I had one of those strange thoughts running around my head the other night, one of those memories that just seems to stick out for no apparent reason.
It must have been about 15 years ago or so when my father and I were headed to the commissary on Fort Stewart. It was just about 5 in the afternoon, right at the time they played “Retreat” over the loudspeakers. Soldiers are supposed to get out of their cars and stand at attention. Needless to say, traffic comes to a halt.
My dad opened his door and got out, standing ramrod straight in the middle of the pavement along with dozens of other drivers. Except they were in uniform. He hadn’t worn in 15 years at that point. He got back in after “Retreat” was over.
“You know,” I said, “you’re retired. You don’t have to do that anymore.”
The point was he wanted to.
Now, at the commissary, the old man had a reputation as a generous tipper. One of the longtime bag boys told one of my brothers to tell our father thanks — his tips kept him in school. This was the same guy who used to give us five bucks to go to the movies and wanted the change back.
My father’s lack of hearing, from an early age, was legendary. When my friends came to the house to see me or get me to go cause trouble somewhere, they could tell what was on TV before they got on the front step. Once, I was talking with our next door neighbor, in the middle of her front yard — and we could hear clearly, word for word, was on TV in our living room.
Once, at work, someone asked who was driving the green car with the motor running and the music blaring.
Apparently, Dad — having cranked Dean Martin or Frankie Laine up to 110 decibels — didn’t hear that he had the car still running and walked inside.
He also wore out the motor in a new car because he couldn’t hear the engine once he started it, so he’d rev it loud and hard until he could hear it. I don’t think he would have worn out a grill that quickly. I’ll explain.
Some years back, my two oldest brothers were discussing what to get the old man for Christmas and his birthday, which was about two months later.
Brother No. 2 thought a new car or a nice gas grill would be good. Brother No. 1 said OK to it and told Brother No. 2 to tell him how much his half was going to be.
A few weeks later ….
“Your half is $9,000,” Brother No. 2 said.
“What?” asked Brother No. 1. “I thought we were getting him a gas grill.”
“I said we were getting him a new car or a gas grill,” Brother No. 2 replied.
Brother No. 1’s response was not printable for family newspapers.
I don’t how much gas a grill goes through, and this “gas grill” isn’t good at cooking burgers or steaks. But it does have lots of trunk space and gets about 25 miles to the gallon on the highway.