A Grandfather’s Touch

Hello I am new to the course and I am trying to write a Memoir about a very tragic time in my life please read my writing from lesson 1 and provide feedback.

 

 

It all started with a touch. A touch that seemed accidental at the time. You know one of those brushes in passing or not looking where your going.

I had always considered him to be the most important person in my life. When no one else cared Papa did. He always seemed to pull up to the house when my eyes couldn’t possibly cry anymore. He knew that I needed him and he was always there. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he touched me.

I remember being in the kitchen at my grandmothers house sitting on a wooden stool aching from the raise of the wood on its seat. everyone liked this particular stool and would race to the kitchen to sit in it first. My grandmother was cooking lamb chops and prepping her famous Macaroni and cheese. I knew I would be getting the boot soon because she was dedicated to keeping her recipe a secret. before I made it to the crust Papa walked in to the kitchen and hollered “hey grands” like he always did. We all lined up to give Papa his kiss on the cheek. I was 4th in line, right behind my cousin Yari. She needed Papa just as much as I did. When it was my turn I jumped up with excitement on my tip toes and said “hello Papa” when I leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek I felt it. The touch. My body froze and my sandwich hit the floor. I quickly snapped out of my state picked up my sandwich and placed it in the trash.

Papa continued you speak as usual and grandma hollered at me about dropping food on her floor. My ears were muffled but I could tell she was speaking to me. It never left me. I could still feel it on my breast as if he was still there. I knew it was an accident but something about it frightened and confused me.

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Three Times a Lady (pls comment) Lesson 1 Exercise

Pls note: written in British English – hence spelling you may not recognise if you are from the USA. This memoir feels like the speed version and could definitely be filled out…but…it’s my first attempt, so I hope to have some feedback. 🙂

Three Times a Lady

“You know Lou, you never get over losing your mother”. My mother had said this to me more than on a few occasions as I was growing up.

I distinctly remember walking into the kitchen one day, my mother at the sink with her back to me, the radio blaring as it always did when she was in one of her dinner party cooking frenzies. This day, The Commodores were on the radio. ‘Three Times a Lady’ was playing and she said it again. “You never get over losing your mother Lou. It doesn’t matter how much time passes you know.  Your Nana really was three times a lady.”  Whenever that song played, she’d always speak of my grandmother with such love and conviction.

The ‘teenage me’ most likely rolled her eyes (which I did at most of the things my mother said at that time), and wandered off, thinking yeah, yeah. I never imagined that I would experience how it would feel to lose your mother in just a few short years.

I met my grandmother for the first time when I was 8 years old. She and my grandfather arrived in Australia from the UK to visit. About 2 months into the visit, my grandmother had a stroke, paralysing her right side and affecting her speech. She remained in a wheelchair, unable to speak until she died two years later.

My grandfather refused to take her back to the UK when she got sick, saying she’d die immediately due to the cold. My grandmother cried every time anyone ever mentioned the UK, unable to express her frustration, as she could no longer speak. My mother always remarked bitterly that her father simply used it as an excuse to stay in Australia, as he had always wanted to do. The young, child me, didn’t understand the hostility my mother had towards her father, and as young children often do, didn’t question it. It wasn’t until many years after my own mother had passed away, that I really understood what my mother was talking about when she would say my grandmother really was ‘three times a lady’.

Having travelled through my twenties and spent time in the UK, getting to know my family and my mother’s sisters, I was slowly able to form a picture of my mother’s childhood. Or should I say, the not so shiny side. My mother always told wonderful, funny tales of her childhood, and the adventures and mischief she and her best friend (Auntie Anne) got up to. My Auntie Anne followed her to Australia, and I grew up with her and her family as part of my extended family. I didn’t really know my ‘blood relatives.

But once I headed to the UK as a young adult, I loved talking to my aunts and hearing about their collective childhood through their eyes. That is, growing up in England in the 1940s in a single parent family of five daughters.

