GOODBYE UNCLE LENNIE


LENNIE_0004 He wasn’t our uncle; he wasn’t even related except by choice. For over 65 years he was our “big brother”, wise advisor, lawyer and well-loved friend. The only photos I could find among the many taken during the years of our friendship, had someone’s arm around him, so I’m including this one. He was “Uncle” Lennie to many people for his wisdom and good humor, especially to us and our family.

He loved kids, and as his grandchildren began arriving, he took them all for a day of fun every Saturday. When our own grandchildren arrived, my husband’s first remark was to say he wanted to be the same kind of grandfather as Lennie. I think he has been.

For thirty years he gave his own all-male birthday party at Scott’s, a prominent Oakland restaurant, to which over 100 guests came, entertained and were entertained with jokes and hi-jinks. He was fond of saying that women were also invited as long as they would jump out of the birthday cake naked! To my knowledge that never happened. He always arrived at the party in a limo wearing a tophat and his red clown nose and a big bow tie.

Lennie was a joke-teller supreme. He told jokes to his grandkids, to the postman, the waiters, and to anyone who would listen. The coming of the internet with its joke-sharing gave him constant new material. His penchant for crazy hats and a red clown nose added to the fun. At one memorable party he brought the mascot mule for the Oakland A’s and at another, the cast of the musical “Chicago” came to liven things up. Red clown noses were passed out at his funeral which he would have approved.

He was a CPA, and at the age of 44 he went to Law School and became an attorney as well. Besides that, he became Probate Referee for the County of Alameda for many years. His loyalty to the University of California was legendary, and he loved the Cal football team, win or lose.

He was a good athlete, including tennis and raquetball, and loved golfing, was a member and also the president of the prestigious Sequoya Country Club. Upon his death, the flag was lowered to half-mast in respect to a man loved not only by fellow members, but by the bar and wait staff as well.

Most of all, he was our dear friend, and we will miss him. He always used to say, “Just because they don’t call you, you call them. The phone works both ways. Remember, you’re a long time dead.” Lennie Gross, your 94 years went all too soon.

BY ANY OTHER NAME


There is a new baby in our family which made me think again that it’s important to think about what your grandchildren will call you once they acquire the power of speech.  (At least any speech clear enough to decipher.)

Your children don’t have a lot of choices, it’s usually some variation of “mama, daddy, mom, dad,” — you get it.   Friends of ours solved that problem by having their children address them by their given names.  The father prefers simply to be called “Captain”.   Rather intimidating but it does lend a certain aura of authority.  What kid is going to mess around Grandpa’s workshop without asking if the “Captain” allows it?

But grandparents’ monikers  need some thought.   Assuming you will be a grandparent for a long time, preferably long after those cute babies become grown people with children of their own, cuddly cute nicknames simply won’t do.  A friend asked me sometime ago what my grandchildren called me.  That’s an interesting question because they all seem to choose their own way of getting your attention.  (Though I once had a son-in-law who never called me anything.)  After I shared my various pet names,  I asked her what she desired her grandchild-to-be to call her, and she said “Auntie Jane, I’m too young to be a grandma”.  Of course that all changed once the dear little thing made it’s appearance.

I thought the original grandson’s choice of “Bammi and Bubba” was really cute.  I even envisioned a little band with him and his brother on various instruments and me on the guitar, but that all changed when a neighbor kid a couple of years older laughed at him, for using such babyish names, and the next thing I knew, I was “Grand-ma” enunciated very clearly.  “Bubba”, however remains, and  has carried on into great-grandparenthood, and now my husband  is “Bub” to all of the various grandchildren, and many of our children’s friends  as well.

I, meanwhile, have numerous forms of identification, none of which happens to be “Grandma”!    I thought “GG”for great-grandmother would be  an easy one, and one grandson in his 30’s says it’s hip!  It’s flattering that he thinks I’m “hip”, or maybe it’s just the name!