An unwritten life

My Grandparents are probably some of the coolest people I have ever had the opportunity to know. As a child I spent my parent-less weekends being told stories - names which I recognized, but of people I had never met and places I had never been. Grandma K was from Edinburgh, Scotland with a beautiful accent, wild curly hair and a distinct love of tea and baked goods. I remember afternoons in her sunlit kitchen, learning to invent new recipes for baked goods and drinking tea as the smell of lilacs floated through the open kitchen window.

My other grandmother, Abu, as we referred to her - short for abuela, which means "grandmother" in Spanish - was from Anasco, Puerto Rico. My earliest memories would include learning the Spanish words for almost everything a child would typically request and eves dropping as Abu spoke with her sister Chispa in "speedy-gonzales" Spanish over the phone. Abu loved to garden, mystifying for a woman who had horrible allergies, but still the same, she loved her roses. A multitude of roses would erupt along the back wall of their home and she and my grandfather would spend hours tending their garden.

My Grandfathers also had their stories - filled with their own unique bag 'o tricks having experienced the adventures of Military service and finding brides in less then likely places. Both grew up in small town, Ohio and each eventually made their way back to their hometown starting their own families and eventually sharing their adventures.

Grandpa K was quiet and responsible, but diligent in his care for providing for his family. Always with a pocket full of change he would jingle and a cheap set of golf clubs in the trunk of his car. He never expressed much, other than his momentary frustration for Grandma with a "Craiky Jean" comment under his breath, that was typically louder then I think he knew it was. His laugh was mighty and filled the room with its sincerity. She made him laugh. He was always accepting of a hug and a kiss from the grand kids, and always shook his son's hands. Grandma as his sidekick was sweet in a way you wouldn't expect. She was full of joy, spunk and hilarity. And more than this, she dearly loved to laugh, eat sweets and sing silly little songs to us as her grandchildren. For her boys, she got them involved in every activity - games of tennis, music, and apparently even a spurt of "Let's learn French" one summer.

Grandma's garden was filled with a lilac bush that grew to the size of their yard and amazingly soft "bunny rabbit ears" which would often fascinate the grand children's tiny hands. She never minded if we came in the house with a fist full of lilacs or a handful of bunny rabbit ears. Our smiling faces would be met with enthusiasm and some great story. She was also the baker of the family. Not the cook. The baker. My Dad tells adventure stories of the dinner table as a boy eating his first spaghetti dinner - complete with ketchup rather than tomato sauce. But, there was no disputing the fact the woman could bake. It might not look hugely appetizing, but there was something about her inventive and creative pairing of the unlikely. Standing on a stool watching her, she would explain every detail for us to remember. She was a good and patient teacher, who made each activity fun, especially for her grandchildren. But most of all the thing which would strike you after spending time with her, was that there was never a moment of malice or manipulation that came from her spirit.

To witness that relationship you would see how the peas of this pod even-Stephen'ed Jean and Jer out. Both had lost their parents at young ages, and from this experience, I think, stemmed a devotion to the other. Jean had been Jerry's adventure, supplying him with undying love and support and always a not so subtle kick-in-the-pants to get Jerry out from in front of the Golf channel's distraction and into the world. Jerry, not being much of a socialite, had been coerced to the "International Friends Club" of Springfield, where they would meet life-long friends. To compare childhood stories of their children (James, Robbie and Eddie) and their grandchildren (Lauren, Ted, Carolyn, Ann, Molly, Sean and Stephen) each of us has witnessed Jean walk into the room and insist Jerry take her on an adventure. Often they would land on a country road for a drive, the ever popular Elder Beerman, just to peruse, and even once at Indian Lake - just because Jean had insisted. And even though all of us are certain that she would drive him nuts from time to time, he adored her just as she was, and he was her devoted certainty.

Paired up with Abu, Popo was athletic and outgoing. Joining the military straight out of high school, he served 30 years in until he retired and became a math teacher. He was always eager to pass along his hobbies - at 5 I learned to fish, waking up at 5 a.m. to pack a cooler and my little fishing rod we would catch our blue gill and watch the sun rise. By 8 and exploring the basement, we found old fencing equipment, which Grandpa happily taught us. When I was 10 he took me to the gun club when I learned to shoot on the range and meet some of his buddies. He knew someone everywhere he went and was involved in a thousand different groups and activities. He was personable and kind, and would give the shirt off his back to a complete stranger, just because he knew you probably really needed it.

Abu was older then Grandpa, but she would probably roll over in her grave for me even mentioning. She lied about her age - a lot. In fact, none of us knew her real age until we commissioned her ORIGINAL birth certificate from Puerto Rico to prove how old she was. She actually has government documents that have the wrong birthday on them. But theirs was the love story. He didn't care how old she was, she called him multiple variations of "Papa" and after he had gone before her, she would tell us every time how much she missed him. Looking at pictures of them in their lifetime, you can see it. True blue, I don't want to live without you love.

As I have come into my adulthood I have had the opportunity to go through and pack the treasures they left behind, and some of them I now own. Now I have often wondered of my hodge-podge of seemingly-senior-citizen level interests including but not limited to: a desire to learn how to knit, baking often for people I appreciate and care about, gardening familiar sights and smells of my childhood, a knowledge of shooting, fishing, fencing, archery and old movies. The most recent addition to this odd array of interests - collecting china tea cups.

As children we would sit at Grandma and Grandpa K's kitchen table, playing cards and drinking tea from beautifully decorated china tea cups. This was exceptionally special to the wide-eyed child who had never seen something so unique and beautiful. Unpacking a set which once belonged to Grandma and letting the newspaper fall from each individual tea cup, I couldn't help but wonder about acquiring such pieces. Never a whole set of matching anything. Simply a cup and saucer of a different decor, but rather than being a set of 4, there were 12 sets of 1.

Thinking of Grandma, this was typical of her - each beautiful in their own way, so rather than having a matching set, why not have 12 uniquely individualized pieces.. her own little way of doing it. This was my thinking... unless they were purchased by Grandpa for Grandma each time he was in the dog house. I couldn't imagine him being in the dog house often, but it still made me wonder about the story. I wish I could ask her.

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