Sunday, March 28, 2021

Happy 112th Birthday Granddad-Part 3

**This part of the story was difficult for me to write but it is the true account of my memories of that time. **

Part One of this post is HERE.

Part Two of this post is HERE.

So we left off in the Spring of 1973 being dropped off at my newly found out about grandfather's house.

I really don't remember much from that visit.  Kathe his wife made us lunch and there was a tour of the house granddad had built himself(he was in the Army Corp of Engineers during the war so he had some building skills)and then some chatting and he showed us his photo albums.  Mostly I played with his dog, Teri.

My brother got taken back into granddad's bedroom and shown various war mementos(stuff granddad had taken off of dead Nazis and Japanese soldiers since he fought both in the European and the Pacific theaters).  Stuff he assumed a 20 year old man would enjoy seeing, including that machete in the photo I shared in both previous granddad posts. ;-)

My brother told me a few years ago when we were reminiscing over that trip to meet our grandfather that while granddad was showing my brother his war artifacts he asked my brother, "I was wondering why none of you kids(meaning me and both my brothers)never tried to contact me".  My brother, without missing a beat, reply, "Well, until a couple of days ago we didn't know you existed!" And that was the truth. 8-)  I suppose old granddad had no idea how controlling our father(his son)was and how our mother had to hide her association with granddad fully from our father by not even letting on to us kids that he existed.  If she had, one of us would have eventually slipped up and dad would have found out and our home life would have been a LOT more unpleasant than it already was at that time.

Here is a photo granddad either gave me on that visit or mailed to me later that year........

This is a photo from Christmas time of 1968.  It's Granddad Frank on the left with his father, Frank, who was my Great Grandfather.  I believe this was taken at Great Grandfather Frank's daughter's house near Staunton, Virginia(my grandfather's sister Mary).  I know from a letter Granddad wrote to my mom that Frank's father, Frank, Sr. was staying with his daughter Mary around this time.  Mary was a psychiatric nurse for a time at the Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia.  Eventually Great Granddad Frank, Sr. was moved back to Orange County New York were he had grown up and returned to by 1922(when his and his wife's youngest daughter Eleanor was born). Frank Sr. died in June of 1969 in  Orange County, New York.  Until a few years ago this was the only photo I had of him and due to my father's estrangement from his father I never got to meet him even though he didn't pass away until I was 10 years old.

I do remember playing with Granddad's pets on that first visit.....

He had a German Shepherd named Teri and a gray striped cat named Mosby.  Being a history(and specifically military history)fan the car was named for Colonel John Singleton Mosby,  the head of the military unit called Mosby's Rangers".  

Mosby also holds the moniker of "The Grey Ghost" of the Confederacy. Go look him up if you are interested.  He led quite an interesting life.

So we came home from Fairfax the next day and life bumped along as usual.

That Summer the younger of my two older brothers graduated from college.  My Granny Paul came to stay with us and drive out to VPI to attend his graduation.

This is the last photo I have of Granny with me and our dog, Annie, taken before we drove out to Western VA, taken in front of the huge new 5 bedroom house we lived in.

Later that Summer my parents took me to a CPA convention with them in Dallas, TX.  It was sort of fun because they had kid activities and outings but I was at an awkward early teen age.

Granddad sent us Christmas presents that year and he wrote often and sent me more photos. This photo is of his "third" wife Kathe in the yard by her rose bushes with Teri the dog taken in 1972.  That's granddad's van in the lower driveway.

He also sent me this clipping from his local newspaper of him voting in an election on Nov. 4th, 1969. 

St. Mary's Catholic Church was the oldest building in that district of VA used as a polling spot and granddad took great pride in always being the first person at that polling location every year to cast his ballot.  He got his picture in the local newspaper most election years casting the first ballot there.

