Grandpop Taylor. He was the meanest, stingiest man I ever knew. When my grandmother Taylor died, my grandfather left my eight year old uncle Timothy in the house by himself and went to live with his girlfriend. I’m not lyin’. The way we found out was that my Dad, Timothy’s older brother, went by my grandparents home a few weeks after my grandmom’s funeral and Timothy was in the kitchen cooking. When Dad asked him where was Pop, he said he had gone. Gone where? To live with Miss Bessie. Anyway, that’s the short version of how uncle Timothy came to live with us.
Well, my grandfather never changed and when he became an old man he came to live with us because he had no one but my Dad. Oh, he had money ‘cause he never spent any but he didn’t have anybody giving a hoot about him….except my Dad, his son. Grandpop was living on the third floor of our house and everybody gave him a wide berth. Except me. I always was trying to see what I could get away with. He didn’t play with us kids much but he always was looking for somebody to go to the store for him or to perform some other task.
Well I was always looking for ways to make movie fare or money for comic books or something. So, one Saturday morning I decided I’d see if I could get Grandpop to pay me to do some work for him. I put on my best “favorite granddaughter” face and quietly went up to the third floor. Grandpop was in his kitchen cooking. When I got to the top of the stairs I could see that he was cooking his dinner. I began telling him all the good things I had already done that morning like sweep down the basement steps and clean out the refrigerator. As only he could, he looked at me and said, “That’s what you should be doing. Now what do you want from me?” I screwed up my courage and said I was looking to do some chores for him so that maybe he would help me get to the movies that afternoon. Now, this is the closest a child in my family could ever get to asking a grown-up for money. I dare not ever ask directly for money or be suspected of begging for anything. Grandpop asked me what did I have in mind as a chore that would be worth something. I thought for a few minutes and finally said “I’ll iron your shirts if you want”. He said, “Alright, there are some in the laundry basket”.
I ran over to the laundry basket, took out nine shirts, sprinkled them down, got out the ironing board and promptly went to work. About an hour later, proud of my handiwork I showed Grandpop the shirts nicely hung on wooden hangers. He looked at them, grumbled something about some wrinkles around the collars. I took them back to the ironing board, spiffed up the shirts and returned again to Grandpop. It was almost time to go to the movies and I wanted to get paid.
That’s when the problem started! My Grandpop Taylor asked me how much did he owe me!! My god, why did he do that? Didn’t he understand I could never tell him he owed me money? Well I squirmed and I danced and I smiled stalling for time. I was thinking as fast as I could. All the time Grandpop was washing his long grain rice. Finally, I got what I thought was a great idea. It would take me off the hook and at the same time help my Grandfather decide how much to give me for my services. I said, “well Grandpop, there were nine shirts that I ironed. Why don’t you give me ten grains of rice…nine for the nine shirts and one for doing them so well?” I thought this would be a great way for me to get at least a dime and more likely 50 cents. Genius at work.
My Grandfather looked at me, smiled a mean smile and counted out 10 grains of rice. After he finished counting out the rice he looked into my unbelieving eyes and as cool as a cucumber said, “in life, you only get what you ask for”.
I took the 10 grains of rice; I did not say thank you and that was the biggest insult I could muster. I ran down stairs but I did not cry. I went to my father and asked him for 50 cents. He said, “Why are you asking for money just like that young lady? How do you plan on earning it?” I said, “ I’ve already earned it. I’m asking for the money because I’m only going to get what I ask for”.
My Dad gave me the 50 cents. My Grandfather gave me a valuable lesson. But I never did like that man.