Category Archives: About Marriage and Family

Empty Nest, or is It?

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Nobody is perfect, not even me…… (Pause as readers get over shock)…..Often it is easier to find flaws in your spouse before admitting your own (ouch, right). That could explain the high divorce rate. I will therefore tread lightly as I discuss one of Crystal’s, let’s call it, a philosophical aberration.

I am somewhat of a minimalist. Give me a TV, a recliner, and maybe a couple of folding chairs for company and I’m one happy clam. Crystal, on the other hand, tends in a different direction. She likes her stuff. Getting rid of things is psychologically stressful for her. Letting me help declutter is apparently unacceptable. She is however, and to her credit, working on it.

While she has been “working on it” for some time, with only slight tangible results, the results of the last week or so has amazed me. The difference was Keylan’s (oldest grandchild) high school graduation. The plan, of which I had no part, was for Michelle (our middle child) her husband Alex, and our youngest daughter Lisa to spend several nights with us. Of course that meant including our lovely one year old granddaughter Ayla.

I can’t remember Crystal ever being so focused. There was baby proofing to be done, toys to be brought out, and room to be cleared. To my great surprise one of the, what I call junk rooms, suddenly had enough open space for a bed. Keylan and I played musical beds, moving one bed into the newly formed space and another in from the garage. The transformation was nothing short of miraculous.

The weekend was a flurry of activity. Having people and a baby in the house again brought back a lot of memories. I was most surprised at how well Ayla adjusted. She seemed very much at home and even slept through the night. Everyone reportedly slept well. There was once again laughter, playful banter, and a “discussion” over what to watch on TV.

Friday evening we went to the graduation ceremony. It was a little warm on the football stadium bleachers (around 90o F), but tolerable in the shade. Keylan looked sharp and was recognized for his perfect GPA. Liz and Brad (parents) were obviously quite proud. As for Keylan, he didn’t see high school graduation as a significant landmark. His eyes are toward the future. Ohio State University awaits in the fall.

Saturday was the party at Liz’s house. I had prepared the side dishes for which Crystal had volunteered me and was supposed to “help” with the grilling. Crystal and Lisa took a while to get ready and I thought I might get out of the “helping” to grill. I am sure it was just a coincidence that the first burgers hit the grill at exactly the time of our arrival. We ate about an hour later. I smelled like sweat and charcoal. No one told me that the two bags of marinating chicken were different, so they wound up on the same plate. Brad was an excellent assistant. I know he was only doing what he was told by his evil wife, my “loving” daughter, Liz.

The party was a big hit. Everyone loved the food. There were an abundance of children and babies running around and parents visiting. Keylan spent much of the time on the porch with his friends.

After another good night, and a final walk to the park, Michelle, Alex and Ayla left for their Kentucky home. Lisa decided to stay an extra day and steal one of our cars to get home. She stayed to watch the Memorial Day parade, which passed a couple of blocks from our house.

Now, the house is once again an empty nest. I’m not complaining. Crystal and I get along quite well. I’m also certain that this wasn’t the last time our house will serve our extended family.

Furthermore, I’m contemplating inviting the cast of the play “Little Women” to spend a night in our home. Think of all the rooms that will need to be cleared for that!

Crystal’s Corner

Last weekend was a milestone for us in many ways.  Keylan is our first grandchild to graduate from high school.  He has been attending college classes all this past year at the OSU in Newark, Ohio.  Also, I have been working really hard at decluttering, reorganizing and some redecorating.  I actually have been seeing a counselor to help me with my Dad’s passing and also decluttering and empty nest.  I am an artist, writer, crafts person, crafts teacher, lecturer and quilter and if you are any of those things you know you have books, craft paper, paints, yarn, fabric, etc.  I also collect and make dolls.

I have gone through a lot of paperwork, most of which is being recycled.  I have found some valuables such as Elizabeth’s footprint when she was born in Illinois, the girls’ art work, letters from relatives and friends, old photos, etc.  I am getting much better at letting go of items that I won’t use and organizing items I want to keep.  The girls are amazed and very encouraging about the progress I have made even before this weekend.  The counselor has helped me to focus on one area at a time, and to deal emotionally with letting go of the girls and the stuff.  If you have a situation like this, there is hope.

And a good time was had by all.

 

40 Years

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It’s been 2 score, double life sentences (no chance of parole), 0.4 centuries, 3 daughters, 6 grand children, 4 states, and uncountable opportunities (challenges/problems) since Crystal and I tied the proverbial knot. That’s right, on April 1st of 2018 we had another April fool’s day, and Easter (praise God), but my most important reason for celebration, to assure any future earthly happiness, was Crystal and my 40th wedding anniversary. My mother, Mimi, had a saying to describe a long period of time in German, that pigs don’t live that long. I guess it sounded better in German.