Summer of 1974 rolled around and it was a hard and lonely time at my house...both my brothers were out of the house working in different parts of Virginia, my parents had suddenly sold our house in Norfolk in 1973 and moved me to Virginia Beach.  I was 15 years old and knew no one in that area but they kept me in the private high school I began attending in late 1972 in Norfolk.  My father was "away" on business and my mother would check herself into a private psychiatric facility in Norfolk frequently. If mom was home, my father was never home during the weeks and she'd drive me to a bus stop during the week to get to school.  If mom was not home my father would be home during the week to drive me to the bus and home but he would always be away on the weekends.  I never knew which of them would be home and for how long.   Mostly I felt like I was left alone in this new house with just our family dog, Annie, for company.  I didn't drive yet so I was pretty much trapped there.  I couldn't do any extracurricular activities as I'd miss my only ride home nor go anywhere or see friends on the weekend as nobody lived nearby or drove yet.

That June of 1974 after moving to the new house in Virginia Beach my father invited granddad to come for a visit.  It was the only time my father would let granddad stay with us.  Here is the only photo(besides the one cousin Judy sent me of my father as a baby with his dad)I have of the two of them together.....

This photo was taken on Father's Day of 1974.  The first Father's Day they spent together since 1941.

Granddad only stayed a few days and I remember he drank a lot as did my father.  I think the reason my father "let" granddad come stay was so that he could throw it up into  his father's face that despite him abandoning his wife and kids, my father had made himself  into a "successful" man.  He finished college at night and graduated from ODU the year before my oldest brother graduated from high school, got his CPA license and was a partner in one of the most successful firms in the state by this point.  "Take that old man", should be the caption of this photo! ;-)  My father was still very cool toward my grandfather during this visit.  It took quite a few drinks in my father to get him to stand this close to his dad.

My parents(or one of them)thought it was a good idea to send me to stay with Granddad for a few weeks later that Summer(a sort of get her out of the way while we work on our shit situation).  So after school let out for the year I was put on a Greyhound bus in July to Fairfax and Granddad picked me up at the station and took me to his house.  

I was very much into oil painting during this part of my life and I had brought my painting case full of supplies with me.  Granddad noticed my interest in painting so he took me to an art store near the beginning of my stay and bought me an easel and canvases so I could paint while staying there.  He set me up a "painting studio" in his basement.  There was a radio down there so I painted the hours away listening to the top 40 hits of the Summer of 1974.

It's funny how all these songs have the work "rock" in them. lol  I can't hear these songs and a few others without being transported back to my grandfather's basement.

A typical day was spent after breakfast down in the basement painting, then lunch, then more painting before dinner and some tv watching before bed.

Kathe was home for a few days before she left on a trip to go visit her daughter and grandchildren in Florida.  I suppose she hung around awhile to make sure Granddad and I were hitting it off ok before she left us.  Kathe worked at the Braddock Elementary School in their library.  She did a lot of reading to the small children in her position.  She asked me to paint her a picture she could use in the Fall to tell a story for the kids, which I did.  I suppose she left it at the school or took it when Frank died and she moved away because I don't have a photo of that one.  I also don't have a photo of the painting I did for Kathe.  She loved birds and had a birdfeeder near the basement door which Frank called "Kathe's Cafe".  I did a painting of that for her after she left for Florida.  that one was quite good for someone of my age who had just taken up painting.

Here's a photo of me standing near that bird feeder on the brick patio at Granddad's house.  Notice my only "nice" dress is the same one I wore the Summer before to my brother's graduation. lol

Granddad said he wanted me to paint a portrait of Teri his dog as well so here is that one.....

These were just paintings done on cheap board canvases.  Not my best work but it's not bad.  Granddad had this one put in a substantial frame and hung on the wall in his den.

He also had a metal plaque affixed to the frame with the dog's name.  Granddad called his property "Brookside".  It was a little over 4 acres of land.  One day after lunch he made me go hike it with him and Teri.  Mostly the land was all overgrown with high weeds(3 feet or so).  Having been a city/suburban girl I didn't know not to hike in the woods in shorts and Granddad didn't warn me.  A couple hours later I started feeling/finding ticks all over me!!!

