Tag Archives: memories

Joy Even in Times of Loss

As the song sung by Charlie Brown and his friends goes, Christmas time is here. Or at least it will be here tomorrow.

And while there is certainly happiness and cheer, as well as snowflakes in the air in certain parts of the world during Christmas time, for many people this marks the first Christmas without a loved one.

This is the position that I find myself in following the death of my Grandmother in November.

While I knew that my Grandmother was gone, I was reminded again last Sunday that this would be the first Christmas without her when I was tidying up my desk and came across a pile of Christmas cards from last year. Among the cards in the pile was one from my Grandmother.

I recently found the last Christmas card my Grandmother sent me which served as a reminder to find joy even in times of loss. Photo R. Anderson

I recently found the last Christmas card my Grandmother sent me which served as a reminder to find joy even in times of loss.
Photo R. Anderson

While more and more people are choosing electronic ways to send Christmas greetings, my Grandmother, who never owned a computer, never sent a Christmas tweet, nor posted anything other than framed pictures on her “wall,” always sent a traditional Christmas card with the help of the United States Postal Service.

As I was reading the card from last year I realized that for the first time since I could remember there would not be any more Christmas cards from her.

While I was saddened by this thought at first, I looked at the card again and saw two doves and the word joy on it.

The stack of cards has been on my desk for nearly a year but by going through them this past weekend I was reminded from beyond the grave to have joy for the season despite the feeling of loss.

While I was thinking about my Grandmother Sunday, I remembered that I was to attend my final holiday concert of the season that evening and needed to decide what I would wear.

As part of my preparations for being a pall bearer at my Grandmother’s funeral I bought a new suit jacket since I had increased in circumference since the last time I wore a suit.

The black suit jacket I found was both stylish and befitting my circumference to allow me to join my cousins in our official duties at the funeral.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there. Photo R. Anderson

Now I know that my suit jacket is just thread and material so any anthropomorphic tendencies to believe that it has feelings of its own would be futile. Instead, it was me who needed to have a better memory of wearing the suit beyond my Grandmother’s funeral.

So I decided that I would wear the suit to put a bow on my final holiday concert of the season so to speak and in a way bring my Grandmother along in spirit as well.

As I was driving to the concert in my spiffy suit and tie I realized that I was hungry and should probably eat something before the concert.

I decided to go to Dairy Queen, which as coincidence would have it was a favorite of my Grandmother’s, and upon walking through the door I heard a small child say to his parents, “Wow, he sure got dressed up to get ice cream.”

The joke was on the child though since I did not in fact order ice cream and had a steak finger basket instead. But yes I was probably a little overdressed for the Dairy Queen.

As it turned out I may have been slightly overdressed for the concert as well as I was one of the few people wearing a suit who was not part of the performance, but it still felt nice to dress up.

I am glad that I decided to wear the suit to the concert to add a new memory that did not involve a funeral and carrying my Grandmother’s casket.

Beyond the Christmas card encouraging me to approach the season with joy, I will continue to remember my Grandmother in many other ways in the coming years including when I watch her beloved Atlanta Braves play or whenever I am shelling pecans. I am blessed to have decades of memories of my Grandmother to call upon to help through any sad times that may arise.

Memories are certainly powerful things to be cherished. Or as Paul Simon would say, “preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hang my stocking by the chimney with care. Merry Christmas to one and all.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

There and Back Again with Some Minor Modifications

Across much of the country school is out for the summer. Or if it is not already out it will be so in the next week or so.

The end of school also marks the start of summer vacation for many families who will head towards the beaches on the Nation’s borders in search of sun and surf.

For over 30 years my grandparents lived on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This was their final beach address and the site of many memories.  Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years my grandparents lived on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This was their final beach address and the site of many memories.
Photo R. Anderson

For those like myself who grew up along the coast the drive to find summer sun and surf is a relatively short one.

Another benefit of being so close to the coast meant that summer vacation did not need to be a single week on the beach and could truly last all summer long.

