July 30, 2013 § 18 Comments
If I’ve done the math correctly (which I’m not claiming I did), my odds of being born on the same day as my grandpa were 0.27%. Yet I was. Grandpa turned 55 on the afternoon I arrived. Today he would be 100.
A fading photograph packed away somewhere, probably at my parent’s house, depicts Grandpa crouched on the floor cracking open a beer (or two). I asked Dad if he remembers it, the photo. He doesn’t. But if my memory is correct, Grandma once told me it was taken on the day I was born. His birthday. Proudly grabbing a drink to celebrate. Or at least that’s the story I choose to remember.
While I was lucky to have all my grandparents live into my adulthood, he was the first to die, shortly after my college graduation. So although I loved him dearly and felt a special bond with him, I admittedly didn’t know him as well as I would have liked.
I know he was a complicated man. He came from a large family, parents born in Czechoslovakia. When he was just a boy, he saw his eldest sister murdered by a former boyfriend, a traumatic act Grandpa carried with him throughout life. He never talked about it, at least not that I was aware of. But melodramatic news articles from 1925 point to the senselessness and horror it brought to a small Nebraska community, meaning it certainly poured untold sorrow upon him and the family.
He often reminded me of Archie Bunker — he had a favorite chair that no one was allowed to sit in if he was in the room. He loved beer. He also had his opinions and could be cantankerous. He was notoriously stingy when it came to tipping at restaurants, and I recall he could be quite demanding in how his food should be prepared.
Despite all that, I recently learned he invented a venetian blind cleaner in the 1940s. Nothing ever came of it in terms of fame or fortune, but I found the patent papers online the other day. And he smoked cigarettes and loved the Black Hills and wore cowboy boots and played cards and spent time at the beer joint with his buddies and read books and watched “60 Minutes” religiously and took naps after lunch and always went to bed at 10 p.m. I remember all of this fondly.
And he always had a smile, a whistle, and a wink for me, inferring I was beautiful whenever I’d curl my hair. At his wake, I remember a family friend I’d never met approaching me and saying, “Looks like someone just lost her best friend.” Which is exactly how I felt.
Maybe I did know him as well as a grandchild could, without all the complications and sad stories and insecurities that come with adulthood. His way of lessening the burden and sparing the worry. But I did worry. I still do, even though he’s gone. I wanted him to be happy.
How lucky am I to have been born on his birthday. I think that connects us for all eternity.
July 29, 2013 § 3 Comments
What I’m reading this week, including Meg Wolitzer’s new novel:
- “10 Pieces of Non-Advice for Young People: A Reductive List for Keeping Up the Illusion of Order” by Lara Avery (Revolver, July 2013)
- “The Columnist: Three, Two, One” by Brian Beatty (mnartists.org, July 25, 2013)
- “The Emerald City: Life and Death in Assisted Living” by A.C. Thompson and Jonathan Jones (ProPublica, July 29, 2013)
- The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (2013)
- “A Raised Hand: Can a New Approach Curb Domestic Violence?” by Rachel Louise Snyder (The New Yorker, July 22, 2013)
- “The Showdown: Winners and Losers in Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution” by Peter Hessler (The New Yorker, July 22, 2013)
And a photo book featuring my favorite coonhound on, in, beneath, and beside things:
- Maddie on Things by Theron Humphrey (2013)
July 28, 2013 § 1 Comment
Maddie on red sofa with squeaky squirrel
To learn more about Maddie and the great work being done by her and her adopter, Theron Humphrey, visit This Wild Idea
July 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
I could have sworn the forecast, though cool, called for sun. But well into my Saturday morning bike ride, the rain fell and the winds picked up. Thirty miles later, my hands were numb and my back full of mud. I have running gear for all seasons figured out, but biking? Not so much. Despite the conditions, I always get a kick out of crossing the Martin Olav Sabo bridge.