My grandma the firecracker

Grandma holding a toddler girl on lap

Grandma and me, Christmas 1977

When I was growing up, I loved spending time at my grandparents’ houses. I had wonderful grandparents, each with their own quirks, but I want to tell you about my grandma, Sophie.

She was born in 1919 to Polish immigrant parents. When she went to Kindergarten, she didn’t speak English, but I’m pretty sure she had an iron core that didn’t shirk hard work.

She was a Rosie the Riveter and lost part of her hearing making airplane parts during the war. After World War II, she married the love of her life and eventually had my dad, who is an only child. When my dad was 15, his father died suddenly leaving Sophie to support her little family.

Sophie was a corker. She worked with men and kept up with them. She was independent, tough and a terrible cook. Her specialty was SpaghettiOs, liverwurst and Velveeta.

In the mid-’80s, her brother had a stroke and moved into a nursing home. She came to our house one day to show us what she found while cleaning out his things. I remember it crystal clear:

We (my two sisters, mom and dad) were having dinner. It wasn’t unusual for my grandma to show up, so when she came in the back door, we pulled up a chair for her. As she was talking about her day, she remembered something she found among her brother’s things that she wanted to show my dad. She reached into her bag and rolled a hand grenade across the kitchen table.


We all stopped eating and looked around at each other to make sure we all saw the same thing. Yep. It was a real, honest-to-goodness grenade and it was right next to the green beans.

Apparently, while serving in Africa during the war, my uncle didn’t use one of his grenades, so he brought it home with the pin still in and live and kept it in a drawer or closet for the next 40 years until it lumped its way across our kitchen table one summer day.

That was Sophie. She feared nothing. Held back nothing. And she lived her way.

It’s sad that we’re so young when we have our grandparents around us most, but we truly don’t understand the treasure they are until we’re much older and they’re gone. I’m glad, though, that my kids are getting quality grandparent time and are learning things from them that I’ll never be able to teach them.

However, I certainly hope they don’t have to learn about explosives. From anyone. And certainly not over dinner. Sheesh.

P.S. Don’t worry, my dad called the police that night. They took the grenade away for proper disposal. Didn’t want you to think we still had it hanging around the house.

– Rebecca Calappi is a Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.

1 Response to “My grandma the firecracker”

  1. 1 Carol Calappi September 8, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    What was for desert

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