Anthony Wayne Webner

My other grandfather, Anthony Wayne Webner, was born on March 31. Oddly, one of my grandfathers was born on March 1 and the other on March 31.

I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know nearly as much about Grampa Webner as I should, probably because he died of lung cancer when I was young. As a kid, I thought the most interesting thing about him was that he was a painter. He painted landscapes, and portraits, and a kind of abstract depiction of piano keys in a blue swirling mist that he called “Rhapsody in Blue.” He set up an easel on their screened-in porch and painted out there while chain-smoking unfiltered Camel cigarettes. The porch was a neat place to visit because it had lots of odd objects — a palette that he would let you pick up if you were careful, rolled up tubes of oil paint, a collection of pipes (which he also smoked) and a big ashtray with a knob in the middle that he used to knock the ash out of a pipe, a neat wooden Indian, pieces of driftwood, and other bric-a-brac that he used to make up still life scenes.

I was told that Grampa Webner worked for the railroad and then as a bookkeeper for Goodyear before he retired. His co-workers must have liked him, because they cared enough to give him a classic retirement gift — a cutout picture of his face on a drawing of a guy frantically pedaling a biplane that was signed by everyone in his department with the heading “Web Takes Off.” He was a distinguished looking man, with white hair and a neatly clipped white moustache, and my grandmother took great pride in the fact that people used to tell her that he looked like a doctor. He was meticilous about his painting — often painting and repainting portraits of loved ones — and meticulous about his personal appearance. He was attentive to other details, too. For example, he was disgusted by the way we kids sprayed the cake blowing out our birthday candles and (good-naturedly, but firmly) asked my mother to put wax paper on top of the cake and punch the candles through the wax paper, so he could have his cake without a coating of our saliva. Not a bad technique, actually.