Darn Precious

 

Note: I wrote the following eight years ago, July 1, 2009, before Ricochet, back when I only had a little blog and my thoughts.

My Grandfather. D.P. Carter, is ailing. Cancer is running its insidious course through his body. My company was able to get me through my home town so I could spend some time with him today. I knew he was frail, but I wasn’t quite ready for what I saw. He has such a strong mind and determined spirit. The man is a fighter par excellence, yet his body is letting him down. He was sitting in a chair next to the hospital bed, because he didn’t want me to see him in that bed when I came in. He looked shrunken … frail … and tired. From a distance, he almost looked “hollow-eyed,“ but those eyes burned bright when I walked up to him. The first thing he noticed was a my bald head. “Where did your hair go, boy?” I told him I gave it the day off. He laughed. He wanted to go in the living room where we could talk. So the hospice nurse, a dear soul named Lou, got him in his wheelchair and in the living room we went.

Grandpa is in a sort of fog right now. He has a tough time connecting thoughts, remembering things he’s already said, heard, or seen. The conversation was disjointed at first, so I thought we’d go back down memory lane instead. That got him alert. I asked him about the time, when he was a little boy, when he waited until his dad was taking a nap, and then dipped his dad’s hand in chicken droppings before taking a feather and tickling his dad’s nose with it. Grandpa laughed and said, ‘He rubbed that [expletive] all over his face.” He added, “I got my ass beat, but it was worth it.”

And then we were off to the races, talking about old times. He told me the story of when Lake Charles High was playing a football game back in the ’50s. He and my Uncle Lester had a bit too much to drink and marched on the field with the band at halftime. Or the time they faked press credentials and got into the press box during a LCHS away game. Then there was the story about him and Grandma, Lester and Aunt Lou, going to Beaumont, TX and “honky tonkin’.” They came back home and one of Grandma’s sisters was there waiting, sober as a judge. Grandma’s sister, Edna, was a teetotaler and believed alcohol was evil. Grandpa said, “I tried to act sober, but Lester was passed out. Edna was standing there watching. I opened the door and Lester just rolled out onto the ground.” He started laughing and I said, “And you caught hell?” “You got that right boy!” It was priceless.

I picked up a little book that he wrote a few years ago. It’s a book about his life. My favorite passage is the one where he met my Grandma Carter many years ago in Church Point, LA. He described her as, “…the cutest little coonass I had ever seen.” He goes on in the book to point out that he was a truck driver, delivering beer for JAX Brewery out of New Orleans. This didn’t endear him to Grandma’s father who, Paw Paw tells us as an aside, was a Presbyterian minister. Again, priceless stuff.

A few years ago, Grandpa was in a nasty head on collision in town. He ended up in the hospital busted up pretty badly. He told me the story of how the docs said that he had actually died that day and they brought him back. In the middle of the story, he forgot what he was saying and went back to the beginning and started telling the story to me all over again, unaware of what he had just told me. I smiled and listened because I don’t want him to stop telling me stories … ever. He repeated himself yet again, and on the third round I figured I should verbally do the equivalent of bumping the needle when a record gets stuck. So I interrupted him and said, “I know how the docs brought you back.” “You do?” he asked. “Yep,” I said. He replied “Well they manipulated my pacemaker.” I said, “Nope, that’s not how they did it.” He leaned in, looked at me intently and said, “Well then, how did they bring me back?” I answered “Gumbo.” “Huh?” “They brought you a bowl of gumbo and you came back!” He looked at me for a moment, and then said, “You’re full of [expletive], ya know that?” I said, “Yes sir. Look who I got it from.” He started laughing and we were off again.

He asked my Aunt Rosalie to go get his big Bible, and then asked whether I had time to listen to him tell me about the family. I said of course, and that I wanted to pass all that information down to my kids. “Oh, please do,“ he said. Aunt Rosalie brought his Bible and there on the cover page, years ago, he had written the names of his brothers and sisters along with their dates of birth and death. He told me about his parents and siblings. He is the last surviving member of that family. His parents were sharecroppers. Dirt poor. He was one of 12 children, only eight of whom survived. They lived a hard, hard life. In his book, Grandpa wrote, “To be honest, we were so poor, that the poor people called us poor.” Describing one house the family lived in, he writes:

It was a big old house, with a chimney at each end of the house, the kitchen was separated from the house with a little walkway connecting the two together. There were cracks in the floor, and you could see the ground underneath, so just swept the trash through the cracks. The house was three or four feet above the ground. There were cracks in the wall, and there were no glass windows. The windows had wooden shutters and when you opened them, there was the wide open space outside.

Grandpa goes on to tell us that the reason there were high poster beds back then was so mosquito bars could be hung on them. That way the family could sleep without being eaten alive by the bugs. But despite all the hardship, the overall impression Grandpa leaves in his writing is of a happy family. Hard working, but happy. He has always been the most naturally jovial person I’ve ever known.

After about an hour of visiting, including a walk down the driveway and back, he was tired. We got him into the hospital bed, and he was asleep before he ever hit the pillow. The hospice nurse looked at me and said, “He’s a special man.” “Yes ma’am,” I answered, “From the time I was this high (gesturing with my hand close the floor), I always looked forward to visiting Paw Paw Carter. I knew there would be jokes, smiles, and lots of laughter.” Lou told me that even when he is in pain, he makes jokes with her. I’m not surprised. It seems to go with the territory in this family.

I don’t know that Grandpa will be with us much longer. His 93rd birthday is next month and something in my gut tells me he may not live to see it. The laughter is still there. The quick wit and humor are still there. But his body is fighting him, and he is tired. Tired and frustrated that he can’t will his body to keep up with his spirits. When he goes, the world will smile a little less. When that bright light of his moves on, things will darken a bit for the rest of us. But in a way, he’s spent a lifetime teaching his family, by example, not to take ourselves, or life itself, too seriously. I’ve heard it said that one of the ways you measure success is not by the stuff you accumulate, or even the titles you earn. It’s the smiles you leave behind that show your measure. If that’s true, and I suspect it is, my Grandfather is a giant of a man. Our loss will be Heaven’s gain.


