Growing up, my Dad was a truck driver. This meant that he would be gone for days at a time, come home and sleep, and then eventually hit the road again. I remember how frustrating this was as a kid. When my Dad was gone we lived by my Mom’s rules, which tended to be more relaxed; when my Dad came home, the rules of home life shifted. With my Dad gone, the void of a father figure in my life went largely unfilled. Sure, there were friend’s dads who sometimes took up this mantle but for the most part, my Dad was nonexistent. Looking back now, I can understand that he did what he had to do to support our family. His hard work allowed my Mom to stay home with us kids. I thank him for that. In the thick of growing up though, deep down, I resented his absence.
Thankfully, God knew what I needed, and He provided that for me and my brother in the form of my Grandpa Ayers.
As I get older, nostalgia and time make my Grandpa Ayers larger than life in my mind. The man could do no wrong. During my awkward years of junior high, Grandpa Ayers would drive down from Orange County in his motor home, pick my brother and I up, and head to the local mountains. Away from my Mom we would build fires, hike (with sling shots and pellet guns of course), and enjoy Grandpa’s amazing cooking. At night my Grandpa would play chess with us, tell stories, and sometimes pull out his “thunder lamp”.
More than anyone I have ever known, my Grandpa was an expert storyteller. So much so that he began telling you a story when you least realized it. For example, he would plant some thought in your head earlier on in the day and then later that night expound/ act upon it.
I remember one time where he and my Grandma had come over to stay the night at our house. For some reason, the book I was reading was left out on the kitchen counter. That night, my Grandpa must have read parts of that book (about a family mystery in Hawaii) because he later used it in a story he told us late one night in the motor home. I can remember his tone of voice, raspy, telling us about this old man that lived out in the jungle in some lava tubes. Scared me to death!
There was another time/trip where he had shown us some rattle snake eggs he had in the freezer. He was very careful to explain that they had to stay in the freezer, cold, or else the eggs would hatch. This would be a very bad thing… Well of course later on that night or next day, he’d pull out that pouch of rattle snake eggs and scare us to death! He literally had my brother and I bawling our eyes out in fear. So funny to think about now.
Another time he elaborately built this weight system that was rigged up in a raisin box. The box was kept in a cabinet right next to his bed. Later on that night, somehow, he had run a string from the box and out of the cabinet. As we were laying there going to sleep, he started pulling on the string. We kept asking if he heard the noise. Of course, he said no. Eventually, somehow, it turned out there there were mice in the cabinets…so he said. I think this episode ended with my brother and I in tears once again.
My Grandpa Ayers was a relentless tormentor and my brother and I loved him for it. He expertly knew how to build suspense. I can only imagine how much noise fellow campers heard as my brother and I screamed with laughter.