Eat Greasy Food Off Dirty Dishes

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerMy grandfather knew how to live. Granted, he was a hermit, but he knew how to manage on a very small pension. My recollection of him dates back to when I was ten, he was seventy-two. He was living on a small farm in southwest Michigan. His house was small and without plumbing. It did have electricity and hand pumped water in the kitchen. Gramp’s pension came from working in a coal mine when he was younger. The pension wasn’t very much, perhaps thirty dollars a month. Somehow he managed to live on that amount. He smoked Camels, and drank an occassional bottle of beer. I never knew him to work. My earliest recollection of him does not include work at a job. He was already sixty-two when I was born, so he was near retirement then. When he did retire, there was no social security, only his meager pension from the mine.

Gramps lived on a farm, but I never saw him plant anything. My mother always planted the garden. She also raised the chickens, pigs, cow, and a horse. Gramps just supervised.

Grampa Jim got the Hungarian language newspaper in the mail every week. His job was to read every issue of the paper from cover to cover. Most of the news in his paper was old, but it didn’t matter, he read the paper faithfully. He was a great socializer. Once or twice a week his friend John picked him up in a model T, around three o’clock in the afternoon. Together they rode a quarter mile to the corner store. This store was special. The store sold gasoline, kerosene, groceries, and had a beer hall too.  Come to think of it, it wasn’t much different from today’s gas stations. Only the beer hall is different. Gramp’s buddy parked at the pump and self served himself a gallon or two of 15 cent gas. Then they went in to pay and to have beer. The two of them sat in the beer hall talking over events. Nine times out of ten, Gramps outlasted his buddy.  Gramps had more than a half bottle of beer remaining when his buddy went dry. John had a wife so he beat it back home before she missed him. That left Gramps alone with his beer.  He wasn’t alone for long, because more customers came to the store, they checked to see if anyone was sitting in the beer hall. Soon, gramps had another party to chat with. He had company non-stop throughout the time he sat in the beer hall. Every one knew him, and loved to talk to him. Meanwhile his beer got flatter and flatter and flatter. Eventually, the bottle was empty.

On many days, gramps didn’t get home until after nine o’clock. By that time we were all in bed, and the house was dark except for the kitchen. Mom was still up doing chores while she waited for him.

When summer ended we returned to the city to start school.  Gramps was free again living his simple life on the farm. He did have to cook for himself after Mom left. I don’t think he ever washed a dish, only rinsed them off. He had a single change of clothes which he wore until even he couldn’t stand it anymore.

Gramps loved the solitary life, but was always happy to see us come for a visit. He was equally glad to see us go home. When he got older, Mom convinced him to come into the city for the winter. He did, but by March he disappeared back to the farm where everyone in the township knew him, yet he could be alone when he wanted to. He could wear the same clothes for as long as he wanted, and eat greasy foods off of dirty  dishes. He enjoyed the sights, sounds, and scents of his farm and nature.