In 1837 Nathaniel Gamage, Jr. became the second keeper of the Pemaquid Lighthouse in New Harbor, Maine. He and other lighthouse keepers up and down the New England coast were…
In 1837 Nathaniel Gamage, Jr. became the second keeper of the Pemaquid Lighthouse in New Harbor, Maine.
He and other lighthouse keepers up and down the New England coast were called “wickies,” named after the whale-oil soaked wicks of the lanterns they were tasked with trimming and keeping alight to alert ships nearing the rocky shore.
On a hot sunny September day 186 years later, a new group of travelers came to the lighthouse: my wife and I, along with Jack and Kalley Moore, their son Ryan (our son in law), and the two grandsons we have in common — Henry and Charlie. Jack, Ryan and the boys are all direct descendants of Nathaniel Gamage.
This was more than a typical tourist visit. It was more like a homecoming.
To say that the Pemaquid Lighthouse is iconic doesn’t do it justice. It sits atop a rise of granite high above the ocean, and on the day of our visit the white of the majestic tower was matched by the whitecaps of the waves stretching out across the horizon. Henry and Charlie scrambled over the rocks and darted around the throngs of visitors lining up to ascend up the lighthouse.
While we waited our turn in line, Jack let the State Park ranger know about the Moore family’s ancestral tie to the lighthouse. The lanky ranger was in his 60s, a retired cop with a thick Maine accent. As soon as he heard that not one but THREE generations of Gamage descendants were visiting his whole face lit up. Other people in line heard the news as well and we all joined in a lively conversation, with the park ranger sharing history and chatting with Henry and Charlie.
I brought the boys through the house attached to the lighthouse, now a museum. They were thrilled to see the artifacts on display, including the name of their great, great, great, great (at least this many greats) grandfather listed on a plaque.
Soon it was our turn to go up into the lighthouse. The stairs were narrow and steep, and we grandpas and grandmas ascended cautiously while the boys were eager to sprint.
There was just enough room at the top for our extended family. I think it’s fair to say we all felt a sense of wonder being there. The view was of course breathtaking, looking out through the glass to a panoramic and classic view of the Maine coastline.
In the center was the light, surrounded by our family. The brilliant sunshine hit the curved Fresnel glass lens and refracted around us.
We were there in the present, yet with a sense that the lighthouse itself was a beacon that shone across the years to the time of grandpa Gamage. I wondered what Nathaniel would have said if someone had told him that someday this visit would happen, that his future family would stop by in a few hundred years, with these amazing kids a testament to his legacy.
While I am not related to grandpa Gamage, he and I have the very best things in common: Henry and Charlie, and the joy of passing on a little bit of who we are to the next generations to come. For me, this was a shining, shimmering revelation.
After we’d very carefully descended the winding stairs, Ryan and the boys went down to the shore to walk and play along the rocks by the crashing waves. I could see them in the distance silhouetted against the water as the boys held up discovered shells for dad to see, or jumped from rock to rock, while seagulls swooped and soared above.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed more and more people who’ve “had work done” on their faces. I genuinely hate the results of most plastic surgery; many people look like…
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed more and more people who’ve “had work done” on their faces.
I genuinely hate the results of most plastic surgery; many people look like they’ve stuck their head out the window of a speeding car, the wind pushing back their skin into a perpetual grimace. They don’t look younger at all. I would pay a surgeon to NOT look like that, and the fact that so many people fork over thousands in a desperate attempt to recapture their youth is sad.
My sixty-three-year-old wife is beautiful, wrinkles and all. I have wrinkles, too. We earned them.
All those times we juggled work and daycare for the kids? There are facial lines for that.
The time my son came down with meningitis and I rushed him to the hospital for tests? It took a doctor and two nurses to hold him down while they inserted a needle into his spine to extract fluid for testing. He screamed. Afterwards, they gave him a drug to erase his memory of the experience, but there was no such drug given to me. I picked up a few wrinkles that day.
When my eldest grandson was having trouble breathing due to a bad case of RSV, the lines on my face deepened.
We prayed for him to get better, and he did. I’m keeping the resulting wrinkles to remind myself, every time I look in the mirror, that prayer matters.
I’ve had surgery on my thyroid, left foot, and several hernias. The stitches healed, but the stress added a lot more lines.
There have been many good times as well, now etched on our faces. Like all the days in the sun at Willoughby Lake in Vermont swimming with our grandkids. I can trace the lines around my mouth formed by smiling (and yes, sun damage. I should have put on more sunscreen).
Our faces are a map of our lives, each line a bend in the road marked by joy or sadness. We own them and nobody will take them away, least of all a surgeon paid to stretch them into oblivion.