As it turned out, my mother’s, and grandmother’s story was essentially that of Frank McCourt’s. McCourt is the author of “Angela’s Ashes”. Ever read the memoir? Or seen the movie? Well my mother’s story was almost identical. The marked difference being that my grandmother, fortunately didn’t need to prostitute herself to put food on the table as did McCourt’s mother. She was fortunate enough to find work and worked hard. She was an incredibly strong Irish woman, who brought up five girls on her own in wartime England after her drunkard husband had taken off when the youngest was not much more than 12 months old. My mother would have been around three at the time.

I can only imagine the challenges of bringing up five girls in wartime Europe as a single mother, having lost a sixth daughter to meningitis as a ten month old baby. My grandmother really did endure hardship and heartbreak, though never broke, and loved and cared for her daughters fiercely. My aunts spoke of times that they were so poor, they used jam jars as glasses and how my eldest aunt at ten years old had to care for the younger children while my grandmother was working as a cook and nanny leaving the house in the early morning and returning late at night.

Like Frank McCourt’s story, my grandfather showed up on the doorstep, returned from who knows where 10 years later. My youngest aunt, a poet, wrote a wonderful poem about his return through the eyes of five teenage girls standing on the landing, peeking down the stairs, pushing each other forward ‘no you go first’, as this stranger entered their house. They had grown up in a house of women, and suddenly this man, this strange man knocks on the door, apparently declaring “Honey, I’m home”!

My mother, thirteen at the time was incensed and resented this stranger becoming the man of the house. She never took to him, and in fact, caused so much havoc that she was banished to stay with the relatives in Ireland for a year when he first came back. Then at the age of sixteen, left home for London. None of my aunts know why my grandmother took him back. Perhaps she felt she simply needed the economic reprieve. Perhaps she was close to breaking? Only she will ever know.

And so it was, that as I got older, and built relationships with my mother’s sisters, I learnt of my mother’s childhood and of my grandmother through stories told. I could see why my mother spoke of her own mum with such utter love, respect and admiration. A woman, who in the day when there was no support for single mothers, brought her five girls up through the war, housing and feeding them without any support from immediate family and never ever complaining. It was only then that I finally understood that yes, my grandmother really was, Three Times a Lady.

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Ex 6: 5 main events of 1971-2

5 important events that occurred during the time frame chosen

I was in Jr. High and a very impressionable kid. I was quiet and sensitive so I spent a lot of time imagining things that could never come true. I was very much taken with movie stars and the lives of famous people in general, so TV and movies were a great interest to me and I would do anything in my power to watch my favorite shows even if I had to beg or bargain in order to get out of or postpone doing my chores.

Football was a big fascination of mine. It went further than idolizing the players. I was in awe of how football players performed. I loved watching their athletic ability and how they outmaneuvered their opponents and even though I had my favorite teams, I even watched college teams play and didn’t even know of any of the players. My brother would explain specific points of the game and what certain players were doing and it became a way for us to bond. Eventually I began to watch games on my own every weekend. I think my mother wanted to kill me sometimes because it drove her crazy, especially when we got loud or other things needed to be done around the house.

I loved reading and writing. I kept a diary since 1970 and wrote in detail in it without fail. At that time they consisted of scattered minor details unless it was very important to me and this habit grew through the years to the point where I bought 5 subject notebooks to contain everything. But in Jr. High my interests were rather scattered.

The Beatles were very popular. My gum-popping 20 yr. old sister was as infatuated with them as I was with my TV stars so any time I came near my house, the ‘magical mystery tour’ songs were playing either on 8 track tapes from her car or from her portable record player. She played it endlessly to the point where the activities and past times I engaged in were hallmarked by these songs playing in the background.

My next door neighbor was my best friend. We knew each other since kindergarten and shared our thoughts, dreams and hopes. This usually included boys we were interested in or classmates we despised. She was a girl with attitude and it seemed that she got the boys’ attention. She walked with a bit of swagger and I was a bit envious because she could get the attention of any boy and I couldn’t. Still, she was a good friend all through the years.

