Monday, November 24, 2008

To The Man Who Taught Me To Knit

I wasn't able to get to my mother's yesterday due to a bad flare up of back pain. She did scan this one picture for me. Hopefully, I will be able to get over there to pick out other pictures later. This is not an easy post for me to write, so please excuse any typos I might miss.


My Grandfather, John Alexander Mann born November 24, 1902 - December 18, 1992. He liked to be called Jack. At his funeral, the man who gave the eulogy called my grandfather an ordinary man way too many times than necessary. It was the worse thing I ever heard anyone ever say about my Grandfather. In my opinion he was a great man in disguise as an ordinary man.

His mother died of influenza, during an epidemic when he was a young boy. His father died shortly afterward from the effects of alcoholism. He refused to partake in holiday drinks for fear of turning out like his father. His aunt and grandfather raised him and his older brother, in Dansville, NY.

During WW1, too young for the army, he was sent to a factory where they taught him to knit socks for the soldiers. At the end of the Depression, he met my grandmother. He came to Rochester to work during the week, living in a boarding house and going home on the weekends.

They married on November 26, 1936. He said he wanted to get married on his birthday, but Grandma wouldn't hear of it. The next day was Thanksgiving so that was out. So they married on Friday. They moved to Dansville and he worked for Foster Wheeler until the start of WW2.

The start of WW2, they moved back to Rochester, and he worked as a Draftsman for General Railway Signal Works until he was forced into retirement in 1968. Not "washed up" as he put it, he remained active into his 80's doing odd jobs, painting houses, refinishing furniture, mowing lawns and shoveling driveways. He taught himself to do Old English lettering freehand and made name plaque's and gave them away. One winter he made name plaques for all the teachers in my school.

My parents separated when I was a baby and my grandparents raised me until I was 12 when my mom remarried and moved away. They tell me when I was a week old, while my mother and Grandma was shopping, he stood at the entrance of the store holding me, stopping everyone who came in and give them all my statistics. He was the one who taught me how to tie my shoes and tell time. When I was six, my mother bought the house one door down. He would go over a couple times a day and let our dog out, clean up any mess she made and do our dishes.

When I was about 9, I had spent a week with my cousins during summer vacation. They were knitting and I was crocheting, and we tried to learn by watching each other. When I got home, I bought a pair of knitting needles and tried to remember what I watched them. After listening to me sputter most of the day, Grandma let it out that Grandpa knew how. He tried to feign ignorance, but after a little cajoling on Grandma's part, he agreed to show me how. His only annoyance was that I insisted on holding the yarn in my left hand being that I learned how to crochet first.

That whole winter we worked on scarves together, as he helped me perfect my knit and purl stitches. He would knit on the scarf while I was in school and I would take over when I got home. I really wish I had one of those scarves now.

He was a man that never said a bad word about anybody, held no grudges, and as Grandma put it "give the shirt off his back" if somebody said they needed it. I remember long walks around the neighborhood in summer, stopping at the sweet shop for a paper sac full of homemade suckers in whatever 12 flavors I wanted that day. He would stop and say "Hello, how are you doing?" to everyone we passed by. He never knew a stranger or an enemy.

When I was a teenager, my parents took my grandmother out-of-town to visit some relatives, my grandfather didn't like to travel so he came over to stay with me. My mom had left some steaks for me to cook for dinner. I knew he liked his meat "well-done" but I didn't know how long to cook a well done steak. You've heard as dry and tough as shoe leather? Well, I think I could have cut up an old boot and set it next to that steak and you wouldn't be able to tell which was which. He ate every bit and stopped long enough a few times to tell me how delicious it was. I felt awful, as I knew it had to be just, well, I don't think words could describe how bad it was. He never complained about anything, ever.

My first cabled garment was a vest for his 84th birthday. Grandma said she had a hard to getting it away from him to wash it. The same thing with the flannel shirt I made him the following year. We often talk about knitworthy people on the Ravelry group Selfish Knitters, he was totally knitworthy.

He loved baseball, but I don't know his favorite team. I remember him talking about The Sox, and I can only assume based on geography he was talking about the The Red Sox, and The Blue Jays.

He had a penchant for sweets and would swipe cookies or candy when Grandma's back was turned. She would scold him that he would ruin his supper when she turned and caught him with his mouth full, a big smile and denying up and down what he did.

In 1990, a month before my youngest was born, my Grandfather suffered a mild stroke, while my Grandma was in the hospital with kidney stones. It took his long term memory and he wasn't the same afterward, we had all became strangers. Slowly, he relearned our names, but the memories were gone. On his 90th birthday, he told my Grandmother that he and George Burns wanted to live to 100.

December 18th he suffered a massive stroke and died instantly. Grandma said hours earlier claimed everything was wonderful. The hamburger she made him for dinner, he said was the best he had. The dish of plain vanilla ice cream was the most delicious he ever tasted. He did his dishes and they watched Jeopardy. He said he was tired, so Grandma got his pajamas to help him change into. After handing them to him, she turned around to change the channel on the TV and she heard a low groan. She said when she turned back around she could tell he was gone, that fast.

I wish I could show him all the things I knit now, show him how I taught myself to spin my own yarn. I would like to show him in one of my knitting books how German and Shetland knitters held the yarn in their left hand and it's called Continental. There's so many things I wished I had asked him, like who is his favorite baseball team.

There's much more I could tell you about my Grandfather, but I won't bore you any further. If you made it this far, I thank you for reading about the greatest man I've had the honor of knowing, he walked this earth in disguise as an ordinary man.

Happy Birthday Grandpa, where ever you are. I still really miss you.


yarnpiggy said...

What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. He sounds like a wonderful, wonderful man.

aj said...

What a special man your grandfather was! I enjoyed reading your beautiful words about him. You were very lucky to have him in your life.

The Gadabout Knitter said...

::hugs:: Your grandfather does sound like an extraordinary man. Your writing was touching and beautiful and I'm sure he would be very proud.

Fiber Deviant said...

what a touching tribute...

it actually made me tear up... as i was reading, i couldnt help but think about my own grandparents who have passed on.

what wonderful memories to share...

(btw...i found your blog via ravelry blog comment train)

christina said...

Beautiful and Touching. I recently lost my Grandmother. She was knitworthy in much the same way as your grandfather.

Ida said...

What a beautiful tribute to someone who was obviously so important to you. I beat he's smiling at your accomplishments.

Girl Meets Needle said...

What a lovely way to introduce us all to someone who is obviously one of your favorite people (I say is, because I am a firm believer in the fact that people DO stay alive in our hearts though they're bodies may be long gone), and I have to say that I'm glad you had someone that wonderful in your life when you were younger and someone like that in your heart even now.

Jerry said...

Your tribute was moving and brought back so many memories for me. I lost my Mother, her Mother and my Father's Father in less than a year. That was over 20 years ago and it still makes me well up thinking about them. You did your Grandfather proud!

Susan said...

What a lovely post! I miss my grandpa, too. Grandparents are a special gift.

Kimbo said...

beautiful! Just wonderful words....