Rocky Mountain Snyder Family XMAS | 05

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So what do you call the letter?

I used to call it the Christmas letter, but then I started acquiring friends of differing religious beliefs, so I went with holiday letter out of respect. And of course, we all know the word, ‘holiday,’ is derived from the phrase, ‘holy day,’ so I might have just called it, the Jesus’ Birthday letter. But anyways …

Year of the Rose
This year, 2005, was the Year of the Rose. She was a mover and a shaker. She started the year on kind of a down note, when the U.S. Olympic Committee gave her the boot. Laid her off.

So now we’re poor, but we quickly adapted to life with Mom at home. The kids think getting laid off is the best thing that can happen to a family. Sam is in kindergarten now, so he goes to school at 8 a.m. and comes home at 3:20 p.m. Last year, we dropped him off at pre-school at 7:30 a.m. and picked him up at 6 p.m. Same thing for the girls, they don’t have to go to the school cafeteria when all of their friends are home and playing. They can walk home and when they get home, there’s Mom!

So thanks to the geniuses at the USOC, we have a happier home.

Rose gets to watch her soap each afternoon, but she isn’t sitting on her … laurels … for long. She couldn’t be busier and we are all very thankful for her. Rose finished her Master’s Degree in Management. A tremendous accomplishment spanning 18 months and as luck would have it, the things she studied in class are helping her as she builds her new business. You can visit rosesnyder.com to find out more.

The same week that she graduated from school, Rose hosted a workshop, “Non-Profit Best Practices Seminar” in Colorado Springs. She had a full house with organizations traveling from as far as Seattle and Lexington to attend. She had representatives from 12 National Governing Bodies and the USOC. This workshop was the kick-off to her consulting business and it was a big hit.

The weekends are filling up for Rose’s consulting services, but in the meantime, she has taken on coaching the age groupers at the Air Force Falfins swim team, which is Carli’s team and Gina joined this year too.

All about Carli …
Carli continues to amaze in the pool. She competed in the National State Games held at the Olympic Training Center. At a typical age group meet, if you were to place in the top three, you would pick up your ribbons at practice later in the week. At this event, they had award ceremonies, complete with a podium and an announcer reading the results. Carli won four medals. Sam and Gina helped out by holding the medals during the ceremonies. It was a good experience.

Right now, Carli has qualified for the state meet in virtually all events for the short course season (25 yards). She’s 10 and can beat me in any race at any distance by a country mile.

Gina is doing great too. She is mastering two new skills, diving into the pool from a starting block and doing a flip turn. She’s 7. I can’t really do either of those things. In her first-ever meet, Gina won her heat in the 25-yard backstroke too. That was sweet.

Carli still hasn’t received a grade below an ‘A.’ Boy, when that first ‘B’ comes; it’s going to be a devastating blow. Carli’s going to need therapy if she ever gets a ‘C.’ So we’ve decided to apply as much pressure as possible to make sure she doesn’t choke and break the streak.

Carli got to meet Lemony Snicket, the author of the books, ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events.’ He did a book signing at an old converted temple in Denver. I left work at 3:30 p.m. to beat the rush of traffic on I25. We arrived at the temple at 5:45 p.m., too late for the first come, first served presentation-portion of the evening. Organizers oversold the event by a couple hundred, so they herded us leftovers down to the basement of the temple, while the early arrivers were entertained upstairs.

Lemony came downstairs and sang us a song and we were happy. Then we went back upstairs for the big book signing. You got in line based on the letter on your ticket. They sold 40 tickets per letter in the alphabet and started with letter A. We had letter G. Each letter group took about 20 minutes to sift through.

We got on stage at 9:30 p.m. and we back home at 11 p.m. Carli was happy and, if anyone wants to submit my ‘Father of the Year’ ballot, I would use this story to illustrate your point.

Here’s a little known fact about Carli … she’s always humming a happy tune.

All about Gina …
Gina has endured a series of unfortunate teeth placements this year, but she’s done it with her usual sunny disposition. Gina had teeth coming in from every angle. She had teeth coming and going. Each meal requires a strategic planning session to figure out where she can possibly chew her food on any particular day.

