Tag Archives: Grandfather

Catching Good News at the Ballpark

I have been going to baseball games since Grandpa Spec threw me in the passenger seat of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle (sans seat belt) and hauled me to Sec Taylor stadium to watch the Iowa Oaks. It’s been a lifetime of going to games as a kid, of taking my kids to baseball games, of attending games of the Iowa Cubs, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, San Antonio Missions, and Laredo Lemurs. Somewhere along the way I gave up on the notion that winning the ballpark lottery is in the cards for me.

I’m never the one lucky enough to catch a foul ball or a home run shot. Wendy and I have never been on the “Kiss Cam” even when we’re one of ten couples at Principal Park on an April afternoon. I’ve never caught a hot dog out of the golf cart cannon. The t-shirt cannon never shoots the t-shirt my way. I’ve never won Ballpark Bingo. My row or seat has never been chosen to win the free car wash. Yes, there was that one time that they announced my birthday on the board, but that was because Wendy paid for a suite for a birthday party for me with our friends. It’s not so special when you pay for it. (Anyone who heard my message last Sunday is laughing at the sheer pessimism of this paragraph)

So it was that on this past Tuesday night Wendy and I arrived at Principal Park to watch our Iowa Cubs take on the Sacramento River Cats. It was a gorgeous night for baseball. We had been invited to be guests of our daughter Taylor who had some “Cubbie Dollars” given to her for her birthday in July. She also invited a few of her friends. It was “dollar hot dog” night and also “bring your dog to the ballpark” night so we were eating our hot dogs, drinking our beer, and enjoying all of our canine friends running around the place.

At the bottom of the second inning I suddenly heard Wendy on my left scream at the top of her lungs and I saw her jump up out of her seat in my peripheral vision. I turned to see her hugging Taylor, who was on her left, and screaming with joy and laughter.

What?!”

Didn’t you see it?!”

What!?”

Didn’t you hear her say, ‘Look!‘?”

No. You’re on my left. That’s my really deaf ear.

It was then amid the laughter and celebration that Taylor’s friend Kim showed me the video she was taking with her phone. It showed the big video board at the ball park with the message “Grandma and Grandpa Vander Well IT’S A BOY!”

My turn to scream and shout and laugh and hug our daughter, even if it was a little bit late.

Just my luck. I missed it. I didn’t hear her say, “Look!” I didn’t see it in the moment. But you know what? That’s okay. I am so blessed. I may never catch a foul ball, or a t-shirt, or a stale hot dog shot from a cannon. I don’t care.

My grandson is on the way (and I caught the good news at the ball game).

featured photo courtesy keith allison via Flickr

Baseball Links Generations Together

ICubs GameWendy and I headed to Principal Park in Des Moines yesterday afternoon to attend our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. It was great to sit in the sun, get sunburn, eat a hot dog, and quaff a few cold ones despite our boys of summer getting trounced by Oklahoma City.

One of the many reasons I enjoy baseball is the history and traditions of the game. Given my love of history and my tendency to be nostalgic to a fault, it makes sense that I would love a game that has roughly been played the same way for almost 200 years. It’s a game that binds generations together.

My first trips to Sec Taylor stadium (now known as Sec Taylor Field at Principal Park) were in the early 1970s. About once a summer my grandpa Spec would drive me to Sec Taylor (with a requisite drive by of the Iowa State Capitol building) for an afternoon game. In those days the home team was known as the Iowa Oaks, the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics. Grandpa would get us bleacher seats in the shade of the open grandstand roof, behind home plate. We watched some of the great players of Oakland’s  World Series winning “mustache gang” as they made their way up to the bigs.

Today, when I sit and enjoy the Iowa Cubs in a much nicer park I am reminded of my grandfather. I never fail to have memories of bringing Taylor and Madison to games when they were young. They still humor dad with an occasional trip to the park even though neither of them really cares about the game. I relive memories of bringing our young friends Nathan and Aaron. And, God willing, I dream of the day I get to bring my own grandchildren to a game at the same park, just as Grandpa Spec brought me.

Principal Park

Baseball links generations together.

Simple Habits Simply Exemplified

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NRSV)

I remember as a child going to spend a week with my grandparents in Le Mars. Mom would take me to the Greyhound bus station in Des Moines and put me on a bus, telling me to sit right behind the driver (where he could keep an eye on me, no doubt) and I would make the long bus ride to Sioux City where my grandparents would be waiting to shuttle me back to their house.

