“BAZAC AND ARAFAT!”
There he goes again. Grandpa could be quite expressive when provoked, and evidently something severely provoked him this morning.
“You single-toed snot-licking parasite!”
Mom stopped him. “Now what, Dad? Settle down. What’s going on?
“My blasted toe tore through my sock and now I can’t get my shoe on. Those bowlegged knock-kneed Chinese can’t even make a decent sock anymore.”
“Your socks were made in the good old US of A, I’ll have you know, and they are well-made. If you’d let somebody cut your toenails…”
And so they were off again, Mom trying to reason with a resolutely unreasonable old war veteran, and Grandpa with his ever-expanding vocabulary of non-blasphemous curses.
Early years, it bothered me, but as nothing physically violent ever happened, I listened with fascination as the verbal volleys continued. Both Mom and her dad were certain and persistent, and I hung around so I wouldn’t miss a word.
Once in a while, Grandpa would notice me loitering and he’d stand up and shake his cane at me.
“You, lad. Yes, you, you lazy boot-licking little arechepennasassafretiner!”
Mom gasped. “You don’t need to talk like that to the boy.”
I suppose I should have been afraid, but I had all I could do to keep from giggling. How did he come up with those words? And I’m pretty sure I saw a twinkle in his eye, though he maintained his furrowed brow.
Dad? Oh, he left the scene of the battles as soon as they started, and always treated Grandpa with respect. For his part, my Grandpa was always kind, almost deferential to Dad. One time I heard him tell Dad, “Ed, I sure appreciate you taking her on—I never could handle her,” and he patted Dad on the shoulder.
That time Dad turned around and I’m pretty sure he winked at me.
Sundays were the best. We’d go to church, of course. Mom sang in the choir and I sat with Dad and Grandpa.
If I behaved myself, Grandpa would slip me a pink peppermint. I still have a longing for pink peppermints sometimes. Of course if I squirmed too much, he’d pinch my leg. Peppermint or pinches, whichever, took place while he looked straight ahead without changing expression.
When we got home, Mom made the best dinner! Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet corn and iceberg lettuce with Miracle Whip. I’m still looking for fried chicken that tastes as good as what Mom made. We usually had yellow cake for dessert.
When we finished, Grandpa announced, “Rose, that was a terrible example of ineptitude and ineffectuality.” He’d start clearing the table. “The single-eyed flea and I will take care of the dishes. You and Ed go upstairs and rest a while.”
Once the dishes were done—he washed, I dried—we took off the tablecloth and the checker board came out. That old man could smooth clear the board. When I finally could beat him once in a while, he began teaching me to play chess. It was slow going at first, but eventually I could give him a good game. The last time we played, he seemed a little slow, and I actually captured his king.
“Checkmate, you old buzzard!”
He slumped over the board, breathing heavily. “You’re a good lad, snot-licker,” and was gone.
He was 86 years old, and had lived a good life, so it was hard to be too sad, but I sure miss the old goat! Mom does, too. She’s even threatens to use some of his names on me.