Words….Witticisms…Whimsy…Whatever!

Posts tagged ‘Grandma’

For my grandma on her 100th birthday

Yeah, you read that right – 100th!

Holy crap, Grandma, that’s amazing. As are you.

It’s remarkable for anyone to hit 100. But my grandma is remarkable in many ways. For a long time I’m not sure I recognized it – she was just my grandma. I knew she wasn’t a stereotypical grandmother – there was no knitting going on, or wearing frilly aprons in her kitchen. The only apron I ever remember seeing her wear said, “BITCH BITCH BITCH” on it. That’s my grandma.

If you live around here, it’s highly likely you’ve crossed paths with her at some point. She’s been working for Fort Wayne Community Schools as a teacher and administrator and consultant for more than 50 years. She’s been a columnist for The News-Sentinel for decades. She’s been very active in the Jewish community, the arts community, the community community. She was the first woman to do a lot of things. She’s received many impressive accolades along the way.

Of course, she has made some poor decisions over the years. She did go to Ohio State.

But she’s also just my grandma. 🙂

Just my grandma?

Hey, Grandma! Happy birthday!favorite

This seems like a good opportunity to reminisce. Maybe say thank you for some things. Maybe apologize for some things. Like the time when I was, I don’t know, maybe 8-ish, and I was lying on the floor in the den on Old Mill and you were tickling the crap out of me. A lot. I was kind of thrashing around laughing. And I elbowed you in the mouth. Hard. It was absolutely, totally, 100% your fault, and yet I still feel bad. Sorry about that.

Thank you for taking me to my first Broadway show. (Pirates of Penzance – I know you know, that’s for everyone else.) We share a love of theater, and you have continued to help me feed my habit. You paid for my ticket to see Miss Saigon years ago when I lived in Michigan and it was coming to Detroit. And on my last trip to NYC you sent me with some extra money so I could pick up tickets to see a second show. (Kinky Boots, it was incredible, thank you!)

Of course, we also went to the Stratford Festival together for my Bat Mitzvah present, and saw some Shakespeare and some Gilbert & Sullivan, but it’s not the theater that I remember most about that trip. Nope, it’s the paddle boat you rented for Lisa and me to tool around Lake Victoria in. It was an hourly rental, and Lisa and I wanted to make sure you got your money’s worth. We didn’t want to upset you by coming back too soon and wasting it. In the meantime, we had disappeared, and you thought we’d drowned. Oops. Sorry about that, too.

We’ve definitely done some good traveling together. You took me to your favorite city, florenceFlorence. Don’t worry, it’s your birthday, I’m not going to tell that story again. But I could mention how you almost sold me to an African man. Or when we saw wee little Sylvester Stallone eating in the same restaurant we were at. Or hahahahahhahah, I forgot about this till right now, how about the lunch where you thought you were ordering something sensible like a salad and it ended up being a gigantic ice cream sundae. HAHAHAHAHAHAH. I’m sitting on my couch laughing by myself right now…I just woke the dog. We both love art, too, and there was a lot of it on that trip. The David, which blew me away with how enormous it is. The Sistine Chapel. The Medici Chapel.

I’m sure this was true when I was younger also, but I’ve become very aware over the last few years of how you’re one of my biggest cheerleaders. You go out of your way to let me know after you’ve talked to someone who has said something nice about me. You post comments to let me know you’ve read each and every blog post, here and on Beth & Wendy, even when my posts are silly. Or you call to discuss if it’s something topical. You save clippings when I’m in the newspaper, and then years later you give them to me. I have one on my desk right now that you gave me a few weeks ago, from about 8 years back. I can’t remember why this little profile was in the paper, but in it I talk about how my parents and my grandmother have been strong role models for me, particularly in the area of community service. Yes, yes you have.

Aww, and as I’m sitting at my desk writing this (up against my deadline, because I’m a procrastinator and your birthday is tomorrow), one of my favorite people just commented on Facebook (in response to Kevin’s great article about you in the News-Sentinel) that I “get my passion for life, the arts, and writing honestly!” I sure do. 🙂 (Do you do this too? Are you deadline motivated?)

