Grandpa Died Broke

When I was a kid, I used to sit out on my grandpa’s front porch with him a lot. It was a great view. He lived at the end of a dirt road, called “snake nation road”. There were a lotta snakes out there. I remember Grandpa killing a bunch of them. He had a long handled hoe that he kept the blade sharpened on, especially for that purpose. If he spotted a copperhead or a rattler, he’d corner it and down that hoe would come “whack”. Off with his head, like the Queen of Hearts would have said. But, all snakes aside, the view off the front porch of his old house was grand.

There was a fast creek just across the dirt road, where I’d often go spend hours catching crawfish and spring lizards. Just stand on the edge, or in the middle of the “crik” and turn over big rocks, and see what was underneath them hiding. You wouldn’t believe the size of some of those critters. But, back to the front porch sitting.

Grandpa would sit there in one of the rocking chairs, looking out at old “Johnny” mountain rising up in front of him, right behind Uncle Lark Davenport’s house. It was a beautiful little mountain back then. Grandpa had killed a lot of deer up there over the years. The antlers hung up on the upper rail of the front porch, along with some rattlesnake rattlers, and various other hunting souvenirs.

Every day at least once a day, Grandpa would get his wallet out of the upper pocket of his overalls, and proceed to count his money. Sometimes he’d have a good bit in there. He wasn’t planning on going anywhere and buying anything, he just liked to count his money. I always thought it was the Scots in him, as he was a pretty tight old man with a dollar. He once told me he “Didn’t want to die broke”.

As he got older, his memory went. I don’t know what type of dementia it was, but he couldn’t remember who he was, where he was, who anybody else was, and couldn’t put together a lucid sentence. Most of the time when we went to see him in the nursing home they put him in, he seemed happy to see us, but nothing he said made sense. It coulda been all the moonshine he’d drank over the years, or poor circulation. I don’t know. He didn’t have his wallet anymore in his overalls, didn’t have any money after a while either. Guess the nursing home got it. He ended up with nothing in the end. He lived to be 98 years old, and the last time I saw him he was in kidney failure, and dying. He died broke, but worse yet died without knowing that I still loved him. I told him, but he didn’t know what I was saying. Money was no longer an issue.

Occasionally, I think about that habit of his when I get my wallet out to see if there’s any cash there. Sometimes there is, sometimes not. I can assure you at this point, there’s never going to be much. But, I do have love. As I sat in the little swing out on our patio this afternoon with Evie and Ellie, and looked out at Lookout mountain, I realized I’m so rich I could never count how rich I really am. I’ve got a wonderful family….children, grandchildren…and even if I someday lose my memories, at least I will have had them. My grandfather never told me he loved me. Far as I can remember, I never heard him tell anyone that. That’s not the case with me.

The Early Years with Mom

My memories of my Mother start very early. I remember when we lived on 6th Street in Trion. It had to be before 1956, because we moved to a new house on Simmons street that year.

I remember in the hot summers, Mom would get the hose pipe and put the sprayer on the end of it, and turn it on “spray”….that fine setting where the water is almost a mist. She would spray that water for what seemed liked hours while I ran laughing out and back through it, imagining I was running through a giant waterfall, or a wall of water. She would let me help her put the sheets in the old washing machine, and then make me move back when she put the bleach into the clothes. I remember that smell as being something pleasant even til this day. We’d hang them out on the clothes line to dry. I never realized how young Mom was.

She was only 20 years old when I was born so she was really never much “older” than me. She would always get me a jar with a lid during the late summer evenings, and watch me as I ran around catching and filling that jar with lightning bugs. Mom didn’t work back then so she would sit around with me during the day and watch “Howdy Doody” and “Captain Kangaroo” on the tiny little TV we had….the one I remember had a screen about the size of today’s computer screen. You had to get up close to see the picture, but boy was the volume loud! I had oatmeal for breakfast most days…with raisins in it. A sandwich for lunch….usually peanut butter or bologna…sometimes fried. Then Mom would fix a big supper in the evenings for when Dad came home from work. A lot of potatoes and beans, cornbread or biscuits, and some meatloaf or fried chicken.

She was a good cook. She learned from my Grandma Stewart, who was the best cook ever. Mom wasn’t sick back then…not yet. She still smiled a lot, and laughed….things she didn’t do as much after the mental illness started creeping in on her and making her thoughts turn dark and turning the bright lights down to dim in her eyes. I’m surprised by those long ago things I can remember, because some days I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I guess it’s just because Mom was happy…and I am fortunate to remember the days of her happiness.

What we need to do.

Hoping for change without doing something about it is useless. Our country is at a crossroads now and it’s hard to believe sometimes the way things have changed. I saw a discussion about how this country has become “hypersensitive” to many things. Take something as inane as the Ashton Kucher commercial with him playing a Ballywood producer. It was comedy, but quickly got pulled for the way he did the portrayal. Groundbreaking shows of years past, like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” would NEVER make it on TV nowadays. Their are all kinds of “police” groups out there now. Word police, race police, sex police, gender police, etc., etc. It’s hard to say anything publicly without worrying about it being “politically correct” We talk about how great things are in this country, but there are still very dark corners. We are so divisively split down the middle on so many issues, it almost seems like we are living in two different countries sometimes.

We want to publicly meddle in way too many private issues and tell people what to do about them. And I’m not talking about just the government, but other institutions and individuals also wanting to do the meddling and the telling, and the condemning. We need to find where the middle ground is, and RACE for it. We need to quit telling people how they MUST live their lives.

We need to stop being so stupidly sensitive about things which do not matter. We need to embrace our family relationships, and our friendships and give when help is needed, not matter if a person is of a different race, or sexual persuasion, or political party, or religious affiliation. Most of all we need to love each other regardless of these aforementioned differences in ourselves. I’m not sure if we can do it, but at least we can try.