Being widowed is quite likely the most devastating thing that can happen in a married person’s life. The immediate feeling is “how can I go on” or “I don’t want to go on” or something similar, and yet, life does go on, whether we like it or not. The spouse who has gone home wouldn’t want the surviving spouse to quit. They want them to continue to live a full life. They must go one living until their own time comes, but how full that life is…well, that is up to the surviving spouse. I have looked through pictures of my grandmother on trips taken after Grandpa passed away, and while I know that she missed Grandpa terribly, Grandma knew that he would want her to go on living life to the fullest.
In many ways, it reminds me of the latest version of “The Titanic” in which Rose, after losing Jack, went on to do all the things he had inspired her to go out and do. Looking at my grandmother walking along the Gulf of Mexico, or exploring the castles of Ireland, tells a tale of survival. She went on to do some of the things that Grandpa would have been so thrilled to see her do. I have to wonder what was on her mind as she took some of these trips. I suspect that it was somewhat bittersweet, because while it was exciting to see these places, it would have been sad to think that her beloved husband didn’t get to experience it with her. I’m sure she also felt like he was with her in spirit, but that really is not the same.
While the years following being widowed can seem long and lonely, they often aren’t many, and they fly by. My grandmother followed my grandfather to Heaven in 1988, just 8 years after Grandpa went home. I’m sure they are happily discussing her adventures during the time they were apart, and knowing my grandpa, I’m also sure his eyes sparkle when she tells him of that time, although, nothing could possibly compare to what they are experiencing now. In fact, come to think of it, they probably haven’t even given Grandma’s adventures a single thought since she arrived.
I never got the chance to get to know my grandmother, my dad’s mom, but I have heard so many great things about her. She was such a strong woman, running a farm, much of the time with just the help of her children, and carrying on the day to day workload that it takes to run a family and get all the kids headed out for school and such. She was not a big woman, as the size of this dress told me, and yet, she has always seemed larger in my mind, because of her capabilities. The dress shows that she was maybe a little taller than I am, and slender. I had noticed that too, in other pictures, but she also had to have been very strong, to carry the load of the work and home responsibilities that she did. I’m sure it was the size of the work that she did, and not the size of the woman, that made me think she had to have been a bigger woman that she really was.
My grandmother’s parents immigrated to the Unite States from Germany in the years before she was born. I’m sure that many of the traditions for Germany came along with them too, and I know that my dad’s grandma spoke much German or a combination of English and German to my dad when he was little, including “So, du bist a ocha man” which would translate to “So, now you are a big man” when he fell after rocking back too far in his chair at the kitchen table. I have to wonder what other traditions were passed from parents to daughter.
One thing that I’m sure was passed along was a good work ethic. My grandmother was a very hard working woman, who was really nothing like the frilly, lacey wedding dress that she wore on her wedding day. The dress, while beautiful, was soon replaced by the everyday work dresses of a woman with a pioneer spirit and the strength to do what needed to be done to make a living on a farm. Of course, I suppose there are very few of us who would wear clothing during our marriage that would be anything similar to the gown we would choose to wear for our wedding day. Still, I think that the gown we choose for our wedding day does depict the type of woman we are…at least at the time. People change as they mature, and life events play a huge part in that change. I’m sure that my grandmother rose to the occasions in her life to become the strong woman I have heard about all my life.
I was talking to my mom about this picture, and it reminded her of when her brother, Larry started Kindergarten. I’m not sure how the teacher knew about my mom as far as the kids went, because she is 2 years younger than my Uncle Larry, but when Grandma took Larry in for his first day, the teacher asked why his twin wasn’t starting school with him. When the teacher asked that, Grandma answered by saying, “Twin??” When the teacher said that she meant my mom, Grandma was very surprised, as I’m sure most of us would be. She hadn’t noticed that there was a huge similarity in their looks, although they obviously look like sister and brother, and both were blonds. Of course, Grandma told her that my mom is two years younger than Uncle Larry, and so she wouldn’t be starting school yet. The teacher was very surprised, and I’m certain my grandmother got a kick out of that for days.
