Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Try Not to Smile

Here's the only picture I took last weekend. 

It's of Charlotte at the Beaverdale Fall Festival last Saturday. Exactly one minute later it began to bucket down rain with lightning and thunder to boot. 

It was a bit past 2:00, and we had been there since 10:00, so I was really happy to see the rain. Don't tell Charlotte, though. I pretended to be sad. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Photographs and Memories

Daphne's Grandpa Howard lost his wife, Patty, and his daughter, Deb (Daphne's mom), to cancer four years ago, and since then we have tried to do a better job of visiting him. Daphne was concerned that he would need a lot of support. But Howard didn't give up and curl into a ball like some of us feared. Instead, he discovered that he liked to cook and bake, he found a friend who took him to new restaurants and events, and he did a great job of making sure that he sent everyone in the family birthday and Christmas cards.

Like a lot of people with hearing aids, Howard is a loud taker. The last time he called Daphne, I could hear him from across the room, "Daphne! This is Grandpa Howard, and I am in trouble!"

"You are? What kind of trouble, Grandpa?"

"Well, I have these two birthday cards that I want to mail, but I can't read the darn address to your house anymore! What is it?"

She's too young to know it, but Charlotte is a lucky kid. How many grandchildren can say they know their Great-Grandfather and that he's a good tickler? Charlotte knows his house inside and out, and when we visit him, she can see pictures of herself all over his place. I'm not bragging, and Charlotte isn't his favorite grandchild. Howard simply puts up the pictures that people send him, and Daphne keeps him pretty close in our loop. Over the years I have gotten to know him better than my own grandparents.

On September 6, four days after his 87th birthday, Howard passed away. He had been hospitalized over the Memorial Day weekend for a stroke, and the stroke took its toll a few nights later. After our initial shock, Daphne and I began to wonder how Charlotte would take the news.

We shouldn't have worried. When Daphne explained that Grandpa Howard had died, Charlotte immediately replied, "I bet Grandma Deb was so happy to see her dad that she started crying!"

We are sure she is right. Just typing Charlotte's response makes me cry.

Howard's funeral was Monday, and Daphne gave the eulogy. She did an excellent job, but it wasn't easy. Then again, when has anything funeral-related been easy?

Charlotte appeared eight times in the memory displays at the funeral home.

On the far right you can see a framed photo of Jill, Howard's dog. Jill was a farm dog that only slept in the house during extreme weather. I love the fact that Grandpa cleaned all the farm off of her, hired a professional photographer to take her picture, and then had the photo framed.

When Howard would talk to me about her, he'd touch his finger on the head in the photograph and end his story with, "She was such a good dog..." and his eyes would slightly well.

Look at Jill's smile. You just know that Howard is standing behind the photographer.

Howard was a carpenter by trade and hobby, and he made this violin. He couldn't play it. He just wanted to see if he could make one.

Truthfully, he could make anything out of wood that you asked him to make. There is so much furniture in our house, including our sleigh bed, that is stamped "Hand Crafted by Howard Cudworth".

Howard even made his own casket. It has been waiting for him under wraps in the garage for about a decade. Why make your own casket? "Well, my ancestors had to make their own casket if they wanted to be buried in one. So, I figured I could make mine, too," he explained.

Howard had several conversations at the funeral home to make sure he made his casket to the right dimensions. About a year ago he gave the funeral home a key to his house, access to the garage opener, and permission to handle his casket. He didn't want his family getting hurt bringing the heavy casket down from the rafters. He was a man who paid attention to the details - just like the one he carved into the casket's side.

Howard served in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict, so there was a military service at the burial. The gunshots may have scared Charlotte, but I was very impressed with their presentation.

We had a lunch downtown at Appanoose Rapids after the burial. Then it was time to head over to Howard's house to see if there were any items that the family wanted before the Salvation Army truck arrived.

Like speaking at the funeral, entering a house that was a loved one's home isn't easy. I know Howard couldn't take this stuff with him, and I know he'd be glad to share what he didn't need anymore. I still felt like a petty thief when I opened a drawer to see what was inside. I wasn't alone. Most of the family spoke in hushed tones as they quietly and politely made the rounds through the small rooms.

