80 Years Young

A poem written about Mae and Granddaddy by the youngest grandkid.

Jean and Wayne

Haven’t changed a lick!

80 years ago…

Sounds like a very long time, but in my parent’s eyes, I think it has gone by rather quickly.

Both of them complete their eighth decade this year so the fam gathered in the mountains for a brief weekend celebration over Easter.  My brother and I figured what they would most enjoy is time together.  We were right.

We visited, shopped a little, ate a lot and played games each night.  Michelle had everyone in the family email her one fact that no one else know about them.  She then took a candy kiss and one family member’s truth typed out and packed them neatly inside an Easter egg which she hid.  After the hunt, one egg per person, we went around the circle trying to figure out which fact fit which family member.

We’ve been together for a long, long time, and yet, we learned stuff we had not known before.  Who knew my dad drove cross country with a group of guys in college?  My nephew’s uvula is shaped like a snakes tongue.  I didn’t look but the girls did.  And my sister-in-law once ate over 30 baby aspirin – she was a kid and really liked the way they tasted.  Come to think of it, they were quite tasty.

I was proud that Michelle masterminded that activity and carried it out all on her own.

This weekend we also took the opportunity for each child and grandchild to write a note to the patriarch and matriarch sharing what they most remember and appreciate about these two special people.  We shared thoughts on Saturday night through laughter and tears.  An experience that was wonderfully meaningful for each of us.

I’m glad we took the time now to enjoy their company and to tell my folks how we feel about them.  It was a very special way to honor the ones who have meant so much.

I Love You, I’m Proud of You

Both of my  grandparents on the Tanner side had bypass surgery.  Last week was my dad’s turn.

He had a bit of chest pressure, and after multiple stents, figured he’d better get it checked out.  The ambulance picked him up at 5 AM.  Mom followed in her car, but only after she got her makeup on.

It is disconcerting to see your parent, or really anyone you love, go through such a procedure.  It’s scary.  Even with modern medicine and a really good doctor, there are risks with an almost 80 year old having extensive surgery.  My dad knew that.

He knew it enough that last week he made it a point to tell each of his children and each of his grandchildren that he loved them and was proud of them.  Covering his bases, just in case.

My dad actually does a pretty good job of letting all of us know just how thankful he is for his children on a regular basis.  He gets a bit emotional before the dinner prayer at family events because he is so proud of the group of heirs that now surround him.

So for us, it wasn’t an earth shattering moment to hear his words of affirmation.  They are fairly normal in the Tanner household.

I think I’ve done the same for my kids.  I just love them simply because they are mine.  I see wonderful in them that they can’t even fathom yet.  Although I tell them, they don’t yet realize how special they are.

If something happens to me, I don’t want my girls to have to guess about my feelings for them.  I want them to be 100% confident that I loved them, that I respected them, and that I was proud of them – no matter what.

I think growing up with that safety net gave me a peace that enabled me to be myself, not working to prove something to the world.  I always felt that I was a pretty cool person.  May not have been outside of the family, but within those walls, I was made to believe I was a rock star.

Not every kid has that level of acceptance.  Although ideal, maybe it doesn’t have to come from a parent.  Perhaps I have an ability to show love and acceptance to other kids through my interactions and encouragement at church or the mall or at my kids’ schools.

My dad seems to be doing well.  I am thankful for his acceptance and hope to pass that on to others who need it.

56? 108?

Mae at Xmas

She don’t look bad – for her age.

Tomorrow will be my mother’s birthday, we don’t know how old she is.

We estimate she’s somewhere between 56 and 108.

My dad says that she rounds to the nearest five-year increment. She was 40 from age 38 to 43 at which time she turned 45 for another six years.

She says she doesn’t mind if we know her age. She just can’t tell us – because she isn’t sure.

I asked my dad if he had her birth certificate. He said back then they just carved your name and birthdate on a tree in the yard. Perhaps someone jotted her birthday with a quill in a family bible somewhere. Who knows? My great-grandmother had ten kids so we have no idea where the official book might be.

As we had this discussion, my father informed me that I had about one year before I would receive my AARP card. His friend then told me that membership entitled me to free sodas at the Taco Bell. I hope I don’t end up in the doughnut hole, I anticipate being on a number of meds in the future. Both of my parents have pill boxes the size of a love seat.

“It’s not medicine. It’s just supplements. We don’t have any medical issues.”

