Published 12/2/00 – SP PP, Bulletin Board

The story about the little guy who knew the difference between imaginary monsters and real lions reminded me of taking my oldest grandson, Erik, to the movie, LION KING, when it first opened. He was more than happy to go with me even though he had just seen it a few days before with his parents.

It seemed like we had no more than settled down, when he made a bee-line for the lobby. I quickly followed and asked what was wrong. He told me there was a real scary part coming up that he didn’t want to watch, and he would go back when it was over.

Naturally, I got down on one knee and spouted some silly grown-up logic about it being only a movie, nothing to be afraid of, just images on the screen, etc..

“I know all that, Poppa,” he said, “But what if the glass breaks?”

Made perfect sense to me. We watched the movie in bits and pieces. When he took off for the lobby, I quickly followed without argument.

This is one of the first Old Hand stories. Today, Erik is on the other side of ‘the glass’. After graduating with a degree  from Gustavus,  he got a plum internship in EPCOT Center’s Living Seas Aquarium, the second largest aquarium in the world. His prime job is putting on a wet suit and taking care of the manta rays, although he swims with other varieties of sea life, including sharks.

This in turn led to his present job at Sea World where he performs similar duties.

And on Cinco de Mayo he will be marrying lovely Erin O’Neill in Tulsa, OK. Almost all of our immediate family will be there. With a very sad heart I will be there only in spirit due to some recent health problems. But Erik will know I am standing beside him on this, his special day.

Erik is our oldest grandchild, our only grandchild for several years, our first day-care grandchild, and he and I have a special bond.

I look out the window and I can still see him getting off the school bus, running across the field, and coming directly to my ‘office’ so ‘Poppa Donald’ could read him another chapter of HARRY POTTER.

I bought him a pair of goldfish and he learned how to take care of them. He did such a good job the two fish lived for years beyond what pet goldfish usually survive. His two favorite stuffed animals were Sebastian and Flounder from THE LITTLE MERMAID. When he began to read for himself he studied whales and sharks.

The two us once went to the Science Museum to see a documentary on whales. We leaned way back and watched the movie almost directly over our heads. Not content with the narration of the film, Erik, about five or six at the time, supplied a more complete study of the mammals. Finally an usher came and told me that if my little companion didn’t keep quiet, we would have to leave. Erik stopped talking but would whisper to me some important facts that weren’t mentioned.

He loves all animals but has a special love for marine animals.

He and Erin got together because she had gotten an internship at the Minnesota Zoo. Erik was working as an instructor at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. Erik’s mother had a relative living in Tulsa who was a friend to Erin’s mother. Naturally this led to long distance introduction between the two animal lovers. And, well as they say, nature took it’s course.

It is wonderful that they both got work in the field they both studied for in college. And eve more wonderful that they found a partner they have so much in common with

They live outside Orlando. Erik works at Sea World. Erin at Disney World.

Erin at work

Erin at work feeding one of her pets


May the sun shine bright for the rest of these two wonderful members of our family.