Impacting Movies…

The recent hype surrounding the saga of the Star Wars franchise has me reminiscing about my lifelong fascination with the movies. Something that started when I was a little kid. I can loosely compare it to eating the forbidden fruit in the garden. Because I was not allowed to go to the movies, hence, they have been irresistible to me ever since.

 

Holy spit curls! This is what happened after viewing my first horror movie, 1960…

I’ve never been a huge TV nut. I wasn’t raised watching much television. I remember watching Captain Kangaroo, and Howdy Doody. Some Saturday morning cartoons. A highlight of a grade school year was when you managed to get on the afternoon show, live from Sioux Falls, called Captain 11. Yeah, that was a biggie.

 

Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Greenjeans and sidekicks, mid-1950’s…

 

When Larry died in 1958, Dad had a huge transformation. He accepted the Lord as his Savior. And went way over the top. Mom’s and my life changed too because of Dad’s life changing deal breaker. Dad was now gone several nights a week doing the Lord’s work. Mom and I were left at home, each of us not knowing how to deal and heal from losing Larry. We’d watch a couple of programs together. Combat, Rawhide, Have Gun Will Travel, Whirlybirds, Wagon Train. Mom making us a bowl of popcorn. In a small frypan on our gas stove. Shaking it back and forth, me listening to the kernels pop. The incredible smell filling the quiet house on 15th street. Melting real butter, plus a couple shakes of salt. And the best part. Pop. Diet Rite, RC Cola. We always had pop in the house.

 

Actors that portrayed Gil Hanley and Chip Saunders in Combat, 1962…

 

But now Dad frowned on TV, even more so about theater movies. I don’t know if it was the Hollywood lifestyle that had him believing they were going to hell. Or just that I was headed to hell if I watched them. When I started blogging, one of my first posts was about sneaking into the movies. Not without paying. But going to the movies. My little Iowa, farming community had its own theater on Main Street when I was young. Not always easy to sneak in unnoticed. You’d be surprised how many adults would squeal about me to Dad, if they observed me going into the show. Or doing anything else questionable in their eyes. Really, it was pretty hard to get by with anything that was not witnessed by someone. And this without cell phones. Although not impossible. There were a couple of times my name should have been front and center in the usual line of suspects, but until I confessed in my blog posts, many of my indiscretions were not known by the masses. Yay Neese. Stealing a car, (borrowing really, we brought it back, unscathed a couple hours later, minus half a tank of gas) and painting the side of a building were two where I should have gotten into pretty big trouble. Those incidents came later in my life of crime, and nobody ratted me out.

 

Neese needed teddy bear comfort after watching Mr. Sardonicus…

 

The first movie to have a major impact in the Life of Neese was called Mr. Sardonicus. The scene practically set itself. Northwest Iowa was in the middle of a blizzard of epic proportions. Not an uncommon winter occurrence. Dad worked for the State Hiway Commission. During snow storms, he’d get several hours overtime, driving the snow plow from Rock Valley, west to the South Dakota border near Canton, east to the Sheldon overpass which was high, wicked and very dangerous. Or south on Hiway 75 towards Sioux City. I begged, pleaded, whined, and ‘zhanicked’ (begged, pleaded, whined in Dutch, only a bit more dramatic) for Mom to let me go to the movies that night while Dad was hard at work.

 

Dad driving a snowplow, while I was sinning at the movies, 1960…

 

The theater was 2 blocks from our house. No way we would have school the next day. The snow was past my knees already. Mom caved. Unfortunately, I had done no research on the only movie showing that night. Siskel and Ebert weren’t invented yet. So I happily, but unknowingly, trudged through the deep snow to my first (and last) horror movie. Holy Hanna. Scared the shit out of this 10 year old. The short review. Married couple discover their winning lottery ticket was in the suit coat pocket of the husband’s recently deceased father. Wife insists he retrieve that ticket. Once the coffin is dug up, Sonny takes one look at the gruesome facial expression on Pop’s face and splits. Wifey sends him back for that winning ticket. Go on, Dipstick. This time when he returns, hubby’s facial features are in the same distorted, macabre frozen position as dead Daddy. In a nutshell. Yikes. Since that fateful night, I still click the remote to another station when a door creaks on TV.

