My grandpa had a hip flask he always carried around. He had one of those dingy copper flasks. This is not going to be a beautiful, touchy memory. Nope. My grandpa was a drunk, and he reeked of booze to prove it. I remember the sour smell on his breath and the nicotine smell on his fingers. I want to say he was a cool old man, but he wasn’t. So as you can imagine, a hip flask always connected in my mind to unpleasant episode with my grandpa.
The first wedding I attended as a groomsman, all the other guys wanted to get monogramed flasks for the occasion. Apparently, I then found out, it’s a custom of sorts for groomsmen to get matching flasks. Actually there’s a whole culture surrounding hip flask, with sites like http://www.flaskaholic.com/ – the best flasks the claim to have. I tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn’t hear of it. It was a must for them, to remember the occasion – it was our first wedding – and of course to play it cool during the party. I went along with it, but didn’t use my flask not even once.
Some years passed and my resentment to hip flasks remained. I have no idea why, or how, but hip flasks continued being a presence in my life. Always somebody brought one from a trip abroad, showing it off proudly, and of course every wedding the groomsmen and bridesmaids compared flasks to see which group got the coolest.
I couldn’t let it go. Flasks triggered unhappy memories for me. Memories of grandpa being too loud, too aggressive, laughing too hard. This was all when I was a teenager, so unfortunately the memories stayed fresh.
Grandpa died when I was 27 (I’m 29 now.) I haven’t seen him for a few good years prior to his passing. I went to collage in a different state and then you, life happened. I went back to town for his funeral. After the ceremony, when we all went to his and grandma’s house, grandma took me aside and handed me his flask. “He wanted you to have it.” I was shocked. Why me? He had seven grandchildren, I wasn’t the oldest or youngest, just a grandson somewhere in the middle.
I took it from grandma and brought it to my nose. It had that smell. I cringed. “Why do you think he gave it to me of all the grandkids?” She smiled. “He left something small for each of you. This one for you. I didn’t ask and he didn’t say.” Grandma is a real lady, all proper, I knew she wouldn’t say anything else.
I wanted to throw it away but I couldn’t. It pissed me off and made me curious at the same time. Why would he give it to me? Did he know how much I hated it and wanted to pull a last trick on me from the great beyond? Was it just random?
Eventually I asked mom about it. She smiled too. “You don’t remember, do you?” No, I don’t. “When you were little you were fascinated by this hip flask. That was before grandpa turned to drinking in a serious way. Back then he just carried this old copper flask for show off. He used to let you hold it, gave you a pen and you used to bang on it on and on. It was your little game the two of you.”
I was shocked again. I had absolutely no recollection of what ma was telling me. I still don’t, but ma’s story changed my perception of my grandpa. Now I realize that before he was a drunk old man he was a decent man. He raised a family and supported it, and apparently when were little, us grandkids, he was a kind grandfather to us.
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Now I love this flask. I don’t use it – because it reeks like hell! – but I did grew a liking to stylish hip flasks. I have a small collection actually, my favorite one being a vintage pewter flask from the 40’s. It’s funny how things change, how life takes you on unpredictable roads.