Gina is the leader of a gang at school called the Six Musketeers. She’s in high demand on the little girl birthday party circuit.

She took a lot of art classes at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, including the Pint-Sized Picassos.

For her birthday, we went to the Butterfly Pavillion, where you could have squashed hundreds of butterflies, if you were so inclined. Gina loved that place. She also enjoyed going to the Larimer Square Street Chalk Art Festival in Denver, where artists drew original works of art or replicas of famous paintings in chalk on the street. That was cool.

One of my favorite Gina moments came while we were visiting Rose’s brother Jim’s family in Grapevine, Texas. Gina helped Aunt Tam prepare the Thanksgiving meal, but that wasn’t my favorite part.

The day after Thanksgiving, we took a train to old Fort Worth. Picture a tourist area with lots of saloons. My kind of place. They had pig races; you could sit on a giant steer or get some brisket. Smelled like manure. My kind of place. Alright, it didn’t smell like manure; that just seemed like the funny thing to write. Anyways, they had a mechanical bull. It was big. But that didn’t make Gina no nevermind, she hopped up there and rode that bad boy, like she was Debra Winger.

Here’s a little known fact about Gina … she has to give me at least five hugs and kisses when I leave for work.

All about Sam …
This year Sam played with his friends. A lot. Usually at our house or so it seems. First, across the street, was a four-year-old named Evan. He is a little cutie. Next door, we’ve got Eddie and Joey. Eddie is 9, Joey is 6. They all enjoy playing this game, that I can only guess is called, “Scream Like a Girl.” They play that game a lot.

While we were visiting Jim and Tam, Sam got some excellent tutoring an advanced gaming with his 14-year-old cousins, the twins, Dom and Dante. But I had to laugh when they asked Sam, “How did you get to play Darth Maul?”

We had a big snowstorm and the winds blew most of our backyard snow into the corner of our lot, creating a giant six-foot tall drift. So I went out there with Gina and Sam and we built us a fort. Now I call it a fort, others would call it a snow cave or a hole in the snow. I call it a fort. It brought back many childhood memories. I made a snow fort every year back home in Minnesota. So I made the fort, using some gardening tools, then I went to the garage and got the spade. That fort was roomy. I stuffed both Gina and Sam in there and it was good.

But, because we live in Colorado, which sees 300 days of sunshine – more than San Diego – our fort, built with love, was not long for this world. As I hope they will do for me when the time comes, my kids put the melting fort out of its misery. Sam climbed around the back of the fort, jumped as high as he could, landed butt-first and caved in the cave.

Sam’s favorite day was probably at the Tiano-Shido (Rose’s cousins) Family Reunion in Michigan. They had three of those blow-up slides and jumping pits going out there in the park and it was raining when we got there. Sam slid down that slide a million times.

Sam loves the pool and I’m sure he’ll be joining the Falfins before long too, so if you’re thinking of buying him a catcher’s mitt or a basketball, save your money. He looks good in his jammers though. He had several weeks of private lessons this year with one of Falfin teenagers and Sam loved every minute of it.

Sam’s favorite sport is beating up bad guys in video games.

Here’s a little known fact about Sam … he once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

All about Me …
A couple days after my birthday, Rose and I caught Elvis Costello and the Imposters at the Fillmore in Denver. I own a dozen or so Elvis CDs, but had never witness his genius in person. Wow. That night was pure bliss. I could die a happy man, I heard Elvis sing, “Pump It Up,” “Alison,” “Mystery Dance,” and many more live.

Matt Farrell took me to a Broncos game. That was a highlight. We had special Budweiser hospitality box seats. Matt Lupton and his wife were there. So was Craig Miller. We ate great food, had free drinks and sat in amazingly great seats. At halftime, the suite filled up with Bronco alumni, including a couple Ring of Famers. The Broncos pummeled the Eagles. But I wouldn’t have minded the game going into overtime. It was a football fan’s fantasy experience, minus an appearance by Jillian Barberie.

I took my girls, Rose, Gina and Carli, to see the Broadway musical, “Wicked,” in Denver. My daughters sat in two chairs that jutted out into the aisle, so no one sat in front of them. The production was awesome and the girls were dazzled. Everyone was weepy at the end.

