White on black tile completed after this weekend's technique class.

(Upon being denied a loan from his bank) “That’s it!  I’m gonna take everything I owe to another bank! Then they’ll be sorry” David “Possum” Redmond

For some reason my late father-in-law has been on my mind for the past few weeks.  To me, he was the epitome of the Cajun people of Louisiana.  I never miss the show Swamp People because Troy Landry reminds me of my father-in-law.  He loved Louisiana, beer, his wife, automobiles, cards, casinos, Disney World, his dog, good food and his family – not necessarily in that order and subject to change depending on the day.  He had a sharp wit that managed to be funny without offending and loved to laugh.

Known to family as “Honey” and friends as “Possum”, David Redmond was from a very tiny town in deepest south Louisiana – Montegut.  Most folks down there have nicknames traced to childhood and his was no exception.  He was a preemie and so tiny, his dad would put him in his pocket – just like a ‘possum carries its young – thus the nickname “Possum”.  “Honey” came from his wife, then all six of his kids and finally their wives and husband began using that nickname.  Honey adored kids and often said they would have had twice as many if his wife could have managed it.  He often told about trying to find a little “alone” time with his wife after being offshore for a week.  With six kids clamoring for daddy’s attention, he would remove one coin from a roll of pennies and toss the remainder into the yard with the instruction to the kids “You can’t come inside till you find all 50 pennies.”   As parents, he sometimes drove us all crazy.  “Don’t punish them children.  I can’t stand it.”  To him, there was nothing his grandchildren could do wrong.  In short, he was a perfect Peepaw.  Though he wasn’t past pulling a fast one on them.  For years he collected dimes, telling the kids if they brought him 15 dimes he would give them a dollar.  They fell for it every time, even after they learned how to count money.  He once taught my niece his version of the Our Father prayer – “Give us this day, our daily beer…”  He got in a lot of trouble with my sister-in-law when her daughter said her prayers after a visit with Peepaw.

Not being Cajun or even from Louisiana, my early married years were interesting.  My maiden name was Snodgrass, a very uncommon name in southern Louisiana.  After the wedding, he told me “About damn time you changed that name.”  My “Texas” cooking wasn’t always a hit with my in-laws, though they were amazed when I made mashed potatoes from real potatoes.  Red-haired, white as a ghost, shy and a Texan to boot, being dropped into this rowdy gang of anything goes Cajuns was like landing on Mars.  My unlikely champion turned out to be Honey.  Our first Thanksgiving was apart as my husband was offshore for the holiday.  He gave me a song and dance story about his pitiful Thanksgiving with only ham sandwiches to eat.  I swallowed it hook, line and sinker.  Honey saw how upset I was and immediately called my husband to rip him up about teasing me with the final words, “Don’t you ever make her cry again!” and promptly hung up the phone.  One of my favorite memories of him.  Along with the time he told me I was so skinny I looked like a thermometer.

Honey was a cancer-survivor from a time when that was very rare.  He was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the 1960’s – a virtual death sentence back then.  He went to MD Anderson in Houston for treatment, losing most of his scalp and lymph nodes in his neck.  He got clearance in 1977, the year I joined the family, to discontinue his annual check-ups with them.  They considered him cured.  He never did, making his annual Houston trip until he suffered a stroke just days before his appointment in 1999.  Ever competitive, he “raced” my 7-months pregnant daughter to see who came home first – him or his new great-grandchild, Maggie.

Honey passed in 2003.  I have no idea how many people came to pay their respects, but it must have been several hundred.  We had to ask that flowers be stopped the day before the funeral, there were just too many for the church and we were hauling them to the house by the pick-up truck loads.  It was a wonderful and affirming experience to see that others saw what a special man he was too.  I told my husband years ago that I knew what he would be like when he got older, just like his Dad.  He replied, “I think that’s pretty damn good.”  I was right, and so was he.  We miss you Honey.

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