Off to college again, sort of

I feel like we’re about to send my parents off to college, again. Well, I wasn’t there the first time, but I’m channeling my inner Grandmother Tanner.

After years and years of talking about it and a year of aggressively looking, they got their letter (well phone call) of acceptance. They’re headed to… a retirement community! I’m so proud of them. They have worked hard for years to get to this point – hosting countless family holiday gatherings; cleaning bathrooms after my brother (yuck) and me; babysitting grandkids; planting flowers and cutting grass; unclogging drains and vacuuming. The first time, my mom double majored – in vacuuming and toilet cleaning. Both earned magna cum pound cake bakey. Now perhaps they can relax a bit, have someone wait on them rather than serving all of us.

I hope they make good decisions. There’s a bar on the floor right below their apartment – a little too close for my comfort. And the building is co-ed! Could be a problem. What if they start skipping their doctor’s appointments and not following through with their at home physical therapy exercises?

With dinner out every night, dessert included, my mom might forget how to make my favorite chocolate cake! Or worse, just refuse to make it. You know what they say: practice makes perfect – she won’t be practicing.

Apparently there is a shuttle bus that will take them anywhere they want to go. I’m thankful they won’t have to drive after nights out in popping downtown Fayetteville.

Last time they visited the place for a tour there was a group of seniors playing poker in the rec room. I hope they don’t get in with THAT crowd.

I mean, I trust them. I’m sure they will make good decisions. Well, I’m sure dad will, and he’s pretty good about letting me know when mom starts skidding off the rails. I’m sure everything will be fine. My brother and I have built a strong foundation, it’s time for them to spread their wings.

But they better call at least once a week!

A Couple of Car “Incidents”

Trivia Question:  How many Tanners have had some sort of vehicle accident/incident in the past six months? 

Answer:  Five.  Five out of seven. God bless you State Farm and kudos to Lizzie our only offspring who hasn’t. I hate to take away from her glory, but she has been in Scotland without a car for five of six of those months so I’m not sure we should spend too much time praising her. I am grateful nonetheless.

Accident 1: NOT AT FAULT. Will was smashed in a parking deck by a fellow shopper, perhaps an aggressive one, near Christmas. I get that. Some poor soul trying to knock out the Santa gifts for the kids, stressed out all the while working to avoid COVID, ran smack into him. His car was out of commission for months.

Incident 2: NOT AT FAULT – sort of. Stephanie parked her car across the street from our house. There is a beautiful wooded view from our front door, a huge draw for my spouse who is nuts about nature. Sadly, that nature, in the form of a huge tree limb, fell on top of the Civic and smashed in the roof and back window. There were shards of glass for days.

Accident 3: AT FAULT. Michelle “slightly bumped into” someone at a stoplight near downtown Raleigh. She was just trying to pull up a bit, and there was a car in the way. Fortunately she knew her victim so they had a nice catch up while exchanging insurance cards.

Incident 4:  NOT AT FAULT – I guess. DJ parked her car and when she returned the driver’s side mirror was dangling from the door. Not sure what happened – perhaps an angry gang of teens that hate Volkswagens and had a baseball bat handy??? Who knows? The mirror is dead. When she called the insurance company to report, she shared her name with the agent. She asked if he needed her address – he said “no.” I have your sister’s claim open as we speak – I can just get the info from that.” It is NOT GOOD when your insurance rep has your address memorized.

Accident 5:  AT FAULT – sort of?? Julie rear ended a guy at a stoplight. The light was about to turn green. He should have done a better job of anticipating. Everyone knows green comes right after red.

Everyone is A-OK which is what matters. It is unlikely, however, I will get a safe driving rebate this year.

Tanners Hauling Service, Open for Business

We don’t own a house – just a very expensive storage unit. With five young adult kids coming and going, Tanner’s Hauling Service is having a banner year. So is my chiropractor.

In March, Julie and I went to DC to move DJ into a new apartment. The brownstone she was in, built in the 1800’s, needed… let’s call it… attention. Or perhaps a bundle of dynamite and a lit torch.

The leaks in the roof made for a moist bed after a strong rain. The rat that ate through the wiring in her car moved too – from the driveway to the walls of her house. Remember Ratatouille?  Using the commode and using the plunger were one and the same – nothing went down without effort.

Now she lives in a sweet abode in an apartment building on 16th street. Her new parking deck appears to be rodentless, a major plus!

Rat free living in DC!

