Relic (noun)

Etymology: Middle English relik, from Anglo-French relike, from Medieval Latin reliquia, from Late Latin reliquiae, plural, remains of a martyr, from Latin, remains, from relinquere to leave behind

Date: 13th century

1 a : an object esteemed and venerated because of association with a saint or martyr
2 plural : remains, corpse
3 : a survivor or remnant left after decay, disintegration, or disappearance
4 : a trace of some past or outmoded practice, custom, or belief

The items in the picture above are some of my grandparents’ things.  On our last visit to Germany, two years before my Oma passed away, I went through the drawers of my Opa’s old stuff, and claimed a few things that had meaning to me.

The dice were two of a dozen or so that lived in a leather dice cup in my grandparents’ kitchen cabinet.  When I was a kid, we used to play Parcheesi over tea and cookies all the time, and I’ve tossed that particular pair of dice thousands of times.  I remembered these two because they have a distinctive discoloration that set them apart from all the other ones in the cup, and I usually picked those to roll.  The well-worn bottle opener was used to open every beer bottle ever consumed in my grandparents’ apartment for as long as I can recall.  The ashtray was my Opa’s, who used it every day until he went to the hospital where he passed away.  The wedding bands are my grandparents’, and my Oma wore them both after my Opa died in 1985.  Before she passed away, she told my mother that she wanted me to have those rings, and my brother brought them over for me when he visited.

Anyway, those are a few things that have meaning to me, but are worthless to anyone else.  They’re a physical connection to my grandparents, and a reminder of my family history.

I always envy people who have family stuff relevant to their current lives–the .22 their grandfather used to teach their father how to shoot, or the fountain pen their grandmother used to write her journal for forty years.  Robin has a neat set of old notebooks filled with handwritten recipes by her Oma, written before she emigrated to the United States in the early 1920s.  Opa and Oma didn’t own guns, and they weren’t writers, so these tokens are merely stuff that triggers some old childhood memories, rather than things I can use the way my grandparents used them.

Come to think of it, I do think I’ll let the kids use those dice once we start playing board games together in the kitchen over tea and cookies…


21 thoughts on “relics.

  1. igli1969 says:

    I have the service-issue M1911A1 my father carried in WWII. When he died in 2001, my mother (who never liked his guns, she sold all his rifles years before while he suffered from Alzheimer’s) relented and let me have it. This broke a decades-long impasse with my wife, who hates guns even more. Now I have “more than I need, less than I want” and my wife tolerates my hobby. Thanks, Dad. Your sidearm is at rest as you are, but does get cleaned and oiled yearly.

  2. MarkHB says:

    Continuity must be nice.

  3. LL says:

    I have a bottle opener just like that but it’s a 5 mark piece.

    I have very little from my grandparents. It breaks my heart.

  4. Aaron says:

    The felonious scumbag who was my grandpa’s caregiver sold everything he had before he died, including his house. When we finally get enough evidence, she was arrested and is in jail now. My grandpa died just a few weeks after we got him back.

    At his funeral, discovered just the day before by my aunt, I was given his dog tags from his time in the Navy during WWII. I was the only of his descendants who went into the Navy instead of the Corps. That meant a hell of a lot more than anything else would have.

    • Kristopher says:

      People just don’t realize that there are entire classes of criminals that specialize in exploiting the elderly.

      Had one try to take over my maternal G-mother’s care in Idaho … he got run off by my younger sister with a twelve gauge.

  5. Jay G. says:

    I’m very fortunate in that I have two gun safes full of memories from my grandfather.

    All I need to do is wander into the armory, open a safe, and pull out a shotgun, or the lever-action rifle, or the Colt Official Police .38, and I am transported back in time to being 10 years old and standing in front of the gun cabinet in my grandparents’ basement…

    Which is also in the armory…

  6. elmo_iscariot says:

    Having recently lost my dad to cancer, I know exactly how you feel. His wristwatch isn’t exactly the style I would’ve chosen for myself, but it’s been on my wrist every day since his funeral, and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

    And I’ll probably keep my great aunt’s fountain pen forever, too, even though it’s completely worthless monetarily. A cheap old Sheaffer lever-filler with a badly cracked cap, missing clip, damaged nib, and disintegrated ink sac that rattles like a maraca when you shake it may not have a great market value, but knowing it was used by my ancestor– a first-generation Irish immigrant in New York City–gives it irreplaceable historicity for me.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      You could probably have it restored, but I’m guessing it has more value to you untouched than as a fixed-up user pen.

