I don’t usually participate in the photo challenges on this blog, I usually reserve that for my Last Train to Qville blog. But I thought the topic was great prompt to tell a family story recently told to me by my mother.
I never knew my grandfather (my mother’s father) because he died when she was 6 years old, but I have been fascinated by him, especially lately, for a number of reasons. My mother has been showing me some of the few mementos and photos of him that she treasures, including his service diary when he was in World War I. He was stationed in Paris, and his love of beauty and art is reflected in the observations he chose to record in his concise and neat penmanship and the souvenirs he saved. His letters to my grandmother were full of little sketches; my mother said he wanted to go to art school someday, but he never had the chance.
My mother has some terrific pictures of him, including one of him in his uniform in front of the Arche de Triumph. I’m privileged to have the toy box he made for my mother as my coffee table. Nothing fancy, but he made it so I treasure it. She won’t let the pictures leave the house, even for me to scan, so unfortunately I can’t show you a picture of him here, but I can try to give you a picture of who he was through words. My mother recently shared a poignant story that I thought I’d share with you about the last time she saw him.
My grandfather died of pneumonia in 1932, when he was not even 35 years old. He had a wife, a son and a daughter. My uncle, who was six years older than my mother, was able to relate the story of my grandfather leaving his childhood home in Indiana and driving his family to Florida for a job prospect during the Depression. Cars were not very rugged back then. Highways were a dream to come in the future; most of the roads were still dirt. My uncle said that often they had to stop the car to roll rocks and boulders out of the way to get through. When they arrived, my grandfather landed a good job at a lumber yard where the owners were pleased with his ability to accurately estimate the amount of lumber needed to translate design plans into finished homes. (I assume that is where he got the wood to build the toy box I have in my living room.) The family had a small home down there with a small yard, so his risk paid off; they were doing well for the time period.
But their prosperity did not last. My grandfather got sick. He was in quarantine in a backyard shed, trying to recover and delirious with fever (I don’t know why no hospital, but perhaps that was only for the rich back then). In 1932, the big news story of the day was the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. My father adored his little girl, and in his delirium, he became convinced someone had kidnapped her.
(I’m not sure how old my mother was in the picture below, but I think she was a pretty child. She let me have this picture because she hates it…she hates the BIG bow!)
My mother was not allowed to go into the shed where he was, but she remembers being told to wave to him through a window so that he could see that she was safe; the thinking was that it would calm him down so he could concentrate on fighting his illness. It gave him relief, but didn’t save him. The last time my mother saw him was through a window, but thanks to her grandmother (his mother) telling her the background to the story years later, she has felt loved and special to him for most of her life. I was happy she shared the story with me.