Tag Archives: grandchildren

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #42

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List the ways money cannot buy happiness:

  • Money cannot buy respect. It has to be earned. Mostly, I have no trouble with that. Still, I remember bringing my two little grandsons up north to spend a week with me on Beaver Island. Michael was seven years old; Brandon was five. We traveled from Lapeer to Charlevoix in my Aunt Katie’s  brand new Trailblazer. We flew across to the island in a pretty impressive little airplane. Then we walked across to the parking lot, where my battered and dust-covered three hundred dollar island “beater” was waiting. Michael’s little face fell. “Grandma Cindy, your car is a piece of garbage,” he said, and I believe in that instant, his estimation of me dropped a little, too. I laughed and told him, seriously, “Why, Michael, this is the best car I’ve ever owned!” I loaded boys and luggage, and we rattled off for home. I had a full week to bolster up his opinion of me. Long drives in my old car delivered them to sandy beaches in the daytime, and down tree covered roads after dark as we – all dressed in our pajamas – went to see what the island looked like by moonlight. We traveled to shops and stores and the Toy Museum; we went fishing, rock collecting, swimming and dune climbing. That old car would come to a quick stop for getting a better look at bird, squirrel or deer. or when either little boy yelled “Can!” Then, one of them would exit the car to retrieve the sighted aluminum can, for the ten-cent profit it would bring. By the time the week was up, Michael had decided my car wasn’t so bad. A shiny new vehicle in that parking lot, though, would have garnered instant respect from that seven-year-old boy!
  • Money can’t fill lonely days…
  • It can’t give recognition for a job well-done…
  • And it can’t turn sadness around. But it often feels like it might, and I’ve frequently stopped at the store, or went on-line shopping, just to test the possibility.
  • Money can’t buy love. Even though teen-agers would often try to convince otherwise. Most love comes by happy accident (as in the many good friends that have happened into my life) or undeserved blessings (as in my children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers and other family members who I am so fortunate to have in my life at all, doubly fortunate that we all love each other). Sometimes, though, you have to look for love, pursue it, or work for it. That seems, often, like a job best suited to those with youth and beauty, and the confidence that comes with those attributes. So, usually, I put ideas of love or romance “on the shelf.” I don’t think about it, or I think, “I’m too old for that.” And that works…most of the time.
  • Money can’t buy all the myriad of little things that bring me joy on a daily basis: the color of the sky; wag-tail dogs; roads lined with trees; the sound of waves; sunrise, sunset and the moon and stars. All the best things are free!
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Tommy (April A~Z Challenge)

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I have five wonderful grandchildren. Tommy is one of them.

He’s not the only boy; I have four grandsons: Mikey, Brandon, Tommy and Patrick. His sister, Madeline, has the distinction of being my only granddaughter.

Tommy is not the oldest; that would be his big brother, Mikey.

Tommy is not the youngest; that’s his cousin, Patrick. He is the youngest in his immediate family, though.

He is also known for his kindness, generosity of spirit and exceptional sense of humor. When he was still a baby, his mother noted that Tommy was finding his place in her large family by being the most sweet-natured of all of them. He almost always has a welcoming smile on his face. When he visited me on Beaver Island two years ago, he made new friends every day. Being shy myself, I was continually impressed with his easy conversational abilities. He is a very special young man.

Still, he’s one of five. So, why is Tommy showing up on my blog today? Well, conveniently, his name begins with the letter T. More importantly, though, tomorrow is Tommy’s 16th birthday. That earns him a spot in my April A~Z challenge.

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

Dad

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I love this photo of my father.

Christmas Day, Dad with his red suspenders, wearing his brand new red plaid flannel shirt, reading glasses in his pocket, that shock of coarse, thick hair, just about to speak.

Being one of the oldest of his children, the second of eleven, I have other memories of him, too.

I remember my Dad when he was young, gangly and a little bit shy, with a wide grin and a big joy in life.

