My grandpa Max (Maclovio) was amazing. You talk about a Mr. Fix-It, my gramps was the ultimate, right up until cancer finally got the better of him.
I am actually blessed in that I have two amazing grandpas. I had the privilege of being exposed to two very different backgrounds but both equally important in my life. My grandpa Max was a railroader, country-boy. My grandpa Bill was in Air Force and went onto being a college professor teaching languages. He speaks five languages. I’ll be talking more about my grandpa Bill in another post, but today it’s about grandma Max.
My gramps was an incredibly decent human being. As far as fathers go, and grandpas, he ranks among the best! Tales of my gramps are legendary. By the time I was fully aware and had real memory, he’d calmed down, but only some. He’d remain feisty until those final weeks of life.
My mom used to tell me some of the best stories of her and her brothers, my uncles Vince and Randy, growing up in Rawlins, Wyo. Among my favorites was how he used to make them box to sort out their differences. The three kids would fight and argue and he’d come home, tired after a long day working for the Union Pacific as a welder, and didn’t want to hear it. So he pulled out these old boxing gloves, put them on two of the kids and say ‘have at it.’ Hit it out all and be done with it, he’d say. They’d fight and tire themselves out before long and it was all over – no more bickering and any bruises that may have been were a helpful side effect, helping to keep them from wanting to fight again. They also learned he wasn’t kidding around. My gramps knew what he was doing. He also had them just stare at each other sometimes. Well, who wants to have to stand around and stare at a person who’s been driving you nuts? So, again, they’d quit fighting and go about their business.
My gramps believed in teaching lessons. Sure, he’d yell and get frustrated as any parent would, but it was about taking those opportunities to teach his kids about responsibility. If they made a mistake, he taught them not to make it again. My mom is a wealth of stories of growing up in that small railroad town. She always talked about how he’d make them do things for the penance. My mom and her brothers may miss out on something fun but they’d also learn something about themselves and how to be better people. These are all lessons passed down to my siblings and I.
As I said, my gramps was a fixer. Growing up in Depression Era San Luis Valley of southern Colorado and in a large family, he learned quickly the value of being able to fix things himself. My grandpa didn’t get passed the sixth grade in school, but he was very smart, very clever and learned how to do things quickly. Being one of 15 kids and a bit of a trouble maker, trust me, he learned how to get himself out of a tight spot most of the time. He also figured out that working for the railroad would be the best living he could get. He had to fib about his age a little at the time because he was too young, but it turned out to be a great decision. That was my gramps – a smart man. He really did know best.
As far back as I can remember, my grandpa was always fixing things. Hell, he basically built his own home. The frame of the home my mom spent most of her youth in was an old train depot, but my gramps and his brother, Joe, did all the plumbing, wiring and other needs for that house, all while working on the railroad. The last time I got to visit with him, I talked to him about the house. I have a few voice recordings that I cherish as I will always have his voice with me now. I love hearing him talk about that house and how much time he and Joe spent on it. He bought the darn thing for $10. Even having it transported and work done it didn’t cost him much more than that. Says something about the times doesn’t it?
All through my childhood, he and grandma would come down and help us out with various needs. This happened even more once my parents divorced and my mom needed help with caring for the house. He taught her a lot of things so she does a pretty good job on her own now. Of course, she did get her independence from him also – a total family resemblance. Even once he and my grandma had to move in with my mom because he was too sick to be on his own and needed care in Denver, he would help around the house, even shovel snow for my mom. He just couldn’t give up and he sure as hell couldn’t be lazy. It just wasn’t in his blood.
He had retired from the railroad after 42 years of hard work and was fully retired for about two, maybe three years before he went back to work. By the time he moved in with my mom, he was back to about 40 hours a week working as a maintenance man for a motel in Rawlins. He was 79 years old. He’d been doing that for a few years or so. He liked to fix things. He was good at it.
I’m so blessed to have had him in my life. I’m sure I’ll be writing more stories about him. He had plenty to share. He left this life March 11, 2012. I think about him all the time. 30 years of my life was spent with him in it so it’s still peculiar to think of him as not being there even now. Thank God for photos, memories and voice recordings to help make that void easier to deal with. Grandpa Max was a father/grandfather/great-grandfather who undoubtedly knew best.