As I write this blog, it is my truest desire to come up with some words or a formula that will help people live better lives, and maybe even give a boost to the institution of marriage. I guess that’s one reason Crystal and I wrote our memoir. Just as a reminder, our memoir’s name “150 Years of Marriage” was coined in anticipation. Since we started by interviewing Mary Jane Carlson, who died in 2006, I know that our three couples total hadn’t yet hit 140 years. Since my mom’s death in 2012, only Crystal and I can add to the total. As of April 1st 2018 our three couples are at 159 years. By the time we are published maybe we should change the name. Think of it, in just another 41 years, “200 Years of Marriage”……..OK, maybe not.

Dad is now 97. I see him frequently. When I do, we will inevitably take a quiet drive along the Scioto River. This river drive is no secret. On a nice day there is a flurry of activity. There are walkers, runners, and people fishing. There are bike riders, and skate boarders, people walking dogs and pushing baby carriages. There are also boats on the water and occasionally we see the OSU sculling teams working out.

Water fowl are also frequently around in abundance. Occasionally, we will see gray or blue heron. But, more frequently, there are seagulls, ducks and Canadian geese. Most often, the ducks and geese are in fairly large groups. But what I find interesting is that you rarely see them by themselves. Often they are in matched pairs. I am given to understand that they generally mate for life. They share responsibilities such as finding food or raising families. They fly together and swim together. Oh, their bonding isn’t perfect. Male geese are well known philanderers. Sometimes their honking seems akin to a squabbling couple. But they generally stay together until one dies. I sometimes wonder if they were put here as an example for us. Crystal has, on occasion, called me a silly goose.

What is the difference between a marriage lasting 4 years and 40 years? Three things: choosing well, commitment, and a lot of luck! I guess Crystal and I have all three. Crystal will tell you that we were brought together by God. While I don’t disagree, you would think God’s plan would have moved a little smoother. Between job changes, multiple moves, serious health problems, family issues, etc., etc. etc., you have to wonder. But maybe that’s part of it. We haven’t had a perfect marriage. I don’t know if that exists. However, looking back, when the “opportunities” were presented, we closed ranks and worked together. I would even say they may have brought us closer together.

Today, when we sit on the couch and watch “Monk” or some other, as our kids would say, corny show, Crystal will periodically reach over to hold my hand. I guess that’s plenty corny too. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s kind of cool. When I think about the number, 40 years seems like an impossible amount of time. But when I reach back for Crystal’s hand, it’s like no time has passed. I can remember being twenty-something and falling in love with the girl I was supposed to be with. Maybe God got it right after all.

 

HAPPY 40TH Crystal!

 

Crystal’s Corner

Yesterday, April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday, was our 40th wedding Anniversary.  It was a bright warm sunny day like our wedding day. Of course last night it snowed. Forty years ago, on the first day of our honeymoon, we had to scrape the ice off of our car in Chicago. In so many ways, it doesn’t seem like 40 years, four decades, but it has been a long journey.

We got together with all of our daughters and their families and Ron’s Dad at a Greek Restaurant in Columbus.  It occurred to me as I looked around the long table, that none of these people would be here, if Ron and I hadn’t gotten married 40 years ago.

In our memoir, 150 Years of Marriage, we talk about when we met, dated, got engaged and married.  We also talk about our childhoods and our parents’ courtships and marriages.

I can remember very clearly our time at Bradley University, our engagement, planning the wedding, our wedding day, and our honeymoon in Arizona.

I also can remember living in our studio apartment for several months before we moved to a two bedroom apartment.  We entertained our family and friends in that little one room apartment and enjoyed every minute of it.  Nobody seemed to mind sitting on folding chairs, our small couch, or the bed to eat with us in that small space.

We moved seven times during our marriage.  We have lived in two apartments, a townhouse, and four houses in four states.  We are the best packers you have ever met.

Both Ron and I are cancer survivors.  I have had more than 10 surgeries including three C-Sections.  So actually, still being together, and in somewhat good health is kind of a miracle.

We are so grateful to God for our marriage, our wonderful family, our sense of humor and our deep abiding love for each other.

We know we wouldn’t have survived all of our difficulties and changes without God’s help.  Wherever we have lived, we have been sent to a church family, who helped us.  We have found wonderful friends and neighbors and kindred spirits.

We also have had a very close relationship with our parents and families the whole time.  We travelled often on holidays to get together, and now our girls travel to see family often.

You know you have succeeded as a parent when your grown children are hardworking, responsible, kind, loving and caring individuals.  We have also been blessed by two very special and loving son-in-laws.

We have six unique and terrific grandchildren that we cherish and enjoy.

At our table yesterday we had Ron’s Dad who is 97 years young, and our two youngest granddaughters who just turned one, and many ages in-between.   Four generations celebrating our Savior Jesus and our 40th Anniversary.  I don’t think life gets any better that this.

