Archive for the ‘Grandparents’ Category
“Joe, who’s the greatest of all time?”
“Emma, who’s the greatest of all time?”
“Ada Grace, who’s the greatest of all time?”
“I’m not saying. Why do you always ask that question?”
Why indeed. The short answer is Paul Hayden.
Roy Forbisher was born on the banks of Crystal Springs on my grandfather Creighton’s ranch outside Flagler, Colorado more than 30 years ago.
Paul and I spent a week camping on the ranch back in the late 70s. I was 13. Paul was 14.
Our days at Crystal Springs weren’t exactly roughin’ it.
Each morning, we crawled out of our tent, set up our hammocks and had a rest before breakfast.
We walked the mile or two from the campsite to the ranch house to get our day’s supplies. We kept the perishables in the house refrigerator. We loaded up at least enough food for breakfast and lunch.
We’d hike back to camp. Cook some bacon and eggs on our fire.
After breakfast, we’d set up our hammocks and have a rest.
Some days we hiked to Flagler Lake, a mile in the other direction. Other days we walked to the corral to check on the horses. Followed by a lunch of cold cuts on white bread.
Then, we’d set up our hammocks and have a rest.
Late afternoon it was back to the ranch house for supper supplies. Gather firewood. Eat.
Then, we’d set up our hammocks and have a rest.
Some nights we’d take a break from the hammocks to hunt for the bullfrogs who kept us up all night.
Other nights, we’d just rest. Then we’d crawl back into our tent for the night.
The five days on the ranch weren’t as leisurely as they might sound. Setting up the hammocks was tough. For starters, we didn’t really have hammocks.
The process involved tying ropes around trees and towels around ropes. It was hard to get the ropes taut. Sometimes it took two or three tries. Sometimes we’d fall straight to the ground. After an hour or so the ropes would be slack and we’d have to start the process again. It really made a guy want to rest.
It is while lying on the hammocks that Roy Forbisher was born.
Paul told me epic tales of the Greatest Contests held in the spring of each year, after the qualifying rounds in the fall. Paul took me through at least a decade of competitions.
Not everyone had the stamina to compete year after year. But Roy Forbisher and Paul always finished near the top. Not even Mohammad Ali, who always competed, made it to the final rounds as often as Roy and Paul.
The rivalry that grew between Roy and Paul became legendary (at least on the banks of Crystal Springs). Tennis had McEnroe and Borg. Golf had Nicklaus and Palmer (or Nicklaus and Watson depending on your age). Basketball has the Celtics and Lakers. In the Greatest Contest, it usually came down to Forbisher and Hayden.
Some years their battle would rage on for days before the judges could determine who was the greatest that year. Roy Forbisher almost always reigned supreme. He won so many consecutive Greatest Contests that people considered ending the competition altogether. Everyone agreed, Roy Forbisher was the greatest of all time.
Paul and I never talked about Roy again. But, Roy would pop up occasionally in the years since our week on the ranch. Usually, when someone asks, “Who’s really good at…” I’d be reminded of the competitions Paul described and quickly reply, “Roy Forbisher, he’s the Greatest of All Time.”
(I think Heidi Priebe thought Roy was a real person for a few years. But, I’ll let her defend herself.)
My kids ask all sorts of “Who’s the best” questions. My standard reply is always the same, “Roy Forbisher, of course.”
The kids might ask, “Dad, who’s the best at…”
“Roy Forbisher. You should know that.”
“Who’s Roy Forbisher again?”
“He’s the greatest of all time?”
“Greatest at what, Dad?”
“The greatest of all time.”
My girls have become bored with the routine. Sometimes Emma will humor me. She cut and paste a Roy Forbisher Wikipedia page one night and called out, “Dad, look what I found.”
One of the other kids asked, “Is he really a real person Emma?”
“Don’t believe everything you see on the internet,” she replied.
Ada Grace simply refuses to participate.
But, Paul Hayden can hold out hope that Roy Forbisher will live on.
I walked Joe and Ada Grace to school not long ago. As I walked away, I overheard Joe say to a friend, “Who’s the greatest of all time?”
Are we more mobile now than we were a generation ago? Two generations ago? Do people move more now than they did in the past?
For the past few years, I ask these questions when I give speeches or talks. Groups always answer a definitive yes.
The answer is no.
About one in five of us move homes in any given year. That’s about the same as it was in 1950, 1960 and every decade since. Richard Florida writes in the March 2009 edition of The Atlantic Online: “Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes, in the late 1940s.”
