Monthly Archives: February 2012

Every year on February 9th, a small group of friends gather for breakfast at Johnny J’s Diner to talk about a little girl who touched all our hearts deeply, and left us far too soon.  Brooke would have been 15 years old on December 24, 2011, but she passed away on February 9, 2004 from an acute asthma attack. I often wonder who she would have been today at 15 years old. She had such a bubbly personality and a smile and laugh that made it hard to ever tell her no…even if you should have. Her siblings knew how to get something they wanted, or do something they wanted to do…they just got Brooke to ask for it. The funny thing was, however, that she never seemed spoiled to me, or to anyone else that I know of. She was just sweet.

Now, 8 years later, we still gather to talk about the little girl who meant so much to all of us…and to console her mother, who still struggles with that day, as well as the month of February and even from December 24th through February 14th, which was the day Brooke was laid to rest…a fitting day for a girl who was born on a holiday, and very much loved.

Of course, Brooke was never a mother, but in her short little life, she practiced for that role she dreamed of having by mothering every baby she ever came across. Her mom, Dani babysat my grandchildren, but it was Brooke who babysat my youngest grandchild…Josh. Dani could help…a teeny little bit, but not very much, because Josh was Brooke’s baby, and everyone might just as well get that fact through their thick head, because that was the way it was.

Brooke touched the lives of young and old alike. She had her very favorites though, like my husband, Bob for example. Whenever Bob walked into a room Brooke was in, she ran over to him and gave him a big hug. She was almost like a little girlfriend, and I might have been jealous, had it not been for the difference in their ages. She loved him so much, and it was very hard to be jealous of such a sweet little girl, so I had to be content to share him whenever Brooke was in the room.

Now, 8 long years after her passing, we can each remember how she touched our lives, and I’m sure the stories will all be shared as we gather to look back on the life of a child that has been gone longer than she lived, and yet seems to still be so very much with us. Her memory is everywhere…every time we hear a child laugh, every time a little girl takes a shine to Bob, every time we see Madyson, Brooke’s little sister, who looks incredibly like her older sister…so much so, that I often call her Brooke. And so we gather to console her mother, and remember the little girl who touched our hearts.

As a little girl, Amy was a child of several moods. I was forced to stop letting her take naps by the time she was 2 years old, because while Amy was a happy, giggly, sweet little girl before her nap…it was a very different picture when she woke up from a nap. You simply had to hand her a glass of kool-aide, and stay out of her way for about the next 3 hours. During that time, she kept that kool-aide glass pasted to her face, sipping it slowly, and invariably creating a kool-aide moustache, and glaring at everyone in sight. It was really odd, because she was not that way in the mornings…just after a nap!! So, when she was 2, her nap time ended…as did the glaring, kool-aide sipping aftermaths. I hated to lose my little bit of free time while the girls napped, and oddly, Corrie, who is a year older than Amy still needed and took her naps, but it was worth it to me to lose the free time, if it meant losing the grouchy little girl who always appeared after the nap.

Amy was always a child who knew exactly what she wanted, and she didn’t appreciate it if you chose to disagree with her. Now mind you, she had to deal with a very stubborn mother, and if she and I disagreed on what she should be doing or having, she found herself on the losing end of the argument, because…well, I was bigger than she was, and that was that. Still, she didn’t mind showing your just how she felt about the whole matter. You could always tell when she was really mad, because she would take a hold of one hand with the other, with a pretty sour expression, and then in unison, she would pull both hands to the same side of her little body in a twisting movement that pretty much said, “Don’t you EVER touch me again…in your life!!” Of course, she would eventually get over being mad, and you were soon accepted back into her good graces…until the next time you dared to disagree with her.

And as Amy’s big sister, Corrie can attest, Amy ruled the roost where the girls were concerned. Corrie didn’t stand a chance against Amy’s hot temper. Corrie always was a little more timid than Amy, and soft hearted where her baby sister was concerned. She probably could have taken Amy, if she had dared to try, but she never did, so Amy pushed her around a little bit…until they grew up a little bit that is. Age changes things a lot, because the girls are good friends now.