I remember when Dad would never leave the house without giving my mother a big kiss good-bye…when he’d come home tipsy and try to charm and tease the scowl from her face…when they’d snuggle together on the couch while watching the news.

As a young man, Dad was lanky and strong with a quick stride that we struggled to keep up with. He had long arms hanging from broad shoulders. In motion, he seemed all elbows, wrists and big hands.

He’d chuck us under the chin, or use his knuckles to rub the top of our head, or grab our knees to make us squeal.

He’d reach out – quick as a striking snake – to cuff the ear of a child whispering in church.

He’d scoop up a small child to place her on a shoulder as he set out walking.

Or throw one over his shoulder “like a sack of potatoes.”

Or grab one to hold up by the feet, to “shake the dickens out of you.”

He’d carry a little one in the crook of his arm.

Sometimes he’d just reach down to offer a hand to hold as we crossed the street.

With such a large family, it seemed like he’d always have a little one to tease and fuss over.

Dad was always quite surprised at our “growing up.”

We did, though.

Children gave way to grandchildren, who also remember the tickling and other tortures he’d administer, when he caught them…and then great-grandchildren.

Christmas, when all the family gathered, was extra special for Dad.

For years – maybe twenty – he’d say, “this could likely be my last Christmas, you should come.” If we had other plans, or if traveling home was not in the budget, we’d rearrange, in order to be there. If a few of us were not getting along at the time, we’d put our disagreements aside for the sake of a good holiday. Dad would usually indulge in too much food and drink, which would make Mom angry, and add another layer of tension to the day.

Still, he would greet us all warmly, beam at the little ones, twinkle at our conversations, allow the toddlers to open his presents for him and bask in the pleasure of his big family around him.

That’s why I like this photo.

Today is my Dad’s birthday.

Though he’s been gone from this life for years, his influence is still a big part of my life, and I think of him often.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Sixty-One Blessings

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Last year, in honor of my sixtieth birthday, I compiled a list of the 60 most influential women in my life.

The list included family members, friends, poets, activists and authors.

I intended to write a blog about each person on the list.

I considered gathering recipes from each person, living or dead. I already have Emily Dickinson’s “Black Cake” recipe! My list, and the essays, combined with photos and recipes  could be assembled into a nice book, I thought.

In the course of the entire last year, I wrote three essays on women from my list: Mom (#1), Johanna Spyri (#38) and Emma Jean (#24).

That’s me, full of ideas…brimming with good intentions. My life is punctuated by unfinished projects!

Still, it was a good exercise, just writing the names. It caused me to think about who influenced my life, and how, and why.

For my birthday this year, I’m counting blessings.

First, two parents who loved their children and always did their best.

Five grandparents: four that I knew personally and loved; one that I was acquainted with only through her photo – always on display in my childhood home – and the stories my Dad told.

Ten siblings: I’m eternally grateful for every single one of them. Each one – even those that died in infancy – has helped to guide and shape my life.

Two daughters: by far the most heart-wrenching, soul-stretching, life-enriching blessings in my life.

Four strong, smart and handsome grandsons.

One charming, intelligent and beautiful granddaughter.

Three in-laws: father, mother and sister, who I’m glad to have known.

Seventeen nieces and nephews. And now their children…and their children’s children.

Other relatives: aunts and uncles and cousins.

Friends: I’m happy to say I’ve gained at least as many as I’ve lost over the years, and appreciate every single one.

Two sweet dogs.

Three one-hundred-year-old Maple trees on the north side of my house.

Six jobs. No, maybe seven.

Two vehicles: both in good running order.

One non-running vehicle that has served me well as a “garage”.

A fresh, unopened bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

My mother’s hope chest!

Seventy-five cookbooks!

Paul McCartney’s autograph!!

Almost one hundred birthday greetings on my Facebook page!

Cards and gifts from family and friends!

Phone calls from loved ones on my birthday!

Clearly, I should be much older than this.

