Remembering My Grandparents

As I age, I feel the need from time to time to write about my maternal grandparents, Charles Edgar and Vivian Veronica Starks.

For those fortunate enough to remember their grandparents, it’s a wonderful thing as the years roll by to recall the unconditional love that enveloped them during childhood years and beyond in that phenomenon of idolizing those grandparents as much as they idolized their grandchildren.

The experience of hero worship often begins with one’s own parents or grandparents, but today I’d like to take a look back at how my grandparents deserved the adulation that may have come their way.

My first memories of Grandpa and Grandma Starks are almost purely sensory ones, the aroma of Grandpa’s pipe tobacco with that of the peppermint candy in the white dish next to his pipe rack on the coffee table in the living room.  Then there was the fragrance of fresh flowers from Grandma’s garden, the lavender she dried to make sachets for linens, and the aroma of her Shalimar Perfume mixed with those of freshly baked pies, cakes, or breads from an oven that was rarely turned off.

There was also the sound of laughter from both my grandparents, a partially muffled chuckle from Grandpa, and the room-filling, unbridled guffaw of Grandma, who seemed always in a state of rejoicing at just being alive.

The good nature of my grandparents was further evident in their sense of charity.  My mother told me often of repeated trips my grandparents made to front porches of people out of work or otherwise down on their luck, where Grandpa and Grandma would leave bags of groceries anonymously, so as not to embarrass the recipients into feeling beholding in any way.  Those incidents were related to my mother, not by her parents, but by their neighbors, who were well aware of the generosity of my grandparents.

Grandma was a gifted mimic, who loved imitating eccentric relatives from her own childhood.  Her instincts for comedy and acute sense of timing resulted in Grandma’s owning the space of any room she entered, not by upstaging others deliberately, but by always being the most interesting and engaging personality within any group.  I used to think that Grandma should have appeared on the Tonight Show.  She and Johnny Carson would have had a marvelous time together regaling America with their anecdotes and mimicry.

Grandpa and Grandma were also good listeners, always completely captivated by the current expoits of their grandchildren, showing loving interest in even our most trivial activities.  Only such a bond of love could have accomplished the miracle of making fifteen grandchildren feel adored all at the same time in the same room.




The gentle sound of Grandpa’s guitar comes back to me often and the laughter that came from his pretending to snatch my nose between his knuckles before putting it back in place, followed by his footsteps down the basement stairs to get ice cream for us from their freezer.

Grandpa died when I was in my early forties and Grandma when I was almost fifty, birthday cards arriving yearly with a dollar bill in each and handwriting a little less distinct each time until her passing.

Even the squirrels and birds in her garden loved and trusted her, as she talked to and fed them daily, witnessing generations of them, because they seemed to want to remain near her.

The wisdom, beauty, and kindness of those two people are what I’m celebrating today.  Were Grandma still with us, she would be 108 years old, and Grandpa, 114.  In spirit though, they will always be with us.  JB

About John

About John John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BS and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado, where he resided for ten years before moving to Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth book is, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014. John’s most recent book is a novel titled Resisting Gravity, A Ghost Story, published the summer of 2018 View all posts by John →
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One Response to Remembering My Grandparents

  1. Tina Stahl says:

    What a lovely remembrance, and with such detail! Three of my four grandparents passed away before I was born, but I can relate (somewhat) by thinking of my many aunts and uncles. What a blessing such memories are! Thank you for sharing, Mr. B., and for reminding me to remember, too.

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