Caryn

When I look at my granddaughter, I see a beautiful girl, who is bubbly and very cool. She has changed through the years, but she has always been beautiful. Many people have told me that she looks like me, and maybe she does, but she is far prettier than I am. Still, I see some things about her that do look like me. Sometimes, you have to look back on things to really see them. Recently Shai took a picture of her and me, and pointed out that we have the same eyes. I hadn’t seen that before. They aren’t exactly the same, but they are close…except when she smiles, her eyes take a little upward turn on the outsides, that is so pretty.

I had been told that my daughter Amy, Shai’s mom looks a lot like me and looking back on her pictures, I can see that too. Amy looks very much like me in the face, but with her blond hair, it is a little harder to see, for some reason. I had thought that my daughter, Corrie looked like me, but in reality, she looks much like my mother-in-law, and the only reason I thought she looked like me was her hair color. Perhaps, that is why I thought people saw similarities between Shai and me. Shai’s hair is brown like mine, and our coloring is the same, so looking at the pictures, it’s easier to see the similarities. Still, I did not see them until, I looked at the picture Shai took. Then, as with Amy, I could see that we do look a lot alike.

When you have kids, and even with your grandkids, you always want them to look a little bit like you. I guess it is just human nature…the desire to reproduce another person who looks a lot like you. Maybe it is a way of connecting with our children and grandchildren forever. Or maybe I have had this on my mind because I have been researching our family tree. In doing so, I have seen many faces. Some that look like people I know, and some who don’t. The similarities can be in sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, and even cousins. It is quite interesting to see. So often, it takes someone who never knew the people involved to really pick out those similarities.

Still, sometimes when I look back on those old pictures, I am very surprised. I was going through my old pictures from when my grandchildren were real little, I found this one of Shai and me when she was just a little girl. It is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us, but as I looked at it, it occurred to me that Shai has a smile like mine…just like mine, in fact. I find that simply amazing.

In big families, the younger children have the potential to become aunts and uncles at an early age. This can happen in families where there are a number of years between the children too. Sometimes, in fact, children can be born as aunts and uncles, which I suppose could be even more strange to think about. My younger sisters were were already old hands at being aunts at the time my girls were born, as my older sister had 3 children by that time. My youngest sister, Allyn became an aunt when she was the ripe old age of 8 years, in 1971, and so had been an aunt for 4 years by the time Corrie was born in 1975.

My in-laws basically had 3 separate families, since there were 7 years between Bob and his sister Jennifer, and another 5 between his youngest sister, Brenda and his brother, Ron. Ron was a whopping 7 years old when he first became and uncle. And my daughter, Amy’s youngest brother-in-law was 3 when he became uncle to her daughter, Shai. These kids grew up almost more like cousins or brothers and sisters than uncles to their nieces.They pretty much don’t remember a time where they weren’t uncles.

My father-in-law’s sister Marian had 8 children, and her youngest son is younger than his nephew, her daughter Kathy’s son. I’m sure that would be odd to think about, if it weren’t just the way it was. I suppose when you are born an uncle or aunt, it never occurs to you that you might be a bit different from your friends, who like my daughters became aunts when they were both married adults.

I’m quite certain that most people just think, “Well, that is the way it is.” And they would be right. You can’t control when you become an aunt or uncle. That is simply not your choice to make. And to most people it is an exciting and joyful time in their lives. But, that is not always the case. Bob’s Aunt Linda was quite a bit younger than my mother-in-law. Fifteen years, in fact. And my mother-in-law would marry my father-in-law just 2 1/2 years after Linda was born. When my sister-in-law, Marlyce came along 13 months after their marriage, Linda was just 3 1/2 years old. She was just getting to an age where she knew what she wanted and what she did not want. When they came to Linda and told her that she was an aunt, Linda immediately started crying. They were shocked by such a reaction, and when they asked her what was wrong, she said, through her tears, “I don’t want to be one of those ant guys!!!” Poor little thing thought she was going to turn into a bug!

I have been researching our family histories for some time now, and I am amazed at the fortitude of some of our ancestors. Bob’s great grandparents homesteaded in Montana in July 1911, and went through everything from a flash flood almost immediately, that washed away all of their belongings, but spared the family, to an early severe snow storm that dumped 15 to 18 inches of snow on their crops, freezing them. Bob’s great grandfather had to travel to the Elk Basin, Wyoming oil fields to make enough money to feed their growing family, and his great grandmother would take on odd jobs doing everything from cleaning houses to acting as a midwife.