My brother Dave got married to Michele in 2005 and had his first baby, a boy named Deven Darius Snyder. Darius is my father’s middle name. My dad’s full name is Lynn Darius Snyder; his twin sister’s full name was Lerna Drucilla Snyder. Darius the Great was a Persian King in 5th Century B.C., who ruled over an empire of 50 million people. Darius is mentioned in the Bible; he threw Daniel into the Den of Lions, which brings us full circle, seeing how Christmas is ‘under attack’ by WalMart these days.

I’m not sure where Drucilla comes from.

Finally, finally, finally, I acquired my long sought for URL domain, snyderemarks.com. Look for a new site up in running in the New Year.

My Brother Jon …
My brother Jon passed away on Aug. 1. He was 43. He died of kidney failure, after his kidney transplant went bad. His transplant emitted bad cells that grew into a cancerous tumor in his brain. In his final weeks, he would get dialysis (a four or five-hour procedure), radiation and chemotherapy. Some days he would get all three. The brain tumor paralyzed his left hand and foot, so he had to spend his final days in a wheelchair.

He weighed 135 pounds at the end.

Rose wanted me to write something about Jon, but it’s not the easiest thing to do. I’d loved him with all of my heart and it is very painful to even think about his passing. It makes me angry and sad.

I wish Jon was still here …

I love this photo of Jon laughing. I took it six days before he died, and it gives me some solace. It is a bittersweet emotion.

I told him that with his goatee he was starting to look like our old Miniature Schnauzer, Tina.

Jon’s best friend, Bobby Johnson, brought Jon over to Mary and Mark’s. We were having a barbeque. We sat on the patio and told stories and laughed. We talked about Little League. Bobby, Jon and I played on the Yankees, my dad was a coach.

We laughed about the same stories that had been told over and over … we played on the Yankees over 32 years ago. (Some of life’s most indelible moments happen when your children are playing.)

Jon and I played on the same baseball and softball teams off and on for 16 years. He was the best; the best hitter, the fastest runner, always making the circus catch in left field.

Then I moved away from home; it’s been 16 years now. And I’ve made a lot of trips home. With nearly every trip home, I spent my first night out with my brothers … my blood brothers. We seem so different, but we are so alike.

In the past four years, my family has experienced much loss … my mom, Joyce and now Jon. I suppose some people would turn numb, for me, it’s just a raw nerve dangling. Everyone encounters difficult times in life. I have three kids and I have to show them the way.

Action speaks louder than words. My suggestion to everyone comes from a James Taylor song:

>> Shower the people you love with love.

Rose and I with the kids visited Jon a few days before he died. He said, “Time moves so fast; you take so much for granted.”

He told us that he wanted to get out of that hospital and come to Colorado, so he could get to know my kids better and they could get to know him better.

>> Spend your time on what matters most.

My brother Dave wrote a lovely tribute to Jon. I wanted to share the ending with you:

“To the outside world we all grow old, but not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each others’ hearts. We share private jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family grief and joys. We live outside the touch of times. Go in peace, little brother.”

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Charlie, Rose, Carli, Gina, and Sam Snyder

Legendary Saturday Nights … BONUS STORY …

When I was a kid, I watched professional wrestling with my brothers, Dave and Jon. We watched the AWA in Minneapolis on Saturday nights at 6 p.m. on channel nine, when my parents would be getting ready for bowling. They bowled in a mixed doubles league at Maple Lanes in Fridley, Minn., with various couples, but mainly Arnie and Ethel Keller sometimes Marge and Bob Guelker, occasionally with Sherry and Wayne Parks – Wayne was a lefty —  and later with Bev and Mick Helvenkca. Mick was a helluva bowler, but Arnie was my favorite, by far.

AWA Wrestling had a strong lead-in, the Lawrence Welk Show. Good lord, that was an awful, awful show. “And da one and da two …” But it was a good lesson to learn as a kid, you have to go through a lot of crap, just to squeeze an ounce of pleasure out of this world.

My mom would make hamburgers in the fry pan or boil some hot dogs in a pan that I’d like to make popcorn in. It would take a couple of washings to get that wiener taste out of that pan. After dinner, Mom would head to the bathroom to prepare. I can still smell the combination of hairspray and perfume. She was awesome. Dad would have a highball. Or two. A brandy-Seven.