Not unless you count: sciatica, adult acne, heart stents, eyelid “enhancements”, cataracts, deafness, back and joint issues, one bum leg, a bum hip, asthma, worsening allergies, wrinkles, hair loss and insomnia.

Fortunately, they’re still pretty hip. They text, Facebook, own iPhones and iPads, dance, know how to scan photos into the computer, and come to Raleigh to drive my kids around town at least two times per month.

I guess that’s not bad for 108 (or nearabouts.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Post 160: They’re Getting Older

It’s interesting to watch your parents get old.  I imagine my kids feel the same way.

One of my “second” moms growing up died recently.  It broke my heart.  Doesn’t seem like so long ago when we were vacationing together at Litchfield beach – playing cards, sitting by the pool, eating dinner at that humongous picnic table.

One year when in my teens, we were playing a huge game of Spoons.  It is a card game where you work to get four of a kind.  There are one fewer spoons scattered on the table than there are players.  The first person getting all four of one card quietly grabs a spoon and then, anyone can snatch one.  The player left without a spoon is the loser.

On this particular day I was rushed out of the bathroom and threw on a robe – just a robe – don’t ask me why.  Being relatively competitive, I jumped across the table to grab the only utensil left.  My robe flew above my waist exposing all of what should have been private to my mom, my friends and my mom’s friends.  Yes, I inadvertently showed my mother’s friends my business in order to win a card game.

Sweet moment – well sort of – gone by.

When do your parents stop caring for you and you start caring for them?

I’m not there yet with my folks, but when their friends get down, it makes me think.

My dad’s heart is now a stent farm.  My mom is well save her hip issues, massive allergies, swallowing problems, her teeny bladder – hmmm, maybe she isn’t well.

As much as they’ve done for me, the payback should be tremendous.

But, if I know them, there will be a limit to what they’ll allow my brother and me to do.

Whatever their issues, I’m game.  Yeah, I guess it is a responsibility and a duty to help, but that’s not why I’ll be there.  I’ll be there because I love them.  I’ll be there because they’ve been there for me.

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful: Click here. And thanks

Sunday Post 150: Teach Them Well

You always try to teach your kids good stuff.  Sometimes I think I focus more on making sure that they know the proper way to use me and I in a sentence than to ensure that they understand the importance of loving their neighbor.

On Christmas, I worry about the same thing.  I know of families who forego presents and instead take a mission trip.  Others choose to make a significant contribution to a charity or serve lunch at a shelter on Christmas day.  We just eat like hogs and give each other an exorbitant number of presents, many of which we don’t really need.

I think my parents realize how we indulge on this day and that we really should have a different sort of focus.  So each year, after we’ve opened our presents and before we stuff our faces, they sit the family down at the dinner table.  As our stomachs rumble and the smell of turkey wafts through the air, we pause to listen.

Being a minister, my dad has always been able to share a sermonette off the cuff.  And that’s exactly what he does.

In front of your plate you’ll see an envelope with your name on it.  Your mother and I have decided to support several charities across the world in your honor.  There are a ton of folks out there who don’t have the ability to give a single gift at Christmas.  There are many who don’t have food to eat, and yet, look at us.  I’d like for you to read your card to the family.

Each of us, from age 11 to 75, reads and shares the story of someone in need throughout the world and how my parents have chosen to support them.

They aren’t sharing this information to say look what we’ve done.  They’re sharing the information to help teach the next generation that it isn’t all about us.  They share to teach us and remind us that we are incredibly fortunate and that we should be thankful.

It’s not a guilt trip – my mom and dad would be the first to tell you they indulge their children and grandchildren as much as any other proud grandparents.  But they take their job of passing down their passion for loving their neighbors to those who will soon follow in their footsteps.

I guess one day I’m going to be the one holding that torch.  I should start now – pretty big shoes to fill.

 

Sunday Post 120: Where is my father?

Where did my parents go?  Especially my dad.

I remember as a kid attending a lock-in at our church.  My dad, being a minister there, somehow drew the short end of the stick and had to chaperone.

They tossed all of the third grade boys into a room called “The Parlor.”  At the time, I wasn’t  sure what a parlor was, I thought it was a formal name for the scariest place in our church.

Nearing the midnight hour, we moved all of the antique chairs out of the way and laid our sleeping bags out.  My dad turned out the lights and barked at us to go to sleep.  There was one little problem with his plan.