I realize that there are hard working people in all walks of life, and through the years, but sometimes, it really seems to stand out as unique and amazing. Bob’s great grand parents would go on to have 10 children. The oldest, Andrew was Bob’s grandfather. As a young boy of fifteen, he was accidentally shot in the leg while hunting antelope in October of 1921. He would spend 23 months and 11 days in the hospital, and would eventually lose his leg to that injury. I’m quite sure that was devastating to a fifteen year old boy, but he would go on to become the Sheriff of Rosebud County for many years. I did not know him for many of the early years of my marriage to Bob, as his dad and grandfather didn’t speak for many years, but in the later years of his life, they reunited and we got to know Grandpa Andy. I never knew what happened to his leg, until after his death, but I remember thinking it very unusual it have a wooden peg for a leg in the 1980’s. Of course, the leg had been that way for a long time, so I’m sure it was nothing unusual to Grandpa Andy, and so we gave it no further thought either.

Adversity can and does hit people from all walks of life, and it is often that adversity that is the proving ground for that person. Some fall apart and are never really whole again. Other’s like Bob’s great grandparents and his grandfather, fight their way through the adversities in life and go on to do great things with their lives. Our ancestors had things much harder than we do. They didn’t have the modern technology that we have, and would be stunned by things we take for granted…like the internet and cell phones. They worked with their hands, scratching out a living on the land, because that was all that was available to them. Yet, while they weren’t tech savvy, they managed to build this country, turning it into the great nation it is today. They were the building blocks of a nation.

We all have people in our past who ultimately shaped who we are today. Yes, our parents raised us and shaped much of the person we are, but where did their values come from. It was their parents, of course. When I look back on who my grandparents were, and who Bob’s grandparents were, I can see traits in them and in their personalities that reflect on our parents, which reflects on us, and even some features and personality traits that have passed on to us. Sometimes the traits we have may have come from a grandparent who is even a step-grandparent, but who meant a lot to us, and so we adopted some of their traits.

Part of who we are comes from the way we are raised or the world around us, but some things are not affected by those things. Those are the parts that come to us from our heritage…our ancestors. Bob and his dad both look a lot like his grandfather, his dad’s dad. That became very apparent to me when we met him for the first time. Bob’s dad had been estranged from his dad for a long time, and only reunited a short time prior to his death. During that time we attended a family reunion, and in the pictures, the resemblance was amazing.

I think about my own grandparents. One set I knew, one set I didn’t, and yet it is the set I didn’t know, that I most take after. I am very much like my Aunt Ruth…my dad’s sister, and she seems to be much like her mother, my grandmother. It makes me wonder what my grandmother was like. Did she laugh like I do, and like my aunt did. I wish I could have known her, but she died when I was six months old. I’m told that she was an amazing woman…very strong and capable, and yet a tiny woman…as her wedding dress would tell me.

My grandfather, my dad’s dad, was gone before I was born, and yet I think that we are a bit alike in that he was an adventurer…always looking for something new…just around the next corner. My dad was a lot like that too. He liked seeing new places…exploring new things. I’m sure that was why the railroad was always of interest to my grandfather.

I think maybe some of my personality traits came from my mom’s dad. He was a gentle man with a soft heart. He was very soft spoken, a trait I wish I had received, but I’m not so sure I did. He was kind and compassionate, as was my grandmother…my mom’s mom. They really never met a stranger. And they helped many a person in need. While their family was large, and times were tough, they often had an extra mouth or two at the table in the evening, and they would never have turned anyone away.

Our grandparents passed much of themselves on to our parents, who passed it on to us. The people we have become is in a big way related to the relatives from our past. Whether we know it or not, often, we follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.

Most of the time, when you think of the words “Heaven Sent”, it pertains to a person, but today, that is not the case, or at least not exactly. A short time after my dad passed away in December of 2007, a cat started hanging around my mom’s porch…howling from hunger. Mom couldn’t stand it, and gave him some food. That was the beginning of such a beautiful relationship for our entire family, but especially for my mom and my sister Cheryl, who live together. Once he was fed, Quincy, as he would be dubbed, was here to stay. He never left again…until yesterday. Yesterday our Quincy went to Heaven. The veterinarian believes that he ingested antifreeze. By the time we knew what was wrong with him, the damage had been done. We are devastated by this tragic loss. We all loved that cat very much.

So rarely does an animal that is a perfect match for your family, literally show up on your doorstep. We didn’t even know that we needed him…but God knew. Quincy was a companion to my mom during a difficult time when she was often lonely, and  he was a caregiver too. When my mom fell several times, Quincy stayed right beside her. He wanted to make sure she was alright. He was also a very social cat. He loved to carry on a conversation with which ever of us might be at the house at the time, but he and Cheryl were particularly good friends. He was a part time outdoor cat and a part time indoor cat, but when you came over or they came home, Quincy was usually there to greet you. He loved his family so much. And, he took his responsibility very seriously. He was the man of the house.

