Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Toast

Well, shit, I’ve certainly dropped the ball on my Christmas series here.  As the French elegantly say “zometimez shit fucking app-enz”. 

Where to start?  With my last post.  I knew shit was likely to hit the fan when I wrote that so I made a quick, nice little place holder and figured I could pretend everything was dandy until I could explain more.  My grandpa passed away last Wednesday.  He had been sick since early in the fall.  This is my paternal grandfather, Bob.  Not to be confused with my maternal grandfather: the lovable perv, Bill.  Bob was a gentleman through and through. He was intimidatingly erudite, a staunch democrat, a kind and gentle father in a time when fathers were not supposed to be kind and gentle, and truly, honestly warm.  He fought in WWII, and never stopped making jokes about the French.  He lived to be 89, about two weeks from his 90th birthday.  Up until the very end, he had his mind, his humor, and his politics.  Immediately I joked that he was planning on getting out before Inauguration.  He despised Donald Trump, because Donald Trump is the opposite of the values he held dear.  Don’t even try with me and telling me you’re offended and that you think I’m chastising you for voting Trump.  I don’t give a shit.  I’m talking about personalities, and no, you can’t argue that Trump is a gentleman.  In the hospital, one of my uncles said something about Trump and my grandpa opened his eyes and said I don’t want to hear another god damn thing about that god damn man
He waited until all his living children could be here in Ohio, sit and talk with them, and then in a brief window between his children’s shifts at his bedside, he went to sleep.  Shortly before, my aunt said he was dreaming and talking in his sleep.  She heard him say Now you be careful, that is one fine instrument and we can’t afford to replace it.  He was a surveyor and loved his work.  It often kept him out of an office and afforded him the chance to enjoy nature on the clock.  In his twilight between worlds, he was in a happy place. 

It’s funny the journey and relationship we all have with faith.  Some people are pushed toward skepticism by one event, pulled into faith by another.  Some never question one way or the other.  One of my best friends jokes that her Good Catholic Education taught her everything she needed to know to be an atheist.  Personally, I don’t know how one could live and exist in this world and believe in no larger force.  I see evidence of the untouchable every day.  Maybe this is because I’m paying attention, maybe it’s because I’m willing it to be there, or maybe it’s because I’m just really fucking special.  Whatever it is, it’s there and for me there is no question.   



Perhaps that is a contributing factor in why the physical loss of my grandpa has me a bit more happy than sad.  A good, long life is almost a miracle.  Especially when that good, long life was threatened by stage III pancreatic cancer at 83.  Everyone was sure that was the end, but it wasn’t.  He came out of it, bought a new car, and took a trip to see his first and most special granddaughter be married.  He did all of this without my grandmother.  My grandmother died 20 years ago, and it was a long 20 years for him.  He always said he was an Indian and she was The Chief, and that is the truth.  She was a force of nature and he was her right hand man.  He hated making decisions for himself—from what to have for lunch to what kind of khakis to buy.  She did it all and he preferred it that way.  Their wedding was never discussed nor were there any pictures.  It seems there was a bit of a rush, but that is not my business.  What grew from that was a big, strong family.  When all the kids were grown and had moved to all corners of the country, my grandparents retired and bought an RV.  My dad always says he thinks that was their happiest time.  It combined my grandma’s time-on-task nature and my grandpa’s love for navigation, the beauty of landscapes, and a way to spend time with each of the kids.  They traveled in their RV six months out of the year for about five years.  My grandpa always thought they should head back east far sooner than my grandma who wasn’t too intimidated by icy mountain passes.  She was, after all, the woman who slipped on ice at Bob Evan’s and hurt her hip and then slipped on ice again at Chi-Chi’s a few months later and fixed it. 
Part of the previously mentioned Limoges bender.  Thank goodness, I needed lots and lots of plates.  Proud to say every single person ate from china.  How many? I have no fucking idea.  Five dinners in six days.  Only two big ones though.

As you might imagine, I did quite a bit of feeding.  You're never sure how many you'll have for these things, so I made 108 cookies. About 58 too many.  Oh well.  Everyone went home with a few.   I tucked cookies wherever I thought people might gather before and after dinner.  Remember, grief makes peopleravenously hungry and thirsty!  I think I went through five bottles of wine in the first half hour.  

For big groups, I always label every dish and include notes about dairy, meat, and gluten. Even labeling the obvious prevents
me from making a rude face when someone asks a dumb question.  No, believe it or not, the pork tenderloin is not vegan.



