Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Sins Of The (Grand) Father

Those of you who might have been wondering where I got my sense of humor are about to be enlightened. Those of you who just plain wonder about my sense of humor, and never mind where I got it, will learn nothing. First, though, I need to say a word or two of explanation concerning a component of this post.

A couple of weeks ago, Jazz did a handwritten post. It was a cute idea and somewhat interesting as a change of pace. In her comments section, I said that I’d do something with that idea sooner or later.

Then, a week or so back, Cricket published a letter that his grandfather had written. Good piece, and revealing of some bit of his grandfather’s personality. That post reminded me about a letter I possessed, written by my own grandfather, and I told Cricket that I’d publish it soon.

Voila! This kills two birds with one stone (which is pretty good aim if they're hummingbirds, or a pretty big stone if they're ostriches.) I’m publishing the letter and it’s handwritten. I realize this won’t give any phrenologists in the crowd any particular insight into my psyche via a sample of MY handwriting, but that's because phrenologists read the bumps on people's heads. It won't help the graphologists, either, though. Of course, anybody who feels he needs a handwriting sample to delve into my psyche just hasn’t spent enough time delving into my archives. I’ve given up enough personal info to supply any psych major with a complete thesis and the goods to prove it.

The letter was written in 1961, from my maternal grandfather to my father. Why he decided to write to my father is something I can’t quite figure out. I mean, they liked each other, so it wasn’t totally out of character, but why just to my father? Why not to my mother (who was his daughter, after all) or to both of them? Perhaps he had used the little jokes and linguistic devices on her already and just decided that a new audience would be more appreciative. In any case, it remains one of my life’s small mysteries.

You might notice a few interesting things from the envelope. Here it is.

The postmark is Clearwater, Florida. My grandparents lived in Weymouth, Massachusetts. That wouldn’t normally be too unusual, as lots of folks from the northeast take vacations in Florida. However, notice the date. It’s July 1st. Not too many people choose to take their vacation in Florida in July. The average July temperature in Florida hovers around 90 and the average humidity is try breathing through a wet sponge. Apparently, my grandparents liked it hot and steamy.

You’ll also want to notice the cancellation – "Support Your Mental Health Association." As you read more of the letter, you’ll begin to suspect that the post office had some sort of premonition concerning the contents.

(The discoloration is probably spilled ink from some time when it was tucked away in a closet during the intervening years. Luckily, it obscures only a very small part of the writing.)

My grandfather, Fran Drown, was a very interesting guy. I’ll have to write more about him some other day. He was a lawyer, a very intelligent man, but he had a number of small quirks about him that match my own. For instance, he liked to watch children’s television shows as a way of relaxing. He would come home from his job as lead claims attorney for the MBTA (the major public transit agency – subways, buses, commuter railways - in Boston and surroundings) and sit in his bedroom smoking a pipe while watching The Electric Company. He rarely took a drink, so that functioned in the same way, for him, as Mister Roger’s Neighborhood has for me – a video martini.

Well, as I said, more about him at a later time. Let’s get to the point. Here’s the letter.

(It has become faint over the years, so I’ll type it out following this reproduction.)

What’s The Date?

Dear Tom:

I tell you, this epistle ranks with the Sumerian cuneiform tablets as a rara avis veritas. Once in six years I take pen in hand and find to my surprise that it is a pencil. However, enough of this fol-de-rol. Leave us get down to the serious business of trying to record trivia.

Saw a sign in No. Carolina for some motel, an expensive and beautiful sign by The Acme Sign Co., "Turn left just be on the bridge." And down in South San Petrograd
[That would be Saint Petersburg – Jim] is another one advertising someone’s "Resterunt."

It’s a trifle warm around noontime, up to 89 – 90, but who minds when it’s only 50 paces to the pool, walk in and get cool, or The Gulf is a short trip, let’s have a dip. It cools down to mid 70’s by evening, usually a breeze.

There is a family from Texas across the street. A young woman and 3 kids, oldest is six. He’s a thin serious kid with glasses, name of Jodie, but I call him Tex and he smiles & lights up like a Christmas tree. He was fishing the other day beside our place & got the hook deep in his right hand on the fleshy part near the thumb. He looked at it and said, "It’s a good thing I’m left-handed!" Maybelle took him to the Dr. who finally got it out and took 7 stitches. Not a sound out of the kid the whole time. If it had been me, you would have heard it up there.

Porpoises come up in the bay daily, rolling & puffing. I don’t know whether they are looking for food or mormoises.

We took a boat ride yesterday across Tampa Bay & up The Manatee River, an all day trip. A nice trip, nothing spectacular, spoiled somewhat by the usual accordion player – would be comedian – entertainer wandering the deck, with the usual pitiful plea of how his ill health forced him to seek out door work and the owners let him come on board but with no salary, his living dependent upon our generosity. Give him a dime and ask him to play "Far, Far Away." Incidentally, he was a big husky Swede name of Olsen, looked like he could handle himself, and when not entertaining (?) sat below decks splicing rope and smoking cigars, or perhaps vice-versa from the smell, but the trip was nice.

I’m tired.

Love to you-all.


Now, if that sense of humor doesn’t prove genetics, I don’t know what possibly could.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Jazz said...

Yeah, I can see where you're from... I'd've loved to meet your grandpa.

Cricket said...

