The Grandparent Project: Part Six

How do you keep your family history alive and pass it on to the next generation? And why is that important?

“It’s the story of those who always loved you…” Les Mis

My mother and siblings live in California. My grown children live in the Midwest. Miles and years have separated us in many ways, but sharing pictures and memories helps to connect us and remind us that we belong to each other, to an inclusive and growing circle of love. 

My blog posts so far have recorded the births of five grandchildren, two life-threatening medical crises, and a cross-country move. This is my children and my parents at our house in Illinois on Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992: Things are looking pretty serene here!

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, my sister had just given birth to Grandbaby #6 on March 28.  I have to confess that I have no pictures and no memories of seeing Dharam Kaur pregnant. My cross-country visits just didn’t coincide with that stage of her life. But with her help and through the magic of the Internet and digital photography, we can put that event into this chronology. Stay tuned!

By that time, my husband was three months past his coronary atherectomy. But he began to feel chest pains again while playing tennis on Father’s Day weekend. He scheduled a doctor’s appointment during his mother’s visit from California and discovered that the arteries that had been scraped of plaque had (because of their rough texture) accumulated an even greater blockage. He had open heart surgery right away to create a double bypass graft. I was glad that GranMarni was already on hand, and so was she.  

We finally got to meet Cousin Amrit at Christmas time that year. We felt lucky to be together, to be able to travel again and to see our beloved kin. 

And we were overjoyed to be celebrating the anticipated arrival of Grandbaby #7!

Little Emily, who had been so ill with meningitis when she was five months old, was just learning to smile for the camera. Her front tooth had temporarily retreated due to a fall. These snaggle-smile shots are some of my favorites!

I think now that perhaps a snaggle-smile is the best illustration of the complexity of life, of family life – part joy, part pain, full of effort and imperfection, sincere and staged, an expression of heart and soul. How wonderful to have big arms surrounding you and another snaggle-smile to meet yours, face to face.

The Grandparent Project: Part Five

As a gift to my mother, I am chronicling our family history in these stories and photos of her seven grandchildren. This online slide show helps link my family of origin – mother, brother and two sisters – in California to my grown children in Illinois and Wisconsin.

When the kids were young, we used to compile a VHS tape of their activities and performances throughout the year and mail it to the grandparents at Christmas. Times have changed. Technology has changed. My longing to connect hasn’t changed much, and there are still a lot of miles between us. This Grandparent Project is one way I hope to make that distance seem smaller.

Two months after we moved into our new home, my parents and brother flew out for a visit. It was October, and the colors were spectacular. I realized how much I had missed the turning of seasons during my 15 years in California.  

My parents were especially glad to see that Emily had recovered fully from her battle with spinal meningitis and was growing strong and healthy.  

They also got the opportunity to reconnect with Midwest friends that they hadn’t seen for years. The fall turned to winter, and my California husband learned how to shovel snow. He seemed to have an especially difficult time, experiencing pain in his chest that radiated down his left arm. Eventually, he was diagnosed with diabetes and two major blockages in his coronary arteries. At the age of 31, he had an atherectomy and, later, a double bypass graft. The first procedure was in January of 1992, and again, I called on my mother for help. She and my brother came back out to Illinois to care for the kids while Jim and I dealt with this medical crisis. See that nice young man in his stonewashed jeans, High School sweatshirt and mullet haircut? That’s my little brother. He was born when I was 11 years old. When he was 11 years old, my oldest was born. He is a fabulous Uncle because he is like a big brother to my kids.

He was a bit awkward with them at first. 

But it didn’t take long for him to really enjoy their company, and they have always enjoyed his.

In fact, he asked my oldest to stand up as the leader of his Groom Squad when he got married two years ago. My son was on the squad, too, and my youngest was the officiant. 

Keeping connected over miles and years is not easy. Of course it takes effort. Of course we are all busy with other things close at hand. Of course days and weeks, months and even years slip by. And of course, we would drop everything if a family member calls to say, “I need you.”

