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.
On my seventy-second birthday, two clogged carotid arteries and 12 family members coming to celebrate
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.
We were in the middle of his driveway on a mountainside in western Bosnia when we tried out our diet Coke and Mentos rocket. My then five year-old grandson and I wanted to see how high we could make the pop go. It exploded and up to the second level of their house. That was fun. He enjoyed it and so did I.
This weekend, he and his siblings--one is pre-born--are coming to our house for a hot air balloon festival just down the road from us in Holt. No balloon rides this time. But, I'm searching for things to do with a now eight-year-old with an inquisitive mind.
I have a paperback book filled with science experiments for his age group. There are some possibilities. I've looked at personal drones. Most have a price tag that would rival a good used car and, I think, you need a permit to use them.
What still has the interest of him and his five-year-old sister is making K-cups. Even though the temperature is still hot, they like making their own hot chocolate from a Keurig cup.
There's always skydiving. That will probably have to wait til he's older.
What do you do with your grandkids?
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."
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.
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.
My enthusiasm for Michigan State University started at a young age. My interest was piqued in the early sixties when my aunt who lived in Okemos had a friend who worked at the school's daily newspaper, the State News, as an assistant to Louis Berman, its advisor. This friend encouraged my interest in journalism and the School of Journalism at MSU. I was hooked by East Lansing and I knew I wanted to go to school there.
Fasst forward to Friday night when my seven-year-old grandson comes to watch the Harlem Globetrotters play at the Breslin. I got really good seats which we will fill after eating supper on campus. In the past, part of my "bleeding green" would focus on showing him stuff to plant a seed for attending there when the time comes.
I've had to rethink that after watching how the university responded to the Dr. Larry Nasser case where he molested more than 150 girls and young women who he treated during their gymnastics career.
At best, the university responded defensively giving the appearance that they knew nothing and that they have no responsibility. They have dodged and weaved as facts about their knowledge of the case started to dribble out. They still take less than minimal responsibility.
Do I want my grandson to think about becoming a Spartan when the time comes? I'd probably encourage him to think about going one one of the Wesleyan colleges that his parents attended or to one of the Concordias that my wife attended.
My Spartan pride is waning. But we will have fun watching the Globetrotters play on Friday.
About a mile-and-a-half immediately north of us, is a privately-owned sports park that we had only driven by, but never been to. We changed that last night when we attended a Balloon Festival where more than a dozen hot air balloons were launched.
There were hundreds of people watching to paid $10 a car to get in the park where you could plant a lawn chair and watch.
We loved it and we learned a lot about a sport that excels at being visual. Check the bottom photo where behind the trees is a balloon that appears to be descending into the southside of Lansing.
Would we take our grandkids up in a balloon? Not til they're older, a lot older. Then we'll probably be too old.
My memories of the draft during the Vietnam war in the sixties and early seventies is getting hazy. I still remember registering for the draft at the U.S. Post Office on Washington Street in Bay City. It wasn't long after I got my draft card that guys are to publicly burn them to challenge authorities over being conscripted for what the felt was an unjust war.
It was this article in the New York Times that made me think about it. The write of this piece was drafted in 1967 when I was at Michigan State University being trained to be a newspaper reporter. I had a student deferment. But, I knew that my local draft board in Bay County, Michigan would have me in Basic Training as soon as I graduated.
If you were over 18 in this country, the draft was something always lurking over your shoulder. You couldn't escape it, unless you had connections with the local draft board, became a teacher or minister or got married. Then the draft lottery was instituted. Every date on the calendar was assigned a number and the lower your number the more likely you would be drafted.
My number was 10, putting me high on the list to be conscripted. I was facing impossible decisions. I finally found a U.S. Army Reserve School that accepted me as a member. I had to sign up for six years. I still had to go to basic and advanced training. and to training once a year with my unit.
I'm sharing this for my grandsons who may face the draft in their lifetimes. I will try to share more for them.
What about other baby-boomer guys? Did you get drafted? Were you able to avoid it? How?
It was early afternoon when I got the call from my two-year-old grandson. He had just gotten up from a nap and was feeling out of sorts. So, he called for Bubba. That's me. He handed his mom's iPhone to her and made it clear that he want to Face Time.
He started calling me Bubba this summer after spending a week at his house. He was having trouble saying grandpa and grandma, so he said "Bubba" and "Amma." When we left his house a couple states away and when we were saying goodbye, he made it clear he didn't want me to leave. He clung to my shoulder and cried "Bubba, Bubba, Bubba."
Of course my heart enlarged greatly with his affectionate sentiments. Since then, he still uses his favorite name for me.
