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February 2, 2005

Hardly Getting Over It

I’ve spent the afternoon listening to Husker Du and trying to figure out how to quilt. Lately, everything has been making my thoughts turn to my distant family, and this afternoon’s activities especially so. I guess the quilting is obvious — my great-grandmother was a quilter, one of those ladies who lived through the depression and never wasted a single thing. And thinking of her leads me to my great-grandfather, who is coming to a slow, sad end. My mother has, in the course of the last seven years, warned me that she thinks his race is run and I should prepare myself to say goodbye three separate times. And each time, my sweet Paw, who has been suffering from senile dementia, struggles on. And so in honor of his stubborn and fantastic life, today I’m trying to remember small, everyday and delightful thoughts of him.

* For as long as I can remember, he always carried a few buckeyes in his pants pocket, and would usually slip me one. The last time I saw him laugh, he mentioned that this was because someone once told him that it was “good for the rheumatids.”

* He was a cattle farmer and would take me to the auctions in Mayfield, which I referred to as “the cow store.” Afterwards he would always take me to the Dairy Queen. Actually, we just called it that, though it was not an official Dairy Queen, but something called the Dairy Bar, if I recall correctly. One spring he had four calves born at the same time, and he named them all after me, my brother and two of my cousins. The one named after Stephanie, who was always a hellion, sprouted horns almost instantly.

* He taught both me and my younger brother to drive on his tractor.

* The last lucid conversation I had with him was on my 25th birthday, over the telephone. He explained to me that it didn’t matter what my family thought of me, or if I was an old maid, or how I lived, just as long as I lived as I pleased and remained true to myself. It was only after I hung up the phone that I realized it had all been encoded speech and that he was, in his way, telling me that it was ok that I was a lesbian (which I am not.)

* I’m pretty sure that he was the only member of my mom’s family that my father ever felt any affinity with and unabashedly loved. He worked on a road crew at some point and got my dad hired for a summer when he was in college. My dad always told me that there were only two solutions for any problem that might occur with the roads: either apply some hot patch or some cold mix. And then he would giggle a really silly giggle.

* Every single time I went to eat at their house, no matter what else there was, there was always turnip greens and cornbread.

Posted by pogo at February 2, 2005 8:15 PM

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Hot patch or cold mix! In my next report to my manager, I’ll be sure to stress the importance of always selecting the right asphalt patching compound.

It’s sad that I probably won’t get to meet your great-grandfather. You would have liked mine, too; you could have talked about bees, and he probably would have liked you just fine, even as a lesbian.

Posted by: jacob on February 3, 2005 11:34 AM

i’m sorry that your sweet great-grandpa is struggling… you seem to have inherited his wise ways and generous spirit, so please be extra careful to monitor any premature symptoms of rheumatids! and get yourself checked at the dairy queen.

Posted by: nathalie on February 3, 2005 9:33 PM

“I’ve spent the afternoon listening to Husker Du and trying to figure out how to quilt” … That is one sentence I never anticipated reading …

Posted by: Brian on February 4, 2005 8:49 PM

Funny- I just finised listening to Husker Du’s “Warehouse” album- trying to re-connect to something I guess. I know this thing of which you speak… this cornbread and post-punk and a mad groping for a past that just ain’t gonna make it around the next corner.

I’m rounding just exactly that corner right about now… funny place- totally foreign, totally home. Anyway, always glad to hear that an old friend is having a crisis association similar to my own- makes me think we done grow’d up right, you and me. But I’m sorry about the circumstances. For sure.

Always merry and bright.

Posted by: Aaron on February 14, 2005 2:26 AM