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March 2, 2008

A Tribute to My Dad

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My father, Floyd, died yesterday, March 1, 2008 in Bedford, NH at the age of 87.

He was born on September 20, 1920 in Albany, NY. He graduated from Utica (NY) Free Academy and met his future wife (and my mother) Betty there. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1942, rising to the rank of Signalman First Class. Following the war, he and my mom settled in Utica to start their family. He began working for Campbells Sales Company in 1945, where he was employed for 40 years until his retirement. Most of his working years were spent in Dallas, TX, which he loved because of the warm weather and golf opportunities it afforded. After launching my sister and me and retiring, he and my mom moved to Presbyterian Village North community in Dallas. He was a proud veteran and provided leadership for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day observances at PVN. In 2006, he moved to New Hampshire to be closer to family.

He was an avid movie photographer of almost 60 years. He and mom traveled widely across North America and also enjoyed one trip to Switzerland and several cruises in the Caribbean and the Alaskan waterway. His enjoyment of people came through in his work as a salesman and in the many ways in which he was engaged with life. He loved tinkering in the garage with his “inventions� and editing his movies, always with his favorite Big Band music in the background. We played Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the Andrews Sisters, and others from the WWII era steadily for his last 3 days.

But his true passion was golf. He played every chance he could. He proudly walked the course and carried his own bag, often running circles around the younger salesmen he supervised. Like many of Brokaw’s Greatest Generation, he loved his country, his wife, his family, and his life. His grandchildren all called him “Pop,� and will miss his willingness to get down on the floor or in the pool and play with them. (He didn't want to be called "Grampa" or anything like that, because he wasn't "that old.") The picture above is of my two kids with their Pop, c 1988.

He died peacefully, held by my sister and me, following a bout of pneumonia. When he took his last breath, Robert Goulet was singing "Sunrise, Sunset." Services will be held in Nashua NH. At a later time, my sister and I will return with him to Dallas, where he requested to be placed next to our mom for the rest of time.

A friend sent me this beautiful poem written by John O’Donohue on the death his father. It is on the NPR / Speaking of Faith website (see below for URL to hear him read the poem).

Beannacht ("Blessing") by John O’Donohue
On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you. And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets in to you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green, and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours. And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind your life.

You can listen to it by clicking here

I'm sure I'll be writing more about my dad in the future. In the meantime, it's sinking in ... very slowly.


Posted by hgroteva at 3:34 PM

March 7, 2008

Time Stands Still

Time has stood still for the past two days. It feels like I have been lifted out of the normal stream of time and slammed into another dimension, disconnected from the "real" world. The visitations for my Dad were yesterday, and the funeral was today. I was amazed and gratified that family and friends from all over the East and as far away as Alabama made the trip to honor their uncle / brother-in-law / pop / friend.

I reconnected with some cousins I had not seen in 50 years, and others I had only seen once or twice in that time frame. My best friend / college roommate / best man / godfather of my son traveled from New York and surprised me at the church this morning. The staff from Dad's assisted living community turned out en masse to honor the man they had grown to love. My daughter-in-law's father drove in. Flowers were beautiful, and it was a tender tender time. It was close to overwhelming.

I'm very grateful that my sister and I honored our parents several times in recent years (their 50th anniversary, and my Dad's 80th and 85th birthdays.) For his 85th, we put together a large powerpoint slide show with photos going back to the early 1920s. For his visitation hours at the funeral home, we updated the slide show, adding about 40 new pictures. It provided a powerful way for folks to connect with his life history and with each other, since many of them and their loved ones were in the photos too.

We've gotten pretty good at gathering for funerals and weddings. I hope that the years to come will provide many more gatherings for just everyday hanging out. Turns out I have a substantial number of cousins, nieces, and nephews in New England, so my move should facilitate that.

My father loved golf - he loved the physical activity, and it was one of his most beloved ways to engage life. So it was only fitting that I concluded my eulogy by reading a poem that my mother-in-law, Helen Burton-Miskell, wrote for his 85th birthday. He liked it then, and it seemed a fitting way to mark the end of his life.

"Ode to Golf"
by Helen Burton-Miskell

What better way
To start the day
Than tap the ball
Into the cup
Just as the sun
Is coming up;

Or tee it off
Into the air
And watch it fall
This side of there,
But close enough
To make me smile;

Or lift it up
With just the iron
To put it down
Upon the green,
So close it rolls
Into the hole;

Or walk upon
The healthy green
And watch it spring,
Keep springing back,
Despite the traffic
On the scene.

What joy, what joy
To take a swing
And feel that I
As well can fly,
Watching the ball
Upon the wing

Till out of sight
Beyond the woods,
Where it alights.
I search and find.
Feeling as young
As any boy,

Whose surging blood
By nature sings,
I am as near
To heaven here
As anyone
In love with life.

What better way
To start the day.


Posted by hgroteva at 6:57 PM

March 10, 2008

811

That's the average number of "data transmission events" per month the average web user is subjected to on Yahoo related sites alone. A data transmission event occurs each time you navigate a web site and the site collects information on you -- your IP address, page views, length of time spent on each page view, etc. Advertisers say that it is to benefit consumers -- so that only dog owners are subjected to dog food ads, they say. But it has gone much further than that. Read all about it in the NY Times article "The Web is Keeping a Close Eye on You."

