Susan Miller-Josselyn and Keith Josselyn

Recorded January 26, 2020 Archived January 28, 2020 36:41 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: lsk002285


Susan Miller-Josselyn (46) talks with her husband Keith Josselyn (51) about his upbringing and his relationship with his grandmother, Carol.


  • Susan Miller-Josselyn
  • Keith Josselyn

Recording Location

Providence Home Services

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type



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00:00 My name is Susan today is January 26th 2020. We are in Portland, Oregon and I am speaking as the wife.

00:13 My name is Keith. And yeah, it's the same date 126 20/20 where in Portland Oregon and I'm speaking as the husband. Thanks for coming to talk with me today. The reason that I picked you is because I feel like there is a relationship in your life that was really powerful and meaningful and I wanted to ask you about it. I'm talking about you're talking about my grandmother can tell her bye.

00:55 Tell me about your relationship with are you called her Graham? Everyone called my grandfather butts and Graham was by all accounts and awful mom but a fantastic grandmother. She was everything I needed at that time in my life and

01:24 To this day. She's everything I need she raised you in a sense. I spent.

01:40 It was probably a 60-40 split. I mean I had to go to school and stuff. So I was I lived with my my mom and my biological father for a certain amount of time and then my my mom and my stepfather after that but every minute that I wasn't at school, I was pretty much with my grandparents and staying with my my grandparents at their house. So regardless of where I ever lived I always consider that home I still do.

02:09 Tell me about the house. It was its in-house Mac, Massachusetts have snack is a small little Peninsula off of Quincy, Massachusetts red on Boston Harbor Quincy Bay, and it was built in there.

02:27 Early nineteen hundreds by my great-grandfather gramstad many pelted with stones from the Quarry in Quincy, which that's what Quincy was known as is the granite capital of the world is a lot of granite there.

02:45 In the Granite Quarry is where you get all the stones. They were just scraps that they weren't using for anything else and he started collecting them and that's what he built that house with and

02:56 The generations grew up there. Yeah, that's where she grow up. That's where she grew up yet in any other house. They

03:07 Not no not as a child know she was born and raised in that house, but when she was older and you know setting out making a life of her own she was traveling around with the Red Cross Free World War II and during World War II and lived it various navy bases and Air Force bases in that and that stash came to meet my grandfather and when he got out of the service, they wind up moving back to Quincy and taking over that house when my my friend great-grandmother passed.

03:48 Did she ever tell you how she met your grandfather conflicting stories on that? You know, if it's more fun to believe that like he was shipping off and saw a beautiful redhead with blue eyes out off off the deck of the boat and their eyes met and then they met each other years down the road. I don't think it was that awesome. That's how he would tell the story my grandfather. But Graham tells the story as he pestered her into submission, basically.

04:26 Yeah, so

04:28 And then he quickly shipped off to World War II.

04:32 Did they get married first 41, I believe she was a volunteer with the Red Cross at the time. She was a nurse volunteer and travel to round to various navy bases and was generally stationed out of whatever base. He was stationed out of so that could be in China or that could be in Trinidad where my mom happened to be born or I think they were in Guam for a spell. They spent a lot of time to taxes in the Gulf, but actually wind up back in, Massachusetts.

05:25 Tell me do you have a first memory of her or?

05:30 We're talking about this on the way here and I don't really have a very first memory that I can draw from. I have a lot of snapshots from early on and they all revolve around their kitchen cuz that was the The Hub of all activity and Gramps house.

05:51 And then also I used to when I was really young. I would sleep on the floor in their bedroom next to their bed facing the TV and some of my earliest memories are watching like The Lawrence Welk Show with them and I would have one of these growing pains in my legs as I was growing up and getting bigger and they would be bothering me and bucks with lay down on the floor with me and rub my legs swell Graham stayed up in the TV and shoot work on her crossword while watching Lawrence Welk and those are some of my earliest memories the really well formed memories early on by The 1975 World Series with the Red Sox in the Cincinnati Reds sitting in that kitchen every game on channel 38 watching it and watching it on the TV but listening to it on the radio cuz the radio was way better.