So, when he woke up, his mom said the first thing he cried for was "Bubba" and that's me. My heart smiled in a way that only grandchildren can.
His picture came up on my phone after I accepted the call and the smiles showed across a few states. I haven't seen him in a month. I heard him use a full assortment of words that I hadn't heard from before. He's in the almost talking stage. It was a great visit.
Then there were pictures from our youngest grandson who had a physical today. He's a smiler and has big eyes that shine.
I love my grandkids and pictures, stills and video, are a good alternative when you can see them in person.
A year ago today, my son, our daughter-in-law, our grandson, my wife and I were on a plane to Stockholm where we had a layover for a flight to Croatia. We were traveling there to vacation with our daughter and family who lived in Eastern Europe.
The challenge was how to keep a newly-minted one-year-old entertained on a trans-Atlantic flight. They can get cranky and sometimes real cranky.
My daughter-in-law, Lauren Thorp, is one of the more creative people I know. She can take a handful of old treasures and turn them into something beautiful that you just want to stare at and smile.
She did that on this flight. During the course of the trip we passed the baby. That's when we each got into our bag of goodies she put together. They were little dollar store toys and little neat things, including little pieces of tape. The idea was to have a stockpile of attention diverters for my young grandson.
Did it work? Almost. Close. He was too young. The tape was a hit. I could put it on his foot and he would pick it off. That lasted for a few minutes.
I just bet that with him being two, he'd stay entertained longer.
By-the way, Lauren is the founder of Umba Box, a national subscription box service for curated handmade items. Really cool stuff.
If you knock on my front door during this warm weather, there's a good chance you'll see me with these virtual reality goggles. It has nothing to do with the myriad eye problems I've had over the past few years. These goggles allow me to view hundreds of videos taken with cameras that give you a 360 degree view of whatever you're looking at.
I just got back from a virtual helicopter trip over downtown Las Vegas. It was amazing. It was as if I was actually taking the ride. I could see everything and look anywhere in any direction, including up and down. I could even feel the bumps in the ride. I'm ready to go again.
The device allows me to adjust it to my tricky vision and to see everything with a natural sharpness. The New York Times has a collection of 360 degree videos. At least two will be watched before the day is over.
I'd recommend this to just about anybody. I can't wait to show it to my six-year-old grandson and to my wife, a retired third grade teacher.
Are you familiar with Virtual Reality (VR) goggles? Have you ever used them and what have you watched?
I'm not sure what my mother-Frieda Thorp-would be doing in heaven on a Wednesday afternoon. She would probably miss this blog post showing three of her five great grandkids visiting my mom's sister Aileen Anderson in West Virginia. I would ask my mom's cronies in heaven to point these pictures out to her to show that she has left legacy that has left a trail of love in its wake since she died in 1996.
My daughter and her husband along with their three kids were traveling through Aunt Aileen's area and popped in. You can see that their visit to my 91-year-old aunt would rival most medicines you could obtain in a pharmacy. The smiles show it. I hope that my grandkids will pack away a memory of that visit.
She's a special lady. She had five sisters and six brothers. They lost both their parents at a very young age. It happened during a time when there was no foster care or social services. The older siblings took the younger ones as their responsibility. This was during the 1930s when life in this country was uniquely hard. They stuck together.
Aileen married when she was a teenager. Her husband-Ron Anderson-served in the South Pacific during World War II. When he came back he took his radio skills and used them to become a pioneer in two-way radio communication for governmental units. He did this with Motorola. He and Aileen were role models for me and my cousins.
Last year, Ron became real sick and didn't recover. He died one week and Aileen had a leg amputated a short time later. During that time she kept looking forward. She didn't dwell on her loss, but on what she still had and what she was looking forward to. I've watched her hit lots of high walls in her life and you could almost see God right next to her boosting her over.
My mom needs to know that Aileen was there today representing the family. Three of my grandkids got to meet her. I hope they remember. If not I hope this blog post will help.
Mom, you should be proud.
My youngest grandson and I sat on the couch yesterday at his house talking for almost an hour. Even though, he was only two-days-old, he's a good listener. It was almost an out-of-body experience to hold the newborn child of your child. This was the fourth time I've done it. He's the third grandson. I also have one granddaughter with another on the way this spring.
What did Jacob Wesley and I talk about?
We talked about his mom and how I was there when she was born just like his dad was there when he was born. Knowing that his eyes were closed most of the time while we were talking, I told him that I had a beard as did his dad and his Uncle Justin. Then we talked about his brother and sister and how he was born into a family that was filled with non-stop love.
We chatted about his Grandma Thorp and how great she is and what she has meant in my life and that of other people.
I told him about his Uncle Justin, Aunt Lauren and his cousin Miles. We also talked about his other grandparents who live in North Carolina and how he would see them soon.