What should have been a second lifetime of travel in their RV was cut short by my grandmother’s very difficult and tragic illness.  Her perpetual cigarette brought her down and my grandpa was alone and without his captain.  He did okay without her, but he needed her.  So it is with faith in…whatever—that I raise a little toast. 
To Bob and Jinny: to their new life--in their old RV



116 comments:

  1. Vaya con Dios Grandpa Bob and may your angels walk you all the way home.

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  2. Stephen, beautiful tribute to your Grandpa {and Grandma}. Lovely that you can comment on these lives well lived. All the best, and
    Happy Holidays, to you, Barbie, and all those you love, Robin and Markus

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    1. Thank you so much! Hope you have a merry Christmas!

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  3. I love your attitude about your Grandfather's passing. When my Dad died at age 76 after dealing with Alzheimer's for almost 7 years, I was relieved that last chapter was over and wanted to celebrate what a great guy he was and what a wonderful life he had.

    I am with you on faith. There is so much beauty and wonderment in our world, I think the forces that created it are amazing. The circle of life is okay with me. Sadness of course but acceptance in this is the way things are. Not everyone will get to live as long as your grandfather. Or have as wonderful a life as he had or a great family. Such is life.

    Your photos are just stunning. That is the best looking cedar waxwing I have ever seen.

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    1. Thank you so much! Alzheimer's is so hard and so cruel. I agree with you on the importance of stepping back and seeing the whole life and all the good things. That can be so hard with Alzheimer's because the end is so awful. That CW was so friendly and not the least bit scared of me!! I was very close to him. Such a beauty. Didn't even notice the flash of yellow on his tail until I got the photos on my computer.

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    2. To die with your mind intact at his age......(and saying" Don't mention that goddamn man's name again") Is all I hope for......lucky duck you are.....what a great guy!!!

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  4. Such a lovely tribute that you have written for your Grandfather...
    my condolences and sympathy go out to you at this time.
    Your grandpa sounds like a kind and decent fellow...he has left you with wonderful memories and a legacy of love.
    XO

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  5. Damn! You are good. Love your spirit, your thinking, and yes, your writing. Thank you for adding humor, good will and common sense to this big, old world of ours.

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    1. Thank you! That is such a kind thing to say.

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  6. Oh, Stephen. I am so sorry about your Grandfather Bob. There is, however, something awesome in a gentle death. We do not recognize that very often. Or accept it. But unlike a life that has been cut short too soon, for example, in childhood, or suddenly, or by accident or violence, a gentle slipping away is full of awe. There is the poem by Dylan Thomas "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, rage rage against the dying of the light". But there are times, as with your grandfather, that it is truly blessed to go gentle... iIs a gift to be able to say good-bye, too. May he go with God and may you know that he is in his rightful place. (in the rv) Lovely photos. Wonderful grandfather. May you be able to cerish his memory, always.

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    1. Thank you! You're absolutely right. It seems so rare for someone to live so long and so successfully I really had the celebration of that in focus through this.

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    2. Yes you do! Ellie's loss was a loss to all of us....so so young (My daughter here in Santa Barbara is the exact same age and Ellie knew her.....) That is so not fair. Your grandfather is the opposite. A life well-lived...and a graceful exit.
      Beautiful! None of us want to live "too long" losing our faculties.....however; none of us want to die "too young" robbed of our faculties like Ellie....Too bad we do not get to pick.

      Love to you
      Stephen Andrew.

      ps what if a bunch of us went to France and tried to adopt that divine dog.......in Provence.....Teddy???? I will join the gang!!! And I have at least two people who will come with me. What say you???
      .

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  7. Stephen, I just happened to see if you had a new post! Excited to see that you did and then saddened to see why. Lovely tribute to your grandfather and to your entire family. What you wrote about him and his Jinny is so very sweet. Peace and blessings to you all.

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  8. I love this post so much. I think I felt a lot like my grandma (though we never, ever called her that) as you did about your grandfather. I aspire to turn into her and I think I might be headed that direction. I'm good with it. Well done on feeding the family.

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    1. Thank you so much, Erin! I actually thought of you as I was tirelessly whipping more butter into my potatoes. I remembered when you said that one year your potatoes had so much butter in them it was "grotesque"! Haha I had a bit of that feeling as I was fighting tide pools of melted butter :)

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    2. Being a Granny myself I love reading things from people who treasure their grandparents......I adored my Granny......ADORED!!

      I have 7 grandchildren....and adore all of them! Lucky, lucky, lucky!!!

