I first posted this story years ago. Today I feel like posting it again. Because it makes me happy, because I like this picture of my Grandaddy, and because there’s a lesson here that I need to be reminded of. Things will only go one way: the way they’re meant to go.
Folks, this is Grandaddy. He is a retired fireman, a Rock Hill native, and one of my very favorite men on God’s green earth. He was probably joking with my brother about making him pee blood when this picture was taken. That’s an actual running joke with him. “Boy, I’ll make you pee blood,” he says menacingly. It’s an old joke. Don’t judge.
See the watch on his wrist? As a little girl, I used to sit on his lap for hours fiddling with the links and the clasp, sliding the band off of his wrist and onto mine, running my fingers over the shiny glass face and the brushed metal back, trying to figure out what he learned from this little machine on his arm.
If you’ve met him, you know he’s a character. He has a story for everything, and I don’t think he’s ever met a stranger.
One of my favorite stories is from his fire-fighting days. You know, firemen used to actually get called to people’s houses to get cats down from trees. That didn’t only happen in the cartoons. It happened regularly in real life.
One day, a woman’s cat ran up a tree. Or telephone pole. I forget which. It was a tall, wooden thing. Distressed, she called the fire department. Mind you, my grandfather once had a rat terrier that he trained to chase and kill cats — but that was on his own time. On company time, he was a feline hero. So, being the good firemen that they were, they loaded up the truck and drove across town. When they got to the lady’s house, she was a mess. She was crying, wailing, lamenting her poor kitty — certain that he was on the brink of his ultimate demise. My Grandaddy tried the ladder and found that it wasn’t tall enough to reach the cat atop his perch in the tree/telephone pole.
“What do you MEAN you can’t get to him?!” she cried. “What are you going to DO?! What about poor FLUFFYYYYY?!” (Confession: I don’t know the cat’s name. I also don’t know that this is an exact quote. I like to picture this woman in hysterics, a hand thrown daintily across her forehead, seconds away from the smelling salts.)
“It’s not tall enough,” he said. “That’s all there is to it. Give him time, he’ll come down on his own. It’ll be ok.”
“He CAN’T come down on his own!” she wailed. “He’s TRAPPED, he’ll DIE!” Here, I like to picture her in full on panic mode, clinging to my stoic grandfather, hyperventilating, searching the pockets of her housecoat for a hard candy.
“Lady,” my Grandaddy said. “Look around. Just look.”
“How many cat skeletons do you see hanging from trees on this street?” he asked. “He’ll come down when he’s ready, and you’ll just have to wait ’til then.”