Posts filed under ‘Grandma’


When I see little Dyson’s face while he is asleep, he reminds me of my paternal grandmother. Specifically, he reminds me of a plaster cast that was made of her face years ago. It has hung in my grandparents’ den for as long as I can remember. Well, we had a mini family reunion at my grandparents’ house in early August. I went ahead and took a quick comparison shot.

Maybe it isn’t the features of the face I find so nostalgic. Maybe it is the pose. : )

4020 - August 4 2013 - Grandma's Plaster Face and Dyson
Dyson and his Great-Grandmother’s Face

August 27, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Open Source: 95th Birthday Present

Every year, my extended family picks one night to convene at Magnolia’s Restaurant in Bethany Beach for a reunion dinner. With aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and cousins-to-be from all around the country, it’s definitely a celebration.

And a loud one at that.

This year, we had something extra to celebrate. Next month my grandmother turns 95 years old! When someone has been on this planet for 95 orbits around the sun, they’ve pretty much seen it all as far as birthday gifts go. But my Aunt Julie came up with a great idea to make this birthday memorable.

Each member of the family was tasked with filling an 8 1/2 by 11″ sheet of paper. It could include anything– pictures, drawings, a printout of memories or well wishes. Some people mailed their pages in advance. Meanwhile, some of us worked on ours together at the beach house.

Bethany Beach 2009 - Mom, Melanie, Frank Scrapbooking
Mom, my cousin Melanie and my cousin Frank work on their scrapbook pages

Bethany Beach 2009 - Melanie Works on Scrapbook Page
My cousin Allison’s page is on the left. My cousin Melanie works on her page on the right

Before the big event, my Aunt Julie compiled all the contributions into a big 12″ by 12″ scrapbook. The end result was beautiful and eclectic and full of memories and affection. The birthday girl seemed to appreciate it!

Bethany Beach 2009 - Family Dinner - Grandma Smiles with Cake
Birthday Girl is all smiles!

Next time you are tasked with finding a birthday present for a ninety-five year old, keep the scrapbook idea in mind.

Note: I suspect this notion just may work for other birthdays as well. ūüôā

August 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm 1 comment

Video: Thanksgiving 2001

Yesterday while I was cleaning the computer room, I¬†found an old video tape which included our Thanksgiving 2001 celebration.¬† That is the Thanksgiving where the oven broke– which threatened not only our Thanksgiving Day meal, but also our traditional cookie decorating for the Day After Thanksgiving.¬† At the last minute Dad called around and found an oven that fit our unique measurements.¬† He rushed out to pick it up.¬† Alas, by the time he got to the store, the oven with the measurements he needed was already taken.¬† (“How could it be gone?!? I thought you were holding it for me?”¬† “Well sir, we thought that was you!”)

So for Thanksgiving, our entire clan ended up eating at Market Street– which is a buffet.¬† It’s safe to say Sean was not impressed.¬† On the way in, Mom¬†mentioned that Market Street used to be my favorite restaurant, which is true (When you have emetophobia and you are never sure what your nerves will let you eat, buffets are perfect– you don’t have to commit to a single dish).¬† Sean quickly snapped his head around, “Wait a second, let me get this straight– this was your favorite restaurant?!?”

The others weren’t quite as skeptical.¬† It turned out to have its benefits.¬† We had¬†a giant TV where we could watch football.¬† My cousin, Frank, got to eat lasagna instead of turkey and no one had to clean up.¬† It was such a hit, my mother talked about doing that every year.¬† That following Easter, we made a return trip.¬† Luckily for Sean, since then we’ve opted for the more traditional home-cooked meals instead.

Anyway, Sean gave me a quick tutorial on digitizing the video and a lower quality copy is below.¬† I think it is probably of more interest to family members or¬†friends who are familiar with the Occoquan house.¬† I’m missing a lot of key footage to fully relay the details above, but the stuff I do have summarizes the experience and hints to the four-dog chaos of a Sawyer Thanksgiving.¬† Plus it has my late Grandpa in it.¬† That was such a welcomed surprise to see him again.

One day, I’ll have to do a version my “directors commentary” or something along the lines of “Popup Video” to point out little details that are meaningful to me¬†five years later.¬† For now though, you can read my timestamped notes.

