Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Okies, part 9

Grandpa Harris was a good man and a quiet man. He was typically one who didn't speak unless he had something useful to say, and spent his time quietly listening to other people. He was a gentle, patient and kind man.

Grandpa was a relatively short man, very round, with a distinct black flattop that was never grey, What Dad lacked in hair, his own Dad made up for. Here was the perfect example of genes skipping a generation.

Actually, we’re pretty sure Dad inherited his baldness from Grandma’s side, since Grandma Harris too had very little hair. Though she had grey hair on every part of her head, it was so thin you could see her scalp from any angle. She’d get her hair done at the hairdressers, and proudly ask you how it looked, and didn’t she look pretty? And I would look through her hair, see her scalp, and tell her, “Yes, it looked great!”

The thing I remember most about Grandpa Harris was his smile. Even in his seventies, when Grandpa Harris would smile, he'd look like a seven year old boy who'd been caught kissing the girls.

Grandpa Harris also worked at Conoco, but as a machinist. He never talked much about work, and rarely spoke of his boyhood family, so I have very little knowledge of his family life. I do know that most of his family is today in Ohio, Pennsylvania and California, though we don't keep in touch with any of them,

Grandpa Harris would keep busy helping other people. Whether it was mowing Aunt Marnie's yard in Blackwater, selling VFW charity pansies outside Wal-Mart, or rebuilding a shelf that Grandma wanted rebuilt, Grandpa always found his expression of love in his hands.

Grandpa was enormously patient, and nobody could try patience like I could. As a hyperactive youth, I was the ultimate test for most adults. I have vivid memories of driving substitute teachers mad with rage, literally being chased around the room by them. But Grandpa’s patience knew no end. He could change a set of tires on his car with my help. He’d patiently hand me the lug nuts, and I’d work alongside him. If I dropped a nut, or kicked a tool, he’d just grab it and continue in his work. Never a word.

Grandpa Harris was also a man of principle. As a machinist at Conoco, he had never joined the union because he didn't care much for it. When they'd strike, he'd buck the picket lines and go on into work. And some days, Grandpa would open his lunchbox to find someone had shit in it. He'd quietly just close the lunchbox back up, go hungry that day, and continue with his work, never budging, never letting it bother him.

He was strong that way.

My days spent with Grandpa and Grandma as a kid were filled with games of penny-ante poker, UNO, hand-held electronic games, and watching whatever game shows were popular at the time. Game shows like Card Sharks, Tic-Tac-Dough, Press Your Luck and Wheel of Fortune were the staple television diet at the Harris house. During the school-year we'd learn from books, but in the summer, when in Ponca, we'd learn how to play games.


Mom said...

I've been reading your blog. You have several inaccuracies. I'll have to go back & let you know what all of them were. One was that Grandma Guier died from breast cancer & lung cancer. She had the breast cancer first. At that time they didn't have the knowledge to treat breast cancer very well. Her Family Practicioner did the radical mastectomy - a very disfiguring procedure. He also did all of her chemo & radiation in conjunction with the local radiologist. She was grossly mismanaged, which wasn't uncommon in that era of breast cancer treatment. She developed a metastasis to the sternum & other bone. When her dr finally realized, about a year later, what was going on, he & the radiologist decided to give her twice the recommended dose of radiation for twice the length of time. It started a completely separate lung cancer. When they discovered the lung cancer, they started treating it like it had spread from the breast, when in fact it was a totally different type of cancer caused by the over-radiation. BY the time they discovered their error, it had spread to her brain & she died within 6 weeks.

Something you don't know about Grandpa Guier inspite of all of his harshness & potty mouth is that he loves roses. He used to belong to the Rose Garden Club in PC. He even won awards for his beautiful roses. He has always loved flowers & prided himself on his ability to have a beautiful lawn & flower beds. The one thing that he still finds enjoyment in now that he is in the advanced stages of ALzheimers, is when I send roses. He continues to try to care for his flowers to his ability, but tires easily.

