If you’re new here, I wrote a much better end-of-the-year blog post two years ago. Consider checking it out while you’re here.
I’ll be striking the tent here on Hope Street in about four months, and it felt appropriate to devote the last end-of-year post here to a calendar entry with a palpable if mysterious feeling of mourning.
(This particular entry also marked its 45-year anniversary a couple of months ago, which is as good a reason as any other to write about it now.)
Not too many of my grandfather’s calendar entries got a funereal black outline.
The entry of November 22, 1963, for instance, got only a partial outline. And that one appears to have been drawn more to compartmentalize the calendar day than to express mourning.
I assume that the outline drawn around Friday, October 17, 1969, was put there as a comment on the events of the day, and not merely as decoration. (It appears to have started out blue and been overdrawn with black.)
Something noteworthy clearly took place that day, since my grandparents phoned both of their children. In those days, you didn’t make long-distance calls just for the sheer hell of it, or at least my family didn’t.
The family tree doesn’t show any deaths that day, or surrounding days, in the immediate family.
And, while I didn’t take pictures of the surrounding calendar, I don’t remember any funerals being mentioned. (I probably would have taken pictures of follow-up events, had any been listed.)
So what the hell happened?
My dad doesn’t know, and he doesn’t specifically remember the phone conversation of October 17, 1969. But he has an interesting theory:
My grandpa worked his last day at Time-Life in Stamford in early January 1970. My dad theorizes that my grandpa was given notice on October 17, 1969, that his job would be eliminated in a few months. (In those days, companies would have been decent enough to keep their people employed through the December holidays.)
My grandpa’s draftsman job at Time-Life was not his first job. Nor would it be his last: He briefly hooked on with a firm in Norwalk for roughly the course of the 1970 baseball season, working his last day on Sept. 16.
But he held the Time-Life gig for 23 years — during which his kids grew up and he moved comfortably into the middle class and middle age. That was the job that defined him, and by which he defined himself; and I’m sure he would gladly have held it until he was 65, if circumstances had run that way.
That job was also the family’s sole means of support during those important and eventful years, unless you count the money my great-grandma made teaching piano lessons. (Maybe she got Social Security as well, I don’t know. But if she did, it didn’t pay too many of the bills.)
It is kind of touching, and not at all unbelievable, to think that my grandpa would have mourned the pending loss of his job. For the self-esteem, for the money, for the sense of purpose.
It might be a little far-fetched to imagine someone as undemonstrative and phlegmatic as he was making a public show of the bad news. But I’m sure he felt that way about it.
And that feeling might have resonated strongly enough to find physical form in a ragged black outline on his calendar.