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The Training of Grandpa Jungas

by Phyllis Martens

Part 3

Johann, trusting soul, soon forgot the lesson. On the occasion of Helena's shopping trip to Mankato with two friends, wives of other businessmen in town, he gave Helena $5 to buy what she wanted. Helena said nothing. She put the money in her purse, kissed Johann goodbye, and rode off to the city in her friends' model T. She shopped all day with the two women and returned in the evening.

Johann was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. He asked what she had bought. She laid her purchase on the table, all smiles. . .a brown paper parcel, limp and flabby and not very big, tied with store string. It contained 15 cents worth of liver.

Johann was not one to lose his temper, but according to the one and only other witness present, when he saw that liver, he exploded all over the kitchen. "You shopped all day in Mankato and that's all you bought? You could have got that right here at Epp's! Your friends are going to think I'm too stingy to give you money! I'm ashamed!"

"Goat!" Helena replied, a gleam in her eye. Right on, Johann! She proceeded to point out that she considered it humiliating to go to the city with two wealthy friends to shop all day with nothing but $5 in her purse, which was all that her husband, the owner of the most prosperous and only hardware store in town, had given her. Johann had nothing more to say. He had walked straight into the trap. The upshot was that next time Helena went to Mankato, she carried with her a blank check signed with Johann's name.

Peace reigned for a time, and Johann, preoccupied with his business, did not trouble his head with meditations on the psychology of women. Every day he would run upstairs for meals, two steps at a time because it was busy in the store and he didn't want to waste time. He would eat quickly whatever was set before him, then take a few minutes' nap on the couch before running back downstairs. Helena served up whatever she pleased. She had picked up the finer arts of German cooking at the Janzens, could bake and roast with the best.

One day she prepared for her husband a noon dinner of borscht, sausage, rye bread and watermelon. A fine dinner, a good German feast. Up came Johann, running the stairs two at a time, and sat down and surveyed the table. What did he say about this fine dinner to the expectant cook? He said, "Well, now, Helena, you didn't have to cook this much for just us two. Serve leftovers, that's plenty good enough."

"Goat!" exclaimed Helena, looking at him sideways. That word should have warned Johann that something was up, but in his innocence he ate heartily, took his nap, and went downstairs.

That evening Johann found a tidy little supper waiting for him: borscht, sausage, rye bread, and watermelon--leftovers. He smiled at Helena. "This is fine, plenty good enough." Helena smiled back and said nothing. They finished the sausage and the borscht and most of the watermelon.

Next day at noon Johann ran upstairs and sat down. On the table were two plates, one containing a few leftover slices of watermelon and the other the heels of the rye bread. Johann leaned back. In view of dinner coming up the next day, and supper after that, and many days to follow, he felt it wise to acknowledge defeat. "Nah, Helena," he said, "I guess you'll have to cook again."

Helena smiled and nodded and went to the oven to get out the nice hot dinner she had cooked and hidden away. For the rest of her life she asked no questions and heard no advice, at least from Johann, on the matter of her meals. He always came running up in a big hurry, ate whatever she put on his plate, and hustled back down to the store--customers were waiting.

Grandma told me all these things, chuckling in her rocking chair. "Puppy love!" she sniffed. "I showed him!"

(This ends "The Training of Grandpa Jungas." Check next month for the beginning of Phyl's "Grandma's Multi-Level Family.")