06:51 Yeah, they know it's Hazard better. They just do a better job of painting the picture.

06:56 Which is something I still do to this day. I'd rather listen to baseball than watch it.

07:03 Tell me about the kitchen.

07:07 I got some special it was.

07:12 I'm sure it was just the kitchen. I mean you what you went in for their back door past the washer and dryer and there was the back room which was kind of like a library room, but it was also my room where all my stuff was and into the main part of the kitchen there was a table and

07:31 It was a round table and Pops had his spot and Graham had her spot and I had my spot and I think of tables in that way to this day like everyone has their spot and it really throws me if you're not sitting in the right seat, but we would sit there for hours. That was that was where everything happened. We didn't have to be eating or doing anything. We didn't even have to be hanging out together, but we would be sitting in the kitchen we could be doing three different things. There was always a radio playing and there were certain times of the day that you couldn't speak or you'd be shush than asked to leave. If you couldn't be quiet like when the Yankee kitchen was on and with Gus Sanders and Graham would be writing down recipes.

08:19 That they talked about on this radio program is pretty awesome. Or if there's a baseball game or hockey game or basketball game going that would be playing there could be football on Jack. Nicklaus could be playing golf and you wouldn't want to interrupt that she would be cooking a lot where I learned how to cook and really fostered what has become a 38-year career for me chicken paprikash was probably my favorite thing that she made I love that. She would make anything though. I mean shrimp scampi. She'd love to cook moose. She would make all sorts of different bases. She loved making desserts.

09:12 She she just loves to cook and it really got me hooked on all the rich fatty fun foods that are awesome.

09:25 Hungarian dish similar to goulash lots of paprika some deals and sour cream red bell peppers. It's just wonderful and delicious even though I don't need it any longer you serve it over egg noodles. And if you're feeling really fancy, I'll make your own egg noodles, like spots hole and put it over there at super yummy. I remember when I visited there with you and she didn't really cook anymore then but she still had cans and the the basement that had been around since the wizard of 78.

10:07 Which was 20 years later or even mm?

10:19 So we're talkin 1978 22 years prior. Yeah, there were can food that the Blizzard of 78 was that mass of massive snowstorm in New England. It was a full moon a lunar high tide a nor'easter in a blizzard all converging at the same time which resulted in basically living at the Salvation Army for three weeks because everything was flooded three feet of snow fell in about twenty-four hours at shut Boston down can we didn't have school for the month of February? It was insane.

11:04 And she saved the cans of food that were flooded in her basement from that. They're all.

11:10 Expanded like nothing you would ever want to eat, but she couldn't get rid of them. She just couldn't get rid of them little girls in the pigeons in Piketon also in the blizzard. You told me that she lost her car. That was a 1976 Trans Am it was yellow with a black interior had a 4-speed in a 455. It was just the coolest car you ever see a grandma driving and that was her second Trans Am and she was soon to trade, you know after the insurance went through. She got a third Trans Am So did she let you drive in fact

12:03 They they gave me my first car which was a 1970 LeMans Sport convertible. They like cars. They like fancy cars. They like fast cars muscle cars just cool cars and they were very Pontiac loyal brand was and so that was my first car that was given to me. And then I I ended up having that 78 Trans Am, but they got after the blizzard. That was my car for a while to

12:35 Tell me what can you tell me about your relationship with her there were.

12:43 You were very close, but you also had disagreements, of course. Yes.

12:53 Well, as I said at the beginning by all accounts, not a great mom, but a great grandma and we had a relationship that kind of blurred those lines a little bit. She really look at it looked after me as though I were her own kid.

13:11 But she was my grandma and so it was different.

13:17 I think

13:19 We both had different expectations of each other than a normal Grandma grandson relationship might be but Graham was she was all about keeping up appearances for sure.

13:37 Wasn't very active in her own neighborhood because it was a very blue collar working class neighborhood and it wasn't for her. She fancied herself.

