It’s a Wonder I Lived to be Grown

Who has never had the flu? No one that I know of. All the hyped-up remedies and prescriptions they have us taking now is for the birds, there are too many to count. How many of you took the flu shot this year? I did and have for years. I have been fortunate during my almost sixty years to be afflicted with little sickness. But if the flu “this” year counts, I thought I was a goner. Mine started out as just a whisper of a cough and a slight heaviness in my chest, nothing to give me a clue about what I was to encounter in a few more days. I know I called on Jesus to take me home at least three times a couple of weeks ago when I had it. I don’t think I hurt as bad as I did for those three painful days in my life. It felt as if someone was pulling me apart, slowly had they attached my ankles and wrist to pullies and began pulling slowly.  The pain started as deep, uncomfortable, but bearable. After a day or two, it was as if every joint in my body was screaming and the fever was unreal, 103.4 on the worst day. Too late for the docs to do anything about it. I could not get warm, even with a heated blanket and blankets atop of that. The residual days were bearable, but still took about two weeks to feel half-way human. I said all this because when I was a kid, we got smeared from head to toe with Vick’s Vaporub when the first cough of the season started. I can still feel the mini-moms rubbing Vick’s all over my chest, and my back, just to have mom come along and stick globs of it up our nose in our mouths and rub our feet with it at night when we went to bed. Covering our heads with towels over boiling water to breathe in the steam. I guess the vaporizer is a great invention, especially since one can add the Vicks to that as well.  Other medication in the cabinet was that nasty, black draught syrup, God help us all if anyone was constipated. When Spring time, it didn’t matter, if you had them, knew what they were, how you got them or not, you got pin worm medicine. Daddy made sure of that every year, which reminds me of a time when little sister Cindy came in the house with purple slobber all around her mouth.  Mom and Dad where frantic trying to figure out what she had gotten in to. When finally, little brother Randy told dad she had been in his car and had gotten the worm pills out of the car pocket. I guess she thought they were sweet, none the less, she lived through it. Mom always had a bottle of Bayer, baby aspirins in the cabinet. They were orange and we liked them, sometimes just for the heck of it because they were sweet. My dad didn’t believe in going to the doctor, one would have to be almost dead to go. Anyway, this story is gross, just so you know. One of my uncles used to keep some of his pigs on our farm. Since we lived out there, we usually took care of them for him. One afternoon, Buddy and I were feeding my uncles hogs. He had a small barn with his feed stored there. To have known us back then, we were always barefooted. Anyway, I step in the little barn to grab a bucket to start feeding when I stepped on a double-edged axe. My left foot was sliced wide open, I can see the blood running everywhere. There is no telling what that old axe had on it to get an infection from, but that’s not the half of it. There was an old tin cattle trough used to water the pigs. Inside it was mossy, pretty much green and probably had wiggle tails in it (baby mosquitoes), which were probably the least of my worries. Buddy runs over, helps me to that old trough, sticks my bloody foot in that gross, probably stagnated water and began to remove the blood. I remember he took off his shirt, wrapped my foot with it and helped me hobble back to the house. It was about a quarter of a mile from the house. I get home and my mother is livid. I was afraid to see her, because I knew what the remedy for that was. She took me outside, washed it out with the water hose, it was still bleeding profusely. After rinsing and rinsing, here comes the bottle of rubbing alcohol, talk about anticipating the worse, it was! Mom packed it the best she could and wrapped it real tight, blood was still trying to come through the home-made bandage. Not long after the incident, dad is home from work and mom tells him that she thinks I need to go and have some stitches put in my foot. Dad takes me outside and Oh My GOD! He takes out the packing and shoves my foot into the sand. “Now it will stop bleeding”. Of course, after a while, it did stop bleeding. I can look on the bottom of my left foot and still sport a tightened scar, one that I can still feel when I walk because of the way it healed. I guess I was one prone to accidents, because I was the one that always seemed to test the fate of Tetanus. Again, probably that summer, I was climbing over a wooden fence inside one of the pig pins “of course a nasty pig pin” and a nail that was sticking straight through on the other side of the board, tore a whole in my left inner thigh, I still sport a widened scar there too. This isn’t to mention the time when I was four years old, I was climbing on top of the cabinet to get a glass to get a drink of water, when I slip into the sink with that glass in my hand, breaking it