There's still time to talk about Facebook ice cream, the Spartans, driverless cars, a guy named Goldwater and the Island of Vis.
After spending time with our daughter and family, I feel like I just won the grand prize in the state lottery. I love being part of our family. Having grandkids is like eating a big gooey carrot cake with thick creme cheese frosting. They make me smile big time.
My new grandson and I share a name. Wow. His parents gave him my name for his middle name. And I was named after my Uncle Wes. I can't wait to tell him and my other grandkids about him and my other aunts and uncles and the my mother, a very special person in my life.
Yes, God has blessed me big time. I'm way past the 10,000 Reason that Matt Redmond sings about.
Jacob welcome to our family.
I know it's only a number, but turning 70 this year seems like such a big number. For instance, in ten years I'll be 80. I know that physical and mental limitations start to show themselves more as one crosses these milestones. As a result, I know that I need to carefully prioritize my time. I know how easy it is to let time cruise by and not get anything done.
First, I need to deal with the number 70. It's a head thing, an attitude. It's easy to get lost in the feeling that I'm done. I haven't had a day job for 11 years. Somedays I've felt like my wheels have been spinning in the mud, while other days have felt like I'm stuck in a quick sand that's pulling me down.
Let me be clear. My wife is retired too. And we enjoy doing things together. Really, we do. Since, we've gotten married our life has been built around our mutual faith in God. We put value in being part of a church. Those involvements come and go. The church we attend now and the one that we really like seems to retire attenders to the backbencher once they reach a certain age. And, I think we've crossed that chronological line.
Our kids are great, as are our grandkids. We do try to plug into their lives, but because of substantial distance, we usually do it via FaceTime or phone calls and occasional visits. This technology allows us to be part of their lives, but in a limited way. We saw our granddaughter eat her first bite of cereal and we've seen one of our grandsons take his first tentative steps and then grow into a toddler and now a full-fledged walker.
We've outgrown our house as empty-nesters and we are contemplating the next move. Condo? Climate? Nearer to the kids? Money? How much can we swing?
The sand in the hourglass seems to be moving quicker and quicker. These are points to be dealt with this year. They are all positive, I guess.
Life is a big series of phases. There's the first time the baby sleeps all night. First time walking. Then they talk. You turn 50. Kids graduate from high school. Then college. Their first jobs. You walk your daughter down the aisle. Stand next to your son as his best man. And then the grandkids.
My junk mail has even gone through phases. A couple of years ago, everybody was trying to sell me hearing aids. Now I'm getting mail from funeral homes.
Yup, this is the year to double-check how I use my time. Less Dr. Phil watching and more doing what I really want to get done.
I have five grandchildren and I want them to know why their Grandpa Thorp--that's me--pulled out the Great Lakes Red bottle on Tuesday, Dec. 15 and drank a toast to their great grandparents, my mother and dad, Frieda and Claude Thorp. If they were still living, it would be their 70th wedding anniversary. They got married on Dec. 15, 1946 after my dad came home from service in World War II where he served in the U.S. Navy.
This picture taken on their wedding day shows how my mom was a beautiful bride. My dad seemed to have that World War II handsomeness.
She grew up on a farm in the Thumb of Michigan and gradually made her way to Bay City, Michigan with her six brothers and five sisters. My dad was from upstate New York and had lived in New York City. They met through my uncle who introduced them while serving on the same ship in the Pacific.
I was raised by my mother and never knew my father. However, I recently discovered a treasure trove of letters that my dad wrote to my mom. I'm learning more and I will share with my grandkids what might help them better understand their family background.
The Great Lakes Red bottle is on the kitchen counter unopened till Tuesday. These are my parents who God gave to me.
If my kids or grandkids ever ask me the question, I think I'm ready with an answer that I'm really pretty sure about.
I hope my five grandkids have a chance to read this someday. As I transition through the fourth-quarter of my life, I've had lots of time to think about my strong and weak points. I've seen plenty of the latter and felt uncertain about the former.
Through the years, I've stumbled in my life more than my fair share. But I've always been able to get up.
When I was younger, I had an intellectual knowledge of the importance of Jesus is my life, but my heart knowledge of that was rather thin.
It's taking me a long time to learn the importance of what Kara Tippetts says. My biggest strength is my neediness for Jesus. He gives me real hope. I see the reality of that fact more and more everyday.
I was reminded this weekend about how much a very young child has to learn in the first couple years of his or her life. Our son and his wife and their almost 18-month-old son are celebrating Thanksgiving with us. We baby-proofed everything we could think of. We even pulled out an old gate for our steps going to the basement, leaving one set of steps without a gate.