 

My then 10 yr old eyes still see Mr. Sardonicus in my nightmares…

 

Once I got a bit older, bolder, and sneakier, movies were part of my high school days. Not as often in Rock Valley, though. There were some incredible, magnificent movie theaters in Sioux City and Sioux Falls. Downtown buildings with winding staircases 10 feet wide. Stunning architecture I barely noticed back in the 60’s. For this small town girl, some of these films were a real life education. The seducing wiles of an older woman with a much younger guy in The Graduate. (but true love wins) My first experience learning about homosexuals in Midnight Cowboy. My undying love for all things Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. Bullitt, Thomas Crown Affair, Papillion, The Getaway. Newman in Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy, The Sting. The Towering Inferno which starred both of them.

 

Heart throb Steve McQueen, 20 years my senior. I’d have followed him to the ends of the earth…

 

Not all movies had teaching moments for this naive chick. But they remain firmly entrenched in my head. Usually because one scene hit me hard then and has stuck. The Witness, with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. City slicker cop (Harrison) has to protect an Amish widow (Kelly) and her young son who witnessed a murder. In MY scene, Harrison is falling for the widow, and the feeling is mutual. Harrison is walking through her house. Kelly is undressing, the door is ajar. Their eyes meet in the mirror. The forbidden longing, lust and love their faces convey in that single glance still makes my tummy flip.

 

When we were living on the farm, 40 miles from Cedar Rapids in the mid-’70’s, there was a Mel Brooks movie called, Young Frankenstein. I don’t believe I’ve ever laughed that hard, though Blazing Saddles came close. Weeks later, I’d think about Marty Feldman saying, “werewolf!” Gene Wilder asking “werewolf?” Marty answering, “there wolf, there castle.” Or Wilder looking at the castle’s mammoth doors, exclaiming, “what a set of knockers!” Terri Gar answers shyly, “thank you.”

 

Young Frankenstein stars, Feldman, Wilder and Gar…

 

Diane Keaton in Baby Boom, as a single, ambitious New Yorker whose cousin passes away and literally leaves Diane her baby girl. Diane is not mom material and seriously considers giving the baby up for adoption. In MY scene, the baby has been sick and up all night. Diane has walked, or rocked her and both are near exhaustion. Both Baby and Diane fall asleep, with baby on Diane’s chest. One of the most poignant scenes ever. I sob every time.

 

Diane Keaton in Baby Boom…

 

Or my favorite romantic comedy. Notting Hill. Julia Roberts plays a superstar (now there’s a stretch) who’s in London. She goes into a book store owned by Hugh Grant. Instant attraction. But they are from such different worlds. After flirting, an affair and numerous problems getting in their way, Julia walks into the book store (in flip flops, gotta love it) says to Hugh, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her!” So romantic and heartfelt. I bawled my eyes out. As an added bonus, Rhys Ifans plays Hugh’s roommate, Spike. He steals several scenes and is absolutely hilarious. In grungy underwear.

 

Julia asking for Hugh’s heart…

 

Even during our first, oh-so-broke years of marriage, John and I managed to see a few movies. We watched The Godfather at South Sioux City’s, Gordon Twin Drive Inn. Couldn’t afford a babysitter, making it necessary to haul our adorable 2-1/2 year old, Shannon along. In our 1972 green Chevy Vega. Embarrassing to admit that. Not that we took a toddler to a very adult themed movie. That we owned a Vega. We loaded the car with goodies and enough blankets, pillows to make a bed in the hatchback for our precocious little diva. She assured us, she would sleep in the car. Right. Next thing we hear out of her is, “why is that man sleeping with a horse? Where’s the rest of the horse, daddy?” Probably the reason she became a therapist.

