Were the Good Old Days Really That Good?
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     As far back as I can remember, my grandpa on my Dad's side never worked a day in his life, and he never lived with my grandma. I never knew if he was divorced or separated from her, as It never came up in a conversation. I recall visiting Grandpa in a wooden sidewalk town in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, and I can still visualize the hitching posts in front of the place where he stayed. It looked just like some of the towns in the Gene Autry and Roy Rogers cowboy movies. The building he lived in was an old fashioned boarding house, where everyone who stayed there ate their meals at a huge dining table, served by the proprietor, hot food and plenty of it. Grandpa, who chewed tobacco and drank coffee at the same time, was famous for wearing as many pairs of pants as he could fit into. And it didn't matter who they belonged to, he would search them out and struggle into them. When he visited us, if you were missing a pair of pants, you knew right where to look and you would always find them. At the time it seemed comical, but I guess he was just beginning to lose control of things, and there's sure no humor in that.
     On the other hand, my Dad had many different jobs: meat packer, home milk delivery route, machinist, house painter, and general laborer. Dad was a man of simple tastes who worked hard all his life. He never made much money but he provided the best he knew how. He was liked by everyone who knew him, as he never dwelt on what he didn't have, but rather what he did have. He was a genuinely kind, courteous, hard working individual. I remember in his last days, when I went to see him and he was suffering from emphysema, he could barely get around. Dad liked me to give him a shave and haircut in his bed. I liked that too and miss those close moments together. One day he said to me, "Son, I'm not going to get out of this bed again. It's too painful." And he didn't. He died in his bed in the trailer he lived in for 18 years, in Bodfish, California, with my Mom lovingly at his bedside.
     Nor was my Mom's life ever easy. In her early years she worked as a telephone operator, cook, and later on the real job in those days, that of housewife. Then Mom knew what was expected, to keep the house in order, watch the kids, and have food on the table when Dad came home from work. And in our house it was expected and it was done. And this was done without microwave oven, automatic coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, refrigerator or disposal. Clothes were washed in a tub and squeezed dry in a ringer apparatus, and hung on a backyard line to dry. Food scraps were put in a tin bucket and every week it was put on the curb where a garbage man emptied it into a garbage truck and then slung the can back onto the curb. Each week the ice-man would bring a 25 lb. block of ice and carry it around to the back of the house on a leather strap on his shoulder and place it in a large sealed container on the back porch where anything that needed to stay cool was kept. The melting ice kept milk, eggs, vegetables and other items fresh as possible.
     Mom never had a good car, a nice home or stylish clothing. But she never complained and always had something good to say about others. Her life was built around a genuine belief and faith in her God. She never smoked, drank or used cuss words and made every visitor feel welcome when they came to her home. Mom died in an assisted living home in Bakersfield, California, all alone.
     Because they couldn't, my folks never contributed to my education. In fact my Dad wondered why I even went to college. He wanted me to go to work for him in a machine shop sweeping the place up for $1.50 an hour and learn the machinist's trade. But Mom and Dad gave me something else that had no monetary value, but was priceless to me, and that was freedom! For most of the time I was growing up, through elementary and junior high school, I was free to come and go as I pleased. My parents trusted me to do the right things, and I stayed out of trouble somehow along the way. And I learned to make my own decisions and choices and lived with them. I miss Mom and Dad and thanked them then and thank them still today for all the kindness they showed me in my life. I don't know for sure if the old days were better, or even good, but I would jump at the chance to relive them again, and not even bat an eye in the process.