Monday, August 31, 2009

It's Memories of Me Monday!

The Memory Jogger as posted yesterday: "What memories do you have of your two grandfathers? Talk about each of them."

Until just recently, when my mom informed me otherwise, I had always thought the above photo was of me on my dad's shoulders. Turns out it's me on my step-grandpa John's shoulders.

My mom didn't like Grandpa John. He had married my dad's mother, Lois, who died when I was three, so I don't remember her, unless she is (and quite possibly could be) the woman in a very vague memory I have of a large woman sitting in an overstuffed chair. I'm told she was quite heavy. She must have been relatively young when she died since my dad was only in his early 20's then. I really don't remember John either since, after my grandmother died he didn't bother to stay in contact with my dad. Anyway, my mom says John always gave her a creepy feeling, and she didn't trust him with me. She kept an eagle eye on him whenever he was around.

My dad's dad {the "real" one} was definitely in our lives. His name was Dee Hansen and he lived in the country part of Marysville, California. He had a sprawling old farmhouse with a camper parked in its gravel driveway, a porch all the way across the front, a bathroom that very well may have been added on since the house was originally built, a great big "den" with cowhide-covered sofas, pool table, and a buffalo head mounted on the wall (and gave me the creeps when I slept in there), and a large kitchen that his wife, my dad's stepmom, Bertha, ruled over with an iron hand.

Grandma Bert, as we called her, was no-nonsense and a teetotaler, so my grandpa had to go out to the shed in back of the house for a pull from one of the bottles he stashed out there. They had a huge garden and when we visited in the summer my grandpa would pick ripe canteloupes, cut them in half and scoop out the innards, then drop a big ol' blob of vanilla ice cream in the centers. Ohhhh, that was good!

My brothers and sisters and I were city kids, growing up in the suburbs of L.A., so to us those summertime visits to my grandpa's house were like entering a different world. He had a huge red barn out back and, although I don't remember any animals besides a few chickens, there was still lots of hay in there, old rusty farm equipment, and hidey-holes where the chickens laid their eggs. One summer we found an abandoned nest of eggs. For some crazy reason my brothers and I thought it would be a good idea to throw the eggs against the wall of the shed just behind the house.

Rotten eggs STINK! My grandpa was hopping mad! He made us get the garden hose and clean off that smelly mess. Of course, my parents were angry, too, and we got a good scolding. Looking back it's hard to believe I would do something like that. I'm sure it must have been my brother, Mike's, idea!

Before he retired my grandpa had worked as a foreman at a slaughterhouse. He also had a portable slaughterhouse on wheels which he hitched to a truck and hauled to his customer's farms for on-the-spot custom butchering. When I was a kid that big metal trailer, no longer in use, was parked among hip-high weeds in a sideyard at my grandpa's house. It was locked but we kids could cup our hands around our eyes, clamber up to stand on the long-flat tires and peer into the windows at a jumble of strange metal machinery inside. We tried to imagine what exactly went on in there, how the animals were killed, which machines cut up the carcasses, and where did all the blood go? We had gruesome conversations, but they were also thrilling in a very creepy way, and gave me the same shivery chills I'd get watching a scary movie.

Most fascinating, to me anyway, were the meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. That particular summer (I think I was probably 9 or so) a particular type of riddle was very popular among kids: Dead Baby Jokes. One comes immediately to mind. "What is pink and white and red all over?" Answer: "A dead baby hanging from a meat hook." No wonder my morbid curiosity and fascination with that old portable slaughterhouse trailer!

I was lucky to have my Grandpa Dee all through my childhood and into adulthood, though we did lose Grandma Bert in the late 1980's. My grandpa was in his 80's and still going strong, even planning to marry again, when he was killed outright in a car accident. It was a huge shock to us all. I know it hit my dad hard. He said to me over the phone shortly after we found out, "I no longer have any parents living."

I hope I'm light-years away from that!

I've talked about two grandfathers already, but I did have a third. My mom's dad, Bill Ware. I know very little about him except a few things that my mom has told me. He deserted my grandmother Ware when she was pregnant with her 4th daughter. My mom was about six at that time. Since my grandmother was pregnant she couldn't get a job. She had to take in washing to earn money, and I think she also helped take care of an elderly lady in the neighborhood. My grandfather simply disappeared.

Mom remembers the last time she saw her dad. It was about a year after he left. He'd returned broke and on foot, asking to come back. Mom was outside, rollerskating. I think my grandfather said "Hi" to her, and my mom replied back, "hi." But that was all. My mom didn't go to him, or follow him into the house. That says a lot. And my grandmother refused to take Bill back. He left and was never heard from again.

Years later my grandmother heard through friends that Bill had married again. Well, there'd never been a divorce so now he was also a bigamist. Not a lot of pride to be had with regard to that relative! It wasn't until the early 90's that my grandmother found out Bill had died in 1975. It's weird to think that he lived his life, and then died, while his first wife, four daughters, and then eighteen or so grandkids lived and thrived and rarely gave him a thought.

I do hope he at least had an inkling of what he was missing. One thing I know for sure; he surely got an earful when my grandmother died in 2000 and caught up with him in the hereafter!

And one thing I'm very grateful for. I know the experience affected my mom deeply, one result being that she very carefully (I believe) chose a good, trustworthy, and faithful man to be her husband and father of her children.

And who also happens to be an awesome grandfather!

....and now.....

NEXT MONDAY'S MEMORY JOGGER: "What kind of a teenager were you? Nice, rebellious, etc.?" {uh oh!}


Bonnie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bonnie said...

Deborah, I am meaning to get to this activity on Mondays. I also do the Simple Woman's Daybook that day so it has been hard. How soon do you post the question for the current Monday? Also can an entry be added later than Monday?

Thank you again for all the cool suggestions for visits to Benicia.

Deborah W said...

Hi Bonnie, I've just started posting the memory jogger for the next week at the end of each Monday's post. See this post. That way you have a week to think about it, or even write your memory. This is very informal . . . post your entry whenever you want! It's just fun to see other people's memories, too, and it's helping me get my Life History at least partly written!