September 19th, 2011


Grandpa & Grandma


My dad called me today to let me know that Grandma passed away this afternoon. She’d been in a nursing home for a little over a year, and had a few health issues in that time, but had always bounced back from them. This past Saturday the workers at the home told my mom’s oldest sister that Grandma wasn’t doing so well and that the family should come to see her. All of her children were able to go see her on Sunday, and they were able to talk to her a little bit. Today she slipped away, peacefully, I’m told.

The picture above is of my grandpa and grandma, my mom’s parents. I never knew my dad’s parents, so mom’s parents were the grandparents we spent the holidays with. That picture was taken before I was born, and comes courtesy of my cousin’s Facebook page. I don’t think I’d ever seen it before, and I absolutely love it. It instantly became one of my favorite pictures ever.

Grandma was one-of-a-kind. I’m not very good at descriptions, so it’d be hard for me to tell you why she was, but she was.  Here are just a couple of memories I have:

  • One of the reasons I’ve been so excited about Throwback Pepsi being back on the market these days is because it tastes like Pepsi tasted at Grandma’s house. Wisconsin is Pepsi Country (in case you didn’t know), and any time we were at Grandma’s she had some available.
  • When we were very young, my brother and I stayed at Grandma & Grandpa’s for a week during the summer a couple of times. Grandma took us fishing, and the only thing I ever caught were crawdads. I didn’t end up liking fishing that much – I much preferred making boats out of pieces of 2x4s and floating them on the creek while my brother and Grandma fished. Grandma never let me forget that I didn’t like fishing. I saw her last in March of this year and, sure enough, she said something about how I didn’t like fishing. I probably would have been disappointed if she hadn’t.
  • Once she took my brother and I to see the Chicago Bears during their training camp, which they were having in Grandma’s home town.  I didn’t know much about the Bears, but it was neat to see an NFL team in person.
  • That same town (Platteville, WI) had a Shakespeare Festival in late summer or early fall (I think…), and we saw a couple of plays here and there. My brother even took some friends when he was in college a couple times.
  • Grandma would always “complain” about how many cats roamed around the farm, but come supper time she always put out some food for them, even if it was just bread soaked in milk .
  • Grandma loved to play Scrabble. I didn’t play in any games with her until college, but she would hassle you about words you played and in the very next turn would try to sneak something past you.  I have her old Scrabble board now, and it is a prized possession.
  • Juicy Fruit gum isn’t very good, but I’ll never turn down a piece if I’m offered one. Grandma always had some in her purse, so it’s another reminder of childhood.
  • Her house was always full of books and Reader’s Digest magazines. When the grown-ups were talking too late and the cousins were mostly gone, I read Laughter Is the Best Medicine out of any Digest I could find.

I’ll always wish I had known her better, but I’m glad I knew her at all. I’ve inherited some of her qualities, both good and bad, and I’ll never forget her.

Grandpa passed away in 1999. Grandma was the last living grandparent I had. I’m glad that they are reunited in heaven, and I look forward to seeing them again some day. Until then, I’ll miss them both.

Goodbye for now, Grandma. I love you.



May 16th, 2011


Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”Piggies” is on the White Album, and was 85% written by George Harrison, 10% by John Lennon, and 5% by George’s mom.  This song is most famous for Charles Manson’s interpretation of it as a description of the people who would be the victims in the revolution/war he believed was imminent.  Bummer, that.

Twenty-one years ago today, the world lost a great and unique talent.  Jim Henson wasn’t just the voice of several of The Muppets, he, in many ways, was The Muppets. His love for storytelling and puppetry combined in ways no one had seen before.  He had guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and created many shorts, commercials, and movies.  The success of Sesame Street led to The Muppet Show and a whole bunch of other stuff (wiki).

As anyone who has been following me long enough knows, my nickname comes from a guy in high school saying I looked like a Muppet, and The Muppet Show was one of the few TV shows our family watched together when I was a kid. I have great memories associated with the Muppets.  Every once in a while even now I’ll hear a song somewhere and say, “Hey, the Muppets did that!”  When I was a kid, of course, I thought all the songs were Muppet songs. I had no idea the variety of sources those songs actually had.  Jim Henson had gentle humor about him, but he also had a subversive side.  What other show ostensibly for kids would have had Alice Cooper as a guest star? (Note: I distinctly remember not being allowed to watch that episode when it came on. My brother and I were majorly bummed – not because we had any idea who Alice Cooper was, but because we looked forward to the Muppets every week and were sad to not get to see them that week.)

I was a few weeks shy of graduating from high school when he died.  I honestly don’t remember the specifics of how I felt then, though I know it was shocking.   Over time it seems to have affected me more and more.  I didn’t see his memorial service as it happened, but usually take the time to watch part of it every year on this day.  If you have any connections to or feelings for The Muppets and Jim Henson, this video of a song from his memorial service will affect you deeply.


There are few celebrity deaths that affect me much, but if I’d ever had the chance to meet Jim Henson, I would have thanked him for all the smiles and songs and silly creatures.