Tag Archives: grandpa green

Guilt, grief, grandpa and golf balls

Me, the following summer.

I spent much of the summer before I turned 16 with Grandpa and Grandma Green in their lake house in Chetek, Wisconsin just as I had done previous years. I spent my days reading and writing letters to my friends.

Sometimes I helped Grandma with things around the house and sometimes I spent time with Grandpa.

Grandpa Green had a few hobbies — reading, playing solitaire, drinking beer in bars and golf. One day he asked me if I would like to learn to play golf. I don’t remember if I was actually interested in playing golf, but I was interested in spending time with him, so I said I would like to learn. He took me to Chetek’s golf course and I acted as his caddie while he played golf with his buddies. I remember mostly being bored and hot and the golf bag was heavy.

When I told my mom about it, she said that the reason I was in Chetek in the first place was to spend time with Grandma when Grandpa was golfing. While that was news to me, I had no problem telling Grandpa that I didn’t want to go golfing with him when next he asked. I could tell he was disappointed, but I didn’t want to tell him that my mom said I should spend time with Grandma instead. I told him I did want to learn, but just not that day.

Before I left for home that summer, he gave me three golf balls and some golf tees. Maybe he thought I might try to golf in Elgin? I am not sure, but I thanked him and put them in a bag and took them home.

That November Grandpa developed a blood clot in his right leg and had to have it amputated. Besides being afraid for my Grandpa — someone I loved as much as I loved my own parents — I felt guilty because I’d declined to go golfing with him after the one time. I knew he would never set foot on a golf course again despite people telling me that when he got his prosthetic leg he’d golf again if he wanted to.

The next summer he developed another blood clot and had more of his leg amputated, but he suffered a heart attack during the amputation and died a few days later, on July 9, 1973. He was 63.

When my mom, who was at the Mayo Clinic with my grandparents, called to tell my dad about his death, I listened to Dad’s end of the call through the door to my attic bedroom. I sat on the steps, sobbing while holding the bag of golf balls and golf tees that Grandpa had given me. I cried out of grief, but also guilt because I told him I didn’t want to go golfing with him the previous summer.

I still have the golf balls and golf tees. I keep thinking I should just get rid of them, but I cannot do that.

 

An open letter of apology to Grandma Green for breaking Grandpa’s tall beer glass and your mirror when I was opening the dresser drawer

Dear Grandma Green,

41HqzNaNplLEven though you have been gone a long time I still feel guilty every time I think about breaking Grandpa’s tall beer glass with the mirror (and breaking the mirror too) when I tugged too hard on the stuck drawer of the chest of drawers in your bedroom the summer after Grandpa died and I spent a few weeks with you in Chetek.

I don’t think of it often, only when I see a very tall beer glass like the one to the left or when I hear about one like the one I am reading about in Charlotte Gray, one of my “read-a-shelf” books. I may also think about it when I struggle to open a dresser drawer or see a broken mirror too. I know I thought about it when Clare did something similar with a case holding all of my glass unicorns.

Here’s what happened. I needed something out of the chest of drawers (notice I am calling it a “chest of drawers” like you used to call it) and the drawer which held that something was swollen and stuck fast to the rest of the dresser. I shook the drawer which made the mirror that was tilted at the back of the dresser tip forward onto the very tall beer glass in its wooden stand. They both fell down, shattering the beer glass and breaking the mirror.

When you heard the crash you came running into the bedroom. I believe you said “shit” or some other colorful word. You also mentioned how much Grandpa liked his very tall beer glass. You were momentarily angry at me, but I think you understood it was an accident. I don’t remember if I cried or not. I was 17 years old, so I may have. I probably said something about it being an accident and you may have said I should have been more careful.

We cleaned it up and never spoke of it again. I meant to buy you a mirror to replace the mirror I broke, but never did. I don’t know that I ever apologized for breaking the mirror and very tall beer glass.

Grandma, I am sorry I broke the mirror, but more sorry about the beer glass since it was Grandpa’s and it was something he really liked. You’d just lost him, now you lost something he treasured. As a 17 year old I don’t think that registered with me. I only thought about you being upset with me. I know you forgave me long ago, but I just wanted to get it out in the open.

Love,

Dona

PS I miss you

 

Whaddaya Know?

David Thewlis in Life is Sweet
David Thewlis in Life is Sweet
bob
Bob from London

When I first noticed actor David Thewlis in Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet (see it if you can find it), I knew there was something about him I liked. Until recently I thought it was because he resembled Bob, a guy I met in London to whom I was a little attracted.

I’ve seen many films that Thewlis has been in and have always liked his performance when I do. Even Naked. (another good, but disturbing film to watch)

boy_in_the_striped_pyjamas_xl_05--film-A
A scene from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I knew he played the Nazi father in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and I knew he’d do it well because he is a good actor. It can’t be easy playing someone as hated as a Nazi, especially one who sent so many people to their deaths. I cannot say that I liked the film (I didn’t like the book), but I liked his performance.  He plays a loving but preoccupied (and naive) father who is also a Nazi death camp commandant. 

Grandpa Green walking in Elgin
Grandpa Green walking in Elgin
In one scene he talks to his children about how they like life at their new home. I kept on looking at the character he played and was sure I’d seen that face before. Yeah, it was David Thewlis, but I finally knew who he reminded me of. No, it wasn’t Bob.

He resembled another man — one of the all time favorite men in my life: Grandpa Green. Of course it is the haircut, and the set of the lips and the chin. Maybe the nose too. I imagine the photo of my grandfather is from around the time of World War II. I’ll have to watch the Harry Potter films again to see if I see Grandpa in Lupin (Hmm, another werewolf).

Grandma and Grandpa Green (and Chubby) February 1972

On Christmas 1971 my grandparents were given a tape recorder. They lived about 7 hours away from the rest of their family and used the tape recorder to send greetings to their children and their families. Here is one we received February 1972.

Grandpa’s introduction:

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Me and my Shadow
Grandma and Chubby (their beagle)

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Grandpa thanking us for his birthday gifts

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Grandma’s turn to talk

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Skip to My Lou
Grandma and Chubby

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Are You Taping this? Stop!
Grandma

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Hee Haw
Grandpa

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Grandma again

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Millie and the poker game
Grandpa

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When we’re coming to town and other topics
Grandma

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There’s a Rainbow on my Shoulder (?)
Grandma and Chubby

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On Top of Old Smokey
Grandma and Chubby

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Goodbye
Grandma and Grandpa

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Thoughts of Grandpa Green

Grandpa GreenLast week I started to scan and upload to Flickr a collection of photographs I took from my mom’s house this summer. I know only one person in the batch I uploaded – my grandfather, seen right.

I cannot say how old he was in this photo. I thought it might be his graduation photo, but then I realized I have his wedding photo, and he looks a bit older here.

I’ve written extensively about my Grandpa Green, how he helped shape my character and helped foster a love of reading. And even how he wrote a poem about me when I was born. There really isn’t much more to say.

He was a quiet man who liked to read, play solitaire, drink beer and golf. He was a crossword puzzle wizard. He hated salads (said they made his nose wiggle) and wore a folded tissue under his wristwatch (to keep the ticks off, he said). I loved him. He was only 63 when he died – possibly an indirect result of his dislike of salad. I was 16.