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  9. Stephen,
    I am so sorry for your loss and so grateful that you continue to share your life with us. I’ve loved your blog for quite some time and open it gleefully when I find an installment in my Inbox. You’ve given me many laughs and a lot of joy in your prose and your beautiful photos. I can only imagine the pride and love felt for you by your grandfather. Enjoy your memories of him, your grandmother, and the times you spent together. (LOVE the Limoges!)
    ~ Lynn

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    1. Thank you so much, Lynn!! I so appreciate that. I don't know what it was but I was in such a hot streak finding deals on Limoges! I ended up needing the reinforcements!

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  10. Cheers to Bob and his lovely wife, Jinny. I think you have written a beautiful tibute for your grandparents. My deepest sympathy for your loss.

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    1. My husband, Adam, was "raised" by his grandfather when his father died when he was 11 ; (1951) his siblings were 9,7 and5! Italian custom in his grandfathers former village....(outside Lucca) (his grandfather came over on a ship in 1890 around the horn!)
      that the grandfather "took on" the eldest boy of the family....and taught him to "raise the rest". Astonishing.
      My husband did that. His grandfather lived to be 97; and just "went to sleep at his desk" at the poultry company he founded in 1905 in San Francisco. Life well lived....that is what I say!!! Bravo!

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  11. What a beautiful tribute to your Grandpa! I never knew my Grandads so I love hearing about everyone else's. I don't know how anyone gets through life without a belief in a Higher Power...I feel sorry for them. You are a very special man, Stephen Andrew, and I hope you will have a wonderful Christmas and blessed New Year....with your loved ones at your side.

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    1. Thank you so much, Nan! I'm sorry you never knew your grandpas. I am so lucky to have had both of mine. You can borrow my grandpa, Bill, if you'd like. He likes everything with sugar and Dancing With the Stars. And porn. Haha! Also he calls everyone he knows on Christmas Day.

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    2. I'll take him....lock, stock and porno barrel!!!!

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  12. A lovely tribute to your grandparents who were so clearly, dearly loved.

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  13. A loving wonderful post about your Grandfather, you were blessed with a wonderful family and an especially special Grandfather.
    I laughed out loud at your food signs.
    Merry Christmas to you

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    1. Thank you so much, Kathy! Merry Christmas to you and that lovely yellow lab :)

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  14. My condolences Stephen. You have wonderful memories of your grandparents to remember them by. How fortunate you were able to provide some great meals and cookies and to have given your grandfather a good send off. I think you are a straight shooter and love to read your blog, keep up the good work. xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Lillian! I so appreciate that.

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  15. Stephen Andrew I'm so sorry you've lost your Grandpa Bob but what an extraordinary calm end he had. He is with Jinny now taking instructions I'm sure. He sounds like he was a really wonderful man, my gosh you have good genetics.
    Not to insult the atheists but I'll never understand how someone can believe they are an atheist. I always try to encourage people who are really hardline on this issue to maybe embrace agnosticism? I have a degree in philosophy and one thing I took away from my academic career is that there is so much we don't know. Why would we even assume we actually know anything?
    I was with my Nana when she died at age 93. Like your Grandpa she had spent the previous two decades missing my Grandpa who died of colon cancer. The morning she died was gorgeous and peaceful, with blue skies and incredible light. I am 100% certain I saw something leave her face, kind of an essence of her (the soul?) the moment she died, it went out the window towards the sky. That sounds completely insane I know, but it's true. I wasn't drunk either.
    These photos are absolutely stunning. And this post is beautifully written and a gift to us, what you're sharing here. Big hug to you Darling SAJ. xx

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    1. She did exactly that.....right out the window....that Nana....into the blue sky. Never doubt a second. Yes, it was her soul. I believe that is just what happens.......

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    2. Thank you so much, Dani! I absolutely love your quote "why would we even assume we actually know anything"?! So true. I completely believe you about your nana and that she was truly there one minute and gone the next. I almost felt guilty that I wasn't more sad but I just always sensed how much he missed her in the day to day. And his dear dear daughter and my beloved Aunt Patti passed away in 2009 and he told a nurse he was just so excited to see them again. I know he was ready. This is my grandpa who did all the family genealogy dating back to late 1400s. He did it all before the internet! He had such an interest and I just adore the image of him getting to meet all these people he spent so much time researching. For the dinner at my house after the service I really wanted to have a giant family tree printed to showcase his work but couldn't find the right tree that is in his handwriting. It's not lost but I needed it within about fifteen minutes so just couldn't get it done. I still might though.

