Memories of my Papaw Reaves

When I was a young girl in the 60’s we would go visit my parent’s families as often as we could get to Texas.  My father was in the military so we didn’t really live anywhere for a very long time, until I got a bit older anyway.  My father was from Big Spring in West Texas and my mother was from an even smaller town 100 miles west of there, Monahans.  Most of my aunts and uncles were also in the general vicinity of these two towns…200 mile radius….easily.

Mamaw and Papaw were my dad’s parents.  Granny and Grandad were my mom’s parents.  I think, out of these 4 very important people in my young life…I remember less about my Papaw (even though Papaw died 3 years after granddad which was a long time for me as a young person).  I was about 6 when Grandad died and 9 when Papaw died.

Papaw Reaves, I remember, was a man of few words although he had a strong presence in every room he was in.  My guess is he was a strict disciplinarian but like I said, it’s only a guess.  I mean he had 5 boys that I am quite sure were not angels all of the time!

Papaw always sat at the head of the table in the breakfast room/kitchen.  It was a light green rectangular table that looked like it had white marble swirls in it and shiny chrome table legs.  That’s the best way I could describe it.  There were also green vinyl chairs to match.  I remember always sticking to the chairs with my bare legs when I sat for a long period of time, because it was always so hot in Texas!

Every meal I had at that table was heavenly.   Wow, my Mamaw was a good cook, but more about Mamaw in another post.  I remember Papaw when he ate: his plate was always full of everything Mamaw made, but, he would eat one thing at a time.  Mashed Potatoes – finish, Green Beans – finish, meat – finish, bread – finish.  I thought it very strange and I always wanted to ask him why he ate that way, but I was too afraid to ask!  Even stranger now….my son does the same thing and he was born over 20 years after my Papaw died!

A very unfortunate thing I remember about Papaw was that I, along with other people in Papaws life was an unwitting witness to his slow and awful death.  Papaw smoked unfiltered cigarettes and cigars all of his life. The repercussion of that bad habit for him was horrible.  Papaw would spend many hours a day standing at the kitchen sink trying to get his breath.  It was awful.  He would bolster his arms a certain way on the sides of the kitchen sink (looking back I’m sure he was trying to expand his lungs as much as he could) so he could get air.  He would breathe in and out, with heavy loud breaths, and I remember everybody would act as though nothing unusual was happening.  Then again, I guess it wasn’t unusual because he did it every day.  We would walk through the kitchen, listening to that horrible sound and quickly walk through to the living room.  Unfortunately it was these memories of him that I remember the most – heavy breathing, over the sink.  I was always afraid he was going to die over the sink in that house in Big Spring at 601 E. 12th Street.  Now I know he probably thought the same thing, that he was going to die one day over the kitchen sink.


About Caroline

Daughter, Sister, Mom... I think the best thing I've done is to be a mom, to give my kids my love but not my thoughts and to listen, observe, offer advice when needed.
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12 Responses to Memories of my Papaw Reaves

  1. Sylvia says:

    Before he got so ill, he would wiggle his dentures at us kids to get us to giggle.


  2. Cindy says:

    Whenever my family would drive in from Lubbock for visits I remember my sisters and I yelling “Papaws trains! ” every time we drove over the train yard.
    I, too, remember him jiggling his dentures.


  3. Brenden says:

    Great glimpse into his life, I can’t wait to read more about my own Papaw and Granna. 😉


  4. I remember him folding kleenex into tiny litte squares. I loved the kitchen description Caroline. It brought back a flood of memories. I too can remember him sitting at that green table struggling for every breath and not understanding why. He was a quiet almost bitter man but I so loved him.


  5. I remember that at every meal he had a glass of milk or juice with brown granules in it. I knew it was some kind of medicine or something. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized it was probably some sort of metamucil.


    • Patsy Ann says:

      Hey Cathy. I think it was alfalfa.


      • Cathy says:

        Well, this shows you what I knew! I’ve never heard of alfalfa as a remedy – but found this:

        Alfalfa has been used as an herbal medicine for over 1,500 years. Alfalfa is high in protein, calcium, plus other minerals, vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K.

        In early Chinese medicines, physicians used young alfalfa leaves to treat disorders related to the digestive tract and the kidneys. In Ayurvedic medicine, physicians used the leaves for treating poor digestion. They made a cooling poultice from the seeds for boils. At the time, alfalfa was also believed to be beneficial to people suffering from arthritis and water retention.

        Papaw was practicing herbal and Chinese medicine!



  6. Wanda Latham Reaves says:

    I learned so much from Mamaw in so many different ways. She was such a good woman. I never heard her say a negative word about anyone. I remember helping her in that kitchen. I was impressed that she swept the linoleum on the floor after every meal.


  7. Valerie Reaves Kyle says:

    I remember Papaw sitting at that table with his milk or buttermilk with cornbread crumbled in it. As he tried to breathe he would say “Oh Me, Oh my” over and over as he struggled so valiantly to take the next breath. I remember mamaw’s salt and pepper shaker collection and button box we played with. My husband and I still travel through Big Spring and I always look down at the trainyard.


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