Tag Archives: Brandon

The Grandmother I’ve Become

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This has nothing to do with the grandmother I am.

I’ve been a grandmother for more than twenty-one years.

As evident in this photograph of myself with my daughters and my first grandchild, Michael, I was a young grandmother, just as I had been a young mother.

Not only young, but modern in thought and actions.

When preparing for my first daughter’s arrival, I painted her bassinet bright orange. No mind-numbing pastels for my child!

I was the mother who was also bohemian, defender of good causes, feminist, forward-thinker, hippie, raising children like no others…do you see how young I was??

As a grandmother, I was the woods-walker, snake catcher, story-teller, beach-lover, dune-climber who offered all the wonders of Beaver Island to my grandchildren.

When Mikey was a baby,  I kept chickens. One glorious morning, with baby on my hip, we found our first two eggs in the chicken house. By the time his mother woke up, Michael and I had composed an entire bluesy song about it! When he and Brandon were youngsters, I’d pack a book, fruit and snacks and a thermos in the morning, and we’d go to the beach. I’d read and drink coffee while they built amazing structures in the sand. Madeline, Tommy and Patrick have had their share, too, of exploring the woods and fields and sand dunes.

For evenings, there were other activities. I hold firm to the idea that children like foods they help to make, so mealtime has always been a joint project. Like my own Grandma Florence, I taught them how to play “King’s in the Corner.” As a nod to my father-in-law, Jack, I taught them how to play poker (complete with his wonderful repartee: “pair of deuces…pair of tens…pair – a – goric”). I kept an art case, for entertainment on rainy days, just as my mother always had.

The “grandmother” I’m referring to is the stereotypical grandmother…you know, the one “I would never become.”

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I’m referring to the grandmother who has rows of holy cards (from funerals, no less!) lining a mirror…

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who  has too many little vignettes featuring photos of children and grandchildren…

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and doilies…

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religious icons…

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little collections of succulents…

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and a fat little dog, sleeping wherever she chooses on a loud-patterned piece of furniture (should I say davenport?).

(SIGH)

This, alas, is the grandmother I’ve become.

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Happy Birthday, Madeline!

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My granddaughter, Madeline was born with a head of wild, dark hair, a beautiful rosy complexion…and a tooth!

A fully formed baby tooth, bright white, already perfectly visible!

When I first met Madeline she was just a couple weeks old. Her Mom drove me to visit my dentist in Okemos, Michigan. Madeline came, too. The dentist marveled at Madeline’s tiny tooth, and thought she was the perfect little newborn to come along on a dental appointment!

A few years later, Madeline had her own dentist. She had a tiny cavity on the top surface of one of her molars. It needed to be filled.

Madeline and her family lived in an urban area at that time, and Madeline had seen a lot of dental extravagances. She loved the look of braces, and the sparkle they added to a smile. She liked the diamonds and other jewels set into front teeth. At three or four years old, her idea was, the more dazzle, the better.

When she was told about the filling, she started her campaign. “I’m going to get the gold tooth,” she told her Mother and Father.

They tried to explain, but she was insistent.

“I’m going to get the gold tooth!”

Whenever the appointment was mentioned, the topic of the gold tooth came up.

“I’m getting the gold tooth!”

We were all worried that she was going to be terribly disappointed.

The idea of the sparkle, though, was keeping her from dreading the procedure.

In fact, she was extremely brave!

The dentist was good, patient and kind, and the filling went quickly.

We had just a bit of trepidation about the reveal.

It hadn’t occurred to any of us that gold and silver are both sparkly. A small girl might not know the difference. To the inexperienced, an amalgam filling could look like gold!

She walked out into the waiting room with her Mom.

She was beaming!

“I got it!”, she told us, “I got the gold tooth!”

She opened her mouth wide.

Her brother Brandon – in one of his best big brother moments – leaned in close to examine the filling and, with reverence in his voice, said, “That’s really AWESOME, Madeline!!”

And she knew that it was!

Today, my granddaughter Madeline turns thirteen years old.

Happy Birthday, Madeline!

Brandon

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Brave.

Exuberant.

Funny.

Kind.

These words all describe my grandson, Brandon.

I saw him first when he was only a few hours old.

