All That I Remember of my Grandparents

21 Jan
The dirt road, coming up from our beach on Orcas Island.  There was an old orchard at the end of the road.  Yum!  I'm the smallest one, holding my grandma's hand.

The dirt road, coming up from our beach on Orcas Island. There was an old orchard at the end of the road. Yum! I’m the smallest one, holding my grandma’s hand.

My mom’s parents lived up the road from us when I was young. I remember very little about them, as Grandpa died a day or two after my 4th birthday and Grandma later that summer.

I remember that Grandpa kept candy in his desk drawer. I remember that they both liked picnics on the beach. I remember their car.

I remember watching Davy Crocket on The Wonderful World of Disney one Sunday night when Grandma, my sister and I were all home sick and weren’t able to go to church that evening. My sister and I must have been sent to stay with Grandma while Mom and Dad were gone. We ate popcorn as we watched.

I remember finding a piece of driftwood on the beach that looked like a duck and giving it to Grandma because she loved ducks. She was pleased. I remember that.

And I remember being in the car on a trip – in my memory we were in Oregon, but I’m not really sure that we were – and I was bored out of my skull. Grandma, my sister and I were all in the back seat and Mom and Dad were in the front. I was grouchy and I called my sister a dumb dumb.

And I got in trouble from Mom.

I was silent for a moment. And then I began to sing. Quietly.

“Dum, dum, dum, dum,” I sang. “Dum, dum, dum…”

I got a little louder.

“Dum, Dum, Dum!”

I thought I was being so clever.

Until Mom turned around and said, “I told you not to use that word. You are not to call your sister a dumb dumb.”

And Grandma said, “Oh, she’s not calling names. She’s just singing.”

I looked down at my lap. Tears pricked my eyes and waves of guilt washed over me.

Because I wasn’t just singing. I was calling my sister a dumb dumb in song.

Mom knew.

Grandma probably knew, too.

She smiled at me. Patted my leg. And I stopped singing.

And that’s what I remember of my Grandma.
g-ma beach



20 Responses to “All That I Remember of my Grandparents”

  1. thesisterslice January 21, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I love getting a peek at your memories. I was loved and loved my G’ma and Pa too! Thanks!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

      Thank you! They play an important role in kid’s lives, don’t they? I just wish I’d known mine longer.

  2. Minnesota Prairie Roots January 21, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    I’d say you have a lot of memories of your grandparents for only being four years old. And those photos. Beyond treasures.

    I might also add that your grandmother was one wise woman.

  3. cravesadventure January 21, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    I am like you in that I really do not remember my maternal grandfather who died when I was 3 or 4 years old. I remember him being a stately man in a suit with glasses. If you asked for a trick instead of a treat he would give you what you asked for and you had better be ready for the trick you got too. I love that your grandma acted as a neutral between you and your sister as well as you and your mom – smart cookie! Happy Week:)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 21, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

      Isn’t it interesting the things we recall? Thanks for sharing your memories, too!

  4. Hotly Spiced January 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    How tragic that they both died when you were so young so you couldn’t get to know them better. They sound like they would have been the best grandparents – one giving you sweets from his drawer and the other overlooking your crimes. We really all are on this earth for but a very short time xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 21, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      I don’t know if she was overlooking it…or using love to convict even more than a reprimand did! Either way, it worked!

  5. Gwen Stephens January 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    What a great narrative! Wonderful that you can carry all these memories with you, despite losing them at such a young age. (I had to laugh at dumb-dumb, because we called each other that, too. Unfortunately, my kids prefer to call each other “butthole.”)

    One of my prized possessions is an afghan my grandma crocheted for me when I was in my 20s. It lays across my bed in the winter months, but I put it away when the weather warms up, because it’s irreplaceable.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 21, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

      Yes, such things don’t last forever, do they? I don’t have any of my grandma’s crocheted blankets – I wish I did. My other grandma made each grandchild a blanket like that but I was the youngest one and I never got one!

  6. Beth Ann January 21, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    Awww…sweet memories for sure. Your grandma was a wide woman, I am sure. Isn’t it wonderful to have such great memories??

  7. Jackie January 21, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Such sweet memories you have of your grandparents. Love the photo’s and that your grandma loved picnics on the beach 🙂

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 21, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      For a while they owned an island in Canada – how I wish they’d been able to keep it!

      • Jackie January 21, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

        That would have been amazing!

        • Gretchen O'Donnell January 22, 2014 at 8:50 am #

          I know! They owned it for less than two years and then the people they bought it from bought it back! That was…oh…65 years ago or so!

  8. Top Of The Slush Pile January 21, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    This is such a lovely post, Gretchen. I love the subtle warmth of your Grandma, that she loved ducks, and that your Grandpa kept candy in his desk drawer. These tiny details make such a lovely memoir from a child’s eyes. Really enjoyed this x

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 22, 2014 at 8:51 am #

      Thank you! I tried hard to distill it down to just what I actually remembered…not stuff I’d been told or family legend, you know? It’s interesting to see a person in that way…through the eyes of a child. I need to remember this concept if I’m writing from a child’s perspective.

  9. Lissy January 23, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

    Fun to read this, and also makes me so teary!! I so wish I could’ve known them… My mom is always telling me how much I remind her of Grandma in the funniest little ways. I love those pictures too. They have such gentle faces, don’t they? Thanks for writing this!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 27, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

      I’m so glad you commented, Lissy! As you can see, I may have known them a little…but not much. That’s awesome that your mom says you reminder of Grandma! Yes, they did have gentle faces – and kind. I don’t know if you remember the carpet in the Orcas house but it was green and black plaid – wool. If I ever see green and black plaid anything I always think of them!

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