Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”

Alex Haley

Grandparent stardust was a staple for my brothers and I, and it is missed very, very much. We were fortunate to know both paternal and maternal grandparents throughout our childhood, and adult years.

Grandparents Day is this weekend, and although they have all passed, I will take this opportunity to acknowledge my grandparents’ influence – love, support, example – and express my gratitude for having had them in my life.

Grammie always dressed well.  She even wore a skirt and cashmere sweater (sleeves carefully pushed up to her elbow) when working in her garden.  Her garden, a shoo-in for Sunset Magazine, included trellises, hanging planters, archways, and gates, built by my grandfather.  She taught me how to play Crazy 8’s, King in the Corner, I Spy, and Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button.  She was an avid reader of history, an amazing cook, and strong walker.  Although she endured several surgeries throughout her life, I never heard her complain.  When she was 93, she looked up from her hospital bed, and told the nurse, “I feel old.”  She died two hours later, peacefully, in her sleep.

Grandma Gerry was a tough cookie.  When she was 16 years old, a Sheriff pulled her out of class one day (a humiliation), telling her she had to go home right away, because her mother had left, and since her father was out working at logging camps, someone had to watch her younger sisters.  She spent the next couple of years cooking, and cleaning house, in addition to taking care of her sisters, but also maintained a high grade point average in school.  She raised three boys, while her husband worked two or three shifts to support the family.  I rarely saw her sit down, as she was always cleaning, barking orders, or reprimands.  But, I never doubted her love, and she was always there when I needed her.

Grampie was a sailor, and carpenter, who liked to call me “Granny.”  He could be close-minded, but always took my side in arguments.  He taught himself how to build a house by talking to carpenters, did pull-ups by his fingertips on door frames, flexed his chest muscles so his ship tattoo rocked its waves, loved his pipe, and the San Francisco Giants.  While his wife enjoyed reading about the past, he was always interested in anything newly invented, global changes, and innovative ideas.  As a man who had always worked with his hands, legal blindness was very difficult for him.  He’d walk down to the assisted care facility’s dining room, twist off his walking cane’s handle, and pour out Old Grandad whiskey from the hidden vial into his morning coffee.  Once a sailor …

Grandpa Bo spent so much time cutting class in school, the teacher didn’t know his name.  He decided there was no point in continuing, and spent the rest of his life working for the lumber mill.  He knew how to have a good time.  There was always a smile on his face when we visited, and a sad wave good-bye when we left.  He could build anything from anything.  He loved getting my grandmother riled up.  Whenever Lawrence Welk or wrestling was on TV, grandkids took a back seat.  When I announced, at age 19, that I would be backpacking across Europe with a 28 year old man, my grandmother immediately counter-announced that I wasn’t going anywhere, with any man.  My grandfather, however, winked, and said, “Send me a postcard.”  He said he would rather die, than quit smoking.  Wish granted. Dammit.

What are your best memories of your grandparents?

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