Overalls and a Pocket Watch
I guess Father’s Day and this time of year make my memories of my grandpa’s overalls and pocket watch much more vivid.
My husband, father, and father-in-law do a terrific job of showing my children and myself what it is to be a father and a real man, but my Grandpa Frank had a very special way of filling both those jobs.
My Grandpa always wore overalls and a white t-shirt. It was his daily uniform, unless it was church or a special occasion. If it were a special occasion, you could count on him to be in a dress shirt, slacks, and a tie, and he always wore aftershave. Once is a great while, I will pass someone and smell that same aftershave. My heart does a little dance with the happy memory of him.
Grandpa was a farmer.
He was a successful farmer. He knew his land and his animals and he did his best to care for them. We all fought for turns to ride with Grandpa in the tractor or the dump truck. He always let us sneak sips of water from his watercooler. He filled it every morning with ice and water from the fridge so by midday it was the perfect temperature.
Grandpa used to joke that he, “worked harder farming after he retired than he ever did before he retired.” It took me a while to understand that the toll of farming was greater on him as he grew older and the farming operation got larger.
Grandpa was a provider.
A huge garden was put out and tended by my grandpa each spring. We all helped with the harvesting and putting up the vegetables. We could count on having corn, green beans, beets, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes through the fall and winter. He dutifully raised chickens, year after year, so that Grandma had eggs for baking cakes and we all had eggs for ourselves. Every winter, as a family, we would butcher hogs and beef together. Those hogs and steers were raised by my uncles and grandpa so that our family would never go without. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing with my cousins during butchering week at Grandma’s and finally being “big enough” to help with tenderizing or cutting up the meat (not just putting on the labels).
Grandpa was a believer.
He believed that God would get us through the tough times. He believed that every year, no matter how wet or how dry, that God would help him make a living off the land.
He believed in love. In my lifetime I have seen few couples who are as dedicated to one another as my grandparents were to each other. Grandpa almost lost Grandma in 1980. They were in a terrible car accident. My grandma was in the hospital for a year and since has spent most of her life walking with a walker or in a wheelchair. Grandpa believed that he had been blessed with love and the ability to care for her and their five children. He did so without complaint or questioning God’s plan.
He believed in the weather man. I know this because I rarely heard him cuss, except about the weather man and missed predictions or forecasts of rain or heat (depending on what Grandpa needed for the week).
He believed in putting all his food together on his plate. Grandpa would pile all of his vegetables, meat, and gravy or whatever he had in one pile and eat it all together. “It all goes to the same place,” he would say and laugh.
He believed in Massey Ferguson tractors. The first time he met my husband, Grandpa shook Greg’s hand and pulled a Massey Ferguson ink pen out of his breast pocket and said, “Do you have one of these?” Greg replied, “No, sir, I don’t.” Grandpa put the pen in his pocket and turned back around in his seat. It was pretty funny for me, not so much for Greg.
He believed we could all pull our weight. A good portion of the time spent at my grandparents’ house was dedicated to doing chores. Taking out trash, sweeping the floor, folding towels, carrying things upstairs or downstairs, gathering the eggs, helping with the garden, or picking up sticks in the yard were just a few of jobs we grandkids were asked to do. The one job that I always found interesting was the dishes. Grandpa would do the dishes for Grandma. He said he didn’t mind doing them. He would tell Grandma to leave them, he would get to them, and he always did. As a girl I didn’t know many men who did dishes. It was proof to me of how much he loved my grandma and that he knew everyone had to do their part.
He believed in his grandchildren. He and Grandma attended every event they could for the 10 of us grandchildren. Attending ball games, concerts, plays, awards ceremonies, masses, and graduations was their way of showing they believed in us. When I decided to go back to college for my teaching degree, Grandpa said, “That’s good. We always need teachers. You will always have a good job.” When I graduated, he and Grandma gave me an engraved bell. It said, “We are proud of you! Love, Grandma and Grandpa”. He told me I wouldn’t need to ring it because I was going to be a good teacher.
He believed in being on time. Grandma and Grandpa were early to everything. I think it had a lot to do with needing to get Grandma a seat where she would be able to see, and that they would be able to move easily with her walker, but they were always early. Grandpa wore a pocket watch most days. That pocket watch is probably the item that makes me think of my grandfather the most. It was his tool for being where he needed to be, when he needed to be there.
After lunch each day, Grandpa would sit in his rocker recliner to watch the news and snore through “The Young and the Restless.” I spent a lot of lunchtime siestas sitting on my grandpa’s lap. I will never forget the feel of the ridges made by his overall pockets, the smell of hard work, or the ticking of his pocket watch. It was a place where I felt safe, comfortable, and loved. He was as constant as the ticking of his watch. He never failed to show us the watch when we asked. I always thought it was so beautiful and so manly at the same time. It was a tough time piece.
The last time I spoke to my Grandpa I had to tell him I loved him while on speaker phone. He was in the hospital (four hours away) and I was recovering from major surgery. The cell phone didn’t work with his hearing aid so my mom had to hold the phone up for him to hear me. I am not sure he really heard me, but I heard him say that he loved me. He passed away the next day, June 21, 2006.
Those may have been the last words I heard from my grandfather but I will always hear his love when I hear the ticking of a watch or feel his comforting care when I see a pair of faded overalls.
Today Massey Ferguson tractors working in the field or going down the road make me proud.
It doesn’t bother me when my food touches on my plate. (It all goes to the same place.)
I try to encourage everyone to do their part, and I will do the dishes anytime they need to be done.
I know and believe that God is there for us and that I am loved.
I guess my message for today is simply that I loved my Grandpa, and I was blessed to have him in my life. Please take time to cherish someone you love or remember someone who made your life fuller or better because of their love.
By: Melanie A. Peters
P.S. Sorry for any typos. My stupid tears kept getting in my way.
P.S.S. Thank you, Mom, for the photo.