My newborn grandson Theo talked me out

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March 6, 2019, Wednesday just before lunch

Dear Theo--

Let me introduce myself.  I'm your mother's father which makes me one of your two grandfathers.  Only six people in the whole world can call me grandpa and you're one of them.  Your grandma, your mother's mom, is Gladys.  

You are now a member of our family.  One of the greatest joys I've had in my life is being part of this family.  It's a place where you get a big part of your identity.  You'll always be known as the son of Adam and Krista.  It's also a source of strength and encouragement and laughter.

You and I talked ourselves out the day you came home from the hospital.  We talked about everything, including your parents and your  brothers and sisters and food and countries to visit and cars to drive.  After more than an hour I nodded off with your eyes still open.  You are a good listener.

I love you little man.  Jesus loves you too and so do your parents and siblings, as well as your other grandparents.  You are loved.  Never forget that.  Remember Who You Are. 

We'll talk more later.

Again, welcome to our family which is now made better by your arrival.

Love,

Grandpa Thorp

 


Meet my grandpa--Charles Moll--my mother's dad from Michigan's Thumb

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I never met my grandpa or grandma on my mother's side, but this picture makes me regret that we never got acquainted.  This picture makes me regret that I never heard his stories about being a sugar beet farmer in Michigan's Thumb where my mom grew up.  He's on the left and his brother is in the middle.  As I become more and more experienced at being a grandparent, I want my six grandkids to know me and my life.  This old photo is part of a collection that my mother left me when she died.  


Founders Backwood Bastard from Grand Rapids should be the "state beer" of Michigan

Drinking Founders Backwoods Bastard with my son
Do you recognize the guy on the label of the beer my son and I are drinking?

 I first drank a glass of Founders Backwoods Bastard at Horrocks in Lansing.  My son and I had gone there as part of a tradition he and I started at Thanksgiving time when he and his family visited from out of state.  Since then I've gone there with my son-in-law several times.

Drinking Backward Bastard changed my beer tastes forever.  With it, I became familiar with barrel-aged beer where beer is left to meld with tastes of scotch and other tastes.

Fast Forwarding to this past weekend when I turned 72 and when my whole family came to celebrate our daughter and son-in-law, as part of a birthday gift, bought a four pack which is about the same cost as filling your gas tank on a SUV.

While sitting on our couch after a trip to the Jazz Festival in Downtown Detroit, we pulled out two bottles from my birthday gift.  It was a grand taste and a fitting way to start year number 73.

I'd recommend Backwoods Bastard to beer lovers.


On my seventy-second birthday, two clogged carotid arteries and 12 family members coming to celebrate

A doctor's office selfie.
Getting the news yesterday about my two plugged carotid arteries.

As we get ready to celebrate my birthday today with the whole family, our two kids, their spouses and six grandkids-one is pre-born-I realize I have a whole lot to be thankful for.  May God help me to remember that always.  

While getting my problem right eye checked by one of my retina specialists for some vision challenges, this young doctor from Egypt suggested that I have my carotid arteries checked out as a possible source of the trouble.  I noticed that on our most recent trip to visit our son and family in St. Louis that looking ahead my vision would fuzz out and the fuzz would go away when I moved my head.

Well, I got a doppler on Wednesday afternoon and by the time I got home and peed, I got a call that they found a blockage.  I was told the doctor needed to see me first thing yesterday.

He told me that the preliminary read of the doppler test showed that I had a 100 percent blockage in one carotid and 50 percent in the other.  Dr. El from LOEyecare in Lansing could have saved my life my urging me to get the test and making the referral.  I was sobered by how this went undetected until this one ophthalmologist suggested the test.  Next steps include seeing a vascular surgeon.

Throughout my right eye challenges, my wife has been alongside me.  She's been to a whole bunch of appointments and exams and to each of my 10 eye surgeries.  I know that she's reflecting the love that she receives through her faith in Jesus Christ.  Her love for me is undeniable and I praise God for it.

