Look up–Look down-look all around


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Dad loved historical markers. He would stop the car when we were little and have us read the markers by the side of the road. It was as much the teacher in him as the parent in him. By the time we were old enough to know better it drove us nuts that he did that. So then the joker in him stopped to let us know he was still in charge.

I was once really angry with my dad. He looked at me and smiled and then said “look up.” I looked up. Then he said “look down.” So I did. Finally he said look all around.” So I did. He smiled and said “that’s my house. When its your house you make the rules.” I use that on my kids all the time. It’s a great way to calm them down when they are angry and remind them both that there are rules in this house and that someday they will have their own houses.

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My father in the old city of Bangkok Thailand circa 2004. He loved Thailand and its wonderful people. We all do. But he came alive in a special way there. Here he was walking around the old town with us showing the boys the sites. After a 24 hour trip in an airplane Barb and I were fried. We didn’t sleep. The boys of course slept on the plane and adjusted to the new time zone in one day. Like their grandpa they were up and running in Thailand.

The thing about my mother that always makes me proud is her willingness to be inclusive. When I got married the 2nd time (and after mom and dad had well saved me from sliding into depression) my wife-to-be had a daughter. My parents took her in as their first grandchild and to this day she remains their first and oldest grandchild. They have always treated her like all the other grandkids. That takes special people and both of them are special people.

The other thing about my mother is she is fair. When you make a mistake she will tell you. She doesn’t hold it against you but she will tell you. Sometimes she will tell you many more times than we want to. It helps make the lesson learned stick a little better I suppose. Thanks mom for making some of those lesson’s that I needed to have, stick!

.your loving son

Movies and dad cheating at Uno…


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The first picture is of one of the kids favorite quilts. The second picture is both dad and I adjusting our camera’s at the boys first birthday party. It seems like just yesterday we were in the hospital and mom and dad were driving over from Bloomington to Cincinnati to see them. It was in fact an event that happened 15 years ago.

I didn’t know my Grandfather Andersen very well. I have a couple of things of his that dad left me, including a picture of him with his Infantry Unit in World War I. I also have his pocket watch and my great grandfathers pocket watch. I remember visiting a house that seemed huge then but wasn’t in Wisconsin Dells and also visiting them in a smaller house in Racine Wisconsin. I remember the house in Racine because the Bulls Game was on. I do have the copper kettle that entered our family in 1863 as well.

Dad really didn’t talk much about the past. He didn’t like dwelling where he had been.

On to other memories. We used to play Uno as a family. You had to watch dad not only because his constant claims of color blindness would allow him to attempt to play any color at any time (color green, number 2 dad plays a red 5 “I am colorblind.”). It made the game more interesting. Dad wouldn’t play card games very often but when he did we always had a lot of fun.

Both mom and dad loved to watch movies. Ranging from light romantic comedies to some of the more classic films of the past. The arrival of the VCR allowed them to watch many more movies than previously. Originally we had 5 TV stations to choose from and with cable we went up to a grand total of 12 stations to watch. There was always a movie on, as long as you were willing to watch that movie. With a VCR mom and dad could watch any movie they wanted. Of the two I suspect my mother is bigger movie fan. My favorite memory of movies with mom was going to the original Pink Panther movies (although Steve Martin did a good job in the remake, it wasn’t Peter Sellers). Mom and I would go to the theater and laugh for the 100 minutes of the movie. Mom would also take me to some of her and Miss Hart’s favorite movies (Agatha Christie was a common favorite). The three of us went to see Murder on the Orient Express. That we didn’t laugh through but it was a memorable event.

.your loving son

Taking a wider view of my dad…


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A stitched photo of dad and part of his book collection circa 2006.

As you get older you find your memories are wound around the strangest things. In the case of my father it’s the moon landing of 1969, Thailand in 1972 and sitting in his office as a college student 1982-1984 and watching IU ball games (any year) with dad. I have many other memories of both mom and dad but those four are the ones that I wind all the others around.

In the winter we would start every conversation with a brief recap of the last game the IU team played. Dad had a brilliant eye for basketball played well. He knew when the team had come together and was ready and when they were struggling. Last winter we talked frequently about the maturity of the team and how they just weren’t ready. But dad was also a loyal IU fan. He loved the candy stripe uniforms.

Mom enjoyed the games although not as much as dad. I think in the end she just liked hanging out with dad during the games.

We had season tickets and I went roughly every other home game. Mom would go to the other games. I remember sitting next to dad during the two greatest sports seasons of my life. The undefeated regular season of 1975 only to lose to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament and the perfect 32-0 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.

