Grandfather Stories

I have been reading Frank McCourt's book Teacher Man, a must read for any teacher, especially those who work with alternative or troubled kids. I have read both Angela's Ashes and Tis. He is a fabulous writer and I am thankful for his gift and for the difficult education on living as a poor Irish Catholic. Though I was not nearly as poor as he was as a child, (actually I was rich in comparison) some of the other stories rang true for me. He is a role model to me. A phoenix rising from the ashes.

My father's family, on his father's side were Gibbons, from County Antrim in Northern Ireland. They settled in the Philadelphia area, and they had servants. They must have had money at one point, and they were educated. I only know that my grandfather worked for the Post Office a good part of his life, which saved his family from starving during the depression. My father's mother's family was from Scotland, and I know little about the status of the McDonald's or Stewarts.

I remember my grandfather being called Bebop, and he was a tall while haired man, who remains a shadow in my mind as he died of a stroke, probably secondary to cancer when I was a little girl. I don't have a picture of him, only a wisp of a memory.

My mother's family was 100% pure Lithuanian. My great grandmother and grandfather came over at 15 and 16 (around that) as a young married couple. My great grandfather raised canaries in Brooklyn...that is all I know about him...and don't know if that is how he supported his family. My mother told stories about having chickens in Brooklyn as children, and the entire family all lived in the same neighborhood. My grandfather was a cop in Brooklyn, and that is how HIS family all survived the hardships of the times. I don't think my father liked him much (my father did not like many people, you had to pass some saint test or something) and I suspect that the Lithuanian side of the family liked to drink a lot as evidenced by the bag of photos my grandmother left behind.

Yet this grandfather was like Santa to me. He drove a big black car, filled with presents whenever he came to visit. I know my father frowned when my grandfather bestowed such gifts upon us. Perhaps he was afraid it would spoil us.

I remember him holding out a beautiful doll to me, and I was afraid to take it, afraid somehow of my father. I remember them fighting about it and my grandfather won -- I got to take the doll. Perhaps that explains my lifetime discomfort with accepting gifts gracefully.

That grandfather also died when I was young, which was so very sad for us all. The only role male role model was our austere father. Sometimes I think if I had loving doting grandfathers I may have fared better in life in my dealings with men. I had barely a taste of the love of a grandfather before they were snatched early from life.

So all you grandfathers out there, or grandfathers to be in the future, you are so important and so special. Love those little children. Your love is in investment in the future of our world.

To all the grandfathers.....patti


Laume said…
We sure have a lot in common. I'm a half Irish on my mother's side (the rest of that side being French and Austrian with a little bit of Spanish thrown in the mix) and I'm 100% Lithuanian on my father's side. I might even get to visit Lithuania this coming spring.
My maternal grandfather died when my mother was only ten, so I never met him. I have a few vague out-of-focus memories of my paternal grandfather, who died when when I was only two. Just enough to get the sense I was, the first granddaughter, the apple of his eye. I was fortunate however to have really long and loving relationships with both my grandmothers. My kids have been fortunate to have both a grandmother and grandfather in their lives.

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