Posts filed under ‘Grandpa’

Grandpa’s 100th Birthday

One hundred years ago today, my paternal grandfather, Gerard Ivanhoe (G.I. for short) was born!  He passed away five years ago.  He was a hardworking civil engineer and was involved with many of the bridges in Washington, D.C.  He was active– playing tennis even as he started to lose his eyesight and could only make out yellow blurs.  He wrote in diaries daily and he was a great story teller!!!  Every time I visited him in his last year, I would prod him for stories to write down in my own journals.

Talking to Grandpa at Clint and Carolyn’s Wedding

The thing that resonates the most with me right now about my grandfather is the love he had for my grandmother.  Since I was the smallest little girl, Grandpa always talked about his how Grandma was his “dream girl.”  He told stories about all the hoops he had to jump through to get “properly introduced” so he could finally ask her out.  Throughout my lifespan, he was always describing her as the most beautiful woman, even to strangers in the supermarket.  His admiration for her did not stop at looks.  He often speculated that Grandma would be the first Methodist to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

The kind of love my grandfather exhibited– I had assumed it was a generational thing.  It was a product of their time.  It didn’t exist in my time.  Men weren’t like that anymore.  That ‘s that.

I was wrong.

I’m dating a man who works hard, a man who’s active, a man who loves to write.  I hear tales over a decade old of how Ryan tried to impress me with hot wings and book signings.  I wake up each and every morning to a compliment.  And on those occasions when the term “dream girl” is used, I still get chills.

They say women marry men like their father.  In twelve days, I believe I might be marrying a man like my grandfather instead. : )

March 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm 2 comments

Sawyer Dance Gene

On Monday I had another Belly Dancing class.  Unfortunately, I was in Kansas for the last class, but how much could I miss, right?  Well, apparently a lot!  All my classmates showed up in ornate little hip scarfs with sequins and coins.  I showed up in a pair of blue shorts with paint splatters on them.  My classmates were readily prepared to join a series of moves and components together.  Meanwhile, I awkwardly tried to mimic their moves. 

I was definitely the weakest pupil in the class last week.  Nonetheless, I still had a splendid time and really enjoyed the experience.  But, I do have to say there were moments were some Sawyer dance stories crept into mind and I doubted my wine-induced class selection:

Inherited Rhythm?
My grandfather had a hilarious story from his youth.  When he was a boy, he wanted to play the drums.  He got a drum set for Christmas and he embarked on some drumming lessons.  After a while, the teacher told my grandfather that he had no rhythm and that he really couldn’t master the drums until he had that key skill.  The teacher suggested that Grandpa should take dance lessons to help his sense of timing.

And so Grandpa signed up for dance lessons which he continuously fumbled through.  Eventually that teacher said enough is enough.  Again my grandfather was told he had no rhythm.  The dance instructor had a helpful suggestion on how my grandfather could improve.

“Perhaps you should take drum lessons.” 🙂

Adam Sawyer Quote
I love weddings.  The highlights– cake and dancing.  My cousin Adam’s wedding in 2000 was one of the best weddings for the latter activity.  My relatives and I danced up a storm!  I must have been out there for hours.  It was so much fun!  At one point in the evening, I went to check in with the handsome groom.  We stood on a balcony and looked down over the rest of the reception.  At one point, Adam looked over at the dance floor and shook his head.

“You can always tell the Sawyers,” he said, “They are the ones who can’t dance, but always do!”  🙂

So maybe I have genetics going against me in this belly dancing endeavor.  But my teacher is patient and I am enthusiastic.  At the very least, I will continue to have an hour of fun every Monday evening.  🙂

September 21, 2007 at 8:43 am 5 comments

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 cars– less 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

Embroided Stools and Orphan Decline

On Friday, Larry Bowman and I stopped by to visit his father outside of Richmond Virginia.  The visit was hauntingly like my visits with my grandfather.  Age has left Larry’s father rather feeble.  Like my grandfather, he spent most of his time in a recliner.  I saw pictures where he had a dog sitting right next to him, the way Hans the dachshund did with Grandpa.  And then the eerie part– next to the recliner was an embroidered stool where the newspaper was placed.  An identical setup to my grandparents’. 

Grandpa in his chair.  Hans and Carolyn nearby.  Carolyn may be on the stool??

I used to sit on that stool to listen to my grandfather’s stories or on occasion help light his pipe.  On Friday, Larry’s father wanted to see a photo album.  I found myself flipping through it with him and suddenly I realized I was sitting on the stool.  A strong sense of deja vu.

There was a big difference between my grandfather and Jasper Bowman.  My grandfather was very much the story teller and was always talking and sharing tales.  Larry’s father was more of a listener and observer.  He didn’t talk very much during our visit and when he did, he was very soft spoken.  I was sitting the closest to him, so I tried my best to start up conversation during the visit.

At one point, Larry’s father pulled up a black and white picture of a strapping young man in uniform.

“This is my father,” he said softly, “He fought in World War I.”

“Wow,” I said, “He fought in World War I?  Cool!  Did he ever tell you any stories about the war?”

“No,” he said, “My father was shot and killed.”

Before I could say anything, he sighed and added, “And then I was put in the orphanage.”

It wasn’t quite a Sister Gonorrhea moment, that’s for sure.  But it was certainly no ice breaker either!

As a recap, last weekend I was reading about orphans in Hungarian Rhaposody and then this weekend, I managed to mangle a conversation with an orphan.  If the degradation continues, I reckon next weekend I’ll be mooning orphans and calling them names.

Wish me luck.