No one can take 1976 away from us. 32-0. Dad took me to 8 or so home games that year. We sat high up in the professor section. We watched a magical team below us in a magical building. Yes 1981 was a great team as was 1987 but that 75/76 team that was the team dad and I rooted for. I learned a lot about basketball that year. What a team really was. I watched my father’s heart skip a bet until Kent Benson tipped the missed shot in against Michigan as time expired. He didn’t catch the ball he tipped it. Had he caught it the game would have been over. A moment in time dad and I watching as the tipped ball bounced into the basket and we beat Michigan by 1 point.

Mom wasn’t the sports fanatic dad was and taught me to become. Mom was creative. I watched her take a piece of fabric and turn it into a quilt. Quilts that my children won’t sleep without. She has over the years had each of the kids make part of a quilt so that they were involved in the process that resulted. I know that my nieces, nephews and my kids all love working on quilts with grandma. The boys would never admit it now they are too cool but they did and do love quilting with grandma!

.your loving son…

My first beer…


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Dad bought me my first beer at 21 years old at the Noble Romans on 3rd street on the West side of Bloomington. We had a beer and breadsticks and sat and talked for an hour or so. I carried on that tradition with Jaki and bought her first beer at Dogfish Grill in Gaithersburg Maryland. Life was different when I entered college and I struggled for my first couple of years. Part of me did not want to be like my father and become a teacher. I wanted to be my own person. Dad never pushed me to be anything other than what I wanted to be.  In my second full year of college I switched to the school of education and started eating lunch in dad’s office.

I don’t know why it meant so much to me to eat lunch in his office. It still means a lot to me all these years later as did that first beer. I guess it meant that connection that I pushed on and pulled on was still there. It gave me a sense of connection and it still does. That my father and I had and have a bond that is greater than simply biological.

In the end we all seek connections to our parents. To understand what and why they did what they did and became who they were. My mother’s father, my grandpa Ray was a great influence in my life. When I wasn’t getting along with my parents I could always talk to my grandfather. He always took their side when it came to the fairness of the work assigned but he listened to me. I realized later in life that both mom and dad listened to me as well, I just couldn’t hear them over the din of my own frustrations.

The most symbolic beer I shared with dad was a Singha in Bangkok Thailand in 2003. Mom and dad were staying in Thailand and mom/dad wanted the grandkids to see the place we had once lived in. Dad and I shared that beer at IPST the place that was built by Dad, Miss Hart and other members of the project from UNESCO all those years before (32 years before at that point). I was too young for beer the first time I was in Thailand. Now I could and it meant the world to me, it still means the world to me. To just sit and share a moment with dad.

It is natural in childhood to separate from your parents. Mom and I did just like dad and I did. With mom I always shared a love of cooking. So now I faithfully reproduce many of mom’s dishes. I learned to cook from my mom and dad. My dad was a by the numbers measurement kind of cook. My mother had a flair for flavors. Its really hard to recreate her recipes because there isn’t one. I remember the first time I cooked for my mother-in-law Joan Ralstin. She was horrified that I wasn’t measuring spices. She told me afterwards that she was dreading a very awkward meal (horrible food and an awkward silence) but instead she loved what I made. I was allowed to cook for her after that every time she came to our house or we went to their house.

Parents, Grandparents, in-laws, Aunts and Uncles all make us who we are. I was blessed with some incredibly awesome role models in every single case.

.your loving son (grandson, nephew and son-in-law)

July 4 2004


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Dad on the back porch July 4th 2004. Notice all the grandchildren none of them are that small anymore. The last two grandchildren Nick and Luke are the tiny boys in front. (Nick and Luke were born on the same day as my father March 30th)

People have seasons and dad’s was summer. He loved harvesting his garden (and tending his garden). He explored many different ways to plant the things he loved (and my mom loved). He played with raised beds and a number of other gardening innovations from around the world. He grew asparagus that was amazing as well as previously stated the best tomatoes.

Summer events were on the back deck at Mom and Dad’s house as the kids got older. Before dad planted the bamboo in the back yard there was a swing set that the kids loved to play on. The grills would be going and the coolers would be filled with drinks. Dad would be grilling and talking to everyone as he was in this picture. Later on this particular fourth of July we had sparklers and then everyone wandered home.

That’s the thing mom and dad both did as we got older (by we I mean myself, my two sisters remain young and vibrant). They made their house into a place people wanted to come and sit.

The major holidays were always there. For years mom and dad did an Easter egg hunt on their front lawn for the grandkids. Plastic eggs all over the front yard that mom would mow over for weeks afterwards shooting tiny bits of plastic across the yard. We finally had to implement a count (45 eggs put out 45 eggs recovered).

Dad liked to put state quarters and Susan b Anthony dollar coins in some of the eggs. It was just something he loved to do.