As I said, Char knows Grandpa's house very well, and she only wanted one thing. I'd make you guess, but I doubt you'd get it right. I wouldn't guess it, and she's my kid.

Charlotte wanted his small cactus. Why? She liked seeing how much it had grown between our visits, and she wanted to keep growing it for Grandpa. No one told her no.

Char's other prizes from Grandpa include the binoculars he showed her how to use, the flashlight she shined jokingly in his face, and a toy set of china that she used to serve him tea. Daphne played with those same cups and dishes when she was a child. Char was also given the mini china cabinet that her great uncle Dave made back in high school. (The cabinet isn't crooked; the picture is.)

Daphne now has some of Grandmother Patty's cookbooks, baking pans, and two of the last quilts Patty made. I have the pocketknife that Howard kept in his garage, a few of his tools, and one other thing...

Yes, I kept that picture of Jill. I know that seems weird, but no one else wanted the picture, and I couldn't stand the thought of it being thrown into the trash.

I'm not a philosopher or a theologian. But I know a life isn't defined by the weight of what you have accumulated or how much money you were worth. So how is a life measured? I'm not sure. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, you can judge a person by how they treat their animals. 

If that is true, then the picture of Jill is all that Charlotte really needs to know about her Great-Grandpa Howard.

Luckily, we have pictures like these, too.

We're going to miss you, Howard. You were a great Grandpa to all of us. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Two Thumbs-Up for a Hand-Me-Down

Charlotte surprised me on Saturday by wearing a vintage t-shirt.

I drew the "Hot Shot" car design when I was in second grade. Our art teacher helped us make our drawings into iron-on transfers. I think the project used crayons and wax paper. Since I was obsessed with all things with motors and wheels, I was pretty proud of my shirt. Like most of 2nd grade, "Hot Shot" was eventually outgrown and forgotten. 

In 2009 I was helping my mom organize her storage unit, and I was amazed to find "Hot Shot" wedged between two cardboard boxes. How did this shirt survive the tides of time? The white fabric was crunchy stiff and stained a rusty yellow, but I felt that it deserved to be taken home.

Daphne assured me that she could save my old shirt. A two-day long soak in OxiClean removed the stains, and a run through the washing machine made it soft again. Daph then tucked the shirt away somewhere, and once again, I forgot all about it until last weekend.

When we got home from the farmers' market, Charlotte took off her hoodie, and I realized what she was wearing underneath. "Hey! I know that shirt!"

Char ran over to me, gave me a tight hug, and declared, "It's the shirt you made when you were my age!"

"That's right! I did draw that. Do you really like it?"

It is over 40 years later, and that shirt is still making people smile. That is pretty awesome.

Friday, September 1, 2017

It Only Took Me 37 Years

My mom gave Charlotte a 2x2 Rubik's Cube for her birthday.

Char enjoyed mixing up the cube, but when she couldn't solve it after 30 seconds, she handed it to me and said, "Here Dad, you do it."

"Me? What am I going to do with it?"

Just like the rest of the world's population, I had a Rubik's Cube in 1980. Seriously, those cubes were everywhere. Even the stores in a small town like Rock Valley sold them. The teachers in my school were always yelling at kids to put them away. I guess Rubik's Cubes were the fidget spinners of the 80s. At best, I could get one one color on one side to line up. I even bought The Simple Solution to Rubik's Cube to help me out(FYI: This was 1981's best selling book with 6, 680,000 copies sold.) 

What a disappointment. I found the book's algorithms to be as confusing as the cube itself. All I learned was how to take my cube apart and put it back together in the right order. 

So, yeah, I solved my cube using a screwdriver, but that wasn't a very fulfilling solution. Since then, just looking at a Rubik's Cube has made me feel a small twang of defeat. 

Anyway, I didn't think the screwdriver solution was right for Char's cube. So, I followed my daughter's advice, "Just look it up on the internet, Dad."

Now there are all kinds of websites and YouTube videos dedicated to solving a Rubik's Cube. I found the "You Can Do the Cube" site the most helpful for me. After learning the vocabulary, and how their solution worked, it was pretty easy. Twenty minutes later, Char's 2x2 cube had all the colors in the right places, and you know what? Solving it was fun. Char likes to mix the cube up, and I like to solve it, so we're a pretty good team.

