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

March 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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

You’ve Aways Got Your Nose Stuck in a Book.

That was my mother’s constant complaint/observation/criticism of me. It depended on how much she needed help and of course it wasn’t until I had children of my own and a house to run that I understood her problem with me.

And it was totally justified. I had books by my bed, always brought a book to the meal table and crammed every spare moment with reading. I was, however, a little miffed when Christmas came around and I got books from my grandparents and other relatives, rather than sweaters or games, but I came to love all those books and to read and re-read them all. To this day Jane Eyre and Little Women are my comfort books and A Tale of Two Cities is my ultimate thriller. It says a lot that I brought so many of my books with me across the Atlantic and I having been giving them away to my grandchildren in the hope they too will cherish them.

I do not remember my parents reading to me. I hope they did; we certainly tried to pass our love of reading on to our children. It was the age of Where the Wild Things Are and Dr. Seuss (neither of us was especially fond of the latter, although we thought we were supposed to be.) Our children all have memories of the books we shared with them and have become extensive readers. But their children are grown up in a vastly different age. Parents are facing the siren song of the world of technology.

I've read the articles about the bad effects of allowing children to spend too much time on-line and I have heard my grandchildren telling me that their computer time is rationed. There are a couple of TV commercials which show draconian mothers cutting off signal so the family can eat together (though in one case, when they do they seem to be standing around a table grabbing slices of pizza.) There are stories of the dangers of children not inter-acting with each other or engaging in physical activity interspersed with the accounts of how the writer spent his childhood happily playing with a stick and a ball of string. I tended to agree.

Then last week I read an article by Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal, which began, "Imagine someone traveling through time to the days before the internet, regaling audiences with fantastical tales of a future in which children can access devices containing the sum of all human knowledge and which gain new powers daily to instruct, create and bring people together.

Now imagine this time traveler describing the reaction  of most parents to the devices—not celebration, but fear, guilt and anxiety over how much time children spend with them.

You can see where this is going. An exhortation backed up by a recommendation by the American Association of Pediatrics to distinguish between different types of screen use—say FaceTime with Grandma versus a show on You Tube. (Grandma’s not going to win that one!) There were lots of statistics and articles by learned psychologists, all leading to the claim that the intelligent use of different types of technology can be beneficial. Now another guilt trip for parents deciding how to pit Grandma against Dora the Explorer, though I feel any parents worth their salt can, and have been, instinctively making good choices.

For me, the source of the sum of all human knowledge was a battered copy of an ancient Pears Encyclopedia which I read from cover to cover. Several times. I learned foreign words and phrases, the flags of all the countries. My Pears would never gain "new powers daily" to update their names from the Belgian Congo or Rhodesia. Let’s not even mention Sri Lanka. 

So the more things change, the more they stay the same. If I were growing up today my mum would be saying,  “You’ve always got your nose stuck in a computer."

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Happy Birthday, Blake

Each year one or two of our grandchildren reaches one milestone year or another. Today Blake became a teenager. It was five years ago yesterday that she came ready made into the family, and she is a real joy.

Here she set off on the long walk up the aisle and I think her smile said it all. She played her role in the wedding graciously and gave a self-assured speech at the reception. Laughter erupted from the guests as she described how she loved accompanying Lucy to second hand shops in the neighborhood and the thrift they displayed in buying their clothes in them.

In the last five years she has shown her interest in acting and singing, playing volleyball and doing well in school. Her hair has been long. Her hair has been short, but the smile is always there.

When Josephine and Veronica were in town last week the girl posse of Evelyn, Caroline, Lydia, Eleanor and Blake entertained them royally.
Happy Birthday, Blake.

 And we will never forget that Ernie’s brother and our beloved family member, Fr. Bob, would have been 91 today. He died nearly eight years ago, and we miss his steady, funny presence with us still.