Thursday, January 17, 2013

Alcohol, Tobacco And Grandparents

Jack Daniels got my Grandpa Lawson through the worst of winter. Ezra Brooks got Grandma Lawson through a horrible headache. Grandpa Francis loved his cigars and pipes. Grandma Francis loved the smell of them. Grandpa Lawson could fall asleep with a Roi-Tan in his mouth.

I rarely saw Grandpa L. without his cigar. You could smell it throughout the house even if he didn't have one lit up. Puffing away in his favorite chair by the front door, he would lull himself to sleep and the stogie would hang loose in his mouth.

"Orton," Grandma Lawson would say, "If you're going to go to sleep, take that cigar out of your mouth!" He didn't always do it, and she was consistently washing ash off his shirts.

He loved his cigars and his Budweiser. I remember he would have about a can a day, almost up until the day of his death. He loved the regular variety, never any "lite" stuff, and certainly not the 3.2% beer that used to be sold in our parts. He told Mother it tasted "watery."

One time when Grandma and Grandpa took us grandkids out to Fuddruckers in Kansas City, Grandpa L. noticed something wrong with his brew.

"That bottle didn't seem like it had very much beer in it," he said to Grandma. "Did you take a swig out of it?"

"Orton, why would I drink your beer?" she protested in her what-the-heck-are-you-thinking voice.

She didn't like Budweiser, but she found a need for bourbon every so often. After falling and hitting her head, she relied on strategically sipped Ezra in addition to a few pain meds.

"Don't laugh," she told me when I snickered at the bottle. "That's what got your grandmother through the pain." Doctors will tell you alcohol and prescription drugs don't mix, but Grandma exercised caution.

Grandpa needed a few shots himself after helping us shovel snow off the driveway. We'd bring him in and give him a bottle of Jack Daniel's. "It gets your heart started again," Mother said.

Over on my father's side of the family, Grandpa Francis would load up his pipe with Borkum Riff tobacco and smoke in front of the television. Grandma never gave him grief about his smoking. On the contrary, she wound up giving him a pipe for Christmas shortly after he'd quietly given it up.

"When did you do that?" she asked.

"When you had heart trouble, Martha," he replied.

He might've found a spare occasion to light up before I lost him. Grandpa Lawson wanted to smoke a mini-cigar when his doctors warned him not to. I didn't mind either way. They could smoke and drink prudently and I loved them all.

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