War and Peace

child-with-family(This wonderful picture is my grandfather, mother, Aunt Evelyn, and grandmother.)

My sister recently had the ancestry DNA test – the results based on her DNA were:

52% Great Britain,
28% Eastern European,
7% Western European,
7% Scandinavian.

I don’t know about our Great Britain, Eastern European or Scandinavian ancestry; but that 7% Western European includes my grandparents.

The story I want to tell today is about my maternal grandfather. Grandpa LeClercq was from France and emigrated to the United States during the first World War as a young teenager. After losing her husband and another son in the war, his mother sent him to the United States with a friend.  Grandpa never saw his family or homeland again.

Grandpa was quiet, introspective, perhaps introverted – maybe homesick for France.  Mom was a lot like her father, keeping a lot of her deeply personal feelings inside.  Grandpa had an amazing “green thumb.”  He could grow anything.  During our childhood, Grandpa had a truck farm outside Chicago.  He grew corn, cabbage, tomatoes, and other vegetables… and hollyhocks for Grandma. He grew mountains of pumpkins every fall.

My memories include:

  • Going to visit the farm during the summer and fall. Dad helping in the fields.  Mom helping in the kitchen. Playing in the yard. Grandpa sending us home with bags of whatever veggies were in season.  Sweet corn being my favorite!
  • Getting to pick a pumpkin in the fall.
  • “Helping” whoever was working the roadside stand.
  • Loving the hollyhocks along the sides of the yard.

Grandpa trucked most of the veggies into stores in Chicago.  Grandpa also worked seasonally for the Cook County/Chicago parks as a landscaper.

When Grandpa wasn’t farming, he sat in his chair by the window smoking his pipe, looking out at the farm.  My most favorite memory is climbing up into his lap and sitting there quietly looking out the window with him.  Pipe smoke always makes me think of Grandpa.

grandpa-leclercq-in-his-chair

I was in the fourth or fifth grade maybe when Grandpa was killed in a freak landscaping accident.  Soon after, the farm was sold and Grandma came to live with us.

Perhaps, Grandpa led me to eventually marry a man with a green-thumb whose idea of a garden is 150 tomato plants!

You don’t choose your family.
They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
– Desmond Tutu