Then there's my family.  Our two kids and us has grown to a group of twelve.  They are all coming to our condo to celebrate my birthday and to praise a God who watches over us all, including those of us with transplanted corneas and plugged carotids.

I'm looking forward to it all.  It takes on a special meaning with this new realization of how fragile life can be.

Thank-you God for loving me.


Here's why I've been thinking of the day that my daughter Krista was born

My daughter and her youngest son.
Krista, our daughter, and her youngest son, Jacob Wesley.

I remember vividly the day that Gladys told me over the phone that she was pregnant with our first child.  Driving home that afternoon, the smile on my face was so big that I had to look high.  And I remember every detail of her birth on March 17, 1982.  

Her birth taught me what real excitement was.  I had no siblings and I was raised by a single mom and up to that point, I may have held a baby for no more than 30 seconds.  Then Krista came and I couldn't get enough of holding my daughter and just looking at her.  I quickly got into changing diapers and giving baths.  When she was awake, I would talk to her non-stop about everything.

Then, she married Adam and we got his call that our first grandchild was on the verge of being born.  We aimed for the hospital in Carmel, Indiana and we were welcomed into the grandparents waiting room where Gladys and I drank French press coffee and then Adam came and got us and we saw our first grandchild Xavier.  That was eight years ago.

Now the news; Krista called us a short time back and told us that number four was coming along sometime in March.  Wow and wow.  What started as just Gladys and me is now twelve counting our pre-born grandchild.  

It's a big cliche, but each one has their own unique personality.  Our son Justin and his wife Lauren have a son and a daughter.

I wish God had a section of the Bible for grandparents on how to effectively plug into your grandchild's life.  There's a lot to share in a "here's what I learned" fashion for each of them.

Maybe I should write it down.  It could be a gift for each one, a little piece of me.

And for grandfathers who have taken a pass on developing a relationship with their progeny, I would encourage them to stop and take a deep breath and rethink their position.

I know one grandpa who wrote off his grandkids and it was the kids who lost.  And the grandpa was a big-time loser too.

Thank-you God.  "Guide me as I continue on as the patriarch of this side of our family."


How important is it to a boy to know that their dads love them?

Father and sons photos.
My son (right) and my son-in-law (left) with their sons.

I just about crapped my pants when I saw a picture of a dad holding his baby son.  The father and son images were part of a group of people in the shot taken more than 70 years ago.  Everybody was having fun at a picnic.  To check the father and son part of the image, I turned on the magnifier on my iPhone and could identify my dad holding me when I was a baby.  I had to be less than a year old.

Why do I mention this?  I want to celebrate my son and his son and my son-in-law and his sons.  Their sons will never wonder about the love of their fathers for them.  This in my opinion is key to the growth of a man.  

During the time when I was still trying to connect all the wires with my son-in-law, they emailed a picture of him walking around a track with his barely old enough to walk son's finger in one hand and a basketball in the other.  The look on my oldest grandson's face told it all.  He was proud of his dad and he knew that he was loved by him.

My son is the same way.  His son knows that his dad loves him.  He has no doubt.  My son is a hands-on dad.  He and his son enjoy each other.  The dividends will be paid out down the road.

How many guys never knew if their dad really loved them?  A lot, I'm sure.  As a man that makes you doubt yourself and you wonder about your worth.  Relationships are harder and less close.  

Everyday, I thank God that my son and son-in-law love their boys beyond all measure.  And they love their daughters in a way that they fully-know that they are the apple of their dad's eye.

Me and my dad picture.
A picture of my less than year old self draped over my dad's shoulder.

 

 


What I'd tell my youngest grandson about how I met grandma almost 40 years ago

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If my youngest grandson Jacob asked me how grandma and I met, here's what I'd tell him.

He's my youngest grandson and he and I spent a lot of time together this past week when our family spent four days together for a special vacation at an Airbnb on Lake Michigan.  He's talking more and more and many of his words are intelligible, at least, I thought I recognized many of them.

