Life Lessons of Grandpa Fannin

By Edgar Rider

I grew up in a nice house on a golf course and my grandfather was a well known local politician. I sort of understood his well known status but mainly only knew him as Grandpa Fannin. He repeatedly sat me down and gave me lectures. These were usually just basic life skills. I never paid much attention. I always thought, “Who do you think you are?” Of course years later I could kick myself for not paying attention. I was always coming up with ridiculous schemes like pretending to be a private detective putting an ad in the paper trying to solve cases at thirteen and acting as if I was going to run away to a place called Dead Man’s Trail and live off the land like Rambo. Grandpa would tell me scary stories about what would happen to me if I tried to go out in the world and make it on my own at thirteen. Grandpa Fannin had a way of scaring reality back into me.

One day we were shopping in a grocery store and Grandpa Fannin was squeezing melons and canalopes making sure they were just ripe. People walking by would say, “Hello Senator.” He would reply back with a polite “Hello.” Then he would turn around and continue the process. Not only did he check all the fruit but also the dates on the milk products. He was overly thorough at times. We walked outside and the bags containing the canalopes and melons broke. As the fruit ran down the hill Grandpa and I chased after it. Eventually he would stop and look back at me. “It’s all you,” he said.

After I picked up the melons, I smiled, trying to get his approval. He nodded. “Get back in the Cadillac.”

I used to ask him why he did all these things himself. “You have money why don’t you just get somebody else to do it?”

He would look back at me and shake his head. The he said, ” Some things you gotta do for yourself.”

He was the hardest working person I ever met. At eighty years old, he was out in the garden pulling up weeds. He put on his fish tackle hat which had no tackle on it. Over the intercom he would ask me to help him outside. I would run and hide in the bathroom. Over the intercom I could hear his voice grow louder. “Can you come out here and help me?” Every time he said that sentence it was followed by an awkward pause. After awhile there would be complete silence. I slowly crept out of the bathroom thinking I had gotten away with not working for that day. Suddenly, I turned around and my grandfather was standing there.

“That’s a fine thing you did right there. That’s a real fine thing. Thanks for helping.”

Grandpa Fannin had a funny way of being sarcastic. He sometimes would point his finger at me and say, “This one’s headed for trouble.”

Sometimes you might want to take a second look at your grandfather’s advice whether he is head of household or head of state or both.

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In the late seventies and through the eighties, Edgar Rider grew up in the household of a well known Arizona Senator and Governor. Most of the stories he remembers are small stories about going to the grocery store and working in the backyard. Edgar Rider has been published in Avatar Review, Birmingham Art Journal, and Kerouac Dog Magazine.

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