In the front corner of the room, on either side of the fireplace, were portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Snyder.  The church was named for these dear old people, Snyder Memorial Baptist.  I’m sure they were lovely, but at midnight, in October, to a ten-year-old, they were just plain creepy.

Mr. Snyder wore a black jacket with a black tie and white collar that popped up on the ends.  Mrs. Snyder’s hair was gray, she wore a blue Sunday dress complete with matching lace.  A hat donned her head.

Where ever you walked in the room, both Snyders’ eyes were directly focused on your head.  Move to the left, so did their eyes.  Move to the right, they followed.  You couldn’t get away.  It was like a Scooby Doo episode.

It took one good howl from Edwin Martin, and we were done.

“Ahh!  They’re coming!  Help!”

My dad stood up and let us have it!

“They’re dead for heaven’s sake!!!”  He could have chosen different words, for that’s what was freaking us out.

“They can’t hurt you!  It’s just how a good artist paints eyes.  It’d be the same if it were a picture of you.”

He went and got some sheets and draped them over the portraits, as if they couldn’t peer through a thin layer of cotton.

This man who struggled for patience when we were young will let a ten-year-old granddaughter stay up late and eat extra ice cream!  His legs are stiff, and yet he’ll play with them in the floor.  Read the newspaper?  Who cares about that when a grandkid wants to play Old Maid?

Now I’m not saying my dad never played with us when I was a kid.  He certainly did and was a really great father.  But I’ll tell you this, my brother and I didn’t receive the same level of tolerance when we did something stupid that our children do now.  And a game of Battleship seldom outranked Walter Cronkite!

I nearly believe there was a twin at birth – and that perhaps they have been switched.

Memories Sweet Memories

Although I do enjoy Christmas, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I, better than anyone, like a great gift on December 25.  I’m even buying myself a few things this year since Lisa isn’t here to spoil me. But to some extent, the presents have become a detractor to me. I’m getting to the age that simple time with family and friends is the only gift I care much about.

When I was a boy, we always drove to Florence, SC, for Thanksgiving. Both sets of grandparents lived down there.

A perfect Day started at Grandmamma and Granddaddy Ham’s house. The woman was the best cook south of the Mason Dixon line.

She would shuck ears of white corn and cut the kernels off the cob. She’d add butter, salt and who knows what else. When you put the stuff in your mouth, it was like tasting heaven.

Her hand cut slaw had onions that would make the hair on your arms stand up straight – I get gas just thinking about it. Boy was it tasty.

My other grandmother, we called her Idee, never saw a vegetable that didn’t come from a can; but she was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

One Thanksgiving afternoon she talked Spurgeon, my grandfather, into driving my brother and me back into the 100 acres of woods behind their house. There was a dirt road that led to a pond on the land which had been in their family for decades.

After a twenty-minute drive and a few stops to move branches, we arrived at our destination – picture a scene from the Andy Griffith show. As we got out of the car and headed to the small basin, my brother yelled out: “Snake!!”

It was not a snake at all – it was a frickin’ anaconda. At least six feet long, this diamond back rattler was meandering along the shore line. Two senior citizens and a couple of grade school kids weren’t going to interrupt his Thanksgiving stroll.

Papa ran to the car, opened the trunk and grabbed a shovel. Yeah, this 70 something year old man was going to whack this beast in the head with a garden tool. It was like fighting a dragon with a frying pan.

As the serpent saw him nearing, he coiled up and began shaking his tail. It sounded like a Cuban maraca band.

I immediately ran my behind to the car and locked the doors in the event my family was eaten and the slimy varmint decided my skinny brother didn’t fill ’em up. My grandfather was not deterred by my departure.

“Spurgeon, you are not going after that snake with a shovel,” my grandma yelled.

“Oh Ivy,” I’d heard that response before on many occasions. It meant, Don’t spoil my fun again lady.

“Spurgeon, you’ll get killed! Chad, so something.”

As Papa, who was a bit clumsy to say the least, charged toward Sir Hiss, my sixth grade older brother knelt in front of him causing him to stumble and fall to the ground.

My grandmother grabbed the shovel, “If anything gets beaten to death today, it’ll be you old man.”

He sheepishly stood up, a bit rattled but alive. Both the snake and my grandfather survived. Although Spurgeon had to go home with Idee, which for a few days must have seemed worse than a little venom in his blood stream.