Even though life has thrown a lot of curve balls at us, every day I am happy to be Mrs. Crystal Meinstein and to see Ron smiling at me.

Our fortieth, the ducks are just sleeping on the Scioto. Both pictures taken April 1st 2018.

 

Me Too – The Ultimate Solution

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Like most responsible Americans, Crystal and I have been appalled at all of the recent news about sexual abuse in the media. It seems to have crossed all lines of society, from media, to film, to sports, to business, etc., etc., etc. While it is good that the problem is finally coming into the light, we are currently treating only the symptoms, but not the cause. Accusations are being made, laws are in place, and punishments are being generated. Abusers are losing jobs, being fined, and prison for some. However is punishment enough?

Murder is against the law. Yet murders still happen every day. We need laws as a deterrent, of that I have no doubt. But how much better would the world be if people just knew murder was never justified and lived without ever considering it a possibility?

Call it brainwashing if you wish, but I believe it works. Our oldest daughter Elizabeth will tell you that she thought every child had to go to college. She was in high school before she heard otherwise. She was shocked and disappointed for her classmates who talked about dropping out. Crystal and I had always told her and her sisters what would happen “WHEN” they went to college. It would be a great adventure and give them many possibilities for their futures.

Similarly, I believe the best solution to today’s harassment problems lies in the homes. As I grew up, our home wasn’t perfect. There were disagreements, and arguments, some at elevated volumes. However, my dad still opened doors for my mom. I also do not recall him ever raising his hand to my mom. I was told to always respect my elders and all women.

Crystal will tell you that the first time she noticed me at a fraternity function, I was with another woman. I got her punch, opened her door, and helped her onto the wagon (it was a hay ride). I learned respect at home. I never considered any other way.

I recently had the privilege of taking my eldest grandson around to visit different colleges. We talked about a lot of different things as we drove. One topic was women. High school is an awkward and confusing time. I know when I went; I didn’t understand girls at all. My sophomore year, one girl said something mean to me, and I was pretty much done with them through high school. I stuck to games, movies and sports.

Today, after being married for nearly forty years and helping raise three daughters, I understand a little more about the female of the species. My advice to my grandson was simple. Always treat women with respect; no means no; never do anything a woman doesn’t want you to do. I also assured him that the right girls will want to be with him for who he is: no games necessary.

Getting back to our original problem, the answer is simple. Raising children is a privilege and an awesome responsibility. A strong marriage is the first step. It all comes back to building marriages on the basis of mutual respect. Your sons and daughters will learn from what you say and even more from your example. Learning how to love, and not abuse, starts in the home. Problem solved; ‘me too’ no more!

Crystal’s Corner:

I am glad that Ron wrote this blog and I agree with him; what happens to children at home is very important.  It seems like we are in the middle of a revolution; and especially women, are finding their power.  I think this has been a long time coming. I am very glad that women are speaking out about abuse.  There is power in numbers and there is power in the truth.  In the Bible it says “The truth will set you free.”  This is true for the victim as well as the criminal.  I am glad that at least some of the men who committed these crimes have admitted them and show remorse for them.  The ones who are continuing to lie about their behavior are revictimizing the victim and digging themselves a deep hole.  I liked it when the judge in the case in Michigan against the doctor said that all of those women, who testified against him, are survivors.  Hopefully, their testimony and all the women who are now standing up against their attackers will change the world.  We need a safer more respectful world for our children and grandchildren to live in. I do believe that women will not put up with the abuse and lack of respect from anyone now and in the future.  One thing I would add as a parent and a grandparent is to tell your children that no one has the right to hurt them in any way, either physically or verbally, and that they need to tell someone what happened as soon as possible.

Taken last Easter. These are all of my girls. Hopefully the babies will never hear of “me too”.

In Sickness and in Health

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It’s been unusually quiet around our house for the last several days. Crystal has laryngitis. Normally, she has a lot to say to me each day.   Even now, her affliction won’t stop her from trying. I frequently have to mute the TV to hear my muted wife. Either that, or she picks up her tiny block of paper and we play a spirited game of ‘what’s that word’. This game has no winners, but generally leads to both laughter and coughing.

A visit to the Doctor a couple of days ago revealed that Crystal has bronchitis with a possible touch of pneumonia, in addition to the laryngitis. To add insult to injury, he told Crystal that the medicines might not help the laryngitis. She should try not talking for a few days (try is the operative word). Even our normally straight laced Doctor couldn’t help but joke about how difficult any limit on talking would be for most women. Happy New Year!!!

However, it made me think about our wedding vows. Like most guys, I remember saying whatever I was told, while thinking “ just a few hours until the honeymoon”. Just kidding (kind of)! But the truth is if I thought seriously about what those words, ‘sickness and health’ meant, I might have been a little more anxious about the whole marriage decision. Seriously, being normally healthy myself, I had no clue about what was to come.