Remaining Time In Comment
07:06 00:11 I love Dad’s theory about how the oven got broken– sabotage!
06:58 00:16 This shot shows my Dad’s beloved conference room table. He got it from some office and it used to be the kitchen table. When my parents moved to the new townhouse, my father insisted his table come along. It’s in the computer room now. I also like how an issue of The Enquirer is present in the foreground. To me that is part of the experience of visiting my parents— reading The Enquirer.
06:30 00:46 You can see my priorities. Mom is making a list of everything that she needs the oven for our feast and the first item I mention is the cookies on Friday. Nevermind the holiday and all the guests— what about the cookies?!? Oh the humanity!
06:19 00:56 An ashtray was caught in the shot. In the old house, my parents smoked inside.
06:03 01:12 You can hear Mom’s finches singing in the background.
05:42 01:31 I did not cut out any suburban footage. The sound of the diesel engine and the sight of a white suburban will always remind me of my father, particularly him picking me up at high school.
05:40 01:35 Mmm…. all that polluting goodness.
05:09 02:05 Dogs are locked up, a measure we still use today.  We now lock them in carsРless barking, but there is a downside.
05:05 02:10 This is the end of Mom telling the surprised guests we are going to a buffet.
04:46 02:28 Frank looks so young! Who knew in a few years, he’d be throwing Jordan around like he was a rag doll!
04:40 02:34 Aww…. my heart melted to hear my late grandfather say, “Aren’t you a good dog? Aren’t you a good dog?”¬†I heard¬†him saying that to Hans too.
04:39 02:36 I like that you can hear Henry sniff the camera.
04:07 03:07 Timmy reprimanding Sunny.
04:04 03:10 Grandpa is telling a story about a woman sharing liquor with him. Meanwhile, Grandpa is inadvertantly sharing liquor as he speaks.
03:41 03:34 They are looking at Mom’s wedding gift to my cousin. Mom sent the wedding invitations out to get custom framed, but by the time she got them back, the new bride had already left the marriage.
03:22 03:50 I love Maria’s cheering. “Do it yourself!”, “Aww, you blew it!”
03:11 04:03 This is how desperate we were to keep the cookie tradition going. We were cooking batches of six at a time— in toaster ovens!
02:52 04:21 2001’s gravy looks much better than 2000’s. Somewhere I have video footage. My parents proved the saying about “Too Many Cooks” by contradicting each other’s efforts.¬† Dad would add more flour and immediately afterwards Mom would add more water.¬† The end result was this nasty mess that no one ate.
02:35 04:40 I love Mr. Yuk!
02:31 04:42 Sunny’s wearing an electric collar for the invisible fence. At my parent’s new house, the dogs¬†have a regular fence.
01:59 05:16 I stitched those spice labels (thus the attention)
01:23 05:53 My Dad was sporting bed head long before it was a fad.
00:32 06:43 My parents love to buy in bulk. That explains all the Chunky Soups.
00:27 06:46 My mother used to always buy Wedgewood for her mother. When grandma died, my Mom got all the Wedgewood back. So it was sort like she was buying gifts for herself all those years.
00:21 06:53 I love Sean instructing Henry in the background, “Go see what’s scary.” Henry did not obey.
00:12 07:03 I got that framed collection of pressed flowers for Mom for Mother’s Day.
00:03 07:11 Dad always eats the more disgusting bits of the turkey (somewhere I have video footage from another Thanksgiving where he takes the neck out of the trash, wipes off the cigarette ashes, cooks it and then eats it like corn on the cob).

January 28, 2007 at 12:09 am 4 comments

Eat Your Cake and Wait for It Too

Also on Friday, Larry Bowman and I got to attend my Great Uncle Chuck’s 90th Birthday Party!¬† Great Uncle Chuck was visiting from his farm in New Castle, Pennsylvania.¬† He had Thanksgiving at his sister’s house in Richmond and then she organized a surprise gathering the day after Thanksgiving.¬† Uncle Chuck thought they were going to eat at Wendy’s (I suspect he is a fan of Wendy’s– everytime I visit the farm we eat a lunch there).¬† The guest of honor did become suspicious, however, when his sister made him change out of his Virginia Tech sweatshirt and into a nice dress shirt.¬†

The party was held at a local country club.  For lunch we had a buffet that featured fried clam strips, hush puppies and some kind of chilled potato and shrimp salad.  I got to sit near the head of the table and was squished between my father and my sister.  It proved to be the perfect locale.  I had easy access to my grandmother, Great Uncle Chuck and Great Aunt Carolyn.  Plus I got to talk about Borat with my father and compare hair color with my sister. 

After lunch, came my favorite part of any celebration– the cake.¬† Again I profitted from my position at the table.¬† Since we were near the honored guest, my father, myself and my sister were served pretty quickly.¬† After making a comment about how my sister got an icing¬†rose and I just got a plain piece of cake (I don’t think she picked up on my envy), I started to dig in.¬† I took my fork and scooped off that coveted inaugural¬†bite when suddenly I noticed all three of my oldest relatives were not touching their cake.¬† Uncle Chuck, Aunt Carolyn and Grandma all sat stoically with erect postures and hands no where near their desserts.

