Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father's Day

What's Father's Day like when your dad is no longer on earth?....

I've faced that question for four years now.  Father's Day for the last, almost decade has been the race at Michigan International Speedway, (MIS), for Kurt and I.  Father's Day wasn't spent with our children or my dad, it was spent at the racetrack.  Before that when the boys were involved in Little League, it was spent at a baseball tournament somewhere, usually Coleman.  And again, Father's Day wasn't really spent with my dad, though we did always try to stop over after the games.  If I go back farther yet, it was a cookout somewhere, with small children, (mine), and other family members tumbling all over each other in the backyards.  And farther back still to my teenage years, quite often we would head up North to the "Cottage" on Sand Lake for the day.  And the farthest back would probably be Crystal Lake with the neighborhood for this day.

While I remember my dad taking us shopping to the drugstore in town, so I could buy my mom a piece of jewelry, carefully picked out for its gaudiness and allowance price range, I don't remember ever doing similar for my dad.  Maybe Mom took care of our neglect on that end and had something for him, from us on his day.  I just don't remember....

This year was different.   We gave up going to the race at MIS this year.  We have a new grandson, so our son now has become a father, a duty he takes on with much more reverence and maturity than I am sure either of us did when he was born.  Two children out of the state, meant phone calls, but as their dad is not much of a "phone" conversationlist, the calls barely lasted 5 minutes.  We grilled ribs, and I made the first strawberry pie I have in years on this date, as I was actually home, and this year I have strawberry's from my long suffering patch.  When we bought our home, shortly before we married, the lady who owned it previously, had three long rows of strawberries, at least a hundred feet in length, each, and 3 feet wide.  She had sold strawberries, and even before we moved in, around Memorial weekend, because we had, had an early summer, I came over to pick the strawberry patches.  It seemed that was all I did for two weeks straight was pick strawberries.  I gave them away to everyone, and because all my family had patches of their own, strawberries just accumulated.  For a few years thereafter, I put ads in the local paper and sold strawberries, but since I didn't like picking them, and I, by then had young children, my aim was to get rid of the strawberry patches down to a size that worked for my family.  I succeeded all too well, and over the next decade, eliminated the strawberry rows, so that only errant plants would pop up in the midst of flowers. Then began two decades of trying to get new patches started and never having really great luck.  We would get berries one year, and the next we would have almost none.  Five years ago after having years of no really good berries from my own garden, I was determined to start a new patch and have it be as good as my mom's. No matter how I try to start new patches of strawberries, it never seemed to work, and I could never equal what my mother seemed to do so effortlessly with her big patches.  I love strawberry pie, and have since the first time my mother tried the recipe off a Philadelphis cream cheese box, and it has become my kids and their spouses favorite summer time dessert.  Dad loved strawberries and would eat them with every meal in season.  Of course, he ate raspberries, blueberries and peaches just about the same way.

I was riding my bike yesterday and came around a bend and the long forgotten aroma of toast wafted to my nose.  It was such a distinctive smell and it was no longer morning, in fact it was right around noon, which struck me as odd.  As I rode into the smell, another one greeted me, the smell of ripe fruit.  I realized, with a jolt, that what I was smelling was strawberries, and someone was having my dad's favorite meal of strawberries with cream and toast.  I can't recall how many summer morning's Dad had a big bowl of strawberries with cream and a slice, (or two), of toast.  He didn't stop at breakfast either.  If Mom hadn't made any kind of strawberry dessert, he had strawberries, cream and toast as dessert, three times a day.  He loved, and more importantly, appreciated fresh fruit when it was in season, a lesson, I have learned after much trial and error with my strawberry patches.  So, this year I rejoice that I have strawberries and can make not one, but two strawberry pies, and still have a few left over to eat as I pick.  Its no fun otherwise, and while it may not be the 20 to 40 quarts of fresh berries of my youth, it will do for me, for this year.

Looking back, I don't remember all the great things my dad did for us, and I don't remember specific Father's Days, but I do remember that the things were good things, and that's what stays with me.  I grew up part of a country neighborhood, which sadly is mostly no more, but I grew up loved and happy.  I am sure my parents worried and I am sure there were bad times, but they don't stand out to me.  The good times blend together in a mosaic of sunshine, warm summer days, lake water, and strawberries. 

