"...Look, Pal..."

I'm 12 years old and my grandfather is the biggest man in the world. His arms are huge and strong. He moves through the world with confidence and poise. His big belly somehow grounds him and makes him more real.

"C'mon," He says, "We're going to the Creamery."

Oh boy! Ice cream with my granddad!

We get into his big brown Buick. It's just me. No older brothers or cousins. I get the front seat. Privilege!

"I gotta stop for gas." he says to me as if he's asking my permission. Whenever he talks to me, he turns his whole head to me. He's 62 or so and I'm just 12 but he talks to me like I'm a man just like him. I adore Granddad.

"Wait here." he commands and gets out to pump the gas. I hear a voice from over the huge dashboard.

"Jim, You're a sonavabitch!" says this small voice. The owner of the voice moves into view and it's a man who's as tall as Granddad but not as big. Clearly, he's got a beef with my Grandfather and he's ready to tell him all about it.

"Hey, I got my grandson in the car and we're going to the creamery. I'll talk to you tomorrow." My Granddad works at the local gas station in his retirement and everyone knows where to find him.

"No! I'm gonna talk to you right now..." the dialogue goes on like this for a few minutes. My Granddad trying to placate and deflect this guy and the guy continuing to confront my Granddad.

The guy becomes more strident. From where I'm sitting, he seems to be jumping up to get into my Granddad's face. Granddad is doing his best to defuse but there's only so much he can do.

Then, I hear it. The phrase that even I know means business.

"Look, Pal..."

I hear those two words and I know that my huge, grounded, unstoppable Granddad has lost the last of his infinite patience.

"..I told you. I've got my grandson in the car. I'll talk to you tomorrow at the gas station."'

He turns to get in the car but the guy wants a confrontation.

In the middle of a particularly strident and inane tirade by the guy, I watch with fascination as my Granddad seems to just stick his arm out. Somehow this simple gesture has rendered the guy unconscious and made him horizontal next to the Unleaded Premium pump. Imagine the same simple and comfortable motion you would use to reach out and pick up the handset of a payphone. This is how gracefully my Granddad knocks this guy out.

If I were to give voice to this action, it would be the word, "Boop!"

He gets back in the car.

He turns to me with his head and shoulders, as if I'm the only person in the world.

"I'm sorry you had to see that."

He made me promise not to tell Grandmom.

To this day, I'm amazed by the 62 year old man who has the confidence to lay someone out at a gas station.

Two weeks ago, in a Veteran's Hospital, I held his hand and cried as I watched him die. He slipped away as smoothly and easily as we all hope we will.

He, a veteran of WWII, was buried with full military honors. My brothers, cousins and I were his pall bearers. At taps, we active and former military (in uniform and in suits) stood at attention and cried openly. We honored him with our tears.

Fair winds and following seas, Granddad. I miss you already.


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