MY GRANDFATHER SURVIVED IWO JIMA, GUADALCANAL and multiple bouts of malaria before he turned 30. In the decades since those trials, he probably felt invincible. He always seemed that way to me. Though after hip and shoulder replacements, raging arthritis, and the death of his wife of 50 years (as well as most of his friends and fellow soldiers), hitting the 9-0 mark (even he’d have to admit) is really something.
Which is why family, friends and half the town of Guttenberg, Iowa, gathered in a ramshackle ballroom one Saturday in May to celebrate nine decades of Charles J. Klima. I was very proud to be there.
Grandpa Chuck, wishing someone would hand him a Black Velvet & Ginger, with his daughter (my mom) and granddaughter (my sister).
Nice folks showed up. Augie, in the pink shirt, made Chuck 90 cookies. A lifelong Guttenberg resident, he was the high school custodian for 30 years. Until one day he was nearly paralyzed when he leaned across a table to blow out a candle. Now he’s on disability and bakes a lot. Makes you think, as my grandfather might say.
Johanna looooves her second cousins, Hunter and Graycen, who ride horses and hunt and whose grandparents have their own lake with fish. Turns out they’re also good at Pick-up Sticks.
Allie was bartender, offering Iowa’s core selections: Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Light, with Mich Light to mix things up.
Chuck’s ladyfriend Betty has the names of her great-grandchildren embroidered on her coats. Several coats, in fact.
We stayed in an old hotel by Lock and Dam #10 on the Mississippi, which continues to be many feet above normal.
Which didn’t stop these people from driving right in.
In the 1970’s, I recall my mom making stuffed people out of nylons and cotton, though I hadn’t thought about it in years. Gramps had her make him one a couple years back to play tricks on people. This lady has now been stashed in a salad bar and elsewhere at local establishments. Frankly, she’s kind of let herself go.
If you don’t think Old Chucky has the best view in Clayton County, why, you can turn right around and go home.
Not every family gets to enjoy four generations in one place and time. That’s a lot of living.
I’d be remiss not to share the ode-worthy Breaded Pork Tenderloin I enjoyed, along with Belgian beers on tap, at an Algerian restaurant (!) in nearby Elkader, Iowa, the only American town named for an Islamic freedom fighter. As I ate this, I seriously considered moving there.