My First Love, Part 1

I'd do anything to look spectacular for my first love. Anything...

Let’s get back to Lorna’s story. We’re nearly finished.

Of course it couldn’t last; we both knew it. The age difference was vast, so vast that I couldn’t count that high. Plus he was married…to Mémé, my grandmother. You’d think my love affair with Pépé would’ve made things awkward in our family, but it didn’t.

There weren't that many people to get upset over my love affair, unless you count some neighbors who loved a good drama.

  • Maybe I did a really good job of hiding my pre-adolescence adoration of the one and only man in my life from my grandmother, mother and sisters.
  • Maybe Mémé was happy just to have Pépé out of her hair and house.
  • Maybe Mom and my sisters just didn’t notice, because, when it came to Pépé, no one but me noticed.
  • Or maybe everyone noticed and thought the two of us were just misfits who fit together.

I didn’t care. Pépé was “The Man.” Indeed, he was “The Only Man.” With no father or brothers around when I was growing up, Pépé defined masculinity to me. I didn’t know at the age of 9 that I would be in search of a father figure most of my life, and I sure didn’t know that Pépé was my first catch on Lorna’s-Father-Figure-Hunt, but he was. And I was there for him: the one lone girl in a pool of estrogen who actually loved everything about him.

This hunky rodent was my real first love, but since he was a cartoon and a mouse, I couldn't take him seriously after I turned 6 or 7.

Nothing impure tainted our relationship. Our relationship was more like a dog and her master; not like a sugar daddy and his golden-haired gold-digger. He didn’t have any sugar to give and I wasn’t interested in gold–just all the magical adventures he took me on and the attention he gave me.

No, no, no, no, NO!

That's more like it. I was game for anything. So was he with me as his side-kick.

Before I tell you about our amazing adventures and all the “important” things only he could’ve or would’ve taught me, let me tell you a little about my Pépé.

My first love. Can you blame me?

Pépé resembled the blundering cartoon character, Mr. Magoo. Both old men had noses and ears too big for their too-round heads. Mr. Magoo and Pépé were short in stature and both suffered from poor eyesight. All similarities between Pépé, a three-dimensional ordinary man, and the two-dimensional animated millionaire midget ended with outward appearances.

Mr. Magoo had the good life, even if he couldn't see it.

Mr. Magoo refused to wear eyeglasses, believing his vision was fine. Pépé was a realist who wore thick dark-rimmed spectacles that looked more like goggles than eyeglasses. The cartoon character was independently wealthy and had a staff of people to rescue him from his misadventures; Pépé, a retired plumber whose income was meager, had only me to idolized him and voluntarily keep him company. Mr. Magoo got into trouble by not paying attention to his surroundings; but because of moody, bossy Mémé, Pépé, paid close attention to his surroundings that were often inhospitable. Mr. Magoo acted like he was entitled to behave in any way he wished. Rather than entitled, Pépé was contented—he didn’t ask for much and didn’t get much. Unlike the unsettled but privileged Mr. Magoo, Pépé seemed fine with his simple life. But his life was far from simple.

Pépé was treated more like a hired hand than a member of the family. Like his granddaughters, he was most appreciated by Mémé when seen, not heard. What did the Mémé want to see him doing? Work. Pépé didn’t seem to mind doing any assigned task, from peeling potatoes for Sunday dinner to repairing broken anythings. His “to-do” list was long and penned by any female, each relentless editors. If he received gratitude for a job well done, the appreciation was implied; criticism, however, was broadcast over multiple frequencies.  Still, Pépé actually whistled while he worked—the only character I knew who did this besides the Seven Dwarfs.

To the casual observer, Pépé’s life might have seemed bleak. Mémé’s mood and health set the pace for his day. He was either following her orders or keeping as invisible as possible, depending on what would land him in the smallest heap of trouble. Unlike his granddaughters, he didn’t complain. His strategy for finding contentment in the midst of what appeared to be a dreary life was staying out of trouble. Trouble was complicated, and he liked life to be simple. “Keep yer nose clean so it don’t get raw from havin’ to scrub too hard,” was something he often told me. He graduated from the 6th grade, and at that, probably missed a lot in the formal education department. He was, in every way, a simple man.

Being a fart-joke aficionado, he would've loved this sign.