Not all of my Thanksgivings have a memory so vivid. But some of the warmest internal feelings I own are of sitting at two formica tables in Florence, SC – one tan on the top with a black ring around the side, the other white speckled with chrome legs and uncomfortable chairs.

We drank a lot of coffee in those two kitchens, and I learned a lot about being a man.

Boy what I’d give to go back for just one more Thursday.

Animals? Grandchildren? Ahhh!!!

Posted by Danny

It hit me this past week.  I am going to have to raise my grandchildren.

We were at the beach which means an annual argument about purchasing Hermit crabs.

I’m not sure if other families have this issue; I sense it’s only us. I believe it is a genetic condition. My oldest niece started it about 15 years ago. I have her to thank.

When we go to the coast, we eat seafood in Calabash, NC. It’s where my grandfather took us. At times we’re staying two hours away from Dockside Seafood Restaurant – doesn’t matter, my father insists that’s where we go.

“It’s good food and it’s a great price.”

All true. Although if you’re driving three vehicles 240 miles each, I question if there is true savings.

On the corner near the restaurant is an enormous nic nac shop. On the porch is a cage, maybe four feet square in width and four feet tall. It is packed with Hermit crabs. Their shells have all been painted by a local “artist”. There are flowers, Picasso type designs, even Spiderman Hermit Crab – so very, very tempting.

Although we have two at home who survived the past 12 months, according to my kids it is imperative that we have more.

“We are NOT getting more crabs,” I insist. “What joy do they bring? You don’t like them in your room because they are loud at night – so they take up prime real estate on the bathroom counter. You don’t play with them – in fact, all they do is sleep. When their cage starts smelling like crustacean poo, who cleans it out? That would be me. No — No. No. No.”

“But dad…”

“You never take care of your animals. Why don’t you play with the ones you have?”

Although DJ didn’t pushing for one this year, she pointed out that her crab immediately changed shells when she got him home last year. “He left the flower designed shell I picked out and moved to the ugliest shell we had – I didn’t like him after that.”

He was probably a dude and embarrassed to be stuck in a tulip.  I wouldn’t want to live in a house with a garden painted across the front door.

I then began to toss out all of the animal failures the Tanner’s had endured:  “What about your hamster Stephanie. You never played with her.”

Miss Piggy bit! Would you play with something that draws blood on a regular basis?”

“What about the guinea pig? No one played with him.”

“If you recall, I didn’t want a guinea pig. I wanted a hamster. Mom made me get JW. Therefore, we never connected.”

That’s when it hit me.  I suddenly had the realization that I was going to have to raise my grandchildren. If my kids found fault in their child, they would simply turn its well-being over to me.

Panic grabbed my chest. I felt the car closing in.

“AAAAhhhh! What if you treat your children like you do your pets? I am not going to raise your kids. I can’t do it.”

I could see it clear as day:

“DJ, where’s my grandson?”

“Oh, well you know dad, we really wanted a girl. I guess he’s still up in his room; haven’t checked in a few days.”

Or

“Stephanie, what’s that smell?”

“I’m not changing diapers, that’s gross.”

Or

“Michelle, is that your baby screaming?”

“That’s her – but she bites.  We don’t pick her up anymore.”

I don’t know if I can do it.  I mean I’ll be 15, maybe 20 years older than I am now.  I may not have the energy.  I’m supposed to be through with diapers. 

Oh Lord – give me strength.

The Amazing Mule Ride

 

Posted by Danny

On Tuesday, our Nana had a significant birthday – I won’t go into which one, but it was a biggie!

To celebrate, the girls made a few decorations and Uncle Matt, Aunt Sallie and I cooked dinner.  We had a nice cake – compliments of the Whole Foods (no parmesan). 

And…we all dressed like Nana!  Some of the highlights included:

  • Popped up collar
  • Untucked shirt cinched with a belt
  • Big bling around the neck
  • Bracelets for days
  • Shoulder pads (we taped wash cloths to our shoulders)
  • Vests
  • Heels
  • Glasses
  • Baby powder on the head (she is graying a tad)

And we each wrote ten ‘memories with Nana’, presented to her one at a time.

My favorite Nana memory occurred on our family trip to the Grand Canyon.  As a surprise, the lovely in laws scheduled a mule ride down the canyon for Lisa and me.  I was apprehensive – I don’t like heights and I’m pretty allergic to animals.  But I really wanted to try.

