Cornmeal Pancakes and Southern Comfort

14 Oct


Frank-Lucille Funk   Grandpa’s ancestors going back five generations had an average life expectancy of 61 years.  When he was 78, he got seriously ill – some sort of stomach or intestinal problem (inverted stomach?) — and went to the doctor.  This was remarkable for two reasons:

  1. It was during fall grain harvest, and my Father and Uncle couldn’t harvest the corn and soybeans correctly without adult supervision, and
  2. He didn’t run to the doctor for every sniffle but self-medicated with salves, ointments, balms, liniments, herbs, distilled spirits, and a variety of natural remedies. For example, he’d treat a cold with a hot toddy of boiling water, honey, lemon juice, and whiskey that was to be consumed as hot as possible; then he’d bury himself in blankets and sweat it out.

Given that he agreed to visit the doctor, the family knew this was serious.  The intensity ratcheted up when the doctor had him admitted to the hospital.  Grandpa spent about two weeks in the hospital.  Two weeks filled with tests, x-rays, scans, pokes, probes, and whatever that were completed, analyzed, and repeated in a couple of days.  The doctors wanted to perform an exploratory surgery, but Grandpa adamantly refused.  The doctors had a couple of guesses of Grandpa’s problem, but only one thing was certain – he was going to die.

Grandpa left from the hospital … probably over the objections of his doctors.  Father brought him home and asked about dietary restrictions.  The doctors let him have anything he wanted; after all, they expected that he would be dead and buried before spring work began in April.  Grandpa demanded only two things: cornmeal pancakes[1] and Southern Comfort.

From November through April, Grandpa stayed at our house.  Mother made cornmeal pancakes every day.  Father kept Southern Comfort on hand for Grandpa’s consumption.  Grandpa needed assistance getting out of the chair, walking, dressing, washing, everything.  However, when April arrived and the time for spring work was at hand, without help he got out of the chair; gathered his belongings; managed the three steps out of the house; walked to the Uncle Jake’s car; and went home to drive tractor, fit ground, and plant corn and soybeans.

He lived 15 years after this episode.  He survived a major collision between his John Deere tractor and an automobile[2] as well as the hazards of working around hazardous machinery.  He helped on the farm until Alzheimer’s sent him to a nursing home when he was 90.

Grandpa’s 93 years exceeded his ancestors’ average lifespan by 32 years, his six brothers and sisters’ average lifespan by 17 years, and his three children’s average lifespan by seven.  Cornmeal pancakes and Southern Comfort must have been Grandpa’s elixir of life; I’m keeping both close at hand.

[1] Mother’s recipe for the cornmeal pancakes has disappeared.  I suspect it was something passed down from Grandmother Smith or appropriated from either the Grange or Church of God Cookbooks.

[2] Grandpa ran the stop sign.


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