When I was around Millie’s age, between four and six years old, my dad stopped being fun. During a game of whiffle ball, which we had been playing together, my dad crushed his ankle (the doctor’s actual words, spoken in a thick German accent, were, “Frank, you didn’t break it!. You crushed it!”). After that injury, my dad stopped playing with Richard and I. Playing sports with us was out of the question for my dad. My dad thought playing card, board, or any other type of games was for “girls.” Dad stopped being fun.
His involvement with us changed to more of a work-related relationship. I learned many useful things from woodworking to fixing up bicycles and cars; however, during such work, he would often be verbally abusive. When I did not know how to do something, he would often resort to calling me a “girl,” or “stupid,” or something worse. As I said before, dad was not fun.
When dad stopped being fun, I turned to Grandpa Tooker. Mr. Tooker lived across the drive from us. He had a small farm, in which he grew corn and assorted other vegetables. He was a very kind man, who, knowing that both my biological grandpas were dead, adopted me as his very own grandson. When I went across the street to visit him, he said, “When you’re over here, you’re a Tooker.”
Grandpa Tooker would give me butterscotch candies. He would sit with me, while watching “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” He would talk with me, answering all sorts of questions that a four to five year old could have (my dad rarely talks with me even to this day). I loved my adopted Grandpa. When I was eight years old, I had to say goodbye to him. We moved to the city. I did not see Grandpa Tooker very much from the time of our move. I don’t even know exactly when he died. Yet, I do remember his kindness in taking me in as his own. I have a lump in my throat even as I type these remembrances.
Recently, Sharyne has been babysitting two children for a friend. Her friend’s husband is out of the country for several months. One of the children is a little two year old boy, who misses his daddy. I have stepped into the role of a Grandpa Tooker. I am giving the little boy the kindness and love that I once craved. He absolutely loves being around me, playing with me, sitting with me, or even feeding me blueberries (he wouldn’t eat them, but didn’t mind popping them in my mouth). I’m thinking of giving him the last name of “Tooker” when he visits us, just to carry on the name of kindness.
Originally published on July 31, 2010