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Johnny B. O'Reilly

Awakened by a clinking jail house door, I stare straight up at the bottom of a mattress. Looking around it's all coming back to me--I'm in jail. Gramps is sleeping soundly in the bottom bunk across from me, thank God. I don't know this man very well but I'm fascinated by the striking resemblance to my Dad. Duh! you might say, but it's not what you think. There is a familiarity in his bone structure, in his cockeyed look, his hillbilly sort of being. Mannerisms that somehow pass from one generation to the next get overlooked until enough time with that person moves your thoughts beyond the obvious. 

As Gramps sleeps--laying flat, head tilted back with his gentleman's hat slightly off of the crown of his head, his open mouth gapes for adequate oxygen. Hands neatly latched on his chest he looks as though he could have been arranged to fit into a coffin. Speculation of his life starts to roll, taking on shape after a few days worth of a patchwork of stories, deeds and regrets. What made this man what he is today? What inspired him to do better or prompted a turn to perform worse? What gallant moments did he dearly cling onto or tragic mistakes always wishing them away? Was he satisfied with his life? Did he do OK, as life goes? All these questions about a man responsible for me being here in the first place. Does he wonder the same about me, his grandson? Does he wonder what hardships or triumphs contributed to this driver at his side? Does he size me up, confirming demands he made on his son at an early age, proof of a well or poorly disciplined student?

"Mornin" the jailer yells to break my train of ponder. 

"Time to rise and shine gentleman, unless of course you want me to book you"  as the jailer flashes a  smirk.

"Ah I think we're good" as I reach over to Gramps as he startles awake. "It's all good Gramp's" insuring calm to him as he adjusts to his surroundings. 

"Why I be a monkey's uncle" Gramps says as he sits up. "Sonny, you sure make somp-em good outa no good last night, God bless ya Sonny!" 

"Well thanks for the officer on night duty having some mercy on us" As I look at the day officer extending my gratitude toward him as well with my eye contact.

"Yessum, you got that rot Sonny!"

As we adjust ourselves, getting ready for possibly our last day on the road, I'm wondering why this is the most amount of time that I've spent with Gramps in my entire less than twenty years of life. Why have I never been blessed with this man's presence? Questions could circulate for ever--me being the consummate ponderer. This is my Grandfather for God's sake and I don't even know him. I know him better now, and I really enjoy being with him, but why not until now? Questions I'll have to try and slip in before he gets too far into his next Seagram's Seven mobile distillery.

As we approach the front guard desk the attending officer press's the under-counter button letting out a load buzz signaling our release. Appreciation communicated to the officer with well wishes to us for our travels, were onto our final leg.

"You up for some soft scrambled eggs, lightly browned heavily buttered toast, and a pile of grits Gramps?" As we happily jump into our frozen Belair.