Thursday, November 10, 2005
Grandpa Was A Cross Dresser
That's Grandpa and me to the left. I must have been about 3 years old at the time of this picture. He called me Peanut back then. I called him Pere Pere back then. He was of French descent. Pere Pere means grandpa in French. Well, it means grandpa in a sort of broken Canadian French anyway. His grandparents came down from Quebec to Illinois in roughly 1850.
I called him Pere Pere until I was seven or eight years old. Then I quit. I had begun to feel embarrassed about it, because none of my friends called their grandpas Pere Pere and probably somebody said to me in a snide way, "Why do you call your grandpa Pere Pere?" I caved in to peer pressure.
Yes, Grandpa was a cross dresser, but only at night which, I guess, made him a nocturnal cross dresser. Silky nightgowns! That's what he liked to slip into at night. Grandma's silky nightgowns. Grandma and Grandpa were about the same size. Grandma didn't mind. She thought he looked cute in her nightgowns. There was nothing kinky about actually. He said her nightgowns felt good to his skin and that was why he liked to wear them. So, I suppose that made him a tactile nocturnal cross dresser. And since he was French...never mind. I won't carry it out to that extent.
Grandpa wasn't kept hidden in the closet because of his eccentric preference in sleep wear. Although our family thought it was funny, we weren't ashamed of him. It would have been impossible to have kept him in the closet anyway.
You see, Grandma and Grandpa owned a huge brick home in my home town. They lived on the first floor which had somewhat of an open feel to it. Very little privacy. They rented out rooms on the second and third floor, and in the basement as well, to folks who had come up from Southern Illinois to take jobs at the nearby mental hospital.
With that many people flowing in and out of the house all hours of the day and night due to shift work, somebody was bound to catch Grandpa in Grandma's silky nightgown either on his way to bed at night or, in the morning, sipping a cup of coffee at the kitchen table which was visible from the front door.
Grandma and Grandpa didn't have any Las Vegas type house rule stating that what goes on here stays here. Consequently with that many people living under one roof and with so little privacy, word about Grandpa's eccentric preference in sleep wear was bound to get out to the community at large. Grandpa was such a likeable guy though that nobody in town appeared to mind what he wore to bed even if it was his wife's nightgown. Everybody liked Grandpa.
When he was in his early sixties, Grandpa took a job driving a school bus in town. He adored the children and the children adored him. About five months before he died at age 66, he was down on the floor playing with my first-born daughter, his first great-grandchild. I was pregnant with my second child at the time. We were talking and, out of the blue, he said to me that he hoped he would still be around to see my second child. I remember I was shocked. "Of course, you will still be here, Grandpa." I remember saying to him.
There was a big snow storm the night before he died. The next morning when he got to work, he struggled to put the chains on the tires of the school bus. He went on to make his rounds out in the rural area picking up children. He returned to town with his precious cargo of children and was driving down a street toward the school, when he suddenly slumped over the steering wheel. The bus slowed down, veered to the right and softly glided into a snow bank alongside the street where it came to a stop. No child was injured. The doc said Grandpa had died instantly from a heart attack.
Grandpa thought the world of me. As far as he was concerned, the sun rose and set in me. Although I undoubtedly deserved it from time to time, I never recall him saying even a cross word to me. I could do no wrong in his eyes.
How fortunate I was to have him in my life. My beloved Pere Pere!