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My Grammy Flanders passed away last week. Her funeral was today. I made a video slideshow and I spoke at the funeral. My speech is below. She meant a lot to me. If you would like to leave condolences, you may visit her page on the Riposta Funeral Home website.
I want to thank you all for coming today. I’m sure Grammy Flanders would be happy to know she is loved, though I suspect she might say everyone’s making too much of a fuss about everything. I can’t imagine what she would say about all these flowers and how dolled up she looks right now. Those who knew her knew she always told it like it is. Along with her stubbornness, I think it rubbed some people the wrong way, but for many of us it was refreshing to be in the company of someone so genuine.
Grammy Flanders’ humility was one of her strongest virtues. I think it’s fair to say she even took pride in going without and having less than the average person. I have never known someone to be so comfortable with themselves and so content with the simple things in life. I always felt that she never wanted anyone to trouble themselves over her, almost as if she imagined she was invisible. Yet so many of us know just the opposite was true. Wherever she was, it seemed people were drawn to her, often because of her warmth and selflessness, or perhaps out of curiosity. She was a unique individual. She worked very hard her whole life and asked for little or nothing in return. I think people admire that, though I doubt Grammy Flanders would care one way or another if people admired her or not. She was like that. She didn’t care what other people thought about her. I know some thought she was a bit odd, and that’s probably one of the few compliments she would accept.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about my grandmother without telling you about another side of her. You see, Grammy Flanders was also a bit of a trickster. She liked games and she liked thinking she knew a little more than most people. Someone so content and simple in such a malcontent and complex world – perhaps she did know something more than most of us. Growing up, I always knew that if either of my parents said “no,” I could call Grammy Flanders and she’d be there in a flash and most of the time she’d say “yes.” My parents say she spoiled me, but I think we had a special friendship and an understanding that was more than just a grandson and grandmother. We baked together, she taught me how to sew and brought me to craft fairs – I always felt like we were two mischief makers and could find an adventure anywhere. I know she felt the same way. She’d say, “Adam, we’re not like those old fuddy duddies. We have fun, don’t we?”
Grammy Flanders was an expert at finding joy in little things and even things others would consider an inconvenience or discouragement. She never took life too seriously. She had a genuine sense of humor and had no problem laughing at herself. When I was younger we got a pair of chickens and one day she was holding both of them in her arms. The chickens did not want to be held and they made their displeasure known by leaving some gifts on Grammy Flanders’ shoes. But she didn’t get upset, she just laughed like it was all a big joke. I don’t recall anything ever keeping her down for long. I think that’s what made her so strong – she knew how to see the world, as if every day were her first or her last.
Although she would have been 86 next month, I think she has always been a child at heart. She looked at the world with curiosity. She was stubborn like a child, too. Once she was set in her ways about something, nobody could change her mind. She would insist on wearing out clothing, especially shoes, until they were practically ripping at the seams. She wouldn’t let us get her anything new and she insisted on living a life that most of us was call old-fashioned. Again, she was a very simple and humble person in that respect. It seems a paradox that someone who got through each day trying to leave the smallest footprint behind, would leave such a huge memory in our hearts.
My grandmother has been ill for some years now. At some point it became difficult for her to remember who we were or what our relationship with her was. It was disturbing to feel like I was losing her before I had actually lost her. My family and I saw recognition light up in her face when we visited her, even if she couldn’t express her feelings in words. Grammy Flanders and I had spent so many years doing things with little or no words – sewing, kite flying, snowmobiling, crafts, cooking, sledding, gardening – that we didn’t need words to just be there for one another. When she was no longer able to do those things, it was apparent that just my presence had to be enough.
I was fortunate to see her Wednesday when she was still awake, still able to open her eyes. I debated talking about this, but I wanted all of you to know that in her last days she was happy and content as always. I laid down next to her and just held her hand. She would respond by gripping my hand and watching me. Until that night I had never realized her eyes were blue, like mine. I told her stories about when we were both younger, our adventures together, the spiteful chickens. I fell asleep next to her, stroking her hair, and when I awoke she was still watching me. Although she could barely move, she still managed to smile and keep her eyes wide open. Her expression seemed to ask what the next adventure would be, or to tell me everything would be OK, and as the hours passed by I began to wonder who was comforting whom. I just wanted her to know I was there with her. She seemed so small, like a little child.
