I suppose most people have some wonderful things to say about their grandfather. Here are some of mine.
My grandfather could split an apple with his bare hands. He'd grip it, proudly and with much gusto, between his two hands that had been plowing and working since he was single digits, and then twist it before our eyes into two halves. And then he'd smile, because he knew he was an amazing man. And he was. When I went to visit my Pop Pop as a young child, I would approach him for a hug with anticipation and a bit of trepidation, because he also enjoyed squeezing us so tightly that the breath shot right out of my lungs. Truly, I have never been hugged by anyone else like my Pop Pop hugged me.
My Pop Pop was strong, a bull, I think. He had worked on a farm since he was old enough to pull a weed, I suspect. And he continued farming, in addition to working in an office, until he was in his early 90's. Imagine farming every single year from 10 to 90. Pop Pop did it without a pause and we were blessed by his food. People would stop by his property after fishing in Fortescue and give him fish, oysters, clams in exchange for whatever crops were on at the time. I grew up on his sweet potatoes all winter, his strawberries in the spring, his corn and limas in the summer. Squash, asparagus, cucumbers and tomatoes. Once, when I was a new mom, he gave me a few white eggplants. They were so satiny white, so brilliant, that I put them in a bowl on my table and just looked at them for days in my kitchen. Finally, I decided that I'd better eat them because Pop Pop would not have his bounty wasted for the purpose of art or decor. I cut one in half and was agape. The tiny seeds made a perfect angel. A halo, head, triangle body, wings going up, and tiny half-circle feet peeking out from the bottom of the gown. It is still a mystery to me why I didn't photograph it. I put it in a bowl of lemon juice to preserve it as long as I could. I cut into the rest but none of the others had seeds that formed anything at all.
He was so strong, so powerful. It was odd to see him at the end of his life getting weak and thin. But in those last years, his time was redirected to his first love, the Bible. In my early 20's I worked as a nutritionist at WIC in Philadelphia and at night, a waitress. I got home late, after everyone had gone to bed and sat down at the dining room table for my third job. I put on white cotton gloves to cover my sweaty hands, opened Pop Pop's old Bible and the new large print one and began transcribing his copious notes from one to the other. Pop Pop hired me to do this when his eyes could no longer read the small print. But he also had an ulterior motive. He wanted me in the Bible. When I say my Pop Pop had notes in his Bible, you probably don't have any idea what I mean. Every single page but, I think I counted, 3 had underlined words, Greek words, cross-referenced verses, personal notes, notes from other books, etc. It took many months. I never did finish. I think I got into the New Testament and he finally took it back, paying the full amount he'd promised, and finished it himself. He loved his Bible(s). He gave them to me before he died. He wants me to study all of his notes and appreciate the Bible and all of his notes. This will surely take me the rest of my life too.
After Grammy died in 1994, my visits to Pop Pop were all about sitting down and listening to him tell me about his Bible studies. I didn't do this nearly enough. But I will never forget those times we did spend together. He desperately wanted to share with me his great love of God's word--he desperately wanted to share that with everyone! And he always repeated over and over how blessed his life was by his relationship with Jesus.
I've written all of these things about my grandfather before. I do tend to classify my memories of Pop Pop into three or four categories. His garden, his Bible, his strength--mental and physical. But mostly my Pop Pop, to me, was a force. To tell the truth, I feared him just a little as a child. Not in the sense of being hurt by him, not at all. But in the sense of not being good enough, not measuring up in a moral sense. Pop Pop had many rules--don't tread on the garden vines, don't step on the mole traps, don't say "lucky" because you're blessed, don't do any work on Sundays and that included picking vegetables before returning home to Pitman, don't eat before grace, don't curse, don't drink, don't smoke. I loved Pop Pop but I could never measure up to him. He lived so strongly, so assuredly, so straight, so narrow.
For some, the straight and narrow might feel confining. For Pop Pop, the straight and narrow was the place where he could be fruitful and vibrant. He thrived, he produced, he learned, he created beauty on his two acre corner, he built a house and a family and a life that worked for him and he loved his life. He loved his life and he steered and drove it like the plow he pushed through those rich, fertile fields by the bay every single spring. And in the fall, he tilled the dead vines and stalks back under with the certain expectation to start again when God's seasons allowed.