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  16. I echo that this is a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. So sorry and sincere condolences to you and your family. But it seems he was blessed with a happy long life but also a passing that was special too. I would have loved to compare French jokes with him ;) Love your food signs - you are very conscientious though with your feeding if you had kids you would probably have to call them Precious 1 - Precious 2 hehe gorgeous pics by the way. You are doing wonders for Ohio's PR!

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    1. Thank you so much! Ohio is very beautiful! You just can't ever be sure which season you'll get! Haha oh those poor children. I would probably make them eat quinoa and salmon while I had pasta tossed in cream sauce. He would have loved your French jokes!

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  17. Oh my, my chest hurt reading your post. My dearest grandfather also passed peacefully after a long good life. I remember when my uncle came to my door to tell me, he spoke about the blessing of a peaceful death. The entire family had just celebrated a holiday together and my grandfather was so very pleased we were all together. Two days later he was gone, a stroke after spending the morning hunting on his beloved farm.

    Your love for him shines thru in your post. He was as fortunate to have you and you were to have him.

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm both sorry and so happy to hear about your grandfather. How wonderful that he was able to enjoy the holiday with you all and one last communion with his land before he left.

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  18. My condolences to you and your family, Stephen. A lovely tribute to him. It's good to know that he soldiered on even without his Chief. Our elders teach us a lot about how they handle these events in their lives and how lucky to be around such Grace. Theirs is a story of love and thank you for sharing it with us. The pictures are breathtaking, colors, close-ups, pinks and purples, a feast for the eyes. To Bob and Jinny, Cheers in the Heavens above (or wherever they choose to be). I love your menu cards - I can see a fun sport in this! I put up my little Dickens sign about having the Christmas Spirit in My Heart and Keeping it All The Year, and next to it I taped my own, "I will Clean My Apt. and Keep it Tidy All the Year." ~Nicole in CA

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    1. Thank you so much! You are so right. Haha it just seems to be the most direct way to address the growing list of food sensitivities, allergies, and preferences. Also it spares people from having to ask which they appreciate.

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  19. Stephen, what joy this post brought me! Your memories of your grandparents tell me so much about you and what a kind, loving person you must be. I'm sure your grandpa
    must have looked fondly at you and been glad for all your talents, not the least of which is your beautiful turn of phrase. You are just a terrific writer. Glad tidings to you and yours and keep up the good work. You're becoming a national treasure in my book!

    A reader in Tiburon, CA

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh that would mean the country was really in crisis! Haha! He was very supportive of me-his highest compliment was "I'll tell you what, this is blue ribbon state fair good". :)

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  20. Dear Stephen, Thank you for this beautiful tribute to your grandpa. I am truly sorry for your loss, as he sounds like he was a remarkable man. I love the mental image of your Grandpa and his Chief back together again having new adventures in their old RV. Big hug.

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    1. Thank you so much! It was the first thing I thought! I had this last photo blown up to about 3' x 2' and had it hanging in my kitchen so everyone saw it when they walked in. I'm so enjoying it!

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  21. I do hope your grandfather got to see your photographs. The ones that accompanied your very lovely tribute to him were stunning. If he loved being outside, then he would have thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors through your eyes. You have a great gift - which might very well come from a slice of his sensibilities - his great gift to you.

    I think I should like to die in your family's arms.

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    1. Thank you so much! He did! And he was very supportive of my writing. It was funny because I used to write a column just as a volunteer for a local paper and he was quite proud to distribute the paper and tell people his grandson wrote it at his retirement community :)

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  22. Beautiful pictures, beautiful tribute. I'm glad you did the hosting, not only did it give you something meaningful to do during a difficult time but probably made many people very happy and allowed them to enjoy wonderful food and wine while celebrating your grandfather's life. How awesome that he lived so well for so long. But yes, I'd like to think he's in Heaven now, on his wife's schedule, for lunch, visiting and catching up with everyone who had gone on before him...parents, WWII buddies. And of course I have very little fear he will EVER see Donald Trump there, either, so eternity should be happy for him lol.

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    1. Thank you so much! I love this! Haha very good point! The one place to get away from Trump! Haha. You're so right. I am glad to have the role of cook and host because it does help me channel all my energy and feelings into something productive.

