And then the Old Man spoke

I had been looking forward to today for a couple of months. When my sister suggested that the descendants of George and Eula Grace Hodge have a mini family reunion outside of the much larger Gilbert and Hodge get together's that take place every year, we all jumped at the idea. My grandparents instilled the value of a close knit family in us, yet we hadn't been all together since my Mother's funeral. Obviously, this celebration of my grandparents legacy was long overdue.

I have written several times about the family functions I had with these folks when I was younger. And the day brought back so many memories of those times. Of course we had a huge, homemade feast complete with everything from pork tenderloin to deviled eggs to banana pudding. We sat and talked and told stories about the good old days and where we are now. Aunts Pam, Debbie, and Bev decided to enlighten Tiffany with tales of  a 4 year old terror named Michael, and explain how they had to use switches and fly swatters to keep him in line. Uncle David Played the piano as Uncle Ronnie sang "Old Rugged Cross", then was joined by my sister as the three of them performed The Rose at my request. When they brought in Aunt Pam and rounded out the set of songs with "Life Lived Separately" with my sister singing in my Mom's place, I had chills on my back and tears in my eyes. It was a wonderful day. The only missing parts were Mom and Mamaw, but I have a feeling they may have been right there with us, enjoying this time as much as we did.

One thing that really worked in our favor today was the weather. With our ever changing patterns we have in Ohio, we were a little worried about a November 5th reunion. But a sunny, 60 degree day was the perfect backdrop as I settled onto the porch to have lunch. Tiffany and I decided to sit at the table with my Papaw, who we all affectionately call the "Old Man". I don't get to see him as much as I would like to, so the chance to make conversation as we ate was one I was not going to pass up. But I never would have guessed that we would have the conversation we did. And, over 2 hours later, I walked away from that table knowing I would never forget this day or the words he had just spoken. But before I can tell you about that, I have to tell you  the story of the Old Man I know first.

Growing up, I never heard my Papaw talk. I mean, there was always "C'mon Michael, we gotta get to church" and "You kids need to cut that racket out" and of course "Well kiss my foot" that he would say on a day to day basis. But I never heard him carry on a conversation. Sure, we spent a lot of time at their house. but he was always at work (35 years retired from GE) or in the garden or tinkering with something around the house. He was always something of a mystery, hiding behind his bushy beard and mountain man persona. And after the peep incident of 1979, I would have to say I was more scared of him than anything else.  Not oh hes gonna hurt me scared, but more of he doesn't say a lot so keep quiet around him kind of thing. When Mamaw died in 1989, he came out of his shell a little, going on vacation with us to Cape Cod and shaving his trademark beard before he married Lina. He was easier to talk to, a little more playful, and a lot more approachable as I got older. But I still didn't really ever have a conversation with him. Until today.

First, he took a liking to Tiffany. That couldn't have made me any happier of course, as I wanted him to get along with my soon to be wife. They started talking on the back porch, and I left for a few minutes to let them have a chance to get to know each other. When I came back, we began talking about his "stuff" like the guns and signs and things he has collected over the years. From there, I got lost in conversation and, while I am not sure how we got to each subject from the last, I listened as this man told stories that fascinated me. Not so much because of their content, but rather who was telling them.

He spoke about his brothers and sisters. He is the second oldest of 10 kids, and we talked about his relationships with them. Anyone who knows him knows what a good and just man he is, and to hear the struggles he has had at times, both years ago and even up til now, was unbelievable to me. One brother in particular, he said, seemed to try to cause problems with him as long as they had been alive. Then we talked about him marrying my Mamaw, and how they never would have imagined an event like this that was the result of when they got together. He talked about his admiration of her, that she never raised her voice  and was always such a kind spirit. He told me that when she died, it was the worst blow of his life, one which he  didn't think he could get up from. But he had a friend who helped him through and he was grateful of that. He lamented about my mothers marriage to my biological father, and how when she came home with a black eye, it was all he could do to keep from tearing my father apart. He talked about her subsequent marriage to her second husband and how he knew that man was a snake. He then told me the greatest thing that ever happened to my family is my Dad, Michael Bromberg, and that he was so happy that she found a man like him. We talked about auctions he went to and his gun collection and how he likes to barter, buy, and sell things. He told me about his motorcycle he wishes he still had and about his fathers land in Virginia. He talked about his dad and how he had bouts of anger and moments my grandpa would like to forget. We spoke about the other grand kids and people at church and about how he still feels as good today, at 81, as he ever has. He covered so many topics, it was like listening to someone read their autobiography. I was hanging on every word, knowing I may never have this chance again. Then, when he was done, he picked up the empty pop cans he could recycle and said he needed to get going. He needed to go see a friend in the hospital. I hugged him goodbye and he left.

It was an amazing conversation, one which I know I will never forget. And it occurred to me that no one who was in that house today would have been there without him. When George Marce Hodge asked Eula Grace Gilbert to marry him so many years ago, it started a chain of events that led us to the reunion today. I am grateful for that legacy. I am thankful for the family I saw today. Though a lot of the faces have changed over the years, it is still a wonderful family to be a part of. And I am so lucky to have had a chance to have this amazing conversation with the one who started it all. Our Patriarch, my Papaw. Thank you Old Man.

I hope to have more of these mini reunions again in the near future, as it really was an awesome day. Thank you to all of my family. I am truly blessed.

Good Night All...............................


  1. I loved this blog michael, your one of the lucky ones. I would have loved to have sit in, like a fly on the wall when this converstion was taking place. someone who I have always wanted to know more about was my grandmother.

  2. Beautiful! Wiping tears from my eyes now. I'm so glad I read this. Some of my fondest memories as a child were with Uncle Marce and Aunt Eula Grace.


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