Grandpa’s Pipe and Memories

I’m not editing tonight. I’m exhausted, there were some good memories shared tonight, and I even got to take part in a strange part of history that I never thought I would.

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Long ago this pipe belonged to a man that meant a lot to me. He was even tempered, but when he was angered his wrath was feared. He was a loving father to his boys and a loving grandfather to his grandchildren.  I was one of those loved grandchildren. Tonight, as I was smoking the pipe myself for the first time, I remembered some very old memories.

My grandpa died when I was in high school. Leading up to his death he had a great mix of diseases: diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are the ones I remember. The last days were so brutal that I recall doing all I could in band class to hold my stuff together, to keep from just breaking down in tears. I felt guilty not being beside him, yet being there would have been pointless. His last week I believe was spent basically unconscious. It’s humbling seeing a man that you admired so greatly in such a state, and to know one day that will be me and my grandchildren will watch as I painfully disappear.

But tonight there were good memories. I recalled sitting under a chestnut tree on a bench. My grandparents lived in the city and they were proud of their lot and a half. We would sit there, watching squirrels charge the feeder and pick up nuts while Grandpa would smoke his pipe, lighting it and taking quick hits, making that puffing sound each time. Finally he would get the heat to take the way he wanted, his smoking would slow, and sometimes we talked and other times we just watched.

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So tonight I smoked his pipe. I have always wanted to try a pipe, just like Gandolf. I wasn’t as good at the smoke rings as him, but I have time. I think I want a lengthier pipe, though. Jesse, my little brother, taught me the ways of smoking a pipe. Far more complicated than the cigarettes of when I was 16. I remember getting told to inhale. That lasted a few weeks. Not that my stupid stopped, it just moved onto something else that I’m pretty sure nearly offed me. That teaches someone very quickly right from wrong.

It was different than cigars. I smoked my first cigar while up north with my family. I believe I was nearly twenty and dad offered me one as we sat around the campfire in a bonding moment. I smoked as best I could, but I could never keep an even burn. I continued smoking, though I started to feel sick. I was only halfway, I had to act like a man, dad was watching me. I didn’t reach the point of throwing up, but I did get immensely sick. The next half hour was spent with me fighting my stomach.

The pipe was different. I still had some issues with an even burn, but for the most part I was decent. I only smoked about twenty minutes before I was finished: I needed to get home for laundry. My brother, father, and I sat outside in the cold, waiting for the coyotes. Jesse and dad smoked cigars. I puffed on the pipe my grandpa once smoked years ago. As I first lit it, puffing quickly, that’s when I remembered sitting by grandpa. It was like he was there again, smiling with that grin, with those imperfect teeth, with those silver horned glasses. He wore tan colors, including one of the news paper hats which was plaid with red stripes and a lengthy tan coat. He laughed so much, just like father, just like my brothers and I.

When I finally got the smoke down, I felt okay. Now and then debris would come up, as I had to learn to better clean it and smoke it. I hope for a longer stem for that reason in the future. Perhaps not like Gandolf’s, but closer to it. With port in hand, the three of us talked, waiting for the coyotes. It’s mating season and generally they can be heard howling throughout the backyard. Tracks behind the house showed a rabbit was recently hunted down.

But there were no howls of frustration and pleasure. All we heard were the barking dogs next door. We still talked. We still bonded. I still felt closer to grandpa, who I’ve missed all these years.

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