Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Alike

I need to take time this morning to thank those of you who post comments. Your comments are fun, supportive and absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing this journey. Now, let’s continue…….

My brother-in-law sat on the floor stacking blocks with his youngest grandson. He would stack, the boy would knock them over. Both laughed and begin the game again. I looked upon this picture of grandpa and grandson. A perfect picture.

My sister and her husband didn’t get their two grandsons until they were in their later years. Health issues make this grandparenting thing more difficult, yet they strive to give these boys their best. I was concerned that they would miss the romp and tumble with these boys, but I was wrong. The romp and tumble were not the important things. My sister and her husband are giving them so much more. The boys were giving them a joy they had never known.

At my next oldest sister’s home in Indiana, I spent a bit of time with my nieces and nephews. The relationship here was different as well. These kids were grown. This grandma was dealing with four kids ready to face the world. Not the motherly or grandmotherly type, my sister, too, has given these children something they have as yet to discover.

We all grandparent differently. Of course, we do. I am a very hands-on grandma, my oldest sister is a very supportive grandma and my other sister is an artistic realist. We all have gifts to give and different ways of giving them. None is perfect. None is all encompassing. We make our mistakes and have our successes. We have our regrets in raising our own children and have learned as grandparents not to make them again.

This grandparenting thing we do does not always come easily. Physically it is at times a struggle. Emotionally it has it times as well. Sometimes it just isn’t easy. Whether we are rocking a baby or chatting with a teen, whether we are older or younger grandparents, we have our history to make us better, we have a love that makes us try.

He sat playing with his grandson as she sat smiling. The teens teased and banter with their grandma. Different but still a like.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Writer Gene

Write, write. If only I could write.

Page one. New book. A bit stiff. Looks like a good book. Haven’t read this author before. Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale:

“My father never put a book in my hands and never forbade a book. Instead he let me roam and graze…”

I was hooked on this book from the beginning. By the story? Perhaps, but more so, I was drawn by the beautiful words that danced across the page. This intricate tail carried me with it from page 1 to page 434. Brits have a way with words. Many of my favorite authors come from across the sea. Well, what the heck! I’m a Loxley. There is a Brit hiding somewhere in me.

My blogs don’t count. They are just echoes of my life, words that are determined to find a page. Any passing beauty flies quickly giving only a glimpse of some poetic sense.

My granddaughter loves to write. Her first story was written in the 1st grade and resided in the classroom library until it was tattered and worn. She will go to the Arts and Communication School next year and concentrate further on her writing skills. She isn’t afraid put her words on paper, to expose them to another reader. Maybe the word games, the rhyming we have done while riding in the car has encouraged her words to find a voice. Sydney has witnessed my writing struggles as I send off stories hoping to get published sometimes meeting rejection; however, when one is recognized she cheers me on. She is 11.

“Mom, I had this revelation!” my son exclaimed. “It is all falling together. I can’t stop the ideas.” My son has been working on a musical. He is a talented singer, actor. Since he was a child, he has sung in musicals. But a new voice has awakened in him. Now he is a writer.

“The words and ideas are just there!” His excitement is contagious. His work is good. He doesn’t understand that this feeling is not new to me. I know that feeling when words seems to pour from my head onto the computer screen. I look at them wondering who wrote them. Perhaps a writer’s gene came over on a boat from England long ago. I thrill that the gene is moving on through the channels of each generation.

A writer. A writer of words for every day. A writer of silliness and compassion. Ah, that I should be as graceful with my words that their music would sing from the page. I think I’ll keep trying.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Silly Siblings

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take

The three Loxley girls sat together on a lazy afternoon.

“Old King Cole was a merry old soul…..” I lead off.

“And a merry old soul was he,” chimed in my sisters.

We rattled off as many old nursery rhymes as we could remember. Once we were all stumped and could not remember the words, Peg ran to retrieved her old nursery rhyme book once read to her sons now read to her grandsons. One by one we rattled off words that we grew up with over 55-65 years ago. We laughed as we struggled to remember and delighted in this game. Nursery rhymes took us a step further in our building of new memories.

