Monthly Archives: March 2010

Gumper

My grandfather died twenty-four years ago yesterday.  I sent this to some members of my family this morning, in response to a note my uncle wrote with some memories of his own of his last moments, but I decided I would post it here too.

I remember visiting Gumper and Granny in Florida a month before he died.

I remember him using my visit to go to an all-you-can eat buffet, which Granny deplored as much as she hated the early bird special.  I ate my first (and last) oyster there.

I remember working on my term paper on the stories of Franz Kafka while I was in Florida.  I remember reading “The Judgement” for the first time earlier in the semester and physically shaking at the end, so much I felt it described the relationship of Dad with his father.  I was never able to get the exact feeling back on subsequent rereadings.

I remember making Gumper potato pancakes out of a box because he asked me to.  Shortly after his death, I learned how to make proper latkes from scratch and I never make them but I think of making the ones for Gumper, and wishing I had known then how to make proper ones (but some people, esp. from Poland and maybe northern Bohemia like those pureed kind more than the grated kind, so maybe he would have still preferred the boxed ones).

I remember him talking to me about how bored he was.  When he died, I felt he had been ready because of that conversation.

I remember asking Dad if he wanted me to leave school and come stay with him when Mum and Deed were in the Caribbean.  He told me there was no point; he was at work all day.

I remember Gumper’s funeral, the Czech anthem, Dad asking us to wave and shout goodbye to Gumper as we walked home.  I remember Dad telling us that he had learned something, that there was some secret, but he wasn’t going to tell us yet.  Of course, we never learned what it was.  I remember raspberry squares.  I remember dying easter eggs with Alison and Emily.

Medieval Academy at Yale

I got back a couple of days ago from the annual conference of the Medieval Academy at Yale. I have to admit, it is a conference I usually avoid for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with an unedifying reverse snobbery. I was persuaded to attend this year by a worthy cause, a session organized to honour my beloved doctoral advisor. “Oh well,” I thought, “It is worth it for that alone and I can spend the rest of the time reading novels and eating fish by the seaside.”

I did eat fish by the seaside (lobster rolls, lobster bisque, and sole in lobster sauce in one memorable meal), but the conference was worth it on so many levels. It was beautifully organized. Conferences, like armies, march on their stomachs and we were exceptionally well treated in that respect. The program was really exciting, and this is not always the case, to put it mildly. So, good for you, Yale.