When we all get together and reminisce, I sometimes find it hard to believe that this family tree of mine ever took root, at least on my mother’s side. That’s not being said to be derisive in any way. My mother’s family was and is lovely in many ways. But there was one member of her family, who, in his own way, could have shattered any hope, of any of the female members of the family, of maintaining a relationship, much less getting married.
Starting with my mother.
Mom tells many stories of the ways in which my grandfather scared many of her boyfriends away; things like coming to the dinner table dressed in my grandmother’s bathrobe and shower cap, or sticking his thumb in a piece of chocolate cake as it was passed by him, only to “see if it was fresh,” or the ultimate story, which commands its own paragraph.
Mom had been invited to Princeton weekend by a young suitor, but before she would be given permission to go, the young man was invited to Friday night dinner at her home. Friday night dinner was always a formal occasion. My grandfather would come to the table in a suit and tie. This particular evening, someone spilled a bit of gravy in front of him. He proceeded to add some salt, pepper and ketchup to the stain, all the while stirring it with a spoon. The young man just stared in disbelief.
Subsequently, while quietly enjoying the repast, he reached inside his jacket, fumbling around the shoulder area, and then took his cufflink off, and promptly pulled his shirtsleeve out of his jacket sleeve. He then proceeded to do the same on the other side. By the time he had finished his antics, he was sitting at the table with nothing but his jacket and tie… no shirt.
Needless to say, not only did my mother never get to Princeton weekend, but she never heard from this young man again. I remain grateful that my father was able to withstand my grandfather’s antics.
Far be it for me to expose the private and very personal lives of my female cousins, because there were, indeed, other “Poppop” interventions. For me, however, my boyfriend met my grandfather under typical circumstances.
My grandparents, like a lot of people from the north, wintered here in South Florida, and were here for Thanksgiving. My boyfriend was a little bit of a prankster and jokester himself, so as we walked up to my parent’s home, I begged him to behave himself. I didn’t want to be embarrassed. We were greeted by my Dad, as usual, by an offer for a cocktail, and took our seats on the couch, opposite my grandfather. After very cordial introductions, my grandfather piped up with, “So, Judith, do you have socks in your bra?” My boyfriend looked at me and calmly asked, “And you wanted ME to behave?”
Less than a year later, my grandfather had the opportunity to meet my soon-to-be father-in-law. You see, not even Poppop was able to scare off my boyfriend. Nor was my grandmother, who tried to fatten him up for the kill by piling food on his plate at every meal.
It was the night of the bachelor party and Poppop had been remanded to the back patio to smoke his cigar. When my father-in-law arrived, my grandfather yelled into the house, “If you want to meet me, you’ll have to come out here. They won’t let me back in the house.” My father-in-law had been warned, but in his sweet, southern gentlemanly way, he started to say, “I’d tell them to go jump in the river.” He never got to finish, as Poppop, once again, tried to impress (or stun) by saying, “I told them to all go pound sand up their asses.”
Yes, we got married. My grandfather danced “The Bump” at my wedding, but sadly, all that’s left are the memories, stories and laughs.
We named our first born after him. I imagine what really took root in our family tree is the love. Today, my mother has four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren (so far), and they all know who Poppop Daniel was… the Patriarch of my mother’s family, who gave us all his wit, his sense of humor and his lust for life, which I believe are three very good elements for growing a family tree.