It’s funny how people can see things differently than they are, and I’m sure Grandma was very surprised to think that someone thought that my 3 year old mom was the same age as her 5 year old brother. I have had this same thing happen to me with my grandchildren, Chris and Shai, who were just one day apart, but really didn’t look alike at all, since they are cousins, but people still thought they were twins. I guess it is all a matter of perspective. It’s how each person sees a situation or a person. It can be something that really surprises you.
If you knew my mom and her brothers, you would know that in many ways they were very much alike. Mom being in the middle of two brothers was highly influenced by them. She was also very protective of them, and they of her. And if one got into trouble, it was quite likely that the other two were involved or at least, supportive of the others in whatever trouble was going on…an alliance that sometimes got them in trouble, as my mom found out when she tried to protect Uncle Larry from her mom when she was giving him a spanking. Needless to say, mom got a spanking too. I think when it came to their mom, my mom knew that she would have to let her brothers deal with that on their own after that. Maybe that alliance is what caused that teacher to think mom and Uncle Larry were twins in the first place, in addition to the similarities in looks. Nevertheless, it was a real surprise to my grandmother.
For many years I have been trying to find out if Susan Frances Spencer, who is Bob’s 3rd great grandmother, has a connection to my own Spencer family ancestry. It has been a struggle to say the least. I originally found out about Susan while Bob and I were visiting his great grandmother in September of 1976 in Yakima, Washington. Susan had stayed on my mind off and on through the years, and when I began researching our family history, I found that no information was available beyond Susan on Ancestry.com. Recently, as I was going through some old papers…looking for pictures, of course…I came across an old piece of paper where I had written the known information at the time of our visit to Yakima, in 1976. I was pleasantly surprised to find the names of Susan’s parents.
Within Ancestry.com, one tiny bit of information can open a whole new world of information. I began to trace her family back, and the further back I got, the more familiar the names began to sound. I started getting excited. I had tried to trace children of my great uncles down to try to connect to Susan that way, but hadn’t had much success. Now that information coming out started to mean something to me. As I continued the connections of Bob’s side of the family, I began to think that I was very close. Finally a name surfaced that I knew I had in my family tree…Gerard Spencer. As it turns out, Gerard, who is my 9th great grandfather, is also Bob’s 11th great grandfather. My family descends from Gerard’s son Michael, and Bob’s family descends from Gerard’s son, Thomas. So what does this information mean to me? Well, it means that Bob and I are actually cousins. Bob is my 10th cousin twice removed to be exact. Strange isn’t it? I suppose that might be something that could have bothered me 38 years ago, but since we have been married over 37 years now, I’m not going to let it upset me much.
One thing that Bob’s family might find interesting, however, is that since I can trace my line back to Princess Diana, and they are in that same lineage, theirs can also be traced back to Princess Diana. Princess Diana is my 18th cousin. Since Bob and I share a grandfather, Gerard, and Gerard is my 9th great grandfather, and Bob’s 11th great grandfather, that should make Princess Diana’s 20th cousin. Now that…is amazing!!
These days graduation pictures are often very casual. They probably are more of a portrayal of the person, but in some ways, it takes away from the significance such an important event. When a graduation occurred back in my Aunt Evelyn’s school days, they often went out an bought what very well could have been the first new dress the graduate had owned. They also might have made the dress themselves, but either way, the dress was special. In many cases, it may have been more elaborate than the prom dresses of our day.
Such was the case for my Aunt Evelyn’s graduation. She looked stunning. When I saw the picture, I had to ask my mom what event this was for, because I expected it to be for prom or some other dance. I was a little surprised that it was for graduation, but as I thought about it, I realized that it made perfect sense. Other than marriage, graduation is the most special day in a person’s life, or at least the events that you might dress up for. Some people still dress up some for graduation these days, although not as much as my aunt’s attire, and I think it is kind of sad that the others don’t, because she looked amazing. In fact, this picture is one of my very favorites of my aunt. She is a beautiful woman, no matter what age she is at, but this picture is so elegant.
When I look at amazing pictures like this one of my aunt, is feel a sense of loss with the graduation pictures of today. I understand the desire to portray one’s self in their graduation pictures, but maybe it would be nice to add a few shots in a really nice outfit or even a prom style dress or suit for a man, so that the people like me who like a bit of elegance in our world, might have a picture of our loved one looking elegant like my aunt does in this picture.