I love that you have been a mom to my mother, even after Mom and Dad got divorced. Not every family can navigate that. Thank you for making it so. ♥

Speaking of divorce, after my own, my Christmas traditions changed. I love my new Christmas, going to the movies and dinner with you and Dad on Christmas Eve, and then another movie (this one adding in Kron) on Christmas Day before dinner at Rachel’s. Considering it’s not even our holiday, it’s one of my favorites. 🙂

Any 45-year-old would be fortunate to have a living grandparent still; my other three were all gone by the time I was 19. But I’m extra-lucky to have YOU as my grandmother. When my family was in France visiting Lisa during her semester abroad, I remember seeing kids playing soccer in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and thinking how crazy it was that they could go about their normal lives like that, and not just stand in awe thinking, “Holy cow, that’s the Eiffel Tower.” But now I find myself thinking maybe that’s what I’ve done, taking you for granted as “just my grandma.” Doesn’t everyone have a barrier-breaking, ceiling-shattering, tough-talking, community-shaping, change-making grandmother?

You set the bar so high for the rest of us, in so many ways – including longevity! 🙂 As I strive to live up to the example you’ve set, I’m happy you’re still here to encourage me, and talk things over, and tell me stories.

My favorite experience with you though, my very favorite, is when you get started laughing. You know what I’m talking about. I remember you and Dad and I had lunch after Eula Black’s funeral. I have absolutely no idea what we were talking about – I think it had something to do with pencils, which doesn’t really sound that funny. But it must’ve been, because I remember the three of us cackle-laughing in the middle of…Cosmo’s? Somewhere. Laughing till I can’t breathe, with my grandma. It doesn’t get better than that.

I am sure that as soon as I stop writing, I will remember something else I wanted to say. That’s ok, I’ll just call you. 🙂

Happy birthday, Grandma. You’re wonderful, and I love you, and I’m so glad you’re my grandma.

convertible-selfie-with-grandma

 

Advertisements

The giant hamster wheel of life

It’s Friday night. I’m on the couch in pajamas, eating pizza, alone, catching up on my DVR backlog.

If time-traveling 20-something Wendy were to appear right now, she would die. Oh, the horror! Friday night. At home. Alone.

Current Wendy could not be more content.

I used to consider it a failed weekend if I didn’t have something fun to do both nights. “Fun” = going out, unless I were having a party or some kind of social gathering at my abode. Now that would kill me. Or at least leave me exhausted and in need of a weekend. Today a quiet weekend at home with Ruby Dogwonkafonka is one of my favorite things, and if I go too long without one I get twitchy.

What a difference 10 or 20 years makes.

It’s convenient that I’m happy staying in, since at the moment I don’t have a lot of extra dough for going out. 20-something Wendy, I blame you – if you had stayed in a little more, maybe we’d have more cash reserves now – see, this is all your fault!

I’ve been contemplating age and aging and the giant hamster wheel of life for a while now. I feel like somewhere in my early 40s (which is where I still reside) I reached a point of clarity or something. I’m not young anymore, in spite of what people think. This is not a bad thing, even though when I refer to myself as “middle-aged” people recoil and assure me that I’m not. Hi, yes I am. In the US the average lifespan for women is something like 81 years, and I can do math. I’m also not old – I recognize this. The math thing, plus I have a 97-year-old grandma. She is old. She also reads my blog, so hopefully she isn’t offended by that statement. She shouldn’t be. Oldness has nothing to do with awesomeness, and the timing of this rambling contemplation could not be more fortuitous, seeing as tomorrow she is receiving an honorary doctorate from University of St. Francis. She is not your grandmother’s grandmother. (That makes me giggle.)

This awareness of what is and is not old seems to be one of the universal stupidities of young people. I remember saying things like, “I’m sooooooooooooo olllllldddddddd” when I was 25. Or 27. Or 32. And I hear/see on Facebook people in their 20s and 30s say things in this vein all the time. And now, I realize how stupid they sound. They’re not old. They’re aware of the passage of time for maybe the first time ever, but they’re obviously not old. And there’s no getting this message through, because they think they know everything.

Now that I’m in the middle and looking both directions, I don’t at all assume I know everything – that is one thing I have learned. You think you do, and then you get older, and you realize how stupid you were when you thought that. There seems to be a lot of realizing how stupid I was. It’s amazing that our parents don’t roll their eyes at us more often than they do. I can’t wait to see what I’m doing now that makes me laugh at 40-something Wendy ten or twenty years from now.