God is great
God is good
And we thank him for this food.

A prayer we all knew from our earliest memories. We had advanced to the next set of recitations.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul……

What???? We are praying that we might be dead before morning? At that morbid thought, we decided that our game of memory might be at an end. Nursery rhymes filled with death and injury. Prayers preparing children for a night of longer sleep. On that note, we needed a snack.


Three sisters laughed and until eyes watered. We pulled memories from the past and made them new again. I think maybe I’ll take Shel Silverstein the next time.

Life is good when siblings remember together.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blinders

The father wheeled the stroller over to the table where his 7 year old son sat. The newborn slept peacefully, a picture of beauty and innocence.

“Do you like your new baby?” I asked the child.

“No,” he answered.

Okay then. Well. Hm. That certainly was not an expected response. I was for once speechless.

I sat down with my coffee and book occasionally looking over at the table to which the father had returned. The boy looked down as the father talked on his phone. The baby remained the same.

Blinders. What type of blinders do we wear? I’m learning to see things as they are, separate from my feelings and my own preconceived thoughts on the matter. For a very vocal woman, one with a few opinions, this has been not a struggle but an adventure. I cannot judge this young father. I was not different from him at that age. I’m sure the jealousies of my children were no different at times than those of this boy and his new baby brother. Blinders.

Does the awakening come for the father or for the child as he journeys through his life? An awakening certainly came for me watching this small scene at the next table. I believe that people-watching makes us better people. We learn to see ourselves and our families. Sometimes we wish we could change what we see. Lucky for us, we can change ourselves.

There is jealousy between my grandchildren. There was also between my own children. One child is older and can do more with more privileges. Older playmates once shared move on with the older child. The younger child does not have the experience to understand ‘why’. A baby takes mom and dad away from the older child. The needs are greater. On and on grows the list sometimes carrying over into adulthood.

I learned a lesson from that unfolding scene at Starbucks. The grandma in me wanted to walk over and talk to the man and his son. I wanted to remove the blinders.

“I know it’s hard,” I said to the boy before his father returned. “Some day that baby will be your best friend.” I can only hope.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Discover the Rhythm

Rhythms of life, those we acknowledge, those we are surprised to find and those we have yet to develop or to discover.

I sat on the bench overlooking the lovely lake waiting for a past student and his daughter to arrive. Hot Starbucks coffee on an overcast morning, listening to the ducks and watching the smooth water ripple in their wake is about as good as it gets. Suddenly I was aware that I was swinging my leg over the side of the bench. In fact, the more I tried to ignore my leg, the more it would swing. Revisiting my childhood was a natural as breathing. I was a kid again enjoying something I’d always taken for granted.

Perhaps passersby looked at this 62 year old woman wondering if she had a few screws loose. In return, I looked back smiling like a five year old. Years melted away as I recognized something I had done probably every day as a child. What else had I overlooked?

Its a mothering thing we do as we rock back and forth holding a child. Soothing to the child and parent. A form of connecting, of healing, of comforting. There I stood in the entry section of Borders looking at the sale books. A young mother was cooing to her crying daughter lying in the stroller. Before I knew it, I was rocking. Back and forth went the stroller, back and forth went me in a rhythm that surfaced at the mother’s task. Again, another rhythm.

This new awareness has awakened the observer in me. What other rhythms have I missed? Why do these rhythms exist? I began to analyze other automatic responses, i.e., draping my arm around a child in church, tapping my foot to music, bouncing my head back and forth as the girls chant a jump rope rhyme. Rhythms, those movements that seem to display happiness, freedom, maybe even youth.

Watch your grandchild and be in awe. Their rhythms are so numerous you can’t keep up with them. Energy, imagination, inhibition surface and laughter usually follows. Why do we lose that impulsiveness of youth? “

When will you ever grow up?” my child asks. Well, obviously I’m not in a hurry to lose the rhythms that have accompanied me these many years. I hope I never do.

