Posted tagged ‘Papaw’

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!

Well…

January 5, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    January 5, 2015

                                                          

I often begin a conversational sentence with one word…”Well.” It’s not a word of depth as much as it is a word of delay. It’s the equivalent of a student raising their hand in a second grade classroom to be recognized.

Now…why do I begin sentences with “well?”

Well…let me tell you!

It goes back to my grandfather, my Papaw, Dewey Helton, born and raised in Johnson County, Kentucky where front porch wisdom is in plentiful supply. Papaw Helton would often initiate his sharing of wisdom with a “well” drawn out to cover a considerable time period.

Many times it was the beginning of a grandfatherly statement that was intended to make you see the error of your ways.

“Well…look a’here! If boys start wearing girdles, are you going to wear one too?”

That wisdom was shared after I grew my hair out to the point that it touched my ears. To my Papaw I was starting to look radical. My rationale about it being the new style didn’t carry water for him. That made as much sense as trying to get eggs from a pig.

Papaw’s voice would also quiver a little bit as he uttered the “well.” He had a little country preacher in his blood. For a moment you got the feeling you were in a revival meeting where he was about to call the glory down, but he would just as quickly come back down to earth and rattle off some more common sense.

“Well…’pon my honor!”

     Those words were usually said in a verbal jousting match with one or more of my uncles. Kentucky politics was a topic ripe for debate. There were always half a dozen viewpoints, but none of them even close to the gospel truth besides Papaw’s.

“Well…Lord have mercy!” Lord was the second word spoken for an eternity. In fact, Papaw lengthened it out even longer than “well” because the Lord needed to be “the most!” His voice would rise and fall as if it was heading for the end times.

“Well…Lord have mercy, son! I’ve never heard of such a thing!” 

       “It’s true, Papaw!”

“Well…look a’here, Billy Dean!”

That was the next level of the conversation. When Papaw thought you were slow to come back to common sense he would address you by your first and middle names just in case you were suffering from foolhardiness!

Well…now you know why I begin so many statement of truth with “well.”

Well?

Dad Time

August 12, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             August 12, 2014

                                               “Dad Time”

I’ve been blessed with a great father, Laurence Hubert Wolfe. Dad is now 86 and moving a little slower these days, but he was able to fly from Ohio to Colorado Springs and spend about a week and a half with us.

My mom passed away last September. Dad had been her primary caregiver for the last few years of her life…feeding her meals, sitting by her bed, sometimes having to be firm with her about taking medications and drinking fluids. Because of his energies being directed to her he hadn’t been able to visit us in Colorado. This trip was an opportunity for him to spend some uninterrupted time with his grandkids and great grandkids, and it was…great…deeply meaningful…and impacting.

Our three year old granddaughter, Reagan, came to the point where she looked forward to seeing “Papaw” each day. One day she asked her mom when they were going to see Papaw and her mom said they weren’t going to see him that day. She was not happy!

One morning she entered into our house saying “Papaw, Papaw!” She breathed in through her nose and said, “I know he’s here! I can smell him!”

Dad was amazed and amused by the conversations. The uniqueness of each of his grandchildren and “greats” was obvious to him. He often smiled in satisfied appreciation. We had three meals during the week at the restaurant that our son is chef at. Papaw loved the fish and chips. They are probably not on his diet back home, but we put diets aside for a few days. His grandson personally fixed his meal.

Our oldest daughter had us over for dinner twice during his stay. The green bean casserole reminded him of meals my mom would cook. He visited her fourth grade classroom and was pleased to see a few of the ways she effectively teaches the youngest generation.

Our youngest daughter traveled up from Albuquerque for the weekend to spend a little time with her Papaw. We took him to an air show, and we did it not so much to see the planes but just to be with him, and to see his delight in meeting one of the Tuskegee Airman who was a guest there.

We talked about this and that. He retold some stories that I had heard a few times already, and also revealed some family history that I wasn’t familiar with.

We’d drive my Civic around the area, visiting the Air Force Academy, The Classical Academy where I coach basketball, as well as simple trips to Lowe’s and Walgreen’s and Albertson’s supermarket.

