Sunday, July 9, 2017

Grandparents...

Today marks what would be my maternal grandfather's one hundred and fifth birthday. My grandmother's was earlier this week and she would be one hundred and four. He outlived her by almost ten years. They were married for fifty-nine years and produced three children, only one of whom is still living. Of the original seven grandchildren, five remain. I am the oldest and was the closest to the grandparents both geographically and emotionally.

My grandfather grew up as the oldest son in a family of five, three of whom were girls. His father worked in lumber mills around the state eventually settling in the Fort Myers area where my grandfather graduated from high school. From the same area, my grandmother's family was and is well known. At the time of their marriage in 1934, this country was in the midst of the Great Depression and having refused the offer of a football scholarship in order to work and help his parents, my grandfather was fortunate to always have a job. Smart, handsome and adept at using almost any tool put before him, he was a quick study and always looking ahead for chances to better himself.

My mother was the first of his three children, and with a family to support, he was keen to secure their futures. When a friend told him of a job opening overseas in what what was then the Panama Canal Zone, he applied and was hired, becoming a government employee. This meant traveling three thousand miles and setting up house in a country near the equator in which neither he nor my grandmother knew a soul, two-year-old in tow.

Beyond the security of a job, pension and medical coverage, his life in the tropics offered him entree to a region chock full of beauty, bio-diversity, lush landscape and exposure to people, culture and language he might never have encountered otherwise. He grew to love his life there and considered himself lucky. He and my grandmother went on to have two more children and by the time of my arrival on their doorstep less than twenty years later, both were working, busily preparing teens to enter the world and anxious that their oldest find her feet following a short and not sweet marriage that ended in divorce.

Grandparents in their mid-forties, they became beacons of constancy for a baby girl whose future in the eyes of many remained uncertain. It was my grandfather who taught me to hang and swing from the clothesline, strengthening my arms, shoulders and hand grip. When the physical therapist suggested helping me walk, my grandfather built and painted a set of steps with railing attached so that I could learn to better balance and navigate stairs. It was he who endured my daily tears as he stretched, lifted and coaxed the muscles in my legs and arms to work so that I could move through the world under my own steam as a curious toddler. I think of him as I do many of those same exercises today, pain notwithstanding, and wonder at his resourcefulness and tenacity in distracting a crying child.

The last photo I have of him is in my current flat about a year before his passing. He is seated next to me grinning widely, our heads touching gently. Below is my favorite photo of him, circa 1962.

Until Next Time...

24 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

In that last photo you have of him, your heads might be gently touching, but it sounds as if your hearts are firmly entwined.
The photo you have showed us is precious too. What a forward thinking, inspirational, lovely man.

jenny_o said...

Ah, you've touched my heart deeply, Liz. How fortunate that you had your grandparents in your corner. You must miss them. I love the picture, and can imagine the one you describe. I didn't realize until your recent comment on my blog that you've been in a wheelchair all your life; I thought it was a result of something more recent. You've had a long struggle. Kudos to you on many fronts.

Secret Agent Woman said...

My grandparents were stationed in the Canal Zone and we visited them there. It sounds like you had a wonderful grandfather who was a great presence in your life. That's fantastic!

LL Cool Joe said...

That's weird, I can only see one photo. I'm working on being a great Grandfather too.

Martha said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandfather. He sounds like a wonderful man.

37paddington said...

I love that photograph of you with him! What a cool kid you were with those cat eye glasses!

e said...

He wasn't perfect but he sure tried his best. As you say, a lovely man. Thank you.

e said...

I have not been in a chair lifelong but I was born with a developmental disability. Thanks!

e said...

I think so too, and I remember you telling me a bit about your visit to the Canal Zone as a kid. An interesting place and time.

e said...

Good for you. The kid will have great memories !

e said...

He had a good heart always.

e said...

Thanks!

Shaheen said...

Oh what a lovely photograph and a wonderful tribute to your GranPa, I do love Black and white photographs - unlike digital disposable ones these days designed for social media. Loving your funky specs!

Live and Learn said...

Thanks for sharing stories about your grandfather. I love hearing family stories. They are the most heartfelt and the most interesting.

Mrs Shoestring said...

What an amazing guy, it is so nice that you remember him. I'm glad that I found your blog, it's lovely !

crafty cat corner said...

Grand parents are so special. I remember mine with great affection.
My grandfather on my Fathers side always used to wear a watch chain with an ivory fish on it and when he died I made it into a bracelet that I still wear.
Thankyou for asking about Polly, she is fine, I have her on special food for the intestines and I think its helping. She isn't losing weight and is still eating well so it is a wait and see game, the vet didn't think there was anything wrong. The weather has been so hot and humid I have neglected my blog for a bit but will start posting again now.
Briony
x

crafty cat corner said...

Have just read your previous post and can vouch for double glazed windows cutting out noise. We also live in a noisy area with works seeming to be going on all round etc.
It is amazing the difference when I close the windows.
Briony
x

Steve Reed said...

What a great photo! I don't recall ever hearing the full story about that side of your family. You were lucky to have such caring relatives!

e said...

Thanks and happy to see you here!

e said...

He was the very essence of good hearted and taught me a lot. Thanks!

e said...

Thanks. I like your blog as well!

e said...

Nice to hear from you and very glad about your cat. The window issues remain to be sorted as we are coded for impact-resistant which are very expensive. Look forward to your posts.

e said...

I was very lucky in my grandparents though not so lucky in others...

Wisewebwoman said...

What a beautiful memoir E. And that you had such a champion way back.

I lived with my grandparents for a while and look back at that time as a sanctuary of love.

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