Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Sing Silly Songs


Grampa grew up in the days when you made your own entertainment.
No television, computers, video games or cellphones – just imagination, conversation and radio.
I remember the few times Grampa and Gramma took us “to the cabin” on vacation.
We’d travel for hours (seemed like days to us, but was probably closer to four hours).
Grampa would entertain us and lead us in the singing of silly songs.
We’d chant “99 bottles of beer on the wall,”  warble about marching ants, and laugh through choruses of monkeys and goats.

My favourites went like this:

“Ain’t gonna rain no more, no more.
Ain’t gonna rain no more.
How in the heck can I wash my neck
If it ain’t gonna rain no more?”

“Peanut sittin’ on a railroad track;
his heart was all a-flutter.
Train came from around the bend:
Toot! Toot! Peanut butter.”

“Oh, the lady in the bathtub,
she was so skinny, you know,
that when she let the water out
she went right down the hole.”

Grampa sang silly songs LONG before there was a cucumber named Larry who sang them.
I, in turn, taught silly songs to my kids and (Lord-willing) will be a Gramma who sings silly songs!

“Do your ears hang low; do they wobble to and fro?  Can you tie them in a knot?  Can you tie them in a bow . . .”

“I’m a nut . . . I’m a nut . . . I’m a nut!!

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Naps aren’t just for five year olds.



I can’t decide if I’m a night owl or a morning person.
I like both.
Best for me is to go to bed at midnight and get up at 5.
But with five hours of sleep a night, I have a mid-day “slump.”

I remember when Grampa confided to the doctor that he was often awake at night and then falling asleep on the couch during the day.  He was told that this is quite common, in fact absolutely normal.  The doctor told Grampa not to toss and turn in bed and worry about missing sleep; rather get up, read the paper, have a drink of milk (non-fat powdered stuff *shiver*) and go back to bed when sleepiness returns.  And little twenty minute naps throughout the day are supposed to be very healthy and quite beneficial.

I had it drummed into me from an early age that naps are for preschoolers.  Adult napping is a complete waste of time.  So Grampa’s advice ran contrary to what i had always heard.  And the problem with my naps: they turn into hours and hours of a comatose state.  Then I awake feeling grumpy, groggy and miserable.

Lately, though, Grampa’s short snoozes seem to make more and more sense.
So if you walk into my office midday and find me with my head in my hands, I am most likely taking Grampa’s advice and catching 40 winks.

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Get the disagreeable tasks out of the way first.

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When I have work to do I often do not heed this particular bit of Grampa’s wisdom.

I iron on Tuesday nights.  I am not particularly fond of ironing,
but ironing is not the worst thing in the world.
Well, with the possible exception of ironing PANTS!

Given Grampa’s philosophy and teaching, you’d think that I would start with the pairs of pants and then move to the other stuff.  But no, I can’t face the pants so early in the evening.  So I begin with (wait for it) handkerchiefs.  Then I go on to the nearly permi-press shirts.   Next it is the 100% (or nearly) shirts which are wrinkled beyond recognition.
AND THEN I am ready to tackle the pants.

I do the same thing with the dishes — I wash the silverware last.
Schoolwork — marking at the end.
Housework — vacuuming as a finale.

Anything disagreeable — I put it off as long as I can.
Maybe the world will end before I get to those trousers!

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: A positive attitude makes the work lighter.

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bert and mary

Bert always reminded me a bit of Grampa.

There are always going to be things that we HAVE to do
which aren’t particularly savoury.
Grampa was a bit like Mary Poppins when it came to disagreeable tasks.
He couldn’t make things fly around the room and put themselves away,
however he believed he was responsible for his own attitude,
and that a positive attitude made the chore (and the surrounding people)
much more palatable.
Sometimes Grampa would sing while he worked.
Often he would hum.
And usually his attitude was infectious,
and before long others would join in the work.

Grampa could make the most boring exercise quite interesting.

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Laugh at least once a day.

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reader's digest laughter the best medicine


One of Grampa’s favourite things in the Reader’s Digest magazines (which he would pick up for a song in neighbourhood garage sales) was the column “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”  Grampa contended that laughter is good for one’s general health and he loved to read humorous stories which he believed were (for the most part) true.

Here is an example of one of those RD stories:
A fellow walked into a drugstore and headed to the back to speak to the pharmacist.
“Do you have anything for hiccups?” he asked.
Without warning, the pharmacist reached over and gave the man a sharp smack on the shoulder.
“Did that help?” he inquired.
“I don’t know,” the startled man replied. “I’ll have to ask my wife. She’s waiting in the car.”

Grampa seemed to have a story for every occasion.  And a smile that went with it!

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Clean up messes.

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I am a mess-maker of note.
When I get stuck into a project there are pieces of that project all around the house.
My problem is that I am a better mess-maker than I am a mess-cleaner.

Grampa was a firm believer in cleaning up messes, especially, but not only, one’s own.
Quite often, when Grampa was in the middle of something, he would clean as he went,
so by the time he got to the end of whatever it was he was doing, there was relatively little to put away.