In early May I headed over to UNC to move Michelle out of her dorm room for the summer. She was on the sixth floor. One of the elevators was out of commission – that left one working. Seemed like most of the 2,000 students packed into this 1970’s era hotel-like structure were also moving that day.  I took the outdoor stairwell – 13 times. How can one person fit that much stuff in a teeny-tiny room? She has more shoes than Imelda Marcos. SEVEN pairs of white sneakers. Geeze.

Julie and I began Stephanie’s move out from Elon early. Over a matter of months we’d pass through Burlington heading back and forth to Charlotte, fill the car with stuff and dump it all in the garage once we got home.  Six SUV loads did the job. We finished on graduation day with dishes, toiletries, linens and the remainder of HER white sneakers – Imelda, Sr., also has a problem.

An hour before the final load!

Will, the son, moved himself from Charlottesville to Raleigh two weeks ago. He was in a one year fellows program living with a family, and he only owns one pair of shoes. Easy! Until we hauled his belongings and a good portion of our attic to Charlotte last weekend. He moved in with three guys who rent a townhome in the young people’s part of town who happened to have an open bedroom. His new friends have lived there a couple of years which incidentally appears to be the last time the bathrooms were cleaned. This time we hired a couple of guys to help – my vertebrae could take no more.

Will’s Move – Movers in tow!

Child 4, Lizzie, came home from Scotland a few weeks ago. No big move for her. Just a duffle bag the size of Delaware and a massive pack up to head west for the summer.  Easy peasy!

I’ve enjoyed spending time with our kids over the past month and toting their belonging across America. Now we can focus on my parents who later this month are packing up the house they’ve lived in for 21 years to move to a retirement community. This time my brother will help. He has a strong back.  Oh, and a truck!

My Elon Graduate!

When she was born, she was a beauty.  Dark hair, dark eyes, looked like a miniature Sophia Loren.

She sucked her middle two fingers for her first four years.  She was sweet as sugar and stubborn as a mule.  One May afternoon, at about age 6, she refused to dance in her end of year ballet recital because she accidently stood in the wrong spot when the performance began.  Her teacher nicely corrected her, easing her into a different spot on the floor.  She fell apart, ran out of the room and refused to reenter. 

Now I am not a pushover. After great understanding and sensitivity, I ordered her, with my strongest tone and pointed finger, to get her tiny behind back on stage.

She looked at me with defiance.  “NO!!”

“I am your father, get back in there!” I demanded.

“NO!!  NO!!”

Her mother left that conflict to me.  I guess she figured if my tough self couldn’t persuade her to return, it was a worthless battle to fight. 

We got pizza instead.

And now, after probably 50 dance and piano recitals, nearly straight A’s in high school and college, and extracurriculars galore, child 2, my Stephanie, is graduating from Elon University.

It seems just like yesterday that I dropped her off as a freshman and Julie had to nearly use a crowbar to pry us apart on the sidewalk of Williamson Street near her first dorm.  I cried to Mebane and then bucked up for the duration of her college years.

I’m so proud of her.

She is smart as a whip, cares about social justice, has interned at a program for folks who are struggling with physical or sexual abuse, has wonderful friends and, like her mother, can organize a clowder of cats.

I think she’s going to spend next year in New Orleans doing service work through the Presbyterian Church.  What a cool kid she is!

Thought Bubbles

My wife, Julie, and I were sitting in bed the other night discussing an upcoming 10 hour plane flight. She doesn’t need a lot of entertainment in route. 

I, on the other hand, packed my iPad, my computer, downloaded three books, packed an additional 3 hardbacks and had four sets of headphones –  just in case.  I asked her how in the heck she survived without a plethora of activities.  She explained that she had a book and had always been able to entertain herself in her thoughts.

I questioned what might be going through her mind as she sat for the not quick journey.  I jokingly began imagining…

That cloud looks like an ostrich.

My lavender toenail polish is going to make a real splash on the beach.

My investment manager better step up his game.  I have three more years of college to pay for.

How did I nab this incredibly handsome man?

She then suggested some of what might be going on in my head…

My side hurts.  I bet it’s a tumor.  I wonder how long I have?

She ran the dishwasher again!  That’s gonna cost another 67 cents.

But what if people could see our thought bubbles?  I fear they’d think less of me.  No, I KNOW they would!

I think God wants us to be as pure and kind hearted on the inside as on the outside.  Icing is good, but if the batter falls, the cake ain’t.

I can’t always stop a sarcastic or sometimes even mean thought running through my head.  I sometimes get irritated quickly without patience or full understanding.  And ironically, I get annoyed when others do that to me.  Hypocrite.

