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  • This is my Great-Grandpa Lane, my mother’s mother’s father. This picture was taken in 1973. He was a big, big, man; born in southern Kansas, left during the Dust Bowl, taking his wife and small daughter to the apple orchards of Washington state before ending up in Torrance, California, working in the steel mills of WWII. I was still rather young when he died, sometime in the mid-80s (I talked to my mom, and she couldn’t nail the date either).

    I remember going to visit him on occasion; he would take me and my older brother at separate times for a weekend or so. I lived out in the 70s suburbs, the ranch house Brady suburbs, while he lived in the WWII 40s suburbs. Torrance was maybe a thirty year older city than where I grew up, but to a kid’s mind so much older and different. It seemed so much more urban, so much closer to LA. The streets were straight, not like the crazy curvy streets of home. Just a block away there was a major street with businesses and people. Within walking distance there was a bowling alley. I remember sitting at the nearby bowling alley as he bowled, watching Earl Anthony and the Pro Bowlers Tour as I sat at the bar drinking a soda.

    He had this one part of his back yard that didn’t get much sun, as it sat in the shade of the house and a big tree. And the soil was so dark and moist and was really good to play in and make roads and race tracks for my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. I would craft huge race tracks with berms and figure-8s and jumps and I would play with my cars in the dirt for hours, constructing elaborate racing series. Each car I had I would write out the names of each driver and keep records of who won which races, who got in second, and so forth. Sitting there in the shade with the nice dirt, all by myself with my cars and my imagination, good times for sure.

    One time I stayed with him and he had a friend over and they talked about oyster stew, something I had never heard of before. So I bugged him and bugged him for the weekend until he finally made it for me. Then I took couple bites and hated it and didn’t want to finish it. He made me finish it.

    Another time I stole a couple dollars out of his wallet to play some video games at the bowling alley. Later on he noticed that some money was gone and he asked me what happened, and of course I denied all knowledge of anything. There was this guy who was renting a room in the house, and I tried to blame him. We all sat around the dinner table and they confronted me said “We know you did it. If you need money just ask. Just be honest.” But I never admitted anything, I just stared at the floor.

    He died of leukemia. I remember visiting him in the hospital, and was amazed at how such a giant of a man had shrunk that small.
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