407. Not… now… Forever…Granpa Wine

Image result for champagne and shrimp picturesThings run their course for one reason or another. What we enjoy and anticipate doing wears off over time. That’s the human condition. We get bored of the same thing over and over no matter how good it is. Call it sedition. Shrimp and champagne were great yesterday but not so soon again today. Steak and beer? Sure. Ice cream and pretzels. Not again. Not right now. Still, some things are eternal.

[My first draft was about this being my last entry, but as I wrote about my feelings, they changed. Like Otis Redding singing, “Stop this pain in my heart”, the more I said and wrote about quitting, the less I wanted to quit. Too much desire on this side of the keyboard to stop, but enough static to think about it.]

Springsteen is great, but not again right now. Santana too. My ears are sound burned, perhaps because my mind is unspunked. Put the records away for now. Marvin, Clapton, Hendrix, give me a rest, just for now. Hmmm, you know Johnny Cash sounded so good near his death. Eternity sang harmony with his rough hewn voice, sanding away any false sentiments. Potent as formaldehyde with a whiskey chaser.

Smoked a pack a day back in the day. Never again. Nicotine is anxiety’s best bad friend.Image result for loose cigarette picturesThirty five years ago my pregnant wife asked me to smoke outside where it was 5o degrees below zero. I smoked one and concluded that the entire habit was stupid. It was one of my top ten decisions in life, below following God, marrying my wife, and having kids, doing therapy, oh, and quitting teaching.

Image result for green pepper plant picturesGardening was once a tender joy for me, watching a pepper plant stand tall and bear fruit once filled me with wonder. I still like gardening, but not as much. The fertile magic diminished as the work increased. Other good things came knocking on the same door, but the man behind it grew tired.

Golf was a cool thing briefly. Maybe I’ll go back to it when I’m retired for the second time. Oh what a fight, though, just to be average. Like chess, you can learn a lot about a buddy over 18 holes. How men handle failure tells you a lot about their character. Golf rewards the man who has efficiently done the least work.Image result for golf pictures

I had a phase when I liked to play with tiles, finding wholeness in broken things. There is untapped potential in a good dumpster, my friends. Finding mosaic beauty is a noble cause. The whole gives meaning to each disparate piece. My writing is similarly mosaic, lacking meaning in the particulars. If you fuzz your mind, you might find some value in the whole. Then again you might find nothing more than rubbish. I guess it depends on what you went looking for.

Image result for artistic mosaic tiles images

Used to run seriously. Seriously, I was slow but steady for 3, 5 or 7 miles. Felt so good and alive to find that runner’s zone of zen outside myself. A body in space obeying gravity and healthy guidelines. But the joints jabbered in pain and my back joined in the chorus.

Then I drew and did water color cards, little pictures that held a  wordless story I somehow needed to tell. When I stopped that practice, I realized it was my way of unloading daily anxiety onto paper with lines and shapes and colors. Each card was a 90 minute journey away from the lion’s jaws.Image result for watercolor paintings

Hunting tickled something in me I did not know was there till it was gone. Primal, visceral, powerful, and essential. You need a license, though, and some planning. After you pull the trigger, it’s all work. Unlikely to go there again.

Chess has always been a faithful friend, however, always fun. Look out retirement village. I’ll be check mating till my foolscap matures into full blown dementia.

Now it’s ballroom dancing with my bride. Maybe the best of all endeavors I’ve ever sampled. The zen of twoness puts a smile on my face when we mirror one another successfully. Mates, take my worn down soles advice: dance with your woman while you both can still move.

Image result for wine bottle picturesBrewing beer or making wine has that same sort of appeal for me, though I’ve never done either. On the way to work this morning I began to ruminate about making figurative “Grandpa Wine”. I was talking to my beloved granddaughter by phone yesterday, promising to nibble her toes off in my dinosaur voice, which she loves to rebuke in her three year old squeal. “No, Granpa. Don’t eat me!”

“Why not?”

“I made my bed.”

