NOTE: The physical focus for my classes this week is about the body’s design of support and power from below and behind. If you’d like more about that, there is a lot of great information in this post from September 2013. What follows is the interpersonal and metaphysical side of this focus.
Grampa at my college graduation in 1986
Monday, February 29, 2016 would have been my beloved, maternal grandfather’s 100th birthday. Or more accurately, it would have been his 25th birthday … and he would have been 100 years old.
In our family, the grandchildren looked forward to the year that they were “older” than Grampa. When I was born in 1964, Gramps had just had his 12th birthday. We both had our 16th in 1980. When I turned 17, I’d had more.
He died on January 27, 2008, one month and two days before his 23rd birthday. By that time all but one of his six grandchildren had had more birthdays than he. When Catalina turned 22 in October 2008, they’d had the same.
After the main course of any dinner at my grandparents’ house, my Nana would ask if anyone wanted dessert. Yes, yes, we all did. So, she’d say, I have oatmeal cookies, vanilla ice cream, or orange sherbert (in her Brockton accent, it was “sheh-beht.”) We’d all go around the table and tell her what we wanted while she dramatically kept count on her fingers. Every single time, when she got to my Grampa, he’d say Steamed Chocolate Pudding and Hard Sauce. Exasperated, she’d lose count of everything. He knew perfectly well that Nana only made this fancy dessert on Christmas Day. When she asked him what he wanted for dessert on Christmas, he always said, Oatmeal cookies.
Any child who sat on Grampa’s lap loved to play with his face. My tongue is connected to my ears, he’d say. When little hands grabbed his left ear, his tongue would pop out on the left side. Grab the right and the tongue would slide to the right. Grab his nose and his tongue would point straight out. Sometimes we’d get tricky and pull both ears at once and he’d explode in a loud raspberry and a flurry of tickles.
My Nana loved to give gifts, so on birthdays and Christmas there was always an embarrassment of wrapped wonders to open. Nana wasn’t much a bow maker, though. Instead she used those stick-on puffy bows. Whenever anybody opened a gift with a stick-on bow, they would pull it off the box and stick it to Grampa’s head. Good-natured Gramps that he was, he would leave them all there until there was no room for more.
Grampa was a sailor and served in the Coast Guard in World War II. Going out on his boat, Sabrina, on Buzzard’s Bay was a staple of summer in my family. Once we were under way, the grand kids would skibble up onto the bow in our bathing suits and Grampa would casually turn into the wind so the waves would come over the gunnels and splash us with cold Bay water. We would shriek back to him at the tiller, Grampa! You’re splashing us!
It’s not me, he’d say, it’s the wind.
On one remarkable July weekend in 1987, I had a weekend alone at the Buzzard’s Bay cottage with Grampa. My Nana was uncharacteristically travelling and I arranged to hang out with him, just the two of us. We went sailing and ate frozen pizzas with cans of Budweiser and then went sailing again. On Saturday night, he wanted to cook me dinner but he only knew how to make one thing: baked whole bluefish. Not many people cook it whole, so we drove to every blessed fish market on the Bay until we found a whole fish. He doused it with butter and served it with potato chips. It was sublime ~ weekend and bluefish alike.
Whenever we shared any happy news with Grampa, he always said in his rumbling voice, Yea-Bo! Drew a nice picture for him? Yea-Bo! Hit a decent golf shot? Yea-Bo! Sang a solo at church? Yea-Bo! Got into the school you wanted to go to? Yea-Bo! Steamed Chocolate Pudding with Hard Sauce for dessert? Yea-Bo! To this day, when I have a success no matter how small, I can hear him cheering me on.
My cousin Erin’s Yeah Bo truck
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Everybody needs someone who lifts them up. Whether it’s a teacher or coach who taught you to be a better athlete and person, or an artist whose work you go to for inspiration, or a politician or activist or musician who shows you the kind of person you want to be, we all have allies. It doesn’t matter if they are someone you grew up with or someone you never met. It doesn’t matter if they are alive or even fictional. We all need allies to support us when we aren’t feeling strong. When we need guidance, we can look to these important people to get behind us.
Who are your allies? They are always available. Ask them for help whenever you need it.
Grampa with his first great-grandchild, Olivia
In loving memory of Richard Crocker Reed ~ Feb 29, 1916 – Jan 27, 2008