Dad threw a back-up ball. An unusual ball to throw for a right hander; it hooked from the left to the right. I don’t know anyone else who threw the back-up. My dad was a solid bowler; he carried an average typically around 172-175 or thereabouts. Mom fluctuated between 140 and 145.  I can still see her ball. It would skid halfway down the lane before rotating to the pocket.

Mom and Dad would bring me to bowling on occasion. Just me. I was the youngest. Still am. I remember getting sodas from the vending machine. It would drop a plastic cup and a bunch of that crunchy-type of ice, then from two spouts, the machine would dispense cola syrup with a carbonated fluid of some sort. It was a mini-engineering miracle. I loved that crunchy ice.

But I digress … on Saturday night, when Mom and Dad left for bowling … Jon, Dave and I would watch wrestling.

AWA Wrestling had its perennial champion, owner and former NCAA champion for the University of Minnesota, Verne Gagne. His co-owner was promoter Wally Karbo, who Jesse “The Body” Ventura always referred to as Wally Karibou. The announcer and interviewer was Marty O’Neill, a tiny man who always wore dark glasses and held a long wand-like microphone.

One of the first wrestlers that captured my imagination was Dr. X. He wore an mask with a ‘X’ on the forehead. I can’t remember much about him; he was mysterious. Everyone tried to take his mask off. Who was under that mask? One day Ray Stevens, Nick Bockwinkel’s tag-team partner, broke Dr. X’s leg by jumping off the top rope, an illegal move. From that day on, Ray Stevens was known as Ray “The Crippler” Stevens.

My brothers and I loved everything about the no budget, no frills TV show. It was shot in a studio in Brooklyn Park in front of a studio audience of about 100. Once a month or so, there would be a card at the St. Paul Civic Center where the good wrestlers would go at it, but on the television show, the big-name wrestlers would basically beat up the jobbers.

Our two favorite jobbers were George “Scrap Iron” Gadaski and Kenny “Sodbuster” Jay. They wrestled in solo matches, but were best loved as a hapless tag-team duo. They lost a thousand TV matches in a row, seriously, a losing streak that lasted years, then one Saturday night Scrap Iron and Sodbuster won. After taking beatdown after beatdown, the jobbers got their hands raised. That was so awesome.

The wrestlers on these shows were real deal tough guys. They were barrel-chested shooters, who had paid their dues living the hard life on the road, getting $5 for a night’s work, busting their heads open for a couple hundred drunks. Until they arrived at the AWA …

These guys didn’t do a lot of high flying acrobatics. They fought. The Wrestler Who Made Milwaukee Famous was a man known only as The Crusher, a cigar chomping brawler. He was the most popular wrestler in the Midwest, ever. His tag-team partner was his cousin, Dick the Bruiser.

The Crusher was ahead of his time. Stone Cold Steve Austin should pay residuals to The Crusher. Wrestling is based on good vs. evil. I went to one of those TV tapings. And they told us to cheer for the good guys and boo the bad guys. The Crusher was a rule-breaker. For all intent and purposes, he should have been a bad guy, but instead he was beloved.

How ‘bout dat?

That was The Crusher’s catch phrase. Here’s another piece of trivia … the greatest bad guy wrestling manager was Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. The Crusher gave him another nickname that stuck. Bobby “The Weasel” Heenan. Pop goes the weasel.

The Crusher had a finishing move called the ‘bolo punch.’ In the grand scheme of things, it was simply unspectacular. He’d beat up his opponent until the guy was barely standing up. In fact, the poor guy would be bent over at the waist. Crusher would grab a handful of hair; he’d jaw with the crowd and then start the ‘bolo punch’ windup. It was an elaborate series of swings before he unleash an unholy uppercut. Occasionally, he’d actually make contact. Either way, that was all she wrote. Once you caught the bolo punch, you were out, done, finished. Crusher would make the cover and record the 1, 2, 3.

