Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Glen Jackson Fox: Part 1

For those who haven't heard, my grandfather passed away last Wednesday, July 7th, 2010, after a lengthy illness. It's been a difficult time for all of the family, and I won't be able to attend the funeral he's requested us to forgo. I've decided to write a multi-part series about him and our relationship. It's mostly for myself and my family, but I imagine the experience between a young woman of my generation and an old man of his is much the same thing for other families, and perhaps everyone else will like the stories too.

Background facts as they were recorded in my 3rd grade genealogy workbook (my relatives are free to correct any errors or omissions): Glen Jackson Fox was born November 17, 1932 at his Aunt Rose's home. His parents were Owen Fox and Elva Jackson Fox. He learned to swim by being thrown in the Ogden River. He didn't complete his formal education, and was married to my grandmother, Arabella “Arabell” Campbell on August 28, 1950. They were married in Elko, Nevada, in what I have always assumed was an elopement. My grandfather worked for the Union Pacific Railroad from the time he was 17 until his retirement. He also had other jobs including working as a carpenter “He worked for Big D back when it was just me and Big D” he told me once. (Big D is a major construction presence in Utah.) My grandparents had four daughters and a son: Christine (my mom), Susan, Linda, Lori, and Frank. They purchased a home in a new development 3309 Adams Avenue in Ogden where my grandmother still lives. They divorced when my mother was 16 and Frank was 2. Shortly after that, he married Mildred “Mickey” and they lived in a condo at 4539 S 1800 W in Roy, Utah until his death.

My grandpa always lived life to the fullest. At some point when my mom was a teenager, he had a speedboat and would take them water skiing. He also took them snow skiing. He once had an airplane, which he crashed on his last flight after selling it. He traveled frequently, summering in Utah and wintering in Yuma, Arizona after his retirement. He took trips to visit family around the country including his sister, Jean in California, Frank in North Carolina, me in Connecticut, and also trips overseas to Paris and Ireland.

When I was very young, we visited my grandfather on Father's Day, his birthday, Christmas Eve, and a few times during the summer to swim. At these visits, the family hung out mostly in the basement family room. My grandfather sat in his chair smoking long brown cigarettes, and the kids paid little attention to him. There were great toys in the basement: a sit and spin, one of those wheels on a stick for doing stomach exercises (we used to hold onto it and wheel around the room like one of those flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz); carpeted stairs that we slid down in a game called "bumpity bump"; there was a nutcracker with a mallet and a big wooden box shaped like an almond that held decks of cards (solitaire, war, or go fish were played on every visit); and they had a ping pong table that was replaced with a pool table when I was around 10. After the arrival of the pool table, we spent more time shooting pool and less time playing cards. In the summer we would visit to use the pool at the condo. I don't remember whether my grandpa came to the pool with us or not. Sometimes Mickey came along and sometimes we would just stop at the house to get the key to the pool and go swimming with just my mom or my aunts and uncles. I usually wore water wings and mostly hung out in what might have been a hot tub, but I always considered it a kiddie pool because it was shallow with a step running along all four walls. It was also much warmer than the main pool. The summer before second grade, my uncle taught me to do backflips from the side of the pool. It was a great trick and I enjoyed it for a few months, until I learned fear. (I under rotated my flip one trip to Ben Lomond Pool with friends and hit my head on the edge of the pool. The one legged life guard pulled me out of the water, then hopped me all the way around the pool to the office where he put some bandages on my head. My mom took me to the hospital for stitches—I received 8 so the scar on my forehead would be minimal. The hospital staff gave me some balloons for being so brave and forbade me to swim for a week, a real drag since I left for vacation in California the next day.)

One Christmas Eve, my grandpa gave my brother and I electronic fireman hats, complete with sirens. These were one of the coolest toys I ever remember receiving. Someone, Grandpa I guess, asked Michael “Are you going to be a Lover or a Fireman when you grow up?”. We wore the hats on the drive home in the station wagon, and I never saw them again. (I can't really blame my parents for that, I want to disappear lots of Jackson's toys.)

At some point in my childhood, my grandfather gave up smoking. He said nothing about it, and my mom and aunts whispered that there must've been a medical reason but no one knew what it was. He seemed to just go cold turkey--smoking at his birthday, but not that Christmas Eve. Mickey told me much later that he had been to see either an accupuncturist or a hypnotist to stop. Around that time, there was also a fight between my father and grandfather at the Christmas Eve party. I don't know what they argued about, but we left in a big hurry. I remember loading up into the station wagon in the dark. I think we visited less often after that, but we still made it out for the 3 holidays.

My parents separated the summer after my 16th birthday. As we settled into our new routines, my mom told me that I needed to go and visit my grandpa. She said that if I visited him, he would take care of me. So I visited, he took care of me, and that's how we began to have more of a relationship. My grandpa who wasn't much for sharing his feelings said a few times something to the effect that he was making up for the kind of relationship I had with my father and the relationship he'd had with my mother when she was younger. After that, he started calling me “Daughter” more often than he called me “Granddaughter”.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your memories of your grandpa, Sheree. I'm sorry to hear he is no longer in your life.