Tuesday, May 09, 2006


One of the things young people appreciate least is visiting their grandparents and listening to old tales of yesteryear. Take it from someone who no longer has any grandparents to visit: soak it in as much as you can while you can, there's wisdom and amazing experiences and sights and new things you will never have a chance to hear and savor again soon enough.

James Lileks, one of the most talented, funny, and gifted writers of our time, often talks about his father in his daily blog the Bleat. Lileks reports that his dad

... doing fine; drove the semi out to fill the trains the previous night, although he hasn’t been doing as much nocturnal train-filling as a few months ago. (His company supplies the juice for trains that pause, parched, at the rim of North Dakota, exhausted from their trek across the steppes. For years they filled the trains for a produce-shipping concern; this sent me to college.) He is perfectly content to get up at 3 AM, drive one of his ginormous trucks sloshing with flammable fluid to the butt-end of town, and gas up the huffing beasts becalmed on the tracks. But it’s not like he doesn’t know how to relax – he said he drove his Harley to the lakes the other day. A spring morning, smooth dry road, seventy-five miles to the shore.

In a month he turns 80.

War vet, businessman, pilot, biker, rifleman, trucker, by-God American Man: if he didn’t put ice cubes in his wine he’d be my hero in every possible way.

Tim Blair picks up the theme and talks about his grandmother:

Hail the oldtimers! On the weekend my grandmother called. Now 95, she’d likely decline wine with ice, but a year or so ago we whipped up some cocktails from recipes she remembered from the 1940s (I looked up the exact details for these concoctions via a laptop on her kitchen table; you haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone whose school bus was a horse making drinks using an iBook). She’s LOSING HER HEARING ever so slightly, but is otherwise fine. Let’s see if the flukey Blair sports prediction luck holds; grandmother is of the view that Collingwood will win the AFL Premiership.

And on his site, commenters began to reminisce and report:

My Dad turns 80 in August - but there is another significant anniversary before then! In June, he will have been practising medicine in western Sydney - at the same location - for 50 years. Always in general practice, he was also an honorary obstetrician until he lost access to maternity beds when he turned 65. He also did minor medical procedures (appendectomies, tonsilectomies) until quite recently. Even administered Ether anaesthetics through into the 70s.

He has slacked off in recent years, no longer working Saturday mornings or Friday afternoons.

He still does house calls though!
-by PeterTB

My Grandma was 93 when she died on 23 January 2003. Born in 1909 she saw days without television. The Sydney Harbour Bridge constructed. To the day she died she called the radio the ‘wireless’. She was amazing. The depression, two world wars, Korea, and that’s just the bad stuff she saw. She used to wash in a copper, with a stick. I remember her laundry at Punchbowl (Sydney). I miss her. I lost my Dad in 2001, he was only 70. I miss him, too. Learn as much history as you can from your parents and grandparents. Mum has told me some wonderful stories of cricket matches in the backyard with her siblings and father and when the dinner was ready Nanna would come out, the second time, and steal the cricket ball. That was when stumps were called.
-by Kae

My Granny died last year aged 94. All my grandparents lived into their 90’s. I was lucky to have them that long. My Grandfather saw all but four months of the 20th century..he was just too young for WW1, too old for WW2. He was a great Australian character. He could talk the leg off a chair and was as tough as old boots.

Anyone feel its time for a little country music song?
-by Joeljr

my grandad got his start a couple of weeks before the end of the 19th but checked out five years before the end of the 20th. Allegedly did his service in WWI in Pinchgut after they caught him sneaking off to visit grandma.

Eddie, the old guy next door, is 81 and was a gunner on USS Augusta, flagship at for Operation Torch, Normandy and Southern France. Has a pump of some sort in his lower plumbing and a pacemaker upstairs (just ask, he’ll tell you all about it). Mows his lawn with a walk behind, goes clam digging and gives them away, spends his days on a picket line on some construction site protesting hiring of illegals. Always smiling. I get over there and do what I can, tell him to lay off. “Eddie, you’re a great neighbor. You need to stop doing all this stuff. I need you to be around for a while.”
-by crittenden

He taught me to fish, to tie knots, to shoot, to be honest, to work hard, and to love with all of my might.

Pah. You and your right-wing fascist “values.”

What about “celebrate diversity” and “empower yourself” and “dissent is the greatest form of patriotism”?
-by Dave S

My Granddaddy died in 2000 at 92. I really miss him. He was the Ice Man in the 20’s for the rural community of Pasadena, Texas. He was known far and wide for his generous heart and his strength. I have pictures of him catching ice blocks two at a time with ice hooks as he loaded his truck. He taught me to fish, to tie knots, to shoot, to be honest, to work hard, and to love with all of my might. He was a quiet, gentle, giant of a man, and I echo the sentiments of many here when I say we shall not see the likes of his generation again. The folks who lived through the Depression were simply remarkable. We should all strive to be more like them. Why don’t we do just that?
-by Texas Bob

My Grandfather came over on a ship in 1921 to New York City, and stopped at Ellis Island. He remembered being embarrassed at his homespun clothing but soon made his own way to Wyoming to visit an Uncle who was the carriage driver (horse-drawn) for the governor. He was sent to the servant's entrance by a frosty butler and soon found work at the railroad. He taught himself English by using an old catalogue, pointing at pictures and asking how it was pronounced. He told his grandkids stories about seeing his first airplane, how saw met my grandmother while riding in his buddy's car and told him to circle the block so he could take a look at this beauty one more time. He was around 30, and she was just about 20. He lived until 89, strong as an ox and still with his Danish accent.

My grandmother played piano to accompany silent movies and for dance halls, she lived on a ranch in Wyoming, her father working for a time at the same ranch that the story My Friend Flicka came from. She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen even when she finally died at 81, elegant and queenly with silver hair and a gentle soul. I saw a picture of her when she was young, and she was a drop dead gorgeous flapper with blonde hair, and I remember her as the most loving, caring, and Godly woman I have ever known - and an incredible cook and pianist.

These people struggled through the hardest times America has ever faced and built the country we now enjoy and benefit from. Let's not let their values, their work, and their ideals die in the name of "progressives."

*UPDATE: corrected my grandfather's coming to America from 1924 to 1921

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1 comment:

Muslihoon said...

Thanks for such a wonderful post!

I remember my mother's father would tell us stories of his job and of India (he had moved to Karachi before my mother was born). My mother's stepmother isn't much of a talker. My father's father died when my father was in his teens (although he was in his 80s; my paternal grandmother was my paternal grandfather's fourth wife, outliving his previous wives). We never visited my maternal grandmother all that often and when we did I'd spend time playing with my cousins (she lived with my uncle). I regret not having listened to them.

Now, when I go to Pakistan I try to spend time and attention on the old folk around. One is amazing, my maternal grandmother's sister. Now old, she speaks her mind freely and is a pleasure to listen to.

Anyway, thanks, Christopher!