My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Man Goes Into A Bar....

2005-11-10
Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of my grandfather's death. I recently found his house on the Fairfax County real estate database – I was there for work-related reasons. I could only remember the name of the street he lived on but not the house number. Because I am Research Goddess, though, I found it without too much trouble. For one thing, his house was the only one built in 1920 and described as a "farm house." It recently sold for $980,000 which is not that uncommon in Northern Virginia these days. He and my grandmother bought the house in the 1950's, after they married. Back then, the subdivision hadn't been completed. The house had been THE house for what had been acres and acres of farm land. Like everything, it eventually got sold and subdivided. An all too common fate for land these days.

I wrote about Rocky this time last year. He was amazing, one-of-a-kind guy. The ultimate grandfather. On the day he died of congestive heart failure, he'd been sitting at his girlfriend's house (my grandmother died in 1974, if your eyebrow raised at the word "girlfriend) across the street, sipping on a Coke. Then, his heart just gave out and he keeled over onto the girlfriend's spotless kitchen floor. He'd been concerned about his heath for some time. His father had died fairly young of what was eventually called Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) and Rocky was convinced he was showing similar symptoms: weakness in his limbs and difficulty swallowing.

Rocky was many things. All of them exciting and so different from the dull Southern, white, farm stock (a mixture of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry) I am related to by blood. He was Jewish. His father escaped from Russia in 1917 – for what should be obvious reasons. His father immigrated to New York City and was a jeweler. My grandfather was born in 1921 and attended New York City College, graduating in the early 1940's with a degree in, I think, geology. He went to work for the National Weather Bureau in Washington, where he eventually met and married my then-widowed grandmother. He also gained two daughters, my mother and aunt. He retired early, in his 50's, which was a good thing because he was only 64 when he died.

He had a range of passions: jewelry, rocks, minerals, bonsai, anything Japanese, women (I've posted some of his dirty jokes here before; see if you can find them in the index!), anyone Japanese, butter pecan ice cream, K-mart, electronics, history, science in general, anything new and different – he embraced all new technology and inventions. He edited The Dopstick, a newsletter for his rock and mineral group. He had a lifetime membership to The Smithsonian Museum and took us there just about every time we visited. He enjoyed celebrating Christmas with us despite being a blasι atheist and very-lapsed Jew. He liked to eat and I'm sure his usual breakfast contributed to his death: a tall glass of whole milk, sausages, fried eggs – sunny side up, toast and jam. If we had breakfast at McDonald's (he LOVED to eat out though he preferred those cafeteria-style restaurants like Hot Shoppes, or whatever it was at Tyson's Corner), he'd get a soft serve ice cream cone afterwards. My sister and I were in awe of the power of grownups, or at least of him: ice cream after breakfast! How unbelievably decadent! We couldn't have been more amazed if he'd gone to a restaurant in a Speedo.

He was fun and liked to joke. He'd take us to K-mart and say, "Need anything? Just put it in the cart!" He'd buy, on a typical visit, 5 tins of those Danish butter cookies, a Casio gadget whether it be a calculator or a (music) keyboard, socks, horrible plaid pants (why stop at two when you can get five at that price!), ice cream, and hot dogs for his smelly, greasy mutt Sandy. Oh, and Pecan Sandies – those Nabisco cookies.

I cannot begin to explain the extent of CRAP that was sifted through in his house after his death. Those pants? Still hanging in his closet with the tags intact. Five different VCRs and Betamaxes (guess which one we kept? Beta was already dead by '85.) My grandmother's glass eye (I kid you not). Canned food with dates written on them – so he'd know how long he'd had that particular can of green beans. You'd think, as a retired bachelor, he would only need but so much food, but no. You'd be wrong. We had some serious residential hoarding here. My mom and aunt had to rent a commercial-sized dumpster to throw out all the crap that they didn't want and didn't give to charity. I mean, I don't think the homeless want three-year-old boxes of spaghetti either. That ceases to be considered charity. Sandy went to live with a neighbor.

And he kept lists – one on the refrigerator kept tabs of the 30-odd magazines he subscribed to. He also kept a list of who'd sent him a Christmas card last year. If they didn't, off his list they'd go. Fair's fair.

I miss him. When I was pregnant with Dusty, I thought that if I had a boy, it would be Rocky reincarnated. Then, I had a girl. I've been waiting since 1985 for him to reappear in some form. He loved life so much I can't believe he hasn't made his way back from wherever he is. I'm sorry he missed meeting my husband and especially my kids. He would have liked Dusty a lot.

Rocky? Where are you?

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3:17 p.m. ::
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