Popeye and Pureed Beets

My dad had three constants in his life – his love for my Mom, his friendship with an old fisherman nicknamed Curly, and his love for a good deal. He loved to go to flea markets and garage sales and NEVER paid the asking price. If someone had something marked a quarter he would offer a dime. More than once I would walk away embarrassed. He often went on his “deal hunts” with Curly.

Curly was Dad’s friend before he married my Mom. He was Polish and looked a lot like Popeye. He even wore an old captain’s hat. Years of fishing in the sun shaped his face. When I see the word grizzled I think of him – tan, wrinkled, stray whiskers. After his wife died he would come down from Michigan in the winter to stay with my parents in Florida. He would stay until his son Gary called to tell him the salmon were running and then he would go back north. They would all play cards in the kitchen with Curly and my Dad cussing and fussing like an old married couple. If the cards were not going his way curly would threaten to put a Polish curse on you.

One time he and my dad came home from town with a huge burgundy recliner in the back of my dad’s truck. He had purchased it from some guy selling chairs on the side of the road. It matched absolutely nothing in my mother’s living room which was rather small (the week before he had purchased 3 cases of pureed beets cheap – Mom was still mad about that because even the dog wouldn’t eat them) and they unloaded it onto the driveway.

My Mom met Dad on the front porch and told him he would not bring the chair in the house. Mom stood on the steps and was still shorter than Dad but height was not a factor in this discussion. Dale and I were out in the yard and could not hear the exact words but knew from the body language and gestures, things were not going to go the way Dad wanted them to go. We decided to stay out of the way – we busied ourselves looking as though we were hard at work pulling weeds. This went on for about twenty minutes. The entire time my parents were arguing about he ugly chair Curly was sitting in said chair with his Captain’s cap pulled down over his face and his feet up. He knew he was going to be helping Dad load the chair back in the truck.

In a few moments my dad headed back towards the driveway and for the first and only time I can remember the two men SILENTLY loaded the chair, got in the truck and drove off. Dale and I made ourselves scarce til supper. We all played cards that night but nothing was said about the chair. The only hint that something had happened was that Curly would cut his eyes back and forth between my parents and then rub his chin like he was going to rub the whiskers off.

Even Popeye knew when to keep quiet around Mom. I think there must have been one of those Polish curses on the chair.