Call me sentimental or old fashioned. You can even call me just plain old. There’s no point trying to be something I’m not.
In fact, I find it liberating to accept my age and all that comes with it. And the money I’m saving from avoiding plastic surgery? I’m going to buy a swing set for the grandkids.
That said, I’m not in a position to judge others, no matter what extent they go to update their faces.
Madonna recently took a lot of heat for her extensive surgery. She’s an amazing legend and what she did was her personal decision. More power to her. There are also many people who have minor work done, like the occasional Botox treatment. There is no right or wrong here.
All I’m trying to say is that the wrinkles that come with time should be accepted and even celebrated. What do you think?
Peter Pan protested that he would not grow up. In the island of Neverland, he and Wendy could live a never-ending adventure filled with pirates, fairies and crocodiles, and they…
Peter Pan protested that he would not grow up. In the island of Neverland, he and Wendy could live a never-ending adventure filled with pirates, fairies and crocodiles, and they could fly.
As a grandfather, I’ve rediscovered my inner boy, that eternal Peter Pan that never really left me but was hidden from my vision for a while. I become Peter again when I’m building a cave out of couch cushions with my grandkids. Venomous snakes hunt across the jungle floor (the living room) in search of prey. A pterodactyl (me) swoops down and darkens the sky, talons reaching towards the mouth of the cave as the helpless little ones scream with laughter.
Childhood is indeed a magical place, but as parents and grandparents we know all too well that it doesn’t last forever.
When I was very little, I remember my dad would hold me up and rub my face against the stubble of his early morning beard, the sandpaper-like feel of it making me giggle. Then one day when I was older, he picked me up and was about to do what he’d always done, but I stopped him and said, “I don’t like that anymore.” He looked very sad. At the time I didn’t understand why.
But I do now.
As a grandpa, I’m experiencing time with a sense of increasing acceleration.
My eldest grandson is now 9, and the time between when I held that baby boy and the long-limbed seemingly pre-teen he is today, the one who is able to tackle me to the floor quite effectively, passed in the blink of a crocodile’s eye. And with this rapid passage of time I’ve become more aware than ever of the little changes I see in my grandkids, the moments I see them emerging from Neverland, sometimes in small steps, other times in giant leaps.
There’s great joy in seeing them progress upward in life (and all of them very tall, like me). Yet I feel an almost indescribable sadness when I see them leaving their own childhoods behind. A sadness that the magic I have witnessed—and rediscovered—is fleeting.
It’s one thing to experience this as a parent. As a grandpa, the emotions are all the more poignant because I know this is my last rodeo.
Each step that I see them take into adulthood has an air of personal finality for me because I know I will only see this once. And may not live long enough to see them have children of their own. This is it.
I recently had one of these joy/sadness moments on a Sunday morning. My son came over with his two girls to hang out and eat too many bagels, one of our favorite weekend activities.
Like most grandparents, my wife I read a lot to our grandkids. Whether it’s Goodnight Moon, or searching once again for the elusive rainbow elephant, we’re always reaching for another book. No matter what’s going on, or which grandchild is with us, we’ll ask if they’d like to read a book, and another, and another.
On this particular Sunday, I was in the living room with our youngest granddaughter, not yet 2 years old. She’s a very bright girl, cute and always fearlessly active (rock walls? Yes!) and highly focused on building Magna-Tile structures or whatever toy is before her. I was sitting in my leather chair, enjoying watching her bustle about. The sun was shining through multiple windows, filling the room with a bright, warm feeling. She was snapping Legos together, quietly figuring out what pieces would fit.
Then she looked up at me with her big brown eyes, picked up a book and held it toward me, and asked, “Would you like to read a book?”
I was startled. This very young girl, still in diapers and barely beyond infancy, had just formed a complete sentence, and the look on her face was suddenly so grown-up, so girl versus baby, that the joy/sadness of the moment struck me with full force. The part of me that was in the room then, fully present with my granddaughter, replied, “Yes, I would love to read a book.”
The other part of me, this boy inside who never, ever wanted to grow up, was flying with Wendy hand in hand through the night sky, the wind in my hair, heading home.
Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.
When my kids were little, it seemed like my wife and I were constantly and frantically juggling daycare and illness. There’s no pleasant way to put this, but let’s just…
When my kids were little, it seemed like my wife and I were constantly and frantically juggling daycare and illness.
There’s no pleasant way to put this, but let’s just say there was a lot of vomit involved. This was of course in the 1980s, when the concept of “remote work” was a euphemism for simply not working. So we got very good at making bargains with each other.
“If you stay home him with him today, I’ll stay home tomorrow.”
“If you stay home with her, you can sleep late on Saturday.”
