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Ostomy Memories -- Two Grandfathers


During my second UC hospitalization, which lasted three and a half months leading up to my ileostomy surgery, my grandparents were there in the hospital with me every single day, ministering to my needs, bringing me things, schmoozing with the nurses to get them to see me as a real person and not just another faceless patient.
My grandparents died when I was a young man, and I have always missed them terribly, most particularly my grandfather, with whom I was closer. The main regret that I suffer is that we never really talked. We were just grandfather and grandson, living in two different worlds, crossing paths at Sunday dinners.
Time is so fluid, perhaps it is possible that, if I happen to float into the right place at the right time in the grand ontological flux, I can sit down with my grandfather as an equal and have a meaningful conversation. We will both be 78 years old now. Way back when he was old and I was young, we had nothing in common beyond blood and my underachieving father, and it never occurred to me to ask him questions about himself and his life. I was just a self-absorbed kid, and why would he want to bore me with talk about himself? But now, I've become my grandfather. We can converse as equals, share points of view on a level playing field or, at least, a field of the same length.
We could be old men together; what could be greater than that? I remember when he used to sit in his designated chair on the porch, chewing his unlit cigar. Now I do the same thing. Of course, he likely paid a quarter for his stogie, while mine costs twenty-four times that. We can complain about inflation together. He always used to say, “I remember when such'n'such only cost X.” I do the same thing these days. We ought to get along great; we're both cheapskates.
“I see your ears have gotten big, just like mine,” he'll kid me.
“Yeh,” I'll admit, “and more hair in them than on my head, just like you.”
He first became a grandpa during World War II when I was born. But he had a whole, large life leading up to then, his own youth, his own hopes and dreams and, ultimately, his own disappointments. Somewhere along the line, he met and married my grandmother, and they had a long life together. There's just so much that I'd like to know about that past. How did they meet? How did he get into the wholesale meat business? Why did they leave New York and move to Miami? What did he think about all the incredible changes and advances that were taking place all around him as he got older? Who were some of the people that he respected or enjoyed, or disliked, and why? He could tell me all about members of the family that I never even heard about. And did he have a theory about why Aunt Gussie always smelled like beef stew?
I think that the concept of life-after-death is a religious con job, but if there is, I'm going to be looking for my grandfather.

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A very poignant post, Henry. Interesting how we tend not to value our elders until it's too late. (By the way, I find myself looking forward to my daily dose of Henry's Let's Do the Time Warp Again!)

When I was in my twenties, I bought "grandparent books" and handed them out to the grandparents I had left, to be filled out. I am so glad I did that. They are treasures now; they are what I would grab in a fire. My grandfather even went one step further: he typed out his memoirs on his ancient Underwood typewriter that now sits atop of one of our bookcases. It is a fantastic story of growing up in rural England, adventures in the Far East with the British Merchant Marines, becoming an engineer, and then emigrating to Canada with my grandmother, to start a new adventure here. I can't get through it without crying - I miss them terribly. I wish I had been able to do the same thing with my maternal grandparents, who died sooner.

 I am lucky to still have my parents with me, but they, in their mid 80s, are starting to decline. So I take the opportunity to ask the questions, that one day, I won't be able to ask.

Thanks for reminding us that life is fleeting. I agree with you about the afterlife con - removing it allows us to pay more attention to the here and now.



Grandparent books!  What a great idea.  I've written a "What I Did" memoir for my daughters.  Thanks so much for your comment, Laurie.


HenryM, I enjoy your writings very much. You express yourself in such a way that a reader is really drawn in to the scene. I think you should concentrate on this writing pastime in a serious way! You have things to say, and an interesting way of saying them! I'm looking forward to reading about more of your memories!



Ah.....the perverbial "what goes around, comes around story". Awesome.  Yes, I continually notice that I've become both my father and my grandfather.  It's a bit uncanny at times.....but then why would I not?  I broke the chain by not having that's on me.  But it would have been cool to keep it going....just because.  My grandfather liked electronics, among a myriad of other things.  I actually have a reel to reel tape we made together on his front porch one Sunday when I was visiting.  I was 4 or 5 years old at the time.  When I hear him teaching me and my brother how to sing while he plays his's like hopping in a time machine.  He also took home movies.  I just recently had one of my aunts send me a DVD of all the movies she had from him that were transfered to DVD from his old 8mm films.  I had never seen those before and I was amazed that he was actually a young man at one point, and had a life before me.  He and his brother built his brother's house from scratch and it was all on video.  Them clearing the woods, making a foundation out of rocks and boulders, cutting down trees for was incredible!  And I got to see my Mom as a teenager..........and she was HOT!  As was my grandmother!  I guess we forget that everyone gets to enjoy all the stages of life, and that their lives don't start when we start ours.  Henry, I too would love to have a sit down conversation with my grandfather.  I think he'd be as proud of me as I am of him.  After all..........I am him.  Great post..........I think I'll go dig up that DVD and watch it again!  Thanks for that!




That DVD sounds awesome, Bob.  I am truly jealous.  All I have are a few sepia photographs, and they don't go back very far.  And, as I write that, I realize that I have two photos of my g'father in my office where I sit now, on display, both when he was about the age that i am now.  


It's amazing how many things we have in common besides our ostomies. Well, maybe that's because we are people and defined by our lives and not our stomas. I'm one of the oldest so, if I had a memory, I would have the most stories to share. I do have vivid recollections of time spent with my two Grandfathers, one from Czechoslovakia, the other from Poland. One played violin and the other the tuba, mostly in funeral processions. I regret not asking the zillion questions I had. I think I felt like I would automatically have the answers when I got old. I wondered how old I would be when I began speaking broken English. I'm just so satisfied I always treated them with respect thought I don't actually know why. They certainly didn't deserve any other way and I'm not sure I knew of any other way.
Thanks for reminding me, folks.


Thanks so much for your heartfelt comment.  Stay well.


My Grandmother was my best friend. She was an anomaly in her youth. During the war she did work in a factory, I believe making shoes. But she was a free spirit. She took pilot training and flew some kind of a little piper cup airplane which women just did not do. In my early 20s when I was trying to decide if my future husband and I should move in together prior to being married, I went to my grandmother to ask her opinion. She said to me "you don't buy a car without test driving it". For her to think that from her generation born in 1913 was amazing. We had many, many, conversations about her life as a child and as a young adult but unfortunately I did not write all of those things down.  I listen to them and I remember so many of the stories but I did not write anything down. I wish I had given her a grandparent book what an awesome idea. She passed away in 1997. I never had that same relationship with my mother but her grandchildren did. It's funny how grandparents and parents are so different. It is only when the parent becomes the grandparent that they become the same.



Hey Pup, once they gave us grandchildren we forgave our kids for all the dumb things they did growing up.  It seems like our responsibilities to the grandkids are way different from those to our own children.  Maybe it's just the absence of raising them and more fun enjoying them.  If we recognize questionable behaviors we could just blame our kids and laugh about it.  Just kidding but it is really different.



Haha. Definitely agree with that. Sure wish we could raise our own with the same rules but We get in our own way sometimes! 


Sam Levenson once said, "The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they both have a common enemy."  

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