13:49 Better than that Elite if you if you want to go there, I guess she as I mentioned was a volunteer with the Red Cross for 53 years. I believe Rising towards the end to being the chairwoman of the board for the New England chapter of the Red Cross. She was with Beth Israel Hospital for 40 plus years as a volunteer nurse volunteer coordinator with them. She had been offered numerous times over the years paying positions in in

14:28 You're either the Red Cross or with Beth Israel, and she always turn them down and she felt it was.

14:35 Much better to give of oneself then then take money for the services. However, my grandfather was expected to work his butt off and make sure that money was always there so that they could take their trips to Europe and have a a condo and keep his Key Biscayne Florida and have the nice new cars and and keep up those appearances and they were constantly did they were involved in politics a lot, especially local politics and then later on federal Politics as well and they're always at fundraisers and it was very much about keeping up appearances for them. I didn't fit that balls because I came from

15:20 You know, not the most ideal.

15:23 Scituate situations for my home life in a broken home divorced parents, alcoholism. Just a lot of lot of nut great things about my personal life bringing that helped shape me and make me who I am. So not complaining about them. They're just fact.

15:44 But I didn't fit the mold of Keeping Up Appearances at all, especially when it became a teenager and started smoking cigarettes and growing my hair long and playing in a rock band and

15:57 I getting in trouble with the police and just falling way way way out of what Graham was comfortable with as a representation of her family. She would see your name in the paper. Sometimes it was hanging on the fridge. Oh, I see you made the newspaper honey, and and I didn't didn't even cross my mind. And I look then it was an arrest record of me being a dumb kid and getting caught being a dumb kid.

16:45 Doing illegal things

16:48 But she she flipped me the appropriate amount of crap about that and felt very comfortable doing so.

16:57 It didn't help me out of that situation. I probably could have used a little more.

17:08 Real conversations with her about things that I might might have been going through it that time. But again, we had different expectations of each other in a relationship and it was sort of like you were saying a dual role. She was trying to be the grandmother would maybe it was more permissive but she was also playing the role of Mom sometimes. Yeah. I'm trying to be more strict. Yeah. I don't think she knew how to do that very well. I mean I can look at my my mom and my aunts and I know she didn't know how to do that very well.

17:46 But I think she was trying I think she was trying to the best of her ability to steer me in the right direction and she would do it with humor and sarcasm and dark wit which you may know Part of Me part of my persona for sure and

18:05 And that's likely where I got that from.

18:11 But it's funny as I sit here talking about that. Openly now. I realize why that doesn't work. So I need to find a new tact with their own daughter. Do you feel like you you have a sister and three brothers? And do you feel like your relationship was unique you and your grandmother? Oh gosh. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. My sister is from a different father. She's a couple years older than me, or at least a year or two years older than me. I don't remember. She's all to their me from a different different dad.

18:54 I believe my mom was 14 or 15 when the end was born and she was put up for adoption. Again Keeping Up Appearances. Nobody in the neighborhood knew that that it happened really are they did but it wasn't talked about and my mom was sent away to live some somewhere else throughout the

19:20 Sorry.

19:22 It must have been hard for my mom. But you sent away to live somewhere else during that pregnancy and forced to give Lee and up for adoption. And then it was never discussed after that.

19:40 So that's that's an example of my grandmother not being a great mom for not knowing how to be in avoiding those real conversations. And then I have three younger brothers also from different fathers or different. They're all from the same dad, but my stepfather

20:03 And there's 10 years between me and my next sibling. So very very different relationships with gram and Pops got fake diagram of a frisbee.

20:19 I need my mom. If she hears this show she'll be very angry to hear me say that but I'm sorry, but it's true.

20:32 You live here now and you lived here since

20:37 90 90 90

20:41 Okay. Well, how did she react to you moving to Portland from the East Coast?

20:49 She wasn't happy.

20:55 There's two sides to it though. I in the time before I left Boston to move out here. I had gone through.

21:09 Just sort of a rebirth myself. I've given up my beloved relationship with cocaine and alcohol.

21:19 I had cleaned up quite a bit and was going in the right direction. I'd even started taking some college courses and just everything was going the way it was supposed to.

