There was an ice cream truck.
In fact, there were two: one from the 1950s and one from the 2000s, one that cruised around Philadelphia and one that’s still riding in the Florida Panhandle.
Saturday, June 25, marks the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. He drove an ice cream truck in Philadelphia. I hated it. Every day, he had to drive it. Every day he would listen to the same hateful music. He said it was his worst job ever.
He worked hard and eventually no longer had to listen to that ice cream truck. He owned some diners in Memphis, Tennessee, raised a family and earned enough money to move into a beachfront home on the bay.
At this point in the story, I’m there. So is the second ice cream truck. You can hear it coming from half a mile away. This was not driven by my grandfather. I don’t know much about the guy behind the wheel here, but he’s had a parrot occasionally.
Anytime I was there, I would sit outside with my grandfather, either on the balcony or by the pool. We were talking about football and golf. He had a cigarette, a glass of Scotch Dewar and a bowl of pastries.
Every day that ice cream truck came. Every day, the music was loud enough so everyone on the beach knew it was there. We were only 10 feet away. I would listen to music and struggle to get the nearest wad of cash. I never cared enough to take the shoes off to keep my feet from burning. I just went.
I’ll get an ice cream sandwich. Sometimes I get one of those popsicles with my gum eyeballs. Eventually my brother and sister will come too. My grandfather was where he always has been, on the veranda, with a cigarette, a glass of Scotch Dewar and a bowl of pastries.
My grandfather worked harder than anyone I have ever known. However, after all that hard work, he was still stuck listening to the ice cream truck every day.
This time it was different. He had to watch his grandchildren smile as we ate ice cream. No matter how hard you work, you will always have to listen to the ice cream truck. Just work hard enough that you have enough good in your life to make up for it.
That didn’t stop him from asking the man in the truck to turn the speaker on. forced man.
The truck did not come when it was raining. I was ok with that. I know it was. One day, a strong storm blew from the bay. Strong wind. High thunder. All nine. We sat on the balcony watching her come in.
“There is something about the storm,” he told me.
I don’t know why I remember this so often, but I do. He was right; There is something about the storm. This home is located on one of the busiest beaches in the south. The storm was the only time the place felt calm.
Storms and rain can be a symbol of sadness and depression. Anyone who was there for the day would likely have ruined their trip. I learned to appreciate the storms that day through him, just as he appreciated that ice cream truck through us.
He got an appreciation for that storm because he wasn’t taking a beach vacation. lived there.
That’s what I’m thinking about today. I remember these little moments, these nuances, because they represent something bigger. They are the times when you get a sneak peek into who a family member is, where they come from and parts of them in you, and you in them.
I’ve kept that part for last because I don’t like writing about myself, and I don’t like that whole “crazy meaning of life” thing that these kinds of articles tend to become.
But the stories are built on clichés, and this is a story about a death that no one has cried yet.
A few days after his death, the entire family was at home in Florida. It was two hours after the funeral. I told my mom I needed to talk to her. We walked to the balcony, two feet from where he always sat.
There was no cigarette smoke, no dewar, no bowl of pastry. I looked at my mom, and before I could say anything, I started crying on her shoulder. Somehow, I’ve been waiting for that moment.
I told her, “I haven’t done this yet.”
Through every ice cream truck, and in every storm, he believed in what he was doing. He trusted himself to always know it. It looked that way at least from my point of view.
He always knew that if you have something you care about, like family, and you do it right, then nothing else matters. He had pride – man, did he have pride.
When you have that pride, you will go where you want to in life. You will reach a point where you can find peace in the storm. You still have to listen to that ice cream truck, but you’ll be right there with someone you love.
It was 7:01 PM on June 22nd, and I just saw lightning flashing in the sky. There is no beach, no ice cream truck, no cigarette, no dewar or pastries. But I have pride. I have these stories. That’s enough to take me where I’m going.