I’m not sure how to stop these thoughts.  I do know I can work hard to have patience and grace with others and when negativity pops in my head, quickly divert, maybe even with prayer.  Perhaps a concentrated effort to maintain purity on the inside will eventually lead to more generous thought bubbles overall.

Doggone

What a week!  Julie and I volunteered to dog sit for Lisa’s sister on the upper east side of NYC!  We split the week with DJ with a few day overlap.  I think Julie’s strategy was to make me fall in love with a dog.  She has always had one, or even two, at a time.  I have had none because feeding and taking care of three kids was ENOUGH. 

But oops, she may have got me.

I am slightly allergic to pet dander, my primary excuse.  I don’t want to pay for one, my second excuse.  And dag gone, picking up poop for any reason is a huge thumbs down for me.

Because his daily “routine” includes a morning walk where he does his business, my lovely wife took the morning shift.  On Tuesday, his system must have been turned around, because not only did he make hay at 7:30 AM with her, he also had a messy one at the corner of Park Avenue and 70th on my afternoon watch.  How embarrassing!  And he walks while he poops so I’m chasing his butt around with my little green baggy trying to discretely clean up.

There are a lot of dogs in NYC.  I met a lovely older woman, sort of looked like Nancy Walker, Rhoda Morganstern’s mother from the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  We had a casual conversation one night about 10 PM while Colby, my dog, and St. Francis of Assisi (I lie not), her canine sniffed each other.  It was lovely.  She frozen yogurt with all the toppings and her daughter recently moved to New Mexico.

One afternoon Colby froze, absolutely WOULD NOT MOVE, as we crossed Lexington Avenue.  I had to scoop him up as a Yellow Cab driver snarled at me and let out an aggressive honk.

Colby sniffed and licked most everything in sight, including my face.  I don’t even like to think what, by proxy, has been in my pores this week.  We played fetch with his slobbery orange tennis ball for hours – I throw, he runs, he brings back to me, I throw again.  It’s mechanical.

All this for six days.  Errr.  I miss him so!  He sat on me, snoozed on my lap, greeted me with great affection, whimpered when I left, looked at me as if I was his only one – sort of like my daughters, pre-teen.

We can’t get one now because we spend too much time away – but if anyone wants to join a dog share program, we are IN!  I think I eventually need one of my own.

Living Shirtless

Living Shirtless

Nothing brings me more joy than a week at the beach where my shirt is optional.  It may gross my kids out, fellow beach goers might do a double take when this old guy with skinny frame and random gray hairs poking out of his bird chest jogs down the sand, but frankly I don’t care.  A shirt is just so confining. 

It’s one of the reasons I want to retire.  If I could go to work in just baggy gym shorts and flip flops, I might work until I’m 70.  But as it is, the buttons are getting me down.

I wonder how the YMCA’s Board of Directors would respond if I greeted them at a meeting sans top. 

I have the announcements today.  Membership numbers are increasing, we had a great fundraising drive and new personnel policy is loosening the dress standards a bit. 

That would make today’s casual Friday look tame.

I made a list of things I want to do more of – and in my older age, I’m finding time to get them done (or as the case may be, not done):

*Wear shirts less often

*Drink more red wine

*Eat more chocolate

*Ride bikes outside

*Call mom and dad and see them as much as I can

*Build stronger bonds with siblings – in most cases they will actually know us longer than any other person on this earth

*Make my own salsa, none of that store bought stuff

*Stretch

*More outdoor fires (like in a fireplace, not arson)

*Engage more with those who serve us well (the mailman, those working at the grocery store, the checkout person at the pharmacy…the list goes on and on)

I’ve found that life is short.  There has to be a way to bring inklings of vacation into everyday life.

What are you going to do with it?

AC Snow died this past week. AC was a long time columnist for the News and Observer here in Raleigh. He was 97. AC read some of my blog posts. On occasion he would email me to point out a grammatical error, “you’re much too strong a writer to make that mistake.” I was embarrassed about my blunder but was honored that THE AC Snow couched his corrections with a compliment. Strong writer! Yeah!

I knew his wife much better than I knew him. Mrs. Snow was a professor at NC State. I loved her so much I took three of her courses. I’ve used what she taught, public speaking, more than any other learnings in my life.

Nancy and AC lost a daughter in a tragic accident many years ago. He once wrote about it in his column. Perhaps the most remarkable thing to me about Mr. Snow was that even after this life-altering event, and yes the death of a child is forever life-altering, he rallied and continued to share joy with the world through words. The pain never goes away after grief, but one is able to recover – to find joy – to share joy – and live full again.

