Monday, August 06, 2012

The Bitter and the Sweet

I don't have a lot of memories of my paternal grandfather. He died when I was quite young, about three or four. My parents had been estranged from my father's family shortly before he died, and it only got worse, and then continued for nearly a decade after my grandfather's death. I don't have children yet, but I can't imagine disowning one for any reason. But it happened. My grandparents disowned my father, mother and myself because my dad wanted to make a life for himself separate from his role as the youngest of eight children in a small Southern Missouri town. My connection to my father's family is tenuous. I wasn't raised with my cousins, but I do have some nice memories of getting to know a few of them when I was a teenager and the family rift had healed a bit. I wish I had more memories with that side of the family. But I don't.

As sad and disturbing as I find my grandparents' actions, I have one lovely memory of my grandfather and it's what I thought of immediately when I read today's prompt of NaBloPoMo, "What was the first candy you ever tried?"

I have no idea if this is the actual first candy I ever tried, but I've been told that my grandfather loved candy and playing with his grandchildren nearly equally. He, much like my dad, was a get down on the floor and really play kind of grandparent. I remember sitting on the carpet at my grandparent's house, in my grandfather's lap, my back against his chest, tilting my head to look back up at his smiling face, glasses perched on his nose, as he passed me a handful of these spicy, sweet gum drops. Little granules of sugar crunching against my palm, as I pushed them into my mouth. They were chewy and a little hot  and I remember sucking on them until the sugar dissolved and all that was left was the cinnamon burn of the drop. He seemed to always have spiced gum drops at the house and those hard Brach's cinnamon disks at the office. I still love spicy candy, and I think it's because that's my first memory of what candy was supposed to taste like. Sweet but not without that little zip of painful heat. Every time I have a spiced gum drop I think of Pa-Pa. I wish I had more memories of him. Maybe riding bikes together or swimming in their pool, or playing catch in the yard. But there aren't any others. Just that one. I just have that spicy, hot, almost painful burn of a sweet gum drop on my tongue. And sometimes that seems just right.

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