      • elmo_iscariot says:

        I dunno. It’s one of the handful of pens I want to ask a restorer about eventually (we’ll get around to a Fountain Pen Hospital pilgrimage one of these days) And I really _would_ prefer to be able to use it in Aunt Alice’s memory–it was made as a user and purchased as a user, so I see nothing more noble than fixing it up to be a user. But it may be a lost cause. To my untrained eye, it looks like the body was permanently assembled and has no removable parts. I can’t imagine how to go about getting inside it. And the cap would have to be replaced completely; don’t know how many spare caps there are floating around for 70-year-old budget pens.

        Ah, I’m probably just underestimating the skill and resourcefulness of niche craftsmen. 🙂

        And another relic occurred to me: my great uncle’s Bluejacket’s Manual from 1943; everything you need to know about being a US navy sailor during the second world war. From it, I’ve learned how much he was paid as a naval musician ($67-97 per month), hygiene issues related to tattooing (“Do not get tattooed.”), and proper use of prophylactics (“Bad women will bring you endless trouble.”). Plus, instructions on stripping and reassembling a 1911 pistol so convoluted and incomprehensible that, if I tried them on my Government model, I’d probably end up with a bicycle.

        • Velma says:

          I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I would send the pen to Richard Binder ( Email him, talk to him about the condition of the pen, and he can tell you whether he can rebuild it. The other person you might try, if you’re on this coast, is Ron Zorn, of Main Street Pens. Richard handles most of my pens, and I have complete faith in him.

        • Thanks much. I’ll keep both of them in mind. 🙂

  7. John Gall says:

    I too have some trinkets from my grandfather, Papa, to the kids. I’ve made a point of sharing the stories about them with my offspring.
    Don’t forget to share your memories with your children.

  8. Sara says:

    All I have from my grandparents is a couple of my paternal grandfather’s things… His WWII Army ID, his service 1911, and a telegraph sent to him from my grandmother. There’s a Luger he brought back from the war as well, but it doesn’t carry the same meaning as the pistol he carried.

  9. jimbob86 says:

    I have my Granpa’s .270 Winchester…… he gave it to me shortly before he died, on the condition I shoot it, and not put it up on the wall to gather dust. I worry about wearing “Old Betsy” out, but with handloads, it still prints 1 1/4 inch groups at 100 yards…..

  10. LittleRed1 says:

    Thieves cleaned out my grandparents place just after Papa died, so all I have are . . . spices. We brought a number of boxes, bottles and jars back with us after the funeral, because you couldn’t get those kinds of things up here. Custom gumbo seasonings, saffron he and Gammy bought in Spain before the War, crab boil. No, most are not edible anymore, but I can’t bring myself to clean them out just yet.

  11. MarkHB says:

    S’funny. I don’t have any links to my past – family, items, anything like that. No kids or anything. I’ve forged relationships for which I’m responsible out of whole cloth, and those responsibilities please and comfort me, but actually family… not a thing. Blood ties me to absolutely nothing. I can imagine it would be a great source of strength.

  12. jimbob86 says:

    Mark, how exactly does one forge cloth? Is that the secret to mithril chainmail?

  13. MarkHB says:

    I could mean I’m counterfeiting it, Jimbob 😉

  14. Tam says:

    When my maternal grandfather passed away earlier this year, I was appalled to find that none of his children, all present to clean out the house, wanted the dusty olive-colored woolen tunic with the sergeant’s stripes on the sleeves; all that was left of his service in WWII, save an OD cap which I have someplace.

    Grandpa’s tunic is hanging in the attic now, too.

  15. perlhaqr says:

    I have a car from one grandfather, and some tools from another.

  16. rfortier1796 says:

    Have my grandfathers WWII Victory Medal, starw hat he used to always wear while doing yard work, his favorite glass (tumbler with his plane engraved on it), a hand done oil painting of his last plane (he owned a few, this one a Mooney Bravo), and all his flight logs.

    He also made sure I got HIS father’s WWI Victory Medal.

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