As part of our family celebration of birthdays and our 37th anniversary, my son-in-law Adam Jones, an ordained pastor conducted the ceremony on the shore of Lake Michigan near Union City.  My oldest grandson Xavier was my best man, our oldest granddaughter Gretchen was Gladys' maid of honor.  Our grandson Miles was ring bearer and the other two were cheerleaders.

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During our time together two-year-old Jacob seemed to be asking me about how grandma and I met.  He listened carefully as I told him about how we met at the church where I grew-up.  She was the third grade teacher at the school I attended in the late 1950s.  Our courtship was done in phases that involved a couple of matchmaking late aunts.  

We reached a point in our relationship where God was like Blake Shelton on the Voice using his big finger to point over Gladys' head and say it was her.  "Marry her."  At the time, I wasn't shopping for a wife and Gladys wasn't  looking for a husband.  It just happened.

During this period, we'd have many Saturday morning breakfasts at Bay City's Char House where we'd eat blueberry pancakes and drink coffee.  I came to one conclusion that God was right.  She was the one.  That was more than thirty-seven years ago.

Not having a flair for the dramatic, I visited Gladys in her classroom one day and got out my checkbook and went to the calendar and asked her what would be a good date to get married.  

That was almost four decades ago.  Best thing I've ever done was marry Gladys.  She loves me unconditionally, but she loves Jesus even more.  That's what makes our relationship work.

It was a great family vacation.  God has given me more than I can appreciate.


Watching Saturday morning cartoons with my two-year-old grandson

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It was early Saturday morning and I found myself reliving my early days as a parent when you watched cartoons with them.  No more Popeye or the Jetsons or Yogi Bear.  Tastes among the younger crowd have changed.

Here my youngest grandson sits on my lap while my wife and daughter are out shopping together for clothes for when my wife and I renews our wedding vows next week on a Lake Michigan beach.  It will be part of a family vacation with all the kids and grandkids.


After being way for three days, we had to smile big when we saw these faces

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It was about 10 below zero when we pulled in our garage after visiting relatives in the Chicago-area for a few days.  We had gone there via Amtrak train and left late yesterday afternoon for home.  It was a comfortable ride through southwest Michigan to the central part of the state.  But it was cold, real cold.  

Our Honda Civic which had been parked in an outdoor lot started like a charm.  Then there was the ride home a few miles over crunchy snow that reeked of frozenness.  We pulled into our small garage, got our stuff out of the trunk and with tired eyes unlocked the door.  And we saw this calendar made from grandkid pictures.  For January, this is the picture that got our first glance.

The smile it produced set the tone for the rest of our New Year's Eve.  These are two of our five grandkids with different pictures of them for each month.  

Thank-you to our daughter Krista for making this special Christmas gift.  It's a heart-warmer.


Meet two of my uncles--Wes Moll and Ernie Moll--and their friend Adolph Hanke taken in 1930

My Uncle Ernie on the left and Uncle Wes on the right.

As I continue to go through my late mother's collection of photographs from her early life in the 20's to 40s, I came across this one of my two uncles, Ernie Moll on the left and Wes Moll on the right with Adolph Hanke in the middle.   It was taken in the Thumb of Michigan in 1930.

I am a namesake of my Uncle Wes having been born on his birthday in 1946.  He settled with his wife Bertha and two daughters in Bay City, Michigan where he was a Gulf gas station operator for many years.  When he retired from that he started making children's toys from wood.

My Uncle Ernie worked at Shovel's in Bay City until he had a heart attack at an early age.  

Both were amazing men who grew-up under circumstances that deserve to be shared on a television drama.

 


I agree with Zeek Braverman that family is everything

 

A picture of my family.
We started with the two of us in 1981. This is our family now at the end of 2017.

 In my head I'm hearing Matt Redmond sing about the "10,000 Reasons" to thank and praise God.  And when that one stops I'm hearing David Crowder sing his "I am" song about the one of who gave me my family.