Of course, all this goes on behind the scenes and unknown to the web user. Interestingly, a study of California adults found that 85% felt their movements on the web should not be tracked. (When did 85% of Americans agree on anything??) So why is there so little outcry about this??

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 AM

March 14, 2008

...After

What a pleasure it was to come home to beautifully completed countertops after an exhausting two weeks dealing with illness, death, funeral, family gathering, and the aftermath. Thanks to Kevin at Rosecraft for such a wonderful job. The geometry of the design worked out well, and the tile beautifully complements the tile backsplash and floors already present. This week ("spring break" - ha!) will be for packing, cleaning, moving the cats to their temporary new home, loading a POD, and officially putting the house on the market. It probably won't all happen this week, but it will be close.

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Posted by hgroteva at 9:38 PM

March 18, 2008

Countdown to April Fools: T minus 14

Well, I am now seriously serious about getting the house on the market. I signed a listing contract and have to have it ready to be photographed on April Fools Day -- 14 days from today. The agent I'm working with hires a professional photographer to take the pictures, and they post them on the web + develop a virtual tour. I saw some of her work and was quite impressed. For a sample, go HERE to the agent's website, and click on "virtual tour" for one of the properties.

I've already had the staging consultant come through once -- that led to removal of all wall paper, fresh paint upstairs, new ceramic tile countertops, and the first stage of decluttering. I'll have her come through for one last pass after the POD is filled.

The proposed listing price is a Bear-Stearns bargain basement deal ... or at least, it feels that way. It breaks my heart to price it so low, but hopefully it will sell quickly. (It's a great house, if anyone out there is interested. Once it's listed, I'll post a link here.)

So now the scheduling begins.

Today - the guy comes from 2nd Wind to disassemble the elliptical. I will miss it for the next 2 months, but I'll be getting lots of exercise toting, moving, cleaning, bending, stretching, etc. -- and then I'll want to walk or bike outside as soon as the snow melts.

Tomorrow -- I deliver the cats to their new, temporary home. They know something is up. When the real estate agent was here, they kept climbing on the table so she couldn't write, and Sadie jumped on her shoulder. (Fortunately, she was cat-friendly ... but she strongly concurred that the cats had to go while the house is being shown. She said cats can do a great job of sabotaging a sale!)

Thursday - Merry Maids comes to bid on the "deep cleaning" job.

Then sort, pack, box --- more runs to Goodwill, more ads on Craigslist...

Friday the 28th, I'll have the PODS unit delivered and will fill it - to disappear Saturday, when Merry Maids will work their magic.

Then final touch-ups and hopefully I'll be ready on 4/1. The biggest dilemma now is whether to fill the hot tub. We have a 4 season porch with a hot tub on it. The hot tub has been turned off for about 3 years (long story, but not because it doesn't work). The agent said I had to remove it (would be extremely difficult and expensive and I'm not willing to do it) or have it up and running (a hassle to get it up and running again and keep maintaining it). I can understand the logic about having it up and running, but I would have to drain it when I leave (end of May) anyway because no one would be here to maintain it. So chances are the person who ultimately buys the house would not see it running anyway. I would be happy to guarantee that it would work or make some kind of assurances, but I'm resisting the hassle of getting it going again. Opinions??

I'll post the countdown progress periodically.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:11 PM

March 20, 2008

T minus 12

Well, the guy came from 2nd wind, and the elliptical is now broken down for packing. The cats were delivered to their new quarters last night. We've framed it as "summer camp" for them. It's so fascinating how their personalities came through with the move. Once in the new home, Sadie jumped immediately out of her carrying case and started exploring -- running around, jumping on and in things, poking her nose everywhere quite autonomously. Shadow explored too, but was pretty skittish about it. Poor MacKenzie found a bed and hid under it. But when the others found her under the bed, they joined her and then they all came out together -- good siblings! And Pookie went back into his carrying case and cried a bit. But by the time I left, they were all happily being petted and seemed remarkably at home. They've got lots of familiar things - their climbing tree, heating pad, beds, etc. -- and they will be heartily loved. Thanks SO much to B, L, & KM for welcoming them into their home.

Today, Merry Maids came and bid on my deep cleaning job -- they will be coming a week from Saturday, once everything is in the POD. They will do everything except the outside of the windows, which I will have to contract separately. Tonight I took 7 bags of books to re-sell. B&N took the cream, and then Half Price Books took the rest.

Tomorrow, it's back to packing and sorting.... and getting ready for the week ahead. It's also Good Friday, and we are due for several inches of snow. It will be a good day to stay in, but I plan to go to hear the Durufle Requiem at the House of Hope in the evening. It is one of my most favorite choral pieces - I've sung it several times and loved it. Watch for another report at T minus 10. Still no decision on the hot tub.....

Posted by hgroteva at 8:16 PM

March 21, 2008

"Spring" - Good Friday 2008

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Posted by hgroteva at 11:50 AM

T Minus 10 -- setback?