 

Looks like Shannon suffered no ill effects from The Godfather…

 

Forty years ago, I started reading The TV guide and People Magazine, faithfully. Nosy and loved learning what was going on in Hollywood. That inquisitiveness has waned the last few years. Many of the stars I enjoy watching on the big screen feel because the make millions in movies, they also know what’s best for me in the world of politics. Please, shut your mouth unless it’s a movie script. The trivia about Hollywoood and their stars stuck though. Twenty years ago when the kids were in college, I’d regularly receive phone calls from one of them, which sounded something like this. “Mom, what was the movie where the secret service guy’s job was…” “Umm, Guarding Tess, with Nicolas Cage and Shirley McClaine,” I’d answer quickly. Not only has most of that information seeped from my head (no, not song lyrics yet) I’ve been replaced by Google. My services of useless tidbit information, no longer required.

 

Brad Davis as Billy Hayes in Midnight Express, 1979…

 

The movie that struck me with the biggest impact happened in Spencer, Iowa. The spring of 1979. I was pregnant with Adam. Hubs and I went to the theater downtown. The movie was, Midnight Express. Based on a true story starring Brad Davis as Billy Hayes. Billy is caught at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, trying to smuggle hashish out of the country. Tried and sentenced for 30 years to life in a gruesome prison. What he endured was horrifying. After a few years, his girlfriend smuggles him some money to help buy an escape, cause he’s not getting out any other way. Billy’s nemesis is a sadistic guard with the intention of raping Billy. Billy accidentally kills him before the deed. Billy quickly puts on the guards clothing and calmly walks out of prison. Makes his way to Greece and back to New York a few weeks later. For some reason, this movie still haunts me almost 4 decades later. I wonder if any movies have made a huge impact on other people’s lives like they have on mine…

 

 

 

 

Trinkets & Treasures…

I complained quite a bit by the time we finally moved east last fall. Even before that. Our lives were thrust in turmoil from the moment we put the house on the market in mid-2012. It was like our house wasn’t ours anymore, but it was. Uneasy about letting any junk lie around, beds unmade, or plan a big day of canning. We always had to be ready for a showing. It just didn’t feel like our home anymore. Less like our house after we rented a storage unit and packed a good third of our belongings away for what we thought would be 90 days. Try 1,200 days. Ugh. Why it took over 3 years to sell a nifty lake home still puzzles me.

 

Larry, Spitzy and me. Backyard on 15th St, 1956…

There were several advantages to renting that dang storage unit. We stored big furniture pieces in it, giving our house a larger, less cluttered, more open look. I’d pine over the spot where each piece had resided for 18 years. But it was the 2 rows of plastic tubs, all neatly stacked to the ceiling that simply oozed out of my memory bank.

 

My photo album, circa 1960. Larry has always been on the front page…

 

We went through quite a few of the tubs when it became apparent the house sale was actually a reality. This was our first move in 20 years, and the first one where we’d be doing all the work of packing. And paying for it ourselves. Ouch. We needed to lighten our load. Didn’t do such a hot job in that department. The stark realization hit, we would not be able to keep everything. We really wanted to downsize. We hadn’t used several rooms of our house for years. It was just too big. But there a feeling of being disloyal when it came to selling a favorite antique, only to find in the future, it might be just the right size and fit a new house perfectly. So we paid the movers to load 14,000 pounds of our belongings. This after we thought we’d seriously gotten rid of a boatload of stuff.

 

Larry’s bible from Pioneer Methodist, 1956…

 

After we bought a home about 800 square feet smaller than our last one, the movers unloaded what seemed like 30,000 pounds of stuff in the house, basement and garage. We barely had room to walk. I moved, swapped out, wrung my hands over pieces that just weren’t going to work. I kept telling myself, “it’s just stuff Neese, let it go.” Please, for everything that’s holy, do NOT start humming that song.

 

Larry’s stuff, including his bow tie…

 

So I’ve come to terms with what will and won’t work in here. I’m ok with that. I’ve managed to find spots for most of my favorites. The kids will take the rest or we’ll sell a few things. But to my surprise, one of the best parts of that annoying storage unit was finding some small, unexpected treasures.

