Dumpster Diving with Grandpa

This week is the one year anniversary of the passing of my Grandma Germaine and the two year anniversary of the passing of Luke’s Grandpa Roy.

We’ve been thinking and talking about our lost grandparents with each other and with our families. There’s a comfort in sharing stories about someone who has passed – knowing that they live on in your memories.

There’s one story that Luke told me I thought was pretty funny. He agreed to write it up to share with all of you:

As a 9 year old, nothing was more important to me than money. Well, not money exactly, but what it could buy – specifically baseball cards. Socking away a portion of my weekly $5 allowance for other essentials (such as new baseballs, baseball mitts, baseball cleats, baseball bats, baseball batting gloves, etc.), I could only reasonably afford to buy about 8 packs a week.

That just wasn’t going to cut it if I was ever going to pay for my entire college education in baseball cards.

After inquiring why MI 10 was stamped on every pop (yes, pop) can and being informed that the state of Michigan pays out 10 cents for every recycled can, it didn’t take long for me to connect the dots. There was gold in them thar dumpsters at the golf course next to my house where aluminum cans were being tossed by the hundreds daily.

My grandpa stepped up to the plate and volunteered to help me collect aluminum cans, no doubt because he also saw the huge payoff down the road of a free college education via wise investments in baseball cards (or perhaps he because he wanted to spend time with me).

Whenever possible, he would come pick me up in his golf cart and take me to the golf course dumpsters, where he would pick me up so I could climb into the dumpsters and start tossing out the cans.   Although it smelled disgusting and there were a lot of unknown liquids that would get on me, but I didn’t mind because baseball cards were that important.

By the end of the summer, grandpa’s entire basement was filled with garbage bags full of cans.

He began listening to the radio daily waiting for the highest daily aluminum price so we could maximize our value. The day finally came when aluminum reached the grand price of what must have been about 7 cents a ton.

We loaded up the dump truck, hauled the cans to the recycling center, and walked away with the spectacular sum of $137.50. A summer of hard work dumpster diving in the sun and the big payoff was in hand.

To thank my grandpa, I took him to the finest restaurant in all of Plymouth, Indiana – Pizza Hut. Even after that extravagance, I still had enough cash leftover to buy what was surely two college educations worth of baseball cards.

College is over, and the baseball cards remain in my parents’ basement (taking  up about as much space as all those cans did once upon a time). Every time I see them I think back to that summer and all the time my grandpa spent with me.

Luke and Grandpa Roy

The Proposal…According to Luke

I had brought up the idea of going to the Chicago Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago, trying to play if off as just something unique to do on the weekend. With conflicts on the calendar every weekend into the foreseeable future, August 8 was my one shot at making things happen. Global warming had so far resulted in record cool (read perfect) temperatures in Chicago but now threatened to ruin my plans with thunderstorms followed by record highs in the 90s and uncomfortable humidity.
I started to work the idea of just going to Millennium Park into the mix out of necessity. I also hoped that my nonchalance would throw her off the scent. As late as noon on Saturday I was leaning towards just going to Millennium Park and improvising my proposal. However, after thinking it over in the shower (my place of meditation), I decided that between the hipsters at Lollapalooza and the usual swarm of tourists in Chicago for the weekend, it was the Botanic Gardens or nothing.
I had spent Friday afternoon shopping for cheese and cured meats, as well as spinach, broccoli, blueberries, and sliced almonds for a salad. I also tried to make a dessert of peanuts coated in cinnamon and maple syrup, so needless to say I had a lot to carry. We had planned to take a Metra train and then walk 15 minutes to the gardens, but between the picnic cooler full of food and the 90+ degree heat that just wasn’t going to cut it. So, I came up with another idea that would relieve us of same of the pain of getting to the gardens and rented a car from Enterprise. I called Enterprise, got a last minute car for 24 hours and then picked up Liz.
We sat down for lunch in the picnic area prior to entering the gardens. Liz said she wasn’t all that hungry, but then admitted later that she was just really nervous because she knew what was coming. I don’t know how she knew considering the weekly picnics that I pack and frequent trips to flower gardens that we do, so I’ll chalk it up to women’s intuition. At least it wasn’t my salad cooking skills that turned her off.
After feeding my peanut dessert to the squirrels and chipmunks, we set off for the gardens.
I slipped the ring into my pocket when we went back to the car so I was ready to roll. We walked around for a half hour or so until we were nice and sweaty and then headed into the Japanese Gardens. We eventually found a nice willow tree with a rock under it that we could sit on.
After resting for a couple minutes waiting for other people on the trail to get out of eyesight, Liz asked if we could move along and I tried to slyly say, “No, let’s just sit for a while here on this uncomfortable rock” without seeming any more obvious about my intentions. She then challenged me to climb the willow tree branch hanging precipitously over the water. I wasn’t about to stand for such an assault on my manhood, and climbed right up.
After a goofy picture, I jumped down and then put my knee in the mud and said, “Alright Liz [thinking immediately that this was not the smoothest start to the proposal], I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Then I reached into my pocket to get out the ring and before I could actually ask her, “Will you marry me” she said, “Yes” and then held out her hand so I could put the ring on her finger.
We kissed and then she said, “Okay can we leave now?” and I agreed that it was too hot to enjoy anything else for the day. We navigated our way out of the gardens and then she realized that I had never really asked her to marry me, so I formalized things on the way out by informally saying, “Will you marry me?”
She said, “Yes”. Again.