No Regrets

Gramps died last November. In his final weeks, with a terminal cancer diagnosis running him down, I heard him respond to every person who visited or called on the phone that tried to express their grief and concern for him with a single phrase.

“I have no regrets and I’m not afraid.”

I could hear his words echo in my head on Saturday morning as we gathered outside the same church he was married in to bury his remains in the family plot. Our family dug the hole ourselves, as was his wishes, we sang the doxology and afterwards we listened to Granny’s stories about their wedding and Christmas pageants in the church they both grew up in. As we left the kids rang the church bells. I watched my nephew leave the ground holding on to the rope, kicking his legs all about, trying to ring that big bell, laughing through the tears as I remembered all the times Gramps had gotten my brother in just the same predicament.

Then we went home to the farm he lived on his entire life for a picnic lunch, a rousing game of baseball with the kids, (the kind that would have found him on the pitcher’s mound for sure) and an afternoon of fishing off the pier. Because he was a farmer who knew when to work and when to play too.

I can’t think of a more fitting way for the family to say one last goodbye to a remarkable man who lived a life that allowed him to look everyone in the eye at the end of it and say, with a boy scout’s honor…

 

“I have no regrets and I’m not afraid.”

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Just Enjoy It

Last night John shopped and hauled and arranged so that today three special ladies could join me for iced tea and strawberry shortcake under the blooming apple trees.

(Let’s pretend this picture has me, my mom, my granny and her caretaker (who feels more like a family friend every day) in it all happily smiling because we are outside together on such a beautiful day!)

We ate and laughed, bird watched and bee watched (that’s just like birding but with bees), told stories and I pretended there wasn’t anything else more pressing that needed doing for a few hours.

Because you know what?

There wasn’t.

 

 

So Many Moments

A returning home ritual. 

A pile of photos capturing moments from the week. 

A collection of simple, special, extraordinary moments.

Moments I want to pause, savor and remember.

Rotten Brothers

My brother and I used to get into terrible fights. Little arguments turned into wrestling matches, he was scrappy and strong and didn’t know how to give up. Fortunately for me he was late to grow. Unfortunately for him his big sister was super mean.

Maybe it was when he did finally grow bigger than me and I had to be nice to him, or maybe it was just that once we didn’t live together and fight over the radio station everyday that we discovered we actually, maybe, sorta, liked doing things with one another.

But, somehow or other we’ve gone from no-holds wrestling to me purposely subjecting myself to multiple hours in the car with my kids just so our families could spend the weekend together.

Rotten brothers change.

My brother and Trip.

Well, some rotten brothers change…

Trip (my dog) and his litter mate Sunday (my brother’s dog) got into their first real fight when they were about 12 weeks old (prior to that, I didn’t know puppies ever did that).  Things have improved since then but I still wouldn’t call them “friends”. We all survived their adolescence, when they both went looking for a fight, with minor wounds and have settled into a more mature phase where, while supervision is always necessary, they can co-exist and hunt together and so long as they are busy they don’t feel the need to beat up on one another.

Except for when they do.

While out for a long run in the woods, while we skied, the boys were mostly ignoring each other and things were going fine.  My brother ahead and I behind, the dogs had all come together on the trail between us and paused. Maybe it was the inactivity, probably it was the presence of a girl dog (Yeah, I’m totally blaming the boys’ terrible behavior on a girl. It’s a thing!) but they went from happily coexisting to, snarling, snapping monsters.

This was not my first dog fight rodeo with the two of them but it was the first time that I had to separate the two of them while wearing cross country skis and poles. After quite a lot of ineffective pole waving (I do not recommend ski poles as an effective prop for dog fights) and yelling, (I always yell. I have no idea why, it does zero good) I was able to ditch my poles, side step into the deep snow off the trail and grab a dog in each hand.

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Sticking your hand into a dog fight is a terrible idea. Breaking up a dog fight on skis is an even worse idea. It must be done strategically, quickly and it helps if you are strong enough and the dogs are small enough to hold them in the air at arms length if necessary while balancing on skis.  Did I mention this wasn’t my first rodeo with these two knuckleheads?

