Remembering Nelson . . .

There’s an old saying regarding manners, that if someone offers to buy you dinner, you don’t order the most expensive item on the menu. This often leads to the joke of said patron replying with, “I’ll have the lobster, then.” When I was a young(er) lad, my grandfather took my cousin and I out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. We both ordered burgers, and we were quite perplexed as to why this vexed our grandfather. It wasn’t until years later that it was made clear to us.

The one time we were expected to “order the lobster” . . . we didn’t.

And that’s the sort of person my grandfather – Nelson Francis Norman – was. He wanted the best for his children and grandchildren. He was a gentleman and a scholar. (Seriously, he had the Harvard degree to prove it.)

On Saturday, June 6th, 2015, the Norman family was dealt a tragic blow when the 97-year-old Nelson passed away. I wasn’t there to see it happen, nor was I there to witness his gradual decline. But I was assured by family in the area that he went peacefully.

Luckily, I was able to see him before he passed. In early May, I was down in California for World Tea Expo, and before flying out, my mother and I stopped by to visit with my grandparents. My grandmother was looking well, but my grandfather was quite frail. He was in and out of consciousness, quite depressed, and could barely speak. He did put up quite an effort to converse with me, though.

I may be biased but – as far as family patriarch’s go – he was the best. Of his six children, umpteen grandchildren, and burgeoning number of great-grandchildren, he somehow kept tabs of (and found time for) all of us. He also made sure to keep us updated on family happenings, and his views on world affairs . . . in the form of his Norman niche-famous “Sunday Reports”.

His Sunday Reports were a comforting constant in my life. They didn’t always make sense, but they were always topical. And he sent that group e-mail almost once a week like clockwork, for nearly two decades. I regret admitting that I didn’t read all of them, but I was always assured when those e-mails came. As his health declined, though, so did their frequency. Eventually, he needed someone else to transcribe them altogether.

Several years back, he requested a “guest-Sunday Report” from me about the origins of tea, since he’d heard I’d taken up writing about it. He wanted to inform his loyal readers what tea was all about, at least from my perspective. Alas, I never got around to writing that “report”. One of my many bouts of procrastination.

If I were to do it now, though, I think I could only manage one sentence, “Tea is about people.” And follow it up with, You were one of the best of ‘em, Pappy. Or something equally as schmaltzy.

I have yet to cry. For some reason, I can’t manage a tear. But the sadness is there, deep and burrowing. My biggest regret is that I hadn’t accomplished something truly “great” before he died. No Great American Novel badge of honor to show him. Yet I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t have cared either way, just as long as I – and the rest of the family – were happy.

Next time I see you, Grandpa, I’ll remember to order the lobster.


Thursday, June 11th, 2015 Musings

8 Comments to Remembering Nelson . . .

  1. He was nice to “ex-in-laws”, too. He was my college professor, met him in 1970 and we enjoyed doing family history and collaborated at times! Wonderful man and he will
    be missed.


  2. Margo Hutchinson on June 11th, 2015
  3. What a lovely tribute to your grandfather! I’m sorry for your loss and it sounds like he was a great man.

  4. Melinda on June 11th, 2015
  5. What beautiful words and such a thoughtful reflection.

  6. Meredith {MarthaChartreuse} on June 11th, 2015
  7. Condolances to you and your family. Your words reflect the love you shared and have brought a tear to my eyes. Geoff, be assured, he knew and he knows just like so many of us in the tea community.

  8. Jo on June 11th, 2015
  9. I’m so sorry, Geoff. Thank you for sharing these memories with all of us. He sounds like a Prince Among Men. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  10. Jen on June 11th, 2015
  11. Possibly my favourite thing you have ever written, Geoff.When you do write the Great American Novel, you could call it “The Sunday Report”.
    Commiserations to your family, but as we cricket-loving Australians say, 97 is a good innings. Not that saying it ever helps.

  12. Robert Godden on June 11th, 2015
  13. I am very sorry for your loss; what a beautiful tribute to your grand-father

  14. Bea on June 11th, 2015
  15. JimmiNil on November 29th, 2017

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