AM I THE ONLY ONE. . . . who had a mean grandfather?

By Donna Hale Chandler

I don’t know very much about my grandfathers’ history.  I do know how each of them made me feel when I was a little girl and I remember stories that I heard about each.  One grandfather had long passed away before I had my first child.  The other left this earth when my first born was quite small.  So, if there ever comes a time when either of my children would like to know about their great-grandfathers on their mother’s side of the family, maybe this will be a teaser that will cause them to investigate further.

Both of my grandfathers were interesting men even though they were complete opposites.  One was a good man, devoted to his family and community while the other was a womanizer who would most likely have been struck by lightning if he’d ever entered the church where my grandmother faithfully attended every Sunday morning.  One made me feel safe and loved.  The other terrified me with his loud laugh and jaw full of chewing tobacco.

The scary grandfather was Oscar Diamond and my grandmother divorced him in 1953 when I was just 4 years old.  You would have thought that after 41 years of marriage and 6 children that my grandmother would have been used to his wandering ways and would have taken the easy route by ‘looking the other way’, but bringing home an STD was perhaps the final straw.  Even though at the time the word divorce was almost a dirty word, my grandmother forged ahead.  Within a year of the divorce my grandfather married the Other Woman and moved into a house within sight of my grandmother’s home.

There are two stories that stick out the most in my memories of my scary grandfather.  One was a story of when Oscar and his wife, Rebecca were newlyweds.  Rebecca went to church faithfully every Sunday.  The distance was too far to walk so she would ride bare-back on one of the two plow horses that the couple owned.  Oscar wouldn’t dare darken the door of the church but he would climb on the other horse and ride along with Rebecca to visit with his buddies at the general store until church services ended.  As soon as he saw the first person start down the church steps, he would high tail it over there so he could see if there were any pretty ladies to flirt with while he waited for his wife.

This particular Sunday when Rebecca came out into the sun light, she spied her new husband laughing and teasing a pretty young lady.  Rebecca, incensed, held her head high, and walked quickly past the giggling couple to her horse.  However, her anger evidently increased her strength because when she grabbed the horse’s mane and attempted to jump on his back, she kept right on going, falling in a heap in the dirt on the other side of the horse.  To his credit Oscar ran to his young wife’s aid, helping her up and onto her horse.  I don’t know whether there was shouting or silence as they made their way home.  Either way, I’m sure Oscar got the message.  It’s too bad that he had such a short memory because his attraction to the opposite sex finally landed him in Divorce Court.

The second story I remember so well about Oscar happened when I was eight years old.  My younger sister was born on July 9th, which was Oscar’s birthday.  After my sister’s one year birthday family get together, my mother decided to take us both to see our grandfather to give him a pair of house slippers for his birthday.  We walked along a dusty road from my grandmother’s house to his in the hot July sun, with my mother holding my hand and my sister on her hip.

When we arrived, Oscar was sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch chewing tobacco and spitting in an old rusty can.  I don’t remember the conversation he had with my mother but I do remember that she never went up the three or four stairs to where he was sitting.  She wished him happy birthday and laid the shoe box on the first step.  He ignored the gift and spit tobacco at my new patent leather shoes making me jump just like in the old westerns when the bad guy shoots his gun at another’s feet making them ‘dance’.  My mother’s grip on my hand increased as we turned and walked away with Oscar’s loud laughter vibrating in our ears.  I don’t remember ever going back to see him again.

Some years later as Oscar lay very sick in the hospital, his home burned to the ground.  As he was not trusting of the bank, not only did he lose his home, all his worldly possessions, but he also lost every dollar he had hidden in glass canning jars in the home’s cellar.  I don’t know if anyone mourned his passing or if those who knew him best decided that ‘Karma’ had done its duty.

(I also had a ‘good’ grandfather that I loved dearly. He will be the subject of a future story)


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