Tag Archives: Ted

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.

When Paths Cross

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I mentioned, the other day, about how the boys and girls in my family seemed to have been  raised in parallel universes, where our paths rarely crossed. Though my brother Ted was only two years younger than me, and we grew up in the same house with the same parents, it often seemed that he may as well have come from another planet, for how little we had in common. Our growing-up experiences were so different, it was hard to relate. There are exceptions:

  • There was the first time Brenda, Ted and I burned down the field. Before the fire took off, and we had to tell Mom…before we had to figure out who was to blame, causing all of our memories to take divergent paths…it was just a shared encounter between brother and sisters, playing with matches.
  • There were the times when Mom would hand out work assignments and chores, then take notice of poor Ted, who didn’t have to help with housework, but who would be left without a playmate while we worked. “Who wants to play friends with Ted,” she’d ask, and I – who hated chores – would jump at the opportunity. “Playing friends with Ted” involved taking on the identity of Mike (who was Ted’s real friend but unable to be there), wandering the yard, digging night crawlers, climbing trees or picking wooly bear caterpillars off the side of the house. It was my favorite job!
  • When our baby sister, Darla, died, I was twelve and Ted was ten years old. The whole family grieved, but it was only Ted and I that took it upon ourselves to sing “I Want My Baby Back” on the trip to and from church on Sunday for weeks afterward. It wasn’t really a song about an infant. Like “Teen Angel” and “Running Bear and Little White Dove,” it was one of those mournful teen love songs that we all knew the words to, filled with angst and sadness. To Ted and I, though, it was the perfect intersection of Pop Music with Real Life. Though I seem to remember a few scowls from Brenda, I don’t recall my poor grieving parents  ever speaking up to say “Enough, already,” even when Ted used his deepest voice to sing the last line in bass, “She’s gone to heaven so I got to be good…so I can see my baby when I leeeaaave…a-this world.”
  • New Year’s Eve, when Ted was fourteen and I was sixteen, and we were left to babysit for our (sleeping) younger brother and sisters, we decided to get into the liquor that Dad kept ready to offer visitors. I don’t think we actually drank much, but we took a lot of pictures: Ted, in his plaid pajamas, carrying a bottle across the room; me, eyes half-open to look under-the-influence, with a glass in hand; each of us grinning drunkenly into the camera. Ted drank quite a bit when he was a young man, and doesn’t drink at all now. I drink only socially, and even then not much. For that one night, though, we imbibed together.
  • And through our adult lives, when holidays, weddings and funerals brought us together, and I’d realize, through conversations surrounding loss or celebration or heartache, that the differences are small compared to the love that we share.

My brother, Ted, is having surgery today. There is every reason to believe he’ll do just fine, and be better then before when it’s done, and that for many more years, as brother and sister, our paths will continue to cross.

Oh, Brother…

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I received word yesterday that my brother, Ted, is in the hospital, and has been moved to Intensive Care. We’re all sending good thoughts his way, and hoping for the best outcome.

The boys in my family were raised in a kind of parallel universe; our paths rarely crossed.

They seemed, on the one hand, to live a life of privilege, with few, seasonal, chores to do while the girls were usually elbow deep in dirty diapers, dishes or laundry. On the other hand, they were expected to know how to troubleshoot, maintain and repair any machinery they used, and to help with things – like roofing and butchering – that the girls were, for the most part, spared.

The seven girls in our family had two upstairs bedrooms. We had to be careful of heavy footfalls, but if we kept the flashlight under the covers and kept our voices low, we could talk, play games or read long into the night. We shared secrets, made plans and forged bonds that would carry us through a lifetime, in those nighttime hours.

Though ten years apart, the two boys shared a bedroom on the first floor of our house, right next to the bedroom my parents shared. There was little opportunity for play or camaraderie there!

When I look at Ted’s life, I worry that it has not been a fulfilling one. I remind myself, my vision is limited. I see my brother Ted through my own filter, and mainly at family gatherings. As I write, I realize that he could look at my life with the same concerns!

Ted has a wonderful wife and two strong, intelligent children that we are all proud of, and that he has a great relationship with. He has friends and associations that reach well beyond the family circle. He’s a hunter and a fisherman. Ted is a reader, with an interest in history and current events. He has other hobbies and interests that keep him entertained. He makes the best of the life he’s been given.

