Friday, December 17, 2010

Grillin' Teh 'Dad

I ran 6.34 miles (in 57:30; 9:05 pace) in this weather and I beg to differ with Teh Weather Channel on this "felt like" issue. It was 15 degrees but it FELT LIKE my n*ts@ck had frozen and could be easily shattered into smithereens with one tap of one of those rubber hammer reflex-testing gizmos that doctors have.

That's how it felt at 4:45 a.m.
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And so but I, armed with Emy's questions (and my own), and Teh 'Bride, armed with a grade school composition book to take notes, went for our weekly visit to Teh 'Dad's place of residence, where he resides, and were determined to be all, "Spill it, Old Man!1!" to get him to tell us what he knew about the Quislings1

I started off with an easy one, because new-found cousin Emy really wanted to fill in the essentials, and so she'd asked me what about this and I didn't know so I said I'd ask Teh 'Dad: What did the "A." in Glaven A. Quisling's name stand for?

Get this:

Aloysius!  

Hahahahahaha! Luuuzer! Still, it's a better name than his sister Etheldreda's. And that was her first name.

But Teh 'Dad met my grandfather in like 1948 and the latter was dead by April of 1949, so there wasn't much Teh 'Dad knew firsthand. Personally, I wanted to know why GAQ might have been hated so much by his sister that he'd been Shunned Into Oblivion by her.

I was starting to think it might have had something to do with his sense of humor, because when Frank and Emy contacted me and asked about Glaven A., I tried to remember what Teh 'Mom, in her anecdotes, had said about him. And the first memory I had was this vague one:

G.A. Quisling's parents both died by the time he was like 12, so he was raised by his Uncle Joe, who was known as Teh Monsignor, because he was this Big Wig Catholic Monsignor in NYC and was so famous that his sermons were frequently referred to, and sometimes even printed whole, in the New York Times. And so this guy raised my grandfather and his three older sisters. And Teh 'Mom said the guy was a real Anglophile, even though he was of Irish extraction just like the rest of us Dirty Micks. He used to go to England every year. And one year, he took my grandfather. And on the way back from England, the ship they were on had to dock at an Irish port for a few hours for some reason or other. And so possibly for no other reason than to get Teh Monsignor's goat, Young Glaven ran down the gangplank, knelt on the ground and kissed the Irish soil, then ran back up the gangplank.

I remembered that on my own from what Teh 'Mom had said. What I didn't remember was this:

Teh 'Dad reminded me, when I asked if this story was accurate, that the Monsignor's reprimand to Grandpa Glaven was: "Glaven, once again, you have absolutely disgraced me." 

Hahahahahaha! My grandfather was a bit of a dick! No wonder Teh 'Mom named me after him! Teh 'Mom, by the way — who was always veddy proper and repressed, like her own mother  (my grandmother) — laughed and laughed when she told this story.

And so I asked Teh 'Dad what G.A. Quisling was like; and Teh 'D. sez, "O, he was a terrible razzer!" I asked, "Did he razz you when you and Mom were dating?" And he sez, "No, he didn't razz me, but he was a terrible razzer."

Now, at one point in the e-mail exchange I was having with Emy, she sez that Eleanor, her grandmother (and my grandfather's sister), was a wonderful person, but no one would ever have accused her of having a great sense of humor. And it was at this point that things kinda-sorta started to fall into place.

Because here is one other story I remembered Teh 'Mom's often recounting: Teh Monsignor paid for Glaven's A.'s education (but the sisters? Come on! They were just women! You no more needed to send them to college than you did your family pet), and while in college (at Catholic U., naturally2), Glaven would come home on breaks. And Teh 'Mom sez, "He would administer 'intelligence tests' to his sisters and then pretend to grade them. Afterwards, he would solemnly give the results: 'Alice: Genius. Tedda: Genius. Eleanor: ... Imbecile.' And his sister Eleanor would get so angry! She would insist on taking the test again, naturally achieving the status of 'imbecile' again. And again. And again. It never occurred to her that he was kidding her." 

Hahahahaha! I really wish I had met this guy! What a Class-A Dick (in the good sense)!

And so there, I think, must be the root of Teh Shunning: The younger brother who got the education and was a relentless teaser etc., etc. I can't prove this, but it seems the most likely reason based on the evidence at hand.

