I enjoy looking at the sketches of my grandpa’s life on his old calendar entries, or in his journals, and trying to fill in the gaps around them. How did an event affect him? What did he think about it?
There are a few days that I don’t have to guess about or fill in, though, because he wrote them out in full detail from dawn to dusk. We’re going to stop in on one of them this week.
My grandfather, in his later years, would sit down on his birthday every year — August 13 — and write down everything he’d done that day.
Since he wasn’t in the habit of climbing mountains or going surfing on his birthday, the letters also serve as a pretty good look at what his everyday life was like.
So here we are on Wednesday, August 13, 1975, my grandfather’s 65th birthday.
The Yankees are in third; the Mets are in fourth. Record-setting miler John Walker is on newspaper front pages. Buddy Ebsen is on the cover of TV Guide. The Bee Gees are at Number One. The Grateful Dead are on O’Farrell Street.
President Ford is on vacation in Vail, Colorado, where he starts his day with a swim.
At 1107 Hope Street in Stamford, Connecticut, the day begins with a bland breakfast and proceeds apace.
The blow-by-blow account, with occasional notations:
Arose at 7:30 – temp 70 degrees – Hot day coming up
Breakfast – Maltex and Wheatena mix, toast, Sanka, orange juice
Brought art stuff down from attic into studio
Took stuff from studio to attic
(Perspective from me: Wonder what his art stuff was doing in the attic? The upstairs studio — formerly my Aunt Elaine’s bedroom — served as his art room all the years I knew him. He wasn’t painting the studio: His journal’s year-by-year list of home projects makes no mention of such a project in 1975. Never mind what I said about knowing everything about the day: It’s not even lunchtime and I’ve already encountered a mystery.)
Lunch at 12:00 – Hamburg – potatoe – tomatoe – peanut butter + crackers – cool tea
Listened to news 12:30-1 pm
(I find it interesting that he didn’t watch the news; he listened to it on the radio. He might have been tuned in to local legend Don Russell’s program on WSTC, described in an earlier blog post.)
Petro service man arrived 1:20
Cleaned boiler & burner – left 2:50
Took pics of stuffed bird at bird bath.
(The stuffed bird wants some explanation. My dad played organ at the wedding of a fraternity brother around this time and was rewarded with the gift of a stuffed heron, which lived in the front hall of our house for a good decade before it started falling apart. The wedding was in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and the stuffed bird apparently lived at my grandparents’ in Connecticut for a while until my dad could bring it home to western New York.)
Cut some branches from trees.
Thought of mowing grass – Too hot. 88 degrees.
Went for Stamford Advocate – bought LOT. TIC.
(Yeah, forget the apologia for my grandfather that I wrote a couple years ago. Dude loved his lottery tickets. At least he confined himself to one at a time.)
Surveyed building foundation across street.
Supper at 5:15 – Lamb – rice -beans from garden – orange pieces
Cold Sanka – birthday cake with strawberries + ice cream and candle
(I have heard of Sanka but have never had any; my grandpa seems to have enjoyed it almost as much as he enjoyed lottery tickets. Wiki tells me the name Sanka is a conjunction of the French words “sans cafeine,” meaning “without caffeine.” Whaddya know.)
Recd gifts – travel kit, stick deodorant, 2 LOT TICS & tie from Corine
(Yup, more lottery tix. Er, LOTTERY TICS. Shame that, as far as I know, my grandpa never actually won. Also gotta love stick deodorant as a birthday gift: “Here’s hoping you smell better in Year 66!”)
Car repair book & $10 from Ma
Took rubbish & garbage to cellar
Listened to radio news – 6:30
Listened to TV news & weather – 6:45 to 7:30. Showers on way
Evelyn J. called – a pair of Rod’s brown shoes has gone missing
(So, would it be fair to say that Rod’s brown shoes didn’t make it?)
Sat out on porch – cool breeze coming from N.W.
(I love that he knew where the breeze was coming from. Probably the same innate sense that enables people to know one kind of tree from another. I don’t possess that.)
Watched Merv Griffin show – 9 to 10
(Guests included Polly Bergen and Gay Talese.)
Bedtime snack – shredded wheat & puft wheat
To Bed 10:30 – read magazines
(One of them was probably Time, whose August 11 issue bore a cover story called “Lisbon’s Troika: Red Threat in Portugal.” I do not think the risk of Communist takeover of Portugal unduly burdened my grandfather as he lay down to sleep with a bellyful of wheat.