Wednesday, 9 July 2008

the Subtle Knife family photo album

paternal grandparentsA few days ago my mother called to ask me to scan some pictures for her and my father. They've already had two collections of family pictures made after Dad won a discount on the first one and I'm guessing these will be used in the next one.

I thought it would be nice to share them with you too. Most of them were taken on my parents' wedding day in 1970. first off my paternal grandparents. This grandfather is the only one of my grandparents who is still alive, at 86. The men on this side of the family all seem to have a great head of hair. His also stayed dark until an advanced age, even now it's not completely gray. He smokes like a chimney stack and refuses to wear his hearing aids properly because they feel funny.

His wife died a few years ago after a quadruple bypass operation. It had been postponed for several months because there was some concern about the state of her kidneys and thus her capability to handle the major trauma that such an operation still is. Unfortunately, she did suffer from complications and spent some weeks on ICU without ever really regaining consciousness before she died.

I found it very hard to visit her there, partly because of the circumstances, but also because I was the one that drove her to hospital and told her that they did hundreds of those operations these days and she'd be fine.

She had a little sewing room at home, which was packed with an incredible amount of yarn. Everything I've crocheted for the last four years or so is made with yarn that came from her.

maternal grandparents

My maternal grandfather died while I was still quite young, 11 or 12 I think. The main memories I have of him are sitting on the couch, smoking either a cigar or a pipe (he also smoked cigarettes, but I suppose our visits warranted something special). He was quite deaf (both my grandfathers spent a lot of their working lives in factories) and drove an orange Volkswagen Beetle - which stank to high heaven. The few times I was a passenger, I spent with my face glued to the crack in the window.

He had a history of atherosclerosis and died one night when he went out for a walk as he would often do. I never knew whether he had a heart attack and subsequently fell into the canal, or whether he tripped and drowned. I suspect the former, though. After his death, suddenly the cupboard in the corner of our "play room", which had always been filled with (out-of-date) preserves and tinned food was cleared out. Again, this is speculation, but I am fairly certain it was a result of trauma from the "Hunger winter" at the end of World War II.

Unfortunately for my brother, there are several bald men on this side of the family. And they do say it travels through the female line, don't they?

My mother's mother is the grandparent I was closest to. When I was younger, she would visit every week and once I was old enough, I would walk her back to the bus stop. We would always joke it was "to make sure she was really gone." She's the only one I visited of my own accord (my parents didn't have much contact with Dad's parents from my early teens until late twenties), the only one I talked to and did things with.

She suffered from a series of heart attacks without ever knowing it. Two-and-a-half years ago, before Christmas, she started complaining of 'flu-like symptoms and for some time nobody knew what was going on. When finally it went so bad she had to go to hospital, she had several liters' worth of fluid build-up around her heart. After a slow start, the medication helped her improve a lot and eventually she was transferred from the cardiac ward to a "care hotel", a wing in an actual hotel with a couple of nurses to look after people who recover from illness, operations etc. Unfortunately, there she went downhill again and had to be hospitalised once more.

This time it became clear she would never leave the place alive (her heart muscle was so weak that a hole had already been torn between chambers) and eventually she asked to be administered morphine for the pain, even though this would also kill her. Until then she was tired but mostly lucid and apparently had the forethought to ask my uncles to fetch her mother's gold wristwatch from her home and keep it somewhere safe so that it could be given to me after her death. I didn't know about this until my parents and I were going to the private viewing at the funeral home and they warned me that my aunt might kick up a fuss over it, feeling she was entitled to it as the eldest daughter.

The other thing I inherited from her was the most practical thing: a moveable fan that has served me well last summer and a few nights this year.


My grandparents and parents, SK still just a twinkle in Dad's eye (although he's looking a bit serious there...) I wore that very wedding dress once - as a carnaval costume. My family are all so very sensible; Mom didn't put any emotional value on a wedding dress and remade it for me to wear. The little girl in front is one of my cousins on my father's side. My siblings seem to walk the third way between paternal and maternal relatives: on Dad's side all cousins are married with children, on Mom's they're single and childless. My sibs are partnered/married, but have no children.


This is a scan from a picture that's on display in my living room, my parents picking out their rings. Dad was still a smoker there. He quit cold turkey some time after I was born. I believe he never smoked around me, even back then some people knew that wasn't a good idea. Others didn't (and still don't!) want to know...

It's fuzzy, grainy and you can hardly see their faces, but I think it's a lovely photograph. I probably don't show or tell them how much I love them often enough.

Eleven months after the wedding, baby SK was announced to the world using this card (the inside is printed with the - private - details). A copy fell out of the back of my parents' wedding album, so I scanned it!


(The card is just the green part. Nice colour, huh?)


evilganome said...

Thanks for sharing. I was nice to have a chance to meet the family.

When do we get to see your baby pictures?

SubtleKnife said...

I was planning on scanning some of me, but I thought I would do it some other time because the post was getting long and it was getting late.

Gothy said...

I found this very interesting to read :) although I somehow see a visual similarity between your paternal grandmother and Professor Umbridge in the Order of the Phoenix movie.