NaBloPoMo2011– Remembering My Grandfather
We lost my grandpa Ellis over the weekend. He was such a lovely and incredible man. He was such a strong and constant presence in my life that I named my little girl after him. Her middle name is Ellyse –part Ellis and part Phyllis, my sweet grandmother and his beloved wife that passed away in my twenties. My children will never have the opportunity to know my grandparents, which is sad because they are such a part of me and who I am.
My grandpa was a tall and thin man, he could eat like a line backer and remain whippet thin. He had coppery red hair in his youth and those who loved him referred affectionately to him as “Red”. His eyes were a twinkling blue that remind me so much of my daughter’s. He was an incredibly hard worker and always took care of his family. His home was always open to family and friends in need–often the gathering place for children and teens. Everyone felt welcome when my grandpa was around.
He had a fantastic sense of humor and loved to talk and tell stories. When I was little, my favorite times were when I would spend the night at my grandparent’s home and grandpa would tell me bed time stories that he made up. The stories were always created with me as the starring character and I loved hearing of all of the adventures he came up with.
In fact, Grandpa could always be counted on for an adventure. The woods behind his house became an imaginary world when we would go on long walks together. He taught me about different trees and plants and taught me how to fire a shotgun. We grew tomatoes in the summers and ate our weight in watermelon. He loved root beer and sweets and made me my first cup of “coffee milk” just like his mother had given to him as a child growing up in southern Louisiana.
My grandpa had a beautifully rich bass singing voice and loved to sing in his church choir. We have a few recordings of his songs that I know I will always treasure. Like me, he had a flair for writing and put a few words down with his trusty type writer. Like me, he had terrible handwriting 🙂
He treasured his time in the service and the years that he spent in the Pacific. I rarely heard my grandfather speak of the war–but will always remember his love of the Buddhist temples he visited and the beautiful memories he had of the jungles and ocean. He rented a bicycle wherever his ship made port and often paid local kids to show him the sights. It must have been incredible for such a small town Louisiana boy. My grandpa even took in a tiny spider monkey which got him into a load of trouble back on his ship! He would chuckle and tell me how the mischievous little black monkey would eat his cigarettes and grab pencils off of his desk and sharpen them “down to a nub”.
When I was born premature and blessed with an unruly thatch of black hair, my grandfather promptly declared that I looked “just like that old spider monkey”. It was a nickname that would persist my entire life…and only my grandpa could call a little girl “spider monkey” and make it so affectionate.