About 10 years ago Granddad's old house went up for sale and I found some photos online from the sales listing.  Here's the bathroom and it looks much in this photo as it did back in 1974.  I remember that window very well.  Granddad had an ashtray, a pack of matches and a pair of tweezers sitting on the window sill.  Until that hike around the property I didn't understand why. The reason became very clear to me after that hike.  ick.

Another thing interesting was that the spare bedroom I was sleeping in.  I found out the first night that this bed was where Teri the dog(and sometimes Mosby the cat)slept at night.  I was laying in bed the first night there and Teri nuzzled the door open and jumper right on me in bed. ;-)  From then on I had to lock the door(the lock was barely functional)to keep her out.  Teri also drug in ticks onto the bed so I had to do a bed tick check every night. 8-(

Most days while staying with granddad after Kathe left town we had lunch out at some small place he liked to go in a strip mall.  He was on a first name basis with the waiter.  Granddad always had at least two wine spritzers at lunch(3 parts wine/1 part club soda or 7-Up).  He'd have as many as 4 some days.  Then he'd drive us home.  He also would throw back a couple of drinks after dinner at home.  One day I wanted a dish of ice cream after lunch at the restaurant and he told the waiter to put creme de menthe over it.....alcoholic creme de menthe. lol 
I felt uncomfortable with him driving after drinking but what could I do?  I couldn't drive and there was no one there to tell about it.

So after about 10 days staying with him, and another trip to the restaurant for a 4 drink spritzer lunch we went home.  I painted until dinner as usual listening to those dreadful 1974 hits on the radio.  That evening Granddad had quite a few more drinks of hard liquor and got quite maudlin and teary eyed.  He made me sit beside him on the sofa and just babbled on about what he did wrong in his life while I tried to make myself tiny and disappear and wished for this to end.  He started kissing me and saying how much he loved me and all his grandchildren.  He started crying and kept drinking.  Then he planted a wet kiss on my mouth and tried to French Kiss me.  To say I was shocked was an understatement!! I didn't even know what that was until later.  I immediately excused myself, trying to be composed about it, saying I was tired and went into my bedroom.  locked the door and put a chair as well as my suitcase against the door too.  I don't think I slept that night, sitting up in bed, half scared to death and mightily confused.

The next morning Granddad acted like nothing had happened(he was so soused he probably didn't remember)and he fixed breakfast.  Over breakfast I told him I needed to call my mom.  He let me call and left the room while I did.  I told mom I was homesick and  wanted to come home early(as in now!)so she arranged for a bus ticket home.  I told Granddad that I was homesick(what a lie!...I didn't want to be there OR home)and I wanted to go home.  The next day he drove me to the bus station and I left for home.

Up until a few days ago when I told Hubs this part of the story(I felt he needed to know before I told the world on the blog)I had never mentioned this incident to a living soul.  I figured if I told my parents either they would do nothing(as they were too involved in their own shit)or not believe me or worse yet, never speak to Granddad again as that chasm of a rife between Granddad and my father was still wide and as raw after 33 years when it began.

I prefer to think that this episode was alcohol induced and were it not for the liquor it never would have happened.  I don't think the event scarred me too much and I wouldn't go so far as to call a molestation.  I was more shocked about it at that point I was NOT a sexually active teen at 15 years old and wasn't even thinking about that sort of thing.

Anyway, we didn't see Granddad again until 1977 when I graduated from high school.  My mom was back in her private psychiatric hospital then and had gotten a day pass to attend the ceremony and Granddad had come down from Fairfax.

This photo was taken the night before at the awards ceremony in the high school auditorium.  I got my honor medal, gold tassel and a theater award that night.

My father never even bothered to show up to either event but one of my brothers did(the other one was out at sea for his job).

Here I am at the graduation in Chrysler Hall with my mom.  This would be the last time I ever saw my Granddad.

