Caryn

When my nephew, Barry was little, he spent a lot of time with his grandparents, my in-laws, while his mom, my sister-in-law, Jennifer worked. Like most little boys, Barry had at least one hero. Often a boys hero is a television character, and that may have been the case for Barry, but his real hero was his grandpa. He wanted to be just like him. In fact, he told us once that he didn’t need to go to school, because he was going to “stay home and work” with Grandpa.

Oh, and work he did. From the time he was a little boy, he wanted to be on the tractor, or using his wagon to help Grandpa haul in wood for the fire. Anything his grandpa was doing was simply ok in his book. Barry helped him with snow, wood, cars, cows, just about everything. His grandpa was his best buddy and hero. Yes, Barry wanted to be just like Grandpa, and oddly, he got his way in more ways than just work and other activities. It amazes me just how much Barry looks like his grandpa. Looking back at old pictures of my father-in-law and comparing them to my nephew, they could almost be the same person.

Pretty much every boy, and child for that matter, has a hero or two in their lives, and if you ask me, Barry could have chosen a far worse role model than my father-in-law, who is a hard working and very caring man. In many ways, Barry’s life has been modeled after his grandpa’s. Barry works hard and holds himself to high standards. He is a man that can be counted on whenever you need him. And to this day he would do just about anything for his grandpa. It’s is sort of like the tables have turned now. My father-in-law is 82 years old, and can’t do all the things he used to. We, his children and grandchildren, help him out with whatever he needs, and Barry is one of the grandchildren that we can always count on to come and help out with whatever needs done.

Barry has turned into a good man, and it has been a pleasure watching him grow up. He could have chosen to be wild and crazy and to mess up his life, but he chose to model himself after a good man, and become one himself. As his aunt, that makes me very proud and grateful to my nephew. Thanks for all you do Barry!!

We all have people that we look up to. Someone who inspires us…makes us want to be better than we are now. For me that person is my dad. My dad was the type of person who worked hard every day of his life to give his family the best he could. He sometimes worked two jobs to make ends meet in the tough times, and he never complained. He just took in all in stride. The love he felt for all his girls, my mom, my sisters, and me, was first and foremost on his mind. He was a person we could go to in times of trouble, worry or fear. He never looked at us as if we were being silly or ridiculous, but took our problems seriously, and did his best to help us with whatever it was.

My dad was not a man to cuss or to do anything that displayed a lack of self control. He was very slow to anger and quick to forgive. He hated injustice and even more, he hated disrespect, especially of the rights of other family members. He taught us to be the same, especially stressing that we “never let the sun go down on our wrath” or be quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. We knew from an early age that to hold a grudge was wrong and only hurt the person who held a grudge. I can’t say that I have never held a grudge, but his words are something I have never forgotten and have tried to live by.

My dad had a kindness about him. He never liked it when people were mean to other people. He didn’t care what faults people had. They were people and should be treated with respect. He taught us to speak respectfully to others, especially our elders, something that we often see sorely lacking in today’s society. He taught us not to judge, because we had no way of knowing the whole story behind someone else’s actions.

There are many ways that I know I have not measured up to what my dad was, nor will I ever be able to. My dad was a rare breed. A gentleman in a time when they often didn’t exist. Kind when the style was to ridicule and tease others. Loving, when I was being rude, insesenitive, and unloveable. And mostly a friend and helper in time of need, but always, always a dad, who could be counted on in every way a dad should be able to be counted on. A dad who is there to guide, protect, teach, and nurture his children. I really miss that…love you Dad!!

We look back on the wars of the past and where we fought them, and no matter how hard we try to cover up those places…to erase the past as it were, the earth remembers. My dad was stationed at Great Ashfield in Suffolk, England during World War II. That was a very busy place in those days, and the people who lived there during the war were grateful to the men of the 8th Air Force. Great Ashfield was largely a B-17 base, and the towns around the base were fairly safe, because the 8th Air Force was very capable and much feared. Their very presence made people feel safer, in a time when feeling safe was…well, a precious commodity.

The area where the air base was at that time is still marked by the memorials to the men who kept them safe during that awful time. A beautiful sign decorated with a B-17 Bomber still marks the Great Ashfield Gate. It is a tribute to those great men who fought and died to protect the lives of people they didn’t even know. Fighting for people they don’t even know is after all the core of every person in the military. It is maybe something we civilians don’t really understand…until someone steps up and does it for us. That is how those people felt, and why they continue to honor those great men to this day…the earth remembers.

