Monthly Archives: July 2012

What was the first thing your spouse gave you? Most of us will look back to things like the first birthday gift or Christmas gift or a pin or ring indicating that you were going steady. Whether you know it or not, you would be wrong. My grandmother knew what the first thing her husband, my grandfather gave her, and when you know what it was you will find yourself as surprised as I was when I heard this story for the first time on Wednesday night when my mom, my sister, and I went out to visit my Aunt Bonnie.

I had never really thought of my grandmother as a hopeless romantic, but now I think she just might have been. I think too that she might have somehow known something that most girls of 17 years don’t know. She somehow knew that this man was the one…before she even went on one date with him. She must have, because that is the only way that she could have known that she wanted to keep the first thing he ever gave her. So what did she keep? You will be shocked. I know I was. The very first thing my grandfather gave my grandmother was…a stick of gum, and the thing she kept as a memento was the wrapper!! You had no idea, did you? Your best guess wasn’t even remotely close…was it?

It couldn’t have been, because that first thing your spouse gave you…the real first thing, is almost never remembered. I can’t tell you the first thing Bob ever gave me, even though there have been many cherished gifts he has given me. Still, looking at the amazing insight that my grandmother, as a young girl, somehow had, that she would keep a gum wrapper, because it came from the man that would be her husband someday, before she could have possibly known that…well that is amazing!!

Grandma kept the gum wrapper from the day she received it to the day she passed away, and then the cherished gum wrapper was passed, by luck of the draw to her youngest child, my Aunt Sandy, where it will continue to be a cherished keepsake. A keepsake more valuable than dimonds, rubies, or gold…because it is priceless!!

There is a country music song by Brad Paisley, called “He Didn’t Have To Be” about a step-dad who was more of a dad than a real dad ever was. After talking with my cousin, JeanAnn, I am convinced that those words describe my cousin Elmer, JeanAnn’s uncle very well too. JeanAnn was a little girl with a need, and Elmer became the dad to JeanAnn, that he didn’t have to be…he chose to be. JeanAnn tells me that Elmer raised her, like she was his own daughter, stepping in to fill a void that desperately needed filling, and not only helped a little girl who needed it, but filled her heart with so much joy and pride, that when she speaks of him, it all comes flowing out like a beautiful waterfall.

When JeanAnn was a very little girl, Elmer bought her a Tweety Bird that said “Hello Buddy!” He and JeanAnn always used to say that to each other, but JeanAnn was to little to say it right, so it came out “Hello Bud!” The name stuck, and Elmer became forever Uncle Bud, and I have a feeling he didn’t mind that, because his very special little niece gave that name to him. Rewards just don’t come sweeter than that!

Some of her fondest memories happened in the month of July. She tells me that she can’t remember one year, except the few that she didn’t live in Casper, that she didn’t spend July 4th with her uncle. Back when you could set off fireworks on your own, they shot off fireworks in Glenrock, along with the occasional hillside fire, of course. Sometimes, they watched the fireworks displays from Elmer’s shop, where she got to play with the various gadgets he had made or bought. Later, when he got a boat, they often spent July 4th at the lake, watching the displays, boating and playing in the water. JeanAnn never had to worry about missing out on the festivities, because she had an uncle who was so good to her, even though he didn’t have to be. When the fair rolled around, JeanAnn always got to go. At the fair, she and her Uncle Bud would ride all the rides. One year he had hurt his back, so JeanAnn was worried that he might not be able to go, but he still took her, and rode the rides with her. She was a teenager by then, and his giving nature meant so much to her. Elmer was always there when she needed him.

Now JeanAnn is grown, with children of her own, who need a man in their lives too. Uncle Bud stepped right in, without ever being asked, and did the same things for Mykenzie and Ethan. He took Kenzie to her first father/daughter dance, and was there for Ethan’s first play. He spent 2 hours last Christmas putting a Lego toy together for Ethan. He has done so many things for JeanAnn, Kenzie, and Ethan, that there simply isn’t enough room here. Just suffice it to say that when other men wouldn’t do for their children, Uncle Bud came to the rescue for at least 3 of them, and became the surrogate dad…he didn’t have to be.

