It's that time again.
Some things I remember about my Papaw Adams.
He was a little guy. Didn’t talk much, or at least not to me. He had been a coal miner and drunk early in his life, but after losing his leg in a mining accident and finding the Lord, he changed dramatically. I never knew him before his conversion. The man I knew was a Christian. I always found him very curious.
Guess you could say, I was constantly trying to figure him out. I remember that he loved giving gifts. He used to give me a new Lionel train set almost every year. He was constantly giving complete strangers money and stuff. He was also one of the only people I ever saw who could ruffle my dad’s feather in a way that crossed between fear/respect/intimidation/and discomfort. I liked it, because I recognized it as the same feelings that my dad generated in me.
He lived in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. He had 12 kids, 9 of them lived to adulthood. I don’t know a lot about his past, other than that his mother was a full-blooded Cherokee woman named Americas Reed. I believe his father had been a coal miner too.
Papaw had lots of quirks and odd behavior, at least in my Indiana-raised child mind. He would spend most of his day, after eating a huge breakfast that my Mamaw made every morning, sitting in his recliner reading his bible and napping. Or he would sit outside on his front porch in a chaise lounge doing the same. Occasionally, he would see a cat walk by and would call it up on the porch with a “Here Kitty, Kitty!” After petting it for a few minutes to get the cat off its guard, he would grab it by the tail and swing it over his head like a lasso, releasing it to fly through the air and landing somewhere in the yard down below.
Around noon, he would head to the kitchen for some cornbread, which he would dip in buttermilk. After his lunchtime snack, he would usually head out around town on his errands. He would swing by the post office, maybe stop at the Piggly-Wiggly, or just see some old friends. He occasionally would let me tag along. I remember that one guy he met up with had lost his leg in a mining accident too, but it was the other leg. Since Papaw and this man had the same size foot, they would often split a new pair of shoes.
In the evening, it was more napping or bible reading. Occasionally, you would hear Papaw break into a gospel hymn, or maybe just hum one.
I also remember that he used to say stuff that cracked me up. Like when he sneezed, he would do so loudly with the following, “A-Chew, Mountain Dew, The sky Is Blue!” or some such saying.
He addressed me, and most males, as “Hey Boy!” and would follow it with “Boy!” repeatedly until he got your attention. Except for my dad. He referred to him as “Axel grease!” I am pretty sure this was because my dad always worked on cars. In fact, my dad had always been one to hang around garages. He used to get in trouble growing up, because instead of working in the family’s garden with the other kids during the day, he would run off to the local garage and help work on cars. After he got out of the Marines, my Papaw got him a job in the coal mines. Dad quit after 2 weeks and left to go work in a factory.
Papaw had heart trouble and Black lung, from his years in the mines. Later in life, he had a stroke which paralyzed half his body. I used to stretch and exercise his arm and hand when we would visit. At first, he wasn’t much interested in me helping him, but I think he noticed the improvement afterwards and eventually would ask me to whenever we would go visit.
I also remember Papaw being quite the ladies man. When I would go with him to the hospital or doctors office, he was always bringing the nurses flowers and offering them chewing gum.
It seemed everybody knew Papaw and genuinely liked him, as they would affectionately great him with a “Hey Willy!” or “Good Morning, Bill!” or even “Great to see you, Mr. Adams!”
Occasionally, my family would take my grandparents on trips with us. Now, the thing about traveling with my dad was, we knew that he would stop at EVERY SINGLE Truckstop for coffee. Not coffee to go, but the kind where you go inside, the waitress pours you a cup, you flirt with the waitress, talk to the truckers around you, have another cup, more talking, etc. Normal stop time was at least an hour, maybe two. Papaw never had much patience, especially for this sort of thing. On one trip, after telling my dad to come on, waiting in the car for awhile, and telling the rest of us we should go tell him it was time to go, Papaw walked in and put the curved handle part of his cane around my dad’s neck in an attempt to drag him out. That’s one of the few times I remember my dad THAT pissed. It embarrassed him.
On one of our other trips, we took them to Silver Dollar City (now called Dollywood), in Gaitlenburg, TN. It was after Papaw’s stroke, so he didn’t walk well. Not that he did before, since he only had one leg. But he was refusing to be pushed around in a wheel chair. Anyway, we rented him one of those electric scooters thingies to drive around on. Turns out, he wasn’t the best scooter driver either. Within 5 mins, he went careening through a crowd of spectators that were watching an outdoor program and crashed into the stage, collapsing half of it, and spilling the kids that were performing some clog dancing routine on stage onto their butts. He ended up getting pushed around in a wheelchair after that.