Sunday, August 28, 2016

Karma on the race course

Sam wasn't quite tall enough to drive a go-cart at the Minnesota State Fair last year. Which is why it was first on his list of things to do this year. He had a great time and drove quite well despite the "accident."

An adult apparently didn't comprehend -- despite the signs on the track and list of rules at the entrance -- that the go-carts are not bumper cars. The man rear-ended Sam, causing his cart to spin around and crash onto the guardrail. The man drove off laughing and shouting, "got you."

Karmic justice was swift. Two ride workers ran out onto the course, stopping traffic right in front of the man as he completed a lap around the oval. They pulled Sam's car off the guard rail, turned it around and got Sam back on course right in front of him.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Still Letting Go

It’s a beautiful hand-painted box, given by my mother-in-law’s friend, a tole artist, as a wedding day gift. I had planned to keep family photos in it. Instead it holds the mementos of our son Cameron’s life.

I reached in for the white baby blanket embroidered with his name and date of birth -- the standard baby gift from my workplace at the time. Our son Sam received one like it a couple of years later.

I never used either blanket. As a baby, Sam couldn’t tolerate polar fleece. I’d slip him into a fleece sleeper and even in the middle of a northern Minnesota winter he’d wake up an hour later, crying, his face and hands beet red, his body soaked in sweat. Cameron never had use for a blanket.

I’d been meaning to do this for a long time.

“If I ever get a sewing machine,” I’d tell myself, “I’ll sew the embroidered corners, cut them off as keepsakes and donate these perfectly good blankets to Goodwill.” Then, it was, “If I ever get that sewing machine up and running…”

Today was the day. I took the blanket downstairs to the machine. I sewed off the corner, then cut it off the blanket. I went upstairs to my closet for Sam’s blanket and repeated the actions.

I told Tom I’m going to save Sam’s corner for a memory quilt I plan to make. I’ve already planned themes for some of the squares: Thomas the Train, his three favorite super heroes, little league baseball, soccer, running, Cub Scouts.

But do we need to save Cameron’s? I asked. Not knowing the blankets existed, he didn’t think so.

I put the now plain white blankets in a bag and set them in the Goodwill pile. I stowed Sam’s corner in a box with his baby quilt. I gathered the remaining scraps to throw away.

I fingered the other corner: Cameron Lloyd, August 6, 2002. Fourteen years and a day, I noted ruefully. I returned it to the box. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reliving my childhood summers

Our annual visit to West Virginia resembled my childhood summers in many ways:

  • Riding bikes in the early morning or late evening to the John Marshall High School tennis courts (freshly resurfaced with new nets and fence this year) to play a few sets.
  • Swimming or just cooling off from the hot mid-day sun in Glen Dale's municipal swimming pool.
  • Biking out Little Grave Creek Road or into town. (The bike trail along the Ohio River between Glen Dale and Moundsville didn't exist back then.)
  • Checking out a big stack of books from the Moundsville Public Library. (They didn't have movies on DVD back then.)
  • Gathering with the cousins to play cards at my Mom's house. (We played sports and games outdoors instead of Canasta at the dining room table.)
  • Reconnecting with my brother Mike and my best friend from high school Letitia.

With my mother's pronouncement that she will be ready to sell the house in two years and move to Duluth to be near me, my opportunities to "go home again" are nearing an end. Mom may change her mind several times between now and then. At 86, we all know maintaining the house and acre of land with it has become "too much" for her.

 I'll be happy to have her nearby rather than 1,000 miles away. But I will miss recreating my childhood summers for my son. We have been blessed to be able to do that for 11 years and --  hopefully -- a couple more.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Schooling for life

During our visit to West Virginia, my brother Mike gave my 11-year-old son some tips on shooting pool. He also introduced him to two-handed euchre and "Shut the Box," a traditional English pub game of dice and numbers.

I must mention that after 10 rounds of Shut the Box, Sam wanted to modify the rules to include the use of subtraction in eliminating the numbers. By the following day, he was advocating the use of algebraic formulas. None of which his Uncle Mike would allow.

Obviously, my son doesn't yet understand the importance of keeping your drinking games simple.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sliding into summer at Sweet Lake

We spent the first couple days of Sam's summer break at Sweet Lake -- paddle-boarding, kayaking, swimming, reading in the hammock, listening to the call of the loons, watching a great blue heron glide across the lake. I'd describe this trip to the cabin as a relaxing, gentle start to summer.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Happy I live in Minnesota

DFL caucus-goers search for their precinct rooms at Duluth East High School on Tuesday./ DNT photo
Looking at my state's caucus results today, I'm happy to say I live in Minnesota. That more voters in our state chose Bernie Sanders over Hilary Clinton, says to me our DFLers are aspiring. That they chose Marco Rubio over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, says to me our Republicans are more rational.

Tom and I stopped in at our precinct's DFL caucus last night at East High School to cast ballots for a presidential candidate. Sam, 11, listened from the backseat while we discussed Hilary vs, Bernie on the drive there. Walking the few blocks away we had to park, we talked about him looking for campaign buttons and stickers. Entering the crowded lobby and hallways, the energy was palpable. It was a good energy, not angry.

We waited in line to get into the busy, crowded classroom where our precinct's caucus was being held. Our neighbor from across the street registered us. Another person I recognized loaned us her pen. As an election judge serving my precinct's voters for the last nine years, these actions represented an odd "turn of the tables" for me. I had never participated in a caucus before, although I covered them once as a newspaper reporter.

We chose to vote and leave rather than participate in the caucus discussion. Tom needed to get back to his work, it was a school night for Sam.

Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton laugh during CNN debate.
Once home, Sam put the Hilary sticker he had scored on his water bottle, and wished he'd gotten a Bernie sticker too. (A caucus worker fashioned one out campaign literature and masking tape, but it wasn't the same.)

On his way upstairs to bed, he quietly told me he voted for Bernie Sanders in his school election. I had heard him earlier in the week speaking against Donald Trump because of the things he had said about Muslims, building a wall around Mexico, and because "he lies." He showed me Bernie's "A President who will:" campaign literature in explaining why, pointing to "Act to Stop Climate Change" and "Make public colleges tuition-free" bullet points.

I have to admit I didn't vote for Bernie, choosing the DFL candidate I believed more "realistic" in her campaign goals and in winning the presidency. But I love that my son chose him. I hark back to Paul Wellstone. And I hope that some day, I again will choose the "idealistic."

Monday, February 8, 2016

A precious present

Our last family visit with my sister-in-law Cathy and brother Mike, Arlington National Cemetery, July 2015
It turned out to be a more important trip than any of us realized.

I wanted to show my son our nation's Capitol but I didn't want to short-change our annual summer visit to my Mom's in West Virginia. I called my brother to see if Mom could stay with him in Arlington -- IF we could convince her to accompany us to D.C. At 85, she had sworn off any more travel. But for some reason, she agreed to go.
Josh and Erin, National Zoo, July 2015

Tom, Sam and I spent four days in Washington, seeing the monuments on the National Mall, visiting the Smithsonian museums and Bureau of Engraving and Printing, getting time with extended family during meals and visits to the National Zoo and Arlington National Cemetery. Mom got to spend a lot of time visiting with my brother and his wife. I was glad we made the trip.

But now, even more so. My sister-in-law Cathy died last Monday from an illness not fully diagnosed. She was 62. Her passing came as a shock. Although she had been struggling with health the past few years, symptoms would be treated and activities resumed. On Saturday, we believed her latest struggle, with pneumonia, had turned for the better. On Sunday, it turned for the worst.

I'm grateful we made this trip. My family is too. We had four extra days with Cathy - a precious present.