My Final Summer with Grandpa

My Real Memoir

While raindrops hang from bare branches outside my office window, reflecting grey winter skies, I’m thinking about summer. And not just any summer, but my final summer with Grandpa Frank.

Pencil-mustached Frank McLaughlin, former air ace and stunt flyer, was a “man’s man.” Up until the month before he died, he could still execute a perfect iron cross on any set of public park gymnastic rings. Younger men would mutter, “I hope I look that good at his age.” And their wives would reply, “I wish you looked that good at this age!”

Our family patriarch loved no place on earth so much as California’s magnificent redwood forests. And so every summer for four years, while my dad and my cousins’ dad worked, Grandpa would round up the McLaughlin side of the family and take us to Yosemite or Sequoia National Park.

He’d rent a log cabin, with a covered porch for our cooler; we’d learned never to keep food inside our cabin–and even that was dicey. Our first morning there, we awoke to shrieks from the cabin next to ours. We rushed out see a feisty old bubbe beating a bear with her broom, and shouting in a thick Brooklynese accent, “No! Bad beah, bad beah!” The huge creature polished off the last of her pastrami while swatting at her with his spare paw, and then turned and loped away. I can still hear Grandpa’s wheezy laugh echoing through the woods.

He loved animals, and he loved showing off. Every time we ate outside, we’d be inundated with greedy ground squirrels or divebombing blue jays. My cousins and I loved feeding the ground squirrels. But Grandpa favored the blue jays; maybe they reminded him of his own divebombing days. He’d tilt his head back with a peanut between his teeth, and wait for a jay to swoop down and snatch it. Sometimes two would land on his face and fight over the prize. As the victor and loser flew away Grandpa would jump to his feet, scratched and grinning, and wheezing with glee.

We swam under falls, we climbed precarious boulders, we hiked where John Muir had hiked, and always Grandpa was there to lead the way.

We were fearless because he was fearless.

Our last summer there, we arrived too late to rent a cabin, so we spent the first night in a Travelodge just outside the park. It’s strange, but this only child who’d always had his own bedroom, had never felt more loved and secure in all his life. Was it the fact that Aunt Tavia and my cousins, Mom, Grandma, and I were all squeezed together on top of two beds? Or was it because Grandpa Frank was there in the chair by the door…

Watching over us?

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to My Final Summer with Grandpa

  1. Pingback: An Unbearable Nakedness | Mitch Teemley

  2. Mitch,
    I suppose a bit of both. What a heartwarming story. I will remember the feisty Bubbe’s courage and Grandpa’s laughter from the woods. ☺️ Also these words—

    “We were fearless because he was fearless.”

    Thank you!

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Mark Johnson says:

    Yosemite is such a gorgeous place, amplified by your heartfelt memories with your grandpa.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A strong head of family. A protector and an example. Big shoes to fill !!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nice post! Glad you have those memories!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love the beah story! When we went to Redwood Forest, Yosemite and Sequoia, they had already moved many of the bears out of contact with people. Good thing! We slept in a canvas tent!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. ejstoo says:

    Nice that you got to spend family time as a kid. I think it makes a big difference. Grew up in an area filled with cousins, Great Uncles, Uncles etc. You learn a lot about there being more than just you. The Elders had a lot of wisdom.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Nothing like grandpas.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Beautiful memories of your Grand dad back in the 60’s. .

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Neese says:

    What a heartfelt post about the life and times with grandpa. Great story Mitch…

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Grandpa Frank must have been quite a man!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. very sweet, thank you for that lovely story.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. murisopsis says:

    I enjoyed this reminiscence! This makes me a little sad that not everyone has a Grandpa Frank. I had a Grandpa Bill and he was something!!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Linda Lee Adams/Lady Quixote says:

    Wonderful memories. I had a grandpa Frank. He worked for PG&E. Later in life, he flew small airplanes. He died too soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    Great story Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. kayranft says:

    He sounds like a fascinating, loving, and fun loving man. What a blessing!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Matilda Novak says:

    i so love your stories…and the pictures!
    All so cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Chaya Sheela says:

    Oh, what a lovely memory!
    I worshipped my Grandpa. He was a wonderful soul who showered me with love and his wisdom. So I can relate to that special relationship between a grandpa and a grandchild.
    Thank you for sharing, Mitch.
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Harshi says:

    Such a beautiful and warmly penned post!
    These precious memories are to be cherished and I’m glad that you shared them with us.
    “We were fearless because he was fearless.” Indeed! That makes all the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Lisa Beth says:

    What precious and totally unique memories! Bluejays swooping down to snatch a peanut? How fortunate you all are to have had Grandpa and remember that joy.
    I hope all is well with you & family Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: My Final Summer with Grandpa – CURIOSIDADES NA INTERNET

  22. marthadilo3 says:

    I love your grandpa! And the vw van pic!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Eileen Clark says:

    You are so blessed to have those memories so many folks don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. As a grandmother, I know how impressionable I am. Your recollection of your grandfather reinforces my thoughts about my relationship with my grandchildren. Kudos to your grandfather!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Americaoncoffee says:

    Such a loving memory!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Abe Austin says:

    What a legend of a man!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Sherry Nostrant says:

    Beautiful memory, thanks for sharing! I never knew either of my grandfathers, both passed before I was born. But Scott is making up for that by being a wonderful Gramps and Great-Gramps! When I was working and he was in-between jobs he would go down to OC and pick up 2 or 3 of them and bring them up to Bishop and have “Camp Baldy” adventures in the desert or mountains. Memories to last a life-time! Love you Cuz!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Go, Scott! And wonderful to hear from you, Sherry. Yeah, Grandpa Warren died before I was two, so I don’t have any real memories of him either. Although I’m told he loved to throw me up into the air, and I dreamed about that for years, so who knows? Love you back, Cuz!


  28. Jennie says:

    Wonderful, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I have a feeling, Mitch, that Grandpa Frank is still there for you in the chair by door or waiting with a peanut between his teeth for the bluejays to swoop. And – I wish I looked like him at MY age and gender! Just wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Carla says:

    What special memories. Your grandpa Frank sounds like he was an amazing man!

    Liked by 1 person

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