I spent that miserable summer after graduation working at Zero's sub shop living alone at home(or with a friend who got kicked out of her house by her mom so I let stay with me)before being driven up to college by my oldest brother and my father and being dropped off at my dorm.
I got through that year, barring that suicide attempt by my mother, came home on the bus and got a job for the summer as a substitute newspaper carrier for a couple who had something like 6 paper routes who wanted to take a long vacation.  I saw some crazy stuff working the predawn hours at those apartment complexes chucking newspapers. ;-)

Granddad would write me often wondering why I didn't write him back.  First off what kid that age wants to write letters to a grandparent they hardly know? How could I explain to him(or would he want to hear)about how shitty my life was during those years(late high school and freshman year of college)?  I didn't have any "fun" news just misery.  Hard times at school, trying to fit in and not fail, acting out to get attention from either parent, not knowing if I'd have money to eat from one day to the next, no support system except for after I met Hubs at college(he was my rock).

In September 1978 granddad Frank died and my brother got me from college to go to Fairfax for the viewing/wake and funeral.  I refused to go to the viewing.  After losing what I thought were 3 grandparents between the age of 7 and 9(1 turned out to be a step grandparent)I had a very difficult memory of viewings.  Those horrible events are etched into my psyche.  My aunt Marilyn tried to convince me to go but I said no and I meant it.  I did attend the funeral.  They buried granddad Frank by his beloved St. Mary's Catholic Church, where he always was the first one in the precinct to vote.  He rests there alone as Kathe went on to marry a fourth time(in 1981 to John Rose who died in 1989).  Kathe ended up dying in Benson, Arizona in 2009.

I have mixed feelings about my paternal grandfather.  I only knew him for less than 6 years though he died when I was almost 20 years old.
Some days I wish he had taken a different path in life that hadn't cause the emotional and psychological damage it did in my immediate family but then again, if he had, I may not be here.  I do wish I had had the presence of mind at 15 years old to ask him some hard questions on that trip to stay with him.
On the bright side he did spark my enthusiasm for genealogy.  He would often write me letters about his ancestors and even did some genealogy work on his tree back in the day before the internet when you had to go to library archives and courthouses to dig for all your information.  

What I found interesting if not amusing is Granddad really admired HIS Great Grandfather, Robert Spencer Bowman, the first one on his paternal line to immigrate to America from Ireland in 1855.  Old Granddad was about as far from being like his Great Grandfather as a person could get.  Robert Spencer Bowman settled in upstate New Year, was a volunteer fireman in his community supported and never left his large family(had a large family cemetery plot to provide for them all upon death even)and was faithful to his wife until his death in 1901.

I hope Granddad Frank is truly at rest now. 



  1. I read your story and hear how lonely you were and now I feel bad for all the times I would bitch about having 4 brothers and 2 sisters and never knowing a moment of peace and quiet. Kinda glad mom and dad were practicing Catholics now, lol.

    I am really surprised that your step grandmother would leave a young teenage girl alone in a house with a grandfather she hardly knew. Not smart. It's a good thing that you had your wits about you and knew enough to leave.

    It sounds as if your husband is a really good guy, so is mine. We may roll our eyes, get exasperated and complain about them, but they always have our backs, don't they? :)

  2. That was very interesting. It sounds like your husband bought you your first bit of stability. I have to say this--it was sexual. You were wise to extricate yourself. It seems you have done well in all areas of your life in spite of things thrown in your path. How shocked was your husband?

  3. Wow, what a hard post for you to write. Thank you for sharing. I had my own paternal grandfather who was not allowed next to me, as he had sexually assaulted one of his daughters. It takes a lot of courage to come forward. My best to you and hubs.....

  4. I am sorry. Sounds like you had a difficult childhood and teen years. I'm glad you were able to get past them and have a happy life with your husband.He sounds like a good guy. You are a strong and talented woman. Love the painting of the dog.
    Your grandfather was something...I'm glad you were able to get away from him. Even if he was drunk, that is no excuse.

  5. Your grandfather was quite interesting. People are strange, aren't they? Do you still paint? you have talent!


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