Several of my cousins were talking a couple of days ago on Facebook, about our grandmother, Hattie Byer, and how she kept her numerous grandchildren in line when they were at her house. Now, in reality, I pretty much mean Greg Hushman, Elmer Johnson, and Forest Beadle, because most of the rest of us would never have done anything to provoke the Wrath of Grandma!! It’s funny, but I can almost hear the skepticism from every reader. Ok, I’ll admit that I was no less likely to get into trouble with Grandma than Greg, Elmer or Forest, but I truly don’t recall having her coming after me with the broom, although my cousin Shirley Cameron, who is from the other side of my family remembers it once or twice, when she was over there with us.
One thing I do remember, and that I know every one of Grandma’s grandchildren will agree on, Grandma was the boss when you were at her house. You see, those were the days when it didn’t matter if the adult in the vicinity was your parent, grandparent, or the parent of the friend you were visiting, they all disciplined the kids who got out of line. And if some adult caught you doing something in the public arena that you shouldn’t be, such as graffiti or some other such mischief, they weren’t afraid to tell you to “knock it off” either. That was just the way things were back then. From what I am told of this barely five foot tall, broom wielding grandma of mine, she was able to make that broom go around corners, so if you thought you were going to get away from her, you might just as well think again.
I certainly remember that when you found yourself in trouble with Grandma, you were about to get a very clear understanding of what the word “trouble” meant. Yes, I too, had my share of times in my childhood where I found myself on the wrong side of Grandma Byer. Oh boy, believe me, it was not a place you wanted to be. And don’t think she was going to threaten to tell your mom just how bad you were, and then conveniently forget to do it when the time actually came for your parents to come home. Grandma wasn’t about to be the helpless little babysitter who had to wait for your parents to make you behave…oh no!! Whether she used a broom, her hand, or some other punishment, believe me when I say the punishment was swift, and it fit the crime. You see, Grandma was old school, before there was a new school form of discipline. People weren’t afraid of some well meaning, but not too bright passerby telling them they shouldn’t spank that kid…those people didn’t exist then. People knew that most situations required a little whack on the seat to get through to the brain. For many of us those lessons made it crystal clear, who was in charge, who was acting up, who would refrain from such activities in the future, and who would apologize for their elders for acting such a horrible fashion in the first place.
For most of us, the discipline Grandma dished out, is looked back on with a smile, because we all knew how much she loved us. People who have never had any discipline simply don’t understand that discipline is a form of love. Does it hurt…yes, because it is tough love, but are you better for it…oh yeah, because they love you very much. If your parents or grandparents didn’t care about you, they would have no need to want you to behave. They just wouldn’t care, but since they do, they want you to know how to act in public, because then people are happy to have you around. And for any of you, who have ever been around an out of control kid, can you honestly tell me that you did not wish their parents would just give them a spanking? Of course you did. So to my grandma, to her broom, and to our parents, aunts, uncles, and teachers…I say thank you. Whether we felt the broom on our backside, or some other form of discipline, I can say that we all turned out pretty good. And people don’t seem to mind having us around.
My dad always had a great sense of humor, and I have often heard about some of the mischievous antics he and his brother, my Uncle Bill pulled. Things like setting dynamite off on a gate post, and sinking it down several inches, making it impossible to close the gate until they managed to pull the post back up…and before their mother got home from town, so she didn’t get mad at them, or setting off fireworks at the crack of dawn on the 4th of July, were pretty common types of mischief for them. There was also, the things my dad did to get things going, like leaning back on his chair until he fell over…to much giggling from his siblings, I have no doubt.
He was always a lot of fun to be around when we were kids, too. He and I used to have fake boxing matches, which he would usually win, of course. He loved to tease his girls, and when he pulled one over on you, he just laughed and laughed. You couldn’t help but laugh right along with him, because his laugh was so filled with delight at his ability to pull one over on you…and believe me, he had that ability.
Of course, every person has things they have kept secret, especially from their kids. You know, things you don’t want them to do, but that you did. It’s like the old saying. “Do as I say, not as I do.” Well, my dad was no different, I guess, because it appears to me that when all the other students in his class were posed obediently for the class picture, there was one cut up in the crew…you guessed it, my dad. Apparently, he just couldn’t resist acting goofy for the shot, and back then, there was no way to know it had happened until it was developed. Then, there is no way to fix it.
I can’t say that I am totally surprised at the antics of my dad. It is pretty much his character. Still, I can’t say that I ever thought of him as the class clown type. He always expected his girls to behave in school, church, or any other public gathering. There was a time to good off, and a time to behave. Nevertheless, here was my dad, being the only kid in the class to be making the goofy face in the picture. It makes me wonder just how many times my grandmother had a visit from the teacher, telling her about her wayward son, who was acting out in class….again!
Bob and I went out to see his mom at the nursing home tonight. We had been out of town for the long weekend, and so had not seen her in several days. It is my usual practice to ask her if she knows who we are, and if she does, I know it’s a pretty good day. Then we can keep the conversation a little lighter. Tonight I told her that Bob and I had gone to Denver for the weekend, and that he picked on my all weekend. As usual for he, she gave him a “you’re a bad boy” look. I told her that I brought him out to see her so she could straighten him out for me. She wasn’t sure how I expected her to do that until I reminded her of something she used to say quite a bit, and not so many years ago.
She would say it whenever Bob was being particularly “bratty” or picking on someone such as his wife, who we all know would never be picking on him, because I’m just not that kind of person. Oh ok…so maybe I am, but we all know that when it comes to a choice between a poor little picked on girl and a big strong bratty guy, the girl will win every time. That was kind of the world Bob grew up in, and it isn’t likely to change now.
Whenever Bob was teasing me, she would tell me that she “should have given him a few more spankings” and then maybe he would behave better. It was a standing joke between us, because we both knew that Bob was a good man, and his teasing was all in fun, and something he and I both did. In fact, I was teasing him when I asked her to make him behave. The one thing that comment always did was to put a smile on everyone’s face. In my mind I could picture young Bob teasing one of his sisters…usually Jennifer, and my mother-in-law pretty much at her wits end, and Bob getting that one spanking that might have made the difference between the teasing, funny guy I know and love, and a more serious version that I know would never be a better version. I guess that when it comes down to it, I’m glad she didn’t spank him a few more times.