When you are a man about town you need to find ways to keep to your agenda even with nature's constant reminder that things don't always go your way. That is my grandfather.
Compared to his sons Donald & Terry (my dad), his grandchildren and great grandchildren, Orland Gene Simpson is a tiny figure. At possibly five feet in height (that's stretching it) and maybe 100 pounds (on a good day), grandpa's mind and heart overshadow anything his current physical being can ever scrape together. That's saying something as the 87 year old continues to steal from the ever dwindling allotment of time mother nature has secured for him. Quick with a joke (always a joke, that's where I get it), never really serious and knows everything that's going on around him and you.
He is known in Southern Ohio, in Ross County and Chillicothe to be exact, as "O.J.". Actually, he was O.J before O.J. was O.J. ...if you know what I mean. For as long as I can remember he has always been on the move. Whether it was traveling the Appalachian foothills in his blue pick-up, plowing neighborhood gardens with his tractor to assist residents in planting homegrown veggies when spring rolled around, driving a school bus, driving the high school boys basketball team to away games for years or cruising in and around Richmond Dale (our hometown) with is bright orange moped with the super annoying moped horn.
In recent years that mobility has been taken from him by father time. Although mowing the lawn, walking down the street to my dad's house, the store and the coffee shop are still his daily routine. That is up until about a year ago. Grandpa was at home getting dressed and leaned on a chair to balance himself. That rather unstable chair slid forward causing O.J. to come crashing to the floor. Unable to catch himself, Grandpa suffered a broken hip. Now you don't have to be a genius to understand the consequences. When a person in their 80's breaks a hip that is usually the straw that breaks the camel's back, per say. They will not be able to get around as much, are bed ridden, don't get to communicate with the outside world as much, become depressed and that brings the inevitable that much closer.
For O.J. we kept our hopes up, but feared the worse for somebody whose enjoyment came from being out and about. After a successful surgery all we could do was wait and see how he (and his body) reacted.
It is funny how things evolve. He recovered without a problem, was actually itching to move about almost immediately after he left the operating table. With the aide of a cane and my dad keeping an eye on him, grandpa acted as if nothing had happened. His mind is still as sharp as it ever was, but his body is still working it's way back. Hence, his doctor indicated he needs to take it easy for some time as possible infections and illnesses come and go. For a person as stubborn as he is, my dad has had his hands full making sure grandpa is sticking to the doctor's word.
And..of course...he has a mind of his own. The last few months my dad has given O.J a "talking to" to get him to understand the limitations his body has that his mind apparently doesn't see (0r ignores). For example grandpa was told not to drive his car, but he did it anyway. Lucky for us nothing detrimental happened, but we are also looking out for others who may be on the road. Like a child, dad sat grandpa down and tried to express the need for him to take it easy.
To no one's surprise after getting word more than once through the Richmond Dale grapevine about a little old man matching O.J.'s description continuing to travel back roads and State Route 35, dad finally had to put the hammer down. He secretly removed the battery from O.J.'s car and hid it. Grandpa in his most cheerful, yet finger pointing tone, told my dad he didn't appreciate whoever it was that made off with his car battery. All the while Grandpa stared dad down like a buzzard after its prey. He knew better, he's not dumb.
Up until this past week, grandpa had been behaving. Although the sly old fox found a way to disregard doctor's orders and our pleas. My dad came home one evening and decided to hop in the car and check in on O.J., but found grandpa's home empty. There was no sign of him. His car (minus the battery) was even still there. Thinking maybe grandpa went for a walk or had a friend stop by and take him out somewhere, dad headed back home. As he pulled away from grandpa's driveway he noticed a tiny little figure waving him down from up the road coming in the opposite direction. "Dad?", he thought.
Sure enough grandpa was on the berm of the road headed home when he spotted dad and flagged him down...from behind the wheel of a lawn tractor, his riding lawn mower. Mystified dad pulls up to O.J. and grandpa says, "I just stopped by your house and Shelly (dad's wife) told me you were coming up this way." Dad wasn't too surprised, but was definitely taken back when grandpa admitted that for the past couple of weeks he had been driving his lawn mower to the store....the coffee shop...to visit friends and just about anywhere a mower could take you within reason. That is: anywhere, but an actual lawn.
That man was so itching to get out he had to find the best alternative to go about his business without putting himself, and others, in harms way. Now the roads where he lives are not heavily traveled and he can go about as fast as a 12 year old going uphill on a bicycle in August. Where is the danger? My brother is an executive for an assisted living community company in Texas he, too, was surprised but impressed with grandpa's ingenuity. Maybe grandpa started a phenomena. I can see the headlines now, "The Elderly Finding New life Traveling Via Lawn Equipment In Small Towns Across America." It duels as a scooter and a useful home lawn manicuring device!
All of us got a big kick out it. Grandpa amused himself as well, but was more proud of 'sticking it to the man' than anything. I guess you don't have to be just a teenager or young adult to disregard authority and thumb your nose up to society.
We're happy Orland, grandpa, is still with us and hope we can keep him around as long as we can. The man is a walking, talking history book as well as an amateur comedian. We want to pick his brain and know the details of our families' past that may soon otherwise be lost forever. I can't imagine not having that jokester around, so for the time being we're going to enjoy having him try to embarrass us in public and could care less how many people stare in horror.
He's grandpa, Orland....the REAL O.J.
**** UPDATE: Sadly, grandpa (O.J.) passed away on June 1st, 2012. He would have been 90 on December 29th. He left us peacefully.****