'd get a sheephead on the line (which, for a little kid, was the equivalent of an adult attempting to land a marlin). However, he never interfered with my learning experiences; offering suggestions but leaving me to sink or swim, so to speak, on my own.

One of my most memorable fishing excursions with Grandpa was the time when he offered me some lemonade while we were out fishing in the hot summer sun. The lemonade was pinkish in color, which didn't faze me, at least initially. It should be noted that Gramps wasn't one given to "over-cleanliness"; I guess, diplomatically, you could say he was "old school."

For instance, he threw our ham and Swiss sandwiches into the same cooler we threw the fish in, so it wasn't uncommon for the entire lunch to taste (and smell) like today's fresh catch. Anyway, when I raised my glass of lemonade up to my head to rub some icy coolness on my brow, I noticed a bunch of dead red ants along the inside bottom of the glass.

When I asked about the ants, he told me, with a totally straight face, "Red ants – that's how you get the 'pink' lemonade color." He smiled and took a big gulp, but oddly enough I wasn't quite as thirsty as I had been moments earlier. Then, since he knew he had me on the ropes, he added the minor detail that Grandma had yelled at him for storing his chewing tobacco in the lemonade pitcher, and maybe that had something to do with the color.

Of course, he followed that up with a "Jeffy, my boy, this is the life, ain't it?" which seemed to make everything okay again. Just the same, suddenly, polluted Lake Erie water was looking mighty thirst-quenching.

Lord knows Lloyd John Bing was a character. Lord also knows I'd give anything for just five minutes in that boat with him again.

Now that I think about it, why am I concerned about coming up with a "good" answer to any questions my grandkid might have? After all, it's pretty clear Grandpa didn't sweat any potential questions from me. If my grandkid asks me anything requiring the expenditure of the little gray matter that remains in my skull, I already know my response...

"How 'bout some lemonade, kid?" 

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits.

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Volume 4, Issue 12, Posted 9:53 AM, 06.12.2012