Category Archives: History

Smaller in my rear view mirror…

Today's job to-do list. It has already grown exponentially longer.

The world has begun to slowly rotate again and the seas have calmed since last week’s window-rattling news.

The kids have stepped up to check in on their old man; how are you holding up?, what leads do you have?, what are the job prospects locally?  As was mentioned a few posts ago, it’s important to me that they be good people.  They seem to have paid attention.

Today’s letter to Ellen and Reid won’t be posted until next Monday as per the tradition of this blog.  The nuts and bolts of what they will read is that it’s all about taking one step at a time and that regardless of what the near or medium range or long term future may hold, this is not the end of our world although it might seem like it.  It is a matter of perspective.  There is always someone worse off than you are.  What they won’t read is a senseless blame game; it’s a little bit me, a little bit others, a little bit economic.  The goal is to look forward, not obsess on what already looks smaller in my rear view mirror.

Already, well-meaning friends have rushed forward with names and suggestions and leads.  My inkling is the job hunt process is front loaded in just such a way.  As I told my two, if nothing pans out soon, if no company hands me the keys to a new cubicle, then the burden shifts to my shoulders in that you can’t go to the well too often to ask people for more help and yet more help.

But the big picture I must paint for them is that, like other tough times, this will fade away too.  I believe that to be true.


My circle of recipients continues to grow wider.  Here’s what was mailed to one of my oldest and dearest friends Pete, who, when the hours got progressively dark earlier this month, really came to the fore for no reason.  He and I go way back, but his kindness closed that gap of years.

July 7, 2010

Pete: I got up early on Sunday with the intention of heading up to Tryon for a surprise visit but then it dawned on me that I knew neither the name of the camp nor its location.  Even my last go-round of there had me ill equipped to re-find it.  There weren’t enough bread crumbs on the road to navigate the way.  You guys were probably better off without a Harley with loud pipes to max-out the tranquility of a summer camp.  That’s not what the parents pay for.

Hey, I did want to thank you for everything you’ve done over the past few weeks.  You really went above and beyond, especially when you picked me up knowing full well that you’d get little or no sleep before herding your cats toward the airport the next morning.  The lift was very much appreciated.  It was great to have you at the visitation and the service.  That in and of itself was also above and beyond.

Things went pretty peacefully for dad.  No discernable pain or discomfort.  The Hospice folks had a good handle on that although it’s not a job for the timid or faint-hearted.  We got into a couple of stories from the Hospice nurses, and man, they really get put through the mill.  Dad was on minimal drugs until the very end when the time came for him to ultimately relax and let go.  Even though dad appeared asleep for hours and hours, I guess patients can hear and are aware throughout the entire ordeal.  I think it’s interesting that they (the nurses) actually encourage the family to talk to – and encourage – patients that’s its fine for them to move on.   The thinking is that some folks need to be told that it’s okay to see what is on the other side.  We talked to him until the very end.  Some of us talked more than others.

I don’t think we have anywhere near the same travails that you and Nancy had in terms of ‘stuff.’  Most of it has already been cherry picked but what they did hoard was paper.  Stacks and stacks of it; records of bills paid, photos and documents, family histories.  Incredible to sort through all of it.  But he did a pretty good job of cataloging things but there was a just a hell of a lot of it.  Why we needed property tax records from 1963 through 1999 is beyond me, but it is what it is.  He saved no trees but then that was before people went green.

Do keep me up to speed on your biking travels when you come down toward Greenville.  This is pretty much a biker haven down here although you’d have a hard time finding me on two wheels without a motor.  To be blunt about it, the drivers down here don’t have a lot of tolerance for cyclists.  There are ‘Share the Road’ signs plastered along the roads and streets but I guarantee folks pay them no mind.  The locals sure as hell don’t practice sharing in any way, shape or form.  That’s especially true when you’re out in the boonies.  Yet I’ve thought about getting a bike for leisurely rides around on the green belts and such.  You won’t find me tooling around most of the local roadways.  Bikers are always getting crunched.

