I recently visited my grandparents to give them some souvenirs from Japan. I’ve slowly been realizing over the past few years that I’ve been taking their stories, and very possibly my time with them also, for granted.
I think the death of my Grandma on my Dad’s side (I never really knew my Dad’s Dad, but he died a few years before as well) may have been what provoked this. I saw pictures of her later – pictures of her walking with me as a baby. Most of my life she had been in a wheelchair or a bed, and most of the time I can remember visiting her she was trapped in a bed in a nursing home. I realized there is so much I don’t know about this woman, who worked so hard for so long and suffered through so much. It still can break my heart if I think about it too much. So I know I’m lucky I still have my Mom’s parents around, and it scares me when I hear about their health problems.
But they are very strong people, and push through it, as my other grandma did for so very long. I don’t want to mislead you and think that before my other grandmother died I dreaded visiting my mom’s parents or anything, quite the opposite. I just think that I wasn’t able to treat their stories as the treasures they are, and I grew impatient sometimes.
Now that I’ve realized this about myself, I try to listen better, and I try to remember their stories as best as I can. I keep doing my best to convince them to write a book, but if they’ve followed my advice they haven’t told me about it. So I thought I’d share some of the stories I’ve been lucky enough to hear from them, both for your amusement and as my own keepsakes.
While I dream of traveling the world, they’ve done it! These stories might not be hilariously funny or heartwarming, but they are all interesting snippets of a life well lived.
- My grandpa was in the Navy and a very successful engineer. He has gone on many business trips, and at least one of those was to Japan. He said he stayed in what was at that time one of, if not the, best hotel in Tokyo. My grandpa is a devout Catholic, so he asked how he could get to a church service. The concierge called a taxi for him, and wrote down instructions for the driver. Now, Japanese buildings aren’t numbered logically, at least not anymore. They’re numbered by the order they were built, rather than the order they exist. So 124 could very well sit alongside 879. After a little while, it became clear to my grandpa that they were slowly circling the same area. The driver pulled over and stared at the paper. It was then that my grandpa noticed there were physical drops of sweat on the man’s forehead, he was panicking so much. He slowly set off again, and luckily they eventually got to the church, sans a heart attack.
- My grandparents (and my mother) also lived in Brazil for a few years. They had a couple maids as well, who apparently gave them pictures of the parties they had at the house while they were away.
- When my grandparents lived in Brazil, they also had a company driver. Apparently a lot of the other Americans living in Brazil didn’t know how to write a check there (it’s different than ours) and so they often had their driver do it for them. My grandma took some Portuguese lessons, and the first thing she said she wanted to do was learn how to write a check. She wasn’t going to let anyone do something like that for her. Grandma said all the drivers would wait outside gossiping and then go inside once the person they were driving was at the checkout. So her writing her own checks meant her driver was left outside, all alone, poor guy, and may have lost some of his driver cred with his buddies.
- This driver must have been shared among families of the same company, as one time when my grandma came back from shopping for groceries, an irate woman came running up and said, “where’s MY driver?” When Grandma told her he was probably driving Grandpa to a business meeting of some kind, the woman pointed at Grandma’s groceries and angrily demanded, “well how could you have gotten those then?!” Grandma responded calmly that she had walked, and it was only a few blocks away to the market. According to this woman, however, that was most indecent.
- They traveled to Italy, and my Grandma liked the pitcher of wine that she ordered at a restaurant so much that she asked if she could buy it. The surprised waiter went to ask a manager, and came back and told her she could, for a mere $3. She still has that pitcher, with the restaurant’s name and address printed on it and everything.
- She has another pitcher she acquired in a similar manner, although this time the restaurant was known for their pottery and even invited her into the cellar to see all of their other pottery. I think this was also the time when she spotted a woman who was then the most famous actress in Argentina, I believe it was. The actress and her entourage invited my grandma and her friend to join them at their table. It turned out one of the members was the actress’ psychiatrist, and my grandma told them all that last time my grandpa was there he got the roast pig.
That’s it for now. I will hopefully have more the next time I visit them. They might not seem like much, but these stories are little treasures I don’t want to lose.
Do you have any stories from your grandparents you have tucked away somewhere?