Flash forward to this year when our daughter, the mother of our two grandsons (8 and 6), called to let us know her nanny had given two weeks’ notice.
Our daughter had interviews lined up with a few nanny options, but nobody great had taken the position yet. A few weeks after that, with no nanny on board, we grandparents kicked into gear to help.
First, my son-in-law’s parents stayed with them for a week, dropping the kids off for the morning school bus, picking them up in the afternoon, taking them to lessons, sports practices, and on and on.
Then it was our turn. My wife and I packed up our laptops and headed off, picking up where the other grandparents had left off, kind of like a marathon race with senior citizens running and passing off the baton, except the baton was lunch boxes and backpacks or the bag for swim practice or soccer shin guards or, wait, there was something else, oh forget it the school bus is coming!
In short, the mad dash of our child rearing years comes back full bore, quickly morphing out of memory to a very present and urgent reality.
And here’s the thing: I loved every minute of it. One day one our youngest grandson couldn’t go to school because of a lingering cough. I let me clients know I was going to be in meetings all day and not available for calls. This was true, but I omitted the fact that my meetings were with my grandson.
We visited a graveyard nearby my daughter’s house and played the game of finding the oldest date etched in stone.
Then we went for a long walk by the ocean on a treelined road, the fall leaves showing red and yellow and orange, the sun bright.
I took him to Shake Shack for lunch and we kept talking over hotdogs and burgers.
When we got back to the house, my grandson wrote with invisible ink in his diary, played with dinosaurs, and watched My Little Pony.
Out of all the packed days I’ve had at work over the past 30 years, this was one of my most productive and enjoyable. I’m confident that if I live to be 99, chances are I won’t look back on that day and wish I’d spent it making more money.
It turns out there’s evidence that babysitting grandchildren, at least periodically babysitting them versus full time, has been shown to help grandparents live longer. The researchers don’t know why that’s the case, but the data backs it up.
I have my own theory and it’s pretty simple: Helping our kids with the grandkids renews our sense of purpose.
We like knowing that we’re needed and loved. Just as important, being with our grandkids—even if they have hacking coughs—is a recipe for joy. And joy is a very healthy thing, not just for us grandparents but for everyone.
The next day, my grandson was feeling much better and went off to school with his older brother. My wife and I waved to them as the school bus drove off, then we want back to our other jobs.
Like so many Americans I was completely horrified by the storming of our nation’s capital on January 6th. This, I thought, was the modern-day equivalent of the sacking of Rome…
Like so many Americans I was completely horrified by the storming of our nation’s capital on January 6th.
This, I thought, was the modern-day equivalent of the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths. The end of the American empire, at our own hands, no less. The people throwing fire extinguishers at the capitol police wore red, white and blue outfits. All for the purpose of Making America Great Again, as if this violence was a return to our better days. I absolutely hated the rioters, and still do.
But if I am to be truly honest with myself, I’d admit that not everyone there that day was a violent extremist rioter.
There were moms and dads pushing their kids in strollers. They, too, wore red, white and blue outfits. It was like they were at some kind of picnic, a patriotic event. And why would they think they were not? The President of the United States had told them the election was being stolen and it was up to them to do something about it.
Since that day I’ve done a lot of thinking about the deep divisions in American society and what can be done about it. On issue after issue we Americans are at each others’ throats trying to strangle some sense into the idiots who hold an opposing view.
And all the while these issues have been boiling over, with people shouting on Fox News or CNN, our tribal echo chambers of conservative and liberal media, I’ve been writing for this blog about grandparenting. The purpose of Good Grandpa remains to help nurture the next great generation. It occurs to me that this mission sounds rather lofty, but it’s vague on how to actually get the job done. How do we as grandparents help our kids raise a generation of Americans who can far surpass even “the greatest generation” that Tom Brokaw wrote about in his book; my parents’ generation that lived through the depression and won World War II?
That’s a tall order, isn’t it?
So, here’s a specific thing we can do. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, we can introduce our grandchildren to an extremely important three-word phrase: “I respectfully disagree.”
Try saying that out loud. Let it roll around in your mind. Have you heard anyone say this on cable TV in the last 20 years? No, because ratings are based on conflict, not respectful disagreement.
Just because a Republican doesn’t agree with me doesn’t make them a bad person, and visa versa. If we can get our grandchildren, the 5 and 12 year olds, to take this one guiding principle to heart, it’s something they will bring with them into their adult lives, into the workplace, and into politics. Our grandchildren can be a unifying force, a common American ground.
Instead of a million man or woman march on Washington with people screaming at each other with bullhorns, let’s have a million toddler stroll, with grandparents leading the way as we bring the kids together to celebrate just that. Being together.