Thanks again, Pete, for stepping up.  I’ve done a particularly lousy job of staying in touch over the years, and literally have no – zero – relationships with any of our fraternity bros.  That’s bothered me, so I appreciate that you’ve rekindled things.  Hey, if you and your bride ever need a non-camp base closer to the more civilized parts of North and South Carolina, you know who to call.


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Filed under Adult Children, Correspondence, Family, History, Parenting

Tying together loose ends…

Among the byproducts of recent events is a mountain of old photos and memorabilia.  I mean a literal heap of pre-1900 photos (including a couple of daguerreotypes), incredibly preserved full color pre-WWI postcards and the like.  (Note: mark your photos lightly on the back so you know who’s in each shot.  We were reduced to guessing who was whom.)  It seems we are swimming in family artifacts and history, but looking at some of the yellowed clippings, we have some shady characters in our past.

Maybe somewhere down the road Ellen and Reid will add the weekly letters to the stack.  Who in the hell would want them I don’t know, but they’ll have them anyway.  As we sorted through the items last week the conversation always turned to context; what does this artifact mean and to whom, when was this photo taken and what were their lives like way back when, and how do we link relatives to relatives and tie all those loose ends together?  Perhaps the pages will help pull our loose pieces together when the time comes.


So it is another Wednesday.  Here’s a page from an earlier decade.

September 14, 2006

EB/Reid: Well, I’ve been here a month and so far so good.  I’d knock on wood but my office is totally plastic.  The people here are good, hard workers, and the town is a lot of fun.  Traffic is absolutely bonkers but that’s just the way it goes.  And it rains a lot, and when it does it just keeps a’comin down.  But the music scene is really good.  Saw a guy last night from Austin, Texas and his little band was just fabulous.  Will go see Aimee Mann next Thursday night in NoDa (short for north Davidson neighborhood) which is also the arts district.

Been in the throes of trying to buy furnishings.  Will head about 70 miles north to High Point, North Carolina this weekend.  It is supposed to be the furniture capital of the U.S.  We’ll see.  Need to get a bedroom set first, and other rooms will follow from there.  The direction I’m headed is toward Mission style or what they call transitional furniture.  You got the photos so you see the sort of space I have to deal with.  It will be weird to not have a yard to more and a garden to tend.  They say there’s a lot of container gardening down here, so that’s what I’ll do next summer.  At least there will be a few tomatoes.  Already, I have a bamboo plant and something called a ‘ZZ’ plant which apparently you can’t kill.  So with my green thumb, that should work fine.

It’s hard to be away from Des Moines but things will just move forward here.  If you guys can swing it, come on down here for a week or a long weekend.  I’ll get plane tickets for you.  EB, head to Des Moines for Thanksgiving.  I’ll drive over from Omaha after T-Day with Grandma and Grandpa.  Keep in touch with them because they worry they won’t be able to see you.  Uncle Ralphie is flipping out over Nebraska football (Reid, they play #4 USC this weekend) and he thinks of little else.

So Reid, how is Oulu?  Give me your exact street address and I’ll GoogleEarth it.  (My new address is _________________, Charlotte, NC.  You’ll see it’s south of downtown.)  How is Finland?  Looks pretty cool.  What’s the name of the ocean that separates Finland from Sweden?  What do they eat over there, and are the people nice to you?  What’s the school like, and your classes?  Met any nice people?  How about the language?  You must at least know please and thank you and ‘how much does this cost?’

EB, it’s odd to hear you talk about it already being autumn in Minnesota.  Do you like it up there?  How’s Tim’s job going?  How do you feel about substituting?  Sounds like the apartment job is working out pretty nicely.  Sure wish I could come up for a visit.  Let me check plane tickets.  Can’t be super expensive, can it?

