June 28th, 2005
Tuesday night, it's late June so I have Jean-Luc for the summer. It's the best time of the year... He's 10 years old, and growing to be more like me every day.
It's the 4th Tuesday of the month, so a bunch of the local Maumee Valley Mensa (Toledo, Ohio - roughly) group has dinner out, together. We meet, talk, socialize, and enjoy each other's company. Each person talks, no one dominates - and that's how good conversation should be. Vanessa is learning to fly a plane after her recent divorce, one of the guys was in a bad car accident (or maybe it was a good one - he's only sore despite a car that will likely be totaled), another guy had his business trip to Colorado postponed for awhile, and I talk about the Tin Goose and my 1,000 mile day and Arlington National Cemetery. None of us are wallflowers, and I think well of everybody there.
Supper done, and it's only about 8:00 PM, so I ask Jean-Luc if he'd mind me getting a photo I've been thinking about for a while. He agrees. The Rollei is in the tankbag, ready to go to work....
I don't expect to be living in Northwest Ohio too much longer. I've been looking for work in Michigan, Sharon would love for me to live in Dearborn with her, and I think sooner or later it's inevitable that I'll be a resident of Dearborn, Michigan. So bit by bit, I'm photographing places that are sentimental to me here in Northwest Ohio, realizing that things change over time, and that many of these sites I'll never get around to shooting if I don't do it soon.
Since we're in Toledo's south end, my target is my Grandma & Grandpa's former home near the Toledo Zoo. They both developed cancer at the same time around 1990, with Grandpa dying on the couch of a heart attack while everybody was out grocery shopping with Grandma.
Grandma lived long enough to attend my wedding in 1991, before she also died at home, about 2:00 in the afternoon just before I would have left her house to go to work. At the time I was a new husband, but often staying at Grandma's with other relatives to spend time with Grandma, to help as needed, run errands, etc.
Grandma and Grandpa were like second parents to me and my brothers and sisters. When my mom or dad made a bad decision or was out of line, those two went to bat for us. If times were tough, they'd bring special treats over for us. If times were good, they'd share fresh garden produce with us. At Christmas, all kids and grandkids got citrus from Brownsville, Texas where they'd spend their winters. Both had lived through the Great Depression, so their basement larder was kept fully stocked with homemade and store-bought canned goods. We never got toys from them for the Holidays - it was always food, socks, or underwear. Yes, as a kid I thought they were really out of touch, not giving kids toys.... Seemed unnatural and unfair, somehow, perhaps even cheap. How little I knew.... Later on, living in Arizona, Grandma would send me care packages of the Toledo Blade, homemade cookies, and postcards from relatives. I'd read every word. One year I was homesick and they gave me a round-trip airline ticket, Phoenix-Detroit. My dad, Grandma's ex-son-in-law, said many times that Grandma was a saint, that if she didn't make it into heaven none of the rest of us had any chance of doing so. Grandma and Grandpa hosted Holiday dinners, and arranged for me to see my Dad after my parents divorced, when my Mom wouldn't allow him to see me, risking my mother's wrath in the process. I never forgot that example - it was simply the right thing to do, and so they did it.
The last time I saw my Grandpa alive, we talked for a long time, and he gave me the best gift ever, a simple gift of a few words: he said he sure enjoyed all the long talks we'd shared over the years, and had greatly enjoyed my company. That we never solved a single one of the world's problems, but we sure did try. It seemed an odd comment at the time. Two days later, he died. I realized then that he'd been saying goodbye, and leaving me something wonderful: praise, some kind words, and a "thank you."
A few months later, my Grandma gave me a similar gift: she told me I was the apple of my Grandpa's eye.
Saint may be too weak a word.
No, they didn't change the world in their lifetime, but they sure improved their little corner of it a bunch.