Our house has been filled with family all week, first our son Justin, his wife Lauren and their two kids and then our daughter Krista and her husband Adam and their three kids.  Last night all them stayed at our condo.  It was bliss for this 71-year-old guy who was raised as an only child and who had absolutely no experience with siblings or small kids until my wife, Gladys got married.

I praise God for each and everyone of them.  As the patriarch of the clan, I've come to appreciate each of them as individuals and to see their enthusiasm for life and for each other.  During and after meals I enjoyed just sitting back and taking in the conversations and the hub bub with the kids.  I'm actually part of two families, my own and the family of God.

One of my favorite television shows was Parenthood where the main character Zeek Braverman would sit back during family get-togethers and say to one of his grandkids, "Family is everything."  I agree with Zeek. 


My wife's fat quarters are not chocolate covered cherries or raisins

Fat quarters at our house.
Fat quarters are not chocolate-covered

When my wife mentioned the "fat quarters" in her sewing room, I was thinking something chocolate-covered like raisins or cherries.  I took a brief look in the room where she works the magic with cloth and I couldn't find any.

Then she educated me about how fat quarters are a yard of cloth cut in four pieces.  Now I know.  She has a collection of fat quarters for grandkid sewing projects.

I'm a lifelong learner.  It's a continual adventure.


Nine years ago today I was "Father Of The Bride" to my little pumpkin

Krista and Adam's wedding.
I'm the guy with the bald head facing the pastor. What an occasion.

 

I remember when my daughter Krista called me while I was at Sam's Club and her saying, "You're really going to like this guy."  And I remember thinking "o-kaaay."  She was right big time.  

Today she and her husband Adam Jones celebrate their ninth  anniversary.  Being part of their lives as parents and grandparents to their three kids has been a big time joy.  They are high quality people and who with the synergism coming from being married only magnifies that.

As I age and as my memory of some events gets fuzzy, I hope I never forget the day I walked her down the aisle.  It's in the top tier of life events for me.  If there are any dads holding back on taking that walk, I hope they just hold their breath and do it.

At their wedding rehearsal and when it was our turn to practice walking down the aisle, I remember that the tears were sandbagged behind my eyes.  My face may have not shown it, but I was really happy.  It seemed like a video kept playing in my head starting with when she was born.  Now it's a DVD with remembrances of their kids being born and all the other scenes that come with being part of a family.

Her husband Adam has become a close friend.  I value our relationship.

I hope that they can celebrate today and the rest of the week.  Their kids are blessed to have such great parents.

Maybe it's the season, but I forgot that I called her "pumpkin" for many years.  Today, she's my pumpkin again.


A weekend taking care of three of our grandkids in Dearborn

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My youngest grandson got up early enough this morning to be part of the action in the kitchen where Tony Tiger was napping on the floor.  While their parents are out of town at a conference, my wife and I are babysitting Jacob along with his brother and sister.

That means pure grandparent joy.  We picked up our oldest grandson from second grade and our oldest granddaughter from pre-school.  

It's kind of like rewinding the clock when our kids were that age where you get the full assortment of parental duties that comes with young children.

I thank God for my iPhone with its great camera.  There's no more dropping of film and picking up prints.  Now it's instantaneous.

Unloading the dishwasher together.
Our toddler grandson helps grandma unload with dishwasher.

 

 

Bed time prayers.
Saying night time prayers together.

 


Having a beer or two with my son at Urban Chestnut in St. Louis and talking about our lives

 

A selfie with my son.
Me and my son Justin at Urban Chestnut in St. Louis

 

 

We get bits and snatches of phone and FaceTime conversations to catch up with what's happening in our lives.  These visits are great and are usually punctuated by wonderful moments when grandkids pop in to say hello or show a toy.

However, I really look forward to the times when I can get together with my son Justin for a beer to talk about what's going on in our lives.  Last night, we did it at Urban Chestnut's Biergarten in St. Louis.  Over a generous glass of Schnickelfritz we caught up.  

