The Hook On: Life With A German Grandmother.

(Not my best title, I know. I’m almost 47… I’m tired!)

Looking at the modern-day workforce it’s hard to imagine there was a time when the superior sex could afford to stay home while their male counterparts labored at occupations that paid workers a living wage.

But these days most couples/families can barely survive even with both partners working.

While there weren’t nearly as many working moms in the Seventies as there are today, our economic reality meant my mom had no choice but to go to work in a jewelry store while my father worked on cars. And so I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, a German immigrant named Ellie Dzieyzk.

 

originalDiana Sweets, my favorite hangout (with Ellie, of course) on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Being a poor (but hard-working) immigrant Ellie had to seek accommodations that fit her budget. Her apartment was located in St. Catharines in a typical Seventies weathered four-story complex that was crumbling but brimming with character.

And it was overflowing with plenty of colorful characters.

Take for example, the Dutch couple one floor up; their names escape me though I do remember it contained more vowels than an entire phone book. (Remember those?) They were your United Nations garden variety European transplantees that would invite Ellie and I over and serve us lavish sixteen-course meals consisting of foods that would take my ten-year-old self hours to finish (it sure felt that way at least). They were sweet but like most old school couples they fought like stoners in roomful of weed – and one piece of rolling paper.

Love the imagery, don’t you?

The husband, much like my grandfather, drank to forget. And much like my grandfather, he forgot when to stop forgetting. One night, after a bender that kept him away for three days (and apparently made him randy as hell) the husband stumbled in and expected his wife to greet him with open… arms.

But she was having none of that. Or of him. They screamed in Dutch. They yelled in broken English. They fought. Chairs were thrown, tables were overturned and chachkies were rendered even uglier. Fortunately for the neighbors, they left the door wide open so everyone could witness the wife reach her boiling point. She grabbed a cast iron skillet and… well, let’s just say it was a good thing he was drunk and feeling loose or else he would not have gotten back up.

Being knee-high to a grasshopper, I was horrified at the whole affair. Ellie, having lived through a world war and an event more tumultuous marriage, was unphased. She explained this sort of thing was commonplace for the Dutch couple. I was sent back downstairs to watch TV while Ellie helped the wife reset the apartment after the husband stumbled off to bed.

Apparently he did this sort of thing often: He’d drink for days, come home and go ten rounds with the wife before slinking off to bed and sleeping the bender off for a few days. And so the wife left him alone and enjoyed some peace and quiet.

It took her two days to realize he was dead.

Needless to say, I never had to suffer through a four-hour meal of Dutch delicacies again.

TAKEAWAY:  Old people are nowhere near as boring as you think. (Especially old school immigrants.) Pay attention to them while they’re still able to communicate with you without the assistance of medical tech.

And for God’s sake, if you’re married to a Dutch chick, never, ever fight with her in the kitchen. And if you do fight with her and she leaves the room and heads in the direction of the kitchen… make sure you’re fuckin’ gone.

See you in the lobby and down Memory Lane, kids…

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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41 Responses to The Hook On: Life With A German Grandmother.

  1. Marion Hardy says:

    Knew a couple just like this when I was a kid. They both scared and fascinated me and taught me a lot about what kind of partner I wanted. As always you paint a great picture with your words. HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOOK!

  2. Sounds like the neighbors from my youth!

  3. curvyroads says:

    Scary but true!

  4. susielindau says:

    Oh, my God! Was she arrested?
    What an amazing story, Hook!

  5. Allie P. says:

    The older generations are definitely not as sweet and boring as they let on, a fact that I am only now truly understanding. However, I am beginning to wonder if the fact that I do understand this means I’ve crossed into the ‘older generation club’ myself and am simply being given access to club secrets.

  6. Rosemary says:

    Well, my maternal grandmother, a beautiful Czech woman, chased my grandfather around their small house with a broom, put two cigarettes in her mouth and lit them both, then assaulted him with a box of corn flakes…all because he told her she couldn’t do something. Quite the woman, she was.

  7. This was very funny, and exceptionally well told (loved the asides, btw). But it’s not just immigrants who fight like cats and dogs. Have you every spent any time at an Italian-American extended family dinner? They can hoot ‘n holler about passing the salt! It’s sometimes hard to tell if they are fighting or simply conversing in a tone that has become normal. Ditto a few Jewish families I got to know in NYC. I don’t recall any bodily harm, however. Maybe they were using their company manners — I’ve heard stories of what anybody else would consider serious abuse!
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

  8. davidprosser says:

    When I was married we had nothing heavy and nothing sharp in the house. Penblwydd Hapus for tomorrow.
    Hugs

  9. Some friends of mine used to fight. He was Polish and she Dutch. One night while I was visiting she wound up and knocked him off the dining room chair. he did not get up and she thought she had killed him. He was only playing possum and when she started kissing him and crying he began to laugh. She headed for the kitchen and we took off through the front door. He came back later that night and all was forgiven.

    Thanks for the memory, Hook.

  10. Old people are never boring. My grandfather has loads of stories to tell. I think we can never enjoy our lives like they did back then.

  11. umashankar says:

    Now that reminds me of Hagar the Horrible and Helga! The Grandma surely passed down her sangfroid. My respects.

  12. The dichotomy of a grandparenty bickering couple with a pair of resource-constrained stoners is hilarious. True. But hilarious.

  13. ‘they fought like stoners in roomful of weed ‘ Classic.
    My ex-wife once came at me with a carving knife.
    Oh, and I once wrote a short story about somebody being battered to death with a skillet.

  14. Happy birthday, my friend!!

  15. Kevin says:

    Ah, German grandparents and the Dutch? I feel like I’m back in my childhood.

  16. Tara says:

    Love this! So, not to sound slow or anything, but did that pummeling she gave him what did him in? I wrote a short story in college about a wife hitting her husband over the head with a frying pan because he wouldn’t give her a divorce. Thankfully life doesn’t always imitate art – my mother used to say thank God there was never a gun in my house in my former marriage. And she’s right.

  17. She sounds like an amazing person Hook! Wonder what I would have done??? Hm…
    Oh and Happy Belated darling.. I’m sorry I missed that one. I had to get caught up on all my Hook emails and that got past me! Hope it was awesome! 😘🍨🎆🎍🌹💘

  18. kewsmith says:

    Gone are the days of cast iron skillets. This may explain why!

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