Hi, I'm Torrey. Welcome to Left Field, where creativity runs amok and imagination is ALWAYS more important than knowledge. Shoes are not allowed but ties are optional. This is a repository of snippets from my life out here in Left Field. One never knows what shiny bits of creativity will be found here... cards, scrapbook layouts, photography, poetry, recipes, ponderings, rantings and musings. It could be anything! Life in Left Field is always changing, always real, always ...interesting.

November 1, 2015

Gone but NEVER Forgotten

Buenos Dia de los Muertos! 

Today, for those of you unfamiliar with Dia de los Muertos, is the day we remember (and celebrate) those people in our lives who are no longer with us here on the mortal plane. It's a day we pay homage to those important people who are gone...but will never be forgotten.

I'd like to pay tribute to my grandparents today. Sadly, they are all gone from this world. I was blessed with a WHOLE PASSEL of grandparents--7 to be exact. And, I was given the opportunity, not only to get to know most of them REALLY well, but also to spend time with most of them--LOTS of time--not only through childhood, but well into adulthood as well. 

I'd like to share some of what I remember of each of them...to have each one here with me now--if only for today.
My Maternal Grandfather 
His name is Arlington Elmore Hearrell Hanes FryBarger (what a mouthful!). I call him Pa-pa, or Pop for short. He is my mentor. He is the most intelligent human being I've ever had the honor to know. Bar none. He is a big part of why I'm a writer. He, too, was a writer. A great one. I used to love sitting and listening to his stories. He was the consummate bard. He spun yarns that could transport anyone, lucky enough to hear them, to magical places. He wove captivating tales like the one of him, as a young boy who, from behind a tree, would secretly watch a band of Habisky-tan gypsies dance like whirling Dervishes around a fire in the moonlight.

When I was in college, I got to spend an entire summer with him. He would fix breakfast every morning (usually a bowl of "Post Toasties" with fresh figs from the tree outside their house). Then, he'd find some project for me to work on--gardening, washing windows, or working with him on restoring antique clocks or refinishing furniture. Then, in the afternoon, we'd sit in his back room and he'd tell me stories. I tape-recorded as many as I could. My mom is now working on transcribing those gems. In the evening, we'd have a light supper--usually of homemade soup--and we'd play Scrabble. I loved playing Scrabble with him. His vocabulary was unparalleled. I learned very quickly NEVER to challenge any word he put down. Ever. 

He held many jobs, and wore many hats throughout his life. He was a scientist, a builder/architect, a writer/journalist, an Olympic-level swimmer, he could fix bicycles and create wonderful things out of wood, and he was a very enthusiastic cook. I still have one of the chess sets he made. He cut all the pieces out of a single block of wood...and they all fit together like a puzzle to reform that wood block. It's quite unique. He loved restoring antique clocks. At one point he had over 100 of them in his house...and they all worked. And chimed. And not at the same time. 

I still have 2 of his clocks. One that he and I restored together, and one that was his favorite--therefore my favorite. It has 3 different chimes that you can choose it to play--Westminster, Whittington, and St. Michael's chimes. Pretty impressive!

He was a health nut--a vitamin guru. He was so far ahead of (what was then) current trends in dietary supplements. His understanding of pathophysiology was impressive to say the least. Decades ahead of the curve. 

He was also quite the impish prankster. He loathed shopping. He'd accompany my step-grandmother (Elsie) to departments stores, but would get bored quickly. When he was bored, he'd start having full-blown conversations (out loud) with the store mannequins. He'd sit and flirt with them and hold their hands. He'd do this until Elsie finally got embarrassed enough to abruptly finish her shopping.  

He also liked to torture his grandchildren (my younger cousins). He played a game where he would administer a fiendish little quiz about...relationships. He would ask..."If your father is my son, and your father's sister is Aunt Dian...and Torrey is Aunt Dian's daughter and your cousin, and you are Aunt Dian's niece...then who am I to you?"  He'd have the kids so confused they would forget who they were. I, of course, had no problem figuring out the answer...but it sure was fun to watch my cousins struggle. HAHAHAHAHA.