November 26, 2006 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

Out of State Ian Fund Efforts

Quick note— Ian Fund was not forgotten while I was away!  I picked up pine cones for the wreath project in Colorado (I bet they looked interesting when TSA X-rayed my luggage) and in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Plus, I made it a point to wear my Ian’s Hope bracelet (available for a $10 donation to COTA for Ian H) on my Mt. Bierstadt hike.  The bracelet is pictured below on the rim of my Appalachian Trail Conservancy hat (I was showing my east coast pride).

Ian Hope Bracelet

Wearing that bracelet is a derivative of a practice I inherited from my family’s Catholism.  My grandfather would “offer up” his trials, his suffering, and even his workplace frustrations for others.  It seems he had a high threshold of what he’d offer up.  When he first started going blind, my Aunt Julie asked him if he was offering that up.  My grandfather thought for a second and replied that his pain wasn’t bad enough for that. 

My father carries on that practice.  To this day, I’ll hear him mention it now and then.  There is also a story from his childhood.  My father was outside chopping wood all day.  When he returned indoors and was asked what he was doing, he did not reply that he was chopping wood.  Instead he explained he was helping get a distant relative out of purgatory.

Unlike my grandfather, I have a low threshold of what I offer up.  Most frequently, when I’m jogging with the dogs up a hill, I’ll think with each exhale and stride, “For Ian, For Ian, For Ian” or of others I know who are such good, genuine people but who face such hardships and sadnesses.  Sometimes the queue seems too big for my piddly jogs to sustain.

I have no tangible evidence this tradition has any effect.  However, if all else fails, I will continue my practice for purely selfish reasons.

It reminds me that the ache in my legs is nothing compared to the aches of others’ hearts. 

It keeps me focused and driven.

It gets me up those hills.

July 16, 2006 at 11:41 pm 1 comment

Oral Traditions in Action

In civilizations where citizens did not have ample access to a writing system, history and stories were passed down orally in the form of repeated tales and passages.  It is thought that Homer's Odyssey actually pre-existed its written form for sometime being recited and tweaked by poets.  The Gospels in the Bible are pretty readily accepted as being written nearly a century after the crucifixion, a generation after the original followers.  As a more contemporary example, the powerful stories in Roots were passed down verbally to each new generation all the way down to Alex Haley.  

Well in our modern times, where 30 million people have blogs, you can still see subtle signs of oral traditions still in action.  This week, I saw at least two examples:

QualTrax Demos
I got to watch two of our newest account managers perform their QualTrax demos.  During their presentations, I could catch snippets here and there that I could attribute to different sources– other account managers, our training coordinator and even a passage on ISO 9000 Standards that was almost verbatim the way I describe it.  Most interestingly, there were phrases that I use that I have not yet uttered in front of these two presenters, but I had to their teachers and their peers.  And some of those phrases likely originated from my predecessors!

So just like the ancient epics, the QualTrax demo includes repeated "verses" and the influences of the past "poets"…yet still has the unique touch and perspective of the current orator.

Abled-Body Young Man
Story-telling is a favorite activity of my extended family, myself included.  This weekend I had the opportunity to retell the story of when my brother, Jay, was watching my grandfather who was pretty elderly at the time– roughly 92-93 years of age. 

At one point Grandpa lamented about how he could no longer go to church.

"I used to go to church every Sunday," he said, "But now I'm too old and Mother can't take me."

"Well," my brother thought, "I'm an abled-bodied young man, I can take him to church."

"Grandpa, do you want to go to church tomorrow?  I'll take you!" Jay said.

"Oh no, no," Grandpa said, "I'm too old.  I can't go to church anymore.  I'm too old."

Jay waited a few seconds, then he posed another question.

"Grandpa, do you want to go to McDonald's tomorrow?  I can take you."

"Oh yeah!" Grandpa said, "Let's go to McDonald's!!!"

Now, as can be expected, any good story of mine (well one I think is good anyhow–I've been known to misjudge), poor Sean has already heard dozens and dozens of times.  So it is understandable when he is less than enthused with my repetition.  However, his reaction to this particular tale seems to trump the others.

"I just know you are coming to the part where you say 'abled-body young man'" Sean once explained, "I know it's coming.  There's no escaping it.  You always say that!"

He's right!  I do always say that and actually, consciously so– that's the way my brother relayed the line to me.  

I'm just passing it on! 🙂

June 14, 2006 at 10:20 pm 6 comments

1914 Train Tunnel

Today my co-worker, Bill C, and I went hiking through the Golden Hills Disc Golf Course and the Montgomery County Park to go look at an old train tunnel that was built in 1914.


On either side of the tracks near the tunnel, there were some old buildings, which nature was already starting to reclaim.  In the below picture you can see weeds growing on the concrete steps.

Old Building

This building and its stair garden reminded me of the article Earth Without People from the February 2005 issue of Discover magazine.  In that article, they describe how the DMZ in Korea has changed with just 50 years without people and they speculate how long it would take our cities to fall apart if humans suddenly disappeared.  When I originally read the article, there were two things that made me… well, I guess, slightly sad:

“Few domestic animals would remain after a couple of hundred years. Dogs would go feral, but they wouldn’t last long: They’d never be able to compete.”

Aww, poor dogs.  (I suspect Clint won't share my sentiment!)

Unless an earthquake strikes New York first, bridges spared yearly applications of road salt would last a few hundred years before their stays and bolts gave way (last to fall would be Hell Gate Arch, built for railroads and easily good for another thousand years).

Why do the demise of the bridges make me sad?  My grandfather, Gerard Ivanhoe Sawyer, built bridges! 🙂

It was a very interesting article.  Ignoring my personal attachment to dogs and bridges, it was surprisingly uplifting to know that:

In a few thousand years, "the world would mostly look as it did before humanity came along—like a wilderness."

Go Nature!

May 29, 2006 at 1:49 pm 2 comments

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