I remember a flannel shirt and a song being song to me by my Grandpa. I believe it is my very first memory. I found a picture of me with my Grandpa recently that confirms this isn’t some dream. I can’t believe how young I am, but I’m certain I remember this.
He bounced me on his knee and sang,
“Doodily, doodily, doot, doot, doot… doodily, doodily, doo. Doodily, doodily, doot, doot, doot… doodily, doodily, doo.”
I know they say music is one of the last things that go from people’s memories when they’re older and may have memory challenges. Is it possible music is one of the first things we remember as a child too? I believe so. Combine that with a motion like bouncing and clapping hands together like it appears he’s doing here and you’ve got a winning combination. Touching the unusual texture of a wool shirt in contrast to the softer cottons my mother probably wore more frequently, and a first memory was born!
Here’s the picture capturing my first memory, the nostalgic inspiration for this post.
This was my Mom’s dad. I’ll call him Grandpa K. Everyone called him Bud. My Mom has told me all sorts of stories about him. He passed away when I was only three, so I don’t really have any more memories of him, but one. I’ll save that for a minute.
I called my Mom on the phone this morning to get a few more details about him. My Mom said my Grandpa was a very loving and kind person. He had a wonderful sense of humor and although he didn’t always agree with her, he respected her and loved her unconditionally.
He used to say “O’ Boy” a lot I guess. Like during the time she sat on the floor instead of at the table, dressed in her short shorts and clogs home from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the late 1960s.
Or the time she made him a poster out of felt with the word “PEACE” on it. She even gave him a dowel and string to hang it, which he did in his basement workshop after saying:
She told me he almost died so many times. I’m afraid I can’t really write well about all of them, but I do know he was in and out of the hospital a lot. The one story I remember hearing though that stands out is when he was in a bad car crash. He actually broke his neck in it, but didn’t know he broke his neck for a year afterwards! Things were different then I guess. But he was stuck so bad in that car that he couldn’t get out right away. My Mom said that despite everything he was making a joke asking his buddy who was also stuck if he still had the can opener he always carried with him, because maybe he could get them the hell outta there! (or something like that)
My Grandpa couldn’t work because of all of his injuries. Because of this, my Grandma K had to work the night shift as a labor and delivery nurse to support the family. Not as common then for the woman to be the bread winner, and she had six kids! My mom said she was always so tired during the day and would often fall asleep while my uncle and her would play under the table quietly.
My mom kept a few of his flannel shirts in our front closet after he passed away in 1985. I remember her taking one out occasionally to wear when she got cold, she still does as far as I know. I never really thought of it until recently how touching that is. I used to wear one once in a while too in middle school and high school, so did my sisters. The shirts were all scratchy, but warm and felt comforting. They didn’t match anything, so they went with everything.
I do have one other memory of my Grandpa K, and it’s at his funeral. Like I said I was only three when he passed away, but my parents had me go for the wake. I remember this because my dad held me up to touch the fabric of his shirt. Again, I believe the tactile moment of this etched it in my mind. I’m not sure I was entirely comfortable at the time with this, and I may have even been a bit scared, but I’m so grateful for that memory.
I also remember looking back out the back of my Dad’s parents’ car, my other grandparents, when I was driven away from the funeral. I’m guessing they took me and my sisters away early so my parents could be alone with the rest of the family. I remember the trees above the car, and just a real quick flash of a memory of looking back out the rear window. That’s it. I knew something about that day was different.
What connects my two memories, is his shirt. I know I felt loved when he held me close to it, and I know he was loved by my family as my Dad held me over him to touch his sleeve.
Even though I wish I could have known Bud so much better myself, hearing all the stories about him makes me feel like I have a few more memories myself. I can only imagine if he was alive today, and knew I just wrote a blog on the internet about him, he might just say,
Can you recall your first memory? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.