Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Checking in on the menfolk.


My step-grandfather Stosh always asked the same question at holiday weekends. "You working?" Work was a different affair back in Stosh 's day. He retired out of General Motors when it still could be called generous motors. In his spare time, he made money finding scrap metal and taking it to scrap yards to sell. The man must have had lungs of steel because he found copper cable and then burned it or skinned it with a knife. I am sure his backyard in Warren, Michigan is a superfund site with all the PCBs he left there. He probably had enough asbestos in his lungs to serve as a case study. He didn't smoke anything but inexpensive cigars. In fact, I bought him some expensive cigars after I started to earn money as a teacher and he didn't smoke them.
As a rite of passage, around six, all of his step-grandchildren got to accompany him on his runs. Older brother MJ didn't want to go. Younger brother EJ was too young. I remember him talking with foremen on aluminum siding jobs when the entire city of Troy and Sterling Heights arose from farmland in a single decade. We would load up the station wagon with the scrap. This treasure we drove down to Eight Mile and sold it to the men who ran the yards. Stosh met my grandmother Stella when he was hospitalized and she was working there as a nurse's aide. The spare money he earned he put into savings bonds, which he saved up to take Grandma Stella on cruises and nice vacations. I didn't learn much about their courtship, but I do remember bringing by a girlfriend to meet them and he totally charmed her to bits.
As for "junking", I didn't get a chance to go anymore when my parents moved out to the farm in Byron, Michigan. My uncle's boys picked up where I left off and TD Junior and SB became partners. TD Junior went into the salvage business, which can be lucrative. I read about him in the paper when a corpse was found in the yard on Eight Mile Road. As for SB's brothers, one had a high level engineering position at General Motors, the kind where a new car lease came with the job, the Cadillac level. The second one worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield in the auditing department, and I always saw his name in the email list when I consulted at BCBSM. At Stosh's funeral in 1999, I spent about a hour listening to him talk about all the grandfalloons he had busted. That's accounting talk for embezzler. Stosh had a huge issue with alcohol and he spent the best years of his life sober with my grandmother, saving money for retirement and going out to eat several times a week. When my grandmother died of lung cancer and he relapsed. I last saw him alive, unconscious in a hospital room on Ryan Road, the victim of a hit and run. I have suspicions it wasn't an accident. I have not dug into this wreck yet. I miss him and Stella. A few times, he took me to the horse races at Hazel Park, and when I moved to Northville, his first question on the phone was, "Hey, so you live by the races?"
I've taken A., my daughter, to the horse races because she has stated an interest in veterinarian studies, and what a lovely way to see horses who get plenty of veterinary attention. She also has talked about becoming a psychologist, a career that I support. I've only taken her to Northville, Harness Racing. I've gone to Keeneland and the Red Mile in Lexington, plus several race tracks in Illinois and California. I'm going large if I put ten bucks on a race. I used to meet an old friend out at Sports Creek near Flint, and he would put down 500 on a race, using a careful system that made him money most of the time. He sat in the Whale section. A.and I don't go to circuses anymore because she's taken a stand on animal cruelty at circuses. Horse races she thinks differently about.  We lay bets on the contests, but not with money. I showed her a system of picking winners that I figured out years ago, and it rarely loses money. It was a way to begin introducing the idea of studying reports and understanding risk, an introduction to stock market investments. Sometimes we talk about Stosh at the horse races, his days of grace and his fall, hoping she'll know how to avoid people who prey on weaker and lonely people. "If your evening starts to feel like a CSI episode, go home". I tell her this. I am so glad she is surrounded by beautiful people, although one or two people strike me as issues. Disagree with my former wife about many issues, but on one issue I certainly admire her. She can see bullsh* walking a mile away. I guess you see it all when you waitress at the most popular sports bar in East Lansing.
