More about My Paternal Grandparents

bed2    bed   table   table1

If you didn’t read Sunday’s post, you might want to do so before reading this one.

I remember visiting my grandmother in the hospital several times as she grew older, but her decline was–I hate to admit–of no great personal interest to me. I loved going to North Carolina to visit my Williford grandparents, but merely tolerated visits to my Bruner grandmother’s house. Thankfully, my mother’s great-aunt and several of her brothers and their families lived in Richmond, too, so I was able to escape to less severe surroundings periodically.

I wish I could remember Grandmother Bruner with love. Or even with fondness. At least when we reunite in Heaven, we’ll be there as equals. And undoubtedly have more in common.

I remember more things about that house at 2420 Hanover Avenue than I do about my grandmother. Especially one thing which became quite a joke between my parents. When my mother requested that our name be put on the dining room table (a much simpler process than listing individual items in a will) to inherit at the appropriate time. My father had protested. We would never have room for it. It took up most of the dining room at my grandmother’s house. How amazed he was when he learned that it was actually a round table that had eight or ten leaves!

In one of the bedrooms upstairs was the humongous bed everyone affectionately referred to as grandpa’s bed. It had belonged to my great-grandparents and dated back to sometime in the 1800s. My great-grandmother had given birth to her numerous children in that bed. I hasten to add that the mattress was not the original one.

Because of my great-grandmother’s connection to the Women’s Missionary Union (see the previous post), that bed would be of great value to the WMU. But, for now, it’s our guest room bed.

A painting on one of the downstairs walls especially fascinated me. It showed the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as the President of the Confederacy. Specifically–at least this is how I remember it–it depicted one of our ancestors praying the inaugural prayer. At my grandmother’s death it was donated to the Museum of the Confederacy.

I was quite fond of turtles as a youngster, and my father would bring home turtles he rescued from the roads he traveled. One Sunday while we were visiting my grandmother, he brought home a humongous turtle which he had rescued from someone who was beating it (rather unsuccessfully, I should think) with an umbrella. As the turtle expert, I didn’t have to look twice at my new pet to know my loving father had rescued a snapping turtle. One that was certain not to make a good pet.

Unsure what to do with it, we put it in a closed-in concrete area outside the door to the basement at 2620 and blocked the steps at the top. I don’t recall what we used, but it failed to keep the snapping turtle from escaping. I don’t know how many hours I spent looking for the escapee, but I feel certain I covered every inch of that backyard.

I’ve often wondered how shocked people were to spot such a good-sized snapping turtle wandering around one of Richmond’s older residential areas. We never saw it again, though.

I mentioned the round table, but what I remember better than Lizzy’s cooking was the fact that we read Scripture before each meal. I had my favorite–Revelation 5–and I gladly took my turn reading it aloud to my fellow diners.

I’m afraid I was serious when I said I remember the house with more affection than I remember my paternal grandmother. She was not a–how shall I say it?–not a cuddly grandmother. I don’t doubt that she loved me, but I can only wish she had demonstrated it the way my maternal grandparents did.

Perhaps leaving me that entertainment center, which stayed in my room at home for a number of years, was the best way she knew of to say, “I love you.”

Do you have relatives you simply find it impossible to feel much affection for? Perhaps relatives you just can’t find a way to get close to? How about sharing a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Memories of my Paternal Grandparents

Twins
If you read my recent blog post about my maternal grandparents, you’ll find this one to be quite different. But hopefully still interesting.

My Williford grandparents were people I enjoyed visiting and being with when I was young. I wish I could say the same about my Bruner grandparents.

I barely knew my grandfather, Weston Bruner, and I never heard him preach during his lengthy pastoral ministry.  I’m not sure how old I was when he died, but I’ll never forget the time he came to visit us, very much in his dotage. Even now I can almost picture him sitting at the breakfast room table and my shock at watching him pour orange juice on his cereal. My mother shushed me before I could express my dismay.

What an unfortunate recollection.  My only memory of him.

I got to know my paternal grandmother, Mariah Gwathmey Bruner, much better than I did my grandfather. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I was around her enough to have some specific memories. But I never saw her when I didn’t think of her as looking very old.

Grandmother Bruner–I feel certain I never called her anything but “Grandmother”–had a twin sister I vaguely recall. (My grandmother outlived her twin by a number of years.)  The two of them had been children when their mother took them to the founding meeting of the Women’s Missionary Union.

When the WMU, as it’s more commonly known, celebrated its hundredth anniversary, it commissioned a special painting, which was also issued as the postcard pictured above. It depicts attendees at the founding meeting. Yes, those twin girls at the bottom left are my grandmother and her twin, Abby.

Visiting the Bruner home on Hanover Avenue in Richmond  was seldom a fun or pleasant time. It felt like a museum in which practically everything was untouchable. Everything there looked twice as old as my grandmother.

Even Lizzie, the black cook. Of course, in those days, she was respectfully described as “colored.” She was a good cook, though, and I vaguely recall being fond of her. I don’t think I’m dreaming that she took me downtown on the bus several times, as later did one of my grandmother’s nurses.

Grandmother Bruner lived in a huge house on Hanover Avenue in Richmond in an area known as The Fan. I can almost picture the downstairs now–the entrance on the right side of the house with stairs to the second floor. An electric stair lift had been installed to allow her to go upstairs once she was no longer able to climb the stairs. A long hallway (I have no recollection of what it led to) continued past the stairs.

To the left of the entrance way was the living room , which opened into a seldom-used parlor (complete with baby grand piano). Behind the parlor was the huge dining room. At the very back of the house was the kitchen. And perhaps a pantry.

Houses in The Fan might have appeared narrow from the outside, but they tended to go back pretty far. At least that’s what I thought as a small child.

I have a less vivid memory of the upstairs, but there must have been at least four or five bedrooms. The front bedroom opened into a screened-in porch, which I vaguely remember as a pleasant place to sit during hot summer evenings.

As I’ve already mentioned, everything in that house–people affectionately referred to it as “2620,” its street number–seemed old. Yet at one time my grandmother bought a new entertainment center which contained a TV (black and white, of course) and a record player (it pre-dated the advent of stereos).

Even though I thought of her as stodgy and formal, she didn’t get upset at my bringing records to play whenever we came to visit. I played them VERY quietly, however. And can you imagine my amazement when she left that appliance to me when she died?

Grandmother Bruner was an extremely formal person. Visiting her was not a time for me to be loud or boisterous. In fact, my visits were seldom pleasant. They were simply events to be tolerated.

And no wonder. My father’s siblings were all older. Their children were already adults. So visits from other family members simply meant there were more adults around. Never anyone my age.

My word! This post is getting long, and I have more to say. If you’ll forgive me, I’ll continue my recollections on Wednesday.

Do you have–or have you had–relatives you simply failed to get close to? How about sharing with a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger