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 Eleven

This online family photo album is all about visits between my family on the West Coast and my family in the Midwest. So far, I’ve chronicled 1985 through 2000.

In the summer of 2001, we took a road trip to the East Coast. While we were away, my mother-in-law passed away in her apartment. Three months later, the World Trade Center towers were attacked. We did not visit with our California family that year. 

The next summer, though, we had a marvelous visit! I found a trove of photos of the gang of seven cousins enjoying the Bay Area and each other. Here we are at the San Francisco zoo: 

And at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk…

(I know I took one that has all the grandkids together on this beach plus Jim and John and Sarah, too, but I can’t seem to find it.) * My sister Sarah found it!

…and bumming around San Francisco.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we also spent time hiking and horseback riding in the Sierra Nevadas near Mammoth Lakes with the grandparents. I’ll share those pictures in the next post.

Such a sweet deal having relatives to visit in northern California!

The Grandparent Project: Part Ten Addendum

This online family photo project allows me to pool and share snapshots with my children here in the Midwest and my family of origin in California. Yesterday, my sister in San Francisco sent more photos of our visits up to the year 2000. 

Khalsa trip to Cary 1995

I love her caption to this one: “desperate characters skulk at the airport –in 1995, way before TSA”

One year later…

Our basement became the slumber party headquarters, and our two cats got lots of attention. Here’s Phantom in the spotlight:

The next year, the Galassos went west again. Here’s Rebecca celebrating her birthday in San Francisco in 1997, showing off new front teeth and a Kids’ Klub membership card. Cousin Amrit’s birthday was the next day. The Kids Klub was quite creative. Here’s the Headless Emily costume they made:Visits to the Khalsas’ place always included board games, music-making, neighborhood visits to Haight-Ashbury shops, and lots and lots of laughter. I’m so glad and proud that our kids created a safe, happy place of interaction with each other. Having the skill to develop a trustworthy social circle is very important and became life-saving as they grew into their teen years. 

Thanks, Dharam, for sending these great photos!

The Grandparent Project: Part Ten

Family Cluster 

The Grandparent Project is my online family photo album, connecting my West Coast family and my Midwest grown children in shared memories. GranneLouise has seven grandchildren in all, spanning eight years. Here’s how they all looked in the year 2000. So, this is the Millennial generation of our family. 

Like many families, we also have a coincidental grouping of birthdays. Our “Cluster Month” is August. My husband and I, my brother, my brother-in-law, my grandmother…and I think my grandfather, too…all have birthdays in August. I’m going to take a stab at assigning the exact dates, and I’ll let my family correct me where I’m wrong. Jim’s is the 26th, mine is the 21st, David’s is the 18th, John’s is the 25th, Grandma Marion’s was the 1st…and Grandpa David’s was the 23rd. (*confirmed by GranneLouise) 

I also have a cluster of photos from these middle years of our kids’ lives up to the year 2000. If you want to see the gallery of pictures in a slide show of full-sized images, just click on the first one and advance one by one. 

This concludes the first 15 years of grandparenting. The next 17 years saw fewer cross country visits as all our lives got more complicated, so my photo records of those years are pretty sparse, but the stories are pivotal. Moving toward adulthood brought challenges and opportunities that shaped the character and personality of each of these young people. I think they’re all super special, and I’ll share that in the next Grandparent Project post. 

The Grandparent Project: Part Nine

My family of origin is in California; my grown children are in the Midwest with me. Getting us all together is tough. This summer, I’m hosting a kind of a family reunion on this blog by sharing photos and family stories featuring my mother’s seven grandchildren. 

My parents were incredibly helpful grandparents, especially during those hospital episodes I’ve mentioned. When my husband & I reached our 10th wedding anniversary year, we decided to splurge on a trip to Europe. Mom & Dad offered to take care of the four grandchildren…provided we let them do it at the family beach cottage in Michigan. My parents were quite familiar with dealing with kids in that setting. After all, they’d spent many summers there with their own. So, with Uncle David’s help, they treated our brood to two weeks of fun and frolic on Lake Michigan, making “Cottage” memories with the next generation. 

I have to admit, I was a little jealous of that vacation. I had so many great memories of the Cottage that I wanted to re-live myself. Fortunately, we were able to take the kids up there ourselves several times over the years. Our last trip there was right after our oldest graduated from college in 2007. GranneLouise, Aunt Sarah and Uncle David were able to join us for that. My husband Jim died the following February. 

 One day I would love to see if we could have a reunion at The Cottage with all of the clan. I think that would make a fabulous Cousins Day! 

Speaking of cousins, here’s a special Cousins Day with Amrit on her birthday:

And some with Cristina: 

Reading stories aloud has to be one of the best parts of being a grandparent. My dad liked it so much, he volunteered at the library to read to other people’s grandkids. I got to watch him in action during one visit. He was reading Dr. Seuss, and he let me fill in some of the parts because he knew I still had it memorized. I’m looking forward to reading aloud to some of my own grandkids one day.  

The Grandparent Project: Part Eight

Growing Grandkids, Making Memories

Posting my family photos to this blog is recreating our history and reconnecting my family of origin in California to my grownup children in the Midwest. It’s also illustrating the model of grandparenting that my parents gave me. I’m not a grandmother yet, but I may be some day in the not-too-distant future. I’m pretty sure that my instincts in that role will follow basic principles like these…

1) Take lots of pictures. Here’s one that I found that has written in my father’s elegant script on the back, “My son. the uncle. Aug. 1993”  I dare David and Cristina to re-create this photo! (That would be a trick. I believe she’s taller than him now!)

2) Get outside to the park, the beach, the woods, the back yard. Explore and play. 

3) Read to them. 

 4) Eat together. Make meals a celebration. 

5) Keep toys and books at your place that they will remember and return to, year after year. (In the room where it happens…although this picture doesn’t show the cart full of building blocks, the game closet or the stuffed animal cupboard, it shows some of the books.)6) Above all, cuddle. I’m looking forward to this the most. I have a vivid memory of one Christmas when our travel schedule with our four very young children was particularly hectic. We arrived at the house and planned to drop off our luggage and then go on to meet someone. Our youngest was still a toddler, and all the disruption was overwhelming for her. I handed her to Grandpa and he sat down in a rocking chair with her. She clung to him like a half-drowned kitten and wouldn’t be separated from his strong embrace when it was time to move on again.

It’s good to have a safe harbor in a choppy sea. Grandparents can be that stability in turbulent times, for toddlers and teenagers especially. I’m so glad my kids had the encircling arms of my mom and dad when my husband and I were preoccupied with other cares.