I started writing my memories of my Grandpa a few weeks before my Grandma passed away and had hoped to show them to her, but she decided she had been away from him far too long before I had a chance. Yet another regret I have, but I'm still glad I started writing these things down. I have about 10 pages just about Grandpa, so I'll post a bit at a time. This story always made me laugh when I heard it. So, Grandma and Grandpa, I hope you're having fun and don't worry about us, we'll see you soon enough. I love you both very much.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about my Grandpa, the man. The more I learn about him, the more in awe I am. He was born in Belgium and during WWI he and one of his brothers lived in an orphanage since his father had left for America before the war started and was going to send for them when he was able. The way I understand it, they were living with an Aunt, and when the war broke out she couldn’t provide for them and sent them to a Catholic orphanage. After the war ended, my Grandpa, at 16 years old, made his way to America with no money and unable to read, write or speak English. He was able to get from Belgium to Iowa and eventually locate his father. Quite a feat when you think about America in the early 20th century; very few phones, travel either by horse or on foot, and he had no idea where Iowa even was; just a general idea of the direction he needed to travel. That in itself is another story.
The only story I remember hearing about during his time at the orphanage was the time he was almost killed by an unexploded bomb. I hope I have it right, I haven’t heard the story in over 15 years, but it goes like this; the Nuns who ran the orphanage were very strict and so grandpa and his brother (I think it was Oscar, but maybe it was Morris) were always afraid of getting caught doing what young boys do (getting dirty, playing when they should have been reading etc). Anyway, one day they noticed something very shiny at the bottom of the river that ran behind the orphanage. The water was too deep for them to get it, so they kept trying everyday for quite a while. Finally, the spring waters had gone down enough for them to get it out of the river and try and figure out what it was.
Now picture two young boys hiding in the back grounds of a catholic orphanage, playing with an unknown treasure they had just pulled from the river while brilliant white sheets fluttered in the summer sun on a clothes line nearby. Grandpa’s brother (on lookout) suddenly and urgently whispers to him “the Nun is coming!!!!” and grandpa, not wanting to get in trouble, tosses the thing over the low stone wall to hide it until the coast is clear. BOOOOOOOOM! This thing they were playing with turns out to be an unexploded bomb! The resulting blast SHREDS the nearest sheets and turns them black and smoldering in the breeze! The Nun drops her laundry and hightails it with her long black habit pulled up to her knees for the safety of the building, thinking the Germans were attacking. Grandpa, with his ears ringing like bansees, feels the back of his head which feels like hamburger and looks at his bloodied hands in disbelief. His younger brother starts wailing “DEILA, YOUR BRAINS ARE FALLING OUT!!!!!!!!” and runs sobbing to the building.
In a panic, Grandpa, takes off running down the road and is finally picked up a mile or so later by some American soldiers that are bivouacked near the orphanage. They take him to the Army Dr. who stitches him up and then finally drives him back to the orphanage. The ride back to the orphanage was terrifying for him; he just KNEW he was in trouble with a capital T. Luckily, the Nuns still thought they had been attacked by the Germans. They RAN out to welcome him home, smothering him with hugs and heaping praise on him for his bravery in running to the American camp while under fire, to try and help defend his home! He never did tell them the truth!
He's been gone almost 21 years and I still miss him.