Grandpa was always the "go to guy" if anyone wanted any kind of home improvements, car repairs or anything else fixed. He was always a perfectionist & could figure out how to build or make anything. He dug by hand, by himself, a tornado shelter for us & our neighbors. He added a second story to our house, so I could have my own bedroom when I was 14 yrs old. He remodeled Aunt Mildreds kitchen & built the cabinets for my cousins barber shop. He built a baseball diamond & hand sewed the canvas bases that attached to metal stays in the ground for our backyard. We had kids from all over PC to come our yard for baseball games. As Grandpa got older, he lost his ability to build & fix things. St. Marys's still has the portable camp kitchens that he built for the Boy Scouts. Grandpa was very active in the Boy Scouts for probably 10 or 12 years! He was known as the best scoutmaster St Mary's ever had for years.

Here are a few more corrections that you need to make to your blog:

1) Dad went ahead to Germany. When we got to the airport - we didn't have passports. Dad had accidentally sent them ahead with his hold baggage, so we had to stay behind in PC. I was torn about going to Germany with Grandma Guier so sick. The decision was made for me when we didn't have passports to go to Germany.

2) There was no Hospice when Grandma was dying with cancer. I spent the last 3 months of her life taking care of her until the day she died. Prior to my coming back to PC, Aunt Terry had takencare of her. She went to every hospitalization with her. When I got home, I took over where Aunt Terry left off. In her last weeks, I slept in a recliner in her bedroom.

3) The night before Grandma died, I was sitting in the recliner in her room because I knew she was extremely close to death. I had already called her family doctor out to examine her. He had just left, I was sitting in the recliner, crying about my Mothers immenent death & had begun calling family to advise them of her condition. Uncle Bobby was out of town on business, so we had to call him home. Butch was at home in Claremore, Ok. He had problems dealing with her disease & ultimate death. No one sat with Grandma, except me for the last 3 months of her life. Uncle Bobby made it home minutes before she passed away thanks to Conoco holding the corporate jet to transport him home from his business trip.

While I was sitting in the recliner, 14 hours before her death, I saw her get up out of bed. I jumped up to grab her & put her back to bed. When I reached for her, I grabbed the wall, Grandma was still laying in the bed. I always felt that it was her spirit leaving her body.

4) You always admired Wonder Woman's "broad shoulders". I think it was more the exposed skin ( breasts) above her form fitting costume! You were always a boobie man - even as a young boy!

5) Okies 8 - Grandma was swinging on a vine as a young Mother, teaching her 3 children how to swing on a vine like Tarzan. The vine broke, she landed on her tail bone which jammed her spine up into her skull. She probably had a consussion among other injuries, but toughed it out, spending the night sleeping out on the river bank while her family enjoyed their fishing trip. She was cursed with back pain the rest of her life.

6) Okies 9- Aunt Marnie lived in Medford, not Blackwater. Grandpa & Dad both grew up working on her farm. Grandpa never mowed anyones yard. He hated lawn work so much that he threatened to have the yard paved & painted green. Grandma H. put the clamps on that plan & hired lawn service!

7) Peter was conscipted into the German Army, not Russian. Peter & Elisabeth lived on the second floor. We lived on the first floor. We shared the walkout basement with them. We both had a garage down there, as well as our laundry room & their party room, complete with bar & your shoes hanging on the water pipes. Elisabeth also had a huge pantry - complete with wine, beer, chocolate bars & tons of her carrot juice that was good for the "augen" - eyes.

Peter taught me how to make homemade sauerkraut. We shredded & salted cabbage in a crock. Once the sauerkraut was ready, Elisabeth taught me how to cook it by rinsing it first & then cook it with bacon grease & garlic to get the best flavor. It's still the best sauerkraut in the world!!! My only regret was that I never learned how to make her sauerbeans - best when servied with ham!

Scott said...


Thanks for the corrections. I realized that I depicted Grandpa Guier more harshly than I meant to. Of course, he's such a loving person, very generous and giving. But in the eyes of a kid, he's all mouth and swagger. You don't see the gentle side (which it takes an adult to appreciate, I think). I will go back and edit my blog. Thanks for helping me get it right.

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