A Thanksgiving story | November 23, 2022

By the time you read this it will be Thanksgiving Eve and I will be pretending like I’m so overwhelmed with preparations while my mother “gives me a hand” by doing it all.  I am very grateful for my parents (my dad will participate by staying out of the way), and my husband and father-in-law (Kyle decided to deep-fry the turkey, which…has been a whole thing), and my children (who will spend the day fighting, as per Thanksgiving tradition), and all of you.  Thank you for being with me these past two years.

Also, thank you for the kind messages related to my grandfather’s passing.  My grandpa lived a very long (he would have been 96 in December), happy, love-filled, comfortable life, and died peacefully with all his wits about him – which, as his rabbi said, is something we should all hope to do.  Still, losing someone who adores you unconditionally feels pretty lonely, and so I appreciate the attention.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a story about my grandparents because 1) they were awesome, and 2) this particular event coincidentally occurred at Thanksgiving.

Like I said, my Grandpa Mel and Grandma Mar (her name was Marion, but we called her Grandma Mar because grandmother in French is grand-mere, which sort of sounds like Grand Mar; and if my grandmother had to be old enough to be a grandma she would at least be a glamorous French one) were fantastic.  They were on a first-name basis with half of the maître d’s in New York and New Jersey.  They vacationed with (and had a bonkers story about) Dick Cavett – and since I’m name-dropping, Judy Blume was at my engagement party because she was writer-friends with my grandma.  My grandpa performed magic tricks at all of my childhood birthday parties; and for my eighteenth birthday, they took my sister and me to Paris and London.  I lived with them for a college summer, during which we’d celebrate the end of each workday with a martini.  They were fun, and cool, and had amazing taste, and sought out unique and interesting experiences.

They were also totally normal grandparents, and that’s what I’m going to tell you about today.

It was the year 1999, and I was getting ready to take the Amtrak train from Boston to New Jersey for some quality Thanksgiving/Grandma and Grandpa time.  I called my grandparents from our apartment landline (because it was 1999) to let them know I was headed to the station and expected to get on the 2:00 pm (or whatever, it was 22 years ago) train.

“What time will you arrive?”  Grandma asked.

“I think around 5,” I told her.  “I can call you from a payphone (re: 1999) when I get there to confirm?”

“No need,” Grandma said.  “Grandpa’s already at the station.”  We both laughed, although I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not because my grandfather was always VERY EARLY to EVERYTHING.

(Here’s a side story to that: The Grand Forks International Airport is actually one of the busiest in the country for take-offs and landings because we have an aviation school in town; however, the city only has 50,000 people so the airport itself is just two gates.  Today those two gates are in a fancy airport building; but, in the 1980’s, it was one big room separated by a metal detector with a restaurant tacked onto the end.  My grandparents were flying back to New Jersey on the 7:00 am flight, and so my grandfather got to the airport at 3:00 am…and then sat in the car for two hours, because the airport itself didn’t open until 5:00.  Finally, a worker arrived; and so my grandparents went in, the worker checked their bags, took them through the metal detector, and then ripped their boarding pass on the other side.  When they sat down in the waiting room, my grandma checked her watch: 5:08.)

“I hope you do get in at 5 so we can go to the house before dinner,” Grandma said.  “We need you to help us with something very important.”

“What’s that?”  I asked.

Earlier that year, my grandparents had bought their first compact disc player; in celebration, my uncle had gifted them several CDs of their favorite jazz musicians.

“The player is broken,” Grandma said.  “We need you to fix it.”

“Well, I don’t know much about CD players,” I told her, “But I’ll do what I can.”

“You are a technology wiz,” she said (Note: I was not).  “I’ve been telling everyone about that award you won.”

“Which award?”  I asked.

“You know, the very prestigious award from BU,” she said.

I thought for a moment.  “The Dean’s List?  That’s not an award, it’s just a semester grade thing.  Lots of people are on it.”

“Maybe,” she said, brushing me off.  “But you’re the very best.”

“Obviously,” I said.

I arrived in New Jersey, and, of course, Grandpa was there waiting for me.  He gave me a big kiss and a hug and said,

“We are going to the house before dinner because we need you to help us with something very important.”

“Grandma told me,” I said.  “I’ll do what I can.”

“You are a champion of academia and science,” he said (Note: Nope).  “I have been telling everyone about how you got a job with an international company your first month at school.”

I thought for a moment.  “The Gap?  I’m not even allowed to use the cash register.”

“You’ll be running the place by the end of the year,” he said, brushing me off.  “They are going to make you the CEO.”

“Naturally,” I said.

At the house, they presented me with a little round boombox.