I looked Great Ashfield up on Google Earth. We are blessed today to have the ability to take a virtual tour of places we might never have seen otherwise. When I first looked it up, while I was making a book of my dad’s war days for my dad and my Uncle Bill, all you could see was from the air, and while the air base is no longer an air base, you can still see exactly where it was, and a small part of it is still used for small planes today…the earth remembers.

Tonight as I write this I looked it up again, and now you can actually get right down to the edge of the base, as if you were standing right there. Google Earth now takes those street views, and Great Ashfield is one of them they have done. As I looked at the edge of the base, tears came up in my eyes, and I got a lump in my throat, because I knew that this was a place where my dad had walked…his old stomping grounds, as the old saying goes. Dad had told me about three Poplar trees at the end of the runway, and all the men knew that when you saw those three Poplar trees, you were safe. The enemy wouldn’t dare follow you here. As I stood there at the edge of the base, looking around the area, I was almost dumbfounded when those same three Poplar trees came into view…just like in the pictures I had found. They are still there to this day, as a reminder, at least to me that my dad always made it safely home…the earth remembers, and so do I.

These days is people want to dance, they go to a bar. Yes, most people want to drink, but not everyone wants to go to a bar to do it. When my parents were dating, they often double dated with her sister, my Aunt Evelyn and brother-in-law, my Uncle George. They loved to go dancing. Back then there were several balls that were held, such as the Military Ball or the Fireman’s Ball.

They had the opportunity to dress up in uniforms and ball gowns, or dress suits and ball gowns, and go out and enjoy a long night if dancing and socializing. I know that my parents enjoyed these dances, because they continued to go when we were kids growing up. I remember them even after we were old enough to stay alone. Ballroom dancing seems to be a thing of the past now, although I’m sure there are places where the still hold balls and dance those old and very beautiful dances, but they are becoming fewer and fewer.

I also know, from my cousin Shirley that her parents, my dad’s sister, Ruth and brother-in-law, Jim enjoyed going with them to those Firemen’s Balls and other dances as well, sometimes the kids even got to go along. A rare but exciting event. We, who had the opportunity to go along, will always remember how very cool it was.

There are other dances that people go to that are a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong. Square dances, and bar room dances are all great, but the elegance of ballroom dancing is all but gone from our society and our dance style. Even at proms and other school dances, while the gowns are elegant, the dancing is formless, with free style steps. Anyone can create their own dance…or just move around and no one thinks anything of it, but looking back in time, I can see something others might not…elegance lost.

Sixteen years ago, my youngest daughter married her best friend, Travis. It is hard for me to believe that it has been sixteen years. I remember thinking how young they both were, but with them, it didn’t seem to matter. I suppose that is a very common thing for a mother to think when her daughter gets married. It is inevitable that you children never seem old enough to get married. Nevertheless, they were very much in love, and they have stayed very much in love all these years. Today is the 16th Anniversary of that marriage, and it has been a blessed union.

They have both worked very hard over the years to give their family the best they can afford, but more than they, they give their family love…and just as important, laughter. Their union has been blessed with 2 children, my only granddaughter Shai, and her brother Caalab. The kids are as quick witted as their parents, and that makes for lots of joking around. I remember stopping by to pick up one or both of the kids, and hearing the laughter coming from inside, quite often. You see, Travis is a bit of a class clown type, and that makes for a home filled with joking and laughter. That is not a bad thing. I think that if a family can laugh about life, they are far better able to keep their family life strong, and possibly more sane…although that might be argued by some.

In a time when many marriages fail within a year or two, their marriage becomes more and more rare with each passing year. I guess that just goes to show that with hard work and much love a marriage can grow stronger through the passing years and can stand the test of time. You just need to focus on the one you love, and not the distractions that try to come into your lives, and be true to your spouse, and you can make it. That is just what they have done, and I am very proud of both of them.

Beyond the laughter, I can say that even though sometimes there were tough times, that weathered the storms of life and came out on the other side…still in love. The kids who I wasn’t sure were ready for marriage are gone now, and in their place are two grown up, hard working people who can be counted on in times of trouble, as well as in the good times, to be an irreplaceable part of our family and a great blessing to all who know them. Happy 16th Anniversary Amy and Travis!!