One pattern we seem to repeat is in thinking that our generation has it sooooooo much harder than any previous generation, and nobody understands our experience, and we are so maligned by the generation ahead of us. And then we get older and turn on the generation behind us because they’re whiny and they feel maligned and misunderstood. Except you’re not actually anti-the generation behind you, you just wish they understood all the things they could be learning from the benefit of your experience and hindsight instead of waiting 20 years for their own hindsight, but hi, they’re young and know everything. Hamster wheel.

I was reading a thread on Facebook last week with some millennials talking about how maligned they are by older generations (I really need to find another word for “maligned”) and it prompted me to send this note to another Gen X friend who I knew was also reading along:

Dear Millennials,

Here’s the thing…

It’s not about the label.

All young people are stupid. And not in their own way. In EXACTLY THE SAME WAY EVERYBODY ELSE WAS, BUT JUST A LITTLE BIT WORSE, because internet.

And someday you will get really, really, really old (like, 42) and you will realize what an idiot you were in your 20s, and you will see it in all the people who will currently be in their 20s, and you will laugh, and you will understand your parents better, and everything will be fine.

Love,

Gen X and the Boomers

 

I have a lot of friends who are younger than I am, and I hope you know that I love you, and I look forward to you pushing me around in my wheelchair someday. I truly don’t think you’re stupid except when you’re talking about being old. 😉 And this isn’t supposed to be a “young people are idiots” post. It’s intended to be about how great it actually is being in that dreaded over-40 zone. Or how funny the passage of time is. Or who knows. It’s possible I lack focus tonight. It’s possible this is because I’m also watching Say Yes to the Dress while writing this. It is Friday night, after all. (20-something Wendy is dying of shame right now.)

But my 40s are great. So far, anyway. Another cliché proves itself to be true: so far every decade is better than the one before. I’m not so hung up on stuff like what do people think or what everyone else is doing. I’m less concerned about “should”; I’m more interested in what makes me happy. I remember clearly the night that happened, too. I had been invited to a going away party for some casual friends who were moving. The time had come to get myself together and as I was walking upstairs to change clothes, I realized I didn’t feel like going, and then it clicked that I didn’t have to. So I didn’t. I stayed home, and it was so nice that I started refusing invitations more often. I got way more selective about whom I spend time with. If I spend time with you now it’s because I really want to. I’m not sure why it took me so long to catch onto that one.

I thought I had a funny cartoon set aside about aging or clichés or something along those lines to accompany this, but I can’t find anything in my “hold” folder. What I did find is this picture of snuggling lions. I have no idea what I saved it for, but it’s adorable, so what the hell. When I find the cartoon, I’ll save it for the lion post that clearly I intend to write some day.

cuddling lions

2013, you were all right

A year ago it seemed that the idea of a “blessings jar” was circulating all over Facebook. It’s simple enough. Write down the special moments in your life as they occur, put them in a jar, and review them at the end of the year. I’m not really good at resolutions, goals, and the like, but this was something I could get on board with. Of course, I didn’t have a jar handy so I used a vase (which was a present from my dad and created by my artist friend Kristi Jo Beber, so it was already all kinds of good stuff) but for the purpose of this post we’ll just keep calling it a jar. (Aside: Kristy Jo’s stuff makes great gifts. Keep that in mind that for next Christmas or anything between now and then!)  I didn’t always remember to tend to the jar, but by the end of the year it was full.  I wrote on post-it notes and scraps of paper. I scribbled just a few words and once wrote a page & a half about a particularly interesting day. Many of the notes had happy faces and/or hearts drawn on them, because I use emoticons even when jotting messages to myself apparently.  Most of the time I remembered to date them, but not always. And because I was doing it my way, I put other things in, too. Concert tickets. Notes from friends. A fortune from a cookie. An envelope that made me laugh. A series of postcards from my friend Greg. And then last week on New Year’s Day I sat down and read through everything.

Here’s the summary version: I’m a very fortunate person.

I appreciated little things. I appreciated big things. I reconnected with people from the past. I made new friends. I put aside old hurts. I paid off some debts AHEAD OF SCHEDULE, bitchez! I reveled in my family. I took trips. I was reminded of a moment when I was able to use the blessings jar to make myself find a positive spin in a situation that was making me cranky. The overriding theme was contentment, and how can you beat that? Reading through them reminded me of small moments that would have been long forgotten and made me laugh a second time over funnies and sillies.

And because I took my own liberties with the game, next to the vase was a bowl. And in the bowl I put all the birthday cards I received, and more recently all the holiday cards that came in the mail. And I reread all of those too.

