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This is a question Grandparents

My awesome grandad flew in Wellingtons in the war. Damn, those shortages were terrible. Tell us about brilliant-stroke-rubbish grandparents.

Suggested by Buffet the Appetite Slayer

(, Thu 2 Jun 2011, 21:51)
Pages: Popular, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

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I didn't know 3 of them. And I knew the 4th even less.
When my grandmother "Cita" (real name Alice but I never asked about the nickname) died, she shared the same date a beloved scots terrier passed away. I honestly cried far more for a companion I spent many joyful years with than for my father's mother, who I saw as a cranky, mean spirited crone whose only joy in life was making the family wait to open gifts on Christmas Day.

It was a simple rule: no one could open any gift boxes until all immediate family members on the island were under the same roof. Cita wouldn't call from her apartment until some time around noon, and in later years she'd wait until one in the afternoon before saying "I'm ready: come pick me up." The drive wasn't a long one, but when we arrived at the apartment my grandmother seemed to enjoy taking her time, making my brothers and me insensate with boredom as she chatted with M&D before finally standing up and shuffling down to the parking lot and the waiting station wagon. If it was an attempt at reducing materialism among us, it worked very well for me, as I gradually developed indifference to the piles of presents during the annual event.

A decade after Cita's passing found me helping my mother sort through some boxes of possessions. The family had moved to another island and simply dragged everything along, placing the bulk into short term storage while we awaited completion of dad's first "from scratch" house, built directly over the charred remains of the prior owner's home (but that's a story for another time). Opening up one box, I pulled out a folded uniform along with some framed photographs and several yellowed documents. My mother exclaimed, "oh! Cita's uniform! I'm glad we still have that."

"Mom, what was this uniform for?"

"Oh, we never told you! Cita worked with USO in the Pacific for WWII, and helped with the logistics planning and schedules. She met all sorts of movie stars and singers and comedians before they went to entertain the troops. She didn't want her favorite son sent far away, so she pulled some strings and kept your father stationed on O'ahu."

Cue the dropped jaw, wide eyed look. "Wow, that's amazing."

It was the first glimpse of an alternate version of my departed grandmother, and it was as alien as the stunning photograph of the woman in uniform and cap which had been carefully packed along with the uniform and documents - and which I clearly remember had never been displayed in Cita's apartment.

A few more days and a few more boxes later, I came across more of Cita's belongings, including a yellowed stack of letters. I handed them to my mother and she briefly scanned through them saying, "I wonder if. . .oh: it's still here!"

"What's that?"

"The Lindbergh letter."

Oh fuck, here it comes again. "The Lindbergh letter?"

"Yes! She had been traveling across Europe back then and was in Paris the week he made the flight. She thought he might be missing home a bit so she baked him an apple pie and brought it to him the day after he landed. This is the letter he wrote, thanking her for the pie."

It's been less than a week and my image of my grandmother has already been smashed to bits. There was more to come, but not for another 15 years.

Flash forward to 2002. Mom has flown out to Taos, New Mexico and I've driven out to help her locate Cita's final resting place. During the period when her urn was placed in a tiny below ground crypt, there was a scandal involving the local clergy, some under age boys and girls and - well, nevermind. Records were badly kept - if at all - and we were just hoping to find the general area where she might have been interred. As the first day turned to dusk and our eyes blurred from reading what records were available to us, I suggested visiting a restaurant I had noticed during the drive into town. As we approached the entrance, mom said "oh: this was Cita's house. They've done a good job keeping it intact." Yes, I was about to learn more wonderful things about the grandmother I never knew.

The meal was very good and I marveled at how well the restaurant group had integrated the valance lighting system into the very solid, sprawling adobe structure. It actually looked like it had been an original part of the house. Mother quickly corrected me. "Oh no, they didn't add that: that was Cita's original idea for this place. She taught me everything I know about architecture and design - and she hated Frank Lloyd Wright as much as you do."

I rail against the monster, the deity, the cosmic arbiter, whatever or whoever it was that took away the wonderful lady with scores of fantastic life stories to tell her grandchildren and replaced her with the hateful old woman who made it clear she couldn't stand having us around.

The next day, we assemble the best picture of where Cita was interred from the various bits given us, and head over to that part of the church grounds with a metal detector to scan for larger objects. At first I think there's a mistake, as we find a small courtyard with a tree in the center, but as I begin my sweeps, we find a strong return close to the base of the tree.

"There's something down there. Do you think they just forgot they had buried her out here and planted this tree?"

"That's really strange - but it was a chaotic time."

"Want to call this her spot? She'll be one with the tree."

"I think she'd like that."

I hope I'm wrong and the life after death people are right and I'll eventually meet up with Cita some time in the far future. I have in my possession an old band-style ring, fitted with 3 diamonds, 2 of them in a cut style so old jewelers refuse to duplicate that pattern. One of the original stones was lost when the ring slipped off mom's finger while she was washing the dishes: the sparkly replacement is easily spotted and highly incongruous. The ring was given to my father by my grandmother and he gave it to my mother as an engagement ring. The inside of the gold band is inscribed with several Hawai'ian names, and I'm certain Cita knew the story behind them, whether it truly belonged to royalty and was given to settle a debt or if she acquired it through even more fantastic means.

Rest well, Cita.

p.s.: Many fantastic stories here: I have not ever laughed and cried as much over a qotw.
(, Mon 6 Jun 2011, 18:56, 3 replies)
Grandmamas are great.
Cita = Alicita, is my guess. Leaving me wondering, what are the names in the ring?

Click for the story and for being about my current home island.
(, Tue 7 Jun 2011, 9:04, closed)
Indeed they are.
Some of the markings are especially faint, but with bright, white light flooding the room and a magnifying loupe I can make out Kauweka, Kanaloa and something that could be Ally or Cilly, depending on where the delicate loops begin and end. It might well be a longer name: the final letters are nearly illegible and normal wear over the decades might have worn away enough material from the band to alter the engraving. The last one seems strange but as there was a lot of influence from the US, UK and European settlers/explorers during the 19th century (and Russia, too!) you would occasionally see a western name appear among the native population.

I definitely had the home islands on the brain today: as I drove around Colorado Springs with a friend, checking out business properties I asked, "did we just pass a street named Ono Bento?"

My friend said, "that was Oro Blanco."

"Okay, my eyes and brain are playing tricks on me. Still, that reminds me I'm running low on portugese sausage."
(, Wed 8 Jun 2011, 5:09, closed)
Ono bentos and portagee sausage FTW!
And those names might be someone's whole name, or children, or ...? What a mystery for you! Enjoy the genealogy search, if you ever decide to take it up!
(, Wed 8 Jun 2011, 7:03, closed)

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