I stopped by to visit with my grandparents this weekend. About half way through my time there My grandfather (I've always called him "Poppi") went into his room to get something he wanted to show me.
He came back carrying some old photographs. I had never seen a picture of my great-great-grandmother before. There was a picture of her sitting by a swimming pool...She looked young. There was also a couple picture of my great-great-Uncle Gus.
He musta been important to Poppi cause there were a lot of pictures of him. He looked confident...A tad surly even. Like some old mafia guy or something. There was a picture of my Dad and Aunt when they were kids that I had seen before and three or four photos of my grandfather from when he was in the service in the Philippines during World War II.
He's lean and strong, and wearing a smile that's all business.
Poppi loves talking about the old days. He tells a lot of his stories over again, but I always listen -- Sometimes politely telling him I had heard the story before. He sighs and smiles and says, "yea that's a good one".
My grandma hates it when Poppi talks about the old days. I think she gets so annoyed for a number of a reasons. I would guess that the biggest reason is that she sees it as a sign of his mental decay. Poppi's still pretty sharp though for his age. Grandma's also heard all this stuff thousands of times before...so she's a lil tired of it.
While I've heard a lot of Poppi's war stories before I've never heard him tell me the whole story from start to finish. My grandfather joined the service in 1942. He chose to enlist in the navy mostly because he didn't want to get drafted into the army. He was a gunner on a merchant-ship transporting supplies all over the place. Australia, Chile, New York, England.
His boat was actually scheduled to go through the U-boat infested waters that led to a Russian port, but he managed to find out about it and put in for leave before the boat headed out.
He eventually became a Navy Pilot and flew a few missions before getting married...At which point the brass told him he couldn't fly any more. The details were hazy, but apparently there was some rule about going through pilot training and getting married...I dunno. For whatever reason he wound up in the Philippians after the marines had landed there and cleared the islands of Japanese resitance.
My grandfather seemed to spend most of his time there handing out malaria medicine and cleaning the place up a bit.
As his story was drawing to a close my grandma yelled at him a bit and he got really defensive.
"Just bear with me for 2 more minutes! Can you do that for me!?" Grandma huffs a bit but lets him finish.
"There that wasn't so bad was it?" He says later. "Had you heard all that before" He asks me. "Not all of it no".
"Well the parts that you had heard before...Have they changed at all? Still sound accurate?"
"No it all sounds just the same as before."
"A-ha!" he says with a satisfied smile.
I told him that he had yet to win the entire war single-handed and I had never heard about any big battles he'd been a part of. I was kidding about that cause I had always assumed that my grandfather had never taken part in any battles...eventhough he was a gunner.
"well..." He said and his face darkened just slightly, "Those stories are too...Well..They are too gory for your grandma. We won't talk about those -- They aren't important".