For years, I would stop by the Shell gas station at the corner of Greensboro Ave and Skyland Blvd in the morning; and there has always been a group of men sitting at a table in the front window.  Yesterday, as I pulled off from the station (with my Pepsi Max, of course), I decided I would return today and talk to them.

So, I went to work and completed my immediate tasks before setting out on my mission.  I walked in, went straight to them, and said, "Good morning, gentlemen."

"Good morning!" they replied.  Then one said, "Look here! Was that you that I just saw turn into here on a flat tire?"

"Now, how did you see that?  My tire isn't flat.  It is a little low, though. But how did you see that from here?"

See? It wasn't that bad, but I did need some air.

"I don't know. I just saw it."

I took a seat. "You know, I've been stopping by here for years, and there's always a group of men at this table.  Is it the same group every day?"

"Yeah, for the most part.  Some days, it'll be more of us.  Some days, it'll just be a few.  But for the most part, it's the same people," said Mr. Lee Pettway. Mr. MacArthur Spencer chimed in, noting the days he's not usually there because he works.  I asked what made them start meeting in that spot, and Mr. Pettway noted that there used to be a restaurant in the station.  He said that they're retirees who sit together and talk about everything under the sun, mostly sports. He paused a moment. "But how long are you going to ride on that tire like that?"

I laughed.  "I'm going to get some air as soon as I finish talking to you guys."

So, we made small talk.  When they said they discussed everything under the sun, it was the truth.  I got to get a bit of it. We talked about the fate of Stillman football, the April 27 tornado, the proposed Eastern Bypass, home ownership.... And why I said I had to get my brother to do something for me.  "Brother? You don't have a husband?"

*deep sigh* "No."

All of a sudden, the tables turned.  I was no longer interviewing them.  I was the one being questioned.

"Have you ever been married?"

"No, sir."

"How old are you?"

"35."

"Oh, you have plenty of time."

"Huh?"

"Ain't no sense in hurrying to get married."

"Sir, I said 35, not 25! It's about time now."

"I guess."

We laughed and talked a bit about our families.  Mr. Pettway said he has a 9-year-old granddaughter.

"I bet she's crazy about you, too," I said.

"And I'm crazy about HER!" he responded.

That conversation segued into a discussion about technology and how younger generations are now the teachers for previous generations. Then, it got quiet for a minute.

"Where are you originally from?" asked Mr. Spencer.

"Chicago. Why do you ask?"

"I just asked.  No reason really," he replied with a smile.

From there, we talked about the difference between winter in the North and winter in the South. Mr. Pettway asked if I missed the cold weather.  I admitted that I do sometimes.

"NOT ME!" he adamantly replied.

I laughed. "I want to take my daughter to Chicago during the winter to let her really experience snow."

"Yeah, but you'd have to watch the forecast and find out when snow is expected and then beat it. You don't want to drive over the highway once those roads start freezing over."

"I know that's right!"

We all talked a few more minutes, and shared some laughs. I thanked them for talking with me and told them that I had to go back to work.

"Don't forget to put some air in that tire."

I laughed and told Mr. Pettway that I would be going to put some air in my tire immediately.  I exited the store, pulled straight to the air machine, and as I stooped to attach the hose to my tire, here come two men walking towards me.

"As a man, I figured the least I could do is offer to help," said Mr. Pettway.

"That's kind of you, but I have it."

He looked at the tire.  "It's not as bad as I thought."

"That's why I was wondering how you saw it!  I knew it was low, but it wasn't too bad."

"No, it's not.  I don't know how I saw it.  I just did."

I checked the pressure and then stopped putting air in the tire.

"How much you got in there?" asked Mr. Spencer.

"It's at 40. That'll get me through my work day, and I'll take it to get it fixed when I get off."

"Yeah, that should get you through the day.  Seems like you may just have a slow leak."

"I do."

I once again thanked them and told them to have a good day.  They told me to do the same, and we went our separate ways.

On my way back to work, I started thinking about my grandfathers. I was blessed with three.

M.B. Legrone

Left. Pictured with my paternal grandfather . Taken this summer.

My mom's father was the assistant pastor of the church we attended when I was born until we moved to Alabama.  He was often the first person to church and the last to leave.  I remember being with him when he unlocked the gates to the church before service and when he locked them after church.  He filled the pop machines and maintained a lot of the facility. He was just as committed in his home life.  I often saw him leave home, headed to work at the Ford assembly plant.  And in his time off, he was always fiddling with SOMETHING! He worked on cars, built screened-in decks, plucked grapes from his vines, and jarred jelly, etc.  Even as an adult, when I have work that needs to be done, I often call my grandfather.  If he can't do the physical work himself, he can talk me or my brothers through the job.

George L. Lavender

My mom's biological father passed about 10 years ago.  I didn't get to meet him until we moved to Alabama, but I would visit him with my mom from time to time.  By the time I was able to drive, he had started a car dealership. So, I purchased my first vehicle from him. He often called to make sure everything was going well with the car, and he even checked it out for me when something seemed to be wrong.  Within a year of buying the car, I was off to college.  I didn't keep in touch with him as much as I should have, although I did stop by for a quick visit some weekends and made sure I gave him a hug when I visited his church.

George W. Gibson

My dad's father was a truck driver. He was home every day, though.  I remember my grandmother getting up to cook breakfast for him every morning before the sun came up. He'd eat his breakfast and go off to work.  By the time he came home, dinner was ready. He'd eat and then either sit in his recliner to watch a little tv, or he'd go outside.  Sometimes, he'd sit on the porch and watch over everyone, but every now and then, he'd take his bicycle from the basement and go for a brief ride, or he'd join my brothers and cousins at the basketball court across the street and play a game or two. I learned that he'd been a tailor before and that he was a veteran, serving in the U.S. military in the 1950's.

I haven't lived all of my life around any of my grandfathers; yet, I love them all the same and have taken valuable lessons from each of them.  If nothing else, I've learned the following:

1)  A man should work, whether with his hands, with his mind, or with his voice.

2)  A man can accomplish anything with a supportive woman. I don't recall my grandmothers working outside the home, but they made sure the home was one of peace and comfort for my grandfathers.

3)  A man is often not materialistic but takes pride in taking care of his family and being able to enjoy them as much as they enjoy him.

My grandfathers each went to church with their families. My paternal grandfather still fasts every Wednesday, and he's 83 years old!

Of course, parenting is essential in the development of children thus the community; but the relationship between children and their grandparents mean just as much because it gives children a greater insight into the development of their parents, creating a better understanding that makes communication easier between the generations. With that being said, I think I'll put more effort into spending time with my living grandfathers while I still have them.