Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Trip to Illinois

I am up in Sycamore,IL. If you do not know where that is, just think of where Northern Illinois University is located and you can get a general idea where Sycamore is. My dad and Betty live here in a very nice home. I even have my own room. They call it a spare room but actually it is my room.

We went to visit my grandparents today. This is my dad's dad and his wife of 26 years, Helen. I wanted to watch part of the Bears game with my grandfather today. I really would of thought the Bears would of had more heart in them. If they would of won, they would of been in the playoffs. They faltered in the 2nd half. It was just really nice sitting with my grandfather watching a football team that I grew up with.

Dad and Betty soon came by and Helen came back from her visiting. I was very happy to see Helen not in the apartment today. She hates just sitting in her recliner, she loves to talk. She does not have all of her hearing but she can talk. She tries to follow most of the conversations, but they are too fast for her. I was glad to hear that after lunch she went walking.

Then after we took my grandparents to their dinner we headed to our dinner. I love the local pizza place in Homewood. We meet my brother and his family and had a Christmas celebration with them. His daughters are getting so big and mature. Amanda is on the second book in the Twlight series...... I guess I will need to pick this book up so I can have some intelligent conversations with her about this author. She thinks this author is the JK Rowlings of her time. It does help when a movie comes out to help promote the series of books. Please excuse me if I do not spell all the names right.......

Malorie loved the fact that she had the biggest bag of "Stuff". She is really into art so I was able to find her a cool art set with a black sketch pad. She also got two hand held games that she wanted. I was also very impressed with the fact that she was very good at sharing her games with her sister and her sister's friend.

I did kid Amanda about the scarf that she was suppose to knit me....... I was looking for it in her present to me....... I will keep bugging her about it........ :) Well it is getting late and I want to read my new John Grishman book. I will post some pictures when I get back home from my trip. See ya all soon, if not please have a great New Year's Eve and go into 2009 with a bang.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Goodbye Grandpa Backer

Do me a favor. If you choose to read this post, please give yourself enough time to really absorb what I am trying to express.

I learned of my grandfather's passing Thursday Dec. 11th. I had a call from my dad and when I called him back we talked about his dad for a while and then I was told about my mother's father. Roman Reece Backer was 88 when he died. He was a man of many talents. He was a pilot, an electrician, he tried to build his own plane and he built an wind boat.

I was not initially planning on traveling to Florida for the services. You see this man taught me a lesson even with his death. I was holding a grudge against him for 10 years or so. It was a stupid comment he made to me and I let it fester. The lesson I learned is there is no reason to hold a grudge because the person who is holding it is the only one that is hurting.

I was very surprised with myself and how I was genuinely upset by his passing. My brothers and my dad have visited him in the last 10 years and I had not. It bothered me that he was gone. It bothered me that I missed some time with him. I really don't know how close I would of gotten to him, we, as grandchildren, weren't that close to him. Mainly because of the distance between Florida and Chicago.

Flash Back to Monday Dec. 15th:

So this is the day I go to say goodbye to my grandfather. My brothers and I were reminiscing last night at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Restaurant in the City Walk of Universal Studios. Orlando has grown so much since I was last there. Ok back to subject. We would tell stories of what we remembered. My brother, Mark, has a lot of fond memories of trips to Florida. He is also the oldest. Scott, my other brother who is 11 months older than I am, remembers riding on a wind boat that my grandfather actually built. Mark also remembers a time when Grandpa took the family flying in his plane. These memories are not mine, I was too young to remember these visits.

This visit accomplished different agendas. We all went to Florida to say good bye to our grandfather but we also went to spend quality time with each other. We have not had quality time with each other with out wives, children or a parent around us. Yes we saw each other in August and spent some time together but it was not like this. It was comfortable, the way your favorite pajama's feel coming out of the dryer. Well it was like that. I really, really enjoyed the time spent with them. The other cool part about this is; it was not just me thinking this, they both expressed this as well.

OK here is a story I remember with my grandfather. Picture it: It was Christmas in Chicago, cold, snowy and stuck inside because it was just too cold to go out and play in the wonderful snow. Well Grandpa and Nanny came to visit. I think I was about 11 or so. I was at the kitchen table playing solitaire. You know the actual solitaire game with actual cards..... well apparently I missed some move on the board. I started to turn over my 3 cards and I got a SMACK on my arm. I don't know if this was how Grandpa wanted to spend quality time with his ONLY granddaughter.... I looked at him and said, "What was that for?" His reply, "You missed a move." I then looked back at the table and still did not see what he was talking about. So, I once again tried to throw my cards down and I get ANOTHER SMACK. I just looked at him and he then pointed out the move I did not see. I quickly lost that game and got up from the table. Quality time MY ASS.

