Monday, June 7, 2010

New England and the Place Grams Grew Up

Today we drove up to North Stonington and Norwich to see the places where Grandma grew up. She moved around a few times. She was originally living with her Aunt (her mother's sister) and her uncle in Norwich. We couldn't find the exact house but we found the road and it turns out that the Burgs (technically our family) still live there. Next time we are here we are going to find it and knock on their door!
Well, we also passed by the house she lived in that was across the street from Roberta. It was the home of her cousin, Porky. In-between living at her Aunt's and Porky's she probably lived with her grandmother and grandfather. We think they had borders living with them and one in particular had only one leg. There were some stories Grams had about this man that were very unpleasant but we are unsure of the circumstances or the truth of the stories (you're gonna have to wait for the book on this one). Either way, it was really neat to drive through the back roads of grams' home town and see the place she went to school and frequented as a young girl. I can imagine the trouble she must have gotten into as a teen. I miss her.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My grandmother's best friend, Roberta

A few years back my grandmother stopped talking to Roberta, her childhood and long time best friend. There are a few disputed stories as to why she did this, but over all she accused Roberta of taking advantage of her. She said some nasty things to Roberta and my mother and I attribute it to her Alzheimer's. We didn't really notice she the symptoms until much later but looking back we realize she probably displayed symptoms much earlier that we thought. Either way, she cut ties with Roberta. After Grams died, I told my mother that it was probably a good idea to contact Roberta and tell her about Grams. We finally found her contact information and mom arranged for us to visit her this weekend.
I met Roberta for the first time this morning. It seems ridiculous because Grams always talked about her when I was a child and I feel as if I should have met her before now. She lives in New London, Connecticut in a beautiful old home. My mother actually stayed there when she was 17 and needed to get away from a broken heart. It was interesting watching my mother go through the different emotions as the day progressed: from sadness to nostalgia to joy from seeing Roberta and Roberta's children (with whom she was very close) to comfort and discomfort and the odd feelings she had about me being present in a place she was so familiar with almost a lifetime ago. It makes me afraid of getting any older.
Roberta told me a few cute stories about Grams. They met because Grams (Ida) moved in across the street. Roberta's family owned a horseback riding academy and Grams would go over there often to ride the horses and eventually work for them until she got married at the age of 17. They met when grams was probably a young teenager. Roberta told us about how grams and her snuck into the house of a woman (probably her aunt who she called Mother Berg) who had a collection of salt and pepper shakers. Well grams hated her so much she stole some of those salt and pepper shakers even if she didn't want her. That was just like grams, vengeful and ruthless. She was either your best friend or your worst nightmare. You never wanted to piss my Grandmother off!
Another story she told us was about how the two of them were walking back home from someplace. They were about a mile away from home when this guy offered to drive them. Well, Grams and Roberta didn't really care for this guy. He went to school with them and they called him a sissy (though who wasn't compared to Grams). They accepted his offer but as he drove them back, Grams, who was sitting in the back seat at the time, kicked the poor boy in the back of the head! I don't know why, but it makes sense. She just didn't like him.
Another time, when she was a bit older, Roberta set Grams up on a double date with her. Unfortunately Grams didn't like the guy Roberta picked for her (even if he was a nice guy) and she climbed all the way to the top of a water tower and refused to come down until he left.
While we were talking, Tommy, Roberta's son, came by and we talked more about grams. They were saying that George and Pauline (cousin's of Grams) would often bicker about going out and breaking up the fights grams and her husband would have. The story goes that Pauline would say "George, go out there and help her" and George would say "Help her? I think I'm gonna need to go help him!" cause grams would beat the crap out of him!

Anyway, that's all I have for today. A few good stories. She was a pretty hilarious lady. Very violent but also very loyal. I am really happy to now have Roberta in my life. She is crafty and overall seems like a really sweet and loving person. I wish I had met her sooner, though!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dinner with Wrestlers and Ironic arrangements

My mother and I came to Amsterdam, NY today to pay tribute to my grandmother and attend the festivities for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies. We had to fly to Hartford, CT first and got a rental car to drive to Albany where our hotel was. When we finally arrived at the hotel that the convention was being held at (to await directions to the restaurant) it was a bit awkward. we stood outside waiting for Tony (our host) to arrive. There were a bunch of people waiting in the front (some fans, some wrestlers) but many of them were much older than myself. I saw one other younger gentleman, but we never interacted. Anyway, Mike (the second in command to Tony and a very nice man) greeted us and gave us directions to the restaurant. We (my mother and I) followed them to a restaurant (with a man in a strange mask) and upn arriving, many were already seated. There weren't a whole lot of seats, so we ended up sitting at a table with a few ladies at it...
Turns out I was sitting next to May Young!....May Young and my grandmother were not friends... In fact I am pretty sure they hated each other. Turns out, the other women sitting at the table, along with May Young, Mocked my grandmother at previous events and in fact got told off by my mother when she was able to witness it. In all honesty, I'm surprised grams allowed them to mock her... I think maybe she didn't notice.
Either way, It was an awkward night. As soon as we introduced ourselves, one of the ladies pretty much ignored us the entire night (which was really awkward because her niece, who accompanied her, was very friendly and spoke to us most of the night). The same women obviously hated my grams. I think it was because grams was beautiful and strong willed. I know she got along with men mostly and some of the people at the convention even admitted that grams brought class to the place!! That made me really happy to hear. Besides, my mother and I stood out like two sore
Anyway, May Young was nice enough. She couldn't see well and seemed to not be doing so well, but she definitely was still quick and was pretty playful with some of the guys there.
I wish Grams could have come with us... as her lucid self. I would have liked to see her steal the show!
I did get to speak to a couple of guys briefly. I have some interviews for tomorrow! Exciting!!

Anyway, That's all I got so far. Crazy night next to May Young and the only people at the place to hate my grams.... Fate? Maybe.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I went through my grandmother's things today. She had a lot of shit. Boxes upon boxes of vinyl records, cassette tapes, papers and very VERY gaudy clothing (for which I took my fair share). Most importantly, I found my grandmother's manuscript for her book!!!
When grams was loosing her memory, she kept blaming her friends and family for moving or taking her things. She blamed her best friend for taking her manuscript! Somehow, we didn't know it was in her boxes. It's at least 60 pages of her writing (typed by typewriter and written by hand). The moment I saw it I screamed. As I read it, I felt like she was there with me. I no longer felt alone in doing this. I feel like I have my grandma back (even if it's just a small bit). She is alive in these pages. I have a very long road ahead of me, but at least I can start copying her words into my computer.
Tomorrow I leave for NY state to attend the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame induction ceremony. After that we head to Connecticut to see my Grams' childhood best friend and see the old farm. I have my video camera and my writing pad!