Saturday, November 1, 2014

SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Haunted Falcon and Tales from my Grandfather


This is a love story of sorts. As a child, I loved my eccentric, difficult to understand grandfather, who was a Vet from the battles in France during WWI, and came back a changed man. Knowing what I now know about PTSD, it can be somewhat difficult to think back on those days growing up, especially to realize how little was done for him and how little we understood of this problem. My little brother and I used to spend a week every summer with each set of grandparents. On one side, my mother's father, was a Baptist minister, where we got to appreciate all the behind the scenes things that goes on in a preacher's personal life and all the emergency assistance he did for battered women and children and the sometimes midnight moves we had to do to accomodate someone who needed a safe place to stay for the night. We'd be relegated to the couch, while a mother and perhaps her several children would take over the guest bedroom. We were okay with it.


On my father's side, this war Veteran battled demons on another front, internally. Most of what I remember of him is being in his pajamas and slippers, cooking in the kitchen and singing too loud at church where he'd sometimes start and stop songs inappropriately, or shout out an Amen! which embarassed the heck out of us. We knew when we heard he and my grandmother get up in the middle of the night to sing Tennessee Ernie Ford songs or hymns on the big upright piano, that we shouldn't be afraid. It wasn't what we did at home, certainly, but somehow, through our childhood innocence, we accepted him the way he was without questioning things, like I might do today. Some days he spent the entire time we'd be staying there in the bedroom. My grandmother would bring in his dinner, and sometimes we'd hear it being thrown against the wall, and then hear his crying my grandmother would try to dismiss with a smile as she closed the door behind her afterwards.


"Grandpa is having a rough day," she'd say. Years after he was gone, she'd lovingly say, "Married for over 50 years and never had an argument." It was a badge she wore proudly. And I think it's true, he never showed his violence against her, personally. But he sure could sing in the middle of the night, was always swearing under his breath when he couldn't fix the leaking plumbing in the bathroom, had car trouble with the Ford Falcon station wagon they bought brand new, (the only new car they ever bought) and he did kill a couple of TVs when he didn't like what was on the news. He thought the country was going to ruin and we weren't going to survive a coming world-wide recession. But to a child, we just accepted that these things were appropriate, because we loved him. We kept his little secrets until we were adults and horrified our parents with some of the tales. Looking back on it, I never felt in any danger or feared for anything. I ached that God would some day heal his troubled soul, which was a prayer that was only answered when he passed away.


I had fallen in love with my husband that year when he passed. It was decided I would inherit the Falcon. We were living in sin together at the time, just a couple of poor students, and my future husband's fleet of "fixer-uppers" -- a total of 23 -- didn't contain many that were driveable. Most of them couldn't be started without a lot of what I recall to be WD-40 and a generous dishing out of choice swear words. Like racehorses, this little Falcon took its place amongst the stable of my husband's riches he bestowed on me when I married him. My grandmother was more upset at the amount of facial hair he had, rather than the number of cars he owned that did not properly work. "It would be nice if I knew what Sharon's husband looked like," was her matter-of-fact way of dealing with things.


The day of my grandfather's funeral we came home to the house they lived in, where my father had been born in, and found the plumbing had indeed backed up that morning while we were praying over grandpa's soul, and the whole place was flooded. Like a calling card, we knew grandpa was there in spirit, defying even death to come back to earth and have one more row with the plumbing problems at the little bungalow on Wilson Avenue.

When we got home to Sonoma County with the Falcon, what had been grandpa's nemesis he'd bequeathed to us. The car would work perfectly well, purr like a kitten and be the most reliable vehicle of our fleet, until we really needed to go somewhere. It was always just breaking down for no good reason. It became the "haunted Falcon" because some of the things that went wrong defied logic. We never did find out what that red jelly-like substance was that leaked onto the passenger floor mats, or the strange whines and overheats which spontaneously would strand us. Like a child in those old days, I believed my husband when he told me the car was haunted, because, afterall, he knew a lot more about cars than I did. My favorite thing to say was, "It must be the valves," and we carry on this conversation to this day for anything we own that doesn't properly work.


But I honestly think it was my grandpa's quirky spirit coming back to the objects he battled in life like Marley did in Scrooge. We drove that Falcon the day we hauled chicken manure in it for our vegetable garden, stopping off at the Union Hotel for a soup and salad combo that cost $3.50, and he proposed to me. I said yes, and then was haunted by the decision for the next 2 days and hibernated. I'd stepped into a world of no return. It was probably one of the best decisions of my life.

I have no idea where I'm going with this story, except that I fondly think of this Falcon and its contribution to my life. We sold it to a Jehovah's Witness guy who liked to stop by our house on a regular basis and I hope his connection with the Almighty was better than ours and he expunged my grandfather's spirit. But after he bought the car, we never heard from him again, so I hope he was more successful with the car than with converting our souls.


