My dad’s father died in 1985 when my dad was twenty-one, eleven years prior to my birth. I never knew “Poppy Bob” and I barely knew “Grandma Lua,” my dad’s mother.
Poppy Bob was a navy man before becoming police officer in town, so well respected (I assume) that after his passing the town named a street after him. He loved photography and was always taking pictures, and that’s pretty much all I know about him and his life.
I’m not even sure how or why he died, although I believe it was a medical reason.
My dad’s mother, Grandma Lua, was alive until 2007 but suffered from Alzheimer’s and a genetic disorder that made her a shell of the person she once was. I have one spotty memory of being at her house when I was very young. My final memory of Grandma Lua is when I visited her in the nursing home towards the end of her life, when she had lost all ability to talk and emote. I was a fifth grader when we buried her, but I lost her much earlier.
The youngest of six siblings, my dad’s family is quite large. There are twenty-three grandchildren on that side and I am the fifth youngest. My cousins are split between those who got to make memories with my Grandma Lua and those who were too young to have any memories, or were born after she passed. I don’t think I fit into any of those categories though.
I mean she was alive for eleven years of my life, but my only memories of her are from when I was maybe two-years-old.
I find lately that thinking about the grandparents I never knew brings me to tears. I’m not quite sure why though.
This week my dad’s childhood home is being sold out of the family. I’d only been to it a handful of times in my younger years for family parties and such and had never felt any particular connection to it, nor would I have recognized it if I drove by. My mom had my dad take my brother and I there for one last look around. A two-bedroom, one bathroom home that once slept my dad’s family of eight is now a modern and newly renovated house.
We were going through a couple of boxes of photographs while there and in that one hour, I learned more about my dad’s childhood and family than he had ever shared himself. (My dad’s not really a sharer.)
I saw pictures of my Poppy Bob in the military, as a police officer, and as a newly wed with my Grandma Lua. My favorite photo has to be the one where they walked out of the doors of the church after they got married. This was a couple I never knew and yet in that moment I felt so close to them because I’ve walked through those same church doors on Christmas Eves, Easter Sundays, and my cousins’ wedding days.
The photos of them show a beautiful young woman and a handsome young man so excited to be with each other. They started a family in these photographs and the family grew and grew and grew until the photographs picture my cousins and brother.
But there were photos from even earlier in their lives, photos of my great grandparents, my grandparents as small children, birth announcements, and school portraits.
In this way I finally met my grandparents; I only wish I could take a photo with them too.