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Tag: grandpa

Young actress lends hand to old dog

A young actress helped save an old dog in New Mexico last week, and Grandpa, as he’s being called, is now resting comfortably at a dog hospice and animal sanctuary that provides elderly animals with acupuncture and other Western and alternative medication.

“His life force is not strong,” said the founder and director of Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary, in (you guessed it, didn’t you?) Santa Fe. “It’s hard to tell how long he’ll be with us.”

But, Ulla Pedersen told the New Mexican, “you’d be surprised how some make a complete turnaround after they’ve been with us only a few weeks.”

The dog — thought to be about 15 years old — had apparently been abandoned at Santa Fe’s Frank Ortiz Dog Park, where actress Rachel Brosnahan came across him last Friday while at the park with her boyfriend and two dogs.

Others at the park had already reported his condition to animal control, but Brosnahan  sat with Grandpa until help arrived.

“We thought he was injured because he couldn’t stand up,” said Brosnahan, who stars in the television series Manhattan, which is filmed in the area.

“I think he was in shock,” added Brosnahan, who also appeared in the Netflix series House of Cards. ” He was panting a lot and we brought him some water, but he only drank a little.”

Grandpa seemed to appreciate the company, she said, especially that of her own dogs, including Nicky, a pit-bull mix.

Jennifer Steketee, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter’s director of veterinary services, said staff gave the dehydrated dog IV fluids, and that — other than arthritis and other symptoms associated with his advanced age — he showed no other signs of illness.

The dog was not microchipped and had no tags or other identification.

Because of his age, the shelter contacted Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary.

Pedersen, who met the dog on Tuesday, said Grandpa would be a perfect fit for her sanctuary, which provides eldercare and hospice for dogs, horses and poultry.

Brosnahan, who offered to foster the dog, said she was happy to hear Grandpa would be living the rest of his life there — and that she plans to visit him soon.

“I am so happy he’s going to be cared for at such a wonderful place,” she said.

Grandpa’s house is for sale


You can repaint a house, remodel a house, update a house, but there’s one thing that no amount of changes can erase — the memories.

Some of them came back to me the minute I pulled into the driveway of my grandparent’s old house in Saugerties, N.Y., triggered by the crunch of gravel; more yet when I climbed the wooden stairs where the “Kingston Dairy” milkbox used to be; and even more when I rounded the corner on the vast front porch and was hit with the slight smell of mildew — the same one that was there 50 years ago.

That’s exactly what I came here for — not the mildew odor, but the memories, grown fuzzy over time, covered up by the subsequent layers of paint of my life.

Being there, I found them reinstilled by the sight, smell and sounds of what used to be my grandparent’s house: The hollow thud of my own footsteps on the wooden porch, the giant, climbable sheaths of slate near the back of the property, the sounds of highway traffic darting by — more now than when I fell asleep upstairs, waiting for the next passing car.

Standing outside the home, memories whizzed by as quickly as the cars — of my highly tidy grandmother, of my jokester of a grandfather, of my great grandmother who lived in the backroom, of pinochle and pot roast, of hot tea in the afternoon with tons of cream and sugar, of morning eggs and toast popped from a toaster that, when not in use, was always neatly blanketed with a cover that said “Hot Toast Makes the Butterfly,” of a certain cookie, a raisin-filled wafer whose name eludes me, but that we enjoyed before bed with ginger ale.

My grandparents are long gone, and the last time I saw the house was in 1999, when the Woestendiek family reunion was held in Saugerties and we descended on its current owner, a New York City lawyer, begging for a peek inside.

She kindly obliged back then, so I figured she wouldn’t mind — especially since she no longer lives there full-time — if I dropped by for another look. The house, once white with green trim, is now cream colored with burgundy trim. The old windows have been replaced with modern ones.

I peeked in a window and saw the kitchen, much modernized since the days my apron-clad grandmother would whip up the best dinners I’d ever tasted. And there was one more difference — a “for sale” sign in the front yard.

I called Amy Lonis, the real estate agent listed on the sign, and explained to her I wasn’t a potential buyer — much as I would like to be — but was interested because it had been my grandfather’s house.

She agreed to meet me the next day and let me inside.

Inside, it was a far different place than it used to be — lots of old furniture still, but filled with modern art, painted by the current owner.

The arms of the sofas and chairs were no longer neatly draped with the lace doilies that my grandmother was quick to set back in proper position whenever they got rumpled, as they inevitably did.

Even though it has been majorly revamped, with some new walls put up and some new windows added to let the sun in, with what used to be great grandma’s room turned into the laundry nook, there were still plenty of reminders of the past. While the bathroom has been equipped with a jacuzzi, I’m pretty sure I saw the old claw-footed bathtub — the one I used to watch Ivory soap float in — stored underneath the house.

Seeing the old house rekindled enough sweet memories that I wanted to buy it.

It would be the perfect place to write another book, even with the whizzing traffic, I thought. And how wonderful would it be to hold the family reunion of all family reunions — back at the place where the family got started?

Why didn’t I snap it up? For about 268,000 reasons.

With about 5.7 acres, it’s listed at a pretty reasonable price. Unfortunately, I’ve never been as frugal and money-wise as my grandparents (he was the village tax collector, and grandma did the books at the family laundry in Newark.)

They moved to Saugerties when doctors told him country living would be better for his health.

Apparently, it was. There, they would have three boys, starting with my father.

My father remembers, when he was but a toddler, going into my grandfather’s car, somehow releasing the parking brake and rolling down the driveway, across the highway into the field of apple trees across the street.

