Monday, April 7, 2008

The art of living (frugally).

When I was growing up, my grandpa (Albert) used to go out every day and pick two 1-gallon coffee cans filled with blackberries because he couldn't stand for them to go to waste. (He lived most of his life in Montana, where apparently blackberries are considered fruit instead of an obnoxious weed.)

After he picked the blackberries, he'd pick a sack or two of apples from the trees on the vacant lot next to our house. He'd then move on to the trees in the neighbors' front yards where they were letting their fruit go to waste. Once they were picked, he'd have us call around to friends and neighbors to give them away because our family couldn't eat them all. If we couldn't find people willing to take the fruit, he'd get upset about food going unnecessarily to waste. (fn. 1)

Grandpa probably did this until the year before he died at age 92. When he got older, he strung a wire from the tops of the cans to make a handle. He looped the wire through his belt to free his hands to both pick the berries and walk with his cane. Grandpa was hardworking and Frugal with a capital "F." We attributed this quality to the fact that he raised two sons during the Depression, which was no doubt a tremendous struggle.

Grandpa knew how to enjoy life though. He always ate breakfast. He'd have half a cup of coffee after lunch. He napped every day. He'd go out to eat sometimes. Grandpa went to the senior center to play cards with the rest of the men regularly. He'd cackle at scantily-clad women on the television. And, from the time he was around 75 or so until he died at age 92, he called his girlfriend, Edith, every single night promptly at 9:00. At the end of the call, he'd say, "I love you honey" and then make a big juicy smooching noise into the phone. The emphasis here is on j-u-i-c-y.

May we all grow to be 92 years old, still able to pick fruit on an uneven hillside, and unabashedly say to our loved-one every single night, "I love you honey," accompanied by a long loud smooch.

Fn. 1. Trying to use up the fruit in our house became a childhood torment for my sisters and me. While other kids had Sunny-D and Kool-Aid to drink, my mom used to make blackberry juice. Instead of maple syrup on our pancakes, we had blackberry syrup. Also, mom used to make apple cake, which was sliced apples covered with spice cake mix. I can appreciate the cake now as an adult, but as a kid, it was just embarrassing. To this day, though, I still cringe when people offer me blackberry-anything.

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