What he lacked in “proper education,” he made up for in practical application. Pépé was crafty—not in a devious way. Some might have called him a visionary, especially when he indulged in Topper beer. Pépé could turn regular junk into remarkable junk with a propane torch, a little imagination and plenty of beer. He seized the challenge of taking broken stuff and making it less broken with the enthusiasm of a biochemist unraveling the mysteries of the human genome. If allowed, he would spend hours in his damp, but meticulously organized basement and emerge with a Pépé Original. Sometimes it was easy to identify what he created; sometimes it was pure mystery. Whatever it was, though, he was proud of his contraption and found a way to use it (even if it was relegated to the outside shed).

The secret to his creative genius.

I was the only one in our small all-female family that got a season’s pass into his world. And I made good use of it. We both needed somebody to notice us. We became each other’s “somebody.” And, boy, did we have fun. If that’s not true love to a nine-year-old, what is?

Stay tuned to find out what an innocent little girl can learn from her mischievous beer-drinking grandfather…

~ by Lorna's Voice on February 11, 2012.

39 Responses to “My First Love, Part 1”

  1. I believe he had a great influence on your personality. I can already see the resemblance.

  2. […] at least one short story to the Writer’s Digest Annual Contest. The 3-part series on Pépé, My First Love, needs to be edited down from about 3,500 words to 2,000 words. As I copied and pasted the posts […]

  3. Thanks for your opinion. I’ve already started the process and much of the humor is removed–I had to so I could shave it down to 2000 words. The heart of the story, you’re right, is the heart, not the laughs. As always, you’re so insightful.

    Love,

    Lorna

  4. Please Lorna do – that sounds like I’ calling you Lorna Doone.
    LOLOL …!!!
    I jest as I feel very honored that you would ask my opinion.
    You know that can be dangerous…???
    Realyy, I do love this. I feel you should edit. Personally, it is a touching story. It is a sharing of two hearts that connected at a time when both were in n eed. Then just like the seasons, it was time to move on. It is heartfelt and genuine. Edit away humor and focus on your innermost feelings. Speak from your heart.
    Love and Hugs …
    Izzy xoxox

  5. I’m thinking of editing this down and using it my submission to the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Contest. What do you think?

  6. Gosh .. I read this and wanted to nickname you “Opie” . ~~~~ : – )
    I’d prefer to think of you as that rather than a dog following his master.
    He sounds like he had a great way of connecting without saying very much. A fabulous way to reach someone. His actions and motions teaching and touching the heart of a lonely little girl … he taught by example and didn’t even know it. He stepped in to fill a spot for you at that time. A very special relationship and one with super fond memories.
    Lovely story of your grandfather, Lorna …
    Hugs,
    Izzy xoxo

  7. yup!

  8. Thanks, Peg. I realize how special this time with my step-grandfather was, especially since it was mine exclusively. No one else gave him the time of day.

  9. He was at peace, down deep. At least I think so. No one could be that good an actor!

  10. Thanks. He was a sweet man and I feel special that I got to know just how sweet he was.

  11. I didn’t intend for my posts about him to come out around Valentine’s Day, but I thinks it’s appropriate! 🙂

  12. Pepe was content–wow that speaks volumes about his heart on this valentine’s day ❤

  13. A sweet story. And I love the compare/contrast with Mr. Magoo!

  14. Like the ‘Lady in Red’ gravatar, Lorna.
    Pepe had a golden temperament and in his own quiet, gentle, sweet way, was probably the ‘glue’, look forward to next epidsode
    cheers catchul8r molly

  15. Aw, this is so sweet. WIsh I could go back and be the kind of 9-year-old who could appreciate all my grandfather had to give, but I wasn’t, and by the time I woke up to that fact, he was gone. What a blessing that you were that kind of child.

  16. If you go something memorable out of my story, then that’s great. Everyone gets a little something different…a fond memory of their grandfather, a fond memory of Mr. Magoo, a hope to be like my grandfather… It’s all good.

    But you might want to reserve judgement on being exactly like him until after you hear the whole story… 😉

  17. I know this isn’t what I should have gotten out of your piece, but I love Mr. Magoo. Did you ever see his “Christmas Carol?” I still sing, “A hand for each hand was meant for the world, why don’t my fingers reach…” every Christmas. I need to find it on DVD. My VHS has been worn out.

