Tag Archives: Melvin Robert Madel

Austria, Newlyweds, Literature, and Vegetables

First of all, hello, Austria!

Last month I noticed that we were getting a bit of traffic from Austria. How did I notice this? Because I stalk our blog analytics like a crazy person and get excited when we get more than two hits per day. The Austrians seem to traffic our Grandpa Madel posts most frequently, which makes sense since there are very likely some Austrian Madels. I thought that perhaps Uncle Mark, who lives in Amsterdam, was visiting Austria. Or maybe it’s ancestors of Erwin Schrödinger. And until I find out for sure, it will both be and not be the ancestors of Erwin Schrödinger.

I commented on this Austrian anomaly to Trevor, who said that I should welcome them properly by saying hello. So, hello, Austria, and willkommen!

Welcome, Austrians!

Last weekend, T. and I were treated to a boat trip down (and back up) the Chicago River and out on Lake Michigan. This treat came because our friend Daniel got married to his beautiful wife Gina, and they hosted the reception on Chicago’s First Lady. I took a few pictures, but most of them were too dark and blurry to be of any use. Here are the least dark and least blurry (note: they’re still dark and blurry):

The newlyweds' first dance

The newlyweds’ first dance

Two awesome adolescents dancing on the river

Two awesome adolescents dancing on the river

On Chicago River

The future home of our future president (yes, I just choked on my own wine as I typed that)

The future Chicago home of our future president (yes, I just choked on my own wine as I typed that)

Skyline from Lake

The party was great — late ’80s and ’90s music, good food, and fireworks from Navy Pier — and although I didn’t get Trevor to dance with me, I got him to give me a semi-smile in this picture:

Trevor and Laura on Boat

But really, it was enough to make the night happy that two great people got married and looked beautiful and happy; and there were dozens and dozens and dozens of people who were there celebrating with them, us included.

My friend Shannon, who I met while in God of Carnage and with whom I am forever bonded because she’s the bee’s knees, performed this past Thursday night for the Get Lit(erary) reading series sponsored by the Williams Street Rep. The series presents a dramatic reading of contemporary and classic short literature, and it’s hosted at Le Petit Marché, a French bistro in downtown Crystal Lake.

The ladies get ready to read Emma Rathbone

The ladies get ready to read Emma Rathbone

The readers — actors from WS Rep or people otherwise associated with the Raue Center for the Arts — read pieces by Roald Dahl and Emma Rathbone, and a non-fiction piece about Rin Tin Tin, who sounded like an amazing dog, made even more amazing because he took this picture:

I don’t really know what’s going on here, but I like it.

It was fun to see Shannon read; the pieces were great (the Dahl piece, especially, since it made me think of Grandpa Madel, who I used to chat with about Dahl’s fiction); and I got to drink a glass of wine and eat a piece of cheese. So, like, obviously it was the best night I had all week.

And today was a day for house cleaning (booooooooooo!), reading (yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!), eating sandwiches (hoooooorahhhhhh!), and checking out how our garden vegetables are doing. The carrots aren’t quite ready, but I could not resist picking one.



And the cucumbers are coming in slowly, but thank goodness they’re coming in at all. I planted four seeds and the plants that grew from those seeds are not-so-slowly taking over our entire planter box. I thought for sure that we wouldn’t get any actual cucumbers, but that we would just be smothered in our sleep one night. It’s bananas. No — it’s cucumbers! (ha!)

Garden Cucumbers

Holy cucumbers, Batman!

And now the terrific Trevor is getting us some Thai food, and we’ll probably watch some t.v. Tomorrow I have to grade one million student assignments and prep for Monday and Tuesday’s classes. (should I have spent a couple of hours today grading in order to lessen my load for tomorrow, you ask? yes and shut up you’re a jerk sorry you’re not really a jerk I just don’t want to think about grading on a Saturday night)

Gute nacht, Austria!

Door County Road Trip 2015

Last weekend was the annual Power family Door County summer vacation, and it was a hell of a good time. We organized this year’s summer trip so we could attend Grandpa Madel’s second memorial and visit with the Madel clan (read more about Grandpa and his first memorial).

