As I’ve grown up, I have realized not to take family, friends and loved ones for granted. I’ve lost three friends in the past six months and Father’s Day brings back memories full of laughter but also tinged with sadness.
As I grew up, my grandpa filled the role of my dad since I grew up with a single mom in a home with my mom, grandma and grandpa. His name was Perry Wynn Hiett (you might now understand why my name is spelled the way it is,) and an important fact about the man was that he hated cranberries. I don’t mean dislikes, I mean hated. I’m convinced that if every single cranberry in the entire world suddenly disappeared, he would have held a parade to celebrate.
So, growing up every year, my uncle, mom, aunt and I would attempt to get him to eat a cranberry. It would be our goal for the entire Christmas season. Unfortunately, every year we were unsuccessful until I was about 10 years old.
One of the Christmas presents I had received was a gumball machine. All of my relatives didn’t believe my plan would work but I knew it would. I simply got a handful of gumballs and placed a cranberry (upside down to disguise the little guy) in my hand, then I asked my grandpa if he wanted a piece of gum. He, of course, said yes. Then I asked him which color, just so he wouldn’t be suspicious. He told me he didn’t care and then took the cranberry I handed him. He popped it into his mouth and slowly began chewing. By this point, I had backed away to watch with my other relatives.
My grandpa was fine until the bitterness and sourness hit him and then he started trying to chase us and spit out the cranberry at the same time. I still laugh every time I see a gumball machine.
Another fun memory took place on my 16th birthday. Asking what I wanted as a celebration, I asked my family if we could go fishing on our ‘tank’ in Oklahoma and stay at a nearby hotel in Shamrock that had a swimming pool. Agreeing, we made the trip. The trip was a great idea. The peaches at the buffet for my birthday dinner, not so much. I was sicker than a dog. I mean sick. But I begged my family to continue to the fishing part of the trip.
Laying in my grandpa’s Chevy Blazer, dozing and eating on saltines, I would hear grumble after grumble from my family who simply were not catching fish. After a couple hours, my grandpa declared the whole thing “stupid” and said we were heading home since I wasn’t feeling well anyway. I told him I was starting to feel better and that didn’t he know that teenage fish didn’t get up on weekends until the afternoon anyway.
He laughed, until at about 12:15 p.m., everyone who was fishing, myself included at that point, started catching fish. “Guess you were right about the teenage fish after all,” he said, grinning.
Losing him in 2009 to cancer was devastating to myself and my family but I’m so glad I have many memories of him to cherish. This Father’s Day I can’t help but think he’s up in heaven having a great time with some of our other relatives. I bet they’re trying to catch some teenage fish too.