Next time you sit with your legs free, swing them. Enjoy the air and freedom, the rhythm, and for a moment, the youth. My guess? You’ll like it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Not Always What It Seems

“What is that woodpecker doing at the suet feeder?” I asked myself as I sit to write. This is probably as close as I’ve ever gotten to a woodpecker, he on one side of the window, me on the other. Why isn’t he pecking away at a tree looking for bugs? Hm.

A cute little squirrel has also found its way into my yard. Since this little critter was a baby, I noticed it had only 2” of tail, either one never developing of one missing in action. Another ‘hm’.

Sometimes things are not what they seem, especially to a child. Spending time with my sister on my trip opened many doors of conversation. She is the second child. I am the third….yes, the baby. Our family wasn’t the norm since this sister had been in bed for two years with rheumatic fever. The family dynamics were different. The responsibility of her smallest sister fell to my oldest sister. She grew up quickly shouldering duties beyond her years. My second sister hated being confined to bed yet was surrounded by gifts and toys from visitors. A hard thing for an older sister to experience. By the time I was of an age to be into trouble, I was. I always pushed the buttons wanting someone to notice me. At the Alumni Banquet I was over and over told how wonderful my parents were and how fun it must have been to live in my family. Sometimes things are not what they seem.

We sisters agreed that our parents were a product of their rearing. Raised in farm families who lived work 24-7 allowed little time or understanding of the needs of children. These families lived without electricity, indoor plumbing, cooking over a woodstove and riding horses.

So what have I learned? My sister and I talked about our children. Our successes and more often our mistakes. We shared our concerns about our grandchildren. Best of all, we found new dialogue and new awareness.

In watching the creatures in my backyard, I think of the differences in my grandchildren. Where is my awareness? What do I do to allow their individuality? Perhaps we grandparents are the guard that changes in order for us to see beyond our upbringing, family and community expectations, into our grandchildren as individuals.

One grandchild is focused, tidy and sensitive. She is a tween and working her way through it often feeling that every word said is pointed at her. The other is active, noisy, never focused, not tidy and has a heart of gold. So how do I give them the best of me?

Sydney focuses on her homework and the task at hand where Gabby focuses for about 5 minutes then gets sidetracked with other thoughts. She is just like me. I understand her. Since Syd is so easy, Gabby seems that much more difficult. However, things are not always what they seem. I find that Syd doesn’t have tolerance for her sister. She lacks the patience and concern that will be hard in coming in the future. She absorbs the attitudes and feelings of adults. Perhaps she needs to her help her sister more and become more a part of her sister’s life. Gabby needs attention (which is hard for her sister). She needs someone to help her focus and to teach her differently than we did Syd. Gabby needs to find the reasons to learn. She needs to find the fun in what she does and the pride in her work. She needs one on one. Syd is a prize, but feels that she is ignored when her sister gets the attention she needs. Work. It takes work. I balance the time I spend with each trying to give them both what they need, teaching them to have self-esteem and opening doors for them to make their own decisions and discoveries. It is work. I didn’t work so hard with my own. I wish I had. I was vying for my space too often unaware of what I owed my children. What in the world matters more?

The woodpecker has moved to the chimney flue. Now he pounds away at the metal tapping out a tune that I could do without. He is indeed a weird bird. The tailless squirrel has disappeared on its merry way doing what squirrels do best….burying nuts in my garden. I am amazed at what I learn by looking and listening. I am awed at what I do not know. The uniqueness of these critters allows me to study the uniqueness in my granddaughters. Doors of conversation with my sibling help me grow into a better grandmother changing herself in order to change our history of child rearing in our family.

It is a good day. It is a new beginning. I think I’ll see what I learn today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Way of Life

“Are those your daughters?” I asked the woman standing next to me at the auction.

“No, they are my grandchildren,” she answered.

I should have known better. We were in Amish country. These women married young. This grandmother had a flawless complexion unlined by age. She was dressed in a heavy black cape and black bonnet. Her granddaughters were dressed the same.

