January 16th…“SHARE A FUNNY MEMORY OF YOUR MATERNAL GRANDFATHER”.
As I remember him, our maternal grandfather, Clarence Sletten, was a tall, quiet man. His silver coiffure was that classic hairstyle of the early 1900’s which equated to combing the hair straight back over the top of his head. These are my initial perceptions of the grandfather that I saw more often in childhood than I saw my own farmer father’s dad. I suppose we visited my maternal grandparents more often due to the old adage that goes like this: “A son is a son, till he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for the rest of your life”. Our sweet mother, Clarice, naturally enjoyed being near her mother for visiting and helping her parents in their senior years. Therefore, when our trustworthy 1956 Chevy was loaded with our family, Daddy would spin the steering wheel to the left out of our driveway and head towards Albert Lea, Minnesota more often than turning right out of the driveway and towards our paternal grandparents who lived in Lake Mills, Iowa.
Like a mini-hotrod, my little boy engine was always purring and ready to zoom from point A to point B. I remember running everywhere, even if it was just across the room to change the channel on our old “Zenith” black and white television. Unlike my high energy, Grandpa Sletten, on the other hand, only walked. And even when he did walk, it was at a slow, aged gait. Being the inquisitive, tiny jabber-box that I was in those little boy days, I would often ask my parents, “Why don’t Grandma and Grandpa run????” My parents would look down at me and giggle at my innocent ignorance of the seasons of life and try to inform me of what happens to the body of a person who gets old, but I was still in a fog. “What’s OLD??”, I would question in return, to which they’d just smile and shake their head.
The scene fast forwards to the late 1960’s and Grandfather Sletten traveled out to to visit us in Washington State. It was time for our progenitor to visit many of his progeny that now lived in the Vancouver, Washington area. Clarence was easily in his mid 70’s now and his gait was even slower than it was in my little scalawag days back in Minnesota.
Independence Day had arrived and our family clan were gathered for some private fireworks and holiday picnics in someone’s backyard. July 4th had ebbed into night and we were now going to have our own personal fireworks show to celebrate our nation’s freedoms.
One of the sparkling, whooshing fireworks that evening was a “ground spinner” that SHOULD have spun in place in a circle as it lifted vertically off the ground. But did it go straight up? NOOOOOOO!!!!
That contraption seemed possessed by the mean little “fireworks fairy” and, as it spun, it navigated in a bee line right for where Grandpa Clarence was standing!! In the blink of an eye, our 75 year old Clarence showed everyone that night that a Grandpa CAN run!!! And he DID!!! That lanky old Norwegian body took off like a shot out of a hot cannon. We all laughed till we busted a gut to the point of being breathless. And, come to think of it, Grandpa Clarence was pretty breathless, too!! So was one of the fun times of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.