I won’t bother with details about our health struggles except to say we are both cancer survivors. Mine, being linked to chemical exposure, forced a change in career paths. While I loved working in my chosen field of chemistry, I purposely avoided lab positions for about a twenty year period. This decision led to a number of career changes with all of the associated challenges.

Of the two of us, Crystal has had  more health issues over the years. However, I had some idea what I was signing up for. About a week before our wedding, I believe it was Easter Sunday; I got a call from Crystal’s dad. Crystal had been hospitalized for extreme abdominal pains. During that week, I visited as often as I could. When she was finally feeling better, there was talk about postponing the wedding. I immediately knew that was wrong. I gave Crystal one of the very few ultimatums I would ever give. I didn’t care who was present, Doctors, parents, etc. I shut that talk down. I told her we would be married on Saturday. I left the decision of whether that would be in a church or in the hospital up to her. I would make it happen. To make a long story short, that was what she needed to hear. We were married in the church followed by a reception, and the following day, our honeymoon started in Arizona.

The point of this article is simple. In life, bad stuff is going to happen. The wedding vows make that clear: sickness, bad times, poorer, and eventually death. You can choose to go through life independently or with someone. When you make the decision to get married, it’s no longer my problems, but our problems. But it’s also a chance to serve and be served; to support and be supported. Why else are we really here?

Marriage is a decision to be made with eyes wide open. But I will tell you this. On April 1st  this year, Crystal and I will be married 40 years. When I look back, I find it more difficult to remember the ‘sickness’ than all of the good times we have experienced together.

Crystal’s Corner:

I have not had laryngitis as bad as this case in the past.  I hope that I get my voice back soon.  Ron is having way too much fun with this.  We are doing a comedy act of combining charades and him trying to read my writing.  But we are still communicating which is so important in marriage.  When I got very sick before our wedding and had to be hospitalized, it was very scary.  My parents took me to the hospital early in the morning and my dad waited to call Ron to tell him what was going on.  When he came, I was on a cart in the Emergency room.  I guess my facial expression changed when I saw him because the nurses said “This is the fiancé.”  I just knew I wanted him there with me to help get me through this horrible situation.  I had been sick for months and had seen the Dr. but the Dr. told me I just had a nervous stomach because I was getting married. Actually, I had a serious disease.  Ron, being an only child, coming from a very healthy family, had not experienced the medical world like I had growing up.  The really good thing was that we fought my illnesses and his illnesses together and with the help of God and many praying people.  It has been quite a journey, but it also shows that God brought us together for a reason and helped us to keep getting stronger in our marriage and commitment.  Ron is taking good care of me even though his teasing has gotten worse since I can’t talk.  This wasn’t the way I wanted to start the New Year, but I am glad we are enjoying our life together no matter what happens.

Three pregnancies and births counted as sickness (nausea, vomiting, pain, imbalance, emotional instability, etc.)  in my book as well. However, I believe in those cases the ends definitely justified the means. I also like to think I helped.

What About the Book

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It’s time for an update on our book. But first, here is a message from our sponsor…marriage. This past week our daughter Elizabeth, and her husband Brad, celebrated their tenth anniversary. We helped them celebrate at an out of the way place near Cambridge, Ohio called the “Bear’s Den”. Our six month old grand baby, Adeline came along for the ride. She spent dinner trying her go-go gadget arms on everything within stretching distance on the table. She obviously thinks she is ready to sample everything. Unfortunately, her mom doesn’t agree.

Dinner was great. Liz and I each ordered the Greek chicken. Our tastes have always been similar. Brad had a specialty burger and Crystal went with the beef and noodles. But this isn’t about dinner; it’s about marriage. Liz, as all of our daughters, calls from time to time, to vent about the complexities of life. There are job problems, money problems, people problems, insurance problems, medical problems, etc. There is the unfairness of living in a world where people do and say stupid things. The list seems to go on and on.

I sometimes stand in awe of the irony in life. Crystal and I have somehow made the metamorphosis from “you people” (as our eldest daughter was fond of saying) to a potential source of direction. Sadly, we have no ultimate solutions, just suggestions. As parents, we too struggled.  Struggle is just part of life. It really doesn’t matter if you are married or single. Life equals struggle. However, if you are lucky, as Liz and Brad obviously are, you can at least share the struggle. You have someone with whom to share your triumphs and to console you when you face failure. Marriage done right adds meaning to life. Happy anniversary Liz and Brad.

As for our book, we have hired a consultant, and will be spending time in beta testing and editing. This book may never make any money. But I know with certainty that it will be a blessing. I am confident that it was God who led us to write it, and He will use it to accomplish His purposes.

Crystal’s Corner:

I agree with Ron that life is full of struggles and challenges, but life is also full of celebrations.  Spending time with Elizabeth and Brad and with Michelle and Alex and with Lisa is a great blessing to us.  Our family is growing and fortunately, we are close and caring and happy.