I grew up with Amish classmates. My neighbor’s grandparents were ‘horse and buggy’ people. None of this was new to me. I knew that their homes had no electricity, no modern conveniences. Once when our neighbor was ill, her mother-in-law came to help; however, my mom had to turn on the stove so the woman could cook. It was a strange way of reasoning, but none-the-less, it was the way it was.

More and more of the young Amish youth are staying with the religion. When driving past the farms, my sister pointed out that with each adult child who stayed on the farm, another home was added to the property. The farms were large requiring many hands and needing to produce food to support the families that lived on there and to sell at market. Indeed it was a step back in time.

I watched the young grandmother with her grandchildren wondering what differences there were between her family and mine. No doubt these youngsters learned the skills of cooking and sewing from the grandma. Canning food, planting garden, milking cows, gathering eggs are probably part of the activities they share. I know because I had similar experiences growing up on the farm….but I had no grandma to teach me.

I wonder at the lack of training I am offering up to my granddaughters. Yes, we do some cooking (a struggle for a grandma who hates cooking). I have some sewing projects for the girls to do at a future time. Gone away is that need to make clothing, milk the cow and other chores that stay rural. Do I feel guilty? Nope.

I love that my granddaughters can decide what style they want to wear. They can search the creativity inside of themselves and express it freely. Doors are open for them to improve the world with their knowledge and to reach beyond themselves in efforts to make life easier for others. Yes, they do still need chores. They need responsibility.

I admire the Amish with their unity of family and community. The way of life is difficult. The people are strong. And, I love the life we have with expression of individuality. There is something to be learned from both.

The woman won her bid. She walked away with a new oil lamp to light her home. Her grandchildren, so much like my own, were eating ice cream cones. I celebrate diversity. I love what we learn from one another.

I really like my electric lights.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Say 'Ah'

She was lying on the sofa when I arrived at her house. A wad of gauze peeked out of her sore mouth. Four teeth that had gone to bed with her last night were gone by mid-morning. It was bad enough going through the discomfort of new braces. This was the final blow.

When my granddaughter was a small child, she had developed this horrendous fear of doctors and dentists. Many the appointment had we struggled through trying to see her through vaccinations and throats swab. She was terrified. So this experience of major work on her teeth was the ultimate challenge she faced and conquered.

I remember when my son had closed tear ducts. He was just a toddler. We had taken him to the clinic where the doctor announced that the ducts had to be opened. In order to work on the small boy, he was put into a straight jacket. A straight jacket for a small child!!!! I was the one horrified but had no choice. I wanted to take him and run the other direction.

Later my daughter would run down the hall and into her room somehow running into her closet door slicing open her head. Bled like a fountain. We rushed to hospital where stitches were the verdict. I was not about to leave my small child as they placed her on a gurney strapping down her arms. The restraints alone made my stomach lurch.

Ouch. It is so difficult when our loved ones are faced with necessary procedures….often necessary pain. As with any parent/grandparent, I would gladly fall under the knife or needle for my family. Yet, we cannot. We can be there for support, we can encourage and express pride, we can be strong for them, but we cannot, absolutely cannot, save them from pain.

Perhaps for me, this is the hardest part of love. I would throw myself in front of a bus or a raging beast to save my own but cannot save them from pain, loss and disappointment. You might say, “But you can be there for the child.” Somehow that doesn’t make it easier. Life is not easy nor is the process of learning life’s lessons.

My granddaughter will survive this and have a beautiful smile the rest of her life. (Well, in two years after the braces are gone.) She will be stronger for the experience and proud that she has survived it. She will not know that her grandmother did not sleep well last night and hurt for her today. She will not know until she has her own the depth of love I have for her. Today I celebrate my brave granddaughter. I hope I grow up to be as brave some day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Water's Fine

As I have said in past posts, there are friends of the heart that are more than friends and sometimes more than family. Mine is Brenda. My trip back east in many ways makes it difficult for me to decide what belongs to my blog, neffroad.blogspot.com, and what belongs to agrandparentsvoice.com. So the crossover will just reside as the chapters of my lifelong learning move on.