It’s hard to believe that was seventeen years ago!

Moments stand out:

The first time Brandon and his older brother came to stay with me for a week on Beaver island, he was only 10 months old. Wiggling toes in the grass was as wondrous as wiggling toes in the sand! I got as much pleasure out of everything he saw and experienced as he did. He was such a joy to watch!

For many years, the boys came every summer.

We’d start our days at Iron Ore Bay. For me, a thermos of coffee and a book. For the boys, hours digging in the sand, making bridges and trenches and rock walls, finding stones and feathers and shells. Breakfast scraps were thrown to the gulls. When we were too hot, or too sandy, the water was right there.

We walked every day. My arsenal included sunscreen and insect repellent, and plastic bags to be fashioned into waterproof capes in case it rained.

We worked in the yard and garden. The grape arbor was transformed into a fort each year. The compost bin often harbored garter snakes. The big toad, George, could be observed most evenings on the kitchen stoop. Moths would gather on the windows at night.

Evenings, we’d fix dinner together, play cards, read or watch a movie before bed.

I know it wasn’t perfect. There were hassles and arguments and tears folded in among the good times. It lives in my memory, though, as an almost perfect time.

As I watch these boys grow up, with all the issues that go along with that, I hope they, too, have good memories to sustain them, when things get hard to deal with.

Tomorrow, my grandson will be seventeen years old.

Happy Birthday, Brandon!

Father’s Day

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If I am a good communicator, and I’ve been told that I am, it comes from struggling to hold a conversation with my father. He wasn’t an easy man to talk to. He would announce without hesitation that my opinion was “bullshit” if he thought so. He would often loudly support a contrary viewpoint just for sport. He was quick to anger if he thought we were agreeing with him just to be compliant. Few subjects were worthy of his time and attention.

If I have a work ethic (I’m not always sure that I do!), I got it from my Dad.

Dad was a worker.

He was a good husband and father. He enjoyed all children, and was like a big kid at heart. He loved to tease and he enjoyed a good argument. He had a great memory, and was brilliant at card games because of it. He loved good food, simply prepared. He loved watching things grow. Dad liked John F. Kennedy, Cassius Clay, cowboy shows and Big Time Wrestling. He enjoyed a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

Dad did not like meanness, stupidity, dishonesty or laziness. He didn’t like long hair on boys. He didn’t like music if he couldn’t understand the lyrics, but he made us late to church one Sunday while he listened, with a grin, to “Harper Valley P.T.A.” on the radio. He never learned to swim, so was not especially fond of the water.

My father hated having his picture taken. At Dad’s funeral, my three-year-old grandson, Brandon, looked over the picture board. The only way his photo could be taken without him bellowing was to catch him when he was asleep… so there he was, dozing in his comfortable chair, or stretched out on the sofa, napping with my baby sister, Amy, or snoozing under the apple tree after driving all night to bring us up north. “Papa was dead?”, Brandon asked, as he pointed to one photo after another.

The truest statement I can make about my father, though, is that he was a worker.

He went to work and – when the job demanded it – would work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. On top of that, he’d plow up an acre or so of land and plant a big garden. He raised pigs, and chickens…and an occasional duck or rabbit as well.

Dad often took on extra jobs, for pay or not. He processed deer for hunters. He widened our road to make a shoulder for the children to walk on, on the way to the bus stop. He back-filled the swamp near our house, to keep the mosquito population down. I don’t believe my father ever took a vacation that wasn’t a working vacation. We’d go north to visit his parents on Beaver Island, but his week would be spent painting the farmhouse or tearing down the old barn.

His children were never left out. From their toddling years, the boys were charged with clearing stones and branches from the yard ahead of the mower. Not a stranger to housework, Dad often demonstrated the “correct” way to clean a window or polish the table, then would sit back and watch, to make sure we’d been paying attention.

Springtime was spent preparing the soil and planting the garden. In the summer, we were herded out to the garden to pull weeds out of the stubborn clay soil. In the fall, he’d load us all into the back of his truck with a huge pile of burlap sacks. Arrangements had been made for us to hand pick cob corn from the farmer’s fields, after the mechanical picker had gone through. We’d use the corn to feed our pigs through the winter. It was a long day in the fields, but the ride home was atop mounds of full sacks of corn, and punctuated by a stop at the local tavern, where we’d each be rewarded with a coca cola and a dime for the jukebox. In the winter, Dad would – for lack of anything better to do – build elaborate, icy sledding ramps in our backyard.

