Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Tribute, Life Lessons and A Drink Recommendation

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for days. Every time I open my computer and begin to type, the words are a big mess of nothing. Outwardly I have gone through the daily motion lately without much change in my behavior – not sure if that is good or bad – but inside it’s a different story. So in the context of “writing is cathartic” I’d like to give a tribute, discover a few life lessons and even give a drink recommendation this week.
As I’ve mentioned before, my childhood was spent in a small town in Wisconsin. I had a great childhood with parents who loved me and grandparents literally 5 minutes away. Grandparents are always the great equalizer to those sticky rules attached to life by parents. Candy is always available when you make the trip to grandma’s house. With grandma’s house so close to home, my belly was always sufficiently full of Starburst and Peanut M&M’s.
Her house meant much more to me than swiping – it was out in a dish so it really was more just grabbing – candy from the dish and going home. She was also more than a person to keep that dish full. My scalp can still feel the beating it received when grandma would scrub my hair. I can still hear her cheer – yup I’ll stick with the word cheer – from the stands of any sporting event we were involved in. I can still smell the bacon after waking up at her house and seeing the burnt toast waiting for us – just the way we liked it. I remember her smiling face when my grade school class came out to visit the apple orchard she worked at – knowing that a big part of that smile was because I was there.
We moved 40 minutes down the road when I was in school and once I moved out of the nest I was off on wild adventures moving around the country and visiting far off lands. This is not a regretful lost all contact with my grandma story. I still visited when I came home, but those visits were not the same as the nostalgic childhood stories –they never are really. She heard all my stories and saw all of our photos and enjoyed the stories of our family’s homeland – but I knew there was a “phew” moment every time we landed safely. See my grandma never once stepped on a plane. It was unnatural to her and there was no cocktail or drug combination that could get her on a plane. But she didn’t regret it either.
No matter how old I was, I was always “Stever” to my grandma. That never changed and I never protested because I knew I was with my grandma when I heard it. It was the same for all of her kids and grandkids. The internet is full of quotes about ditching material things and using your money for travel etc… these days. But when I take a real look at as an adult back at all of those years with my grandparents, they lived without the material things that whole time. The difference between them and those quotes is that they chose to use what little money they had on family. I think the more appropriate quote to use would be “Family: The best things in life aren’t things”.
As a man with his head on a swivel at all times it’s hard to fathom how in tune my grandma was to everything going on with her family. Not only that, she was proud of us in all of our endeavors. She took the time mention us to everyone. At my grandma’s wake last week I had a number of people come up to me and let me know that my kids were adorable and made my grandma so happy. They talked to me about my recent goings on like I lived down the street from them when in retrospect I live 8 hours away. They knew all of this because even at the end, family was the most important thing to my grandma. Say what you will about our “busy” lives and how “this is a different time”, but a lesson that all of us –myself 100% included – need to learn is that family is so much more important than anything else we have going on.
I am now left with memories, check that, very clear fantastic memories. I will always remember the summer nights on my grandparents front porch with the Milwaukee Brewers on the radio anytime I tune in to a game. I will never forget to obey - somewhat - the speed limit as my grandma was the one who told me I had a lead foot the morning before I received my first speeding ticket. And I hope that I’ll always keep my family first before anything else, just like she always did. I’m going to miss having a reason to travel to my childhood home and I’m really going to miss my grandma.
As a true Wisconsinite, my grandma’s drink of choice was none other than the Brandy Old Fashioned. Give it a try and raise one to the sky the next time you’re out. And if you’re ever traveling to the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin -either to see the migrating geese or just checking out this National Wildlife Refuge - stop in to the Goose Shot in Waupun for one of the finest Old Fashioneds around. Now it’s time to spend some better quality time with my family.