Quincy had a special personality. He loved to sit on top of the back of my dad’s easy chair and sometimes when you sat down, you didn’t even realize that he was there…until he would reach down with just 1 claw, and very gently touch your head. He always used a claw, but never hurt you with it. As I said, Quincy was part outdoor cat, and so once he had made sure things were ok in the house, he wanted outside for a prowl…even if only for a few minutes. Then, when he was ready to come back in, he would jump up on the air conditioner and scratch at the window, until you opened the door. Yes, he was spoiled…the king of the castle, for sure. Quincy didn’t think he should have to drink out of a cat dish either. He wanted to drink out of a bowl in the sink, or the water dripping from the tub faucet. That was more special…like he was. And, while he had a bed to sleep in, he fully enjoyed curling up in the bathroom sink too.

I’m sure Mom and Cheryl will get another cat, but there will never be another cat quite like Quincy, and our family will miss him very much. Angels come in many forms I think, and I believe that Quincy was an angel sent by God when we really needed one. He may have been just a cat to many people, but to us he was people…he was family…and he was definitely Heaven Sent. We love you Quincy, and we will miss you very much.

When our girls were little, Bob was quite smitten with them. So much so, in fact, that all it took was a little smile or giggle to get him to give in to their…requests, and yet, not feel one bit taken in by them. The reality, however, is that he was extremely taken in by them. In fact, he lived wrapped around their tiny little baby fingers…and it didn’t seem to bother him one bit. Bob loved his girls, and they loved their daddy.

We had a little joke that the girls and I played on Bob as they got a little older. If they wanted to do something, or wanted to go somewhere, and Bob seemed to be…undecided, I told the girls to flutter their eyelashes and say, “I love you Daddy.” Needless to say, it worked like a charm. Of course, we wouldn’t have used it on something that he seriously didn’t want to do, but I’m not so sure Bob knew that. Through the years, the girls used their Daddy’s Little Girl trick on Bob quite a bit. Even when it wasn’t necessary. If they wanted a candy bar at the store, or a new pair of jeans, Daddy’s Little Girls sweet talked their dad to get what they wanted. Of course, their love for their dad would never have allowed them to take advantage in any big way…just the ones Bob wanted to give in on anyway.

Being Daddy’s Little Girl does take a certain amount of work too…like watching him Daddy's Little Helperwork on his truck, or handing him his tools, but the girls were pretty good at that too. As they grew up, Bob got more and more accustomed to his place in life. Corrie and Amy perfected their…controlling touch over Bob’s heart. They could pretty much get anything they wanted…within reason.

Not much has changed over the years. The other night Amy was at the bowling alley, and well…payday wasn’t until today, so she smiled at Bob and said, “Dad, do you want to buy me a beer?” He looked at her like…”Not really!” And in perfect Daddy’s Little Girl style, Amy said, “I love you Daddy!” Yes, she got her beer…what else is new. She’s her Daddy’s Little Girl!!

When my niece, Toni was a little girl, she loved to clown around. She made everyone laugh with her antics. When everyone else was serious, here would come Toni, ready to start the fun rolling…and she had a laugh that was contagious. She might giggle while showing off her favorite boots or some other goofy thing, just to get a laugh out of someone. She was so quick to laugh, and always found a way to pass that along to others around her.

While those days are in the past now, Toni has grown into a beautiful woman. She is sweet and caring. She is one of those people who doesn’t see what a treasure she is. With her kind heart and quick smile, she adds sunshine to a cloudy day.

Toni has a sense of style that brings beauty to he home. I love some of the decorating ideas she has come up with. Some of us have a knack for that kind of thing, and she is definitely one of those people. She creates beauty all around her. I guess that all comes from the beauty that lives inside her.

Life isn’t always easy…for any of us, and Toni has been through some rough times, including when her son James had a serious head injury that could have cost him his life. Toni stood strong in that tough time, and kept James calm…and prayed, because she knew that God would take care of her son…and He did. James is so precious to her. For a long time it has been just the two of them, and James was and still is, her world. Now, she has found love again in a wonderful man…Dave. Life is complete for Toni once again, and I am so happy for her.

Toni has turned into a lovely woman, and one I am proud to call my niece. She is thoughtful and kind. She is a good mom, and good to her mom and grandmother, my sister and my mom. And that smile…well, it is still very much alive and well on Toni’s pretty face. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! We love you very much!!

When my dad was a little boy, he really liked his bottle…but he was a little bit careless with it as he got a little older. It was time to get him off of the bottle, but he was not very interested in that idea. When he got teeth, he started pulling on the nipple with his teeth, and would bite it off, spilling the contents all over the floor. I’m quite sure my grandmother was frustrated beyond words with him.

