I spent the past week visiting my grandpa (my Papa) who was recovering from surgery. He's doing remarkably well and we spent a few of the afternoons on walks. On one walk, we stopped by my great uncle David's house (David is Papa's brother in law).
I unstrapped Ruby from the stroller and helped her up the steps to knock on the door. Papa was ahead of us (despite the fact that he's 89 and had his cane in hand). Knock Knock Knock.
David came to the door and took one look at Papa, "Well, I'm off the bottle now so I don't think that we can be friends."
Papa looked up at him, "Well, I'm off too, so I guess it's okay." So he invited us in. Papa's surgery made him decide to at least take a break from drinking and Uncle David was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer so the doctor convinced him that he needed to refrain from drinking.
We sat down and Ruby began exploring the place. While she was exploring, she carried her milk bottle between her teeth and Uncle David began to talk.
"Well Joan [David's wife] went over to Seaside today to go shopping," he sad flatly.
"So what's she buying?" I asked assuming it had to be something in particular. I guess I was wrong because he looked over at me with a look of complete disgust.
"Whatever she damn well pleases. She goes shopping 'bout every day. 'Bout once a week to Seaside, once a week to Portland. Who knows what she's buying. She doesn't have anything else to do. Well, you know what I think it actually is, so she can have a chance to eat out. Don't blame her. She's a lousy cook. I don't touch her food," he said. I made a mental note to not ask about what she was buying again.
He glanced down at the car catalog in front of him, "Oh, she wants to buy a new car. She's always buying a new car. 'Bout every six years she gets a new one." (Six years seems like a long time to me, but I guess if you're 84, six years come and go quickly.) "I just buy a new one 'bout every - well - my last one was 19 years. I know because it had 19,000 miles on it. This new one is 6 years old. I know because it has 6,000 miles on it."
"So you drive exactly 1000 miles every year?" I was imagining buying a 19 year old pick-up that had exactly 19,000 miles on it. It's like the little old lady who only used it to go to church - but I guarantee Uncle David's not using it to go to church.
At this point Papa chimed in, "Well, he gets some help to get up to 1000. Otherwise it would be lower."
"Yeah that's true," David said, "Linda drives it to Portland every now and then or else I wouldn't even get that much mileage."
The conversation changed to his upbringing, "Imagine what it's like being the youngest of seven with no mother. But I had four older sisters who all had to mother me," he was sounding very reflective yet disgusted at the same time, "I'll never forget one day when I was 45 years old sitting on the grass over there at Esther's [his sister] house. There I was and all of the sudden Earmalee [his sister/my grandma] came yelling from the deck above 'David! you better get out of that wet grass you're going to catch a cold'. Well by this time I had had enough. Here I was 45 years old and I just couldn't take it one more second. I yelled right up, 'I'll sit on this grass if I damn well please and there ain't nothing you can do about it. I've been listening to you girls for almost 50 years, and I can't take one more second'." I guess his sisters all busted up laughing and I doubt if anything changed.
"Your baby really likes to hold her nipple between her teeth. You must have to buy new nipples 'bout once a week with how she carries that around," he said.
"Well I'm just glad I'm not breastfeeding anymore," I replied.
"You'll probably have to start again at the rate she'll be going through the nipples. You won't have enough money to keep buying them," he explained matter of factly.
I guess the thought of babies reminded him of when I was a baby. "You know you Mormons start having babies at about age 12 and keep pumping them out every year after that," I smiled wondering what on earth that would be like if it were true. "In fact, I'll never forget when I heard Dana [David's daughter] start talking about 'Molly', I couldn't figure out who she was talking about. I turned to her and I said, 'Well, who the hell's Molly?' and she couldn't believe I didn't know that Katie had had another child - can't keep track with you Mormons!"
On our way out Papa turned to Uncle David, "So the doctor didn't mention anything about you smoking? Just the drinking?"
"Well, he said to me 'you smoke?' and I said 'sure do' and he said 'well you know that's not good for you, right?" And I looked him in the eye and I said, 'How old are you doctor?' And he told me 46. So I turned back to him and said, 'I'm 84. Been smoking since I was 12. I'm a lot older than you yet I look half as young as you. I don't think you should be telling me what's healthy.' And that was that."
We left the house and I was still laughing on the inside. Guess you can always count on Uncle David to tell it like it is without sugar coating a thing.
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