Whiskerino 2009

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  • posted: January 21 @ 9:23am
My grandmother passed away early Tuesday morning. She was 82 years old and went peacefully in her sleep.

I can’t say that I really knew her all that well even though I spent a lot of time around her as a child. This makes grieving for her especially hard because my sadness is topped with the guilt I have that I didn’t make the effort to truly connect with her on an emotional level.

My impression of my grandmother is that she was a very proper, well-mannered, poised and polite woman. However, she was not without kindness and grace. I always assumed that her demeanor was a result of being Irish Catholic and spending her life in the Midwest as the wife of a lawyer and a politician. She wasn’t very warm; she was never the type to hug me or shower me with affection, even when I was very little. This never really bothered me because my grandfather-- who was the sun in my universe—more than made up for the affection that she didn’t show me.

When I need to make sense of my relationship with my grandmother, I look at this picture.

This is a picture of her with my cousins and me at Halloween, 1978. I was just about to turn three years old and I am pictured on the right, dressed up as Casper the Friendly Ghost. My cousin, Jessica was five years old at the time and is pictured on the left, dressed up as a witch. She is helping my other cousin, Jeff put his costume on (he went as a clown). A few months prior, Jeff had fallen off a slide and broke his neck. He had to wear that ridiculously enormous neck brace for what seemed like forever (he turned out fine, don’t worry) and it made this particular batch of Halloween pictures both sad but also a little funny. Those were the days when Halloween costumes all came with masks and Jeff had to hold his mask over his face since the neck brace prevented it from fitting on his head. Even in this picture, you can see how uncomfortable and awkward the whole costume thing was for him… poor guy.

But the telling thing about this picture to me is the expression my grandmother (pictured in between Jeff and I) has on her face. This is the look of a woman who has found herself in a position in life she may have not been entirely prepared for. Here she is, 50 years old at the time and the grandmother of three rambunctious kids—one of which has a broken neck—on Halloween. My mother was never married (a huge no-no for Catholics) and my aunt eloped with a farm boy who my grandparents hardly knew. To me, the look on her face spells this all out. I’m not saying she didn’t love us or thought we were just the result of the “sins” of our parents. I’m just saying at some point, her life took a turn she didn’t expect and this look on her face says it all.
Later on in life I got to know my grandmother a little better and I think she felt more comfortable opening up to me as an adult than she did when I was a child.

And now that I find myself in a predicament in life that I didn’t expect—a single father of two (beautiful) girls—I relate to this picture and to her even more than ever. I’m sure if someone were to snap a picture of me in the checkout line at the supermarket, with my girls begging for candy and bouncing around everywhere while I’m fumbling around, trying to pay for the groceries and just get away from the chaos, I’m sure I would have the EXACT same look on my face as my grandmother has in this picture.

I love my grandmother very much and I am going to miss her.

Goodbye, Virginia “Ginny” Whelan.


jclutch says:
I too find comfort in round-edge late 70's family photos; very sorry to hear about this, but thanks for sharing a cool photo.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 9:25am -
OhMyGoshman says:
So sorry man, thanks for sharing with all of us.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 9:27am -
michaeljstraub says:
Sincerest apologies. Thank you for giving us a view into your world.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 9:30am -
Andrew says:
thanks for sharing some reality in the midst of a hard time. remembering the good times is always bittersweet when you realize how much similarity you share with family you never knew that well.

I feel the same way sometimes.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 9:33am -
rodohmes says:
so sorry to hear of your loss - I agree with the other guys, that it is neat to remember things that cause good memories of those we love
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 9:47am -
Matty O says:
I'm very sorry for your loss.

My parents conceived me out of wedlock when they were only 18 and 19, so my grandmothers were very, very active in raising me (no grandpas unfortunately--one passed away before I was born and the other was a jerk and left his family behind). And I know that my maternal grandmother loves me very much and my wife even complains that I'm too spoiled by her. But I can look now at pictures and see the very same look on my Oma's face. I always think she looks overwhelmed. I don't know if it was appropriate to share all of that here, but I felt compelled. Again, I am so very sorry for your loss.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 10:20am -
Douggal says:
What an amazingly insightful and beautiful tribute to your grandmother; I often wonder if I could even begin to fathom the things both my grandmothers lived through in their lives. I'm so glad you found a connection and are now able to recognize the part of her that is in you. My condolences.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 10:25am -
cary norton says:
sorry man. i like your treebute.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 11:20am -
Le Duncan says:
What a beautifully told story. I can't imagine what all is running through your mind now, but it's good to know that their father is capable of such empathy. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, though.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 11:22am -
Le Duncan says:
their father = your children's father
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 11:28am -
Cruise says:
wow, thats powerful... im sorry about your loss- a man of your insight and wisdom cant help but be a great father
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 11:40am -
McDooDoo says:
So sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this part of your story with all of us.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 11:41am -
mattyc says:
They made me wear that neck brace in the hospital till the realized my neck was fine.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 12:01pm -
robberfly says:
sorry man. that's rough.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 12:05pm -
Johnny Rebellious says:
Not only is this a great capture, but the story that goes with it is extremely heartfelt, and I want to say that I am deeply sorry for your loss. I'm not gonna lie, your caption got me choked up a little because it reminds me of the type of relationship my gramps and I have always shared. I know the man loves me, but he's a "hard" and strict man... growing up in the Depression and being a WW2 veteran, he never really showed the outward affection I wanted from him; but he's one of the finest human beings I've ever known. I want to let you know that your words have given me more reason to go make a better effort to visit the old man in his last days... his time is slipping... I don't want to regret not seeing him in the end. For that I thank you, and also for sharing your beautiful story. My thoughts are with you in this time. Stay strong.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 12:12pm -
keifel says:
thank you for sharing.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 12:23pm -
Fofe says:
Sorry for your loss.
Don't be too hard on yourself about the predicament you may find yourself in (or your grandmother found herself in). A photo can capture momentary anxiety, but it can also miss the next moment of overwhelming laughter and happiness. It's all the moments together that make up a life.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 1:32pm -
folliclejuju says:
an awesome tribute. a more awesome self review. a most awesome father. rock on, my good friend!
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 1:40pm -
ThatGuy says:
Thanks for sharing this story. She must have been proud of the man you grew to be, and so very proud of the father you have become. I hope the best to you and your family in this rough time. You've got a huge group of bearded brothers sending positive thoughts and prayers your way.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 2:15pm -
Dewey says:
Sorry about your loss. As far as my quest, if I can't do half as good as you, I might have a chance. Sorry about your loss.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 2:16pm -
Wilcoxjd says:
thanks for your story man.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 4:17pm -
Boaz says:
Beautiful tribute; thanks for sharing your story.
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 7:09pm -
Caronna says:
sorry to hear that!
Posted: Jan 21st, 2010 - 7:33pm -
mu says:
Thanks for sharing your heart. Very touching. Beautiful capture as well.
Posted: Jan 22nd, 2010 - 12:42am -
Gavin says:
I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my grandmother right before christmas and had a rough time saying goodbye to her. I found some comfort in the fact that my children got to know there great grandmother really well and in the kind words from the people in this community. It gets a little easier with time. we'll keep you guys in our thoughts and prayers.
Posted: Jan 22nd, 2010 - 9:33am -
Site closed!
Whiskerino. fin.