I have many fond memories of my grandfather from that time. I remember that when I was two years old, he'd come home from work at the Steel Mill and sit in a chair in the living room while I sat on the floor and read the newspaper to him. I remember my grandmother yelling at him for letting me mess around with the newspaper, but him just being as proud as could be that I could read at two years old. I didn't understand how big a deal that was until years later, but at two years old, I knew that it made him happy, so I was happy to do it.
Two years later, at age 4, I was kidnapped along with a bus full of other 4-year-old Head Start students. The bus driver had simply snapped and decided to not return any of the children. My grandfather searched the city over until late that night he found the bus and somehow managed to run it off the road with his 1970-whatever Thunderbird. I remember him coming on the bus and setting all the kdis free and waiting for the cops. I remember being proud that of all the kids on the bus it was my Grampa that was the person who resuced us.
I remember fishing trips to the Hot Waters. I remember feeding bread crumbs to the birds. I remember playing video poker on an Intellevision. Very few people in the world probably even ever owned an Intellevision video game console, my grandfather is probably the only person who ever wore won out and liked it so much he bought a second one.
I remember a man who played baseball for more years than I have at this point been alive. He loved baseball. Of all the paintings and random computer art pieces I've done, the one I am most proud of is a simple mockup of a Sports Illustrated cover I did for his Christmas gift from my mother and I last year. You won't find it on my website. Only two copies exist. My mother has one, and the other is sitting on the table at his house. I remember seeing him Christmas day last year, and every couple of minutes he'd pick it up and just stare at it. It was a simple thing. Not terribly complex. Not terribly hard to do. It maybe took me a couple of hours to put together and ship to be printed. But the look on his face last Christmas showed me that it meant something to him. He kept telling me he couldn't wait to take it down to the bank and show some guy who works there that he used to play ball with. I don't think he could have been happier if he were on the cover of the actual magazine.
I remember a man who loved to tell stories. A man who came from a southern negro family. Who drove a truck in the war for the Red Ball Express.
I remember a man who last summer not only hired a local homeless man to mow his lawn, but gave the man his old lawn mower so that he might be able to find work mowing other lawns.
I remember the goodie box, money for the children, a from bullfrog and worrying the horns off a billy goat.
I remember calling him every Sunday for the last several years. Just to talk and see how he was doing. Something that I will never be able to do again. He was diabetic, he had suffered multiple heart attacks and was dying from two different kinds of cancer. But I'd ask him how he was every week and he'd simply respond "can't kick," and then he'd laugh. When he was feeling tired, or when the chemo was getting to be too much for him, we'd joke around that he was really fine and he was just trying to get out of doing his chores for the day. Then we'd complain about politics or football teams.
My parents have been split up my entire life. I was raised by my mother. Alonzo Thomas was my grandfather, but for most of my life he was the closest thing I had to a real father. I loved him with all my heart and I will miss him very very much. Goodbye Grampa....