Sunday, March 30, 2014


I wish I were a poet. If I were, I could make something of this snippet that’s been running through my mind the last few days,

Grandpa, can I
Grandpa, will you
Grandpa, can we
Yes Yes Yes, my boy

That’s inspired by grandson Sam. A few days ago his almost-three-year-old sister, Violet, snuggled with her blanket in a chair and then said, “Grandpa, now I need a snack and my milky and my num-num” (pacifier—yes, yes, she’s being weaned). “Yes, princess,” I replied. Not a minute later she disensconced herself from her cozy throne and appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Grandpa, are you doing it?” “Yes, your majesty.” Of course it occurred to me that Violet’s parents would no doubt disapprove of both sides of that exchange. But I’m Grandpa.

As a parent, I was a slow learner in regard to grandparental rights, privileges, wisdom, and VALUE!, especially in regard to my mother-in-law, Olive Nasby. A few days before Beret (Sam and Violet’s mother) was born, Caryl told me that her mom was going to come and help out. “Gee,” I said, “I thought it would be nice to just be our own little family.” Beret was born; Olive came. After about ten minutes I was on my knees saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” (Of course now I understand that you moms might greet my quaint idea about doing it by ourselves with, “Easy for you to say, dad!”)

A year or so later we were visiting Caryl’s parents at their farm. Beret, now a toddler, was sitting in her highchair in Olive’s homey kitchen, and I had given her a big juicy strawberry, which sat, untouched, in the middle of the highchair tray. “Put a little sugar on it,” advised Olive. “No,” I said (I think my nose might have even raised itself a bit into the air), “no, we’re raising Beret without added sugar.” (For most of our daughters’ early childhoods I would sneak around the corner to put the tablespoon+ of sugar on my Cheerios—which I had grown up with—while they ate theirs sugar-free.). “Come on, “ repeated my mother-in-law, “try it with a little sugar.” “No thanks, “ I said. The conversation—and our attention—turned elsewhere. A few minutes later I noticed that the strawberry was gone. Where it had stood on the tray there was now only a small circle of sugar. (And a sweet strawberry blush circled Beret's mouth.) At that point I gave in completely to my mother-in-law.

And she treated me like a king. Absolutely every time we visited, I would open the refrigerator and there would be a brand new unopened pint of half-and-half, because she knew I liked it on my cereal. (I know there’s a kind of sugar-and-cream theme going on here, but we’re talking about the daughter and grandson of Norwegian immigrants.
Olive Nelson Nasby
Would you tangle with this woman?
)* And Beret's sister, Anna (who came along later), reminds me that it was for me--and not necessarily for them--that Grandma always had freshly made donuts ready at our arrival.

Olive is also the person who taught me not to fear death. But that’s another story for another time.

She is remembered in love. She rests in peace. Try a little sugar.

*I am aware of important recent reports about the dangers of too much sugar; Caryl and I have changed our habits somewhat, and try to help our grandkids with theirs. But this isn't a story about nutrition. (Although I should point out that the same studies have restored  to some degree the reputation of cream!)