My grandpa stayed with me for a while once. I had a waterbed, which he was absolutely sure he couldn’t sleep on until he woke up the next day and said he had the best night’s sleep in decades. He strongly suggested that I iron the sheets with starch during his stay, but no matter how much I loved him, I wasn’t about to iron sheets, and I’m real sure I didn’t own starch. Then he requested “dry apple pie”, which didn’t even make sense in my mind. Why would someone put dried apples in a pie? He couldn’t give me a recipe, and that was before instant internet recipes, so Grandpa didn’t get his pie either. Don’t worry, he didn’t go hungry, but ironed sheets and pies?! Grandma spoiled him.
Since I wasn’t burning my life ironing sheets and baking, Grandpa had a lot of time to tell me about drying apples. He grew up in Tennessee, and the late summer days had a lot of sunshine to dry out apples laid out on the barn roof. He talked about life before stores (?!), when they had to make everything from scratch or it didn’t exist. Pillows were stuffed with the chest feathers of geese, Clothes were made at home, and his favorite toy was a stick whittled into a gun. He told me about that gun twice, in way too much detail. He talked about going into the mountains in winter with the menfolk to saw up frozen lake ice. They packed the ice in straw and loaded it onto horse-drawn wagons which they drove home to store in underground pits lined with more straw. Grandpa said the ice often lasted through most of the summer. They needed the ice to keep food fresh because this was life before refrigerators. Iced tea was a luxury for company.
Grandpa was born in 1896. He served in WWI, but got the flu in the great epidemic so he didn’t go to Europe to fight. He was disappointed about that when he was young because he liked traveling. He was of a generation after the Civil War, and that war wiped out the family finances since they were on the losing side. Grandpa said they were “land rich and money poor”, so he hopped on a train to Detroit for work. The train stopped in Akron, Ohio and he and his brother stayed because they were told there was work in Akron. He worked for Goodyear until his retirement, which all happened before I was born. Grandpa was always old in my mind, but I suppose he was young once. He talked about parties he attended in the neighboring county, drinking and carousing, and all sorts of stuff I couldn’t imagine of my completely sober Grandpa.
I thought he was handsome, and women seemed to think it too. When I see pictures of Matthew McConaughey, I think Grandpa. Well, maybe not quite as buff, but for all I know, Matthew has a place in my family tree, and Grandpa was buff in his day before Grandma was fattening him up with pies. Or perhaps white people all look alike? Or Southerners are all related?