A Life Changing House Guest
My life changed the day Grandfather Douglas came to live with us. I was an insecure 12 year old…lost at home and school. My mother was an alcoholic and dad kept to himself due to childhood trauma.
Granddad was the loving “parent” I had never had.
He was a grand old man, born in 1879, with colorful stories that sparked my imagination about life beyond Salem, Oregon, my hometown. His father took him to a brothel in San Francisco as a young boy. He sat downstairs with the Madam. A caring family in Idaho rescued him from life on the run with his dad who had kidnapped Granddad from his mother.
Living on a farm without lights, heat or indoor plumbing, Grandfather Douglas’ dedication inspired me to attend Willamette University when he talked about his days at Whitman College. Accomplished academically, he also was a star of the Whitman’s 1899 football team who beat Idaho and Washington State ending with a narrow loss to the University of Washington, 6-5. Granddad was on the sidelines for all of my high school football games. We shared a love for football, especially the 49er’s Y.A. Tittle.
In a nod to my career in marketing, Granddad sold the Seattle P.I. on street corners with this lyrical call, “Seattle P.I., just a nickel, half a dime, keep’s you reading all the time”. And to my jokester nature in high school, Granddad often shared this limerick, “There was an eagle flying south, with Mr. Heppner in his mouth, when he found he was a fool, he dropped him at Snohomish school”. Darn effective marketing.
The ladies of Portland’s finest neighborhoods shopped at one of the Douglas Food stores around town. Granddad was my first tutor in the world of business as he shared stories of his grocery store success. I earned an M.B.A. which he proudly shared at his 90th birthday party or so I heard. My young wife Kathryn and I were in the kitchen scooping melon balls for party guests.
When I was a kid, grandfather took me clam digging on the beach in front of their home on the Prom in Seaside. Grandma was still alive. Grandmother made incredible clam chowder from scratch – Ivar’s fans, eat your hearts out – along with lightly breaded razor clams, all you can eat! Drooling as I write.
But Grandpa Douglas didn’t live in the past. His love was genuine and ever present.
If I wasn’t playing with friends or at practice after school, we’d play cribbage and talk about my day. 15-2, 15-4. He helped me with homework, attended teacher’s conferences and was at the finish line when I won the league title in the 100 yard dash.
I loved to come home to the rhythmic cadence of granddad’s walks around the family room when it rained. Left foot, right foot, cane tap, left foot, right foot, cane tap for 30 minutes every day without fail.
Finally, a fond memory, as alive today as in 1965, sparks my sense of unexpected adventure in retirement.
Granddad Douglas came to the dinner table like any other night. As we ate tuna casserole, granddad, then 85, casually asked if anyone could take him to the airport the next day. “Why” we replied as one. “I’ve got tickets to the Dodger-Giants play-off games for the National League title. I have my plane ticket, hotels are reserved and tickets are in my suitcase. I just need a ride to the Salem airport.”
I hope I model his love, confidence, fun loving nature and independence. He’s still part of my life.
I’m honored periodically to hear Douglas as my first name. Friends, I invite you to call me Douglas as an upgrade from Doug.