When our children are little, we don’t know who they will grow up to be. We hope they will be responsible people, who will be there for those who need them. We hope they will be the kind of people who will leave this world a better place than they found it, but when they are just little, you don’t know. You try your best to raise them in the way that will make them successful and responsible, as well as capable of handling whatever comes their way. As every parent knows, children do not come with instruction manuals, which leaves their parents on uncharted waters. So you do your best and pray that your meager ability is enough. My prayers were answered in abundance. My children and grandchildren are the best. I am truly blessed.

Of course, the child has something to do with who they turn out to be as well, perhaps even more than we do in the end, and that is when they can become truly amazing. My girls amaze me every day. They have grown into compassionate, caring people, who help others in a selfless manner. I could not get the things done that I need to do, if they were not there for me, and willing to help me with the many important things involved in caring for elderly parents. Many things would not get done, or would be done poorly, without them.

I think that the way a child handles caring for their grandparents is a good indicator of how their own parents can expect to be cared for when their time comes. If that is true, I know that my daughters and my grandchildren, who have also all pitched in to help with their great grandparents, will be loving and compassionate to me and my husband. I just hope that I can stay healthy and active enough to make it a very long wait for that needed care. Nevertheless, I know they will be there.

As I write this, my children, grandchildren, sister and sisters-in-law, have taken over the load, so that Bob and I can get away for a 4 day weekend in Denver. I am so blessed. My family is the greatest in the world, and I want them to know that I love them more than words can say.

My sister-in-law, Debbie was injured at work about 10 years ago, when she fell while carrying a heavy crate. She has had back problems and multiple surgeries in the years since that injury, and has been unable to work or stay in one position for very long. It has been a long, hard road for her, and her family, all of whom have helped her through this ordeal.

On August 30th, the day after his 82nd birthday, my father-in-law, Debbie’s dad, was struck with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). While BPPV is not life threatening, it is seriously problematic. BPPV is a condition that brings on dizziness…the kind that makes it almost impossible to locate a safe place to sit down. It also brings with it, nausea that will quickly bring a strong man to his knees. The condition comes and goes throughout the day, and is the worst right after standing up from a sitting position, making its victim a serious fall risk.

Immediately after the first episode, I recruited the family to take turns staying with my in-laws, until we could figure out what to do about this. We heard from my mother-in-law’s respite care giver, about the Dizziness and Balance Clinic at Wind City Physical Therapy. We made an appointment with them, and a wonderful therapist named Kathy, did two treatments on my father-in-law. She showed me how to treat him at home, and we are now in the midst of daily treatments to fight off the dizziness…and it is working well. In the interim, however, my father-in-law has fallen twice, and we just can’t leave them alone safely at this time. It is hard for people who work to be caregivers during the work day, and that is where my sister-in-law, Debbie comes in.

Debbie came down from Powell for a doctor’s appointment in Casper.  She usually stays with my in-laws. She came to town last Saturday and was to leave this Saturday, but after seeing how bad things were here and knowing that everyone needed to go back to work, she has not only stayed all week, but will likely stay until Wednesday of the coming week. While it is hard for her to do a lot things, she has really stepped up and set aside her own pain to do many things for her parents, so that my father-in-law will not have to try to get up and down too much. Many people might not think that cooking and straightening are a big deal, but my father-in-law is normally the one who does all the household chores, since my mother-in-law can’t help with things like she used to. Debbie has also taken on the blood sugar checks, day time meds, and helping her mom with grooming. The things Debbie has done, are monumental in the situation in which we currently find ourselves. I want to thank Debbie for her sacrifice. She has been a tremendous help in a time of serious need. Love you Debbie!!

My Dad took such pride in his back yard. It was a sanctuary for him and my mom. Peaceful and quite, they could get away from the hectic day there. In the summertime, we would often eat dinner out there, because it was a lovely back yard. Mom and Dad always liked to work in the yard, planting flowers, and creating rock gardens…all the things that give a feeling of peace.

Not being a gardening type myself, I nevertheless always appreciate beautiful gardens and yards, especially if I don’t have to get them looking that way. My parents always took that great pride in their yard and garden, and it showed. Of course, in my younger years, I hated that we had to help with the yard and garden work, and I probably didn’t give it my best efforts. I liked just about anything better than gardening and yet that was what the family was doing, and they required my help. Now it is my sisters and our families who take care of my mom’s yard. Once a year we get together and do a major clean up in preparation for the coming summer, and before the snow falls, my daughter, grandsons, Bob and I rake and dispose of the leaves. Afterwards, we have lunch in the back yard, and think back on all the lovely times we had out there over the years.