My kids will have their own memories of what their dad did with them on Father's Day and what kind of a dad he was, and someday my grandson and future grandchildren will do the same.  I hope the memories are colored with the bright reds of strawberries and happiness....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two weeks with Luca

I'm trying to get this grandma thing down pat.  Its not at all what I expected.  Everyone told me that it would be such and thus, but I knew so much better and that it would be unique to me.  It is unique but it is also just as everyone said it would be.  I am totally smitten by him, and his coming has changed the way I look at things. 

Just as Luca will settle in to a routine and give his exhausted parents sleep, and confidence that their lives will now become a new whole, but one that will soon seem as natural as breathing.  There will come a time shortly when they won't remember what life was like before him.  That's another thing grandma's have over parents.  I can remember life before Luca.  I can remember the quiet happiness at learning I was to become a grandma, the anticipation, and the knowledge that the months sped by until his birth, (and I say that knowing that when I was actually pregnant it seemed to take forever).  But I also remember the little things about his father.  The first of my babies, the one all the mistakes were made on, and the one that taught me how quickly a baby can fill your life and consume it.  I had forgotten what my life was like before him, but Luca made me remember. 

I wished my cousin, a happy birthday today, and kidded her that she always reached my age, 6 months sooner and so did the test drive.  My best friend, on who's birthday, Luca was born also hit milestones 6 months ahead of me.  Now, when we remember each other's birthdays we take a few moments to remember what we were once.  My cousin would come out from the big city of Midland to stay every summer for a week.  She loved coming to the farm, and bringing in the cows at night for milking and playing in the haymow until we were covered in itchy straw, that somehow even got into our underwear.  My dad would make homemade ice cream and we would sit on a warm summer's night and eat a creamy bowl full, topped with fresh strawberries as I was just never a plain vanilla type person.  We would giggle and talk long into the night, and be admonished several times by my mom to "quiet down and go to sleep".  Of course, we giggled all the more.  My cousin's house in town, featured an in ground pool, such a novelty back then, and something wondrous and slightly scary to me, the country mouse cousin.  Visits there were always fun and full of splashing and swimming, and I was always exhausted at day's end and wanted to go home to the comfort of my haymows and radio tuned to the Tiger games.

My best friend(s), her sister was in that equation, as we were pretty much inseparable if with one, I was with the other.  Marlene was the elder by 6 months but a grade ahead of me in school.  Betty was 8 months younger, but shared my grade progression with me.  We lived on our bikes in the summer, and played "Barbies" with homemade houses built at both of our real houses, outside in the summer, inside in the winter. Pickup baseball games and touch football in the fall.  Ice skating and sledding in our winters, and hot chocolate and thawing out after hours outside.  Hayrides and Crystal Lake on a summer Sunday.  We really had it all, and if our parents worried, we didn't know it.  We learned about politics, the birds and the bees, and the latest  childhood gossip by just sitting in our favorite places and talking.  We had worldly views gleaned from our parent's conversations, but spun with our kid's philosophy.  If only the world could be ruled by the voices of children, we would be so much better off.  And we grew up.  High school was the defining line for so many of my close relationships.  Though we remained good friends and shared high school, we drifted to other friendships and boys.  My cousin and I drifted even further attending different schools and having less and less in common as our experiences toward growing up defined us.  We rushed headlong toward that great final diploma called "adulthood".   Years later we wondered why we had been in such a hurry to grow up.

So, it is with Luca that I watch and look at his every movement.  I have gained patience, and some insight into just how fast and far he will go in such a short time.  Everything he does delights me, and I can honestly say, that everything my children did, did not delight me. 

Luca has allowed me to set new goals and feel they might be accomplished.  He has made me dream of good things again, and made me see that my life is coming full circle.  A pretty big accomplishment for a two week old baby. 

Happy Birthday Cuz, and thanks for all the memories...

Friday, June 3, 2011

I like Traditional

I think I am hip.  And I try to believe I am cool.  I also try to fool myself that outside forces will not affect who and what I am.  I tell myself I will blog everyday, and that I will tell the world what I am feeling.  But its all a big fat lie.  I am not hip and I am finding out I am seldom cool.  I have often felt this past winter like a piece of old flag flapping in the wind, at the mercy of the elements and the fact that while I am a symbol, no one really cares about symbolism any longer. And I just found out I am a big bowl of mush...

