andy griffith show

Grandpa, Charley and the vagaries of health insurance

Charley wasn’t a deputy, but he was Grandpa’s right-hand man. I never met him but from what I’ve heard, he was a combination of Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle with a healthy dose of Goober thrown in. Here’s Grandma’s description (words and spelling) of life on the job for Grandpa and Charley:

“Your dad’s out reading the meters. He ought to wind that up today. He has such a time with Charley. He can’t remember where the meters are from one time to the next. Charley’s not back on the job fulltime yet. He went to lift a barrel of cans up on the truck and in some manner he got his peenis caught between the can and the truck and mashed the end of it. Then when it healed up, he couldn’t make water, so they had to operate and correct it. Anyway, he was showing everyone his operation and by the way they talk, he must be built like a stud horse. They said they could cut half off then he’d still have more than the ordinary man. Anyway, the doctor won’t release him to go to work until he stops passing blood on account of the insurance.”

I’m not sure how his insurance was controlling his blood passing … and “a barrel of cans”? Maybe she meant “a can of barrels”? Is there even a difference? Regardless, it was always best not to overthink a crazy letter from Grandma.

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Odd stories and odder observations

My maternal grandmother died Aug. 25, 1984. She was 83. She lived most of her life in a small town in northwest Indiana that was, and probably still is, much like Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” The Mayberry comparison extended to my grandpa, the town marshal. He was also the fire chief, garbage man, meter reader, mailman and anything else that needed done. Like Sheriff Taylor, he was an affable and polite guy. Grandma was a different story: nothing like any Mayberry character. More like Mama from “The Carol Burnett Show” and “Mama’s Family,” only larger and sassier.

After my parents married in 1954, they settled in northwest Iowa. From then until Grandma died, my mom and my grandma wrote to each other at least monthly. That’s a lot of letters, and Grandma always had an interesting way of putting things.

The day a letter from Grandma arrived was an event in our household. Mom or Dad would often read the letter to us over dinner, which was occasionally a bad idea: In Grandma’s world, no topic was off limits and she delighted in including every stomach-churning detail with certain subjects (usually something to do with her “bowels”).

Fortunately, my dad had the foresight to keep some of her more entertaining letters. “Crazy Letters From Grandma” is a collection of her odd stories and even odder insights over those 30 years.