Well, this post has not even a whit about walking, or nature, but once a year I do honor this Hallmark-type holiday known as “National Grandparents Day” in spirit only, since my last grandparent passed away in 1986. That would be my grandmother, Wilhemina Godard. No one ever called her “Wilhemina” – she was “Minnie” to all who knew her and “Nanny” to me. I’ve written many fond memories about my grandmother and told about the traits we shared: we both were fond of squirrels, gardening and neither of us could cook or bake. Oh – minor correction … my grandmother made a mean pot roast every Sunday and that’s likely beyond my expertise, (unless I try to experiment cooking one in my new crockpot).
You’ll never see warm-and-fuzzy memories about my grandfather in this forum, as he was an old coot and I hated him. Though I’d never had a temper tantrum or “sassed back” to my parents, he was the only person who truly set me off so much that I bit him. Yes, that’s right, the ever-polite Linda Susan Schaub bit her grandfather on the ankle after he criticized the pronunciation of words learned in French class in Grade One. You see, he was born in St. Jerome, Quebec, and, though he had moved to Toronto many years before, never spoke to my grandmother in his native tongue, (nor anyone else for that matter), he considered himself an expert in speaking French. Admittedly, Quebec French and the French we studied in class was different in the way the vowels are pronounced … but, for goodness sake, I was in the first grade, so cut me a little slack!
On that particular day, he was sitting at the kitchen table smoking his pipe and waiting on dinner and asked me “so what subjects are you learning in school these days?” I rattled off some of my classes, among them French, which was a mandatory class in Canada. So he challenged me to say something to him in French and when I responded, he said the teacher was stupid and I was too, as THAT was not French. I was never permitted pouting, outbursts or temper tantrums as a child, so I just took his words, digested them and without batting an eye, as he continued his verbal assaults, I simply slid out of my chair, onto the floor and bit him on the ankle (yes, like I was the family dog who was denied a few tasty table scraps). Then I climbed back onto my chair just as he let out a yelp and cried out “you little bugger – you bit me!” (Really? As if I didn’t know and no, I didn’t draw blood.)
Nanny was tending to the pot roast and quickly wheeled around to see his red face and irate demeanor and me calmly sitting there. In between poking at the carrots and potatoes she asked “Linda, did you bite Omer?” “Yes Nanny – he laughed at me and said I didn’t know how to speak French and I was stupid – so I bit him.” Her response was “okay then, run and tell Mommy and Daddy dinner’s ready.” This story was relayed to me many times through the years.
Omer was a bully and a brute. From the moment I could form words and sentences I was told to call him “Omer” – yes, this irascible man never earned the moniker of “Grandpa” or “Gramps” or “Granddad” … but no big deal, as I adored Nanny and she more than made up for his boorish behavior.
Pictures speak louder than words.
In going through my online photo albums to find some pictures for this post, I came across these two images taken the first year of my life. It is common knowledge that animals have a sixth sense about people and deciding whether they like them or not. Evidently I had that same sixth sense about Omer.
I laughed when I compared these two pictures. The first, likely one of the earliest pictures of Nanny and me; I was all smiles, with my meager amount of hair swirled into a jaunty curlecue. The second picture is a rather sullen me on Omer’s knee, sporting a curlecue just as flat as the expression on my face.
This photo was taken at a cabin where we stayed one night when my father drove my grandparents to Cleveland. Nanny had expressed a desire to see a shrine in Cleveland and my grandparents didn’t have a car, nor did they drive, so we took a weekend trip. Taking a closer look at my face reveals a wrinkled-up nose, most likely from the big, fat cigar resting between Omer’s fingers. Once again, there was no happy-go-lucky grandfather here and my grandmother, on the other side of the shot, looked like she just tolerated being there. Mom wore a blasé look with a wan smile and there I was, clutching my favorite doll “Tilda Jane” and hating the cloud of cigar smoke that wafted into my face. My father, took the photo and, as usual, managed to take a picture of the cabin wall and sliced off part of Mom’s head and Nanny’s arm.
The header image, which I would be wont to entitle “Grumps, not Gramps” was the last picture of my grandparents, taken in the late 60s, shortly before he died in April 1969 – I hated him even more, as he died just days before my birthday where I was turning into a teenager and he messed up my big day – at 13 years old, birthdays were big stuff … now not so much.
Good things come in small packages.
It is hard to remember a time when I was shorter than my grandmother. I was a tall child, and grew to 5 feet 9 inches (175.26 cm) tall once I reached my teens. I towered over Mom and Dad, who were 6 and 7 inches shorter than me respectively. I grew like a weed and my grandmother seemed to shrink each time I saw her.
This photo was taken in 1983 of the two of us in Nanny’s backyard.
As I flipped through the old photos, they evoked many good memories. It turns out I finally found one picture where I was not the one towering over Nanny, though even when I knelt, I came close to her chest as you see below. She was posing in front of her prized Hollyhocks.
Happy Grandparents Day to those to whom it applies. I know it is especially tough this year as visits and well wishes may only be done by phone or Zoom or FaceTime. Hang in there – hopefully brighter days are ahead.