If traffic then — on the road from Saugerties to Woodstock — had been what it is now, I probably never would have happened.

After visiting the house, and dropping in on the town of Woodstock, I was headed back to the campground thinking about dinner. I stopped at the only grocery between Woodstock and Saugerties, a place run by an Englishman and featuring mostly goods imported from England.

I did find a can of Spam, though — the last one — and what I thought were those raisin cookies we used to eat at grandma’s. I bought them, too, and opened them up the next day for breakfast.

They weren’t the same thing. These were filled with currants, and had a crunchy wafer instead of a golden soft one. These were called Garibaldis.

When I opened them, even though they were a year from expiring, they crumbled in the package. When I tasted them, I made a face. I threw them away at the next garbage can.

The moral of all this is that — oftentimes at least — you can go home again. You can — at least in your mind — relive your past. You can even find the obscure cookies of your childhood, or at least what you think are the obscure cookies of your childhood.

Just don’t expect them to taste exactly the same.

Recapturing the past, one cow at a time

When John Steinbeck and his poodle Charley left Long Island for their cross country trip, Nixon and Kennedy were vying for the presidency, Russia was seen as the biggest threat to America, and I was seven years old, learning along with my classmates that the place to be during an attack — nuclear or otherwise — was under my desk, with my hands over my head.

Between the sturdy formica desktop, and my fat little hands, what harm could possibly come to me?

Despite those repeated drills, I felt safe growing up on Long Island — not too far from the cottage in Sag Harbor where Steinbeck lived and wrote. Not even Nixon scared me. In fact, before I knew any better, I was a fan.

Possibly I liked the near symmetry of his name. Possibly, though I don’t think I had hit the rebellious years yet, I was for Nixon because my parents were such big Kennedy supporters.

I remember, on a fall trip, probably just weeks before the election, sitting in the back seat of my parents Buick station wagon — the back back seat, which faced backwards, affording me a fine view not of where we were going, but of where we had been. It also gave me an opportunity to campaign for my man, Dick. I tore up sheets of paper, wrote “Vote for Nixon” on them with pencil, then licked them, hopefully avoiding lead poisoning, so they would stick on the inside of the back window — at least until my saliva dried up and they fell off and had to be licked again.

The drive to my grandparent’s home in Saugerties, 100 miles north of New York City, took about two hours — but, given our eagerness to arrive, it seemed much longer. “How many more miles?” I’d whine as we tooled along the New York Thruway.

As I headed there this week — in another nostalgia-provoked variation from Steinbeck’s route — my thoughts went back to those trips, and to 1960. So many things have changed over the 50 years since, and so many have not.

We still feel threatened. We’re still, politically, divided, and prone to showing our colors on bumper stickers. We’re still, as a society, as restless and impatient as a child in the back seat.

In many other ways, the world’s a different place — that child in the back seat being a perfect example.

In the 1960’s, I passed the time by reading (until I got car sick), campaigning for Nixon (until it got boring) and playing games. Most commonly, it was the cow-counting game. I would choose one side of the highway, my brother or sister would choose the other, and we’d each count the number of cows on our side. The one with the most cows won.

Today, I see children in passing minivans and SUV’s watching movies on built-in television screens, texting, talking on cell phones, listening to iPods and playing video games — all but oblivious to what exists outside the car.

One on hand, it seems another example of how we’ve grown less in touch with the world around us, more insulated, more computer-bound, less likely to relate to the earth we’re on and the other humans who occupy it.

When I was a child, we’d actually look at the scenery — especially when going through a “Fallen Rock Zone,” where I always watched for some to fall, but never saw any. Today’s youngsters, from what I see, might briefly look up from their video game, at their parents’ urging, when passing an amazing vista. But then it’s back to the little computer screen.

Not to sound too much like an old man — and not that I think counting cows necessarily makes for better adjusted children — but with all the beauty, in terms of scenery and people, that Ace and I have seen in our travels so far, I’m struck by how many people seem to ignore it, tuned in instead to their electronics.

The same seems to hold true outside of the car. On the street — be it Phoenix or Philadelphia — I see people so wrapped up in talking, texting and checking their email that they are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them.

Sure, some of those messages they’re sending and receiving may be urgent and necessary, but moreso, I think, being constantly “in touch” gives us a sense of importance, and  — like the gummy underside of my elementary school desk — a sense, false or not, of safety and security.

I think, too, that all the gadgetry is how we cope with boredom, how we fill our lives  — the modern day equivalent of whining “How many more miles?” rather than shutting up and appreciating the particular spot you are in.

Maybe it was a longing for the good old days — and the older we get, the gooder they seem — that drew me back to Saugerties, with no real plan other than driving by the old farmhouse my father grew up in, triggering some recollections of my grandparents, seeing how the little village had changed, and walking the streets of neighboring Woodstock.

Heading south from Albany, I pulled off the thruway and got on Highway 212, which runs between Saugerties and Woodstock. Rounding a curve I spotted the Centerville Fire Company — the landmark that, back in the 1960s, served as sign that we were almost there.

That was another game — being the first person to see “Grandpa’s fire house.” He was a member, and served as chief, of the volunteer fire department, as well as being tax collector for the village of Saugerties.

Being the first person to see Grandpa’s fire house was a far more important victory than winning the cow-counting game — more important than who might be attacking whom, or any presidential election. And it meant there were only three miles left to go.

Old habits being hard to break — even 50-year-old ones — I found myself rounding that curve, turning to Ace, and saying, out loud, “I see Grandpa’s fire house.”

Once again, I won.