It is a warm and sunny afternoon at the Niles Train Depot. Soon, a shiny new engine will make its way down the tracks, stop for a short time to pick up and drop off its busy passengers, and then move on its merry way to the next stop. At the station, people of all ages wait for that train to come. Some are passengers themselves, yet others are simply there to pick up their loved ones who will be arriving from their vacations or business trips. With only minutes before the train is scheduled to arrive, the station comes alive with activity. Passengers line up awaiting the train’s arrival, the stationmaster pushes a luggage cart full of suitcases and boxes to the platform, and off in the distance, the sound of the train’s mighty whistle can be heard as it approaches the terminal.
The train arrives right on schedule. It looks like the Engineer did a great job. The train sits at the platform for a few minutes, and then the door to the engine compartment opens and a jolly old man steps out of the car and waves at the passengers waiting to board before sliding down the rails attached to the side of the Locomotive. The Engineer is wearing a blue coat and the traditional railroad attire. His hair is gray, and he looks very wise and stout. In his hand, he is carrying a green grip with Notre Dame printed on the front side of it. He stops and looks up at the wall of the station and glances at the clock on the façade. “Right on time” he exclaims with enthusiasm in his voice. He acknowledges the man standing beside him and shakes his hand. This is the replacement Engineer. Soon, the train continues on its journey Westward towards Chicago’s Union Station. For the Engineer who just got off, his shift is complete for the day. He is tired but seems happy. He whistles to himself as he walks to his car where his wife and grandson are waiting. The Engineer is my grandfather.
Long before I even entered the picture, my grandfather was just William D. Gillespie. He was born on February 23, 1923 in Chicago Heights, Illinois. He lived there until 1925. After going to school, he joined the Navy during World War II and earned the ranking of Gunners Mate. Then on May 29, 1948, he married my grandmother, Lorraine Kelly. They had four kids, two girls, Kathy, my mother, and Julie, my aunt, and two boys, Tom and Bill, who are both my uncles. In April of 1979 I was born and that’s when the relationship with my grandfather began.
The first thing that I can remember about being with my grandfather was when I was about the age of two, maybe a little older. My mom was on business a lot and I stayed at my grandfather's most of the time; in fact I was probably there more than I was at home. I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point during my young life, my grandfather dubbed me with the moniker of “Chimp.” As I grew older, my nickname was upgraded to “Ape.” I don’t know why this is, but it could have been due to the...