July 23, 2007 at 11:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This weather has me missing my Grandparents like crazy. Today feels like the end of summer. It’s warm and sunny with a perfect breeze and not a hint of humidity in the air. Today feels like a Sunday. It feels like the Sundays of my childhood, and that is such a good feeling that it’s threatening to make me cry at a moment’s notice.

Every Sunday from the time I was born Sundays meant dinner at my Grandparents’ house. During the summers, my Pa would grill a London Broil and we would all sit on their shady porch eating, talking, and laughing. Before dinner, my brother and I would explore the woods and creek at the bottom of the hill their house sat on. My Grandmother would give us books and patiently help us read them. Winters meant afternoons watching football games, playing Monopoly, and listening to stories that my Grandmother told of being asked by Eleanor Roosevelt to be a spy for our country during World War II. According to Grandma, she saved the world on no less than a dozen occasions before she’d even entered High School.

My memories of my Grandparents are all warm and happy. When I was very young, Grandma and I went to Woolworth’s every Tuesday for lunch with her friend Bernice. I always had a hot dog and french fries, and she always had coffee and a club sandwhich. She always had a way of having a conversation with me that never made me feel like I was a kid, but instead that we were two ladies out to lunch. She was active at her church, and every year we’d go to the carnival and Christmas bazaars that she helped organize. Grandma’s stories were epic and legendary. Some were true. Most were based in truth. Others, like her wartime spy series, were clearly for entertainment purposes only. She talked about her own mother, whom I was named after, and about her childhood in the shadow of New York City. She talked about seeing three movies for a nickle on Saturday afternoons, about driving her first car, about ice skating in the park. My Grandma was elegant, intelligent, and charming. She loved writing letters and listening to Dean Martin and Louis Prima. She indulged me when I went through a phase where I only wanted to be called “Laverne” and only wanted to call her “Shirley.” She had a fantastic sense of humor, and once made me laugh so hard that I peed my pants and had to borrow a pair of hers.

My Pa looked like Paul Newman. Everyone said he was handsome, even in his later years, due in part to his piercing blue eyes and six foot plus stature. He didn’t have an easy life early on, his family was new to the country and like most immigrants they were poor. In working class Harlem, he worked on an ice truck before school when he was only 9 years old. An early opportunity to play baseball for a Yankees farm team was cut short when he enlisted in the Navy during World War II. He served with an engineering corp, and after the war ended he put himself through college on the G.I. Bill. Both of his parents had passed away while he was in the service, so he went to live with a younger sister and brother in his oldest sister’s already crowded apartment. After college he met my Grandma, who worked as a telephone operator, on a blind date after hearing her voice on the phone and falling in love with her. They married, had my Mom, and then moved to California after he was transferred there to help start an oil refinery. In a lot of ways, Pa was the typical 1950’s male. He was the patriarch, the bread winner, the serious boss at work. To my brother and I as well as our other cousins he was a lovable and hilarious guy who would stand in his backyard and hold signs for us as we rode by on the Wilmington and Western railroad during class trips. He was the guy who would take us to the YMCA with him as he swam his morning laps, and would sneak candies into our pockets to bring home after a visit. He made me a 12 room, three story doll house from scratch, decorating each room with wallpaper and carpet, filling them with small tables and beds. He was the person that was always the last one to finish eating at family dinners, and didn’t mind someone trying to jokingly clear his plate while he was still eating and we all sat waiting impatiently for dessert. He was a genuinely good person who never judged us, even when we made choices he didn’t agree with.

My biggest fear is that my Grandparents never knew how much I loved them. When I was younger I took them for granted. I thought they’d just be around forever. I thought they would be at my wedding, I thought they would be there when my first child was born. When you’re seven years old, everything lasts forever. Especially beautiful Sunday afternoons. My Pa passed way on September 14, 2006. Although he was 83 years old and not in the best of shape, his death was still sudden. He simply closed his eyes and stopped breathing, peacefully. I don’t think I could have hoped for any other way for him to go. I was at work when he passed away, and the news hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I never got to say goodbye to him. I never got to tell him what he meant to me, and my greatest fear – something that I think about all the time – is that he never knew. His funeral and the surrounding days are kind of a blur. I cried so hard in the church that for a moment I saw stars and I thought I may pass out in the pew. It’s been close to a year since that day and I still get welled up talking about him.

My Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1995, and in the past few years has not been able to recognize family members except on rare occasions. I still visit with her, play her Sinatra CDs, and tell her stories about my life. Sometimes, when our eyes meet, there is a brief moment where I think she remembers. She remembers Woolworth’s and super hero stories and Christmas cookies. Sometimes I think she remembers Sunday afternoons.


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