From Matthew 18, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and one of them asks, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
“Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Grammy Flanders had a big heart, so big that even though she’s gone in body, I still feel like she’s here. I don’t know how God managed to place such a tremendous personality and a tremendous heart in such a little person. But there she is, like a small, sleeping child. I think I can see a smile on her face and somewhere she is laughing – laughing at how silly we all are.
I love you Grammy Flanders.
On Tuesday, May 15th, one of the most amazing men you’ll ever know – my grandfather, Harland Nickerson – passed away at the age of 81. Those of us close to him knew him as Dar, a name us grandchildren gave him. If I could only use one word to describe Dar, it would be integrity. I have never known anyone to carry so much respect in a community, and yet at the same time remain so humble, so down-to-earth. Dar had strong principles, both in his personal life and in his work. He showed everyone that the good guy can finish first. Over the past few days I’ve heard comments like, “Harland never had a single enemy,” and “Everyone loved him.” I think he loved everyone, too. He loved life and lived every day to the fullest. Even in his last days he was trying to help my mom and I with the horses.
If I had a second word to describe Dar, it would be caregiver. At a very young age, following the loss of his own father, Dar took over as head of household to care for his large family, including several young sisters. He did this not because it was the easy thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do. Dar taught me that being there for the people you love, is the only real task we are given in this short life. He always ensured the people around him had what they needed, whether it was a home for his family or even the shirt off his back for a complete stranger. The only reason I am here today is because 25 years ago, Dar made a promise to my mom. He promised her that if she wanted this baby, he’d be here for her no matter what. So many of us owe Dar so much, and yet I have a feeling he wouldn’t ask any of us for repayment. In the Bible, Corinthians talks about having nothing and yet possessing everything. Dar was never wealthy, but he was always rich with love and people who cared about him, respected him.
I don’t know where people like Dar come from, but I’m pretty sure I know where they go. I’m sure Dar is with my grandmother Kay, who he adored so much. He’s probably wondering why we’re all so sad and wish we’d be happy. For Dar, Heaven was already here – for him, it was the stuff we take for granted every day. Heaven was being with family, pumping gas for his customers at the Exxon station, teasing my grandmother in the kitchen, working with the horses. Dar always brought a little light to every day, no matter how hard things seemed. I think he’d want us to know that – to know that we already have Heaven right here, all of us together, all the little things that make life worthwhile. Dar wanted to live a life in honor and in love, and by God he did.
I’m starting off Summer early with my new garden. I’ve been outside working on it nearly every day when it’s not been raining. I got my greenhouse back out again, too. My plantings are too numerous to list here and I’m always trying new things, but some of the highlights are tea (Camellia sinensis), tricyrtis (a type of lily that looks like a spotted orchid), nicotiana, and my favorite, plumeria. The garden is reserved for vegetables. I completed the fencing today to keep pesky little animals out. I’m not much of a hunter, but if something messes with my garden, it’s done for. A picture of my pre-fence garden is below, along with a shot of my Encyclia orchid, the one I got from Florida that was supposed to smell of chocolate. It had a really nice perfume, but it was sweeter than chocolate. I attempted to pollinate the flowers, but seeing as I only have one plant, I’m not sure if it will work out or not. If it produces seed pods (fruit), I will definitely post pics of them. That said, germinating orchid seeds is a whole other science I’m not sure I’m prepared to undertake.
I just got some new rollerblades with 90mm wheels – the Rollerblade Tempest 90. The large wheel size took some getting used to, but I’m glad I upgraded the size because they’re much smoother and faster. I got my little sister and some of her friends into it, too, and it seems we’re at Great Skates at least once or twice a week, if not skating the streets in the middle of the night (no traffic). Also getting into archery and should have some new PSE Optima bows in the mail very soon. Even with all this, I can’t wait to get back in the water for scuba diving this Summer, maybe a trip or two down to Florida this year. My little sister is getting her scuba certification this Summer so she’ll be able to come along.
