Front Porch Stories: ‘Hey, are you my grandpa?’
By Kathy Bohannon, Special to The Shopper
His name was Mr. Ankers. Could have been Mr. Anchors, but I was nearly four years old and could not yet spell.
I met him the day we moved into the big Tudor-styled house on Oxford Road in an old Atlanta neighborhood called Druid Hills. It’s one of my earliest memories, walking through the grass to talk to the old man next door. He was behind a wire fence, the kind you might put small animals in, and he was working in a vegetable garden.
Walking straight up to that fence, I called out to him.
“Hey! Are you my grandpa?” I asked. Having a grandfather was important to me because my parents’ fathers both died before 1940. Other kids had grandpas and I wanted one too.
I can still see him as he placed a hand on his back and straightened, then squinted toward me, the handle of the hoe resting against his shoulder. He pushed back an old tattered hat and squinted again.
“Well, I could be,” he replied.
Apparently, that’s all that was needed to put this unexpected paring of an ancient man with a preschooler, a match that would enlighten both of our lives.
We spent our days together either on his porch or in his kitchen playing Old Maid or Go Fish. His porch was at least as old as he was and had a big hole on one end. He told me numerous times not to go near that hole because his wife fell in and died. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen, but he was concerned that I might get hurt.
His kitchen was rather dark with a single light bulb suspended over the small table. It was here that the card games took place, along with snacks every day. Mom told me as I grew older that Mr. Ankers would walk to the store several times a week to buy bananas and cookies just for me. That walk was easily two miles one way. I loved him for that.
My last memory of him was saying goodbye. I was waving from the backseat of the car as we drove away to the new house in College Park. He stood on that porch, waving, probably sure he would never see me again.
He would be right, as we never went back to that old neighborhood. There were stories through the years, as mom and dad would share how much the old man loved my company and how he made my first days as wonderful as I made his last days.
A few years ago, I drove past the old Tudor house. It was still standing but the old wooden cottage with the vegetable garden and ancient porch was as long gone as its tenant. Of course, it had been well over 50 years since I was last there. I don’t know what I expected, but I think there was some hope of something, anything still standing that would give evidence that this sliver of time ever existed.
Though my parents are now gone, they left with me many stories of Mr. Ankers. I was blessed to have a grandpa, even if it was just for a little while.
Kathy Bohannon is a Christian humorist and inspirational speaker. She and her husband John live in west Newnan. She can be reached at [email protected].