 

Larry about 6 by our fabulous play house Dad built…

 

 

After my Mom passed away in 2004, Dad lived in their house another 4 months. It sold, and I had about a week to pack, save or give away their stash of belongings. And he and Mom had lived there for 50 years. Hokey Pete. My sister Mona and her 3 kids took quite a bit. The rest was for me and our 3 children. Plus Dad was moving to Michigan, so he kept whatever he wanted for his new apartment. Which I then got after he passed away 3 plus years later. That’s really how I got so bogged down with all these containers and boxes. I just couldn’t keep up with the deaths and moves. Easier to just ignore the stacks.

 

Larry’s Christmas gift to Mom in the early 50’s…

 

And that’s exactly why it’s been such a trip going through these containers now. I did have to toughen my thin skin a bit when it hit me that I couldn’t keep everything. It was that or rent another storage unit. If I was agonizing over my decision making skills, I did not cave very many times. John thought if he tried to hurry me along, I’d just say, “heck, just haul it to Goodwill.” No, I used my outside voice and wore my big girl panties and firmly stated, “dude, there’s no way I’m getting rid of that right now. Maybe in a year or 2, but for now, it stays.” Then he’d start whining, “we aren’t going to have a bunch of tubs just taking up space. Are you absolutely sure you really need this?” “Give it up John, I’m not selling or giving that away right now. Period.”

 

Larry with someone I don’t recognize about 1951. He loved cotton candy…

 

For the last couple weeks, Hubs has brought in a couple boxes/containers every day or 2 from the garage for me to go through. Knick-knacks I didn’t remember until I spotted them again. I have a dozen beautiful paper weights. I thought I had 4. Now my bookcases are cluttered with too many things on each shelf. But it’s almost like getting new stuff all over cause I haven’t seen it for 4 years.

 

Larry’s billfold. Complete with classmates pics, 1957…

 

The items that have been no brainers to keep is anything that was my brother Larry’s. He was killed in 1958 at age 12, while riding his bike. I was 7 and worshipped him. The faithful few who read every blog post might be wondering why I keep repeating some of the same things about him. I actually wanted to talk about this anyway. When Larry is mentioned, I feel I have to give a bit of background. I’ve been blogging for almost 2 years. Several of my stories have been about Larry. He was a huge part of my life, and after he was gone, our family fell apart. But stayed together. Don’t know if it would have been worse if we had actually split.

 

Larry and me at our west side house before we moved in 1955…

 

The only way for me to keep track of who reads my posts is if someone either ‘likes’ the story or makes a comment. I’m sure a few more folks have read some sporadically, but there is no way for me to actually know. But every once in a while a complete stranger finds my blog (by accident, I’m sure). Can you believe it, they read and comment? I know, honest, I’m just as surprised as you. Because these blog-passers-by (thanks so much BTW), and don’t really know a thing about Neese and her storytelling, I feel I have to give a bit of background when I mention Larry. I know it’s lame for the devoted few who have read many variations numerous times and think, “yeah, she’s definitely losing it. She CRS.”

 

These are my old toys…

 

Larry’s treasures. They mean more to me than all my antiques and collectibles combined. Sometimes I wonder why Mom kept certain things from him and not others. A pair of his swimming trunks, jeans, and one shirt. His baseball gloves, pop gun, bubblegum machine, and billfold with most of his classmates pictures inside. Guess they were from 6th grade or maybe they had already gotten their 7th grade pictures back. That stuff I don’t wonder about. I’m sure glad Mom kept what she did and was a saver.

 

Larry’s jeans, shirt and swimming trunks. Size 12, but so little…

 

Here’s one of the more curious items I just found. The soft, thin string is very yellow with age. It had so many knots I truly thought about cutting it apart. But I really wanted to save it as original as possible. The trinkets attached to the string looked chintzy. So, for about 45 minutes I painstakingly worked to untangle the mess. Careful to keep them in the same order Larry had put them on about 60 years ago. A mish-mash of plastic, or metal looking tiny objects. I can only compare it to a girl’s charm bracelet or necklace-tough boy style. Since he passed away in ’58, they all date before that. Hubs offered his opinion as I was removing them one by one. He thinks they’re from Cracker Jacks boxes. One is a zodiac sign of Virgo that resembles a coin. A couple of dogs, bowling pins, gun, stagecoach, skull, plastic safety pin. And on the very end is a good sized nail. I didn’t even take that apart. It had a nice knot and wasn’t tangled up. I couldn’t imagine why a nail would be on the end. Uncomfortable if he carried this around in his pocket. John ventured he thought Larry was going to or had hung it up somewhere. Using the nail. Hmmm.

