Sunday, December 19, 2021

My grandfather: A world-traveler who stayed a Michigan man at heart

Me, Karen and my grandfather at our graduation.
At my college graduation in California, my grandfather sat next to a stranger also wearing a jacket and tie. When he remarked how they were the only men dressed “properly” for the occasion, they began talking and soon learned they had much more in common: not only were they both from the Midwest, but the graduates they were there to see were the best of friends.
That was cool. 
I remember standing with Karen, the closest friend I made at Cal Poly, right before our graduation ceremony and smiling as we looked up into the audience because we could see our family members were sitting next to each other and appeared to be chatting.
After learning they had indeed realized their connection and learned all about each other’s Midwest roots, I remember feeling proud of my grandfather and his ability to talk to anyone about anything. Although a highly educated man who had visited every continent and earned two university degrees, he was surprisingly down-to-earth.
“The people who talk the most about a subject usually know the least about it,” he would say. And though he usually knew the most about every subject of conversation in nearly every room he was in, I never knew him to brag or monopolize the conversation. Instead, he talked about whatever others wanted to talk about: birds and science, diving and travel, opera and ice skating, or just women and drinking.
To make sure I had the same educational opportunities as he and my mother had, he not only  helped pay for my college tuition, but set up an internship for me in South America through his professional connections in Chile.

His main career had been as a flight steward for Pan American World Airways, but earlier he had been hired as a professional ice skater by Sonja Henie (which is how he met my grandmother), and later helped lead cruises to Antarctica from Tierra del Fuego, serving as an expert on the birds and mammals passengers could see on their journeys.

And when I completed that university degree he gave me a car, which of course was a Ford. Since he grew up just outside Detroit, Mich., the home of Ford Motors, he only bought cars made by that company. (That car allowed Karen and I to take a road trip to celebrate our graduation, and for me to enjoy a last fun New Year’s Eve with my sister.)

And while I certainly appreciated that car and everything else he did for me (including having my mother's binoculars repaired after her crash), my favorite gift from him just might be this simple trick he taught me when I was a kid, which still makes me smile every time:



Thursday, December 2, 2021

Poem: I miss that chocolate cake more than you

I knew we were a mistake
when you wouldn’t let me eat
that piece of chocolate cake.

I can still see your face
daring me to make a scene.
I still wonder if the waiter knew
why the plate wasn’t clean.

I still mourn that cake,
and the bites you wasted.
But I’ve never wished for another bite of you
or even remember how you tasted.

–– Justine Frederiksen

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

My Grandmother’s Journals: December, 1996

My mother, 13, and my grandmother, 42.
In tiny notebooks, my grandmother wrote down each day when she woke, where she ate breakfast, any movie she went to see, noted any mail and calls, then what she 
read and watched on TV before bed.

In 1996, she turned 81 while living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif. But I wouldn't describe her as lonely; she was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.) 
Close to her home was the famous surfing spot called Pleasure Point, and she loved walking to the ocean and watching the surfers. When she died at 97 in 2013, I took her ashes to those waves with a friend of hers and we each dropped some at the sand. A moment after I dropped mine, a surfer emerged from the water where I stood.

That was cool.
Photo of Pleasure Point my grandmother took in 1997.

In December of 1996, my grandmother attended my college graduation. Determined to NOT interact with my grandfather, she came to the venue as early as possible so she could sit directly across from the entrance and watch him come in, then move if needed. She also refused to come to the party we held afterward because he was there, calling me at least once from her hotel room during the celebration.

Sunday, Dec. 1, 1996
Forgot to cover motor, rained in night.
Read papers, football.
Watched golf. La Quinta, beautiful weather. Woods won $40,000.
News, skipped 60 Minutes. 
Tiny Tim died, heart. 
Monday, Dec. 2, 1996
Awake early.
Breakfast at Burger King. Sausage!
Bank, put $1,000 in Justine's account.
Longs, got envelopes, soap, TV Guide. Put in request for pix.
Mail, letter from Mina. Card from Prudy.
Football, 49ers vs. Atlanta, 34-10. Steve quarterback. I folded at halftime.

