Monday, March 19, 2012

Grandpa- the Artist was a Farmer

 There is more to tell about my Grandpa Oscar. He was about 70 years old when I was born.
 These are memories:
 Grandpa smoked most of the time. His mother smoked a corn cob pipe and let him start smoking when he was three years old. He was very cute. Eventually he had a cancer spot cut out of his lip. That is when he gave up cigarettes and exclusively smoked a pipe. That way, the tobacco didn't touch his lip. 
When I was very young, he had his left leg amputated above the knee. He walked with a cane and an artificial leg. We never thought about it, except when he squeaked. He would go down to his basement shop, take off his leg and oil it. Sometimes he oiled it in the morning, before he put it on for the day. Seeing him without his leg attached always surprised me. He told me that he could still feel his toes and foot. They itched and he used Mentholatum to sooth the stump of his leg. 
He died when I was 15.
When I was a little girl we were in the living room of the GriggsDakota farmhouse. I was sitting in his lap. Ashes from his cigarette burned a hole in my dress. My mother was upset and Grandpa felt terrible. 
When I was about ten years old, I asked him to stop smoking. He told me it was impossible. I reminded him that my dad had quit. "Yes," he replied, "but he was jung (young) and has an awfully strict wife."
I grew up loving the smell of second hand smoke. Even now, a whiff of pipe tobacco brings me back.
Grandpa loved to go for a ride in a car. He thought it was a privilege and a luxury.  This is the earliest photo of him in a car. He liked invention, innovation and appreciated health care. He liked horehound candy, black licorice, and sugar lumps. I liked black licorice and sugar lumps. 
I took invention, innovation, and health care for granted.
Grandpa Oscar always had time for children and his friends. He is putting a new engine in the tractor above, but has his eye on his nieces and his son. 
He loved to watch things grow. 
He especially enjoyed stopping for coffee and lunch. Lunch on a farm is a ten o'clock in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon ritual. Breakfast, Forenoon Lunch, Dinner, Afternoon Lunch, and Supper are the traditional meals in GriggsDakota. Evening lunch was served to company after a visit, just before they departed for home.
 He loved raising flowers and building gardens. 
He once told me that the hardest part of living a long life is watching your friends die. I am old enough to believe him.
Grandpa Oscar was a musician. He played the cornet in this band, but he also could play the violin. I know this because he bought one at an auction sale when I was a girl. He would play and sometimes sing along while Grandma and I danced. He sat by the table on a chair. We preferred to dance in the dining room, sometimes twirling into the kitchen. No one danced on the rug. 
 Grandpa appreciated a well dressed girl like these four who likely played some gigs with him. As my grandfather, he often noticed what I was wearing. He disapproved when I wore mini skirts in the winter during my "long legged girl in the short dress" days. He predicted that some day my bare knees would ache from the cold. Once in a while on a cold winter day, I recall his prediction.
Grandpa liked to make things out of wood, but he also made bookends and vases with paper mache. 
He was missing half a finger. I don't think it was because he was a poor carpenter. He used hand tools most of the time. I think his finger was cut off in a pump jack.
He saw faces in wood and carved them out. He even made funny faces out of leftover cement.  He saw beauty in rocks and GriggsDakota has lots of rocks. He built a rock garden. He welded stools for the shop out of old machinery seats and would make anything that my dad wanted. Sometimes he let me help him in the shop. He was frugal. Nothing went to waste.
 Grandpa made this cupboard for my Christmas present. He liked to wipe paint onto wood and then varnish over it. He thought it camouflaged the flaws in cheap wood. Over 50 years later, the Farm Inspector and the Ag Analyst play with this cupboard, still entirely original, well made.
Grandpa Oscar, Grandma Signa and whoever was around including me, made many other things such as the object above. It is a container that could be used as a waste basket. It is made from rolled magazine pages glued to a restaurant size ice cream carton. It is finished with two inch cuts of plastic clothes line. I use it to hold card games.
He thought it was foolish to put together a huge jig saw puzzle and then take it apart. So he glued the puzzle together when we finished, mounted it on a board, and hung it in the basement. 
Grandpa could draw his own pictures and then color them. He had beautiful hand writing and told me that I should work on mine. He preferred a blank piece of paper to a coloring book and so did I. When he wanted the yellow crayon, he asked for the "jellow" one. When he wanted me to pass the bowl of jiggly fruit dessert, he asked for the "yell-o," even if it was red or green. It has to do with being Norwegian. 
He liked soft foods, he had false teeth. I was surprised when he took his teeth out after a meal. He enjoyed my reaction and he laughed with Grandma. That occurred on several occasions. He would wipe them off or take out his pocket knife and scrape on  a spot that was bothering him. Years later I learned that Grandma had false teeth, too. I had never seen her without her teeth or noticed a container in which she cleaned them laying around. Women make secrets of things like that.
 When I was a girl Grandpa told me that a person should always carry matches and a pocket knife. I took that advice seriously and for years, carried both. Those two objects were always either in my pocket or in my purse. I lived through the candle and incense era of the late 1960's and 70's and always had a match. It never occurred to me that Grandpa thought matches were important because he smoked. I have never smoked a single cigarette. (Thanks to my dad's strict wife.) Farmer Fred, noting the contents of my purse years after Grandpa had passed away, pointed out that I had little need for matches. I'm not sure when I stopped carrying a pocket knife, but I know there have been many times when I've missed having it in my pocket. Maybe when I need dentures, I'll start carrying one again.
Grandpa Oscar loved to laugh and no one appreciated his family more than he did. He never seemed to notice any shortcomings in us.
He played games with us, Checkers when we were little and cards when we were older. Checkers with Grandpa was the most fun. Sometimes, when I had played myself into trouble, he would announce that it was time to turn the board. He would take over my trouble and usually won anyway. Sometimes, in mid-game he would announce that he was thirsty and that I should go and split a can of root beer into two glasses for us. When I returned, it was always his turn. After his move I would have a magic checkers moment when I could jump and claim all of his pieces. Game over, I won. Grandpa would laugh and we would drink our root beer.
He was insulted when my dad called him a capitalist and would argue against the "capitalistic system." I think that made him a conservative Democrat which seems an oxymoron today.
Grandpa Oscar  was an artist and a farmer. He lived with integrity. He bowed his head in prayer before he ate or slept. After I had prayed "Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest" and proclaimed "Amen," his head remain bowed, his hands folded for another moment or two. I asked him why he did that and he told me " I have more to pray about."
I don't remember hugging him often or ever saying that I loved him. He certainly never said those words to me. I had to figure that out for myself. It has to do with being Norwegian.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love." 
From The Bible - 1 Corinthians 13:13
And that's how I remember Grandpa Oscar in GriggsDakota.

1 comment:

  1. What a treasure, Jk! Your children and grandchildren will find this to be a treasure, too.
    R and boys