Tag Archives: Brenda

Grandpa Ted

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Though he died when I was only six years old, my Grandpa Ted has been a big presence in my life.

First the memories: holding his hand as we walked around the big yard our house shared with his; the teasing grin and “I’m gonna give you a pop right in the kisser,” as he’d lean in to kiss my cheek. He sat with us – me, my sister Brenda and brother Teddy – on the white bench under the huge elm trees in the front yard, or on the low bench in the cool shade of the grape arbor in the back yard. I can almost picture his face; I can almost hear his voice.

Next, his influence. He taught me about plants: the sweetness at the heart of a clover blossom; the nut-like flavor of the buds from cheese weed; the bitter taste of dandelion greens. I think of him, still, when I taste those wild flavors. He chronicled our little lives in film. Though he was usually behind the camera, thanks to Grandpa Ted I can still watch my parents with their young family in all seasons of the year.

Then, there are stories. Because I was only six-years-old when Grandpa Ted died, these are not things I knew, but only that I learned as I got older, when my Mom or Dad would reveal things about him. Grandpa Ted was an alcoholic. He would admit himself to a facility once or twice a year to “dry out.” In those days, it was a dangerous process, often involving delirium tremens (DTs), and no medication to ease the transition. Grandpa was a jealous man, and he and my grandmother had terrible, violent fights that would send my mother, when she was a child, running from the house. When they cleared out Grandpa Ted’s garage after his death, they found a whiskey bottle hidden in every cubbyhole.

When my own children – and later my grandchildren – were young, I’d take comfort in how well I remembered Grandpa Ted. If an ache or a bump caused my hypochondriac self to start thinking death was imminent, I’d be consoled by the idea that I would perhaps be remembered, too. As I neared the age of fifty, Grandpa Ted – who died in his early fifties, without warning, of a heart attack – was often on my mind. Did I inherit his faulty heart, along with his bushy eyebrows?

Once, after my dear old friend, Ernie, died, I had a memorable dream. It was one of those that seem real, and every voice is so clear that I’m sure it could be picked up by a tape recorder. There was a noisy throng of people, crowding around a person that I couldn’t see. There, on the outskirts of the throng, was my Grandpa Ted. He spotted me at the same time that I saw him.

His eyebrows raised in recognition, and his face crinkled into a big smile. I made my way toward him. “Look at you…look at you,” he said as he wrapped his arms around me in a big hug. His voice was exactly as I remembered it! He stepped back, patting my shoulders, “Just a second, Sweetheart,” he said, “I want to say hello to this guy…” The crowd opened up, at that moment, so that I could see the person at the center. There was my friend, Ernie, with a little shy, crooked grin, being welcomed with handshakes and pats on the back from all the folks standing there to greet him!

I have never believed in an afterlife as much or as sincerely as I did right after waking from that dream. Most times, I wonder. I fall into the “I don’t know” category. I like the idea of reincarnation. I feel certain I’ve had profound and real visits from the spirit world. Heaven sounds nice, too, though I could do without hell. There is some sense behind the idea of “when you’re dead, you’re dead,” also…though it’s not as much fun to think about as the others. I live a good life, so like to think I’m prepared, whatever.

If the last is true, and we are done when we are finished here, we live on, then, only in the memories and dreams of the living. That’s what has brought Grandpa Ted into my thoughts today. It occurred to me that there are few of us left on this earth – and all of us are pretty old – that have any memory of Grandpa Ted. That makes my simple memories seem even more important.

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A Day Turns Around

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I won’t go into the many and varied elements that contributed to the end result, but I was bone-tired, grouchy, and on the verge of tears by the time I got home last evening.

I have been determinedly forcing myself, no matter how tired from my day at work, to get in an hour or two of garden work every day, digging, weeding and planting, before I come inside. Even with that, my progress is slow, and the summer will quickly be upon us. There are days when I’m stymied by rain. There is no time to waste!

Last evening, I let the garden go. I quickly unloaded the groceries from car to house. I refrigerated what needed it, and put my precious pint of special ice cream in the freezer. I loaded the dogs in the car, rolled down the windows, and headed for Fox Lake. There, a couple geese with a half-dozen goslings swam leisurely just off-shore. The dogs wandered, and waded, and played. I updated my planner, took a few photographs, and relaxed. A walk through the woods along the shoreline completed our excursion, and we headed for home.

