It’s Memorial Day. Time to think back on the men and women who bravely served our country. I am fortunate enough to have many current and former servicemen and women in my family and circle of friends. However, every Memorial Day (and most other days throughout the year) I find myself thinking about my grandfather, “Pop.” I’ve spoken of him a few other times in my ramblings, like when he “helped” me buy my first car or when he bruised his hip after a semi ripped his car in half on the highway. But he was always a cool guy – half of his vocabulary consisted of grunts, chuckles, and words he made up (to this day, I’ve never met anyone else who puts “boor” on their bread or “cahookins” on their salad) and he showed his love with lunch meats for Saturday “sangwich” time (that’s not one he made up, most Italian grandparents throw “sangwich” around almost as much as “sugu” or “minchia”).
He was a veteran of World War II – a medic actually. He never talked about what he saw and we never asked because we knew in that position he probably saw the worst of the worst. I do know that for the rest of his life nothing medical phased him. I often heard talk of my mother as a young child cracking her head open on a table and while every else was panicking, Pop closed the wound with literally nothing. He held it closed with his thumbs until it clotted and sealed itself, then he bandaged her and cleaned her up. Like I said, the dude was cool.
He was an awesome grandfather and the toughest guy I knew. Literally walked away from getting hit by an 18-wheeler, beat cancer a couple times, brought himself out of a coma following brain surgery, and, even with limited speech, managed to make fun of all the “old people” in the retirement home and a particularly douchey therapist (if you go up to a man like this expecting to coo and talk down to him like a small child, you’re going to have a bad day).
He took me fishing, taught me to drive, came to all of my sister’s and my concerts and plays and dance recitals (even if he constantly got in trouble when we went to my sister’s Nutcracker performances because he lacked the maturity to control his laughter and color commentary when the guys in tights showed off a little too much…well…Nutcracker). He was an awesome grandfather – whatever we did, he was there. But what I remember most about this amazing pillar of our family would have to be…
Not just any underpants, mind you, there is a story behind these. Ironically, many of the other veterans I think about today have also given me memories of them in their underwear. Come to think of it, a large number of people seem very comfortable just dropping trou in my presence. In fact, out of the first 10 friends and relatives that popped into my mind who have served or are serving 7 of them have been pants-less around me and only 6 of those wore underwear!!! I really don’t know what it means about my personality – hopefully it’s a positive thing.
Anyway, back to my grandfather’s skivvies. I was in 8th grade and my final project for my Home Ec. class was to make an apron or a pair of boxer shorts. Naturally I went with the boxers! Not a sexist thing, c’mon guys, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I’m the guy who lived for the day he’d be graded on the chance to make underwear in school! The first thing I did was run to JoAnn Fabrics and buy the most godawful golfing fabric I could find. I was doing this as a joke (what, me not take something seriously? surely you jest!) so I needed to find the most obnoxiously patterned fabric I could.
I started to cut the fabric to the pattern’s specification. However, I always believed in erring on the side of caution…so I added a couple inches in each direction. I also didn’t understand how to make the fly to the boxers, so I just sewed the front shut. So when all was said and done, I had a pair of boxers that could fit two of me, hung to my knees, looked the same from the front and the back, and was covered with the ugliest pictures of golf equipment I could find. So what to do with these monstrosities?
Father’s Day was right around the corner. My grandfather was, shall we say, generous around the midsection, so these would probably fit him. So, lo and behold, Pop was given the infamous “mutandes” and he wore them. Every. Night. If we went over to my grandparents’ house in the evening, there he’d be: plain white t-shirt, his false teeth out, and a pair of black socks reaching up (as my Nana called them) “his chicken legs” trying to meet those shorts at about his knees (now, granted, those shorts should have hung down to his ankles seeing as though he was far from a tall man, however since he hiked the waistband up to his ribcage, it allowed his shins to breathe comfortably).
He was certainly missed at the parade and the barbecue today, but it always makes me smile to think about this amazing man and his “chicken legs.” I hope one day, thousands of years from now, archeologists will treat our burial grounds like those of the ancient Egyptians. And on one of those days, someone discovers my grandfather. Because we buried him in those boxer shorts and anyone who does that for a living needs a good laugh!
Happy Memorial Day. Thank you to the veterans for keeping my family safe and for giving us the freedoms we are so fortunate to have today (to wear underpants or not for example). What I write is meant to entertain and it is something I enjoy very much, but I fully acknowledge that this hobby of mine could very easily get me killed in many other parts of the world. God bless you.
“This morning when I put on my underwear I could hear the fruit-of-the-loom guys laughing at me.” ~ Rodney Dangerfield