Staying with grandpa and grandma in the small town of Le Mars was a treat. I got to walk “uptown” to explore the shops on Central Avenue. I would be grandpa’s guest at Lion’s Club and we would play Canasta for hours on end.

Once a day, after we ate our meal, Grandpa would get out his Bible and a devotional called The Upper Room. He would read the Bible verse for the day and then read the short devotional thought for that day before offering a short prayer. It did not take long, and to this day I can’t recall any of the actual words or thoughts that were shared. Nevertheless, the simple act of doing it made an indelible impression on me.

Today, I’m thinking about God’s command through Moses not only to ingest and embody His words but also to pass them along to your children. I remember Grandpa reading the upper room after lunch. I recall the daily experience of waking for school and descending the stairs to find my father sitting in his chair, Bible open on his lap as he read and prayed. These things weren’t rigid religious disciplines demanded of us like some kind of cruel and inhuman punishments. They were simple habits simply exemplified which made an indelible impression on a child’s impressionable heart.

I pray that I have been faithful in carrying on the example for our children. I hope for the day when our grandchildren come for the week to the small town of Pella to explore the square and to be Grandpa and Grandma’s special guest so that I may continue to make an impression passed through the generations.

The Tragedies of Choosing Early Retirement

 

My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee.
My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor, sitting outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee and tour guide.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)

My grandfather was a school teacher and administrator for many years. When the school system told him he had to retire from teaching he took over the school lunch and bus program. When they told him he had to retire from the lunch and bus program he got a job as bailiff of the county courthouse. After many years working at the courthouse the judge called him into chambers and said, “Herman, I’m tired of having to wake you up to take the jury out. I think it’s time for you to retire.” In his nineties, my grandfather was no longer able to manage on his own. When he moved into the nursing home, however, he promptly gave himself the job of welcoming new residents and giving them a tour of the facility.

My grandfather was fond of saying that “the day I retire will be the day I die.”

David was a warrior. David was a general. David was a natural born leader. He was still in his prime, and yet now as King he chose to stay in Jerusalem and send the army out to war without him. It would prove to be a tragic choice. Because he was not out with the army doing what he was gifted and called to do, he found himself on the roof of his palace peeping at another man’s wife. Worse yet, it was the wife of one of his own men who was an honorable soldier. David then made the tragic mistake of inviting the woman over for dinner and sleeping with her. She conceived. The led to the tragic mistake of covering up his actions and ultimately conspiring to commit murder. The consequences of this series of tragic and unnecessary mistakes would haunt David, his family, his monarchy, and his kingdom for the rest of his life and beyond.

We are not told why David chose to “retire” from leading the army. A few chapters ago we read that David wanted to build a temple and God clearly responded that building the temples was not what David was called to do. I get the feeling that having finally ascended to the throne, David was feeling a bit of a mid-life crisis that is common to man. He’s tired of what he’s always been gifted at doing. Leading the army is what he’s done his entire life. Yes, he’s good at it, but it’s boring to him. David wants to retire from all that and build temples and do other things.

Perhaps David should have stuck with what he was gifted and called to do. Perhaps he should have taken my grandfather’s attitude and just stuck with the job until “retirement” was forced upon him. Tragic things happen when we choose to prematurely retire from the path to which God has called us and strike out on our own.

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Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 6

Bruegel Proverbs
Image via Wikipedia

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
      Learn from their ways and become wise!
Proverbs 6:6 (NLT)

I often tell the story of my Grandpa Vander Well. A life-long educator, when he hit mandatory retirement from teaching he took over the school lunch and bus programs. Years later he was told that he had to retire from that position. He promptly found a job as bailiff at the county courthouse. He held that job until he was in his 90’s and the judge called him into chambers to tell him, “Herman, I’m tired of having to wake you  up to take the jury out. It’s time for you to retire.”

A short time later he was moved to a nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee for new residents. He would take it upon himself to show people around and teach them the ropes. “The day I stop working,” he was fond of saying, “is the day I die.” He wasn’t far off.

As a young man I underestimated the generational impact that my Dutch Protestant heritage had on me. The work ethic that my grandfather inherited from his Dutch immigrant father and the culture of his upbringing was impressed upon his children and his children’s children. There is a lot to be learned and profited from a willingness to work and the honor of doing a job well.

I feel a rant coming on. I will, however, spare you the reading. Today, I’m thankful for the example of my parents, grandparents, and ancestors who honored both work and rest. I’m thankful for both my labor and my leisure.

It’s Monday morning. Time to get back to work.