Today would have been my Grandpa George’s 100th birthday. I called him my funny grandpa, because he said things like, “Better to burp and bear the shame than not to burp and bear the pain,” and many other quips that caused my grandma to scold, “GEORGE!”
Because Grandpa George was of Germanic descent, my mom and I remembered him today by driving to a small-town Octoberfest. The accordion reminded us of him (he was a professional piano and accordion player) and while we waited for the dachshund races, we talked about how much Grandpa loved dogs. A few minutes before race time I noticed that people were starting to come to the racetrack in hordes. The only problem was that the racetrack was about twenty feet long, there were several hundred people, and there was no other attraction happening at two o’clock. My mom and I grabbed places standing right up front, and then we were pinned in by a crowd that had spent the last two hours drinking beer and dancing to polka music.
The man next to me had a toddler on his shoulders, and he sent his four-year-old son to sit in front of me. Before the races began, an old woman wearing a flowing black top and a cute black hat crouched down in front of the little boy and got out her camera.
“Thanks for sitting right in front of my son,” the man said.
“I’m with the newspaper,” the woman replied, as if that excused everything.
And the man said exactly what I was thinking. “I don’t give a $#!$.”
Everyone in our particular sardine can got very quiet.
She said, “All you people come downtown and all you do is complain.”
First of all, I’m not sure this place was big enough to have a downtown. And also (and I would have said this if I would have thought of it at the time) I had been there for over an hour and had heard nary a complaint until she showed up. Helpful hint: If you hear people complaining all the time, perhaps you’re giving them something to complain about. Grandpa George probably would have punched her. That’s how you settled things when he was a kid.
But she did move over. As she sank back down into a crouch, her shirt billowed out ever so slightly and the gray-bearded man behind me said in his best wicked witch voice, “She’s melllllting!”
I laughed out loud and he told me to behave myself.
Finally the first heats began, the dogs were adorable, and the winners of each heat lined up for the finals. One! Two! Three… but right before the word “Go,” Ginger’s owner set her free. Ginger rocked it down the lane. She won by a nose, but I knew that fifty dollars and canine glory (not to mention a picture in the all-important local paper) were riding on this. Should I say anything? Cry foul?
Luckily, someone else cried foul first. They reran the race and Ginger won this one fair and square, and hilariously close to the ground.
Mom and I pushed our way through the crowd, me thinking about my grandpa and Mom thinking about her dad. It seemed too short a time to designate to his memory, but I think Grandpa George would have been pleased with the music, the sauerkraut, the dogs, the kids, and even a little wicked humor. I can hear him cracking a joke about the photographer now. And I can hear Grandma scolding, “GEORGE!”