Friday, January 14, 2011
I wanted to write this on what would've been his birthday (Jan 13th) but it just didn't happen. January always brings thoughts of my grandfathers. My paternal one was born on the 13th and my maternal one was born on the 17th. Both were gone from my life by the time I was 6, but made such an impression on me. I know people don't typically remember much of their early years, but I remember both of them so vividly.
What I remember about Grandpa Powers was how refined he seemed. He was a real gentleman even though he came from a rough background. His mother was amazing - giving, loving, involved in charity, strong, but his dad was a raging alcoholic. People thought they were trash because of their father's behavior. His mother had to take in laundry and such just to put food on the table. I remember hearing he used to eat ketchup and butter sandwiches and bone marrow sandwiches (because that was sometimes all they had). It seems like his life's goal was to prove how much he was really worth. In high school, he excelled at sports, was a musician, was involved in student government...he was a big man on campus. He dressed impeccably (my grandma used to light up when she talked about how handsome and pulled together he was) and he worked his butt off in his studies. He had some kind of learning disability so it wasn't easy for him to maintain the minimum GPA to stay on the sport teams, but he did it...by sheer discipline, dedication and will. He was the kind of guy everyone liked, that everyone respected.
Through his hard work he made a success of a men's clothing store in Oberlin. It was called Powers and Dawley. They carried classy suits, shoes..and even had a small women's section. I remember being in it when I was little (after my grandfather had sold it so he could retire). I was so amazed and impressed that he was the reason it existed. It never changed much between when he had it and when it finally closed. I'd go in there feeling like I was in another time..a time where people cared about how put together they were, a time of gentility and prettiness. I can even remember how it smelled...like leather and old wood. I was so proud of him, proud to be a Powers...and hell, I still am.
I wish I had more time with him...more of the memories my cousins have...but I think even though I don't have many actual "this happened and that happened" memories, I have a feel of his essence. Plus, I have some of his tastes in favorite things. Every Christmas, we used to buy him the same exact things - a bottle of vodka, a box of Malley's chocolates, and a red cardigan sweater because that's exactly what he wanted. You know what? Those three things would also put me in heaven. I think the finer things that make me smile come from him. He wasn't perfect, don't get me wrong, but he was a man's man...a class act...a gentleman. I was very lucky to know him.