My memories of my paternal Grandpa are vague. He was already ill by the time I was old enough to have a memory that would keep. I was a little afraid of him. He was stern and unsmiling and not very approachable. I recall that he could crack a walnut with his bicep. Crunch! That was very impressive to me.
On the other hand, I knew my paternal Grandmother well. She always lived very near us (next door for many years) and I was an adult when she passed away. She had Parkinson’s disease from an early age. She was frail and trembling. Her speech was greatly affected by the disease and only family members could understand her when she spoke. Grandma couldn’t swallow her food very well, and this caused her to drool some. She also hunched with osteoporosis.
The years were not kind to my Grandparents. Their marriage was a disappointment to them both. Their first child (and only daughter) died at birth. They raised six sons through the depression years and hardship made a deep mark upon their lives.
In my recent searches for information on the family tree, I came across photographs of Grandpa and Grandma. They were confirmation portraits, so they would have been 13 or so at the time. They were many years and many miles apart for the portraits but there was a touching similarity.
There stood my gruff, grumpy Grandfather, young and bright-eyed. His brown hair waved back away from his grinning face and he had a look of mischief about him. This was the first time I had ever seen a smile on his face.
Grandma stood tall and unsure in her white dress. Her eyes and hair were dark and soulful in a way that I never would have guessed. Fresh and hopeful, almost ready to step out into life, she stood for her portrait. I could almost see the young dreams that must have been in her head.
The years had not yet taken a toll on these fresh youngsters. The pain and disappointments of life were far away. Wars and depressions and grief were only scary stories.
I could look into their faces and see who they were when their worlds were full of bright promise. I saw children who weren’t very different from my own. I finally met my real Grandparents. And I liked them.