My mother came down on Thursday–it was her first Thursday free since September. No chemo. No Herceptin. And it was going to be a girls’ day. I posted earlier that we went to see the Hobbit … mainly because I forgot to see if I could get dinner theater tickets and because my father is funny about being without her right now. My mother enjoyed getting to sleep in so instead of a movie and dinner we had to go for a late lunch and movie. It’s all good.
Where I live now there is a New York style pizza joint that is owned–according to a friend of mine–by the same family that runs a joint with the same name back in my home town. None of us were craving pizza; we wanted good old-fashioned subs. Meatball marina and steak and cheese to be precise.
**If you think steak ums and velveeta cheese is a steak & cheese–you’re so mistaken. It needs to be hoagie style. Diced meat, provolone, lettuce, tomato, mayo. You can add onion, green peppers, mushrooms if you like. But lifeless and practically tasteless mystery meat with fake cheese is just not a steak and cheese. And I’ve eaten at Genos in Philly and I was so disappointed (but the late Joey Vento was so nice to our scouts!). It’s got to be more like the authentic steak & cheese my folks took us to get on MacDade Blvd. Let the debate begin… ! 🙂 **
Okay, so while we were sitting there, T1 asks, “What was your grandmother like?”
Thus began a wonderful conversation. And an idea for some posts. I may even have to “ghost write” some posts from the Chief about his grandparents. Before she asked this, I’ve actually been looking for the electronic copies of a story written based on a tape recorded conversation between me and my grandmother to post here. (Otherwise I have to retype the whole thing… ugh!)
So not in any particular order I will post some of the recollections I had and the conversation we had on our girls’ day. I hope this inspires T1 and T2 to write down their memories of their grandparents for their children.
I have no memories of my dad’s father. He died the summer I was 1 and half. He was a master mechanic and served in WWII in the Navy. From what I understand he did not see action in the Bering Straits. He was Irish. Well, he acted it but not really. The family history is that we’re really English but were forced to leave because they were Catholic. They lived in Ireland for a while–we actually had an Irish nun doing the family history contact my grandmother and say they still had family there. But PopPop was Irish in that he drank and was a bit unreliable. In my father’s family there is a large age gap between the oldest four and the youngest three. My father, the oldest of the youngest, remembers “collecting” his father from bars. I think this shaped his drive to be a workaholic–but the older three boys took after their father, some more than others. If I’m correct, PopPop died from an enlarged heart from drinking and smoking. From pictures I gather he was a very handsome and roguish young man.
On my mother’s side, Poppy came from hard-working German stock. He was handsome. A bear of a man–though short. Or at least my 7-year-old self thought he was larger than life. 🙂 He was a master plumber. He was a hard worker. Jeans and t-shirts kind of guy. “The Chief is a lot like him,” my mother said to my girls. Yeah, I can see it. That kind of guy. Poppy was in the Army for WWII though he rarely spoke about what he saw. According to my mother he liberated at least two concentration camps. It was a hard thing to do with such a German last name. We were actually talking briefly about gun control, which I think prompted T1’s question later, and my mother recalled that he never went hunting with his relatives again after returning from the war though he kept two weapons in the house.
I have few memories but they include telling him my cousin had pulled my tooth and of him sitting in the chair and snoring. Great big snores. I think he was just getting interesting because 7 is when some children are just getting interesting themselves. I think I would have had a great relationship with him. “I felt cheated [when he died]. I was only 7.” My mother teared up when I said this. She had only been in her thirty’s–imagine how she felt. He died of lung cancer; more from the environment he worked in rather than the smoking but it may have also been from the type of skin cancer he had that can actually show up later as lung cancer. On my 7th birthday they threw a big retirement party for him. I remember getting all my gifts early the day before we left. All of the family was there; his friends and coworkers. I remember he came in a grey suit. He looked a little smaller–the cancer beginning to take a toll. But he was handsome. I also remember that our headlights had been smashed out in the parking lot and we had to drive back to my dad’s mother’s without lights. My mother assured me it was only a few blocks but must have seemed so far away to my 7-year-old self. Poppy died 6 weeks later. He was adored by his mother and sisters. “He could do no wrong–even if he was chasing his sister out the hay loft doors with a pitch fork for daring to go into his room!” (No wonder the males in my family have anger issues.) Funny that my mother describes him this way–for a long time she touted his “sainthood” too as she struggled with her mother.