We were a couple of kids. Patty and I wanted to go to a basketball game. We’d been to lots of games at the high school. They’d all been at the school we went to, the one a few blocks from my house. This was an away game. We wanted to drive over there on a Friday evening. I’d been on trips before, but this would be the first time on our own.
We were both loners, not a lot of friends. There never was a discussion about getting together with a group of friends to make the trek, we just wanted to go. Just the two of us.
Looking back on it, I wonder how we ever figured out how to make it happen. The freeway did go from Jamestown to Valley City. This was the mid sixties, wasn’t it? Compared to what we have today, so much was missing. I probably had a map. It would have been the good old paper map produced by the North Dakota Tourism board. It had detail on every exit of the freeway, so we knew that there were only a couple of options to get off the highway to get into town. The map also had an insert describing the town. It might have had the local high school marked. Continue reading
One of the treasures from the attic
Sometime earlier this year someone pulled up a page from my blog and read it. Not that unusual. A few of my friends and family members do look at the blog now and then. If I were into marketing and paying attention, it could have been a big day for me. On that special day WordPress served up the 10,000th page view for GrandPa Guy’s Stories.
On most days I’d brush off a number like that, saying it doesn’t matter. I don’t check the statistics all that often, so I was several hundred page views late in seeing the milestone pass. Several more days passed before I actually thought about what that meant. Last month a friend sent an email thanking me for a post that struck a chord with her. That morning I made a difference.
You don’t suppose that’s happened other days, too? Out of those 10,000 page views, maybe a few other of my musings have given a friend pause, let them think a thought out of their daily trance? One day in church a friend whom I hadn’t seen in about a year (We’re both C&Es at this church.) stopped me to thank me for my blog posts. I had no idea she was reading them, so was pleased to hear that they were good for her. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my two month break in writing would start within the week.
When I started writing the blog two years ago I wanted to make it easier for my family to remember some of the stories from our shared past. The real reason has become clear as I continue to write these old stories. Part of writing old stories involves digging around in the boxes from the attic. You know those boxes. They moved into your house years ago and you haven’t opened them since.
I opened them. Treasure! Continue reading
A better way to fly?
The other morning a friend of mine told me about his recent trip home from a convention in Denver. He had to wait three hours in Minneapolis for his connection. I really don’t like sharing stories about travel horror, but that one was far too easy to top.
We had been in Denver for a wedding. My brother Eric and his wife Anke were there, too. After all the festivities, we left Denver in the morning. Eric planned to drive back to Rochester and we took the airplane. We dropped off the rental car at Denver International about the time Eric drove past the airport east of Denver. We breezed through security. There wasn’t much for security in the Nineties. The flight to Minneapolis was uneventful. We arrived in plenty of time to catch our flight from MSP to Rochester. There was a layover of more than two hours.
We called Eric. He was in Omaha. We’d beat him home easy. They announced boarding for our plane and we dutifully lined up to get on board. We stood patiently. One moment, please; a mechanical problem with the airplane. Sit and wait. No problem they said. There’s another airplane available and we’ll get it right out for you all.
In two hours. They moved all the luggage, the food, the crew and all the freight from the hold. Again we dutifully line up to get on board. Nothing to it. We get settled in and wait. And wait.
“Sorry folks. There’s a problem with this airplane.” A cracked windshield. The airline can handle this. Believe it or not, there’s another airplane available for us to go to Rochester. They herded us off the airplane to wait in the concourse for the next bird. They find an airplane, get it into position, move the luggage and freight, wait for a new crew and get everything ready. We are now over six hours late.
Finally the ground crew finished fueling the airplane and hundred or so grumpy people get on board and wait for the plane to back out of the gate. It does! We’re on the way! Takeoff is easy. It’s a short flight, maybe twenty minutes total if there’s a headwind.
A half hour into the flight the pilot comes on the PA. Continue reading
More precisely, I missed sharing my story with you. But I needed a break. Cancer got in the way. (Now totally resolved). Holidays got in the way. (Is another coming?) A vacation got in the way. (Another trip of a lifetime.) Given all that was happening, I just needed a break. Since writing a blog doesn’t pay much, I figured a time out would be easy.
Everything that got in my way this year is now behind me and I’ve started writing again. This morning when an idea popped into my head and I sat down to type out the story it felt good. Writing is the strangest hobby. None of my friends seem to enjoy it. They’re into fishing, boating, biking, shooting, politics, golfing, music, arts, skiing, television, and the like. I write, among other things, but writing gives me the most energy.
Since we returned from vacation I’ve been accumulating new stories and reviewing things written last year. There’s some good stuff and a few clunkers. After my filter gets done with them, you can decide how many clunkers got through. Watch for some new stories soon. I’ll share some stories from familiar people and relate how what they did fifty years ago relates to today.
It’s good to be back. I hope some of these stories keep you coming back.
Let’s do coffee. Soon.
I like some things. Others aren’t my favorite. Those who know me have probably heard me express my biases. Offer me a Bourbon whiskey and I might turn it down. Not on my list of the good stuff. Offer me a Scotch whisky and I will ask what kind it is, perhaps rolling my eyes at your reply. I like what I like and I don’t what I don’t. Some tell me I’m inflexible. Not so. I’ve tried several varieties of Bourbon and have yet to find one that appeals to me. Experience has taught me what to expect.
Colombian Coffee from Dunn Brothers
All of these likes and dislikes have molded my personality, creating a unique person. Dare I say it defines my soul? I do some things, avoiding others. I talk using certain idioms, never saying other words. That’s just who I am. What makes me happy may or may not make you happy. Dan likes a good cup of tea. I prefer coffee. Coffee from Dunn Brothers. Their French Roast. The one from Columbia. These likes and dislikes define me.
