Category Archives: Grandfather

Grandma Toby (continued from last post)

Grandma was married, her whole life, to Grandpa Harold. He died 25 years ago, but she remained bound to him, always. Theirs was a real love affair—she was swept away by this dashing east coast gentlemen and he never let her down. I can picture him in his blue and white seersucker suit, his polka dot bow tie, holding it with one hand and giving me a little smile. Bow ties and seersucker were not effete or precious on him, but somehow just right. He had the black horn-rimmed glasses that Kissinger wore, but the resemblance was not intentional.

I loved to hear Grandma’s stories about his work; he rarely discussed them with me when he was alive. Instead he’d sit patiently and read with me, going over cartoons with me in his morning robe and pipe, or reading to me on the living room couch, me sunken down in the big pillows with my legs bent, knees up, and Grandpa happily reading beside me.

Grandpa Harold was one of the Boulder Boys during WWII; in naval intelligence, he learned Japanese in an intensive language course in Boulder and interrogated Japanese prisoners, and was part of the first American delegation to visit Nagasaki after the bomb dropped. It was a horror he could never discuss, Grandma said. While working for the state department, he was stationed at the embassy in Paris in the late 50’s and later the US Ambassador to NATO. Once Grandpa sat next to President Kennedy at a dinner and complained about his brother, the attorney general, who was giving him trouble on something. Bobby can be a real pain in the ass, Grandma said the President told him.

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“I have to dump you at the store,” was how my mother referred to dropping me off at my grandmother’s store. Perhaps this was my mother’s way of teaching me irony or a way to verbalize her guilt in having a passion for her career. The irony was that I loved being dumped. The “store,”… Continue Reading