Anyroad, don't feel too bad for Eleanor. Teh Monsignor owned this estate, called Ethelwold, in Morristown, NJ — it had its own fucking chapel, for the lurve of Sweet Baby Jebus! — and when he died he left it to his nieces and nephew. Apparently, Eleanor just took up residence there with her family. Teh 'Dad, laughing: "And your grandfather would send her a bill every year for rent due, and she never paid it. He did it just to razz her." Teh 'Dad also said that, when the estate was sold some time in the 1950s, Teh 'Mom wanted him to pursue getting her fair share. But Teh 'Dad refused, saying, "That's your family." (This may have been the only time Teh 'Dad openly defied Teh 'Mom.) Teh 'Mom let the matter drop.
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Other revelations:

Teh 'Dad used to stay in the same room as Teh 'Mom's older brother, Glaven, Jr., when he'd come up to NYC to visit her every weekend while they were dating. Glaven was about four years younger than Teh 'Dad. He used to keep the window open in his bedroom no matter what the weather. "I was freezing on some nights!" Teh 'Dad sez. "Finally, I sheepishly went up to your uncle and said [Teh 'Dad's voice gets all quiet here], 'You know, Glaven, I'm kinda feeble. Do you think I could have a blanket?' 'Sure thing, Frank! Here, take three!'"

My uncle Glaven was in the SeaBees during WWII, in the Pacific Theater. Teh 'Dad: "Those guys were dumb as shit!" [Teh 'Bride gets all giggly, here, because she never hears Teh 'Dad cuss, which he rarely does.] "Well, they were nuts, anyway, because they had to volunteer for that! I'm a patriot, but there's no way you would have gotten me to sneak into enemy territory before the invasion to build bridges and whatnot" [which is evidently what the SeaBees did].

I asked Teh 'Dad about how he met and married Teh 'Mom:
I can recall the first day that I met your mother. It was on a blind date. From the first moment when I met her, I knew I wanted to marry her. It wasn't merely her extreme good looks, it was her whole personality. She was completely without pretension and she said exactly what she felt.
I can recall the first day I proposed. We left her New York home to go across the river to Palisades Park. We took a ride on the roller coaster and in the midst of the ride, [Teh 'Mom] lost her purse with some money in it. After the ride, I went into the area where I thought the purse fell. I was scared to death. The coaster cars were whirling around and I was hopping over the wooden structure wondering if I would come out alive. By some miracle, I saw the purse and when I gave it to her I said "Now will you marry me?" All she said was I will think about it.
Hahahahahaha! "I'll think about it"!

This was evidently true, though.

Because when we were kids, we used to ask Teh 'Mom why she'd married Teh 'Dad and she said the the same thing: that he'd proposed and she's responded "I'll think about it." And, according to her (though Teh 'Dad disputes this part), after she gave him that semi-brush off, he kinda made himself scarce. And when he was gone she realized how much she missed him.

Because before dating Teh 'Dad, Teh 'Mom (who was all of 21when they did marry) had been close-to-engaged to her previous boyfriend, whose name was — I swear to Baby Jebus — Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr. Now, I can't swear I spelled "Lawonga" correctly, but that is at least a phonetic rendering of how Teh 'Mom pronounced his name. And we would ask her, "Well, why'd you break it off with him?" And she said she didn't want to go through life as Mrs. Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr., and didn't really want to be part of a family mean or stupid enough to name someone "Romeo A. Lawonga" and then name the next generation of male Lawongas "Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr." and she, Teh 'Mom, just had a vision of herself giving birth to some kid who'd be saddled with the name Romeo A. Lawonga III and she didn't want to do that to an innocent baby.

Basically, this was Teh 'Mom's way of saying she didn't love Romeo A. Lawonga, Jr.

And so but why had she given Teh 'Dad the semi-brush off? Well, even though Teh 'Dad was six years older than Teh 'Mom, she thought he was "a kid" because of how young he looked3 and she wasn't sure she wanted to get married right out of college, etc.

But what attracted her to him?