 

Larry’s collection, untangled…

 

So I’ve dedicated a couple of shelves in an oak bookcase for some of Larry’s and my old stuff. For me, part of a baking set with tiny cookie cutters, a jello mold, kaleidoscope, wooden rolling pin, stuffed animals. A little plaid pup that Larry gave me 60 years ago for Christmas.

 

A gift from Larry to his little sis, mid-’50’s…

 

Larry, although you’ve been gone for a long time, not a day has passed when I haven’t thought about you. Ever. Not as long as I live. Love ‘ya Bro…

 

Me, Larry and Spitzy about 1954…

 

 

His Left Foot…

I can hear it now. You’re all going to blame me. It wasn’t my fault, I swear. Looking back though, I might have been a bit hasty with my last post, called The Freshman. But hey, I was excited about the terrific December he and his team had just finished. Ok, so I got caught up in the moment. But as the rest of the story unfolds, I’m sure you’ll find me completely blameless.

 

Landon, number 3, going in for a layup…

Let me catch you up. It really all started about 2 years ago. My 15 year old grandson, Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) had a sore foot. His left foot. A nagging pain when he played hard, changed directions or pivoted on the basketball court. Over the last 2 years he’s seen his pediatrician, a podiatrist, had shoe inserts, been taped, x-rays, you name it. But not one of them could find the cause for Landon’s foot pain.

Did the pain in his foot ever halt his play on the basketball court? Surely you jest. Nope, this kid just played through the discomfort. But it never went away. So, mom, dad and Landon continued to look for answers on what was troubling this growing foot on my fantastic grandson, the ball player.

 

Landon guarding, disrupting Skyline’s player…

 

Shannon had a day long commitment with Governor Snyder’s Task Force back in December. Tracey had just gone through knee replacement surgery and wasn’t able to drive yet. So I was tagged to take Landon, his most recent x-rays, and tests results to an orthopedic specialist in Jackson.

His appointment was at 9:15. I love morning appointments. I optimistically assume since it’s so early, how far behind can the office/Doctor possibly be? We waited and waited. Landon was the youngest one in the office by about 5 decades. One of the patients ahead of him was a 90 year old lady who insisted on filling out all the forms herself. I love these little independent women. Except she could not remember any medications, dates of injuries, surgeries, not much of anything pertaining to her upcoming visit. She was also stone deaf, and ended up asking her daughter every single question from the four sheet form. Loudly. I’m profoundly deaf, and I heard all the information on the last 50 years of her health issues that morning. I’m glad Landon was on the ball. He had his phone along. Texted his mom with questions about his medications and dates.

 

Something he’s always excelled in, his passing ability…

 

We finally get called back and sit in a room to wait some more. When the doctor finally makes an appearance, (he’s wearing an identical Polo shirt that Landon owns. Only about 3 sizes bigger) and he’s full of questions. About Tracey, knee surgery, basketball and life in general. I didn’t realize the doc went to Jackson High with Shannon and Tracey. He was a couple years ahead of Shannon, as was Tracey, though Tracey and Shannon are the same age. T graduated at age 16. Anyway, he finally got to the reason we were there. The foot problem. I saw and sympathized during the wincing pain on Landon’s face as Doc manipulated his foot. Asked a lot of questions, looked at his recent x-rays, and said he thought it was time for an MRI. Ventured it could be a stress fracture, cyst or something completely different.

 

He’s got some growing to do. Look at those feet???

 

Nothing else for us to do that day. We got some lunch and I hustled him to school for a half day cause his appointment took so long. Shannon called to set up the MRI appointment during Christmas break. Landon continued to practice and play basketball. His team, the Ann Arbor Pioneers, were doing phenomenal. Hadn’t lost yet. Landon, the only freshman on Varsity was getting quite a few playing minutes. And scoring some points.