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  23. oh stephen how do you do it? you really are the consummate blogger. your words, always so spot on, paired with your incredible photos unfold a story and i feel like i am there with you. i'm just glancing at the comment above that says you are becoming a national treasure and you already are to all of us who love you. God bless you and your loved ones this christmas and always...xo

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    1. Janet that is such a high compliment coming from you! Thank you so much! I took that twilight photo on Wednesday morning and was so struck by the meaning I could glean from it. I mean I'm also the man who is convinced his grandmother visits him in dish soap bubbles so maybe I just need to be committed. Merriest Christmas to you too J!

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    2. I second Janet's comments. You took me on a voyage back to my grandfathers, who were two of the most special and important people in my life. And yes, Stephen, you are "just really fucking special." And my grandmother speaks to me in soap bubbles, too, because I inherited her kitchen utensils and still use them every day.

      Jill

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  24. Thank you for this lovely post. I am so sorry for your loss but feel so privileged to read your reminiscences of your beloved grandparents. Your grandfather, Bob, sounds like such an estimable man and how fortunate you were to have him as a model!
    Just have to tell you what a pure pleasure it is for me to read your posts. I love your sense of humor, your vulgarity, your honesty, your perspective and your writing. Oh, and now I have to add your beautiful nature photography!! The photos of the CW are gorgeous.
    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thank you so much, Anne! You are so right, I was very lucky to know him and know him well! He had such a sharp wit and I so enjoyed him. That little cedar waxwing was so cute!! Not the least bit worried about me right beneath him. Or her? Not sure I'll need to look. Merry Christmas to you!

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    2. Oh Stephen, you had me laughing and crying! Your writing shows such love for your grandparents, and it is obvious they taught you a lot about being a person with a good heart. I love the juxtaposition of your elegant Limoges and your food signs, you are my people sir. On the politics, I have been thinking deeply about the fact that so many of our wonderful WWII veterans and their spouses have died and the impact that has had on the way people think about fascism and Neo-nazis. They would have been appalled and opposed to all the Neo-nazi garbage coming out right now. Merry Christmas & thank you for your beautiful stories and photos.

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  25. I'm so sorry about your Grandfather. Doesn't it seem that holidays have losses or do we just feel them more? On a more secular note: I LOVE YOUR CHINA! Take care of yourself during these times even though you love taking care of everyone else.

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes this is two Christmases in a row for me with loss. I suppose we all have those periods in our lives. The good news is that the family stays together and continues to evolve. I hope that's the case for you too. I have one side that's better at it than the other :)
      I certainly am. I've been able to sleep in until almost 7:30! Unheard of for me. I am cumulatively exhausted I think.

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  26. Stephen Andrew,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute and beautiful photography. Having belonged to the same church since 1984 and being a member of the choir, I've been to quite a few memorial services...and I'm with you, there's sadness but happiness too in celebrating a life well lived. Still, I'm sorry for your loss. And, I loved the little anecdote concerning Trump!
    Blessings and happy Christmas to you and yours.

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    1. Thank you so much! How wonderful the choir is to be at memorial and funeral services! I'm sure the music is such a comfort to so many!

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  27. Stephen Andrew, This is one of the best and most beautiful posts I've read.

    Your love and wisdom shine through in every word. You've made them both real for people all over the world - I almost feel I knew and loved your grandfather. In many ways I'm envious of your long loving relationship with them - and also FF's with her grandparents - you've had at least one wonderful grandparent well into your adult life. Sadly I never the joy of this - most of mine died when I was very young, one in a road accident. The last surviving grandparent I hadn't seen since I was ten and she died when I was twelve.
    So I've always tried hard to be a good Nonna to my darling grand-daughters. Who knows what lies ahead for them and for the rest of this generation of children? I have to admit it troubles me.

    I think, Stephen Andrew, you would make the most wonderful grandfather (and father) - can just imagine all your family's love for you and the funny stories they would tell!

    Also, I'm with you in tuning into the beauty and seasonal changes of the natural world and sensing the presence of a divine Creator. Your pictures are always so beautiful - the glories of nature, Bob and Jinny and family and your amazing feasts and food captions!

    Happy Christmas and New Year, Stephen Andrew. I'm sure you will feel the presence of your wonderful grandparents watching over you and enjoying the festivities from afar. Pammie

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    1. Thank you so so much, Pammie!! That is so wonderful of you to say! I'm sorry you didn't have long and personal relationships with your grandparents. That is the nice thing about so many previous generations in my family having children so early! At one point we had five living generations because three generations started sooooo early :) my mom always says she was the rebel in the family with only one husband, children after 30 and going to college! Though you didn't have your grandparents you've been able to be the grandparent you wanted to have and that is really special. Merry Christmas to you! Enjoy your son and his daughters! And the seafood!

