Posts Tagged ‘grandson’

November 1970.

November 1970.

What does one say about older brothers?

Do you talk about the times they spilled your secrets, or the times they kept them?

Do you talk about the times you swapped punches with them, or the times you closed ranks with them?

Do you talk about the flak they generated, or the flak they absorbed?

Do you think of the things they taught you, or the things you found out for yourself? Do you take out the scales and try to weigh the balance between the two?

Do you depict them as irresponsible, or merely true to themselves?

Do you marvel at the ways in which they are different from you, or the ways in which they are the same?

Do you wonder how frequently and how closely you will stay in touch with them after the unifying central bond of your parents is gone?

You could do any and all of those.

Or, you could just page through the years of memories and look for one you like.

It would have been sometime around 1991 or ’92 when my older brother Eric spent a summer working at Kentucky Fried Chicken, one in a long line of summer jobs he held over the years.

Working the late shift meant he got to divvy up the remaining chicken with his co-workers and take some home at the end of the night.

We got sick of the bird after a few days, and he stopped bringing it home. But early on, we were still looking forward to it.

And the first night he brought home a box, he and I sat around the family dinner table ’round midnight, cheerfully devouring the chicken while we shot the breeze about Public Enemy or Michael Jordan or our summer jobs or whatever else was top-of-mind to a couple of college-age kids in the suburbs of the Rust Belt.

While I’ve grown to know the health hazards of late-night eating, there is something wonderfully cozy about sitting around a table late at night sharing food with someone else — especially when one or both of you has just come home. A single light shining through the kitchen window into the darkness, and a modest treat on the table, is as welcoming as home gets.

I think I first got this feeling when we would take family trips from Rochester to Stamford. We’d arrive late — maybe around midnight — but we’d still be a little strung out from the road, not yet ready to turn in, and sometimes we’d gather around the kitchen table and have a short glass of Seven-Up or something, and immerse ourselves in the comfort of having reached a friendly destination.

But, back to the Nineties:

There were no Big Reveals and no heavy discussions on this semi-forgotten evening. Just a straightforward, open, very pleasant sharing of time and space and chicken.

It is a fonder memory than its raw materials would indicate.

Happy birthday, older brother.

November 16, 1970.

November 16, 1970.


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This blog has always been a little unfair to my cousin Brandon, through no fault of his own.

Brandon is the son and elder child of my Aunt Elaine, my dad’s sister.

(Aunt Elaine has made a number of appearances on Hope Street, including as a teenage Beatlemaniac and as a college student in turbulent Boston. Longtime readers, all three of you, might remember Brandon’s cameo appearance in this long-ago post.)

Brandon was born in the bicentennial year of 1976, which is not a problem in and of itself.

But remember: The calendars on which this blog is based span from January 1961 to December 1975. My grandpa had calendars before and after that period; but for whatever reason, the ones from that period are the ones that got saved.

So there are no calendar entries that say, “Yes! Visited Brandon,” or “It’s a Boy! Brandon.” He came along just a little too late to figure into the chronology that I explore every week.

Or, at least, he did until this week. Upon re-examining the calendars, I found his first appearance in show business, so to speak.

So, in honor of his upcoming birthday, here’s giving Brandon a moment in the spotlight — even in an oblique way:

December 1, 1975.

December 1, 1975.

Telling your folks that a grandchild is coming is always a memorable experience — one of the great, if momentary, pleasures of parenthood.

From time to time I play in a band with my dad. And the band just happened to be planning a rehearsal, months in advance, that fell a few days before my first son’s due date. So I broke the news to my parents by dutifully explaining why I couldn’t make the band practice. They were overjoyed … and I missed the rehearsal.

For our second kid, we got even trickier. As it happened, right around the three-month mark, different people on both sides of the family had been sending around old family pictures through email. So my wife sent out a freshly taken ultrasound with the unassuming note: “Here’s another family pic you all might enjoy.” They did.

(I still remember the delicious interval between when my wife sent the email and when my folks called, literally whooping with joy. It was only a few minutes, as I recall, but it was a great few minutes.)

I don’t know what method my aunt chose to deliver her big news on Dec. 1, 1975 — whether she found some creative way to break the news, or just blurted it out.

Either way, I’m sure my grandparents and great-grandma were thrilled, and stayed that way through the holiday season and beyond. The addition of a new member to the family never gets old.

I don't have a pic of Brandon and his grandpa, alas. But I'm pretty sure his grandpa took this one of Brandon and his mother on the beach, 1983.

I don’t have a pic of Brandon and his grandpa on hand, alas. But I’m pretty sure his grandpa took this one of Brandon and his mother on the beach (not sure which beach.) 1983.

Happy birthday, Brandon.

And remember that, as much as you look forward to your birthday, there were people looking forward to it months in advance, even before Christmas … starting with the day they got a very special phone call.

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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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