There Are Too Many Stars

Now for equal time with the other grandparents—my father’s folks. They lived closer to downtown, but shortly after we moved out East, they bought a farm in the country, then moved a number of times after that. Later they were living out of a trailer home. Apparently things were tough for them in a way I never knew as a child.

Grandpa Paul was a trucker most of his life. Always a framed portrait of FDR on the wall of every home he and Grandma Hazel ever owned. But the house in Indianapolis is where I remember first Christmases, with their aluminum tree and silver tinsel, the stalking black panther ceramic sculpture that my brother and I were always fascinated with. I’m less clear in remembering the rest of the house, but do recall it had a “coal cellar”—a remnant of a time long-gone. The coal cellar was spooky.

When we went to visit them in town, we always passed the city bars, their winking neon signs another item of fascination. I remember asking Dad,“What does it feel like to be drunk?” “It’s not a good thing, son. You just feel really sleepy.” I wasn’t convinced of that. Why would they advertise for something that just made you sleepy? It didn’t add up.

One Christmas we went to downtown Indianapolis. There was a holiday display at a major department store and in the center of the display was, for some odd reason, a complete set of knight’s armor. That’s what I wanted for Christmas! A full set of knight’s armor. MAN. No other kid would have THAT!

On trips to the city, Dad always liked to take us to the Italian-American restaurant DiBiase’s (I think it was called), where the spaghetti and meatballs was a favorite and the antipasto salad was served in a big wooden bowl positively reeking of garlic. Pop was a huge fan of onions and garlic. He had no compunction about eating an onion sandwich: big slice of onion between slices of buttered bread. I guess that was the Frenchman in him.

While Grandma Hazel was demure and quiet (she was always reading a new book, mostly mysteries like Agatha Christie), Grandpa Paul was gregarious and funny. He had me and my brother in stitches. Anything written out was “literature,” road signs, too. “What’s the literature say?” I recall riding with him often in their Chevy station wagon. He’d be chewing a stick of Juicy Fruit at the same time smoking a Pall Mall. Some ballgame blared from the radio, and I remember staring out the passenger window as dusk fell and the stars came out.

How many stars are there, grandpa?

Oh, I reckon a lot.

It’s like there are too many stars!

Red tail lights, cars in the distance, headlights searching the road, the hum of tires on pavement, the crackle of AM radio. Too, too many stars.

~ by completelyinthedark on October 9, 2010.

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