I think my mom set that example long ago. We’re just following in her footsteps. 

photo by Josh

The Grandparent Project: Part Four

The Grandparent Project is a creative way for me to piece together memories and photos and share them with my mother and siblings in California and my children in the Midwest. It’s also a Cousins project, and here’s a photo that my sister just sent of the cousins in 1989.

The last post ended with a picture of me in January of 1991, very pregnant with Grandbaby #5 and my fourth child. I just found another couple of photos taken at the end of 1990 that I want to include because GranneLouise and Godfather Michael celebrated their New Year’s Eve birthdays at our house. 

Also, I remember we went to the LA Children’s museum together then, and I can’t find the photos of it. In my mind’s eye, I can see the shot I liked the best: it was an African exhibit with animal skins, and Grandpa George is sitting on the floor banging on a drum set with Susan and Josh and Rebecca. Somehow in the last two moves, I’ve forgotten where I put it. Museum visits with the Grandfamily were always so much fun. (Uncle David was, of course, a big part of that fun!) 

So that brings us to 1991, a very important and eventful year in our family. On February 27, we welcomed Emily Clare into the world. GranneLouise again came down from the Bay Area to Pomona to care for the three older kids while I was in the hospital and recovering at home.

I cannot tell you how immensely grateful I am to have a mom who has always been cheerful, helpful, comforting, capable, willing, and available when I have called her for help. And this was a year that I really needed her, as you will see.

By this time, our family of six had outgrown our little house of 1,050 square feet, and were looking for a place where we could afford to live in greater comfort and send our children to decent schools. Jim requested a job transfer, and he was offered one to either Huston, TX or Schaumburg, IL. Having spent my childhood in another suburb of Chicago, I voted to return to the Midwest. It was a hard decision to live so far away from the rest of my family. I was eager to spend as much time with them as we could before the big move. 

The next visit was from Aunt Sarah, who brought Emily a beautiful crocheted sweater and booties that she had made. The booties eventually became Emily’s first Christmas ornament, and she still has them. 

The Grandfamily also came down in April to celebrate Rebecca & Joshua’s birthdays (which are only 8 days apart). 

In early May, we spent a weekend house-hunting in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, taking baby Emily with us. (* who was babysitting the others?) We found our new home and signed the papers. Also that month, we celebrated Emily’s baptism. I think it was some time around my late sister Alice’s birthday, May 19. 

We visited Los Gatos for Grandpa’s birthday July 10 and did a sort of farewell tour of the area, including another Cousins’ Day in San Francisco.  

And naturally, we paid a special visit to the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Columbarium where my sister Alice is buried. Now, my husband and Grandpa George are buried there as well.

We were all set for closing on the house and moving day, when Emily fell ill with spinal meningitis on July 25. I called my parents in a state of complete panic and sorrow. Her condition was dire. “I’ll send you the best help I can,” said Dad. “I’ll send GranneLouise.” Emily spent ten days in the hospital, fighting the Hemophilus Influenza type B bacteria against which she had already had two of three vaccinations.  I spent the first couple of days with her overnight, praying mightily and pumping breast milk to store for her recovery while she lay in the metal crib, connected to IV tubes. Jim would come the next few days after work and stay the night while I went home to the others. During the day, he was frantically rearranging our move. Eventually, Emily became herself again and charmed the nurses with her beautiful smiles and huge eyes.  Our entire community was relieved when she was pronounced cured, with no residual brain damage or hearing loss. Her “homecoming” was a very happy occasion, celebrated with our priest and his family and my mom, who took this picture: And we flew off to Schaumburg, spending a week in an Embassy Suites hotel until we took possession of our new home on August 14.

This is one of those episodes that is now almost “a merciful blur” (as my mother would say) in my mind.  I’m hoping that other members of the family will share their version of the story to help me fill in the gaps or correct the errors. 