As for the book, I think this is just another part of the journey.   We have edited the book to the best of our abilities, but we need the professionals to help us.  I believe that this book will become even better as we work on it.  I also believe that we will be published and doing book readings, workshops, and lectures about memoir writing.

Writing a book together was not something that we planned ahead of time.  Now both of us are working on separate books and articles.  We have many discussions about publishing, editing, and all that goes with it.  In some ways it is like raising children.  Ron and I have different points of view on some issues, but we know how to use each other’s talents and abilities to accomplish this project.  Being parents of adult children and grandparents also has its challenges, but also rewards.  To watch these two little girls (Ayla and Addelyn) growing up in two very different households is fascinating.  They are so cute and so much like their mothers.  It brings back a lot of memories which we share and cherish.

 

Dinner at the Bear’s Den 2017. Happy Tenth Liz and Brad!

 

 

The Evolution of Family

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Jack says to his fiancée, ‘nice dress Jill.’ What he is really thinking is, ‘Wow Jill’s a real hotty life is goood’. Jill looks longingly into Jack’s eyes and says ‘thanks, I’m so glad you like it’. What she is really thinking is, ‘I wonder if our children will have his deep soulful eyes.’ Not wanting to escalate the situation Jill adds, ‘we better go up the hill to get that pail of water for your mom’s fish tank’…..The rest is history.

That’s how it starts. You get some water then fall head over heels. There is little you can do with what follows. I’m a guy, so by definition, a little bit dense. Somehow I never saw it coming. I grew up with very limited family. There was mom, dad and me. On rare occasions, we would go to New York, Florida, or Europe and visit other relatives. When I met Crystal, I couldn’t even keep all of her relatives straight. At family functions, I would stealthily ask, ‘now who’s that again?’ Crystal would say something like, ‘Oh that’s my third cousin Leopold on Aunt Martha’s side, and that’s his girl friend, Sally.’ That would usually be good enough until I met a couple more people or slept.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think this could ever happen to me. Oh, Crystal and I talked about how many kids we would have, even before we were married. She said four and I grudgingly went with two (although I knew one was the perfect number). The funny thing is that, none of those iron clad guesses meant anything, as the years rolled by. Once we started trying, the rest was kind of up to God. He apparently thought three was a good number.

The way things turned out, I was OK with that and so was Crystal. The part I didn’t anticipate was that the girls would decide to make more people. Also, there are in-laws and friends. Even the grandkids have friends. Who could have predicted such a predicament? Again, I am overwhelmed by abundance.

Please don’t think I am complaining. In fact, in some ways I find our daughters absolutely amusing. Our two oldest daughters, at one point, like most youths, thought they had everything figured out. They could do this parenting thing better. Now they say things like ‘I don’t know how you did it.’ Or they call and ask our sage advice. Michelle, who just had her first child, some four months ago, asked, “when does this fear of bad things happening to your kid go away”.  I told her, I would let her know if, and when it happens.

In retrospect, I guess we did a passable job parenting. That’s right, it is pass/fail. If your kids live and have enough life skills to live on their own and have healthy relationships with other humans, you pass. Grand parenting is considerably easier. You show up to some events. Help out as possible. Set a good example. And finally, at the end of the day, you pass the kids back to their parents and go home, watch reruns, in a peaceful environment. Life makes sense again.

Thank you God.

Keylan’s 17th birthday party called for a picnic. Quite a family, as seen by a very proud son, husband, father and grandfather (I mean me).

Words of Wisdom

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I just got back from Kentucky. It was an overnight to take care of some business dealing with Crystal’s dad’s estate. We stayed with Michelle, Alex, and our new grandbaby, Ayla. As a rule, I always try to be helpful. They mentioned their fight with sleep deprivation and Ayla’s lack of consideration for their needs. I told them they would have to adapt to her. It would take time, but to take heart, for ‘this too shall pass’. I also mentioned that, now that she is a mother, Michelle’s days of being right are over. Someone would always be around to tell her that she is doing it wrong. I told her it wouldn’t be easy, but I had faith in her. She and Alex would make good decisions. I told Alex to always agree with his wife. It will make his life soooo much easier. If she needs your help, she will ask.

On the way home, I thought to myself, how did I get so smart? When did I switch from total uncertainty to the font of all knowledge? I think the difference is distance and time. Once the last child moves out, (Crystal will cry when she reads this) you have something you haven’t had for years….time to reflect and process. I suppose that is why the generals aren’t actually on the front lines. They are more effective away from the action, where they can process and plan.

OK, now that I think about it, if I had to give one key point, it would be to decide on what you and your spouse believe, and parent accordingly. The largest hurdle for Crystal and me was deciding rules we both agreed on, and consequences (both positive and negative) for those rules. We knew we needed to agree and be consistent or the kids would pick us apart. We spent time almost every day reviewing our progress and if necessary, adjusting our strategy.

