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  Remembering Frank.

AUGUST/2011 – When I was a wee lad, I used to spend a couple weeks each summer at my grandparents house. Those trips were the highlights of my childhood. They had a big sprawling house that they built themselves. For three summers, there was no carpet and I took advantage of the fact that the floor would someday be covered and used it as a backdrop for painting projects. If you were to go to that home today and pull up the carpet in the dining room, you’d find black and yellow splotches from the time I painted a checkerboard on my skate deck.

My grandmother worked at a newspaper in a small town and I’d spend a day or two at her work. There was a crusty, musty smelling theater across the street that always seemed to be playing horror movies. I’d spend as much time as possible there, taking in the gore and shrieks on the tiny screen. Attendance was always sparse, which is surely why they didn’t care that my 12-year-old self was clearly too young for rated R movies. I remember seeing most of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies in that theater, which has since been turned into an antique store. It was one of the oldest theaters on the West Coast, but someone had the bright idea to hawk old trinkets instead of showing movies there.
 

 
     

The rest of the weekdays were spent with my grandfather. He owned a drywall company and since he spent his days taping (drywalling) empty houses, there was no problem with me tagging along. As I flew Optimus Prime, Perceptor and the rest of my robot crew around the empty houses and imagined intergalactic adventures, a rhythmic music could be heard echoing through the homes. “Sccchhhhhhhhheeeeeeaaaasssshhhh, thunk. Schthunk, schthunk” is the sound the drywall knife made as it scraped across each wall.

Scccchhhhhheeeeeaaaaaaasssshhhh, thunk. Schthunk, schthunk,” repeated throughout the day as my grandfather went to work.

He was a consummate perfectionist. And, he took great pride in knowing that he did outstanding work. Word of mouth made his business successful enough to afford that big, sprawling house I so loved to visit.

Sometimes, I would get to help. They were small jobs. And never any finishing work. Looking back, I think it was the perfectionist in him that prevented him from letting me, say, texture a living room. Although, this is a skill I still have in reserve if the need ever arises.

I’m having visions of
Gunfighter hot dogs
and skeet ball at Sam’s
Town. Flashbacks of hitting
 antique stores in Folsom
with my grandmother.
Visions of my grandfather
 absolutely destroying me
at chess, and the pride
I felt the couple times I
actually beat him
.

 
     


It’s been decades since I last went to work with my grandfather. I didn’t follow his path. I work at a desk. Right now, a section of my office is being remodeled. They’re finishing the drywall now, and as I sit at my desk, I try to put on my headphones to drown out that familiar “sccchhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeaaaasssshhhh, thunk, schthunk, schthunk” sound. Just hearing that sound is bringing back a flood of memories.

I’m having visions of Gunfighter hot dogs and skeet ball at Sam’s Town. Flashbacks of hitting antique stores in Folsom with my grandmother. Visions of my grandfather absolutely destroying me at chess, and the pride I felt the couple times I actually beat him. I never got frustrated by losing to him. He was older and better at chess than me. I always saw it as a challenge. Looking back, I appreciate that he treated me like an equal on the chess board and played every game like he was facing a grand champion.

My grandparents’ house was the perfect place for holidays. My grandfather was a charming fellow and knew how to entertain. He could light up a room with his natural skill for what he called “shooting the shit.” There are people that can light up the room, and my grandfather was one of them. It’s ironic, because my great-grandmother could darken a room. One of the rare times she spent Christmas with us, I swear that I sat in the middle of the room and saw rainbows and sunshine on my grandfather’s side of the room and nothing but lightning and thunderclouds on her side.

When my grandfather’s health started to deteriorate, we quit having holiday’s there. Part of me always expected him to make a miraculous recovery and we’d be celebrating next Christmas, or Easter, or someone’s birthday at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was strong as an ox and tougher than nails. He continued doing drywall work into 60s, outpacing the man who worked for him who was half his age. My grandfather turning frail wasn’t even something I could fathom.

He passed away a couple years ago and I’m only now starting to grasp the fact that my wife and daughter will never experience one of those grand family gatherings. My wife and I paid tribute to my grandfather by giving the feminine version of his name to our daughter as a middle name. But, I don’t think it is nearly enough to honor my grandparents, who have had more impact and influence on my life than anyone else. So, I will try to have pride in everything I do and be at least half the man my grandfather was. That is the least I can do.

And the “sccchhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeaaaasssshhhhh, thunk, schthunk, schthunk” sound will continue to echo, even though the actual sound has stopped.

-Caruso Deluxe

 
         
     

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