It had started sprinkling by the time we got there. Inside, then! While feeding the dogs and putting my own dinner together, I called my sister Brenda. There was a bonus: my sister Robin was there, too! I spoke to both of them, told them about all the worries and conflict playing around in my head, listened to good advice and welcome empathy, heard about their day, and even found plenty to laugh about. It was a long, good conversation that ended with “I love you”s all around, and improved my mood tremendously.

Off the phone, I sat down to a dinner that included potato salad made to my Mom’s recipe and standards. I mixed it up and served it from the sunshine yellow ceramic bowl Aunt Katie gave me. For dessert, a wedge of rhubarb crisp, from the first rhubarb picking of the year. Again, Mom’s recipe. Later, one small waffle cone filled with raspberry-cheesecake gelato. None of these foods are good for my diet. All were worth it for the good they did for my state of mind!

Finally, I eschewed “cleaning time” and laundry waiting to be moved along in the never-ending cycle. I poured a glass of wine. I used a special hand blown wineglass in swirling blaze colors that was a gift from my daughter Kate. I ran a hot bath, and added scented oil that I’d purchased on a trip with my sisters. I lit a candle. I gathered up a fluffy towel, my good book, and the wineglass. A long soak in the tub, then early to bed.

Not every bad day can be turned around; yesterday, I managed it.

 

 

 

I Give Up

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Yesterday, I made a small delivery to the Island Treasures Re-Sale Shop here on Beaver Island: one large food processor, with all of its parts and pieces, and one yogurt maker. I was a long time coming to that end, but am glad I finally arrived.

Lord knows, I have tried, over the years, to become the kind of person who processes her own food, but it never took hold. I grate my cheese with a simple box grater. When making pie crust, I use a hand-held pastry blender. I slice fruits and vegetables the old-fashioned way. The food processor seemed, always, to have too many accessories, all of which needed to be cleaned and stored when not in use.

I eat a lot of yogurt. Simple, full fat, non- Greek, plain yogurt. I buy it in the quart containers and dish out the portions, to save on plastic waste (I reuse the containers to store my homemade chicken broth in the freezer, for extra credit!). I add my own granola, and sometimes berries or a sliced banana, but it’s pretty basic. Making my own, I thought, would save me a pile of money.

Turns out, making yogurt is not difficult, but it’s kind of a hassle. First, the milk has to be heated in a saucepan to just the right temperature. It is then cooled a specific amount before being combined with the starter. It is then spooned into the individual cups of the yogurt maker which sits on the kitchen counter, plugged in to an outlet. For several hours or a couple days…it’s been so long, I can’t remember. Because, the bottom line is, my homemade yogurt does not taste as good as the stuff I buy. I don’t know why. I’ve checked the label for hidden ingredients that might be enhancing the flavor while putting my health at risk, but found nothing.

So, for many years, I stored a food processor and a yogurt maker in my kitchen cabinet, in case I should ever change my mind about either of them. Then, I started cleaning out and rearranging my living spaces. I was encouraged by my sister Brenda, who told me that the time was right – according to the alignment of the moon and stars – for clearing and reassessing. Backing her up was the Power Path site (www.powerpath.org), which labeled March the month of “Surrender,” but not in the usual sense:

SURRENDER is a word that tends to trigger a definition of failure as if we are surrendering to the enemy and as if we have failed in something we believed in and have been striving for. Our definition of SURRENDER for the month is a giving up, a release of a stance, position, or belief that we have stubbornly held onto for way beyond its useful and practical life. It is time to let go of what should have been, could have been and what ought to be in the future. It is time to SURRENDER our anger, our resistance, our judgement and our need to know.

Finally, in trying to get off the island last week, the weather didn’t cooperate. I spent one whole day waiting at the airport, and one day waiting in my home, before finally getting a flight out on Sunday morning. Saturday, I spent sorting and filing while waiting by the phone. Then, I tackled a kitchen cabinet. Everything came out. The shelves were scrubbed. Only the things that I honestly use went back in. Except for the crock pot, which I’m still trying to integrate into my lifestyle.

