A legacy is defined by the dictionary as "something received from an ancestor or predecessor." Our girls have inherited an amazing legacy from their great grandfather. A legacy, I pray, they will never lose sight of; one they will strive to live up to all their lives.
My grandfather was known as a powerhouse. It's the one word that has been repeated over and over when describing him. Always moving, working, tinkering. Very little could slow him down. When he was younger, from the stories told, that got him into trouble often. He fought in World War II, became an electrician and a self-taught engineer. He created and ran his own business. He raised nine children in a huge house with fields, animals, and barns. He was always working on a project for that house. I can still smell his basement workshop: paint, wood, soil, turpentine, all mixed with the moldy mustiness of being underground.
One day when I was about eight or nine. Grandpa and my dad were in the workshop and I was allowed to go down with them. Grandpa gave me a hammer and told me to close up the paint can. I banged on that lid and splattered paint all over my grandfather. I remember the stunned look on his face and the thought that I was going to get yelled at and banished from the workshop. He calmly pulled out the rag, that was always in his pocket, wiped the paint splatter from his face and glasses, and then showed me how to clean the groove with a paintbrush, cover the can lid with a rag, and then hammer it closed.
In that basement, Grandpa would give us pieces of scrap lumber, jars of nails, and hammers. We would all build boats, with turrets, the bigger the better. Then we would take the boats to the stream and float them down under the little bridge Grandpa had built. We'd retrieve them, run back, and do it again. It didn't take long before Grandpa was suggesting we bomb those boats. We would find the biggest rocks we could carry, and stand on that bridge waiting for the boats to appear. The race was to see who could demolish the boats the quickest and with the most splash. My mother, in the background, would be reminding him that we had a two hour ride home and no changes of clothes. He pretty much ignored her and would yell, "Man the torpedoes!" all the louder.
I have memories of painting fences, scraping paint off the house, painting the house, building cement and stone steps, burning trash at the "dump", and pruning apple trees. Whenever we went to grandma and grandpa's house, we worked. And we were happy to do it because it meant we heard stories.
Grandpa was a story teller. If the story wasn't big enough, he made it bigger. Gestures and a big booming voice punctuated his points. We loved it when we were young and he told us the story of Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby. He would stand in the middle of the living room while we sat on the couch, and he would act out the story with punching fists, kicking feet, and sound effects to illustrate that rabbit getting stuck in the tar.
As we grew older his stories became ones of family history. His days in grade school, in the Navy, and stories of the "original" Meme and Pepe Cormier and his aunts. His stories were long with many side stories, often with exaggerations and embellishments, but always with a life lesson embedded in them.
Grandpa loved food. Especially sweets. We knew a trip to grandpa and grandma's house meant candy bars and "Super-Dupers". My parents knew that at least one of us would be sick on the way home. After dinner, Grandpa would pull out the ice cream and then with dramatic flair start hauling out the super-duper toppings: jimmies of every kind imaginable, cherries, whip cream, bananas. Every sauce or ice cream topping ever imagined and a few he invented himself!
He would make himself a glass of "Indiankickapoo juice" (it took me well into my teens to figure out what that really was), we would take turns climbing onto the "bread drawer" and dictate to him what we wanted on our ice cream. Grandpa would heap on the toppings while my mother, in the background, would be reminding him that we had a two hour ride home and all of us were prone to motion sickness. He pretty much ignored her and would squirt on another mound of whip cream. Always with a cherry on top.
Grandpa leaves us all the legacy of a good work ethic, story telling, patience and longsuffering, and the most amazing super-duper ice cream sundaes ever constructed. He set the bar high for each of us.