Home » A Wasted Life » My Grandma And Grandpa

My Grandma And Grandpa

My grandma and grandpa were my daddys’ mama and daddy.  Mama never called them anything but Mr. and Mrs. S******* so that’s what I called them until the day they died.  My daddy called his mama “mama” and he called his daddy “papa.”  My grandpa called my grandma “son.”
They both had the patience of Job.  I never saw them get mad…even when my uncle got drunk, fell down and my grandpa and I had to pick him up and try to get him in the bed.
My grandma was one of the best cooks around and could “whomp” up a meal fit for a king…out of nothing.  Our main “meat” was fat-back (or salt pork as it is called in the North.)  To this day, I still love fat-back.
She would tell me it was time for dinner, which was my cue to go out in the yard and dig up Irish potatoes.  That’s when I developed my love of raw potatoes.  I would eat the potatoes, skins, dirt and all.
My grandpa loved the same white gravy that Loser did.  It was so thick, that a spoonful would “stay put” if it was turned upside down.
My grandmas’ coffee was, as my grandpa said, “strong enough to grow hair on your chest.”
My grandma had “Southernisms.”  She would say “el, I wished I’m a die.”  That meant she was flabbergasted.  She would say that I was looking “peurt” which meant spry.  I do believe that she was one of the sweetest women who ever lived.  The only one who could even compare was Losers’ Grandma H*** (his daddys’ mama.)
My grandma would stand and look out the window for what seemed like hours.  Mama used to make fun of her for doing that but later in her life, she did the same thing.  I asked my grandma what she was seeing and she said “I’m just looking.”
My grandma surprised me once when she said that she would like to go to Hollywood.  I was teasing her about wanting to see a good-looking movie star or something but she said “I’d like to see Disneyland.”
I lived in “Mickey Mouse” world for many years but I never went to see any of the attractions.  I wish now that I had so my grandma could have seen it through my eyes.
I don’t know much about her childhood except that she was sent away to live with relatives when she was about five.  I know she had brothers and one of them was accidentally shot and killed when he was sixteen.  I know she barely remembered her daddy.  She had a picture of him that hung on the wall.  I heard her tell my grandpa one time that she dreamed about her daddy that night.
She only went to the seventh grade and I was completely surprised when I got a letter from her.  I don’t think it occurred to me that she could read or write.
I know nothing about my grandpas’ childhood, other than he was raised by his mamas’ second husband and he was apparently a good step-daddy.  My grandpas’ daddy died when he was twenty-three.  Rumor has it that he was arguably one of the most handsome men to ever come out of Madison County.  He stood six feet six inches tall.
He died from typhoid fever.  Rumor also has it that my grandpas’ mama was a beautiful woman and never really got over “the love of her life.”  Neither my grandma or grandpa ever talked about their young lives.
My grandpa talked a little about some things.  He was too young for World War I and he was too old for World War II.  He grew up dirt poor and remained poor his entire life.
He told me that after he and my grandma got married and had my daddy, he was desperate to find a job but there were none to be found.  He was walking home after an exhausting, unfruitful day of searching for work and spotted a man putting a new roof on his feed and seed building.  My grandpa asked him if he needed any help and the man said no.  My grandpa said he started out standing on the ground, talking…then he was halfway up the ladder…talking…then he was on the roof…talking…and before long, he was helping the man put on his roof.  He worked for ten hours and the man paid him a nickel.  My grandpa worked all week, for twenty-five cents and ten nails.
He taught me that if you dip a nail in oil, you can “almost drive it into concrete” and if a screw is loose, all you have to do is take the screw out, put a toothpick in the hole and it will tighten right up.
My grandpa had a little book that he kept right beside the sofa.  Every time he read or heard something interesting, he would write it down.  What I wouldn’t give for that little book.  He was writing in it one day and when he was finished, he asked me if I knew what a sideburn was.  I told him I did and he asked me if I knew where the term came from.  He said that it was from a man named Robert Burnside who had the lamb chop thing going on.  I remembered that and actually won a trivia contest once because that was a question.
My grandma, having a bad back, wore a “girdle-type” back brace for as long as I could remember.  She had a favorite chair…a turquoise recliner.  She was sitting in it one day and my grandpa walked by and gently touched her on the cheek.  She blushed like a new bride.  I will never forget that tender moment they shared.
Years later, when I introduced them to my second daughter and told them her name, my grandma said “el…that’s B**s’ name.”  I was so glad they got to know her name before they died.
When my grandpa died, I think my grandma grieved herself to death.  I wasn’t told that they had died because (as I said) my daddy said “I was afraid you would try to come to their funeral.”  I guess he didn’t want to piss mama off…just like Loser kept all of us away from his daddys’ funeral so it wouldn’t piss off his precious mama.
My daddy went over to their house (which they left to my drunk uncle, who promptly sold it for booze) and picked up her old washboard from the yard.  Until the day she died, she washed all of their clothes by hand and used that washboard.  B gave it to me and it is among my most treasured belongings.
Somehow, he got her wedding rings.  I didn’t even know she had any.  She had at some point, told B that she wanted her granddaughter to have them.  He gave them to my little sister, who probably wouldn’t have recognized my grandma and grandpa if she had passed them on the street.  I asked him if he really thought she wanted D**** to have them.  He said “mama said she wanted her granddaughter to have them.”  I wonder who the Hell he thought I was?
I quickly got in touch with my little sister (who had said if she ever passed me on the street, she would spit in my face) and offered a trade.  I didn’t care if she spit on me…I wanted those rings.
I gave her a ruby and diamond ring, necklace, bracelet and earrings to match.  I would have given her my entire jewelry box.
A few years ago, I gave those rings to my middle daughter.  Even though she no longer speaks to me, I hope she will treasure them.
I didn’t know where my grandma and grandpa were buried.  I called the records department one day and they told me the name of the cemetery.  A friend of mine and I found it.  My drunk uncle was buried right beside them and I resented it.  I only glanced at it long enough to see his worthless name on the tombstone.
They were two wonderful people who loved me and tried to make me feel like I mattered.
I knelt on their graves and talked to them for a few minutes.  I told them that I was too damaged to know or appreciate how much they cared about me.  I was too damaged and broken to let them know how much they meant to me and I wanted them to know it now.
I hope I will see them again someday.

8 thoughts on “My Grandma And Grandpa

  1. My poor little broken friend. It doesn’t do to look at the past. What matters is that you pay this forward. They knew you were broken, and they know you loved them. Make sure you live the way they did. Work hard, sort yourself, keep your chin up. Be the Phoenix from the ashes. Rise above. Sounds like they had strife and hurt and trouble, but also found a way to smile. Keep that in your heart.


    • They may have been poor in material things but they were rich in love. If I could have felt the kind of love from Loser that my grandma felt from my grandpa, I would die a happy woman. I would have traded all the money and fancy cars and big houses and fine clothes for an ounce of love. Sigh.


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