“Oh whoops,¬†” I said and slowly returned my cake-loaded fork to the plate, “I guess we aren’t supposed to eat yet.”

“Mmpf?” My father was in mid-bite and with a clank, he retreated his fork as well.

At that point I was glad to be sitting next to my sister, because we simultaneously noticed Dad’s plate.¬† In the time it took me to balk about the rose and start to eat, my father had nearly devoured his entire cake.¬† His plate was home to two measley bites (and I mean measley).¬†

A lot of words can be used to describe Sawyers.¬† Those words are typically not synonymous with the likes of “neat”, “patient”, “quiet”¬†and “polite”¬† ūüôā

But we sure do have some good laughs.

November 26, 2006 at 11:26 pm 4 comments

Bethany Beach

This past weekend, I spent a few days at Bethany Beach.¬† At one point my cousin Jordan asked my Uncle Jonathan, “Why Bethany Beach?”

“The Sawyers have a strong family history here,” Jonathan said.¬† He went on to explain how this was where his parents (my grandparents) took all seven of their children for a two week vacation each summer.

This kept on for the next generation.  When I was a child, different branches of the family convened on the very same beach.  Here is a picture from my childhood days.  Three branches are represented here.  From left to right:

Jennifer (JULIE), Vicky (LOWELL), Adam (MARK), Louise (MARK), Carolyn (LOWELL), Jordan (MARK), Jay (LOWELL)

Now that we are grown and the fleet of great-grandchildren increases each year, the Sawyers continue their way each summer to Bethany Beach. 

I only made it for a couple of days this year.  Here is a recap:

Journey There
Keeping with my whirlwind week, I left work at 5 PM on Wednesday evening.  It gave me an ETA at the beach around 12 AM.  Such a long journey would have been a bit of tedious for me alone at the late hour.  Luckily, I had a companion!  Christina Geyer, still visiting from Germany, agreed to brave a household of Sawyers for an extended weekend!  I picked her up in Herndon and drove the remaining 3 hours captivated by great conversation and memories of our high school days.  The trip whizzed by.

We did have a little bit of a hiccup.¬† We arrived at 2nd Street at Bethany Beach and lo and behold the lowest house number was 97.¬† That made our address of “5” a little bit of a quandary.¬† I tried calling every cell phone number I had.¬† Uncle Jonny, Uncle Mark, Mom, Jay, Carolyn, Dad, Cousin Sam.¬† The only phone¬†that was answered was Dad’s and that was answered by a complete stranger.¬† It turns out my father lent his phone to a friend who was still in the Occoquan area.¬† The stranger asked if he could take a message.¬† Somehow that didn’t seem like it would help me find a bed for the evening, so I declined his offer.

After another iteration through all the family cell phones, we reconsulted the email and saw the address was South Bethany Beach.  No biggie, we drove down there where we found two different 2nd Streets.  Of course the first 2nd Street we tried hosted a house number 5Рbut no familiar vehicles.  So finally on our third 2nd StreetРwe found our home for the next few days.

Sleeping Arrangements and the Turtle
Christina and I got to relive one particular high school experienceРthe sleepover.  We shared a room in the beach house.  She slept in a day bed and I slept on a mattress on the floor.  Christina reported my snoring was not that badРbut she did note something peculiar.  She described me sleeping all curled up in a ball with my legs and arms underneath my body.

“Oh no!” I gasped, “That’s the turtle– you’re supposed to wake me¬†when I do that!”

I told her what she couldn’t possibly know— that when I slept like that, all my extremities fell asleep.¬† Waking up with one asleep limb is painful (and unnerving) enough.¬† Two arms and two legs¬†at the same time were¬†unbearable.¬† Sean was trained to wake me when he saw me sleeping like that.

So I thought…..

Later during the trip, I was telling Sean that Christina spotted the turtle.

“Yeah, you’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Sean said.

“I have?¬† How come you didn’t wake me up?!?”¬†I said.

Sean’s response?


First Day at the Beach – Dad
Thursday brought quite a surprise— my FATHER, yes, Lowell Sawyer, actually went to the beach.¬† Even as a child, I recall my father’s visits to the actual shoreline to be fleeting.¬† Everyone was surprised.

“Does Dad even have a bathing suit?!?!” I had asked.