If you look at the news you see constant talk of red states and blue states. I frankly think it’s BS. Whether someone is from Kansas or Vermont, if they have grandkids they have something absolutely wonderful in common. These kids are the future, which means they have the potential to be the America they we all have wished for, those better angels of our nature that Lincoln spoke of.
Feel free to disagree—respectfully—but I think we can do this. What say you?
If you or a loved one benefited from the COVID vaccine developed at astonishing speed, you can thank Jennifer. CRISPR allowed scientists to rapidly edit the RNA used in the vaccine, and millions of lives were saved in the process.
What really struck me about Doudna’s story, however, was how this Nobel-winning scientist was strongly discouraged from pursuing a career in science. Her high school guidance counselor advised her that “science is for men.” Fortunately for Doudna—and all of us—she didn’t listen.
As a grandfather I think of Doudna when I see my daughter and granddaughters. As grandparents, how can we help them live in a world where nobody, ever, under any circumstances, tries to confine them within boundaries fabricated by men?
I grew up in a traditional male dominated household.
My dad, a chemical engineer and executive with Polaroid, walked in the door at 6:30 pm every weeknight with the expectation that mom would have dinner on the table for all the males: my dad, me and four older brothers. And she did. These days people would say she was a “stay at home mom.” In the 1960s that’s just the way it was.
To my mom, having four sons in a row was a blessing and a curse. She loved us all but really longed to have at least one girl in the family mix. Just one daughter to make dresses for, or perhaps commiserate with about the male-run world. After giving birth to my older brothers mom tried one last time to have a girl, but then I was born and those hopes were dashed. She gave up and bought a girl Labrador Retriever puppy and tied a pink ribbon around its neck. Her name was Holly (apparently this would have been my name if I’d been a girl). To get the full story of Holly and the puppies she would eventually give birth to, you can read my book, The Willoughby Chronicles.
You might wonder, how did a busy exec like my dad commuting home in heavy traffic from Cambridge, Massachusetts, manage to walk in exactly at 6:30 each night?
Because he always stopped at the library, then left there at 6:25 to get to our house on time for dinner. He could have arrived some days at 6 or earlier and helped out, but somehow that thought didn’t enter his mind.
My mom was a smart, creative woman. Her frustration with her lot grew as the 70s and the womens’ rights movement progressed. I often heard her say, wistfully, that she could have done something with her life. In truth, raising five of us—each one gigantic and constantly ravenous—was certainly the most demanding job in the Page household. There was no leisurely stopping off at the library for mom. The vats of baked ziti needed to be cooked for the boys. Or a million other thankless tasks completed.
She did stage some occasional token protests, like the time she complained that my dad didn’t always eat the food she had carefully prepared. “That really hurts my feelings,” she said.
Dad apologized and swore in the future he’d always eat her meals. A few days later she served him a sandwich made with cat food (Kal Kan, no less, a slimy odiferous mush). I’m not entirely sure he realized he was eating cat food. It’s possible. In any case he downed the whole sandwich and thanked her for it.
The present and future I want for my daughter and grand girls is one where all career choices are open, all pay is equal, and no high school guidance counselor will ever seek to enforce limits. If women choose to pursue lives where they are raising kids full time, then that direction must be fully respected as well. “Stay at home mom” should never be a pejorative expression.
So, how can we foster the best possible future? Perhaps it starts with how we play with the kids, because the path towards being something starts with imagining it.
We can have bright plastic kitchen play sets with dishes that both the girls and boys can play with. But have a bright plastic science lab right beside it. During playtime, we could ask a boy or girl if they want to make some pasta for dinner. And we can ask if they’d like to edit genes to invent a new vaccine to save humanity. Let them choose their play, just as they choose the future they will inhabit.
Jennifer Doudna was born with many gifts. She’s brilliant, but also lucky to have a forceful personality that helped her push back against her guidance counselor. Not every kid will have this. We have to work harder, wherever we can, to make career and life paths fully accessible to all.
What are ways you can think of to help our kids help their kids, the next great generation, become who they were meant to be? Post a comment to join the conversation.
Hiking was always a big deal in my family growing up. My dad loved to get out on the trail with me and my four brothers, trekking up through the…
Hiking was always a big deal in my family growing up.
My dad loved to get out on the trail with me and my four brothers, trekking up through the thick forests of New England until we rose above the tree line to see the panoramic views. Or no views at all during those rainy-day hikes when staying home was never an option. For dad, being outdoors and moving, breathing hard up the steepest and most rocky slopes, was a balm for his soul. He was one of the many WWII vets who was more traumatized by his war experiences that he ever wanted the world to know about. Every year on Hiroshima Day, August 6th, he’d take us on a hike up Mount Washington and remind us, again, that there was no way to justify the use of atomic weapons on anyone. He’d say, “There’s always a way to rationalize cruelty.” It was a hike and a big lesson all in one. That’s what a good hike can be, at its best.
