My Irish Grandfather

February 21st, 2017

remember the fairies
and pots of gold, Grandpa’s
stories, as he smoked his pipe

My Irish Grandpa

When I was kid in grammar school in Phoenix, or much later in the sunny living room at Pedro Point, it seems Grandpa was always sitting in a huge chair, a huge chair with a wide armrest to hold his coffee. I wish I could remember the stories he used to tell.

For a while we lived just off Indian School Road in the outskirts of Phoenix. We had a nice house with a barn and my folks were thinking about having some chickens but they never did. There was a tree, maybe cottonwood or ash, where Grandpa would sit and smoke his pipe and dream his dreams. I was a small girl leaning against a big German Shepherd; together we listened to tales of leprechauns and tirades against the English. He praised Irish heroes fighting for freedom. He never tired of telling his stories and now and then he would tap his pipe on the flat arm of the chair. I loved the smell of his tobacco. I could see in my own mind the creatures that seemed to be his familiars.

poemHe came to Boston as a young man and when he married Gazilda he took her on a trip to Ireland. He told me how he convinced her that the little people were true. He said, “Put a bowl of milk by the door, the little people love milk”; and what do you know, it was gone the next morning. There was nary a cat or a dog around so who else could it be but the little people.

I think my grandmother enjoyed the holiday but was anxious to get back to Boston and her new married life. Before they left Manorhamilton, his mother gave Gazilda an item long valued by the family. She didn’t pack it away but carried it herself all the way home on the ship across the Atlantic. It was a large crucifix, hand carved from dark wood found in a bog. All through the years I saw it in a place of honor in her home. Later it was given to my mother and was her special treasure.

We moved many times but wherever we settled, Mama always found a mantle or a niche for the crucifix and a large chair for her father-in-law. Grandpa slept late every morning but when he was up he maneuvered, with his cane, to the living room where he ruled like a king from his throne.

We came to California in the 30’s and eventually to the North, where Daddy bought a cottage on a hill in Pedro Point. The living room was actually a long sun porch closed in with windows and skylights. Soon after we moved there, he brought home a large wooden chair with wide armrests. “Pa is coming from Phoenix. He’ll be here next week.”

My sister, Mary, and I always looked forward to the boxes of chocolates he would bring to us. But we didn’t look forward to his complaints about our short dresses or long loose hair that he insisted we tuck back behind our ears. He checked our nails for polish and warned us about becoming “painted ladies”. We couldn’t wear lipstick during his stay and he lectured us about manners and how we should insist on respect from young men. This was when I was in high school and no longer fascinated by the little people.

©Patricia Grube
January 25, 2010