Sunday, November 09, 2008

Gramps & Gi-gi, part III

What are we talking about? See here, and here and here.

When my mother was 7 and my uncle 9, Gi-gi sat down for a coffee break at work, and the coffee tasted bad. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think I was pregnant. This coffee tastes horrible!" [this is the part where us mortal women shake our heads in disgust] Yes, the only pregnancy symptom Gi-gi ever had (aside from a growing belly) was that coffee tasted bad. No morning sickness, no sciatica, no tiredness, nothing (she also never had any obnoxious menopausal symptoms). I do not share that gene, sadly.

Gi-gi had my aunt in February of 1960 [my aunt who passed away this summer]. My mother and uncle were settled into parochial grade school at this point, and because Gi-gi wore a trench-style winter coat to mass every day, the other parishoners were astonished to see her tote an infant into church one day. "Where did you get that baby?" they cried. "Where most mothers do, I suppose." was her answer.

I don't know what Gi-gi did with work or school at this point. She eventually became a school nurse for several elementary schools and a middle school. My mother was not inclined academically, and while she graduated from high school, she didn't pursue much beyond that. She joined the hippy-ish lifestyle, living with friends, smoking weed, shacking up here and there, and even hitch-hiked to Alaska. My uncle became a nurse and joined the military (I'm not sure in what order he did those things) and served in Vietnam. He spent some time after that motorcycling across Europe before getting married. During this time, Gramps and Gi-gi continued their lives.. Gi-gi had opportunities (and took them) to help the government update medical things in Saipan, see Russia (under Soviet rule), and more. Grandpa wasn't much interested. He (we) camped, fished, fixed and rode his motorcycles, went to garage sales, visited his old military buddies. And apparently carried on a relationship with an old friend of theirs. Finally, around 1988 he 'left' Gi-gi for this woman. Gi-gi insisted on counseling, where the counselor gave them each a legal pad on which to write some grievances. When Grandpa turned his in, the counselor was astonished... There were things on the list that dated back to the early, early days of their marriage, and she had never seen such a thing. Nearly 40 years' worth of heartache, anger, bitterness stored up, all spilled out on canary yellow paper.

The counseling didn't work. Things didn't work out with the woman he'd been seeing, but within a handful of years, he married again, and bought a house a few blocks away. He married a twice-widowed woman (also an old friend of theirs) that shared the same first name as Gi-gi. That wasn't something he liked, so she began to go by "Gloria." I tried relating to her as a 'grandma', but that didn't work out well. I was a teen at this point, and didn't live in the same state anymore, so that's understandable. They were married six years before the tylenol she took for her knee pain destroyed her liver. Her obituary was published while Gi-gi was out of town with my mother (when they realized she was likely to die, my mom asked to go away awhile - she didn't want to deal with Grandpa's grief over a woman whom she didn't get along with well :( ) at this time. The obituary used her given name, 'beloved wife of Jim,' and their last name. Gi-gi returned home to an answering machine full of shocked condolences -- followed by relieved humor when friends discovered that she hadn't died after all!

These past many years, Grandpa has lived in that house (which was bought with his wife's money, and which her children have grasped at since their mother's death!), collecting piles and piles of 'bargains' until his home wasn't fit much for company - certainly not for small children. After the birth of my oldest, he became very friendly - visiting at Gi-gi's to see the baby when we visited, etc. His sister then circulated a letter supposedly penned by their late mother which accused Gi-gi of many evils. For the record, I disbelieve the accusations, and am *highly* suspect of the legitimacy of the letter itself, but true or not, this re-opened the rift between Gi-gi and all members of "his" side of the family. Visits were then limited to good weather when my children could be outdoors. For several years he would not darken the doorway of any place that Gi-gi was. I did see him and share a few moments with him at my aunt's funeral this summer.

Life is so uncertain. Take this opportunity to pen that letter to your old gramps' and grannies. Give them a call, or stop by if you're able. You just never know..

No comments: