House of Hawthorne

Pop Pop and The Story of My Life, Such As It Was

Posted on: January 13, 2014

“You gotta take the bad with the terrible,” he used to say. For some reason, that always cheered me up. I knew from the stories my Grandmom would tell, and the way he would say lightly that he had been born in a teacup, that he had known struggle and poverty. By the time I came to know my grandfather, though, he was a great man and had lived an extremely rewarding life. Widely respected is an understatement.

I keep thinking about his memoir. It’s an amazing piece of writing to me. Elmore Leonard says to leave out the parts people skip, and my grandfather certainly did when he wrote the story of his life. It still has his sense of humor, but it is an extremely efficient document. Every single sentence tells a story it would take me pages to write. He moves ceaselessly around the world from Philly to Delaware to Joliet to Saudi Arabia and back through his life for fifteen amazing pages.

One of the most detailed and funniest part of the story is one that reminds me of one I would write. In it he details his early days, working as a very young man in a chilled fur room in a department store. It’s incredible to imagine the future father of my father, future fire chief, future husband to my lovely grandmother Elsie, as a young man working to help support his family,  sitting among these furs, waiting to fetch them for the wealthy of Philadelphia, but there, indeed, he sat.

That he wrote those stories down was such a gift. When he passed away, the outpouring of respect and admiration for the man was felt deeply by all of my family. My father and uncles all got up and spoke of his greatness, and all I wanted to do was get up and say how he was hilarious and silly and brightened up my life for the year I lived with my grandparents. He would walk around the house, singing songs he would make up on the spot. I know I can’t even begin to hope to live such a full life, but I know I can bring that kind of joy to the people around me.

Now I gotta call my grandmother. And probably stop crying at some point.


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