and slicing my right hand to the bone. Sliced badly enough that mom ran me from the house where we lived to the clinic. I can still feel her holding me tight and feel the jog as she is running. I can still hear her heavy breathing and out of breath talk she is giving to Dr. Pate. Today, and for the last 55 years the right side of my right hand is paralyzed with the inability to even bend my right pinky finger. I guess that could be a good thing since I’m 48% British, and none would be the wiser if I liked to drink tea from a cup. LOL….. Sometimes, I wish it had been removed, but oh well, it’s just a reminder of youth now and occasionally continues to poke me in the eye when I’m combing my hair. To end this blog on a somewhat funnier note, for you all, not for me, especially at the time. My dad used to raise game chickens (fighting roosters), illegal today and probably was then too. Anyway, I was to go gather eggs in this hen house, separate from the regular chickens. Now, here’s the fun part for y’all. I come running out of the hen-house as fast as I went in, for one of the fighting roosters has decided I am his target for a fight. I wish I could have this on film as it is in my mind. This rooster is on top of my head, flogging the begeebies out of my forehead, blood running down my face, into my eyes when thankfully, along comes Buddy, seemingly my savior in misadventure. I am running, and this darn chicken is on my head. Buddy is trying to knock it off of my head with a stick. Can you even imagine? This must have made for some great comic relief somewhere, but of course I bear the scars from that as well, right in the middle of my forehead. I lived, the rooster lived, and I can still see Buddy today with a stick chasing me with a rooster on my head. I guess it’s a wonder I lived to be grown.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

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Mother’s Candy Cake

I wish I had a piece of my mom’s candy cake right now. I’m watching as she takes out her ingredients. Its art really. The table is her easel her hands the paint brush. I’m little, I don’t really understand how its made, only that it is wonderful. She stands at the table, all 5 feet 5 of beautiful, my mom. As always, her natural curly hair coiffed just right, her nose powdered and her lipstick on. As I watch, I can still see her gentle hands with the pointed fingernails as they crack a couple of eggs in a bowl, while adding other things from her palette to make it colorful, often using food coloring to make different colors for her layered candy cake. I can still see her wrap hard candies, peppermints, jolly ranchers, and butterscotch into a towel, take it outside on the porch and beat it with a hammer until the candy was broken into little chips. Adjusting her easel, she empties the contents of her towel into the bowl of blue batter. I see specks of all colors of hard candy inside the batter. As she makes another colored layer to her cake I see the muscles in her upper arm contract and relax as she beats and folds in the candy. What mesmerized me was that after the cake was done, the candy had melted into the cake and became gooey and never hardened again, it was scrumptious. I see the old, round cake pans she is using, they are floured and there is a metal handle built in to the pan or something. It can be turned  360 degrees to unstick the cake from the pan when it’s done, before turning it upside down. How cool is that? This was artwork at its finest. After about three layers of cake she begins to make a frosting, sometimes just a simple sugar syrup made by boiling water and adding sugar, letting it condense down with a little vanilla and then pour it over the cake while it was hot. Sometimes she would make a caramel-like icing. The skillet is cast iron, again dark from use. She pours in, I don’t know how much sugar. My brothers, and I would watch it melt. As it began melting, mom would add butter and milk, made from powder to it. While we watched it boil, she would stir it over and over, so it wouldn’t seize up. The sweets she could make sometimes were outrageous, and the candy cake was a beautiful piece of art. I can see her slicing the cake with the over-sized butcher knife, putting the pieces into mix match saucers. The colors from her canvas coming to life with swirls of, yellow, green, white, blue, orange and more. With mouths watering, mom finally says it is cool enough to eat. She has made a gallon of milk from the dry powdered milk we used to get from the basement of the court house, from the government commodities issued once a month, but that’s a different story. I have not had a piece of that candy cake in years now, since mom has been gone. Nothing I have eaten or tried to make has tasted like hers, I don’t suppose anything ever will. I know my sister Cindy has the recipe (or receipt) as mom called it, written in my mother’s hand and if anyone could come close to replicating that masterpiece, it would be her. When you have a mom, everything is perfect. I know mine was for me. So many thoughts, feelings, pictures and feelings rush home to me, the tranquil spirit she exuded, the safety of her little house as we became grown. No where could you fall to sleep faster than moms. Her bright light still shines in memory and mind and in my heart’s window. I’m startled from my trance as the dog starts to bark, remembering I am not there, but it felt as though I was. Maybe my dog thought so too. I could feel her presence as she talked to me in my daydream. I felt her muss my hair as she did so often and said “now go out and play”. My eyes are open now, my visitor gone, leaving behind the lingering smell of Mother’s Candy Cake.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Prelude

