Caryn

As I continue to read through my dad’s letters to his family during World War II, I have been reading between the lines, and behind the scenes that he was able to share. During a war, the soldiers involved are unable to speak about the operations they are taking part in. Still as young men and women, far away from home, they want and need to write and receive letters. They need the closeness of family, and yet they don’t want to worry their family, and they are bound by military rules, not to talk about the missions. So much so, that letters must be read to make sure no information accidentally gets out.

Knowing my dad in his later years, and getting to know him through his letters home, I know that he was not a man who wanted others, especially his family to worry about him. So, he never told of pain or fears. Which leads me to believe that my dad wouldn’t have told his family, and especially his mom, what he was feeling during the bombing missions he went on every day. Not even if he could have. That was just the man my dad was…as a young soldier, and as a adult husband and father.

Still, in reading his letters, the need for comfort and reassurance that existed in him every day, whispered quietly from between the lines and behind the words my dad wrote in his letters. He asked for good news concerning men he knew that were in the service too. Hoping that if they were ok, he would be too. Of course, I can’t be sure that those were my dad’s feelings or his thoughts, but I know that is how I felt when I looked at the pictures he took of flak from the German Fliegerabwehrkanone. This was an 88mm gun capable of rapid fire. The resulting shell fragments would rip through the planes and it is said that it took over 3,300 rounds to take down a plane. And those guns did take down planes. The B-17 bombers had to fly through these traps on the way to and from their targets. How could these boys go through that every day and not have fear that they would not come home. I know it took great faith in God to move beyond that fear…to keep going…to survive the day to day nerve racking missions.

I have great respect for all of our soldiers, because they push their fears back every day, and hide their true feelings from their loved ones so they don’t worry. And yet, when I look at the pictures Dad took of the flak all around their plane, and read the letters telling his family that he is “ok and feeling fine”, which is really a way of saying he is still ok, and not telling them much of anything I think I understand what true bravery is. That was typically my dad, never allowing his feelings to worry his family. I feel that I know my dad better from his letters and it makes me appreciate what a wonderful man he was even more. I love you Daddy!!

When you are a little girl, and you are having a really bad day, it’s really nice to have somebody who is always on your side. Very often that person in a little girls life is her grandpa. Little girls have a way of stealing their grandpa’s heart,and when the going gets tough, grandpa is a wonderful ally to have on your side. And the funny thing about those little girls is that it takes them about 5 seconds to get their grandpa figured out.

And it’s not like those grandpas mind being wrapped around the little fingers of their granddaughters, because they don’t. The first time they look at that little face, they are hooked. And when something upsets their little princess, they will do just about anything to make it all better. It’s funny that sometimes young parents can get pretty nervous about why their little darling is upset and crying, but to the grandparents, who have been through all this before, it isn’t a big deal. And isn’t it funny that the older we get the less torn up we get about little ones crying, and the more soothing we can be to the child. Oh I know that doesn’t apply to just every grandparent. Some do have a harder time with crying children as they get older, but in many cases, I find that our focus turns to the child and not the embarrassment at the crying.

That is the type of grandparents Corrie found herself with as a little girl. Grandparents who weren’t bothered by a little fussing, but rather were ready to help her with whatever it took to ease her troubled little mind at that moment. Corrie and all the grandchildren who came after her, have always loved their grandparents very much, and now that they are older, and in need of a little help themselves, it is those grandchildren who have stepped up to give them a helping hand. It is a way of returning the love that was shown to them all those years ago. A way of saying, “Yes, we remember all you did for us, and all the love you gave, and now it is our turn to show you how much we care…how much we love you.”

My parents always liked to travel, and sometimes they didn’t have vacation time coming, but wanted to feel like they took us someplace. So along came going for a drive. I know lots of people who, like my parents, love to go for a drive around town, just for the pleasure of the road trip…even if the road trip is only 10 miles or so. It always took longer, of course, because we would stop and look around at all the sights. My favorite ride was up to the mountain, to look out point, or up to the hill where the Events Center now sits (though it was not there when I was little). We would always end up one of those places at night, so we could see the city lights.

