Monday, February 26, 2018

Great Expectations

The winter Olympics came to an end yesterday. I spent most evenings of the two week event watching the highlights on NBC. I could also have watched most of it live during the day on both an American channel and the Canadian channel (CBC) which comes to us across the Detroit River. I did spend time once watching CBC during the summer Olympics and they are nothing if not patriotic. I remember watching the Canadian team skeet shooting all day and I was afraid that during the winter event I would be forced to watch curling—though lo and behold curling certainly came into its own this winter. It was hard not to giggle as I caught sight of the American men’s curling team and remembered an article I had read early about some of the shenanigans in the Olympic village, attributed to “perfect bodies in skin tight lycra.” These guys looked like they trained on beer. However, they won the Gold Medal, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Personally, I don’t think it is and I was disappointed that the US sports writers and TV commentators did a great disservice to their country's representatives. Even before the games began we were regaled with little vignettes of a handful of skaters and skiers who the press though would win gold. We were introduced to old home movies of their beginnings in competition and a long sob story about injuries and rehab, while we were tacitly assured that these games would be the crown of their achievements. (And note, it was mainly the marquee sports that got selected.) Once the competition got underway, a newspaper which I usually enjoy reading published a long article entitled, in a rather large font, “U.S. Is Falling Down in Medals Race.”

Rachel Bachman who wrote the article picked the team to pieces, mentioning athletes by name, though I will just use initials,  “HB, the world record holder in the 1,500 meters, finished eighth in the race here and failed to medal in the 1,000. . . Gold-medal favorite aerials skier AC didn’t make the final . . . MS, the most dominant slalom skier in the world, vomited before that race and finished fourth . . . and on and on. She then hammered home her crushing comments by quoting  a “music promoter in Watertown, Conn”, who said medal count matters because  “It’s important to show United Sates exceptionalism.” Thanks for your input Mr. music promoter. No wonder the Norwegians who seemed to relax, enjoy everything and sport fancy mustaches had such a successful games.

For me there were two events which had me on the edge of my seat. My views on the sport quotient of the halfpipe events is fodder for another post (which I won’t write.) I was, however, watching the halfpipe skiing competition. Each rider has three attempts to earn the highest score, which makes sense as most of the riders crash on at least one run. David Wise, the defending gold medalist, had problems with his ski bindings on his first two attempts which meant he had only one chance to make a phenomenal score if he wanted to earn a second gold. He calmly slid into the pipe and did a series of breathtaking tricks. I don’t understand the technical terms, but this was poetry in motion. The result—a score of 97.20 and a second gold. Grace under pressure. The second event was one I only saw by chance as it was coming to a conclusion. It was a cross country ski relay race: each country had two skiers who took it in turn to compete a circuit, up hills, around the stadium, then out into the country side again. One of the skiers, Jessie Diggins, had appeared in the pre-Olympic vignettes, coming from a tiny town in Minnesota, where the inhabitants were shown getting up at 3:00 a.m. to congregate in a small cafe to watch the race. I just caught her last two circuits and the one by her fellow American skier sandwiched in between. She was struggling up a hill, a Finn and a Swede behind her. They jockeyed for the lead, fought to pass on the inside or the outside. At one point the Swede looked like she had run out of gas, but she came to life and the three women battled neck and neck as they entered the stadium and raced to the finish line. The girl from a small Minnesota town won by inches. I bet the town rejoiced.

That’s all until the next Olympic games. I have been ordered by the doctors to exercise. It won’t be cross country skiing.

Two of my last posts have been edited because I couldn’t tell the difference between February and March. Thank you, Andrew, for pointing it out.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Last Birthday in February

Today is Ron’s birthday. Three of the prior birthdays this month were celebrated by teenagers. Ron is a littler older, but no numbers will be mentioned.

Still sorting my iPhotos, so the last “real” photo I have of Ron shows him with his oldest son, sorting out donations at Christmas. No, Ron is not short, Patrick is 6’3” at last measurement.

I think of Ron as our Renaissance man. He plays the piano, he sings, he is a great cook and his family has not eaten a crumb of commercially made bread for many years, he writes a literary blog, and while the Detroit Free Press felt like book reviews were worthwhile, he was a book critic. He is a great husband, father, son-in-law and part of a fun loving family whom we have enjoyed knowing.

He is also a pretty fine pirate. It is hard to believe that in two years he will be the father of a college senior, a college junior and a college freshman! That’s when the grey hairs will start arriving!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

It’s Liesl's Turn

Those birthdays keep coming. Today is Liesl’s sixteenth birthday. She is our sixth oldest grandchild: we had five grandsons before Andrew and Marcie gave us a reason to think pink.

Like most girls of her age she looks different all the time—long hair, short hair, but the thing that is constant about Liesl is that she looks a lot like Marcie, and that’s a good thing. Here she is as she looked last Fall. She is a sophomore at Rockville High School, studying for AP exams and working on the schools’s literary publication. Nice to have another writer in the family. It was such fun to talk to her when she was here last summer. I admire her for deciding this year that she wanted to play basketball. She went to try outs and is now playing for the JV team. It brings back memories of her dad! So while her siblings all swim, she has chosen the path less traveled in the family. Nice going, Liesl.

