All of my great-grandparents immigrated from Europe. My mother’s grandparents immigrated from Ireland and Germany. My other grandparents were of German extraction. I feel fortunate that all of my grandparents were alive when I was born. Let me tell you a little about them.
My paternal grandfather worked in the Dunkirk locomotive factory and retired with great difficulty hearing, related to the noise in the factory. I saw him as stern once I learned what the word meant. Mostly I saw him as presiding over his family from his armchair in the living room. He could be generous but was also quite opinionated.
My paternal grandmother was diabetic and her breath seemed sour. She had everyone’s best interest in mind but had strict opinions which did not seem to be open for discussion. One example was her view that fresh-baked bread, coffee cake should not be eaten right out of the oven but should sit overnight first despite their captivating aroma.
I remember once when I was still young and they set out on a trip to visit each of their children and their families. They stayed at each house long enough for my grandfather to build a sandbox for the children and for my grandmother to knit slippers for each child.
My maternal grandfather was born in the hills just south of Belfast, NY on a farm full of fossil rocks. I wondered how anything could grow there. He made his way to college and ended up as a druggist. He was very kind and understanding. At his funeral, someone wondered if he had ever been angry. One of my relatives recalled a time when one of my uncles was chasing another through the house. He got out of his chair meaning to catch them and remind them of the house rules. Then he sat back down laughing, realizing he could not catch them.
My maternal grandmother acted like everyone’s mother. She made everyone she met feel loved. For some reason, she did not want to drink alcohol in the sight of company. She would get a beer from the refrigerator, close the kitchen door and enjoy her drink I private. Well, almost in private. When I visited her house, even as a young child, she invited me into the kitchen and offered me a sip of her beer.
All of my grandparents lived at least until I reached my teens. I will address their deaths later.