We talked about our lives.  We threw in a little about politics.  Talked about family, including his sister-my daughter-and son-in-law who recently moved  to Dearborn to connect with and help those in the immigrant and refugee community there.  We talked about the future.  

It was good.  It was good beer and it was a good time of reconnection.

What about beer with my son-in-law?  Same thing.  These have been great times where we have gotten to know each other well and I left praising God for the great spouses He picked for my kids.


If you have toddler grandkids, you need to check out the Munchkin sippy cup

Three of our grandkids are visiting this week from another state.  The youngest is a barely over one year-old and, of course, still uses a sippy cup.  I had seen the old style, but I had never seen the Munchkin 360 cup for toddler sized drinkers.

They can pick it up and drink from any part of the top of the cup, instead of having to find the spout which can spill if it is tipped over.  

This morning when my young grandson was walking around drinking milk, he demonstrated how easy it is to use.  He's a walking commercial for Munchkin cups.

If you're a baby-boomer with grandkids, this is worth checking out.  It's totally amazing.  Now if they only made one big enough to drink beer from.

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How do you celebrate your 36th anniversary?

Our wedding picture.
We were married on June 20, 1981 in Bay City.

What can we do tomorrow for our 36th anniversary?  We need to get a bottle of Great Lakes Red and maybe go to a special place for lunch.  We could also give ourselves the gift of a couple thousand more steps on our step counters.

We've done a lot of living.  I praise God real loudly for being able to partner up with her in a life that includes raising a couple of kids, staying focused through my job changes and caring for my elderly mother in her last couple years of life.

There was sharing the joy of being there for the birth of our kids and for each part of their development.  

God is great.  All the time.  Our marriage is proof of that.


The sun is shining a little brighter today in St. Louis today because of my three-year-old grandson

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We did it when we got the call from our son Justin who said his wife Lauren had just gone into the hospital to have their first child.  He said "grab mom" and a suitcase and share the joyous moment when their son Miles would be born.  We knew he was coming, but the call came a couple of weeks before his anticipated arrival.

Within a half hour we were on the road to St. Louis with the suitcase in the trunk.  We got there in plenty of time to share the excitement from a next door waiting room for grandparents and we saw our new grandson within a short time from his birth.

That was three years ago today.  It's his birthday.  Being part of his life for the past three years makes me bloat with pride.  He's a spitting image of his dad and has his dad's temperament and gusto for life that he had at that age.

Watching Miles grow and being able to see that I'm a patriarch of a growing and thriving family had made me even more sensitive to the need for me to recognize and thank God for all the blessings he has given me.

Happy Birthday Miles.  I am proud of you.

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We are all Thorp without an "e."

 

 

 

 


Do you remember when your kids were almost three years-old?

My grandson is off to school.
My two year-old, almost three, goes to school.

I have five grandkids and I'm excited about being part of their lives.  Three who are moving with their parents to Michigan will be here this weekend.  I bet I'll see the other two sometime this weekend over FaceTime.  

My grandson in the picture loves life, loves to learn and knows with confidence that he is loved by his mom and dad and younger sister.  I hope my son Justin can sit down and take a few extra swallows of Dragon's Milk and feel good about the family he and his wife Lauren are raising.  


Can you guess what I'm doing in this picture; DUIL test, e-cigarette, medicinal marijuana?

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I've been holding back on returning my Ancestry.com DNA test kit.  Why?  

Probably for the same reason my wife and kids have never really seen me without a beard.  My ethnic background for most of my life has been shrouded in mystery at least for 50 percent of me.  I know with some degree of certainty that my mom came from a German background.  My dad?

My wife researched my paternal background and to my surprise her research showed what appears a deep English background that goes back to the time of the Pilgrims.  

Then came Ancestry.com DNA testing.  What if I find that I'm from a Bulgarian or Bolivian background with a touch of Paraguay?

Well, Saturday, I submitted my saliva test where I had to spit into a tube.  Now I wait six weeks.