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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Grandparents and Parents

There is an old saying, "Grandchildren are a parent's revenge".  We grandparents get to spoil them rotten then send them home with their parents and let them deal with the damage.  *wink*   My daughter put up a post on Facebook about the old TV show, "Hee Haw".  For whomever might be reading this, "Hee Haw" was a variety show that featured country music and country humor.  She was saying how it reminded her of watching it with her papaw (my dad).  Since then I've been thinking of the differences between parents and grandparents.

In this case my parents and I never had the best of relationships.  Due to genetics and environment I preferred to spend as much time away from them as possible.  That is not very unusual for teens but it lasted in my life until after they were both gone.  My mother passed away when I was twenty and my father when I was thirty-eight.   So, my mother never knew my children but my father was a every-day part of their lives.    It reminds me of the Bill Cosby routine about how his parents treated his children.  My dad was a different person where my children were concerned than he was with me.

Makes me wonder about my own grandparents.  Now, in this odd case, my maternal and paternal grandfathers were brothers.  I never knew any of my father's family as they were pretty much all dead and gone before I was born.  But, my mother's parents were there from my first memories.  I wonder how different they were as grandparents than they were in raising their own children.  They have both been gone for a good number of years as are my parents so there is no one to ask about that.  I can say that both my parents and my grandparents were severely over protective in entirely different ways.

My parents feared that anyone my age I associated with would somehow corrupt their little darling.  Heaven help us all if that had happened as I have been pretty much corrupted all by myself without bad influences to blame it on.  But, I did find a love of reading because I was alone so much and that was all I had to do.  That has been the greatest blessing of my life as books have taken me places in the past, present and future I would never have experienced without them.  I can't imagine how boring life would be without books.  Be that as it may... the over protectiveness of my grandparents was of a different variety.

My parents allowed me to roam the hills all on my own since I was around five years old.  I can't imagine that happening today but it was pretty much the norm when and where I was raised.  My grandparents, on the other hand, kept me close to home and chose not to allow me to be out in any kind of "bad" weather.

I lived with them during the week when I was in the first grade and attended Preston's Gap school.  It was a one-room school for grades one through eight.  I'm trying to decide a realistic length of the walk I had to and from school.  It definitely was  not ten miles and uphill in both directions.  I'm going to say it was a good mile.  We went by foot path from my grandparent's house to the joining of the main creek with a small branch where I'd meet up with a few of my cousins.  Thence through a field (and through a barn) by foot path to where the road came back out of the creek.  We could follow it a good ways then turn off across the little field where one of my older cousins always planted soybeans for his cattle.

We had to cross the creek there and did so on a "bridge".  This was a tree that had been felled and spanned the creek when it landed.  Then the limbs were chopped off.  This was mostly the only kind of means of crossing a creek other than wading.  It had no hand rails and nobody bothered to make a flat surface to walk on.  It was just a tree (called a "foot log") used to get from over here to over there.
Then we followed the path by the creek down to the old fence and up the hollow until we had to climb through the fence and cross another field to the school which sat above the old county road that was in complete disrepair and was not used.  I only speak, now, of this walk as it pertains to my grandparents.  I do not know how many days I really ever attended school that year and how many days I missed.

I missed a lot of days because my grandparents would not let me go to school if it was raining or snowing or it "looked" like it might rain or snow.   Instead I stayed home and played in the house or yard.  I climbed the apple trees and did "skin the cat" on one of the limbs of the Quince tree.  A quince is a kind of fruit I was told but I never saw one.  I suppose it needed two trees to bear fruit and there was only one.  I don't know but that is what I'm guessing.

"Skinning the Cat" was an acrobatic maneuver where one grasped the limb (in this case) with both hands and brought one's feet and legs up to pass between the arms so one flipped all the way over.  I don't see the fun in that so much these days but back then I could do that for hours.

I don't know how many days of that school year I missed but they were considerable. Still, I made "straight A's" except for one B in "Effort".  That was pretty much the story of my educational life.  I made the grades but I never really applied myself.  That foundation was established early.

All this makes me wonder how my own grandchildren will see me after I'm gone from their lives.  Due to my own failings I don't see them as much as I'd like and as I should so I suppose I'll only be a vague memory.  Some strange man "we had to go visit" for a few hours from time to time and could not wait to go home".  That would be my own fault as I'm still pretty much a hermit and do not deal well with people.

But, now, I wish I had taken more interest in my grandparents as they were interesting people and has a lot of interesting life experiences.  My grandmother was a mid-wife and delivered most of her grandchildren and a good portion of her great grandchildren.  My grandfather was and herb doctor and made concoctions for everything.  I'd love to have the knowledge of plants their medicinal uses he had.  But, at the time that stuff did not seem important.  I wonder if I know anything my grandchildren will wish they had paid attention to while I was here.