.your loving son

Pictures of my father…


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PC260605 Dad loved to take pictures he didn’t like to be in pictures. This is from Christmas morning 2010 (our last Christmas living in Indiana). I swung around to catch him unaware but he popped his camera up before I could get the picture.

SANY0024So even though this is two years earlier dad is in the exact same spot. This is Easter 2009.

My father was the family photog from 1960 to 2000 or so. With the advent of digital pictures I started taking family event pictures in roughly 2005.

PIE_8 This is one of dad’s old scanned slides. I don’t know where or when this slide is from. Its dad looking into the maw of a man eating plant I suspect, although I do know this slide is more than 30 years old so in fact the plant did not eat him.

This picture is important because he was not in the same spot as the other two.

As we sort and scan the thousands of slides from my great grandfather and father I will post them on occasion. Right now I have to figure out how to get them scanned.

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This one is of the Ajhan. From the party we had in 2006 at the graduation of one of his sponsored Thai students (Nat). Dad was so animated as the Ajhan it is hard to imagine him ever actually sitting down.

.your loving son

Canoe’s and Turkey Buzzards…


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My dad loved Old Towne Canoes. We drove up to Indianapolis to the Galleons’ second hand store to look at a couple of canoes. We ended up buying two 17 foot canoes. One had a cut out at the end so you could attach a motor but dad was a purist and we never added the motor. As boy scouts we used those canoes all the time. Over the years dad found many wonderful walks (I now realize they were wonderful not so much then). One time we walked from through the woods around Griffey Lake (actually the first water supply for the town of Bloomington Indiana).  We had Phoebe with us and of course she loved water so she was in the muddy water of the small lake we found about a 1/2 mile North of Griffey. It took Lynne and I an hour to get her clean when we got home. Then we were informed that we also had to clean out the car. That took another hour. I suspect there is a life lesson in there somewhere. I still haven’t found it. But we got her clean. We got the car clean (on the 3rd or 4th attempt. When dad went into inspector general mode it was hard to get anything clean to his specification).

Later in life dad had hearing aids. It changed his approach to parties and gatherings. When I was young you would find my father in the middle of the discussion. Later because of the hearing aides he would move to the sides of the party so as not to get blasted with all the noise. Dad was a consummate story teller at parties. He could regale you with wonderful stories from his past (or from his families past). It was wonderful to sit and listen to him talk. Given the chance of course dad would take the conversation off track with a pun or wry comment.

Mom on the other hand tended more towards subtle humor. She could, like a great prize fighter, land the one punch that ended the fight on occasion but her primary weapon was the use of subtly in humor. She also loved to use colorful names for people. As a child I was always amazed at the colorful (not rude) names my grandfather used to address other drivers. Cement Head, bubble brain were a few of them. Mom would do the same thing. At some point along the way she picked up the phrase “Turkey Buzzard.” Depending on the tone in her voice when the TB was uttered you knew if you were in trouble, or had simply made her stop and think. The first one meant move away quickly, the second one meant you had entertained her but not enough to make mom laugh.

.your loving son…

A side visit to Bangkok…


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My favorite all time picture of my dad and I was taken at my first wedding. Dad and I standing side by side and arm in arm smiling at the camera. I have so many memories of dad smiling. Often because he had just said something or done something to entertain himself. But also because in the end he loved the world around him.

Another great memory I have is visiting my parents on the way home from Malaysia in 2005. I spent the weekend with them in Bangkok. Dad was Ajhan again. He was a simple man in that as long as he felt he had something to give he gave it. His friends and colleagues in Thailand wanted information from him and he just lit up.

Mom and her friend Miss Hart took me to a restaurant near the Chao Phraya river that runs nearly through the city. We had a wonderful brunch at the hotel and I got to play grandpa and pay. My grandfather taught me a number of tricks you could use to make sure they always brought you the bill instead of anyone else at the table. I learned at the hand of the master. We had a wonderful meal – the buffet had virtually everything you could ask for.

Why the story about lunch? First it was a wonderful chance to hang out with mom and Miss Hart. Miss Hart and mom became friends in 1972 and 33 years later they were still close and now dear friends. Miss Hart was English and often very proper but she made the best clotted cream apple pie on earth. We sat at that buffet and talked for over an hour. Then headed back to the IPST building where dad was teaching.

The Ajhan had been teaching all day and was ready for dinner when we got back to IPST. The upper floors of the IPST building were living quarters for visiting scholars and the rest of the building was the science, math and education preparation area for the people working for IPST. We ended up going to a seafood place that was about 4 miles away from IPST. I love Thai seafood. Partially because it reminded me of 1972 and partially because it is amazing. We sat at the restaurant and talked. The conversation wandered around the various people in the room. It filled me with a sense of pride to see how much the people at the table with us loved Ajhan Hans and Kuhn Sandy.  I had long past that moment in life realizing my parents were human. But it was nice for a couple of hours to get to see them through the eyes of others.