There were many attributes about my grandfather that came up during the service. The pastor wanted us to think of one word that would describe him. Well one came to mind immediately but I would not say it. It was STUBBORN. It kind of came out later with bull headed. But once he got his point across, he would slap the table or arm chair three time and then just bellow in laughter. He had a GREAT laugh, one of those that are contagious. We learned many things about him just sitting around talking to the different people that came back to the house after the service.

We heard from his wife of 40 years, that the last few weeks were very difficult. He refused to get up off his recliner... even when the doctor wanted to just get him to walk to the mailbox. He refused. Avis, we called her Nanny, told him that he was slowly killing himself. And you know what his response was...... "I DON'T CARE" We all know that is bullshit because he loved life. He was tired of the fight. The fight to keep weight off, the fight to only eat certain foods and the fight to not have happy hour 7 days a week.

I am going to share several stories from what we were told while we sat around and listened to his "family" in Florida.

A story that was told about when he was in the hospital. His legs were really hurting. He was retaining a lot of water and the stool he had to put his feet up was just a little too high to get them elevated. So Nanny asked if she could get him a recliner. Now you have to understand that after 4 p.m. not much happens in the hospital for the rest of the day. It was going to be a long shot if he could get the recliner that day. Well by some miracle, a nurse found a recliner and brought it in the room. She was a brave soul because from what we heard, the nurses barely stuck their heads in his room because of all his uproars. I am sure in that person's mind, she thought she would be looked like a hero or a saint. Well this is my grandfather we are talking about. He took one look at that chair and yelled, " GET THAT SHIT THING OUT OF HERE!" No one knows why he did not like the looks of the chair but it could be for many reasons.

Another story Nanny told us was grandpa telling her to not give him a hard time. She wasn't giving him a hard time, he was just being, oh what word came to my mind at the service? Oh yea, STUBBORN.
Well Nanny soon left the hospital and went home. She was frazzled but his high demands. Well the next day, she was came into his room and he immediately, said to her, "Uh yesterday, you were right about....." I asked Nanny, well did he apologize? She laughed..... he did not ever say he was sorry. Well at least I know I have some of his blood in me too, it is hard for me to say those words as well.

Grandpa needed to have the perfect garage for all of his toys. He has one of the older full sized motor homes and he has a 2001 T- Bird. RED. HARD TOP. Guess how many miles he has on this car..... Just guess. ONLY 2,077 miles. This car is in mint condition. There is another story about this car as well. He wanted this car... so he bought it. A person refused the color of the car so Grandpa said, OK I'll take it. He asked the sale person if he could sit in the car. He said no, if you buy it you can sit in it. So he pulled out his check book and wrote the check for the car and then opened the driver's door and got in. He wanted to pull it out of the showroom but the dealership did not have another car to display so my grandfather was asked to give them a week or so to get another car there before he takes it home. For some reason, my grandfather agreed to that, which I really don't think is in his character, but he agreed to the arrangement. Then a few days later a friend of his came to visit and my grandfather wanted to show him his car. SO they went to the dealership and it is in the showroom all roped off so no one can touch the car. People were all standing around looking at the car, he just moved the ropes out of his way and got in the car and told his friend to get in the passenger seat. He then said to John, "They won't let me start her up in the showroom!" People were standing around looking amazed that some man just got into the most amazing car in the showroom.

He had to have a pole barn type of garage to fit these toys in as well as his plane that he was trying to build, his scooters and numerous other projects that he started. The amazing thing about his garage.. no matter how messy it looked.... he knew were everything was. A neighbor needed a washer for a sink faucet. He would say to her.... OK KID let's go out to the garage. Well she knew it would be a 45 minute endeavor just because they were going into the garage. She might have to get up on the ladder and go to this container, the third drawer to the right but it was ALWAYS were he said it would be.

At the memorial service, we learned many things about the man we called Grandpa. He was a WWII Fighter pilot and when normally the pilots went on 15-20 missions, my grandfather went on 34. He was responsible for getting the dead and wounded back to base. Maybe that is why we never knew that about him.

There was a picture of him, in his uniform, with my mom, who could not of been more than 3 years old. I have never seen that picture before. I asked Nanny, that is what we have always called her, if I could borrow that picture with some others so I can make copies of them for me and my brothers.

He was married to Avis or Nanny for 40 years. Right after they married, he took the savings they both had and bought land for his vision of developing an Industrial Park. They lived on very little after they bought land by Fort Lauderdale, FL. They developed the property to be very successful and sold it about 8 years ago. They did very well for themselves. They went and bought a house on a little canal in Stuart, FL. I can see why he loved that property. It was on a cul-de-sac and it had two different views of the canal. After lunch, I went and sat out on the swing that is aligned perfectly to see the most beautiful sunset.

Nanny has a lot of wonderful people in her life. Her niece has been a God send. Her fiends John and Jeff have been her rocks and her neighbors have been her stable companions. Nanny will be fine; she might shake a fist at Roman and say why didn't you listen to me and walk a little bit but she will know that he is free from his pain.