Now I’m going to take all of the scraps of paper and notes and cards and package them neatly in some sort of cute container and label it “2013”. Because the vase already has the first piece of paper for 2014 in it. I hope I do this for every year from now until the end of Wonkaternity. (I’ve decided 2014 is going to be a banner year for making up my own words for the wonktionary. Earlier I coined “napportunity”; I intend to seize every napportunity that crosses my path this year!)

I won’t share all the paper scraps with you, because some are too personal and some would bore you and there are really quite a lot, but here are a sampling for the reading.

  • 3/18: The world has the Mondays, but I feel awesome. 🙂
  • 1/17: I had both blueberries AND grapes on my Rice Chex this morning.
  • 3/6: Awesome snow day! Shoveled like a badass. Made a snow Ruby with Dan. Lots o’ fun!
  • 2/13: I tried something new – tap lessons – and I loved it!
  • May: I went on a fun, relaxing vacation with some of my favorite people AND I was happy to come home. 🙂
  • 8/10: Mourtney’s b-day at the lake was a super fun day.
  • August: I can afford to have the work done to bat-proof the house. (This was the one where I was trying super hard to see the positive in the boatload of cash I dropped to prevent any more good bat stories for y’all. Oh, and the rabies.)
  • 6/8-9: Super fun weekend in A2 with Klondike and the Laheys. 🙂
  • First weekend in June: I felt a satisfaction with doing everything I wanted to do with my weekend. And the new purple curtains made me feel happy every time I walked into the living room. I love my house! 🙂
  • 9/7-8: Such a wonderful weekend in Ann Arbor! All day Saturday bumming around w/Caryn, victory over ND, and ton of fun and excitement at the game! Sunday morning w/Brannie, then loading up on food goodies before coming home. Top down all weekend. Happy heart! J
  • I can take advantage of being self-employed to go for a bike ride in the middle of a Tuesday with my dad. 🙂
  • 9/23: 1:09 cake  [IT WORKED!!!] (Did I tell you that story??)
  • 7/23: Ruby finally healed from her incision! 🙂
  • 10/31: A WHOLE BUNCH OF PUMPKINS appeared on my porch! 🙂 Someone stole mine & now I have LOTS! And tap was canceled (kind of) so I’ll be home for Halloweenie!!!! 🙂  (two happy faces on one piece of paper)
  • I love my green sheets! 🙂
  • The day I wrote the long missive, I’d been to a funeral then out for lunch with my dad and grandma. One of the highlights was Grandma telling Dad and me that she had used up a pen, and when we asked what kind she said, “A pencil.” Which caused us to laugh and laugh, and if you’ve ever experienced my grandma laughing uncontrollably, you know it’s noteworthy. And also something a restaurant might not appreciate. And lest you be concerned about her answer, it’s a pen that looks like a pencil; she hasn’t lost her mind. 😉
  • And then there was this one, the most important one of. (Dad, I’ll stop talking about it soon, I promise.) dad survivedI draw a sucky heart, but you get the idea. And the little words surrounding it, which you probably can’t read, are the people who made it possible and helped us greatly: Doctors, Nurses, Friends, Family, Rachel, the Huffs.

 

Happy New Year, my friends! I look forward to your help filling my blessings jar!

 

Sadly, I get it now.

I didn’t get it.

The way my grandmother spoke of Pearl Harbor Day, or my dad about JFK being assassinated. That was history. And it was sad history, and important history, but it didn’t have a profound, moving impact on me like it did on them. (I actually think it kind of annoyed my grandmother that kids didn’t understand what a big deal Pearl Harbor Day was.) I didn’t get it. How lucky I was, and I didn’t realize it.

For a while, it seemed as though the “where were you when _____?” moment for my generation was going to be the Challenger explosion. Not quite the same thing. Sad and scary and impactful on the space program, but it was an accident, not an attack on democracy.

And then everything changed.

September 11, 2001.

I get it now.

How you can remember with such clarity and detail exactly where you were, what you were doing, what happened next, even someone like me who is memory-challenged.  How eleven years later you can see pictures of a beautiful blue sky, filled with confusing images of towering, smoking buildings, and start to cry. How we feel compelled to share our stories of watching it unfold.  I get it now.

We grieve, each of us in our own ways, but we remember together.

And we dream of a day when there once again is a generation who doesn’t get it, doesn’t know what it’s like to have a life-altering moment when THE WORLD is turned upside down – not your own personal world, but the entire world. And we never forget.