Christmas break is over, school’s back in session, the basketball season is back on the court. Shannon and Landon have an appointment to get the results of the MRI. She calls after they leave the office. It’s official. A stress fracture. Bummer. He needs a boot, crutches and 4 weeks of rest for his left foot.

 

Umm, yes, he can be pretty intense on the court…

 

The doctor’s appointment was on a Friday, a couple hours before one of Pioneer’s biggest rivalry opponents. No doubt about it, Landon wanted to play, then tell his coach. The timing is actually pretty good. He might only miss 4 games because they have 2 Tuesday’s off in January. Shannon and Tracey decide to let him play. After all, he’s been playing basketball year round with this discomfort for over 2 years.

What a game. This is the same team they played in December when “he’s a freshman, he’s a freshman” was screamed by the student section as he went on to score 14 points. (And the student body continued this tradition that night). But 14 isn’t even close to the game he was about to have. At age 15.

 

The Rowdy Bunch during game against Skyline. Coach Rex in white shirt…

 

Landon goes in about midway through the first quarter, and plays 9 minutes of the first half. He makes his first shot, a jumper, then a lay up. Two 3 pointers follow for 10 in the half. Never missed a shot and had one foul. Goes in at the 3 minute mark of the 3rd quarter. Does not score in the period, but causes all kinds of headaches for one of Skyline’s main shooters.

It’s during the 4th quarter where Landon would really shine. He’s always been a very disciplined player. (His only waver is a bit of trash talking once in a while. Not to worry, I’m on it) He practices A LOT. This is where all that practice comes to fruition. Crunch time. First he has a nifty layup. So his total stands at 12. Although Pioneer had lead by more than 20 points at times, the big lead has dwindled. With time running down, Skyline needs the clock to stop. How does a team do that? By fouling Pioneer and hoping they miss at the line. Unfortunately for Skyline, they had to foul a superb point guard with the name of Landon Lowder (ok, so most scream Drew, but not this gram. If anything, I’m consistent). Towards the end of the 4th quarter, they fouled him 5 times. How many points did the Pioneers get out of Landon standing on the free throw line? Ten freaking points people. Ten, I tell you. Does he stand at the foul line and go through all kinds of crazy rituals? Nope. Just bounces it once, throws it up and swishes it through. Over and over. Ten points in free throws. Twelve for the half. High scorer for the game with 22.

 

Oh yeah baby, he’s making his move…

 

Landon was interviewed at length by a sports writer from the Ann Arbor News for the paper last Sunday. Reading the article and the blog his coach writes after every game was misleading though. Both indicated Landon had recently hurt his foot. This injury was not recent at all. One of the neatest comments I read in the blog about Landon’s game was this: “at crunch time, a freshman with ice water in his veins at the free throw line!”

 

My rather lame attempt keeping Landon stats…

 

So last Saturday morning, Landon started sporting a boot and crutches. Sigh. It has to be done. They didn’t have a game on Tuesday. We didn’t go to Friday nights game either. Sure I want Pioneer to win, but without the lure of watching Landon hustle up and down the court during the game, it’s just not the same for this gram. Shannon texted me throughout. Pioneer struggled more than they should have, and although Landon’s not a starter, where Deric is, they are now missing 2 key players in their lineup. But the Pioneers pulled it out for their 11th win with no losses. Landon goes back to the orthopedic doctor the 1st of February. Deric might be out a little longer than that. The big game with their other town rivalry is this Friday night. And I hear Huron has a pretty good team.

 

Landon has stepped up his defense…

 

I have a couple stories in my head trying to break free. But at least for the next few weeks, no basketball stories about the amazing Landon. You’ll have to be content with the boring early Neese years…

 

The Freshman…

Busy times loom on the horizon. Our 15 year old grandson, Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) had just finished freshman football season. There was a bit of a dead zone, maybe 2 weeks, tops. Nothing demanding his time (besides schoolwork and girls) in the world of sports for the moment. But basketball tryouts were coming up. A grueling week of 2-a-days. This is his favorite and best sport since he was born.

