Friday, June 24, 2011

am I dead yet?

today a co-worker asked, "you have any kids, matt?"

a few days before father's day a woman wished me a, "happy father's day, if you're a father."

what? babies having babies?!

another customer guessed my age correctly.

the benefits of late-onset puberty were so short-lived

Thursday, June 23, 2011

not the hippest

trying to explain what a hipster was to my mom, I told her that when I saw one next I'd point him out. days later I spot one and tell her. she asked, "how do you know he's a hip surgeon?"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

what I said at my grandmother's funeral

german class, marathon, speech at grandma's funeral--all things that have hung over my head since the beginning of the year. two down, one to go, as of today. all three done by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. the following I started at work two days before I was to read it, then worked on for about an hour more at home and in hotels, finishing it on an iPad on the drive to the the church and mere seconds before walking into the church. expectations lowered yet?

reaction: nice comments, no raves, but I hope and trust that it communicated, at least in tone, what I had hoped it would. the eulogy as delivered:
I'd like to share with everyone here today some of my memories of my grandmother. I figured that this would be the most natural thing, as sharing memories of my grandmother is something I imagine doing with my family for the rest of my life.

I should acknowledge that, as a grandchild, my memories are limited by time; my memories were of a woman who was, to me, always "grandma." And she was a good one.

As a grandmother, she was forever proud of her grandchildren and our accomplishments, however minor. She was forever attentive with the reports and recaps of our lives, however mundane. And she was forever insistent that we take seconds at the dinner table, however we resisted.

She was also someone very obviously from that foreign country that is the past, with its peculiar customs impenetrable to citizens of the modern age. There were many instances of things just not quite translating from one generation to the other. And I’m not speaking only of her tastes in the selection of gifts for us. There was enduring, nonplussed head-shaking (and sometimes a little pride) in her display of that greatest generation’s austere "Great Depression Mindset" that persisted long past the time of any necessity. She would trek to the military commissary at Camp Pendleton, a large military base in San Diego, passing over the grocery store less than a mile from her home. She would root out deals at J.C. Penny and store her leftovers in empty cool whip tubs instead of using Tupperware.

But, more than object of our good-natured ribbing, she was a living connection to a past that I could never know. It was fascinating to listen to her share details of her life, of growing up during the depression, of marrying a serviceman and the attendant sacrifices of life on the home front and of raising a young daughter while my grandfather was deployed. I used to like picking a historical event from her lifetime, from the multiple reelections of FDR to the moon landing to the Vietnam war, and asking her about her memories and reflections.

She hailed from a time of manners, of New England propriety, and of entertaining (and she was the consummate entertainer). It was inspiring to witness her commitment to friends and family, to creating a warm environment for all us to gather and share in one another's lives.

And now please, if you’ll bear with me a moment, permit me the reading of a memories list.

crudités platters, tortilla chips and onion dip
cranberry squares on lettuce
Christmas morning coffee and Entenmann’s cake
making food ahead of time and freezing it
crossword puzzles
white zinfandel
the Lawrence Welk Show
the navy league
“you don’t know what’s good”
the children's book, "are you my mother?"
blowing bubbles in the backward
feeding the ducks
trekking to the pool

To some of you, the preceding list was merely disparate references, with little particular meaning related to my grandmother, Gretta. I hope some points on the list brought a smile of knowing familiarity to some faces. But, I know that to me, to my siblings and perhaps to the rest of my family, any point on the above list could send us into mirthful reminiscence of things, now, sadly in the past.

Recalling the memories of my grandmother also led me to a small meditation on what a family is, what makes a family, a family. Memories are so important for providing the context of our familiarity. They are the warp and woof of the family, constituting the framework thru which we meet and atop which we build new memories. And, in a lot of ways, these shared experiences and recollections constitute us as a family, transforming us from individuals to relatives, to members of a family--something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Stories and details like the ones I and others have shared, and will share today, and innumerable others, are the stories that will be shared and retold when the family gathers and they are the stories that will be passed down like keepsakes to our children, to our cousins' children, to our nieces and nephews, and to our grand-kids. And so much of that corpus of received family history has come from and thru my grandmother and because of that she will remain in my thoughts and I will remain forever thankful.