Tag Archives: Family

A son and an idiot…


My mother passed away two years ago this week, and since today’s letter to Ellen and Reid won’t be posted until later, I was planning on a re-run (there’s not many of those in this space) of the final Sept. 2011 letter to mom. She could not read it and I doubt it was ever read to her but it was important to me to create and mail it.

But none of the letters to her – save a couple of Mother‘s Day notes – could be found. They were in a special folder, and that folder is gone. I feel like a complete idiot for letting this piece of my past slip away. In its stead, Ellen and Reid got one final, grandma-centric note the week before she passed away. Here it is.

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September 26, 2011

Ellen/Reid: The phone was with me all weekend in the event the call would come about your grandmother.  Usually the phone is set to vibrate or silent, but this time the volume was turned up.  I find myself with this increasing sense that combines doom, inevitability and sadness.  Not a very good combination of three things.  I worry about your grandmother and what is going through her mind during these days.  What is she thinking (if she can think)?  What bothers me the most is that she is alone.  Your uncle is there often enough, but she’s still alone.  That is the big thing; she is there and I am here, leaving her to fend for herself, no one there to give her comfort as often as she needs it or could certainly use it.  It doesn’t give a very good feeling as a son to not be there with his mom.  For all these past weeks I’ve thought I would be pretty stoic about things but last night it just began to hit me that her end will come and I won’t be there to at least hold her hand.

I was not there at the end, but I was there shortly beforehand. It's been two years now since that final bit of comfort for my mother.

I was not there at the end, but I was there shortly beforehand. It’s been two years now since that final bit of comfort for my mother.

That must be the guilt part of it seeping through.  I’m not sure what she would vocalize about it.  She’s had a rough last few years and now I second guess myself about not getting out there more often, especially over the summer once I knew her condition was slipping very rapidly.  It just makes me feel pretty shitty about things.  Now, there’s no going back and trying to make amends all over again.  There is no time.  Instead I’m down here playing golf and lolling around when I could be up there to help her out in her final moments.  It just makes me angry to think about my negligence.  The final good byes Continue reading

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Back to the old ways…


You were expecting a photo of Emma at the top of the page?  You’ll need to scroll down a bit.

Yes, she is a little sweetie (aren’t all grandchildren?).  That’s why there are no Grandchild USA contests (or at least I’m not aware of any).  No winner would ever be chosen because all the votes would be cast along family lines.

Still, Emma was the centerpiece of last week’s letter to new mom Ellen and her brother Reid. But you will note that the letter a couple of weeks ago truly wasn’t “official” since it was emailed as an attachment due to a printer ink malfunction.  But what the kids received over the weekend had a stamp on the envelope, therefore marking a return to official letter status.  I have gone back to the old ways, thanks to a new black ink cartridge.

Emma: the apple of her gramps’ eye.

As for the photo of Emma, here you go.

Here, too, is the paper letter.  Just say ‘no’ to email attachments.

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May 14, 2012

Ellen/Reid: It’s just hard to believe that Emma is almost two weeks old.  It still is all a bit surreal.  She’s just a little peanut, and already her looks seem to be changing.  I can’t wait to see her again because that’s when her growth will really be apparent.  It looks as if the next trip will be the second weekend in July.  We would come on a Friday and leave on Sunday.  I assume Emma will get her first view of the lake July 6-7-8 but you tell me what works best for us to visit.  Felicia’s excited to see her.  It is still amazing that your upstairs renovation project was completed virtually the same day Emma was born.  Talk about fortuitous timing.  Wow.  You couldn’t have scripted it better.  It’s good I lost my April 24 bet.  What a mess that would’ve been.

I’m now paying attention to baby coupons in the Sunday paper so those will be tucked into the envelopes.  Everything about babies is really an industry into itself.  Most of the stuff they advertise in the back pages of the coupon section seems feasible enough but I don’t quite understand why people would buy porcelain statuary of babies and other baby knick-knacks.  Sounds like just another garage sale item to me.  You will not receive anything of the sort from Emma’s grandpa.  Next time I head to the store I’ll pay a little more attention to the baby aisle.  Before you know it, she’ll be walking and talking and all of that.  Just as we marveled at how quickly you two nuts grew, the same will be for your perception of her.  It all just happens in a blur.  Betsy thinks the photos of Emma are adorable and she’s been asking for regular updates so keep any information coming this way.  Your timing is also good, Ellen, in that you’ll be able to stay at home during the normal summer break for teachers.

