Days, Like Dominoes | October 26, 2020
When I was a kid, there was a short period when my paternal Grandfather lived at the historic Crazy Water Hotel in my hometown of Mineral Wells, Texas. It was – and remains – an assisted-living facility. Every now and then, it would fall to me to ride my bike across town to look in on the wizened, slightly-built old man I had dubbed “Little Granddad” and see if he needed anything, like say, a new supply of Red Man chewing tobacco or maybe a box of King Edward cigars…or perhaps less important items like food, clothes, or underwear.
I always hated being saddled with that task because my bicycle and I had better things to do and more exciting places to be. However, inevitably, when I would arrive to find Little Granddad at a table with three other geezers, each studying the dominoes stacked in front of him like little marble tombstones with braille epitaphs etched in black dots, I would find myself pulled into a bygone era of Model T’s and horse-drawn wagons.
The domino combatants wore white shirts buttoned at the collar, brown or black or grey slacks, and fedoras or Stetsons. They looked like they belonged in a tintype photograph maybe taken at the White Elephant Saloon on Hell’s Half Acre in Fort Worth sometime in the late 1800s.
This colorful collection of human relics would regale me with stories of the old days and pepper me with “Dad” or “Granddad” jokes.
This was in the early 1970s, which means Little Granddad was in his early 70s, since he was born in 1899. He was always a year older than whatever year it happened to be, which prompted my dad to declare him “a year older than time.”
What I wouldn’t give to hop my Cowboys blue Schwinn Stingray with the metallic silver seat and the silver-and-blue tassels flying in the wind from the handlebar grips, and ride it like a time machine back five decades and right up to the front steps of that proud old building, just to hear another story or see another stream of tobacco juice find the spittoon with a brass ping, while I funnel the Lance brand peanuts into the ice cold bottle of Dr. Pepper. Just to see William Daniel Strother (Little Granddad, which I often imagined was the Indian name I had given him, like Sitting Bull or Black Hawk), happy in his environment, his element, remembering what it is to be alive…what I wouldn’t give for that.
This is the journey of life. The moments that become memories are just minutes ticking by, wasting a busy kid’s time when he had better places to be…until they aren’t a waste of time…until they are time itself, marching away to an invisible distant shore…until they become the stuff of lore, of legend, of life.
The things you are doing now, however mundane and ordinary they seem, may one day become the stories your grandkids remember, the ones that remind them of who you are and who they are meant to be.
Days, like dominoes, fall one upon the other. Stack them with care.
Think I will break out the dominoes tonight…and maybe my fedora.