The love of hiking and walking stayed with me throughout my life, and our two kids learned to love it as well.
Here at our home in a remote corner of Vermont called the Northeast Kingdom (NEK), nearby Willoughby Lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains with excellent trails: Pisgah, Wheeler, Westmore, Hor – take your pick. They’re not big like the White Mountains or the Rockies, but the trails are great and views of the lake spectacular.
Unfortunately, those trails have been inaccessible to me for three years now. After inadvertently taking an antibiotic that damaged by tendons (sometimes those warning labels on prescriptions turn out to be true), I had to have a foot surgery. While I regained full function in my foot, the surgery made my left foot slightly wider than my right. This would not have been a problem if I had regular feet, but mine are size 16. I tried shopping for every major brand and there is simply no walking shoe or boot that fits me.
Being unable to go for decent walks or hikes during the pandemic was not good for my overall health. As any wellness professional will attest, a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for disaster.
I made a promise to myself that I would hike mountains not just with my grandchildren, but with great grandchildren. I’m not hiking anything at present and even walking can be painful.
Well, Winston Churchill said it best: “Never surrender!”
I scoured the Web to find a company that could make me a pair of custom hiking boots that would get me back on my feet and above the tree line once again.
Founded and run by Kevin Leahy, the company—and its many positive customer reviews—promised a custom boot like no other. When I read Kevin’s bio I knew I’d found the guy to help me. He’d been apprenticed to a classic boot maker from the Tyrol province of Austria in his early days, and been making custom boots since 1976. The boots shown on the website looked like what you’d see on hikers in the Alps, well-crafted with fine leather.
Kevin’s boots have a classic look.
I immediately emailed Kevin and explained what was going on with my freakish feet. His response was that he’d helped many people with similar challenges—huge feet, small feet, different sized feet. And the feet of people suffering from diabetes or dealing with old war injuries. I ordered my ‘fit kit’ on the spot.
Not long after I received the kit in the mail however, I got an unexpected email from Kevin saying he was going to be visiting a friend on the East Coast, and would I like to meet so he could personally measure my feet?
To me, this was akin to being asked if I’d like to meet the Great Oz. “Sure!” I said.
A few weeks later I met Kevin at the workshop of a colleague of his, Sarah Guerin, in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Sarah, a maker of custom cowboy boots, had connected with Kevin and was eager to learn the secrets of Kevin’s measurement techniques (thank you, Sarah, for hosting the session and taking the photos shown here).
Kevin, 67, welcomed me in and quickly got to work to do a measurement that was far more thorough than anything I have ever experienced. Getting custom boots or shoes made today is a rarity, Kevin explained, but it didn’t used to be. In the early part of the 20th century there were numerous immigrant craftsmen from Europe who practiced the trade, but immigration laws after 1910 greatly reduced their number. At the same time, the mass-manufacture of shoes, pioneered in New England, made cheap but not often perfect fitting shoes the norm. Based on what I’ve seen of Kevin’s skills, I’d say this is a shame. We’ve simply accepted a reality where we’re putting up with foot pain, or simply not walking or hiking at all.
So, sitting in that workshop with Kevin as he set about assessing and measuring my feet, I felt I was going back in time—to a better time—when real fit, comfort and foot health really mattered.
Here is a breakdown of the process.
Step 1: The tracing and imprint.
Kevin tracing my feet.
When I took my shoes off and Kevin looked my irregularly shaped size 16 feet, he said “We’ll definitely be at the upper limits here but we should be fine.” I exhaled, hopeful that this would work.
Kevin started by having me place one foot on a piece of pressure print paper. He had me stand and put my weight on the foot as he traced around it. While the material allowed for the contours of my foot to be traced, it also recorded an imprint on the bottom of my foot that showed darkest where the most weight was applied. Each element of this was another data point that would allow Kevin to perfect the fit.
If all Kevin did was this one thing it would have been more than what all of us have experienced in a shoe store. But it was just the first piece of the foot measurement picture.
Step 2: The foam imprint.
Kevin pressing my feet into the foam.
While I was sitting, Kevin had my raise one foot which he then held and pressed firm into a long plate of foam, leaving an imprint similar to what you’d see if you pushed your foot down into wet sand. When these imprints were complete, I could see each nuanced curve of my feet, including the bunion on the small toe of my left foot that made it impossible to purchase off-the-rack boots.
Here, again, was valuable data to further enhance the perfection of the fit. But as you might have guessed, we had a ways to go. I had let Kevin know in advance about a weak tendon on my right foot. The only way to provide my right foot with enough support is with a high-topped boot that hugs the ankle. That meant another important piece of the puzzle needed to be completed.
