Pam and I have been in Ohio for a week to visit friends and family, and for the baby shower Pam’s sisters threw for her.  That will be in another post (written by Pam) since the focus was more on her family and baby stuff.  That being said, I did have a good time catching up with Curtis, Stiffler and Kelly (old high school buddies).  I also got to hang with Magnum a bit, go fishing on Lake Erie with Pam’s dad and uncle, and do the traditional “Lisa & John’s.”  It was a blast all around.

We picked up and left Ohio for Texas where my parents currently reside, last Friday, 27 June.  The reason I stress the date is because my last living grandparent was born on 27 June 1913… Happy 95th birthday to my Grandma Tigger.  She lives in Charleston, Illinois which is easily on the way from Cleveland to Texas, so we made it a point to stop in and catch up (I also got to see my cousin Stacey, who I haven’t seen in 15 years!).

Grandma Tigger, me, Pam and Uncle Tim

I haven’t been out that way for about 4-5 years.  My Grandma lives in the finished basement of my uncle’s house.  At 95, she’s still sharp as a tack and self-sufficient, taking care of herself.  If I live to be 95, I hope I can still be that sharp and get around like she can.  Maybe some of the longevity on that side of the family (her mother, my great-grandmother, lived to be 100!) will help me out, despite my innate ability to stack the odds against myself! It was great to visit with that side of the family.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to wonder (and actually care, too) about family history and “roots” on both sides of my family.  I really don’t know too much about my lineage, except I do know my Mom’s sister has been working on a family tree with her side and I think my Aunt Debbie (Dad’s sister) has been working on a tree with their side.  I’m a little interested in the specific names (since we still haven’t decided on a first name for our kid), but I’m more interested in the big-picture history of the path that the families took on my Mom’s and Dad’s side.  With that, I was able to just sit back and listen to my Grandma recall events, from her point of view, throughout history.  It was interesting, especially if you try to relate it to life as we know it today.  For example, an excerpt from the WWII period:

It was the year 1941: while my grandparents were enjoying their 6th year of marriage, Japan launched a surprise attack on an American Island in the Pacific coaxing the U.S. into the Second World War.  By 1942, “Tut” (the name he went by; we as grandkids called him “Pop-pop”) had gone to enlist with his younger brother in the Navy but was medically rejected.  His younger brother had gone on to be a tail-gunner in the Navy and saw the war through its completion…

When Tut graduated from high school around 1930, he went to a trade school and took up the plumbing and heating trade.  A few years into his career, he was installing radiators in a new store when the radiator began to slip.  The man assisting him moved aside and the radiator fell on Tut’s leg and crushed his knee. In spite of this, he still managed to get to his car and drive himself to the hospital.  The doctors said “amputate,” but his dad said “absolutely not.”  They ended up contacting some expert docs in NYC who, performing surgery, were able to save his leg.  What they did I don’t exactly know, but the results involved a leg that was an inch or so shorter than the other, which beats no leg at all!

During the 1940s, there were still ways to support the Nation in times of need, even if the U.S. military had turned him down.  He, instead, took up volunteer shore-patrol along the Long Island, NY coast involving a 4-hour evening shift on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  As the sun set, the Americans remaining home would put black-out curtains over all their windows, doors or any other place where light could escape.  This was something taken very seriously; aircraft would check routinely to ensure the city and countryside were blacked out… if they found light coming from your house, you were charged a hefty fine.  While my Grandma ensured the house was blacked out, my Grandpa would be on his way to lookout for any suspicious crafts along the U.S. coast. During the few years doing this “coastal watch,” they actually spotted a no-shit German sub off the coast.  At least all the time spent watching wasn’t in vain.

My Pop-pop, by the way, passed away back in 1996.  But that’s just an example of some of the stories that my Grandma told.  I can’t imagine having a “black-out curfew” nowadays, or even a “shore patrol.”  Can you imagine that kinda stuff in this day and age?  Of course, I was told other stories about the “wow-factor” of their first color TV and the trouble that my Mom and Uncle would cause growing up.

This is stuff that I wish I would’ve taken advantage of when I was younger when more grandparents were alive.  I’m trying to now; nothing beats getting history from someone that experienced it, rather than from a book.  Moreover, it allows me to enjoy and appreciate the parents of my parents.  Just mathematically speaking, I know the days for getting this kind of history first-hand are numbered.  I want to ensure I make the most of it while I can, and in the process show my deep appreciation to my Grandma Tigger and all the things she’s experienced in her 95 years (and counting) on this Earth.

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