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  28. I am so sad to read this but what a beautiful tribute.

    I love being twins with you about most things but I wish we weren't twins with losing our paternal grandfathers just before Christmas. I am so sad but happy for mine in a way because he was lost for the last 6 years without my Grandma.

    Just before he died he insisted on getting a hair cut because he said if he was going to see my Grandma again, he wanted to look his absolute best.

    The catholic church really is at its very best when someone dies- the comfort of a requiem mass, the incense, the choir, the bits about the angels leading you into heaven…but it's hard, because the thing you want is their physical presence.

    Do not get me started on the amount of cooking cleaning and feeding funerals create. I love your limoges though.

    Wish I was there to give you a big hug and a massive drink.

    Love you Stephen Andrew.

    Keep the Faith xxxxx

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    1. Thank you so much, FF! I am currently nursing a drink and stirring my tiramisu filling so you would be quite welcome! I am so sorry about your grandfather. His haircut just brings me to tears. What a gentleman! Totally agree with you on Catholicism, the pageantry really does give everything such an air if importance and I think that means a lot to families. So much cooking and cleaning but at least we know it was done right! I'm sure just like me you couldn't forgive yourself if it wasn't done just right. Merry Christmas xoxox

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    2. One of my oldest friends sister just lost her husband of 43 years. She came home and found him "watching a game" in his favorite chair......asleep.....forever.
      Listening to her describe the service....and the eulogies....etc....made me realize and I said it to her.....how lucky to be a practicing and believing Catholic.......I am not a Catholic....but the nuns rescued me....changed my life. I actually thought I wanted to BE a nun for a few weeks there!

      It is an enormous comfort....and what you did was very comforting to the rest of your family. I hope they told you. If not....I am telling you right now~!!! HUGE COMFORT!!!

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  29. When loved ones live long lives, we start to think they're invincible and will live forever. I remember being shocked when my grandma died at 100. It's hard to lose them, but they stay with us through memories of their lives well lived. Thank you for sharing memories of your grandfather. Your photos are beautiful.

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    1. Thank you so much! How did the American Christmas cookies go?? I know exactly what you mean. My GG was such a force and such a legend that I just didn't really think she'd ever go. It seemed unreal when she died. Despite her heavy drinking, sunning, and occasional smoking! My hero!

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  30. This is a lovely post and a beautiful tribute to your grandpa. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    I'm not sure I've found a comforting feeling of a greater/higher power from my personal experiences of death - my mothers death was frankly awful, in both the effect on family and friends as well as her suffering. I can't see any way in which it has lead any of us to a sense of comfort or a benevolent higher power 4 years later.... But everyone has their own way of dealing with things, that was made clear. For some that is faith, and I understand the comfort that can be drawn from it.
    I'm so sad you've had this in the midst of your true moment to shine - the holidays. but well done on the baking, entertaining and Limoges purchasing, it sounds like you sent him off well. He sounds like a wonderful man and I'm glad he managed to leave before the inauguration! Xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Heidi! I know exactly what you mean and really agree. I don't have the "everything happens for a reason/part of a greater plan" type of faith. I don't think people suffer for a reason or that they do so to reach/learn a lesson. I do believe that souls and spirits have presence after the person is physically gone though. I think energy is such a fascinating study. It'll still be a fab Christmas. Hoping to get a really good photo of my tree. I did all colored lights-in three different sizes. I think it's 25 strands so it is so enchanting and kind of has a gravitational pull of its own! Merry Christmas to you! Good luck with the lunch! I'm sure it'll be glorious!

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    2. so true. If he hadn't died the inauguration would have killed him on the spot. I am not watching. I will be hiding somewhere. Hopefully, somewhere beautiful.......by the pond with my wild ducks? (they were rescued as orphans...and they are not leaving!)
      Somewhere......no can watch or even read about. Waiting for the lump in my throat to go away.

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  31. Oh, Stephen,

    I'm truly sorry for your loss. Sounds like your grandfather is leaving a wonderful legacy and family behind that he can be proud of.

    Best,

    Tim

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    1. Thank you so much, Tim! Not sure I'm always deserving of pride but my brother and sister are! Haha

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  32. Dearest Stephen, this is the most wonderful tribute to your grandfather!

    Wishing you the best possible Christmas and only wonderful things in the New Year. Love to you, my darling.

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    1. Thank you so much, Connie! Merry Christmas to you and everyone at your lovely property!