Our grandson is a newly-minted walker and, of course, the first thing that attracts his attention are the steps. Doing up and down safely is an important learned skill. It's one that's vital to learn. Otherwise, you fall. With the help of all of us, especially his mom and dad, he's learning.
This made me think about the joy of learning and how it's lifelong. As I approach turning 70, I've mastered going up and down steps, but I have a long list of other things that I want to learn. When do you stop learning? I guess, it's when your heart stops beating.
I love being surrounded by pictures of our immediate family. In our living room and when sitting on our couch, all I have to do is turn my head to the left or right and I see family, our kids, our grandkids and my wife and me. These were taken at a variety of points in time.
Then go into our kitchen and you'll see more. There's a huge montage that features our growing grandchildren. And then in the hallway, there's more. They are constant reminders of the best part of my life, being part of a family.
But our collection is in need of updating. We need a new shot of our whole immediate family. The one of the original four is great. But, by spring we will be eleven. Somehow we need to get everybody together and do it. Two new grand babies are due in the spring.
My taste for family pictures really exploded when we had our daughter 33 years ago. As I took pictures and got them printed, I put them up on my office wall in the State Capitol Pressroom. My collection grew until it occupied a whole wall over my telephone and then we had our son. There were even more.
I love capturing moments in the history of our family. These are times that once they happen will never comeback unless you have a photo or video.
On most mornings when we get out of bed, the first thing we do is check our phone for pictures from our grandkids scattered in a couple of spots around the world. We look first to Instagram and then to Flare, a new photo sharing app that is currently in beta.
But, the third leg of our photo sharing stool is Face Time where we can visit over live video on our various Apple devices. We've seen our two grandsons and granddaughter at various key points in their lives this way. That includes crawling, walking, talking and a whole host of other milestones. We love it and we are so blessed that our kids love to share.
Last night, I was sitting at my desk when all of a sudden my youngest grandson popped up on my large computer monitor with a huge smile. We visited. My wife and I spent the rest of the evening with big smiles on our faces.
If you have an Apple device don't be intimidated. It's similar to making a telephone call. It's that simple.
I remember when my son Justin and I met Ken Canfield, the author of the Heart of a Father, at a PromiseKeepers event in Chicago. He was in the booth for the National Center for Fathering where he was the president.
I bought the book and read it several times and then shared it with a big bunch of guys. This happened just as people were still learning about websites. They had one and I followed it for quite awhile.
Time flew and I'm now a grandfather looking at my son with his almost one-year-old son and at my son-in-law Adam and his almost five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.
I've had the privilege to watch them father their kids up close and from afar. It would be an understatement to say that I'm impressed. To be accurate, I'd have to say that the hand of God reached down and touched both of them to be the exemplary fathers that they are.
My grandchildren have dads, real dads who know how to love their kids and the mother's of their three children. They are not afraid to get poop under their fingernails, change a wet bed or read stories until their voices become hoarse.
They enjoy being with their kids. Every morning after my first grandson was born, I'd look at a picture of him and his dad walking around a running track with Adam holding a basketball and my grandson hanging onto his finger. You could see the big smile on both of their faces. My grandson was not quite a year old and had just started walking.
Cutting, curing and storing wood for the winter is an annual event where they live in Bosnia. Check the picture of the two of them splitting and stacking the wood. There's one proud dad and a very proud son.
My granddaughter knows that she's the apple of her dad's eye and that he finds spending time with her a privilege even when she flexes her muscles as an independent two-year-old. He's her cheerleader along with her mom, my daughter.
Now my youngest grandson who is almost a year-old is not at the splitting wood age, but he and my son bonded real early, like from the time he was born. The two are tight.
Justin holds him, plays with him, talks to him and has fun with a little guy who has a smile that can fill a room. He knows his dad and he knows that his dad is in his corner.
My son loves to cook. During my daughter-in-law's challenging pregnancy, he cooked often. He stepped in and showed his wife the real love that comes from faithfully filling and operating the dishwasher and washing clothes.
All three of my grandkids have dads who love their wives and who show it through their words and actions. Their kids can take comfort from the fact that their dads put their wives on an elevated position which means their family will not be threatened.
And, finally, my son and son-in-law have God at the center of their lives. They know that when they blow it that they are forgiven. They are teaching this to their kids.
Now the National Center for Fathering has lots of categories for "fathers-of-the year", but I hope that they would consider these guys for consideration as Father's Day approaches.
And, one more thing, I hope that dads who have perpetuated a cycle of bad fathering can take comfort from this. The cycle can be broken. My father was a no-show. He came from a long-line of bad fathering. It can be stopped and these two guys are proof.