“We put the CD in,” Grandpa said.  “And we pressed play, but nothing happens.”

“You have to turn it on first,” I said, flipping the On/Off switch.  The CD player fired up, and a trumpet blared.

“Ahhhhh!”  Grandma sighed.  “You did it!  Such a smart girl.”

“Smart and good-looking,” Grandpa said.  “She gets both from her grandmother.”

He offered his hand to Grandma, and the two of them danced around the living room for the rest of the song.  We left for dinner a few minutes later, where we toasted the coming Thanksgiving, as well as my exceptional genius and beauty.

My parents, while very supportive, are fully aware of my intellectual abilities – and so I don’t think we’ll be celebrating my brilliance this year.  I’m sure, however, we’ll raise a glass to my (and my sister’s) children – whom my parents know, without a doubt, to be the brightest stars in the entire universe.

The photo above is of my grandma and grandpa and was taken by my Uncle Dean when they were 45 years old (and he was 19). It was the first photo Dean had taken with an SLR camera – a used Nikkormat for $175. Related/unrelated, my uncle – Dean Landew – is a rock musician with a bunch of songs on the Radio Indie Alliance Top 10. You check out his music here.

This week’s news has makeover artists, football players, and monks. Read on.

Country House and Angel 37 paired up to offer a no-catch free Thanksgiving dinner on Monday. (KX Net)

Patrons of the Heavens Helper’s Soup Café in Bismarck were treated to a limo ride and makeovers, courtesy of Glance Salon. (KFYR TV)

The North Dakota State College of Science football team – including their 49-year-old defensive lineman, Ray Ruschel – are playing for the NJCAA DIII National Championship next week. (Not The Bee)

The entire town of Hankinson is celebrating Cody Mauch as he heads to the NFL. (Fargo Forum)

Elementary, middle, and high school students in Fargo filled the Fargodome with food donations for the Great Plains Food Bank. (Valley News Live)

In “holy crap” news, a Colgate farmhand survived being trapped in a bin for an hour. (Grand Forks Herald)

Did you watch the Artemis One launch last week?  If so, you marveled at the efforts of the UND and NDSU students who helped make it happen. (KFYR TV)

El Belfour – a former UND player and one of the five winningest goaltenders in NHL history – suited up for a rec game in Grand Forks last week. (Grand Forks Herald)

Here’s a cool photo of some early ice pillars near Tioga. (Facebook)

The monks of Assumption Abbey in Richardton pulled out the sleds for a little snowy fun. (KFYR TV)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

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No bother | April 8, 2021

A woman fainted during Kyle’s Good Friday church service last week.  If you are in need of attention there are few places as convenient as a packed Easter Mass; a dozen doctor and nurse parishioners jumped to her aid, followed closely by the three priests – who stopped what they were doing and began to pray over her.  One of the priests left his microphone on so that everyone could join in the prayer; which must have worked, as she revived moments later.

“Oh, Father, I’m fine,” she said loudly enough to pick up on the mic.  “Just keep going with the service.”

If there’s one thing North Dakotans cannot abide by, it’s to be a bother.  (If there’s a second thing, it’s a salad bar without ranch dressing; although no one will ever complain about it so as to avoid being a nuisance.)  I don’t know if it’s humility or modesty or manners or grit, but North Dakotans will avoid things like standing up, sitting down, walking, eating, sleeping, or disturbing Easter Mass if it means another person will be slightly inconvenienced.  I was freezing my butt off at my son’s hockey game not too long ago, and another one of the moms – an actual friend of mine, mind you, not some stranger from amidst the shadows – offered up a sweatshirt that was in her car.

“No, no,” I said, waving her off, “It’s too far to go outside.” (Narrator: It wasn’t.)

The other mom insisted, running at intermission to grab both a sweatshirt and a blanket.  I took the sweatshirt with the mental note to repay her kindness with an appropriately equal response, like sending her firstborn off to college or repainting her house –

Because while no one wants to be a bother, everyone wants to be a help.

There’s no better proof of this than after a snowstorm.  At the first mention of a blizzard warning, North Dakota collectively tosses a shovel in its trunk so as to be ready to dig strangers out of drifts.  (And, of course, seventy-five percent of those strangers will wave off assistance so as to not waste someone else’s time.)

In the case of my husband’s fellow churchgoer, after she ordered her caretakers to move her to the vestibule so that services could resume while she waited for the incoming ambulance, a team of people jockeyed to be in the group to help her up, and those left behind kept popping into the lobby to check on her.