None of my stuff is down here yet.  Still sitting in storage in Adel and Des Moines.  Your mom has stuff piled up in the basement for the movers to pick up, including the Harley.  Can’t wait for it to come down here.  West of here about 100 miles is Asheville, NC, and that’s the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Was up there a couple of weekends ago, and the roads and scenery are as stunning as any I’ve seen.  The highest point in North Carolina is only 6,600 feet so what they call the mountains are entirely covered in oaks, maples, pines and ash trees.  Kind of odd but very pretty.  Lots of trout fishing (EB, don’t tell Tim).

Well, gotta go.  You both be good, work hard, and be sure to communicate to Grandma and Grandpa.  Hope to see you soon EB, and Reid, your sister and I are talking about a visit to you later this fall.  Make sure we know what dates you are not available.

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Filed under Adult Children, Archiving, Creativity, Family, History

2:12 p.m., 6-28…

Things came to pass as we expected at 2:12 p.m. on Monday, June 28.  The end was as mercifully pain-free and serene for my father as any of us could have hoped for.  As soon as my brother and I gathered ourselves, it was on to the necessary details.  As you know better than we, the planning for visitations and a memorial service don’t wait.  Perhaps that is for the good.

The family is starting to assemble.  Reid flies in the late morning today (Wednesday), while Ellen and Tim arrive by car in early afternoon.  My dear uncle Henry, his wife Mary (from Portland, Oregon) along with one of their sons, Tom (Eugene, OR) land at the Omaha airport about that same time, as do my nephew Andy and his wife Steph from California.  (The obituary is posted on

I’ve heard new terminology – ‘pinned’ ears, modeling, etc. – that I don’t need to hear again for a long, long while.  It is the language of death.  In its own way, it was an interesting element to the process because it put into context what was happening to my father and why.  The nurses of Hospice, and the facility where my father (and mother) lived out these last few months, were incredibly professional and caring.

I’ve written before that much of this will find its way into the weekly letters.  How Ellen and Reid navigate themselves around this sad process while they are here and how they handle the expressions of grief, etc., that will come their way, will be interesting for me as a father to witness.  In the coming weeks and months, the three of us will have time to digest everything that has happened and to, hopefully, share our interpretations of it all.  I’ve been storing away snippets here and there from this past weekend (indeed, the past few months) and this will no doubt resurface on the pages from a father to his children.  This may not be the sort of teaching moment we would like to have but it has come to pass and we will all see what lessons it holds.

There’s one equally sad note for me: my father will receive no more letters.  Ironically, the final letter to him probably arrived Monday or yesterday.  But you can be assured he will live on in paragraphs to others.


After this week I thought to ditch the idea of posting the usual archived letter to Ellen and Reid.  However, I’ve located one which was an early effort to bring the kids up to speed on the health of their grandparents.

March 16, 2009

Ellen/Reid: The ducks around here never had it so good on a weekend.  Steady rain and low temperatures made things just ducky.  This is the first weekend in months that I have not played golf at least once, but it was a good weekend to mop floors, stow extra paperwork (of which there was a ton) and just laze around.  Did the latter in quantity.  Even thought about doing taxes, too.

It didn’t stop the birds from chirping up a storm.  The trees are almost in full bud, and in a couple of weeks the units behind me will be hidden from view.  I was home with a cold Monday, and from my upstairs office (which is now clean) I watched a red shouldered hawk swoop down from his low perch.  He stomped on something, and in a flash it was a small snake which, in one deft move, was down the hatch.  Never had seen that display before.  I fetched my binoculars and watched the hawk once he retreated to the same perch.  The identification was made in the green Audubon book.  The hawk sat there for 15 minutes then swooped down again on a small bush and made all sorts of a racket before he emerged with some small rodent.  Hey, we’ve all gotta eat.

