From the Braver Institute
My grandfather had a somewhat uncanny ability, when given enough time, to find out how he was related to almost everyone he met. He would strike up a conversation with someone whom he had never met before and eventually figure out that he was that person’s second-cousin twice removed through marriage or some other roundabout way of making the connection. I am sure that on occasion he had to work his way back to Adam and Eve and then go forward from there. I suspect that my grandfather never used the term “no relation” when speaking of other people. For him there was always a relation.
Sure, this might be a bit of an exaggeration but it is something that my family mentions regularly when talking about my grandfather.
I was reminded of all of this a few weeks ago when my good friend Wayne Genghis and I were golfing on Mackinac Island (see last weeks column). We were playing at the Jewel which is the Grand Hotel’s golf course. The course is divided into two very different nines. The front nine is referred to as the Grand Nine and the back nine is referred to as the Woods Nine. These nines are roughly a mile apart and the golf course provides a horse drawn carriage ride between the two.
After playing the Grand Nine we were riding on the carriage to the Woods Nine and some of the other golfers riding along struck up a conversation with Dave, the driver of the carriage. They asked him all of the touristy questions about the island, none of which interested me because I have heard it all before. Besides, I wasn’t a tourist, I was on the island for golf and only golf. I didn’t care about who and how the streets are cleaned up after the horses.
The conversation eventually came around to where people were from. The other riders were from the Detroit area, and the driver mentioned that he was from Marquette, my hometown. I told him that I too was from Marquette and we started talking about different places around the city and where we had worked. Dave said that he had worked for the Big Boy restaurants, one of which was on the highway and the other in the mall. I told him that not many people remember the Big Boy in the mall and asked when he worked there. Dave said that he worked there in the mid 80’s. It was then that he turned and looked back and I could clearly see his face.
During the mid 80’s I spent entirely too much time at Big Boy drinking coffee and solving all of the worlds problems with my friends.
“I remember you,” I said, “your brother Brian worked there too, didn’t he?”
Dave and I then proceeded to talk about all of the people we both knew from Marquette, effectively ignoring the rest of the passengers for the remainder of the ride.
At the Woods Nine we unloaded our clubs and returned to the reason we were on the island in the first place.
After playing the Woods Nine we loaded onto another carriage for the return trip. This carriage only carried four people and a couple of the golfers who rode with us on the trip out were riding with us on the trip back. They mentioned how much they enjoyed listening to the driver and me talk about Marquette and the people we knew there. The small world thing can be interesting I suppose.
This couple started talking with our current driver. I didn’t catch her name but someone asked where she was from and she said that she was from Negaunee.
I said “Negaunee? Do you know Carol Carlson?” (Carol is a girl I dated just out of high school). She said that she knew all of the Carlsons. “How about Bink Saari?” (Bink is my sister-in-law’s brother). The driver said that she sure did and was just in Bink’s son’s wedding a few weeks earlier. Small world indeed.
At this stage the jaws of the others riding with us were on the floor. One of them stated that they were starting to think that I knew everyone. I must admit that I was quite amused with the fact that I could draw direct connections with both of our carriage drivers on the island, and that is what reminded me of my grandfather. I am convinced that if those rides had been just a little bit longer we would have eventually found how we were related.
And all this time I thought that it was a love of woodworking that was passed down to me by my grandfather.
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