Happy birthday, Cluck

I just looked at the calendar and realized it's my grandfather's birthday. He'd be 89 today.

I have these great pictures from his birthday 17 years ago, which, hello. It totally doesn't feel like 17 years ago. It feels like five years ago. Why does time move faster once you're old?

Picky 001

Part of my job required me to take black-and-white photographs, so I always had a camera with me and also black-and-white film. And how many personal pictures do you think I have in black and white from this time? Whenever I'd go to the photo developing place, I'd end up feeling guilty and paying for the developing out of my own pocket, because half the work pictures would be of my cats, or my grandfather's birthday.

I love these pictures because I can tell throughout this entire afternoon we all had the giggles. My grandfather was not was you'd call a solemn person.

My grandfather could do an impeccable impression of the sound of a bottle opening and then the liquid pouring into the glass. It is an important thing for a grandfather to know how to do. Every time we ever talked on the phone, he'd say, "How are you? You're lookin' good!" It always annoyed my grandmother that he said that.

He figured out something cool when I was little. He was born in 1920, and I was born in 1965, and from the time I was 1, we could always work it out so we were the same age. Like, the year I was 1, he was 46, and 4 + 6 = 10, and  1 + 0 = 1.

This year he would be 89, 8 + 9 = 17 and 1 + 7 = 8. This year I will be 44; 4 + 4 = 8. I am so excited it still works out.

Gnp 001

 Look at my grandmother. She is about to spit up, she's laughing so hard. What on earth were we laughing at? My grandfather went by the name Chuck, and one year the bakery accidentally wrote, "Happy Birthday, Cluck!" on his cake, but I know it wasn't this particular year.

Mary 001

Aunt Mary, the one who likes to shop, was there, too, that day. She lives in Colorado. I've always liked this picture of her, the way the sun is streaming in.

I'm glad I took these pictures illegally with my work film, because it was my grandfather's last birthday. He died pretty peacefully five months later. We had all been in his room, laughing like we had been on this day, then when we left he died in his sleep, at the age of 72.

I was 27. We were both nine.

30 thoughts on “Happy birthday, Cluck

  1. He sounds like he was a fabulous person June. Thanks for sharing this story. happy Birthday Cluck. :o)


  2. I love those pictures. He looks like my Uncle Tio who was really my Great Uncle but we were very close. He out hoola hooped me when he was 88 and I was 25. Of course I had a good excuse. I just had a hysterectomy and still had stiches. Then he went and showed me up by hoola 4 hoops at once.
    Hey maybe Tio and Cluck are hoola hoopin in heaven.


  3. June, you forgot the fact that the cake decrator was Asian and did not understand what my mother was trying to tell her. Can you imagine that impatient WVA accent repeating Chuck over and over again?
    Thanks for the photos. Cluck was just the best.


  4. I’m with Susanne; this makes me miss my grandfathers, too. When I was too young to go to church with everyone else, I’d stay home with my maternal grandfather, who spent the time teaching me how to play poker. It was a very edifying way to while away a Sunday morning.


  5. Makes me miss my grandfather–his special trick was waiting until everyone was quiet and unsuspecting and then shouting “HA!” Which sounds silly but never failed to make everyone jump about a mile into the air.
    In my family we have the threes-my grandfather was born in 1923, grandmother in 1933, mother in 1953 (don’t tell her I told you that), my uncle in 1963, me in 1983, and my nephew in 2003.
    Your number trick is definitely cooler than our threes, though.


  6. I gasped a little and teared up at the end. Thank you June. That made my heart happy. I love that your family has the giggles. We do too.


  7. I totally don’t get the number thing. Maybe because it’s a holiday and my brain has apparently gone to the lake without me. I’ll try to understand it tomorrow when I’m back at work, unless my brain calls in sick.


  8. You add up our ages until you get to a single digit, CariOkie. I feel you, though. Numbers are not my thing. Hence the whole English degree. It was my way of never having to take math again.


  9. Such a great story and photos, June.
    When my Granpda was 95 he tried to get a car dealer to finance a car for 5 years. They refused, and my Grandpa was so pissed!
    We all thought it was so funny. He lived to be 101.
    Grandma lived to be 97. She and my Grandpa were taking a nap and she sat up, grabbed his hand,said his name,”Seward”. Then died. They were married for 76 years.
    Granparents rock, and I miss mine.


  10. We have several numbers things in our clan too. There are a whole slew of family born on Feb. 22, Washington’s birthday, but none are named George or Washington. Go figure.
    Then my Grandma was born in 1918, my dad (her eldest) in 1938, and I (his first-born) in 1958. I totally screwed that up by not having children till 1985.
    My dad’s youngest sister was born August 7, and exactly 16 months later I was born, and exactly 16 months later my sister was born.
    Seems like we do things by 3’s.
    And Junie, I think your Cluck would have loved getting to know my Grandpa, and probably my dad too. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were all up in heaven playing dominoes and trying to out-story tell each other?
    I miss my dad today. A lot.
    Thanks for sharing your Cluck with us.


  11. So, June, here is the not-so-secret secret of your success: you share your stories, and that sharing allows us to remember our own.
    The other day you wrote: “You don’t even really know me. . .”
    But we do know you. You are us — just funnier. And braver.


  12. I love the fact that you remember that your grandma was laughing so hard she’s about to spit up. I couldn’t tell that from the picture, which means the memory of that day is still golden in your mind.
    I never knew either of my grandfathers. I am so envious of those of you with good grandparent memories.


  13. I only knew one of my Grandparents. My mother’s mother. She never smiled. I think that is one of the reasons that I want to be close with my own grandchildren. I would have loved to have a grandfather around to dote on me.


  14. Somehow I linked to your blog and read your post about “Cluck” and smiled through my tears. How beautiful. I was blessed to have two wonderful grandfathers and I just miss them so much. What a blessing grandfathers can be!! Thanks for bringing back some sweet memories for me.


  15. I love a good grandpa story. My PawPaw died when I was 11. When we would speak on the phone he never said “good-bye” instead he always say “be sweet”. I miss him but I always try to do what he asked and “be sweet”. Somehow I think it would make him proud.


  16. Your Aunt Mary and my Aunt Mary look so similar! She lives in Indiana, but I live in Colorado… Strange!
    Thank you for sharing your grandpa. Makes me think about my wonderful grandparents and what special times we had together.
    I LOVE your blog!


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