My last glimpse of Pop Pop today didn't look much like this man I knew but then I glanced down at those hands. They were the same strong, gnarled, handsome hands that did so much--everything he set out to do! They looked powerful even there lying still on his gray suit jacket. I will never know hands like that again, the work they accomplished, the words they held, followed, underlined, noted.
Instead of dawdling in those feelings of never measuring up to the amazingness of Pop Pop, I will leave those childish notions behind on that chilly gray hill where I said good-bye to his 99 year old body. God made Pop Pop to do Pop Pop's work. And He made me to do mine. And God already knows I'm far from perfect, that's why He sent Jesus. But God loves me, this I know. The Bible tells me so, and so did my grandfather.
November 30, 2013
I suppose most people have some wonderful things to say about their grandfather. Here are some of mine.
February 17, 2011
Hello. I haven't been here in a long time. It's late. I just picked one kid up, the other is in the basement playing games and the other is asleep and I'm here, that's somewhere in between sleep and computer. So I figured I'd write a post about something inane and hopefully as it puts you to sleep, it'll put me to sleep and we'll wake up tomorrow refreshed.
It's the third one, the one asleep, that I was going to mention. The other day a little doggy bit him on the ear and it's been the topic of conversation because #3 tends to churn injuries and sicknesses over and over, for some reason. Maybe because he broke the same arm twice in a handful of months, needing casts and braces, an operation and therapy. Perhaps he began to think it was his lot in life to be under close examination by physicians. I'm not sure but we aren't making a big deal of the ear here. I mean, we're keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get angry but evidently he went to school and involved the nurse. I love it when my kids go to school and ask the authorities if they should be better taken care of at home. I mean, sure, everyone needs a back-up and, great, Sean has his in line. He's no dummy, he sees what shenanigans go on around here. He knows I clip his fingernails while he eats his morning Activia.
Anyway, the nurse had finished teaching his health class and on his way out of the room, Sean asked her if dog bites can become infected. Incidently, Mrs. Nurse, I've been meaning to inquire: Could a dog bite, such as the one you can observe here on my right ear, become infected? Is there something my mother - who's home eating thin mints perched on the kitchen stool watching The View - should be doing...something preventative or...something she could apply to the wound to encourage healing? She replied, according to him, "No, they don't get infected. A dog's mouth is cleaner than a human mouth. I'd be more worried if you told me that a human bit you."
He relayed this to me when I scooped him up from school and was driving to the grocery store for taco shells. I was sort of surprised. "Of course it could get infected," I said, walking into the automatic door. It opens so slowly and I walk so quickly. "A scratch from a paper clip could get infected." "Well, I believe her, Mom, and not you," he announced, skipping along, trying to keep up. "She's a nurse." A nurse without Google, obviously, I thought, because I get all my information and enlightenment from googling. "All I know is, a dog licks his butt and I don't," I countered, winning the argument.
Then I went home and...yeah, I googled. Is a dog's mouth cleaner than a human's? The word 'myth' appeared often but no real certain answers. Then I came upon an article that referred to a small study of 10 dogs' saliva and 10 people's saliva. On a scale from 1 to 4 (4 being grossest bacterial growth) 7 people salivas scored a 1, 0 scored a 4 / 1 dog saliva scored a 1, 6 scored a 4 and I quote: The majority of the canine plates looked (and smelled) like that gunk that gets down in your garbage can after the raw chicken got left in there. One was actually green and I swear I heard it chuckling to itself.
So can we all now agree that it's probably more worserer to get bitten by Fido than, say, your mother? And yes, as a matter of fact, I was trying to bite his forearm this evening. But only to prove a point.
December 8, 2010
Twenty years ago on December 8th Stan and I drove out to the country and cut down our first Christmas tree on a roadside tree farm. I remember a sweet peace and happiness that day preparing for our first Christmas as a married couple. We lived in a rented house in the country that we split with Gary and Marilyn, our landlords, surrounded by trees, horses, pot-bellied pigs and a dog named Hope.