Step 3: The fiberglass mold.
Kevin pulling the wet fiberglass over my foot.
As Kevin continued his work, I quizzed him about his early days. After his apprenticeship with the Austrian boot maker, he’d felt hooked to the love of the craft and had kept at it to help all kinds of people enjoy well-made boots. He himself had big feet and knew what it was like to feel foot pain, so this was a real calling for him.
Kevin carefully unwrapped what looked like a white, wet sock. This, he explained, was made of fiberglass, just like what’s used for making a cast.
Unlike a cast, however, in this instance only one layer was required versus a full wrap. Moving quickly so the process could be completed before the fiberglass dried and hardened, he first taped a black strip of paper along the top of my foot and up to the ankle, and over this taped a kind of straw that bulged out. The reason for these two elements became clear only after Keven pulled the wet tube of fiberglass over my toes and up my foot to above the ankle. After a minute to allow this to harden, he used scissors to cut the fiberglass from the toe area to the ankle. Thanks to the strip of paper and straw he’d taped to the foot, he could cut the fiberglass above it without the risk of cutting my foot.
The hardened fiberglass mold.
Kevin held up the hardened fiberglass molds, pointing to the ankle areas and explaining how he’d now have the information he needed to provide full support and a comfortable hiking experience.
I got ready to leave, thanking Kevin profusely, but there was one more important step. And that involved him seeing me take some steps of my own so he could assess my gait and note any irregularities.
Step 4: Observation of ‘normal’ walking.
Me impersonating a runway model. Seeing my gait provided important information for Kevin to perfect the fit.
Kevin asked me to put on my shoes and walk so he could observe my overall gait and note anything unusual that might further inform the creation of my boots. There was a 10-foot walkway outside the workshop. I felt a bit like a runway model—a six-foot six model with gigantic feet—as I did my best to walk normally. Kevin and Sarah looked at me thoughtfully.
“See his shoulders are a little stooped when he walks,” Keven said to Sarah. “You have to look not just at the feet but the whole person and the gait. That matters for the boot.” (I noted this and straightened my shoulders for the next pass.)
“See how his right foot is pronating,” Kevin said, “with the extra ankle support we’ll help prevent that.”
While the in-person boot fit measurement and analysis was done for that day, I learned there was going to be one more important step.
Step 5: The trial boot.
Before Kevin makes the actual boots, he makes a kind of temporary trial boot that customers are asked to wear for a few weeks. There’s a leather insole in the trial boots that over time becomes imprinted by the pressure of the foot. By seeing these pressure points made under real-world use conditions, Kevin can assess if he’s on track with the boots he’s creating, or if he needs to make minor adjustments. Only once the customer sends the boots back to Kevin for this final analysis is he able to make the actual boots.
Given the demand for Kevin’s boots there is a five to six month waiting period. I hope to have my boots by September 2022, and I’ve already started planning my fall hikes up the mountains around Lake Willoughby. The custom boots made by Leahy boots are not cheap, but they will likely last a lifetime. And, for me, being able to hike again—especially with my kids and grandkids—is priceless.
I’ll post an update later this year. In the meantime, check out Kevin’s website to learn more. I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your questions and help you get the kind of boots you’ve wanted but could never find.
When you get to be sixty-two like me, or somewhere in this neck of the woods, you’re used to hearing things like, “Where does the time go?” Or, when we…
When you get to be sixty-two like me, or somewhere in this neck of the woods, you’re used to hearing things like, “Where does the time go?” Or, when we talk about our four grandchildren, “They’re growing up so fast!” My wife and I have a weird sense of time these days, with different recollections of when things in the past happened.
We’ll be thinking about when something occurred (a kid going off to college or whatever) and one of us will say, “It was the year we had the house painted. Twelve years ago.”
“That wasn’t twelve years ago!” the other says, “That was twenty years ago!”
“Was it? Oh yea, you’re right.”
It’s not that we’re losing our minds. It’s that the ship we are traveling on through time experiences warp speed without us every exclaiming “Make it so!”
So, sometimes we don’t notice when a decade whips past. And yet the most recent stretch of time during the pandemic has felt like two of the very longest years ever. Have you ever noticed that really, really good movies that are three hours long seem like they’re over in an hour, while terrible ninety-minute movies last an eternity? Our perception of time is all relative to our experiences. Life is just another story we just happen to be living.
I am writing this from our farm in the far reaches of Vermont in a place called the Northeast Kingdom. The locals joke that July and August are two months of bad sledding. It’s one of those funny/not funny jokes because winter here is in fact interminable, with snow not uncommon in May. Often, nothing seems to change for many days in a row. We look out the window most mornings in March to see snow falling.
