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8 posts from September 2013

Is Zeke Braverman on Parenthood a good role model for family patriarchs?

I think it was my daughter-in-law Lauren who described one time as the family "patriarch."  I think she called me that when we were taking a family picture with our kids and then one grandchild.  That moment stuck with me, but I could never see myself as a Moses or Abraham.

Then I saw Zeke Braverman played by Craig Nelson on the television show Parenthood and I started to make more of a connection with the word.

It's a family of a bunch of kids and grandkids who are uncharactically close.  Somehow, they keep their individuality and sometimes, they let that show with a great deal of volume during family get-togethers.

Zeke tries to bring order to the family chaos and occasionally contributes to the disorder.  He's there for his family when needed and sometimes when it's not.

But, in my mind, what makes his character special is that he values family relationships.  They are major to him.  He shows love to them all.  

The show starts a new season in the next week and I'm anxious to see more.  

I'm getting comfortable with the word family patriarch.  I still feel like I'm in training.  Zeke can help me move that along.

#9--Letter to my grandson about his baptismal gown made from a World War II parachute

Krista's baptism in the paper.
When your mom was baptized, it was in newspapers and on news broadcasts around the world.

Dear Xavier,

Do you see the dress that your sister Gretchen is wearing?  You wore that when you were about the same age, three months old.  

Baptismal gown
Your sister was baptized in the same gown as you and your mom and me.
It's a baptismal gown that has a lot of family history and a great story about how it played a small role in World War II.  I will write later about baptism and its importance.  But, this dress, or gown as it is more accurately described for baptisms was worn by me, most of my cousins, by your mom and by you.


 Sometime, you should ask me to talk about my Uncle Paul who was a navigator on a bomber that flew missions over Europe during the war.  It's an amazing story about how his plane was shot at from German planes flying around them and from big guns on the ground.  

 During one of those missions, my uncle's plane was flying over Budapest, Hungary where you, your mom and dad and grandma and I visited almost two years ago.  His plane was bombing targets on the ground when it was shot at by enemy planes.  My uncle told about how the Nazi planes flew so close to him that he could see the fillings in the teeth of the pilots.

One of the engines on his plane was shot at and shut down and the plane had trouble staying in the air.  To steady, it's flight my uncle took the nylon material from his parachute and threw it out a window with one end attached to the plane.  It's flight was steadied and he and the crew made it back to Italy.

My Uncle Paul sent the parachute back to my aunt who used some of it to make the baptismal gown.  The parachute saved all the lives on his plane including his.  Just think of all the people baptized in it.  Through the water and the Word of God in baptism, they were saved by God for all eternity.

When your mom was baptized in it, newspapers from around the country and other parts of the world had a story about the occasion.  It was on the radio too during a national newscast.  Newscaster Paul Harvey talked about "Little crying Krista Thorp."

 I love you man,

 Grandpa Thorp


#8--Letter to my grandson about jobs and how his uncle wanted to be Mickey Mouse


Your mom in the Pressroom
This is your mom when she visited me one day at the Pressroom at the State Capitol where I worked.

Dear Xavier,

I remember when your Uncle Justin was a young boy.  Somebody asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up.  Without hesitation, he said he wanted to be Mickey Mouse.  Everybody chuckled.


Uncle Justin wearing his Mickey Mouse ears.
Uncle Justin wanted to be Mickey Mouse for awhile. Your mom is right behind him.
Someday, you will be looking for a job.  There are so many different things that you can do to make a living and support a family.


 See the picture just above this letter?  It's a shot of your mom in the Press Room at the Michigan State Capitol.  She was sitting in the chair in my office.  Your grandma dropped her off for me to watch her while she did some errands.

 The pressroom was on the second floor of the Capitol Building just behind the House of Representatives.  It was where the newspaper, television and radio reporters worked as they reported and wrote about state government.  I was the pressroom manager.

Part of the pressroom was an area where we had news conferences where all kinds of politicians and groups would come to get the attention of the news media.  

When the picture of your mom was taken, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin was getting ready to hold a news conference with television and radio crews and other reporters.  The hot lights were on when he got my attention because he wanted to hold her.  So, during the whole news conference, he held her.  She didn't move a muscle.

 On the days when the weather was warm, grandma would bring your mom and Uncle Justin to the front lawn of the Capitol where we would have lunch while sitting on a blanket.  

I had lots of other jobs there.  I will tell you more about them later.

What job do you want?  Do you want to be one of the Veggie Tales characters?

 I love you,

 Grandpa Thorp


#7--Letter to my grandson about my favorite television show and about Veggie Tales


We watch Veggie Tales.
Do you remember when you and I watched Veggie Tales in Budapest, Hungary? That was fun.