What gives? How is it that fewer of us are moving but most of us believe the opposite to be true?
This is my hypothesis: In the past, when we moved, we really had to move. Now, we can change locations but never leave or we can stay in the same place and travel the world.
I grew up in Atwood, Kansas in the far northwest corner of the state. Mom’s family lived in Wilmington, Delaware. Travel in the 1960s and 1970s was expensive. A family of four could afford few airplane trips from Kansas to Delaware. We saw my maternal grandparents every other year, at most.
Telephone communications was not cheap either. We would only call on weekends or, perhaps, after 7 p.m. People watched clocks in those days before they made phone calls – the cost difference was significant. Long distance rates led us to limit our calls to two or three times per month.
Two or three calls per month. A face-to-face visit every other year. That’s not a lot of contact. It is almost unimaginable in a Facebook, Twitter, Skype sort of world.
That’s what it meant to move two generations ago. When you left a community you were gone. If you wanted to be part of a community, which most humans do, you had to invest yourself in your new hometown. You put down roots at your new address.
That’s not the case anymore. We can stay connected to our favorite people no matter where we live.
A year or so ago, I was doing a project at the University of Kansas. We were interviewing students about how Facebook is changing their social networks and friendships. I vividly recall the remarks of a young woman who lived in Saudi Arabia as a high school student because her father worked there as an petroleum engineer: “The first thing I do each morning is use Facebook to talk to my family and friends in Saudi Arabia.”
My mom lived half a country away from her parents. Her contact was limited to two or three times a month. Staying in contact with multiple friends was out of the question except by mail. Two generations later, a young woman can talk to her parents and friends half a globe away on a daily basis.
Communications technologies and low cost travel make it far easier to leave home. We can stay connected to our loved ones ever day. Personally, I’ve been enjoying Facebook a great deal. I have reconnected with high school, college and graduate school classmates scattered across the country.
Today I enjoyed the exciting news of a new KU Basketball recruit with my nephew in Lawrence, Matt Cunningham wherever in the nation he might be covering basketball games, and Phil Priebe in Fort Collins. We had a shared experience of sorts without ever being together. I watched the news break on Twitter. Then, we used Facebook, text messages and the phone to talk. It all felt very modern.
These are great gains from my perspective. I am able to maintain far more relationships with people whom I care about than has ever been possible before.
We also are losing something. Fewer of us are putting down roots in the places we actually live. Scholars such as Robert Putnam have well documented this phenomenon in books such as Bowling Alone. The trends began before social media was even on the scene.
Those of us who work in the public sector feel the consequences of local detachment on a daily basis. It is more difficult to govern ourselves today than in the past, in part, because local communities don’t exist the way they once did.
This begs the question: What will local mean? When we look a few years down the road how much more will our communities be transformed?
I have written before on this blog that growing up in an intensely local community was a defining experience of my life. How will geographically dispersed communities reshape all our lives?
We don’t know the answers. But, it’s clear that community will be different than it was.
My parents made sure I had experiences to build my sense of confidence and independence. As a boy, I was completely unaware of their intentional and thought out schemes. I appreciate it today.
I was eight when both parents agreed to be counselors at the Rock Springs 4-H camp. I was afraid to go without them. I know my dad detested the counselor role. He told me so 34 years later. I can’t imagine my mom liking it much better. There are very few parents who pine to be camp counselors.
The next year, I went to 4-H camp on my own – well, along with 20 or 30 other Rawlins County kids (I’m sitting front and center). My parents gratefully stayed home.
These are the types of building blocks my parents engineered so I would gradually gain the confidence to do things on my own. I always got sick the night before “sleep away” camps. But I made it through several years of scout camp, KU basketball camp and KU baseball camp before the eighth grade.
Traveling to Flagler by bus was another one of the experiences my parents planned for me. I took an annual Greyhound trip (or was it Trailways) from Colby (the nearest stop at the time) to Flagler where my Creighton grandparents lived. Each year, the trip was done with a little less supervision.
The first year, when I was six, I traveled with my brother Alec. My dad followed behind in the car. Alec made a separate trip that year with Thorn Hayden and no parents shadowing their progress.
The next year, I traveled with Alec and Paul Hayden. Our parents or Paul’s dropped us off in Colby. My dad waited until the end of the work day to travel to Flagler.
The trip with Alec and Paul was marked by the infamous “Stuckey’s Experience.” I fought tears for nearly an hour. In the era of low gas mileage and small gas tanks, filling stations populated the Interstate at exchanges between towns.