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Lesson 6 Scene: Brian’s Song

Brian Piccolo lay in the hospital bed, motionless. The tubes in his arm were supplying the chemo that his body was not responding to. He looked to be frozen in pain, as frozen as his sterile room with its bare and cold antiseptic smell. His wife could barely stand seeing him, a football running back for the Chicago Bears now laying weakened and barely breathing and death at his doorstep.

Trying her best to steady her voice, she leaned over and whispered, “Brian, Gayle’s here.”

It seemed to me that Brian was waiting especially for him as he raised his right hand in anticipation for their brotherly grasp.

Through slitted eyes staring ahead, Brian agonized over each shallow breath, his sticky mouth opened in determination to speak though his body was trying to suck him into a vacuum and pull him into oblivion.

Even in his weakened state Brian never lost his good natured spirit. “Remember when you got me with those mashed potatoes?”

“You deserved it.” And after a pause he added, “…the way you sang that dumb fight song.”

As I shifted in the recliner, I saw tears gather in Gayle’s eyes. My own tears flowed as I recalled each of those particular moments portrayed in the movie. It amazed me that in the midst of the ridicule and cruelty they suffered from being the first black and white players to room together in the NFL, they fought together, not only to preserve their NFL record, but their steadfast friendship despite the critics.

Their last conversation ended with Brian persisting in cheerful optimism. “I’m gonna get you next training camp.”

Though Gayle must have felt very doubtful, he looked very sincere. “I’ll be waiting.”

It broke my heart to know that there would be no training camp for Brian at the end of that summer. If only they had some sort of treatment for his cancer! Even if he had some role on the team that would make him still be a part of the team or even the NFL, but I knew that beating cancer even in the 70’s was a daunting task—just about impossible.

I lay in bed with the movie scenes flashing through my head. How did his wife coped with the loss of her husband? How did she manage to raise her three little girls without him? What would she say to them? Bending over, I rewound the cassette tape. “I’m gonna get you next training camp.” Good. The recording came out. The library! Yes, I would go to the library tomorrow and search for the book or maybe an autobiography by Gayle Sayers. If not, then I would go to the Public Library. Maybe that would give more information about his experience with the death of Brian. Oh, maybe I could buy it! Yes, I’ll also check the bookstore.

I eventually bought the book, “Brian’s Song,” going over all the moments of the movie. I searched for Gayle Sayers’ book that he wrote in memory of Brian called “I Am Third.”

It inspired me to take out other autobiographies of other NFL players popular at that time so I could really know and understand their lives and the struggles they faced through their journey to the NFL, and it continues to this day.

 

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Lesson 4: Opt. Exercise: Conflict scene

I saw his silhouette coming into view as he approached the door and my stomach began to churn. He quickly entered looking disheveled and distracted but looked around in dissatisfaction at the dishes piled in the sink and clothes strewn around here and there.

Staring right ahead at the football game, I sat frozen, pretending I didn’t take notice of him. I hoped he would just fly by me and go get whatever he came in for but his heavy footsteps stopped suddenly when he saw me in the rocker.

“What are you doing watching football? Look at this place! Get over here and do these dishes!”

“I will in a minute.”

“NOW!”

As he came closer, my brother looked like a towering giant even at 20 years old. Being only 14 and the youngest of the family, I always feared getting tossed around or beat up so I quickly ran to the sink and turned on the faucet. My eyes stung as I watched the bubbles rise, hoping he wouldn’t do anything else to me.

“You better clean this place up good or I’m gonna beat the crap out of you.”

“I will!” I said angrily.

“And your homework better be done too.”

“It Is!”

To my relief distant footsteps bounded down the stairs, and I knew it was my sister. It was a welcomed distraction.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“This kid is watching football and not doing any work around here.”