The plan continues forward with one major exception. I spent an hour with the PODS people yesterday placing my order. At the end of the conversation, we were discussing the specifics about how the PODS unit would be delivered. They found that our burg prohibits the placement of a PODS unit on the street in front of a house, so it would need to go in the driveway. And it requires at least 12 ft. width, which we don't have. We have a rather narrow one-car-width driveway, which borders the neighbor's flower garden. So it would have to go over the curb and basically on to our front lawn, which is also prohibited by our city. So I had to withdraw my order. Arrgh!

So I need to find a traditional moving company - which should not be hard to do. But I want to put stuff in storage this coming Friday. I've left a message with a local moving company (rated A on Angies List), hoping that they will be able to pick the stuff up and put it in storage. The nice thing about PODS is that you load the unit and everything stays as it was - within the unit. The stuff isn't off-loaded and then re-loaded later. So we'll see what happens Monday.

In the meantime, we had more snow overnight. It looks like the depths of winter outside, but the temp is in the high 20s rather than the minus 20s. Today: attack the attic closet and start on the basement. Will continue packing, thinning, and stacking stuff for Goodwill with vigor.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:10 PM

March 24, 2008

T minus 8 - back on track

Today I was able to find the appropriate moving company approved by my new place - they put me in touch with the local agent, and the local agent will come Friday to put my stuff in storage. Voila! The plan is back on track:
Friday - storage
Saturday - cleaning
early next week - photo shoot
April 8 - open house with lunch for 30 realtors. The snow will be gone, the birds will be singing, and the sun will shine brightly through newly cleaned windows. Who could resist this house???

Posted by hgroteva at 8:01 PM

March 28, 2008

T Minus 4 and counting

Things are happening. The moving company took 35 boxes and several pieces of furniture to put in storage today. I met with the moving company rep and he estimated 10,000 lbs from home and 2-4,000 lbs at the office. I MUST TRIM FURTHER! In the midst of it, a very sick kiddo came home for help with doctors and prescriptions, but now he is stoked up with antibiotics, antihistimines, and cough syrup. I also divested myself of a TV and 3 book cases (thanks, Craigslist!) The place is almost ready for the cleaning crew, which comes at 8:30 tomorrow. The staging consultant comes at 10:30 Sunday. With her final suggestions, it will be ready for the photo shoot and spread in Minnesota Homes (ha!) In the midst, I've been grading papers and preparing for next week.

It's ironic, but the moving company I'll be working with will work out much better than the earlier PODS strategy. Even though it was painful to have to change solutions in mid-stream, this will be a saner path to follow. The folks on both ends of the move seem very competent and customer-oriented.

It's a treat to see the sun shine and to hear the birds sing. I think spring has sprung.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:54 PM

March 29, 2008

The CD I've Just About Worn Out

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I have just about worn out my CD of "Lux Aeterna" by Morton Lauridsen. In this time of crazy-making-multi-tasking, it has provided hours of serenity. I keep playing it, and for better or for worse, to return the favor, it keeps going through my head all day. It's actually a welcome thing, because the music is so hauntingly beautiful and calming. Here is a link to a review of it on the Hyperion website. I hope I get to sing it some day.

My favorite:
O nata lux de lumine
Jesu redemptor saeculi
Dignare clemes supplicum
Laudes prescesque sumere.

Qui carne quondam contegi
Dignatur es pro perditis.
Nos membra confer effici,
Tui beati corporis.

I'm a great fan of Lauridsen's work. I still remember singing his "O Magnum Mysterium" with the St. Marks Cathedral Choir on risers at the Galleria just before Christmas over 10 years ago - Eric Friesen was still broadcasting here, and we were on his afternoon show - great fun.

Here is the official website for the music of Lauridsen.

And here are some concert notes from the San Francisco Choral Society - a nice discussion of the piece. I hadn't realized until now that he wrote it in 1997, the year of his mother's death. The author stated that the piece expressed "a human journey to reclaim intimacy with the inner life" - nicely put. Enjoy.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:04 PM

March 31, 2008

T Minus 1 and still counting

After a minor emergency, it looks like things will fall into place for everything to be ready for the photo shoot Wednesday. The staging consultant really liked what I had done with the house, and she called the kitchen "stunning" and "compelling." That was so nice to hear! She made a bunch of additional suggestions, most of which can be handled in a few hours -- except for re-painting the dining room. Fortunately, Andrew is available tomorrow and will come late morning and do it in one day. Then a final straightening up and it's ready to show!

Everything looks so nice after the cleaning crew came -- I don't want to sneeze or move anything. Of course, trash cans can't be within sight when a house is being shown, so I guess I have to pack out with my trash every day, like I was camping and moving on. The big job for the week ahead will be to get the hot tub going again, because it will need to be running once people are coming in. The list is never-ending. But I have been assured that my agent and this staging consultant are real pros and will get this house sold, which is the goal. The house across the street has been on the market for about 4 months; it's vacant and has seen little action. I do not want to be an absentee owner!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 PM