The Grandparent Project: Part Three

Today is the day after Grandpa George’s birthday. He’s been on my mind quite a bit as I do this Grandparent Project. He was the family photographer when I was growing up, and I used to beg him to get out the slide projector and put on a show. I always loved seeing pictures of myself, naturally, but I loved the stories that went with them, too.

We are in the third installment of this family story, and I have introduced four of my parents’ seven grandchildren. In the summer of 1989, here’s what they looked like: That’s Aunt Dharam, Cousin Guru Bakshish, my mom, baby Becca, Susan, Aunt Sarah, Josh and me.  I’m guessing Uncle David took this picture. This was the first Cousins Day we celebrated. It became a tradition to get everyone together whenever the Galassos visited the Bay Area. Here are a few more of that visit that include Uncle David and Uncle John:

 

 

And this is, I believe, the only photo of Rebecca and Josh with their great-grandmother Marion:My Grandma Marion turned 84 about a month after this was taken, and she died the next spring.  (* this one of those places where family members can help by adding corrections, comments, other photos and details)

Rebecca’s baptism was on the weekend of my parents 34th wedding anniversary, September 3. Yes, she’s wearing the same baptismal gown that her sister and her mother wore. We had a party at a Chinese restaurant that included Grandpa Mo & Wendy, GranMarni, Aunt Maggie, Godfather Michael and my dad’s childhood friend and best man, Jim Ajemian…as well as Uncle David, Aunt Sarah & Uncle John, and a few others.   These photos were taken by Aunt Maggie. My camera is in one of the pictures, but I don’t seem to have any pictures of the whole company. (* help?)

In the summer of 1990, we visited Los Gatos again and had another opportunity for a Cousins Day and some outdoor fun.  

 

 

* my husband is absent in these photos, which caused me to remember that I took an Amtrak train from LA to San Jose with these 3 kids, thinking that it would be more entertaining for my active toddler to be able to walk the aisles of the train than to be confined to an airplane seat. What I didn’t figure accurately was that I was trading 10 hours of this “entertainment” for 1 hour of that “discomfort”. I was pretty exhausted by the end of it.

And at the beginning of 1991, I looked like this. Which means that the story of Grandbaby #5 is next!

The Grandparent Project: Part Two Amendment

I flipped another page in my photo album and found pictures of myself and my husband in Scotland and England. How could I forget that in the summer of 1988, we left Grandbabies #1 & #2 with my parents while we went to the U.K.? And that I began to conclude that I was pregnant with Grandbaby #4 while climbing up to the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London?

Well, here’s another point of gratitude for my parents: they cared for our 3.5-year-old and 15-month-old for two weeks while we traveled. My mother, on our return, confessed that it was almost too much for them. But the kids look like they had fun! Here’s a couple of photos that my dad took at Vasona Park. On the back, in his elegant handwriting, it says “Susan, Aug., 1988” and “Joshua, Aug., 1988”.

The Grandparent Project: Part Two

The Grandparent Project is off to a great start!

 

The purpose is to share photos and memories with my family in California and my grown children in the Midwest. Already my sisters have added comments and new photos to the story. Here’s one of my Aunt Sandy holding Grandbaby #1 (Susan) at my sister Sarah’s wedding. Aunt Sandy was not a grandmother yet, but obviously was enjoying the vicarious experience!

I’m beginning to realize that this project is perhaps also for the purpose of preparing myself to be a Grandmother. I will be turning 55 at the end of the summer. I try not to build up expectations, but I can’t deny that I am utterly fascinated by tiny humans related to my biology. Just sayin’, kids.

We left off Part One in January of 1988. There were two grandbabies on record, Susan and Josh. We lived in Pomona, roughly 400 miles south of the Bay Area where the grandparents, aunts, and uncles lived. Visiting them was always a whirlwind of opportunity to incorporate gathering together and engaging in activities we all enjoyed, like going to the San Jose Historical Museum, where Aunt Sarah worked and GranneLouise volunteered…

…or to Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz.