I now have to admit, that I am a morning person, and that is when whatever brain function I am still allowed is the sharpest. I like watching the sun rise and love the long days of summer before and right after June 21st when the world seems infinite and embracing.  I like the perception that summer is about being lazy and watching the clouds roll by, when in effect it energizes me.  And I like the fact that I am so very tired from good, old fashioned hard work, that sleep seems a blessing, even if I never really sleep through the night any longer.  (Blame it on hormones or worries or whatever). The further along I go in life, the more I relish and cherish these days.  But the more I dread the grays of winter.  So, against all my beliefs prior, I find I may be a sun seeker after all in my later years.  Many thoughts swirl around in this graying noggin, (though after yesterday, I am safe in that department for another month), and they run over and around each other.  Ignorance is bliss and I think with age does come wisdom, but also the knowledge that all the wisdom of age, doesn't always help in the world. 

But I still like respect and cherish many of the old ways.  I like men to be Gentlemen and treat women as such, all women.  If more of that happened I believe we would all treat each other with greater respect.  I believe in manners.  I believe in opening doors for women, children and the elderly.  I believe in helping out your neighbor, not just in times of greatest need, but because you know an act of generosity will be reciprocated.  I like the church community.  It is an important bond, no matter where you live.  And I like family.  I like the big family dinners that are becoming scarce.  I like face to face talking, and a good old fashioned, newsy letter and if not that a good long email.  I want to know what's going on with everyone and not just a tweet.  Not that I tweet.....yet.  And  I like cooking and baking, and serving people food I have prepared.  I like walking into my garden now, and hearing the birds delight in one another, a baby bunny among the poppies, (oh, if it only stayed a baby bunny), and a deer cross the field behind me.  I like having a neighbor stop to chat if I am working in the front yard.  And I like getting together with old, dear friends.  My likes and desires may have changed  some over the years, as the stages of my life have changed but the traditional things I believe will always remain in place.

And that leads me to the title of my blogs as I am now officially a Grandma.  Every preconception I stubbornly hung onto, went out the window when I gazed on my new grandson, Luca.  Friends that had already crossed that threshold, told me I would love it, and it was the best thing, and I just couldn't quite grasp that my life would change that abruptly, and I wasn't even sure what all the grandbaby fuss was about.  I am here to tell you I was wrong and they were right.  My daughter in law went into labor, three weeks early.  Because she had contractions earlier, it was not a complete surprise and we were anticipating an early June arrival.  This soon however, kind of threw us.  Cellphone tweets to the other grandma, (I guess it does have its place), kept she and I informed how everything was progressing.  It turned out to be a pretty routine delivery, though women who have given birth know there is nothing routine about it, and my grandson was a healthy 7 lbs.  He had a good set of lungs as I heard him before I saw him while they were cleaning him up and we waited outside the room.  A half hour later we were introduced and Luca Camillo captured my heart, saccharine as that may sound.  He had a newborn's face but it seemed perfect to me, unblemished and a cupid bow for a mouth and he sighed without opening his eyes and a small smile flitted across his lips when I first held him.. I fell instantly in love.  I could have watched him sleep for hours.

I tried to figure out this feeling which took me completely by surprise even though friends had warned me.  I didn't remember feeling this burst of overwhelming love for my children at birth.  Not that I didn't love them, but delivery was more like a "job well done", after months of carrying that heavyweight beach ball around inside me.  I was happy but tired and nervous about this little person I had created and now would be my life for the next twenty years or so.  Maybe I now know, that life is finite.  It has an ending and in this grandson, I see that continuation of life as it will go on when I am no longer here.  He re-energized me more than a perfect spring day.  Priorities immediately fell into place and while I know this feeling won't last forever, it reminded me once again, I like traditional and I like being now a GRANDMOTHER, no matter what the title.

While the title of this blog is now outdated, I can look forward to being a grandma each time it presents itself and get that same rush of tremendous love every time.  What a joyous thing to look forward.   We are blessed.  Welcome to my new grandson.   May his parents have the same blessings all my children provided me.