Yet when I really pay attention, I can see spring trying to rise up and find me.
Last week I went on one of my daily walks through the woods, along a rushing brook, and there in front of me was something startling: a bright green fern sprouting up and out in all directions. I found it strikingly beautiful, perhaps because it was in the middle of a very cold forest full of ice and snow. In a few weeks, or maybe a month, the lilacs along our deck will extend their limbs as if stretching for the first time after their long sleep.
Seeing these snapshots within my life’s story is like a time stamp, a reminder that this is not really one big blur going past — not if we take the time to pause and look.
I think of this when I see my grandchildren, in person or on Instagram,….
…My eldest grandchild, a seven year old boy now, in a picture where his arms are so long he looks like a teenager. He’s perched on my shoulders, smiling from ear to ear, on top of the world.
I see this same boy holding my three-year old granddaughter’s hand as they walk through the halls of an aquarium surrounded my luminescent fish. Cousins and buddies already! Wow.
I see my youngest granddaughter, barely one year old, saying my daughter’s name for the first time, “Ab-i-gail!”
I see my youngest grandson, age five, helping my daughter chop vegetables, dressed in his Ninja costume and using what appears to be a Samurai blade.
I hear the sound of a grandson laughing as I launch him like a rocket off my shoulders while standing in Lake Willoughby in August, and see him flailing through space before splashing down; as soon as he’s surfaced he’s shouting, “Do that again! Higher!”
Experiencing these moments fully, examining them as the jewels they truly are, doesn’t slow the rushing time of life’s narrative—because, as I said, good stories do seem to go by faster—but added together they create a mosaic that transcends a ticking clock. The picture is grand and breathtaking.
And while I’m working every mental muscle to see the NOW, I’m also looking back on occasion because that helps put the present in context. This blog has helped me tell stories that have formed a kind of time capsule, for my readers and for myself. Today I read again the very first post I wrote. Here it is:
Today my daughter Abigail shared the news that I am the grandfather of a heartbeat.
The ultrasound image was pasted into a Valentine’s card
A black and white Rorschach, with one tiny hand reaching up as if to say, “Hello.”
The boulder of energy that struck my chest was both kind and playful
It whispered of future walks in a Vermont meadow
Me holding my grandchild’s hands up as she takes toddling steps through the tall grass
His gleeful laughter at how new and thrilling it is to be alive
Smeared peas and Cheerios soggy with milk on a highchair tray
And sitting together by the brook, staring in wonder and silence
At water spiders darting here and there.
What are things you are experiencing now that form your own story and colorful mosaic? If you’re a grandparent, how do these experiences enrich your life? Please feel free to share your thoughts through posting a comment.
Last week my wife was cleaning out an old cabinet and came across a photo taken of us on our honeymoon in London in 1985. I’d always liked this picture…
Last week my wife was cleaning out an old cabinet and came across a photo taken of us on our honeymoon in London in 1985. I’d always liked this picture and thought it had been lost, so seeing it again was a bit like finding ourselves the way we were back then. But not so long ago, really, in terms of years.
The span of time is more accurately measured in the changes we’ve been through; raising two children and all the blurred rush that entailed; and most recently, the addition of 4 gregarious and beautiful grandchildren. It wasn’t always easy getting to the present. This made me wish I could reach out to the two of us as we were at 26 and offer some sage advice.
So, here is my letter to the younger us:
Dear Ted and Nancy…
First off, I’d have to say the two of you look great. Nancy, the combination of the long wavy hair and lovely features makes you stunning. Ted, I know that you are insecure about your looks and have never felt 100% comfortable in your skin. Stop worrying.
I want you both to know that you are just at the very beginning of an amazing journey together. It’s going to happen very quickly. Nancy, you may already be pregnant, and a little girl named Abigail will join us in 9 months. And within three years we will have a son, Nicholas, who will complete the picture.
Your early years as a family will sometimes be rocky to say the least.
There will a lot of juggling of work and daycare, which will be made harder by the fact that both your kids will be sick A LOT. Not life-threatening sick, but one cold or stomach bug after the other. You will argue about which of you will stay home to care for the kids when they have a fever. You will strike bargains with each other (like, I’ll stay home today if you let me sleep late on Saturday). You will work it out time and again, and the kids will grow up to be well-balanced and charming people.
When times are tough, and when they are great, try to pause and take stock of where you are and the extraordinary gifts before you. All of it will go by so fast that when you’re older you’ll shake your head in wonder.
I’d love to go back to one of those bad days and give you a hug.
I’d tell you that it’s all going to be ok. That’s not some platitude; it’s the truth.
