My early childhood memories consist of trips to visit Grandma and Grandpa, and Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa. As I got older, I came to understand that Grandma and Grandpa were Dad’s parents, and Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa were Dad’s grandparents. At some point I realized they were Grandma’s parents. I don’t know when these realizations came to me; I only know that I loved these people before I knew how I was related to them.
Dad’s parents and grandparents lived in the Washington, DC area, which was a fourteen-hour drive from where my family lived. We took this trip to visit them every couple of years and stayed with one of Mom’s high school friends or with other relatives. These trips consisted of exploring DC, often with Grandma and Grandpa, and visiting Great-Grandma’s and Great-Grandpa’s house. When weather permitted, these visits included playing outside in the huge yard, where we could hop on logs and stumps or go down the wooded hill to the creek. Dad liked to point out the different trees and how to identify them. In the fall, we helped build a giant leaf pile which we could then jump in. Great-Grandpa used the leaf blower while the rest of us took turns with rakes and the wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow was also used for dumping kids into the leaf pile. One year, my brother and I went “leaf mining,” where we used rakes to shovel leaves into the wheelbarrow at the top of a hill then carry them to the leaf pile. I coined the term because the use of a wheelbarrow somehow reminded me of mining. Inside the house, we could read books, magazines, and newspapers from the many stacks in the living room. At dinnertime, we went to the dining room to eat Great-Grandma’s cooking, which invariably consisted of meat and potatoes. The place setting always included a salad plate with a fancy mini salad, a small cup of juice, and a large cup of milk. The meat, potatoes, and cooked vegetables were always served on a buffet table, which we lined up at to serve ourselves from. Great-Grandma was known for insisting that dinner guests take seconds, thirds, etc.
Grandma and Grandpa would sometimes visit us in Alabama, mainly for big events like baptisms. They also came for my brother’s funeral, my sister’s wedding, and my temple blessings. They are still alive and now have great-grandchildren.
On the other side of the family were Grammy (later known as Gram) and Grandpa Fred. I can only remember one visit from them in my early childhood—the visit where Grandpa Fred died. I was only six years old and didn’t comprehend what was happening. Mom and Grammy and the younger children drove up to Virginia for the funeral. A day later Dad took me and my brother to join them. My aunts and uncles on Mom’s side of the family came, too. I was too young to understand the meaning of death. I thought Mom was crying because the loud noise of the military gun shots scared her, because I was too young to realize the sadness of death.
Not long after Grandpa-Fred’s death, my family moved into a bigger house and my parents convinced Grammy to move in with them. She lived in the in-law suite for a time before buying the house next door. Before selling her house in Virginia, Grammy took me and my sister on a couple road trips to that house. This was the beginning of a long series of childhood memories with Grammy.
Living next door, it was easy for my family and Grammy to visit each other. She came over for birthday parties and holidays. She had us over for sleepovers and made us humpty-dumpty eggs for breakfast. She would come over and make puddings: bread pudding and tapioca pudding. When I was young, my favorite words to her were “don’t leave” as she was headed out the door. Since she was lactose intolerant, my parents kept lactaid pills for her so that she could eat ice cream with us when she visited. This was important because she came over for all our birthdays, and the number of birthdays increased as my parents continued having children. When Gram discovered she was intolerant to gluten, my sister made her gluten free cupcakes, which Gram wrapped individually and kept in her freezer. She brought one with her whenever she came to one of our birthday celebrations. When I was ten, Gram took a couple of my siblings and me on a road trip to Utah, Idaho, and Nevada to visit our relatives on her side of the family.
Both grandfathers I knew were my parents’ stepfathers. I was a toddler when Mom’s dad died, so I don’t remember him. I was a young adult the first time I met Dad’s father, whom my siblings and I know as Grandpa Larry. Dad had told us of how his parents divorced and how his dad abandoned the family. When my sisters and I met Grandpa Larry, we were impressed with the similarities between his sense of humor and our dad’s. We also noted that he and Grandma could never have made a good match, yet they were together long enough to bear Dad and his siblings. We realized that he was our grandfather and that made his wife our grandmother, but we couldn’t call them Grandma and Grandpa because those titles were already taken. So, we came up with the name Grandpa Larry, and called his wife Nanny. Grandpa Larry has not stayed in touch with the family, and it’s been years since I’ve heard from him.
I was unable to go to either Great-Grandma’s or Great-Grandpa’s funerals. I had barely moved to Utah when Great-Grandpa died and was expecting to start college soon. I knew he valued education because of the stories I’d heard of him. Last minute flights across the country are expensive, and I figured he’d rather I use that money for college. With this on my conscience, I never regretted missing his funeral.
Do you have memories of your grandparents? Are you a grandparent hoping you’ll be remembered? In FamilySearch Memories, you can write down stories, record audios, and upload photos. Here, these memories will be preserved for future generations. If other relatives have recorded memories of your grandparents or great-grandparents, you can read and view them to get to know those relatives better.
Our grandparents had grandparents, and their grandparents had grandparents, and so on. If you want to know your progenitors from that far back, including what life was like in their time, Lineages can help.
We hope this article reminded you of your grandparents. While we may enjoy learning more about our own ancestors, at some point we will be ancestors to new generations. We should take the opportunity to prepare for that day by preserving all that we can from today.