A couple of years ago, Kyle was driving through town when he passed a gentleman, hunched over from osteoporosis, attempting to carry two arms’ worth of groceries.  Kyle flipped the truck around to offer assistance; and found himself in a game of chicken with a bunch of other drivers who had the same idea.  Kyle beat them all to the man (winner winner!), and asked if he could give him a ride somewhere.  The fellow started to say no – he didn’t want to be any trouble – but realized that there was a literal line of people (including a policewoman) looking to lend a hand.  Kyle and the policewoman had a polite standoff – “Oh, I’m happy to take him,” “Me, too, really, it’s no problem.” – until they drew proverbial straws, Kyle won, and the others had to go off and find some other do-gooding to do while Kyle drove the man home.

One of my favorite stories on this topic is actually my mother’s.  Unsurprisingly, it happened during the Flood of ’97 – which tried to wash Grand Forks off the map, and instead filled its coffers with memories of above-and-beyond kindnesses.

On the day we ultimately ended up evacuating, my family was up with the sun to walk the dike.  The sandbags were starting to heave, and so my dad used the radio he had been given to call for help.  The neighborhood came over to start throwing sandbags, but by noon there were too many cracks and not enough people. Finally, an entire busload of people showed up and immediately jumped in to stay the water.

“Where have you been?”  My mom asked the man in line next to her.

“Lincoln Park,” the man said.  “I just watched my house go under.”

My mom stopped and looked at him.  “What on earth are you doing here?”

“No bother,” he shrugged.  “Maybe I can help save yours.”

The photo above was taken a few years ago during a two-day blizzard.  We were on our way to town when we came upon an elderly man stuck up to his wheel wells in the snow.  Despite the gentleman’s feeble protests that he was fine, Kyle started to dig him out.  He didn’t get more than two shovelfuls in when two other vehicles – the only other two on the road – stopped to lend a hand.  One was our mailman, and the other was from a local vodka distillery.  “Neither snow nor rain nor empty shot glasses stays our fellow man,” I told Kyle later (I’m not sure he found that all that amusing).  As you can see by the photo, I didn’t get out of the car “so that I could keep an eye on the kids.”

I love, love all of the messages you’ve been sending me.  If you have a “No bother” story, please share it.  And don’t forget to check out this week’s news – about healthy families, a new kidney, and a garden of healing.  Read on.

A number of people in Grand Forks probably owe their lives to their friendly neighborhood mailman, who banged on doors and helped out residents when a 12-unit condo complex started on fire. (Grand Forks Herald)

If you’re looking for some good goose-watching, head on out to North Dakota’s largest National Wildlife Refuge, located near Upham, ND. (Minot Daily News)

Richardton’s Missi Baranko started a new non-profit just days after the shutdown of Lutheran Social Services to make sure that Healthy Families – now USpireND – continued to serve its families. (Grand Forks Herald)

Logan Schonert, Captain of the Grand Forks Fire Department, has received the North Dakota VFW Firefighter of the Year award for donating a kidney to his former co-worker, Grand Forks Battalion Fire Chief Rick Aamot. (Fargo Forum)

Gackle’s Sydney Kleingartner and Jamestown’s Carmen Entzminger are North Dakota’s Dairy Ambassadors. (News Dakota)

Cameron Bolton’s parents are proposing a Garden of Healing to bring beauty and peace to Fargo recipients and donor families impacted by organ donation. (KVRR)

Happy 100th birthday to Garrison’s Alice Meier! (KX Net)

In good news, traveling nurse Helene Neville has finished chemo in style, thanks to what she called “North Dakota nice.” (KX Net)

(Like Amanda Silverman Kosior and/or North Dakota Nice?  Check out this other story about fishing.)

Nice news of the day – October 29, 2019

Happy birthday to Olga Hovet of Watford City, who turned 100 this month!

And did you know today’s news has a DIY heated gazebo, Chevy Camaro, and poetry?  Read on.

Ambercrombie’s Guy and Yvette Klosterman built a heated gazebo out of a grain bin and the Brainerd Dispatch has a very detailed account of the construction process if you want to build one yourself. (Brainerd Dispatch)

Richardton’s Charlotte Renner Locklear wrote a book on her family’s farming history, and celebrated its launch with a poetry workshop. (Dunn County Extra)

When I was younger, I had a Ford Tempo that I loved.  LOVED.  It was a total piece of crap with two temperatures (hot and off), automatic seat belts, and an ignition switch so loose you could take the key out while the car was on.  My parents sold it after I graduated from high school and it made it only a few months before dying for good.  So I’m totally jealous that Jodi Cook’s sons, Shea and Nick Gaier, tracked down her actual car – not the same make and model, the EXACT car – that Jodi had in her youth, and restored it…and now it’s the coolest car you’ll see this year. (Grand Forks Herald)