 

Landon, 5, shooting during halftime, 2005…

 

Plain and simple, I was hoping he’d make the junior varsity team. I knew he would get the most playing time because he’s that good. How much fun is it if he makes varsity, but sits the bench most of the season? How does that make him a better player? He’s always played in leagues a notch above his age. Being pushed to be better by bigger, older kids. His dad (Tracey, former pro, then high school coach, teacher, now principal) thought he should strive and make the varsity team. Practicing everyday with juniors and seniors, maybe get a few minutes of playing time each game. There was also an option of the 2 combined. Play on junior varsity, then suit up with varsity. A rule where he would be allowed to play a certain amount of minutes per game on Varsity. I think it’s about 8.

 

Hurts my heart. He’s just as good at baseball. But hates it…

 

So, for one week in mid-November, we sweated (not literally, but anxiously) through the days wondering how he was doing. Fourth night after supper, I get a text from Shannon. A letter from Rex, the head Pioneer coach. Landon made the varsity team. Was that good or bad? I was skeptical. How do juniors and seniors treat a freshman who’s just made the team? If they have the best interest of the team in their hearts, I assume they would accept him unequivocally. If there’s a possibility he might snag some playing time minutes away from other players, who knows?

 

Landon cocky? Surely you jest…

 

A few weeks fly by and the season starts. A Tuesday home game. Pioneer is big, maybe 1800 students. I thought the place would be packed, but it’s not. Most of our family are in attendance, anxious to watch Landon. Though Tracey warned us, as a freshman, he would not get very much playing time. If any. Adam, Sarah, Graham and Sarah’s nephew Coyle, who’s a sports nut. Ari and Josh. Tracey had total knee replacement 5 days prior. Was determined not to miss any of Landon’s games, but this just wasn’t feasible. He was on powerful pain medication and transporting him was dicey enough, let alone getting jostled during the game. Shannon texted him throughout with updates. We were playing a non-conference team from Detroit, called Taylor Kennedy.

 

Taking the ball down court, calling the offense…

 

We sat on the wrong side, behind the scorer’s table. No cheerleaders for either team, which was odd. Learned later, half of Pioneer’s Cheerleader uniforms hadn’t arrived yet. The announcer is a hoot. Talks to the crowd, encouraging, cajoling, scolding. He has a litany down pat. “Please, no standing in the doorways. Find your seats. Show good sportsmanship to players and refs. Be courteous and respectful.” By the second game we would learn exactly why he says this over the microphone. With a sincere, but firm attitude. The game starts and Pioneer is handling their opponents with ease. Midway through the first quarter, Landon is signaled to go in. He plays the rest of the first quarter and half of the second. Scores a couple of buckets, defense is awesome. (He must have read the coaches letter). Comes back in midway through 3rd, and plays halfway through the 4th. Scores 7 for the night. We win easily 85-50. Good way to start the season.

 

Running the plays. Adam in the background…

 

The small crowd files out. We are waiting to give Landon a ride home, but he’s in the locker room. For the post game sermon from the coach I guess. I see a gal, about 40, writing furiously at the scorer’s table. I wander towards her. Bend over behind her as she’s writing and venture, “hi, I’m Landon’s grandma” (then I spot the stat sheet in front of her has him listed as Drew Lowder-sigh. Yeah, this is what I’ll have to put up with for the rest of his sports career, I guess). “I mean Drew’s grandma. I know he scored 7 points, but do you know the rest of his stats for the night? I think he had a couple assists, maybe a foul. Did you chart that one rebound? And exactly how many minutes and seconds did he play? I should have jotted some of this stuff down, but,” my voice finally trailed off. I stopped and sucked in a big breath. She turns towards me, looking perplexed and says, “sorry, I don’t have any of that information except his point total. I’m actually from Taylor Kennedy. I’m the coaches wife. So most of my stats are on our players, not Pioneer’s.” Well, color me embarrassed. I slink away, slightly beneath the court floor.