As part of the summer long salute to summer, I would often spend time with my grandparents who lived on Anna Maria Island on the west coast of Florida which was about two hours away from where I lived.

Although the distance between Orlando and the island was short, there were worlds of differences as time seemed to slow down the closer to the coast I got.

My mom’s dad died when I was 5 so the only “grandfather” I had was my dad’s mom’s second husband, Ryland. So from the time I was five I did not have a biological grandfather per se but I did have a Ryland, and that was twice as good in many ways.

My grandfather Ryland Hall

My grandfather Ryland Hall.
Photo R. Anderson

Trips to see my grandparents would include fishing and shelling and if I was lucky a trip to Big Olaf’s to get homemade ice cream inside a waffle cone.

One summer I even created my own saltwater aquarium with hermit crabs, shrimp, mollusks and other creatures of the sea that I caught.

Whenever my grandparents would travel up to visit they would bring gallons of saltwater from the Gulf to keep my aquarium going.

It was years later in a pet store that I learned about making one’s own saltwater for aquariums. Still, I am glad that I had the gallons of real Gulf of Mexico water delivered to me.

The bottles always made me laugh since Ryland would write “non potable” on every spare side lest I think that the brownish water contained inside was good for drinking. I never had any desire to drink the water, and the markings were not necessary, but I never thought to tell him that and I am sure even if I did he would still have marked them anyway.

Ryland and Mom Mom lived on various parts of Anna Maria Island for around 30 years and while my visits to see them became harder and harder to accomplish after I moved to Texas I always tried to see them whenever I could.

When I would visit them after I moved to Texas I would wear the same UCF shirt. I don’t know if they ever caught on or thought that I didn’t have enough clothes but to me it was fun to have pictures of us together year after year and me wearing the same thing.

I last saw them and wore my photogenic UCF shirt in 2009. Ryland died about a year and a half after that visit and Mom Mom moved to an assisted living center near Orlando so they are no longer on the beach.

The dock where I learned the finer points of filleting a fish. Photo R. Anderson.

The dock where I learned the finer points of filleting a fish.
Photo R. Anderson.

Recently I had the opportunity to return to the beach of my youth for a week long vacation in a beach house.  I did not realize it at the time the house was booked but it is two blocks away from the last beach house that my grandparents had.

Driving in from the airport I was surprised at how little had changed since my last trip there. Of course with everything looking the same, my mind was tricked into thinking that I would see my grandparents as I always did when I came down there.

While the rationale part of me knew that they aren’t on the beach anymore, there was an emotional side that thought they were still around.

Years after they moved my grandparents' name still appears on the mailbox where they once lived. Photo R. Anderson

Years after they moved my grandparents’ name still appears on the mailbox where they once lived.
Photo R. Anderson

This mind playing tricks on me aspect came to the forefront one day when I was relaxing on the patio. A man walked up to tell me something about the trash being at the curb and for a moment I swore it was Ryland.

This is not to say that I am losing my mind but more to the fact that there are certain types of people that live on the beach and a metamorphosis occurs once that sun and water hit the retired folk. Whatever they were in their working days falls by the wayside and they become beach bums or fishers or numerous other things.

For Ryland the days were spent fishing and looking after beach rentals.  For all I know the house I rented may have even been one of the ones that he oversaw.

So my week at the beach included floods of memories of places we went and things that he showed me or told me. At the time he was saying the things it was usually chalked up to Ryland being Ryland but as I have gotten older I can see some of the wisdom in what he said. But of course some of the stuff really was just Ryland being Ryland.

Ryland did not want a funeral so none was held when he died. All he had asked was that people stop and think of him now and then.  I do think of him during my time back home as there are various memories that are triggered but the week at the beach opened the flood gates of memories.