Dad and Mom always liked the view of the city lights, but I think they also realized that with 5 girls, twinkling city lights would always be viewed with a sense of awe. It was the highlight of the whole drive. Sometimes we had to look quickly as we headed on into town, but other times we got to stop and just enjoy the beauty of the lights. We girls always called the lights The Jewelry Box, because the lights seemed to form sparkling necklaces and other pieces of jewelry. Sure, you had to use your imagination, but we were quite good at that.

Those drives and beautiful view of the city lights are things that we will always have in our memories. Mom and Dad just wanted to give us a chance to go for a drive, when there was not much else to do that didn’t cost a bunch of money for 7 people, but what they really gave us was a lifetime of memories. To this day, all of us love to go for a drive, and I don’t think any of us can come into town at night without remembering The Jewelry Box when we see the city lights.

We will always consider ourselves blessed because of all the places our parents took us on vacations. We have seen so many states, and experienced their beauty. We have camped out and stayed in hotels. We have learned about the Oregon Trail, and just about every other historical marker we ever came across. We have seen both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. We have been to Canada and Mexico. Yes, we have been very blessed because of our parents love of travel, but one place that has always brought special memories was right in our own back yard…The Jewelry Box.

My sister, Allyn was always a very soft hearted person. Even as a little girl, my mom had a very hard time with any disciplinary action when it came to Allyn, because any show of disapproval put her immediately into a broken hearted state. This was not a fake way of getting out of trouble either. Having witnessed this myself with Allyn, I can attest to the validity of her feelings. In later years when my sisters and I spoke of the trouble we used to get into, we all agreed, “Not Allyn though. Allyn was always good!!” When you think about that, it is really a tribute to her in itself, and one that no one could argue.

There was and is something quite different and interesting about Allyn. She is one of those people who doesn’t like to say anything mean or hurtful about people, but she loves giving her loved ones little pet names. So, her daughter Jessi became Jessilynn, her son Ryan became the boy, her daughter Lindsay became Squirrel, and her daughter Kellie became Baby Kellie. She also called Lindsay, Squee Squee, and Kellie, Pretty Teeny Sweet and Little or the babe. And even made up a song for Kellie that went like this, “Mommy got a pretty Kellie, Yeah!!” And of course, she would always say, “She just a baby!” Always meaning it is an endearing way. And when one of the kids calls or stops by, she always calls them BaBy…using a high pitched voice to enunciate each syllable.

Allyn always likes to say encouraging things to people too, so she might tell someone they are “stunningly beautiful, fantastically clever, and wonderfully sweet.” Or she might say they are “the sweetest and the best.” And if one of the kids was whining or complaining, she would say, “How could you say those words??” If the kids were going outside in the winter, she would say, “Mittens, mittens, teeny kittens!”

And now that she has grandchildren, she has a whole new generation of cute little sayings. To her grandson she says, “Spinken spank the teeny Ethan. Teeny make him teeny cry.” Not that she would spank him, but more to make him laugh so that whatever problem he was having simply melted away. Ethan and his baby sister, Aurora will grow up hearing all those funny little sayings a lot, and that is a pretty good deal when you think about it.

I’m not sure what brought this strange and different language out in my sister…which her daughter-in-law, Chelsea calls Allynisms…but most of us find it very amusing to say the least. And, it has been an endearing thing as far as her family is concerned. And really, when she says some of that stuff, who can help but laugh. Bad moods quickly melt into smiles and laughter…because who could keep a straight face when someone, out of the blue says, “Spinken spanken teeny wanken”…whatever that means. Yes, my sister might speak a language that is very different from the rest of us, but I guess that is what makes her so special. Happy birthday Sis!! We love you Teeny Wanken!!

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.

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