 Dear Xavier,

What's your favorite television show?  Veggie Tales?  Remember when we watched them on DVD while we were in Budapest?

If you asked me about the show that I try to watch every week, I'd have to say Pawn Stars.  It's a reality

Posing outside Pawn Stars.
This summer grandma and I visited the store where the Pawn Stars television show is produced. It was a neat experience.
show that's produced in Las Vegas, the same city where you Uncle Justin and Aunt Lauren live.  The show is a record of what actually takes place.  It's based on reality.

Their business is a pawn shop where people come in and try to sell stuff.  Usually, it's stuff that they feel is really valuable.  It could be anything.  Old guns.  Swords.  Political campaign buttons and even old cars and motorcycles.  The pawn shop guy will ask how much the seller wants and then they start to bargain.  The seller wants a lot of money and the buyer wants to pay the least that he can.

And, while they are going back and forth with prices, the pawn shop guy usually gives a lot of history about the item.  It's a fun way to learn about stuff that happened in the past.

Television seems to play a big role in everybody's lives these days.  You can watch just about anything you want in a wide-variety of ways.

Radio was first for me

For the first seven or eight years of my life, my mom and I only had a big old radio.  I would sit beside it listening to cowboy shows where you could only hear voices and sounds.  It could get pretty exciting when I listened to the Lone Ranger who rode a horse named silver.  He had a sidekick named Tonto, an American Indian.  They would fight bad guys and they would always win.

 There was a police show on the radio called Dragnet that I loved listening to.  There were two police officers, one was Detective Joe Friday and they would solve crimes.  I'd be riveted to the radio during this time, listening to every word.

 During that time just about everybody listened to the radio for entertainment and information.  The church that I grew up in and where I met your Grandma Thorp had its service on the radio every week.  

 Does your family have a radio?  Have you ever listened to online radio through your computer?

 I love you,

 Grandpa Thorp


#6--Letter to my grandson about important days, including walking his mom down the aisle


Me, your mom, the aisle
It was a big day when your mom and dad got married. I walked your mom down the aisle and gave her away to your dad.

Dear Xavier,

 You are going to have a lot of important days in your life.  So far, there's been the birth of your sister Gretchen.  What about your visit last week to Legoland in Germany.  You got a really cool bike for your birthday.

 There will be plenty more as you get older.  Ask your mom and dad about the important days in their lives.  I already know what some of them will be.

 When they got married

I was there for at least a couple of them.  One was when your mom and dad got married and I walked

Your sister is born.
Do you remember the day your sister was born? Didn't you go to the hospital to see her?
your mom down the aisle.  That was a highpoint in my life.  Another was the day that you were born.  


 In my life there have been many others, especially the day I married your grandma.  The day that your mom was born, as well as the day your Uncle Justin was born and the doctor asked me to cut his umbilical cord. Another big one for me was being the Best Man at your Uncle Justin's wedding.  These are all extra special times.

Let me tell you about walking your mom down the aisle.  It's a custom at weddings that the dad of the bride walk his daughter down the aisle to the altar where the groom is waiting.  It's symbolic of the bride leaving the family she grew up with to start a new family with husband.

 She was super-pumpkin

Your mom was always extra special to me.  I called her pumpkin and then super-pumpkin.  As a baby, she would often come to my office in the pressroom at the State Capitol.  Grandma would leave her with me.  In my office, I had a whole wall of pictures of her during her first year of life.

 She got older and then she met your dad.  They dated and then got engaged.  There was a rehearsal the day before the wedding.  Everybody in the wedding party practiced their parts.

 Walking her down the aisle

When it came time for her to grab my arm to make the long walk to give her away, I couldn't look at her.  It was an emotional moment.  If I had looked in her eyes, she would have noticed the tears in mine.

 The next day, at the wedding, I realized that my little girl, my super-pumpkin had a new main man in her life, your dad.  

 I hope that you can walk your daughter down the aisle someday.  It's a major life moment.  But when that time comes, watch two movies, Father of the Bride 1 and 2.  It will help you understand what you're feeling at that moment.

 I love you,

 Grandpa Thorp


#5--Letter to my grandson about big trucks, gravel boats and my Bay City home


My childhood home.
This is where I grew up in Bay City.  Just out the front door was the Saginaw River where all kinds of big and small boats passed.  Gravel boats unloaded right in front of our place.

Dear Xavier,

Sitting with my grandson.
At your house in Bosnia, we sit on the couch and work on the computer. 

I remember the day that we drove to Hungary with you and your mom and dad. 

You love trucks

On the way, we stopped to eat a snack and get a drink.  Alongside a busy highway, .Grandma Thorp held you, so you could watch the trucks and the buses whiz by.  Boy, did you get excited.  You would holler and point in excitement.  