21:31 For me and engrams eyes as well and

21:37 I had met a woman who was moving out here to go to school and I wanted to come with her.

21:45 And in hindsight not so much to come with her. I just wanted to get away. I needed to be done with that part of my life and start over again and Portland was the opportunity for me to do so and Graham understood that and supported me greatly in that.

22:04 But it broke her heart. It really did. It was hard for her and hard for me.

22:11 But it was a decision. I made today night. I stuck with it. He's to talk to her on the phone every week free on Sundays know it was 2 on Sundays cuz it was five there. I think did you have things you always talked about?

22:35 Oh, yeah, it was it was very much what we've been up to for the week and as as as she and Bob's got older it was their various doctors visits that they've gone through the week and and various Health ailments is the head propped up or subsided. It was the weather. It was very much Sports, whatever season it was whether it was football baseball basketball or hockey season we talked about what was going on there and we talked about what

23:17 What I would have been up to which inevitably would lead to the you need to go back to school. You need to get a degree. You need to be more like your cousin Amy my cousin Amy what Colombia blah blah blah, you don't Fancy Pants fancy, but she was a bartender and I was just the boss of a restaurant in my grandmother's eyes and it was it was a point of contention for sure. But at the same time, I mean that as I process this over the years, I realize part of my frustration with her disappointment with my career choice was that it kind of came from her.

23:59 In the time that we spent in the kitchen learning to cook she taught me how to cook. So I I think it kind of

24:09 I missed the two things and so when she would be disappointed with my career choice, which wasn't even a career choice. It was just where I was it was what I did and it's what I've always done her disappointment with that kind of devalued the time that I thought was important when I was learning how to cook and spending time in the kitchen.

24:33 So it was hurtful to me and I don't think she understood that at all.

24:42 We are parents. There's that piece of wanting on the one hand your your child. And this case the grandchild to be who they are. And I also want them to be the best that they can be. So and four there was that added piece of

25:00 Wanting things to be a certain way, even if

25:07 And I think that's what led me to owning the restaurant. I don't know that that was ever truly a dream of mine.

25:19 In a tangible way, I think it was more kind of worked its way into my thinking because I thought it might be impressive to cram as I think back on it.

25:33 What does that cartoon say that we have hanging up the baseball one?

25:41 It did not shadow box or her pictures what says it's a baseball player hitting a homerun and and he's got a thought bubble above his head. And then in this cartoon is his mother, but we thought it was hilarious cuz it seem like your grandmother and she's got a thought bubble and his says that out of that my mother up and his purses

26:09 Everybody knows it's a it's a homerun. What is it? I can't remember that's hilarious though. Nothing special. We've kept it for so long cuz it seemed to sum up your relationship in a lot of ways.

26:32 Yeah, which

26:36 You know in the end if Graham were around today and she is around I have a relationship with her to this day. I talk to her everyday everyday and she's been dead. But 17 years now 18 years. She's never left me though, and I'm always trying to prove myself to her. And I mean someday I'm going to have to come to terms with that that I might never do that or I missed my opportunity to or that it wasn't possible for me to prove myself to her by being myself.

27:16 Cuz I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a doctor or dentist. I'm not all the things that to her and her generation and her peers were like cooler acceptable or appealing I am.

27:31 A kid from a broken home that had drug problems and play the rock band that had a blast and partied and goofed off and learn to be a great chef and

27:45 On the restaurant for a spell and have developed this great corporate career in the hospitality industry and have this wonderful wife of almost 20 years and a six-year-old daughter. And this is who I am and if that's good enough for me and it needs to be good enough for her and those are some of the conversations I have with my head these days.

28:12 Do you think that that impacts the way that you?

28:16 Relate to our daughter.

28:19 Sometimes I think they do.

28:28 I think there's

28:31 A harshness of judgment that comes out of me sometimes that is

28:41 It's part of part of my grandmother to part of Carol coming out of me.

28:47 And it's not meant to be hurtful. It's meant to guide and it's meant as nurturing. I just need to learn how to do it better and it's part of the process for me learning how to be a grown up at 51 years old.

29:07 You said a lot of things about your relationship with her that were difficult. What were the things that you remember the most fondly?