And sometimes, you really didn’t know that Amy was having a bad day or moment, until she blew up, and let you know. It might be something that would seem minor to most of us, but to Amy, it was a big problem. And while she can’t remember just why she was mad every time, she has come up with at least one explanation, even if it seems a little far fetched to me. She has decided that at least in this last picture…Corrie was stepping on her toe. Sure Amy…whatever you say!!

Some people have such a wonderful way with children that they seem ageless. That is the way Bob’s great grandma was. When we went to visit her in Yakima, Washington, when Corrie was just 15 months old, and Amy was 4 months old. Corrie and her great great grandma had such a connection. It didn’t matter that there was an 88 year difference in their ages. Grandma understood Corrie, and Corrie loved her very much. The chair she gave to Corrie was part of that connection they had. Grandma saw that Corrie would cherish the little chair, and her instincts were correct. It has been a treasure to Corrie.

Grandma truly was a timeless person. So many people who are in their 80’s and 90’s, have little tolerance for the silliness of children, but Grandma was no ordinary person. She loved life, and the people in it…especially her little great great grandchildren. And she was so full of life. She was one of those people whose age is hard to guess, because they are so much younger than their years. Grandma lived alone for the 8 years after Grandpa passed away, and prior to that, they had lived together in their own home, with Grandpa doing the maintenance on the house. They were both amazing people. Grandpa was 93 years young, and Grandma was 96 years young when the left us, but they weren’t feeble and weak. They lived their lives fully right up until the end.

When Grandma was 93, her son Frank and his wife Helen brought her out for a second visit since the birth of her first great great granddaughter, Corrie was born. Even though they had not seen each other. 4 years, and it is hard too say just how much Corrie remembers of that visit, but the connection between her and her great great grandmother is very obvious. Grandma and her little great great grandchildren were all having a wonderful time together.

It would be a short 4 years later when Grandma went home to be with the Lord on February 10, 1984, but the influence she left behind for all of her family was huge. She was a woman who took an interest in life, both past and future. It was Grandma that gave me a good start on Bob’s side of the family history, and not just it’s people, but the history of things too. Sometimes it is the history of things that brings home the history of people. Those were the stories that Grandma told me on that visit, and looking back now, I can see that what she was doing, was passing along our heritage…just like she did for her grandchildren, to the best of her ability, even if they don’t remember much of it. We do, and we will keep it and her alive, to pass on to those little ones, now grown.

Most of the girls in Bob’s family, from Grandma right down to the granddaughters have a knack for crafts. It seems to be a tradition that everyone makes something. Several of them have made quilts that are really beautiful. My mother-in-law make a quilt of the, then 48 United State Birds, a pattern they purchased shortly after their marriage, and before Alaska and Hawaii joined the United States. Grandma’s quilts, of which I have 2, are a true treasure, especially since her passing in 1998, ended any hope for future quilts. We have so many talented women in our family, and it has been a great blessing through the years.

There are a few of the men who make crafts, including my father-in-law and my son-in-law, Kevin. The rest of the men are hard working, but when it comes to any kind of craft, they really don’t do that. They can make many other things though, including 2 ramps for wheel chairs and walkers. The family definitely has enough talent in it to fix, make, build, or create many of the things we need on a daily basis. We also have a banker, a nurse, our own liaison with the gas company, 2 insurance agents, several mechanics, as well as people in several other areas of occasional needs.

Some of the kids even get in on the talent end of things. Caalab is a good artist and guitarist, Shai is a Fashionesta, and Christopher, Caalab, Josh, and Riley have plenty of sports talent. We are very proud of each and every one of them.

We also have an unknown artist/quilter. My guess is that this person is one of the men or boys in the family, but I can’t say for sure. Apparently they didn’t like the idea that they were left out in the quilting area of the family. Still, they knew that they didn’t have the skill or the patience for quilting. So whoever our unknown artist/quilter is, decided to show the girls that quilting really isn’t so terribly hard to do. Really, all it takes is a shovel and a good amount of snow.

When he was little, Christopher liked to copy those adults around him. That might mean that you would find him helping his mom with the laundry, which always included removing all the clothes from the laundry basket and climbing in himself. Or you might find him helping to babysit the younger boys. Christopher was always a helpful little boy. He was also very curious. Not only did he want to help with everything, he wanted to know about everything. It is a curious world, you know.