I remember walking with him one day down Trestle Glen Road to the mailbox.  What seemed like miles to me then, I realise now in adulthood was actually half a kilometre.  As we walked we talked about school, friends, future.  I noticed Grampa would stop and bend down every few paces or so.  Grampa was busy picking up rubbish.  Whenever we reached a bin Grampa would make a large deposit.

Grampa, I’ve concluded, not only cleaned up his own messes, but also cleaned up the messes of others.

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Be content with what you’ve got.

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when life gives you lemons . . .

when life gives you lemons . . .

Grampa counted his blessings and always came out, as he said, ahead.
He was grateful for everything he had and he expressed that gratitude.

I once asked him what he’d do if he were given his pick of careers.
He stopped and thought for a while.
There were many things he thought he might like, but he wasn’t sure that he would appreciate them if he had to make a living from them.
He told me that he’d enjoyed his job and that things are mostly what you make them.

There were many aspects of Grampa’s life that, were I to walk in his shoes, I would grumble about.  But Grampa’s philosophy was to look at the positive and to be happy with what you’ve been given.

He was the original Lemonade-Maker.  And his lemonade was delicious!


pic found at: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/old%20fashioned%20lemonade

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Listen more than you talk.

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Grampa believed there was a reason we were each given TWO ears and only ONE mouth.
Grampa was a great listener.
I remember once I asked him for some advice.
He listened, asked questions and listened some more.
Somehow, through the listening and the questions,
I found the answer.  And Grampa smiled.

* pic from: http://whatjesusdid.org/383/hand-to-ear-listening/

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: Never Stop Learning

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I am a teacher.  Not only by profession, also by nature.
When I find something fascinating I love sharing it.

Grampa was a natural teacher.  He had a great deal of patience and a huge interest in everything around him.  I think he would have been a dynamite science teacher!

I never heard Grampa bemoan the fact that he didn’t get to do most of the things he would have like to have done.  He couldn’t travel extensively, so he subscribed to National Geographic and learned about the world from his armchair.  He didn’t have the opportunity to study journalism, but he used his writing and illustrating skills to help produce a newsletter/magazine for his skindiving club.  He had no formal training in ornithology, so he bought lots of bird books and some binoculars and began identifying birds wherever he went.  He taught himself Spanish with a recorded course he bought at a garage sale.  He kept his mathematics skills sharp by solving complicated multiplication problems mentally.  He completed crossword, sudoku, acrostic and word search puzzles. He loved clever puns and palindromes.

Grampa believed that if you ever stopped learning, if you ever ceased to be intrigued by your surroundings, if you ever lost the humble childlike wonder and delight, you would grow old.

Grampa was young till the day he passed on, because Grampa never stopped learning.


photos from: http://justconnect-connections.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html
and http://www.amcckenya.org/education.php 

Things My Grandfather Taught Me: “Pick fruit. Make jam.”

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Grampa grew up in the Great Depression.  He was 14 years old on Black Tuesday and he would be 25 — married with two young children — when the economy began to recover.  Living through the terribly lean times meant learning how to make a dime stretch out over a week. It required “penny pinching” and using things to their full potential. After being read (and reread) newspapers were used in the outhouses. Butcher’s paper doubled as grocery lists.  Even the cores of the apples were eaten. Nothing — not one thing — went to waste.

I wondered at my grandfather’s frugal ways when I was young.  He wasn’t one to go out and replace a broken item.  He would tinker around till he got the thing working again.  Since I was born at the end of the Baby Boomers and the beginning of the Gen X, I was raised in a much more disposable environment.  We didn’t knit sweaters, we bought them; we didn’t slave over the stove, we popped TV dinners into the oven.  We were fed a diet of television and made to believe that we could have anything we desired.  When it broke or we became tired of it, we threw it away.

One of Grampa’s joys was picking fresh fruit and canning it. Spending the day in an orchard was bliss. Fresh air, sunshine, exercise — it was heaven to Grampa.  And he would come home with pounds and pounds of apples or strawberries or plums. The next few days would be filled with washing, peeling, pitting, and cutting up gallons and gallons of fruit. Then the fruit would be cooked into preserves or jams or jellies.  After the bottles were filled, they would sit in the kitchen for a few days before being transferred to the basement.

I loved the colourful patchwork patterns the jars would form in the basement cupboard. Every now and again Gramma would send me downstairs for a “jar of that blackberry stuff.”  She’d holler ten minutes after I disappeared into the basement, “You get stuck down there?” because I would inevitably have to run my hands over every jar on every shelf.

Grampa’s “pick fruit, make jam” advice wasn’t meant to apply only to canning the fruit of the vine.  Grampa was trying to tell and show me that there is a joy and reward in producing things with your own hands.  The hard work makes the jam taste sweeter, fruitier, better.  My generation could learn a lot from Grampa’s!  Reduce, reuse, recycle.

I sure miss Grampa’s jams!


photo credit: http://www.life123.com/food/canning-preserving/jam-jelly/secrets-to-successful-jam-or-jelly.shtml

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