18 November 2005

Two Birthdays and an Anniversary

When I first wrote this, I was going to put a picture in this spot. It's a picture of me and my brothers and all of our cousins on my mother's side of our family. I was 7 when this picture was taken, making my youngest brother about 3 (and the youngest cousin) and my oldest cousin was about 15 or 16. But the picture was on a hard drive of LightHusband's that crashed last summer. So you'll just have to imagine it. And you won't be able to find me in it. My mother is looking for it and if she finds it, I'll post it.

Look at those cherubs. Aren't they cute? Well ... they're all grown up now, all with children of their own. That's the first, last and only time we were all together in one place at one time. I'm glad we've got this photo, taken in December 1968. Can you find me in there? Two of my cousins celebrate their birthday today (brother and sister, but not twins; they are separated by 4 years), and our mutual grandfather died 25 years ago last Friday. I meant to write about that then, but I was sick and the words wouldn't come.

Grampy O. (as we all called him) was larger than life to us. Or at least to me and I daresay I'm speaking for my cousins and brothers too. He loved life and he loved to tell stories. He left us with a lot of stories too. Some were true. Like the story of how he helped bring penicillin and antibiotics to all of us. He almost died of sinus infections during World War II and was among the first civilians to be treated with penicillin. He had holes in the bones in his face where the infection had taken hold and had to be removed, the skin covered it, but you could seen them.

Then there was the time when, as a boy, he tried to sell dandylion greens to the only "colored" woman in his hometown in Rhode Island. He had been told this was a good idea by his neighbor, a sea captain. Somehow it led to him being painted green from head to toe. I suspect that's the part he made up over the years.

We never lived very close by to my grandparents but through letters he was an enormous influence on me. He had emphysema for about ten years or more before he died and was limited in his physical activity. So he wrote letters. Long letters to many people, I suspect. I was one of them. They were always full of love, hope and encouragement. I still have many of those letters and I love to read them.

I remember the night he died very clearly. My mother's phone call came on my friend's pale blue phone and suddenly the familiar surroundings of her room were surreal in the face of death. I suspect his death did not come as suddenly to my mother as it did to me, being an oblivious nineteen year old. But I remember wondering how I was ever going to walk again under the weight of that pain.


Blogger Shushan said...

I am glad you still have his letters to remember him by. I had no living grandparents (that I knew about) growing up. Most of the relatives I have now arent much for writing. You can't miss what you never had.

If he was a believer, the separation isn't forever. You will see him again one day and in much better health!

hope that helps

11/19/2005 09:45:00 PM  

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