Pop Pop’s cot

Pop Pop was my mother’s father. We never lived closely to her parents. They lived in Duncan, Oklahoma for most of my childhood in Missouri. They moved to Texas for awhile before ultimately retiring in Greenwood, Delaware near my mother’s older sister, Peggy.

I would have liked to have known Pop Pop as an adult. I mean, really know him. I think he was a contained rebel of sorts. Sometimes, perhaps, not so contained. I believe there are stories that many of us do not know about him. Stories of his childhood and the secret contents on his creative mind. He married a strong woman. Mom Mom was a dominant figure, both physically as well as her dignified, Southern posture. I am sure that Pop Pop bent to her ways more often than not. I am even more certain that I do not know much of the backstory and truth of that previous statement.

Many times, Pop Pop traveled to see us on his way to go fishing in his home state of Louisiana. He loved fishing. In retrospect I wonder if this was because Mom Mom did not fish. Perhaps this was an escape technique – a method of choice for many men before and since his time.

I believe Pop Pop had a much larger heart than he had means to accomplish his dreams. I distinctly remember playing out on the breezeway of my childhood home during one of his visits. He was patiently listening to me prattle on in the make-believe story I was creating with my little tin dollhouse, moving figurines up and down the multi-level home which was complete with small couches and chairs and kitchen appliances that opened and shut.

Pop Pop, swept up in my excitement, said to me, “On my next visit I am going to build you a big dollhouse in the backyard.”

This statement was immediately and indelibly imprinted on my young mind.
I trusted him completely.
Suddenly, the small dollhouse with which I had been playing with so contently, seemed small and less than perfect compared to the grand dollhouse in my backyard that Pop Pop would build me someday.

High expectations have always been my downfall.

I’m sure I explained Pop Pop’s dollhouse plan in great detail to my mother after he left, using enthusiastic adjectives and wild hand motions. Mom gently, and with measured words, told me that sometimes Pop Pop wanted to do more things than was possible for him to accomplish. She guarded my relationship with Pop Pop, carefully protecting my admiration for my grandfather with the words she used, while bringing a bit of reality into my anticipation of Pop Pop’s next visit.

Many times when Pop Pop visited our starter-house home, he brought with him a cot on which to sleep. It had a wooden frame that folded up in many different ways at each metal elbow connection. In the middle was a stretch of thick canvas. This canvas has somehow lodged its way into my memory which could explain why I am innately drawn to sail canvas handbags or beautiful linen towels and bedding.

My childlike mind didn’t understand the starter home concept or not having an extra bedroom after parents and children. I didn’t understand that Pop Pop had to bring his own place to sleep. All I saw was an interesting contraption that folded out into a bed unlike any I had ever seen. It was mesmerizing to me. I envied him, not knowing how uncomfortable his partial night’s sleep probably really was. To me it just looked magical and full of wanderlust and adventure.

Pop Pop personified love. He doted on me and my younger sister, the daughters of his own youngest daughter. His Southern drawl tickled the air when he spoke. His work-gnarled hands with round, heavy knuckles were blue collar by definition yet to me, they graciously patted my own small hands in a sweet and simple way. His rough fingers habitually rapped the surface of the tables where they rested. His fingernails were neatly trimmed but showed the signs of a lifetime of hard labor in the oil industry.

I was lucky to have a grandfather that promised me the world when I daydreamed, loved me like a prize and slept on a cot that symbolized the transiency of life. A cot that told me life could be happy while also being very simple. The cot that embodied the many adventures that were just waiting for me with the simple act of folding and unfolding its canvas contents.


from the series, Note to Self


One thought on “Pop Pop’s cot

  1. I loved reading this story it made me think of what I remember about my own “Pop Pops” both maternal and paternal. My paternal grandfather was doting and the smell of pennies or even when I scrub a wet copper pot (a penny-like smell to me) reminds me of Gampa Bill because he collected pennies (specifically Canadian but we collected American together on his visits and I still have my album). My maternal grandfather – Grandpa Joe was a quiet unassuming soul to the big and loud and demanding personality of my grandmother Phyllis. The smell of dirt or fish reminds me of him, I gardened with him and he kept my secrets about why I never brought in full baskets of raspberries (I was eating them while picking them with him) and we often fished for blue gill, I remember sitting and talking to him while he cleaned fish . . . he absorbed all my words and asked me questions. Both men I loved dearly and I miss to the same measure.

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