Posted tagged ‘opinionated’

Hearing My Papaw Helton Again After 30 Years

July 27, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 27, 2018

                    

I only knew one of my grandfathers. The other, my dad’s dad, died in a mining accident in the southeast corner of Kentucky long before I was even a possibility. 

My Papaw Helton, however, was distinctive in personality, the governor of his family’s domain, and the source of various opinions that were mostly anchored to common sense…mostly!

My sister made me a DVD copy of an interview Papaw Helton had done with my cousin, Matthew Helton, back in 1989. Papaw was 89 at the time of the interview and lived another couple of years. He had been born on the eastern Kentucky farm in 1898 where he lived almost his entire life. In fact, the front sitting room where he was delivered was also the same room where each of his six children were born. Knowing my Mama Helton she went to the chicken coop and killed a chicken for a celebration dinner a few hours after delivering. No epidurals were used in Oil Springs, Kentucky back in those days, although there was probably a bottle of bourbon whiskey somewhere close…for medicinal purposes!

When you haven’t heard your Papaw’s voice for thirty years it’s causes a flood of emotions to rise up from the reservoir of memories. My Papaw was a proud and stoic “feller” (his pronunciation). He was suspicious of any new inventions that were meant to improve the quality of a person’s life. (I think I was ten years old when he and Mamaw decided to finally get indoor plumbing! Until then you battled the spiders in the outhouse, which caused you to “hold your water” a bit longer before seeking relief!) 

I remember the story of a salesman stopping by the farmhouse looking to sell a satellite dish…one of those huge ones that stuck out like a sore thumb! He explained what the dish could do, how many TV channels it could pick up, and all. Back in those days Mamaw and Papaw had a little TV that could pick up two stations, and one of them so fuzzy you weren’t sure if you were watching a baseball game or “The Price Is Right”!

The salesman thought he had a good prospective sale and then my Papaw asked him how much this “deesh” cost? 

“Mr. Helton, it’s only nineteen ninety-five!”

“Nineteen ninety-five?” He relayed that conversation to us with the comment, “Good Lord, son! He made it sound like a twenty dollar bill!” No sale was made and my grandparents continued to receive two television stations. They never ever saw Ed Sullivan with good complexion on TV!

On the DVD Matthew keeps peppering Papaw with questions about politics, life, his siblings, where he worked, who his favorite president was, his only plane ride ever, and the fearlessness of Matthew’s father, my Uncle George, on the trip they all took together by auto to California and back. 

“Your daddy wanted to stop at every place we came to on the way!” Papaw exclaims, not in an affirming way. “And he wanted to go to the top of Pike’s Peak. Lord God, there weren’t any guardrails along that road and I just about put my foot through the floorboard on the way down and wore out my britches! I said, Lord God, if you get me down from here I’ll never go up again!”

The sound of his voice is like eating comfort food. It’s satisfaction for the soul, a return to an earlier time that was uncomplicated and certain. With Papaw life wasn’t gray. Things were mostly black and white. Either you were or you weren’t…there wasn’t any “almost.” A person was either right or wrong, and, of course, what was right depended on my Papaw’s view of things. 

And I realize that who I am today still has his definite imprint upon it, and that’s a very good thing!

Acquired Taste

January 31, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       January 31, 2018

                                              

There are certain things in life that we partake of because…

Because of family tradition. Because we’ve always done it that way. Because it’s all we have. Because someone does it. Because we were told to.

For a few years at Thanksgiving I’d make oyster dressing. No one else in my household- spouse or any of the three kids- would even get close to the oyster dressing. I made it because…my mom always made it for Thanksgiving! I didn’t even realize that dressing/stuffing could be eaten without oysters! Christmas featured fruitcake. I don’t even like fruitcake, but we always had one for Christmas, so I’d munch away, pretending it was a natural act of mankind.

I acquired a taste for coffee during my last year of seminary when I decided to take a  Hebrew class. Late at night Steve Wamberg, Steve Shaffer, and I would drive over to The Golden Bear restaurant, drink coffee and study Hebrew flash cards. The Hebrew never stayed with me, but the taste for coffee did. Forty years later I’ve acquired a taste for Starbucks coffee, a brew that grew on me!

In recent years I’ve acquired tastes for Brussel sprouts, yogurt, and grits. Such notions would have made me break out in fits of laughter a few years ago.

There also seems to be “acquired tastes” of cultural ideas and trends. Last year the middle school where I coach was saturated with “fidget spinners.” Spinners were those handheld devices that were held by two fingers and spun. They became a “thing” that became classroom distractions. Teachers had nightmares because of fidget spinners. When they thought of the word “annoying” a picture of a fidget spinner would pop up in their minds.

What I noticed about “acquired cultural tastes” is that people sometimes follow along and partake simply because of others. It’s simply peer pressure shaped differently. There are issues or situations where following along is a good thing, a wise thing; and there are issues and situations where following along is ludicrous.

For example, towards the end of the 1800’s the overwhelming opinion in the United States was that Chinese immigrants were to be despised and discriminated against. Many businesses and corporations had policies that prohibited the hiring of Chinese. In fact, a person would be hard pressed to find someone who was sympathetic. The government sure wasn’t! People followed along in that “acquired taste” of hate and racism.

In the turbulence of our present culture recent “acquired tastes” have included national anthem protests, reefer gladness, consuming laundry detergent pods, and openly hoping that certain elected officials meet untimely deaths. They are like opinionated tsunamis that years from now will be looked upon, like the discrimination of Chinese immigrants, as making no sense whatsoever. For now, however, like flags blowing in the wind, people wave in the direction of the spouted opinion.

If a Hollywood starlet or recording artist makes a statement in the midst of one of the many award shows on TV you can be sure that numerous people will acquire the taste of that stance soon after. I guess that sounded somewhat opinionated, didn’t it?

Well, here’s another opinion! Most acquired tastes, with the exception of Starbucks coffee, should be un-acquired!