Memorial Day always reminds me of my grandfather.
I know it’s a day to remember those who lost their life in service to their country, and veterans have their own day, but as I photograph the local parades each year, my brain naturally wanders to dad’s dad, Grandpa Pete — especially when I cover the service at Calverton National Cemetery, which he’s called home for the past decade.
For me and the select few of us lucky enough to call him dad or grandpa, he was the greatest of that Greatest Generation. A Navy pilot in World War II, his service to his country came second only to his love of family. He was active in his local VFW his entire life and never passed up a good bargain at the PX at Mitchell Field.
I remember him mostly as an older man, slowed by arthritis and other ailments. His being stationary afforded us ample time to bond over sports on the television. He’d hand over that day’s paper folded to the race sheet and ask me to pick a horse in the next race. I’d mostly lose, but he’d share his winnings with me, usually during a departing handshake and in the form of crisp bills folded neatly into his palm.
He’s only person I can recall saying goodbye to and knowing it was for the last time. Like a scene from a movie, my brother and I sat alongside his hospital bed one afternoon near the end, and when it was time to leave he looked us both in the eye and told us he was proud of us. I wish he’d met my wife and kids, but at least he gave me that.
And I gave to him, too. There was one time in particular.
He was a quiet man, whose few words were conveyed with a soft grumble and usually played for laughs. His favorite story to tell in my presence came during a weekend my brother and I spent with our grandparents in Connecticut, visiting Mystic and the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.
We were passing the lighthouses along the Cross Sound Ferry out of Orient, when I asked quite possibly the most ignorant question of my childhood. Now before I reveal what it was I said, let me first share a picture showing exactly how young I was during this trip. I’m the younger, more traditionally handsome kid with the Coke in his hand.
Now that we’ve established I was missing teeth and wearing tube socks and was clearly under 10 years old at the time, I’ll finish the story — but I’m going to tell it the way Grandpa Pete would.
Remember that time we took you to Connecticut and you asked us what language they speak there? Ha ha ha ha ha. God that was funny.
Rest in peace, old man. I’m happy I could give you that laugh … again and again and again.
• OK, I know this is our lifestyle site, so I’ll move on from the touching stuff and share with you instead the goings on this weekend. First off, this northforker weekend is a new column and newsletter Cyndi Murray and I will rotate writing most weeks — probably through the holiday season — is to give you a quick glimpse of what’s happening each week and to share meaningful information and reads from our sites and others. I promise, we won’t always kick this off with tales of those no longer with us (and hey, I did work in an Orient reference!).
• Speaking of Memorial Day parades and ceremonies, here’s where you can find them on the North Fork this weekend.
• My weekend pick for a laid back event on the NoFo — as those crazy kids call it — would have to be the New Suffolk Chowderfest. It’s that time of year where I start craving chowder, and any excuse to get down to the New Suffolk waterfront is a good one. I’ll give a runner-up nod to Browder’s Birds, which is hosting a farm tour and brunch Sunday. Check out more listings on our events page.
• Memorial Day weekend also means more business openings on the North Fork and this weekend marks the soft opening of Mattitaco on Thursday (the grand opening is June 11) and the return of Barba Bianca on Saturday.
• Lots of media has taken to writing a lot lately about Bridge Lane offering kegs of wine for some strange reason I’ve decided not to spend too many brain cells investigating. The winery reported they had so much traffic going to their website it crashed for a bit last week, giving new meaning to the term digital disruption.
• A little something for you real estate enthusiasts out there, it was pointed out by a reader this week that the Claudio’s sale was listed in The Suffolk Times transfers at $3.5 million. A real estate source said Costar lists the sale price at $14 million, which sounds more like it. All I can say about this is to not believe everything you read, except when you get to a stop sign.
Grant Parpan is the content director for Times Review Media Group, overseeing a number of things, including content planning for northforker.com and magazine, the posts and videos we create for advertisers, and the company’s digital platforms. In his spare time he’s a husband and dad, and very occasionally fancies himself a serious newsman. He likes baseball, things that taste good (except mushrooms!) and eagerly awaits next week’s series finale of “The Americans.” Start a conversation with him at email@example.com.
*An earlier version of this column noted North Fork Doughnut Co. would open Friday. As of Thursday evening, their opening has been delayed until June 2.