Everyone had their finishing move: Dr. X, the figure four; Verne Gagne, the sleeper; Wahoo McDaniel, would drop a vicious elbow; Baron Von Raschke, a Nazi or at least a Nazi sympathizer, would torture his opponents with ‘the claw’ to the temples; Dusty Rhodes, would cause pandemonium, baby, with his own bionic elbow; the High Flyers or High Cryers, if you will, would jump around, giving opponents a series flying drop kicks.

British champion Billy Robinson was the master of 1,000 holds and he could get his opponents to submit with any number of moves, but the one move that my brothers learned and applied on me the most was the Boston Crab.

If anyone ever put you into the Boston Crab, you would believe that wrestling was real.

My favorite part about wrestling wasn’t the in-ring action. I loved the interviews. AWA Wrestling would end many shows with a cliffhanger. “Who will be wrestling the Road Warriors in two weeks at the St. Paul Civic Center? It’s going to be The Crusher and … folks … we are running out of time, tune in next week and find out who will be Crusher’s partner.”

So you turned in the next week, The Crusher would come on, wearing shades, and chomping on a cigar. “My partner to fight dem bums at the St. Paul Civic Center will be … Baron Von Raschke.”

”Crusher, you have got to be kidding me! You and ‘The Clawmaster,’ Baron Von Raschke, will be taking on the Legend of Doom, this Saturday at the St. Paul Civic Center.”

The menacing, bald German, would hold up his powerful hand in the shape of a claw, and say, “Dat is all the da people need to know!”

But wrestling was just the appetizer for our legendary Saturday nights.

Dave, Jon and I did not have Xbox. Or cable. Or email. We had a clicker and four channels, and we had imaginations. We dreamed up new games, mostly based on traditional games, but with a twist.

We built a basketball court in our garage. We cut out the bottom of two ice cream pails, those big one-gallon deals, and nailed them up in the rafters. My dad was equally crafty; he had stuff stored all over the rafters. It was a crowded court. We played basketball with a tennis ball. You couldn’t really dribble the ball, so in our game, you had to fake dribble. We were sticklers for rules about dribbling, but we weren’t so particular on calling fouls.

It was fun. Sure, by the time you left the hot box of the garage ball basketball court, you’d be walking on rubber leg street. Everyone could dunk, but everyone could also block dunks, so you had to work it.

We played a game in the backyard, called ‘Interception.’ You had a quarterback, receiver and defender. It was a ball control game. You’d get four downs to score a touchdown. I just remember playing under the ‘light,’ around the rose bushes and look out for the tree.

Speaking of that tree … a Chinese elm reaching a mile into the sky, dominated the alley end of the backyard. We had another game called ‘Home Run Derby,’ a whiffle ball version of the big league game. Our game was harder. We played with the standard whiffle ball and bat, but my brothers could both throw a wicked bender, slider and screwball. Here is the twist. Home runs were hard to come by because you didn’t just have to hit it over the fence; you had to hit it up and over the mighty elm. Homeruns would tend to end up on the roof of our neighbor’s house on the other side of the alley.

Sometimes we’d play inside.

We played a game we called, ‘Goal Line Stand,’ where I would pretend to be Chuck Foreman going over the pile. Jon and Dave would be the defensive line and when I would jump in between them, they’d toss me into the air onto the bed … just like Chuck Foreman.

We took the footstools and played football on our knees. The footstools were our blockers. We had those kind of pants from Sears where your knees would wear out before your pants would.

At some point in the night, we’d get thirsty. Dave would do the honors. Mom would occasionally get us an eight-pack of pops; a variety pack … Orange Crush, Dr. Pepper, A&W, Pepsi and sometimes, on the rarest of occasions … Grape Crush. That was a special treat. Dave would open a bottle and, with much scrutiny, would pour the pop into three glasses in equal amounts. Once we were all in agreement as to the fairness of the pour, we’d toss in some ice cubes. The glasses all had cartoon characters on them and the glasses were all old jelly jars.

Those legendary Saturday nights were fleeting. Mom and Dad kept bowling, but before I knew it, Jon and Dave got friends and found other things to do on the weekends. I ended up watching the Love Boat alone.

Those Saturday nights were the best.

My brother Jon passed away on Aug. 1 at the age of 43. The Crusher died on Oct. 22 at 79. This story is dedicated to their memory.

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