It is my hope that the stories, nostalgic memoirs and struggles I tell of my life are somehow relatable to all who read them. For some it will instill a more patient, tender heart and make some more appreciative of the life they lead and were given. Maybe it will let them know the sacrifices their past gave for them in some small way, not to have had to experience the unrealistic sound of realism I write. I want those who had a materialistic view of life to realize that all relationships were not as dysfunctional as mine. I understand that no family is perfect and in no way am I trying to diminish the struggles you, the readers have been through, for you are the only one who knows your story. It is my intent to let you know that things are and can be ok. My childhood was a season in my life that took many revolutions of the sun to turn into Spring. I suppose this story should have been the prelude to understanding my life’s journey. When I write of nostalgia, it is just that, for nostalgia is a time that I long for and I miss. Writing about a memory could mean different things, a tale of feeling the impending doom that obsessed me as a child, from fear of either not being good enough, being looked over, passed over, or being the rotten apple in the basket. But, life has been good to me, despite weathering many storms. It has taught me to look forward, to live and to forgive. No, I am not, nor will I ever be a saint. Have I always made good decisions? Absolutely not. Has the past affected the panoramic view I have of society and people? Yes, without a doubt. Panoramic because maybe I didn’t take the time to know you, the time to understand your problems were deeper than the surface. When we take a panoramic view of life, we only see the surface, not what made you or me how and who we are. I have been shown the good when I couldn’t see it myself, through others. I have been knocked down by the ignorant, intolerant, entitled brats of my childhood as many of you have, only now to recognize their life’s pressures that show the strain of life’s struggles through their actions, change in lifestyles and the dents they display on their once familiar, immortal chassis. I speak of my childhood, my brother’s, sister’s and parents often. They are the base and pillar of my existing memory, for they were always the constant in my life. As I see less days ahead of me than behind, I honor their sacrifice, as menial as it might have seemed yesterday, as monumental to me in the present. Many were the day that the black cloud hovered over our house, became what seemed stationary and then moved on, just to return with more effort in each of us to endure and compartmentalize. Compartmentalize because as a child there is nothing left to do but to accept this is life, a life that cannot be changed without learning a behavior and self-belief in that one day the stifling soot left behind can be lifted, if not through someone, through one’s self. For during my life as a child, I’m sure I was called every name ever written that a poor kid could be called. Words that cannot be unsaid by people you thought would never say them. But more than that remembering the look of disgust on their face because in their minds, they felt as though their life was grander in the scheme of things than mine. Now, don’t read anything into this story that wasn’t written, there is no room for feeling sorry, or poor things they had it so hard. Because, my siblings and I are a testimony to the test of faith and belonging to a clan that lifts one another up when their down. I am on top of the world. I have a nuclear family and we possess more compassion for life and what’s in it than many people can absorb. I don’t miss the subtle things anymore, I read the signs of life and struggles easily, as if my second language. They are written in my soul and I am thankful for that. I am certainly no mystic or fortune teller, but once educated in life’s negative forces, they are easily seen in others. I come from a family that is positive, strong and able to ignore those negative forces; these attributes I gladly leave as a legacy.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

What a Strange Memory

