I couldn’t write this series of eight stories without telling you about my grandparents.
My grandfather was born in 1920, and my grandmother in 1925, so when the U.S. joined World War II in 1941, they were both young adults. Grandpa was hired right out of college as an engineer to work on projects for the military. Like many young women, grandma took a factory job for the war effort. Grandpa first spotted grandma working on the factory floor where he was employed as an engineer, thought she was cute, and they were married a month later.
My grandparents’ story is a true love story. Not many people get a story like theirs. They were in love for over 60 years, and they really lived in their own world together.
My grandparents came from somewhat different backgrounds; grandma had grown up in the big city (Baltimore), and grandpa had lived in a small town in New Jersey.
Grandpa was an only child, raised by his maternal grandparents, who owned a small store. He worked in the deli of their store, and because of his experiences in that store, chose to be a vegetarian for the rest of his life. Grandpa’s parents owned and operated a business school, and they didn’t seem to spend much time with him.
Grandma grew up with three sisters, and she had tons of cousins and other relatives around in Baltimore. It was quite different from grandpa’s childhood. Unlike grandpa, grandma had a major sweet tooth; she couldn’t get enough chocolate!
There’s a family story that my grandma grew up eating only canned food, and it was a big surprise to her when my grandfather’s family cooked pasta for her – it didn’t come out of a can!
Grandpa bought a tiny house in Annandale, Virginia, which was farm country at the time. Grandma was quite dismayed and annoyed to be moving out to the middle of nowhere. For those of you familiar with Northern Virginia, you know that it didn’t stay that way for long.
My grandparents had two children together, and when the kids were young, they needed a bigger house. With his own two hands, grandpa expanded the house to double its size. Even knowing my grandfather’s genius, it always amazed me that he was able to take on a project like that.
Grandpa’s lifelong project was his organ, which he built entirely from scratch. He carved the woodwork himself; he did all of the many miles of electric wiring and complicated electrical circuits. It was a true marvel, giving him the ability to control dozens of musical instruments from its keyboard, including drums, bells, and instruments I couldn’t begin to name.
Grandma was a talented artist. She loved painting gorgeous seascapes, landscapes, and birds using acrylic paints, and the walls of her house were covered with her work.
Most summers my grandparents traveled across the country in their Winnebago together and came back each fall to tell us about magical places like Mount St. Helens, the National Petrified Forest, and Banff, Canada.
For high school, I chose to go to a magnet school that was 47 miles from home, but only a few blocks from my grandparents’ Annandale home. Every so often, I spent the night at their house as a respite from my long commute. Grandma made me spaghetti every single time, and grandpa spent the evening watching the news. They loved their routine. Right after supper, grandpa would go back to the tv, and grandma and I would talk at the kitchen table for a while. She always asked how school was going, and if I had my eye on any cute boys. It makes me chuckle every time I think of it.
I was one of those lucky people who had my grandparents in my life for a very long time. My grandmother passed away in 2011, and my grandfather just in 2016. With so much time to ask them questions, I now wonder why I asked so few.