UNIONVILLE, MO—Eugenia Stollis' delight over an unannounced visit from grandson Toby Rourke soon soured Monday when the 76-year-old grandmother began to suspect that he was only there to complete a class assignment.
"At first we talked about baseball and his new cousin Cody, but when he started asking me about my childhood and what my parents were like, I knew something was going on," Stollis said. "He wasn’t coming over for gingersnaps and quality time with his grandma. The boy’s got some homework thing. I just know it."
According to Stollis, before she could even set a can of orange soda on the kitchen table, the 10-year-old began asking her detailed questions about life on the farm where she grew up, whether she spoke any Norwegian, how her family fared without indoor plumbing, and her favorite childhood radio programs.
"I'm as sure as gum that he's got some kind of history or social studies paper to write," Stollis said.
Stollis then recalled that her daughter, Carolyn Rourke, had told her in June that her son was taking summer classes to make up for a poor second-semester academic performance.
"Does he think I was born yesterday?" Stollis said.
Stollis said that Rourke rarely visits her except during family gatherings, and that the only thing he'd previously shown interest in was "that skateboard of his," and certainly not her life story.
"I've been through this with the other grandchildren," said Stollis. "They all wanted to know about my older brother Ken, who died in World War II. Some of them were more interested in my mother who had polio. I guess it depends on what class they were taking at the time. But if Toby thinks he can sneak all the information out of me, he's got another thing coming."
Added Stollis, "And if Toby expects I'll tell him which beach Ken died storming, he's got a lot to learn about his old grandma. I don't mind telling stories, but I'm not going to do the research for him, too."
Stollis also cited Rourke's "smiling and eager" attitude and backpack full of library books as further evidence of his true motives.
"Why does he need to know what my husband did for a living before he died in 1983?" Stollis said. "What kind of classes are these?"
Over the course of the nearly two-hour visit, Stollis grew increasingly upset at the prospect of being used by her fourth grandchild.
"I finally made up a story about how I was tired and needed to lie down," Stollis said. "I didn't even give him a jar of my homemade raspberry preserves that he likes so much. Even so, he seemed very pleased with himself, and I'll tell you, I didn't care for that that one bit."
Stollis also turned down Rourke's repeated attempts to pose with him for a photo, assuming it would only be used as a visual aid or poster as part of the report.
After Rourke left, Stollis said that she began to worry that sensitive and personal details of her life would be revealed in a public forum.
"I don't want my old letters to FDR to appear in the school newspaper or the whole life story of my late husband, God rest his soul, to be paraded all over town for any old body to see," Stollis said. "Some things should stay in the family."
Stollis said she would be more careful not to get "hoodwinked" on future visits from her grandson.
"I cherish my grandchildren," Stollis said. "But I didn't spend three years riveting bomber planes to have them weasel information out of me just so they can pad their report cards."