However, advice is cheap, and worth what you pay for it. I don’t think our kids know that though. They still think we have a few answers. Maybe we do. However, what they need to realize is that outside of never ending love and support, our job is done. The goal of parenting isn’t raising kids, it’s preparing responsible adults. What I failed to mention to Michelle is that her child is now totally dependent on her. But that will soon change. As years go by, it will be her job, along with her husband to decide when and how to release control, and promote independence. You need to be there to congratulate them when they succeed, and reassure them when they fail. When you are done, they will let you know. After that, and for the rest of your life,  they will still be your kids, but they will be grownups. You need to treat them as such.

Sounds like we really knew what we were doing, right? We were perfect parents. Now I get why I have all of this wisdom to share…..Except….it didn’t always work. Our kids still had problems, got into trouble, and we weren’t always consistent. Occasionally, Crystal and I wouldn’t agree and would argue about how to handle things.

Reality has set in. I am really not the font of anything except maybe ego. Parenting is a struggle. The good news is that my advice (worth every penny) was good. For a new mother, like Michelle, I know it was reassuring to know that in a little while her baby will adapt and sleep through the night. As the child grows, there will be new challenges, but she will adapt. She was raised to be able to adapt and overcome. I have no doubt that she will always put her child’s needs ahead of her own. I think that is the simple definition of a good parent. I will continue to give my two cents. Some habits are impossible to break. But I know, and I think she knows, she is ready, and with God’s help, she and Alex will be wonderful parents.

Left to right, daughter Liz holding Addelyn, My dad, daughter Michelle holding Ayla

This was at a Greek restaurant in Columbus Ohio for Easter celebration.

Our Hearts belong to Daddy By Crystal Meinstein

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Sorrow lasts for a night, but Joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)

Last week this Bible verse came true for my family. On Thursday evening, Feb. 16, my father went home to be with the Lord.  On Friday morning, Feb. 17, my daughter, Elizabeth, gave birth to my granddaughter, Addelyn Klein.

I will miss my father very much.  We were always very close and happy to be together.

I have wonderful memories of my childhood with my Dad.  We would go to the People’s store on Michigan Ave. in Chicago.  My dad would buy chocolate covered peanuts at the candy counter and we would sit on the large landing dividing the staircases and watch the people.  I thought that was why they called it the People store.

Every fall we would rake the leaves and my dad would burn them so we could roast marshmallows over the fire.  When our hands could reach the push mower handles, Dad would have us stand in front of him to help him cut the grass.  We also learned to paint the walls as toddlers: first with water and then with paint.  Dad and I loved to watch Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller on Saturday afternoons. As a child I thought he knew Roy Rogers and Gene Autry personally.  We watched westerns with him and he liked shows like Bonanza and Gun Smoke. Sometimes when our old black and white TV broke down, he would get out his harmonica or his mandolin and play for us.  We would sing cowboy songs with him.

He would eat Jeannette and my tiny cakes we made in our Easy Bake Oven.  A few years later, he was even happier when we baked large cakes, cookies, brownies, etc. in the real oven.  My mom made great pies and butterscotch meringue was Dad’s favorite.  She would make it for his birthday.  Fortunately, mom taught me to cook and to bake when I was young because when she got sick I could do the cooking.  When mom was very sick, Dad, Larry, Jeannette and I joined forces.  Dad said we would never be able to do all that Mom did, but we could team up together and try.  He would split the grocery list in half and give me half and then race me in the grocery store. This didn’t work very well because Dad didn’t know the products that Mom usually bought.  I did.  But he always tried to make things fun even in the worst of times.

Dad was a wonderful speaker who won awards in the Toastmaster organization. Most of his speeches were humorous.  His sense of humor got us through a lot of trouble and hard times. I followed in his footsteps, giving several public speeches in Jr. High School and joining the Debate team in high school. He also read all of my term papers, poetry, and short stories.  When I was about 10 years old and having problems with mean kids at school, my dad gave me his books, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.  He also would read Rudyard Kipling’s poetry to me.  He told me that when someone hurts you write him a letter and then tear it up.  He also said that, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  After I left home, I had Dad’s and Mom’s voices in my head. When I had difficulties, I would think; what would Dad do; or what would Mom do?  It helped me in making decisions.

For several summers when I was in high school I worked at dad’s office at Sherwin Williams.  This experience consisted of riding in Dad’s car pool with his friend, Crazy Fred. I attribute learning to pray often on those terrifying trips.  Dad at the office was very well respected.  He would take me out to lunch with his friends, Alice Harris and Norris Bishton.    I could tell that he was proud of me and that gave me confidence in myself.

