I have not yet mentioned that my Grandparents, Gram and Poppy, are my model for marriage, after all these years they still love each other and still show affection for one another. Poppy calls gram “the Bride” and Gram lets Poppy have his way, most times. They have learned what is worth fighting over, and really I think at this stage in their life they have decided nothing is worth fighting over. They freely give all that they have to their family and have taken more than one of us in when we needed it. Really I think they are my model for life.
Gram and Poppy, aka Bud and Muerial (Muky) as their Cronies call them, have lived their entire lives in H, CT. Poppy was school chums with Gram's older brother and they were High School Sweethearts. Actually there is about 3 years age difference between them, and Poppy spent some of Gram's senior year over seas. During WWII he enlisted in the army and served in Hawaii and other warm Pacific places. After he was discharged they were married on January 26, 1946 (does part of this date look familiar to anyone?) Poppy worked with his father as an independent plumber (and general repairs men) until he passed away, and Poppy took over the business. Gram was a 50's house wife who thought the occasional art or craft class for extra pocket cash; and later after her children finished school became a floral designer, specializing in dried flowers, and silk. They had three children, my father being the eldest, all born at the end of November. Mind you Gram and Poppy's Birthdays are the 7th and 11th of February, just do the math.
Early in their marriage they bout a house on Dixwell Ave, actually for those DSH-ers, its now the yellow hair salon on the other corner to the Keefe Center where practice is held. They lived there and rented part of the house out to others before buying the farm. Mind you the farm house was once not as big as it now is. In fact there were only two bedrooms; upstairs the kids slept in one room, parents int the other and Grams mother took over the small first floor 'parlor' (now the “green room”). When my father was in High school they finally decided to add on to the house, Poppy, Dad and Uncle B, along with some handy friends, built the addition that over doubled the size of the house. The half that now houses all the bedrooms, but mine, the kitchen and formal living room was all built by them. They tried their 1970's best to match the addition to the original 1800's house, owned by the street's name sake. The farm now has 4 acres, with a pump house and an awesome post and beam barn. The large bit of land now owned by the farm next-door was originally part of the property, but sold off at the same time as my grandparents purchase of their parcel.
The farm is no longer really functional, but in my life they used the back few acres as a Christmas tree farm, they always grew their own vegetables, enough for them, my parents and I (ok and M too) and still had enough to share with friends. Also at one point they had ducks. But if they didn't grow it they knew someone who did. The farm next door had chicken and Gram's dried flower provider had goats and sheep.
I have always been closer with Gram and Poppy then with my mother and father. I was born on their Wedding Anniversary and spent a lot of time at their farm when I was younger; and I am the oldest grandchild. Actually they had a large hand in raising me. I joke that my sister (M) is a Daddy's Girl and that I am a Poppy's Girl.
Poppy and Gram have been married for over 60 years, and have known each other and been close for at least 70 years. They have Cronies, people who they have been friends with for years, some they have known since grade school. Many of their Cronies are like Aunts and Uncles to me, they went on the Wedding guest list before any friends outside the Bridal Party did. They have watched me grow up and I have watched them grow old. Some have aged better than others.
The funny thing is that Gram and Poppy, by most modern agencies, do not have a healthy lifestyle. They still eat meat, red meat and pork, regularly, they drink and eat sweets, lots of sweets and few non-root veggies. But these two people in their late 80's are some of the healthiest people I know. Most definitely healthier than me.
Actually my family has a strange distribution of health. Most O'Connell's are good strong healthy people, with robust constitutions, Gram, Poppy, Dad, Aunt K and M are prime examples. But then there is the recessive sicky gene that Uncle B and I both have. We both have low body temps and throat susceptibility, not to mention bodies that like to attack themselves.
But regardless of this; I have found the key to my grandparents' health.
1.They are early to bed and early to rise. Retiring at 9ish and rising between 5 and 6 am. Poppy has taken to getting up in the middle of the night for a bit, but he makes up for it in afternoon naps.
2.They are active. Still very social and giving of their time to charity, they also keep up a large house and 2 of the 4 acres of land the other 2 are now wood with pine treas and grape vines. Poppy is always tinkering with something, and Gram is always moving, rearranging and decorating (or gardening in the warm months).
3.They enjoy themselves. Resting in the afternoons, or going out with friends. They maintain a time share and used to travel a lot with friends, they have however slowed down a bit in the past 3 years. But non the less they are at the Elks club or out to dinner weekly.
4.They are very religious. Going to mass daily; it gives them spirituality, a sense of community and something larger than themselves. And it gives them their moral compass and great compassion. They are the kind of Cradle Catholics who love and except everybody, regardless of sin, persuasion or background.
5.They eat what makes them happy, don't feel guilty over it and they eat at home. They eat sweets but don't eat a lot of things containing high fructose corn syrup. No soda. Their cookies, pastries and cakes are home made by Gram or come from a good Italian Bakery. They don't eat fast food or take out, but instead live off of left over pot roast and meat loaf. They drink beer daily and Gram loves her cocktails. Poppy hates most veggies but will eat all the spinach and carrots if you let him, and Gram will cover most raw veggies in Mayonnaise. When they do go out its to real restaurants, where they sit and linger with friends and family.
There is something in their generation and life style that we are missing. Up until maybe a year or so ago I thought they were going to still be kicking until their late 90's. Sort of like the Queen Mother, minus the cake like hats. But one keep part of their life style is fading away. They are starting to watch their friends, relatives and acquaintance pass on. Many of them were only 10 or 15 years younger then them, yet old by many standards. They people led good lives but were not as fortunate to have Gram and Poppy's health.
It seems that Old Age has become contagious.
On a daily basis I miss Gram and Poppy; I think of when I was younger and they would show me how to do things. And every time I pack Ro's lunch into the black metal lunch box that was Poppy's I do so with a bit of pride.
I am lucky enough to have the Best Grandparents in the world. I have learned a lot from them, and they still have vast amounts to teach me.