Grandad Merlin and Grandma Betty

September23

My Grandma died recently (on my mom’s ), she was 98 years old. She had been in a memory care unit for many years, had escaped covid once when it killed her roommate, survived covid when she got it later, and had a stroke a few weeks before she died which robbed her of her speech. It was a peaceful death and it was time. I was happy that my mom and sister got to be by her side. They even were able to give her a few bites of ice cream (which she loved).

My Grandad died when I was in high school… I was set to take the SAT or ACT and remember my mom trying to pretend everything was ok as I left to take the test very early in the morning (I knew). They were amazing people and I love them very much. I was very close with both of them.

Some thoughts and memories…

Lindsey and I visited my grandma in Florida in 2016 (after a trip to Key West for work). My mom was there for some reason and we had a good time going to grandma’s favorite beach, playing scrabble, getting orange ice cream, etc. My grandma’s memory issues were always fun as she loved sweets and she would say “ooh we should get some ice cream” or “hey look there is a fudge shop”, and that would happen again a few minutes later :) (in many ways like my wife minus the memory issues!). Grandma would also ask me who the woman was in the back seat every so often (Lindsey). And, then she would congratulate me once she found out it was my wife :). She was very sweet and I loved it when she called me her “sweet patoey”.

We drove an hour to get an orange/vanilla ice cream swirl from a specific shop on that trip (the closer shop had closed years ago). The orange ice cream was made with real Florida oranges and the best thing in the world. I have fond memories of my grandad driving my brother and me to get orange ice cream after a day at the beach. We would get in the VW camper van seats, sit on these scratchy rough blankets that covered the seats, or these big wooden beads they had on the seats in the front to help his backs. The van smelled like sand and sun lotion (and occasionally like dead crabs that my brother and I had hidden in a pale). My grandad smelled like home with a mix of safety, love, and dependability. If I close my eyes I swear I can still remember that smell and the feelings it creates. It makes me tear up.