“Oh, I’m so proud of you. Good girl.”

“I made mommy and daddy’s bed too.”

“Whoa! You sure are a good big sister.”

“I uh, I uh, uh I want you to be a dinosaur again and chase me.”

“Aarrrgggh.”

“Weeeeee. No, Granpa. don’t eat me.”


Image result for grandpa with granddaughter pictures

“I can’t, Honey, you are holding mommy’s phone. Just give it to her if you get scared.”

“Okay, be a dinosaur again. EEEEh!!

These little moments are super sugar-saturated grapes that drop from life’s vine

Only to be squeezed into wonderful Granpa wine

Sweet whispered breaths and wisps of hair

Giggles and laughs, smiles and smirks we share

All go into the batch

We jump around and flop

on all these things And  try to catch

every dropImage result for wine stomping pictures

Explosions of joy spring out of her soul

While to keep up I crawl

She sings and poses

Bows in the kitchen to pick up imaginary roses

Heavy and plump these grapes on the vineImage result for grape vine pictures

Only to be squeezed into Granpa wine.

Funnel the juice in magnum bottles to the max

Seal with crisp Corks covered in wax

And store horizontally for a long,long timeImage result for wine cellar pictures

Break out a bottle on Thanksgiving

To toast our fun loving and living

Share old times as your eyes shine

And a familiar warmth runs up your spine

Image result for smiling three year old girl face

So, Leah,

Before my funeral bells chime

Sip and savor this Granpa wine

Note the bouquet of wild berries and stale Cheetos

And just a hint of nibbled off toes.

It must age as the flavors unfold,

But Granpa wine will never grow old.

 

 

 

378. Go Dog Go

One of my children’s favorite bedtime stories was a simple book called Go Dog Go by PD Eastman. It was/is so uncomplicated and innocent, just like childhood should be. Dogs race around in cars and stop at this absurdly large tree canopy to party like wild dogs. Through out the nearly plotless story two dogs meet sporadically and the female asks the male, “Do you like my hat?” to which he replies, “No” and then they race off while the narrator says, “Go Dog Go”. Wonderfully childish stuff. The climax of the book is when the male dog finally says, “Yes” to the female’s last hat offering and they go together to the tree party. Silly, simple, unsophisticated. Only a child would enjoy such a book.

Singularly uncluttered illustrations left a lot of empty white space on each page so that the dogs in their cars were unmistakable. Lots of room too for a little girl with baby shampoo scented hair to lean against her dad and point to each silly dog with a tickled fascination. Which often led to a bit of real tickling and giggles. Sure, we know dogs don’t talk, drive cars or climb tall ladders into a cloud-like tree canopy to party, but we suspend some of what we know to sample little pizza slices of fantasy. Our little ones have less knowledge to suspend so it’s easier for them to fall upward into fantasy.

My grandbaby called me Dinosaur Grandpa recently during a Skype session. I didn’t catch the connection to any experience until her mom, my daughter, said, “Don’t you remember chasing Leah around the house at Christmas, pretending to be a dinosaur? You were going ‘Roar!! AAARGGGHHH!! Blaaaaaa!!’and crawled after Leah as she shrieked for her tiny life.” Well, yes I did, but I didn’t realize that would be a lasting distinction for her two months later. Makes you wonder about what the lasting impact of bad behavior would be on a little girl’s pure mind. (Scar tissue holds such children in thick bondage to past pains. Trust me on this one.) It’s a funny dance we do with our vulnerable ones who want to be chased and scared one minute and cuddled and reassured the next. Somehow, like coyote pups fighting one another in their mother’s den, our toddlers are hardening their knowledge of the big bad world, practicing safety and seeking security in fantasy play with trusted playmates.