My Great Aunt Gladys, passed away on July 19, 1989. She was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 232, which crashed at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa. It was a crash I’m sure many of you will remember. According to the pilot on that flight, Captain Al Haynes a veteran pilot with 30,000 hours of flying time, “When the #2 hydraulics on the DC-10 blew, or when the #2 engine blew, it took out the #2 accessory drive section, which took out the hydraulics for the #2 system. And some 70 pieces of shrapnel penetrated the horizontal stabilizer and severed the #1 line and the #3 line, and as a result we ended up with no hydraulics.”

It was a situation that had a 1 in 1 billion chance of happening, but on July 19, 1989, on United Airlines Fight 232 which had taken off from Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado, bound for Chicago, Illinois with 296 souls on board, one of which was my Great Aunt Gladys, it did happen. Of the 285 passengers and 11 crew members, 184 people would survive the subsequent crash of  United Airlines Flight 232…sadly, my Great Aunt Gladys was not one of them. The airline was having a special that day, in which children flying with a parent flew for half price. That special put an unusually large number of children on the flight…52 to be exact. A number of those kids were traveling alone. Four children were “lap” children…children without a seat of their own. Eleven children, including 1 “lap” child died in the disaster.

The passengers on board the flight knew they were in trouble for 45 minutes before the crash. I have often thought about what my Aunt Gladys was thinking about during those 45 minutes. Her family, of course…hoping she would be able to return home to see them again. Worry and fear must have entered in, and it makes me so sad to think that her last minutes were spent in such a manner. My mom said something to me after we found out that she had not survived, that makes me think that she was thinking of one other thing…the children. Mom said that Aunt Gladys would have wanted the children to survive, because they had not had a chance at life yet. I think that is true, because Aunt Gladys was always so sweet to the children. She never said one harsh word to me or my sisters…even when we wanted to play with her Avon products or touch her silk nylons, because they were so soft.

During the crash, the plane cartwheeled, and possessions where thrown all over the place. So came about the misinformation that made us believe that Aunt Gladys had survived. Her purse went to the hospital with another woman. Upon further investigation, they would find that it was not my aunt, but not before the news media had listed her as a survivor. It was not their fault, but nevertheless heartbreaking to our family. Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the crash of United Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa, and the subsequent loss of my dear Great Aunt Gladys. Sometimes, when I see a woman who resembles her, my heart still jumps, because it’s almost like she is still here. I suppose that happens because we could not view her body, and maybe that isn’t the worst thing. At least we can still imagine her among the living. We love and still miss you Aunt Gladys.

It takes you by surprise sometimes. You meet someone, and your heart skips a beat. You think to yourself, “Whew, he is so handsome!!” Then you just have to wait, and hope he asks you out. After what seems like forever, he finally asks you out, you find yourself floating on cloud nine. That’s how my mom described her first meeting with my dad. She was immediately smitten, and she never looked back. That’s how it is when love comes along.

That’s the way my dad felt too, and he never looked back. He had found his dream girl, and he knew that they would have a wonderful life together. Dad was always such a giving man, and kindness was no stranger to his personality either. When he loved someone, he loved them wholeheartedly. I suppose that is exactly what attracted my mom to him in the first place. She knew this was forever. Love had come along.

Through the years, much changed, such as the addition of 5 daughters, and a move from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin, and back again. Mom was a stay at home mom for most of my childhood, and sometimes that meant Dad would work 2 jobs, but he never complained. It was his duty, and he was a man who took his responsibilities very seriously. We never lacked for anything we needed, but the most important thing that we had an overflowing abundance of in our home was love. Mom and Dad saw to that, and taught us to love one another unconditionally. It didn’t matter if we made mistakes, they were forgiven and forgotten. No matter how bad. We always knew that love forgave anything we could do.