Note: Grandpa lived to see his 93rd birthday, but not a whole lot longer beyond that. The last time I saw him was in the nursing home. We visited for awhile and I asked him if he was still 27 years old, as he had claimed to be from the time I was in kindergarten. “Nah,” he said, adding, “these days I feel more like 28.” With that, he put on the WWII hat I had purchased for him at the World War II Museum in in New Orleans, moved over to his little motorized scooter and nearly burned rubber heading down the hall for lunch. It was the last time I would see him alive. Oh yes, about the title of this essay: Rather than go by his full name, Grandpa told folks his name was D.P. Carter (chiefly because he really didn’t like his first and middle name). When people asked, “What does the D.P. stand for?” he would grin and say, “Darn Precious.” At church, they just called him Precious. And yes, he was indeed precious, and a great deal more. I miss him.

There are 14 comments.

  1. Thatcher

    I miss my grandpa Woodrow “Woody” Amos too…..the stories those old men could tell!

    • #1
    • July 2, 2017 at 8:09 am
    • 2 likes
  2. Thatcher

    Ah, Dave…Thanks for sharing your Precious memories…The great cloud of witnesses just keeps getting bigger and brighter, doesn’t it? Panda Hug to share with Sugar Nutt, sweet friend. Blessed Sunday!

    • #2
    • July 2, 2017 at 8:10 am
    • 3 likes
  3. Inactive

    “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power

    And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,

    Await at last the inevitable hour:

    The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

    –Grey

    • #3
    • July 2, 2017 at 8:11 am
    • 3 likes
  4. Member

    Dave, beautiful writing. Thanks for sharing it with us today.

    I had to look up the term your grandfather used for your grandmother, not being fortunate enough to be Cajun. Love it.

    • #4
    • July 2, 2017 at 8:14 am
    • 3 likes
  5. Reagan
    iWe

    Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    • #5
    • July 2, 2017 at 9:05 am
    • 6 likes
  6. Coolidge

    So poignantly beautiful Dave. Indeed: Precious. It brings back my own memories of beloved characters who’ve gone before. Like you, I miss them so much. It helps to think of them smiling down us from above.

    • #6
    • July 2, 2017 at 9:44 am
    • 3 likes
  7. Inactive

    • #7
    • July 2, 2017 at 10:22 am
    • Like
  8. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Concretevol (View Comment):
    I miss my grandpa Woodrow “Woody” Amos too…..the stories those old men could tell!

    Absolutely. One other aside from Grandpa Carter is that he loved to tell jokes. He lived for it. Only problem was, half the time he’d be laughing so hard by the time he got the punch line, just anticipating it,… that he couldn’t deliver it. But I do know the first half of several really good jokes.

    • #8
    • July 2, 2017 at 12:05 pm
    • 7 likes
  9. Member

    Sweet, Dave, thanks for sharing.

    • #9
    • July 2, 2017 at 12:29 pm
    • Like
  10. Thatcher

    Makes me think of my Grandpa Roy. I miss him all the time. Glad you have good memories of Grandpa Carter in his final days. Sometimes those are the most precious memories.

    • #10
    • July 2, 2017 at 1:57 pm
    • 2 likes
  11. Inactive

    Would that I’ll be half as loved by my grand kids when they come. Well done Dave.

    • #11
    • July 2, 2017 at 2:50 pm
    • 4 likes
  12. Thatcher

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Concretevol (View Comment):
    I miss my grandpa Woodrow “Woody” Amos too…..the stories those old men could tell!

    Absolutely. One other aside from Grandpa Carter is that he loved to tell jokes. He lived for it. Only problem was, half the time he’d be laughing so hard by the time he got the punch line, just anticipating it,… that he couldn’t deliver it. But I do know the first half of several really good jokes.

    Grandpa Amos had one about staying with his cousin one summer up in Va and stumbling onto a moonshine still when walking through the woods. Actually he said he never saw the still…..just the business end of a shotgun and the relief he felt when the guy on the other end of it recognized his cousin. lol

    • #12
    • July 2, 2017 at 3:28 pm
    • 1 like
  13. Member

    Wow Dave – thank you so much for sharing your grandpa with us. That generation, which we are losing rapidly, was fearless. They spoke freely, no political correctness, had a sense of humor, purpose and inner strength. They survived two world wars, a Great Depression, and knew how to use their hands – plant a garden, build a fence, fix a car. Your granddad lives on in you – you share genes, history, love – so he’s not really gone, but not suffering anymore. To be that cognizant at 93 is amazing, and love that he wrote down pieces of his life – I wish everyone would do that, and preserve photos. What a great story – God bless your granddad.

    • #13
    • July 2, 2017 at 5:38 pm
    • 3 likes
  14. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Wow Dave – thank you so much for sharing your grandpa with us. That generation, which we are losing rapidly, was fearless. They spoke freely, no political correctness, had a sense of humor, purpose and inner strength. They survived two world wars, a Great Depression, and knew how to use their hands – plant a garden, build a fence, fix a car. Your granddad lives on in you – you share genes, history, love – so he’s not really gone, but not suffering anymore. To be that cognizant at 93 is amazing, and love that he wrote down pieces of his life – I wish everyone would do that, and preserve photos. What a great story – God bless your granddad.

    Poignant, and very moving. Particularly the portion I bolded. I’m humbled, grateful, and appreciative.

    • #14
    • July 2, 2017 at 6:28 pm
    • 3 likes