Celebrating My Grandparents’ 50th Anniversary

Another day, another side of the family, and the contrasts of life. Today we celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Through it all they’ve been together–three kids, seven grand kids, and fifty years of ploughing fields and fixing suppers. Grandpa’s hand was shaking Sunday morning as they were called to the front of the church for a special presentation.

My Grandma & Grandpa–the most typical grandparents you can imagine. Grandpa always with his white straw hat, driving his pickup truck down to the river or into the watermelon patch. Grandma always selfless, dishing up a bowl of ice cream at night or offering bacon and eggs for breakfast, but always concerned with so much more. The two are so loving and caring of everyone. Even though I’m 700 miles away they keep up with the events of my life, always remembering me in their prayers.

Fifty years. That’s a long time. Partnership. Cooperation. God. These are the things they mentioned when asked how they did it. And before leaving the front of the church Sunday morning, Grandpa reached for the microphone, saying he had something to say to all the young people, “Being married for fifty years is really cool!”

My Grandpa’s Final Years

Stepping out of the car, we slowly filed in. I’ve never walked so slowly in my life. I didn’t know what to expect, but dread filled the air. This wasn’t going to be fun. Grandpa hasn’t been doing so well. We were visiting him at the rest home–he’s only been there for a month or so. A car accident last year told us thing were getting worse. Finally it got to the point where he couldn’t stay at home anymore.

I hadn’t seen him in six years. The last time I’d seen him, he was himself, sitting in a lawn chair in front of the house, smoking a Marlboro. Now the house is quiet, the lawn chair is empty, and the weeds are growing up around the porch and in the gravel driveway.

But a lot can change in six years. The man lying half asleep on that rest home bed was hardly my Grandpa. He was more like a tiny child. He never woke up enough to actually talk to us, and he barely even recognized us. I was dreading having to talk really loud and repeat everything I said five times–I’m a notorious mumbler. Phone conversations the past few years have never been fun.

But I would have loved to shout and speak slowly and clearly–anything would have been better than this. The man who once held me in his arms, the man who first let me drive a car–even if it was only on the country roads of Kansas. A weary old man as long as I’ve known him, with rough, work-worn skin and an old wrinkled face–like it had been stretched out over the years. The man who always told me my interest in writing came from my great-great uncle who was an author. The man who would have poked fun at the goatee I grew at college and hassled me about the girlfriend I brought back with me to Kansas.

Here that man was, barely able to keep his eyes open. He wasn’t eating well and was continually falling. He had lost the will to live. The tears welled up in my eyes, and all I could do was squeeze my girlfriend’s hand.

Is This the Place?

“Hi,” he said with a soft smile.

“Hi,” she answered back, setting her purse on the table. Looking around, she seemed a little confused. Was this really it? The thoughts assaulted her mind, but she pushed them aside and sat down.

“You new here?” he asked. He’d been silently watching her since she came in.


“Me too.” Tension filled the air, like the first day of school.

“Hello,” another new comer said as he walked up to the table, “Is this the place?” The other two nodded without saying a word, and the third person sat down.

Not exactly sure what to expect, the three cautiously examined the room. Their eyes scanned the walls, they breathed in the air. It certainly wasn’t fancy, but it was here. And it was theirs.

Finally, the awkward silence was broken.

“So do either of you know what this place is all about?” the woman asked. The two guys exchanged glances, then one of them spoke, “Well–what do you want to do?”

“Excuse me?” she asked, slightly taken aback.

“The way I understand it, this place is for us. It’s ours.” Came the answer. Silence again overcame the room. Puzzled looks melted into smiles as the three surveyed the room, let their imaginations go, and realized the potential.

Kids are Kids

“Oh little girl, so innocent / Don’t leave that love behind / You sing your abc’s / And I think you count just fine / Jordan Michelle / Always stick to what you know / Take our love and let it grow / And leave the world behind / And everything will be alright… / She holds your hand when / We walk down the street / And she sings songs about elmo / And then I know how precious / She must be in your sight” (“Jordi” by Fanmail).

“Cuz this is the way we make the pancakes, make the pancakes, make the pancakes. This is the way we make the pancakes, early in the morning.” The creative cover of the old children’s song echoed through the house, and I rolled over, trying to ignore it. It was way too early for this to start up again. Don’t those kids ever quit? I suppose I answered my own question–they’re kids.

Continue reading Kids are Kids

Thomas Crown Affair

The exciting lives of the rich and powerful. It’s the American dream, right? That’s what we’re all chasing to the ends of the earth, right? It must be because money is so satisfying, right? I watched a movie last night about a rich loner who has more money than anyone would know what to do with. On a whim he takes off to the Caribbean, he flies a glider in his spare time, and crashes a boat for the sheer fun of it. But still the stunning money-bags isn’t satisfied, and he decides to steal a $100,000,000 Monet–“It’s just a game, love.” The thrill of not-so-petty larceny isn’t enough either, and the game becomes capturing the beautiful insurance agent out to unravel the crime–and isn’t the insurance agent always beautiful? In the end, the movie becomes a question of masks, asking who we really are and who we can really trust. We all hide behind our masks and whimper, “I’m just fine.” But it’s all just a game for the rich–those too lost in life to really know what’s important.

Yeah, it was a good movie. And the ending is as soaked in Hollywood and as far from real life as you’d expect. It still makes for good entertainment, but nothing close to the truth. Walking away, what sticks with me the most is the complete dissatisfaction money brought and how in reality (aside from Hollywood’s sugar coating) there is only one thing that can truly bring satisfaction.

In the Blink of an Eye

It all happens so suddenly. Life as we know it fades away without warning and the shimmering glimpse of the life to come floods in, overwhelming our senses and overloading our minds. Shock, surprise, fear and joy all mix together at once as your body soars through the air. Like dropping on a rollercoaster your stomach falls behind and you can feel yourself soar into the air. The life that you knew doesn’t matter anymore. The responsibilities, the headaches, the mistakes, the sorrows. It’s all falling far below as you sail into this new world. Is this it? Is this really it? Is this really the end of the old life? Is this really the beginning of eternity? Your soul ascends to the light and you can’t help but wonder–but suddenly the light fades, your stomach returns, and you roll over. It’s 7:22 and the alarm will blare in eight minutes. The second time I’ve dreamed the return of Christ.

Welcome to Michigan

Welcome to Michigan. Those words have never looked so good. After spending two hours in Chicago traffic, nothing feels better than finally flying across the state line, pushing the pedal 5 mph closer to the floor, and enjoying your home state. The two things I love about coming back to Michigan? Meijers and those plain, blue Michigan license plates.

A Day in the City with my Girlfriend

A call on the phone and an unexpected surprise. You’re what? Okay, I answered, with no small hint of joy. And so a welcome break begins and chance to cast work aside for the day. We took in the sights and the sounds of the city, without the burden of making a buck on the streets. By the kindness of a stranger we viewed the masterpieces, saw the creations of those the world holds dear. But nothing impressed me more than sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan, looking out across the water, with you. It wasn’t even pretty water. There was no beach, it was just a concrete drop off. And the water was filled with boats–a virtual boat parking lot. Yet it still calmed my soul and eased my mind more than any of man’s million dollar works of art. The creation of God–the warm sunshine, the clear water–and you.