As I sip my coffee from my favorite cup this morning, I find myself slipping back in time again. Sounds much like dementia, but I assure you I have no such diagnosis, at least not yet. Growing up in rural America, people think there is nothing to do. What people? Even the older generation, the ones older than me can think back to what happened in their lives. When did becoming old cause young people to think we had no experiences, or that we lived this life in some sort of vacuum? Ha! That’s like saying “If these walls could talk”. I know in years gone by there were several theatres, even drive in theatres in our town. But, this memory happens on Friday and Saturday nights. Starting out on an early Saturday morning, any number of people could be seen window shopping in one of the many storefronts around the square and up the road. We were an advanced community with essentials and choices at our fingertips. As the sun started going down, the traffic began to increase. No, in this scene the carpet was not rolled in by midnight, for there was too much adventure to partake. The square had to be driven around for the thousandth time and car horns that had to be heard, much like a Morse code. I’m not saying we didn’t have curfew’s. “Oh, I forgot”, that is a word that is virtually retired too. For those reading today’s nostalgia, curfew meant there was a time we had to be home or suffer consequences. This word still exists today for some, but mostly in our memory. What a grand theatre the Palace was, as was the Zana, I’ve been told, but that was a little before me too. I can remember exactly how it looked and I haven’t been in that building in, well you know, years. The door opens and the concession stand is to the left, wafting off the aroma of popcorn. What a brilliant idea to lure money to jump out of the pocket. The display case has Milk Duds, Oh Henry’s, Chick O’ Sticks, Milky Ways and Snickers bars, and has a soda fountain. The ticket booth is straight ahead, with a small arched, cut out window for the ticket taker. There are upcoming movie posters to the right on the walls. The lady’s restroom to the left end of the hall and the men’s to the right. I can see in my mind the age the accents were now, including the lavatories. The large auditorium had a slanted floor, making one almost feel as though they were lurching forward as they found their seat. At the very end of the theatre was a stage where plays could be performed. There was a balcony above that I shutter to think of the goings on, but I’m old remember and I’m not supposed to know that stuff. I have no idea how I lived so long to be so dumb, do any of you? LOL……The ending to all of this stutter is simply leaving the theatre and remembering the color of blue jeans under the lighted courthouse square. Under that light, they were purple, vivid hues of purple. What a strange memory.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Forever That Moment

The morning light streams through the uneven blind, streaming with different shades of brightness, darkening toward the edges and becoming brighter in the middle, I stare at it. As the light hits the glass, half-empty of water, it becomes a prism, bursting with colors that would have been lost if I had not awakened.  Lying there between then and now, ghosts of a lost time emerge with the intent to remind me of the laughter that memories of my Easter brings. Memories bring them back, a chance to say hello to grandma, reminisce and say thank you for those moments that time has stood still for us. Time is passing, and we say all too quickly, but only the time that is passing right now is passing, for the time before is stuck, forever at that moment. Forever that memory of grandmother dipping the eggs in the colored water, her thin fingers touching all the colors with residual hues seen around her finger nails still reels in time. The love can be felt when another drop of blue or red dripped into the glass of water at that times moment, for that moment is passed and is not now. Her beautiful, silver hair catching the light in the kitchen as she turns just right to deliver a smile and a welcome to join. All this unbeknownst to childhood until the memory is stirred from somewhere deep that reached down, surfaced and became that moment in time that these colors were made by the hands of now the past, yet linger, loudly in the stillness of the light breaking through my window. Grandmothers smile was sweet as those sugary, candy eggs we delighted in finding on Easter morning, but the sweetness does not compare to that warp in time when the aunt’s and mother were one in the day, were extra hands continuing a legacy that is virtual at this moment, for that too is a moment that is still stuck in time, not going, but time passing still. My beautiful cousins, brothers and sisters looking back are still there in that place where pain is not, it has yet been felt, only joy and youth has an allotment of time for then. This time is not breached or shared by future or past, for it was then, then when we remember as ours that we shared our existing memory that has been placed in a corner, waiting for a burst of light to reach that spot, to revive another memory that is not lost or forgotten, just in a place, waiting to merge into a magnificent burst of color, just as it was when it was placed there. Those moments that are stuck in time are memories that were made long ago, in a time that is no more, immemorial, but exists as time just the same. I love you Grandma, kiss your babies that raised us for me, for they too are still there, waiting for a moment in time to come alive at that time. It will be Easter soon, our favorite holiday!!!!