I’d like to think of myself as a yogurt-making, food processing whiz in the kitchen…but I’m not, and it’s time to surrender that notion. What I am is a person who has one very clean cabinet, feels good about a charitable donation, and is lighter in self-imposed expectations. Happily, I give up!

Travel

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On the last day of November, I loaded my luggage into the car, brought the dogs to Andi’s kennel,  stopped at Aunt Katie’s to say good-bye and pick up the car keys and went to the airport. I was going on a trip!

I’d been unable to leave the island over Thanksgiving, but still wanted to get visits with my brother, sisters and daughters before the weather turned bad. My friend, Bob, hosts a Christmas Party on the first Saturday in December, so I planned my trip around that. Complications caused him to have to reschedule his party, but my travel dates had to remain the same.

My flight was at eleven 0’clock. This time of year, the water temperature is often warmer than the air. Steam rolls up from the water.  As I flew over it, the shoreline was completely obscured by huge masses of fluffy clouds beneath us; I couldn’t see the big lake until we were halfway across it. It was a calm day, though, and a good flight.

Upon landing, I retrieved the “mainland car” from the parking lot and pulled around to load my suitcases. Five bags for five days travel: one with changes of clothes: one with pajamas, medicines and my toiletry bag; my computer case, with computer, scanner, and some paperwork inside; one bag of paperwork and reading material; one bag – my purse – loaded to the brim with everything else I might need.

I had one stop to make in Charlevoix, and was then on my way. M-66 south through East Jordan then onto M-32 east to Gaylord. I filled the car with gas there, and went to the Big Boy restaurant for coffee and a late breakfast. I was a little disoriented, as the restaurant has a totally different look. Had I made a wrong turn?

“What town is this?” I asked the server.

“Gaylord.”

“Well, that’s what I thought…Didn’t there used to be a gigantic Big Boy statue outside?”

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, “that has been moved to the Big Boy Museum.”

Well, that explained that.

I got onto I-75 south after my meal, with about three hundred miles yet to travel. Just outside of Flint, I switched to the I-69 freeway, which took me right into Lapeer. From there, it was a quick drive to my sister Brenda and her husband Keith’s house, where dinner was waiting. That would be my “home-base” for the next several days.

Thursday, I drove to Clifford to see my daughter, Kate. As I walked through the door, she handed me her telephone, to say hello to my oldest grandson, Mikey. Kate’s house is cheery, decorated for the holidays and adorned with her collections of art, books and antique toys. She and my son-in-law, Jeremy, took me to Frankenmuth, for lunch and some shopping. I got my glasses fixed. We got back to her house in time to catch up with Madeline and Tommy, just home from school. Kate helped me solve some computer issues.

Friday, my daughter, Jen, came to Brenda’s. We set up two computers, and spread our paperwork over the dining room table and the kitchen island. We managed to sort out many billing issues for the Beaver Beacon, and plot out the next two issues. Jen helped me solve some more of my computer issues, approved my bookkeeping method, and straightened out my database. We managed a little bit of a visit, too, but agreed that – if time allowed – we’d like more opportunity to catch up on things. Friday night, sisters Cheryl, Robin and Amy came over for a dinner of salad, pizza, wine, with lots of laughter and good conversation.

Saturday, I picked up a small gift, and went to North Branch to help celebrate the first birthday of my grand-niece, Ellie. That turned into a good opportunity to see other nieces and nephews, and more of my family. That evening, Brenda, Keith and I watched movies.

Sunday, I drove out to Lake Nepessing to see my brother, Ted, who has had some serious health issues lately. They were getting ready to decorate the Christmas tree, so his whole family was there. Jen stopped in, too, and we traded ideas around the table on healthy low-fat and diabetic diets before my daughter and I left them to their decorating, and went to have a less-than-healthy lunch at the bar across the road. Brenda and I drove to Cheryl’s house that evening, for dinner and several games of Scrabble.

Monday morning, up at seven 0’clock to start a long, hectic day. First coffee, and write, then pack: dirty clothes separated from clean and crammed back in the suitcases; new acquisitions and gifts put in bags that would endure the luggage compartment on the plane; computer – with all of its cords and paraphernalia – tucked back in its case. More coffee, then, and last minute conversation with Brenda and Keith before the final sad good-byes.

