Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Remembering Grandpa

My grandfather passed away last week at the ripe old age of 95. I'm thankful that he lived so long in mostly good health. He lost my grandmother in December last year after over 70 years of marriage. 70 years! Can you imagine? I can't imagine losing my life partner of 70+ years, so while I am very saddened of his passing, it was not a huge surprise.

Today was a rough day. Grandpa's service was held today in the town where I grew up, but now that I live on the other coast and have a 4 week old baby I just wasn't able to attend. He was my last living grandparent and I really wish I could have been there to pay my respects and listen to my family share their memories of him. My dad called me today and shared a bit of the ceremony with me. He put the phone on speaker and I got to talk to everyone for a bit. It was simultaneously comforting to hear all their voices and yet heartbreaking to not be there with them. And now I sit here kicking myself because it just dawned on me that I could have asked my brother to videotape it for me. So I'll never get to hear the shared memories, which makes me tremendously sad. I wasn't able to attend my grandmothers funeral, but did go out in February for a family memorial and it was really wonderful to hear everyone share their memories of my her. Because that is so fresh in my mind, I know I missed something truly special today.

So I'm sitting here thinking about my grandfather. I want to remember so many things about him so I can keep him alive for my girls, something my friend Joan pointed out when I was lamenting the fact that they would never know him. So as a starting point, here are a few memories:

- Man, could that guy tell a story. He loved nothing more than sitting at the head of the table at Thanksgiving and telling us stories from his life. Yes, the same stories we heard year after year. And I loved it. There was the one about visiting San Francisco, all the stories about his brothers, his travels, how he almost moved to CA without my grandmother, but at the last minute, decided he had to marry her and bring her with him.

- He loved to drink pink chablis. "cheer time"

- He was cheap, even though he loved to let you know he was a paper millionaire.

- He liked the dark meat on the turkey

- He had a bar in his library with some aged bottles of expensive wine or champagne. He always spoke of how he was saving them to open when the grandkids graduated from college and got married. Let's see, there are four grandkids. All college graduates? Check. All been married? Check. How many bottles of the good stuff opened? Zip. Yeah, he was a big talker, but not all about the action apparently.

- I had no idea until I came out for my grandmothers memorial, and saw a picture of my grandparents in their 20s, that my grandfather was so hot in his younger years. You go grandma!

- To be true to our relationship, I have to be honest that my grandfather and I completely disagreed on the role of women in the world. He was completely old school: the woman stays home, raises the kids and is very happy that way. No bringing home the bacon for her. The man makes all the money and decisions. I have a great memory of one Thanksgiving while I was newly graduated from college and living in San Francisco (and... GASP, working!) of him going off about how women were very unhappy having to work and should just go back to the way of his generation. He went on for awhile, and I was seething as he was essentially dissing my whole way of life. Apparently my dad noticed this as he finally said, "Dad you're full of shit and don't know what you're talking about". I'll never forget that moment for 2 reasons. One, I'd never seen my grandfather shut up so fast, and two, I was so touched that my dad stood up for me to his dad. Ironically, now that I am currently a SAHM, my grandfather would be so proud. What he never understood is that I am a firm believer in choice and options. I loved working and my career. And I love that I am in a situation now where I can stay home with my daughters while they are young. But sorry grandpa, I fully intend to go back to work when my youngest is in school.

That's all for the moment. I am exhausted from newborn sleep deprivation, so am leaving out much, but at least it's a start for the record books.

For another good take on my grandfather, read this post from my cousin Tanya's blog.

Oh, and can I just say, if you're planning on videotaping any older members of your family telling their life stories or whatever, do it now. We talked about this a lot and now it's too late.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

Hi Erin -
I'm so sorry I just now got around to reading this. You were definitely there in spirit on the day of grandpa's funeral, so don't beat yourself up over it. Pete and I were talking and deemed you the lucky one because you didn't have to face the house, and them not in it. I've ever experienced so much sorrow in my entire life. That empty house made the loss of both of them so real and so painful. I'm at peace knowing they are back together in heaven, they are forever in our hearts and always watching over us.