Dad and Mom created their back yard as a haven where the family could gather in our own private…almost campground kind of place, and just enjoy being together. The best memories find my dad at the grill, cooking hamburgers or steaks for dinner, the girls in the kitchen preparing the rest of the meal, and when all is ready, we sit around the picnic table and talk and laugh. Then of course, there is sitting around the fire, or back then the grill, and roasting marshmallows until it got so late that we had to go to bed.

Yes, our family always loved camping, and Dad and Mom made the back yard into an extension of that favorite thing to do, in an effort to incorporate that beloved activity into our everyday lives, and thereby bring the family closer together. A pretty wise move, since we are all still very close to this day. I guess you could say that it was a legacy that they could leave for their kids, and a living legacy of my mom, who is still with us. It is with a grateful heart that I look back on the memories created in the back yard.

Bob’s great grandfather, Edgar Knox was an unusual person. He was the type of person who just never quit, never gave up on life. I only met him on that one visit, but that in itself was an amazing thing. He and great grandma traveled from Yakima, Washington to Casper, Wyoming for a visit in July of 1976, when my youngest daughter, Amy was just a month old, and my oldest daughter was 1 year old. They came down with Bob’s great aunt and uncle, Helen and Frank, but I still call the trip amazing in that Great Grandpa Knox was 93 years old at the time it took place, and yet he didn’t seem like he was a day over 70.

He and Great Grandma Knox still lived in their own home, just the two of them, with no help. They were both fully able to handle life on their own. Their home was beautiful, and well kept. He tinkered around the house keeping things maintained, while Great Grandma kept the inside of the house in perfect order and gave it that warm and welcoming feeling.

We enjoyed the time spent with them so much, that we made plans to travel to Yakima to visit them again. It just wasn’t often that you had the chance to spend time with someone his age that was so full of life, and we wanted that chance again. Unfortunately, that was not to be. When Great Grandpa got back to Yakima, he once again started doing some things around the house to prepare it for the winter months, and while cleaning out the gutters, up on a ladder, he fell and broke his hip. He was taken to the hospital, and seemed to be doing ok, but went into shock and was quickly gone.

We grieved the loss of this wonderful man, but made the decision to go on the trip anyway. It was a good decision. We had a wonderful visit with Great Grandma Knox, even though it was overshadowed with some grief, but we all agreed that Great Grandpa had lived a very full life. Going home at the grand old age of 93 years, isn’t the worst thing that can happen, when that life was one filled with activity, strength, and one’s full faculties right up to the end. While we missed him on that visit, we were always glad we came, because I think it was what he would have wanted.

Like most Americans, I spent part of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks watching old footage of the attacks. Several things struck me looking back on those 102 minutes in time. It’s easy to see things like mistakes made, when you have the advantage of hind site, but at the time, everyone was operating under the normal procedures for emergency situations for the pre-September 11, 2001 world. We, however, no longer live in the same world we woke up in, on that Tuesday morning 10 years ago.

We had been taught that in a hijack situation, you cooperate with the hijackers, and you would most likely be freed when they got where they wanted to go. Of course, it had been quite a number of years since an airplane had been hijacked in the United States…and we had become complacent…assuming that it would never happen again…but we were wrong.

We had been taught that in emergency situations, stay where you are and help will be sent to you. It was all we knew. In reality, for anyone below the impact floors, evacuating immediately would have been the best thing to do. There was almost an hour from strike to collapse of World Trade Center Two…even longer for World Trade Center One. No one ever considered that the building could collapse, so many people were told to stay put. Listening to the recordings, makes me think about how awful those dispatchers must feel, knowing that the people they told to stay put, died because they didn’t evacuate the building. I’m not blaming the dispatcher, they were taught to keep people calm and in place until help comes to them. I also realize that there were people who were injured or otherwise incapable of getting out, and help had to come to them, but the able bodied citizen needed to be told to get out and take anyone they could with them.

I was struck with a renewed sense of shock when the towers fell. It seemed to be in slow motion, and very surreal, almost as if it wasn’t so, but was just a bad dream, like the dreams people have sometimes about falling, and they they wake up. Even though I knew it happened, and have lived with that reality for 10 years, it still didn’t seem possible…or real.

The rules all changed on September 11, 2001. We now have to each assess the situation we find ourselves in, and take the proper action for that situation. There is no norm. The new kind of terrorist and the new kind of war are the new norm, and they are sneaky and devious. We must be ever alert. Our survival could depend on it.

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