I head to Omaha next week for a most unpleasant trip.  I’ll be able to see Grandma but am not wholly prepared for it.  And the worst part may be forcing grandpa to go around to assisted living centers.  Not sure how that will work because he probably won’t want to leave her.  He is going against doctor’s orders by taking her home.  Neither of them are dealing with reality, and he knows that your uncle and I are not pleased with this.  Even before your grandmother’s first stroke, we had nosed around about a new living situation for them.  A one floor unit, perhaps aligned to a retirement home.  They stew about losing their independence but really, it just means a change of address.  I did it.  They can, too.  It’s not as if either of them would have a monitoring bracelet on their ankles.  Their situation reminded me of something this week.  Before the storm hit, I was driving home from a meeting several nights ago and the moon was full as it broke through some light clouds.  The scene was almost exactly like a painting your great grandmother, Mary Bradley, had painted when she was a young girl shortly after the start of the last century.  It was the only thing I wanted when she passed away.  Unfortunately, the painting vanished shortly after her death.  When the inevitable happens to your grandparents, I’m not sure what their equivalent will be to my grandmother’s painting.  I have Mary’s mother’s cast iron skillet (it gets used several times a week) and that’s good enough for me.

Thinking about lasik eye surgery.  Tired of reading glasses and everything being indistinct.  May help my golf game, too, although that is not the reason I’d do it.  Just need better eyesight.

Have my biker friends Brian and George rolling into town this weekend.  Brian has been spending some of the winter in Daytona Beach, and George flies in there later this week.  They’ll take their sweet time to come up this way along about Thursday.  George will borrow my Harley for some charity ride in these parts, and he may ride it up to Bristol, TN for some NASCAR race up their this weekend.  That’s okay with me.  This will be the fourth time they have stayed with me, and literally, all I have to do is say “hello” and Brian takes the conversation from there.  He has never been at a loss for words.  He rivals your uncle in that regard.  He can turn emptying the dishwasher into a three part saga.

Reid, I hope this letter finds you employed with ______ or at least close to it.  They must see something in you that others do not.  ______’s gain and a loss for the others.  I hope you get the job.  We continue to hack away people down here, and you never know when the axe man will turn his utensil your way. If it happens, I’ll just do something else.  “Supersize that for you, ma’am?”


Filed under Adult Children, Family, History, Parenting

A trove of family artifacts…

I’m back on home soil – North Carolina, that is – and most of the past week has been a blur.

My dad has been only too glad to share historical points that have eluded me over the years.  He seems to enjoy the diversion (me, too) and the instructional chance for his grandkids.  We either set aside the information now or we lose the chance.  What has been gleaned is beginning to re-surface in the weekly letter.  My guess is this ‘knowledge sharing’ will go on for some time to come.

My brother and I have uncovered a trove of family artifacts; photos from as far back as early last century on through the ’40s, my dad’s early report cards (“we’re glad to have him here as a student” said one teacher), his war records including his pay stubs ($3 extra for a B-17 mission is hardly hazard pay), my mother’s baby book created in the late 1920s and early 1930s, plus more.  When I was younger, I would not have given this much of a second thought.  We can look much of this up online, but it’s far more fun to have it in your hands.


Here is last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.

June 6, 2010

Ellen/Reid: I’m at the keyboard of your grandparent’s PC.  The house is pretty much empty in the major rooms, all of it having been moved to the new spot out in west Omaha.

Your grandparents seem to have adapted grudgingly to their new surroundings.  Your grandfather is, I think, more okay with things than your grandmother who asks me over and over “when can we go home?”  She has her moments of clarity and her moments of agitation.  She is in the current room that we signed up for before your grandfather had his intestinal surgery.  Grandpa is in a completely different recovery wing.  But we move her on Tuesday into the ‘memory unit’ for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or stroke-related memory loss owing to her being found roaming outside last week.  It’s going to be a battle because they require that she stay in the contained unit – no potential for escape – for a solid two weeks to become used to her surroundings.  The rules say no visitors.  It will be tough for her.  Your grandpa knows this will come down and he acknowledges, too, the difficulty.  He can use the time to rest up and tend to his own needs.  We’ve told both of them time and again that at least they are in the same facility.  They limit the amount of items she can have in her new room.  Only a certain number of clothes, towels, etc.  She was short on bras, and trust me you haven’t lived until you step up to a check out line at Target to buy your 84 year old mother two 36-D bras.  She did see some of your wedding photos, Ellen, and that was a moment of joy for her.