I filled the car, again, with gas and hit the road. My next stop was Gaylord, where I revisited the Big Boy restaurant just off the freeway. In Charlevoix, I topped off the gas tank and handled a little business downtown before going to the airport. Back on the island, I checked in with Aunt Katie and returned her car keys, went to Andi’s to pick up my dogs, then home.

Monday night and all day Tuesday were spent catching up: loving up the dogs; unpacking; laundry; assessing what groceries I need, what bills I need to pay and what other things I neglected in my time away. Rest! I came home with a virus, and no energy at all. Travel takes it out of me. Today, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Swim

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img_9131As a child growing up on Lake Nepessing, I couldn’t swim. Brenda could, a little bit. Ted could dog-paddle. I couldn’t even float. I could pretend to swim, by walking on my hands in knee-deep water while flopping my head from side-to-side and kicking up a froth with my feet. That was it. I loved the water, though. We spent quite a bit of time at the beach. We called it swimming, even when it wasn’t. “If you get your work done,” Mom would say, “maybe I’ll let you take the kids swimming.”

So, often, when our chores were done on hot summer days, we would gather our little brothers and sisters and walk them down to the Hill Top Campground. There was a little store there, and there were paddle boards for rent. Camp sites were visible up the hill. That was where the actual entrance to the swimming area was, off Hunt Road. I didn’t know that until I was an adult. We took a different route.

As one fairly large group of children wearing bathing suits and carrying towels, we walked up the driveway, and crossed Hunt Road. Kitty-corner  across the pavement was Lake Shore Drive, a dirt road that followed the lake.That’s the way we went. On our right were cottages with back doors and garages facing the gravel road, while their main living spaces looked out over the water. On our left was a big, triangular  field where daffodils grew wild in the springtime. Then the quonset hut with its curved, corrugated metal roof. Maxine, who tended bar at the Lake Inn, lived there. After her house was more field. The small cottages continued, one after another, on our right. At the end of the drive, a sharp turn went left and up a hill. Straight ahead was another hill. There was a house up there, where the Poole family lived. We turned to the right, where a short gravel road led to more small lakefront houses, and curved around, narrower. We took it to the end, then walked beside the one house, turned and made our way across three front lawns at the water’s edge, then down a slight dirt path to the beach.

Sometimes we were noticed, and had to pay; other times we used the beach for free. We spread out towels and tested the water. We planned who would keep an eye on who. Every small child got a stern lecture: “DO NOT run/throw stones/throw sand/get your towel wet/splash/get lost/get hurt/misbehave in any way…OR YOU WILL NEVER GET TO COME TO THE BEACH AGAIN!” We were, after all, responsible…and the ones who would get in big trouble if anyone drowned.

Then we started making our way into the water. Everybody splashed. All of us went out too deep. There were drop-offs. There was seaweed. If you wandered over too far to the left, there was muck instead of sand on the bottom. There was sometimes broken glass. There were several near-drowning incidents every summer. Yet we all managed, somehow, to survive. When it was time to head for home, we sat all the little ones down in a row on the towels, and examined their feet for bloodsuckers. When we found them, we lit a match, blew it out, and touched the leech with the hot tip. It would draw its head out, so it could be picked off and thrown away. Then, we checked our own extremities. Finally, cooled off, tired, and – now – free of bloodsuckers, we made our way back home. That was “going swimming” when I was a child.

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #17

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From Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg:

Tell me all you know about Texas.

I know almost nothing about Texas. I almost said I’ve never been there, but then I remembered that I was. Still, I don’t know much.

My sister Brenda knows Texas. When she was in the eighth grade, she chose that state to do a major report about. She wrote to whatever agencies a student would write to to gain information. She received a fat manila envelope filled with maps and brochures. She clipped photos from them to illustrate her project. She added to her knowledge with research from our own encyclopedias, and from books she borrowed from the library. She typed her report and put it all together in a brown duo tang folder. I was intrigued, as I was was always interested in anything Brenda was doing, but I didn’t pay that much attention.

Many years later, my sisters, Sheila and Robin, their husbands and my brother David all moved to Texas. I didn’t pay attention then, either. They went to the gulf, to go swimming. David had an accident at his workplace that – I think – resulted in an injury to his feet. That’s all I know.

