Papa Gene's house was my refuge. When I'd get in an argument with my dad, I'd go to Papa's house and just sit with him on his big porch, or watch as he tinkered on tractors or tools in his big red barn. He taught me to garden. He taught me that Cardinals love oily black sunflower seed and that Mourning Doves are ground feeders.
He and Granny Fifi lived just down the road. I had back-road paths that I took to get to his house. Once, after a nasty altercation with my dad, I started up the old tractor which sat in our barn next to leathery tack and bags of sweet feed and oil covered lawnmower parts. Driving the tractor was fun and it felt great taking it to Papa's. He was always outside. I knew he'd see me coming slowly up his long driveway and wave at me until I reached him.
I grew up, as is wont to happen with us all, and now, my girls are the apples of Papa Gene's eye. He takes the two youngest, Anna and Chloe, to Steak-n-Shake almost every week. One day last year, he came to pick them up for their little excursion, but Chloe wasn't home from school yet. Papa volunteered to watch Annie while I went to pick up Chloe. Before I left, Annie was sitting on Papa's lap, rubbing the age spots on his arms and neck and face with her tiny hands. She didn't like those age spots. Annie thought they were "owies." They concerned her.
I retrieved Chloe and when I walked back into the living room of my house I couldn't believe my eyes. I started laughing so hard that I could barely breathe. There sat Papa in our navy blue leather recliner covered in pantyliners. They were all over his arms, neck, and face. Everywhere he had an age spot, there was a pantyliner covering it. He started laughing, too, and said, "Annie sure took care of me! I'm all bandaged up."
"Papa! Those aren't bandages. They're pantyliners!"
He started pulling them off and managed to get them all removed before I could reach my camera. I'm still disappointed.
Papa Gene is a treasure. He doesn't drive a tractor anymore, but he's still good for wheelbarrow rides. And, he's teaching my girls to garden, just like he taught me. They could learn from momma, but it's not the same. Papa Gene is their refuge, too. I love him so much.