Monday, May 2, 2016


“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

Big weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Phil graduating with an MBA and Miranda with a BA in Social Work from Grand Valley State University (GVSU).  Also: Anthony’s prom, and a planning session for Alissa’s bridal shower.  Arriving Friday afternoon, we had time to watch a few innings of Anthony’s varsity baseball game.  His Wyoming Wolves prevailed 7-3.
 above, Dean George Grant, Jr.; below Vox Vidorra

Granddaughter Miranda’s pinning ceremony for Social Work graduates took place at the ultra-modern Mars Hill megachurch, seating capacity 3,500.  Other than two crosses, there was little evidence of its religious purpose, although boxes of tissues were available for those susceptible to shedding tears.  Included in a slide presentation was a shot of Miranda in Ireland.  The indie quartet Vox Vidorra set the tone for the evening’s theme: serving humanity.  In the program was this statement by B.R. Ambedkar:
  A just society is that society in which ascending sense of reverence and descending sense of contempt is dissolved into the creation of a compassionate society.
Dean George Grant, Jr., told of being inspired by the books he discovered in his older sister’s collection by James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Ralph Ellison, and John Hope Franklin.  I told Miranda afterwards at Olive Garden that at my University of Maryland graduation, historian John Hope Franklin received an honorary degree, as did actress Julie Andrews.
 Phil and Miranda with President Thomas J. Haas and Toni and Jimbo

Prior to graduation at the Van Andel Arena (a hockey rink and concert venue where Disturbed, Rob Zombie and Pop Evil will be playing on May 18) Phil and Miranda had their photo taken with affable GVSU President Thomas J. Haas (nicknamed T-Haas by students).  Phil has worked with Haas on WGVU projects, and his assistant thought father and daughter graduating together would make a good story.  A Coast Guard graduate with a PhD in Chemistry from UConn, President Haas insisted on posing for several photos, including one with our entire group.  Receiving an honorary degree was the head of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation LaJune Montgomery Tabron, who spoke about diversity and inclusiveness.

The ceremony took about three hours, as all students had their moment on stage.  There would be an equally large mid-afternoon ceremony for Liberal Arts and Sciences majors.   We had a good view of the stage and sat close to a huge screen that provided candid shots of graduates, many of whom had decorated their caps.  Exiting the stage, most gave some gesture registering excitement and triumph.  Whenever there was a pause in the action, President Haas received a dose of hand wash spray.  Each year his right hand swells up from all the hand shaking.

That evening Miranda hosted a party.  Grandmothers Toni and Delia brought ample amounts of food.  Alissa’s mom Beth made delicious guacamole dip and lemon brownies.  Throughout the house were black, blue, and white balloons (GVSU has three school colors!).  In the room where music was blaring two guys were reading passages and gawking at the cover of a paperback copy of “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov.  Anthony and Laura in formal dress dropped in.  Anthony’s rented shoes didn’t fit, so they were on their way to fetch more comfortable ones. Alissa wanted musical suggestions for her August wedding reception, and both Phil and I chose ZZTop’s “Sharp-Dressed Man,” a number to which we do a routine, pretending to be playing guitars.  I also suggested something by Daft Punk and Steve Earle’s “What’s a Simple Man To Do?”  Gaard Logan told me that Steve’s son, Justin Townes Earle, is a successful singer-songwriter in his own right.
 Anthony asks Laura to prom; below, with Miranda

Sunday while the women were dealing with Alissa’s bridal shower venue Phil and I played several games of Lost Cities and then dined at Lindo Restaurante Mexicano, crowded even at 2:30 p.m.  The food was delicious and the service efficient.  As we were leaving, we noticed that over 30 people were waiting to be seated.  If I knew how, I’d post a rave review. 

I found time to read a few chapters of Richard Russo’s Mohawk (1986), set in a declining upstate New York mill-town around 1970.  About a third of the way through the relationship among the various characters started becoming clear. Though not as funny or compelling as my favorite Russo novels, “Straight Man” (1997) and “That Old Cape Magic” (2009), I’m pretty certain I’ll finish it.
Post-Trib columnist wrote about M to F transgender student Dakota Yorke (above), a Portage homecoming queen finalist who has identified as a girl from a very young age.  Davich wrote: “Last year, Dakota attended her high school prom sporting a tuxedo.  She hated it.  It fit her body but it didn’t fit her mind. Or her blossoming sexual identity.”  In the past Davich has championed lesbian Anne Balay when IUN unfairly terminated her and wrote sympathetically about IUN student Kaden Jakeb Alexander, who transitioned from female to male and whose name now is Kaitlyn Sowers.  Davich wrote:
  He has since undergone sex reassignment surgery to remove his breasts after months of injecting himself with weekly shots of testosterone.  If you met him today, you would never know he was once female.
  “The only thing that hasn’t changed is my show size,” he told me with a chuckle.
Davich added this postscript on Facebook: “My column on Dakota Yorke has already prompted readers to send me negative, hateful feedback, but it didn’t stop Dakota from being interviewed this morning on Fox-32 Chicago news, where she charmed the TV anchorwoman and likely many viewers.”
 Judy and Gene Ayers being interviewed at Temple Israel

In the Ayers Realtors Newsletter Judy Ayers described their new motor home’s maiden voyage to Brookhaven, Mississippi.  The purpose: to scatter the ashes of Bruce and Laura Mae Ayers, who had met when Gene’s father was stationed at a nearby army base.  Judy wrote:
  Laura Mae’s family, like many others in the area, took part in a program that extended their southern hospitality by inviting soldiers for Sunday dinner. Bruce signed up and showed up at the Shrader house one Sunday for dinner. Laura Mae didn’t much care for him at first. He arrived in uniform and on a motorcycle and in her opinion he was too much of a Yankee. However, she had three sisters who thought he was really something so he kept coming back for visits until he finally won Laura Mae’s heart. Since that is where and how their story began we all thought it would be more appropriate for them to be in Brookhaven than at our house wedged between Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedic Dictionary and Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus.
  In April the weather was springtime at its best, the motor home was fun to drive, and I had packed the refrigerator with homemade soup, salads, sandwich fixings, fruit, quiches, scones, and chocolate chip cookies. It took us about 14 hours and a few thousand calories each to get to Brookhaven.  A good part of the retail area of Brookhaven has moved near the expressway but there is still a small and very charming downtown area where next to the old train station there is a little park that was abloom with flowering trees and spring flowers. As we sat on a bench in the park we noticed a memorial that long ago had been dedicated by the townspeople to all the soldiers who served in World War II and that was when we knew we had found the right place for Bruce and Laura Mae.

My brother and I will be taking Midge’s ashes to a cemetery in Pennsylvania where Vic purchased four plots and is buried.

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