Joe's grandfathers are both turning 85 this year. 85 years on this earth, working hard, creating these stable, strong, feisty families. So two of our weekend trips have been to help celebrate this momentous milestone for each of these admirable men. In October we headed to Madison for a big ol' Sands family reunion, with family flying in from Pennsylvania, and earlier in September we drove up to Omaha for a blow out Husker game 85th birthday party weekend. First, let's dive into the fun with Joe's paternal grandfather, Jay.
Augustus Jay Cadwallader Sands, Jay, is a Philadelphia Main Line gentleman. A good Saturday night for Jay and his fashionable wife, Fritzie, might include drinks and a fine meal at the Merion Cricket Club. Jay owned and operated his own classic gift shop, Richard Stockton, making it a hub for wedding registries, Crane invitation orders and that perfect housewarming gift for Bryn Mawr patrons for decades. Jay raised his son and daughter in a beautifully appointed home, sending them to the finest schools and hoping the best for them like any father. Jay loves spending time with his grandsons, all five of them, and dotes on his three great-grandchildren, particularly the first baby girl in this generation, Miss Tierney, making a point to come out to the Midwest at least once a year to see his clan.
Fritzie planned a lovely and elegant surprise party for Jay, a full two months before his birthday and such a total surprise that I think it took Jay about five minutes at the party to realize we weren't just having a nice dinner. Fritzie ordered lush floral arrangements, a scrumptious cake, copious amounts of chilled shrimp, a constantly flowing open bar, and selected a classic steak restaurant in Madison for the festivities.
It was a delightful evening. The kids ran around, behaving themselves shockingly well when bribed with Shirley Temples and plenty of cherries, Joe shot some updated family portraits, after that Katy's parents kindly took the kids for the evening and we all enjoyed drinks, delicious steaks, and some time to catch up, including a brief Skype with the only missing grandson, Dave in California. Jay has good reason to be a proud father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He's helped shape and create a group of kind, intelligent, funny and strong people, and I'm happy to get to be a part of the fun. Plus I discovered my new favorite drink, thanks to cousin Chris, whiskey and ginger ale. Or renamed "Whiskey Fancy" to fit with Fritzie's stately birthday festivities. A big thanks to Fritzie for pulling off the event all the way from Philadelphia and for rocking those bright orange trousers and that white silk tunic, especially around three little messy Sands people.
Now let's head over to Omaha for another 85th birthday celebration, only with a whole lot of Husker spirit.
Joe's maternal grandfather Gus, Augustus Morley Underhill, grew up in Marblehead, MA. A Navy man, he worked in finance for many years with General Electric and Union Pacific, and he moved his wife and four daughters from Philadelphia out to Omaha, NE in the 1970's, and that's where his family grew and grew. Gus has four daughters, four son-in-laws, thirteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
He's reserved, always smiling in the corner, assessing each situation from the sidelines until he weighs in with that perfect piece of advice. (A skill honed while surviving a house filled with five women.) Some of my favorite advice, "Fill your gas tank up when you have 1/2 a tank, costs the same either way." and "It's just as easy to marry a rich girl as it is a poor girl." Gus and Janice have been married for more than 60 years and are a beautiful example of a happy, long marriage.
Joe's mom and aunts love throwing a party. They love centerpieces and banners and decorations, they love a theme. They love matching t-shirts and soundtracks and appetizer tables. So they picked a Husker theme, and made sure we all dressed accordingly. And when friends and family gathered, more than thirty of us in the room, not an eye was dry in the house when Gus and Janice both spoke. It was a rowdy, fun night full of beers and football and 85th birthday cookies in red and white and little kids chasing each other. A fitting celebration for a generous, hard working man like Gus.
Joe and his family are lucky that both of his grandfathers are still healthy and active, lively men. I've lost both of mine, one before I even knew him and the other a few years ago, and I miss them all the time. I miss my grandfather's gruff advice and all encompassing hugs. I miss his stability and humor too, but I've gotten to adopt Joe's grandparents as my own, after eleven years of marriage, so I'm lucky too. Joe and I were both so lucky to get to be there to celebrate two of the men who've meant the most in his life and his family. Thank you to Gus and Jay for helping create this lively, funny, and ridiculously wonderful clan with whom I'm happy to share a last name.