When my oldest daughter was a young adult, she moved to Texas with her fiance, who was transferred there for his job. I visited her there. She had a boa constrictor, and a small collection of mice that had started out as live food for the snake, and became pets when he took too long to devour them.

I spent a great deal of time sitting near her pool with a book. My daughter and I were both reading The Clan of the Cave Bear series, by Jean M. Auel. We hadn’t yet gotten tired of the huge swaths of repetitive background information she inserted between every new occurrence, and enjoyed sharing our thoughts on how the story was developing.

One day, we went for a long drive; I don’t remember the reason or the destination. Cities in Texas can annex surrounding lands as long as they are able to provide services for them. Because of this, highways are expanded outward in the most confusing manner, running in ever larger circles around the heart of the city. That’s the only thing I learned about the state while I was there.

Many years after that, my sister Nita moved to San Antonio, Texas. Her grown children lived there, too, during much of the time that she was there. Nita loved the heat, worked – when she could – at a small factory, and lived in a community with many people who spoke mainly Spanish.

Finally, last year, my sisters Brenda and Cheryl, with their partners, went to Texas on vacation. Brenda had a bout of vertigo, and missed some of the side trips. The weather was grand. The food was good.

That, I think, is every single thing I know about the state of Texas!

 

Assessment

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Now that I’m home from my little trip, let me look at what I did with my two days on the mainland.

  • I had a mammogram. It was overdue, as I’ve neglected to schedule the procedure for a couple years now. It will ease my mind and quiet my hypochondria-fueled fears and imaginings.
  • I walked. More than five miles one day, and at least two the next.
  • I slept. Though the mattress was not the best, I enjoyed both an afternoon nap and a long night’s sleep in my little motel room.
  • I watched Jeopardy. It was the second and last day of the finals in the Teacher’s Tournament, one of my favorites. I knew the answers to the first five questions! Though my success rate dropped of drastically after that, it was still an enjoyable program.
  • I read. I am reading The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, and it’s a hard book to put down. I also went through several magazines – unavailable on Beaver Island – that I picked up while I was over there.
  • I shopped. A trip through K-Mart resulted in a wrist watch, a canvas purse, B&B cream, toothpaste, disposable razors, underwear, ibuprofen and O magazine. The grocery store yielded items from Aunt Katie’s shopping list, two cans of soup and a Real Simple magazine. From the three bookstores I visited, I came away with three note cards, books: A God in Ruins by Kay Atkinson and Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins, and magazines: American Craft, Dwell, and Spirituality and Health.

 

Now that Labor Day is here, what did I do with my summer?

  • I worked. Long hours and many days each week at the hardware store. I spent too many (yet still not enough) hours working on the Beacon, or doing bookkeeping or other things to support that business. I cleaned at Aunt Katie’s. I gave what I could to my own lawn, garden and house.
  • I managed some creative work. I wrote every day. I completed thirty small paintings. I did my radio broadcast.
  • I walked. With a new dog that likes a walk, I have happily reintroduced walking to my regular schedule this summer.
  • I read. In stolen bits of time over lunch, in the bathtub, or before sleep at night, I managed to get some reading in. I finished a couple good books and have several others underway.
  • I enjoyed time with family and friends. Sue, who runs a seasonal gallery here on Beaver Island, and I have had several good chats and a couple good meals this summer. Mary, my friend since grade school, visited for a long weekend. My grandson, Tommy, came for two weeks and my daughter, Kate, surprised me with a short visit, too. My sisters, Brenda, Cheryl and Amy, came with children and grandchildren, spouses and loved ones for a wonderful week of laughter and fun. Aunt Katie and I managed to squeeze in a few good conversations…a couple of them while eating ice cream. Before the season was over, Lois, Pam, Shirley and I made it out for our annual dinner.
  • Other stuff. With company or on my own with the dogs, I made it to several beaches. I attended two concerts, saw one movie, and went out to dinner a half-dozen times. I had a thrilling, short boat ride out into our harbor to see – close up – the Viking ship that was anchored there. I went on the Garden Tour. Though I have not been swimming or climbed Mount Pisgah, there are still a couple weeks left of summer.

 

Now, already 10:00 on my day off, I’ve accomplished nothing so far except for drinking three cups of coffee and this bit of writing. I’d better get busy, or the end-of-day assessment will be a disappointment!