Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pop, Hugh, Cathy

I guess that if I am chronicling our lives without school, I need to include significant, yet really hard to write about events. There have been a few these last months, and I have been at a loss to put them down in writing. I will try now, since it seems trite to go on posting my knitting pictures as a substitute for what is really going on around here.

Oh, these are also beautiful, sunshine-filled autumn days. We have had a Russian activity week, a Halloween party, walks in the woods and baseball games in the backyard, good times. Along with that though, there has been sadness and mourning.

It feels these days, as though a whole generation of lights is blinking out one by one, much too quickly, as shooting stars barely give you time to gasp in wonder before they are gone. These past few months have seen the passing of one grand lady and wonderful friend the same day as another and my most-favorite great-uncle, Hugh, an amazing soul and mind. Now it has come time, once again, to say good-bye, today to my grandfather.

I cannot find the right words to honor the memories of these three. Cathy was all that is good and sweet and wonderful. She had the ways of a really marvelous grandmother, combined with talents in many areas and a great intellect. She was versed in art and politics and literature, taught first grade for forty years and traveled far and wide. She was very much a part of our family and her absence has left a great hole in our hearts and lives.

Uncle Hugh was an amazing person. He and his brother, my grandfather, were both intellectual, curious, ever-learning and slightly quirky individuals. Whereas my grandfather was very interesting, but mostly cranky to kids under the age of eighteen, Hugh, who had no children of his own and was not obliged to see us very often, was wonderful.

From forever, what I remember most about Hugh was his gentleness. He was soft-spoken and had a good heart. He and my Aunt Babe were completely different from the other adults we knew. They talked to us as though we were adults too and shared stories from their fascinating lives. They had lived in and traveled to a lot of places and done many things, and they knew all about books, my favorite topic in the whole world. I still treasure the copy of "Shirley Temple's Storybook" they gave me when I was young. I used it in college for a fairy tale painting model and I have read it to my children so many times they know it by heart.

My grandfather, not Hugh's brother, but my father's father, was a big part of my life growing up. Pop was funny, he was present. I remember the smell of his great big cars, all plush and cozy.I spent hours at their home, gazing up at the old magnolia tree, drinking 7-up and eating homemade chocolate chip cookies at the big kitchen table. My sister and I would run around the yard, watched like hawks so that we went nowhere near the big street out front. My grandmother would be shelling walnuts on the porch or cooking in the kitchen, always busy, and my grandfather would be up to his elbows in grease working on his car in the garage.

The big question Pop had for me in life was; "Are you Irish or German?" and I remember always forgetting which one I was supposed to answer. I was actually half and half but "Irish" was the right answer.

Though they had always lived in the city, my paternal grandparents made sure we knew where we came from. I heard stories about and frequently visited the family farm, by then held by another relative, but still home.

The most important thing my grandfather ever did, as far as my life is concerned, was to have and raise one great man: my father. Somewhere in his childhood began the roots of who he was to become; a loving, hard-working, generous man who cared enough about his own children to be there for us. Thank you, Pop, for beginning it all.


  1. No remark I could write would come close to what I felt reading your essay. So, I'll simply say this: "Thank you for sharing this with us."

  2. Thank you, Marlis,

    You are appreciated.



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