  • I remember my grandad getting out a big tin when I was little. It rattled and was heavy… and I was sure it was treasure! When he opened it it was full of coins. My brother and I helped him put all the coins in the coin sleeves and we used the money to go to Bush Gardens. I remember a baby chimpanzee in diapers that I wanted to take home. I also remember my grandad and mom running after the little train that dropped us off at the parking lot as Nick and I were still on it and the driver had decided to leave (also this was the moment when I cognitively realized as a kid that my mom was similar to a female gorilla in that she had the strength to rip someone’s arms off if they messed with her babies).
  • I remember being in the VW van on the way to getting ice cream and grandad telling me it was about to rain and to watch the cloud in front of me on the highway. Sure enough, I could see a wall of rain coming, it hit the car, and then minutes later was gone as we exited that little rain cloud. It was magical.
  • I swear I saw my grandad in Valencia in 2020. I was biking on this one stretch and off in the distance I saw him. There is a neighborhood on the beach that has these houses with white walls like their house in Florida and he was dressed like my grandad, white hair like my grandad, and similar mannerisms. I still think it was him. I look every time I bike past on that route, wondering if he will be there.
  • I lived in Florida for a bit and would visit my grandma. We would play scrabble (her early memory issues didn’t seem to impact her ability to kick my ass at scrabble). Grandma would pull out chocolates she hid in the lining closet for me, and a little Ouzo as we played. We often would challenge each other’s words and had the dictionary on hand. We would watch TV as it got late and I remember watching the Sound of Music with her (one of my favorites).
  • As a kid my grandma’s gold bracelets were magical. They would rattle and she would shake them. They were thin gold bracelets that grandad had bought her from around the world. One of my favorite things was to ask my grandma where they were all from and she would tell me this one is from an island on Greece or Egypt etc… I think it made me want to travel and see all these magical places my grandparents had been.
  • I remember traveling with my grandad and grandma in that VW camper when I was little. I remember sitting in the front seat with my grandma while grandad took a nap in the back. I remember her face looking very intense and she swerved that van all the way into the other lane and then back and then made the van wiggle a little bit. My grandad yelled with alarm from the back and apparently, my grandma had seen a snake sunning itself in the other lane and she took it out (she didn’t like snakes). She was also worried it might be on the wheel when she got it out so she made the car shake a little bit. My grandad didn’t seem to think it was funny as I did but his eyes seemed to be laughing (I don’t know how old I was, maybe 7?). I remember on that trip he lovingly grumbled and called her “speedy gonzola” a lot. I remember eating with them at a park and not finishing my sandwich and being full, and they told me kids didn’t have enough to eat somewhere else so I told them they should mail it to them. They thought that was funny and they both had amazing laughs. I remember traveling with them and staying on military bases (since my grandad was a vet). I got to see amazing airplane museums, soldiers, and PXes (or whatever they are called). I remember my grandad getting cranky sometimes after a long day in the car. But never for long. He always wanted to stop and find a place for the VW camper that had a pool. After a while, he would always play with us once he got in the water for a bit. He loved the ocean and even as a kid I would think about why he loved it so much.
  • I loved my grandparent’s house. My brother and I would play in the bushes with lizards all around. We had this amazing tree in the front that was perfect for climbing. We would buy plastic bows and arrows and chase each other around the bushes shooting at each other. Or with ninja turtles or these mech figures in the front yard having battles. My grandad had fruit growing in the back that smelled amazing. The grass was different too than in Fayetteville, it felt sharper but also like a carpet, and nothing bite me in the grass (unlike Arkansas). In the evenings we would all walk along the sidewalks around the neighborhood.
  • I remember taking the bus from Arkansas to Florida one time. I had just had my birthday but I am not sure which one, maybe 7, 8, or 9? My mom took us the entire way and since I was the oldest I had to sit with the stranger. I remember playing ninja turtles with a kid on the floor for a long time. I fell asleep on a nice black man’s shoulder somewhere around Memphis. I remember seeing TVs that took quarters in the bus stop (like you put in a quarter and then could watch something on a super small screen). I remember seeing people on TV like striped prison uniforms, although I am not sure why at the bus station. I wonder why we went by bus.
  • I remember all the seagulls at the beach. Sometimes grandad would give us bread and let us fed them, throwing in the air for them to catch in a mid-air glide.
  • I remember Tarpon Springs and eating greek food. The waitress would give Nick and I a special drink with a small plastic pirate sword with red cherries impaled on it. Nick and I would eat greek bread and butter and tomatoes/cucumber/feta salads (so good). I would order shrimp as it was the one time I ever got to eat them. I remember getting a toy in Tarpon springs when we visited, often the bow and arrow sets, sometimes a plastic head of a dinosaur or bird on a pole that bit people, etc… cheap plastic fun :).
  • I remember every restaurant was a bit of a nice fight between my mom and grandad about who was going to pay.
  • When we visited them in Florida I remember playing a lot of Uno. Good memories as a kid :)
  • I loved making my grandma laugh, she had a great laugh. We got along well.
  • My grandparents would often visit us at Christmas. I remember the last time before my Grandad got pancreatic cancer as there was a snow storm coming and they decided they better leave before it hit. My grandad gave great hugs, strong hugs, and I miss him. My grandma was a great hugger too.
  • When I lived in Florida I visited my grandma. I remember how nice it was to sit and play scrabble and just be in a state of contentment. We didn’t really talk about anything, sometimes she would ask me about work or other things. But mostly we just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a good feeling.
  • My grandparent’s relationship with each other is a model I treasure. They seemed to love each other so much. They were always smiling at each other, they joked with each other, they would hold hands when they walked, and I loved their grandparent kisses. As a kid, it felt like they were Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause. After my parents got divorced I swore I would never involve myself in a romantic relationship as a kid. It didn’t seem worth it and everyone seemed so miserable. I didn’t lift that vow until I had a serious medical issue early in college that made me reflect on life/death a bit more. I decided then I should try fun stuff like drinking, drugs, adulting, women, etc… And, I don’t think I would have ever entered into a relationship/marriage without the optimism and faith my grandparent’s relationship inspired.

I miss them both :)

P.S. My mom sent me all the countries from my grandma’s bracelets I used to listen to her tell me about:

I found a list Grandma made of all the countries her bracelets were from:
Mykonos
Greece
Egypt
Portugal
Spain
Germany
France
Holland
Austria
Turkey
Italy
Finland
Mexico
Scotland
Lebanon

 

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This is bwb’s personal blog so he can share his thoughts with the world, however scary or silly they might be. Plus family and friends can track what I am up too, and where I am in the world.

I am pretty simple. I love Mangos. I love the ocean, although mostly at sunset as I’m a ginger. I love to travel, eat exotic food, read, and use my imagination. I love creating and developing ideas into businesses, understanding how all businesses work, and building cool stuff. I am a globalist and see the entire world as my responsibility and playground. And, I am married to an amazing woman who makes life even more fun :)! And, we are now the proud parents of Calico Jack :).


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