Tag Archives: my family

‘I’m Not Writing Anything Today’ (2013)

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Just like the one Grandma had

This piece properly belongs with the Thanksgiving season; but I had a desire to pay a little tribute to my grandma, my mother’s mother.


I was only eleven when she died. Hers was the first funeral I ever went to. She went to bed one night and quietly passed away: no doctors, no hospital, no fuss. She’d raised six daughters in her time, plucked innumerable chickens (they had a chicken coop in the back yard: no one in this town has chickens today), and canned everything that Grandpa grew.

One of my earliest memories is sitting on her lap, fascinated, while she showed me how her sewing machine worked.

Yes, I still miss her.

My First Day of School

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Last night on Youtube we watched some people reminiscing about their first day of school. Well, that brings back memories!

We lived right next door to the school. My mother took me there the first day. And then, to my horror, she left me there. What was she thinking?

My first day in class I found both boring and stressful. Then I found out I couldn’t leave until they said so. What? You mean I’m stuck here?

The principal, my first two years, was Mr. Popke, an angel who loved children. He made the place bearable. He was succeeded by a smarmy character who excelled in tricking little kids into admitting to mischief they hadn’t actually done. He was succeeded by an angry crone who communicated by shrieking at you. It went downhill from there.

As for the teachers, my mother, father, grandparents, aunts, and uncles were all way more interesting than any teachers. What did I ever learn in school that they couldn’t have taught me? Some of the teachers I had–well, the less said about them, the better. I was a homeschooling fan before I ever heard of homeschooling. There is very much to be said for children being taught by adults who know and love them.

Later on in grade school, I had the devil’s own time trying to learn how to add up a column of numbers. “Carrying” really stumped me. The teacher couldn’t solve it. My father sat down with me one evening after supper and taught me how to do it in twenty minutes.

And this was long before public education came to be all about sex, socialism, and detesting your country. It wasn’t toxic then. Just boring. I could have learned all the material a lot faster than I did, but the teaching was geared to accommodate the slower learners.

This was before the teachers’ unions sent delegations to places like Venezuela to praise the dictator and his socialist policies and then, upon their return, teach such piffle to the kiddies.

Public schooling is an idea whose time has come and gone. Long gone.

The Family Iguana

I had my iguana for 17 years; but this Japanese family had theirs for 23! Theirs even looks like mine, and the video brings me close to tears. (Average lifespan in captivity: ten years)

Iguanas are social animals, and they have to be socialized. Like mine, this iguana was thoroughly integrated into family life and the result was a wonderful pet. My iguana loved to cuddle with people–or dogs or cats, if no people were available. Would you believe it? He died in 1978, and I miss him still.

As you can see, these are really big lizards. But they start out little, and that’s when you should start teaching them how to be good. Believe me, they learn.

The only thing they can’t do as pets, assuming you raised them right, is… be furry!

Memory Lane: Your Own Toy Organ

A line from an ancient commercial floated through my mind: Whee, whee, whee, whee, whee! It’s Emenee! Holy cow, what made me remember that? Emenee toy organs, vintage 1960s.

Suddenly everybody had one. We had one in our house, my aunts had one in theirs, and Uncle Bernie in his. Emenee made all kinds of musical instruments for kids, but was best known for the organs. The one in the video, the guy bought from Goodwill for a mere $12. Old as the hills, and still works.

When Patty and I were first married, we used to go to Walden Books in the Menlo Park Mall in search of scary novels. Right outside the bookstore was a display of organs suitable for the home. Whenever you went, you could count on somebody sitting at the biggest organ, playing “Blue Spanish Eyes.”

Were more people making more music, back then? I think they were. And nothing was digital yet, the personal computer was decades away. But you could have your own organ.

‘My Grandfather’s House is… Gone’ (2015)

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Why do we do this to ourselves–tear down the places of our lives, family places, and replace them with soul-less, lifeless, meaningless nail salons, trendy restaurants that won’t stay in business for six months, and condos that people will live in for just a year or two before they move on?