Before I knew it he went into the living room to turn off the game.

“Make sure she doesn’t watch any TV until this place is clean.”

Turning around, he finally headed out and left both of us in silence for a moment.

“I’ll do the dishes and pick up, but can I turn the TV back on? I really want to watch this game, I looked at her eye to eye, pleadingly.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Get these things done.”

I held my breath and paused a moment. “OK.”

After she went upstairs I ran to the window to make sure my brother’s car was gone and turned the game back on as I steadied myself from the upset, but sighed in satisfaction when I realized we had come out ahead.

One way or another, I was going to watch my football game!

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Lesson 3 Ex 4 The Beginning of my love for football

Ex. 4

Watching college football with my brother, Victor (16) and watch NFL football on Sundays–

It was the weekend of my Jr. High days. Autumn was upon us and the air was crisp and cold and all I could think about was the upcoming football games I would be watching. It helped a lot having my brother Victor watching with me when he didn’t have football practice, himself because on Saturdays we would make sure we had dibs on the TV for 4 hours to watch his favorite college teams. He would point out certain players and the positions they played. Even though I didn’t really understand the particulars of offensive and defensive formations, I was hooked on watching how these guys performed.

It wasn’t long before the drama began with our whoops and hollers filling the house to the point where it became annoying to my mom, who was trying to enjoy Polish music on the radio.

 

It was even more exciting watching the NFL teams play on Sunday. Our local team were the Buffalo Bills and we had our ace running back, OJ Simpson that made our team a favorite. However, this was a challenge due to the fact that it was a family rule that Sunday dinner was to start exactly at 1 pm—no excuses and everyone was to be at the table. I couldn’t deny that the aroma of mom’s Polish cooking was irresistible but I couldn’t help but keep an ear open to what was going on with the game. I ate fast and tried to get out of doing dishes as much as possible, much to the rebuttals of my older sister. I did help if I had to, but I constantly stuck my head around the corner to watch what was going on in between drying plate, cup and silverware, and it didn’t help when Victor reacted to every play he saw: “Aw! 4th down! NO, they’re going for it! It’s a pass!! Oh my God, Touchdown!! Wow that was incredible!!”

This went on and on until my sister got tired of me running in and out of the kitchen and dried the dishes herself or somehow the dishes got done without me.

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how my fascination with football grew–5 details

  1. When I was in Jr. High I began to watch football with my brother. He was 16 and on our high school football team. We would watch college football on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays. I would often forgo doing homework until after the games were over and I would try to get out of chores. My brother would tell me about certain college players and the positions they played and I eventually learned how the game was played

 

2.) I became interested in our local NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. At that time we had a player that was the envy of every other team out there: OJ Simpson. It made watching the game very exciting, but I became interested in other teams and other players also. I became interested in their professional careers and their lives and I began to check out books out the library and read biographies about them and their journeys into the NFL

3.) The movie, “Brian’s Song” was shown on TV about football star, Brian Piccolo and his friendship with the first black NFL roommate with the Chicago Bears. It was a story about racial tensions, friendship and dedication to the sport. Brian Piccolo dies and leaves the team grieving. The movie touched me deeply. Back then there were no VCRs but when the repeat came on I remember I tape recorded the whole movie on a cassette tape recorder and listened to it over and over again.

4.) My brother, Victor passes away but my love for football stays with me, as well as my memories of him. When I watch a game, I think of him.

 

5.) I move to New England and become a Patriots fan even though we are not very good. Then in enters Tom Brady. The way our team turned around by his leadership after Drew Bledsoe went down was nothing short of miraculous. I followed his career closely after that. In fact, during the season he lived in the same town as my sister—the same one who couldn’t care less about football—I knew his address and phone number. He was even seen around town by the neighbors. I knew his favorite eating places but unfortunately never got to talk to him. I know Victor would have been amazed with him.

