Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No Milky Ways

We were visiting them, one of our few annual trips back home.  My family only lives several hours away, but it might as well be across the country.  We don’t get home very often.

We always make sure we see my grandparents.  They live in the country, in the house that Granddad lived in when he was small.  They are in their mid-90s.  Grandma bakes and does laundry and walks up the flight of stairs in their home every day.  Granddad tends his garden which is down a flight of stairs in the other direction.

Their vitality amazes me, but it shouldn’t.  They have a lot of strength and a lot of health in their bodies.

We sat in the living room, chatting about life and the people we all know, and some of the people that they know and I only know through conversations we’ve had over the years.  The kids sat on the floor and rolled around on the carpet like my brothers and cousins and I did when we were young.  They wandered to the dining room where candy sat waiting in covered bowls, to the kitchen where treats are displayed in the open, boxes of cookies and fresh baked cookies and bags of candy and salty snacks and other goodies we don’t have at home.

"Do they want milk?"  Grandma asks.  "We have milk, or if they want soda, I think there’s some out there."

The kids come into the living room chomping on little bite-sized candy bars, each wrapped in silver.  I can’t resist one.  After all, we are at Grandma and Granddad’s house.  You can’t leave without your fill of sugar.

“What’d ya get?”  Granddad asks me.  He’s interested in my candy.  “Milky Way,” I respond through my caramel-fused teeth.

“Ohhhhh, I can’t eat those,” he says, shaking his head. “I had too many of them once.”

“Why not?” we all asked, except for Grandma.  She knows this story.

“We were on a boat in the war, picking up some guys to bring them back from where they were.  There were boxes of Milky Ways on the boat for us to eat.  I ate Milky Ways all day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I got sick on the boat.  I haven’t been able to eat ‘em since.”  He shakes his head again, rubs the top of his scalp and closes his eyes against the memory of being on a boat in the ocean in his 20s, sick as a dog, with only candy bars to settle his stomach.

I had never heard this before.  I knew Granddad was in the war, knew where he went, but over the years my memories had faded.  I definitely had not heard this detail about his life in the 1940s.  My husband and I asked questions: what did you do, where did you go, how long was the boat trip, who were the guys you were picking up, what year was it, did you really only have candy bars to eat?

I hate to admit that some of the details of that story are lost in my mind again.  I should remember them; that day, my family and I said very little as Granddad talked about his experience and answered our questions about his time in American history.  We were in the presence of a national treasure, one of the diminishing group of veterans from World War II.  Probably my husband would remember.  I can certainly call Granddad and ask him to tell me that story again.  I could write it down.  I should write it down.

But one thing is certain: I will never forget that Granddad can’t eat Milky Ways.


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This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It
Post #4: Something your grandfather told you.
Click the button to visit Mama Kat's Writing Workshop for more on this topic and others this Thursday!

39 comments:

  1. Write it down write it down write it down! Ask all the other questions you can think of and record those answers, too. My grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles were mostly gone by the time I became interested in family history and it was too late for us. :(

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    1. I know. I hate that I don't remember ALL the details. Thank you!

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  2. I love these stories. I wish I'd talked to my grandmother more. About her experiences in Malaya during WWII. It's too late now, sigh.

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    1. It's hard even when you have the opportunity because how do you monopolize a 95-year-old and ask them to talk about their past when you only see them two or three times a year?

      I need to go home more.

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    2. My grandma told me all the stories I wanted until the day she left us at 92 years. She loved the story telling and I guarantee your grandpa does also. This is how history is kept alive. Please keep it going Andrea.
      PS: WWII rationing meant my grandparents invited company over Sundays to share a can of SPAM with cloves pushed in and baked as if it where a ham baked in the oven. We are truly spoiled these days.

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    3. We are spoiled, and we don't even know it, do we? Until we hear someone talk about life during those times.

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  3. Oh, this made me a little teary. My grandfather, also a WW2 vet, passed away a little over three years ago. I loved when he would tell us stories, and I wish I could remember more of them.

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    1. I know. I was tearing up just writing this. I love my grandparents.

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  4. What a wonderful and sweet post. It brought back memories of sitting with my Grandpa, who passed a few years ago. I wish now that he was around for my boys, in particular, to hear his stories...they would be fascinated. Though, thankfully, I do remember some, and need to make more of a point to pass them on... Thanks for the reminder. :)

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    1. Thank you, Jessi. My kids like the stories, but they are too young to really be interested in them, as I was when I was their ages. When I was a kid my favorite stories were mostly about all the terrible things my mom and her brothers did to each other when they were kids. :)

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  5. I know I should talk to my grandparents more about their lives and experiences. I want to. I love these stories, and I know I'll be so sad when I can't hear them anymore.