He always wore suspenders--a pair that was decorated with red chili peppers. When he died, and I was asked what of his I would like to have to remember him by...I chose his chili pepper suspenders. Here he is in those wonderful suspenders!
What I learned from Pa-pa was the importance of education, whether formal or independent...and the necessity of having an excellent vocabulary. He also impressed upon me a sense that I can do or be whatever I choose to do or be. He liked to tell me, "YOU, are the captain of your fate and the master of your destiny!"...and he told me that...A LOT.

My Maternal Grandmother
Her name is Muriel Grogan FryBarger Potter. I call her Grama (prounounced GRAW-ma). She was a FIERCELY independent and intelligent woman. Fiercely. She was a teacher, and owned/operated her own private school in Dallas, Tx--The FryBarger School. It was an early-education center for pre-Kindergarten through 2nd grade. I remember visiting her, when I was little, during the summer and having to do daily mimeographed worksheets of English and arithmetic before I was allowed to play. Every day.

She loved to travel, and when she was in her late 50s/early 60s, she embarked on her travels around the world. She swung on vines in the Amazon, and rode on Elephants in India. 

She was a good cook, but didn't tolerate anyone in her kitchen very well. And, when you'd ask her to share her recipes, she'd conveniently leave out key ingredients or she'd write down enigmatic amounts of things like: a dash of this, a smidge of that, a dollop of the other. It made recreating her dishes...challenging. 

She loved playing cards--Bridge, Canasta, and Solitaire were here favorites. She played Solitaire so much, she literally wore the spots off her cards. I remember playing countless games of "Texas Canasta"--a game that uses 6 decks of cards. We played so much it made the cards (as she put it) fluffy--foxed edges and well, fluffy.

I remember her as being a quintessential Southern Lady and a "stern" grandmother figure. When I was young, she was not a very warm and fuzzy person. She was all business and order. But, in her later years, she softened. To this day, whenever I smell the fragrance "Youth Dew" by Estee Lauder--I think of her. That was her signature fragrance...and she wore it every day.
What I learned from Grama was that a woman can be whatever she wants to be. I also learned how to polish furniture.

My Paternal Grandmother
Her name is Zelda LaVerne Brown Diggs Alexander. To me, she is Grammy. Grammy was the personification and embodiment of love...and she loved me, unconditionally. She was not a scholarly person (unlike my mom's parents). I don't think she made it past the 8th grade. But what she lacked in formal education, she more than made up for in lessons from the school of life. She was a single mom and raised my dad and my aunt by herself--during the time when it wasn't commonplace like it has become today.

During WWII, she worked in Gates Rubber Co. that made tires and fan belts, and other assorted rubber things--all for the war effort. She also worked as a cook for many years in various diners and institutional settings--like at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

She loved cooking. And, she was GREAT at it. She was not a high-falutin' chef. She was a home-style cook. She didn't fix fancy schmancy things that required specialized silverware to eat...hers was food that warmed your soul and stuck to your ribs...and then added padding to those ribs.

She is the person that taught me, not only how to cook, but to love to cook. 

I used to spend weekends with her and she and I would cook, non-stop, all weekend. She taught me the fine art of home cooking....candies, pies, cakes, noodles, potato salad, and fried chicken. There was no low-fat, low-carb cooking in her house. Nope. Never. I can't tell you how many batches of peanut brittle, fudge, noodles, and fried chicken she and I made over the years.

She loved to go on picnics up in the mountains. She would cook up fried chicken and at least a gallon of her delicious potato salad. Then, we'd all go up to the Peaceful Valley campground, and picnic--all day. We'd play Triominoes or cards, take walks in the woods, or just dangle our toes in the icy waters of the Colorado streams. She loved playing Cribbage, and taught me as soon as I was old enough to add up to 15. We played hundreds and hundreds of games of Cribbage. 15-2, 15-4, 15-6, run of 3 for 9, etc, etc. 

She adored crocheting, and she tried (valiantly, and patiently) to teach me how. For years, I fumbled with it, terribly. I just couldn't master the hook, and never got beyond a simple single chain. I would watch, in wonder, as her fingers literally flew--effortlessly twirling, hooking, looping, and pulling the yarn--like a spider deftly spinning its web-- into wonderful afghans, tablecloths, dolls, hats, sweaters, car seat covers...you name it, she could crochet it.