One day, in one of Dad’s careless moments, he tossed the finished bottle into the wood box, breaking it, because there was no such thing as plastic bottles then. His mother, who was all done with this nonsense, looked into the wood box…then turned to my dad and said, “That was the last bottle…they are all gone.” I can imagine what was going through her mind…and his. I’m sure she was thinking, “Will he cry…for hours!!” And I’m sure my dad was thinking, “Can’t we get another one?” But after looking at his mother, who looked back at him, stone faced, my dad knew that was the end of the matter. He looked sadly into the wood box, and walked away. I’m told he didn’t cry, nor did he ask for another bottle ever again. I think my grandmother was a wise woman.

While he was a good boy who loved his mom and dad, and respected his elders, my dad was still full of antics as he got older. Like many kids who think they are so grown up, sometimes you just can’t tell them anything. Sometimes they just have to learn things for themselves. Such was the case on day when my dad was sitting at the table…leaning back in his chair. The chair kept rocking back on two legs. We have all been there. Our parents telling us not to rock back in our chair like that, but…really, how many of us ever listened. No, most kids know it all…right!

Well, my dad was no different. His mother had repeatedly told him not to lean back in his chair. On this particular occasion, my great grandfather, my grandmother’s dad, was visiting. My great grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Germany, and Great Grandpa still spoke in mixed English and a German dialect. Then the inevitable happened. My dad leaned back a little too far, and the chair went on over. My dad looked up from the floor, to see his grandpa looking down at him and saying, “So Du bist a Oka Mann!”…which translates to, “So, you are a Big Man!” Somehow…I’m not so sure Dad felt very big…nor do I think he thought it was very funny!!

Old pictures can bring back memories of great times that you don’t want to forget. In my Dad’s letters home from World War II, he asked for pictures of his favorite spots and people so that he could keep them stored in his memory. As a young soldier, he was lonely for both family and home.  He wanted to see the places they used to go, like Manitou Falls…a place that I have looked up online, and I can say that I can fully understand why Dad would like it. Not just because it is a very pretty place, but because it is a trip down Memory Lane. It’s a place we all need to go sometimes.

When I look at the pictures I have taken while Bob and I are out hiking, I can relate to my dad’s desire for pictures of those places he loved so much. When you look at them, you can feel yourself going back in time to that place again. Reliving the moments. The times of our lives. I love being out on the trail, listening to the birds and far away from the traffic and other annoying sounds of the city. The trail is a place of peace for me, in an otherwise stressful world.

Some of my favorite childhood memories involved our annual vacations. Mom and Dad took us so many places. We camped out, sleeping under the stars…no tent needed. We sat around the campfire for hours before finally deciding that we couldn’t stay awake any longer…mostly because we all hated to have the evening around the fire end. We woke to the birds chirping and usually a fire going, because Dad was up and had it going…the smell of coffee brewing and bacon frying filled the morning air…mingled with the smell of burning wood on the fire. Those are the memories that mean summer to me.

We all have special memories that remind us of the times of our lives, and they are a varied as we are, but each memory is precious and the pictures we take are a way to keep them close. I know that was what my dad was looking for when he asked for pictures from home so long ago as he was stationed in England in World War II. He couldn’t go home right then, but he could let his mind re-live the times of his life.

When Siara was born, we knew she would most likely be small, given the size of her parents. My niece Chantel is 4’10” and Siara’s dad, Tim, about 5’4″. She was such a teeny little baby, and just as cute as a button. She was always a little ham, like her mom, and loved posing for pictures. That hasn’t changed one bit. Of course, being very photogenic doesn’t hurt anything either. Still, cheerleading was never what I thought Siara would choose to do. Now, I can’t imagine why it never occurred to me. She is perfect for that sport. She is energetic and enthusiastic. She is quick to smile, and her bubbly personality brings out the best in people. She knows how to get people excite about the game and get them cheering. I suppose that could be the training she has received, but I think it was always something that was inside her, and now it is coming out.

Given her small size, I never would have figured her for a power house, but that is exactly what she is. I never knew that until I saw some of the pictures from her performance in The American Grand National Championship Cheerleading competition. All I can say is that Siara has amazing strength…and now she is a national champion…impressive!! She is strong and capable. And she is very talented. She is dedicated and works hard to make the entire squad look good…they all do. They are a team. She doesn’t like it when people think of what she does as some namby, pamby girly thing, because it is a true sport, and Siara has the bruises to prove it.

Today, our little power house turns 18, and I find that very hard to believe. Maybe that is because she never grew beyond 4′ 9″, and so it seems as thought she is still just a little girl, or maybe it’s just that it’s always hard to believe that kids grow up. Whatever the reason, our little teeny girl is all grown up today. She has been weighing her options to decide what she wants to do with her life and what college she might want to go to. The way I see it…while she will never be a big girl, no matter what she decides to do, I know that she will give it her all, just like she has done with cheerleading and high school. We are very proud of Siara’s accomplishments. And today, I want to wish you a very happy 18th birthday Siara. We all love you very much.

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