Monday, May 25, 2009

Two Men Who Served but Lived Such Different Lives

Both of my grandfathers were war men who served in WWII. They both served their country in entirely different ways as one fought right on the front lines of battle, liberating camps and seeing who knows what, while the other, an older gentleman at the time, served his country safely behind a desk. Both were amazing and honorable men with contagious smiles and a genuine love for their families.

Grampa Steve, my mom’s dad, was a somewhat reserved man, short and small in physical stature. He was 24 years older than my gramma Ruth and the most senior in age of all my grandparents. He had worked for the Boston Edison electric company almost his entire adult life, but I believe he may have retired before I came along. My greatest memory of him is that when I was a kid he loved to nap in his chair. Of course he was never really napping, only ever “resting his eyes”. We hung out with aunt Agnes occasionally (Grampa’s sister who lived upstairs), watched a whole lot of M.A.S.H. and made frequent trips out to McDonald’s for dinner when they were watching us.

My grandparents were great explorers and every year they used their vacation time to literally drive the entire country. Of course my Grampa did all the driving which probably left my gramma free to snap the photos he would develop himself when they got back home. If I am not mistaken they may have gotten to all 48 contiguous states and some of them (such as Florida) far more often than once.

When my sister and I went to Disney with other family in 1984, my grandparents were off on one of their adventures. They happened to be in the same state at the same time and I remember getting together down there. It is one of the most amazing memories I have -- to see my grandparents in some random hotel room in a different state just felt like a big, cool surprise -- since we didn’t see them as often it was surreal at eleven to see them that far from home.

The house I spent the most time in as a kid, by far, was gramma Alice and grampa Ed’s. I have shared before about grampa Ed and how I feel that if we are relegated to one soul mate in this world that he was surely mine. At over six feet tall and close to 300 pounds he was a guy anyone would want on their side in a bar fight. It would surprise me to learn however that he had ever been in one because in my eyes he was nothing more than a big teddy bear who loved to belt out a great tune. A traveling art supply salesman, he was the guy who knew people everywhere in eastern Massachusetts.

My grandparents shared their two-family style home with two of my gramma’s sisters and there was always something going on in that house. Friends and family were always welcome to come over and spend a little time but by no means was anyone allowed to sit in grampa’s chair unless he offered it up and then we knew that person must be really special. They were happy to enjoy their time at home during the colder months but every summer they packed up and headed for the beach.

My grandparents owned the cottage in Humarock and as a kid I would hang out on the deck while they played cards or Scrabble with their neighbors and friends over countless beers or shots of Johnny Walker. Grampa was the first one I remember to teach me about the ocean and her power, how to avoid being caught in a riptide and what to do if the undertow was too strong to get back in. For years he would joke that he was going to go “take a dip” when it was freezing cold out and we would all just laugh. Tough as nails, he probably would have done it and no one would have been surprised. He was the consummate jokester and could pull one over on anyone, that is, until the wink followed.

It is more prevalent in my mind to think of both of my grampas on a day like Memorial Day since they were both patriots who served their country in the time of war, but it doesn’t just take this kind of reminder to conjure up recollections of them. Anytime I get the urge to take a random road trip and explore through photographs or get sand in between my toes and salt water in my hair, memories of two of the most amazing men come flooding right back.


Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

BTW, yes, that is my grampa Ed in a toupee under his hat being a goofball as usual. He was quite bald but I never saw him wear this thing in public, it was only meant for jokes lol.

Joan said...


Maine-y-ac said...

Jenn, What touching memories. They truly were special men -- I don't think they make 'em like that anymore.

Bree said...

This made me very homesick for my grandparents. I wish I could call them today. Thank you for sharing on this Memorial Day.

Karen said...

Nice memories :)

Chris said...

Wonderful tribute to these great people. Well done, Jenn.

Judi FitzPatrick said...

A very special post. Thank you. Love, Mum

Rosebud Collection said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandfathers..You know..there is nothing like family. Sometimes, you want to knock a few heads together, but you love them all..