Tuesday, June 25, 2013
My grandfather would have been 105 this week, had he lived. His name was Claude Ellsworth Redman. The people who knew him the longest called him, Claudie. He and I were very close. I was always very tight with my siblings, but in fact, up until he died, he was the person I was closest to in my family. We had a special relationship. My mother was an only child and I think in some ways, though he loved all his grandchildren and shared his affection for them equally, because I was the oldest boy, he thought of me as the son he never had.
Whenever he came to visit us or I visited him, we were inseparable. We would go and do things that none of the other kids did. We would steal off on adventures. We would go fishing, visit where he lived as a boy, or just sit and watch the rain.
My grandfather was an interesting man with an interesting history. He grew up on a farm then after his mother died moved into the town in
, where my mother was raised, and lived with his
father who went to work for the railroad.
When he got older he went to the Indiana for a bit and studied English, but he couldn’t stay. After he got married he saved up enough to
open a flower shop in town. It seems
like it was a real nice place. I know
that because one Christmas my older sister and her husband, my friend, gave me
a framed black-and-white photo of him standing in the middle of it. I love that picture. Unfortunately, he lost
his shop during the Depression. He loved that place, and I think losing it
ruined him emotionally. It was after that he took to drink. University of Indiana
My grandfather was an amazingly talented man. He was adept at drawing, drafting, and woodworking. Many of the pieces of furniture in his and my grandmother’s house were beautiful and hand-made by him. He could play the harmonica. He was also an expert at card and sleight of hand tricks, which we loved when he would do them for us.
One time when I was quite young we stayed with my grandparents while my mother and father were on a trip. My grandfather was working as a personnel agent at vegetable canning company at the time. When he came home from work one night I ran out to greet him, tripped, and cracked my head open on the sidewalk leading up to their porch. My grandmother got a towel, told my grandfather that she would make a call and that he needed to take me to the doctor. It was the same doctor who had delivered my mother.
At Dr. Hitchcock’s office he rubbed my head with a bar of soap, applied some topical anesthetic and told my grandfather to hold my head still. He started stitching me across the forehead. I was doing my best not to cry, but it hurt so it was hard. At one point he stopped and said, “For God sakes, man, buck up.” I thought he was talking to me but then I felt little drops of water falling on me and I knew that he wasn’t.
I had a lot of more great times with my grandfather after that until I turned twelve. We had visited my grandparents and at one point my parents had us go visit our cousins. When we got home to
after the visit my father pulled me aside in our
garage. He said to me, “I’m sorry, Tom,
but you’re not going to be able to see your grandfather for awhile.” I asked why that was. “Because he is an
alcoholic and lately he’s been getting worse.
He saying things to your grandmother that hurt her and we need to do