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  33. OH DEAR...........so many passing this year.HE sounds like a GEM!
    You are a GEM for labeling all the FOOD!!!!!!I SURE HOPE your PEEPS appreciate YOU!Tell me they DO?
    Your BIRDIE in the BERRY BUSH!!!!!!!!!Knocks my socks off!!!
    MERRY CHRISTMAS.............and show me that new OLD LIMOGE!!!!!
    XX

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    1. Thank you so much!! Yes, for the most part they do really appreciate it. But I really do it for me. And for this particular situation, I wanted to do it as my Aunt Patti would have liked it done. She is the one that would have been doing this but since she couldn't I tried to really do it in her style!

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    2. Beautiful! What a compliment to Aunt Patti!

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  34. .... To Bob and Jinny!
    with love and sympathy,
    xxojoan

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  35. My condolences on your loss. Your grandfather sounds like he was a lovely man. What a great person to have had in your life.

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  36. What a lovely person. I hope there is no Trump in Heaven. SO sorry to hear of your loss, Stephen.

    Your bluebird capture is gorgeous!



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    1. Thank you!! The bluebirds are quite happy to present themselves to me. If only I could get the eagles and owls to follow their lead :)
      Merry Christmas!

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    2. Trump will see no one heaven. Just a guess.

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  37. Gosh, Stephen Andrew, what a lovely tribute to your grandfather - and your grandmother, too. Thank you for your thoughts on faith - as I'm reading them, I thought to myself, "I do believe I agree". The pictures of the birds are just amazing - how did you capture them in all their loveliness and in those branches? You have my deepest condolences on your loss.

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    1. Thank you so much!! It was the most beautiful morning when I took those. The first day the sun had been out in literally eleven days! The light was almost blinding and no one was out, so I sort of gently trudged up to that winterberry and waited only a few minutes before the birds swooped in.

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  38. What an extraordinary tribute to your grandparents. My condolences for your loss - you are an amazing man, and I still wish I had met you and your family when I lived in Ohio once upon an age. Oh, and who gives a shit if you dropped the ball? Your grandfather is/was far more important! About faith: you're right on the money in all respects.

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    1. Thank you so much, Betty! You must have run in far too respectable circles when you lived here! Haha Merry Christmas!

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  39. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful tribute with us and the accompanying beauty of the photography as well. I am so very sorry for your loss but am grateful that you are at peace with it.
    Sending much Love,
    H

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    1. Thank you so much, Heather! Merry Christmas and/or Solstice! We had the most insane papaya colored sunrise here on the solstice. Too bad I just sat and watched it rather than get a single photo!

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  40. I just recently found your blog and have been enjoying it. My condolences on the loss of your grandfather, he sounds like an amazing man. My dad died from pancreatic cancer, within 3 months of being diagnosed. I am in awe that your grandfather recovered from it and had several more fulfilling years, that speaks to faith and something greater than all of us.
    merry christmas.
    suburbanmom2

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    1. Welcome, and thank you so much! I'm very sorry about your father. It was truly a shock when he came out of it so successfully. Like doctors were coming from all over to review his charts and meet him because it was such a shock. I remember family flying in and grimly checking with us on their layovers if they might be too late. He had many instances where he snapped back. Merry Christmas!

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  41. Dear Stephen, I'm sorry for the loss of such a great man in your family, but glad he's reuniting with his forever love. You are so good to share his story with all of us in your blogger world.
    Wishing you and your family all the best for these holidays. Den xx

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    1. Same to you Den! Thank you so much! Enjoy the barbecue and if you happen to see that vintage car decorated for Christmas with surf theming, send it to me! Merry Christmas!

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  42. HOLY COW!!! All those different sizes of lights.......

    I love love love the story of your grandparents.....joy and hope. That is what Christmas is all about. I walk around with a lump in my throat....I cannot give this power to that awful man. Hope. Hope I get over it soon!! Seeking joy in my work.....and stopping reading news. It is just too sad.

    My artist friend Radisha told me years ago: "Stop reading the news. You will be happier"!

    Well......

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes I promise to get a good photo of my tree! I actually pruned it to look vintage and a little mishapen. I hate trees with perfect form! I used to insist on it but as I studied a bit more I realized I liked a slightly beat up, but still big ass tree.
      My philosophy on news is for every daunting thing I read that leaves me with dread, I read something that inspires me. I think NYT has that balanced so well.

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    2. Yes they do! You are right. That is the one newspaper I still read every day! Bravo!

