I fucked up this week. Hugely. Poppy's 79th birthday was Tuesday, and I completely flaked. Forgot. Not even a phone call. So when I realized what I'd done, I called him yesterday afternoon and made a Daddy/Daughter date. We've had these my whole life, from movies and Ice Capades to baseball and hockey games. Just the two of us. Sadly, we haven't had one in a while, so we met today for Gander's and barbeque.
Let's backtrack a bit. Poppy was the man who patiently held a squirming 3-year-old me on his knee while he explained why I would never hit anyone with my poorly aimed finger gun. I tended to hyper-extend my finger until it curved right; he showed me how to straighten my finger, line my fingertip up with my first knuckle and aim. And every day, he'd ask me to shoot for him. I had the deadliest finger gun in the neighborhood. When I was 7, I got my first BB gun. He paid 4 S&H Greenstamps books (remember those?) for a Daisy BB gun for my birthday. By that time, lining up the sights was second nature. First .22 on my 12th birthday. And my Smith and Wesson .38 when I went to college. When I made the Varsity rifle team as a 1st semester Freshman, he almost burst with pride. Then he found out I was the only woman on a 12-shooter team. He and SGM Williams had a long talk and I was finally allowed to travel with the team. I never asked what was said, and I never will. I didn't take it for granted, it was a privilege not a right, and I could have lost it faster than I earned it.
When we were kids, we were taught to appreciate what we had, don't whine about what we didn't have, and if we wanted something more, we could work for it. I was 12 when I started working odd jobs around the neighborhood; yard work, pet sitting, cleaning houses with mom during summer break. I was allowed 10% for immediate spending money, and the rest went into savings. By 16, I had enough to buy a 1965 Ford Mustang, Single Payment Plan of $2000. Poppy oooo'd and ahhh'd and took the keys. I would be given them back once he was convinced I could care for it properly and fix any issues that came up. We spent two months going over every inch of the engine and transmission together. Granted, it was a fairly simple engine, but it's been very valuable knowledge and I love him for sharing it with me. I have actually ended dates with men (boys) who didn't know shit about their vehicles. If your car stalls after going through a puddle and I have to dry out your distributor cap while you stand there, then we're pretty much done.
So back to today. We started off at his favorite hardware store to burn the gift card my brother sent him. We talked about his current woodworking projects and picked out some really cool router bits. We probably spent an hour and a half wandering around and talking. Long enough to get hungry, so off to Tyler's Pit Barbeque. Small, hole-in-the-wall, 15 person capacity inside, 4 large picnic tables outside, questionable neighborhood. We ate inside. Tyler's smoker and pit are bigger than the restaurant and constantly going. He specializes in beef and pork ribs, brisket, and sausage. No chicken. Don't look for it, don't ask about it. His wife makes the homestyle and German potato salads and cole slaw. But it's the beans. OhDearGodInHeaven, THE BEANS. You know the juices and brisket bits left in the pan? That's what they cook the beans in, so you have rich creamy smokey meaty barbequey beans that come very close to a religious experience. There is cornbread, but it's an afterthought. When Poppy took his first bite, eyes rolling back in his head, some sort of growling noise in his throat, I knew I was on the right track. We dug into the 2 person meal: 2 pounds of meat (brisket, ribs, sausage), potato salad, cole slaw and BEANS; and Noni's homemade banana puddin' to go. It only took us 30 minutes which is kind of embarrassing, and Poppy took the rib bones home for Snoopy.
Last stop on Angel's Apology Tour was Gander Mountain. He said he wanted a shotgun for home defense that Mom could use. We never got out of the fishing gear. We spent another 90 minutes looking at rods, reels, spinners, lures, and everything else Angler oriented. He left with another rod and reel, tackle box and a bunch of pretty, shiny, sharp things. I've never seen him "lustful", but I think he had a personal moment with his new Wusthof fillet knife. I felt like I was intruding on them, so I walked away for a bit. I pointed out that we'd run out of time and never made it back to guns; he just smiled at me and said we'd have to come back next week and try again. Did I mention I love my Poppy?