May my teachers be well, happy, and peaceful.
May my parents be well, happy, and peaceful.
May my relatives be well, happy, and peaceful.
May my friends be well, happy, and peaceful.
May the indifferent persons be well, happy, and peaceful.
May the unfriendly persons be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all meditators be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.

.your loving son

Dad the botanist and yes he was a great father…


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When I was a teenager as I am sure many teenagers do most of my conversations with my father were arguments. I was trying of course to separate and be my own person. I don’t know why I struggled with that so long. One of the things that used to drive me nuts then was that every teacher I had in school knew or had my dad in class. They would always start the year with “Your so lucky he’s your father.” Or some other statement about how wonderful a teacher he was.

Dad was a fantastic person and a wonderful father. I grant that. But it was hard to be facing his legacy as a teenager as I was starting to build my own legacy. Dad took that crap from me and helped me out grow it. It was really hard lesson for me and one that he was patient (mostly) and willing to wait for me to grow out of. Those are the kind of lessons that you think about later.

That period impacted my mother as well. I think I stretched the bonds of our relationship just as far as I stretched my relationship with dad. In the end it took me well after college to grow up. But that is another, darker story.

Dad could identify every plant and tree (or so it seemed to me at the time) when I was a kid. When we would go on hikes he would stop and point out a plant. I loved his story of the simple fern. He talked about the fact that the fern had been around since the time of the dinosaurs and was part of the oil we consumed for power and gasoline. But the fern kept going. He talked about flowers that when you touched them they popped. The goal of the flower being the spread of pollen onto an insect that landed on the petals. He took us as Boy Scouts deep into the heart of Brown County State Park near Nashville Indiana where there was a virgin forest. A forest untouched by humans. Trees that whispered of time long gone. It was a pristine ancient forest and dad showed us the trees that had been around well since before Bloomington.

I am not sure mom loved being outdoors on those hikes as much as dad did but she was always there. Bringing along the girls and I and trying to keep up with dad. Even though he wasn’t tall he had the longest stride of anyone in the family. So when he took off into his beloved woods he was gone. The difference on the walk between the two of them? Mom would look back more often to make sure we were keeping up. Dad would get wrapped up in the walk taking pictures and could end up a 1/2 ahead before he realized he had lost us.

Oh how I hated those walks as a teenager. Just one more thing now that I would love to have a chance to do again.

.your loving son

Just another amazing thing my dad taught me…


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When I was five or six years we old we moved from Vernon Hills Illinois (just outside Chicago) to Bloomington Indiana. My father (I didn’t know it then but I do know it now) got a National Science Foundation grant to complete his doctoral degree in science education. We ended up living in old converted either Korean War or World War II army barracks. The place was called Hoosier Courts.

I was a bit wild as I have mentioned previously so that is the first of the stories. There was a fire escape on the buildings (the old barracks) and my friends and I would climb up and drop off the fire escape. It was a good fall probably 3-5 feet and within weeks I was covered in bruises. What happened next is something I owe my mother a huge apology for. At a Doctor’s appointment the doctor asked my mother if she was abusing me. My mother responded no to the question. I suspect knowing her nature that was probably one of the worst days up to that point of her life. For me it was just another squiggly hour at the Doctor, school or anywhere else I had to sit for more than 10 minutes.

Near Bloomington Indiana on the map is a large lake called Lake Monroe. It was an early 1960’s Army Corp of engineers project. They were cutting huge flood plains and building a massive damn to create this new reservoirs when we first arrived in Indiana. The dam was in place in 1965 but the lake was still filling in. They also cut large boat docks and flood water release gates out of the limestone hills. In so doing they revealed geodes. My dad was a biologist but he loved science. He taught me all about the wonder of sedimentary rock. We would go to those swath’s of suddenly visible bedrock and he would point to the fossils and layers of rock there. Then we would wander off to the debris field and search for geodes. My mother loved the beautiful quartz crystals produced in the ancient mud bubbles. My father loved my mother so we went looking for them.

One time when I was very young mom found the perfect Geode. It was huge and dad had to lug it out of the place we found it and back to the car. When we cracked it open it had the most beautiful quartz and other crystals. It weighed a ton. That rock was displayed in every house my parents owned in Bloomington Indiana.

Those memories are strong. I remember dad talking about Limestone and the wonder that it represented. Millions of years of history just there for the touching. He also introduced me to Crinoids and Crinoid Stems. They were all over the limestone. As the limestone (a soft rock) wore away the Crinoid stems would be left behind. In the creek near our house in Sherwood Oaks we found thousands of them. If you think about the fact that they could have been as much as 450 million years old it is well just another amazing thing my dad taught me.

.your loving son