Sunday, June 19, 2011

Other voices

Father's Day edition. For some reason, my dad gave me this picture today. It's been around all my life and I'm not sure why he elected to remove it from his wall now.

My grandfather, late 40s, Phoenix, somewhere off of 22nd Street and Earll.

He was busy. Born on a farm in Crocker, Iowa, he ran away from his abusive father at 15, lied about his age and joined the Navy. A couple of years later, he went AWOL. Something about a girl. WWII started and he re-enlisted under an assumed last name. He worked on a frigate in the South Pacific and the only "war story" I know of is he was in a bar brawl somewhere and had a chair smashed over his face, which put his front teeth through his lip. He wore a mustache for the rest of his life. His actual identity was discovered by the Navy a couple of years later and he was dishonorably discharged. He spent a couple of years rodeoing, met a girl, divorced her (she lives in Prescott, still uses his last name), started a roofing company, got rich, starting a trucking company, got richer, put on airs, bought planes, and was never seen out of a three piece suit again. He was set up on a blind date with my grandma in Santa Fe, married her, moved the operation back to Phoenix, had four children, was out more nights than he was home, divorced her. After that he moved to Denver, married an old mistress, had two more children, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, went insane, died. Did I get it all? This summary leaves out human drama like laying out a private eye my grandma had hired (to track him) or chasing his last wife around their home with a decorative sword (brain tumor).

Actually, he was diagnosed with that tumor ten years earlier when still married to my grandmother. He didn't tell anyone. When the family doctor proposed the idea of removal surgery to him, he said, "No. Fuck it." The doctor told this story to my grandmother 30 years later when they ran into each other after mass at St. Francis.

Incidentally, all that money was embezzled by his lawyer while he was going through the motions of dying. He insisted on going to work still, but was much altered by the growing insistence of the tumor. He'd wreck the car on the way home or leave it running in the garage and go inside to bed. This was the lawyer's cue to steal a lot of money, the rest of which went to pay off some extravagant bills. In the end, my dad got a tiger's eye ring, and my uncle got a money clip. The two younger kids? Apparently not fully vested yet - no inheritance. The estate tried to recover a car he had purchased for my grandmother, which would have spelled doom for the now-impoverished, full-time working single mother of four. She was only able to keep it when a kindly old woman at the dmv pulled a fast one with a title transfer. Someday I'll try to ponder how she managed to send all the shits to Catholic primary and high school.

The end!

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