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Memoir Writing – Lesson 8 – My Later Years

I am celebrating my 75th Birthday this week.  I have traveled with my youngest daughter, Heather, and her son Brian via car to visit my eldest daughter, Dawn, in Sugar Land, Texas.

Dawn’s husband and two oldest children live in Texas.  Our trip is two-fold: Visit my daughter and her family.  Sprinkle my companions ashes in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Since Heather was the only one who could drive, we took two days to drive from Ohio to Texas.  She was not in the mood to drive from Sugar Land to Las Cruces.  A train ride was arranged, then renting another car in New Mexico to go to Las Cruces.  That has been accomplished.  Steve’s ashed got spread in Las Cruces. We have plans to meet up with Dawn’s oldest son on Thursday, but because the train doen’t return until Friday, Heather and Brian are going to ride a bus to San Antonio where Dawn, Kent (Dawn’s middle child), and I will join them.  Kurt who lives in San Antonio will pick them up at the bus station and we will all meet at the Alamo.  Plans are to see the Alamo and do the River Walk.

All of this may not seem hard or stressful, but to me it is.  Sprinkling my companion’s ashes is the last thing that we can do for him and it has been seven years since he passed away.  I have not seen this daughter and her family for over eight years.  Relations with her and I, and her and Heather have been strained.  I felt she let me down after my heart surgery.  I asked her to make sure my bills and rent got paid.  I made arrangements for her to pay them out of my account (my companion said he didn’t know how to do it).  She did it for me for the first month but I was away from home for three months.  My bills did not get paid for two months.  Then she suddenly moved to Texas!  Divorced her husband!

The stress between her and her sister was regarding how they raised their children.  Dawn was constantly yelling at her children.  Heather was quieter.  She treated him like an adult to some extent.  Dawn felt that he was a spoiled brat and felt entitled.  It was just recently that they started speaking to each other, again.  I know it’s for my benefit.

It is hard for me to do normal things, like move quickly, get in and out of chairs, making meals, and I feel like a burden at times.  Heather, who cares for me and tends for me, tell me that I am not a burden for her.  Going to Las Cruces and spreading Steve’s ashes is doing me a favor and giving her a small break from me.  Dawn gets to deal with me and my needs in the meantime.

I’m sorry if this may have veered from our assignment this week, but it is tough and stressful to me mentally and physically.

 

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Master’s – Yes or No MW 8

Master’s – Yes or No

The application for and the acceptance of my Master’s program at University of Idaho was convoluted and many years in the making. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree at University of Saskatchewan, I applied and was accepted.  However, my wife wanted to complete her nursing diploma which she had stopped so I could follow my dream.  So I turned down the acceptance offer.  My wife went to Selkirk College in BC.

I chose to stay in Saskatoon as I was employed by Agriculture Canada as a term biological technician. The position was slated to become permanent but a change of government resulted in a hiring freeze.  I was put on casual and supplemented income by hauling hay, collecting and selling scrap batteries and other cash jobs.  The long distance made our love grow fonder and on one of my visits to BC, we were blessed with a pregnancy.  While I tried to stay in Saskatoon, as the hiring freeze was “temporary”, finances and family commitments required a decision.  I moved to Trail, BC and got a job with Cominco, the large lead-zinc smelter.  I started as an assayer’s trainee and passed my Assayer’s exam within 1 year.  The irony was that several months after moving to Trail, I was offered my old job in Saskatoon.

We had our daughter a week after my wife completed her nursing diploma. After a year and a half of assaying, boredom had set in and I took a cut in pay to take a Systems Analyst trainee position.  About this time we took a trip to Deary, ID to visit my wife’s relatives.  Being only 24 miles from Moscow, I decided to stop in at U of I to see the professor I had corresponded several years before.

I knocked on his office door, went in and explained who I was. He said, “Ah, yes, the Canuck.  I have your file right here.”