When I married Ron, Dad walked me down the aisle.  He really didn’t want me to get married yet.  He said I was completely trained to do everything in the house and now I was leaving.  Ron and I lived close to Mom and Dad in Illinois and so Ron established a close relationship with both of them.  After they moved to Cincinnati and we moved to Indiana, we saw them as often as we could.  We played pinochle, went out to dinner, visited and took care of the kids together.  Daddy was a wonderful grandfather and great grandfather.  He loved babies and was a great babysitter.  My children were all very attached to their grandfather and my grandchildren were also close to him.  His presence in their lives will be missed.

I know that Dad is with Mom in heaven right now and that is where he wanted to be.  But it will be difficult to not see him and talk to him.  When I lived at home, every morning, Dad would hug me and tell me that he loved me.  He knew when I was upset and would ask me to tell him what was wrong.  He was my confident, my companion, my supporter and my Daddy.

 

Goodbye Mr. Carlson

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It is February 17, 2017. My father in law passed away yesterday. It was no surprise. He had been losing ground for some time. Even so he will be sorely missed. I am writing this because it helps me process my feelings and find peace.

We saw Mr. Carlson a couple of weeks ago. He seemed glad to see Crystal and me. We spent time talking about the past and our family. When we left, as always, he thanked us for visiting. I could tell he wasn’t going to be with us much longer. He was down to just over 100 pounds and periodically talking to people who weren’t in the room (according to Larry). As a nurse, I have seen that happen before. I believe, at some point, we transition to our next reality. For years, since his wife’s death, Jim has yearned to be with her. Oh, he was as much as possible, engaged in the reality of everyday life, but things were never the same. At least today we know where he is. Our loss will be Heaven’s gain. He and his Mary Jane are once more reunited.

I remember the first time I met Jim Carlson. He smiled and shook my hand. He looked at his daughter and his expression changed. He never gave me the lecture, but I could tell. He might as well have been cleaning a firearm and explaining how important it was that no one should hurt his daughter. However, the scowl didn’t last long. He could tell that Crystal was in love with me. And worse yet, I think Mary Jane knew, and told him to give me a break. He always listened to Mary Jane. Between the two of them there was some kind of unspoken balance. Together they worked.

It was only a few months later that I asked him for permission to marry his daughter. The scowl returned, if only for a moment. Both of us knew that wouldn’t last. Crystal had laid the ground work. While our relationship hadn’t always been perfect, we were in love. She talked about me all of the time, and quoted me as if I were the second coming of Niche. He told me about the importance of the commitment and how much he and Mary Jane cared for Crystal. I reassured him that he wasn’t losing a daughter and I would do my best to care for her. He relented and I have felt part of their family ever since.

Though the years my relation with Jim has been special. I have learned a lot from him. He has always been there when I needed advice or reassurance. Of course when it came to his daughter, all bets were off. When Crystal and I argued he would always take her side. His best advice to me was, ‘your wife is always right’. On the other hand, Mary Jane was usually more understanding. She told Jim to stay out of it and then helped Crystal to calm down. Most of the time that was all the help we needed.

Ironically, in these modern times, both of my married daughters’ husbands came to me prior to their engagements, to ask for my permission or at least my blessing. I acted as if I had learned nothing from Jim. The first I warned that I thought my daughter was too screwed up (from a previous relationship) to marry anyone. The second, I warned that we considered marriage a lifelong union and I worried about his level of commitment. Fortunately, both ignored my warnings, and currently have my daughters popping out more grandbabies. Not to bury the lead, my daughters are both happy.

Over the years, Jim has always treated me like a member of the family. I know he thought of me that way. I helped when I could. It was little things; shoveling a driveway, a little yard work or shopping.

What he gave me was far more valuable than a few odd jobs. He showed me what it meant to be a real man. Jim always put the needs of others before his own. Whether it meant helping friends and neighbors or being there for his own family he was always trying to help. I still remember sitting with him during one of Crystal’s surgeries. The surgery was supposed to last six hours, but wound up lasting nine. While he tried to reassure me, I could tell he was more nervous than me. Somehow, watching him squirm while trying to read, and asking me every fifteen minutes to check with the nurse, helped me to relax. I knew he cared as much as I did.

He loved his grandkids as well. Those feelings were mutual. One time, when we lived in Greensburg, our wives abandoned us. It was a cold day in October and Crystal and her mom were at a quilting show in Kentucky. Jim and I were left to hold a garage sale and take care of the kids. I stayed outside while he stayed (smartly) in the house. The girls, along with several neighbor kids, went back and forth. When they were out we threw a football, or they just sat with me and talked. I will admit to some evil thoughts about my wife (the sale was her idea) as the snow flurries began. But the girls helped. At one point, I had three of them sitting on me on top of the old chair we were giving away. I was finally warm. When they were in the house, I knew they were safe, playing, watching TV or talking to Jim. Every once and a while, he would check on me to make sure I was still alive and not covered with snow.