Part of the memorial was a naming ceremony at the Door County Public Library in Sturgeon Bay, where Grandpa volunteered for decades. Grandpa worked with the Friends of the Library, organizing the collection of books for sale and researching prices of rare and out-of-print editions. Many of his children and grandchildren spent hours upon hours in that library basement with Grandpa, so it was the perfect place to first gather with everyone. The Friends of the Library honored Grandpa and his service by re-naming the room after him:

Grandma Madel with Doug (left), Mike (center), and Paul (right)

Grandma Madel with Doug (left), Mike (center), and Paul (right)

The reception, organized by the Friends, was thoughtful and lovely–a perfect way to memorialize Grandpa.

The whole crew (Photo Courtesy of Danielle--thanks, Danielle!)

The whole crew (Photo Courtesy of Danielle–thanks, Danielle!)

Neill, Trevor, Rachel, and Sean pose with Grandma

Neill, Trevor, Rachel, and Sean pose with Grandma

Trevor browses the collection

Trevor browses the collection

The naming ceremony and reception, though, wasn’t the only game in town lined up to honor Mel Madel. Doug organized a memorial at the Collins Learning Center, a beautiful lecture hall and teaching facility in the Crossroads at Big Creek nature preserve. The memorial was Saturday afternoon, and the day was beautiful. We ate lunch together with the Madels and assorted friends of Grandma and Grandpa, watched a touching slide show Doug had put together, and wandered around the grounds–the old school house, chapel, barn, and general store–near the learning center.


Schoolhouse Coat Room

Trevor takes the pulpit

Trevor takes the pulpit

Red Barn



Before we left, we said hi to the animals in the Collins Learning Center’s exhibits:

Animal in a Tree

I can’t get out of this tree. Please get me out of this tree.


Need a dam built? I’m your guy.


Please get Uncle Mike. I’d like to tell him ‘hello.’

Laura the Fish

That fish with the hair is suspicious. I don’t trust her.

We spent the evening with the family again, this time at the house where Paul, Jen, Ben, and Danielle were staying on Kangaroo Lake. We ate, drank, played games, talked by the bonfire, and enjoyed spending a perfect night with relatives we don’t get to see often enough. And we heard stories about Grandpa, which are always a joy to listen to.

Playing Poker

Cousins playing poker

Kangaroo Lake

And it wouldn’t have been a Power Family Door County vacation without some wandering around. We went to Moonlight Bay, just down the street from our rental house.

Looking for Frogs

Fran, Angelique, and Rachel, pointing at…

Green Frog

…one of these guys!

The creek near Moonlight Bay was hopping with frogs (yep, I did that). Sadie tried to catch some, but we weren’t prepared with a net, so we went home frog-less.

Sadie Looks for Frogs

Looking good, but lamenting the lack of a frog

Looking good, but lamenting the lack of a frog (and Neill is helping Sadie carry her satchel, which she is obviously very protective of)

And of course it really wouldn’t have been a trip to Door County without a quick stop in Grandpa’s library. It’s looking so much emptier than usual because he bequeathed so much of his collection to his children and grandchildren. But it’s still got shelves and shelves of books, and a lot of Grandpa’s personal memorabilia.

A well organized library, thanks to Uncle Mark

A well organized library, thanks to Uncle Mark

Grandpa's Ode to Mark Twain

Grandpa’s Ode to Mark Twain

Hubba, hubba

Hubba, hubba–some pin-ups from Grandpa’s war-time scrapbook

Self-portraits from Grandpa's war-time scrapbook

Snapshots from Grandpa’s war-time scrapbook

Melvin Robert Madel: War-Time Self-Portraits

Melvin Robert Madel: War-Time Self-Portraits

It was a short, but sweet trip. We realized how nice it is to see the extended Madel family, and because of that Trevor and I want to take a trip to Montana to visit Uncle Mike and Ben and his family; and while we’re at it, we’ll take trips to New York and Amsterdam, too. It’s a good thing to have family in such great parts of the world.