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

A Gentler Hand

If I’ve learned nothing else in life, through the eyes of a child to the ears of an adult, I know that in that insignificant way we have made a difference. I was reminded the other day of when my dad had passed away. He was only 65, but the later years were his best years, or they were with us. He became weaker in body, as many of us do and will. He still would drink his beer and have his cigarettes, but hardly to the extent of yesteryear. He became more mellow and loving, with kinder words to say, with a gentler hand to his grandchildren than he had ever had with us. During the time of my dads passing there were so many people in and out of the house, bringing food, checking on mother and the rest of us. Several of momma’s sisters were there to make sure she was doing ok. It was an amazing comradery of a small town, the people, some almost strangers to me, but not to my mom and dad. These people came into mother’s home, cooked meals, brought food, cleaned floors, bathrooms, washed clothes, bought house supplies and talked to people as mother rested. Flooding back the memory of knowing my dad hardly ever, or should I say probably never was a visitor to any of our houses. We belonged at his house and that’s where we gathered. Anyway, a few days before his passing, I was visiting with him one morning and I just mentioned I was going to have to get the faucet in the front bathroom worked on because it had a leak. Nothing else was mentioned. The question arises, do you think certain people know when their time is ending? I say this because, although my dad never visited our homes, he made a special trip that week. He visited every child he had living near him. It was a Sunday morning, early and someone rang our door bell. It was my dad. He came in, sort of awkward because we weren’t used to him being at our house. He sat in our oversized chair and I can distinctly hear him say “I need a chair like this at home, I like this”. With a short conversation about several things, including that he was going to be grandpa again. He was excited about that, happy. I said dad, “but we’ve lost so many” and he sad “Oh, don’t worry this time son, your going to get your baby”.  Enough conversation, dad says, “where’s that faucet you have that is running”? I show him in the bathroom, the bathtub was a turquoise blue. Dad said, “let me get some things out of my truck”, he came in with his tool box. I was always intrigued by his tool box, because everything was always neat and, in its place, not mine. If I needed something I usually had to go borrow, because it was always misplaced. Thats another thing my dad used to say, “don’t loan anything to Charles, he won’t bring it back”. Dad had been out at the farm, his favorite place in the world to be, if you needed him, that’s where you would find him. Always painting something, usually brown. Ok, sorry, I get sidetracked. Like I said, I get to running over my memories. Dad brought his tool box in the bathroom, asked me if I would shut off the water, which I did. He began to take the faucet apart, with hands that were still large, much larger than my own, but still able to gently remove small things. He had a bend in his right middle finger, much like the one I have in my right ring finger, from years of use and arthritis starting to settle in. Besides the fixing of the faucet and the short thank you to dad, he was gone in a flash to his next stopping spot. Vivid as yesterday, I see his footprint in my bathtub and the sand left there, the outline of what was to be part of the last of his life. By the end of the weekend, he had been to all of our houses, just to say hello or to see if we needed anything. Lives had changed, dad had changed. There were days my wife and I would be out for a drive, stop at the store and get them each a candy bar. Dad like three musketeers and mother loved Almond Joys. Just like children, it was amazing to see how quickly my dad could scarf that candy bar down and then say “momma, you going to eat all of your candy”? Mom of course would bring him half of hers and he would just laugh, much like the old cowboy calendars we would get from the bank each year. There was always a drawing, usually western and if you didn’t laugh, dad would always say “You don’t get it do you? You don’t get it”. When he passed we found several of those old calendars. I wished I had one framed today, it would have made an awesome memory. The weekend is gone, and it is Monday afternoon. I drive by their little house and dad is on the porch, I waved, and he waved back, not knowing that would be my last glimpse of his fatherhood, for on Tuesday, October 17, 1989 my mother called me from the neighbor’s house, the neighbor on the line said, “Charles, your mother needs to talk to you”. In her angelic, soft-toned, tender, unmistakable voice, it was my mother. She said, “Charles Dean, I can’t wake your daddy up, I can’t wake him up, would you go get Randy”? “He can always wake him up.” Randy had seen his share of dad’s past years of passing out under the influence and this was the closest to reality my mother could come at this point. I hurriedly went by