Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Eulogy For Grandma

{I'm posting this here for my Uncle Jim who requested it.}

There are probably a lot of you who knew grandma better than I did. I’ve lived in Ann Arbor for over 30 years and don’t get up to Bay City that much. But one thing I can say . . . when I did go visit grandma, it was a trip down memory lane.

Until a couple years ago, she lived in the same house that I remembered coming to as a kid 50 years ago. Garden out back. A little shed off to the side. A place to wipe your shoes and a place to put them after you took them off. The picture of her four sons always hanging proudly and prominently in her living room.

She told much the same stories when you came around, stories about her youth, about her family and of course stories about her trips to the doctor.

And often there was music too. Grandpa would bring out his violin or grandma herself might play a tune on her organ. I brought my accordion to play sometimes and grandpa would accompany me on his saxophone.

Something else you could count on when you went to grandma’s was visiting with cousins, aunts and uncles who also happened by to pay their respects. Since grandma rarely got out, she lived for those visits from family members. And I think that’s what kept her going strong for those 99 plus years. So many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. Those family visits were so precious to her.

When I called my youngest son Scott to let him know his great grandma had passed away, one thing Scott recalled is despite not seeing him or his brother Greg all that often, she always remembered their names.

During those visits of mine, grandma would always have something to eat. “Here, have something,” she would say. Might be cake, pie, or some ham in the refrigerator, once even a tomato out of her garden. “Take what you want,” she’d say.

And then, what it was time for me to go, she’d always say, “Come back and see grandma.” That was something else I could always count on. The invitation to come back and see her. And when I did return she was just as happy to see me as she was the time before. Like I said, it was a trip down memory lane.

My last visit with grandma was just a week ago when my dad and I visited her on Smith St. And I have a little story about that that I want to share. I tried to remember the details but my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. You know, I think grandma sometimes used to add some drama or embellish some small detail herself to her own stories. So if someone’s recollection is ever different from mine on some story I tell, just remember, I take after grandma.

So my mother said a couple weeks ago that I should visit grandma. She hadn’t been doing well lately. And it had been over a year since I had seen her last. But one thing about grandma. She doesn’t mince words. And I remember the last time I visited she mentioned how I had put on a little weight.

I was worried that she would mention it again. My mother said not to worry. Grandma’s memory was fading. In fact, she might not recognize me at all.

So my dad and I went over and she tried to guess who I was. She said my voice was familiar but she couldn’t think of my name. My dad said, “It’s Dave. Your grandson.” She looked at me up and down, head to toe, for what seemed like a long time. “You’ve gotten big,” she said.

I turned to me dad and said, “See. I told you so.”

My dad said that what she meant was that I’m big, as in all grown up. But I’m thinking that I’ve been grown up for 40 years now. I think even at 99, grandma’s memory is better than that.

So that was mine and grandma’s last trip down memory lane together. And when I think of it, there was something missing. I gave her a couple hugs and we said good bye, but this time she didn’t say, “Come and see grandma again.”

Maybe she knew it would be our last time together. Maybe she knew her time here was running out. But even though she’s gone, there’s lots of memories left over, not just for me, but for all of you as well I’m sure. So grandma, we may not be able to come back and see you in person, at least in our lifetime, but those memories we have of being with you will live forever in our hearts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ramblin', Gamblin'

I feel like, in the words of local pop icon Bob Seger, a ramblin’, gamblin’ man.

The ramblin’ part comes in because wife Wendy and I are joining with her sister’s family in an overnight cross-state fun trip to Ludington, Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The gamblin’ part is a bit more complicated and involves a motel reservation I made on the internet.

I made the reservation on-line at the Days Inn web-site at a rate that included an AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) discount. Punched in all my demographic and credit card information, hit confirm and printed out my receipt.

Only then did I discover that my discount had disappeared somewhere between “reserve this room” and “thank you for making your reservation with Days Inn.” What happened? I had been charged $15 more than what I was quoted.