As the preacher said, "It is always too soon for the ones left behind..."

Good bye Grandpa. I love you.

Friday, December 5, 2008

News Highlights for Friday Dec. 5th

This is a true case of excellent networking: Follow the link for how Obama is reaching out to his college buddies.

OJ Simpson just does not seem to get it.

When will the Illinois Governor's Learn?

We know the global economy is getting bad when....


I stopped by Luvy Duvy's yesterday after shopping for the Christmas Party. I needed a liquid refreshment, if you know what I mean.

We started talking about the ecomomy and how Prop 8 is losing a bunch of money by not letting "US" get married.

Check out this link:

Carrie Underwood you should be scared with your stop in St. Louis. We have been waiting for you with baited breathe. I actually saw her tour buses coming into Chaivitz Area this morning. I was so excited.... I just had to call my Brother and yell BOOTIE BOOTIE BOOTIE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas from Years Past

My mom was a fanatic about Christmas much the same way Terri is. Christmas preparations were actually a family event. We all pitched in, even my brothers. My dad got the decorations down from the unfinished upper level and my mom bossed us all around to get things out. When we left for school she would put the items exactly were she wanted them. She also infused some of her homemade ceramics into the decor. She was very talented, in many ways, she was just very subtle about it.

Christmas traditions were as follows:

Christmas Eve was opening one present before we went to dinner. Then we would meet my grandpa and Helen, Uncle Jerry, Aunt Alice and Cousin Jennifer. We started off going to restaurants, then to my Grandpa's house then to Uncle Jerry's. After my mom passed away we actually had people over to the Flossmoor house, oh what a hassle that was. The last time we all got together was at my cousin Jennifer's house. I miss those times when we got together for dinner and sit around and talk about what was going on with each of us.

My Uncle Jerry can be very funny and it was a rare year when we witnessed my dad and my uncle actually getting along and laughing together. They have lived close to each other all of their years but they have never been close.

Then on Christmas we would load up the car and head either to my grandparents house when my grandmother was still alive or head to Aunt Bev's. Aunt Bev was my mom's aunt and what a cool woman she is. She had 6 kids and they all had kids of their own. SO it was a house that had a lot of activity. I enjoyed going out there because it was like going to your best friend's house instead of a relatives house. It was very informal and comfortable.

It does seem the older I get the more I miss those times and those connections. I do think that the connections I have made with my extended family is what I miss the most. We have a huge family and it just seems that I do not see them enough anymore. It is not that I never make it back to Chicago because I do. I just don't make it back for the weddings and unfortuntally the funnerals.

I would like to continue a tradition my Uncle Carl started many years ago. He had an Open House Christmas Eve. This is where the long lost cousins could gather and chew the fat with each other for a few hours. As I got older, I really looked forward to the gathering. This was the opportunity to see the cousins that we would not be able to see all year. Uncle Carl and Aunt Mary were gracious hosts and provided wonderful food and drink. Many times, my brother Scott and I would be there until 3 am.

I want to continue the tradition. So if you are around town this Christmas Eve, please come by the house for some holiday cheer and breakfast.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I must admit that I was one of the crazy people out on Black Friday and I spent some money. I wanted a 32" plasma tv and I got one. I actually had a nice time for the most part. I did get a little crazied in the mall parking lot. I drove around to look for a parking spot but never found one and never got out of the car at the mall. I did my shopping at Wal-Mart, Target, Michael's and Walgreens. You all should be scared if you are lucky enough to get a present from me. HAHA!

I was listening to Y98 this morning and they were talking about gift cards, the pros and cons to the cards and then they mentioned the different stores that are closing around the US. See the link to view the different stores.

I am mentioning this because I am one of the lucky few that will not need to worry about layoffs and cut backs. I am very secure in my profession and in my job. The recession has to hit pretty bad for my paycheck to be affected.

But what about my friends that are not in my same field? The shit has not totally hit the fan yet, we, as a society, do not really understand how much we are behind the 8 ball, so to speak. When is it going to hit? My dad and Betty have lost thousands during the Wall Street Collapse. They are fortunate to not have to depend on their investments to live day to day. How many of you need that to live on in 20 years?

What is the answer to this problem? How do we keep our friends and relatives working?

I have several friends that are struggling to make ends meat in their own business. They need all of us!!!!! If you are able, please support Luvy Duvy's at the corner of Arsenal and Jefferson and Tip Top which is located in Soulard at 9th and Victor.
Both places are very dear to me and they would love to spoil you with their good eats.

This crisis we are in will take all of us to get through this. But, isn't that what we are suppose to do? Aren't we told as a little oneS that we are supposeD to look out for our friends?

Let's look out for each other. If someone needs a helping hand and you can help, do so.

Hope to see you all at Luvy Duvy's or Tip Top.