What if the likes were taken away? Would that change who I am? Continue reading
Dave Moen, Jerry Ray and Keith Lura at a 1972 wedding.
We’re going to a funeral this week. It’s not the first, but it’s a first in another way. It’s a big enough deal to provoke me to write one quick post on my “vacation.”
Last month we went to Don’s funeral. Don was the pastor at our church a long time ago, back in the seventies. He had a full and wonderful life, over eighty years of living. His funeral was a testament to his contributions to this world. That funeral felt like a celebration. We’ve been to a lot of those celebrations over the years. Parents. Grand parents. Uncles. All those old people. That seems like the way of the world. Old people die.
Eight years ago we buried a nephew. Barely twenty years old. Nobody expected this, he was too young. Who would have thought that a brain tumor caused his headache? A tragedy. Our friend Sonia was taken by breast cancer not that long ago. She left behind beautiful young children and a wonderful, grieving, husband. Not much to celebrate there; young people aren’t supposed to die. Most don’t. Another tragedy.
This week’s funeral is similar in one way, cancer was the proximate cause of death. But this wasn’t someone from our parent’s generation. This wasn’t the tragedy of a young life cut short. It was one of our own. My age. I went to college with her.
Could it be that another transition has started? Continue reading
Mara and Louie – January 2007
Not too long ago a friend of mine talked about making a list of what behaviors would persuade him to move out of the house they’ve lived in for well over thirty years. That brought up the topic of when is the right time to move from active care to palliative or hospice care. These are all difficult choices. Sometimes they are more difficult for the living than the dying.
In the case of Louie, he had a good handle on how to manage the end of his life. He had a tough life in general, at least it looked that way from here. In the last quarter of his life he had reconciled with his boys, quit drinking, and quit smoking. Those were all good news for me.
He didn’t quit smoking soon enough. Emphysema came on, and with it the need for carrying oxygen all the time. Breathing was difficult even with the aid of an oxygen bottle. He developed sleep apnea and a few other medical issues that really messed with his sleep the last couple of years. I think the chronic fatigue got to him. After working part-time at the Campbell County Jail as commissary, he finally had to quit. His hobby became keeping track of all the deputies by listening in on the police scanner. He knew all the codes and all the officers.
He was very aware of the trajectory of his life, and started making plans quite early on. On one visit, I remember arriving at his apartment for a visit to find that most things with emotional value had a label on them. Guy. Linn. Eric. Chris. He had taken the time to think about everything he owned, judge its value, and tried to make a fair distribution.
Louie made a point of doing things when I visited. There was a nice county historical museum in town. He liked to go to the coal mines and watch the activity. When there was a county fair or rodeo we would always take it in. Every time we had to go out for dinner at one of the nicer places in town. These outings got shorter and more strenuous as the emphysema caught up with him. Carrying the oxygen was cumbersome. He couldn’t walk very far. Getting in and out of the car was just too much work.
Louie didn’t ask us to join him for most of his medical evaluations, but the time came when he received a diagnosis of something that would eventually take him out. He was never very open about what it was, to the point where I’m not sure even he knew what was in there. He didn’t want to go in for the definitive tests to get a specific diagnosis. He didn’t want any treatment to stop or slow down the disease. Life was getting too damned difficult, to the point where shorter was better. His world had pretty much become just that apartment.
Late last summer I had to pick up a loaner car at the repair shop. (That’s another long and expensive story.) Everyone complains about the heat on a day like that one. Jeff pulled the car to the door as I completed the paper work, and he left it running with the A/C on to start cooling down the interior. I was in a hurry that afternoon, so I ran out, hopped in the car … and paused. Something smelled funny.
I waited a moment. Not that bad, I thought. Another moment. Wait a minute! That’s left over cigarette stench! No, it couldn’t be. There are “No Smoking” stickers right there on the dash board. I’ve got to get home soon! The smell’s not that bad, right?
Louie Havelick, US Army, 1952
Last week you read the last of the stories Louie wrote in 1991. Louie’s letters end with him meeting, marrying Grace, yielding their first son; me. Grace’s letters end with the same wedding. To the casual observer that may seem strange. To me, it’s not a surprise at all. That wedding may have been the high point of their relationship.
As a child, I was never close to my dad. He spent his time elsewhere. He came home from Korea when I was about three. Louie loved to tell me about his return, he came through the front door and asked “Where’s your Daddy?” I immediately ran to the bedroom and brought out his Army portrait. Touching, in a sad way.
He and I didn’t spend much time together. Somewhere in the mid-fifties Louie took me downtown to White Drug for a malt. White’s was a fabulous place, including the little restaurant coffee shop in the back, a full soda fountain with a counter and all the things you’d expect in a fifties soda shop. The drug store was more of a general store, selling everything from post cards to window fans and toasters. Think Walgreen’s with a coffee shop. That’s where I got a malt with my Dad, one of a handful of memories of good times with him.
Lon, Louie, Mara and Guy at Louie’s apartment c. 1988
I met Louie in 1986 at his high school reunion. My daughter Mara was five and fell in love with him immediately. That sparked my interest. She knew something about the old man who had eluded me for over forty years.
While I mostly hung around the edges of the reunion, we did go to the big dinner on Saturday evening. Judy and I watched a man laughing and talking with his buddies, a man I’d never seen engaging with others in a rational and happy way. They were talking about things they had done in high school, mostly football stories. That was my Jamestown High School. I’d been to Blue Jay football games in that very stadium. Why didn’t I know about all that stuff? Why hadn’t I seen him as a person? He was a person with a life. A person with history. A young person with friends.