Granddaddy

I only knew my step-grandfather. I have been told I met my father’s father and my mother said her real father came by the house once, but the only grandfather I knew was my mother’s stepfather. We called him “Granddaddy.” When I think of Granddaddy, I think of his love of fishing. When we visited him and Big Mama (my grandmother), he would usually take my dad, brother and me fishing on his favorite fresh water lake.

The irony of all of this is his best friend, my real grandfather’s brother, would join us. While my real grandfather was a wanderer (which is the nicest thing I could say about him), his brother was one of the kindest, most loyal people you will ever meet. And, to make the irony complete, the brother was married to one of my grandmother’s sisters until she passed away.

But, this is about Granddaddy. He was a gruff man, one of few words, but I have seen him cry at weddings of his grandchildren. He dearly loved my cousin who had Autism and lived with them for a brief time. His house was also open to my mother’s oldest sister (and another cousin) when her husband was in Vietnam. He was bricklayer and house builder. His hands were very worn and he could pick up a catfish bare handed as he removed the hook. If you know fish, a catfish can slice you open with its sharp fins. When he fished, he would use two rods and reel out of the back of the boat. It was not a fancy boat, seating only three in its ten foot length, but it was his.

My favorite memory was the day the fish were hitting big. I think we hauled in over 150 fish between the two boats – my older brother would be in my Great Uncle’s boat. Granddaddy probably hauled in 80 by himself. He was so quiet when he fished, you could not tell by his demeanor when he was catching fish, even when he was having a very successful outing. This was the day his teachings of how to clean a fish were practiced over and over again. He was very patient as he taught my brother and me how to do it. And, we ate what we caught – fried fish, hush puppies, collard greens, corn bread, etc. Those were feasts, especially after a long morning on the water.

Granddaddy loved my grandmother, but they would have a tete-a-tete on occasion. Big Mama would get mad at him and he would say “Madame” and proceed with his defense. When we heard “Madame” we knew it was not a fun conversation. We also knew he was outgunned. My grandmother could talk, so she would not let anything go without colorful discussion. She would win almost every argument, but even when she was right, he did not want to hear anymore.

One time, I deserved his wrath as before one of our fishing trips, I knocked over a basket of crickets in his house. My dad was the one who carried out the fussing, but I know he beat Granddaddy to the punch. My mother later told me Big Mama heard crickets in the house for months. Granddaddy would only shake his head and curse under his breath.

Granddaddy died of lung cancer. The last few months of his life he could only speak with a rasp, as his doctors actually damaged his vocal chords with some of the tubing he had to swallow to breathe better. He dared not sue them as they were only doing their job. Having been a bricklayer, he knew first hand that mistakes could be made and you fixed them and moved on. He was not a litigious person. He was a hand shake person. But, to his death, he was always thankful for our visits as they meant so much to him. And, vice versa.

Big Mama lived for fifteen more years after his death and she missed him greatly. No more Madames. No more fish fries. No more yin and yang. They were quite the pair. My grandmother, the character who had character, and my quiet, decent, and hardworking grandfather who loved to fish. Thank you Granddaddy. Thank you both. I remember you well.

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12 thoughts on “Granddaddy

  1. “…the character who had character…” Nice.
    (Talk about grasshoppers in the house: There was the time…my sister’s and I collected about half-a-dozen Horney Toad lizard eggs found in a sand pile while visiting Papa, Mother’s father, who lived in the Tecate Mountains in southern California. We put them in a coffee can tin stuffed with cotton balls, for lizard comfort don’t you know, and set them on a shelf in his kitchen cupboard. A nice warm place don’t you know. And then? Forgot about them…until our next visit about two weeks later. That visit Older Sister retrieved the coffee tin…and opened it. Yep…baby lizards in the house. Papa did more than mutter under his breath.)
    Ah…the memories. All good.

    • Raye, too funny. That falls under the category of it seemed like a good idea at the time. They should look on the bright side, at least they weren’t snakes. Thanks for stopping by with your stories. I hope others follow suit. BTG

      • Raye, you commented on the line about my grandmother. Quick Big Mama-ism. “Big Mama, can I sit in your chair?” She would reply, “Honey, they are all my chairs, but you can sit in that one.” Miss both of them. BTG

  2. what wonderful memories you have of a salt-of-the-earth man!  he would be proud of this sweet tribute, and one that this ‘recovered’ fishaholic enjoyed immensely!

    first, i paused when i read that he took three of you fishing— in a big lake.  i thought, ‘that’s a lot of people in one boat. surely their lines tangled.. then later you mentioned having two boats.  smart man.

    then you mentioned his ability to hold a catfish and not get barbed…  ah, i remember once trading rods/reels w/my former husband.. he was trying to get a catfish off his hook, and i was  hung..  i removed the fish (with my bare hands!) and he said, ‘you’re not hung.. you have a really.  big.. fish…’  and i ended up jumping in the water to keep the line from breaking when it was time to hoist that fish out of the water! we ‘netted’ it with a crate!

    then you mentioned crickets! ah.. you were surely fishing for bream?

    fresh fish, hushpuppies— ahhh, makes me think of a song…

    z

    ________________________________

    • Thanks Z. Bream was definitely one of the targets. You are a southern US fisherwoman. Three in one boat, two in the other. My brother and I would make too much noise celebrating our catches, that my Dad was always shushing us so as not to bother our boat captains. Thanks for the song link.

      • Z, I just listened to Ella sing “Summertime.” What a treat. I encourage readers to take a few minutes and click on Z’s link. Thanks, BTG

  3. I enjoyed this post so much! Takes me back to fishing with my daddy, also a hard worker and man of few words. Except the time he swore under his breath when my baby sister snagged the elusive “big one” he had been trying to catch for months. I still have the photo of her holding the fish half as big as she was at the time. Pretty good feast that evening!

  4. A lovely tribute. “he knew first hand that mistakes could be made and you fixed them and moved on. He was not a litigious person.” We need more of this attitude in the states. Bless him.

  5. Very sweet post. My grandma married my grandpa a month after I was born. He was the best man I knew growing up. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He was an avid fisherman, too.

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