Friday, January 7, 2011

The Grandparents

My mother’s parents lived next door to my family basically my whole life at home. I think it happened because we would build on land my granddad would buy and it made sense to stay together financially. Not sure. I could always ask someone but communication isn’t our strong suit. My mother’s father was always known as “Granddad” to me. His real name is Oliver. Oliver Burris. I think his middle name was Wendell and I always confused it with Oliver Wendell Douglas from Green Acres. Olivah! Whud u lahk some hotskakes? Olivah! I’m wearing a nighty and you only ever wear suits and ties. Olivah! I’m going to the barn to see Eb alone. We know Eb could never stay around and look Olivah in the eye because of the guilt and secrets! I don’t have any back-story on it but grandmother’s name was Chloe. It was written on the fuzzy pink cover of her scale in the bathroom. I suppose that was quite a thoughtful gift from someone I the 60’s or 70’s. A personalized fat counter. LOL. She preferred White Shoulders beauty products and the bathroom was always covered with it. Chloe is a confusing name when u r a kid. So somehow in typical kid fashion I managed to bastardize her name into DI. Yes. Two letters. D and I. No I don’t know where it came from. It’s retarded but it stuck and she was DI to a lot of people for a long long time. DI passed away some years ago and I don’t know if it says DI on her headstone but if it doesn’t then I’m going to have to use a magic marker and make sure it’s there. So there you have it. Granddad and DI.

My dad does have parents. His real dad died when he was young. My wife likes to research our family tree and she has informed me that he died of stomach cancer. His mom was always known to me as “Granny Hamil” (GH) and for as long as I knew her she was married to Fred, which I assume was her second husband. Not grandpa or gramps or papa or anything. He was always just Fred. I seemed afraid of Fred. I don’t know why. I just know I was. Maybe he yelled a lot and I tied it in with my parents. Dunno. Fred seemed to be outside the inner circle of family even tho he was always present at family functions. He never did anything to me that I can recall to warrant my fear. He just seemed to be an outsider to me. We didn’t hang out. We didn’t talk. Odd. I just remember all of my grandparent time was spent with Granny Hamil. Fred at some point was, I believe, diagnosed with high blood pressure or some other hypertension type of malady. That may explain some of my fears if his health had made him grumpy. Granny Hamil was an old fashioned granny who fished and cooked giant Sunday meals and had a big garden and canned and pickled and on and on. She was definitely a country grandma where DI always kinda seemed like a city grandma stuck in a country world. GH would take me fishing to heated docks in winter to fish for crappie and we would go to a special place called Big Blue to fish for catfish once a year. Big Blue was the smelliest, most foul maggot infested slab of rock you could imagine. But she would sit in the middle of it with me and we would catch catfish all day long because that’s where the fish were. That was awesome. She made food food food. Fried fish, chicken and dumplins, peach cobbler, turnip greens, poke salad, homemade pickles. She had three sons that I know of. My dad, Bob, and Kenneth and Donald. Donald died in Vietnam during the war. I have some memory of being told he was blown up by a hand grenade but that memory could easily have come from tv or a kid at school. I don’t really know. If I ever met him I don’t remember. To me he was a picture on the wall of someone important that I never knew. I looked up his name in DC at the Vietnam Vet Wall when I visited there in my30’s. I took my picture next to it. I didn’t know him. I didn’t know any of the names on the big granite wall. I wept. That doesn’t happen very often. GH had walls of photos of all kids and grandkids and great grandkids. There were pictures everywhere on every surface. She always made me feel like her favorite. I’m sure I was one of many but she did her job well. GH was a tough old lady. She always was in control of everything and everyone around her till the day she passed.

The grandparents have all passed. One by one. Fred. Granddad. DI. Granny Hamil.

I miss them all.

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