And of course, it was a melancholy trip. We all felt Grandpa, there in the library with us and when we hugged Grandma. And we saw him when we looked at his sister, Mildred, and his sons, especially Paul, who is the spitting image of Grandpa. But we still have the library, Grandma, Mildred, Paul, and everyone else. And that makes us very happy.

Know what else makes me happy? Amazing tiger-art that Trevor found at a shop in downtown Sturgeon Bay.

I'm 100% positive Grandpa would have liked this card Trevor spotted in a Sturgeon Bay store

I’m 100% positive Grandpa would have liked this card

And you know what else makes me happy? one a.m. dance parties with my sisters-in-law. There are thankfully no pictures of that, but please imagine it. Got it? You’re welcome.

Melvin Robert Madel

Melvin Robert Madel, Trevor’s maternal grandfather, passed away two months ago, on Sunday, January 25, 2015.

Courtesy of Madel Family Photo Album

Courtesy of Madel Family Photo Album

I’m writing about Grandpa only now because this weekend we’re going up to Door County, where Grandma and Grandpa have lived for the past few decades, for his memorial service. And it’s taken me two months to write about Grandpa because, honestly, I’ve been avoiding it.

Losing someone is never easy, but losing Grandpa is…here it is: losing Grandpa sucks.

That’s not a pretty thing to say, but it is not a pretty feeling to lose Grandpa. It is an ugly, messy, tight-stomach kind of feeling. It’s not a pretty feeling, so I’m not giving it any poetry.

Grandpa, on the other hand, does inspire poetry, because he was a good man. He was a smart, funny, well-read, curious man. He liked to eat and drink, read, write, watch movies and television; he liked to chat with his children, his grand-children, and his great-grand-children.

Courtesy of Madel Family Photo Album

That’s a very young Neill (left) and Sean (right), Courtesy of Madel Family Photo Album

Grandpa taught Trevor the right way to make a martini. The night Trevor proposed to me, New Years Eve, 2006, we were sitting in Grandma and Grandpa’s driveway; they were the first people we celebrated with.

Grandpa was a collector. He collected comics, recordings, clippings, photos, stories, and books. His library is my heaven on earth. That’s not an exaggeration. It is a room on the second floor of their house; its windows face east and south, and all day the room is full of the sunlight that streams in from the giant porthole windows. When you sit in Grandpa’s library, your feet on the nubby carpet, you can hear Lake Michigan, only a few hundred feet away, the waves hitting the beach and slipping softly back over the sand. And the walls of the library are covered in shelves–rows and rows, stacks upon stacks–of books. When Grandpa learned what you liked to read, he’d send it to you (boxes full) and save it for your next visit (bags full).

Trevor's hardcover Vonnegut collection: 85% from Grandpa Madel

Trevor’s Vonnegut collection: 85% from Grandpa Madel

Here's some Wodehouse...

Here’s some Wodehouse…

...and more Wodehouse...

…and more Wodehouse…

...and in case that wasn't enough Wodehouse.

…and in case that wasn’t enough Wodehouse: 98% from Grandpa.

Trevor’s mom, Maureen, loved P.G. Wodehouse, and Grandpa used to send them to her. After she passed away in 2004, Grandpa discovered that I, too, was a fan, so he started sending them to me.

Grandpa loved to talk about his life and his interests, but he’d listen as well as you told him about your recent interest in Roald Dahl’s short fiction or your feelings about the newest Pride and Prejudice film adaptation (FYI: according to Mel, nothing compares to the ’95 PBS mini-series). He’d also sit with you in a comfortable, happy sort of quiet; and if this was happening, he might turn down his hearing aids.

Grandpa lived an exceptional life with an exceptional wife and an exceptional family. Here’s a glimpse:

Grandpa and Grandma were present in our life and we’re lucky for that.

And this post doesn’t do Grandpa justice, but it’s what I’ve got. He made us very happy.