    How you describe your grandfather is the kind of grandfather I want to be. I never had that relationship with mine.

  18. And that works for me! 🙂

  19. I’m glad for you and for me! 🙂

  20. I’m so glad you had a special grandpa in your life. Every girl needs one. My maternal grandfather was mine and I have so many very special memories of shared experiences.

  21. Works for Me. But i never saw the sadness in your eyes because i was to busy listening to the happines in your heart that came through in your words.

  22. Thanks! I am loving writing about this part of my life story! I bet you can tell… 🙂

  23. It’s lovely to experience these cherished relationships and it’s amazing how much they shape us. Beautiful post.

  24. Sounds like a wise man. We so often underestimate the wisdom of “simple” folks. It’s really such a shame…

  25. Thinking back, I feel awful that he wasn’t more appreciate for his integral role in the family. We all cared for him (even Meme in her own way), but he was definitely a second-class citizen–kind of like I felt.

  26. Isn’t it great to bring these wonderful feeling and memories to the forefront of our hearts? They are always there inside, but it’s nice to highlight them. I’m loving writing about my grandfather and pal and I’m glad my story evoked your fond memories of your beloved grandfather.

    Although he never told me outright, I think I changed my grandfather’s life (if only by making his days a bit more bearable and even fun).

  27. Thanks, Aurora! The old picture seemed too sad!

  28. I’m glad I could evoke sentimental memories of a close and loving relationship. That’s certainly what I had!

  29. Thanks! The old picture was taken during the final year of my marriage. I looked at it yesterday and realized the sadness in my eyes. I’m such a happier person now and thought my gravatar should reflect the true me.

  30. Thanks, Gayle. As I said to Phil, I think I’m still in love this this remarkable man who every thought was quite unremarkable.

  31. Yes, my grandmother never forgave him for not being a city slicker. Location, location, location, right?

    As for my sisters, they saw him more like my grandmother–a handyman, uneducated and uncouth. I think on some level, we were all afraid of men. But I was the most curious of the bunch, so my curiosity won out over my fear. I’m glad. He was a truly a descent man who was very lonely and tried his best to be positive about things (unlike his disappointed wife). He was a gem. I think I’m still in love with him!

    Thanks for noticing my new profile picture. The old one was taken during the final year of my marriage and I thought it was time to get rid of those sad Lorna eyes…

  32. I have to wonder if Mémé never quite forgave Pépé, since he was not from New York City as she had originally imagined him to be. Still, I have to admire your Pépé for being quite the trooper. I can understand your attachment, especially from the standpoint of wanting to be noticed. I’m a bit puzzled however, that your other sisters didn’t share some of the same attraction, if for no other reason than the lack of father figures in their lives. Interesting.

    p.s. Your new profile picture is quite nice. I like it.

  33. This is just the sweetest post yet, Lorna. I just love that you and Pepe had each other…a compatible, loving support system that served you both. Also, there’s something about someone who whistles…it gives the appearance of pure contended-ness with the world.

    Very endearing story…my heart softened for you both.

  34. Great look!

  35. Wonderful story. Brings back my Dad to me. Thanks — cause I miss him, as I’m sure you miss Pepe.

  36. Riotous as always, you fabulous story teller. Oh and by the way, one foxy babe 🙂 Loving the new photo, Lorna xo

  37. I nicknamed my grandfather “Softy” because he was so soft hearted. Right before he died he told me I had changed HIM. Me? I couldn’t believe it… but he said he had spent his life being some form of Colonel/Wesley/Dad but once I called him Softy, that’s who he became and lived as the rest of his days…. your post just made me miss him oh so much all over again!

  38. What a sweet story. Made me think of my grand-daddy, amongst all the daughters he had.

    This is sad really. Good for you and him but outside of that, I felt sad for Pepe not being appreciated. I can imagine he was fun to hang out with. You and he were a nice diversion from female traffic for each other.

  39. Aww. Your Pepe made me think of my grandfather who was very similar. Mine was short in stature but large on sound advice. He told me “It’s better to marry a man with an apple in his hand than one with an acre of land.”

    Many years later I discovered he was right on with that one!

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