Happy Birthday, Grampa!

My grandfather, my father's father, lives in the same house where he has spent most of his life. Grampa loves to tell stories of his childhood and youth, and he always has an eager audience in his grandkids.

When he was very young, he and his older brothers would spend afternoons in the movie theatre where his father ran the projector. I always pictured three little Italian-American boys in chairs against the wall under the projection window, enraptured by the flickering images on the screen. Their favorites were the westerns, and they'd spend hours recreating the stunts they saw.

Grampa tells of mixing sugar water into shot glasses at his kitchen counter and pretending it was whiskey. Sometimes, one of the brothers would climb on top of the icebox a huge desert boulder to leap down onto the heads of the unsuspecting passers-by. Then there was the time Grampa's older brother leapt through a plate glass window in the dining room during "saloon brawl."

Oh, their sainted mother! Such patience!

Once they were told to kill a chicken for dinner. Not knowing any other way to kill anything, they attempted to hang it. I will spare you the gory details from that escapade; it's a story much better told at the dinner table while eating chicken. Or so that's how we always heard it, much to my grandmother's chagrin.

As a young man during World War II, Grampa was finally able to enlist, only to find that the war was over. He was sent to Japan as part of the occupation. One night, while out past curfew, he and some friends were about to be caught by the MPs. Thinking quickly, Grampa just ran into the nearest house and shut the door. The family inside didn't say anything, but served him a plate of their dinner and then he went on his way.

Later he thought that he may have been just a tad intimidating, what with bursting through their door at night, armed to the teeth.

Grampa has always been a kind, gentle, and loving man. He loves to talk to people, always coming home from the grocery store with a story about meeting "this guy" next to the watermelons or "this guy" in the checkout line.

These days he putters around his house and yard, always busy with some project or other. He'll probably take it easy today, although I'm sure my family that lives nearby will make sure he gets a cake and some presents.

Happy Birthday, Grampa! Wish I were there!

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