It’s been raining outside this morning which makes for a good enough day to sit in the office.  Wish it would’ve rained this weekend so I could’ve skipped golf altogether.  I’m so tired of playing poorly.  I couldn’t think my way out of a paper bag on the course if my life depended on it.  It is just so humbling.  Reid, how did your little golf gig come about?  Don’t people camp overnight at the public courses in Chicago just so they can snag a tee time?  Good for you to get out and play.  If some kid came along and offered me $5 for my sticks, I might be tempted.  Felicia is working a lot of overtime, including the weekends, and that puts a crimp into any spontaneous plans to ride or get out of town.

The lettuce pot out front continues to pump out a bumper crop.  That’s been a good dietary diversion.  I’m sorry to report that the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar that was munching on the sprigs of parsley apparently fell prey to some sort of predator because it was gone within a day or two of me thinking it would continue to grow and eat its way into a pupa or whatever they wrap themselves in before emerging and flitting away.  My little bluebirds, sadly, are gone, too.  When I got home from Minnesota I thought they would have fledged so I went out back to check out the nest.  But there they were, dead.  Not sure what happened.  Stories on the web show parasites are a fairly common cause of death in baby birds.  The parent bluebirds had worked so diligently to keep the little ones fed.  They are nowhere to be seen.  I’ve since cleaned out the nest and let it dry out.  Hopefully some other bird species will find it a good nesting site.   Must be that time of year for baby animals.  Saw a small copperhead the other evening, but it was dead, too, and for no apparent reason.  Must be the way of things.

Okay, over and out for this morning.  Keep sending photos of Emma, and Reid, let me know about your iPad situation.  Glad you are finding uses for yours, Ellen.  Let’s use that live video thingie at some point soon.  Ciao.

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Gonna be a grandpa…


Ellen shows her pregnancy progress. At first she didn't want this photo posted, but I asked and she granted permission. She looks great.

So I’m gonna be a grandpa.

This will be entirely new turf for Ellen‘s mother and I.  Perhaps it’s time to go to ‘Grandpa school’ so as to brush up on all the nuances of spoiling the child (a little girl), how to insist on an unannounced last-minute visit without seeming invasive, or what’s new in Caldecott Medal-winning children’s books.

I had a couple hours of advanced warning before the blessed announcement a few months ago.   Ellen texted me in the afternoon to see if I had Skype (no) but could I download it pretty fast (yes).  She and Tim would Skype me later that evening.  All mental systems were immediately on high alert.  The kids would never arrange a live webcast for something as mundane as a new car or bathroom makeover.  No, this had to be big.

And it was.  We have marveled at ultrasound images and news of the baby rolling around and moving.

Since there was no letter last week due to my laziness and Ellen and Reid being on the road for the holidays, I dug into the archives for a letter that celebrated some of Ellen’s earlier good news.

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June 15, 2009

Ellen: I must admit that when you were a peanut I never once imagined walking you down the aisle.  Now that time has come and you will be a beautiful, exuberant and composed (okay, let’s reserve judgment on the composed part for a little while longer) bride.

In the grand scheme of things, what all of this says is that you are mature, you are ready, and you have everything it takes to begin a loving family.  For a long time, you have been incredibly responsible in just about every aspect of your life; work, play, finances, and more.  If anything, that entitles you to the day you are about to enjoy and treasure.  That you took your sweet time on this deal says a lot about who you are and how you approach things.

My all-time fav pic of Ellen on her wedding day. Who knew a few years later that she'd be on a mommy track? We are very proud of her and Tim.

Your mom and I, and Reid and your grandparents and Nancy and Gordie and Kristin and Jeff and Ralph and Gayle, Joe and Andy, are incredibly proud of you.  As you take that longest walk that will be over so quickly, be sure to soak in the admiring views and stares because what it means is that people love and respect you.  And that is both friends and family alike.  Just look at the “response rate” on your invitations; if that isn’t some sort of record, I don’t know what is.  That is the sure sign of how people ultimately view you and Tim.  They want to be with you both on your day of triumph.  Not all couples can say that.

In no way shape or form do I view this as losing a daughter, but rather, it is gaining a family that includes a still-wonderful daughter and a great, great son-in-law.  That is probably the best any dad and mom can ever hope for.  Your mom and I could not be happier for you and your new life.  Nothing I will ever experience will make me smile any more or make me any happier than walking you down the center line and then answering Angie: “Her mother and I.”