29:20 Sitting on her lap when I was a kid, I watch and Mister Rogers on the kitchen TV.

29:28 It's sitting on her lap in her kitchen. It's it's the most it's the safest and

29:37 The most comfortable memory

29:41 I have there's nothing more. I mean Avalon being born perhaps

29:48 I don't know there's

29:53 There was nothing like sitting in that kitchen with her a hot summer day with the with the windows in the kitchen open sitting around that table eating a salad with iceberg lettuce and

30:08 Italian dressing from The Hilltop Steakhouse on it

30:13 It's just wonderful times. She she told me my first dirty joke, I won't tell it here.

30:23 It it got me suspended from school.

30:28 Are you retarded retarded at school?

30:33 I mean everything about Graham was amazing to me. What are some of the things you know, everybody has things that they say over and over that you remember I have them. Anyway, I remember my mom saying growing up and I repeat them. Do you have any of the things in your mind that she used to say all the time up at the house in my head? I say home again home again jiggity jig cuz she would say that every time we would pull into their driveway after being out at the grocery store or wherever home again home again jiggity jig and every single time I pull up at home if you think it plays in my head

31:14 And she would say some things about farting that.

31:20 But I think them every time.

31:30 It's just little things. I've been watching a lot of old videos of Larry Bird lately and in my head I hear her in the background oyre she would just watch Larry Bird play basketball should say that over and over and over again and she loved him. Oh, yeah.

31:49 I remember when the Red Sox won the World Series in you are so happy and you were so sad cuz she would have wanted to see it two years before that's the last thing I did with graham. Once I watch the Red Sox play a series against Anaheim Angels in 2002. That was the year. The Anaheim went on to win the World Series. So I didn't feel bad that the Red Sox lost that Series against them, but that was the last thing we did together in her.

32:21 Room

32:24 Miss her everyday.

32:28 Probably always will.

32:34 Do you want to talk about how she died?

32:37 Quickly, I guess.

32:42 She had a stroke but she had she had a lot of health problems. She be cancer. I don't even know how many times should be cancer but through massive amounts of radiation. And in that process her circulation was really really compromised in her lower and legs and

33:08 Because of that you didn't have a lot of feeling in her feet and she had stepped on a pen.

33:13 At some point and it lodged in her heel which became infected which in turn got real bad. She had a toe amputated because of it which had her in the hospital while she was in the hospital. They had her on blood thinners, which dislodge to clot. She had a massive stroke.

33:33 And she didn't.

33:36 She came out of that with the ability to move her arm just a little bit. She couldn't speak anymore or move anymore. Take care of herself anymore.

33:48 What it was clear that that wasn't going to ever change. She opted to have her feeding tube removed.

33:56 End

34:00 Yeah, it went that way.

34:03 It's on my way home. Just I wanted to see her one last time I had said my goodbyes already cuz I was afraid this would happen. But when I heard she had her feeding tube removed I had made plans to get home as quickly as I could. It was just a couple days later and when I was changing planes in Minneapolis, I got the phone call.

34:30 Do you find any comfort in knowing that she chose when she was going to go? And that was the gram that I remember choose tough and strong and it was going to be on her terms and she was not going to live that way and

34:50 She chose it and I have nothing but respect for that.

34:56 I just wish I had got home. I felt something that I remember about her is that she left purple and you're the purple team. So that makes it awesome right twice a week and your grandfather had to drive her and would sit outside in the car waiting for her to get done.

35:36 Is there anything else you want to share about her?

35:40 I wouldn't know why she was she was just awesome. She gave her entire life to volunteering. I mean what she lacked is a mom she made up for it or community.

35:53 And she's more than made up for it as my grandmother. So that mean that's interesting way always been a point of contention with my mom and I said, I got the better version of Mom that she

36:06 But she was she was awesome and she was tough and

36:12 She just

36:15 She was just great.

36:18 And I swear I haven't fully said goodbye to her yet. I think I've never processed her death. Someday. I'm going to have to

36:29 Someday

36:32 But thank you for talking with me today.