A few times during his stay he wasn’t up for any adventures. He just wanted to sit a while and read. Other times he just wanted to watch CNN as the events in Gaza and Iraq unfolded. On Sunday we watched the PGA championship for a solid two hours.

He ate watermelon and cantaloupe just like our family did in my growing ups days. Watermelon was a more prized treat than ice cream!

When I picked up Dad at the airport he was being wheeled down the terminal in a wheelchair. It’s a little difficult to see your dad in a wheelchair for the first time. When we dropped him off back at the airport I watched him get in a wheelchair again. It was a harsh visible sign that Dad is in his life home stretch.

The readers of this blog don’t quite understand how deeply respected my dad is by our three children. It’s hard to read something and pick up on the underlying value that they place on their relationships with Papaw.

They will remember this visit from him not for places that we went together, but rather time spent with him…sitting on the couch beside him…hearing his chuckles…listening to his accent.

Dad time…priceless!

Family Picture Boxes

April 24, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 April 24, 2014

 

                                      

 

My dad is moving. He’s under a month now. The house sold in less than two weeks after he listed it with a realtor…a happening that caught him a little off-guard…kind of like when a young lady I went to college with said yes to a date proposal!

“You will?”

The quickness of the house selling suddenly changed the game plan. It’s the difference between reading War and Peace versus reading the Cliff Notes of War and Peace.

Yesterday we were going through boxes of family photos. It was entertaining and amusing. To see my dad as a curly red-haired two year old (Although his red hair doesn’t really stand out in the black-and-white photo. You rarely think of your parents as kids, especially when they are just shy of 86!

And then there was the picture of my mom in a swimsuit when she was about twenty. That’s another picture I’m not sure about. Mom looked great in a swimsuit…is that okay? A son kind of wants his mom just to look okay for some reason. Call it generational unrest.

Another box had old Christmas card pictures. My parents would put a picture of the three kids on a Christmas postcard each year. You can see the progression each year as we grew and became less cute. The growing attitudes of “This is no longer cool!” can be slightly seen as each year passed by.

There was a few pictures of my Helton grandparents- Mamaw and Papaw Helton. Papaw was a stoic-type Eastern Kentucky farmer, who measured success on the basis on crops, chickens, and good-looking hogs. Seeing the pictures brought back the echo of his voice.

“Loooorrrdddd, have mercy!”

It look him longer to say “Lord” than it did for Jesus to say “holy, holy, holy!”

There was pictures of Feds Creek School where my dad went to school, and Oil Springs High School where both he and my mom attended. It made me realize that I failed to take pictures of the schools I attended, most that no longer are standing! Years from now my kids will think I was home-schooled since there will be an absence of brick and mortar shots to tell stories about.

Pictures of my aunts and uncles through the years were revealing. Each of them shows the ticking of time on their faces, the sagging of their jaws, and gray in, or loss of, their hair. For some of my uncles age was not kind. Most of my aunts, however, had “good skin.”

There was a picture of our Siamese cat “Caesar.” He ruled the roost until he started urinating in the entryway of our house. Mom did not take kindly to a cat who got confused. “Cat dementia” led to an absence of cat.

Finally, there were pictures of former pastors, all with stories attached to the film. Pastor Zachary at Central Baptist Church in Winchester, Kentucky…a great pastor and, I’m assuming, preacher…although I was too young to know what a good preacher was. That was during the period when I was a little envious of the Methodist children. Baptists had Sunday night church, but the Methodist took care of all the spiritual hunger on Sunday morning. Bottom line! They got to watch Walt Disney on Sunday night while we were going at it for a second time at Central Baptist.

There was Pastor Gale Baldridge who was a great pastor with a servant’s heart. He wore brightly colored suits that someday will come back into style…shortly after leisure suits arrive again.

The boxes are full of memories and history. Since cell phones are now cameras I;m not sure how things will be years from now. Will the history be evident? Will there be a richness in that time when our kids help us pack up for the move?

I don’t know. No one talks about “Kodak Moments” much any more.