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Monday, 09 July 2007


By Jim Filer of Brain Waves

Those years on either side of 1950 involve memories of an inner-city childhood experienced in northern Kentucky, years spent battling an on-and-off relationship with rheumatic fever.

We lived in a four-room second floor apartment over my paternal grandparents. Mamaw was a beauty queen in her day and age had taken little away from that fact. She had a huge closet full of clothes and she loved being around other people.

Papaw was balding, smoked cigars, enjoyed his beer, loved liver and onions, and could read a western paperback novel while he watched wrestling on television and listened to a Reds ballgame all at the same time.

He was also the one who would often babysit me and my younger sister and brother whenever Mom and Dad found occasion for an evening out. Sneaking up the stairs that led to the upper level, he would poke his head around the corner, growl or shout and mass hysteria would erupt as he’d chase the three of us through the house.

I was probably ten or eleven when these two vital elements of my life took me with them on a vacation trip. Driving an old Dodge Desoto, we would navigate a two-lane Route 25 nearly all the way down to Hollywood Beach at the southern tip of Florida.

We stopped, of course, for the glass-bottomed boats at Silver Springs, the Fountain of Youth at St. Augustine, and a day or two in Daytona, my young mind amazed that people should move about so freely in nothing more than their swimsuits and perplexed about why grits should be served in restaurants with almost anything you ordered.

The most vivid part of the journey, though, the segment that remains forever etched in my brain, is a comical event that took place one evening, pre-tourist attractions, in a small motel nestled midst some Georgia pines. My family eventually moved to the suburbs and my teenage adventures would slowly find these two less involved in my daily existence, but on this particular night we were a threesome.

There was a huge double bed on the far side of the unit, leaving little space in that area for anything other than a small table lamp. I was in a single over by the entrance, positioned by the same wall as Mamaw and with a door between us that we had assumed to be an extra closet should we have needed it. No air-conditioning in those days. She had the sheet pulled over her, but Papaw was asleep wearing nothing more than his underwear.

I could hear him snoring - the sandman hadn’t found me yet - and suddenly that door at my feet opened giving a glimpse of a young boy as surprised as me to discover such portal connected us to another body of travelers! As of yet, however, no shock was registered, my grandmother only asking me to identify the sound of his retreat. “If he does it again”, she counseled, “just sit up and say something to frighten him.”

In a few minutes he did, I did, except it wasn’t him, it was his mother. She screamed, Mamaw laughed, and Papaw came up yelling wildly, desperately trying to find some covering.

My dad, the oldest son, would meet an accidental death at the age of 40. My grandparents changed somewhat after that, grief somehow separating them even though they remained married. He retired, did various odd jobs for people around the community, but became a social hermit otherwise. She joined the YWCA, bowled in a women’s league, and stayed active.

I’ve never forgotten, though, Papaw coming out to the car that summer morning all those years ago and, when questioned by Mamaw as to what took him so long inside that room we had rented, he gave her a sheepish grin to explain: “Well, they came over to bid us goodnight; I went over to tell them good morning!”

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Good for him! I wonder why they just didn't lock the door? Surely there was a dead-bolt on it.

lol Too funny!

No doubt there was a dead bolt. We just didn't investigate, not thinking about it being used as a connection to the other room. I hold many good memories about that trip...........

Enjoyed your story. Yeah, I remember the obligatory stops at Silver Springs and the marvel I felt at seeing those minature, but huge in real life fish, through those glass bottomed boats. Had my first view of the Atlantic Ocean and taste of salt water at Daytona those years. Wonderful fun memories of your grandparents with descriptions so well written.

Sat in those glass-bottomed boats only that once, Joared, but the image is yet fresh in my mind. Here in the Ohio River Valley, sinus problems are a life-time experience; but I also remember well my head opening up as we crossed from Georgia into Florida, saying to myself at the time, "So this is what it's like to breathe!"....

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