My grandmother was one of the most amazing human beings ever. She was my protector, my grounding force, my moral compass, my confidant, my teacher. My best friend.
I don't remember too much about my grandfather. He died from malignant melanoma when I was five. I do remember some things though, other than the sad memories of him being unable to move from the couch, his leg propped up on the back of the couch post-skin graft.
Photo provided by Laine Griffin.
My favorite memory of him is how he used to make me butter with some English muffin under it. He could put more butter on a muffin than should have been humanly possible. A perfectly toasted English muffin with perfectly melted butter to run down your perfectly grubby little arm.
Here is my grandfather coaching for the Redskins (he's the one in the jacket). Looking on (in the hat) is Hall of Fame Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. I don't know the other guy.
The thing that amazes me about my grandparents is what I hope my grandchildren feel about my husband and me. I look at my own family and I don't think, "look what we created." I look at my family and I think "look at what they started." And of course I know it goes back infinitely, but I wonder if previous generations have thought this too. And they were pretty against all odds, so that I'm even here amazes me.
My grandmother was the daughter of a hard working, small-town farmer. She was a musician and a singer, and earned a full scholarship to the music school at Ithaca College. She was never able to use that scholarship. The summer before she was to start college her father was in a farming accident. She dutifully skipped college in order to help her parents in the house and on the farm.
I also earned a full scholarship to Ithaca College, where I studied sociology. She thought it was mighty fine of them to hold her scholarship so someone she loved could use it. She ended up at Ithaca College eventually, working as a secretary for Ben Light in the Physical Education department.
My grandfather was a Catholic school boy and the victim of divorce. He alternated living with his alcoholic father in an apartment behind a bar his father owned, and with his mother, in a one-room apartment. She was a prostitute, and her home was her office. Luckily he had a community of people looking out for him, so he made it out somewhat in tact. But not before he lied about his age to enlist in the Marines without his father's permission.
My grandfather was a young Korean War veteran, and some would say hero, when he met my grandmother at Ithaca College. He was a physical education major with an English Lit minor. He was interested in one of the other girls working in that office. That girl happened to be my grandmother's roommate. My grandmother stole him from her. I'm sure she was a lady about it, don't worry, she was ALWAYS a lady! Shortly thereafter she asked him to marry her. Or told him, again, as a lady! What can I say, even ladies can know what they want and go after it.
They were so different. Yet they made it work in their way.
They lived together and apart, depending on the situation and their obligations. They created three girls and adopted my grandfather's much younger brothers when the boys' parent's died unexpectedly. They moved and made friends, saw Ray Charles when it was still taboo, and laid the foundation for the rest of our family. Through them we have learned what to do, and perhaps more importantly what NOT to do in life and love.
I miss them every day. But I know they are watching and laughing at us, scolding and rooting for us. Guiding us along our journeys.