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October 08, 2011

ice, bait, and kindling

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"That's not frugal, it's just nasty," Amy comments as I twist a plastic grocery store bag around my sandwiches. I've been stuffing sandwiches directly into those sturdy, abundant, and free bags for years to no ill effect.

There are certain items that I simply cannot bring myself to buy. Like small garbage bags. I've stepped off the viscous bag cycle where you use a small plastic grocery store bag to carry your box of small garbage bags home, then in the kitchen open the box of garbage bags in order to have a place to discard the grocery bag. 

While convenient on-the-go, bottled water is usually unnecessary indoors. No, you couldn't tell the difference in a taste test that controlled for temperature and aeration. And don't get me started on gravy ladles.

I readily admit that the sandwich on raw grocery bag is a bit extreme. My disdain for thoughtlessness and waste comes easy. Even in his late, financially secure years, my grandfather Tom Minick always said that you should never buy ice, bait, or kindling. Why pay for these items when just a little planning and effort would turn them up for free?

Did Pap (pronounced Paaahp) actually say that? I'm not sure it matters because he definitely lived it. Perhaps one of his daughters or sons could clear the air. Pap was more frugal, thoughtful, and slow to speak than I. Despite his midlife struggles, all the family loved him, now practically canonize him a saint.

Pap. Worked. Hard. Yet what I remember most from my comings and goings is Pap sitting in the evenings at his kitchen table or on the front porch for extended periods, leaning forward, head hung, massive forearms propped on knees, staring, staring, staring down.

Pap was neither slow nor quick to engage me with a question or few. He was one of the few people who referred to me as Robert.

"So whattya think, Robert?"

I always thought that Pap must be awfully bored just sitting there for so long. I remember looking over his shoulder at the spot on the kitchen floor, trying to probe the spot for answers, searching with a gaze fit for deep sky. As an adolescent, I got little but floor out of Paps exercise.

For all his intelligence and work ethic, pap never came to Jesus until near the end, after the second or third time he passed out while sitting with his family. Though he was always both frugal and generous, his tired eyes finally shown joy.

I'm thankful to have inherited more than Paps thick head of hair. I see him all over my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins because I'm watching and reflecting. We are actually all watchful and reflective, in the odd Minick sort of way, to a large extent because of you-know-who.

The Pap in me has a hard time budging when the girls at work request to order specific pens, when the kids want to drink bottled water at home and buy crickets to feed their frogs, and when Amy knows to add a "zip-lock please" when it's my turn to pack the sandwiches. These are my ice, bait, and kindling.

Sometimes at night when I manage to pry myself away from reading and trying to write at this computer, gazing long into this screen, I'm oddly drawn to sit a while more with face to the floor. Something compels me to fit in a good floor session before heading off to bed.

Staring at the floor, doing nothing, nothing doing, bliss.

That spot - I'm starting to see it now.

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aunt wink said...

Excellently put Bob.

Aunt Beefhead

Ann Kroeker said...

I love imagining you leaning over his shoulder to stare at the same spot, to see what he saw.

So glad you joined the Community Writing Project so we could get to know Pap better. And you.

Jennifer @ said...

Ah Bob ... You have a way. You just do. You really have a way.

And right here, it is this: "As an adolescent, I got little but floor out of Paps exercise." And then later, you see it all again at a deeper, more meaningful level when you look at the floor again. Love that.

I am thrilled that you joined our project. You've got class, my friend. (P.S. -- I can't bear to toss the plastic bags either. ~smile~)

Brandee Shafer said...

This is a very satisfying read. Sounds like the best of Pap lives on, in you. What a happy thing. Whattya think, btw? :)

Sam Van Eman said...

Great story, Bob. Genius way of connecting your Pap with maturity, stillness and frugality.

P.S. I used plastic bags as my briefcase for years until I realized that my wife and many of our friends were counting down the days till I got something real for work. I finally did, though I took back what Julie got me and picked up a shoulder bag from the army surplus store instead.