Posts Tagged ‘birthdays’

Today would have been my grandfather’s 113th birthday. I’ve written about him on this day for the past two years, and I thought it would be nice to keep up the tradition. 

My previous birthday posts about Grandpa:

Eleventy-First, with Memories | J.R. Johnson

To Be Fair | J.R. Johnson

My grandparents lived in Chicago for most of my life but when they retired they became snowbirds, the kind that fly south for the winter. Later, they moved down there permanently. My grandfather walked the beaches south of Cape Canaveral and found, among other things, the bleached white skeletons of Echinarachnius parma, otherwise known as sand dollars. 

I saw live sand dollars for the first time on our recent visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They resemble their skeletons only in shape, and even that is unexpectedly flipped upright. Check out the images in the article below.

9 Fascinating Facts About Sand Dollars

The sand dollar—or “sea biscuit,” or “sand cake,” in other parts of the world—is purple and hairy in its prime.

Grandpa used to collect sand dollars and give them to us kids, a tiny piece of a magical, tropical land far to the south.

I still keep one on my bookshelf.

Happy birthday, Grandpa.

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Today is (probably*) Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday, and it’s a date I note every year. That’s because it also happens to be my adoption date. 

Like a lot of kids, mini me went through an early phase where I pronounced new words as they were spelled (like “Zay oose,” here’s hoping no Greek gods were paying attention). And so in some corner of my mind this German composer will always remain “Bee Thoven.”

* * *

The 20 greatest Beethoven works of all time – Classic FM

Here’s where I admit that I find a lot of his work a little over the top, like he was angry at the piano or something. As my stepmother has been known to say, “Too many notes!” I still recognize brilliance when I hear it, and his approach is a lesson for creatives of all forms.

“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”

― Ludwig van Beethoven

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Bring me my piano! Photo by Maria Lupan on Unsplash

* Beethoven was baptized on December 17th in Bonn, Germany, making it likely that he was born the day before. Let’s just go with it, shall we?

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Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

Today would have been my grandfather’s eleventy-first birthday.

Paul Johnson loved golf, travel, photography, his Swedish heritage, fishing, the beach in Florida, women, and a good game of bridge, not necessarily in that order. He and my grandmother married in secret for the usual reasons, then again two years later when he was able to support them both. (She wore a light blue dress, again, for the usual reasons.)

One terrific part of life is that you can choose how you want to look back. When I think of my grandfather, I don’t dwell on the Parkinson’s and how it took so much from him before it finally took his life. I think of his smile as he watched a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, the heart-felt yet hilarious haircuts he used to give my long-suffering brother, and the way he remembered to call me Princess even after he’d forgotten my name.

He saved sand dollars from the beach, enjoyed hot dogs with sauerkraut and introduced us to tomatoes with sugar, always kept a bag of butterscotch for the grandkiddos, tolerated both hijinks and shenanigans with good cheer, and had the best laugh, right from the belly.

He was a wonderful grandfather.

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Photo by T. Johnson. Location: Pine Grove Mills, PA. Date: Summer 1974. Probably.

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Author Anne Lamott is turning 61 and took the opportunity to write down “every single thing I know, as of today.”

It’s a lovely list, full of the poignant and practical advice for which she’s known. It can be moving and a little sad, as when she touches on the challenges of family and death, but she also brings out useful truths on such topics as the necessity of exercise and writing shitty first drafts, the beauty of life and persistence and the fact that any of us are even here at all.

I especially like #2:
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

The original post was on Facebook, which I don’t use, but you can find the rest of her list and more on her thoughts in this Salon article.

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