The dogs, once in hand, calmed down immediately and simply stood and looked at each other as I held them apart. Thankfully I saw that my brother was coming back through the woods towards me so I would not be stuck in the woods holding the tiger(s) by the tail, so to speak. I sighed and looked back down at our two trouble makers to assess damage.  Sunday had a small tear under one eye and I could still feel him growling and grumbling. I looked over to Trip, who was bleeding from a scratch on his nose, and saw that he was wagging his tail to beat the band as he cheerfully looked at his brother.

It reminded me of fighting with my own brother as a kid. Those few shining moments when he started it, came out on the worse end of it and he got in trouble for it… well, if you’ve got a rotten brother of your own then you know that’s enough to make any sibling gleeful.

My brother and I shook our heads, put a little distance between them, and headed the boys back down the path toward home. They went back to happily running through the woods as if nothing had ever happened.

Brothers…

What can you do?

I’d also like to note here that Goose (my dog) and his litter mate Buster (my brother’s dog) have so far gotten along fantastically.  Let’s just hope it stays that way! 

How To Eat a Prick-Headed Monkey

My brother Tyler is going to demonstrate how to properly eat a prick-headed monkey. But first a few prick-headed monkey facts.

-First off, nobody knows why they are called that. They are three cornered pies filled with currents and citron, there are absolutely no monkeys involved.

-Second, nobody in our family that isn’t a direct blood decedent of Gramps actually likes these. There are those that will eat them, but nobody else loves them.

-Third, those of us who love them really love them.

-Fourth, we only make them at Christmas time.

The first thing to do when eating a prick-headed moneky is to find other prick-headed monkey lovers to eat one with you. Three people is the optimal number though two works as well. This is important because the first key to proper prick-headed monkey consumption is to con someone else into cutting it. I divide and you decide has never been more important than in prick-headed monkey division. The pies are nominally triangular in shape and must always be divided into three pieces (I don’t know, it’s tradition, just go with it okay?).

In this instance my mom divided, now she’s pretty good at prick-headed monkey division ( This is a skill, you try dividing a lumpy triangle into three equal parts, it’s not as easy as it seems.) but there was still a large piece. Tyler and I thumb wrestled for it. My brother has thumbs like a gorilla- he won. You can see him here with his rightfully gained largest piece.

This is of course exactly why you want three people to eat it with. Tyler would have had no fun gloating over the largest piece without the other two of us there. This is also the time to take pictures to send to those family members who aren’t able to join in the feast so that you can hold it over their head that you are eating fresh out of the oven prick-headed monkeys and they are not.

Sorry Uncle Jim, we know you are recovering from heart surgery and that’s why you couldn’t be around but there is actually no one else in the world who would want to eat these so these pictures were for you. Notice how Tyler is gazing fondly at his biggest piece before he takes a bite.

In the following picture you can see how Tyler is clearly enjoying his own piece while at the same time mocking ours. Because dough balls.

If the person who made the prick-headed monkey did a good job the filling will be all the way to the corner. If not, the corner will be nothing but a dough ball. To finish off the proper way to consume a prick-headed monkey you must stay on alert for dough balls in the corners. Then, if you made them, you should deny their existence and attempt to prove that you had a current in the very furthest corner of your piece. If someone else made them however it’s best to claim that your corner was nothing but a dough ball and completely terrible.

Even with a dough ball there are those of us who know that prick-headed monkeys are never terrible and, like Tyler in the picture above, we are already plotting our next piece.

Smile!

Tonight we looked through all the old photo albums to find pictures of Gramps for his funeral next week. It was kinda hard, kinda sad and kinda fun but it certainly confirmed that nobody ever took a picture of Gramps when he wasn’t smiling.

Running across photos like this one left us smiling ourselves.

I’ll admit it, this photo just gives me the giggles. What a cutie he was!

Then it was kinda hard, kinda sad and kinda fun and if my eyes occasionally “leaked” a little bit I was smiling when it happened.  Just like Gramps.