It turns out (despite my mother’s original answer) that my father did not in fact have a bathing suit.¬† He did, however, have burgundy underwear.

Anyway, I rushed out to document such an event, but I was too late.  The biting flies had already scared my father away.  Hopefully this is proof enoughРmy father retreating from the beach with his chair:

First Day at the Beach – Nail Color
My cousin Samantha and I enjoy coloring our nails at the beach.¬† This year my mother brought some new supplies– Instant Manicure by Avon.¬† It’s a weird product.¬† It comes in premade strips where you can rub on color and it is instantly dry.

It seemed to take longer to apply than regular nail polish and it left quite a bit of trash, but it turns out the color was pretty persistent.  I made numerous trips to the ocean and went kayaking and the color still seems to be going strong.

First Day at the Beach – Swimming Challenge
While we were in the ocean the first day, my Uncle Jonny made jokes about swimming¬†a half¬†mile out in the ocean and then a half mile back.¬† My mother compromised and pointed to an umbrella down the shore and told us to see if we could swim parallel along the shore to that umbrella and back.¬† Little did my relatives know– I swim laps at the Blacksburg Aquatic Center!¬† I can almost do a mile in 40 minutes.¬† Of course, it would be a lot rougher in the tides, but the distance was significantly shorter, so it turned out to not be a problem.¬† My mom was so convinced I wouldn’t make it, when I was almost back, I passed my brother swimming towards me.

“Mom sent me after you,” he said, interrupted by a wave, “She was worried.”

It’s nice to surprise your kin once in a while.

First Day at the Beach РControversial Place Setting
For dinner, Mark and Denise made homemade sauce and pasta.  As the hour of the meal arrived, Uncle Stephen and Aunt Kathy joined the beach house for a quick visit.  When they entered, they explained immediately their company would be short lived.

“We’re supposed to be buying rolls,” Aunt Kathy said.¬† They further explained that their dinner was almost ready and they would have to hurry home.¬† That was an important fact that my grandmother missed.

Shortly afterwards Mark announced that dinner was almost ready and asked for someone to set the table.  Christina and I, anxious to earn our keep, went ahead and set the table.  A little while later, Steve and Kathy departed to return to their casserole and their immediate family.

Dinner came along and we all held hands and said the blessing and sat down at our various tables to eat.

“Boys and Girls,” Grandma said, “I have something to say.”

I smiled and leaned in, expecting to hear my grandmother talk sentimentally about how nice it was to see so many family members gathered at the shore.


Grandma reprimanded us for setting the table in front of our “guests”.¬† She thought it was rude.¬† I think she¬†even used the word¬†“appalled”.¬† I believe she thought¬†our act¬†accelerated Steve’s departure.¬† She had no idea that he was invited for dinner but declined the invitation.¬† She had no idea he established an exit plan the moment he set foot¬†in the house.

I apologized afterwards and she told me to never let it happen again.

I took the wrap for my Uncle Steve that night.  I doubt he or my grandmother will ever know.

First Day at the Beach – Jay and Vicky Bike
When my siblings were young, we biked excessively– especially at the beach.¬† For the first time in at least 15 years, my brother and I biked together.¬† We went from our beach house in South Bethany Beach to the Dickie’s Frozen Yogurt in downtown Bethany and back.¬† My bike was a little rustic.¬† I had dry rot on back tire and it liked to shift gears without my consent.¬† Nonetheless, I loved the ride.¬† It was invigorating and our return had us riding at dusk– my favorite time of the day.

First Day at the Beach – Nostalgic Second Wind
That evening, a number of people went to go see the new Superman movie.  Christina and I were deterred by the 10:10 PM start time.  We both believed we would fall asleep and lamented how old we were now.

Turns out we aren’t as old as we thought.¬† We ended up sitting in our respective beds and chatting….until 3 AM!¬†

Second Day at the Beach – Different Generations, Different Perspectives
The next morning, I spent some brief time on the beach.  I sat with my grandmother a while and chatted under the newly purchased beach umbrellas. 

At one point Grandma shook her head and said, “I can’t believe the swimsuits nowadays.”

Right on cue, a wet Uncle Jonny returned to the beach blanket.