Stuckey’s and Nickerson Farms – part lunch counter, part filling station and part novelty shop – were the prominent chains along I-70 in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. You could fill up your tank, get a hamburger and buy a felt picture of a jackelope all in one stop. These stops were shrines to American entrepreneurs and consumers alike.
We stopped at a Stuckey’s near Goodland, KS to pick up passengers and a mid-morning snack. At seven, my head barely cleared the top of the lunch counter. The waitress’ eyes never made contact with mine. I tried to get her attention but to no avail. There were 20 other passengers to serve.
When the bus driver yelled for us all to re-board, I had failed to garner a snack. The devastation was almost more than I could bear. Alec and Paul tried to comfort me by sharing their food. But, I could not be consoled.
The next year was the big trip – no parents for two days. Silas Horton joined me on the bus that year. We stayed in my grandparent’s “guest house” – a detached studio apartment in their back yard. We thought we were on a grand adventure.
Joni and I have not been as deliberate as my parents in creating a series of experiences for our kids. Our kids do a lot but camps and unsupervised travel are not among the things they do. I sometimes wonder if that’s been an error.
Perhaps my parents weren’t as deliberate as I imagine. But, knowing my mom, they were. I’m glad I’m remembering the steps they took. There’s still time for Joni and me to do the same favor for our kids.
I was shocked. I was mesmorized. I was envious. I had just witnessed something I had never seen before.
I was standing in my grandparents driveway. I was mingling in the crowd of uncles, aunts and cousins. We had all gathered in Flagler that day for my Grandmother Creighton’s funeral. We called her Nana.
I was closest to Nana compared to my other Grandparents. My Grandpa Wilson passed away a year or two earlier. Gradma Wilson lived in Delaware. We saw her less than once per year. Grandpa Creighton… he was always busy.
Not Nana. She always had time for the children.
We traveled to Flagler frequently. My father was on the board of the First National Bank of Flagler. My Grandfather Creighton was President and majority share holder. When school was out, I would go with my Dad to Flagler once a month for a bank meeting. He’d drop me off at my grandparent’s house when we got to town.
I was often the only kid around. My brother, Alec, was older and had interests that kept him in Atwood. In the summer, my cousins from El Paso would sometimes be working in Flagler. But, they were much older, too.
Lacking a playmate, Nana would fill in the best she could. We played all kinds of board games, dominos and cards. I would sit in the kitchen and eat oatmeal cookies as she prepared the noon meal. She was always in a pleasant mood.
My Grandfather Creighton seemed unapproachable. He was always serious. I saw him at the breakfast table but we did not talk. He would be preoccupied with the morning paper, his oatmeal and prunes. At the noon meal (we never called it dinner or lunch) he was engaged in conversation with my Dad and Uncle Tom about bank business or politics. I tried to keep up with their conversation but never felt I could contribute.
In the evenings, there was always a bridge game – or so it seemed to me. My Grandfather Creighton was a competitive player. He had no patience to teach novice players let alone young children. He operated by the maxim of his youth: Children are to be seen not heard.
We called Grandpa Creighton “Pompa.” Alec could not pronounce Grandpa when he was young and the name stuck. A name like Pompa suggests an affectionate man. He was all business. Many of my cousins called him Alex (he was my brother’s namesake). That was what he preferred.
Pompa didn’t ignore us entirely. When we arrived at the house or visited the bank, he would greet us the way he greeted every guest and customer. He would approach with purpose, offer his hand to shake and convey his standard greeting, “Well.”
One of the games that Nana allowed us to play was rolling marbles down the wood staircase. We used an old metal ruler as a launch pad. The noise was exillerating. Pompa hated it. One visit the marbles were gone. Years later I found them hidden in a cupboard in the “guest house” on the back of their lot.
Mostly, I stayed out of my Grandfather’s way.
I was ten when Nana died. The house was full when we arrived for the funeral. All my uncles, aunts and cousins were there. I remember how empty the house felt without Nana.
We were preparing to leave at the end of the day. Creighton males shake hands they never hug. I made my rounds and offered a farewell handshake to my uncles and, last, to Pompa who stood in the doorway of his garage.
I walked back toward my parent’s car and turned just in time to witness the unthinkable. My youngest cousin Andy, age six, walked up to my Grandpa and gave him a hug.
“You can’t do that,” is all I can remember thinking at the time.
I wonder if I was wrong?