February 17, 2008 – Crazy Valentines Week

This was one of the most crazy weeks in a while actually. On Tuesday of last week my Grandfather (dads father) passed away. He was 89 years old, and for years still walking a mile or two every day. With his wife he’d hold hands and walk to church most days during the week, and (as we learned from the priest) would come out to debates on issues such as abortion and quietly throw in his opinion. I say quietly because everyone described him as gentle, which is what I’d always thought as well. I never once heard him raise his voice, and usually he was very deliberate when he spoke — you knew it was something worth listening to. His wife (2nd wife of his life after my grandmother passed away in 1972) came home from church Tuesday to find that he had passed away while setting up a surprise party for her (her birthday is next week). Romantic up until the end. Thursday I flew up Detroit, where the Fortuna line is from. It’s a depressing city, a depressing event and in a depressing time of the year to be there — but it was great to see everyone. My Dad, older sisters Kara and Jill, both of my dads sibling — Diana and husband David (we just learned they had wiki entries, so i have to use them), and younger brother Clem and wife Betsy. Most of Carries family was there as well, including people I only remember seeing in brief flashes as a kid. The ceremony was very nice though, and probably by the book as Catholic ceremonies go. The priest actually gave a great and very personal talk about him and his relationship with God. All 5 of us grandkids played a part as well as Carries kids who he very much considered part of the family — and even gave a last warning to not let this part us. My dad told a few stories from his childhood about his patience which showed character but also lightened the mood, including a great one about how my dad chocked on his wafer during communion. My Grampa ended up buying some crackers to “practice” on and they practiced until he was able to do it. Unfortunately they were only able to find fish crackers; as in fish food. So he probably has a better gag reflex than usual. After the ceremony and a few hours chatting with everyone there, we took a drive around Detroit. Although I don’t think all that highly of Orlando, be glad you’re not living in Detroit. We drove by blocks of abandon buildings, huge 10 story plants right off the interstate that look like they haven’t been used in decades, endless city blocks that are just vacant in the heart of the city and, of course, graffiti on any surface flat enough. In Orlando we have the problem of chains everywhere and almost no local places. There they can’t even get chains to come, and the self owned businesses fill the gap — although there are still relatively few. We drove through Belle Isle, an island park my family used to go to as kids, but the zoo there was closed, the aquarium, the yacht club, the boat club — it’s just gone. Apparently in the 60’s the boat club decided to shut down rather integrate and accept blacks – it’s just a messed up area all around. And a huge Chrysler plant went up on, what my aunt and uncle say, was one of the most thriving communities but was taken over by imminent domain. It has it’s good parts of course. We went out to the Detroit Art museum, although our time there was limited.I probably wouldnt get as much from the experience as some people I know, but it was very interesting, and able to see a few works of art that even I had seen images of before. Lots of history in what we saw, from early portraits of Washington, to pieces of pyramids with writing as clear as the day it was made. We rounded the night out at a German restaurant that had been open since 1933, where my Grampa used to go as a kid (born in 1919). His parents came over from Poland in 1905 and later on when it opened was one of the places they went to get familiar food. We also stopped by the farmers market where he sold produce from their farm during the great depression, and later on with my dad when he was a kid in the 50’s. So much family history in a few little spots. Since I flew out Thursday night, Marilyn was alone for Valentines day night. I flew back in today and we had our planned Valentines day though. We stayed in and made a generous helping of dim sum, kicked back and watched some movies. We ended up seeing Eagle vs. Shark followed by a few more episodes of the Office topped off with some wine. I have to admit, it’s nice not braving the crowds out to eat on that one night. We have our 2 year anniversary coming up towards the end of this month though, so we’ll be going out for that one. We have somewhere in mind for it.

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