Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The logical, mathematical, rational side of me understands estate taxes and that the trust wasn't set up properly and that if it had, my grandfather's dream of the retreat place for church groups would still be functioning as he intended for generations to come. I do get it. But my sentimental side, that person who less than a month ago had to be the oldest grandchild and stand up at the church and speak for all of us, is still grieving and it just KILLS me that some stupid lawyer didn't listen carefully enough and didn't do his job well enough and now it's all going to be gone. Sold. Ok, not just grieving. I'm a bit mad, too. Grandpa Schnebly deserves more than this sad end to his dream.
John Thomas Schnebly was an amazing man. An eye surgeon who served in the army, Grandpa Tom spent the rest of his career as a philanthropist. Most of his office furniture was received as "payment" for services. He was always behind schedule because he took the time needed for each patient. I have so many stories told by mother about it him (and that's all I have, I only met him twice, being the grandchild who grew up in Sweden and lost him when I was only 8). He volunteered with the Lions Club, at his church, and of course, took in a foreign exchange student (who married my mom, but that's another post). In the 40s, he bought a parcel of land, covered in briars, with the thought that one day he'd build a lodge and lend it out, free of charge, so that church groups would have some place to go for retreats. He figured the family could camp there until that happened, and wasn't it nice, it was on the water and people might like to swim, or go out in a canoe.
He had a friend who was an architect who drew up some plans for a simple A-frame structure, one room and bathroom on the first floor, another room and a bathroom on the second floor. Pull-out double sleeper sofas on all the sides, pull-down sleeping bunks on all the walls. Lots of sleeping pads upstairs where there was no other furniture. Even a crow's nest loft for the adventurous few. Slept a total of 30 with no crowding. They built it. It was a true 1960s masterpiece with green, gold, avocado and shag carpet. A gorgeous view of Mill Creek (a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, this was Annapolis, MD) The groups came. Keys were sent in the mail. My brilliant, organizing, take charge Grandma Vivian organized it all. For a refundable $25 deposit, the 2 1/4 water front property was yours for the weekend. Clean up after yourselves and leave the heat at 55 degrees.
Family of course used it too. "Grandma, is there a group this weekend?" Ok, then we'll just take the boat out and not spend the night. We knew that Grandpa had bought the property for others to use, and the groups knew that family might pass through on the way to their various watercraft, might use the bathroom coming and going. Grandma, though, knew how much we loved the place and gently encouraged the groups (who knew what a treasure they had access to year after year) to schedule their retreats not during boating season.
As I look back on my childhood, what I remember is spending every weekend, of every summer, at the Briarpatch. Because that's what it ended up being called. As any good summer home, it had it's own name. The briar's had been tamed into a manageable grove of incredible berries that we picked. There was a boat ramp, a "ditto" (a miniature copy of the main house that kept all the boats, canoes, life preservers, fishing equipment, etc), a dock, a beach, a fire pit, a hammock, a porch overlooking the "creek".
Our immediate family owned a series of boats. "I think we need a bigger boat next year," I'd hear my father say. (He'd taken me to see "Jaws" on a special father/daughter date and it's been a favorite quote of ours ever since) We started off with a sunfish and ended up with a 26' cruiser that slept 6. Oh, those were the days. To this day there's nothing more relaxing to me than sailing. I can get so lost in the rhythm of the waves and the wind and the slapping of the sails and the hypnotic monotony of it all that it finally releases that last little control freak brain cell in me and I'm truly calm. I tell you it doesn't happen often to me but it happens when I'm sailing. And lying there with my eyes open, staring at the sail meeting the mast with the clouds rolling by and the listening to nothing but the wind and the water and pretty soon and hour of what most people would call silence has gone by. There aren't a lot of people today who are comfortable with silence, but my beloved father is one of them. We have gone sailing together and communicated more with each other in two hours of just BEING in the cockpit of a sailboat on a long tack of blissful quiet solitude than you can imagine. And it's been too long.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
It's my privilege to share about Grandma on behalf of her five grandchildren. Ryan Ford could not be here today, he's an ER nurse in NC. This is my little brother Tom Bilen, from Waterford, VA and this is my little sis from Thornton, CO and my cousin Lindsay Ford from Damascus, MD.
We have many fond memories of Grandma, but one that sticks out for all of us was that Grandma loved to play cards, and she taught us all. She was a great bridge player, and was in two different bridge clubs. She really wanted me to learn bridge because “it's a smart person's game, and you're very smart, you'd be good at it.” So I'd play two hands of honeymoon bridge with her to make her happy, and then I'd have her teach me poker. We played lots of poker. She taught me a lot of different poker games, she had a lot of chips that we kids got to play with as we wanted to, but with me, we used them for their intended purpose. We got to take turns spending the night alone at Grandma's house on weekends, and that was such a special treat. Her apartment was so elegant and different from our house, and she treated us like little adults. We got to drink coke not milk with dinner, and we got to sleep in her king size bed with her.
Grandma was a ferocious knitter. She knitted probably a hundred sweaters over the years. She kept track of whose turn it was, and then it would be a special trip to the knitting shop to pick out a pattern and the yarn. Then it seemed like only a week would go by and there would be your sweater, looking just like the picture! No matter how complicated, she could do it. It was only as I got older and paid attention that I realized how much the yarn cost as they rang us up, and how much it cost to have the sweaters assembled by the knitting shop. She spoiled us this way.
Grandma also made sure that we had the skills we needed for success in life. She taught me to balance a checkbook at the age of ten, and insisted that I learn to type as soon as it was offered in school, but graciously typed all my research papers until I could do it myself. She had taken secretarial classes and could type over 100 words a minute with amazing accuracy. She was a very frugal spender (well except for the sweaters...) and stressed the importance of savings and budgeting. She was a financial whiz and fairly well off, but didn't flaunt it.
I do remember one extravagance though, and Melinda and I were the recipients of and amazing vacation. She took us on a cruise when we were in college and it was a trip to remember.
Grandma was a gracious hostess and always put on a great buffet. She loved to experiment with jello and made some very interesting concoctions. I know that some of them came from actual recipes, like Pacific Lime Mold (the name “mold” always scared me...) but personally, I don't like cottage cheese, and certainly NOT in my jello. The running joke was always, “What would Grandma put in the jello this time.” Well, we really weren't expecting what we encountered that one famous time. We had learned to approach her jello mold with caution, and this particular time it was a good thing. From the kitchen we hear, “Where is my band-aid?” almost in unison with, “What is that in the jello this time?” Sure enough, her band-aid had somehow made itself Jello!!!!!!!
Grandma Vivian, you were amazing, and I miss you. Thanks for loving us so well.