This morning, I’m sending out lots of healing energy and all my best wishes that he has plenty more opportunity for doing just that!

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #10

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This morning, looking for writing ideas, I went to amazon.com and used their free browsing feature to check out 1000 Awesome Writing Prompts by Ryan Andrew Kinder. He has some great ideas! I chose this one:

How were you named? If you feel that your name is boring and the story behind it equally so, make up a name and come up with an interesting story behind that.

My mother had trouble with names. Our dogs, even, lacked imagination. We had, first, Laddie, because Lassie was famous on the big screen, but our dog was a boy. He was followed by Tippy, because his tail had a white tip, who was followed by Tippy II and Tippy III in a smattering of short-lived dogs. We had Lucky and Lady. Husky, because he had a bit of that breed in his mix. Rusty was based on his color.

Naming baby boys was easy. My brothers were given traditional names with a family history. Ted was Theodore George, after his two grandfathers, which was usual for the oldest boy in our German family. Dave was David Robert: David after my mother’s grandfather, and Robert after our father. The baby that died at birth was given Dad’s complete name – Robert William – though we always referred to that baby as Bobby.

Girls were harder, right from the start. Mom pulled girls names from whatever inspiration was around. Brenda was named after Brenda Starr, of comic strip fame. When I was born, a nurse said, “Look at all that black hair, dark as cinders…you should name her Cinderella.” From that comment came my name, Cindy. Not Cynthia. Not, thankfully, Cinderella, though I like to tell folks that’s who I was named for.

I don’t know where Mom got the idea to name her next daughter Cherie, but she was set on it when her next door neighbor gave birth first, and took that name for her own daughter. Mom was furious! She had less than a week to come up with an alternate. Though she remained friends with that other mother for most of their lives, Mom never failed to mention that bit of thievery. My sister ended up with the name Sheila.

Cheryl was next; her name, Cheryl Ann, was taken from the side of a tugboat. Nita Louise followed (and later showed a bit of Mom’s desperate ingenuity when she named her own daughter Tina Louise) though I don’t know where the name came from. Robin’s name was a nod to my father, Robert. I don’t know how Mom came up with Darla, but her middle name – Jean – was for one of her best friends.

Carl and Amy owned the hotel bar at Lake Nepessing. The two had met when Carl was stationed in Germany during the war. Amy was a beautiful blonde with a strong accent. Once, when Mom was expecting, she and Dad had them over to play cards  After a few drinks, Amy got a bit maudlin. She was not able to have children, she said, but she loved them dearly.

“And just look at this houseful of children you have here! How is that fair?”

Mom shook her head in sympathy.

“If this baby is a girl,” she offered, one hand on her growing belly, “I will name her after you!”

That was how my baby sister Amy got her name. The adult Amy was flattered, and took the honor seriously, following the life of her little namesake with special gifts for holidays and other occasions.  For Mom, I can’t help but think it was just a relief: one name she didn’t have to struggle to come up with!

Saturday, Almost Father’s Day

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I looked – once again – at a special DVD created from old home movies taken in the early fifties. My Grandpa Ted bought the movie camera because he had new grandchildren: my sister Brenda, me, my brother Teddy. Grandpa shot most of the movies himself, but sometimes Grandma Thelma had the camera, and sometimes my Mom did.

My Dad did not take pictures, and he didn’t much like being in them. Yet, there he is, grinning widely as he hoists a child to his shoulders, or bends to rub a dog’s ears. There he is, striding purposefully across the lawn carrying boxes that soon reveal a new swing set…and there is Dad, assembling it as we smile from the sidelines. He’s there in the summer, giving us rides in the wagon he built to pull behind the riding mower; in the winter he’s pulling us on a sled. At parties, he laughs as he fills glasses from a pitcher. In other scenes he talks to adults or tickles children, and often puts up an arm to hide his face from the camera.

My heart swells to see my father so young and vital, so involved with his family, and with so much life still ahead. Being one of the oldest, I remember that man. I also remember the man he became: frustrated, saddened  and disappointed – often – with how his life had turned out, sometimes a little bit bitter.

It’s hard to know, because all change is gradual, what happened, and when, to make the difference. Age alone, I’ve come to realize, alters the world. There comes a point where some dreams have to be set aside; no longer is there time or energy or ability enough to continue to believe that anything is possible. Aches and pains can be frustrating. Everything that could once be done without a second thought, but that now is a struggle, becomes a discouragement. Losses build.

