Happy Birthday Papa

Chopsticks!

Papa showed me how to play the classic simple song. A waltz actually. On his piano.
Sitting right beside me. Just the 2 of us.
At his big old house in Cincinnati, Ohio. One warm day in the 1960’s during a rare family visit.
I was only 8 years old.  I wish it had been the first of many lessons.

Papa, my paternal grandfather, was born March 9, 1886 in Chicago, Illinois. The middle child of five.  I don’t know much about his early life except he met Grammy when passing through her small rural Tennessee town. He often traveled by train from Cincinnati, working as a lumber inspector for his brother’s company. He rented a room in my grandmother’s childhood home during stops in Graysville. He eventually won her over…and that was that!

Papa and Grammy married and raised my father and his older sister in Cincinnati, where Papa owned and operated a lumber company. No small feat for a man with only an 8th grade education.

I probably saw Papa maybe a dozen times before he died unexpectedly at the age of 78. Cincinnati was very far away from where I lived on the east coast. Visits did not happen often. The last one was a whirlwind car trip a few weeks before he died.

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Papa and me

What do I remember about Papa?

He was a short quiet man with kind brown eyes. Papa loved to put on his cap and go for long walks. Sometimes he asked me – just me! – to join him. During one of those walks, he stopped, plucked a wide blade of grass from a nearby patch and carefully positioned it between the sides of his thumbs. He pressed his thumbs together…held them up to his mouth, took a deep breath, puffed out his cheeks…and blew out…. It whistled!
Was this magic?
He then plucked one for me. And waited calmly until I was able to make it whistle all by myself.
I’m (obviously) still impressed all these years later.

I learned how to play chopsticks on the piano during one long…patient…lesson with him. Later, in their sunny kitchen, we’d sit across from each other by the window and play double solitaire. Or a new card game he taught me called 7Up.  At the metal table with the shiny sides and checkered formica top.

papa and me
Papa and me
circa 1958-59

Sadly our connection was short lived, but fortunately he left his loving stamp on my memory…and my heart.

papa letter004 copy

Happy Birthday Papa!

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Fishing in Tennessee

 

[ps…Papa would be thrilled to know…that coincidentally…his middle name is the same as his great great grandson’s first name…and…also coincidentally…they were both born on the 9th day of the month…]

 

Love and Hearts and Grandparents

If we have someone who loves us — I don’t mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side — then it’s easier to grow resilience, to grow belief in self, to grow self-esteem. And it’s self-esteem that allows a person to stand up.

Maya Angelou

 

 

from Grammy 1966

 

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from Great Grandma 1967

 

I have much to be grateful for in my life. The love of family is at the top of the list. As a child…and then as an adult…I was well loved by my grandparents. Held up. Cherished. Accepted.

All four of my grandparents – and my one living great grandparent – took the time to write to me. Personal letters. Postcards. Valentines. Birthday cards….
I heard from them on a regular basis…knowing I was important in their lives. And not forgotten, even though we lived miles apart.

Treasured pages of handwritten news, stories, questions about my life and plans for the future….
Offering encouragement and understanding
And unconditional love.

 

Photo a day challenge – Hearts

RDP – Intimate

 

Homecoming 1964

This post inspired by Ragtag Daily Prompt: Homecoming

Homecoming

Prompt questions: Have you ever left home? Have you ever returned?

Answer: Yes and no.

I left home in my mind many times growing up. I had a small knapsack tucked in the back corner of my overfilled closet…containing what I must have considered necessities. Quarters. Tissues. Comb. Toothbrush. Underwear. Perhaps Bazooka bubble gum.
Since I never followed through on my plan, there was never any homecoming.

Coming home from summer camps, summer jobs, college…all happened without much fanfare. And my uneasy life would fall into place once again.

More joyous childhood homecomings were wrapped up with my grandparents, who I adored. One in particular took place in 1964.  My widowed great grandmother lived in Ohio and traveled to the East Coast to visit only a few times before she died in 1968. She was sweet and very soft spoken. Her skin…smooth and powdery. Fragile. She was my mother’s grandmother.

When she made the trip, it was a homecoming of sorts as she was able to spend time with her daughter (my grandmother) as well. We always made a very special occasion out of her visits. Celebration meals. Trips. And…lots of photographs.

The 4 generation pose was popular. My sisters, brother and I took turns sitting with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

I don’t remember if we were instructed in how to pose.

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Four generations – 1964

 

 

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Trio

Here is my entry for this week’s challenge hosted by Dutch goes the Photo

The theme this week is “Trio.”

My children’s paternal grandparents were always willing to play with their grandchildren – no matter what the game was. It could be as simple as reading a book, playing cards or tossing a ball. Even planting seeds in their huge backyard garden.

One Christmas – 1994 – they even joined in, sunglasses and all, when their grandson tried out his new “saxophone.”

As I recall, they sang along.

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The Nana and Grampa Blues Trio

Happy Birthday Opa

Beefeater’s martini straight up. No ice. Lemon peel on the side – if I wanted lemonade I would have ordered it. 

That’s how Opa ordered his drink – the first order in the first round of drinks – when he took our family out to dinner when I was growing up. It sounds kind of rude, but I would imagine if time after time he got the lemon peel in the drink…well, he ran out of patience. I would wait with great curiosity to see what the waiter or waitress would bring. The fancy stemmed glass filled with a clear liquid served on a small plate…where a few slices of lemon peel hopefully (!) would rest. I don’t remember where the olive was supposed to go. Worst case scenario: a glass filled with ice AND lemon peel AND the gin. High drama for us kids.

Next up was ordering off the menu. We could all order what we wanted. No children’s menu. I always felt so grown up learning the fine art of “find out what goes with the dinner.”

Split and toasted!

When the inevitable basket of dinner rolls arrived to keep us fed while waiting for the meals to arrive, Opa would send it back to the kitchen. Please have these rolls split and toasted! And they did and they were amazing and warm and crunchy with butter melting all over.

The bunny!

While we crunched on warm, toasty rolls, Opa made magic happen with his white cloth napkin. He turned, napkin hidden, to the side – carefully rolled, then twisted the cloth and…turned back to face us. And there in the crook of his left arm was a napkin “bunny” – that kept “hopping” up his arm as he patted it with his right hand. All the while he would be talking to it and to us. We’d stare and stare. Wow. That’s entertainment.

The bra!

As we got a bit older, the bunny didn’t capture our attention like Opa’s napkin bra could. He’d quick fold up his napkin, pull the corners and briefly hold it up in front of his tie and pressed suit jacket. Ta Da! Opa had a bra! Hysterical and ridiculous every time. This napkin trick embarrassed my mother immensely but thoroughly entertained his grandchildren. How did he do this? Simple (but I didn’t figure it out for a long time):

  1. Fold napkin so that the 2 sides meet in the middle.
  2. Fold the opposite way so the open edges are on the outside.
  3. Grab left corners with left hand and right corners with right hand and pull.

 

Sparklers!

When it was someone’s birthday, there was a cake brought out to the birthday girl or boy. A cake with a lit sparkler! The cake could be seen from across the dining room shooting sparks into the air.  As it was set before you everybody sang Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo….

***

I am honoring my Opa’s memory on June 26th – what would have been his 112th birthday – by sharing his restaurant tricks & talents. Valuable hints for grandparents everywhere. How to continue embarrassing your children and endearing you to your grandchildren forever.

Happy Birthday Opa!

opa&me