Years ago I bought a 3x3 Rubik's Cube at Goodwill, and last weekend I tried my hand at solving that bad boy.

Drum roll, please... 

Ta Daa!

Whew. I finally got that Rubik's monkey off my back. Thanks go out to Grandma, Charlotte, and the World Wide Web. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Iowa State Fair '17: Just a Mess of Pictures

My buddy Rob gave me a real phone for my birthday, so I didn't take our old digital camera to the fair this year. The phone takes better pictures, but I'm still getting used to the timing. That's my excuse, anyway.

Daphne and I have a rule about eating at the fair: there are no rules. There are also no calories, no too much of a good thing, no diet, and no regrets. The ISF comes around once a year, and we make the best of it. 

We started out each day with a breakfast of fried cheese curds. (Remember our rule and judge not.)

Charlotte was excited to go farming at the "Little Hands on the Farm" exhibit. Pioneer donated a slew of hats for the kids to wear. Nice job, Pioneer. Turns out Char didn't care about the "farming". She just wanted the free Cheetos... 

Really Char? We have Cheetos at home.

Mazes are a big deal to our kid, so we spent a few minutes navigating this attraction.

"Ooh, look at the cutie pigs!" 

This picture doesn't look like it is a triumph, but Charlotte couldn't climb the ladder that lead to this spot on the playground last year. She tried a few times, but she got scared at the height and frustrated with number of kids cutting in front of her. This year she climbed it like a champ.

Like big mazes, Charlotte also enjoys big puzzles.

If I ever find one of the vintage egg-shaped chairs for a decent price, it is soooo going into our basement. I'm not even going to ask Daphne for permission. 

This stand bragged it had perfected the poutine that the Canadians had created, but I was skeptical. 

It was okay, but we have had much better poutine north of the 49th parallel.

The pork chop on the stick is always good, though. 

The sand castle was impressive. I kept wondering what would happen if it rained. I was told that they put a tarp over the castle when the forcast calls for that.

Charlotte loves cotton candy. It is the last she ate on Super Sunday.

While Char stuffed herself with melted sugar, I ate a good ol' hamburger, and Daphne had some grilled veggies on a bun. See ya next year, Iowa State Fair! 

Now it's time to start our diets again...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Iowa State Fair '17: A Group Effort

Daphne's sister and mother began a doll house project nineteen years ago. Deb and Phadrea built a doll house from a kit, painted the exterior, and began working on the interior. When Phadrea left to go to college, the project was put on hold. 

Deb passed away four summers ago, and while cleaning out her house, the girls found the forgotten doll house project. Phadrea thought it might be something Charlotte would like to play with when she got older, and Daphne agreed to take the doll house home. 

While we were at the Iowa State Fair last year, Charlotte became fascinated with the doll house competition. She asked Daphne if they could build one, and she told Char, "I think we could do that, in fact, we have one at home." And that is how the doll house's journey continued...

I had my own project in the garage, so all the work on the house was done by Daphne and Charlotte.

Daphne did a great job on the interior. Cutting wallpaper to this level of precision would drive me nuts, but she pulled it off. 

Mounting ceiling lights and running tape wire like this can't be much fun, either. Daph got the house wired for light, though, and it really looked cool.

Aunt Phadrea quilted a blanket for the bed, and Charlotte knitted the bathroom mat.

Daphne cross-stitched the rug for the living room.

Here they are setting up the house on the Sunday before the Iowa State Fair:

Char and Daphne were really proud of their work, but we kept reminding Charlotte that they weren't in it to win a ribbon. Their goals were to compete the house, and get it in the fair - that was it. Finishing the house was also a great way honor the memory of Grandma Deb.

Daphne added a cardinal to represent the real bird that visited Deb's deck when Deb was sick. He was named Crash because the bird always hit the glass in the sliding door before landing.

The fair opened on Thursday, and we made a bee line to see what the house looked like on display. Low and behold, there was a ribbon on it!

The three generations earned third place!

When I first spotted the ribbon, I could have sworn I heard Grandma Deb excitedly clapping.

Now that the fair is over, Charlotte has a pretty sweet toy in her room.