My mother's father was a liar. Not in the villainous sense, not like a criminal or fiend, but a teller of falsehoods just the same. I wish I'd met him.
He told my grandmother he was eighteen when he really was fifteen. She needed to hear he was eighteen as she had just turned nineteen and, having fallen in love with him the week she graduated from college with her teaching certificate, pressure to marry and longing in her heart didn't want to hear any business about him being a fifteen year old boy.
Grandpa was hardly a boy. He'd been shaving a full beard since he was eleven, having from the age of nine been supporting his family, hauling sacks of grain and tending to livestock when he should've been studying engineering or playing stickball. He died in his thirties hoying hundred pound bags onto a loading dock somewhere in town. Bacon and eggs and scrapple and souse caught up with him, felling him over the last satchel of feed he'd stacked, peaceful, as if just resting a bit before wrestling another to the pile.
Grandma was left alone to raise my mother and aunt and uncle. She was less than five feet tall and the source of mine and my siblings' varicosities. I'm told she was saintly, yet I hate her for my inherited predispositions towards failed venous valves.
Once, after my parents had married and fired up the baby factory, Mom asked Dad to go check on her mother the morning after a massive snow. His approach brought him to the side yard's rickety gate where he couldn't help but see a rich crimson trail of blood and footprints leading from the outhouse to the flower room door. The carnage started out as a few drips, describing a straight line and quickly grew into a bloody, drunken paisley that widened as the mayhem closed in on the house. He'd butchered hundreds of animals and that's what he started to think had happened to Nanna.
I can just see him dropping whatever he was carrying -- a loaf of steaming hot bread, perhaps a tray of cinnamon buns --running his great athletic strides to her rescue the way I'd seen him respond to other family crises. God, how swift a man my father once was!
He opened the door to find Grandma on a rug she and our mother had woven the previous fall. Blood pooled on the linoleum, wicking into the woolen hem, leading in a thick stringer trail to her calf which floated like a blue-white ham on the puddle beneath it.
"Oh, Herbert." She moaned and fell unconscious.
Dad quickly washed her leg, where he guessed the source of all the blood; a tear in her hose revealed the tiniest gash in the meaty part of her calf, A great deal of her life had drained from a ruptured varicose knot torn open by a neighbor's dog who, excited to see Mrs. Glace outside in the snow, had jumped up on her when she exited the outhouse. A single claw from it's happy puppy paw ripped her open on the softest, most vulnerable part of her body. She'd had to drag herself the last ten feet to the door, thrashing her weakening legs in the fresh fallen snow. I never met her, either.