Regret is a Four Letter Word – Interview with Grandma & Granddad



When I was a little kid, we went only to one place for my parents’ vacations – Vincennes, Indiana.  The negative aspect of this fact is that we never went anywhere special for vacation.  I guess that’s why I think it’s so important to give my kids great vacations.  As a kid myself, I can recall only once, when we went to Mammoth Caves.  The pro though of going only to Vincennes is that because we usually stayed at my dad’s parents place, I got to spend a lot of time with Grandma and Granddad.  If given the opportunity, I’d love to interview them both today, to learn and write their story… many questions I’d love to ask.

Where did each of you grow up and what were your parents like?  How far in school did you go and what interested you as children?  Grandad was possibly either one of the smartest people I ever knew or else he just had a fantastic ability to remember and recall most of what he read.  There was never a time when I don’t remember his having a book in his hand.  Mostly, (if I’m recalling this correctly), he would read historical nonfiction.  Either way, he was a fantastic story re-counter and he loved to tell us kids about all the things he’d learned through his readings.

Tell me more Granddad, I’m ready to listen.

My grandma loved to laugh.  This is what I remember most.  Laughter is powerful medicine and it can help you crawl over many hurdles.  I’m not positive about this, but I think Grandma lost two babies in, or soon after childbirth.  She didn’t lose her son Phillip in childbirth though.  No, she got to enjoy Phillip’s life for a good 16 years until a hunting ‘accident’ put a bullet into Phillip’s head.  How did you manage to overcome those tragic losses and still be able to laugh so long and hard Grandma?

How did you, Grandma?

I hear tell that Granddad would hop into his car with a rifle hanging out the window.  Then he would head over to where the shooter lived, the shooter of his son Phillip.  Up and down he would drive down their street until finally that family packed up and moved away.  Is this true Granddad?  Oh, and you used to talk about Viola at times, that ‘filthy whore’ is what I seem to recall her being called once or twice.  Her children were referred to as “those filthy heathens” too.  Granddad, can you please tell me your stories about Viola and why you put a lock on your refrigerator?

I’d love to listen to those tales now.

Grandma, for as long as I knew you, you wore those support hose and walked with a pretty big limp.  How did you get that limp, what happened?  You know what else I’d like to know is why you worked at that same diner for all those years.  Did you work there to help pay the bills or did you just like working?  I wanted to thank you for giving me all those silver coins that you used to save up (link) – thank you, I still think of you whenever I think about coin collecting.  Remember the day that Bobby Kennedy was shot? (Link)  Were you thinking about Phillip that day?  Is that why you couldn’t stop crying?  Can you tell me the story about Phillip’s death?

Let’s talk for hours, can we?

Hey Granddad, Dad told me that you built this little four room house all by yourself.  Is that true?  Now that I’m an adult, I see that most people would have called your little house a shack.  Perhaps it was, but it provided you shelter for what, forty years?  Not bad Granddad.  You drank and you smoked for decades.  How is it that you never had an accident until you had one that ended your life?  Tell me please, did you die by accident when you burned in your bed, in your sleep?

Was it really an accident Granddad?

Grandma, do you realize that anytime I even say the word “blackberry” that it’s impossible for me not to think about picking those berries with you in the garden outside of Granddad’s window?  It’s such a great memory.  Do you know that I have so many good memories of spending time with you?  Every birthday, I get to eat your ‘secret recipe’ German sweet chocolate cake (link).  Often times then I’m reminded of how I’d sneak up on you while you were in the kitchen and how I’d yell “boo” and never fail to scare you.  How is it that you never figured me out?  🙂

Thank you for those memories.

The last time I saw Granddad was at his funeral in 1984.  He had died as a result of either smoke inhalation or burning to death in a fire started by a cigarette in bed.  All of this information was passed to me via my dad at Granddad’s funeral.

The last time I saw my Grandma was a few years later.  I was still a young man, like many young men, so full of myself and caught up in my own life and work.  My dad and his sister took me to the nursing home to see her.  They described her as not being very lucid, as having symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

We visited for perhaps only ten minutes and after those brief moments, Barb and my dad were wanting to leave.  Grandma seemed alert to me, sad but alert.  She was crying, knowing that we were not staying long.  She asked me a question, more of a rhetorical statement; “you have a good job, don’t you Robbie”.  I knew she was proud of me.  She always treated me as her favorite grandchild, (being the first).  I don’t know if I was, but that was Grandma; she made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.  Why is it that I had to get to my fifties to realize that I could have made a difference in her pathetic last days simply by standing up and telling my dad that I wanted to stay there with her for a couple of hours?  Would that have really been that bad?

Grandma cried and tried holding onto my hands as I was walking away, following my dad out the door.  Dad and Barb seem like they were in a rush, perhaps wanting to ignore the pain?  Obviously, the moment fazed yours truly here……Regret is a four letter word.

Ah, to worry about monsters under our beds vs. worrying about our kids and their kids, their lives, their futures without us.  Indeed, what would we all give for our kid fears?

(Love, love love this song)

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