I’m helping a local woman sell her fossil collection, too. Please visit my website, Paleogenetics.com Store, to view the collection and maybe find something you’d like to buy 🙂
In between getting outside and occasionally working on iPhone programming (I’m gonna have some awesome apps coming out later this Summer!), I’ve been helping my mom out with her father (my grandfather). He hasn’t much time left due to cancer and my mom is caring for him almost 24/7. Like me, she is opposed to nursing homes. I’m glad I can be home to help with things like groceries and various errands, or just watching my grandfather so my mom can take a break, though we do have hospice assistance and typically a LOT of company during the day. My mom has asked me to prepare a photo/video presentation for when he’s gone, and I may post that here at some point, but for now we’re just trying to enjoy what little time we have left with him. We managed to find some small red celosia the other day, his favorite flower. Because they were small, I also picked out some mature red salvia, which has a similar appearance. Dar (my grandfather) and Punzo…
Other than that, I’ve been trying to exercise regularly – I’m down to 135 pounds with a goal of 125, the minimum healthy weight for someone my height. I’ve built some muscle, too – pics are in my Flickr photostream and other sites. I hate this recent “big is beautiful” campaign stuff lately. I would never condone harassment against someone who is overweight or obese, but that demographic describes over 68% of Americans now and it’s creating significant costs to our labor force and healthcare system, especially as diagnoses of diabetes skyrocket. The problem is comparable to tobacco use and I find little difference between Deb’s plus size ads and the Marlboro Man. For the most part, the magazine and other ad models accurately portray the body type and weight most of us should be striving for. A low body mass index and low body fat percent, while obtaining sufficient nutritional needs, is the ideal. Numerous studies continue to show that calorie restriction drastically improves overall health, decreases disease markers and risk, and improves longevity.
My court appeal is still pending with the Maine Supreme Court, but I’m hoping they’ll hear it, especially where my attorney testified under oath that, had he known about the evidence that the State illegally concealed, he would NOT have accepted the plea bargain and would have gone to trial. I likewise testified I never would have pled guilty had I known about much of this hidden evidence – that my ex had deliberately set me up for his father, who told police that it would be “the best time he spent in jail” if he killed me back in February 2007 when I defended myself against his attempts to murder me. That is only the tip of the iceberg in this case. Right now I’m still trying to get discovery (evidence) from my 2007 case. 5 1/2 years later and the State is still refusing to give me copies of an investigation against me that was completed in 2007. I’m not sure what it is they’re trying to hide, but it seems the State and DA are always trying to hide something in my case. It’s OK, I’m not one to give up. I won’t stop until I get the discovery, which I have a right to (since it’s my own case evidence!), and I’ll never give up until my appeals are resolved and justice is served. My family is 100% behind me. If you’d like to know more about my cases, refer to my blogs, Case Parts I, II, and III.
Also, in case you didn’t hear, President Obama finally announced his full support for marriage equality. As this is an important issue coming up this November in Maine, I hope his words will have some impact on our voters here. I am undecided as to whether I will get involved in this year’s campaign. I have so many other things going on and it’s also my belief that civil rights should not be subject to popular vote, but rather litigated in the high courts. It is the responsibility of the high courts, especially the US Supreme Court, to protect minority rights against mob rule. No civil right in American history has ever been won by popular vote.
The UMaine Halloween dance, co-sponsored by Wilde-Stein, was really fun last night. Lots of cool costumes and yummy food. It was a full house. I spent the last couple weeks sewing my Pit costume (Kid Icarus). UMaine CASE will be posting pictures from the event soon on their CASE Facebook page. We were all surprised by the heavy snowfall after the dance – I had to walk through it in flip-flops! Some of my pics are below. I didn’t want to hold my camera all night, so I’m waiting for my friends to send me more pics.
My belladonna plant is still growing well and its fruits just began turning black (ripening). They reportedly have a sweet taste, though I doubt I’ll be trying them since only a small number is enough to kill an adult. But they are beautiful. I got a new lens for my Canon EOS, too – it’s superfast with an f-stop of 1.8! Combined with my macro lenses, I can get some good close-ups. Below: belladonna and close-up of berry, sprouting Chinese lanterns, and close-up of my blue orchid (chemically treated).
