Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pascal's Wrinkles

On Friday, we were sitting in Uncle Pack and Aunt Margaret's living room talking about Melissa’s wiggly tooth. Pack’s eyes started twinkling and he told Melissa that he always pulls his own teeth. He wiggles them until tears stream down his face, then wedges his tongue underneath and pushes until they pop out. Sometimes he would tie a string to his tooth and the other to a doorknob, brace himself on a wall, then kick the door shut to pull the tooth. Pack has had only one tooth pulled by a dentist. The good doctor gave him a shot of nasty tasting stuff before he reached in and pulled it out. Pack deeply regrets that he didn’t try harder to pull it himself.

Pack comes from a time when men didn’t feel pain. If they did, they never let on. He fought in World War II and refuses to talk about it more than, “There are things I won’t talk about and I don’t want to remember.” He has never confided those experiences to anyone, including his wife of 60 years.

Before he enlisted, he had plenty of sweethearts. There was a giant white oak tree next to the school that had a big hole in it. The students used the hole as a mailbox to exchange love notes. Pack says he had all kinds of girlfriends, and dated their sisters, too. But Pack married the first woman he met when he got home from the Army. Wherever they went, her mother escorted them. Her mother always walked or sat behind them and he couldn’t figure out why. He said he wasn’t too bright, but at the time only recognized that it was bad that they couldn’t even kiss.

But during his school days, Pack sometimes put his flirting aside. He and the other male students would sneak away at recess and at lunch to smoke cigarettes. The boys would walk around the curve on the dirt road and once out of sight, they would roll cigarettes using dark-fired homegrown tobacco and paper bags. They’d eat lunch between puffs. Some days they got away with it and other days they’d get caught. After lunch, they lined up in two lines to reenter the school room, first through eighth grade students. If the teacher smelled tobacco on anyone, she’d make them cut a three foot long switch and whip the boys. Pack asked, “Did we smoke the next day? Yes ma’am.” Pack remembers once when the teacher whipped the palm of his hands with a metal ruler. He had enough and grabbed the ruler, spun her around, and started whipping her backside. He got detention for a week. On some Mondays upon his arrival at school, the same teacher would whip him just for hearing about his weekend antics. Pack said he wasn’t mean, just mischievous and he wishes he hadn’t whipped the teacher back. He visited her years later and apologized. His teacher said it wasn’t right that he treated his teacher like that, but she smiled and forgave him.

Pack described how lucky he and his family were during the Depression. His family had a farm that hadn’t dried up. They had their own apples, chickens, eggs, hogs, beef, milk and butter. They raised enough garden food to can in half gallon jars. He remembers his Mom putting up 99 jars of green beans and blackberries at a time. Other people would charge their groceries all year, then pay the grocer when their crops came in and were sold. Pack felt bad for the people who didn’t earn enough from their crops to pay off their grocery bill. At the grocers, Pack would buy a bag of chocolate drops and peanuts for a nickel each. They also bought a 25 pound bag of flour for 25 cents and made their own biscuits.

When Pack had free time, his first cousin would take him to downtown Greenville, Kentucky to have their pictures made. They were tiny black and white photos and the kids thought they were the grandest things in the world. Pack was recently given a photo of his father and was surprised to see him wearing a suit because he only remembers him wearing overalls. He lost his father at 65 years old to starvation because his throat became paralyzed and he couldn’t eat. Pack said no one knew how it happened, but his tongue also couldn’t move and he could only grunt to communicate. His first social security check for $14 arrived right after he died. The family returned it to the government.

Pack’s parents had nine children in all. One brother lived to be 15, two died as babies, and his sister Gladys died at birth. There are only two of them left. Pack who is second to the oldest and his sister Sybil who was next to the youngest.

Pack doesn’t drive long distance anymore because he sometimes has spells where he blacks out. His daughter is coming to help Pack and his wife head to Texas for several months to spend time with her, her husband, and foster children. They think they’ll enjoy the warmer southern temperatures that Texas offers. It will be awfully empty in Greenville without them.

2 Comments:

Blogger newscoma said...

This is my favorite wrinkle thus far.
He reminds me of my grandfather.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Mandi said...

Why do you find it necessary to tug at our heartstrings?! What a sweet man! I just want to give him a gigantic hug. Oh...and I support the beating of that mean ole teacher...what he did on the weekend was his own business! Give him my love!

6:06 PM  

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