Fond memories of Grandpa

Grandfather Lorrey, my grandmother and Aunt Mildred lived in Lincoln, Mass. In the middle ’30s, I used to enjoy going to visit them during school holidays and summer vacations, sometimes for a week at a time. One morning, when I was about 8 years old, a boy I had never seen before came to their house, and I went out to meet him. His greeting was, “Your dog took my dog’s bone!” His dog was a Boston terrier and grandpa’s dog was a German schnauzer. The nationality connections were purely coincidental.

After we introduced ourselves to each other, I learned that Derek was from England and had come to this country to avoid the horrors of the bombing of his city. His older brother, Michael, came with him. They stayed in the home of attorney and Mrs. Denio about a half a mile down Farrar Road. Sending children to America and Canada was a moderately common thing for English parents to do to protect them from bombings and possible invasion.

Derek was quite upset about Grandpa’s dog, Trixie, taking his dog’s bone. As we were discussing this problem, my grandfather came out and apologized and said we’d get his dog another bone. Grandfather was a quiet and gentle person and a perfect one to resolve this difference. He was from Nova Scotia and, being of English descent, was probably particularly sympathetic to the boys’ situation.

Notwithstanding this incident, Derek and I became fast friends for the rest of his time in this country. I was fascinated by Derek’s use and pronunciations of the English language. He and his brother went back to their home in England soon after the war was over. I don’t recall writing to Derek after he went back across the Atlantic, but it seems as though I might have done so.

I remember another experience of gramp’s kindness when I was ready to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. I had been given an Elgin with balloon tires. He used to run along with me as I rode, holding onto the seat to keep it steady and keep me from falling. Then came the time that I looked over my shoulder to make sure that my grandfather was holding the seat, but he wasn’t there! He was far back down the road, clapping his hands. I was riding by myself at last.

Still another time, grandpa helped develop my creativity and cater to my sense of adventure. On the edge of his property was a deep woods, which sloped down to the body of water known as Farrar’s Pond. One time I thought it would be fun to build a little cabin or cottage in the woods. I remembered seeing almost a full roll of tarpaper in his garage. I asked grandpa if I could have the use of part of it. He replied yes, and in fact that I could use the whole thing if I needed it. I loaded it onto a wheelbarrow along with a hammer, roofing nails, a saw, a hatchet and a measuring tape that I thought I would need for the project.

In later trips, I took down some scrap two-by-fours that he said I could have. Grandpa said, “It sounds like a challenging project you have undertaken. I’m sure it will work well.”

I found a more or less flat place in a copse of long-needled pines where I could situate my cabin. I nailed the two-by-fours to substantial deciduous trees to hang the tarpaper walls from and to support the flat roof. I used the smaller branches for bedding inside. The more I worked on the project, the more it looked like a shack rather than my grandiose vision of a cabin but I liked it! It was my getaway place.

Near the end of grandpa’s life, I remember watching the moon landing on television with him. He had glaucoma and sat on a small rocking chair with his face just inches away from the TV screen. Even at his advanced years, he was interested in current events and in my life. I loved him.

Thomas is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.