Grandpa Allen.....drinking from the saucer, and such…….
My Grandpa Allen was a fine fellow. I remember him as not being a very tall man. I also remember him as having a chubby belly and a round face with rosy cheeks-a lot like Santa Claus, only smaller. His mischievous little eyes complimented his laugh and sunny disposition. Others may remember him differently and that is o.k. for this is my memory of Grandpa.
By the time I knew Grandpa Allen, he owned a small grocery store in Pinson, Tennessee. He lived in the back of the store but I don't remember much about his living quarters. Grandma had died in 1952 and Grandpa had lived by himself since then.
Just like most grocery stores of the day, a bench sat outside the front of the store. It was there I sat beside Grandpa for many hours discussing the world’s problems. It was also there that Grandpa won me over by telling me I had his “little Allen eyes.”
The store was old, dark, and musty and had a wooden floor. I remember that I was afraid to walk on that floor without my shoes. To the right of the front door was the Coke Machine where you could find a Coke, Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, or Grapette. There was a glass jar near the cash register that held packages of Lance peanuts.
To the left of the front door was a glass candy case. Baby Ruth, Pay Day, and Butterfinger candy bars were the candies of choice then. Double Bubble chewing gum was also a favorite found in that candy case. I can still remember the smell that emanated from the case when you slid open the door.
Shelves in the store were stocked with a small assortment of canned goods and other items found in any grocery store of fifties. Grandpa also sold stick bologna. This wasn’t the kind you find in stores today. I guess now you would call it old-fashioned bologna. A slice of that bologna with crackers, cheese, and one of those cold coca colas made a meal complete.
The smells in the store blended together so that it was hard to distinguish any one particular odor-except that of kerosene. Near the back of the store was located a kerosene tank and pump. The pump brought kerosene from the tank through a spout and into containers. If any spilled over the opening of the container being filled, the kerosene drained back into the tank and there was no waste. I loved to stand at the pump and move the pump arm back and forth and watch the kerosene bubble out of the spout and disappear down the “drain.” Just the scent of kerosene today can bring that old pump back to my mind.
In the very back of the store there were some cane bottom chairs. At the center of this seating arrangement there was a pot-bellied stove. On top of this stove Grandpa kept a teakettle of hot water, It was there no matter what the season was-summer or winter. He loved coffee, made the instant kind, and then he’d add spoonfuls of sugar and pour in a lot of milk. His cup and saucer were stained from the many cups of coffee that had run through that cup.
Grandpa had a special way to drink that coffee. He’d pour the hot liquid into the saucer and blow in it until it was cooler. Then he’d drink that coffee right out of his saucer and when he had emptied the saucer he’d let out an ahhhhhh! That’s with an a sounding like it does in cat and not blah. I’d giggle and he’d laugh and then he’d offer me a sip, with the stipulation that I didn’t tell my Mamma he was giving me coffee. Many times now as I sit down with my first cup of coffee in the morning (minus the cream and sugar), I think of Grandpa Allen sitting there with me. Together we share a silent ahhhhhh! Then his eyes sparkle and he winks at me.
Grandpa suffered a stroke IN 1962. He sold his store and bought a house across the highway from where my family lived. My mom, dad, sister, and I moved into the house with him so my mom could care for him. Grandpa also bought himself an Allis Chalmer tractor to plow the garden. He’d go out and crank that old tractor up, climb on it, and drive around like he was the owner of a plantation. He truly enjoyed that tractor, just as my dad does today.
Of course, living together made my sipping out of his saucer a little more difficult. I couldn’t sneak around to do it with mom in the house much. But living together also made our meals more interesting. Whatever Grandpa liked, it was my favorite. Mom’s homemade biscuits would melt in your mouth. Grandpa took a liking to the center biscuit. The edges were soft, unlike the outside biscuits and he would pick that one everyday. Of course, I decided it was my favorite, and Grandpa let me have it. He started eating the outside biscuits and declared them more delicious than the center ones. It didn’t take me long to agree with him. Now I don’t remember if he went back to the inside biscuit or not, but if I was a betting person, I’d bet that’s what he did.
The same thing happened with fried chicken. If it was Grandpa’s favorite piece of chicken, then it would soon to be my favorite piece, and Grandpa always gave in to me. We shared almost the entire body of the chicken, the exception being the back, liver, heart, and gizzard. I had to draw a line somewhere. And cold fish….that was another line I drew. Grandpa loved leftover, cold fish for breakfast. I could not stomach that.
One day Grandpa told me that when I was grown, he would build me a house next to where we lived so I’d always be near him. At the time I thought it was a great idea. I did not know that I’d be living two hundred miles away when I grew up.
As Grandpa suffered more strokes, we watched helplessly as a cheerful old man became a crabby old man. Mom had to force his medicine down him and since he loved ice cream, Mama would give him a spoonful of ice cream with a pill in it. One day he wasn’t so easily fooled. He jerked that pill out of his mouth, threw it across the room, and said, “……..grain of corn in that ice cream.” Of course we all bellowed with laughter and immediately knew that game was over for Mama. She had to devise another plan to get his medicine down him.
Grandpa’s condition worsened and Mama had to call the doctor. Our doctor still made house calls and I remember that night sitting in the living room while he examined Grandpa. The doctor told us that Grandpa would have to go to a hospital. But the thing that sticks in my mind the most is the way Grandpa, with a terrified look on his face, held tightly to the door facing as my mom and dad took him outside to the car. It was like he knew he would never be back inside that house. I always felt he was looking at me for help. As I kissed him goodbye I knew it would be the last time I would ever see my Grandpa. Grandpa died February 9, 1967, the day after his eightieth birthday.
Recently I was emailed a poem that reminded me of Grandpa Allen. I have no doubt this is exactly like Grandpa felt when he was sitting there with me "drinking from his saucer.”
So Lord, help me not to gripe
If God gives me strength and courage,