So no matter what Corrie or Kevin were doing, there was Christopher right in the middle of it all, lending a helping hand…even if that meant he had to crawl into the dryer completely to get the clothes out. He liked the work his parents did. It seemed like play to him, and he knew it must be something important, or his parents wouldn’t be doing it. It makes sense…right!!

Christopher, like most little kids, really just liked to mimic his parents. That is how they learn things. Kids develop their sense of self from their parents and grandparents. They are their first role models…or the lack thereof in some cases. Which is why we all need to do our best to teach them the right things to do.

And on that note, we come to what Christopher learned from his grandparents. Before Bob and I got our loungers, we had a couch with a coffee table. The only way to relax and put your feet up was to put them on the coffee table. Yes, our parents taught us not tuo put our feet up on the table, but we are grown up and this is our house right…right. We never really gave the whole thing much though for another. As time went on, we soon found out how much the things we did influenced those little people who were always watching and listening to what we said and did. One day when Christopher was over, he was relaxing with his orange juice…and, wanting to be just like Grandma and Grandpa, he decided to put his feet up on the coffee table while he relaxed. Well, as you can see, it was a bit of a stretch, but he managed to pull it off.

Few things were as exciting to my sister-in-law,  Marlyce as the day she became an aunt. Marlyce had always loved babies, and these babies were special. She was so pleased to be such a grown up thing as an aunt. These babies were family, meaning they belonged to her.They were her nieces and nephews…hers!! When Marlyce held one of her babies, her face glowed with pure joy. She was in Seventh Heaven!!

Marlyce was born developmentally disabled, so there were some things that she couldn’t do as well as other people, but one thing she could do as well, or better than anyone else, is to be an aunt…to love her nieces and nephews. As the kids grew, they also grew to love their Aunt Marlyce, who never tired of spending time with them. Marlyce never changed. She would always be a child in an adult’s body, timeless and unchanging, and really, that was a big part of her charm. Marlyce simply loved. There was no falseness, no facade…she was who she was.

When the kids were older, they teased Marlyce, and she did get irritated at them. but all they had to do was say they were sorry, and give her a hug, and it was all over with. Marlyce was always forgiving. She couldn’t be angry or hateful. And for those who didn’t tease her much…well, she would do just about anything for them. You just couldn’t find a sweeter person than Marlyce. My girls and their cousins were blessed to be able to call her aunt.

Marlyce has been gone for over 22 years now, and it makes me sad that she did not get to see her grand nieces and nephews. She would have loved them, and they would have been so blessed to have known her. People didn’t come sweeter than Marlyce. It makes me sad that she is gone, because we, her family have lost so much when we lost Marlyce. My grandchildren never got to know her. They never had the chance to witness for themselves what a wonderful, sweet person she was. I  feel especially  bad for them, because as big a loss as losing Marlyce was to our family, it was a much bigger loss for my grandchildren…like a missing piece of themselves.

As a little boy, just learning to walk, my grandson, Caalab reminded me so much of his mom. Amy took those first teetering steps…about two of them, and from that point on, she ran. She didn’t have time to walk…she had places to go. Caalab was just like that, with one small exception. When Amy started walking/running, I found that getting those cute pictures of the baby plopping down on the ground because they couldn’t balance very well yet, were next to impossible. Amy just didn’t fall.

Caalab on the other hand was a fall waiting to happen. It wasn’t because his balance was off or anything, but rather because he simply got ahead of himself…or should I say, ahead of his own feet. When Caalab wanted to get from point A to point B, he always felt that doing so as fast as possible was the way to go, and in his mind it seemed like a good plan. But, as is often the way with plans…they just don’t work out quite like we saw them in our heads.

When Caalab would start across the room, his upper body was always way ahead of his feet. So much so, in fact, that it wasn’t that it was so far to fall that concerned us, but rather what was going to hit first. As you might have guessed, it was usually his head that hit first, and with uncanny accuracy, as if he was aiming for the sharpest corner in the room, or the decorative handle that might do the most damage.