It wasn't until I was about 30 when (on a whim) I picked up a crochet hook one day and lo-and-behold...I could crochet. It was as though her spirit had entered my fingers and all her skill was therein channeled. And now, I can crochet--effortlessly...any stitch...no sweat.

My aunt Sherry said that when my Grammy died, she was sitting on her sofa...that she had finished the item she was crocheting...folded it neatly up in her lap...and just passed away. 


She recalls the amazing sense of peace and light she felt when she discovered her body. 

What I learned from Grammy was love (and how to cook and add to 15), but mostly...Love.

My Paternal Grandfather
His name is Ellis Wayne Diggs, Sr. I call him "Granpa Diggs". He went by "Sam"--a nickname "tattooed" on him when he was in the Navy. They called him "Sailor Sam"..."Sam" for short. I never got to know him well. At all. I was only able to meet him on two occasions. But, I do know that he was a coal miner--with hair as black as the coal he coaxed out of the mountain--right up until the day he died. He died of pneumonultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniconiosis...in lay terms--Black Lung Disease. 

He was also a baker. BOY HOWDY could he bake. I remember him making cinnamon rolls for us once...like 100 cinnamon rolls. I guess once you're accustomed to baking on a commercial level...it's hard to scale back! I also remember his chili. It was good...and plentiful.

What I learned from Granpa Diggs was that there is no such thing as too many cinnamon rolls...and it is impossible to make a "normal" size batch of chili.

My Maternal Step-Grandfather
His name is Claude Lee Potter. I call him Grananny. He married my grandmother before I was born, so to me...he is every bit my grandfather just as my biological one is. When he married my grandmother, he told my mom that he knew he would never replace her father...but that when she had children (aka me) that they were HIS grandchildren. Period.

Grananny left us when I was only 8 years old. He was barely 50 years old. So young. But, I remember him FONDLY. He was a soft-spoken man. Gentle. Loving. He was the perfect counterpart to my grandmother.  He softened up her hard edges.

He worked for Allegheny Ludlum Steel. I always thought that sounded like a company name you'd find in a Road Runner cartoon right alongside the Acme company.

I learned about kindness and patience from Grananny.

My Maternal Step-Grandmother
Her name is Elsa Margareta Lundberg FryBarger. I call her Elsie. She married my grandfather when I was just a baby. So she, too, is every bit my grandmother. Elsie was a nurse-anaesthetist...back when there weren't many of them. She was a pioneer in nursing! 

I remember talking to her about what is was like for nurses "back then". She told me how nurses NEVER questioned a doctor, EVER. And how they did WHATEVER they were directed to do. She spoke of doctors the way a commoner speaks of a King. Boy, I sure am glad I wasn't a nurse back then. I never would have made it.  

She liked to play Scrabble too. The three of us (Pop, Elsie, and I) would play the most cut-throat games you've ever seen. It was serious business!

She was a very religious person. She was a devout Lutheran, and was always participating in some bible study group or another church-related organization. I fondly remember going to church with her at Emmanuel Lutheran Church here in Dallas. It's century-old church that still stands (and is active) today.

I learned about Jesus from Elsie. I also learned how to strategically put down 2 letter tiles in Scrabble and gain 45 points. She was the QUEEN of teeny, tiny words with big score payout. Elsie also introduced me to rubber stamping and heat embossing--and the rest of that story is, as they say, history.

I miss my Grammy.

I miss my Grama.

I miss my Pa-pa.

I miss my Grananny.

I miss my Elsie.

I even miss my Granpa Diggs, though I didn't know him well. 

But, though their bodies are gone, their spirits (and love) will ALWAYS be with me. 



  1. Hi Torrey! What a wonderful post - such a nice tribute to your loved ones. I miss my family terribly - I'm the oldest living family member now! I'm your newest follower, and am so looking forward to working with you at CC! Hugs...!

  2. I grew up next door to the FryBarger private school. I remember your Grama, Miss Potter! We lived on Inwood Rd. My sister and I us d to get in trouble all the time, sneaking over to play on the playground! I have very fond memories of her! I used to go over and visit with her when I was 6 to 13 years old. I always wanted to be like her! We moved away in 1968 when I was a Junior in high school! I’ll always remember her!


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