We pulled the tree in the large sliding glass door in our basement living room, turned on some music and began decorating. About halfway through, I suggested we call his dad and share our first Christmas tree with him over the phone to Indiana. At 52, he was dying of pancreatic cancer. We spoke to him, told him Merry Christmas and that we loved him, but he couldn't respond. Stan's mom got on to chat for a bit and we hung up. A few minutes later the phone rang. She called to tell us Russ had died while she was speaking to us. Stan went upstairs and changed the screen in the front door to glass. We looked into flights. The next thing we knew we were lugging our bags into his mother's kitchen that was brimming with loud laughter, lots of stories, people trying to chase their sorrows away.
December 8th is our Christmas tree day ever since that year. Instead of making it a day of mourning we have frolicked about tree farms, dug out our decor, put up lights and remembered Russ and that day in 1990 in a happy way. The holidays can be rough days for people and we've had some painful holidays too. Today I carry all the Christmas boxes into the living room and get things ready for the family to put up our tree and decorate like we do every year...only this December 8th my Bub isn't here. I hope he comes back before Christmas. I hope he comes back healthy and determined. That's all I want for Christmas. That's all I want.
October 26, 2010
I meet with a warm group of parents once a month who've had a tough education, both formally and informally, in the realm of addiction. Occasionally a speaker comes and soon Christopher Kennedy Lawford will speak at our meeting about his book Moments of Clarity. So I ran out and bought it and the one he wrote before it, Symptoms of Withdrawal. The latter, which I've only just started, is his memoir about growing up in the world of Kennedys and fame and fortune. I was certainly curious about his experience with addiction as well as the Kennedys, plus I remembered back to this summer when I found myself at a wedding with a famous writer and couldn't say a word to her because I'd never read one of her books! Lawford's Moments of Clarity came as a response to his memoirs. Everyone kept asking him how on that certain day of that certain year did everything change for him; how was he able to get sober and into recovery that day? Instead of the hundreds before it. He addresses this question personally and then asks 43 other recoverers - famous actors, artists, athletes and politicians as well as your average joe. What was their moment of clarity, what happened, what changed? How did things turn around? Turns out recovery can turn the average addict's life, even ones on the very brink of destruction, into a life beyond his or her wildest dreams.
Jamie Lee Curtis admits to being so sick that she befriended injured people to get their Vicodin. Her moment of clarity came when she realized that she was going to die and hurt her family, the thing she loved most. She surrendered and made a phone call and now she sees recovery as the most important thing she's done in her life.
Tom Arnold was changed by a tender moment. A drug-induced crazed low point where Roseanne met him with love and understanding rather than the disgust he was expecting and felt he deserved.
Martin Sheen's story is so painfully honest, he hurt his family with his rage. His moment of clarity came after pushing his son Charlie to the ground in a fit. Naked, he chased him outside to plead for his forgiveness in front of his son's friends.
When Richard Lewis finally sobered up he went back to his old haunt and ordered seven or eight Diet Cokes and lined them up on the bar in front of him. He had something to prove and he did it in his own comedic style.
One of my favorite stories in the book was from a friend of Lawford's, the chief operating officer of a certain amazing treatment center, a jewel nestled within white fences overlooking the hills and valleys of Pennsylvania. I heard him tell his amazing story in person once and reading it again brought the same hope, joy and peace. I love his story. It starts out with an eighteen year old Mike buying a brand-new Mustang and totaling it two weeks later driving drunk at 5pm, 115 miles an hour on a 25mph curve. He and his friend ended up in the hospital where a police officer told him that he was pretty sure he'd learned his lesson so he wouldn't be charged with drunk driving, minor in possession, etc. This future chief operating officer of a certain amazing drug and alcohol treatment center told the officer that he'd never do it again. Two weeks later, he says, he woke up drunk in his mother's car, "sliding sideways down the hill on the wrong side of the road." He had a moment of clarity too, eventually.