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  43. Dear Stephen, I just love the pictures your words make, I just love the photos you choose, I just love you.

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  44. That is my philosophy in a nutshell! You just said it! BE the father you wanted; BE the mother you wanted, Be the Grandparent you wanted....or; if you had a good one of any of them....do it again!!

    I had the best Granny ever.......she got the crayon off the wallpaper before my mother got home from the office.....I adored her.
    I hope I am traveling in her footsteps.....with 7 grandchildren! All grown up.......eeek! Shall I encourage young marriages for great-grandchildren???

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  45. Hey! I have only been to Ohio once....42 years ago to a wedding in Cincinnati !!! I wish I had met Stephen also......but he wasn't born!!!

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  46. Those pictures of the waxwings were Audubon material!!!

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  47. Bluebirds are the debutantes of the avian family! Owls and eagles are not social.......but we do adore them!!!

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  48. When we first built our house...we had a "meadow" with bluebird houses.....I could feed them mealworms and they would take them from my hand! My daughter came over with her daughter (now 18) and she said....'Mommy! You are Snow White!!!" They fluttered all about....their nest box was right there. For four years they came back....and the first group of babies would help feed the second! Astonishing!
    Then the bushes became bigger....and the quail came.....and the other birds.....the bluebirds like lawn and low growth.....(I am glad someone likes lawn....not me....but there are lots of bluebirds on the golf courses....thanks to the houses!

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  49. Stephen, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandfather's passing. I love your tribute to your grandparent's lives together. Having all of my remaining elders in a precarious state of health only reminds me of the days which will certainly be arriving all too soon. I'm doing my best to juggle doctor appts with both of our mothers, but there are days I want to run screaming from the building. Thankfully, my sore back and other assorted bits are making a fast getaway impossible.

    Only you would be ready with glorious food and drink for the mourners, always so thoughtful, loving and elegant. Always a pleasure to visit you, my friend. :-)

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  50. Stephen- your grandfather must have been a joy and a source of strength for your family. He sounds like a wonderful man, and you were so lucky to have him. Blessings and prayers to you and your family.

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  51. Sorry to hear about Grandpa Bob. He sounded like my kind of guy. I'm sure this Christmas will be bittersweet without him, but I'm sure he, like my father, would have wanted the show to go on. A long life well-lived is indeed meant to be celebrated. Is that you in Grandma's arms???

    Your photos are just beautiful. I've never seen a blue-bird, but it's on my bucket list.

    I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas, and that before long, you'll be back to regale us with more tales and photos. Cheers!

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  52. I just got back from a trip so I'm late in seeing this post.
    you describe him so well I want to almost think that he could be MY grandfather!
    sharing black watch here to his memory stephen andrew and to his life.
    a bit o the wee when new friends meet... and black watch when old friends must part.
    he's on his way to see jinny.
    I don't know what I believe anymore. but I know this much...
    I have so many loved ones on the other side of this life... that I have to hope i'll see them again.
    and your pictures? why they're what christmas is all about charlie brown! and maybe even heaven too.
    XOXO♥ hugs to you and beloved barbie my darling boy.

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  53. Happy Boxing Day and I hope you found peace on Christmas. Condolences on the loss of your grandfather. He sounds like he knew what was what. I can't share your faith in a higher power but your photographs sure do capture the glory of creation. And though I think life on earth could get along just fine with no humans, then there would be no Limoges!
    Mary

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  54. What a beautiful tribute to your grandparents. I am so glad I read this. The imagery you paint is powerful. Thank you.

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  55. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandfather. You clearly come from strong stock. Love the Bob Evans/Chi Chi's recovery tale. That's resilience. xo

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  56. Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your grandfather. He sounds like one of the good ones, A true loving person. I love that he and your grandmother traveled in their RV. What great memories you get to cherish.

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  57. I'm so sorry that your Grandpa passed and expecially at the Holidays... we've been thru that this year, with my Mom passing just before Halloween and my Mother-In-Law passing last week... so The Man and I are now Motherless, too bad Moms cannot be immortal... we Miss them so much and that is a void nobody can fill. Both having been in their eighties tho' and mine being full of piss and vinegar and a total Divine Bohemian Diva right up to the end, they had a good run and I cannot be sad for them being released from the decline of health and loss of independence... so it is a conflicted type of Grief... but it's still hard and we're still grieving the profound Losses. Old Age is indeed a privilege not afforded to many. So I give you a big virtual Hug for the Loss of your Grandpa and for Sharing the Memories... Dawn... The Bohemian

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