There were times when they came down to Pomona, but frankly, the surroundings were not as pleasant. You can see the Interstate sign in the background of one of these photos taken in our front yard. (note Grandpa’s hat…did I tell you that would be a recurring theme?)

At the end of 1988, Grandbaby #3 was born, but for that story, I have to defer to my sister Dharam Kaur.

Meanwhile, I was pregnant with Grandbaby #4, who arrived on March 27, 1989. I was ever so grateful that GranneLouise volunteered to care for Susan and Josh while I delivered Rebecca Louise, that she was able to meet her namesake on the very day she was born, and that she coached me through the first days of mothering three children at once. Grandpa George and Uncle David came down to collect her and meet the new baby about a week later. I clearly remember my mom marveling at my baby’s tiny, curled pinkie finger. “It looks just like a little salad shrimp!” she exclaimed. I laughed aloud in total agreement. What can I say? Discovery is delightful. 

The Grandparent Project – Part One

What is The Grandparent Project? 


I hate to disappoint anyone, but it’s not a new federally funded program to help grandparents with anything as useful as medical care or as life-enhancing as access to the Arts. However, it is a personal blog project to help connect my children in the Midwest to their one surviving grandparent, my mother, in California. It serves as a family history forum so that we share memories and details with each other. (Hopefully, aunts, uncles and cousins will join in as well!) It’s also a project to motivate me to convert my photographs from prints to digital images. 


So let us begin with the First Grandchild: Susan.  She was born in Montclair, CA on January 24, 1985, less than a month after my mom turned 50. Roughly two weeks after she was born, Grandpa George drove down from Los Gatos with GranneLouise and Uncle David to meet her…and take pictures. (first photo of Grandpa in The Hat…this will be a recurring theme)In April, the family got together for her baptism. It was a grand affair on a Saturday evening; afterwards, we had a private party at La Piccoletta. Great Grandma Marion came along for that, as well as Godmother/Aunt Sarah and Uncle David (all of 11 years old) and a host of extended family on Jim’s side. (Grandpa Mo, Wendy, GranMarni, Great Aunt Millie, Great Uncle Jim, Great Cousin Joan, Aunt Maggie and Uncle Dave) There was a professional photo shoot for that event, with Susan wearing the baptismal dress that I wore as a baby, too. That photo is in a frame and too large for me to scan, so here’s one taken under the tree at St. Ambrose Church the next morning.  There are four generations of brown-eyed girls here. Needless to say, Grandbaby #1 was A Big Deal for both sides of the family. 
The next big event in the family was Sarah’s wedding, and Susan traveled north to Los Gatos and then up to Coos Bay, OR (via the Benbow Inn) for that. She was 9 months old and walking, but very petite.  (click on the pictures to see them in a full frame)

A month later, the Gran Family came down to Pomona to visit again. In the spring, I had a miscarriage, but that summer, we went up to Los Gatos. This one was taken at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, I think. 

By the end of the summer, I was pregnant with Grandbaby #2: Joshua. He was born April 5, 1987. He first met his grandparents when they came down at Easter; his baptism party was in August. Michael Goggins is holding him in this picture, but he had to wait until Grandbaby #4 to become an official Godfather. Let’s just say that he did such a great job at the dress rehearsal that he stole the role for the rest of the show. There was another trip north to LG in June. 

In October of that year, GranneLouise did us a special favor and came with us to the Far Western District Barbershop competition in Reno to stay with Josh in the hotel room while I watched my husband compete and celebrated his victory afterwards. For that effort, she won the Choice Nanny award from the quartet, Musician’s Choice.The next visit was in Pomona after Christmas for GranneLouise’s birthday on New Year’s Eve. That party involved the animal noses and the wind-up toys, and you can see that Josh was getting into the spirit of it as a full-fledged member of the family!

Although, he seemed a bit more shy the next day.

This brings us to the year 1988 and the end of Part One. More to come!