Alec Baldwin, Kelly McGillis, Richard Dreyfuss, Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, Katey Sagal, Lou Gossett Jr., Senator Max Cleland, Rudy Tomjanovich, She's Just Not That Into You Greg Behrendt, conservative economist Larry Kudlow, news anchor Jim Vance, Judy Collins...every one of their generous accounts taught me something about being a loving, surrendered, honest human being for the benefit of others and my own well-being. And to watch for the moment of clarity that can be the beginning of change in any life.
I'm a quote-girl. I always like including things I underline in my books.
Jim Vance - How do I deal with people in my life who need help? Carefully, quietly, respectfully, and deliberatively. My experience teaches me that you can't gorilla -- that's the word we use in the hood -- you can't gorilla an addict into doing what you think the addict ought to do.
Aimee Liu - There's a phrase that I think is very useful: trying to live inside out instead of outside in. ...pay attention to your own standards, your own needs, not everyone else's...
Max Cleland - [quoting Hemingway, who was quoted by Arthur Schlesinger in A Thousand Days, about Kennedy's presidency] "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good, and the very gentle, and the very brave impartially." Hemingway was right. The world breaks us all. If you haven't been broken by life, just wait a while. All of us get broken one way or another, at some time or another. And many people do grow strong at the broken places, but many do not, and that's the mystery.
September 17, 2010
dropped a shower door square on the cuticle of my bare second toe.
lost half my toenail.
read A Year By the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman
tread water during Adult Swim at the pool.
took kids to the shore to watch a sunrise.
ate Mack 'n Manco pizza on the boardwalk.
found out my dog was dying.
started writing a book.
went to too many graduation parties and was invited to more.
had two Jello shots at an evening porch party.
drank 4 gin and tonics at the graduation party the afternoon before the porch party.
saw 14 waterfalls on a hike at Rickett's Glen, PA.
played one game of miniature golf.
ate burnt marshmallows around a fire.
held a baby rabbit.
scrounged up lots of junk for a yard sale that hasn't yet happened.
pulled a tick out of my 8 year old's head.
held a baby bird.
went to a fun fish fry with friends.
went to a fun pool party with other friends.
went to an amazing wedding on Long Island for two amazing people who had amazing food (including lobsters!) on an amazing veranda and I was amazed to see Mary Higgins Clark standing behind me in an amazing outfit.
had a lot of conversations with my friend about her divorce and her husband's settlement requests like: copies of all their recipes except the ones with chicken.
saw the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan from the east for the first time ever.
drove through Brooklyn and Queens for the first time ever.
(was on Long Island for the first time ever.)
took Luke to get his braces off.
can't think of anything else.
June 24, 2010
June 21, 2010
We have these sweet friends who are always doing fun things. They drove down from New Hampshire for a weekend at the Jersey shore (they're originally from here) for their daughter's graduation gift and we went down and met them and another sweet family we haven't seen for a while.
These four people used to be little toddling cuties together and now they're big romping cuties. I am still trying to figure out how this phenomenon happens.
Kind of like how those two used to be five years apart and now they're twins. That's a mystery.
Then on the way home everyone was starving and we didn't want to wait in line at a restaurant on Father's Day so we got KFC and drove to the nearest lake.
I sat on a large piece of broken concrete and ate the best tasting meal I've had in a long time. And photographed it for you, of course, just to show how good fast food can be.
Not really so sweet....
see him holding his head?
June 16, 2010
I attended Sean's end of 2nd grade party yesterday in a neighbor's back yard.
It was perfect for kids.
He had a great time. His friend pushed him on the rope swing.
Then he pushed him on the hammock.
Then others pushed him on the hammock with another buddy.
Then he got on the hammock with yet another buddy...
who then trampled him, as boys do.
Then he stuffed marshmellows into his mouth and tried to speak.
Then he made a visor, with his wonderful teacher looking on.
Then he swung...or swinged...or swang, depending on how you look at things in the world of grammar.
Then the two classes played this game.....
and hid beneath the parachute....
while he hid in the log cabin.
2nd grade was good. Thank you Mrs. Forst.
And happy retirement to you!