Tuesday, August 15, 2006

British Ties

I got so caught up in my trip down Memory Lane that I got started thinking about my ancestry. I have a friend who is a Genealogist, and she has been helping me find out about my family. At the moment, we are concentrating on my grandmother on my mother's side. Between L and Jay, we have come up with some neat information, which I am sending on to a cousin, who is the only other member of the family that I know of.

My grandparents were cute. Really. Grandma was about 5'2" tall, and Grandpa towered over her at about 5' 4". They never lost their British accents, which caused my friends to ask me to let them come over and hear Grandma talk. Problem was, Grandma was very shy. It was like pulling eye teeth to get her to say anything in front of "company".

Grandma never learned to drive, and when she and Grandpa went anywhere, she always sat snuggled up next to him in the front seat, like teenagers.

Grandpa was a real firebrand. He had definite opinions, and apparently I got those genes. He used to take me to the zoo, and insisted that I feed the elephant. I was afraid of the elephant. He also took me to the monkey house, and imitated the monkeys, which mortified me. Here was this sily old geezer (who had degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering) jumping around and making monkey sounds.

When I was a teenager, my grandparents moved to Florida, and after my dad died, mother and I went to visit them. They really knocked themselves out to entertain us. Being a teenaged girl, I was hormonal and humiliated by Grandpa's efforts.

We went on a boat trip through the Everglades one day. Grandpa insisted that I sit next to him. It's kind of hard to sit right next to someone on a boat like that and still pretend you don't know him. From the very beginning of the excursion, he did his best to impress me. These days, we call that "acting out", and usually apply it to children. But, Grandpa was a child at heart, I guess. He was a photographer, and spent time standing on the edge of the boat, clinging to the rail with one hand and leaning waaaaaaaay out over the water to capture a photograph of an alligator.

At one point, we stopped at a Seminole Indian village. The natives dressed in their native attire and sold trinkets to the tourists, but the main attraction was the pit where a very large Seminole attempted to put an alligator to sleep. We were told that the Seminoles were the only people in the world who could accomplish that feat. Grandpa took that as a challenge. He said, very loudly, that he could do that. All you had to do was rub its stomach. By the looks on the faces of the Indians, they were considering giving him his chance.

When we left the village, I begged Grandma to sit by him on the boat. She took pity on me, and I then had to sit through a hissed tongue-lashing by mother to the effect that I was an ungrateful wretch, and Grandpa was trying his best to show me a good time, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then, in the middle of Port Everglades, with a huge freighter bearing down on us, the engine of our little sightseeing boat stopped. The driver opened a hatch and started trying to get it started again, but didn't seem to be having any luck. At first, I thought, oh sure, this probably happens on every trip. Scare the tourists out of their wits and then, miraculously, the motor roars into life just before the humongous freighter cuts us in half and sends us to the bottom of the deepest port in the world. However, it became obvious that our driver wasn't having much luck. The freighter loomed ever closer, and finally, Grandpa said, "Here, let me try." And, wouldn't you know it, he fixed that motor. That freighter missed us by inches. I could have put out my hand and touched its side, which made me realize that this hadn't been part of the show.

Grandpa was a hero, and accepted all the thanks of the driver and passengers with amazing modesty. And, when I tried to get Grandma to change seats with me again, she wouldn't.


Alan G said...

Enjoyed the story Betty...

Indeed...I wonder just how many of those "seemingly" embarrassing moments we had to endure growing up that we would gladly give a handsome sum to be able to go back and try it one more time.

Whether 'grandpa' could put that gator to sleep or not...for his darling grandbaby he was willing to give it a try. :)

Kell said...

I bet he could put that gator to sleep, too.

Now tell stories about how grandpa wrote letters and put out pamphlets about the government and grandma was afraid they would deport him.

I like hearing the stories, too.

Tink said...

"And, when I tried to get Grandma to change seats with me again, she wouldn't." Melt my heart! Great memories. I love hearing about this kind of stuff.

saz said...

Oh Betty - PLEASE - PLEASE more Grandpa and Grandma stories. I read this faster and with more excitement than the mysteries I'm reading. I sure hope you have pictures of them to share.

F&W said...

"Indeed...I wonder just how many of those "seemingly" embarrassing moments we had to endure growing up that we would gladly give a handsome sum to be able to go back and try it one more time." - Alan G.

This comment got me all teary-eyed. What a great story, Betty. Please tell more if you have them. We're all ears...um, I mean, eyes.

Betty said...

Tink, Saz, Chelle, Alan, Kelley, I'm glad you like the stories. I really don't think I have much more, as I didn't spend much time with my grandparents on either side of the family when I was growing up. And, believe it or not, I don't know if I have any pictures or not. I'll see what I can find.

Claude said...

I want more stories ;) I love your grandpa!