Grandparents Ain't What They Used to Be
An Autobiography
Jo Cooper
       Today's grandparents are trim, seldom gray-haired, sometimes younger looking than the harried parents, and usually called by their first names instead of anything so old-sounding as Grandma or Grandpa. Oh sure, they still shower gifts on their grandchildren, but seldom give of themselves like mine did.
     I was born ten years after the youngest of three sisters. My mother almost allowed a rich Aunt adopt me, but changed her mind. I'm glad she did, because the little boy they did adopt became a drug addict and died at an early age. This all happened in 1929 when my father was struggling in the early aviation business and trying to support a family of four girls plus live-in grandparents.
     My grandparents raised me. I never knew or felt any rejection, because they were always there to hold me and guide me.
     My grandmother, we called her Danny, let me play in her room for hours with my dolls, feeding the birds outside her window, watching her arrange her hair before the three-way mirror with a curling iron, ironing handkerchiefs, and playing our favorite game of "What If?" We would play, What if we had all the money we wanted...what would we do? We usually went to Hudsons, Detroit's best department store, and bought doll dresses and doll house furniture.
     Occasionally we actually did make a trip downtown from our suburban home. It was an all day affair, via streetcars. We did go to Hudsons, but mostly to look. They sometimes had exhibits of fancy doll houses and we always took our time going through their toy department. Sometimes, I would get my hai cut on a wooden horse. Then we would have a nice lunch and often walk several blocks to an old, elegant theatre to see an even then old Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movie.
     I called my grandfather "Darl Lloyd." He did the gardening and helped my mother with the big meals and the loads and loads of washing whch was done in the basement using a wringer washing machine and which of course was hung outside in summer and in the garage in winter. He also helped with the canning. Later he went into Real Estate and worked in his office in our home. But he always had time for me. He spent hours listening to my spelling lessons. He tried, in vain, to teach me to be logical about my math. He let me climb up on the back of his chair and comb his silky, grey hair, while we listened to the radio, either to the news ot to Amos and Andy. And when I started shcool, he wold always pull me up on his lap before I left and tie my shoe laces tightly. It was better than any security blanket to know that they would stay tied all day and that he was taking care of me, even though I was a few blocks away in a strange scfhool room.
     He let me help a little with the garden, but I didn't have to really work. I would water a small patch of grass that looked like it needed extra care, and make it my own. Or, I would lie on the cool grass and look at the "pictures" the clouds formed above. He would rescue me if I went too close to the bushes where the bees liked to swarm around the blossoms. And later, he attached a wooden stick to my first two-wheeled bicycle, so he could walk along behind me and make me think I was balancing myself until I learned the knack of really doing it myself.
     At his work bench in the basement, he taught me how to hammer a nail without hitting my thumb and how to handle tools carefully and always return them to the places outlined like them on the wall. I wish my husband and son had leaned to do the same.
     But most of all, he always had time to talk to me, to listen to my problems or my ideas about things. It was a wonderful relathoinship. I adored him and he made me feel like I was a real person, not just a child.
The End

by Ralph Cooper, 10-13-07
     The picture at the top of the page shows the real "Darl Lloyd" and Jo. That was in 1932 when he was 64 and she was three. Most of the story is based on true events, as retold to me from time to time during our marriage. And it is clear that many of her habits and her ideas were formed in those days and continued into her adult life.
     She took great pleasure in watching the birds on the feeder just outside of her window. She always worried that the grass needed watering. She continued to play "What If" I had all the money I wanted? She enjoyed old Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies.

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