My grandma celebrated her 90th birthday last weekend, so I stopped by her place with a card and some candy.
In previous years, I tried to keep these visits as brief as possible — “hi/how are you doing/that’s great/gotta run.” My family isn’t really known for its sense of closeness in a physical sense. We tend to touch base every so often and just assume everyone is content with doing their own thing. I speak to my brother every month or so over the phone and couldn’t tell you the last time I saw my father in person.
In my grandmother’s case, there’s also a long and complicated relationship — with her and the immediate members of that side of my family — to consider. We generally get along, but there’s a history of bad blood and ugly confrontations that can make entering that realm feel like walking over a minefield.
At the same time, my grandmother is the person who took and brother and me in after my mother died, and has done so much for us over the years. That’s been on my mind a lot lately, as I’ve been rehashing those memories for the adoption paperwork and on this site. I’m the only reliably independent relative she still has in Woburn, which means I’m the one who gets called when she needs help shopping for a new lawnmower or TV set. ”
“Your brother said she raves about you,” my dad (who my grandmother has despised since he starting dating my mother).
“I don’t get why.”
“Because she always thought the world of you. When we first brought you up from North Carolina, she and your grandfather acted like you pooped sunshine.”
The bottom line is my grandmother is a very old woman and the occasional visit or phone call means the world to her. It’s the least I can do, plus I’m one of the few people she knows who can still remember things like the Woolworth’s in the center or Bucky’s Hill or the Donut Kitchen.
After we were done chatting about the ghosts of Hammond Square past, I headed upstairs to survey my grandma’s attic. When I was a kid, the place served as my grandpa’s engineering studio and proto “man cave.” Later it became my aunt and uncle’s bedroom, which Lil Bro took over after they moved out and our adolescent egos grew too big to share living quarters.
During that last phase, the attic also served as a storage spillover for all the excess crap we accumulated. A good portion of it still remains up there, either because we didn’t have the space for it and/or didn’t care enough about it when we left the nest. Taking advantage of my new iPhone (yes, I finally joined the 21st Century), I snapped a few photos while taking a quick inventory.
The longboxes represent maybe a third of my comics collection. I’m not sure what’s in these ones, apart from some random manga floppies from the mid-Nineties and earlier. I consolidated my favorite runs into a couple of boxes I brought with me to the House on the Hillside in 2004, and Lil Bro has tried to sort through and catalog the rest when had the chance.
The various Warhammer and Necromunda boxes mostly hold figures that I couldn’t fit (or weren’t finished enough) to fit onto my display shelves. The 40k holds an entire semi-painted Black Legion army I was working on when I lost interest in the game.
The turntable and stack of records were recent additions, left behind for me by Lil Bro during an earlier visit. That’s my original turntable, by the way, the very one my mother passed on to me in 1987. Ideally, I’d like to incorporate it into a full retro sound system when I have a little extra money and time.
Despite appearances, this is not the “RPG box” I’ve written about. (It’s the plastic storage containers to the right of it.) I held on to my WFRP stuff well after I consigned the rest to perma-storage, then apparently dumped the lot into a old Hoover box filled with old college textbooks and notebooks. I’d hoped to find my old character sheets in the mess, but only succeeded in locating some campaign notes scrawled in a shorthand I’ve since forgotten how to decipher.
The (very heavy) box made it impossible to access the crawlspace behind it, which was a disappointment. Part of the reason I went up there was to see if I could locate the trashbag containing the t-shirts I wore during my early punk days. I have a vague memory of stuffing it into the crawlspace so my grandma wouldn’t toss them. The Exploited and Agnostic Front ones I wouldn’t miss, but I’d love to restore my 1989 New Order tour shirt to its rightful place of honor.
In the summer on 1993, Maura and I were walking past a framing place in Medford Square and discovered they’d put out a fuckton of stiff cardboard and foam core for the garbage truck. We grabbed as much of it as we could carry, and it ended up getting reworked and repurposed into all manner of Warhammer 40k scenery.
I might have loved designing these buildings and ruins more than painting figures or playing the game itself.
Hey, it’s my Drawing 101 sketchbook from 1991! No, it totally isn’t filled with half-assed doodles, lyrics from shitty punk songs, and embarrassing poems about hormonal angst! Nope! Nosiree!
The only thing in the sketchbook worth the faintest of damns is this self-portrait I sketched shorty before or after I started dating Maura. I hadn’t yet settled into a fixed punk ‘do, and was still trying (and failing) to cultivate a Jim Bob from Carter USM look.
Finally, here’s a photo of my grandpa’s secret stash of fantasy paperbacks, the same one I delved into to distract myself after my mom’s death.
On the plus side, the old man was apparently a huge fan of the legendary Ballantine Adult Fantasy series and collected a good percentage of its original run. On the other hand, the bottom third of the chest contains a whole lot of smutty pulp from both the “new wave” and knuckledragging sides of the genre aisle.
It didn’t exactly shock me, but it was a revelation I certainly could’ve done without knowing.