and picked up another brother, and when we got there, she was holding him in her arms, washing his face gently with a wash rag. But he was gone, she knew it, but couldn’t let go, let go of the only person who truly knew her, knew her inadequacies, trials, tribulations, shortcomings and problems, the man in the best way he knew how, helped her raise a family, The man that would come home drunk in the middle of the night and fall in the yard. Mom would get a pillow and blanket, cover him up and wait on the porch until he awoke, this man was her one true love. Momma was devastated for days to come. The service on Thursday was long, the church was standing room only, I remember thinking, “I will be glad when this part is over”. It finally was over and after leaving the church and the cemetery, we got mom home, put her to bed where she stayed for many days. Each of us taking times to spend nights on end with her, until she finally said, “I’m ok now”, you kids can go home. And, To just throw this in, Timberly and I did have our baby boy he mentioned, three days after my dads birthday” the next year.  My mother lived another 24 years to the very day, October 17, 2013 in that same little house, lacking two weeks until her 87th birthday, where again, my brother Randy found her sound asleep. She had gone in the most glorious, passionate way the lord can call anyone home, in her sleep, without pain, to be reunited with all that she missed, all that she loved and why not? For she had endured the worst of times. I would like to think, in his glory he knew her little mind suffered unrelentingly and that she was a special angel, deserving to go quietly into the night. So as I write, I know without a doubt she is reserving our place with her. Thank you, mom and dad, for the memories. It is at this time of life we tend to remember the good you did. Memories don’t fade, they just get tucked away, the good ones and especially the bad ones. But for me, reliving those memories is therapeutic, they inundate me with facts of love and the need to be kind, the need to change and to always have a gentler hand.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Rebels We Were

Oh, it’s been so long-ago Buddy Lee, but do you remember the time you and I took off in dad’s truck because we wanted to go fishing? It was almost as if we had planned a heist or something, and really, I guess you could say we did, sort of. I wasn’t old enough for a driver’s license, but Buddy had his. The evening before we had planned to go fishing, no one knew but us. We got our hooks, rod and reels, a box of worms from Alton’s and a box of shrimp ready and we were going to be big time fisherman and bring home a fish fry, right? Buddy was 17 and I was 15, just at that age when kids want to test the waters, literally, you’ll see. As dad had taught us forever to take something with you to eat, we had gotten a couple of cans of beanie weenies, Vienna sausage and some crackers, just enough for a snack because we knew we would get hungry later. Morning comes and I’m sure, unfortunately it was the Lord’s day because we weren’t go to church that day (heathens). We wondered what aunt Velma would say, she’s the one that nearly always drove down the old dirt road to the house to pick us up for church, anyway we were going fishing. I guess the explanation would be worth it later. Dad was already on the tractor and I’m sure there were chores he had lined out for us as always, but not today, rebels we were! Mom kind of knows something is up and so does Rodney, because if one went anywhere, the next one always wanted to go. We told mom that we had some things to do in town and would be back later. She said, “what kind of things”? Buddy off the cuff said, “we have to go clean out Miss Gibson’s flowerbeds today”, and of course my mom said, “why today, it’s Sunday and she’s going to be at church”. Everyone knew Buddy didn’t know how to lie, but we went with that story anyway. Daddy did radiator and mechanic work for nearly every county connected to Cottle county, so he knew one of the managers at the Triangle Ranch over at Crowell and he would often let us in to fish. There were several nice stocked tanks to fish in on the ranch. This is an old saying my dad used to say, whether it works or not, who’s really to say. Dad would say, “there’s an art to catching fish”. “If the wind is blowing from the north, don’t go forth. If the wind is blowing from the east, fish bite the least, If the wind is blowing from the west, fish bite the best and if the winds blowing from the south, it blows the hook in their mouth”. I don’t know who told him this old wives’ tail, but the wind must have been blowing from all the wrong directions. We stayed out there for hours hardly getting anything to bite at our lines. The day was getting on, getting pretty hot actually. We are getting hungry and of course by now thirsty as well. We go to the truck for a break to have a snack and wouldn’t you know it, there wasn’t any water, no soda, nothing to wet your whistle in the truck. How are you going to eat Vienna weenies and crackers without something to drink? We thought and thought and thought about what to do. We hardly had any money