 

Getting so much better at D…

 

I didn’t know game # 2 would be so different. Neither Shannon or Tracey could attend, which has only happened a couple times in a decade of basketball for the kid. Shannon’s office (she’s the CEO) Christmas party has been scheduled for months, not knowing that Tracey would be having surgery the week prior. He’s still not up to going, so it’s just grandpa and me on a Friday night. And Pioneer’s playing one of their 2 biggest rivalries. Skyline High School. Who knew? Not us. You would have thought after sticking my foot in my mouth over the stats issue, I would have learned. But I didn’t. Wouldn’t be until game 4 where I would devise a makeshift stat sheet of my own. Only on Landon’s efforts and the team score by quarters.

 

Yup, he’s had a couple of blocked shots …

 

I know this is selfish, but this is kinda like I felt when I bowled (with purpose) for 20 years. Yes, I wanted our ‘team’ to win, but more importantly, I wanted to bowl well. If we lost, but I had a 550, which was about 75 pins above my average, well, meh, I did my part. This is how I felt about Landon. I wanted Pioneer to do well and win, but my main concern was Landon’s stats. This game I would document however, in a different way. Since both mom and dad were missing it, I texted them. Scores once in a while, but mostly stuff when Landon was in and what he was doing. So far his best game of the season. This time, we were sitting across from the bench (far away from the scorer’s table too) and facing the Pioneer student section. They showed up in droves for this game. At one point, when Landon swished his second 3-pointer, they all stood up and screamed in unison, “he’s a freshman, he’s a freshman!”

 

The student section who are boisterous…

 

Landon was freaking awesome. The 6th man. Usually goes in mid-1st period, stays in until mid-late second quarter. Goes back in about the same time in the 3rd and stays until mid-4th. After he went in, he scored a 3-pointer, followed by a lay-up. Went down hard during a fight for the ball, and the two did some trash talking. Ref said something to them, soon after Landon went out. But back in a couple minutes later. Played most of the second half which ended at the buzzer with a tie. He did not play in overtime, but Pioneer won by 7.

 

Landon, in white, scrapping for the ball…

 

The student section got a little rambunctious and may have disagreed with one of the refs foul calls. In ear splitting unison, (and I’m deaf) the group shouts, “bullshit, bullshit.” The bouncer-announcer stands up, turns around to face these kids and sternly yells into the mic, “hey, knock it off. Now.” At the buzzer of the emotional overtime win, the student group fly through the air, off the bleachers to give high 5’s and hugs to the players. B-A (bouncer-announcer from here on in) screams, “get off the floor. Get off the floor. Now.”

 

Landon, ready to go in. Bouncer-announcer behind on the left…

 

This is part of the Ann Arbor News sports article the following day: Pioneer 71, Skyline 64 in overtime. Junior Cedric Benton led the way for Pioneer, scoring a game high 22 points. He was followed by freshman Drew (sigh) Lowder, who came off the bench to tally 14 points, looking more like a seasoned veteran. Wow, just wow. The wow, just wow part was not in the paper. Why, I do not know or understand.

 

Not bragging, he’s a pretty good ball-handler…

 

This is one of the reasons we moved 160 miles east. To be able to go to the games, concerts, recitals, school programs of our grandkids. Meet one of our kids for pizza and not have to drive 3 hours first. So I won’t bore you over every detail of each game. Although if you ask, I still have most of the stats in my head. Although I am learning, jotting them down is a better way of tracking how my boy (ownership issues) is doing.

 

Going in for a lay-up…

 

The Ann Arbor Pioneers are 8-0 for the month of December. Two were overtime wins, one, a squeaker by just 3. They won a holiday tourney last week with ease. But one of the starters just broke his foot, so the team dynamics will change for the next few weeks. Landon has played about the same number of minutes in each one. Averaging about 14 minutes (seconds played are still unknown to this gram) out of 32 per game. His scoring has been a bit sporadic, but his ball-handling, defense, passing and assists have been spot on. He has been consistently hitting team mates in the head, chest, and shoulders over the years with his unbelievable passing ability. Looking the other way, yet somehow manages to thread a pass through 3 bodies to the dude under the basket. Sometimes they’re totally caught off guard, just not ready for that sneaky pass. Well I’m sure you’re just as excited and anxious as I am to see how Pioneer (ok, let’s be honest, Landon) does in the month of January. Not to worry, I’ll post up…

 

Landon, never shy with a basketball in his hands…