Teh 'Mom thought all the other "boys" she dated were basically saps. She wanted to talk about books and politics and serious stuff, but they, to her ears, just babbled about trivial things. But with Teh 'Dad, any book she brought up, he'd read and could talk about knowledgeably ... expertly, even. It didn't matter what the subject; he seemed to have read, and understood, everything4. And Teh 'Mom saw these other silly girls kinda throwing themselves at Teh 'Dad (because he was considered what they called in those days "a catch"), but he ignored them and seemed to like the fact that she, Teh 'Mom, was not silly or frivilous.

And that was when she realized she loved him.
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1 If you did not read yesterday post, you have no fucking clue what I'm talking about, here. 

But that's not my problem.

2 Incidentally, according to Teh 'Dad: "Your grandfather was accepted at Georgetown in DC. Until the day he left for college, he thought that was where he was going. But on the day of departure, he discovered that Teh Monsignor had enrolled him in Catholic University because Georgetown was too heathen." Even though the latter is a Jesuit University. Teh Monsignor may have been involved in the founding of Catholic University.

Teh Monsignor later paid for my grandfather to attend Fordhan Law, too.

But his chick nieces? Nothing.

3 Understandable: this here is a pic of how Teh 'Dad looked at 27. Teh 'Mom sez Teh 'Dad used to wear homberg hats to try to make himself look older and that every time they went to a dance, his hat would get stolen out of the coat room. And Teh 'Mom hinted that she may have been behind these petty thefts because she was trying to convince Teh 'Dad not to wear hombergs because they were old man hats and he looked like he was 16 and his young head with that homberg on top of it made him look ridiculous.

4 This is true. I remember dinner conversations in my childhood home in which Teh 'Dad had been persuaded to talk about, say, Aristotle's Theories on Drama, and Teh 'Dad would go on for paragraphs. And I remember these mostly because, as one of the youngest kids, I was bored out of my skull by these conversations because I didn't understand them, but my older siblings seemed to. And I despaired of ever being able to understand them.

8 comments:

  1. Okay, I'm only half-way through reading this epic (the madeleine's not quite dissolved in the tea yet), but if Eleanor never got that she was being teased, she just might have really been stupid.

    I was watching "Jeopardy!" yesterday, between ice dam breaking excursions on my roof and one of the contestants (Bill Klein) was from Flemington, NJ. I was hoping for some Glavenish comments from him, but I guess that's not a product of one's environment.

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  2. Okay, done reading. I liked the 'rents meeting and proposal story. My mother was always trying to keep us kids from making bad decisions about who to marry (seven siblings, seven divorces - didn't work, ma); I was 35 when I realized that at 21, she'd dropped out of college and married a man who was 33 with an 11 year-old son... during wartime. My parents met because Mom worked in payroll and Dad's paycheck didn't reflect his recent raise; I have the slip of paper where she wrote the correction and signed her name. Dad was NOT romantic or sentimental, but he kept that piece of paper for 50 years.

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  3. Teh Dad is a hottie. If he lived at Rock Ridge he would have a date for every night of the month.

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  4. Great stories! But what is even more amazing is the creation of these pseudonyms for your relatives and then keeping them all straight in a coherent story. I can't even keep up with my family using their regular names!

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  5. Took SQ only 36 mins to get through all that and keep it straight?

    Smartypants.

    What a sweet sweet story of Teh 'Rents. All I know about mine is that they eloped because both their parents didn't think their child was good enough for the other. Both sets of in-laws turned out to be right.

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  6. Oh... and some of my bad family names (besides Otto, Wilhelm and Cornelius): Thorval, Tunis and Brangelina [hey, that had to come from somewhere].

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  7. How did a monsignore get to raise kids? Did they grow up in a rectory? And why don't priests have to take a vow of poverty? Just asking.

    It's fun tyo read about your family.

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  8. I LOVE this series.

    It features Teh Dad, with whom, we all know, I have a well documented crush. Plus you recount stories of true love, long lasting, beautiful lives built together, and all that mushy stuff that we skirts dig.

    What a great way to spend time with your dad, and learn about and preserve your family history. I love the thought that one day you will recount these types of stories to Ian and his family, although I doubt that his wife will giggle at a "rare" curse word from you. The sharp elbow to the ribs that Teh bride gives you in response might though.

    45 years later, my Dad still looks like a mooney-eyed kid when he tells the story of meeting my mom, even though the story involves her drunken college roommate (who was his actual date that night) puking on him.

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