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    1. I love their stories, and regret that I live so far away. Because someday I will want to hear these stories over and over, and I won't be able to.

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    2. And I think I just repeated what you said. :)

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  6. Thank you for sharing.

    The elderly are treasures: treasures we need to discover, and share.

    Thank you for sharing about your grandfather. It really made my day to read.

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    1. You are so right, and I'm so glad this eased your day a little. Love to you, still. xoxo

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  7. I'm a smidge jealous that you've still got your sweet grandparents in your life :) Mine are all gone. I LOVED having conversations just like this with them. I can just picture him rubbing his head. Going back in his own mind. beautiful Andrea.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sarah. I've always loved hearing stories about older peoples' lives, imagining their experiences as they talked, what aspects are similar and different to life today. I love peeking into the past this way.

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  8. Oh that is SO too bad for him, they are so good! ha!

    I love that you can still visit with your grandparents like this and that your kids can know them. My husband's grandparents are 96 and still living together and I am so happy that my children will have memories of them!

    Love this! :)

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    1. Milky Ways ARE so good, he missed out all these years. :)

      Wow - your grandparents are doing well too! How wonderful! It is great that our kids will have memories of my grandparents, I never even thought of that. I have memories of my great-grands; two of my great-grandmothers lived to see 101.

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  9. Definitely write it all down! There is so much I wish I had known to ask while my grandparents were still alive. Lovely story.

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    1. Thank you Kristin! I should write down more stories.

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  10. This is beautiful! How wonderful for you that you have your grandparents and they are able to tell you such amazing stories.

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    1. Thank you MJ! They are very dear people and have lots to tell.

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  11. I beg you to write it down...all of my g-parents died young except for my mamaw who passed away 6 yrs. ago at 78. I am sad that I didn't write it down. I love the picture of your grandpa! What a blessing it is for you to still have your grandparents. Great post!

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    1. Thank you - I love that picture of him too. So sorry that you've lost your Mamaw - I hope you have good memories of her.

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  12. My grandpa, also a WWII vet, only seemed to have 3 stories, which he told over and over and over again. Since we'd already heard them, many times over the years, we all cringed a little when he'd get started on one of his longer ones.

    When everyone realized the cancer was going to win, I went out to say goodbye to him. He told a new story! It was very sweet and wonderful and makes me miss him all the more now. There were so many more things in that wonderful brain of his that I never knew.

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    1. I love that he told a new story at the end of his life. I think that the reason why the stories are new to me is that I live far away and don't see my grandparents often. I wonder how many of those stories are repeated? I wonder which ones I will repeat when I am old?

      So sorry to hear about your Grandpa. I'm glad you had the opportunity to say goodbye.

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  13. I miss my grandparents so much and my grandfather was a huge sugar pusher. I wish I would have been old enough to appreciate him when he was alive (and write down stories). Unfortunately he passed away when I was in my early 20's and I was so self absorbed I thought of most visits as obligatory.

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    1. My grandparents are huge sugar-pushers, too, and my cousins and I are all addicted to candy, pies, cookies, and cake. Not coincidentally, I think.

      I sometimes think about all the years that have passed that I didn't spend time with them, and wonder if I will regret not making more of an effort to see them.

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  14. I have so many regrets about not writing down things my great grandfather told me. He died in 1990 at 95. My husband's grandmother is 95 now and I feel impelled (ha!) to take notes whenever she opens her mouth. And isn't it funny how the simplest thing will stick with you forever and you know you'll never forget it even amid all the other things you've forgotten?

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    1. I like to remember the simple things, especially if they're off the wall or a little detail that ordinarily might be missed. It makes the story more personal and makes me feel closer to that person, even if they're gone or far away. You are smart to write down what your husband's grandmother says.

      Very nice use of impelled. I must think of more uses for it.

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  15. This reminds me so much of my Grandfather...oh how I miss him. He had stories like this. It really is a treasure to have him around - give him a hug for me and my Grandfather, OK?

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  16. Love it! My dad has a similar story, only it was with white chocolate while coming back from Korea.

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    1. No way?! I don't blame him. White chocolate is definitely not my favorite.

      That is funny - what a coincidence!

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  17. This is beautiful! Your post has me thinking about little stories my grandparents told me - and how I wish I had written them down at the time.

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    1. Thank you! All those little stories... I wish our grandparents were bloggers. :)

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  18. Oh take my advice. Write it down. All of those little stories that you feel will be there forever can be gone in a blink and you wish so hard you had them back.

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    1. I really need to take everyone's advice here. If I was smarter I'd have done it years ago. Thank you!

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