When Uncle Jesse and I started this blog about a decade ago, I was just beginning to reimagine a life that had been altered. Four weeks ago, I married Julie – she fills me in ways I could never have dreamed. I love her with all of my heart. I simply couldn’t have even dreamed of this day a few years back. It took faith, some luck, an army of supporters, and frankly internal grit.

If it hasn’t yet, it will likely hit you – grief, depression, life not turning out the way you’d imagined. What are YOU going to do with it?

I choose love.

Wedding Bells Ringing

Michelle did say to the person who inquired about what caught my eye that she thought that when we were together we sure did laugh a lot.  Laughter is underrated.  Enjoying who you’re with is underrated.  Love… well, that’s maybe underrated too. 

In less than two weeks, I will be married!  I can’t wait to get gold around Mr. Ring Finger.  Been a long time.  It actually might take some getting used to.

This wedding is no surprise.  Last week was the fourth anniversary of our engagement.  We don’t like to rush things around here!  All the kids are in college or beyond, both of our houses have sold, and we are ready to be together full time.

It is strange to marry at age 56.  There aren’t wedding jitters; no baby’s breath in braidesmaids’ hair; no drunken bachelor party for me; no parents to pay for the festivities.  Its actually simpler.  Find a woman you love, propose, when the right time comes… get hitched.

Someone recently asked Michelle what Julie had that caught my eye.  We laughed at her response, which was essentially: I don’t know anything about old people falling in love, you’re gonna need to ask him. 

It’s not easy to sell a house you’ve lived in for thirty years.  It isn’t easy to combine your household belongings and toss out the rusty meat fork you’ve been accustomed to because your soon-to-be spouse thinks it might give her lock jaw.  It’s not easy to merge Christmas traditions and pare back your ornaments or learn to share your kitchen again.  One day recently Julie was giving me input on how to make mashed potatoes.  I was a bit annoyed – as if I didn’t know.  She said, “Well, I’ve been queen of my kitchen for the past ten years.”  I responded, “And I’ve been king of mine!”

When it comes down to it, the meat fork doesn’t matter.  I’m finding that hers is just as good and doesn’t leave flecks of Teflon in the ground turkey.  She actually does make better mashed potatoes than I but my Christmas tree light stringing strategies far exceed hers.

What really matters is – do we love and enjoy each other?  And the answer to that is yes.

We have a lot of kids… but they are growing up and living their own lives.  Who will we be left with?  Each other. 

When you find the right one, whether you’re 22 or 56, being together is well worth the adjustments that have to be made.  When your heart speaks, it is easy to listen.

Chainsaw Massacre

There’s something about a chain saw.

Julie has an electric one.  I also have one but never put the chain on the saw.  It just seemed like so much work.  And I didn’t really have use for it at my old house.

But now…

There is some sort of medium sized tree/bush in our new back yard.  One limb was dead as a doornail.  It was about three times the width of my arm (I have fairly small arms).  It’s been bothering me since we bought the house in April.  So last weekend, I decided it was time.  Time to amputate the limb.

I removed Julie’s chainsaw from the cardboard box.  I plugged it in. 

I like my fingers and have great respect for things that might remove them.  So I was cautious.  I’m not a reckless guy.  I don’t shoot stuff.  I don’t punch stuff.  I don’t chase snakes – if I see one, I run.  But dang, when I saw the teeth of this electric beast, when I began to chop, it was invigorating!

Julie suggested I wait to tackle the limb at a time when she was home to help.  Ppppfh.  What could she do to help?, I thought.

It wasn’t really planned.  I was just working in the yard and the tree yelled out at me, “REMOVE THE BRANCH.  DO IT NOW.”  I couldn’t not respond.

Julie was at the grocery store when I started.  She returned before I finished.  She came outside.

“Honey, I can help.  I don’t want it to fall on the house.”

It WON’T fall on the house!  Ridiculous assumption.

“I’ll be right back.  Let me unload the cold items.”

Nice thought.  What was I going to do?  Just stand there and wait for her to return at some undetermined time?  Ppppfh… no.  I was so close to completion. 

My training in physics suggested the branch would fall away from the house.  My intent – the slant at which I was sawing – clearly would lead to a safe landing. 

As it fell over the porch, bending the handle of our built in gas grill, I was stunned. 

Well that didn’t go as planned.

Julie came running.

“You just couldn’t wait could you?”

“It didn’t hit the house!” I responded, as if it had fallen exactly where I had intended.

VICTORY! – well, sort of.

I don’t know what it is about a guy and his chain saw.  It’s an incredible feeling to cut, to tame the wild.  A rush of sorts.  And really, who has time to wait for the groceries to be unloaded?  It’s just not reasonable. 

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