Speaking about corpses, I was working at my station at an old-line manufacturer in Warren, Michigan, in the only five story office building south of Twelve Mile and my co-worker asked me if I had a brother named MJ. JM and I were programmer analysts, and we sat by each other for five years. My brother MJ had made the papers when he called police after discovering a body on the road before his house, a house no more than five minutes by car from my office then. Does it surprise anyone that Eminem had a home with his mother in this neighborhood and got in a bar conflict close by on Hoover Road? MJ lived in that neighborhood with my brother-in-law, the retired pharmacist. I love women. Can't imagine a different preference. My brother EJ is married and fairly happy with his wife AJ. MJ is still alive because he found JK and they settled down. Detroit has a pretty notorious underground bath house scene and MJ had no need to plunge into it after JK and he took an apartment together. They are still together, although I find myself struggling to keep a relationship to him alive. I leave this story for another day.
I stopped in at my sister's house in Fabulous Ferndale and WS came to the door, looking pale and like a Star Wars character, wearing a hoodie. He's finishing up a program in cabinet making at an industrial school in Plainwell, Michigan and his instructor has already recommended him for jobs in Detroit. He's specializing in moldings, and that's exciting because moldings can be very lucrative. I can see a sawmill and custom molding shop in his future. I wanted to drive him back to Plainwell Sunday, but he was looking forward to taking the Greyhound on Monday. WS is the youngest, and I remember bringing him a plush animal on his third day of life. WS and I lived in the house in Doepher in the old neighborhood, and he's the only nephew I've diapered. He has worked in a line of stores, everything from salvage to liquor stores, and he would do well if he could get to school to learn retailing. I didn't have time, but I wanted to stop by the store in Oak Park where he was helping sell hydroponics and disc golf equipment. But after talking to SS, his father, for a long time, I had no time because I was expected at 4:30 PM at the restaurant in Byron. My brother EJ had told my mom he was bringing out hamburgers to grill, but was to bring her to her favorite restaurant, Janelle's in Byron, where I would be waiting. RS had signed up with the military, and now his father the Marine likes the Army because his son graduated from Infantry School and now serves in Iraq. So of the three sons of my sister AS and her first and second husband, the same guy, all three are making progress. Where was AS, the mother of the three nephews? My mother and father are visiting her on Thursday in a facility in Farmington Hills, where her husband drove her Friday, according to a psychiatrist's recommendation. So another wreck to dive into. Visitors are strictly limited to two a day and looks like I have another reason to go to Detroit next weekend. I understand it is short term, scheduled to be completed May 18th. For the most part, AS has been a happy biker wife, proud mother of a soldier and the sister who always blew me sass. Posts the sass on my Facebook. Keeps up a running conversation with A, my daughter, on Facebook. Hangs out with the wives of soldiers at the American Legion. SS, my brother-in-law, had an accident that almost took his leg in October 2005, and although he's bought a new Harley, he hasn't taken it out of the garage this season.
I arrived on time at Janelle's but only because of the reservation and the closing time of 6 PM. Usually, I arrive on uncle time. Uncles in the family got to arrive when ever they wanted. My uncle TD could stay late at the golf course. My uncle LC could drop in with his truck and camper any time. My uncle CC could show up with his fishing gear anytime. At Janelle's we sat at a long table and ate from the mediocre buffet. This is my mother's favorite restaurant but I will not return there again for a buffet. WJ, my brother's oldest son, has performed exceptionally well in school and has gone three times to nationals in a completion called Odyssey of the Mind. He'll be going to Maryland for nationals again at the end of the month. He has a shot at University of Michigan, although it's going to be a trememdous culture shock for him. He's been to Ann Arbor for an endless number of times for our Ann Art Fair run, so he knows the grounds. My brother brought this up and I made a mock show of dismay. If WJ got into U of M Ann Arbor and graduated from the school, EJ could lord this over me forever at holiday gatherings or even in simple Facebook messages. It would be worse if IJ also attended and graduated because he would have two Maize and Blue graduates to my one entrant in the college race. Whatever it takes to encourage the boys, right?
Photography Credit:
Laborer in bib overalls Digging the fire pit.
12 May 2007
David Goehring

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