So I called customer service and they transferred me through to customer care, where I was on hold for about 15 minutes, leading me to believe that they don’t really care all that much. After mis-pronouncing the name of the town where I was staying (LOO-dington instead of LUDD-ington) and saying she couldn’t find the motel where I was staying (she was looking for a Super 8 when I told her specifically I was staying at a Days Inn), she said she would have to refer it to research.

For a $15 difference? Why not just change my reservation to reflect the rate I was SUPPOSED to get. Oh, well. They said it would take up to three days but I figure I could always cancel.

I told them to contact me via e-mail with their finding. They contacted me by phone instead, leaving a message . . . “when calling back, please refer to case 213—NO, that should be 231.”

When I called back, they said that the original discounted rate I saw on the internet was incorrect. A computer glitch, they called it. I was charged the correct rate. BUT . . . to make it right, they would refund me the $15 after my stay if I called them back and referred to case number 213, er, 231.

Now, the gamblin’ part comes in. I decided to go ahead and do what they advised. Fifteen dollars may not seem like a lot of money, but considering that my 2011 “found on the ground” fund contains only a bit more than that, if I gamble on their sincerity and lose, there goes all those stray quarters, dimes and pennies I’ve been picking up for the last seven months.

I guess I’m gonna let it ride.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goodbye Grandma

I’m a little late putting up my weekly blog. Yesterday, I was at my grandmother’s funeral. She passed away on Saturday after over 99 years upon this earth. In six months she would have hit the century mark, but it was not to be.

As I had done with my last three grandparents, I gave a eulogy at the funeral. That went okay though I found out later that my voice was competing with traffic from the street as well as with fans set up around the church to cool off the congregation amidst our miserable heat wave. Sometimes the outside noise won out, I understand.

I was glad to say a few words on grandma’s behalf, but just as glad when I could exit the pulpit as I’m not too crazy about speaking in public. It was a relief to sit down and know it was over. But there was a surprise to come.

As the priest was preparing the Eucharist, a lay minister looked my way and beckoned me to come forward. I’ve never seen a minister do that ever before at a Catholic mass and I’ve been a Catholic all my life.

I pressed my index finger to my chest and made an expression that said something to the effect, “You want me????”

As my brother later said, there wasn’t anybody sitting behind me. So I walked forward and joined the priest and other ministers at the altar. Nervous moment. The minister who motioned me up said, “Have you ever been a Euchuristic minister before?” I said no. Never even thought of becoming one. Well, he said I was about to become one.

Nobody in the congregation knew why I was up there either. My cousin later said to me, “I said to myself, is Dave up there AGAIN??!!” My sentiments exactly.

I’m not sure if any of my blogging buddies has ever performed ministerial duties during a church service but it’s NOT the type of thing you want to be suddenly blindsided to learn by doing. But, for grandma, of course I would do it.

My ministerial duty was to hold the wine chalice during the sacrament of communion for those who wanted to partake. Communicants all drink from the same chalice, so I needed to wipe and turn the cup after each person drank. Not too hard, though I got flustered a couple times. And a couple in my family chided me for not genuflecting in front of the altar when I returned to my pew afterwards.

I sure under the circumstances, God would forgive me. And I think grandma would as well. My guess is she was smiling over me the whole time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Snack Us, Snack Eagle

My wife and I journeyed to northern Michigan this past week where we spent a few days at my parents' cottage on the shores of Hubbard Lake. Usually, we try to get there at least a couple times each year. This was our first visit for 2011.

We left on Saturday as I wanted to make an appearance at a wedding reception celebrating the marriage of a second cousin. I hadn't seen that side of the family in a while, so I thought visiting with them and later with the fauna of upper Michigan would be like killing two birds with one stone.

Speaking of birds . . . wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Back up to where Wendy and I just hit the road near Ann Arbor. Wanted to grab a light snack as we'd missed lunch and dinner at the reception would be late. Key word: light.

