Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things My Grandfather Learned Me

About a month ago I got an email from one of my favorite authors, Erin Bried. She asked if I would read her new book, How to Build a Fire and Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew. I cannot tell you how excited I was. I skipped. I hopped. I jumped. Well maybe not physically but mentally I was turning cartwheels. You see about a year ago I read her book How to Sew a Button and Other Things Your Grandmother Knew and I loved it. She interviewed a bunch of grandma’s, wait is it a bunch? Would it be a brood of grandma’s? Perhaps it’s a coven of grandma’s, oh wait that is only if they are witches. Aren’t all grandmas witches of some kind? I digress.

Grandpa’s, we were speaking of grandfathers. You know those old guys that told you stories about the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, which if you asked me didn’t sound great at all. It sounded more depressing than great. Well Erin has done it again with Grandfathers. She grabbed up a gaggle of old guys who all are heroes in their own right, and asked them how to do things we all should know how to do. The interviews are interesting and the information is wonderful.

Mr. Rodriguez teaches us the correct way to plant a tree and Mr. Holloman shows us how to build a fire. Mr. Spooner gets us hooked into fishing and Mr. Walter advises us how to cope with bad news. Mr. Kelly makes us a friendly wager and Mr. Sulka gives us some mechanic lingo. Each man teaches us just as if we were there own children and grandchildren the essentials of getting through life. They do so with finesse and humor.

Now had my own grandfather still been with us he could have given us all a lesson in how to drive a tank. You see in the Second World War he marched down to the induction office and told them “I’m here to serve.” The Sergeant in charge looked at him and said “Mr. McGuilicutty don’t you think you’re a little long in the tooth to be signing up?” My grandfather shook his head and replied “No sir, my teeth are just fine and you boys are gonna need some of us older fellers to get you through, so I’m here to help. Now send me over there to Germany so I can kick Hitler’s rear-end.” The Sergeant shook his head, inducted my grandfather at the young age of 42 into the Army and promptly sent him too Ft. Hood to teach tank driving to new recruits. Now my grandfather had never driven a tank but he didn’t think it could be too difficult, after all he had driven tractors, wagons and model T’s; heck he even drove a Hostess Cupcake Truck during the Great Depression. He was a bit disappointed in not going over to Germany and personally kicking the Furor’s tail but he figured he would teach these kids how to just roll right on through France and take back Europe.

My grandfather was an interesting guy who I didn’t get to know until I was in my twenties. He was always busy working on this or building that. He had an incredible work ethic and worked right up until the day he died. He was a carpenter by trade and a businessman by instinct. I guess the thing he taught me that stuck with me more than anything was to always build on a strong foundation. I didn’t always adhere to his advice and learned the hard way that a foundation on shaky ground will never stand.

My dad, Trooper Bob, is a grandfather and he has taught his grandkids plenty. He taught them how to spit watermelon seeds, measure twice and cut once, how to do a cannon ball into the pool and how to keep your sense of humor through the bad stuff. My brother is now a grandfather and he too is teaching his grandson all the lessons of life; lessons such as how to catch a ball and how to plant a tree. Kahuna is doing his grandfatherly duty too, by teaching his grandkids the art of blowing bubbles in the pool and paddling out in just the right spot. So you see we continue to pass down the knowledge we gain from life and hope that our grandkids don’t think we are just a bunch of stupid old farts. They may not know how to program their cell phones but they can pop corn without a microwave and can make a telephone from two cans and string.

I guess the point to my whole rambling here is go out and buy How to Build a Fire by Erin Bried right now and put it in your kids stockings. Heck put it in your husband’s stocking and keep a copy for yourself. You could even put it in your dad’s stocking; he will get a kick out of it. While you’re at it pick up a couple of copies of How to Sew a Button too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Is Just A Test

This week’s Theme Thursday is test. Wait a minute no one told me there was going to be a test. I didn’t study. My dog ate my homework. I thought it was on Tuesday. I can’t give you a sample I just went. Sorry, I hear the word test and well what can I say? The excuses floweth forth. I know many of you are probably thinking test as in your knowledge and others might have a mental picture of that big bulls eye screen that used to pop up on the television when there would be a test of the emergency broadcasting system, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

 My mind went instantly to an incident that happened several years ago. So my Theme Thursday presentation is here for your enjoyment. When you finish mine please go read what the other presenters have tried and tested.

Gladys sat at her desk and sorted through the envelopes. She picked up the large manila envelope and slipped out the paper. She looked at the print and sighed. She saw the long list of names and knew this was going to be yet another battle. She picked up the phone and dialed the number. “Hi Beaudreux, yeah it’s me Gladys. Uh-huh I got the list of names today. Yep, I’ll hand the envelopes out in their paychecks on Friday. You make sure they show up okay?” She disconnected and pulled out the form letter. She rolled the first one into her Selectra and began typing in the names on each letter from the list.

Emitchell, was an older man who did handy-man work in the office.He came into her office as she was sealing the last letter. “Hey der Miz Gladys, how you be” he asked as she stacked the envelopes. “Hi Emitchell, I’m jist fine how are you” Gladys asked in reply. She enjoyed Emitchell's daily visits. He always had an interesting story to tell and he always brought her little chocolates. Emitchell had worked at the company almost as long as Gladys. He was a jack-of-all-trades but usually acted as the janitor/office runner.