And while I often wish that I had been granted the opportunity to know my other grandfather, Pop Pop, for as long as well, I am lucky to have had as much time as I did with Ryland. And for a week on the beach that he roamed for three decades I was once again close to him and seeing the sights that he saw and walking the docks where he taught a much younger version of me how to fish and how to fillet a fish while it was still squirming. And while I will most likely never have to fillet a still breathing fish, or properly dispose of the non edible portions of said fish, at least I know how to should the need ever arise. And remember if the water is brown it is probably a good rule of thumb that it is non potable.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some new memories to make.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

The Lost Art of the Postcard

In this age of instant messaging, e-mail, twitter and other ways to communicate at the speed of light it may come as a shock to some of the younger Triple B readers that there was once a time when correspondence was not handled as quickly.

Before the days of Facebook, it was not possible to post a status while on vacation to all of your friends to let them know that you were “Having a great time exploring the world’s largest ball of twine.”

Instead, when you were at that ball of twine, and you wanted to let your friends know how much fun it was, you had to buy a postcard and actually place it in something called a mailbox.  Your friends would than receive the postcard, and your thoughts on the ball of twine in a few days.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

Yes, I know mailboxes still exist and based on what comes in mine they tend to be a conduit for junk mail and bills alone.

As such I now only check my mail a couple times a month since there really isn’t anything worth reading that would require me to check it any more frequently.

Still, I find myself feeling a bit of nostalgia for the written word and the simple act of receiving a post card through the mail.

Part of this nostalgia was the result of looking through my postcard collection the other day to help remember the name of somewhere that I went on vacation many years ago.

I ended up finding that postcard and my memory was jogged.  Looking through the box other memories were jogged as well.

Many of the postcards in my collection were sent to other family members before I was born and were just passed down to me but several are actually addressed to me as well. One particular series of cards was the result of a chance encounter.

When I was in the second or third grade my mom and I were on a flight from Washington D.C. to Orlando. There was an older gentleman in the row with us (of course when I was that age everyone was older so my memory of how old he really was may be warped).

As it was a relatively long flight we ended up making conversation with him and he mentioned that he did a lot of traveling as part of his work with the Army.

I do not recall the whole scenario of how it occurred but addresses were exchanged and he mentioned that he would write me.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

Now, in this more jaded world that we find ourselves in now the chances of a stranger getting the address of a young child under the guise of sending correspondence would probably be less likely to occur.

I for one have become way more suspicious of people’s intentions the older I get.  While it is certainly good to be skeptical and careful of surroundings and those that enter them, I sometimes wish that I could see the world through younger me’s eyes where the world was a far less scary place and the only thing I needed to worry about was which pair of pajamas to wear.

A few weeks after returning home I got my first postcard from the man on the plane.  The postcards continued for several years and always included a short note about the destination included on the front.

The cards stopped one day which could have been the result of many factors including the forwarding address feature no longer working or perhaps the man behind them was no longer able to send the cards for whatever reason.

While I do not remember his name, I do remember the simple act of sharing postcards with a wide eyed child and the affect that had and continues to have.  I have no way of knowing if that man on the plane is even still with us.

If he is, I hope that he is well and is still able to take those wonderful trips that sparked my imagination.

But those postcards, as well as the others I received from friends and family,  helped me see parts of the world that were harder to see in the pre internet days and certainly helped nurture my love of traveling.

I often think about other chance encounters and people who come into our lives for a brief moment and the affect that they have on us.  Had my mom and I been seated in any other row on that airplane I would not have received the postcards.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

When I was in Journalism School I had a professor that assigned us a project to go to the food court at the mall and people watch.  The point behind the assignment was to observe the various interactions of people and imagine various scenarios as to what brought them there. To this day I still enjoy people watching.

The next week the same professor assigned us to go back to the same food court and find a stranger to interview. The point of the exercise being that everyone of us has  a story to tell.  The trick is to know the right questions to ask to get the ball rolling.

While the memory of the man on the plane will probably not make me any less cautious than I am since the world today is so much different than it was all those decades ago it is still a nice memory and shows that we all do have stories and the key is to just be open to hear them.

Of course a healthy filter and the ability to know when people are being sincere versus when they are blowing smoke never hurts.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think I am going to find a food court and see if my interview skills are still as sharp as they once were.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson