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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where Did You Get That Beautiful Red Hair?

I had the pleasure of meeting a coworker's parents at a department get-together a number of years ago. We had heard a lot about the dad because he was battling cancer. What we didn't know was that he was facing it in the same way he did the rest of his life - with a sense of humor. "I'm so happy to meet you," I said, "and I hope you'll be feeling better soon." His reply? "Oh, don't worry about me, honey. I'm not going to die of cancer. I'm supposed to be shot in the behind by a jealous husband!" His wife, who was sitting right next to him, rolled her eyes and shook her head. She'd heard all of his lines before, I guess. One of his most notorious was his advice to his four daughters when they started dating. He handed them an aspirin tablet and told them if they held it between their knees they'd never get in any trouble!

Candy tried very hard to warn her two sons about Grandpa's ways. One of the things he really hated was when his children had bad table manners. The words "I want" were forbidden at the table. So when his grandsons came over for dinner, they had to learn their lessons as well. One evening when they had dinner with Grandma and Grandpa, they forgot their manners and said, "Hey, I'm ready for dessert!" Grandpa looked at them very calmly and said, "So you want some dessert, huh? I've got a good one for you. How about a pinewood float?" The boys got very excited and didn't even notice their mother shaking her head. "Yes, Grandpa!" He told them to wait, and he would bring the special treat to them. He returned from the kitchen a few minutes later with two glasses of water with toothpicks floating on the top. It only took one pinewood float for them to learn that lesson!

His daughters did turn the tables on him from time to time, though, so it was not just them being embarrassed by Dad. Sometimes he ended up being the butt of his own jokes. When the girls were quite young, he apparently worked extra jobs of all sorts to bring in extra income. From what I recall, he was sort of a jack of all trades. One evening, the family had invited the priest from their local church to have dinner with the family. At this time, the dad's second job was with a dairy. The priest was making small talk with the girls and asked one of them, "Where did you get that beautiful red hair?" Without a moment's thought, Candy's sister answered truthfully. "I got it from the milkman!" It is my understanding that this was the first and last time this priest dined at their home!

I am sad to say that although Candy's father won that particular bout with cancer, he ended up having cancer again, this time in his brain. He had had enough of fighting, so he didn't tell the family about his diagnosis and his choice not to take treatment. It was very difficult for them when he passed because he had always been so up front about things, and they were unprepared when he started to fail. I hope that the years have lessened her pain, and that she is able to remember all of the fun times she had being the daughter of the milkman. I think that is how he'd like to be remembered.