Monthly Archives: August 2011

Happy birthday Grandma

Today would have been the 100th birthday of my Grandma Helen, the first and strongest single mother I’ve ever known. She’s been gone 33 years and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and miss her.

There were four children in my father’s family – his older sister Corinne, my Dad, and younger sisters Judy and Mary Pat (Patty). When my grandfather died of lung cancer, Corinne was married with two children and Dad was out of the house and in the Marines. Judy was still in high school and Patty was still a very young girl.

More than 50 years ago – decades before divorce was standard and single parenthood was an option on the United States census – Helen Rossiter was a widow and single mother.

I never really thought of her in that way. My time with my grandmother was short – she died in a store fire in Des Moines in 1978 – but every minute I spent with her was precious. She was the quintessential “Grandma.” When my brother and I came to spend two weeks with her during the summer – my family had moved to Alaska and that was the only time we got to see her – she always had a chocolate cream pie waiting for my brother and a banana cream pie waiting for me. Breakfast was homemade cake donuts made on her cast iron donut iron – we’d eat them still hot with grape jelly.  (The iron disappeared after her death and I’ve spent literally decades trying to find one similar.)

Afternoons were spent at the cemetery across the street from Grandma’s house, feeding the geese and the swans in the pond. She’d always save the heels of bread loaves – along with a few extra pieces – for us to take the geese.

My brother and I always slept with Grandma as children – even though I was 11 and he was 8 the last summer we were there – and she would sing us to sleep while rubbing our backs. Songs like “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” will forever be etched in my mind.

Grandma taught me to love Iowa thunderstorms; we would always get at least one good storm while we were at her house, and we’d sit out on her front step and watch it roll in.

I was just 11 when Grandma died, but it seems I had so much more time with her than I actually did. She epitomized “family” for me. Dad was the only one of the four siblings who didn’t live in Des Moines, so when we came back to Iowa it seems like the entire time was a giant family reunion – cousins would come over, my brother and I would go see them at their houses, there were picnics, parties, swimming, trips to Adventureland (when it was about the size of a Casey’s parking lot) and games of hide ‘n seek and tag.

Even now, we try to get as many of us together as possible at least once a year. Cousins, their children and grandchildren, as well as my Dad and his three sisters, all gather in a big Rossiter reunion (we’re the easiest family to spot – look for an area filled with redheads and that’s likely us!).

My memories of my grandmother have idealized her, I know. She wasn’t without faults – no one is – and the older I get the more I’ve come to recognize some of them. But none of them take away what she meant to me, what she’s created in our extended family and the strength of that legacy of family she’s left behind.

Happy birthday, Grandma. Love and miss you lots.


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Dating in the digital age. God help me.

I was asked recently what I liked least about dating.

My immediate answer – and the one I gave – was the one that always sticks in the front of my brain, only because of my own insecurities: I don’t like meeting someone online and getting along, only to find out that despite their assurances that it’s not true they really are looking for a Barbie doll.

I’m not a Barbie doll. Never have been and, God willing, never will be.

But the more I thought about it the more I realized there are many things that I do and don’t like about dating again.

* Meeting people online. I’m a social person and have used social media for a number of things – reconnecting with old friends, posting stories, searching for sources for stories – but still can’t get used to the idea that this is the way people who are in “the dating pool” meet. What happened to catching someone’s eye, saying “hi” and starting a conversation? Going online throws it all into a backwards mess: you filter through hundreds (literally) of pictures or profiles and find one that might be appealing, make contact, start conversation and get to know each other and then, eventually, you meet.

The downside to that is that online the person on the other end of the conversation can be or say anything and you never know until you meet them whether they’re sincere. They can be socially awkward and just not what you’re looking for – and you don’t know until you’ve already invested some time.

I once met a man who seemed to be a good conversationalist both online and on the telephone. When it came times to meet, however, his true colors came out. He lived in a small town about 40 minutes from me – he had the day off and suggested I drive up to his community after I got off a long day of work. After trying unsuccessfully to convince him to meet somewhere in between I drove up – and learned he was 12 years older than he said he was. And when it came time to leave he wanted to kiss me goodnight – and tried to shove his tongue down my throat. Ick.

* Digital communication. I’m grateful for all of the options there are for “talking” to people – texting, instant messaging, Facebook – but eventually I really do like to really talk. With my voice. To another person. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same. I had one man actually leave a phone message that said, “I thought I’d surprise you with a phone call rather than a text.” True, it was a surprise – but to listen to his voice you’d think he was sending flowers.

As a very good friend also pointed out, one big problem with only texting/IM’ing is that it’s not only impersonal in nature, it lets the party on the other line forget that there’s an actual person chatting. It’s a lot easier to hurt someone, stand someone up, lie to someone if you don’t have to see a look in the eye or hear a catch in the voice.

* Smart phone photos. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? You’re out having a good time, you want to post a photo on your Facebook page to show it to all your friends. The trouble is, you’re not always in charge of which photos go online with your name tagged in them. Go to any bar/party/baseball game and you’ll see countless people taking casual photos of their friends, of the game, of the crowd. Having a bad hair day, or hoping no one sees you? These days it’s best to just stay inside – you don’t know when that morning-after shot of a bad hair color is going to show up on YouTube. Or in a potential date’s photo file.

* You want me to do what? OK, this one goes back to the digital communication and it’s likely not just connected to dating the second-time-around. What exactly is it with men (and maybe women, I’m just not on the receiving end of those) wanting to talk dirty, or worse, meet for a casual sexual encounter? I honestly can’t think of anything I say that would lead anyone who is just getting to know me to think I’d be willing to come over to their house in the middle of the night or want to pursue some kind of cyber-sex. Really? What are we, 15?

The truth is, dating is just as stressful now as it was 25 years ago, there are just different things to deal with. Best option? Be careful, be smart and have fun.


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