The Grandparent Project: Part Eighteen

In this blog project, I’ve posted digital copies of my family photo album snaps and a chronological narrative to share with my family in California and my grown children in Illinois and Wisconsin. I’ve gone from 1985 to 2008 so far.

Some time around 2009, my sister Dharam and niece Amrit came out to the Midwest for some winter fun. I admit that I don’t remember exactly when this was.

In March of 2010, after seven years of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, my father passed on to a new life.  My brother-in-law John put together a beautiful slide show of pictures of George.

After the memorial service, we gathered in the Parish Hall of St. Luke’s (where my wedding reception was held in 1984) and shared our memories with Dad’s best friend Tim, his sister Judy, and others. Then we went back to the house, and of course, we ended up singing silly songs around the piano – a very Heigho way to celebrate. (And you’ll notice who ended up wearing The Hat that I mentioned in Part One of this series.)

Today, September 3, 2017, is my parents’ 62nd wedding anniversary. I am so grateful to have them as my role models for marriage, parenting and grandparenting. They were exemplary, and I love them both very much. 

The Grandparent Project: Part Seventeen

My mom and siblings are in California. My grown up children are in Illinois and Wisconsin. It’s difficult to get together very often, and I miss them all tremendously. This summer, I started a photo sharing project on this blog in order to review my memories and convert my snapshots into digital format that everyone could copy and store. It’s taken a lot of screen time and yielded some powerful emotions.

In the last installment, I posted photos from 2007 which included my daughters’ graduations and our last family reunion at the beach cottage in Michigan. My husband was quite ill. In January of 2008, the day before our 24th wedding anniversary, I treated myself to a trip to our Cancun timeshare resort with my oldest daughter and my brother.

Jim was not up to international travel, but did end up going to the East Coast to visit his sister and his nephews. A couple of weeks later, he was having another heart surgery. Ten days after returning home from the hospital, he died in his sleep beside me. My mother flew out immediately to help me cope with logistics, and we planned a memorial celebration to take place three weeks later. I gathered family groups around the piano in the living room for photographs that afternoon. Here’s the Heigho bloodline:I was very sorry to see my mom and siblings board the plane for their return flight and my son and middle daughter return to college shortly after the ceremony. I was not looking forward to a painfully empty nest. My youngest daughter and I went out to California in August for my birthday…and Jim’s. I revisited the places where we met, fell in love, and were married. I felt like one small fraction of a person; being with the people who knew me longest and best helped. 

Emily, my mom and I also took a tour of the Winchester Mystery House. It was the first time I’d been inside. Who knew it’d figure in our family history seven years later…?

We made plans to return the next summer to lay Jim’s ashes to rest in the garden columbarium outside the church where we were married and where my sister’s ashes rested as well.  What I had no way of knowing then was that I would return the next year with a special traveling companion so that I could introduce him to my mother…

The Grandparent Project: Part Sixteen

I’ve been posting snapshots from years past to this blog to create an online family photo album for my mom and siblings in California and my kids in the Midwest. I’ve gone from 1985-2006 in 15 posts. I’ve gone through all my photo books and boxes of loose prints, and I think I’ve gotten all the best ones converted to digital images.

I did come across a couple that I want to add here, even though they’re out of sequence. These are pictures of my kids in places of historical significance to our family, proving that I did teach them something about our particular “heritage”. For instance, this sacred natural place just blocks from the first house I lived in…

…and this one of the beach where 4 generations of our family have vacationed… …and where my husband and I met up with my parents’ longtime friends.

Now, back to the chronology. In January of 2007, I took a trip out to California alone to visit the family. Things were pretty hectic back in the Midwest with two kids in college, two in high school, and a husband on kidney dialysis. Escaping to the Bay Area to soak up some family love and laughter (and a couple of bottles of Hecker Pass kissing wine!) helped. 

Visiting my father was a high priority, even though he did not remember or respond to me. 

Watching my mother care for him was a great lesson to me. I figured I’d be walking in her footsteps as a caretaker for my ailing husband, but I had no way of knowing that I’d be widowed the next year.

Before that happened, we had a few more exciting family events. In April, Emily starred in Seussical. Her Aunt Maggie and cousins James and Dylan from her dad’s side of the family flew out to see the show. 

In June, Rebecca graduated from High School and Susan gave her Senior Voice Recital and got her college diploma from Lawrence University.

GranneLouise, Uncle David, and Aunt Sarah came out for the ceremony in Wisconsin and then drove to meet us for a reunion at the beach cottage on the other side of Lake Michigan. 

