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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Best find ever...




I've been keeping this find under my hat for a few months now. I meant it to be a birthday present for my dad, whose birthday is still a month away, but I just couldn't keep it from him any longer. Now that his early birthday present is in his hands, I can safely share my find with you.


Back February K and I went for a day trip to Bardstown, Kentucky and spent our Saturday eating fried pickles, drinking chocolate malts, and browsing through antique shops.


It had been a long day and we were heading home when I remembered I'd seen an intriguing antique shop just off the interstate near Shepherdsville. One more shop, I pleaded, it will be the last one, I promise. Though he was already antiqued-out, my husband agreed.


The shop was pretty small, set up with booths in a large circle. I walked all the way around, not finding anything at all interesting and feeling pretty bad for dragging K through one more shop. In one of the last booths was a stack of old yearbooks from the University of Louisville. They were from the late 1940s and early 1950s.





My mind flipped through its little rolodex. Could I know someone in these books? I pulled out one from 1951, my heart thumping like crazy. In the Dental School section I saw a name I recognized. My last name, printed nearly 60 years ago.  My eyes scanned the page and my stomach flip-flopped around. I felt oddly nervous and excited, like the feeling you get on the first day of school.


Then I saw him and my heart nearly burst. My grandpa, my dad's dad, Hilary (though everyone called him Booty), smiling his twenty-five-year-old smile in the middle of the page. He looked so handsome and so young, with curly hair and bright eyes. It was a face I hadn't seen in 15 years, and when I knew my grandpa, he certainly didn't look like this picture. 





When I knew him his hair had gone and his face had wrinkled. He still had those kind eyes and that quiet smile, though. He gave himself daily insulin shots. Sometimes my grandparents would babysit me, and when my grandma went to church I was terrified of being left alone with him. I was afraid his blood sugar would get too low, and I'd be the one responsible. I remember feeling like a terrible granddaughter because I was scared, but I couldn't get that scene from "Steel Magnolias" out of my head.


When I knew him he wore gray sweats and ate oatmeal for breakfast every day. I don't remember ever seeing him in a suit. It's the sweats I remember. Looking at this photo, I wonder if he picked out the tie he's wearing or if maybe my grandma, Alice, did. They would have been expecting the first of their eight children then, and my grandpa would have gotten up early to deliver papers the morning this picture was taken. I think he looks happy here, a look he never lost.




It's funny how this yearbook made me think about my grandpa more than I have in a very long while.

I remember how he used to sing a little rhyme whenever he saw me, a rhyme with our last name in it. I was his sixth grandchild, but the first to share his last name.

I remember how he'd walk outside in his sock-feet without thinking anything of it. I'm guessing my grandma did the laundry.

I remember hearing stories of how he'd barter if people couldn't pay their dental bills. He got a horse and a goat that way.

My grandpa had a passion for watching horse races nearly all his life. He grew up near Churchill Downs and used to sneak into the track through a hole in the fence to bet the races. With the Kentucky Derby coming up, I can't help but think of him and how much he would have enjoyed knowing that our whole family still gets together to watch the Derby. We drink and bet and celebrate, just like he would if he were still here. And there's always a card game going after the last race. He loved playing poker.

I'm just a year older than he is in this picture, and I can't help but wonder what my life will  hold. I'm willing to bet I won't have eight kids, but I would like to celebrate the Derby with my family every year and sing rhymes to my grandkids.

I bought the yearbook, of course. I couldn't put it down. It really felt like I was meant to have it.

And now the yearbook is in my dad's hands. I think it has even more meaning to him because he followed in his dad's footsteps and became a dentist. His office is near Churchill Downs and some of his patients were my grandpa's patients. I'm very glad it's there instead of gathering dust in a shop.


 * * * * *

One more little fun fact, if you're still reading. My dad told me that the dark-haired man next to my grandpa still teaches at the Dental School. Can you believe that? It's pretty amazing.


11 comments:

  1. This is awesome...I could really see your grandpa in my mind. We are lucky to have such sweet and vivid memories of our grandfathers.

    And that yearbook was meant to be yours. For sure.

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  2. This is so amazing! I had tears while reading. I could visualize everything I was reading.
    I'm so glad K agreed to stopping one more place. This yearbook was truly meant to be found by you.
    I'm guessing that Tim was very thrilled to receive such a "treasure" as an early birthday gift.

    Phyllis

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  3. That treasure was meant for you all along. So glad you found your way to it and brought it home where it belongs. Wonderful post!

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  4. Great posting, Allison. I like to do the same thing -- write down all those thoughts and memories. And you're a really thoughtful daughter to give your dad something with such sentimental meaning. Very sweet.

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  5. That's a super find! It's especially nice that it brought back such wonderful memories for you. I bet your Dad is thrilled.

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  6. That is awesome Allison... and what a perfect time of year to present this memory. Derby week was dad's most favorte time of year and you not only gave Tim a gift for his birthday but to all of us in Lutes family. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH, now where is the handkerchief. What, I am not crying well maybe a lil. Love your uncle DENNY

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  7. Oh, Allison! Stories like this just warm my heart! It's such a delight to read not only about the stars aligning for you to find this yearbook, but about how it flooded your mind with memories about your grandfather--I could even see him in my mind's eye. A beautiful post and a beautiful gift.

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  8. Beautiful post - and tribute to your grandfather! how awesome that you came across this yearbook. Thanks for stopping by my blog - you have a beautiful space here!

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  9. What a wonderful story, Allison..! I loved reading all of it - down to the very last line (and yes, I was still reading!)

    What a wonderful gift you found..! And aren't those the best..? The unexpected ones? Beautiful post, dear. I'm glad you were able to finally share it.

    xoox,
    -maria

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  10. Just wonderful. I love this family story.

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