Granddaddy always wore a tie.
He wore a tie to work, and he wore a tie to church. He wore a tie to mow the grass, and he occasionally wore a tie when he went fishing. He wore a good shirt and tie to plow the garden, and it drove Grandmother crazy.
Merrill Brooks Faircloth was born five years into this century, when Teddy Roosevelt was President and no one had heard of kudzoo. Friends called him Metz and siblings called him Bubba, spelled “Bubber.”
Granddaddy was an athlete, and lettered in four sports in high school. He played college basketball when contact wasn’t allowed, baseball when they used those funny mitts, and football when they wore leather hats. He once returned kickoffs for touchdowns on two consecutive plays. He injured his leg at a time when doctors had limited knowledge about such things, and walked with a limp the rest of his life.
Granddaddy was married to Vara Blondelle Mashburn, who grew up on a dairy farm in Snowdoun. She was sixteen, he was twenty-three.
At the time when Granddaddy smoked cigarettes you got coupons in each pack, and he could have probably redeemed a small Caribbean nation with all of his. When my sister and I came to live in Troy with them, Granddaddy quit smoking without telling anyone. It was 1970. He quit cold turkey when cold turkey wasn’t cool.
Granddaddy ate bacon and eggs and drank coffee every morning until he was well into his eighties, and quit only then because he kept burning the bacon to humiliated carbon corpses. Granddaddy ate anything he wanted and stayed skinny as a rail, probably because he was a sweater; not the article of clothing, but one who sweats.
He didn’t sweat fashionably, like those whose only exercise is at the gym. There were no dabs of sweat around the neck and under the arms. Granddaddy sweat buckets, without a patch of dry clothing anywhere. And Granddaddy had a low sweat threshold: on the way out to do yard work he was sweating before the screen door slammed shut behind him.
Granddaddy always told me to keep my nose clean and not to take any wooden nickels. Granddaddy always cleaned his plate, and when I didn’t, would always tell me how his daddy knocked him out of a chair when he turned his nose up at turnip greens. Granddaddy always pulled over for funeral processions, always let me sit on his lap and steer the car when we went fishing, and always drank his coffee black.
Granddaddy never lived anywhere but Pike County, never owned a foreign car, and never bought anything “on time.” He was never in a hurry, never let anyone else load the dishwasher, and never much cared for microwave ovens.
At times he was hard on me, and I was better for it. He didn’t give me everything I wanted, and made me do some things I didn’t like. He tanned my hide when I deserved it, and never let me sass my grandmother.
He loved to till the garden with a push plow that belonged in the museum, which he also loved. He loved his roses, he loved his church, he loved his wife. He loved the Lord, and he’s better for it.
Granddaddy lost an infant to disease, and lost his wife in 1989. He was constantly losing his hearing aid, which I could usually find, and occasionally he lost his teeth. Either that, or on occasion he simply decided not to wear them. He lost a lot of weight and the ability to care for himself in the months prior to his death, but he didn’t lose my respect. He was still Granddaddy.
I was away from home when Granddaddy died, and he was buried in one of my suits by mistake. It hung a little loose on him and the sleeves were a bit too long. But it was alright. My tie looked good on Granddaddy.
Granddaddy always wore a tie.
This article originally appeared in the Troy Citizen, October 1995.