“Come give me some sugar,” he called around a wad of chewing tobacco as he smiled from his lawn chair under the aging maple tree. I knew he meant a kiss, so I ran up to give him one on the cheek. He smelled like wintergreen, Old Spice and menthol and had a jack-o-lantern smile because he refused to wear his dentures except to church.
Usually Grandpa was either happy or sad, smiling or crying, hardly ever in between. This day he was happy, so I sat on the soft grass at his feet to stroke the fur of the warm brown Beagle pup curled up there while Grandpa hummed a song.
I thought it was kind of sad that he asked for sugar when he saw us. He was diabetic and Grandma doled out his dietary requirements with an eagle eye. She was militant in denying him sugar. Truth is Grandma had a sweet tooth herself. She hid chocolate bars in her purse and allowed herself a bite when grandpa wasn’t looking. While Grandpa’s substitute for granulated was the sweetness of a kiss, Grandma took to satisfying her craving in secret.
Grandma wasn’t much for hugging or kissing. She allowed it, but in a reserved and stiff kind of way. Her hands were always busy hanging out laundry or kneading dough but she too knew a way into our hearts.
In the fall when the weather was still nice but starting to cool, Grandma came down to the woods where we camped. Grandpa was busy with other things so it was time for Grandma to show us love in her special way. All the grandkids gathered round as Grandma pulled a hunk of yeast dough out of her large crockery bowl and cut a portion off with a knife. She dropped the dough into boiling oil to fry up golden and crisp.
We argued over holding the brown paper bag that held a blend of sugar and cinnamon as Grandma dropped the hot oily fried bread in for coating. “Take turns, children,” she’d say over the shake-shake as the bag transformed the bread into a sweet fragrant treat. To Grandma, sugar was an ingredient to be doled out and measured and to Grandpa, sugar was just the sweetness in life.