So we pulled up to the drive-through at McDonalds, agreeing to split a two-cheeseburger and small fry combo. Ordered at the speaker, pulled ahead and paid at the pay window, pulled ahead to the delivery window and waited.

And waited, and waited.

What?? Doesn't anybody order cheeseburgers anymore? Cars were piling up behind us. I felt bad. They gave us our drinks, fine. Just two cheeseburgers and a small fry and we'll be on our way. We certainly don't get this kind of service at our local Tim Horton's where we hardly have to slow the car down before they're tossing hot coffees and whatever else at us. Our favorite place there, the local Tim Horton's.

Anyway FINALLY they hand me a big bag with an apology. Hmmm, this is an awfully heavy bag for just two cheeseburgers and a small fry. But we've already waited too long and need to hit the road.

Here's what we got when we opened our bag back on the highway. Instead of two cheeseburgers, we got one quarter-pounder with cheese and a double cheeseburger without mustard, noted special order on our receipt and probably the reason for the long wait. Instead of one small fry, we got one large order and one small order of fries. I would have liked to have seen the look on the person who was expecting all that but instead got two cheeseburgers.

Felt bad about that, but we didn't have time to turn around, go back, sort it all out and wait again.

Okay, now the bird story. Up at Hubbard Lake I took a kayak along the shore to Sucker Creek where occasionally hangs out a majestic bald eagle. As I neared the swampy area that lies just past Driftwood Shores subdivision, I could see commotion on a dead stump way off in the distance.

When it moved a particular way, I saw a flash of white. The eagle! He was obviously busy eating something there. I carefully paddled closer, hoping to get as close as I could without being seen. I knew that when I couldn't see his white head, he was busy eating. So I paddled only when his head was turned.

But as I got closer, I saw more and more white. His head was erect and obviously surveying his surroundings. I sat as still as possible, only the current carrying me closer to him. Isn't his vision based on movement? Maybe if I was very careful, I could drift right up next to him on his deadwood perch.

Fat chance. I learned that "eagle eyes" isn't just an expression. Before I was within a hundred yards, he had gathered my intentions and flew off. In his claws, his own version of take-out, a big fish.

Wonder how long he had to wait to get that.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Baby Rattle 2.0

My boss forwarded me an e-mail that contained the latest innovation he has seen. It was a voicemail attachment. Click on it and the attachment would tell you what was on its mind.

That was new to him. New to me too. I had seen all kinds of e-mail attachments in the past, but one with a disembodied voice? Nope. Why not just use the telephone to call and say what was on your mind? Not high tech enough, I guess.

I'm not big on high tech. Even as our software packages are in double digit generations, e.g. Excel 10.0, I'm still more than happy with the original. Same with my blog. You'll actually never see Big Dave's Blog 2.0. What you see here is probably what you'll get five years down the road.

Anyway, I have a funny little story to relate about our high tech world of today.

Wendy owns our little family's one and only cell phone. I probably could figure out how to use it if my life depended on it, but best not to count on it. Anyway, the phone which is several years old died last week.

During a weekend shopping trip we bought another, which Wendy spent about an hour programing (a half hour on the phone with the service representative) so that she could still use her old phone number. FINALLY, she got it working. Now we just had to wait for someone to call to see if it works.

Fast foward to another shopping trip to a new baby store I wanted to check out. I thought our grandson Grant needed a new rattle since he's at the grasping and grabbing stage. Checked out a bunch at Buy, Buy, Baby (clever, right?) and I settled on one because it resembled a piano and even played a repertoire of classical tunes when squeezed. Talk about high tech!

On the way out of the store we heard a ding-diggety-dong. Wendy's new phone! She quickly fumbled through her purse, brought out the phone, flipped it open and held it to her ear.

"Hello?" she said. No response. My wife quickly deduced what had happened. "It's your toy," she said, referring to the rattle we had just bought. She must have squeezed the package in her arm and activated it.

I had to chuckle over it. But you know some day down the road there's going to be a baby toy that doubles as a cell phone. If they don't make one already.