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Interstellar Adventure
Adventure: the pursuit of life — Daniel Roy Wiarda

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Poopie got me thinking...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I was reading Poopie's blog earlier, and she was talking about her first tomato of the summer. It reminded me of my great-grandfather. I'm one of those lucky people that got to know my great-grandparents quite well. My great-grandfather, John, died in 1995 and my great-grandmother, Roma, died in 1999. They were wonderful, special people. John was from Horse Cave, Kentucky. His people were in the railroad business. Except John, he was colorblind. "I knew which was the red light and which was the green light, but they still wouldn't let me work the tracks because I couldn't see the colors.” he would say. So, as a young man, he left Kentucky, and for a while, rode the steamboats up and down the Mississippi River. It was on the riverboats that my great-grandpa learned to play poker and shoot pool. He was a man of many talents. He finally settled in Houston, and there, he met my great-grandmother, Roma. I believe he worked jobs here and there and finally became a Quaker minister. By the time I was born, he was retired, and did this and that to make ends meet. My great-grandparents were simple people. They didn't have a lot, didn't need a lot, and made do with what they had. They didn't aspire to greatness, only goodness. I wish more of this quality had rubbed off on me. But I never looked to them for 'things'. I never asked 'what did you bring me' when I saw them. I was just happy to see them. When we visited, we slept in their bedrooms and spare rooms (I'm one of four kids, plus mom and dad). My great-grandparents slept out in 'The Office' with the dogs. 'The Office' was a converted garage, with a spare bed, pantry, toilet, and their 'home office'. 'Lass, go get me the can of beans from the pantry in The Office.' my great-grandmother would say. Breakfasts at their house were pure heaven. They were wonderful cooks. As most 'old people' are want to be, they were early risers. I would wake up to the aroma of sizzling sausage on the griddle, coffee brewing in the pot, the sound of my great-grandfather clinking the glasses on the table, opening and closing The Icebox (yeah, not a refrigerator...it was, but it was called the icebox). Hotcakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits, grits, homemade brown-sugar syrup, fig preserves, butter, sweet milk, orange juice, jelly. Well, not all on the same day. We had to pace ourselves. My great-grandfather's hotcakes (not just pancakes, but hotcakes) were miracles, and since he has passed, they have not been replicated, even though my grandmother thought she knew the recipe. I don't know how he made them. I think whipped egg whites were involved, as was finely sifted flour. They were the lightest, fluffiest, tastiest, best things on this Earth. Hot off the griddle, they absorbed the butter and syrup like a sponge, and simply melted in your mouth. As a little kid, I would (and could!) eat at least a dozen. My brother, sisters, and I had a competition to see who could eat the most. We would make them disappear off the serving plate faster than they could cook 'em! Then, bellies full, eyes glazed, we would sit back and moan in pure delight. My great-grandfather was also a master gardener. He had a huge backyard, filled with plants, vegetables and a giant fig tree. Yep, those fig preserves where homemade! That golden fig syrup on hot, buttered biscuits or toast was second-heaven. First heaven being the hotcakes. He grew peas, carrots, tomatoes, okra, peppers, and potatoes...if it was a vegetable, he grew it! When I was around 3 or 4, I decided I wanted to help him with his garden. I got up, before sunrise, turned on the hose and watered the garden. Well, flooded the garden is more like it. I found a little basket, and I plucked every baby vegetable off the vines, and pulled every baby carrot and potato out of the ground. Teeny-tiny peppers, carrots, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. Needless to say, when my great-grandfather woke up, he was none too pleased with my attempt to 'help' him. I ruined his garden. This was the maddest I ever, ever, ever saw my great-grandfather. In fact, I don't think I ever saw him mad before or after that. I mentioned before that he played poker and pool on the Mississippi riverboats. When my mom first brought my step-dad down to meet my great-grandparents, they played a game of poker one night. Just nickel, dime, quarter. But there was manhood at stake. For a while, my step-dad was winning, winning, winning. Then he started losing, losing, losing. Yep. My former-Quaker-minister great-grandfather was 'stacking the deck' on my step-dad. And, once, when one of my uncles (the big one...6'9") turned 18, he asked my great-grandpa to go down and shoot pool with him. This big, strapping young man was put to shame when, on the first, second, third and final game, my great-grandpa ran the table on him. A man of many talents indeed. He had a heart attack at the very end of my senior year in High School. He and my great-grandmother didn't make it to my graduation because of this. Then, slowly, over two years, we watched him die. Once a man well over 6 foot, strong, funny, warm, loving and peaceful, he slowly turned into a shrunken, shriveled, shell of a man. His last months were awful, and while I made many visits and sat by his bed, hoping that I could at least be there for his last breath, I wasn't there when he passed. His funeral was attended by so many who knew him. Everyone that knew him loved him. He was gentle, simple and wonderful. Thanks Poopie for jogging my memory. I needed this today.

7/07/2005 05:35:00 PM :: ::
11 Comments:
  • That's a great story! I'm a breakfast lover any time of the day. You've made me quite hungry!! I was born quite late in life and barely knew even my grandparents. You are very lucky to have had them in your life like that.

    By Blogger Carnealian, at 7/07/2005 06:23:00 PM

     


  • He sounds like a very great man. How lucky you were to have him for do long! Great memories on a sad day. Thanks for sharing them.

    By Blogger MommaK, at 7/07/2005 07:11:00 PM

     


  • Good story. You are very blessed to have had them in your life that long. I only barely remember one of my great-grandmothers. But you brought back memories of my grandmother, and made me hungry!

    By Blogger Bone, at 7/07/2005 11:24:00 PM

     


  • I never knew great-grand parents but the grand-parents I knew were realy nice people. Just wish I had spoken more to my Grandad about things and asked him more about his life, but in a way it was hard for many of his generation to dwell on the past . I remember him pretending to scare me as he was big but I seemed to make him laugh. Being there when my nan died was the most emotional day of my life and for one day my family were together with the same emotions, i'm glad I was there.

    By Blogger The Wisdom of Wislon, at 7/08/2005 03:14:00 AM

     


  • I loved reading this. I am not close to anyone in my family and I love hearing how people love and respect their family. I want my children to have such wonderful memories of their childhood. You are a lucky girl.

    By Blogger Jolynn, at 7/08/2005 09:19:00 AM

     


  • What a great man, a real inspiration. Wonderful story, thanks for sharing it.

    By Anonymous abbynormal, at 7/08/2005 11:36:00 AM

     


  • Your are able to write wonderful stories; you tell events beautifully.

    By Blogger Jean-Luc Picard, at 7/08/2005 12:00:00 PM

     


  • Its great that you knew your great-grandparents. I knew my great-grandma, but she died when I was 13. But I have so many fond memories of my time with her, and you helped bring those back. Thanks!

    By Blogger TrueJerseyGirl, at 7/08/2005 01:12:00 PM

     


  • That was such a wonderful post. I came here via True Jersey today but I think I'll bookmark ya and come back again! :)

    By Blogger Twist of Kate, at 7/08/2005 01:40:00 PM

     


  • Awww, what a great recollection.

    By Blogger Indigo, at 7/08/2005 02:05:00 PM

     


  • That was so lovely to read. Thank you.

    I also loved goign to my grandparents house but we didn't have hotcakes or grits. Now I'm so hungry.

    By Blogger Raehan, at 7/09/2005 04:20:00 PM

     


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