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Ma and Pappy

October 2, 2010

Something this morning, early, brought Pappy to mind.  From there I went on to thinking of Ma and Pappy both.  

When my dad was born, his mother had tuberculosis.   Her health soon became so poor that she could not care for a baby.  While my dad’s brothers were all old enough to be semi independent, a baby of course, required more care, supervision and hurrying around.  For that reason Pop Bear looked for an almost full time care provider.  Ma and Pappy became that provider.  The Dodges had no children of their own and my dad became their little boy in every way but biologically.  And the feelings were returned by Dad.

Edith and Wesley Dodge lived a few blocks from my dad’s home.  They began taking care of Dad when he was very young-I think just about the time he was beginning to walk.  They became his second parents.  Pappy worked in the ‘rolling mill.’   I have no idea what that was or where it was exactly.  When I was little that’s what he called it and I just accepted it as a world to itself.  Ma was a housewife and Nazarene preacher and I accepted that, too. 

But neither of those roles is the one I attach to Ma and Pappy.  They stood on a pinnacle as grandma and grandpa.  My memories of my real paternal grandpa are very few.  Pop Bear (Ritchy Bear) died when I was barely five years old. I only remember him sitting in his rocker in the kitchen, thumping his cane to call my mom.     So Ma ‘n’ Pappy did all the presents and visits and spoiling that most grandparents do.  

Ma Dodge had sugar diabetes in the day when there was very little to be done for it.  Insulin injections were used, but I suspect that Ma and Pappy were not able to afford it.  I know that they lived on what was then called ‘old age pension’ because most of their working life was before the day of social security.   I don’t have a real good memory, but from the occasional references slid through the awareness of an elementary school girl, I believe their monthly check amounted to about $80.   Appalling. 

My dad gave them their home on his farm for most of the years after Pappy was no longer able to work at the rolling mill.  I’m not entirely sure but what he bought the farm for them.  They lived there until Ma was so ill with her diabetes that they had to move to live with us on West High.  Ma died with complications of diabetes and gangrene which developed in her foot.  Although we had her doctor see her, there was no money for further treatment.  My mom cared for her until her death when I was in about the ninth grade.  Pappy continued to live with us until I was probably a senior in high school when he went to live in a rest home.  

My earliest memories of Ma ‘n’ Pappy involve their visiting us when we lived on Tuscarawas Avenue.  When they came they always brought some sort of candy for little girls (and boys! lol I had to share it with my brother!)  And everything we did was applauded, especially by Pappy.  I have almost a video that runs through my head.  I remember running down the short hallway from the kitchen to the front vestibule calling out to pappy, “Watch me kick up my heels!”  That was how Pappy referred to it when ever he saw us running—we were always “kicking up our heels.”

Lots of other memories overlay that one, building a mountain of joys.  The little house on the farm was a mysterious and marvelous place for me.  Ma ‘n’ Pappy lived in what was the basement of the house.   It was close and easily heated and oh-so-cozy to a child.  The main room was the kitchen sitting room.  It had an old fashioned sink and pump to the right of the door.

hand pump

old fashioned kitchen sink with a hand pump

For some of the years the base of the sink and pump pipe were enclosed by a wooden cabinent.  I think that was later, because I remember it also as just a heavy steel pipe coming up out of the floor and cast iron sink supported on four iron legs. Usually the pump worked, but sometimes it had to be ‘primed’ which meant, hopefully, there was a couple cups full of water remaining in the hot water kettle to pour in the top of it. 

Sometimes priming the pump first required Pappy to make a trip to the spring house to get a pitcher full of water!  But usually you simply worked the handle up and down and after a couple strokes water came splashing out into the sink.  It was such a fascination for me when I was little.  At first I couldn’t get the leverage to work the pump, but as I grew I could get water from it. 

eside the sink in the corner was a bunch of buckets and cleaning materials.  It was just a cluttered dark area so I never paid much attention to it.  Beside that was a big old fashioned kitchen cupboard.  The top part had dishes and stuff in it, there was an open middle work space and below that were some drawers and two more cupboards.  I only remember the drawers because they had all kinds of junk in them!  We were allowed to dig through the one on the right any time we wanted.  I spent hourse sorting through all kinds of fascinating stuff-buttons, pills, small tools, fly-catcher rolls seed packets, odd balls or string, pieces of leather, leftover candle stubs, even big candles I can’t remember what all, but one little girl loved it!  Right beside that was the door to the bedroom area and on down a bit the corner opened into the back portion of the basement where Pappy worked the milk separator and Ma stored her canned goods.  The furnace and coal room was also back there.

A big pedestal style dining room table stood in the center of the kitchen with a couple matching chairs and a couple odd ones.  The entire basement was heated by a big wood burning cook stove.  Ma could bake cornbread or biscuits in the oven or use the top plates to cook on.   

old fashioned cooks stove

Wood-burning Cook Stove

Behind the stove was a cupboard built into the wall, but more important there was a box, or some times two boxes.  One box was the bed for pappy’s old dog, Sport, very old and much loved.  The other box, when it was there, held baby chicks or occasionally a piglet that needed special attention for a few days.  It was a wonderful place for kids to visit.  

And visit we did!  I used to get to spend the whole day with Ma ‘n’ Pappy.  Don’t ask me where my mom and dad went—it was just me and Ma ‘n’ Pappy.   I loved it!  I even got to stay over night sometimes.  That was great too.  (Only once, when Mom and Dad were going to Yvonne’s wedding I had to be taken home in the middle of the night.  I was scared something would happen to them going so far away and I wouldn’t be with them.  I worried to the place where I was sobbing uncontrollably and poor Pappy had to get dressed and take me home.  Only My Pappy would have done that.  My dad would have made me lay down and hush up!)  

When I stayed with Ma and Pappy I got anything I wanted to eat.  If they had it I could have it.  They shopped at the day old bread store and if I got there on the right day, there were cinnamon rolls and doughnuts!  (Pappy had a sweet tooth. Ma didn’t eat them because of her diabetes.  So naturally Pappy needed help eating all of those goodies.)  Of course they had to buy regular type groceries, but they bought fascinating things and then  Ma canned a lot of stuff.   The things I remember most were her peach butter and her canned little sugar pears.   And then there was the coffee! 

Ma and Pappy lived on coffee.  They drank it with every meal.  They drank it if it was too cold outside and when Pappy came in from doing the barn work.  They drank it when it was hot because it ‘cooled them off’ (I  never could figure that out, but it worked for them!)  They drank it when they thought they “felt a chill coming on” or when they were actually sick.  And they drank it for entertainment, just to sit down and visit in the middle of the afternoon.   They didn’t use sugar-well, Pappy might have. I can’t remember.  But they did put Carnation evaporated milk in it. 

And in times of financial short falls, real cow milk or cream.  There was always plenty of that.

 And when I was there I pestered them to share in the bounty.   Now, I wasn’t allowed to have coffee at home.  Mom didn’t think it was good for kids.  Ma and Pappy tried to comply with Mom’s dictates, but when I begged they were putty in my hands.  I got ‘coffee’ at their house.  Really it was warm milk with sugar in it and just enough coffee to make it a little golden brown.  To this day it is a comfort food.  

I loved them.

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