Grumpy


Uncle A.G. Bradshaw

Uncle A.G. Bradshaw

When I was little, my uncle A.G. terrified me. He liked nothing more than to swoop up little kids by their ankles and swat them on their backsides.

A.G. was also the first person to put me on a pony. The first person to show me an eggplant in the “wild.” (As I recall, he didn’t like eggplants himself, he just thought they were beautiful in his large garden.) The only person to ever recommend the Squeezo food processor I still use for canning.

Early each morning, he and Aunt Nancy would sort through eggs on a conveyor belt and scrutinize each one in front of a light bulb, looking for stuff like embryos and blood. At night, sometimes one of the six boys, usually Butch, and I would go out to the henhouse and look for (and shoot) predators.

A big change to the Bradshaw lifestyle came in 1971 when Butch was killed in a horrible auto accident one Sunday in his senior year of college.

Uncle A.G. was never the same. Honestly, it was like a switch turned off. And it stayed off all these years. Yes, I was to see him smile again, but it took years. And years. When A.G. walked, no matter to where, he seemed a bit aimless and distraught. He looked off in the distance a lot.

The death of his eldest son was a lot to hang on the shoulders of an uncomplicated farmer.

After that, A.G. spoke even less than he did before. To his grandchildren, he was as terrifying, perhaps, as he had been to me, but without the bite and probably without the upside down spankings. They came to call him “Grumpy.”

The other day my little cousin Maggie consoled her mother, Little Nancy: “When someone goes away, they leave a piece of themselves in your heart.” When Little Nancy asked her who Maggie carried in her heart, Maggie knew the answer right off: “Grumpy, Jesus, and Pocahontas.” That’s a girl with priorities.

Grumpy was the one holding my father’s hand when he died quietly on September 15, 1993. No one was more important than family to A.G. He sat with my father for days. I don’t remember him saying anything. He rarely did. Even back in the day, you might visit the family for hours, but it wasn’t until you got up to leave that Uncle A.G. would follow you out to your car, offering you a jar of this, a peck of that. To A.G., food was love. Time was love. He didn’t need the details.

Last week, Grumpy knew that his time had come. I came to sit with him in the hospital, rubbing his thin legs. I held his hand. Neither of us talked.

I don’t know everything about Uncle A.G. that I might. Where the Army sent him in Europe in the 40s. How he had liked his office job. How exactly he had met my Aunt Nancy, or what he loved about her. What he remembered about Butch. Those would just be syllables to the deaf, calories to the dead.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 11:10:07

    Again you have painted a beautiful picture with your words. I felt the man who lived with a pain in his heart that no one but him understood. RIP Uncle A.G.

    Reply

  2. Jackie
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 21:51:00

    What a moving poignant portrait. I’m speechless.

    Reply

  3. Joi Rosengard
    Dec 27, 2009 @ 03:47:31

    Your words speak his pain for him, his depth of love, and yours.

    Reply

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