Yes, there were many changes through the years, and looking back now, I wish that I could have stopped time somehow…especially in the later years, but you can’t do that, so the aging process took place. Still the love never faded, and there were certain traditions that never ended, such as the New Years Eve party every year to celebrate the new year of course, but more importantly to celebrate my mom’s birthday on New Years Day. That party always included Mom and Dad’s dance. We all stood around watching, because it was such a beautiful event. One that was just naturally occurring when love comes along…and then stays for a lifetime. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!! We love you both, and Mom and your daughters and families are looking forward seeing you again Dad…maybe for that first dance in Heaven.

Nineteen years ago today, our family grew from 4 to 5 with the addition of our son-in-law, Kevin. It’s always a strange feeling to give your daughter away in marriage. No matter how much you love the man who will be her husband, she is still your little girl. You don’t know for sure that this man will be good to your daughter or make her happy. And, as with any marriage, there are no guarantees that it will last. Those are the risks that are involved in any marriage, but when it is your little girl, it just feels different. For the first time in your daughter’s life, she belongs to another person.

Corrie married Kevin just 17 days after her 18th birthday, which made the feeling that we were giving our baby away, even stronger. How could she possibly know if she was in love? What could she possibly know about love, anyway? And what did we really know about this man who was taking our little girl away from us? These were the thoughts that fought their way into my brain as we prepared to give Corrie to Kevin in marriage. The truth was that Corrie and Kevin had dated for 3 years, since her 15th birthday, and they did know each other. They knew their love was real. It was her parents who couldn’t get past the fact that she was grown up now.

As I said, that was nineteen years ago, and the questions have been answered. They are happy. They are in love. They did know what love was and is. Through the years they have proven that over and over. Yes, they were young when they married, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. Sometimes, couples who marry young beat the odds, and they make it. That is what Corrie and Kevin did…they beat the odds.

As for our family…yes, their marriage changed our lives forever. It added a wonderful, loving, caring son-in-law, and 2 amazing grandsons. We grew in numbers, but also is strength. We are better for having added Kevin, Christopher and Joshua. We work together, in good times and bad. We help each other through the tough times and rejoice during the good times. Our family has never been the same, nor can I imagine it without Kevin and the boys in it. Yes, our lives changed dramatically nineteen years ago today…and I wouldn’t go back for anything. Happy 19th wedding anniversary Corrie and Kevin. We love you both (and the boys too, of course) very, very much!!

When children are born a number of years apart, the older children can end up having babies at almost the same time as their parents. Such was the case with my mother-in-law and her younger sisters. Her sister, Linda was born 15 years after she was, and Margee was born 18 years after she was. My mother-in-law married my father-in-law just 6 months later, and when their first child, Marlyce was born, Margee was just 1 1/2 years old. Marlyce was more like a little sister than a niece, and since she was so little, Margee didn’t know what a niece was anyway. All she saw was a new friend.

With each additional child, new playmates arrived, and before they knew it, there were 5 of them playimg together. By this time, of course, my mother-in-law’s sisters were old enough to know that the younger kids were nieces and nephew, and not friends. Still, the years spent playing with their nieces and nephew were years where friends were in abundance.

My mom’s family had much the same situation, except that it wasn’t the years between children that caused the closeness of the younger children to nieces and nephews, but rather the number of children in the family. My Aunt Sandy was just 3 years old when her sister, my Aunt Evelyn had her first child, Susie, and two more children would arrive by the time my Aunt Sandy was 5 years old. Aunt Sandy tells me that she never really felt like she was the youngest child, since there were so many nieces and nephews, and her sisters, my Aunt Bonnie and Aunt Dixie weren’t much older than Aunt Sandy, so they lived the story she did.

