When they moved into town around 1939, my grandfather worked a series of jobs and then got a job with the public school system as a janitor. He worked until 1966, when he was 82. My grandmother died that year, and my father pressured him to finally retire. I remember visiting them, but I was a young child and I can’t say I got to know him until he moved to leave near us.
I have no way of knowing what he thought of things, from my point of view, he seemed
old ancient. He lived in town in an apartment over a store, and walked to our house for supper every night. My dad would take him home in the car. On some weekends I would ride my bike down there and he and I would walk uptown.
He had quit smoking at 75 on the advice of a doctor, and took up chewing tobacco. Day’s Work. When we went walking our destination was a tobacco and newspaper shop on Main Street. It was an old store, with a high tin ceiling, counters full of cigars, tobacco tins, and cigarettes and racks of newspapers, magazines and comic books. He would buy his chew, and sometimes a newspaper, and give me a dime to pick out a comic book. I probably read more while I was making a selection then I ever bought, but finally I would pick one and we would walk back home.
One Saturday, on the way back to his place, I told him I wanted to try his tobacco. It smelled sweet and he obviously liked it. He cut me off a little piece and I popped it in my cheek just like I saw him do it. It was the spitting part I had missed. So I swallowed the juice. Probably didn’t take long, because before we got home, I was sick. Throwing up sick. Trying to turn inside out and throw up my toenails sick. When I was done, he patted me on the back and we walked on. I think he did it on purpose. If so, thanks Grandpa, except for one cigarette on a dare, I never did tobacco again.
Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.