If I could spend a day with my Dad, I’d choose a time when hard work was possible, and hope was still alive. Let it be in the years when he always leaned over to give Mom a long kiss before he left the house, and when they’d snuggle together on the couch to watch cowboy shows.Let him be old enough to have his many children all around him, young enough so that we were still at home. I’d like to give each of us children enough foresight…or insight…so that we’d  appreciate Dad more than we did at that time.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the value in a person or a thing until it’s long past. If I could spend a day with my Dad, I’d offer him fresh strawberries with cream. I’d tell him everything that’s happened in our family; I’d talk to him about Aunt Katie’s health, Bob’s sheep and chickens and the new pond. I’d do my best to let him know I love him, and appreciate all that he was, and all that he taught me. I know his value, now.

Before I Move On…

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Back row, left to right: Cheryl, Sheila, Ted, Cindy, Brenda Front row, left to right: Nita, Robin, David, Amy

 

 

I’ve had dozens of addresses in my life so far. That is dozens of writing prompts, at my fingertips…just as soon as I leave Hunt Road. And I will. I have thought I was done with it, but then realized I wasn’t quite ready to go. There’s no sense in moving on until I’m finished here.
The house is wrapped in memories. I remember springtime, when it was warm enough to leave the big door open. Mom would gather us together, point out the hole in the screen, explain how we had to be careful to keep it blocked so bugs couldn’t get in, and then ceremoniously place a cotton ball in the hole. I remember summer baseball games in the backyard when, between our family, Brad, and Aunt Margaret’s family, we had a whole team! Sleepovers, pajama parties, sneaking out at night to meet our boyfriends…and in the blink of an eye we were grown and gone.

Back, though, for Sunday dinners often, and for holidays whenever possible. I have photos of my baby Jennifer and her cousin Alan each in one of the stainless steel sinks in the kitchen. When my youngest, Kate, had her first baby, we stopped at Mom and Dad’s on the way home from the hospital. Dad got tears in his eyes when Kate put Michael in his arms. He said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve held one this fresh!
I can’t leave Hunt Road, though, without bringing it up to the present. A few years ago, the old house was especially busy with visitors. My mother was dying, and we all wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. My sister Sheila, who was staying there to help care for Mom, died unexpectedly. That brought all of us together at once, to the house we’d grown up in, to mourn our sister’s passing, and to be with our mother, to make her as comfortable as we could, at the end of her life, in her own home. It was an awful time, but filled with blessings and joy, too. I cherish the memory of that hard time there; it changed me forever.
My brother, Ted, has moved in to the house on Hunt Road with his small family. He keeps a nice – though manageable – garden. He sometimes has good conversations with Dad, in the early morning hours. I understand that; I hear Dad’s voice, too, though he’s been gone for many years. The last time I stopped, Ted was going over the grounds with a metal detector. I’d bet there are some real treasures to be found there.

If memories are treasures, I’m absolutely sure of it!

…and More

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Cindy, Ted and Brenda in the living room, in front of the door leading to the old kitchen

Before Dad started the big project that would become our new kitchen, he had already been remodeling the house. He had already closed off a portion of the living room, on the right side, to create a second bedroom. That became the master bedroom.

The small bedroom in back, original to the house, became mine and Brenda’s, where we slept in matching twin beds with gray vinyl headboards. Then it was ours plus Ted’s, when his big, “two-year” crib was moved in. That was when Sheila and then Cheryl, too, were sharing the other bedroom with Mom and Dad. When Cheryl outgrew the bassinet, there were two little cribs in that small room along with double bed, dresser and cedar chest. When Nita was born, Ted was moved into a big bed, Sheila was moved to the big crib in the back bedroom, Cheryl and her small crib were moved in there, too…and Brenda and I were moved upstairs.

The upstairs consisted of two large bedrooms. Dad was afraid of fire, so neither bedroom was given a door. Over the years we hung drapes over the openings, and argued for doors to no avail. If we mentioned privacy, we were told we didn’t need it, or that we should just respect each others privacy. If we’d had doors, they wouldn’t lock, anyway. Ever since Brenda – as a toddler – had wheeled her baby carriage into the bathroom and locked the door behind her, causing Mom to have to stand outside on a bench talking to her through the window until Dad could be reached to come home from work to take the door off the hinges to save her, none of our inside doors locked.

