This time of year makes me think a lot about my grandparents: April marks the birth dates and death dates of three of the four—though all of them have been gone a long time—and Mother's and Father's Days will be here soon. I lost my maternal grandmother, Helen, when I was just 4, my paternal grandfather, Marvin, when I was 8, and my other grandmother, Sylvia, and grandfather, Bill, within three days of each other when I was 19.
Because we lived a few hours from both sets of grandparents, and because I was so young, I didn't really know grandma Helen at all. My mom's parents lived in Rochester. I distinctly remember hiding in the space between grandma's fridge and the wall, listening as she came down the hall. I would pop out and "surprise" her and she would call me a rascal. That's really the only memory I have of her. Long after she died, we were at my grandfather's house and found a copy of Playgirl that I guess she got from her friends. I really liked thinking of her making jokes with her friends about something like that. She was my only grandparent that wasn't one of five siblings. My grandfather Bill would go to places like AC and bring us back t-shirts with little animals and rainbows on them, super 80s stuff. He would call us Petunia McGillicuddy, which my sister and I loved. His father died of Spanish Influenza when he was around 6 so he had to drop out of school after eighth grade and start working to help take care of his mother, brother, and three sisters. He also was a boxer and apparently there's something about him in the Boxing Hall of Fame, but I haven't seen it yet. He also earned a Purple Heart in WWII. I don't have anything of theirs, though my mom has some things.
When I was 8, we moved to Syracuse which is where my dad's parents lived. I recall the time I asked about a little mark or scar near the corner of my grandfather Marvin's mouth. He told me it was from eating red onions on his bagels and lox. I was scared of eating onions for a little while after that. We would celebrate the Jewish holidays at their house. A few years ago, we uncovered a video where they came to visit us when we were young and he's saying something about cherishing the time we have together because they [my grandparents] won't be around forever. It's on VHS but I want to put it on DVD so I can watch it sometimes. My grandmother Sylvia is the one I knew best. She loved swimming and always wore a swim cap. She would just do laps and laps while we splashed nearby. She was funny. After my grandfather died, she would perform in skits at the JCC and have everyone in stitches. She would come over for dinners often and we'd talk on the phone a lot since she and my dad spoke every night. She had clothes left over from the 70s and I wore one specific technicolored shirt and a pair of bellbottoms through out high school and college. When I started driving, I got her car because she was unable to do anything after her stroke. I like that she met my husband (then-boyfriend) at least once before that. The stroke wasn't the end of her life, but I don't think she would call the subsequent years living.
Right now my husband and kids and I live in my grandparents house. Four generations have now lived in this house. We're wrestling with whether we should buy the house and try to update it or buy something different. I'm not sure what we'll do, but I like that I had a chance to live here.
I wish I had asked more questions of all of them. I wish I had more knowledge of what they were like as young people. I wish I had more pictures and tangible pieces of them. I would share some of the things I have, but I'd have to dig to find them. I decided to write this post on a whim after seeing the wonderful and charming video above, created by animator and illustrator Gemma Green-Hope about her grandmother, Gan-Gan. I love the Roger & Gallet soap and the photos and bits of her life.
I wish we could all have something so beautiful to remember each of our loved ones.
video via colossal/vimeo staff picks, family photo my own
#checkout this blog with shop-themed puns
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