Friday, February 13, 2009

Flashback Friday: Grandpa Layton

My little sister, Josie, recently did a "Name Game" tag on Facebook where you take various parts of your names, your parent's names, and your favorite color, etc., and mix them together to form new names.

For example, my Star Wars Name is supposedly the first 3 letters of my last name and the first two letters of my first name: Heina. My gangster name is the first 3 letters of my first name plus -izzle, so Nanizzle.

It so happens that my sister and I share the same witness protection name, which is combined from our mother and father's middle names. June Neal.

She, however, was having a blond moment when she filled out the survey because she wrote that her witness protection name was June Wayne. My mom and sisters had the following conversation:

Mom: Dad's middle name is Neal. It could have logically been Wayne, but it isn't! :o)

Josie: Right.....Dang! Oh duh, his name isn't Bruce Wayne!

Abra: But how cool would that be?

Josie: I know! Dad should change his name.

Mom: He probably wishes it was sometimes, like while watching the Dark Knight.

Last night I was telling Andrew about it while we were getting ready for bed. He likes Facebook for collecting friends and occasionally he'll talk to people, but he isn't really all that into it, I guess. He hates all the meme things, so he never reads them. That's kind of nice for me sometimes because then I have funny stories to tell him. Like this one.

"So instead of putting Neal as my dad's middle name, Josie put Wayne." I said, getting to the climax of the story, "Isn't that hilarious?"

"Ha, ha, ha..." Andrew began laughing. He knew he was supposed to laugh, so he did, even though he didn't think it was very funny. He's nice like that. Then he paused and cocked his head. His pithy laugh morphed into big guffaws. Tears were almost rolling down his cheeks because when Andrew laughs he really laughs. He finally got it.

It's understandable that it would take him a while to get it because my Grandpa Layton's name is Wayne, thus it is feasible that my dad could have been named Bruce Wayne. Plus, Bruce Wayne just sounds right. I've known of "Bruce Wayne" almost my whole life but I think I only figured out that my dad had a name when I was like 6 and could hardly fathom that my father, who I equated with Batman or Superman, had the alternate identity of "Bruce Neal." Did that mean he actually had a life other than just being my daddy kind of how Batman was "Bruce Wayne," and Superman was "Clark Kent" and didn't stop crime all the time but actually went to work and had friends? It was all a little too much for me, especially since I couldn't even spell my own middle name yet. Two vowels is too many vowels right in a row. Pearl/Paerl. What's the difference?

So I fell asleep thinking about my Grandpa Layton (whose name is Wayne, but I have never in my life called him that). He was a big kidder, from all of my childhood memories. He was always pretending that he had a bomb in his leg and would tick-tock with me on his lap and then "explode." But only just before I burst into tears because I thought he was actually going to explode. He had a lot of exploding jokes. And they honestly worried me. Every time.

There was also this one game that we played where Grandpa would hold out his hand and I'd try to touch his palm without having him grab my finger. After he caught my finger then it would be my turn to try to catch his finger. It seemed like it was always my turn to catch.

And then there was the tickling. Always with the tickling. Everytime I tried to give him a hug he'd tickle me. Everytime I tried to climb on his lap he'd tickle me. Everytime I walked past him he'd tickle me. Tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle! It was enough to drive any reasonable 6 year old crazy.

Once, while we were visiting my grandparents, I remember crying to my mom, "I love Grandpa but he teases me too much!" I don't remember quite how old I was, but in my head I sound a lot like Megan Lewis, so I was probably about six, which means I could have been between 5 and 9.

My mom suggested writing him a letter when we got home--I think we were already in the van on the way home when I confessed how torn my feelings were over my grandpa--telling him that I love him and that I like it when he teases me sometimes but when he teases me too much that it makes me sad. So I did. And then we mailed it.

A lot of time passed between the mailing of the letter and the next time I saw my grandparents. They lived in Utah and we lived in British Columbia. We only saw them once a year, if that, because the drive was a long and dreary one. We had to drive through Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to get there, which only takes about 14 or 15 hours, but it feels like days when you're 6. I was a little nervous to see my grandpa again because he had never responded to my letter and I was afraid that I had offended him with what I said. Soon, though, the annual summer trip arrived and we piled in the van to make the long drive.

When we got there my grandpa was a changed man. He was very solemn and slow. And he didn't tease me once. He didn't even try to tickle me.

I had singlehandedly broken my grandpa!

I hadn't meant to! All I wanted was for him to tease me less, not stop teasing me altogether! I felt horrible for years, worrying that I had been the catalyst of this sad change in Grandpa.

Later grandpa was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, much to my relief. Not that I was happy he had a horrible disease. I was simply glad it wasn't my fault that Grandpa had changed and I knew this because, even as a child, I understood that receiving letters from granddaughters, even criticizing letters, can't make you contract a disease.

I'm always shocked now when I see Grandpa because he's so different from how I want to see him in my head. He slouches and shuffles and drools. He can't remember whether or not he ate dinner or that I have moved to Egypt (he asks for me sometimes when my family goes to visit). He uses the television remote as a telephone and the telephone as the television remote, which I think is great because Rachel does that, too!

They would probably be good friends, if we still lived close by enough to visit, just like Grandpa Conrad and Josie were good friends. A buddy who is a grown up but can't talk or walk? Awesome! (My Grandpa Conrad also had little hair and few teeth--he'd pop out his false teeth and let Josie play with them, which she thought was neat. Grandpa Layton has a full head of hair and, to my knowledge, most, if not all, of his teeth).

Grandpa has gone through several surgeries, including brain surgery and some other things, but from what I hear he is still continuing to slow down. That's what happens when you get old, I guess.

I love you, Grandpa. And I loved it when you teased me, just not all the time. But if teasing me was what was keeping you healthy and strong, please, please start teasing me again!


  1. So nice Nancy I love this it made me cry!

  2. I'll share some stories on grandpa this week...did you know grandma nad him have been married 58 years?!

  3. Do you know how lucky you are that your grandparents are still alive? At least on one side? Mine are all gone now.

  4. Rereading it in 2020--made me cry again!