From dolls to babies. From childhood to adulthood. From one coast to another. Stepping into one another lives noticing the changes from who we were to who we have become. Grandmas holding hands walking down Neff Road. Memories of popping with bare feet tar that bubbled up through pavement on hot summer days, hiding beneath the bridge, dragging odds and ends to the corncrib in the summer to create our summer playhouse are only in part the experiences we revisited.

Brenda and I have not lived in the same state since we were about 21. Next door neighbors bonding as toddlers, we knew one another backwards and forwards. We still do. We have made that journey from childhood to a time of holding our grandchildren on our knees. One of the most precious things we shared was our parents. Yes, we have made a long journey through confusion, happiness, pain and now deep sorrow. It is the way with friends of the heart.

In our walking down memory lane, we talked of our grandparents. In this reminiscing, we emptied more of our feelings not shared before. Layers of our lives seemed to melt away as we talked. The differences between our years of growing up and that which we offer our grandchildren are like night and day. Back in the olden days (hehehe) our grandparents talked to us or not, knew that we existed and were probably thrilled to see us go home. Soooooo contrary to the grandparents we have become.

Brenda and I revert back to those little girls loving to create and to play. She is teaching her four-year-old granddaughter to sew while I am teaching my girls to paint and draw. Talking to our grandchildren and introducing new experiences into their lives is part of what we do. From the past, we learned to be better. We threw away our ages and became ageless for our families.

It wasn’t my day to pick up the girls, but I could wait no longer. As soon as I walked into the lobby of the school, a friend’s small boy tackled me. I squeezed Aiden telling him I had missed him. Squeals echo down the hallway as my granddaughter and her friend run to hug me. I missed you so much, Grammy,” Gabby said when it dawned on her that I was really standing there.

I’m home. I am missing my Brenda. She will welcome twin grandbabies in August. We have moved from doll babies to our own and now to the babies of our children. We have learned much over the years. I’m pretty sure we have improved with age.

Be ageless, my friends, so you can offer up the best of you. Learn from one another. Our grandparents were on the edge of our lives. Brenda and I jumped into the middle of this parenting thing learning to make memories and connections with our grandchildren. Jump in. The water’s fine.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Stick Up

$25…..$25! I remember when I could check two bags plus take a carryon for free. $25= one bag and a carryon. Money pried from my little hands even before I enter the airport. $25. My age is apparent from the number of free things that once were free to fliers versus the things must now be paid for when flying. Progress? I’m asking…..is this progress?

They took my small Swiss army knife. I know. I shouldn’t have packed it but forgot that it was a staple in my purse. Confiscated. Of course, I have tweezers, nail clippers and a cord on my earphones that passed. Hey, I could do some serious damage. But instead they take my 2” knife. “We can send it to you for $12,” said the man holding my little red purse essential. $12! The knife was a promotional gimmick…a free giveaway. I refuse to increase its current value $12. So little knife that I have carried around for the last eight years is gone.

A friend was once pulled aside on a return trip after Christmas holidays with her family. She and her husband were taken to a small room where her new (Christmas gift) craft glue gun, all of about 4”, was placed on the desk. She was informed that she could not take the ‘weapon’ on the plane. It was a sticky situation. As she told us, my mind ran the scenario “This is a stick up. I need an outlet?” A backup of glue sticks could be stuck into her vest ready to glue anyone who got in her way. Oh, I am thankful for airport security and the lengths they go to in protecting us. Sometimes I just need to giggle.

Through the gate in record time. No one should be up at this time of day so why would anyone be here. Downed a Bonine for airsickness, a pill for shrinking sinuses and placed my earplug in my left ear to see if this newfound theory in reducing airsickness truly works.

The plane is packed. I am in group 5. Groups 1-4 have already gone onto the plane. First Class already has read the Oregonian and downed their first drink. It’s not even 7:45am. I wonder as I walk down the aisle why in the front section of ECONOMY several people are already seated. Hm. Did I miss something?

