“What did you do before you shaved this morning.” That was the usual greeting I received from him. That or, “Why don’t you stand a little closer to the razor next time?”
I shave, I just don’t shave DAILY. Like when I’m on vacation, which is usually when I’d see him. This would always anger me. Especially in later years because really, why was it any of his business when I shaved?
My earliest memories of my Grandfather were of his and my Grandmother’s condo in Millbrae, California. I’d also see him at Star Sheet Metal, which is the company my Great-Grandfather started, then he took over. My father worked there as well before spinning off his own company. He always worked hard but he lacked the business sense to run the company well and when it became his, it started going downhill. Despite several offers from my Dad to help run it, all of which were rejected, my dad bailed and started his present company. Grandpa soldiered on, but soon it was clear that the company would not survive, so into retirement my Grandfather went.
I also remember as a kid working several Lions Club events. Paper Drives, where all day we’d drive around Millbrae picking up brown paper shopping bags filled with newspapers that would be tossed into big metal shipping containers and sent off to be recycled. I also remember the Lions Club annual Christmas party, the highlight of which was a visit by the king of Christmas himself, Santa.
Santa reminds me a lot of my grandfather. They are both big guys, big as in several hundred extra pounds, a path I’m dangerously heading down myself. In recent years my Grandfather has taken to wearing a big white beard which, though not as long as Santa’s, still helps with the “separated at birth” image. My Grandfather has also started losing his hearing. So anything you say to him is usually followed by a big bellowing, “WHAT?!”
One time my Grandfather took the whole family on a cruise. My parents did not go, saying they needed to run the business. We went up to Canada where I spent my time in Vancouver scouring used record stores for rare Barenaked Ladies stuff. I also had the whole family on pins & needles saying I had a big surprise for the formal “Captain’s Dinner” on the ship. My powder blue tuxedo with ruffles. My Grandfather was right next to me as we strolled right into the main dinning hall, always the center of attention.
At my Grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, a microphone was passed around the room so those who wanted to could give their thoughts on my Grandparents. When the mic came to me, a murmur of, “Uh-ohs!” and “Here We Go’s” went around the room. I proceeded to tell about one of my fondest memories of my Grandparents, which was our yearly trips to the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. We’d go and watch the bull riding, calf roping, etc. All things I’d be bored with later in life.
I’d always leave the show with some sort of souvenir. Usually this weird sort of boomerang thing that one of the rodeo clowns came out and demonstrated throwing in the middle of the arena. I know this guy had to create the desire to want to buy one of these things in every kid as he’d send it sailing out over the heads of the audience where it would loop back and he’d easily catch it…on the top of his hat. This was a MUST HAVE item and they sold them by the hundreds I’m sure. Sold them by the hundreds to kids who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area who, undoubtedly, had nowhere as spacious as the floor of the Cow Palace to throw the dam things. I wonder how many of these bright green circles litter the rooftops of houses all over the Bay Area to this day.
One time my Grandfather booked me to play a Lions Club function. I don’t think he “gets” Throwing Toasters, but he’s always very supportive. I think that was one of my first paying gigs too and at $250 I was stoked!
But the reason I’m writing about all this is to tell the story of BAR-BA! THis has become sort of a running joke in my family and even a few of my friends have picked up on it. As I mentioned earlier, my Grandfather is losing his hearing, so he often shouts what he’s trying to say. My Grandmother’s name is Barba. Yeah. Some sort of weird misspelling spelling of Barbara, Barba. Anyway, my immediate family has noted that at family get-togethers, inevitably, my Grandfather will be in one room and need something and will, at the top of his lungs, yell out, “BAR-BA!” This is always followed by a far off, “Yes?” from my Grandmother.
Two Christmas’ ago, during one of these family functions, the call went out and my brother, Dad and me all started giggling like madmen. Then my brother, made known one of his mutant abilities. He can mimmic my Grandfather PERFECTLY. To the “T”. So after a few minutes of egging him on, Brandon finally let go with a big, “BAR-BA!” It was immediately followed by a, “Yes?” and we were in tears.
Now the problem came in that when my brother did this, my Dad and I were not the only witnesses. My older teenage cousins were in the room and seeing how funny this was they started to copy the call in their own, sub-par imitations. THey took this back to Reno with them, where a lot of my family and my grandparents live, and several weeks later, my brother received a stern e-mail from my Grandmother telling my brother he should not make fun of my Grandfather. Saying it was disrespectful and that my Grandfather has worked very for this family, etc..
This letter was a little out of line, because I truly believe that our saying, “BAR-BA!” was NOT making fun. It was a tribute. That’s how it sounded!
When I was writing songs for my Kid’s CD, I added a line in the song I CAN’T ADD that mentions Bar-ba & Don. Another tribute to my Grandparents.
My Grandfather was killed in a car accident Friday night. I’m heading up to the Bay Area for the wake before I head out to South Dakota. I’m going to support my dad, who I feel bad for. In recent years my Dad has sort of called my Grandparents out on some of the their behavior, which I won’t go into here and I’m worried that he’ll take it out on himself.
I was told it would be appreciated if I was a pallbearer. I have said I won’t. Funerals/wakes are not my things. It’ll probably be a bone of contention with some family members, but I just can’t. I was asked to be a pallbearer at Jamie’s funeral and refused even there.
I don’t believe in god, so there’s no need for prayers. I’m actually quite fine with it as I focus on just remembering the good things. The Cruises, The Rodeos and, of course, BAR-BA! In that respect my Grandfather has not died, so there’s no need to grieve.