"Never shit in a foxhole. You never know when you might have to dive in."
He never actually did say that; it was more like "Mmmrflgl, klgrnmnnhy nmhrmlmmnnm" because he was pretty much insane by the time I ever saw him and the doctors had him doped up with enough thorazine to make a rhino snore, but it's what I would imagine that he would say were he actually to give great grandfatherly war-story advice.
Crazy Aunt Petunia would put it differently:
"Don't burn your britches before they're hatched."
Aunt Petunia was never one for keeping things straight in her head. Listening to her talk was always a fun trip into surrealism because as much as stream-of-consciousness was in vogue, hers was more a babbling-brook-of-unconciousness where she would switch sentences in midstream.
"Why, when I was your age, I used to have a ponytail that that little rat-fink bastard Timmy Boboscrin would try to dip into the inkwell, and we used to ride him along the trail down by the lake on Old Man Johnson's farm. Old Man Johnson would come out of his house with that damn blunderbuss he had, cursing up a blue streak, words that I'd never heard hide nor hair of when he'd come looking. In three years he never did find me under the chicken coop, but boy howdy did that stink to high heaven in a sandwich. Hand me the grapes, honey."
Toward the end, Aunt Petunia soiled herself a little too often, and all of her flower-print dresses were stained a dull grayish-brown color. Her house always smelled the same: wood smoke and bacon fat, even at the end.
She never had a TV, did Petunia. She had an old Philco upright radio, a console model with tubes enough to emit a warm, cheery glow that seemed able to pick up signals from everywhere in the world. I remember fondly late nights sitting in front of the radio listening to Jack Benny and the Grand Ol' Opry and Stories of Suspense that would chill my bones, and once in a while coming across strange foreign voices rattling off strings of numbers and nonsense words, and Petunia would get a drifty, faraway look in her eyes as she remembered lost loves from wild days spent on a tropical beach in the South Pacific.
That old house is gone now, swallowed up by a highway reconstruction project, the old farmland turned into a rise of condos that look like they were shat out of Salvador Dali's ass in piles and left to petrify in the noonday sun. I sometimes wonder if they ever found the big ol' stockpile of wartime ammunition that granpappy had buried out under the rockpile, or if one day we're gonna hear about some young kid that found the entrance tunnel and set off an explosion big enough to take out thre of the ugly shitpile condos.
I can always dream.