Way to go, kid.  We love you.

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The thoughts are good…


We bought some flowers for Caldwell's Sunday service. Felicia made the arrangement look pretty. It was a nice way to honor dad.

This week it will be a year since my dad passed away.  As is the case with fathers (and moms, too, most likely), you wonder why you didn’t listen to them more.  And then when you’re ready to be all ears, they’re gone.

Still, the thoughts are good.  So are the memories.

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June 22, 2011

Ellen/Reid: Felicitations.  I hope this finds both of you well.  What’s not to like about summer in those parts other than heat, mosquitoes and humidity?  Same thing down here, but here you toss in snakes and other critters.

This time next week we’ll observe one year since your grandfather’s passing.  I’ve been thinking of him quite a bit lately and it’s hard to believe (like your and Tim’s two year anniversary, Ellen) that it’s really been a year.  That whole blitz of worry and travel and arrangements last spring and summer seems like so long ago.  My PC screensaver is still the shot of him hoisting a frosty MGD just a couple of weeks before he died.  Even the few sips of a cold one he managed to get down brought some joy to him.  I’ll probably replace the screensaver sometime soon with a shot of your grandmother but will keep that photo of him handy for those moments when I wish he was still here which is more often than you think.  I replay the final day and hours not as often today as I did those months ago and it occurs to me now that he passed with some solace knowing that his family was pretty much in order, his wife was being cared for, his own kids had grown and were relatively responsible, and he had four grandkids that have more than exceeded his expectations.  There wasn’t any unfinished business on that score and given the amount he talked about you guys and Andy and Joe those last few days he could for the most part just let things go.  At the time the hospice lady kept telling us to remind him of those very things as a way for him to ease his own passing.  How they know that he could hear and process what we told him is beyond my meager comprehension.  But that was good enough for me at the time and was probably as it should be for him.  Next time I’m in the Midwest I plan to stop by to pay the old boy a visit.

Nothing new out West.  Ellen, grandma certainly appreciated your call.  She sounds pretty good, all things considered.

And thanks, too, for your Father’s Day calls.  Those were nice to get.  Route to me a few more photos now and again so I can see visually what’s going on in your worlds.  I giggle every time a shot comes through of Henry.  If there is a more contented dog who knows his place in the scheme of things, I don’t know where that dog would be.

In a month we’ll be in Wyoming.  Really starting to get gizzed about it.  Ellen, please don’t fret over your plans to join us.  No biggie at all.  Your summer is full enough with a kitchen and just rejuvenating from the school year.  People are nervous about the nighttime temperatures up high but it will be what it will be.  Hope for the best and plan for the worst.  I’ve been climbing aboard the elliptical machine for 20 minutes or more and every day brings a little more improvement.  Just have to keep at it.  I’m not so lucky when it comes to those arm exercises where you push yourself away from the table.  That’s not working out so well.

Well listen, I’ve got to run, literally and figuratively.  Again, keep those calls and photos coming, and maybe, hopefully, we’ll all get together under fun circumstances sometime soon.

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Letters at a natural end…


For weeks I’ve gone about a Friday routine of writing a letter to my mother (even though you’ve seen none of the pages).  On every envelope is scrawled the notation ‘Please open and read to Barbara.’   Now, I find that few, if any, of the more recent letters have been opened.

That is because her condition has worsened; she is weak and cannot eat on her own.  She’s been moved to another facility better able to care for her more immediate health situation.  My brother and I are hopeful she can regain her strength and return to the location she has come to view as her home.

It looks as if years of writing to my parents has reached a natural end.  It is disheartening for me to know that as far as letters to my parents are concerned, there really will be no more.  It was my lifeline to them in a way they could grasp.  It brought me some comfort that at least I was doing my best to stay in touch.  Many posts ago, I alluded to the fact the ink-on-paper was how many people in their age group got their news whether it was world, state  and local events as well as social doings.  Electronic methods and gadgetry so in vogue were of little use to mom and dad.  They were information aliens in cyberspace, especially my mother.

So now I have no way to communicate with mom.  She has no phone in her room, and if she did her eyesight is such she could not locate it.  She cannot read.  The best my brother and I can do is hold his cell phone up to her ear while I talk and she listens.   But it’s hard for her to comprehend and process what she’s hearing.  It’s not feasible, either, to travel to see mom as often as a good son should do.  The 1,238 miles between us has a way of interrupting the personal touch she needs.  Tomorrow, Friday, there will be no letter.

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