Saturday, November 03, 2007

What would have been a century mark

My grandfather passed away a little less than seven years ago--on December 31, 1999, which was probably a rather symbolic date. Today would have been his one hundredth birthday. At the end of this month, we will be celebrating my grandmother's 95th birthday. As I reported in this summer's "unholiday letter," my grandmother is still active online and in Photoshop. Yes, it is somewhat embarrassing that my grandmother knows considerably more about that program than I do!

Getting back to my grandfather, he was, like nearly all of the rest of the family, a genuinely proud eccentric. A one hundredth birthday celebration would probably have been a rather mixed blessing. My grandfather, for one thing, did not really like to receive gifts. He was one person who would actually be happy to hear that his gift had been bought on deep sale or at least in K-Mart or Wal-Mart. We learned to give him gifts that it would be least unpleasant for him to receive. For many years, I would always give him a stash of pens for his birthday and for Christmas. Being absent-minded in addition to being eccentric, he would lose pens at a quick rate. My sister learned that it was a "safe" bet to give my grandfather Vitabath, the bath aromatic that he would use every day.

My grandfather was also into getting value. When eating at restaurants, he would collect all the small packs of sugar on his table to feed to his bees. For many years, I and the other grandchildren would be sure to collect sugar from the restaurants we visited so that we could bring them go Grandfather on our next visit. (At the time, dining out tended to be a relatively rare event in Denmark, so I doubt that all of us together were able to provide sugar for the bees for much more than one day per year). These gifts that had not cost us anything did not bother him.

When we were little, my grandfather used to tease us about our noses being missing. When we pointed out that we had noses still, he would say that those were not our real noses but rather ones that we had bought at the grocery store.

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