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 1996
Longs, negatives lost! Found in bin where should not have been.
Coffee at McDonald’s. Picked up pix, OK.
Wrote Justine. 
Joan called, talked quite a bit. She blue. 
Wrote Prudy, sent her pix of Justine and one of me.
News, read papers, news.
Rain in night.

Thursday, Dec. 5, 1996
Awake 4, some Ray T. Says abolish marriage, questions Jesus sexuality.
Breakfast Lyon’s. Hot cereal! Cream of wheat.
Kmart, Dinty Moore. No chicken! Mylanta.
Home, wrote Mina. Took to Post Office.
Mail, letter from Mimi.
News, Geraldo, Law & Order.
Shower, cut hair some.

Friday, Dec. 6, 1996
Finished James book.
To corner. Feel unwelcome. Talked to man who sells pix.
Library, returned books.  
To store Pretty and Plump, got skirt.
To show, “The Mirror has Two Faces.” Did not like. But Jeff good. Kept in character.
News, Geraldo. Taped “Tequila Sunrise.”
Saturday, Dec. 7, 1996
Up 8:45. Typed letter to Mimi.
To Radio Shack. Italian man, NTSC is speed of tape when recorded.
To Post Office, then corner.  Talked to Ellie, Pearl, then Dennis. Home 1:30 p.m.!!
Housework, cards to Orin, Allen, Joan, Sally and Justine.
Sleeping Beauty on Bravo, Canadian Ballet, 1972.

Monday, Dec. 9, 1996
Dinner Live Oak. Talked to “Mary” from 17th Street.
Drug Emporium, soup, looked for barrettes. Got two and a cup.
Took ad for upright luggage put on board.
TV: Football, Geraldo, Riverdance, Poirot.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 1996
Rained heavy. Car won’t start.
Walked to corner, croissant. 
Back, used hairdryer. Drove to 76, got gas, candy bar.
Good Year, had distributor changed. Cost $75, parts 44.17, labor 27.
No mail.
Rain in night.
Bed 9:45, slept until 9 a.m.
Thursday, Dec. 12, 1996
Breakfast here. Blood pressure Louden.
To Sears, got Levi’s.  
Looked for top, “Las Manos.”
Letters mailed to Sandra, Yvonne, Andra & Lutz.
Returned to Las Manos. Top did not fit!
Watched “Carbon Copy,” 1981 movie. Also ran P&P again!
Rain stopped 11:30.

Friday, Dec. 13, 1996
Justine graduation ceremony 12/14
First to Drug Emporium, got diuretics, Kleenex, cup, TV Guide.
Then to corner, coffee, donut.
To SLO, McDonald’s in Soledad. 
Arrived 2:45 p.m. at Motel 6 in Pismo.
Got lost in dark, policeman told me how to get to (Justine’s street). 15 minutes late.
To show, 65.15 + 6.50 tax. Not worth it.
Hotel 9 p.m. TV, etc.

Saturday, Dec. 14, 1996
Awake 7, up 8. Breakfast Denny’s.
Walked to mall, signal not working. Construction on road.
Windy. Showered, to Cal Poly.
Instructions not good, drove about. Finally found it.
Had yogurt in food pavilion.
To Rec Hall, 500 grads.
After two hours I went to toilet, then watched at window.
To Denny’s. Had liver!

Sunday, Dec. 15, 1996
49ers over Steelers, 25-15.
Breakfast Denny’s. Cereal. Grover Beach.
Got car mats for Justine at Kragen's, pillow for me.
To Justine's. H there, she wouldn't speak.
Headed home after stop at rest area.
Ate McDonald’s in Soledad.
At Albertson’s 3:08 p.m.
News, 60 Minutes, then bed. Good rest.
Monday, Dec. 16, 1996
Awake 5 a.m. To corner about 9:30. Talked to Dave, has to be on oxygen machine.
1/8 capacity in lungs. Formerly worked with chemicals, smoked!
To mall, bought “English Patient.”
Put up lights.
Mail: Letter from Mina.
Wrote Prudy. 
TV: Some football, news, Geraldo.
Mailed Prudy letter.