That final vacation with my husband is full of bittersweet memories. I’m so grateful that both my families were there to share it with me and to remind me that we were together in all of the simultaneous beginnings and endings of that summer.

Actually, I like to think of universal Life simply as continuation in many different forms. Through all its changes, the star stuff of the cosmos just keeps going. 

The Grandparent Project: Part Fifteen

This online family photo history series has covered twenty years of cross-country grandparenting. My mother, siblings, nieces and nephew in California and my children in the Midwest were fortunate to have shared many visits and forged lifetime bonds and memories. In the years following 2005, life threw some more challenges our way.

Grandpa George was showing more signs of dementia. Jim had numerous health issues and complications associated with his diabetes and coronary artery disease. The kids were bigger, and their challenges were bigger, too. School and extra-curricular activities, social issues, and mental health demanded constant attention and problem-solving. The stress in our teenagers’ lives was real and complex.

With all that on the landscape, we didn’t do a lot of traveling together. I did get out to California some time around Christmas in 2006. 

Some time during this visit, I got the opportunity to tag along with my mom while she did a performance with her living history group, Portraits of the Past. I loved seeing her involved in an activity that incorporated so many of her interests and talents. 

My mom is a great example to me of blending responsibility, entertainment, learning, and joy. The most difficult challenges in life are opportunities to grow, and Mom is a model of continual personal growth. 

The Grandparent Project: Part Fourteen

Happy Birthday Uncle David!

The Grandparent Project is my online photo history, linking my family in California to my children in the Midwest. Today, I’m posting photographs of our visit West for Christmas in 2004. My kids are 13, 15, 17 and 19. 

And because today is David’s birthday, I want to post some photos of special friends of his. Christmas time in San Francisco is cool and clear. Leaving the Midwest snow behind to play on the coast is a real treat. 

Hanging out with cousins is a treat, too. 

Two generations of siblings…

And one Grandalf to love them all!

The Grandparent Project: Part Thirteen

In July of 2003, Grandpa George celebrated his 70th birthday at the historic Benbow Inn in Garberville, California. This was one of his favorite places. He first took me there in 1985, when we were traveling to Oregon for my sister Sarah’s wedding with my 9-month-old daughter, Susan. I was quite impressed and loved feeling pampered. There was a decanter full of sherry in my room. That was the absolute clincher!

It is easy to see why he liked it so well. It’s just his style: elegant and close to nature. He spent the days hiking the redwood trails and the beach…And in the evening, he’d dress for cocktails and dinner. On his special day, the dining room packed us a picnic to take into the forest. How perfect to celebrate his life in the company of tall redwood trees, “Humbolt Fog Goats”, and the magnificent coast!  

My brother grew very fond of this place as well. It was one of the first places he vacationed with his wife. He has a pretty interesting story about that trip, too…..

The Grandparent Project: Part Twelve

Welcome to the 12th installment of The Grandparent Project! This is an endeavor to revisit family memories with my relatives in California and my children in the Midwest by posting digital copies of my old snapshots and piecing together our shared history. It’s been a great adventure in itself as well as a reminder of the incredible journey we’ve already had. 

Today’s episode takes place in the year 2002 at Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. Grandpa George was 69 years old and an avid hiker. My siblings and I can probably all agree that his model inspired us. I am glad to say that he may also have inspired my children. At the time of this visit, they were 17, 15, 13, and 11 and their cousin Cristina was 9. My mom and my husband were physically not up to hiking the trail we chose this time, so they stayed back at the condo (with Susan and Emily?) while the rest of us went to find Lake George. My father was always the leader, a very strong presence and authority and a keen map-reader. This was the first time I saw him falter in his sense of direction. What is now apparent is that he was beginning to come under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. I am very glad to have pictures of him on this day. It was a gorgeous trek and fitting that it centered on a destination that shares his name. 

Some of us also went horseback riding on that trip…

We went through Yosemite National Park as well on the way back to the Bay Area. My husband and I had gone there on a date way back when I was still in High School. He picked me up at four in the morning and returned me to my parents’ house by midnight. I was thrilled to go, but it was a lot of driving. Returning to the park with my children two decades later, I couldn’t help feeling sad and disappointed at how much smog and congestion were visible. It makes sense that my California family avoids that particular area and chooses less well-known sites in the Sierras to hike.

I would love to arrange future family hikes in the Sierras. Let’s see how many of us can get out on the trail when we’re 69!

*Footnote photo – taken when we got back to the homestead in Los Gatos.