Warren Charles Plauche',MD
I never had viable grandparents, although all four were living until I was grown. My father's parents lived in Brooklyn, New York, and I was on Long Island, but there was considerable bad feeling between him and them so we saw them only on State Occasions every several years. They had been separated since before I was born and I never heard them exchange a single word, although they sat on opposite sides of my aunt's Thanksgiving table. My grandmother supposedly disapproved of my parents' union, so they eloped two months before their planned wedding day, but always celebrated the official one. I have heard that she tried to break up their marriage even after my brother was born, but since I was not there and he, being six months old at the time, is an unreliable source, I don't know if it's true. Everyone who would know is now dead.
My cousin once told me that our grandmother taught her to knit and crochet and to this day, she said, she can do those things better than most people. I was fond of my grandmother but kept it to myself because I knew better than to express an opinion about anything which differed from my father's. My grandfather taught my brother to play chess, but since I was younger and female, he paid me little attention. He did write poems for me on all my childhood birthdays though, Edgar Guest-like rhymes on yellow cap, tucked into a card.
My mother's parents lived in California when I was born but moved to Ohio several years later. We visited them once, when I was seven, but I never saw them again until I went to college in Florida, where they were then living. My parents were more concerned with preserving my chastity than improving my mind, so I was shipped off to the least of the universities that accepted me because my mother's parents, two brothers and sister all lived nearby. I guess they assumed that this extended family would supervise my social life as stringently as they had to keep me "marriageable." To my relatives' credit, they didn't.
I adored my grandparents although I never felt as much a part of their family as my many Florida cousins who had known them all their lives. Every Tuesday, I took two buses from my dorm to my grandparents' house and we walked to Tyler's, their favorite neighborhood restaurant, for the Early Bird Special at 5:00. My grandfather would throw open the door and yell, "This is my granddaughter! Isn't she beautiful?" And every time, my grandmother rebuked him, "Charles, lower your voice." He would pull out my chair, grinning as he announced loudly, "I can't hear you, Daisy. I turned off my hearing aid." On their 50th wedding anniversary, he gave her a solid gold bracelet with large disks for each of their four children, engraved on the back with the names of the grandchildren. The largest disk said, "For 50 years meritorious service." He presented it to her at a large family party, and she read the inscription and threw it at him.
It has not escaped my notice that I have no grandchildren, although my three children are now adults with many qualities that would surely enrich another generation. But I only today put together this lack with the fact that I also lacked most of the experience of having grandparents, and I can't figure out what this means. No doubt some of you will dispute that it means anything at all, but I cannot believe it is random. Like any parent, I want my children to be happy in whatever way suits them. And while I would love to be a grandmother, it is absolutely, categorically, massively not about me. But it seems strange that I have thus far missed out on the grandparent issue from both ends if there is not a connection.
My brother knew all our grandparents better than I did because he was the only child in both families until he was six, when I was born, and he has eight grandchildren on both sides of the Atlantic. Did knowing his grandparents make it possible for him to be one someday? Was the die really cast all those years ago, when I was still a child myself? If I had known my grandparents better, would I now be swimming in grandchildren too?