The Wizard of Oz was a scary favorite movie for my kids. Watching as an adult is an entirely different experience than a five year old’s experience. The wicked witch was so real to my kids in their innocent worlds. They would curl up in a growing revulsion of Miss Gulch and then the Wicked Witch herself. Of course my girls identified with Dorothy and her magical ruby slippers, “glitter shoes” as my Jessi would call them. She had to have a pair of red glitter shoes. Once at church she tried to take a pair of gold glitter shoes off another little girl’s feet. Funny thing about those ruby slippers of Dorothy:  they protected her and drew deathly attention at the same time. Why is it that being a pretty girl with blingy shoes makes you both favored and targeted simultaneously? Not fair, but girls learn to harden themselves against the wickedness of the world. It’s not just in a movie.

Anne of Green Gables was a powerful series for me and my girls. Megan Follows stole our hearts along with all the cast in the Wonder Works tele-version of the classic series. We hated Rachel Lynde, the nasty nosey neighbor who warned Murilla  “orphans will poison your well”, planting the seed of doubt in stoic Murilla’s thinking. She mocked Anne’s red hair and lit her anger fuse. Quietly, though, Anne found comfort in Matthew, Murilla’s bachelor brother. He accepted and loved her, it was clear. My girls fell in love with these characters, and all of us wept when Matthew died in the story. This experience was not so much fantasy, though it was not real. Like some folks do today with Downton Abbey, we used to cancel competing activities so that we could be home on Sunday evenings to watch the next installment of Anne, our new best friend. We even once planned a trip that we never took to Prince Edward Island. It was just too expensive or we were too strapped financiallyOh well, I hope to be present with my granddaughter when she meets these lovely characters. Perhaps we will finally make it to PEI after all.

All three of my daughters became big readers, which pleases me to no end. Reading good literature is like crosstraining for your mind. You meet the most interesting people and places and time periods in novels. Whether it’s To Kill a Mockingbird, another dark favorite that pits childhood innocence against institutional adult racism, or Little House on the Prairie, my girls found enough reality traction that drew them in emotionally and intellectually to other times and places, hearts and minds. They will forever be different for the better because of these experiences. As good as the movies are, they never approach the novel’s glorious gift of a limitless imagination. In the safety of a book’s pulpy pages my girls could paint their own pictures of the awesome Laura Ingalls Wilder or brave Scout, creepy Boo Radley or wise Atticus Finch.

Here is my conclusion. It’s a beautiful thing to watch your kids grow in knowledge, wisdom, love and experience, from the simplest to the most complex levels.  I’d gladly sign up for those days again with the hope that I would be wiser, more loving and patient the second time around.  I guess that’s what grandparenting is all about, though. You get a do over with the next generation…

“Do you like my hat?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then let’s go, Dog, go. Wooohooo, party on the tree top!!”

“Read it again, Granpa.”

Whispering, “Will you chase me like a dinosaur.”

Whispering  back, “Okay, ready?”

Nodding with grinning expectation and dancing eyes.

“Roaaaarrrr!! Arrrggghhhh. BLAAAAAA!!”

“No, no. Don’t eat me.”

“You better go, Dog, go.”

“eeek shriek eeek giggle badabuump. All fall down.”

The End.

294. Leah

My granddaughter is a two year old spitfire picklebutt named Leah. She has been at the center of yet another Tusconic experience here in Arizona this past week.  From the first moment after her nap last Friday, she asked her mom in a tiny, whispery voice, “Where’s Wonka?” and then scrambled to my bedroom to celebrate being in the same space. (“Wonka” was her near approximation for “grandpa”, but it seemed to capture something more than the generic label for her mother’s father… and stuck.) She smiled her precious smile between her silky pink cheeks and it was on! Dancing, and arm waving, and chase, and babies, and puzzles, and books, and  the I-pad (thank God for Netflix).

Everything was alive with her energy but only for a few minutes at a time– jumping on the bed while singing “No more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed”, “The wheels on the bus”, “Ring around the rosey”.  A whirling dervish if ever there was, whirling through emotions like a roulette wheel. I kept hoping for red 17, but randomosity ruled.