Sixty-one is too small a number, for counting all the blessings in my life!

Patrick

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My youngest grandchild, Patrick, turns ten years old  today!

I admired ultrasound pictures of him before he came into this world and I was there, with his Mom, the day he was born. I snuggled and cuddled him when he was just tiny. I talked to him and sang to him and waited for his smile. He had a great smile, even then.

Patrick is the only one of my grandchildren to have been bitten by a snake!

I have a lot of snakes here, on this bit of low woodland I live on. Garter snakes, mostly, but I occasionally see other varieties. None of them are poisonous. I have always picked them up, to show visiting children. They like to feel their scales (not slimy!) and see – close up – the way snakes move and learn about their surroundings by their darting tongue. It’s important, I think, for children to understand snakes, and not be afraid of them.

When Patrick was three, he visited me here on Beaver Island. His Mom went to town one day, and Patrick and I went to check on the growing things in the garden. It was a warm day, so several garter snakes were out sunning themselves on top of the compost bin. Patrick was thrilled to see them, and answered “Yes!” he’d like to touch one and later “Please!” could he hold it, too.

I had done this before.

No problem.

First the chance to touch the snake, to feel his muscles tense and wiggle, so there are no surprises. Then, see how I hold the snake, just behind his head, firmly but not too tight. With your other hand, support his twisting body.

Good.

The transfer is the only tricky part. I move my fingers back just a little, so the child can get their fingers just behind the head, then help them get a feel for the right amount of grip, then watch their eyes get big and face break out in smile at the wonderment of the strength and movement contained in that small animal…and then we gently release the snake, and watch him move away.

I’d done it dozens of times.

Nothing to worry about.

Patrick did everything perfectly.

A born snake handler!

Then, for just a second, he relaxed his grip.

In the blink of an eye, that snake turned and bit him on the hand!

Two fangs actually punctured his tender three-year-old skin!

Released, the snaked wiggled away into the tall grass.

I was surprised.

Patrick was even more surprised.

And insulted!

He let out a yell.

I grabbed him up and brought him into the house. We examined his wound, and cleaned it good with soap and water. I made several calls…to the Medical Center, the veterinarian and the nurse-line at the hospital on the mainland… to reassure myself that I had done everything I should, and that I didn’t have to worry about salmonella or anything like that.

We related the story to Patrick’s mom, when she got back.

Later, it was told again, to Patrick’s Dad (who is afraid of snakes!).

Then, we all stored it in our minds as an important legend in the history of Grandma Cindy’s house on Beaver Island, the grand-children’s visits there, and Patrick’s childhood.

We bring out this story on special occasions…like today, on his ten-year-old birthday.

Happy Birthday, Patrick!

Madeline

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Madeline is my absolute, very favorite granddaughter!

Madeline is a good organizer. She likes to have a plan, and to stick with it. When she visited here, she did a great job of rearranging my studio shelves.

Madeline is creative and smart. She’s a great reader, and she can relay the gist of a story in a way that makes me want to read it, too. She is a wonderful story-teller. Like her Mom, she’s not in the least intimidated when it comes to making art. She’ll tackle any medium and any subject matter. Whether with paints or colored pencils or markers, Madeline will impress me with how she uses the material at hand. I’ve seen her get frustrated in her attempts, but she won’t say, “I can’t draw people…or horses…or whatever…” She knows she can, or that she’ll try until she’s able to.

Madeline is generous and kind. She loves all animals and takes good care of her own pets. She doesn’t like to see anyone unhappy, and she won’t tolerate anyone feeling left out. I’ve seen her go out of her way to include the smallest, shyest child in whatever activity she was doing. She once said to me, “Grandma Cindy, you are the nicest woman in North America”. Now, that’s generous!

It may be unfair to single her out as my favorite granddaughter, since she is my only granddaughter. I can honestly say Madeline is the best 12-year-old I know. Or, at least, she will be tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Madeline!