Your grandpa isn’t faring too well.  He’s retaining a lot of liquid – edema, they call it – and that’s a residue of both the cancer and the bowel surgery.  He’s very weak, and there’s no way in hell he could have possibly card for your grandmother.  He slept a fair amount yesterday and we watched some golf on TV.  He has no appetite and at most can eat a couple of bites from an already small portion on his plate.  They have ice cream available 24/7 which I try to tempt him with but he will have none of it.  I gain weight, he loses it.  It was heart wrenching to watch the nurse undress him tonight to put on his PJs.  He literally is skin and bones.

We’ve talked at length about his final arrangements.  He wants a military internment whereby an honor guard does the final salute followed by a memorial service at their church.  We picked out his clothes and put a timetable to the service.  We talked about the main points for his obituary.  He’s trying to prepare us as best he can.  It’s odd being in a chair next to his bed as we calmly talk about this although it is probably a good thing.  There are moments of great difficulty for me but for the most part I’ve stayed composed.

I’ve taken a lot of notes on family history stuff, mainly on his side of the ledger, and much of it was unknown to me so I’m glad to have asked question after question.  Your grandpa’s family is English-Scottish-Irish.  Seems his side of the family has a sordid past.  One of your unfortunate forebears was unfortunately hanged in England for stealing a horse.  Once that episode passed, the rest of them made their way to the New World as indentured servants in the Carolinas.  There is no doubt as to your Southern roots; your grandfather’s dad (my grandpa Ed) had the middle name of Yancey.  You don’t get more Southern than that.  Your grandpa’s mother, Mary (my grandmother) was born in 1887 in a soddy in rural Nebraska not too far from Omaha.  A soddy is just that; a home made of cut sod with each slab piled atop another to form a wall.  Quite common in the plains states.  Your grandpa is not certain how they met but she and Ed married in 1918.  He ran an electrical company down on 13th street in south Omaha that I remember going to as a kid.  I can still see the narrow, floor-to-ceiling shelving that was loaded with wire and gear in a dusty, dark building.  (You’d think an electrical company would be bright and white.)  If you ever see turn-of-the-century photos of old stores, this was it.  I’ll put all of this down on paper at some point relatively soon.  We’re not certain of your grandmother’s side – the Andersen’s – other than a big chunk of it is Danish.  Your grandmother’s brother, Henry, will be here tomorrow from Oregon to make his final farewell and I plan to ask him about some of this past so at least we will have some information to go on.

Keep your phones on so I can keep you abreast of events.  This is just another element of life that all of us must deal with as best we can.

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Filed under Archiving, Creativity, Family, History

The stuff of letters…

Dad and his MGD.


The kiss


This week in Omaha has been close to an out-of-body experience.  Is this really happening?

I’m afraid it is.  The old boy deserves one more tip of the hat because in his readiness, he has prepared the rest of us.

To the degree he can tolerate the discussion – sandwiched around plenty of nap breaks – my dad and I have talked candidly and at length about family, his life-shaping WW II experience as a 20-year-old bombardier, my mother’s health predicament, and, of course, the conclusion to his own health situation.  We have mapped out the fine points to his service, he’s chosen pallbearers and opined on key points for his obituary.  He gave a gentle nod to a tasteful display of his war photo and a few medals, some of which were discovered buried in a drawer in my mother’s bureau – as we moved her this week to a memory unit.

All of this is the stuff of letters.  Reid, bless his heart, is particularly taken aback by the goings on.  He is near-insistent that what I have gleaned become at some point an official part of the Bradley lore.  I aim to do just that.  Much of the precious information will be transferred via letters for some time to come.

I know of no better way to give the kids an honest representation of their grandfather’s life and times.  Some of it is already known to me; yet a new trove of family history – some of it somewhat troubling – has bubbled to the surface.  We had some dear, dear relatives travel great distances to pay their respects and much of the bedside talk turned on still more family points worth saving – and sharing.  Really, we do it now or it is lost.  It won’t be lost if I have anything to say about it.