Today was a long day. I woke up at 8am, without an alarm, oddly enough, and got ready for a graduate presentation. I was pretty nervous because most of the other students are currently seeking their doctoral degree, but I felt my presentation went well. I discussed my undergraduate work with functional plant genomics, that is, describing the basic process involved in genetically modifying rice. I haven’t yet planned my graduate research, but I have been making a list of ideas. I’m sure it will involve plants. My professor called me a geneticist today. I’ve been doing work in functional plant genomics for over two years now, but something about him calling me a geneticist brightened my day. I’ve known I wanted to be a geneticist since I was in middle school, and I only love it more every day.
Afterward I had my 3D Design course, which I also love, especially because my best friend June is also in the class. We’re having a lot of fun with it and it’s really improving my skills in graphic design. I already feel comfortable with the Maya interface, having already had several years experience working with the open-source Blender 3D. A couple weeks ago we were required to create an animation using just a ball and a cube. We had to use at least one particle effect and deformation effect. I decided to create metallic materials and blue fire. You can view the video below, along with a screenshot of the our latest and most difficult assignment, modeling a human hand. I was happy with the results.
My Atropa belladonna plant is doing really well. It continues to produce flowers and it’s now bearing about 10 small fruits. I will photograph them when they turn black upon maturity. Every part of the plant is toxic, but it has several medicinal properties. I used to use a belladonna infusion to get to sleep. It also has a permanent place in folklore, particularly witchcraft, rivaled only by mandrake. I intend to grow mandrake in the future. I like the challenge, but I really enjoy gardening and raising heirloom and novelty plants from seed.
Even though I got my degree in biology and continue that line of work now in my graduate career, I have received little to no instruction about horticulture. I’ve learned many technical skills in genomics and molecular biology, but little about the basics of raising plants, even in the lab. I have grown at home the two model plants, arabidopsis and brachypodium. At UMaine there is a significant divide between plant molecular biology / genomics and botany / horticulture / plant sciences, but I’ve been gardening my whole life, so it’s something I learn from trial-and-error as a hobby. The plants I grow seldom disappoint me. I got some blue iris bulbs and chinese lantern seeds today. I’m just starting some Gloriosa superba seeds germinating and waiting for some Colchicum autumnale seeds to come in the mail.
These latter two plants both belong to the family Colchicaceae. Their family name is somewhat telling of an important aspect of these two species – they both produce a relatively high concentration of colchicine. This chemical is extremely toxic, but has been used in small concentrations to treat gout. More importantly, colchicine can interrupt meiosis. In plants, this can induce polyploidy, especially the doubling of chromosomes. Polyploidy can yield some interesting results. Because of its effects on spindle formation, colchicine is also useful in preparing microscope slides if you want to hault mitosis in order to view a specific phase. I have been researching protocols to extract a crude form of colchicine from Gloriosa superba and Colchicum autumnale. Colchicine is prohibitively expensive – 1 gram can easily cost over $100. In any case, both of the aforementioned plants are amazing and beautiful.
I also got a blue orchid today. It’s artificially colored, but I thought it was pretty cool, so I got it. I don’t know how they make it blue – I would be a little surprised if they absorb liquid coloring the way a carnation does. The orchids are sold by Silver Vase, a company based in Florida. A picture of my blue orchid is below. While on the point of blue flowers, Florigene and Suntory recently announced they will be selling their genetically altered true-blue roses in the United States this November. The image in the article isn’t very blue, in my opinion. Florigene has better examples on their website. They also discuss some of the basic biochemistry behind flower color, which is really cool! I would love to work in this newly emerging field of floriculture. Perhaps someday I’ll be making roses even bluer, although it’s not quite as philanthropic as research focused on improving food crops.
Look for me in this coming week’s Village Soup / Republican Journal. My parents announced my graduation. It’s online here: Belfast man graduates with degree in biology from umaine
Just wanted to say that if any of you thought I deleted you, I didn’t – my Facebook accounts keep getting deleted. I keep making more, but under different names. I probably won’t add most of you back because I’m more interested in Google Plus, which will likely replace Facebook anyway. I have numerous other online accounts, too, and in any case, I have my website here, and that’s not going away. I have everything backed up (messages, photos, and my past friends lists), so I haven’t lost anything. If any of you need to get in touch with me, my email is email@example.com