Mormoises, huh? Yep, priceless. Great stuff. I do sometimes wonder if the advent of email has created the memory hole. I hope not. I try not to confuse my hopes and my expectations, though.

not your Uncle Skip said...

I would love to have a copy of any correspondence between my antecedents. Unfortunately, it appears that they either didn't write or, more likely, nobody saved anything.
I have saved some correspondence from my offspring, but I'm not sure that the hard drive counts or that floppies will still be readable in 40+ years. Anything I've handwritten is unreadable today.

Shrinky said...

Now that is a TRUE family heirloom, utterly priceless! What a wonderful character, his personality simply leaps off the (screen?) pages, how amazing, it could have been written only last week. I guess email has replaced letter-writing, bit sad really. I still have bundles of letters stored from decades back, but I rather doubt my children will have such a collection in their dotage.

Beryl Ament said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.

The world is divided into two groups, those who keep letters and those who throw them out. My husband belongs to the former group, I to the latter. It makes for some interesting "discussions" and rooms and closets full of boxes.

Thumbelina said...

So.... FD is to blame.
No doubt about it. Same genes.

Gennasus said...

If he'd been my grandad I'd have been tickled pink! Loved the rope and cigar line.juvers

Unknown said...

What a delightful keepsake and a look into your granddad's personality. Fun.

Buck said...

Now, if that sense of humor doesn’t prove genetics, I don’t know what possibly could.

Yup. Agreed. A quick wit (for the repartee what's in it) and a sharp sense of humor are two extremely rare things in this day. And age. Too much of what passes for "humor" these days is just lowest-common-denominator bad taste and potty-mouth. That's neither you nor your grandfather. (well, maybe I'm being slightly hyperbolic where you and potty-mouth are concerned but no matter, eh?) Which is also why you remain a "must read," Jim.

Thanks for this.

Jackie said...

The apple and the tree analogy applies here.
This was wonderful to read (reading other people's letters is always fascinating....I don't get a chance to do it often (enough!)
I remember that stamp...vividly.
I also know Clearwater very well.
My Daddy was born there...and we used to go visit Grandma there before she moved further north in Florida.
As I read his letter, I was hoping I'd stumble upon a long lost cousin (perhaps the accordian player? :))
Thank you for posting this, Jim.
I loved reading it. Your Grandfather had a good sense of humor.

i beati said...

I love that kind of humor always !!!! #10 is only slightly untrue. I don't feel cheated- God does hand out lots of talents..

Alison said...

Good stuff Jim.

Desmond Jones said...


"Turn left just be on the bridge" had me in stitches. . .

And you know, when I played in a band, when I was in college, we'd always get asked to play 'Down By the Riverside'. . .

And, uh, WordVer = 'protopoo'. Who sends those things out?

Anonymous said...

Your grandpa was clearly quite the character! I know I would have loved him - anyone that punny would be great fun to hang around! :)

Anonymous said...

It all begins to make sense now :)!

Jeni said...

Yup! Sure as you know what stinks and God made little green apples, you are most certainly your (grand) father's son alright!

Michelle H. said...

This was great! What a memory and a sense of humor rolled up into intellectual wit. Genes definitely rule in your family.

Bruce Coltin said...

He sounds to me like an original. Too few of them around.

Moooooog35 said...

My grandfather was a prick.

True story.

Hilary said...

That's SO you! The letter is a treasure which holds a glimpse into your grandfather's personality. And your for recognizing that it's a keeper. Thanks for sharing it.

My own grandfather and father were relentless punsters. Now I see my own son rolling his eyes at me the way I once did at them. Gotta love genetics. :)

Unknown said...

love it...He sounds like a great guy.

Sandi McBride said...

Now that's the truth of the nut not falling far from the tree...what a great Grandfather to have...made me laugh what little bit of ass I have left right off.

Chris said...

You know, Jim, I've gotta tell you that I truly believe that I enjoy your blog in a different way from most of your readers. Don't get me wrong, this was a wonderful post, heart-warmingly poignant and humorous. But what's going to stick with me more than anything is the bit about the phrenologist. You KNEW that we'd just go ahead and assume that a phrenologist analyzes handwriting, but he doesn't. That's a graphologist. GREAT gag, and it nearly floored me.

Classic Suldog.

Maggie May said...

Love to know what mormoises are?????!!!!!!!

Sometimes a sense of humour is acquired rather than inherited but I suppose that you might have to have the tendency towards it.

Many thanks for your kind comments over at mine......... greatly appreciated.

Nuts in May

Dev said...

I shouldn't have been eating while I read this; the contents in my mouth almost ended up on my computer screen...

Ruth and Glen said...

What a wonderful post. Definitely shows us where you got your sense of humor from. A keepsake to be treasured for sure.

Unknown said...

Excellent post! Mormoises made me laugh :-) Your Grampa sounds like he would have gotten alone famously with mine!

No one handwrites a letter anymore do they? I really miss doing that. As a pre teen I had a slew of pen pals and we hand wrote letters every month back and forth. I even still have some letters from a friend who joined the Army back in the early 90's. I might just sit down and write to my sister today. Thanks for the inspiration :-)

Karen said...

Ha - funny.... play far far away. Ha! It's so nice to have letters like this - one that were handwritten and mailed. I have an original hadnwritten letter my grandfather wrote to my grandmother's mother asking for her daughter's hand in marriage.

lime said...

i'm convinced! that was such a fun little glimpse. thanks for sharing it.

Janet said...

what a fun letter. And what a great idea for a post!