Here she is with her siblings at Christ-mas. In this photo I saw her sitting on the left and actually thought it was Marcie.

Happy birthday to a granddaughter I remember so clearly sitting in a high chair with her blond curls and eating bombas (that’s blueberries to the rest of the world.)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Another Landmark

February is a big month for birthdays in our family. Today it was Charlie’s turn. He is our third oldest grandchild, Kate and Ron’s second son, and today he turned eighteen.

 It’s a big day: he can now get married, vote and be called up for military service. It’s also a big year, because he will be off to college in the Fall. He has been admitted to all the colleges he applied to, and is now waiting for their decisions about financial aid. When he leaves we will all miss him but Lucy and Peter will be especially sad because Charlie is their invaluable baby sitter. The little guys love him.

Charlie is smart, plays the guitar, and writes thank you letters to us in German. Right now he plans to become a History teacher. I think he would make a good one. As we left his house, he was preparing to go out with a group of friends from the Mexican restaurant where he has an after school job. What memories that brought back to us of teenagers going out and leaving us to worry.

Happy Birthday, Charlie.
Charlie and Joe

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Marcie’s Big Day

Marcie is Andrew’s wife and today is her birthday. I am posting a photo of her wearing one of her many hats. This is Marcie the volunteer and tireless worker for her children’s schools. I could have shown the Marcie who works for Children’s  Social Services of DC—long hours, long commute. Or there is Marcie the mother of six, and everyone knows what that entails. Did I forget Marcie the runner of marathons? What about Aunt Marcie with nephews and nieces approaching thirty. Let’s remember Marcie the chauffeur of swimmers, basketball and soccer players to points all over Maryland and the District and now to meets in other states. Along with that we have Marcie, a qualified swimming line judge and eagle eye for DQs.

As I led off and perhaps most important is Marcie the wife of Andrew and patient in-law of our hard to handle family. Happy Birthday, Marcie.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Man Proposes, God Disposes

I was all set to commemorate last Friday with a blog post. I wanted to mark the date, February 9, as being the worst snow day of the winter (so far.) Fortunately bad weather was forecast and by Thursday night schools and colleges were closed, snowblowers were primed and shovels were at the ready. When we woke on Friday morning it was bad, maybe not quite the 8” that were forecast, but the snow kept coming down steadily. I got some chores done and my plan was to sit down after lunch and write a snow-related post. I had a rough idea of the structure of the piece: the title would be “White Stuff”, and I would start by remarking on the landscape, maybe even posting a few photos if I could get a few without icicles forming on my head. I wanted to recollect what snow had meant to me as a child growing up in the south of England, and end by noting I had filled the larder the day before, I was warm and comfortable, had a pile of books to read, the Olympics to watch later and absolutely no intention or need to leave the house.

Within an hour I had left the house, in an ambulance no less and with no time to grab a coat or shoes. I had been finishing my lunch, and started to realize I was having trouble reading the newspaper I was finishing up while I ate. Then I couldn’t use the fork that I had in my right hand to eat some leftover ginger bread. I knew I needed to lie down, but I couldn’t get up and though Ernie was sitting with me I was having trouble telling him what was happening. It had happened once before so he figured out my problem. I know I kept saying “No, no” as he said he was calling EMS. We live about three blocks from the Police, Fire and Ambulance station and within minutes the decision was made to transport me to hospital. I threw up quite spectacularly before they could get me on the gurney and cover me with blankets. My wonderful neighbor Dave saw the ambulance and rushed over to shovel the newly fallen snow from the front steps. In minutes I was in the Emergency Room, where most of the personnel were wearing masks to protect them from flu germs. I was whisked off to have a brain MRI and an EKG and the rest of the afternoon passed by in a flurry of doctors, blood draws test and questions.

Eventually I was admitted and stayed from Friday afternoon to late Sunday afternoon. I was assigned to a one bed room and the hospital is blessed with wonderful, friendly staff who made my stay as worry free as possible. The final verdict was that I had suffered a TIA in my left frontal lobe and that I could go home, take additional blood thinners and cholesterol lowering medications, make follow-up appointments with my neurologist and a cardiologist—and watch what I eat and make sure I indulge in exercise.

Had it not been for my original intention to write a piece about the snow I would merely have commemorated February 9, 2018  in a blog post entitled “The Lost Weekend". In the interest of brevity I combine my two themes with a photo of snow from my hospital room.

From 322B.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Fourteen Candles for Eleanor

My granddaughter Eleanor was fourteen today. I can’t post a photo of her blowing out the candles on a cake, because she decided she didn’t want a cake and but rather bowls of ice cream with squares of regular and chocolate shortbread. At fourteen it is time to make some choices and changes. There is a photo of her blowing out two candles balanced on some vanilla ice cream, but I liked this one of her getting the table set and pouring out water from the gluggy fish pitcher.

Earlier in the week she surprised us by sending a letter to Ernie. He had given her a copy of The Fifty First Dragon some years ago, including with the gift some questions about the book. She had not responded at the time, but she just came across the book with the questions enclosed, and encouraged by the skills she has picked up in some book clubs lately, she decided it was time to give her critique. Way to go Eleanor.

Instead of writing about her, I decided to link to a piece posted today by her father. Not because I am lazy, but because he who knows her so well, says it so well.