[SPOILER ALERT! Proceed with caution.]
My grandparents Hiddle were my father's parents, full up to the tops of their heads with goodness and sweetness, and mixed in with all that goodness and sweetness was a large dash of peculiarity. This combination made them interesting to know, but you could never predict what they would do or say (2.7).
Gram and Gramps are Sal's awesome, kickbutt, incredible grandparents that take her on a road trip to visit her mother in Lewiston, Idaho. They are as colorful as the landscape in Bybanks, Kentucky, where they are from, and they talk in a colorful way, too. They love Sal more than anything, and they love her dad (their only living son) just as much.
Gram and Gramps love life, and they know how to have a good time. Also, they get into a lot of harmless trouble. Sal tells us, "It might sound a bit extreme […] but when my grandparents got in a car, trouble just naturally followed like a filly trailing behind a mare" (2.6).
Even though her grandparents are cheery, funny, and full of love, they have also endured a lot of pain and sadness. For one thing, they have lost three sons in their lifetime:
They had three other sons at one time, but one son died when a tractor flipped over on him, one was killed when he skied into a tree, and the third died when he jumped into the freezing cold Ohio River to save his best friend (the best friend survived but my uncle did not) (18.2).
That's a whole lot of tragedy for one family. How are two people able to be so full of love and kindness and life after losing not just one, but three sons? Gram and Gramps Hiddle are a living example of how to go about dealing with the pain and sadness of life. They've learned how to stare their grief in the face, even shake its hand. They wear their hearts on their sleeve instead of sweeping their emotions under the rug. In this way, we could argue that they are Sal's greatest teachers. They truly understand the meaning of "You can't keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair"(29.29).
Here is where the Spoiler Alert kicks in, so make sure you tread carefully.
The final tragedy that Gram and Gramps must cope with comes when Grams suffers a stroke and dies. When he's forced to say goodbye to his gooseberry, Gramps is ever the trooper. He's unspeakably sad, of course, but he returns to Bybanks and keeps on trucking.