I was lucky enough to truly know my great-grandparents, Fred and Dorothy, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately. Here are some random memories.
My Papa Freddie called me putty – no clue if that’s how it’s spelled. As far as I can tell, it’s a term of endearment. Maybe Danish? Pus is a Danish pet name meaning tiny tot or darling. Maybe he was actually saying pus or pussy but my modern brain has shifted it to a less…er… you know…word.
Grandma Dor had purple shampoo. It was remarkably thin and liquidy, and I used it all the time in my “potions” which often also included spices and yogurts and dollops of peanut butter and sprinkles. Sometimes I would microwave them.
When my mom told me Grandma Dor had died, I think I was asleep in bed. I was in grade school, seventh grade I think. I have cloudy memories of going right back to sleep and then being devastated the next morning.
Papa Freddie and Grandma Dor had the party house. Their basement, complete with a pool table, bar, giant dining room table, orange shag carpeting, and an 8-track/record player combo console, was where we held every family gathering. I loved that basement.
At my grandma’s funeral, I carried my cousin Tara who was just a toddler at the time into the church. She was crying. But now I think that was probably Papa Freddie’s funeral because my memories of this event are not from the Catholic Church. Grandma Dor was Catholic. Papa Freddie was Lutheran.
They would watch me after school, and every weekday I would be “treated” with either an ice cream sundae or a shake – both of which included the fantastically tastefulness that is malt. That’s this stuff:
I could eat it by the spoonful. Actually, I’m pretty sure I did eat it by the spoonful. And they let me. They also had this deliciousness:
and Coke in glass bottles. There is nothing like eating at your great-grandparents’. Yum.
Papa Freddie let me drink Budweiser straight out of his can when I was still in grade school. I remember loving the taste of it then. I can actually picture him sitting in his chair down in the basement, can in hand, and simply handing it to me. Lest you think there was anything hinky or neglectful or abusive going on, my mother thinks this probably happened once on a lark and I’ve elevated it to a recurrence in my memory.
He also sat with me in the den, just the two of us, and watched a million episodes of Tom & Jerry. The table that sat next to his chair is in my attic, a cherry wood waist-height rectangular two-shelf table with softly curved legs. I would sit on the couch and he would sit in his chair and we would just be together.
I was 16 when he died, and I thought I was too cool to go with the family to clean out the house, so I ditched it and hung out with my friends instead. I regret it to this day.
Once, my cousin Chuck, who is my grandparents’ age, convinced me to eat those weird little appetizer cocktail weiners which I thought smelled horrible. I had one tiny bite and promptly threw up all over the shower which was strangely in the basement kitchen. I can still vaguely recall the taste in my mouth.
Papa Freddie would let me comb his hair and put it in pigtails when I was young. While I don’t really remember doing this, I have many pictures of Papa Freddie sitting on the floor in front of my grandparents’ couch, me perched behind him, him with five or six pigtails sticking straight up off his head. I never once doubted how much he loved me.
Grandma Dor would softly stroke the inside of my arm when I was lying in bed sick. I didn’t know it then, but towards the end of her life, she was practically agoraphobic. I remember her as soft and quiet not nervous and stressed.
I loved them so much. I still do. And I’ve been regretting that my children will never know them. I suppose this is the way of it really. Many of the people who were so important to you when you were a child are not around by the time you have children of your own. I am happy, though, that my children are privileged to know their great-grandparents and have as close a relationship with them as I did with my Papa Freddie and Grandma Dor.