Peace.

Grandma and the F-bomb

Phew, it was easier to crank this stuff out when I was on vacation! J

Not long after publishing The Fuckwad Report, I got a notification that I had a new follower on the blog: my grandmother. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook might have seen a comment that I was somewhat alarmed, even though I had warned her that my language might be….graphic, shall we say. My dismay was unwarranted; later that day, I got the loveliest email from Grandma, telling me how much she enjoyed reading the blog, how long it had been since she’d read anything I had written, and that she had subscribed. And then she said,

“As for the ‘adult in nature’ language, remember Florence?”

Muahahahahahahahaaa. Oh yes. I remember Florence.

Let me just get this out of the way: sorry, Grandma. However, since you survived my telling this story at your 80th birthday party, surely this will be ok. (Huge grin, with a possible dose of begging for forgiveness)

Many of you know my grandma. Who am I kidding, the whole world knows her. You all think she’s amazing. Her column in the newspaper, your favorite teacher, this board, that committee, trail-blazing woman in the community, blah, blah, blah, zzzzzz……oops, sorry, I fell asleep for a second. Yes. She’s wonderful for all those reasons you already know. However, most of you probably don’t know that my grandma is the uber-badass grandma to end all grandmas. Yup. I have a couple of stories to illustrate said badasserie…I’m sure she’d like me to share them…oh my god, I’m so evil, I just called her to verify one of the details and I didn’t tell her why. (Also, three out of three friends surveyed just agreed that “badass” is one word.) Ok, story time!!!

Badass Grandma, exhibit A:

The summer between my junior and senior years at Michigan (wooo, Go Blue!), Grandma took me to Italy for a lovely vacation. We were there for about a week and a half, and other than being ghastly hot and G’ma almost selling me to a man from Africa (true-ish story for another day) it was a fantastic trip. And I would say that generally we got along swimmingly, other than when she soundly kicked my ass over and over again playing gin rummy. However, we did have one kind of rocky day, when traveling from Rome to Florence. For the record, neither of us speaks Italian, which might have added to our woes. Grandma had reserved seats, but somehow we ended up on the wrong train (still heading to Florence). We were ok staying on the train, but ended up sitting in some other people’s seats, who nicely didn’t kick us out – or if they did, we didn’t understand what they were saying. Maybe we were just jetlagged or something, who knows, but the day wasn’t going according to plan and we were crabby. When we arrived in Florence, I was helping Grandma off the train, and getting our bags. I set down my suitcase, and seeing as it was 1992, it was old school: 4 crappy, unstable wheels with a “leash” to pull it. It immediately toppled over, and rolled off the platform. I believe my grandmother was slightly annoyed by this. I’m sure I was pissed. I sighed and set down her carryon so I could retrieve my fallen suitcase. Her bag promptly tipped over, and off the platform. It had exterior pockets that were open, so magazines and whatnot came spilling out. Oops.

About one second passed. In my mind now, it lasted a year.

Grandma. My respectable, respected, proper grandmother, who believes in dressing for travel and taught me important things like you only use one hand to hold a sandwich. Grandma.

Grandma said….

“Oh, fuck.”

The words hung in the air. In bold italics. And then….

We absolutely dissolved in laughter. It could not have been a more perfect tension breaker. My. Grandma. Dropped. The. F-bomb. Instant classic. Some nice non-English speaking people helped us figure out the right coins to put in the thing to get a trolley to haul our bags. I’m sure they thought we were drunk or crazy, seeing as we were howling so hard we could barely stand up. End of bad mood, Grandma forever seen in a different light.

Badass Grandma, exhibit B:

A couple of years later, I was living in Michigan with my boyfriend (before he was my fiancé, husband, and ex-husband J ). We got home one day and had a message on our answering machine (gasp – remember answering machines??) from Grandma. It went something like this:

“I just fucking got home from fucking seeing ‘Pulp Fiction’ and I wanted to let you know that I really fucking liked it.”

AHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!!!!!

I kind of wish I still had that little tiny tape.

So there you have it: my grandma rocks. I’m certainly not sharing this to shake up the iconic image you have of her; perhaps just to round it out into someone more relatable. And oooh, ooh, I just thought of this one – to show that I come by my trash-mouth honestly. Fuck yeah, I do!

And just in case she’s pissed, if you see her, maybe tell her how much you enjoyed this, dig?