“I need to get my sunglasses,” he said, “So I can admire these bikinis!”¬† ūüôā

Second Day at the Beach – Kayaking and Glasses Lost
Finally we got to do my favorite beach activity– Kayaking in Assawoman Bay!!!¬† This year it was Cousin Sam, Cousin Frank, Cousin Jordan, Uncle Timmy and¬†I on the adventure!¬† It was a wonderful outing.¬† I got to chat with Sam.¬† I got to watch Frank and Jordan joust, capsize and wrestle in the bay.¬† And I got to have a secluded lap through a salt marsh.¬† The most predominant sounds were the rhythmic strokes of my paddle and the calls of various sea birds.¬† Then, periodically, off in the distance, I can hear Jordan and Frank yelling, talking smack! ūüôā

Earlier in the week I discovered I left my old glasses (with transitional lenses) at home– which meant I didn’t have viable sunglasses.¬† Then later I made the chilling discovery that I also left my contacts at home.¬† The only thing I had with me was my brand new, week old, pink glasses.¬† Glasses with the most expensive, thinnest, clearest lenses money could buy (pictured below with my brother Jay).

“If I lose these glasses,” I told my family, “I’ll be screwed.”

This is what Sean would call an “Of course” moment:

Of course, I would lose those glasses!¬† I was very cautious kayaking.¬† In fact, I kept my distance from the rambunctious Jordan and Frank to ensure they wouldn’t flip me during their horseplay.¬† The journey was almost over– we were nearing the return spot when I got some sunscreen in my eye.¬† I went to rub the stinging eye and WHOOSH– my glasses flew off and directly into the bay.¬† Immediately I jumped into the water and started to fish around.¬† Soon all my relatives joined in the search, but to no avail.

My brand new glasses were long gone…. and I was left blind.

The scenario turned out to not be as bad as I had originally thought.  I was able to get a Lenscrafters in Salisbury, Maryland to fill my contact lenses prescription.  Not without its frustrations howeverРthe whole ordeal took 6 hours and I was less than impressed with my eye doctor here in Christiansburg, Virginia.

I owe Christina Geyer and Stacy McMahon a big thank you for putting their plans on hold and chauffeuring me around to regain my sight.

This incident is making me think twice about two products:

  • Sweatproof sunscreen
  • Lasix Surgery

Second Day at the Beach РWalk and Story Telling
When we returned to the beach house, me the proud owner of new contacts, I decided to go for an evening walk on the beach.  It was a nice walk.  All over the waterline, I could see the silhouettes of little birds digging in the wet sand for food.  Every time a wave would arrive, they would run away and when the wave retreated they would run back towards the sea.  As a result, I had a living border to show me where the waves were.

When I returned to the house, I rotated between visiting with Christina and Stacy in the bedroom and visiting with my relatives in the kitchen.¬† My timing could be improved upon.¬† Christina reported that one two occasions, Stacy was in the middle of a story and I got up and left the room without a word.¬† Poor Stacy! ūüôā

One surprising highlight was hearing K’naan playing from the house CD player.¬† My brother had borrowed it and liked it enough to play it twice!

Third Day – Departure
On the third day, we scrambled to finish up leftovers and reclaim everyone’s sheets.¬† All the Sawyers met in the road to say our goodbyes and get one last group picture.¬† My cousin Melanie walked around and hugged everyone goodbye.¬† I watched her as she made the rounds.

“Goodbye, Frankie!” she’d say and give him a hug.

“Goodbye, Sam!” she’d say and give her a hug.

She came to me and embraced me, “Goodbye……….Person.”

Apparently, I’ll have to make more of an impression on my youngest cousin! ūüôā

Other Recaps
Christina Geyer’s Recap

August 7, 2006 at 9:43 pm 8 comments

Milwaukee Pictures

This past weekend, I went with my Grandmother and my brother, Jay, to my cousin's wedding in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It was a pretty long weekend with a lot of driving and travel.  The weather wasn't quite optimal, especially considering all my packed dress clothes were sleeveless.  But– it was an absolute great time with wonderful visits with family, story swappage and another solid opportunity to dance to Outkast's "Heya".

One of my favorite moments was when a drunk guy at the reception seemed to take a particular liking to my ninety-one year old Grandmother.  He talked to her for quite some time and kissed her hand a couple of times as well as her forehead.  He kept telling her how great she looks (which she does– she certainly does not look or act like 91) and how amazing she is (which she certainly is).

Grandma and a Drunk Guy

"Is that guy hitting on Grandma?!?" I asked Jay.

"I think so!" He said.

The next morning as I was driving to the airport, Grandma brought that incident up.

"[That man]," she asked, "Is he mentally retarded?" 

I found it hard to not laugh as I explained he was just drunk.  I'm guessing it has been a while since my grandmother has encountered someone that intoxicated…. though Uncle Mark at Adam's wedding was pretty darn close.  ūüôā

Anyway, my pictures from my trip to Milwaukee are available on my website.

May 16, 2006 at 10:53 pm 5 comments

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