My Grandpa Smith

My Grandfather Smith ( my mother’s father) was a man of few words. I wish that I could tell you that I knew a lot about him, but I can not. He was a private person who kept pretty much to himself and I don’t recall him saying much to me or anyone else for that matter. He lived alone in another county and once or twice a year he would come for a visit. He was a lean man with hands that had signs of many years of hard work, and his face was etched with a combination of character and his share of  a few hard times. His attire was usually that of a grey or olive green pair of slacks and a white sleeveless  t-shirt. When he spoke his voice was low, raspy and direct and I do remember that I always thought it would not be a good thing to ever get on his bad side. Although he always treated me kindly, his appearance portrayed that  of a mysterious character in a movie.
He normally came to visit in the summer months, however this particular time it was in the dead of winter. I had a very bad cold and before bedtime  Mom got out the little green jar and  “greased” me up with Vick’s salve. This was an old fashioned remedy in those times for anything that ailed you, particularly a nasty cold. When you put it on, you stunk like heck, but once you had it liberally applied to your chest, neck and under your nose, you
could expect your sinuses to accept the vapors and for the much needed relief to come.
In the early a.m. hours of the morning I was wakened by an uncontrollable cough.Why I do not know, but I went outside and stood on the back step  and  coughed so hard I thought my head was going to explode.  When I caught my breathe I returned and as I walked through the kitchen I  was alarmed when in a deep voice
my grandpa asked me if I was alright. There he was sitting in the dark at the kitchen table in his white sleeveless  t-shirt and green pants, drinking a cup of coffee.
“I can’t sleep.” I told him
“Me neither.” He said.
And with that he got up, turned on a gas burner on the stove, filled a sauce pan with some water from the sink, and began to make me “ a  drink”. I crawled up on a wooden kitchen chair and  saw him get a tea bag from the cabinet. I watched him intently, neither of us saying a word. After the hot tea was made, we both sat in the darkness , he, drinking his coffee  and me cross -legged in my over-sized nightgown,  sipping on the tea.  The only light was from the moon coming through the kitchen window.
“You know when I was a young man working, we had big snows like this,” he said in a low ,quiet voice.” And I had to walk to work every day in it.” He proceeded to tell me how he had been a butcher and one particular winter the snow was so deep and it was so cold outside that he  wrapped his socked feet in burlap bags and tied them with string around his ankles, before putting on his boots. This mesmerized me, and I visualized the scene as he was telling me about his “walk“ to work, across the snow-laden fields to a big old building where he cut up meat for a living.I don’t recall how long we sat there, but in that time I had forgotten about how bad I felt. Whether it was the tea or the interesting story my grandfather was telling  that I had been so fully engrossed in,  that made me feel better, I am not sure. Possibly a combination of both. But this little browned -haired girl in the wee hours of the morning had forgotton her ailments and was feeling a whole lot better. I am saddened to think that this is one of the very few memories that  I have of him. But, on the other hand, how fortunate I am to have it.
To this day, when I am not feeling well and am congested and stuffy, nothing seems to work quite as well as a good “grease” with Vick’s salve and a  steaming cup of a special hot tea.
With still a couple months of winter ahead of us,  you may find you will need this  “brew” for  that stuffy,  head cold feeling. It will be a familiar remedy for many of the older generation, I am sure.
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 tea bag
½ teaspoon of rum or whiskey
Lemon juice ( optional)
HOT water from a kettle
Coat the bottom of a coffee mug with the honey. Add the rum or whiskey. Squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice and place the tea bag in the mug. Pour in the hot water. After a few minutes, stir well and be ready to sip and feel better.
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2 Responses to My Grandpa Smith

  1. Barb R. says:

    Ahh, how well I remember those Vicks rub downs, the stinging of a raw nose, but the oh so sweet relief of being able to breathe afterwards.

  2. Christa says:

    How lucky, to have these memories of your dear grandfather.
    We were just talking yesterday (my sister in Germany and I) about our misfortune of not having any ‘records’ of our grandparents, other than their names, not even their birthdates from some of them. I don’t remember anything about both of my grandmothers, even though I have pictures, me being in their presence. But I have vivid memories from that age about my dad, when he came home from the war and then had to leave in 1945 to fight the Russians.
    But both my grandfathers died, before I was born in 1936 and like I’ve said, there are no records. When my youngest aunt was still alive, I inquired, if she had anything, that would help me start searching, she said, she gave everything she had to my other aunt at the time she got married ( in the 1940’s), she is also dead. These were the sisters of my dad’s.
    On my mom’s side, every record kept would be lost, as in 1945 all my relatives on mom’s side had to flee their homeland (then still Germany), which the Russians took over and gave the land and all properties to the Polish government.
    I often go online and try every which way to see, if there is someone looking for certain people, sometimes, one is lucky to find someone, that could know something.
    When I read your story, I immediatly ‘travelled’ back to my childhood. I used to spend every summer until 1945 at my oldest aunt’s little country hobby farm for at least 6 weeks with my little brother and our mother. There was no electricity, mattresses were made from burlap bags, stuffed with fresh straw every August, right after the grain harvest. Coal oil lamps were used at night and my fondest memories of that era (one of them ) was, my aunt would come and tuck us in, then extinguished the flame in the lamp, made sure, the window was wide open – no screens – and just before drifting of to sleep, I could hear that nightly passing train roll by in the distance.
    Those simple times were the best and I often like to turn the clock back.
    I am so happy, you are my friend and through your writing, I can ‘experience these happy times once more, while otherwise buried in the back of my mind.
    Thanks, Jeanie, for being my friend. X0X0 Christa

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