Richard Vandiver

Richard Vandiver

Dad’s Clan on his wedding day 2005


Giving Mom’s Pumpkin Bread

The gift of giving is trait my sister, and brother and I inherited from our mom and dad.  Our parents taught us through example to be giving, to be generous, and to show our gratitude to important people in our lives.  Every year around Thanksgiving, my mom would make her yummy pumpkin bread.  Usually on a weekend, she’d bake the loaves in the gas oven downstairs because it cooked evenly and helped warm the basement where our bedrooms were.

 We’d help mom frost the loaves, after they had cooled, with green or red icing, and sometimes sprinkles.  She’d wrap-up the loaves and we’d take them to our teachers to show them our gratitude for their efforts.  I remember giving those loaves with feelings of joy and pride.  There was rarely a year when the teacher didn’t come back with raves of how delicious the bread was and how much their families enjoyed it.

 Last night we had dinner at my sister’s house.  “Auntie Joni Who Loves You”, has recently moved to Bigfork with her family.  They’ve only been here a few months but already our lives have been blessed over and over by having them near, the dinner is just one example.

We all wondered how it would go, living in a small town and being so close to each other again.  But having my sister live near me again is better than I could have even imagined.

Her daughter, Kaylynn arrived in our Sadie’s life just when she needed her most.  High School can be a challenge and having a cousin, who is a great friend, to hang-out with has been the greatest gift of all.  The girls enjoy each other so much and Kaylynn has been grateful to have Sadie’s friendship while she experiences being the new girl at school.

 Hadley and Kaylynn were both using their sketchbooks last night, creating beautiful works of art.  It’s fun for both of them to have another artist in the family, a kindred spirit to share ideas and their masterpieces.

 As a parent, it is a wonderful moment when you watch with love and pride as your daughter shows her generosity.  To see them delight in giving and be gracious in receiving renews my hope for their future.

I remember one time standing in a subway station in New York.  My dad and I were taking the train to Brooklyn for dinner with friends.  They had a young son that I was excited to see.  I couldn’t stand still I was so excited to give him the large, colorful, stuffed fish in my bag.  Dad watched me and smiled, and I’ll never forget this, he said “You’re like me, you find more joy in giving than in getting.”

There are times in our lives when the only things we have to give are our words and our hugs, but the gift is always enough if you give with a generous and grateful heart.  Being grateful, enjoying the act of giving as well as receiving, makes us happier, more abundant people.

This morning we’re having Joni’s Quiche for breakfast.  I’ll be making Mom’s Pumpkin Bread and working on Christmas Calendars.  We’ll meet up with Joni and family at the health club later, and I’ll give them a few loaves of pumpkin bread.  This week, Joni will join us on a road trip to Oregon to see our dad and Janet.  We’ll probably bring them some pumpkin bread too.

Pumpkin Bread for Eating and Giving

4 eggs                             3 cups flour                     dash ginger & nutmeg

2 cups sugar                   ½ tsp salt                        1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pumpkin       ½ tsp baking powder        Pre-heat oven to 350°

1 cup oil                1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup water           2 tsp baking soda

Beat eggs lightly; mix in sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, and oil.  Add dry ingredients alternately with water.  Spray bread pans with oil.  Pour batter into pans between ½ and ¾ full.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Check at 50 minutes.  For small loaves check at 40 minutes.

Check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of the loaf.  If it comes out with batter it’s not done.  If it comes out clean, loaves are done.  Also watch the edges for brown.



Grandpa’s Breakfast

Grandpa’s Breakfast

Everyone in my family looks forward to those mornings when my dad cooks breakfast.  It’s quite the production and includes eggs, sourdough pancakes, potatoes, bacon, cut fruit, coffee, and juice.  As often as possible, he cooks outside on a camping griddle.  It’s fun to watch him work, but the real treat is eating what he cooks.  The last time he fixed it in my backyard, all his grandchildren sat outside and watched him.  Everyone was together for Hadley’s high school graduation.

 My dad was and still is, quite fond of Hadley Kay.  She was his first grandchild, and was the only one for seven years, until our Sadie Lou came along and all the others followed close behind.

 Hadley Kay did this amazing thing with my family.  I think she brought us all closer together.  We had always been close, but my mom and dad had divorced many years earlier, and my brother, sister and I had scattered across the globe.  Hadley Kay was this sweet, little love-bug we all adored and wanted to be around. 

 It’s not that any of the others wouldn’t have had the same affect, it’s just that she was the lucky one who got to be the first.  But dad, was changed by Hadley Kay and then again and again by all the grandchildren who followed her.  They  gave him the opportunity to reinvent himself from father of three to GRAND father of six, and he did an amazing job of it.

 But Hadley Kay took to her grandfather as though they’d been friends in a past life.  He would swing her in his arms and she would smile and giggle.  Her eyes would sparkle when he came towards me to cradle her in his arms against his big warm chest, or over his forearm in his famous Grandpa Hold.  There wasn’t a grandchild of his who could continue to cry once he held them in the Grandpa Hold

 When Hadley was little, she and I spent many months at my dad’s house while I waited for my Australian residency. At Christmas, Hadley used to love to sit on his lap and watch the train go around the Christmas tree and hold onto his arm as his old truck drove around the living room floor attached to the box at his side by a long black cord. 

 Hadley probably doesn’t even know why she adores her grandfather so much.  But I do, because I remember all those moments, from all those days, in all those months we spent with him when he was her GRAND father.

Today my dad is in a hospital bed in Portland, Oregon.  He is in a great deal of pain as his body struggles to fight the cancer that lives and grows in his liver.  After many months of un-ending pain, he questions whether he wants to keep fighting.  And I understand.  I know how pain and illness can make you forget how it feels to be healthy.  It wears you down and you start to believe that you will feel this way forever, so you’d rather just give up the fight and surrender.

 So today, this blog is dedicated to my dad.  And I ask him to remember moments, hours, days, and events from the past when he was healthy and happy with his grandchildren and his children.  Remember how it felt to swing Hadley Kay in your arms.  Remember how 21 years later (just this past May) you celebrated your 50th Anniversary of graduating from CU Boulder along side Hadley as she graduated with a degree in Journalism.

Remember Hadley, Sadie, David, Kaylynn, Micheala, K.C., Joni, Jana, and Jack.  Remember that we all love you and need you very much. We’re hoping you’ll remember those days and moments of health and happiness with all of us, and that those memories will give you the strength to get through your chemotherapy treatments and the long painful days ahead. 

 We’re all looking forward to another one of your famous Grandpa breakfasts with eggs and bacon, potatoes and cut fruit, and especially your amazing sourdough pancakes. 

Joni is already making plans for your first annual Grandpa Is Cancer-Free celebration at the Cabana on the beach at your house, and we’re all expecting you to cook. 🙂

 Good Luck Dad.  We love you.