Papa's Bug

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about my grandfather's volkswagen bug.

Submitted: July 14, 2013

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Submitted: July 14, 2013



The year I joined the Air Force my grandfather, whom we called “Papa”, bought a bug.  A 1972 baby blue Volkswagen Super Beetle.  Every few years he would buy a new Buick but for some reason he preferred this bug.  Tinkering on it little by little over the years he drove it to town, 10 miles away from the family farm, to church almost every day.  He came to be known so much for this bug that it even became a talking point at his wake.  The old farmer in the quirky blue bug.

From my memory Papa was always tinkering around in his barn.  An electrician by trade, a farmer by passion, my grandfather always had an inventive way to fix problems.  I recall him building a water pump for the cattle out of a go-cart engine, some pipe, and a rubber belt.  Who does stuff like that? He always had an interesting grin watching this stuff work to, certain that what he had done was clever.

Being in the military I was stationed overseas the year that time tragedy found this stoic man when he lost his wife from a car accident.  She had overturned her car driving home from the after surgery care center.  He had just had open heart surgery and throughout his convalescence had to put a resolute face on affairs, telling people that, “I guess these things happen and there is nothing you can do about it but put your trust in God.”  This man who spent his life putting faith in god stood before everyone, broken yet still standing.  I was on leave at home that summer and before I left I let him know that I had finally received an assignment that would be close to home (the first time in 13 years) when I returned in the winter, and that I had done it just for him so he better be here when I got back.  He told me he’d try…and I like to believe he did.

He died before I could come home.  Eventually my family had to clear out a farm and house that generations of family had lived and died in.  While I had no immediate interest and heirlooms it occurred to me before I left that there was one thing I would like to have, Papa’s blue bug.  I asked my mom and she said they would discuss it between my aunt and uncle.  I took a plane the next day back overseas and upon arriving was pleasantly surprised to read an email from my mom.  She had discussed it with my aunt and uncle and jointly they had decided to simply give me the bug. 

I’m not sure why but for the man that had more influence on me than any other person on this planet, I have only been moved enough to cry twice.  Once when I found out that he had died realizing I would never see him again, the second time when I read the email that I had been given the bug.  I think it was because even though I had never said it out loud, the bug is a symbol of everything I loved about him.  I find myself tinkering around with the bug in my garage.  I drive it to workouts in the mornings and I’ve become known for this bug.  The Airman in the quirky blue bug.

 The other day I had to replace the dome light.  Not knowing where to start I reached in the glove and found some bulbs, and then I found the instruction manual under the driver’s seat.  He bought me the blubs and left me instructions.  Thanks Papa, I miss you.

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