Remembering Grandma

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At my work, we have a group that has recently started up to get together and play cards at lunch periodically.

Today was my first day playing with the group, and the game we played was Canasta.

From as early as I can remember cards have been a part of my life, and when I think of cards I automatically think of my Grandma.

I had a pretty great childhood, and some of my favorite memories are about Grandma and weekend sleepovers at her house. it’s funny that I thought of it as “her” house. Grandpa was there too – but he was often off doing his own thing, mostly joining us for meals and cards after dinner; so most of my memories revolve around Grandma.

I’m one of 4 siblings, but Grandma would have us over individually so she could focus on us. And when we were there she made us feel like the most special kids in the world.

There were all sorts of great moments.

At the start of every Grandma visit she and I would walk to the grocery store, where she let me pick my own box of cereal. My parents didn’t buy sugary cereal, so I almost always chose Fruit Loops (you can’t get much more sugary than that).

I loved to draw, and Grandma kept a drawing pad waiting for me in a drawer in the guest room. I would spend hours drawing assorted creatures and monsters. Once done I would show them to her and she would tell me how horrible they were. Then she would lovingly hang them on the kitchen wall.

And that kitchen…

Grandma was a great cook. The only times I was ever involved in the cooking was when she let me help roll out her spice donuts. But I can still picture her in a floral shirt and an apron working in the kitchen; tasting, seasoning, and ensuring everything was “just right”.

There are all sorts of memories, but my best ones revolve around cards.

My earliest memories of cards are playing games like Concentration and Crazy 8’s. As my skills grew we moved onto more complex games; and our favorites were Russian Bank (when it was just the two of us) and Canasta (when Grandpa played).

At the start of my visit Grandma would give me a small pile of change, and we played for money (I believe Russian Bank was 10 cents a game for the winner, while Canasta was 25 cents). Not only did she provide my starting money, she also ensured I went home after the weekend with a few dollars in my pocket.

I was always proud of the fact that I did well enough against her to come home with a pocket full of change; and it was years before I realized that she was letting me win.

Grandma always taught, pointing out moves when I missed them to help me learn. Or sometimes just asking “are you sure you want to discard?” to make me look at the table more closely for the move I was clearly missing.

As I learned the games she would start to play harder. And I would like to think we eventually got to a point where we were both playing hard and competing. I suppose I’ll never truly know – maybe I only ever won when she let me. I would like to think I earned at least a few of those wins though.

There were so many lessons I didn’t realize I was learning during those hours spent playing cards. Grandma taught me to be a good sport. Winning was secondary to having fun, and cards were primarily an opportunity for visiting and just being present with each other.

In my teen years and early University years I didn’t see my Grandparents very often (though it was still very special when I did). When my Grandpa died, Grandma went to an independent living apartment and I started seeing her on a more regular basis again.

I was a young man now, early in my career; and just as I had changed so had our relationship. She was still my Grandma, but she was also like a friend. I felt no sense of obligation in seeing her, I went because I enjoyed it. She was this cool friend who I could talk to about anything – she just happened to be a lot older than me.

As the years went by, Grandma remained remarkably lucid. I would start hearing her stories repeat a bit more frequently – which for the most part was fine as she was a fantastic story teller, with fun stories.

Eventually the stories started repeating multiple times in a single game of cards, and we knew her mind was starting to go. She was in her 90’s by then so it wasn’t unexpected, but it still wasn’t easy.

It had always seemed like she would live forever, which was ridiculous in some ways. But as her memory continued to go, realization set in that her time with us was coming to a close.

Eventually she was hospitalized, and at some level my family all knew she was never going home again.

She was only in the hospital for a few months, but I hated seeing her there. She was this fiercely independent woman who had made it to her mid 90’s on her own; yet here she was in a hospital bed day after day.

When I would visit she would always ask me “Andrew, when am I going home?” I knew she never was, but I couldn’t tell her that, so I would just respond “as soon as you are strong enough Grandma”. It broke my heart to lie to her, but I couldn’t tell her the truth.

A few weeks before she died, I went to the hospital and brought two decks of cards. I asked the nurses for a second table for her bed so we would have a space big enough for Russian Bank, and we played.

That day, I had to teach her how to play. She couldn’t remember the rules of the game that she and I had spent the last 20 plus playing, though periodically she would tell me that it seemed like it was a wonderful game. It was. And I will always hold dear my memories of playing it with her through the years.

That day I let her win, one last time.

Grandma has been gone for around 10 years now, but she is still very much alive in how she impacted my life.

I don’t play cards that often anymore, but I still play. I have tried to teach my boys, and pass along some of the lessons that I learned. My boys are a different generation and are more interested in electronics, but they will play cards sometimes. And when we get together with my family, it’s always a highlight when the cards come out.

My girlfriend and I have started playing Canasta with my parents, and although we haven’t played that often when we do it’s great.

The lessons of cards are really lessons of life. You won’t always win, and that shouldn’t be the focus. In all aspects of life you need to learn to enjoy the process, and the journey. Because when you enjoy the process it really doesn’t matter what the outcome is.

All those lessons.

All those memories.

And for me, it all started with Grandma.

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Reflections on 2017…

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So 2017 is coming to a close…

Wow, where did the time go?

In late 2016 someone I don’t even know reached out to me and changed my life forever.  All I know her as is “Chelsea Relano” (though I believe that to be a psuedonym).  She told me she was opening a door for me, and it was up to me to decide if I wanted to step through it.

Well, step through it I did.  And although in the short term it threw my life into chaos, in the long term it will position me to live the sort of life I have always believed possible – a life of love (I hope 😊).

 

2017 has been a year of significant change in my life.

After spending much of the last decade plus where my identity was primarily defined by being a dad, I’ve re-defined what it means to be “me”.

