My Maternal Grandfathers…yep…plural!
My Mom sent me a link today from a radio station, WCSC in Charleston S.C.
(sorry..I've forgotten how to add hyperlinks)
Anyway...it brought back a bunch of memories and started me thinking about how strange it is to have TWO maternal grandfathers.
The link was ‘a brief history’ of that particular radio station and I was pleased to see that the only picture on the page was one of BOTH of my maternal grandfathers.
Hmmm…..how can a guy have TWO maternal grandfathers you might ask.
Well….let me do a little of ‘splainin’ here.
As I have mentioned before, I come from a long line of musicians. EVERYONE on my Mom’s side of the family and my immediate family could play and/or sing….or both.
The funny thing about this is that I grew up thinking that my ‘real’ grandfather was Roscoe ‘Shorty’ Wiggins….the fiddle player in the middle of the picture above. He was and will ALWAYS be my ‘real’ grandfather but, in truth…the big guitar player on the right of the picture is my ‘biological’ grandfather!
Pretty wild huh?
I learned this many years ago after my Grandaddy Rock (as we called him even though most folks called him ‘Shorty’) passed away when I was seventeen years old. My biological grandfather and my ‘real’ grandfather were the best of friends for many years UNTIL my ‘real’ grandfather ‘stole’ my grandmother away from my biological grandfather…Jack Glisson who was a rogue and a heavy drinker but by all accounts, an otherwise great guy.
Ain’t THAT confusing?
Well….both of my grandfathers were hard drinkin’, women chasing extremely talented musicians/singers but, my grandmother chose the right guy to stick with.
Shorty Wiggins, my ‘real’ grandfather was the finest man I’ve ever known in my life. Unlike my biological grandfather, Granddaddy Rock was a responsible, loving man who took care of his large family and taught them all what love was all about. He taught us music but he taught us ALL so much more.
That little man could wring more enjoyment out of life than anyone I’ve ever known. He played in ‘juke joints’, the Grand Ole Opry and on the front porch of his home on James Island with equal fervor. He raised six children ( his only ‘step child’ was my Mama who everyone swears he loved even more than his own), built a roofing business and was beloved by almost all who knew him.
He was also my hero.
Every summer from the time I was fourteen till I graduated high school, my brother and I would go down to Charleston from our home in Columbia and work for him in his roofing business.
He only stood about five six but could carry two packs of shingles on each shoulder up a ladder without breaking a sweat....no hands required. I once tried to emulate him and wound up damn near breaking my neck. I was about six feet tall and weighed one hundred and eighty pounds at the time.
After my grandfather rushed over to check on my condition and realized that I wasn't really hurt, he sat back on his haunches like roofers do and laughed his ass off.
"Boy...what in the hell did you think you were doing?" He demanded.
I remember telling him that I thought that I could carry at least as much as him since I was younger, stronger and bigger than he.
He had this funny way of sucking on his teeth (probably dentures)before he spoke sometimes which sounded like a couple of 'tisk-tisks' even if he wasn't reprimanding you.
It's just the way he spoke.
Anyway....in this situation, it sounded as if he WERE reprimanding me and he chuckled.
"Tisk-Tisk" he began. "Bubba...ain't no doubt that you're a lot younger and sure as hell a whole lot bigger than me. Hell boy.... you might even be stronger than your old granddaddy but it's my sad duty to inform you that you ain't NEVER gonna be smarter than me!"
I just stared at him trying to figure out what 'smarts' had to do with me damn near breaking my neck trying to emulate him.
Before long, he realized just how dense I was so he spoke up as he got to his feet and helped me up.
I grabbed his hand and he easily pulled me to my feet, promptly yanked me to his body and flipped me over his back in some sort of 'judo' move.
Of course, I found myself lying on my back looking up at my grinning grandfather as my brother, four uncles and the rest of the crew laughed at me.
He looked down at me without offering his hand and told me something I've tried never to forget.
"Bubba...young, strong and big don't mean NOTHIN' without SMART!" He laughed. "By the way....it's all about your center of gravity..whether it's carryin' shingles up a ladder or livin' your life...it's all about the center of gravity."
I thought about it for a second but he interrupted my train of thought when he spoke again.
"Are you hurt?" he asked tenderly.
I told him that I wasn't hurt at all.
He laughed and stomped down HARD on my right foot!
"A fella that took a tumble like THAT oughta hurt a little bit don't you think?" He cackled as the crew went wild.
Even through the pain in my foot as well as the embarrasment of the situation, I remember reveling in the moment. It was like a rite of passage for me. I was one of the boys then...the whole crew was laughing and making fun of me but somehow...I knew that Granddaddy Rock had played a prank or two on THEM as well from time to time.
It was a great moment in my life.
Must be a southern thing.
I'll never forget the time he caught me smoking his Lucky Strikes.
No....he didn't make me smoke the whole pack as in your typical 'I got caught smoking' yarn....
This was MUCH funnier...unless you were ME.
But...that's another story.
When he died, a funeral procession of three hundred cars caused a traffic jam in Charleston as it winded its way to the cemetery.
To this day, all our family talks about how much fun Granddaddy Rock's funeral was!
The funeral was a celebration of a life well lived and while everyone would miss him....there was just NOTHING we could regret about the way he had lived his life or how he touched all of ours.
Damn I miss that little old man.
My biological grandfather however died alone, penniless and a hopeless drunk.
I never met him.
My Mama still mourns Granddaddy Rock but not her ‘real’ father.
In the caption of the picture, the lady quoted, Emma Lee Heitman is my aunt and the sister she refers to is my mama. They both used to sing on the same radio station with and without my granddad’s band.
They were quite popular as a duo in those days.
Well….I just thought that was kind of interesting.
See ya’ll later.