Tuesday, Dec. 17, 1996
Awake 5. Up 9. Breakfast corner. Fed ducks.
Library. Looked up Mercury News, SLO map.
To Live Oak, BP HIGH. Same person who was so high before.
Mail: Card from Sandra.
Two messages on phone: Overdue book at library, on dinner list at Live Oak.
Did X-word, read papers.
TV: news, Geraldo, Morse (old one).
Wednesday, Dec. 18, 1996 
HOLIDAY meal Live Oak.
To corner. Dave tired.
Got clothes ready for washing tomorrow.
Ironed pants, addressed five cards. 
Mail: Letter from Mimi, Linda, Karen.
To Live Oak, dinner. Good food. 
TV: Geraldo (drinking on job).
Read book. Spotty sleep.
Thursday, Dec. 19, 1996
Laundromat. To corner for coffee.
Talked to three ministers (?) Man convicted of child molestation comes to donut shop.
Attracted some criticism from Ellie, Dave, others. Two I like, hard to decide.
Ironed two pair denims.
Castroville band to play at Inauguration.
Marcello Mastroianni dies. Cancer, pancreas.

Friday, Dec. 20, 1996
Carl Sagan died. Cancer, bone marrow. Pneumonia? Or both.
Home, vacuumed. Washed vacuum to turn in.
To vacuum place, got new Panasonic with trade-in, $19.95.
Trader Joe’s. Woman in “cash” line.
Watched news, Geraldo.
Rain in night.
Justine to come up Sunday.
Sunday, Dec. 22, 1996  
To corner, talked to man writing story, Lee helping.
Justine called 11, just woke up.
Football: Carolina won, ends 49ers’ hopes.
Justine arrived 2:45 p.m.
To town, bought tickets to show. Walked a bit.
Monday, Dec. 23, 1996
Up 8. Justine sleeping.  No watching CNN.
Ready by 10, to Starbucks. Justine left for Napa at 11.
To Drug Emporium, Post Office.
To corner, talked to Dennis and crossword man.
To Live Oak for dinner. Sat with man, woman who travel, but not lately.  Liked Ireland, Paris.
Football: 49ers won over Detroit.

Tuesday, Dec. 24, 1996
Breakfast corner.
To Lucky’s for groceries.
Carol called. Meet for dinner tomorrow.
To library.
To show, “Rendezvous in Paris.” Three vignettes of young people. Good.
Mail: Letter from Sy with pix. Also card from Beverly.

Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1996
To corner, very crowded. 9:15 better.
Walked on East Cliff.
Ate cereal, banana, chocolate chip cookies.
Read, Carol came 3:50 p.m.
Ate Boston Market, salad, soup, stuffing. 4.32.
To show, “Big Night.” Excellent. Comedy. Light hunting.
Thursday, Dec. 26, 1996
Up every two hours.
To corner. Clifton there. 9:15 a.m.
Can’t read paper.
Walked in mall.
To Longs, got calcium, etc.
Wrote Justine.

Saturday, Dec. 28, 1996
Ate cereal.
Finished “English Patient.” Ondaatje from Sri Lanka. Dutch, Ceylonese.
To corner, Lee gave gift. Blue key ring, mood pendant.
To library. Looked up phrases, got book on Billy the Kid.
To show, “Mars Attacks.” Satire, trivial.
Read papers, watched bio of Madonna.
Couldn’t sleep.
Monday, Dec. 30, 1996
Justine and Karen to Phoenix.
To corner, Trader Joe’s.
Called Post Office regarding video cassette.
Walking, met Melissa who was in Korea teaching English.
Mailed letter to Sy, book to Mina.
Mail: Cards from Andra/Lutz, Cable Co, adverts.
Bed early. Ate candy!

Tuesday, Dec. 31, 1996
Up 9ish. Breakfast Kmart.
Wrote letter to Prudy/Hugh. Finished Mina’s letter.
To Post Office, cowboy truck in two spots. 
To Longs, got garlic, vitamins.
To donut shop, bank.