|This is exactly how I remember him|
We called him Papa. My memories of him are fond, but there was something in his persona that said, "keep your distance." There was no lack of affection, no shortage of piggy-backed "horsey rides" or bounces on the knee. He was strong. Not what anyone would describe as tall, but wide, and strong. I thought he was handsome. He was. He looked like Johnny Cash.
From the time that my siblings and cousins and I each hit the age of 4 or 5, we all knew that Papa was born on Mars, and many a school-yard brawl was incited by our need to defend our grandfather's unusual heritage. I personally nearly lost a high-school boyfriend over it. Ed, as he was called before he became a Papa, was purchased in the local hardware store in Colorado Springs, found hanging unceremoniously between the hammers and the nails. No mention was ever made of how he was transported to this planet. Once you pictured the little round, fat thing with a thick mop of curly black hair atop his head, dangling naked from a hook, placed who-knows where, how he got there was but a tiny fleeting thought. The only solid evidence of his foreign birth and lineage was his lack of a legal birth certificate. That was good enough for us. There was no question. We cousins were all one-quarter Martian. That is seriously cool information to a ten year old.
Earth's gravity had not nearly the effect on him as on us three-quaterers. So little even, that he was able to stand on his head at any given moment when called upon to perform by one of his grandchildren. Plus, he knew how to fly an airplane and ride a motorcycle so large that his feet did not touch the ground when he sat astride. Unfortunately, the three fingers he lost while building us a playhouse never grew back, despite our fervent belief that they would. Some things about earth life are just too hard to overcome.
For as long as I can remember, there was never a "Wait 'til your father gets home." threat uttered in my house. It was, "If you don't straighten up, when you turn 14 I am sending you to live with Papa!" I remembered vividly the only time my grandfather had ever reprimanded me. I had made the mistake of sassing my mother in front of him, and enduring that look for any length of time would have been unbearable, so believe me when I say, that when he showed up at our house on my fourteenth birthday, I was not too big to hide under a bed and sob like a baby. I didn't really shape up until my late 30's, but my mother took pity on me and never made good on the threat. She probably should have.
He had a hearty laugh, a quick wit and always sang so many verses of "Happy Birthday" at every family party that we had to keep the ice cream in the freezer until he was done. We called him Papa and he was strong and handsome and looked like Johnny Cash. I was afraid of my grandfather, but I wish I had not been.