My Grandpa Bailey had a dog. A lab mix, black body and white paws, in a medium sized canine. Smokey had all the sweet qualities of a Labrador Retriever. A dog that had been loved in its life. The previous owners had boarded Smokey at my aunt’s kennel and never came back for him.
Grandpa had become a widow the year before. Aunt Dorothy did some match making, fixing the two up. It was a great match. Smokey would sit next to Grandpa as he watched tv from his recliner. Smokey’s paw would rest in Grandpa’s hand. They sat like that for hours. Both of them smiled. They were great friends and companions to the end.
There were two pieces of furniture to sit on in Grandpa’s meager living room; his recliner and a sofa. The sofa was as comfortable as a concrete bench. At one end of the sofa was a grey cotton thermal blanket, dirty and looking worse for wear. It had large holes in it, a sign the dog had won more than one argument with it. Smokey’s blanket, how cute.
During one visit Smokey got bored holding hands with Gramps. The dog jumped up on the sofa where I sat and grabbed the blanket in his mouth. I tugged at it from a free end. Smokey growled and made other playful canine sounds. Soon he seemed to be playing solo, he didn’t need me to have a good time.
Suddenly Smokey started to hump the blanket. Grandpa let him go at it. I was feeling a little uncomfortable, the romance between dog and blanket heating up. I retreated to the sun porch, grandpa following close behind.
Grandpa had a twinkle in his eye, keeping a conversation going with me about anything that came to mind excepting the obvious. Smokey’s collar and tags reported his progress: Chink, chink, chink. My face heated from embarrassment; how do you tell your grandfather you know what is going on, you aren’t a naive virgin, the world isn’t perfect, break it up, for crying out loud. Eventually the chinking slowed to a halt. Smokey padded out to the porch and sat down next to Gramps ready for the next great thing.
“Grandpa,” I asked, “do you think he needs a cigarette?”.
“No, he needs a walk. Here is his leash.”. I could swear I saw a cha-cha-cha rhythm going in his tail. When I say tail, that includes some of his hind quarter. Never would I have thought to deny my Grandfather. That day I stammered, “Don’t you want to take him?”. Grandpa hitched the leash to a very happy Smokey. “I do it all the time,” he said in his strong New Hampshire accent, “you two go have fun.”. So off we went.
Grandfather moved himself, his wife and children to Detroit from Boston in approximately 1928. It was a big uprooting as deeply far back as Plymouth Rock and that party barge, The Mayflower. When asked how long our families had been in the United States his turt New England reply always, “From the start.”. My Grandmother’s family actually got here a little before that. Tough old Yankees. He was an accountant for a large firm in Boston, offered the opportunity to move to Detroit to run the firm office and train an assistant. Grandpa Bailey did a bang up job in the Motor City. He brought the office to a successful standing. His assistant, trained under his tutelage, was son of the company owner. The Great Depression hit. Grandpa was let go. The son had his job. Grandpa did whatever he could to support his wife and two children. He found himself working street crews. He had a nervous breakdown. Long after he was gone from us I had this tid-bit about a man I thought I knew.
(to be continued)