I wish I could help you pause time once in a while. After you’ve read to the kids in bed and they at last fall asleep, don’t rush out of the room. Take a moment to look at your slumbering Abigail and Nicholas. Experience deeply the sense of peace. Listen to the sound of their breath. Realize that these seconds are incredibly precious and transitory. Someday—despite all the vomit you have to clean up on a regular basis, the tears to soothe, and all the other troubles—you will wish you could be right back here in this moment.
Here’s some advice about your relationship.
It would be nice if you had more regular dates. Find a sitter and go out to dinner at least twice a month. You don’t have to go to a gourmet restaurant. Maybe just have coffee. Take a few minutes to talk. You’ll be the best possible parents if you nurture your relationship to the fullest.
When the kids leave for college and you are alone in your newly empty nest, it’s ok to feel very sad.
Go ahead and bawl your eyes out. So much of your purpose has been centered on raising your girl and boy. The fact that they are now grown up and strong is a sign you did a great job.
This may shock you, but it actually won’t be very long before your kids have kids. Honestly, it will feel like you blinked and suddenly there will be a bunch of grandchildren to hug and read to and make cookies with.The empty nest will be full again before you know it.
Lastly, I’d suggest you extend your honeymoon by at least a few weeks.
Drive not only through the British midlands and Wales, but also to Scotland. Go to the northernmost castle on the coast and feel the wind in your hair (especially you, Ted, because you’re going to lose it by your 40s). A wonderfully rich and busy life with children and grandchildren is before you, but there’s no need to rush ahead. Not today. Slow down and enjoy the view, and each other.
It starts with a story. The year was 1975. The place was Lexington, Massachusetts, a big rambling brown-shingled Victorian that was home to the 5 Page brothers — all of…
It starts with a story.
The year was 1975. The place was Lexington, Massachusetts, a big rambling brown-shingled Victorian that was home to the 5 Page brothers — all of us big and rambling in our own way, 6 foot 6 on average.
I was the youngest. When I was little my brothers were the most entertaining thing in the world to me. We’d play murderous games of chess or Monopoly. Fashion dams in the backyard with mud and blow them up with M80 firecrackers. And have loud overlapping conversations at dinner, with mom refereeing as she doled out endless servings of baked ziti from a pot the size of an oil tanker.
Then, one by one, my brothers left for college. By degrees the house lost its boisterous, vibrant and insanely fun atmosphere, replaced by silence.
That Christmas of ’75 all my brothers had been gone, and I—a gangly teenager—missed them as if they’d been appendages removed. Calvin, Charlie, Nick and John. How could so much energy simply vanish?
By Christmas eve they had returned, most of them sporting beards. There was an ice storm overnight, and in the morning bright sunshine lit up the ice-crusted branches with an electric brilliance. We’d been warned that this would be an extremely lean year financially, yet many presents where stacked under the tree. My dad was a senior executive with Polaroid, but paying college tuition for multiple sons simultaneously had seriously strained the family bank account.
So, amidst the joyful, jocular cacophony, the shoulder hitting, the verbal jousts of hilarious wit, we band of brothers opened our presents.
And do you know what was inside every one? Absolutely nothing. My parents had gone to the trouble of wrapping up 5 lovely boxes and marking each with a Christmas tag, and inside each was a lone index card taped to the bottom with a note written in dad’s block letter handwriting. Mine read “TED, WE OWE YOU ONE NEW GAME OF MONOPOLY. My brothers all had similar I.O.U’s. This became engrained in my memory as the I.O.U. Christmas.
Here’s the thing: this was my absolute favorite all-time Christmas. No contest. I was with my brothers again, at last. The silence had been banished, the greatest show on Earth—5 brothers juggling laughter and stories and eating and throwing things—had returned to town, and I was happy beyond measure.
So, you may guess what this granddad wants for Christmas in 2021.
Truthfully I don’t want any THING nearly as much as I want to be with all my grandchildren at once. Fortunately, that is in fact what I’ll be getting.
There will be mayhem. The eldest will give the younger ones piggyback rides all around the house. The newest will walk, haltingly, from table to table and do her best to knock whatever she can grasp onto the floor. We will sing Christmas Carols. We will gather around the dinner table, with turkey and gravy and stuffing and all the other very yummiest things. The grandkids will tell stories and jokes, one upping each other, and taking great delight in each others’ company, and in ours. They will be the newest and best greatest show on Earth, and the entirety of my gift wishes all wrapped into one.
Author’s note: In actually I’m not a total Scrooge when it comes to giving and receiving presents, but as I related in New York Magazine’s Strategist blog I think the best gifts for grandparents entail experiences we can share with our grandkids. We already have a lot of things.