The most important things Grandpa ever said to me were in private, in low voices, and usually at his desk. If you spent time with Papa, you know what I’m talking about. He’d wait in the garage doorway, and when he caught your eye he’d call you over, tell you to shut the door, sit down, and listen.
As a kid I was enchanted by his desk. It was off limits, but he had all kinds of treasures in there. A pair of designer sunglasses he’d found on a park bench. A one of-a-kind coin. Tools and parts and other knick knacks. And if I didn’t know what it was, he’d give me a “What’s the matter with you kid?” look. Like a five year old’s supposed to know what a wire stripper is for.
One time we all went down to the reservoir to go fishing, and sure enough he took me aside and pulled out a little jar of green slime. He told me to dip the bait in it, but keep it quiet. Don’t say anything cause it’d make the other fishermen angry if they found out. To this day I have no idea what that green slime was.
He was always letting me in on secrets like that. He’d give you money for the ice cream truck, but act like he’d got the cash from a bank heist or something. Cash, everything was cash with Papa. And he knew the exact location of every penny he had. I tell people everything I learned about watching your money I learned from Papa.
I don’t remember seeing much physical affection between my grandparents. I don’t remember seeing them kiss, or saying “I love you” to one other. Grandma once told me, you get old enough, and it’s like living with a roommate.
But Grandpa loved her, and I learned to see the signs. When she was having trouble with the TV, he took me aside and handed me two grand in cash and told me we’re going to get her a new one, something HD. I told him, “Papa, they’re not that expensive anymore.”
One night, a few years after Uncle Teeny passed, and Papa’s health started to go, he called me back into the garage. He told me to not worry about him. He said, “I may look bad and sound bad, but I’ll be fine. It’s Mama I’m worried about. You know she’s got it worse than me. She doesn’t look it, but she’s the one you need to watch out for.” I think it’s the first time I ever really saw him express how much he cared about her.
I love you Papa, and I’m going to miss you. Someday I hope I have my own desk in the garage, just like you did.
In memory of Mart N. Jones Jr.
January 26, 1935 — September 27, 2011