It wasn’t that Caalab was clumsy, because he definitely isn’t, and really never was. Caalab was just in a hurry. He wanted to see everything, go everywhere, and do everything…now!! He would get so excited, and even though he had run into things head first before, he would still take off at break neck speed, and the next thing you knew, there he was…sporting a new bruise or cut…usually on his forehead. These little boo boo’s were the direct result of head meeting stationary object…always followed by very loud screaming and crying from little boy. Every time there was a new boo boo, I could almost feel the pain, but once his little boo boo was bandaged and/or kissed, Caalab was all better, and off again.

Thankfully those early walking years gave way to the years of far fewer bruises. Caalab learned how to keep his feet caught up with his head. He is still in a hurry a lot of the time, but we don’t have to consider a full time football helmet for him anymore.

When your birthday happens to be on a holiday, it can be a special thing. Groundhog Day, 103 years ago was one of those special days. That was the day Bob’s grandmother was born. I don’t know if Grandma’s parents looked at her birthday as something special in those early years or not. For me, however, as her granddaughter-in-law, hers was a birthday that I never forgot. It wasn’t that Groundhog Day was any big holiday where I come from, but for me, the coming of Spring means…well, a return to life!!

I was curious as to whether or not Groundhog day was even something celebrated when Grandma was born, and since I had never researched it before, I decided to look. I found that Groundhog Day began in 1841 when a German shopkeeper named James Morris in Berks County, Pennsylvania, wrote that February 2 was the day the groundhog comes out of his burrow from hibernating. If the day is sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow, he returns to his burrow for six more weeks of hibernation. If the day is cloudy and the groundhog cannot see his shadow, then he ends his hibernation and the weather will be mild. So it was something that was celebrated when Grandma was born.

Still, I don’t know if her parents gave it much thought or not. What I do know is that for her children and grandchildren, it was a special day. Of course, many people like me look at Groundhog Day as the day we hope will point to an early Spring, but for our family it is also the day a very special lady was born. Grandma was the glue that held the family together in the early years, and the one who taught everyone about love. In the later years, her grandchildren and great grandchildren loved to spend time with her too. She made every visit wonderful…an adventure.

Grandma always liked the fact that her birthday was on Groundhog Day. I remember her telling about her birthday, and you could see it on her face. I think grandma liked the Springtime too. What rancher didn’t. Spring always brought the new life. New cows, the garden growing, being able to get outside and enjoy the day…these were things she liked. Her front yard was a place she liked to be, as was her garden. But the place I remember her the most was in her kitchen. Grandma could easily run circles around most people. When breakfast was over, a short break, and it was time to start preparations for lunch…and then dinner.

Even if Grandma’s birthday had not been on a special day, it would always be a special day to us, her family, because it was the day grandma’s life began. Grandma has been gone for 14 years now, but every year on Groundhog Day, I can see her in my mind’s eye…always busy, always smiling, always special.

When my father-in-law is doing something that takes a lot of concentration, he always does it in a certain way. It is something he has always done. It is just  his way of concentrating. There is simply a process, or whatever it is that he is working on will not go together right. I don’t know if sticking his tongue out helps with concentration, or if it is about balancing things. Or maybe it is just like that old saying that you have to hold your tongue just right. I don’t know if this process ever really helped with what he was working on or not, but it was something he always did, and still does. He was the one who started it all…and then passed it down through the generations.

When Bob came along, the traditional method of concentration was passed on to him. He did many things his own way, as we all do, but Bob has always been very much like his dad, both in looks and actions. I remember the first time I was watching Bob work on a car part when we were dating. As he worked…deep in thought about the task at hand, out would come the tongue. And it didn’t just have to be out, it had to move around until it was positioned just right. And as the work changed, so did the tongue. I never could figure out why holding his tongue out helped. It just seemed to be the only way he could work…and have it turn out right. It was his way of concentrating, just as it had been his dad’s.

But, the biggest surprise for me was when I noticed my daughter, Amy had inherited her dad and grandpa’s method of concentration. One day, as I was watching my children enjoy a bowling game that we had given them for Christmas, I noticed that Amy was deep in concentration, trying to figure out how to get a strike, and there it was…her tongue sticking out of the side of her little mouth. It’s funny that you just don’t think about the things that you pass down to your children, until they are doing that very thing that you or your spouse did. So here she was, my little girl, with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, moving it around to get it in just the right position, so that she could take her turn on the little bowling alley.