Her dad Stu is in “Cow if fornya” doing his work right now. He flies Apache helicopters with the National Guard. When a jet would fly over her house, Leah would run out and wave and say, “Hi Daddy” in the general direction of the noise. She likes aircraft too. It seems to be in Stu’s family’s blood. Not many two year olds have a poster of a helicopter on their bedroom wall. Leah does, and she knows Daddy flies “Ha-pache copters”.

At her school there are many kind rules. “This is my work” means “I’m not sharing right now; go beat feet somewhere else.” “Too many  people” means just that. Someone has to go, but it hurts a little when you are the only other person and she yells, “Too many people, Wonka!”

Two days ago we spent maybe an hour playing the money game. We both happened to have shirts with pockets. Leah grabbed a couple of fists of coins from her piggy bank and dropped them carefully into my pocket one coin at a time. Then she scooped them out and dropped them into her shirt pocket. And again…”Do it again”, she said. I have no idea what she gained from this pocket money changing, but I gained sweet breath and tenderness that was worth every penny. Love makes simple things delicious and unforgettable.

Being two and highly verbal and strong willed, she puts on her bossy pants at least once an hour and commands or demands… “No, no, no” as she shakes a little empress finger at something or someone. Some kids get sugar highs; I think Leah gets power highs that have to be moderated with surgical precision. Time outs are readily available on the carpeted stairs where she wails about the injustice of the incident she has likely forgotten. Oh the drama!! Scarlett O Leah, “I shall always have Tara” ( and a thousand stuffed animals, books, Kermit the dog, a trampoline and blow up  pool in the yard, a kitchen set, a rocking chair, etc. etc.). She’s a hoot even when she’s pouty and attempting to rule the world tyrannically. When the time out is over and she demonstrates remorse, “I sorry, Wonka”, it’s all good again. Time for a fiesta for the prodigal granddaughter’s return. Blackberries are a favorite.

Five minutes later she wants to share something, a book or a carrot. “Make space” means slide over for her wiggle butt to snuggle in beside you. Now yesterday we had to ride up to the Guard airbase to drop off Stu’s car he’ll need when he gets back from Cow if fornya. I drove behind my daughter in the Prius with Leah. Grace tossed me a double CD of Raffi’s greatest hits. “Just put in the new Raffi and sing along, Wonka.”  Well, I engaged the CD as we got on to the I-10… but it wasn’t Raffi. It was some bogus fake  Raffi and a disc of Tchaikovsky’s pop hits. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like the folks at Times Square who buy a Rolex for $10 from a street vendor only to find out at Battery Park that it’s a fake and doesn’t even keep time. Fortunately the Baroness of Bossiness was content to sing her own soft songs all the way out to the airfield.

Once Grace rejoined us I registered my complaint. “You told me weed but you sold me basil.”

“What?”

“The Raffi was all wrapper and no Raffi.”

“Oh, sorry. Was it a disaster?”

“No, it was Wonkastic actually.”

And away we went to a lovely “rench raunt” beneath the Catalina Foothills. It was lovely despite the part time efforts of the Diminutive Despot to work her Mommy into a braided rug. Leah makes crow noises that warn of the terrors to come.  In just a blink she turns from a fuzzy domesticated puppy into a wild “Cow yote”, who can turn herself into a cooked spaghetti noodle when you try to pick her up and place her in another time out. She is a gamer, let me tell you, and would be in the Baby Hall of Fame if not for a few moments here and there… like Pete Rose. She sort of gambles on getting her way until you go nose to nose with her for the integrity of the game of parenting.

And then after her latest walk she brings a rock, an acorn and purple flower to document her adventure. They are still warm from the Arizona sun’s radiant energy and her little marshmallow hand. She shows me her knee boo boo which I kiss twice, and I realize I’ll miss her soft voice, her funny expressions, and her hummingbird spirit.  It’s all good like pure oxygen in my blood.

So long my Cow yote puppy.