I wrote to my father early this morning, the result of which was mailed to him today at his new address.  My hope is he reads it to mom when he visits her in the memory-assistance wing.

June 11, 2010

Mom and dad: Of all the ways anyone can spend all their weeks, this week was the way I would spend it.  This was everything I’d hope the time with you would be.  Short of a different outcome, I would not have changed a thing.

It seems to me the one thing that is coming out of all of this is that we are remaining a family to the very end.  Reid pointed out to me that lots of families have fractious relationships that, for one reason or another, are beyond repair and that we at least have the good sense to tell each other we love each other – and we can actually mean it.

Unbeknownst to either of you, I snuck in a few camera phone shots of you two lovebirds smooching and sent them ASAP to all the grandkids.  So in an instant they had the latest and greatest images from L________.

Dad, I told Ellen and Reid and Joe of your attitude (and I’ll do the same when I talk to Andy), and it really struck home with those three.  They all love both of you dearly.  You probably are not aware of this, but as they’ve gotten older, they seem to hold you in that much more esteem.  Ellen said that her generation would wear their pain on the sleeve much more than you let on.  We were trying to figure out why that was, and the only thing we could attribute it to was you guys simply came from a tough generation that saw a Depression and a Great War.  The rest of us are way too soft.  If only we could exhibit the strength both of you are showing right now.

Dad, you have been the best of dads.  Without exaggeration, if your other son and I could be half the man, and father, you turned out to be, well, it would be a pinnacle.  That hill is a little steep for us to climb so we’ll each have to get by on a small percentage of the lessons you pass on to us.  It bothers me that only now do I think of all those times I didn’t pay attention to what you did and how you did it and why you did it.  The same goes for your other son.  Why the hell didn’t we have the brains to realize what was there before us in front of our eyes?

But that’s what made this week so great.  We simply had the chance to talk and be.  Your stories about the Bradleys and the Andersens and the Allingtons and the Ramseys and the Yanceys are what none of us knew.  (Honestly, Reid hung on every word when I relayed what was archived in pages of notes.  He’s becoming something of a family history buff.)

What goes on from here is anyone’s guess.  We’ll leave it in the trusting hands of a higher power.  That is pretty comforting to know.  We’ve had our share of good times for a long time now, but what went on this week surpasses what has gone on before.  It may sound a little odd at this juncture, but in some ways this week was the best of times.  Like you said, what else are we going to do about it?  You both have paved a road that my brother and I will be only too glad to follow, even if we can’t fill your footprints, if you know what I mean.


Filed under Creativity, Family, History

A family draws together…

(Tim, Ellen, grandma and grandpa, and Reid during a recent visit prior to my folk’s move.)

This post plays directly on the few preceding it.  Ellen and Reid have been all ears about their grandfather’s situation.  The three of us have gone back and forth; they with their questions, me with the latest news and updates.  We have borrowed time, enough so to collect both current information – and collect ourselves.  Really, it is all about a family drawing together.

As it is, I’ve sat with my dad, he in his bed, me sitting in an institutional chair. We’ve talked candidly and openly, father to son and son to father, about two important matters: what lies ahead, and what is in our past.  We know the first is coming and it behooves us to address the latter before it is lost forever.  I write this on Saturday evening as I watch him sleep in his bed.

For years I’ve silently wondered about our roots; where we came from and who my/our ancestors are and what they did and where they lived. Every so often over the years would  I poke around for tidbits of information but now my reporter’s notepad is out and open.  My pen has plenty of ink.  Dad knows what’ I’m up to as I glean as much as I can before he tires.  The concerted effort to archive information began when I was here a few weeks ago. Much of it surfaced in a letter you can read a few lines further down this page.

