Volunteers Louise Sorensen July 5, 2011
My Gram and Grampa looked so happy and proud standing for their group photo beside all the other volunteers; some Grampas, but mostly Grannies. They were a sea of dark blue uniforms and grey heads bobbing in front of a huge silver aircraft carrier that hot windy day.
“Now don’t be sad, Jimmy,” she said to me one day when I was trying particularly hard to talk her out of it. This was a month before they took off.
“But if you go, Gramps won’t stay behind. You know he’ll be right there beside you.”
“There, there, now. Grampa Jim and I have talked it over, and this is something we really want to do. You have your whole life ahead of you. Someday you’ll understand,” she said, patting me on the shoulder. She got the cherry pie off the window sill and cut me a slice. I didn’t feel much like eating, but I made like I loved it, even though I could hardly taste it going down.
After that, we all spent as much time as we could at their place, asking them all about the family history and any other questions we could think up. My mom became the family secretary and interviewed Gram and Gramps at least once a day, if they were feeling up to it. My sister Bethy typed up the interviews, and the kids were tasked with asking Grammy and Gramps anything they could possibly think up during the day. My brothers worked on fixing the house; Gramps had let it run down a little over the years. And the wives busied themselves with cooking or cleaning or playing the piano or gardening. We all did whatever made us happy. In the hot afternoons we’d all get together and hang out on the big front porch, where there were comfy old chairs and a long swing seat.
“What would you do if you found a blue dinosaur, Grampa?” my daughter Virginia liked to ask.
“ A big blue dinosaur?” Grampa would say, wiggling his bushy eyes brows at her.
”Why I’d throw a saddle over that cayuse and ride him here to yonder!” he’d say with a laugh. That would set Bethy giggling, and her brother Brett would declare that he wanted a ride too, and then Gramma would come out onto the porch with cookies and ask for some help in the kitchen. Grampa was apt to reach for his guitar at that point and start a song about a big blue dinosaur, making up the words as he went along.
“When I go out riding,
I always take Blue,
‘cause he is my dino,
and ever so blue.
On top of old Bluey,
Where nobody goes,
I go to my garden
and pick Grammy a rose,” were two of his favourite verses. Oftentimes when he sang about the rose, he had a flower of some kind hidden behind his back and would bring it out on the word ‘rose’ and present it to her.
Then the kids would join in and soon you’d have Gram and Gramps and sons and daughter and grandkids all singing and whooping the Dinosaur song.
So the last month we all had with them went fast. I spent all my time thinking of questions to ask them.
“Grammy,” I said to her one day, “I remember one time we were driving home from the camp in the old Chrysler Windsor, and the gas pedal stuck. Do you remember?”
“Yes, Sweetheart. You were about fifteen at the time, as I recall. A real handful.”
I blushed. ”Sorry… but I remember sitting in the back in the middle seat. And I could tell we were approaching the curve too fast…. I saw the accelerator needle stuck on ninety… and I remember seeing you leaning down and trying to reach under the gas pedal… and I think Grampa was fumbling for the keys to try to turn the engine off. And then I closed my eyes. I don’t remember how you got the car slowed down in time. What happened? “
She took a deep breath to answer, and then my wife Ginny came screaming out onto the porch to tell us that London England had just been vaporized. We were all quiet for awhile after that, and I never did get to ask her that question again. To this day I wonder how they got that car slowed down in time. Funny the things you think of when you think of people.
They left a few days later. They didn’t need too much flight training. All they had to do was pilot some rickety old planes built around big old bombs onto an enemy target. We got word back six days later that they had done their job. I feel sad, but I can just imagine my Gramma smiling and laughing as she took that last wild ride. And Grampa’d be right behind her urging on Big Old Blue.
And that’s why I’m here today. And that’s how I lost my Gramma and Grandpa.