I’m also so pleased that Jim and Mary Jane agreed to be in our memoir. The first time he met her was during WW2 at the Kenosha USO. He saw her across a room and immediately was drawn to her. When he arrived at her side, he knocked over a lamp which Mary Jane caught. Together, they were a testament to what marriage should be. I don’t mean the love at first site bit. That never lasts. It’s the part about when one person knocks over a lamp the other will always be there to catch it. Through fifty-five years of marriage, Mary Jane and Jim never lost that.

Those last ten or so years, after Mary Jane’s passing, were never the same. Each time we visited, Jim was glad to see us. We spent hours just talking, watching his favorite westerns or playing pinnacle. Often Crystal and I would cook a nice meal or take him out to a restaurant. But we could tell, he was different. He had lost the love of his life and longed to be with her again. Today, that day has come. While their legacy will live on through their children and those who loved them, Mary Jane and Jim are together again. Praise God!

Also today, February 17, 2017 our latest granddaughter, Miss Addelyn Macenzie Klein, entered the world. A healthy baby girl, Liz and Brad’s latest, serving as a reminder that life will continue. Love will go on.

Jim at Michelle’s college graduation in 2008.                 Liz and new baby Addelyn

 

Procreation, God’s Creation

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I was surprised when Sunday’s sermon was dedicated to the sanctity of human life. I was surprised since I had just finished writing the following much related post. I was going to wait a couple of days to post it, in case Crystal had something to add. She has just given me the all clear to post it as is.

Our daughters take the sanctity of human life very seriously and are doing their part. Sometime, over the next couple of months both Liz and Michelle are expecting to bring a couple of new baby girls into the world.

I find the decision to be a grandpa again, was an easy one. We love our four grand children very much, like spending time with them, playing with them and handing them back to their mom and dad. The decision to be a parent is infinitely more difficult. Not everyone should become a parent. There is nothing sadder than seeing parents who should have never been parents. I won’t elaborate. I don’t think I need to. Go out in the world or watch Dr. Phil.

The decision to raise children will impact every aspect of your life: your relationship with your spouse (significant other), where you live, how you spend your money, how you spend your free time (I use the term loosely), etc. I know my girls are and will be great parents. They have both put in the ground work. They have good value systems, will put the needs of their children ahead of their own, and have adequately trained their husbands.

That last one is in no way a slight on their husbands. Brad and Alex are wonderful, but we (guys) all need some training. You see, most women have a head start on us. They think about being moms from the time they are toddlers. Most young boys aren’t very much into baby dolls or doll houses. Also, even if it’s only in those stupid gym class lectures, girls are taught about their greater level of commitment. Guys don’t get pregnant, or have to give birth. The joke that, if guys had to have babies the human race would have died out a long time ago, might not be that farfetched. Also, during the pregnancy or after the birth, guys may come and go. But a mom is a mom, is a mom. As I have said on several occasions, finding a spouse and having a child are two decisions which, while they may affect each other, should be made independently.

From my own experience, Crystal and I both agreed before we got engaged that we wanted to raise a family. However, it was Crystal who read the books and magazines, had the baby shower, organized the nursery, and set up the child birth and Lamaze classes. I went along with everything. Once she was pregnant, I did my best to be supportive and empathetic, but I had my work and my life. I admit, in a lot of ways, I was ignorant. Things for me became a different level of reality, only after the nurse handed me my daughter(s). The first time they looked up and saw daddy, they knew they had me. They were right.

I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but that first day with Elizabeth I will never forget. I carried her proudly with my best one handed football carry. I knew she was safe. I never dropped a football. Of course footballs don’t giggle and wiggle. After I picked her up…..Kidding…..we arrived at the car. I think it took about the next five minutes to fight the car seat into submission. Somewhere in that time I had my Prissy moment. I don’t know noting bout raisen no babys. That moment only lasted for about the next twenty years. I’m OK now. The point is the miracle of birth is followed by years and years of work and commitment. However, it is so worth it. Besides, to do any less is like telling God to take back his miracle.

To say birth is a miracle is an understatement. To me, a baby is the ultimate proof of a God. As a scientist, I look at the world from a critical point of view. I drove my anatomy teacher crazy pointing out the inconsistencies and errors in our book. I read my Bible (excuse the pun) religiously. While I often struggle with details and have a list of questions for God, I never doubt His existence.

While many scientists struggle to find the proposed missing link, my question is much more basic. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There is a correct answer…..They had to arrive simultaneously. Think about it. So the next time you look across the table at your spouse, you can thank God for that one magnificent chromosome, which made all of that difference. Procreation is God’s creation.

To my beloved daughters, their husbands and all who have decided to perpetuate the human race regardless of the costs, congratulations, mozel tof, and shalom.

New Years KY 017

I finally have something in common with my daughters.