Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wishful Wednesday: I Wish I'd Met Grandpa Lloyd

This post was inspired by the Wishful Wednesday blogging prompt shared by GeneaBloggers. The prompt was suggested by Deborah Carder Mayes of Rambling Along the Ancestral Trail.

I never met either of my grandfathers, and I've always wished I could have.

My father's father, Elmer Bruce Lloyd, died in 1948, many years before I was born. Although the official cause of death was heart problems, his daughter Joy insisted that his death had been hastened by an accident he'd suffered at sea a decade before, damaging his left arm. According to my Aunt Joy, scar tissue from his wounds had grown and wrapped around his heart.

My father's father, whom I'll call Grandpa Lloyd for the sake of brevity, was a naval chief, an Aviation Chief Machinist's Mate, to be specific. He spent much of his adult life at sea, but my father's memories of him are vivid and tell the story of a man who was bigger than life. Nicknamed “The Bull of the Woods” by the members of his squadron, a nickname usually shortened to Bull, Grandpa Lloyd was a tall man of great strength and ability. Although he had left school after the eight grade, he enjoyed reading and continued learning all his life, making him a good match for his college-educated wife.

Grandpa Lloyd was extremely talented when it came to machinery, and to hear my dad talk, there wasn't anything that he couldn't fix. He installed indoor plumbing in the family's two-story home, after having a well dug and working on the well pump, himself. Later, he installed electricity. He also enjoyed making things. Grandpa Lloyd constructed a floor lamp using a propeller as the base, and table lamps using shell casings. He also enjoyed making miniature brass tools, such as a tiny pipe wrench that's actually adjustable. His work wasn't restricted to metalwork, either. He enjoyed carving, and my father still has a rattle my grandfather made, carved from a single piece of wood, with an interior ball that slides up and down inside.

Often stern, Grandpa Lloyd had a wicked sense of humor. One summer, he kept his kids busy with the promise of a swimming hole by encouraging them to dig a hole. When their efforts began to drag, he came home with a package that he set gently on the kitchen table, telling the children he'd brought home explosives to extend their work and that it mustn't be jostled even the slightest bit. Granny Sissy, as we called my grandmother, was up to his tricks, though. So, when it was time to set the table and the package was in her way, to her children's awe and over their frightened protests, she simply picked that package up and flung it in a corner. I don't believe the kids ever got their own personal swimming hole, so it was a good thing there were others in the vicinity of their Florida home.

As expected for a navy man, Grandpa Lloyd was well-traveled. He brought home all sorts of nicknacks from around the world, many from the Far East. When I was a small child, one of my favorite things in my grandmother's house was the cabinet in which the most delicate of the treasures were stored. I loved it when she unlocked the cabinet and allowed me to hold one or the other of the small trinkets and to imagine the place from which it had come. But, I think my favorite item was the laughing Buddha sprawled atop the back of a water buffalo that sat on the bookcase. There was something incredibly magical about this figure, and it was impossible to see him without smiling right back at him.

My best memories about my grandfather were the many stories my father told about him, such as the one I shared here, regarding the explosives. Even my grandfather's death remains a legend in the family. It seems that he was holding one of my cousins when she was just a baby when his heart attack started. As strong in death as he had been in life, he refused to allow himself to drop the baby or fall with her in his arms. Instead, he lay her down in her crib, before going to lie down himself on the couch and dying shortly thereafter.