Straight ahead at the top of the stairs was a simple, square room with a closet. The ceiling was made out of tiles of wood, with the grain going first one direction, then the other. The windows looked over to the grandparent’s house. Around the corner to the right was an L-shaped room with deep shelves built in over the stairwell. The closet led to the attic space under the eaves. The windows looked over the flat kitchen roof, to the garden, the parking lot, the Lake Inn, and Lake Nepessing beyond. That was our bedroom.

It was scary, at first, to be so far away from the hub of the family. Turning off the closet light caused moments of panic, as we rushed from the pull cord to the bed in the dark. We devised a way to link metal hangars together, to form a long chain. One end, we’d hook into the light cord; the other end, we’d bring carefully across the room with us, get into bed, then pull. The light would go off, the links of hangars would fall apart and drop to the floor in a loud, clanging heap, Mom would shout up the stairs for us to keep it down and, giggling, we’d settle in to bed.

I learned quickly to enjoy the quiet and calm of the upstairs. I would sit on the top, deep shelf, away from the fray, with a book for company. I would take a tablet, a doll and a flashlight to the very farthest point of the attic, under the eaves, to sit by myself to write. We’d make imaginary lines on walls and floor, to create separate spaces.

As the little girls moved in upstairs, we helped plan and decorate their room and rearrange their furniture.  Visits to our room were special, and only allowed rarely. Eventually, Sheila, Cheryl, Nita, Robin and Amy all made their way upstairs. A half bath was installed upstairs, to the left of the landing. The little bedroom downstairs, where we had all taken a turn, was shared by Ted and David for the rest of the time that I lived at home.

As the family had grown, so had the rest of the house…

 

Diversions

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I was planning to write a quick, short post this evening, then turn off the computer.

I worked today. I’m tired and still have lots to do.

Besides, I’m off tomorrow, and will have time to write a longer, more thoughtful post then, as the finale to this month of daily writing.

That was my plan.

I thought I’d download my latest pictures to have a current image, at least, for tonight’s meager posting.

I can’t find the camera!

I took photos just last night, in the side yard with the dogs. It was dark, and I was trying out different settings for the best effect. I was sure it was in my coat pocket…then figured it was in the other coat…then scoured counter, tables and desk to find where I’d mislaid it. Nothing!

I put on boots and coat and went outside to retrace my steps from last night, in case it had fallen out of my pocket into the snow. I searched the car, too, just in case. Then I came in and repeated the search I’d already done. I emptied my purse. I looked in the insulated bag I use to carry my lunch to work. I looked through every other room in the house.

No camera.

I could have selected one of over a thousand photos already downloaded onto this computer.

No.

By that time I had decided they were all too dated. If I was going to use an old photo, it may as well be special.

I pulled out four albums, two metal boxes and one small wooden chest, all full of photographs.

What followed was an hour and a half of reminiscing.

“Oh, my daughters when they were tiny!”

“There’s Katey, right after Michael was born…”

“One sweet, beautiful grandchild after another!”

“…What holiday was that?”

So much for my quick bit of writing this evening!

I’ve decided on – then rejected – several different sets of photos with several different directions to write about them.

I could have written more about my five-day sail; I have photos to accompany that story!

I could have illustrated – with photographs – my time on Grand Turk Island, and many of the characters I met there.

Sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, friends, parents and grandparents, my pets, my gardens through the years…there were too many possibilities.

I had to pause to feed the dogs.

It is getting late.

I still have lots to do, and I haven’t had my own supper yet.

I settled on this sweet photo, though I have no particular story to go with it.

I like it because we all look so much like ourselves.

Brenda, always glamorous (and in charge), looks directly into the camera.

I look a little bit serious, a little bit reserved, and am wearing almost the same identical hairstyle that I have today!

Teddy (though he’s just “Ted” now) often wears that same expression in conversation today! I am in love with his choice of clothing in this picture, but am happy to report he’s gotten better about [not] mixing patterns.

I adore Sheila’s small face, round little belly, and the fact that she is shirtless, while Ted is not.

I don’t know that he sunburned easily, but I have seen several old photos of Ted with his sisters where he is the only one with a shirt on!

And Laddie…a good old dog!

And now I’m off to finish my evening.