You had the same reaction when we ate outdoors at a Sarajevo restaurant.  We were real close to a tram line in the old part of the city.  Every few minutes, they would roll by and you would squeal in delight.  

It's really clear that you love cars, trucks, trains, cranes and, basically, anything that moves and that has a motor.

My boyhood home

You would have loved the house I grew up in.  It was on the shores of the Saginaw River in Bay City, Michigan.  Right across the street was a business where ships would come in and unload gravel.  Cranes would load big dump trucks that would take the stones to all kinds of building projects.  This took place all day long.

If I stood on the front steps of our house and looked left as I faced the river, I would see the old Belinda Street Bridge.  It was old.  Really old.  To let boats go up the river, it's middle part, would swing around to create a big channel to let them through.  Quite often, I would stand on it as it swung open.  

The guy who operated that part of the bridge lived in a little house on top.  I thought then that he had to have the most exciting job in the world.

Every once in a while, a big boat would get stuck in the opening and the bridge couldn't move.  A tugboat would have to come and pull it through.  I would watch the tugs do their thing.

 Just up the river about a half mile was Defoe Shipbuilding Company.  When I was growing up, they built many guided missle destoryers for the U.S. Navy.  I would  watch with fascination as they moved up and down the river.

As a boy, I would sit on my small front porch and watched everything.  It was a small concrete throne where I created my own little world.

 As you get older, pay good attention to the world around you.  Take good mental notes and even write some down.  

 I love you,

Grandpa Thorp


#4--Letter to my grandson how I dropped a spider in his mom's lap in church


This is you and me, right after you were born.
This is me holding you a short time after you were born.


Dear Xavier,

I will never forget the day that grandma and I were in church with your mom and Uncle Justin.  As the pastor was giving a sermon, I saw a big spider crawling on the pew.  I grabbed it and dropped it on your mom's lap.

I knew she didn't like spiders.  She hated them.  They scared her.  But, she didn't move a musle.  Her eyes got really big and she gave me "the look," like I couldn't believe that

Time for a swim.
Ask your mom how she feels about spiders. Does she like them?
you did that.  Grandma Thorp looked at me and shook her head.


The church has always been very important to our family, both to our immediate family-members and our extended one of aunts, uncles and cousins.  I grew up going to a big old church that also had a school that I attended and graduated from in eighth grade.

My mother and I went to church just about every Sunday.  It was really important to her.  I met Grandma Thorp at that church.

She also grew-up going to church.  It's where we both got to know Jesus.  One of the songs from those days that sticks in my memory is "Jesus Loves Me."

Ask your dad and mom about Jesus and why's important in their life.  He needs to be important in your life and your sister's.

When you start reading, and that won't be long, pull your Children's Bible off your bookshelf.  Read it by yourself and with your mom and dad.  Read it to your sister.  Most important, read it yourself and think about the words.  

Get to know Jesus.  He's real and he loves you and so do I.

I love you,  

Grandpa Thorp

#3--Letter to my grandson about my wanting to be the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers

This was fun.
Remember the day we made marshmallow sculptures with toothpicks?

Dear Xavier,

I used to be a newspaper reporter a long time ago.  And I remember when I spelled somebody's name wrong the editor gave me a lecture about names and how they were a person's most important possession.
Lone Ranger and me
Names are important, as well as fun.  My mom would tell people about how people would ask me my name when I was your age and I would either answer Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger.  
They were actors who played cowboys on their radio shows and they
My Uncle Wes and my mom
Uncle Wes could be a real smiler.  My mother is sitting next to him.
were heroes.  They were always saving somebody who needed real help.  
The Lone Ranger wore a mask and had a horse named Silver. Roy Rogers had a horse named Trigger and while saving somebody, he would sing a song.
I would listen to their stories on an old brown radio in our living room.  I wouldn't move as the action was described.  I remember the Lone Ranger and his helper Tonto and how there was never anything too hard for them.
But, what about my name?  How did I get the name Wesley?
I was named after my Uncle Wes.  He did ride horses when he was a boy when he grew up on the farm in the Thumb of Michigan.  
But his ride of choice was a fast car and, preferably one he worked on. He was a skilled auto mechanic who had his own gas station.  He loved the sound of engines.
He was a man who had a big smile and a loud laugh.  Uncle Wes also had a big temper. If somebody crossed him, he could really get angry.  When that happened, it seemed like the earth would move.
When I was born my dad wanted me to be named after his father, Durward.  I was supposed to be Durward Dale Thorp.  My initials would have been D-D-T.
But, I was born a couple of minutes after midnight on August 31, 1946 on my Uncle Wes' birthday.  They decided to name me after him.
Think about your name, Xavier Dominick.  It's special and just for you.  It's one that God picked out of his name book and gave it to you.
I love you,
Grandpa Thorp