He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out my application. He perused the application quickly and then queried if I was still interested in pursuing a Master’s program.  I replied, “Well, yes, I have given it some thought.  But finances currently are a bit of an issue.”

“I just happen to have a potential project in SE Alaska that I was thinking of turning down. I need a mature student capable of working on their own in remote environments.  You would be provided a research assistantship and a tuition waiver.  Would you be interested?” he asked.

“Yes, very interested but I need to discuss it with my wife. Can I get back to you?”

“Ok, but don’t take too long as the funding may disappear. Safe travels.”

Driving home to Trail with my wife and two girls – a toddler and an infant, we decided now was the time to get the Master’s while the girls were still young. When I got back to Trail, I informed my professor of our decision.  Immediately, I began work on the research proposal with an expected fall start date.

While the proposal was accepted, due to our financial situation, I could not start in the fall and revoked my resignation from Cominco. This was after they had given me a congratulation’s cake.  The next start date was planned for January, and another cake was provided.  I then revoked my resignation again.  The third time was the charm, I quit Cominco (no cake this time) and started directly into my field research in SE Alaska.  Our financial situation had not really improved but the research program needed to start given funding constraints.  The family stayed with my wife’s parents for the summer.  We moved to Moscow for the fall semester.

Finances were indeed tight. We ate a lot of lentils and utilized food stamps.  Near the end my wife managed to get some work as a nurse.  Most of the students we knew were poor and many single students came to our student housing for lentil soup.  As I was ending my program I had the opportunity to make it a PhD but our third child was on its way.  We needed to get back to universal Medicare and family support structures.  So no PhD at this time.  I promised my wife that if or when I did a PhD it would not cost the family in terms of time or finances. I finally got my PhD at 53 years old after all our four daughters had left home.

The Master’s program and research were very successful. I ponder sometimes how fate works, doors shut, doors open.  Sometimes the hardest part is just going through the door.

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Memoir Writing – Lesson 7 – Writing about people – Teachers

I had picked one teacher, but as I started writing this lesson there were three that had made an impact on me.

My first “romantic” crush was on my bookkeeping teacher, Mr. Foos.  He was soft spoken, Latin-looking (dark hair, dark eyes, and tan skin), and helpful if you got stumped.  I loved listening to his quiet voice.  I tried my best to get detention from him, but never succeeded.  I lived close enough to school so that I could linger in my front yard so I could wave at him as he left school.  I’m pretty sure he knew I had a crush on him, but he never brought it up.  I still think about him now and then wondering where he is.

My nemesis I’ll call her, was the Home Economics sewing teacher.  She would give us an assignment on what to make.  Mrs. Singer, was slender, grey haired, and pinch faced.  Her opinion was the only opinion.  Our first assignment was to make an apron.  Easy to do, nothing to argue about.  Second assignment was to make a skirt.  Again not a problem.  Pajamas were next, then came our final “exam”.  We could make whatever we wanted with her approval.  So Mom and I went to a fabric store and purchased a dress pattern, the material, thread, buttons, and whatever else was needed to create the form fitting dress.  I took it into school and Mrs. Singer rejected it.  When I asked why, I was told I was too skinny to wear a dress like that.  Naturally I went home very sad about this.  Mom, when I told her about this, marched me back to school to catch Mrs. Singer before she left for the day.  She told Mrs. Singer off and said I was going to make this dress whether she liked it or not.  I won’t allow it to be in the runway showing, Mrs. Singer stated.  We’ll see, Mom threatened.  I made the dress.  It looked beautiful and fit me the way it should.  Mrs. Singer apologized for telling me I couldn’t make it, and it was on the runway.

The teacher who affected me the most was my twelfth grade English teacher.  I don’t remember her name, but she got me interested in writing.  I wrote poetry and essays.  The essays where class assignments and we were encouraged to read them out-loud to our classmates.  I can’t even describe this teacher except to say she was a female.  My love for writing is strong and growing.  Thank you, lovely lady!

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