Having nieces and nephews that are very close in age to you can be a fun thing, because you always know you have friends to play with. I suppose it can be annoying too, because they can be just like a kid sister or brother…always under foot, so I’m sure there were times when the aunts just wished those kids would go home. They can also be great fun. They look up to you, which can be very different from what many kids experience. Either way, you will always have friends in abundance.

My Uncle Jack went home to be with the Lord yesterday evening. He was a quiet man, with a heart of gold, who made a big impact on those who knew him. There was always such a tenderness about him. He didn’t have it in him to be unkind.

Through the years, I think many of the kids in the family can attest to what a fun guy he was. He loved the kids, especially his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. It seemed like every year when the fair would roll around, we would run into them at the fair with their grandchildren. It was fun time they spent with their grandkids. The kids also spent much time at their grandparent’s house through the years. Even their friends spent time at their house. It was the place to be.

Uncle Jack like to putter around his shop and the land he and Aunt Bonnie owned East of Casper, often taking walks up and down the lane to stay fit, and to spend time in the fresh air, just enjoying the beauty of nature. Uncle Jack was never a man who felt very comfortable all dressed up. That just wasn’t his style, and that’s ok with me. He was perfect just the way he was. He didn’t have to dress up to be special, that came from the inside…from his heart.

Uncle Jack married Aunt Bonnie on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1959, and never a day went by that he didn’t consider himself the luckiest man in the world to have the love of his life by his side. They were forever happy. He supported her in whatever she chose to do. When Aunt Bonnie took up cake decorating, later making the cakes for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, my 25th wedding anniversary, as well as both my girls’ wedding cakes, Uncle Jack became her main assistant. He was an expert at transporting and setting up those cakes, without one loss that I know of. He did it all in love. Love for the brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, grand nieces, and grand nephews, and countless other people, especially relatives who benefited from his labors.

I hate watching as the generation my Uncle Jack was a part of slipping away from us. With the passing of each one, we lose a little bit more. I makes me so sad. I love you Uncle Jack. I will miss you so much.

In the Fall of 1957 or 1958, my family was living in Superior, Wisconsin, which is where my dad’s family lived. I was just a toddler at the time, and our family had been visiting Casper, Wyoming, where Mom’s family lived. My grandma and my Aunt Sandy were to accompany us back to Wisconsin for a visit, and then they would take the bus home again. The amount of room in the car limited the number of people who could come to two, and my Aunt Sandy felt very blessed to be chosen, as a trip to Canada was in the plans. It was to be the only time Aunt Sandy traveled outside the United States…so far, anyway.

Aunt Sandy tells me that one of the most wonderful memories she has of the trip is the fall colors in the trees. Wyoming gets pretty much one color change in the fall…green to yellow. The reds you see in the Midwest and East are pretty foreign in Wyoming. The drive was very exciting for a young girl of 12 or 13 years.

The Canadian part of the trip would also be filled with lovely fall colors, and would take them to Port Arthur to stay the night. They drove along the north shore of Lake Superior, which is a beautiful drive, as I can attest. It was always a favorite of my parents, and of course, most people who live around Lake Superior. The area is filled with trees, and magnificent views of the lake, so it is always a very special treat.

At some point in touring of the area, we stopped to look around, and Aunt Sandy leaned up against a fence post. Not knowing the problems that can occur when you put a wooden post in the ground for a long period of time in a climate that is humid, and ground water is plentiful, poor Aunt Sandy had no idea that leaning against such a post was a bad idea. The post immediately broke, of course, and Aunt Sandy found herself laying in the sand. Big sisters being with they are with their kid sisters, my mother began laughing hysterically about her little sister “throwing herself in the sand”. Thankfully Aunt Sandy wasn’t bothered by her sister’s teasing, or maybe it was just that she was used to teasing, being the youngest of 9 children. Nevertheless, Mom laughed, and Aunt Sandy picked herself up, and blew off the laughter good naturedly. I guess the trip was too much fun to worry about such trivial things.

