Valentine’s Day and other time-sensitive topics delayed my writing about this, but a few weeks ago marked the 50th anniversary of the death of my grandfather, Carl Spencer Tyree.
I’m juggling a lot of plates, but very few days go by that I don’t think of “Paw.”
“Ornery,” “opinionated,” “contrary” and “irascible” are some of the words people have used to describe him over the years; but I choose to take a more nuanced look at the forces that shaped him.
Both of his grandfathers fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. His first wife died soon after delivering their first child. He and my grandmother brought up five children during the Great Depression.
In his later years, he struggled with arthritis, emphysema, Granny Tyree’s ovarian cancer and the social upheaval of the 1960s.
Despite all this, he did display softer moments. He was the only adult with enough patience to teach me to tie my shoestrings. Recently, my older cousin, Hal, reminisced about Paw entrusting him to take his beloved 1946 Chevy four-door out on the highway.
But back to the cantankerous side …
Paw eked out a living as both a farmer and a carpenter, and the latter trade is tied to one of my favorite anecdotes about him.
Paw and his carpentry partner were doing an inside project on a house that — by pure coincidence, many years later — would be purchased by my mother’s sister and be where my wife and I spent the first 21 months of our married life.
Paw and the other fellow reached an impasse on how to fix one specific problem. Paw, true to form, dug in his heels and grew hotter and hotter under the collar.
His partner tried to cool things off, imploring, “Calm down, Carl. This isn’t worth fighting over. Before you say something we’ll both regret, I’m going to go outside for a few minutes and ask the Lord how to resolve this.”
A few minutes later, a refreshed partner re-entered the room, ready for some reconciliation, compromise and camaraderie.
Paw had already fixed the problem according to his original plan and moved on to the next phase.
Pausing a moment, he nonchalantly explained to his apoplectic partner, “Oh, while you were out there talking to the Lord, the devil came by and told me I had it right all along.”
As a Bible class teacher, I try not to take such a flippant “the devil made me do it” stance; but the perseverance and obstinacy that runs in my DNA has served me well in general.
Without Grandpa Carl’s stubborn streak, I could not have endured the first few months of my day job (I’ve been there 23 years now!), could not have snagged a side gig writing a nationally syndicated column, could not have gotten a second date with my wife and could not have overcome infertility problems so Carl Spencer Tyree’s great-grandson could enter the world 32 years after his death.
What good and bad traits did you inherit from your grandparents? What do you think you will leave with your grandchildren? Let me know.
In the meantime, I’ll plug along with taking notes for my long-promised autobiography, The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from The Tyree.
Maybe I’ll even think of a better subtitle than “Pick Up All the Apples Before The &^%$# Yankees Get Them.”
— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and the author of Yes, Your Butt Still Belongs in Church. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.