Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gone, but not forgotten

On this day in 1986, my Grandpa Alpha Schuck died. Had he lived 2 more days, he would have been 94 years old. This picture of Grandpa was taken with my dad and mom, and his wife Helen (who he married a few years after grandma died), on the occasion of brother's wedding in October 1984. I think it is probably the last picture I have of him. Grandpa was a cheerful, happy person who liked to tell funny stories and jokes. Toward the end of his life, his hands were twisted and swollen with arthritis, and he must have been in pain, but I never heard him complain. He was a kind man.

He loved to grow things, and had a fantastic cactus garden. In fact, I have two varieties of cactus from his garden that are at least 40 years old. One of the earliest memories I have of him is helping him in his flower garden, planting pansies and alyssum. And to this day, those are the flowers that I enjoy the most, and in a few days I will be planting pansies in the whiskey-barrel planter by the back porch. As an aside, I used to plant them in an old galvanized washtub until I came outside one day and saw a rabbit sitting in the tub having them for lunch.

When the old family home where my father was raised was condemned to make way for a freeway, Grandpa and Grandma moved to Gardena, very near our house. In the early 60s, we moved into that same tract of homes, and so he then lived only a few blocks away, within easy walking distance. I don’t remember Grandpa “doing things” with his grandchildren like one thinks of grandpas today—although he may have done with my brothers—but he was involved with our family activities. He was always there to help when my dad got involved in painting a room or the house. He had edging machine for the lawn, and I remember him coming to tidy up after my dad finished mowing. And he always enjoyed the family dinners at holidays and birthdays, and he always ended the meal by saying “Edith [my mom], thank you , everything was delicious.” Grandpa loved the Western Scrub-Jays that lived in the neighborhood, and he trained them to come and pick peanuts out of his hands while he sat in a lawn chair in his driveway.

One of my most poignant memories occurred at Halloween after Grandma died, but before he married Helen (she was wonderful, by the way, stepping into the role of grandmother without a hitch). Grandpa invited us to his house for homemade hot chocolate after we finished trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, he accidently made it with salt instead of sugar—guess he got them mixed up—and we couldn’t drink it.

During the last few years of his life, I didn’t see him very much because by then we were living far away and only came back to California every other year. His days on earth came to an end in a nursing home, but he still had good quality of life: He wasn’t bedridden, and he still had a good appetite and enjoyed his food (Grandpa loved to eat -- especially chocolate kisses) and visiting with people. The family he left behind--wife, children, and grandchildren--buried him with love and respect in their hearts.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Checking things out...

After our house was moved to its current location many, many years ago, a porch was added to the original structure, and a gapa very tiny gapexists between the two foundations. Snakes live in hollow space under the porch as do lizards—if they can avoid being eaten by the snakes, I guess—and they slither in and out through the crack. The only variety of snake that I have actually seen going in and out is the black rat snake, which is very common here and grows to a very large size. Once upon a time I caught one eating my baby chicks that was more than 6 feet long; and no, I did not kill it. I put it in a pillowcase and took it for a ride. Other types of snake may also hang out in there, maybe even copperheads, but I don’t know for sure. As winter gives way to spring, I find I glance over there every time I go up and down the porch steps to see if one sticking its nose out to test whether it is warm enough to come out. And sure enough, the days have been warm enough that one did wake up enough to check things out and we are seeing it fairly regularly now.. And no, we haven’t done anything about trying to get rid of them. Anything that might catch and eat a mouse or a rat is welcome to stay.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Junk... or Treasure?

Lots of stories floating around about people finding priceless treasures buried in attics or for “pennies” at yard sales. And how pleased they were for having been able to snatch this priceless item out from under the nose of the seller, who was oblivious to the "real" value of what he or she was selling. It has always bothered me a little; I guess because of the element of deception that is involved. I don’t know. maybe not. Then again, there is the other side of the coin: the buyer who is deceived by an unscrupulous seller, which happens all the time. Maybe it balances out in the scheme of things. At any rate, I enjoy browsing through junk/thrift stores, and I am very thankful we have our very own thrift store in town. It provides food for people who are in need with the money it makes selling the stuff people donate. I go in there about once a month, maybe, to see if there is anything interesting and to look at the books that come in. That’s really my main interest--books. A couple of months before my sister’s birthday, which is at the end of March, I went into the thrift store, and there, sitting among all the used dishes and coffee mugs and old glasses, was this relish tray. It looked very much like a relish tray that might have come from the Blue Ridge Pottery. My mother has been collecting this style of dinnerware for years, and my sister has begun collecting it as well, so I am fairly familiar with what it looks like. I felt a thrill like an electric shock go through me as I picked it up and turned it over to verify that it was indeed a piece of Blue Ridge Pottery and the thrift store had marked it at $2.00, or maybe it was $2.50. I had no idea how much it was really worth, but I hesitated not a second in buying it. And off it went to my sister for her birthday, and she was thrilled to get it, too. And no, I did not go back to the thrift store and say.... “you know I bought something here the other day for $2.50 that I have found for sale on the internet ranging from $30 to $75 and even more....”