 

 

119. Too Bad Aboutcha’

You know your biological clock is run down when you begin talking to your alarm clock as if it had a brain and a soul…”Just ten more minutes. Please! I beg you.” The cat is meowing and the dog is whimpering because they obey their biological clocks. ‘It’s time to eat and pee outside, the normal routine with or without a time keeping device.’ They don’t say this but I’m sure they think it in their puny mammalian brains. It is light outside uncurtained windows, but back in my bedroom, under layers of heat-keeping covers it is not yet 7 o’clock, and dark and warm, toasty, deliriously delicious….mmmmmmm.

“MEeeeoooowwwlllll.”

“Hymmmm, hymmmm, hymmm.”

Drat their circadian rhythms anyway. I’ve made my bed, now I should be able to lie in it. Or is it “I’ve lain in my bed, now I should be able to make it”? Who says “lain” anyway? British guys on the telly who say “shall” and “shan’t”. Why do I think of stupid things like this when all I want to do is fall back asleep? Yes, Sleep, the opiated captain of my queen-sized submarine bed, the SS Ambien sinking through warm turquoise Carribean waters….  down into the darkening groggy aquamarine….mmmmmmmm.

“Meeeoooowwwwlllll.”

“Hymmmm, hymmmmm, hymmmmm.”

Oh dog gone it. I might as well just get up. “Out with you, both of you. Roam the great 1/8th acre of  landscaped wilderness.”  Now as I climb the stairs to our kitchen for the coffee ritual, I know Johnnie the dog will bark twice to be let back in for his morning food ritual. If I don’t respond quickly, he will repeat the two bark drill. The cat will sneak in with him if she cares to. Why? Because he’s a good dog and it’s a misdemeanor to kill a domesticated cat. Plus, Johnnie is protective of the cat, Annie. He attributes super powers to her and she allows the myth to continue. Well, I’m not sure of this last bit, but it’s a theory I’m working on.

Okay, coffee in the basket; water; push the button. The day has begun with or without my permission. Gonna be 57 soon. My body reminds me of broken bones and ripped muscles earlier in life. They come along with you in the form of aches and pains when you have not slept well or maintained proper hydration. Check with PiperWellness.Com for more depressing news about being alive. Gary can’t eat nuts in his cream of wheat without worrying about excess calories, high blood sugar levels, cholesterol, weight gain, obesity, morbid obesity and then stroke or cardiac arrest followed by a most awful death. And yet he remains cheerful in his pursuit of healthy living. It’s annoying like a smiling funeral director who knows he’s gotcha.

Okay, direction and purpose for the blog post. I need to get into something meaningful, which means I’ll likely just run down a tangent until it collapses under the weight of global bombast. The grandchild is due tomorrow. Wow, life as we have known it is going to change again into something even richer. I remember getting married 33 years ago. Life switched powerfully in a new direction. Getting a dog was a small adjustment later on. But having our first child was like having an identity reassignment surgery. Boom, nothing was the same. And then again, complexity grew with each additional child.

Something is hugely different with this new step, though. I suppose that is because the work and responsibility do not fall on me and my wife. The expectations of love and joy, amazing amusement, and a fascinating adventure lie ahead of us. I can’t imagine the downside. Another season of life has come without trepidation. I actually feel ready, calm, and sure. I suppose most grandparents do. All my friends who are blessed with grandkids love it. I think I’ll be no exception. The little girl’s little name is Leah. I’ve been singing Roy Orbison’s song since getting the news. Mind you, I am not blessed with the vocal range or humility of Roy Orbison, so my version sounds like a cow being branded while tap dancing on thin ice above great arctic killer sharks. It brings terror to the trapped listeners. But it brings me some mild anticipatory pleasure, thinking of rocking her smiling face to sleep.

Maybe that’s the missing link with the animals in the morning– I am not their kin and I know it. When they whimper or meow, it does not resonate deeply in my limbic brain. (I am reading about this lately so I am both reinforcing new knowledge and showing off here.) In any event I suspect that I’ll be ready to leap up to the meow of my new grandchild and comfort her little whimpers when they come at any hour. There is no other option. I never knew my grandparents, and I want her to know me deeply and love me just as deeply as I love her. I can’t wait. Amen.