Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Take Me Back Tuesdays

A new feature is born today: "Take Me Back Tuesdays". I will endeavor to blog about something from the past on Tuesdays. To make myself stick with it, I've even created a button for "Take Me Back Tuesdays". I hope you enjoy my peeks into the past.
 The first installment of "Take Me Back Tuesdays" is inspired by my paternal grandfather's birthday this past Saturday. I believe he would have been 88, but I could be wrong. I know he was older than my grandma and she born in 1925, but don't recall the year he was born. My grandpa died over 14 years ago in February 1997 from complications due to congestive heart failure.

Before that, he was born, I believe, in the south, and raised an only child. He went to military school, but never entered the military despite being the perfect age to join during World War II. I believe it was his health that prevented him from joining.

I'm not sure when, but he moved to Michigan. He lived with his best friend, a reverend for whom my father was named. The day my grandpa died, his best friend paid us a visit and told us a story of those early days. First, you must understand that my grandpa never liked cheese at all. He hated the smell, the taste, the thought of cheese. Back in the 1940s when he lived with his best friend, the best friend came home so excited to share a new experience he had with my grandpa. The friend regaled this story of going out to eat and having the best food ever. Actually, when he told the story, the good reverend in his late 70s, described the food as an orgasm in his mouth. He had never tried it until that day and he wanted to share the experience with grandpa, so he had my grandpa close his eyes and open his mouth to taste this new food: PIZZA. My grandpa did so and quickly spit it out, shocked that his friend would be so cruel! I imagine this is how he looked around that time (although this picture is a couple of years older as it was taken by my grandma).
I never remember my grandpa smoking, but apparently he did well until the end of his life. He hid it well.

My grandparents met in the late 1940s and married in February 1951.
My grandparents lived in Michigan most of their lives, but my grandpa was always southern boy at heart. Here is a picture with his cousins and maternal grandma taken during his honeymoon down south.
In February 1952, my grandparents had my dad. He was their only child due to the doctors wrongly typing my grandma's blood and not realizing she was Rh negative, while my dad was Rh positive. My grandparents' two children after my father never made it because of the Rh factor.
This is one of the only pictures I've seen of my grandpa and dad as a child. They were on a trip to the mountains. I presume Tennessee because that is where my grandpa's mom lived, but it could have been the Carolinas as well since most of the family lived there. I love this picture.
This picture was taken on my parents' wedding day in 1974.
This is a four generation picture, taken in Florida when I was 6 months old in 1977. It is my dad, my grandpa's paternal grandma, my grandpa, and I.
My grandpa loved cars and worked as a draftsman (although I have a memory of being told he was also an Arthur Murray dance instructor for a time). My grandpa loved cars so much, he never understood why I would go to school to be an engineer and not design cars (he never knew I didn't end up becoming an engineer at all, he died before I switched majors from engineering).

In the early 1980s, my grandpa was relocated to Virginia for work. That is where he ended his career. It was a good time for my grandparents. They were able to travel all over Virginia and Tennessee, down to the Carolinas and take many, many weekend trips in their huge RV. They spent a lot of time with family down south. Below is a picture of a visit we made to Virginia one Thanksgiving. It is me, my grandpa, his mom, who lived in Knoxville, and my dad.
My grandparents also spent a lot of time in the 1980s and early 1990s square dancing. I remember going into their Michigan basement and seeing tons of matching outfits just like this. They enjoyed it so much. These are the times I remember most, after they left Virginia and came back home. They spent a lot of time with us and they still traveled a lot. Eventually, the travel got to be too much, so they bought a place in Florida and wintered there.

The picture below was taken in Florida. This is exactly how I remember my grandpa. Well, like this, or sleeping in his comfy chair in his living room, with his hearing aid off and grandma yelling at him to come to dinner.
The last couple years of my grandpa's life were not easy. He was very sick. Below is one of the very the last pictures we have of him socializing before he died. It was only a couple of years after the picture above, but he had aged considerably.

My grandpa was not necessarily an easy man to know, which should be obvious since I didn't know where he was born, when he moved to Michigan, or much about his back story. (Grandma did most of the talking.) But what was important to me is that he loved me unconditionally.

At Christmas, Grandpa would buy each of us girls special gifts just from him. It was usually jewelry. And it was so special because he took his time to do this just for us.

Grandpa loved ice cream. I spent a lot of dinners at my grandparents house as a child and grandpa had to have ice cream after every dinner. If there wasn't any in the house, we'd go out for ice cream. I wonder if that is how my grandparents met. She worked in an ice cream shop. I will never know. While my grandma is still with us, she does not remember much. And while she lives much of her days in the past, it is a past even before knowing my grandpa usually.

We used to spend a lot of time in the summers with our grandparents as well, especially in their motor home. My grandparents camped with many friends, but the two sets I remember most were headed by firemen. Of the three men, the two firemen couldn't start the camp fires, so that was always my grandpa's job. The firemen, rightly, put out the fire at the end of the night. I have lots of memories sitting around campfires with my grandparents and their friends. Or taking my grandpa's binoculars down to the water to watch freighters go by. We'd take trips to Canada across the ferry. And I remember watching my grandparents play cards and my grandpa being the only man amongst the table of 6.

I was lucky, my grandpa lasted longer than most of the grandpas in my group of peers. It was still hard to say goodbye, especially since by the time I drove back from school to say goodbye, he was no longer with us even though he died the next day. For the last 14 years, Grandpa's ashes have been fertilizer in a memorial garden he planted and pruned and loved for years outside of the church my grandparents helped to build. He was a kind man, a thoughtful man, and his last years before he got sick, he did learn the love for pizza.

I miss you Grandpa and I love you. Happy Birthday!

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Having a child with a CHD is like being given an extra sense---the true ability to appreciate life. Each breath, each hug, each meal is a blessing when you've watched your child live off a ventilator, trapped in an ICU bed, being fed through a tube. Each minute is a miracle when you've watched your child almost die and come back to you.
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