Updated: Sep 7
My Grandpa, Hal Rednour, was born in a chicken house in Tennessee, on August 10th 1931.
I learned this interesting fact, and a lot more, in the summer of 2017. He was about to turn 86 years old and was suffering from dementia. As a result, my aunts and uncles decided it was best to have him live in a nursing home so he could have 24/7 care.
I didn’t know my Grandpa Hal very well. Growing up in Utah, and only visiting my dad’s family every three or four years didn’t give me much opportunity to spend time with him. My dad also had a strained relationship with his father and didn’t want me to get too close to Grandpa.
His reasons for that were always a bit of a mystery to me. Whenever I asked, he would either change the subject, or tell me stories of how he felt he had to be the protector of all his siblings against anything bad in the world. I assumed that included Grandpa, but didn't know why.
When I heard my Grandpa Hal was in a nursing home and his health wasn’t doing so well, I decided to make a trip out there to visit with him. I wanted to learn whatever I could from him about our families history. I knew it may not be much, considering he had dementia, but I wanted to try anyway.
I stayed with my Uncle Mike and Aunt Carol, and went to visit my grandpa everyday for five days. The first and second days he didn’t know who I was, but after I told him I was “Buddy’s daughter”, he lit up and welcomed me to stay and chat as long as I wished. And everyday when I left, he tried to convince me to take him back to his house, or to take him back to Utah so he could live with me. He even came up with some pretty crafty plans on how we could break him out of the nursing home.
It was heartbreaking to hear him talk of his home. But what broke my heart even more, was when I had to go back home. A few days after I left, my uncle Mike called me and told me Grandpa had been asking the nurses, every morning, when I was coming to visit him again.
Everyone had been encouraging my grandpa to go outside, but he had refused. I was asked to also encourage this, so I did. I believe it was my third day that I convinced him to come sit outside with me a little while. The nursing home had a small outdoor garden with benches and we sat on one of these benches and had a classic Rednour conversation.
I know you don’t know what that is, so let me explain. My dad’s family tends to be more on the introvert side. Small talk isn’t something we do very well, and we’re perfectly content sitting in silence, not saying anything beyond a comment here or there on something going on around us.
In this instance, one of us would occasionally comment on a pretty flower, a bird, or a butterfly. I sat thinking about the list of questions I’d gotten from my cousins, questions they wanted Grandpa to answer if he could remember. And I realized there were so many things I didn’t know about this man. Not even little things, like his favorite things.
After we’d been sitting there for awhile, I asked him if he had a favorite flower. He nodded his head and said, “The dandelion.”
“The dandelion? Really?” I asked.
He nodded again and said, “I know lots of people think it’s just a weed, but I figure the dandelion must be God’s favorite flower since it grows everywhere.”
I loved that thought so much, that I decided right then that the dandelion would also be my favorite flower.
My grandpa died shortly after his 86th birthday. I still wish I’d thought to get to know him better before he was in that nursing home with dementia. I treasure the stories and the time we spent together during that week. But I also know there is so much more I could have learned about my family history from him, things my aunts and uncles don’t even know, that are now lost to us.
At the time, I knew dandelions were edible and had some health benefits, but I didn’t know what those benefits were. When I researched ingredients for our salve, I had dandelions in mind from the start because 1. They have indeed become one of my favorite flowers and 2. Our yard was full of them. But while I had heard they were nutritious when eaten, I wasn’t sure if they would fit the bill for what I wanted in a salve – a salve that had to be good for sensitive, dry skin, and eczema.
When I found out that dandelions contain high levels of the antioxidants beta carotene and polyphenols which help protect against cell damage and oxidative stress as well as help fight against inflammation (one reason, I believe, for eczema flare ups) I knew I was on the right path.
The fact that dandelion leaves and flowers can also prevent skin damage when applied just before or right after exposure to UVB radiation (sunlight), may renew skin cells, and increase skin hydration and collagen production was just the cherry on top.
I may not have gotten to know my Grandpa very well, but he did pass on a couple of things besides DNA. My introvertedness, and a love and delight for a small yellow weed.