My maternal grandfather was what most polite people would call a “character.” Those of us with fewer manners would call him a more colorful – and probably rude – name.
John Dallas Truedson and his older brother Dale spent most of their childhoods in a boys’ school in
. Their father was killed
in a car accident around the time he was born, and their mother went a little
nuts after that. He joined the navy just as soon as he could and served in
World War II. After the war, he married my grandmother, Mildred Irene, and
together they got as far away from southern Quincy,
Illinois Illinois – and Mildred’s mother – as they
Over the course of his life, he was a border patrolman, a tire salesman, a gun-store owner, and probably half a dozen other things. He was also an alcoholic and a not-so-great father, judging from the stories I’ve heard.
By the time I came along in 1971, he had quit drinking. He and my grandmother had settled into a passably amiable marriage, though they were fiery when compared to my paternal grandparents. Grandpa loved to argue and would frequently play devil’s advocate on any controversial issue with anyone brave or naïve enough to argue against him. He once tried to draw me into an argument by pronouncing loudly that there was no such thing as “womankind.” When I didn’t rise to the bait (primarily because I agreed with him), he repeated the statement in a louder voice. From the kitchen, my grandmother yelled, “John, you leave that child alone!”
After I separated from my first husband, Grandpa was the one who came to my rescue. At that point, he’d been a widower for fifteen years. He rented me a room at a ridiculously low rate – two-hundred dollars a month – and helped me get my divorce finalized. He was infuriating, argumentative, fascinating, and amazing. He memorized poetry as a way to stave off his greatest fear: senility. He wrote some of his life history down, though not nearly enough. He took up photography and collected cameras. And he went out of his way to insult anyone he thought needed to come down off his or her high horse.
He encouraged me to write and thought my stories and poems were fantastic – even though I doubted it. He told me if I ever married again, I needed to tell the poor guy I was a terrible housekeeper right up front. When he died, I learned that he had put every penny of rent I paid him into savings bonds for me.
Milo Crosby, the hero of Wild Life, is based on this man who would have been one of my biggest fans. I made
Milo a little sweeter and a non-drinker,
but the crotchetiness is all Grandpa. I think he would have liked that.
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