Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Great-Grandfather

This is my great-grandfather, my mom’s father’s father, Frank Allen. He was born in the 1890s, I believe, and died in the 1960s. He owned a small dairy farm near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“What was he like?” I asked Mom when she gave me his picture. “Was he nice?”

“Oh, he was okay,” Mom said. “Joan and Diane remember him giving them rides on his bicycle and all that, but I don’t.” She laughed. “I told them they must have been his favorites, because I never got a ride!” (Joan and Diane are Mom’s sisters.)

“You used to go and spend time with him and your grandmother in the summer, right?” I said to Mom, prompting her. Mom doesn’t really like to tell me stories about the past—I have to force her. Mom lives in the present. “You’d go and stay with them, right?”

“Oh, yeah,” Mom said. “But they didn’t do anything special with you. They didn’t take you anywhere, except to church on Sunday. They were busy, so you’d trail after them or you’d play in the barn.”

“But it was still fun, right?”

“Oh, yeah. I loved spending time at the farm. My grandmother always made jut, which is mashed potatoes and cabbage, and that was my absolute favorite. Can you imagine a child liking such a thing these days? I can’t. But I loved it. And she made Belgian pies.”

(Mom’s paternal grandparents were from Belgium. They came to this country as very little children, around the age of two.)

“Tell me something else about your grandfather,” I said.

“For Christmas he’d always give you a silver dollar,” Mom replied. “That was his typical gift. Every year you’d get that silver dollar.”