I was surprised when we reached our destination – not pleasantly, just surprised.  You literally walked straight up to the edge of this vast hole in the earth.  There were few railings and no fences.  If you stepped too far, you would simply fall thousands of feet to the bottom of the gorge.  Twice during our stay, helicopters converged on the rim to find someone who was missing.  And to top it off, my father-in-law immediately purchased a book that chronicled the stories of all the people who died there.  It was a thick book because a bunch of people never made it out! 

In checking out the trail which led to the bottom, I realized that the six-foot wide path followed the rocks on the left side but that there was absolutely nothing on the right side.  If one of the mules decided to commit Harry Carry, there was no stopping him.  He could jump as easily as I could breath. 

I didn’t contemplate the mule ride very long.  I generously offered my mule to anyone in the family who had no concern for their own life.  There weren’t too many takers – but finally Nana agreed to take the voyage with Lisa.

We walked them to the trail head and saw them off at 8 am sharp.  The guide assured us that a mule had never jumped off the trail with a person on his back.  He said that  only a couple of the animals died on the trail – and that they were pack mules, not the ones carrying people.  And then he asked us to sign a waiver that explained that you could die at any moment on the trail and that regardless of how negligent they might be, they were not responsible for your death.  I think there was also a clause that said if you did depart on the ride, they could use your story in volume 2 of the “Stupid People Who Died in the Canyon” book.

I hugged Lisa, and assumed I would not ever see her again.  Then I took the kids for ice cream.

Eight hours later, they returned.  Both of them looked like hell:  dirty, leaves hanging off their hats, sunburned and smelling to high heaven.  Neither of them were speaking to me.  Well, Nana did say one thing, “You…are no longer my favorite son-in-law!”  She stormed off to her room.

Lisa couldn’t get her underwear off because the dried blood from her butt scabs had fused them to her skin.  Her upper legs looked like she had been beaten by Indian Jones’ whip. 

And I was looking like the smartest person in Arizona.

They eventually got over their anger at me, bragged about the incredible views they’d seen and felt proud that they’s survived this adventure.  We still have mule Christmas ornaments to remind us of that trip.

You know, that Nana is a pretty gutsy lady.  And she looks pretty good for ?0 years old!

Sunday Post 22: Fathers

I wish I could pinpoint a day when I learned a significant lesson from my dad or one of my granddads.  I cannot.  There doesn’t seem to be a particular moment that sticks out in my head.

I wish I could remember the birds and the bees talk.  All I recall about that is at the age of 6 my wise older brother taught me a very, very bad word.  As the story goes, I used it when the boy across the street stole my matchbox car city.  And I used it with the zest of a mother calling for her children to come home for dinner.  My voice carried all over Glendale Acres.  It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad made it down the three sets of stairs in our split level house in three giant leaps.  I recall a conversation about that word – I’m not sure how detailed he got.  But I didn’t use it again for a very long time.

Although I can’t remember a specific ah-hah moment that turned me into a man, I do recall time.  Time with these men, doing the mundane. 

I recall hanging on my dad’s shoulders at the beach with what to me were humongous waves smacking us in the head.  And with each wave my father would say, “That was rude and unacceptable!”  I laughed and laughed to see him act as if the wave had gotten the best of him.

I remember squeezing into the cab of my granddaddy Tanner’s pickup truck each time we went to visit.  The three musketeers – Woodrow, my brother and me.  It was tradition to go get a Slurpee at the local 7 – 11.  It seemed that I never had one unless I was in South Carolina visiting him.  And to me it was like nectar from the gods.

My other grandfather, Papa, owned a small convenience store.  I’d spend a week with him each  summer and would pump gas.  The pay:  all the candy I  could eat!  I remember him pulling out a brown bag on Saturday just before my parents were to arrive to pick me up.  He’d walk over to the candy rack and would watch me collect my booty.  “Here, these are good, take a few more.”  My eyes would glaze over at the thought of the weeks to come with my sugary stash.

This attention that they gave, just focused on me – showing me that I was worth their time – actually did more to develop me into the person I am than any significant lecture or event or vacation.

I hope my kids remember the Invisible Daddy Handbook that’s always in my pocket.  I hope they remember sitting on the couch and learning to master a bow tie, just in case their husbands don’t know how to tie one.  Or shagging to beach music in the kitchen.  Time – on a daily basis.

When it all shakes out, my bet is that will be the most powerful lesson they take.