and certainly hoped we had enough gas to get back to Paducah on, so what did we do? We found an old beer can in the back of the truck, cut the top of it off, poked a hole in the top of it, put it on the rod and reel and cast it out in the water, all the while knowing we would probably die from amoebic dysentery. We would throw it out as far as it would go and reel in mossy, nasty, greenish colored water. We each drank a little but knew this wasn’t going to work. So, unable to drive myself, (But I could, I learned to drive in an old 1963 Ford Fairlane, column shift when I was 12, and had already learned to drive the tractor by age 10) Buddy starts out from the ranch to make it to Crowell, probably about 10 miles from where we were. I stayed behind with the pellet gun, you know just in case a confrontation with nature occurred. “I’m sure I could have done a lot of damage to a wild hog or something more ferocious than that with a pellet gun”. But, it has killed a lot of rattle snakes. Forty + years later, you can find that old pellet gun in my mom’s little house. It was my brother Johnny’s, so it is older than that. With what seems like forever, Buddy returns with a gallon of water, looks as if at least a third of it is gone by now, that’s ok because another third is fixing to be gone. I turned that water up and never tasted anything sweeter and more refreshing. It was after that that our cotton mouths were able to eat our Vienna’s and crackers. It’s getting on into the afternoon and nothing was happening, a few perch a small catfish or two of which were thrown back and we decided it was time to go face our adversary, our dad. It had been a great day though, spending time with my best friend, laughing, talking about the future, girls, football, “always football with him”, being away from the house without permission was in its own way casting all to the wind. Going forward, we packed up our tools of a fisherman’s trade, put it all in the truck and started home. About an hour later we were back home, thinking none the wiser, for dad was still on the tractor. At this time, Buddy and I were the oldest left at home, the older ones had moved on. We washed up outside with the water hose, as we always did before going in, and the first thing mom said was, “I guess you know your aunt Velma came by to pick you boys up for church this morning”? Yes ma’am we said, we were sure she had. “Well I just want you to know that I went with her and the kids this morning and Kenneth (dad) isn’t to happy with your disappearing act today. Where’d y’all go? Buddy began to tell the story and how it ended, mom mussed his hair and told us both that daddy knew we were gone and she had no idea what the consequences would be. Before sundown, we see dad washing up at the water hose, spraying water in his hair, washing his face and drying it with his wet hands. Supper was almost ready when dad came in. He didn’t say a word about us being gone, not one word. Not one word the rest of the whole evening about it. Yes, “we said”, we did it. Well, not so fast. Dad usually went to bed about nine or 10 in the evenings after he had drunk his beer and eaten supper. He was on his way to bed when he came and found both of us, remind you it is pitch black outside. There was no farmhouse light at our house like there were at many of the country homes. He looked at each of us, thrust a flashlight at us and said, “Now get outside and clean the yard, do what I told you to do earlier (well, that came out of nowhere, because we didn’t hear it. I guess our plans obscured the booming voice and orders we had been given) and if it’s not done right you’ll do it again tomorrow”. Oh, man, yes, we were done for, because the yard was already clean, it had been mowed, raked and the whole nine yards. One wonders, did he hide something out there that we were supposed to find in order to validate his orders? We were out for hours past mid night before we came in. Dad was sleeping. Not much had been done, but he awoke and said did you get it all done”? We said, “yes sir”, and he said, “I’ll see in the morning”. Morning came, and we were still breathing so I guess he hadn’t killed us, or at least not at that point. Dad was getting ready for work, Buddy and I were up too, because we worked for a school program for a summer job. The only lecture we got, low and behold was, “don’t do things behind my back, don’t lie to me, and make sure your work is always as good as the work y’all did last night”. My dad had his tender moments and was good, often! I paint a despairing picture of him in many stories and they are real, but one must ask the question, how do I continue to have so much love for this man? We all truly adored my father, with all his demonic, adversaries. We knew it was the alcohol, not him. The pain we suffered was not from the man, but the demon that changed the man. I carry fond memories of him, I carry authentic, relevant teachings from him. I miss him, always! But, the one thing for sure I remember was the day I became a rebel, if only for a day with my best friend. Buddy, thank you for making my childhood so much better than it could have been.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)