Posts Tagged ‘1981’

I love when the obvious occurs to me, months or years after it should. It’s a great feeling, like showering with whips.

Last week’s post, in which I celebrated my maternal grandpa’s 99th birthday by posting clips of him talking, made me think: You’ve been writing a blog inspired by your paternal grandfather for more than three years. How has it never occurred to you to post clips of his voice?

It’s true. I’ve posted plenty of pictures, but never audio.

(I blame this on my upbringing in a Kodak family. We’re picture-first people.)

A post with my grandpa’s voice seemed like a natural follow-up for this week. But when I asked my dad to go into the family archives, it turned out we didn’t have a recording of Bill Blumenau telling his life story, the way we did with my other grandpa.

The problem (and I use that word loosely) is that his mother, my great-grandma Grossee, lived to be 107. We made several recordings of her talking about her childhood and young womanhood — usually with him in the room, chipping in from time to time.

But I think she sorta overshadowed him in terms of family history, in the sense that we never specifically talked to him, or to my grandma. And that makes sense; when you’ve got a centenarian in the family, you want to make tape of them.

Anyway, my dad dug up a tape from 1981 on which my grandpa — then 70 years old — descants his mother, then 95, on various matters of family history.

I remembered his voice better than I remembered my other grandpa’s. Not sure why — maybe because I had 10 more years to hear it.

But when I heard it again, there was no sense of “Hmmm. That’s what he sounded like.” I felt right at home.

His was an interesting accent. Not straightforward gravelly Bronx like my other grandpa, but something more distinctive, something bearing the stamp of growing up in western Massachusetts while having two native German speakers for parents.

Listen to the way he pronounces “corner,” for instance, in this recollection of catching a ride home with his long-deceased father:

Or listen to him discuss a wintertime treat kids don’t get any more. (My great-grandma cuts in, “I don’t remember,” and he ripostes instantly, “I remember that.”)

At one point, everyone joins in on a discussion of old-fashioned plumbing, including a wonderfully absurd moment’s exchange in which grandpa and great-grandma sound very pleased with gravity.

They don’t spend 10 minutes talking about funerals, as my other grandparents did; but not all the recollections are warm. My grandpa mentions going without steady work for a while during the Depression:

And a story about my late great-grandfather (Grossee’s husband, Bill’s dad) takes a sort of tragicomic turn at the end. It’s funny what people remember after almost 60 years:

So that’s what the guy who kept the calendars sounded like. Sorry it took me so long, but maybe this adds another bit of shading to my regular readers’ mental image of him.

It was high time I stopped running my mouth for a few and let him speak a little, anyway.


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The post I had planned to put up today kinda fell through.

So instead I’ll depart from the calendar entries for a week, and put up a particularly nice photo of my grandpa and I.

I haven’t written much about my direct interactions with my grandfather. That’s because the calendar entries on which this blog is based end in December 1975, when I was two-and-a-half years old. There are no items on his calendars that I remember firsthand.

I also don’t specifically remember the circumstances of this picture, which was taken by my father sometime around 1981 in the dining room at Hope Street.

But it’s a nice example of intergenerational connection, anyway.

I don’t know why my grandpa would have gotten splinter duty, as opposed to my mom or grandma. Perhaps because he was a cool-headed and methodical sort, with a businesslike bedside manner.

You can see he’s put on a pair of glasses over his pair of glasses, so as to get the best possible view of the delicate surgery involving his grandson.

And certainly, the expressions of all involved reflect the weight of the situation.

The little kid with the puddin’-bowl haircut seems to be asking, “Will I ever play the violin again, Doctor?” And the older man with the thinning hair is responding, “Tough case. But signs point to yes.”

Clearly the healing mojo in those bony hands worked, as I am alive, well, and blogging today. (I no longer play the violin. But that is no great loss to humanity.)

I can imagine the gentle firmness of his hands and the quiet of his concentration, even if I don’t specifically remember the moment.

It is a wonderfully comforting thing to a child to know that multiple generations of his family are there to help him.

It sorta makes him feel like, no matter what he runs into, there is someone there who can guide him through it — maybe Mom one day, maybe Grandpa the next. They can’t (and won’t) get him off the hook, necessarily, but they will at least help him understand what’s going on.

I am still decades away from being able to offer that kind of support to grandchildren, if I have any.

I kinda hope I do.

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