Monday, April 29, 2013


Robin's "Ammaponders" blog on clutter:

included a line about how her daughters should hope she lives a long time because she is never going to get the clutter under control. Reading it made me think about two things.  One was about the experience of sorting through and removing the "clutter" from my parents house when they died (within 6 months of one another after 53 years of marriage) and the other was about the "clutter" I have accumulated.

It fell on me to perform the sorting and discarding chore in my parents house.  When everything that none of the family wanted and that wouldn't bring in anything at an estate sale was stacked at the curb, it looked like it would need a semi to haul it away.  Some of it was, I'm sure, emotional treasure in my mother's eyes;  much of it was stuff like Reader's Digest Condensed books that was "too good to throw away."  When you grew up in the depression like my folks did, there wasn't much that wasn't too good to throw away.  I have to admit having caught something of that attitude from them.  The saddest part was probably the old photos of people or places that I couldn't even identify.  Who were they?  What did they mean to my parents?  Were they relatives?  Friends?  I'll never know.

I seem to be teetering on the brink of melancholy here so I guess it's time to pull back.  Memories and the artifacts that bring them back are good things, things to be savored.  I'm not one of those people who thinks that some time in the past was the golden age when everything was better, but I do enjoy the selective amnesia that lets me hang on to the good and let go of the not so good.  Drafty, unheatable houses and too much peanut butter and boloney become the stuff of some of those "when I was a boy" stories; fun to tell and stripped of all real unpleasantness. Growing up loved and learning to love are the parts that linger.

A certain part of my stuff actually came from my folks house and some of that even came from my grandmother's.  There are no valuable heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation, just things that invoke memories.  I kept a Reader's Digest Condensed book from my mother's collection because it is one I remember reading one summer when I was in grade school.  I have a paperweight that Grandma Freytag brought back from a trip to Mexico; it brings back memories of her house that feel like a hug across the years.  A couple of shoulder patches, a lump of granite the size and shape of a baseball, an old Monopoly Game and a lot of books I have read that stuck with me, these are all pieces of my life that mean little or nothing to anyone else and will surely be put out with the trash when I am gone.  No matter, they help me to wrap up in the warm blanket of the past and relive happy times.  I once said that each day as it comes is the best day of my life because it contains the memories of all the days before.  These memories that I can see and touch make that statement all the more true.


Sunday, April 21, 2013


When I was a boy

Inspired by:

I just read the blog entry above, posted by Lisa Carpenter (If you stop now and go to her post my remarks may make more sense.  If you don't, it is, in part, about words and phrases that become a part of a family's lexicon and lore.)  It of course started me thinking of similar phrases in our family.  "About twenty minutes," is one my sons will all recognize.  Loosely translated it means, "It will be ready when it's ready," or "We'll get there when we get there."  Really, it's only funny to us, and only funny at all, because it has been repeated a thousand times over the years.  Mostly, it is an expression of affection between the questioner and the responder.  I'm trying to think how to expand on that last statement, but really, if you don't get it I don't think I can explain it.
  My blogger name, Axiesdad, is another example.  Our middle son, Zak, was born when his brother was three and his vocal skills were still a work in progress.  Zak came "Ax" which somehow became "Axie" and here we are.  "When I was a boy..." is the phrase I use when they begin complaining about how tough they've got it and this immediately gets the response of "Yeah, we know, 'two miles uphill through the snow both ways!' "  In fairness to myself, there was a time when my brother and I did walk two miles to school (and to a one room schoolhouse yet) but it wasn't uphill both ways and if the weather was bad we got a ride.
  One more was "stuff in a pot."  There were times while the boys were growing up that Jan (now Grandma B) was working in the evening and I would be the one to prepare supper.  I have always enjoyed cooking, so this was not a problem, but I do have a tendency to "wing it."  I would look through our supplies until I found some ingredients that seemed like they would go together and just improvise from there.  When I was in the middle of one of these experiments and someone would ask, "What's for supper?"  I would just say it was some stuff in a pot.  This happened often enough that it became a stock answer regardless of what was being prepared, and "stuff in a pot" is a phrase still heard on occasion.  I'm sure there are many more words and phrases that we don't even notice that have special meanings in our particular context.  They are threads in the fabric that is our woven together lives, a part of what makes us US.  It's nearing suppertime now, so I guess I'll go make some stuff in a pot.  It'll be ready in about twenty minutes.


Saturday, April 6, 2013


I think it is time that I acknowledge the change that has taken place in these essays.  I have wandered rather irrevocably away from my original premise "Things my grandkids should know,"  and have pretty much exhausted my store of  "wisdom."    My son's hope for my writing is that it will be a way for his children to know me if I am not around anymore as they grow up.  The truth is, I simply enjoy committing my thoughts to this medium and hoping that they will be read.  Since this changed direction does provide at least a small window into the personality of Grandpa B, I have decided to just run with it.

My thoughts today are being sparked by news from our younger daughter in law that she has embarked on renovating/redecorating their home.  Since that home is the house that Grandma B and I lived in for thirty years until I retired, these changes give me pause.  When she talks about taking down wallpaper, I think about when we put that paper up.  When she talks about getting rid of the couches, I think about when we purchased them.  The wallpaper and the couches, and the drapes and the carpets, are now old and worn out and need to go.  Part of me recognizes this, and part of me is yelling NO, we worked so hard putting all those things in and we had it all just right; Keep it the way we have always had it.  Of course, that part of me is wrong.  It is no longer our home that they are living in.  It's their house now and I love it that she is making it their home.

Of  course, what I am really upset about is simply the passage of time.  Almost forty years ago Grandma B and I embarked on the adventure of creating a home together.  We are now a retired couple whose children are all grown up and gone on to their own lives.  It is painful to recognize that we are no longer the kids who worked hard to turn an old house into our home and that now it is the turn of other kids.  It is also gratifying to look back through all the memories that were created in that home.  The memories won't be taken away because the house has changed owners and is now being changed.  Making a house a home is definitely a labor of love, and it's the best paying job I ever had.