“Please turn off all media, all technical devices, anything with batteries.” We are ready to taxi. The announcement has been made twice. The girl across from me continues to text. The attendant walks down the aisle stopping next to said girl. “Mame, are you deaf or just short on brain cells.” Well, she didn’t really say those words; they were just going through my head. The ‘no longer stewardess’ tactfully spoke to the young woman. The texting stopped.

“We will be serving bread and water in just a few minutes. The bread is free and day old, but you must pay for the water.” Again, I am rewording the announcement. I could get a free drink but would need to pay for chips. How lucky can you get? Was it all that many years ago that I could get a warm meal for free???? Should I write a book on the good old days of flying so no one forgets? Ah, gone. Peanuts and chips are only for the wealthy.
Monday, April 19, 2010
The Stick Up

$25…..$25! I remember when I could check two bags plus take a carryon for free. $25= one bag and a carryon. Money pried from my little hands even before I enter the airport. $25. My age is apparent from the number of free things that once were free to fliers versus the things must now be paid for when flying. Progress? I’m asking…..is this progress?

They took my small Swiss army knife. I know. I shouldn’t have packed it but forgot that it was a staple in my purse. Confiscated. Of course, I have tweezers, nail clippers and a cord on my earphones that passed. Hey, I could do some serious damage. But instead they take my 2” knife. “We can send it to you for $12,” said the man holding my little red purse essential. $12! The knife was a promotional gimmick…a free giveaway. I refuse to increase its current value $12. So little knife that I have carried around for the last eight years is gone.

A friend was once pulled aside on a return trip after Christmas holidays with her family. She and her husband were taken to a small room where her new (Christmas gift) craft glue gun, all of about 4”, was placed on the desk. She was informed that she could not take the ‘weapon’ on the plane. It was a sticky situation. As she told us, my mind ran the scenario “This is a stick up. I need an outlet?” A backup of glue sticks could be stuck into her vest ready to glue anyone who got in her way. Oh, I am thankful for airport security and the lengths they go to in protecting us. Sometimes I just need to giggle.

Through the gate in record time. No one should be up at this time of day so why would anyone be here. Downed a Bonine for airsickness, a pill for shrinking sinuses and placed my earplug in my left ear to see if this newfound theory in reducing airsickness truly works.

The plane is packed. I am in group 5. Groups 1-4 have already gone onto the plane. First Class already has read the Oregonian and downed their first drink. It’s not even 7:45am. I wonder as I walk down the aisle why in the front section of ECONOMY several people are already seated. Hm. Did I miss something?

“Please turn off all media, all technical devices, anything with batteries.” We are ready to taxi. The announcement has been made twice. The girl across from me continues to text. The attendant walks down the aisle stopping next to said girl. “Mame, are you deaf or just short on brain cells.” Well, she didn’t really say those words; they were just going through my head. The ‘no longer stewardess’ tactfully spoke to the young woman. The texting stopped.

“We will be serving bread and water in just a few minutes. The bread is free and day old, but you must pay for the water.” Again, I am rewording the announcement. I could get a free drink but would need to pay for chips. How lucky can you get? Was it all that many years ago that I could get a warm meal for free???? Should I write a book on the good old days of flying so no one forgets? Ah, gone. Peanuts and chips are only for the wealthy.

I pulled out my computer to do some blog writing. All set up and ready to go. Oops! Spoke too soon. The woman in the seat in front of me decides to put her seat back. My monitor screen is impossible to see unless I bend over and turn my head sideways. With elbows pinned to my side and my chin on my chest, I write these words.

My next stop is bid D, little A, double LL, A, S. It’s supposed to be raining there. I am dressed for seasons in all parts of the country. I will never be too hot or too cold; however, I may get a hernia from lifting my bag.

Tonight I will see my sister. I will be glad that I made this long flight to Key West. I am count on finding my bag at my destination and hope to get out of the airport before someone else asks me for more money.

Ah, the good ‘ol days. Where in the heck did you go?

Oh, by the way, don’t ask for a pillow.