My favorite grandfather was my father’s father. He was a sweet man with a gentle soul.
He was a ferryboat captain in Puget Sound. We lived in California. From the time I was 5 years old, when we came to visit in the summer, he would let me take the wheel of the ferryboat in the middle of the run.
He and my grandmother lived on Whidbey Island. Their house was on the beach not far from the ferry dock. The ferry was “parked” overnight almost in front of the house.
When he was not working, he liked to sit on the logs that washed up on the beach and whittle the driftwood. At the 1962 World Fair, we bought him a small wooden Siamese cat from the Thailand expo. For the next 10 years, he carved thousands of copies of that cat—big ones and small ones, with markings that the wood suggested. He also made small tables and a set of wooden chairs without nails.
My grandmother was a difficult woman, but a great cook. The smallest meal she ever made would feed the Russian army: beef, ham, and turkey, plus seven or eight salads or vegetable dishes and four or five desserts.
My favorite dessert is fruit pie, probably because she made dozens of them in individual Pyrex dishes from the wild blackberries that grew behind the house. She picked a bucketful of berries every other day.
My mother did not like to cook, so when we visited my grandparents, I raided the refrigerator several times a day between meals. It was just heaven, at least for a kid. My dad, their only child, became a kid in some ways while he was there, so I understand why my mother dreaded those visits.
My mother’s parents lived in Arizona, but we didn’t see them very much. She was not very comfortable around them, either. And they didn’t spoil me as much as my father’s parents did.