All too soon, the trip came to an end. But there was still one adventure to come. Grandma and Aunt Sandy were going to be going home on the bus. Now, as we all know, bus trips are very long, with stops in just about every Podunk town on the map, but to a young girl of 12 or 13 years, it was still a very exciting trip, and one that she has never forgotten in all these years. I could tell, as I was talking to her about her memories of the trip, that they are still very much alive and well in her memory.

On Thursday nights, I spend the evening with my mom and my sister, Cheryl. We watch movies, have dinner, and just hang out. It is our girls night. Tonight we went to a restaurant called Hayden’s Place, which those of you who know Casper, might know as The Kopper Kettle, or The Pink Kitchen. As we were having our dinner, we were reminiscing  about the many times we had been there for dinner through the years.

My earliest memory of The Pink Kitchen, was when Mom and Dad would take us there for dinner as kids. I always ordered the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich…always, even though I had always pre-determined to order something different. I can’t tell you why I always ordered it, or why I thought I might want something different, it was just my memory of every dinner we spent there. And I still love Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches to this day.

By the time Bob and I were dating, the name had changed to The Kopper Kettle, and we occasionally went there for dinner. One summer day we went there to eat, and there was something wrong with Bob’s car. He opened the hood, and was working on something…not sure what now, but as he laid his screw driver on the cross bar of the car, it slipped off, and stabbed the radiator. How it managed to do that, I’ll never know, but he couldn’t believe it. What are the odds…right? He just stood there looking the antifreeze flowing out of the radiator onto the ground for a minute in shock. Then he went in and made a phone call to get his dad to come and help him fix it.

Tonight’s dinner was the first time I had eaten there in many years, but the food was still just as good, and I finally ordered something different…a smothered Burrito with Green Chili…quite a change from my Hot Roast Beef Sandwich days. And to tell you the truth, it felt a little strange when I thought about it.

The B-17’s and B-25’s are back in town again this week, and of course, they always put me in mind of my dad. I can’t see one in the newspaper, or flying over without thinking of him. Dad was a Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer on a B-17 G Bomber during World War II. In his letters to his mom, he was so excited to be on this brand new plane that had never been used by any other crew. He was impressed with the ability of this plane, and felt very safe and secure when flying around in it. As a young man in the war, he was excited, and yet cautious, of course, because he was flying into combat zones, after all.

I can just imagine how he felt when he was flying in the B-17G Bomber, because he grew up working on things around the farm, and loving the train rides he got to take, and then working on planes at Douglas Aircraft Company, so actually flying around in something he knew so much about, had to be exciting. And then to have it be brand new…well, not many people had that opportunity in those days. My guess is that it was a good thing that they were already in the air, because otherwise he would have been floating around in the clouds without his crew. The feeling behind his letters gave a little view of just how excited he really was.

When the B-17G Bombers and the B-25’s came into town in August of 2007, Dad and I went out to go through them. Dad wasn’t feeling very well by that time, as he passed away in December of that same year, and somehow in my excitement in taking him out to see his beloved planes, I missed that little fact…at lease until I looked at some of the pictures I took, which showed a tired version of my dad that shocked me some. Nevertheless, we went, and Dad really did have a wonderful time. We took our time, and he told me so much about the time he spent in those planes. You could see just how he felt about them, because it was written on his face, and it was very obvious in his voice. He still loved those planes. They were a part of him, and he was a part of them. You can’t separate such a life changing event from the person who lived it. It changes them, and shapes them into the person they become.

My dad was a deeply caring, loving person, who always put the feelings and needs of others ahead of his own needs. He worried about his mom worrying about him, so he tried to reassure her at every turn. He was a man who loved God and brought his children up in the Lord, and a man who deeply loved his wife, our mother. He was a man who showed his love to those he loved, and taught them to love others and especially one another. He hated anger and fights, and taught us to forgive. Dads just don’t come better. The B-17G Bombers and the B-25’s will head out of town soon, and while I haven’t gone out to see them since my dad went home, the memories will last a lifetime.

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