One thing about retirement . . . it gives you more chances to meet up with family. Besides the Tuesdays with Luke, my youngest grandson, within the past couple weeks I was able to spend some time with my father and, separately, with my youngest son Scott both of whom live quite far away. But far isn’t as far when you have time, which is what you get when you retire.
Scott and I hung out in St. Louis where his bride-to-be’s family was throwing her a shower. My wife Wendy was among the invited guests. With two hours to kill, I suggested that Scott and I go to a grocery store as Wendy was wondering whether St. Louis might be a place to pick up scrapple, a regional delicacy usually found in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Schnuck’s grocery was within walking distance so Scott and I headed there. Though we didn’t see scrapple on the shelves, Scott thought we should ask to be sure. One clerk didn’t know so she referred us to the butcher, who did seem older and more knowledgeable.
“Scrapple?” he said. “Never heard of it.” And the look he gave made me feel like I was asking for some delicacy from the planet Pluto. A customer nearby suggested we try this German meat market a couple blocks down, so we walked there as well.
“Want a beer?” the meat counter clerk at G&W Sausage Company asked us while we carefully browsed the display cases. Scott and I smiled, thinking it was his way of prodding us to be quicker. But turns out he was serious, handing another customer a Busch beer. Wow! That doesn’t happen where I live. Turns out though that he didn’t have scrapple either however. Still it was fun hanging out just me and Scott, something I can’t do often since he works in Washington DC.
Less than a week later I was heading up north, this time with my dad, to open up our cabin at Hubbard Lake for the season. Along the way he told me about his day working at the Eastern Market In Detroit. I know about the Eastern Market, which has operated for over 150 years and comprises food and specialty businesses that attract tens of thousands of customers each week.
But I had no idea that my dad had ever been to the Eastern Market let alone worked there. He did so hauling potatoes for a farmer near Bay City, 100-pound sacks of potatoes which were in turn sold, I gather, to small grocers in southeast Michigan. It was 1945 and he was 15 at the time. Heck, I don’t think I could haul a 100-pound sack of potatoes when I was 25.
Dad described the open market atmosphere and the colorful characters that bought and sold wares, whether it was the shrewd buyer who cut open potatoes to find flaws he could use to negotiate a cheaper price (didn’t work—the price stayed the same and they bought anyway) to an apple-seller whose boisterous self-promoting resulted in quicker sales. Then she came over to help sell the potatoes my dad’s farm still on hand.
That was fun listening to stories about the old days. Then later at the cabin dad had a little fun of his own. I was next door at my sister’s cabin, chatting with Susan and her husband Jeff. Then Jeff looked out the window and said, “Your dad’s peeling that orange that was in our driveway.”
That upset my sister who told me that orange had been left by the side of the road for God knows what reason. When my dad came into the cabin, he had the orange fully peeled so my sister warned him against eating it, telling him who knows what had happened to it lying out in the open. My dad said it seemed okay and took a bite.
Turns out, he was having a joke at our expense. The orange wasn’t the cast-off in the driveway; he was just standing in the driveway there peeling a different orange he had brought up north in his cooler.
Finally, when we watched grandson Luke this week, I thought he should have some playtime fun, so we drove several miles to a combination coffeehouse/playspace where he could run, climb and play on an indoor gym. He had so much fun, in fact, that he lost track of time. Well, at two he doesn’t have to keep track of time. But Wendy and I did since his dad picks him up at our house.
We were late getting back to our house, only a few minutes late. But in those few minutes Luke’s dad, my son Greg, had already tried Wendy’s cell phone three times, apparently worried where we were. Unfortunately, Wendy can’t always hear her cell phone and this was one of those times.
Just goes to show that sometimes you can have too much family fun. At least Greg probably thinks so.