This is important to my clan.  Both Ellen and Reid commented as much as soon as they got last week’s letter that chronicled some of their grandfather’s memory.  This is essentially an oral history.  Of course there are ancestry web sites that offer to do the legwork for you.  Or you dredge up the past  in bits and pieces; just as I’m doing.  There is something consoling and correct when you sit across from your ailing father and he opens up all he knows about his, and my, past.


Here is last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.

June 1, 2010

Ellen/Reid: EP, hard to believe that a year ago this time you were in a frenzy to get all the wedding plans finalized and done.  It just seems like yesterday.

This Friday I go back to Omaha for a week to help prep your grandparent’s home for sale.  It’s been a pretty abrupt turn of events since I was there two weeks ago.  Your grandfather is now in what amounts to a convalescing wing of the same facility where this all started.  Your grandmother spends her days in yet another wing, a lockup really, where she can’t wander outside the confines of the building.  They can still see each other and have meals together, so that is all good.  I’m a little worried about seeing him this Friday vis a vis his condition from just a couple of weeks ago.  It’s just tough dealing with what he’s dealing with and then to throw in major stomach surgery on top of that.  Your grandmother will move full time to her wing and when he’s able, your grandfather will join her in this new suite.  It does not have a kitchenette and is apparently smaller so some of the furniture we moved will have to be moved again.  We’ll rent another U-Haul this Saturday to move the heavy kitchen table and a dresser.  Not sure what we’ll do with it once it’s moved but we’ll figure it out.

Your uncle and Gayle have apparently cleaned up the house as best they can and have already moved out all the valuables.  The house goes on the market tomorrow.  I’m somewhat perturbed with the real estate agent who falls back on that same old, same old formula of painting it neutral and re-doing some carpet.  All that does is make it easier for her rather than her selling to the home’s strengths and overcoming objections.  It’s in a great neighborhood, close to downtown, big wooded lot, etc.  My job apparently will be to begin boxing things up.  Reid, some tools are coming your way (or at least I’ll stow them for you) and maybe some other paraphernalia.  It is somewhat difficult knowing your grandparents hardly had a moment to think about the move, let alone say goodbye.  Boom, it was over and done with.  Personally I have very little emotional investment in the house since I never lived there.  I don’t foresee any of the furnishings as salvageable in a stylistic sense.  It’s all period pieces you guys probably aren’t interested in.  They weren’t much in the way of buying antiques and such.  Cookware is what I have my eyes on.

I also want to keep an eye peeled for family history stuff.  Your great grandmother, Mary Bradley, lived in Gretna, Nebraska.  Her last name was Allington.  Her dear sister was my Aunt Ollie, and she was a gem.  A great woman with an incredible attitude.  You guys probably don’t know this, but the entire time I was growing up, Mary and Ed (your grandfather’s dad) never lived together under the same roof but always lived in adjacent housing.  Both very strong personalities.  Back in the ‘40s, your great grandfather made some investment in wheat in southern/western South Dakota.  He and Mary were going to move to Martin, South Dakota, in part because Mary had asthma and the thinking was the dry climate would be better for her.  She did in fact make the move but Ed didn’t.  Not quite sure what happened.  But Martin was very close to the Pine Ridge/Wounded Knee areas of the Dakota Sioux which we visited often, and not too much to the liking of the Sioux.  Your uncle and I spend parts of many summers roaming the plains.  You guys may not remember it, but we made a side trip to Martin one summer vacation when you were peanuts so I could show you the old homestead but it didn’t register with either of you.  One summer your grandmother was up to visit, and one evening they said “come on boys, let’s go visit the cellar.”  We didn’t know they’d seen a funnel cloud west of town.  The tornado removed every stick of the garage, lifted oil tanks at the Standard Oil depot next door and razed some housing across the street, but it left grandma’s house intact.  We never heard a thing.  Mary ended up back in Omaha and lived out her days in the house we moved into when we left Sundance, Wyoming.  I’ll fill you in on Wyoming later.

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Family values & Earl Grey…

Politicians have their brand of ‘family values’.   We have ours.