I’ve focused on my education, almost completing a certification.

I’ve taken on additional responsibilities in my job, and although it can be stressful at times my job is somewhat of an extended family, and not just somewhere I go to pay the bills.

As a father, I’ve had some of my most difficult moments this past year; trying to support and help my children through the changes in their lives.  But although they haven’t always been easy, these moments have also been some of my most rewarding.  I’ve watched my children grow and I am beyond proud of them and the young men they are growing into.

This past fall I lost my last grandparent, marking the end of that generation in my life.  My parents are officially the “old generation”, my siblings and I are approaching our middle years, and their children and mine are transitioning to young adults (my oldest neice will graduate from high school this year!!!).

I took my first ever solo trip this year, heading off on a two week tour of China.  I wasn’t sure of what to expect going in, but it was something I needed to do at that time.  I met some great people and had some amazing experiences; and I hope to continue travelling in the coming years.  My travel bucket list has always been extensive, and although it just seems to grow I will hopefully make a dent in it in the coming years.

Less than a month ago I was in what could have been a very serious accident.  Although my car was wrecked, I walked away unscathed.  It was a reminder of my mortality, and that we should never leave things unsaid.

I also re-entered the world of dating, though that’s a story for another day 😊.

 

2017 has seen many changes for me, and really, almost all of the change has been positive.

There have been some bumps along the way, and there always will be.  But  looking back I feel blessed.  My life is my journey, and I try to live it well.

I look at who I was at the start of the year and who I am today, and I can truly say I’ve grown.  At the end of the day, I think that’s all you can really ask for.

 

Going into 2018, I know there is a lot more change ahead of me.  But that’s alright, because in life change is one of the few things we can actually count on.

Things happen, and people are always changing.

We can either fight against it and try to hold onto what our lives “used to be”.  Or we can embrace it, and try to enjoy the journey of what we are always becoming.

To Chelsea, whoever/wherever you are, thank you.  That door wasn’t easy to face, but it was a needed step in my journey.

 

I know my blogging has slowed recently, but that’s primarily because my computer died in early October, and events of recent months have kept me busy.

Blogging for me has been a great outlet these past few years, and my little community of readers has definitely help me transition through the changes in my life.

So to all of you, thank you; and know that I’m not going anywhere (blogging wise).

 

To everyone out there I hope you had a great 2017; and all the best as we move into 2018!

Andrew

Return from vacation…

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In my last post I mentioned that I was going to be away from blogging for a bit as I was going on vacation.

Well after spending the past two weeks touring China, I’m back!

I went on the tour as part of a group.  Thing is, I went by myself and landed in Beijing with no idea what I would be getting myself into.

I’m a fairly sociable guy, and can get along with pretty much anyone.  But here I was half a world away; and I was going to be spending the better part of two weeks with a bunch of strangers.

I’ll admit I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go.

Our group was 41 people.  20 “pairs” – mostly couples (though there were a few people who went with friends or family), and me.

 

Most of the group was a bit older (largely retirees), so I naturally gravitated towards the group that was closer in age; and they became my “family from China” for most of the trip.  Though as I got to know some of the other people in the group there were a handful of other people who I would like to think became friends.

 

It was a really interesting microcosm of relationships though; as I had 11 days to meet people, form opinions of them and make connections with some of them.

In some ways 11 days is a short time, but when you’re around each other for approximately 12 hours a day it’s also long enough for personality conflicts to start to show and tempers to start to flare (there was one guy in particular who I would have been happy to leave behind on a number of occasions).

 

Still, it was a great time.

I was reminded of how much of the world I have yet to see, and how beautiful it can be.  I was reminded that first impressions can be wrong, that even with the people you get along with there will be rough moments, and that humor goes a long way towards making any experience more enjoyable.

 

In any case, I’m back.  I still don’t have a usable computer at home so it may take a while before blogging gets back to normal, but I’m getting there!

Drew

And Now For Something Completely Different…

thezombieshuffle.com has (and continues to be) a way for me to try and share my philosophies on life and love. I consider myself an optimistic person, and this site hopefully reflects that.

Love and relationships aren’t always easy.

I try to talk about experiences that are common and relatable for many people in long term relationships, and provide a reminder that lots of people are going through the same things – whatever you are dealing with you aren’t alone. I also try to give hope for people who may be struggling.

Although love isn’t always easy, but it IS worth it.

I think many marriages can not only be saved, but can thrive if people would only accept that conflict is okay and take the approach that no matter what state your relationship is in today it can always be better tomorrow – IF you are willing to focus on solutions instead of your problems, and put your energies and effort into making things better.

I try to cover all sorts of topics. Some which I’m familiar with firsthand and others which I understand purely on an intellectual level.

But although I talk about all sorts of things, this blog is not even remotely a journal. It’s not about me. It’s about my ideas and philosophies, but not my life.

When I was younger one of the many careers I envisioned for myself was as an author. Mind you, I also imagined myself as an astronaut and a superhero, so I’m not sure if that really means anything. I do enjoy writing though, and this blog has reminded me of that.

So in an attempt to do something a little different, I have picked a period of my life that I felt would make for an interesting and at times even amusing read:

My days working as a hotel Bellman, and some of the experiences I had during that time.

I’ve been toying with the idea for a few months now, and have just published my first post at Memoirs of a Bellman

thezombieshuffle.com isn’t going anywhere, as I have 30-40 posts in progress right now. But Memoirs of a Bellman allows me to attempt a slightly different approach to writing, that will hopefully make for a worthwhile read.

My posts to the new blog will likely be much more sporadic than my posts to thezombieshuffle.com (where I aim for a post a week), but I encourage you to check it out and maybe even join me for the ride.

Drew