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  • Grandpa was a patriot. He didn't wave flags and rant about patriotism all of the time. I don't even remember him being that political other than him and my grandma being dyed in the wool, yellow dog Democrats. Going through the Dust Bowl, knowing real hunger and surviving The Great Depression had a way of doing that to people back then. With today's rampant obesity problem, we could probably use a couple of bad harvests to knock the complacency and apathy out of a few tens of millions. None the less, even after going through the Great Depression and serving his country for 31 years as an NCO, I never really remember any heated conversations about politics, but the one time I saw him get a wee bit patriotic left an indelible mark.

    I visited grandma and grandpa on the weekends when I was wee tyke. My parents would drop my ass off and flee away for two whole days without me. They were much younger then and probably had some fucking to do (shiver). I was at that age where the grandparents were the coolest people in the world. They always had cookies and ice-cream, took me out to Joe's (the original Joe's on Alessandro) for pizza, to the VFW, and various other activities they were doing. Many times I would just sit at the house with them, play with the dog, help grandpa with his gardening or grandma in the kitchen or just watch the boob-tube with them.

    As they lived in Sunnymead with a lot of Air Force retirees at the time, many people would drop by from their extended group of friends. So, the clicking of the metal front gate, followed by the dog barking was a usual thing. They'd happily open the door to a multitude of sagely looking elderly folks who'd pop in for a chat and a cup of coffee/tea. I got many pats on the head and was called a fine looking and healthy young boy by their friends. Being pudgy back then to Depression survivors was a sign of health because it meant you actually had food.

    One fine day, the gate clicked and the dog barked, but she barked harder than normal. My grandpa, who was on heart meds and really didn't move that fast for anyone or anything, popped up out of his chair with a look of anger and disgust on his face I'd never seen before. Mumbling a multitude of staccato "sons of bitches" and "bastards" he walked back into the bedroom and came out with a double barrel shotgun cracked open at the breach and with two waxed tipped shells in his other hand (I later learned this was a hand-load of rocksalt). He headed to the already open door and nearly tore the screen-door off the hinges getting it open.

    I looked out the window expecting to see some great monster my highly decorated military grandpa was a about to do battle with, but it was only a couple of young men dressed very nicely. With the dog barking, I couldn't hear much of what he was saying to them, but I remember phrases like "commie cocksucker." He was showing them the shells he was putting into both barrels of the gun as he called them every foul name in the book. They were frozen with fear for a second and then made their way quickly off the property. As they retreated down the street and he made his way back to the housed he yelled, "YOU COMMUNIST SONS OF BITCHES BETTER NOT BE STUPID ENOUGH TO OPEN THAT GATE AND STEP FOOT ON THIS PROPERTY EVER AGAIN!!!"

    He opened the screen door, pulled both of the shells out of the gun and made his way inside. My grandmother, who wasn't at all freaked out by this, in way too calmly of a way said, "Ray, you should leave those poor people be. They have a right to their beliefs."

    "Not on my damn property they don't! If those communist, heathens don't want to salute they flag, they can do it at their own home. God damn Jehovah Witnesses! Even Cookie and Bill's (my mom and my uncle) crazy Buddhist cult will salute the flag." He turned to me, "You salute the flag, right?"

    "Yes I do," I said as I stood up and saluted him. He patted me on the head as he walked to the back bedroom to put the gun and ammo back.

    That was the all or nothing style of my grandpa. He wouldn't continually chew your ear off on how the country was going to shit because of all of the hippies and blah, blah, blah. I mean, he was a New York Jew and a Democrat with hippie kid's who went Buddhist, and he was okay with that, but God help you if you tried to come on to his property with a belief system that didn't recognized the symbol of the country he served for over three decades.
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