Growing up, I never had grandparents. Both sets died long before I arrived on the scene. But I had neighbors who were close friends of my family and were considered my “adopted” grandparents. Catherine and Earl Welliver were up in age, never had kids and were more than willing to treat me like one of their family.
I spent plenty of time visiting the Welliver’s. Whether it was after school, after dinner (supper as they called it), or on the weekend, you could usually find me at their house. They were very old fashioned and lived meagerly even though they were “very well” off. Catherine was a kind soul, but Earl was a stern, rough old goat who was a farmer, hunter and red-neck at heart. He went through a couple cartons of Lucky Strikes, two bottles of Blackberry Brandy and a case of Genesee Cream Ale a week. The brandy and ale he enjoyed drinking in the unfinished basement, on a chair next to the furnace, with the bottles still in their brown bag.
I remember watching Jeopardy and the Wheel with them at night, or taking visits to their lake house in the summer. I was there the night Earl came up from the basement, sat on the couch, and died. And I was at the nursing home the day Catherine passed away. They both lived into their late 80’s and didn’t worry about eating right or counting calories.
Today I turned the television on and I had a flashback to old Earl. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello were starring in the 60’s movie, Beach Blanket Bingo. There were a bunch of the “beach movies” cranked out in the 60’s. They had very little plot, in fact they’re pretty laughable, but that’s not what you watched them for. You tuned in see the half-naked men and women shaking things up on the beach. And yeah, Frankie and Annette would sing a song or two.
In the 70’s our local ABC-TV affiliate, WNEP, would air movies from 4pm – 6pm that usually consisted of these beach flicks. One of the faithful viewers was none other than Earl. He’d sit back, watch the show and enjoy the view as Catherine read a magazine or prepared dinner. Her and I would joke about his choice of television but that didn’t keep him from dreaming.