Tearful Goodbyes

Because Brian and I lived so far away from our grandparents, they always arranged to spend summers by travelling north to stay with us on on Lake Minnetonka.

Since our family had moved twice, once more than they had ever done in their whole lives, it was probably difficult for our grandparents to see us as much as they wanted to. Dad was the driving force behind that. It was all part of the Family Project. Mom’s folks, Raymond and Mamie, brought their camper (the photo of Grandma Adams at left is probably from the summer after our arrival in 1971, but could be as late as 1972). Dad’s parents, Paul Sr. and his wife Hazel, drove up in their station wagon, or occasionally flew in and we picked them up at the airport.

Grandma Maupin was quiet and demure. I think she was my favorite, since she also liked to read and always asked me about my books. “How many of these have you read already, Michael?” she said when she saw the two-tier bookshelf in my bedroom. She loved mysteries, and for one birthday bought me a hardcover copy of Alfred Hitchcock mystery stories.

Paul Senior, our chain-smoking, truck-driving grandfather, loved nothing better than to get down to the boat dock and do some fishing. He always had an easy smile—I never remember seeing him cross or flustered.

My mother’s side of the family was more regimented. Grandpa Adams was a tinkerer and shutterbug. Both he and my grandmother Mamie had to be on some sort of schedule: trips had to be arranged and some sort of day’s agenda presented—entirely the opposite of the Maupin contingent. This meant it was pretty rare for the folks to entertain both sets of grandparents at the same time.

Grandma Adams, whose maiden name was Magee, formed my Irish side. As mentioned, she and Raymond groused often. He took it amiably, which is as much to say he survived her by another 20 years. They arrived in their camper, we hooked up the power and they slept, ate and played Monopoly with Brian & I in the camper in our driveway.

Grandpa loved to make the rounds with Dad, joining him on trips to the hardware store or hitting auctions or garage sales. Grandma was happy to stay at home and be with her daughter. Once my brother and I stopped in to say hi and, as we were leaving she said, “Don’t be surprised if you find me stone-cold dead when you get back!” That’s the way she was, so Brian and I used to laugh it off.

We liked having grandma and grandpa around, but there was always that point—an awkward, wrenching moment—when they had to leave.

Preteens squirm like stuck beetles at public displays of affection, and grandma and grandpa’s departures, always in the driveway in full view of all our neighbors, pained me and my brother. Now that I’m older, I see it completely for what it was: it would likely be months before we’d see each other again and so they never knew if it would be the last time they’d ever see us alive.

Morbid, but understandable.

Grandma Maupin was the first to die, of colon cancer, before I graduated high school. Grandma Adams was next, in 1981, of a heart attack. The men outlived the women by a span of nearly two decades.

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~ by completelyinthedark on May 22, 2011.

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