Technically, I’m mathematically eligible to hit the grandfather zone. My brother is already and one of my good pals has the grandpa thing down cold.
But I am at a point in life when I’m flat out amazed of the influence on my existence based on one incredible grandfather, the artist formally known as Myers Steele Hastings. More specifically Granpop. I think it is an east coast distinction. One set of grandparents are Mommom and Poppop and the others win the the Grandmom and Grandpop distinction. I’m not sure I ever enunciated the ‘d’ so Gran’pop was his official pronounced title.
If Myers Steele sounds like two last names, you would be right. He was named after the two doctors who delivered him into the world. The Hastings family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland has been around since the 1700’s, and they even featured in James Michener’s book Chesapeake. Yes, a book of historical fiction, but based on some real folks. All farmers in the Hastings family, so no super famous outlaws or politicians on my Mom’s side of the family tree.
However, if you’re on the Eastern Shore and you see billboards advertising for Hastings Farms, that is a distant cousin or two making money. Tell them I sent you, so they can look at you funny about a tractor rental.
Anyway, a lot of us in the world have fun grandfather stories.
Mine was from that generation of people who could do anything. They grew their own food, sewed their own clothes, built their own houses, repaired their own cars, rode horses and other cool things I like to read about as a modern spoiled brat.
How cool was Gran’pop?
I hit him in the head with a baseball bat and he didn’t flinch cool.
Yeah. I did that.
Don’t go just yet. I didn’t mean to hit him in the head so hard the bruise started bleeding. He kind of volunteered for it. Not the bash on the noggin, but he signed up to be my baseball coach. My Mom had yet to meet my future step-Dad, and we were living with my grandparents in Colorado at the time.
Which was another amazing thing, my grandmother up and moved to Colorado and Gran’pop followed along and started life over at the age of 50 in a new state way far away from eight generations of Maryland life.
Anyway, Gran’pop had raised his three kids and now he had a pile of four screaming boys — well, three screaming younger brothers of mine and me. I didn’t scream so much. But I wanted to on that fateful day of baseball practice.
If you know anything about me, I love baseball. Thanks to Granpop, who was a long time umpire and fan of the game. He took over as coach of my team when no other parent stepped up to do the job. He coached us for two seasons, and he did a great job with the tiny team in competition against much bigger towns.
His worst player? Me.
I could field several positions really well. I ran the bases like the wind. However, I couldn’t hit a curveball to save my life. Once the other team knows that, they only throw you curveballs. I had a decent eye at the plate, I led the team in walks and stolen bases. But the hits just didn’t happen.
One day in practice, I was stepping out of the batter’s box with my back foot. In my mind, I was setting up to hit to the opposite field, but Granpop determined that move was killing my chance to get the bat on the ball. He told me, I tried to mentally adjust, but the bad habit kept happening. He set up as the catcher and with his left hand, he held my foot in.
I swung as hard as Babe Ruth going for the fences. I missed the ball, and cracked Granpop on the skull. The sound was horrifying, and the little kid in me immediately reached toward the wound. He simply pointed me back toward the pitching mound for more swings. I got a couple practice hits. And I apologized a few dozen times on the ride home. He took the blame, but I felt really bad. At least until that Saturday when I hit a double back up the middle.
The next batter on my team hit a single and I scored from second base. The look of pride on a grandfather’s face as I ran by toward home plate, his expression complete with a band-aid on his healing head, is something that stays with a kid forever.
Raising grandkids on the side, working his way from nightshift supervisor to Postmaster inside of five years is one thing after a life of farming. But taking the time to coach me in our favorite sport, that is special beyond my ability to express.
I miss holding the hammer or other tools he would need next when building something. I miss talking baseball with him, although I still tell him the scores when our Orioles win. I miss playing chess against him. He never let me win, and made me a much better player. I miss watching John Wayne movies with him. Like all of the John Wayne movies.
Ultimately, I’m a better person for knowing him and that makes life better now. Passing on the echo of the laughter he shared, the pure joy he routinely expressed and going above and beyond for people you care about makes for a pretty good example.
Thanks to my all-time, all-pro Grandfather, Mr. Myers Steele Hastings.