My Grandfather came to live with us in 1952 for 10 years until his death. He had always been a hard working man, and the only way I knew that was I would watch his habits when he returned home at the end of his working day. I never ever actually saw my grandfather actually working, but somehow when I was five or six, I knew that he had been working hard.
When Grandpa first got home, he would go into the bathroom and wash his hands with Lava soap. He would roll up the sleeves of his blue work shirt, exposing his pale arm that was in stark contrast to his huge, darkened hands. He would lather up those big hands of his until you thought he was a surgeon getting ready to perform in the operating room. He would wash off the Lava soap and then he would wash his face with hot water. He would dry both his hands and face at the same time before he left the bathroom. My Grandfather’s hands were tough though.
One time I caught a snapping turtle while out fishing. I never saw my Grandfather cry, but he almost did when he took the hook out of the beak of that snapping turtle. The snapping turtle exchanged the hook for a piece of my Grandfather’s finger. He didn’t break the skin, but he wouldn’t let go either and apparently snapping turtles clamp down with a vengeance as my Grandfather’s grimace relayed that fact to me. All my Grandfather said to me later was, “Don’t catch any more snapping turtles.”
He then would go to the refrigerator and then go to his favorite chair. He had gotten one Pabst Blue Ribbon can of beer from the fridge. He would open his one can of beer, light one Lucky Strike cigarette and he would drink the beer and smoke the cigarette while he read the Omaha World Herald newspaper before supper.
It was a transition I had to get used to when we moved from South Dakota and Nebraska to Nevada. The noon meal in South Dakota and Nebraska is called Dinner and the evening meal was called Supper. In Nevada, I found out, the noon meal is called Lunch and the evening meal is Dinner.
I never saw my Grandfather smoke or drink any more than one cigarette or one beer ever. He did enjoy, in moderation, to be sure. If you think about it, more than one of each and you would be overindulging in a way. One allows you to enjoy and savor the pleasure all the more. It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford more; it was that one of each is all he needed to be satisfied. Therein lies the pleasure he derived from that activity.
When my Grandmother would holler, “Soup’s on”, he would nonchalantly get up from his chair and go into the dining room for his usual meat and potatoes Supper. There were always bread and butter on the table with Supper. There was seldom any dessert after Supper. Sometimes, after Supper, we would listen to the radio for a spell and then it was time for bed.
My Grandfather’s bedtime habits were always interesting to me as well. He would go into his bedroom, pull down all the shades. He would then wind this massive alarm clock he had and set it near his side of the bed. Its tick tock sounded like Big Ben next to the bed. It had a luminous dial that I swear, lit up the whole bedroom. He always slept in his long handled underwear. He would turn off all the lights in the bedroom and then he would raise the curtains again. In the summer, he would open the windows for circulation as they didn’t have air conditioning then.
When I awoke in the morning, my Grandfather was always gone to work already. He had to have left very early, because when I got up, the sun wasn’t quite up all the way either.