It’s bound to make money for somebody. I suppose.

Virtually all the places of my childhood are gone, wiped out, not even left as history. Places we loved in our first years of marriage, they’re gone, too.

I can’t imagine how this can possibly be good for us.

Do You Talk to Your Cat?

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Japanese sword schools have secret techniques that are not available to the general public. I don’t have a sword school, but I do have a secret technique for making a cat happy. It won’t be a secret anymore, after I write this.

The other night Robbie the cat was relaxing on the floor. I sat down by her, gave her a few pets, and then, moved by some new impulse, began to tell her a story. I won’t repeat that story here; only a cat would appreciate it. But I hadn’t gone a full minute into it when she started to purr to beat the band. And kept purring right to the end (“…but I am happy to say it grew back”).

Did Robbie understand the story, word for word? No way to tell. Or did she just like the idea of daddy talking to her? Search me. Cats (and dogs, too) are awful smart. Animals that are around people all the time get kind of peoply. My iguana sincerely believed he was one of us.

We always talk to our pets. Like they were other people, family members. You’d be surprised how much they seem to understand.

You might want to watch what you say on the phone, if your cat is listening.

Memory Lane: Knightly Model Kits

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Behold the Blue Knight of Milan, a plastic model from the 1950s. This one looks a lot better than mine did when I finished it; but all that detailed painting was beyond my little-boy skills. My knight was lucky he could stand up without leaning on a lamppost.

Model kits were big in our house. And my mother was big on knights in shining armor, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot–for which I give thanks to this day: that was good for me!

So I had the Blue Knight of Milan  (I had no idea where Milan was), with his battle-axe; and my brother had the Silver Knight of I don’t remember where–was it Oklahoma?–and the Silver Knight had a nice big sword.

And I got to thinking, “Gee, I’ll bet we could really cut things with that sword!” So I tried to.

Imagine my horror when the plastic sword wouldn’t cut the little string of yarn–but the yarn sawed right through the sword. I had to glue it back together: the old “they’ll never notice!” theory. My brother did notice and he was not amused–although he did understand the need for scientific investigations such as that. He just didn’t understand why it had to be his knight who was the subject of said investigation.

I’ll bet you can still get one of these old model kits on eBay. I wonder if kids today can enjoy such things. Assembling a model takes patience and attention. And it’s quiet. Can we still do patience and attention and quiet?

Update: Patty’s Progress

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She’s not ready to go out and tangle with an Ankylosaurus, or take break-dancing lessons; but as her assorted doctors try to find just the right medication for her, my wife has begun to feel better and yesterday was able to go grocery-shopping with me. The inhaler she’s using now seems to be doing some good.

So I thank all of you out there who’ve prayed for us, and ask you to keep on praying: we’re not out of the woods yet. But maybe we’re getting there–for which we give God the glory, and our thanks. Praying always in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Robbie the Celebrity

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This is our cat, Robbie, as she appeared in The Old Farmer’s Almanac some years ago. Now that’s fame! I’ve never had my picture in the Farmer’s Almanac–have you?

Robbie’s bigger now, but she still maintains that solemn expression on her face. I’m happy to say that her celebrity has not gone to her head. She remains the same lovable cat we’ve known all along.

I’m afraid that that much fame would have quite overthrown my reason; but Robbie handles it well.

‘The Last Rose of Summer,’ Take Two

The first time I tried to post this lovely song here, I had nothing but problems. So here it is again–The Last Rose of Summer.

This goes straight to my heart. Poems written by Thomas Moore do have a way of doing that (“The Minstrel Boy,” “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms”). And I can’t see Andrew Rieu and his orchestra without remembering my aunts at Christmas time, and how they loved his music.

Well, the post seems to have worked this time.

And it looks like the worst part of my allergy attack has abated, thanks be to God.

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