This weekend has been Grandfather Celebration Weekend for our family. One evening we spent celebrating the 88th birthday of my husband's paternal grandfather, and the next evening was devoted the 85th birthday of my husband's maternal grandfather.
Two truly amazing gentlemen who have led extraordinary lives, and who have been strong leaders for two very beautiful families.
Spending time with the familiar faces of this family that I was blessed to have married in to, surrounded by the stories and laughter I've been around for the last 14 years, got me thinking about how much I miss my own grandparents.
I have two dear sets of biological grandparents who left my life too soon. My mother's parents had passed on before I even had a chance to meet them. I grew up with their histories on her lips, their faces in her smile, their presence fully felt by me in an odd and comforting way. Even though I haven't met them, I know they're with me. I like to think they're proud of me. (I rather like to think I've turned out okay).
My father's parents were apart of my early childhood. I have vague memories of a dim house and a Formica table with those very shiny red chairs. The red plastic seats that had little sparkles in them. (If they truly existed outside my memory, I loved those chairs.) I remember pictures on the wall, filled with black and white photos of faces I never really could place. I remember my grandparents together in that house.
My grandfather died when I was very young, and I honestly can't recall at what age I could have been. 5? Maybe younger. I remember he was in the hospital. I remember he would always save me an apple. A Red Delicious apple. The ironic thing is that I do not like Red Delicious apples, or any apple for that matter. I never have. Oh, but I've always thought they were beautiful. The quintessential apple; red and shiny. And shaped like a tooth, to boot. I was never ever allowed to have a whole apple myself. (Why would I be when I never ate them?) I always wanted my own though. There was a very distinct joy in having the freedom to eat an apple just the way it was, or so I thought, bite for bite. So he would give me one every time I visited, probably saved from his meal tray. Naturally, I was delighted and eagerly bit in with gusto. And naturally I had no desire to take any more bites after that first one. (It's funny how our parents seem to know exactly what we're going to do before we do it, isn't it?) I have no memory of what happened to my many uneaten apples. Were they pitched? Did someone else eat them? I was so young, one might even question if this memory happened at all. But I like to think it did; my grandfather saving me an apple he knew I wouldn't eat, just because he knew his granddaughter would be ecstatic about having one. All to herself. (Grandfathers are pretty cool like that).
My dad's mother was around for my childhood and those awkward years that happen between 12 and adulthood; otherwise known as The Teen Years. My memories are filled with Easter baskets filled with Kit Kats (which she knew were my favorite), pretty bracelets at Christmas. And lots of Elvis music. Honestly, every time I hear an Elvis song I am transported back to her living room on our weekly Sunday visit.
She saw me get married and begin the next phase of my life. I'm glad she was there for that.
Four distinct people who are a part of my life and a link to who I am. They're a piece of my history. A piece of me. I feel their presence in various ways. Making Chicken Paprikash pulls me back to my paternal grandparents; the sauce, not too thick with sour cream; dumplings, never noodles, thick and doughy.
The breakfast staple at our house, "Patch In The Eye" is one of my links to my mom's parents. Otherwise known as "One Eyed Jacks", though my daughters prefer to call them "Pirates In A Hole" and I really don't know why. My mom tells me when she ate them as a kid, my grandfather had the kids eat them under the table. My kiddos sit at the table, but it's a tip of the hat to Grandpa Rogal just the same.
I am grateful for those precious links. For those cherished memories, whether real or created in my mind. They are a part of who I am today. Their stories are told to my daughters who will know them through me. I like the imagery of that, the legacies of the past moving forward, ever onward, generation after generation.
And for the two men I've been lucky enough to call Grandpa for the last 14 years of my life? I feel so very fortunate. My daughters are growing up surrounded by "Grands" in their Great Grandparents, Grandparents, and Great Aunts and Great Uncles.(And of course some pretty great Aunts & Uncles; let's not forget about them). Their childhood memories will be filled with sleepovers that don't include those annoying bedtimes, dinners that include an extra dessert (sometimes even before dinner), a surplus of that most luxurious of all beverages, Cream Soda, funny stories with animal noises, and more hugs than they'll ever know what to do with.
If that's not a pretty great start in life, I don't know what could be.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa Dickinson
Happy Birthday, Grandpa Avsec
Here's to many more.