One of the great things about a regular letter is every page helps you (in this case, me) fill the kids in on what’s important to our clan.  Once they’ve flown the coop to college or the working world and are absent of family kitchen table  banter during meals (jeez, what a pie-in-the-sky dream: family banter at meal time) there is a greatly reduced opportunity to pick up verbal scraps about what rocks your world.  A chunk of potential dialogue and chance to shape and share opinions dwindles away once they are no longer around.

If you become a regular at letters your children can glean your leanings over time.  For instance, Ellen and Reid ought to know this about my views if they’ve paid a smidgen of attention:

  • The environment is important.  I recycle virtually every scrap of paper and bit of plastic.  The trash men love me for my light loads.  I want the munchkins to respect their world.
  • I tilt just a tad to the left politically.  I come from the Watergate era when a certain party butchered the notion of public trust.  We have never been the same.  If we have a Tea Party, it usually involves Earl Grey.
  • Be respectful of other people.  They can have their views and you can have yours.  To be polite, civil and nice never hurt anyone.

You will find no endless and heavy-handed paragraphs devoted to my views.  They are of the age of majority and they can make up their own minds.  But they deserve to know the building blocks in their backgrounds and where their dad is coming from.  Frost’s road less traveled has many exit ramps and Ellen and Reid are free to find a detour of their choosing.  With a little help from their old man, of course.


There was no letter mailed to my parents this week.  Drat.  Their whereabouts and the facility they would end up in was in too much of a state of flux.  But I am off to Omaha today (Friday) and I’ll hand carry what they need to see.  Probably read it to ’em, too.  Here is a letter from a few years back.

April 11

Mom & Dad: The weather mavens are calling for 80F this afternoon so we have gone directly from pre-spring to summer like temps.  Had the kitchen window open this morning so as to hear the birds, and it was very nice.  On the other side of the scale, opened up a melon only to find it almost entirely buggy and rotten, and without milk, it was sort of a sparse breakfast.  But there’s no end of food downstairs of fast food joints.

Within two weeks I’ll be up your way.  Really excited to blow out of town and hit the road.  It will be good to venture over to Des Moines to see friends and golfing buddies, who I have prepped in terms of low expectations for my game.  They’re not entirely buying it but they’ll see for themselves the sorry state of my game.  I’ll probably head out pretty early Thursday morning and return about meal time on Saturday.  Of course, it depends on when I play golf.

Rode with a Harley group last night to some flea-bitten cantina for dinner.  It just reemphasizes that I like to ride by myself instead of with some group.  I just don’t have much in common with those other riders.  Maybe it’s a sign that it’s time to get rid of the bike.  Just kidding.  But it was a nice evening for it.  In the mid 70s.

Reid is in the throes of looking for a job.  Not a lot of real hot prospects in Indianapolis, and I think what will happen is he’ll venture back to Des Moines where he has a lot more contacts.  The hiring scene has definitely slowed down, and that doesn’t bode very well for college graduates.  Reid needs to be more proactive and targeted in what he wants to do.  He may venture on to the graduate school scene, but I really don’t know what schools he’s already applied to, if any.  He’s a good kid if someone would just give him the chance.

Ellen seems to be keeping her head up.  She’s frustrated with her current job, not the job so much, but not having many prospects for teaching.  She gets paid pretty well, probably more than a fledgling teacher would make, but she’ll get there soon enough.  If she and Tim tie the knot, knock on wood, that would solidify her situation somewhat because Tim would do okay in the job market.  Not sure where he wants to land.  He’s got another year of grad school at Minnesota.

Mike H____ and Mort M________ are due to arrive a week from today.  We’ll play golf and eat, then play a little more golf then eat some more.  We won’t be a wild and crazy bunch, that’s for sure.  Not certain what film Mike is working on right now, but he’s got some time on his hands.  That’s why he’s headed down here.  It will be good to have them in Charlotte for a couple of days.  Well, that’s enough for today, but I’ll call you guys soon enough.  Hope you’re feeling better mom.  The cause of your pain in the neck is sitting right next to you, most probably.

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