As adults, we often disagreed with Dad’s methods and moods but if we needed help with a move, a repair or a remodel, he was on the task.

It’s hard to believe he’s been gone almost fourteen years! If a frost comes late, or I see a coyote, or I count six deer on my way to town, Dad is still the one I want to share that with.

Happy Father’s Day!

My Dreary Day

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This is my life on Beaver Island, as illustrated by my seven year old grandson, Brandon.

There’s my little house, and car, the grape arbor (Brandon used to call it the “Gray Barber”) with a child inside, the big maple tree with two swings and two rope swings hanging from its branches…it’s all here.

In the background, then, you can see the Beaver Island ferry, filled with smiling and waving passengers. In the sky above is the Island airplane (note the shamrocks on the wings) also filled with grinning passengers.

It is being escorted in by an Army plane, that is dropping some pretty scary fire bombs all over the landscape. What?!

Well, perhaps to a seven year old boy, that element of dangerous excitement is the only thing this island is missing…so he put it in. A little bit of fiery wings on our island plane would make for a more thrilling ride, I guess.

Brandon is older now. Though he continues to amaze me with his artwork, this drawing perfectly suited my mood yesterday.

I woke up with a feeling of dread and depression that could neither be explained nor wished away. I had lots to do, and I kept plugging away at my list, but felt that I was fighting my way through thick sludge…waiting for the bombs to drop. I once heard depression described as a feeling of being covered with a heavy, wet wool blanket; that person knows depression. It covers you over…it is not a choice. There’s always the fear that it won’t go away.

Of course, I know all the things to do. Get out in the fresh air, get exercise. Don’t dwell on it. Keep working at everyday activities. Keep a list of accomplishments; keep marking things off the list as they are completed. Go easy.

So, I took long walks with the dogs, morning and evening. I spent several hours in fairly mindless but worthwhile activity in the garden, and several more hours in the studio. I did not vacuum the rugs, do my exercise video or write. I ate only leftovers. I went to bed early.

Today, the sun is shining here on Beaver Island. We got a rain shower overnight, and everything looks fresh. My clouds have lifted, too.

On to another day!

 

Happy Easter!

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I’m doing quite a bit of juggling today, to get everything done that I want to do.

I started the day with a very pleasant, early phone call from my grandson, Tommy. Before I got off the phone, I had also spoke to Madeline, Brandon, and my daughter, Kate. The younger ones were wide awake and enthusiastic;Brandon and Kate a little less so.

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By the time our very entertaining conversations ended, the dogs were more than ready for their first walk, so we headed out. We got a bit of rain last night, so everything is looking fresh. The trout lilies, spring beauties and Dutchman’s breeches are showing their leaves in the woods…no flowers yet, though. The wild leeks are the brightest green; they will be ready soon.

I’m trying to get some garden clean up done every single day, no matter what, so that was next. I made good progress clearing grass, leaves and roots from the beds where I’ll put my tomato plants. Clover relaxed…

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in the back flower bed, while little Rosa Parks…

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dug this gigantic hole:

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Almost eighteen inches deep, no kidding!

I’d saved last night’s dishes, because nothing cleans the garden grime out from under the fingernails like a sink of soapy water, and that was my next job.

Remembering Easters with my Mom and Dad, I decided to do up a small batch of onion-skin dyed eggs. I only had a few onions (as kids, we used to save the onion skins for months ahead, to be ready for Easter!), so I used a small pan and did only six eggs. I put the onion skins in first – just the brown, papery covering – and covered them with cold water, then nestled the raw eggs into the pan, and hard-boiled them as usual.

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The finished results are quite pretty, I think.

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Now, I’m making dinner rolls and dessert to bring to Aunt Katie’s house at dinnertime. The milk is scalded, butter and sugar have been added, and it should be just about cool enough now to combine with flour, salt and yeast. While my dough is rising, I’ll be peeling apples for pie.

Happy Easter!