  1. […] Haunted Falcon and Tales from my Grandfather […]

  2. Bless the spirits of both your grandfathers. You come from good people.

    With Veteran's Day arriving in just a couple of days, it's especially important to remember what our older vets went through, and hopefully try to provide more help for our modern-day vets who still often don't get the help they need. I work with one such gentleman, and seem to be the only person who cares enough or is able to help bring him back when his mind starts going to a dark place.

    My own Baptist minister grandfather was much different from yours. I don't think he knew what the word "compassion" meant, and visits were spent sitting on the sofa in my Sunday best, with hands folded and feet crossed, not uttering a peep. I will hope that somewhere behind the scenes, he would have been a bit more like your mom's dad when it came to the needs of those in his congregation.

  3. Sara!! Wow, yes I know I got lucky with my grandpa, both of them, in fact. Both very loving, but my mom's grandpa was dearly loved and because of how he was, we had to share him with the whole community. But we did.

    Yes, thank goodness we do more for Vets. Still not enough, not giving them half of what they need, but we're better than we used to be. He was sent out on the battlefield the next day after having an experience where all his friends were killed. He came home from the war on a stretcher.

  4. Thanks for sharing. Brought back memories of my own grandfather who also owned a Ford Falcon. It was green and when I was five when he thought it was a great idea to let me drive it into the carport. I hit a post of course because at five I couldn't drive. We all survived though. My grandfather served in the Navy and I don't recall anything too out of the ordinary. He was a great man and provider who loved to stay up late laughing at Benny Hill. Thanks for stirring up memories. What a great way to start my day thinking of him. Bless those who serve, protect and struggle with their demons all because they choose to protect us.

  5. Love it, Jen!! Now that was a grandfather to love!! I'll bet he talks about it to this day! Part of the fun of this camping trip was the fact that there were about 10 Brit couples who vacationed together every year there at that campground. They used to stay up all night telling Benny Hill jokes, playing Gin Rummy and drinking too much. Yet they took up collection for us which gave us enough gas money to get us back to Amsterdam so we could fly home, assuming the Spanish authorities wouldn't confiscate the car with no insurance papers. And then there was that day we spent at the US Consulate where we got a loan to get Don's temporary passport to leave the country. An American lady married a Spanish guy the night before when she was drunk and...well it was a bizzare day. Perhaps another time for Sundays With Sharon. I've lived a rich life full of characters...

  6. I loved your stories about your grandfather. I remember mine telling me stories about the war and everything he went through. He was a great gardener and would dig up his flower bulbs every year before it froze. Then they would be replanted in the spring. When he could no longer live on his own, we moved him and my grandma down here. Of course, his flower bulbs came with him. Lol. I miss him a lot.

  7. I love your Sunday posts and this one is no different. You have good memories!

  8. Thanks for the memories Sharon. Amy went to see the poppies at the tower of London yesterday, for the 100 anniversary WW1 she said it was sad and very poignant to see a field of red at one point it really got to her. I was telling her about my mothers father who we called Pop was gassed in France by his own (British) gas. He was only a slight short man but, was so honourable. He told some amazing stories of when he was young.

  9. Terri, of course his bulbs wold come with him. Thank you for sharing that. Yes, life can be so quirky, and so tender at the same time, can't it? I love thinking about all the things that I did when I was younger, and am glad I brought a little joy to your Sunday. I love that idea about the bulbs. That will have to go in a book some day.

  10. Thank you, dear. They are fun stories, and tempered by time, they are funnier than when we really lived them. Ah! The gift of time!!

  11. Wouldn't that be something if your grandfather and my grandfather fought together? Kisses and hugs to Amy for visiting that hallowed ground. Yes, the red poppies. Grandpa sen home some pictures of the little village he stayed in in France. The townspeople were wonderful to the troops there at the time. He learned a little French and learned to cook, a skill he would need later on, since he came home unable to hold a job. He was in the Battle of the Argonne Forest, which is where I think he had his break. Grandpa was not a tall man either. Clear blue eyes the color of the sky and a great sense of humor when his demons left him alone. As was the custom in those days, he and his two brothers married my grandmother and two of her sisters. My grandparents were the first to wed.

  12. My Gpa B (my Dad's Dad) was a WWII vet and he was larger than life for me till he died when I was 12. I remember me and my cousin being in the car with him one time and drove the wrong way down a one way street and when we said something his answer was "they will get out of my way." He was always asking the girls if they had grown boobies yet or other embarrassing questions but we still loved him. He smokes like a train and even if you didn't allow smoking in your house like my parents he still smoked. He was just that guy.
    My other grandpa was a lot quieter but I loved to go places with him and my Grandma cause they always took me to the neatest and best festivals my state had to offer. Lots of great cooking and just neat things to see.
    Thank you for sharing your memories of your Grandfather's with us.

  13. Karen, you are so welcome! It is my pleasure and my joy. Like connecting with all of you and bringing something a little more personal than just FB pages. It's for you guys I write!!