“So Emitchell that is an interesting name how did you get the name Emitchell?” Gladys asked. He stopped stuffing the trash into the plastic bag “when my mawma had me she couldn’t think of the name my daddy had come up with. So when the nurse asked what the baby’s name was she said Eh, um Eh, Eh-mitchell. The nurse thought she said E-Mitchell.” Gladys smiled “Well I guess it just stuck then didn’t it?” Emitchell nodded “Yep I reckon it did.”

Gladys fingered the envelopes and pulled one out. “Emitchell, this is yours. I know you don’t read very good so if you want me to read it to you I will.” Emitchell slowly walked toward Gladys and the envelope. His hand shook as he took it and asked “am I fired?” Gladys smiled “no, it just says you have to go right now and take a drug test.” Emitchell opened the envelope, squinted and read lips moving slowly trying to decipher the letters. “Miz Gladys, I didn’t study for no test. I don’t know nuthin bout drugs.” Gladys stood up and put her hand on the man’s shoulder “you can’t study for this test. It is to see if you have drugs in your system. It is mandatory, that means you HAVE to do it.”

Emitchell shook his head back and forth in confusion and looked harder at the paper in his hand. “Why they wanna test me? I ain’t sick. I don’t take no drugs.” Gladys smiled and turned the man toward the door “Emitchell just go down the hall to Miz Gwen’s office and she will get you all fixed up. Don’t worry it will be fine.” She watched as the man shuffled down the hall to take his test.

Several days later Gladys again opened the brown manila envelope labeled Specialty Labs. She glanced through the names and her eyes were instantly drawn to the middle of the page. There in black in white was Emitchell’s name in the Positive for Cocaine column. COCAINE? EMITCHELL? She felt light headed, the room was fuzzy then she realized she had not breathed since she opened the package. She took the receiver from its cradle and pushed the numbers. “Hi, this here is Gladys over at Sludge-R-Us. Yeah, um I got this month’s test results and I need to make sure that one of them is right.” Gladys asked the lady on the other end to verify the results. She asked her to double check them, triple check them and then check them again. She acquiesced and hung up.

Gladys went to the microphone and clicked the button SQUEALCH, Crackle “Emitchell come to the front office please.” She waited and looked back through the list to make sure it was right.

He came through the door and smiled “What kin I do fer ya Miz Gladys? You need yer trash dumped? You know I think that light bulb up der is bout to go on you. You want me to git the ladder and fix it?” Gladys looked at the flickering bulb and then back at Emitchell. It would have been so much easier if that was all it was but she knew he had a more difficult job to do. “Nope, Mitch, I need to talk to you. Why don’t you have a seat” she said and motioned for the chair next to her desk. “Mitch, I got your test results” Gladys said as she sat the results on her desk.

Emitchell smiled and looked over at the paper “What it say Miz Gladys?” She swallowed the large lump in her throat and croaked “it’s not good.” Emitchell looked confused and then concerned “Miz Gladys, are you alright? You don’t look so good.” Gladys shook her head “I’m not good Mitch. You see I really like you and want to do everything I can to help you.” Emitchell looked pained and then asked “why do you need to help me?” Gladys took the paper and turned it toward the man “you tested positive for cocaine. Mitch, have you been using cocaine?”

Emitchell jumped back in his chair as if Gladys had handed him the paper on fire. “No MA’AM! I never did nuthin like that. I don’t do no drugs.” Gladys looked at the paper again and pointed toward the line “but Mitch, it shows right here that you tested positive. Why would the test show positive if you never took any drugs?” Emitchell shook his head and looked at his shoes. “Miz Gladys, I swear on my Momma’s grave I ain’t never done no drugs.” Gladys shook her head in confusion.

“Mitch, is it possible you were exposed and didn’t know it? I mean like I’ve heard of people putting pot in brownies” Gladys asked. Emitchell sat and scratched his grey haired head. He thought and thought then his eyes lit up. “Miz Gladys, my girlfriend likes dem drugs. Do you think I got it from her?” Then he got real quiet and said “you know, when we is having relations?” Gladys shook her head “I don’t know Mitch, let me call the lab maybe they know if you can test positive from that.

The phone rang and Gladys was connected to the lab technician “um, yeah, I have kind of a strange question. Can you test positive for cocaine if you um yourself didn’t ingest it but the person you were um, you know, um, having carnal knowledge with did?” The line went quiet then there was a faint cough on the other end “no ma’am I don’t believe so. I mean you would have to actually absorb the powder yourself.” Gladys sighed and repeated what she had learned to Mitch. At first he just sat quiet then he smiled “dat’s it Miz Gladys! She likes to um sprinkle it on my um, my manly parts then she snorts it off. She says it makes it better!” Gladys was speechless but the lab tech was laughing and snorting on the other end. “Did you hear that? Can that cause a positive” she was finally able to ask. “Yes, ma’am. That’ll do it.”

Gladys hung up the phone. She sighed heavily and looked at the older man sitting next to her “Mitch, please don’t let your girlfriend do that anymore. I think I can explain it to the boss this time but if you fail another test. Well, I don’t know what will happen.” Emitchell stood up and patted Gladys on the shoulder “Ok Miz Gladys. I’ll tell her not to do that anymore. I promise I’ll pass my next test.”