In a time where it seems like it is every man for himself, I like to look back into the family history and see how things were done back then. People in the towns banded together. If someone needed to build a barn, they had a barn raising. All the neighbors came over…and brought pot luck dinners to feed the workers. These days you have to buy your friends a case of beer and a steak dinner just to help you move! Now, I know that doesn’t apply to every situation, but think about the number of times you or someone you know couldn’t get anyone to help them move without bribing them.
If we look back a few years though, we see that harvests were often brought in with the help of neighbors. They would start at one farm, and move to the next and the next, until the harvests were done. Harvesting can be a huge job, and one family really can’t harvest a big farm alone. Their neighbors had the same problem, so by working together, they could all get the job done, and everyone made a profit. Farming was and is a tough life, and when money is scarce and equipment was expensive, it was a real struggle. Many people couldn’t make it just because of weather alone, much less the inability to get the harvest in, in time to save it from the elements.
These days, so many people are struggling to make it on their own, because there is no one to help them. I don’t mean lots of government help. I mean good old fashioned elbow grease and muscle. Most people can do most things on their own, but sometimes it is easier or more fun with the help of friends and neighbors. That is how things were back then, and the best part was that it gave these neighbors who often lived miles apart, a chance to get together and enjoy each other’s company. So many people miss out on the camaraderie of friends, because they don’t allow themselves to be willing to help out a friend. It’s something we should all think about.
Blarney Castle in Ireland is a popular tourist attraction. Whether we know it or not, we have all heard about it, or at least why it is famous. Kissing the Blarney Stone seems like just a silly thing people do on St Patrick’s Day…like drinking green beer. At least, that is what I used to think it was. Back then, I had no idea what a Blarney Stone was, and maybe you don’t know either. According to Irish folklore, anyone who kisses the stone receives the ability to speak with eloquence, or The Gift of the Gab. Now speaking eloquently might be an ability we would all like to have, but the gift of gab reminds me of someone who talks way too much, so I don’t think I would want that so much.
On her trip to Ireland and England, my grandmother had the chance to visit Blarney Castle, and of course to kiss the Blarney Stone. When I saw the picture, and since it was not marked as to what it was, I had a tough time figuring out what was going on. I had never researched the Blarney Stone before, so it didn’t look like something…normal, going on. I thought maybe she fell and have to be helped up, but then I seriously doubt if her brothers and sisters would dare to take a picture of such an event. I know my grandmother, and she could take you if you got out of line, and I don’t care who you are. Once my mom told me what the picture was about…well, the story had to be told. In reality, she was kissing the Blarney Stone, which must be done upside down and low to the ground. They used to hang upside down to do it, but now there is a bench to lay on and bars to hang on to so you don’t fall.
It seems so strange to me that a woman who never drove a car in her life, and didn’t do a huge amount of traveling, would travel to the other side of the world and have such cool adventures. She was after all my grandma, and it seemed so unbelievable that she would be off with brothers and sisters to visit such far away places. I never heard a lot about her trip, but I know that she was different when she came back. Not so noticeably so, but there was something different. She was a world traveler now, and while she never drove a car, she was had done things that made the lack of driving seem of little consequence. As for eloquence of speech, I can’t say that I noticed any difference. She was still my grandma, and that was just fine with me. She didn’t need to make fancy speeches. All she needed to be was my grandma, and the grandmother of all my sisters and cousins.
A couple of weeks ago, my granddaughter, Shai was asked to bowl on our Monday night league. She decided to, even though she had only bowled two other times in her life, and really didn’t know how. Like most of us, she thought there was nothing to it. Last week on her first week as a regular bowler, she began to have second thoughts and a bad case of nerves. She didn’t know how to do the approach, and nothing felt right. To top it off, she was faced with all the other bowlers, who have bowled for years. The night couldn’t have been much worse for her, and I couldn’t help her, even though I am a trained coach, because we were both bowling, and there simply wasn’t enough time. Shai set an average of 58, and by the end of the evening, she was convinced that this was a mistake, and she could never be a good bowler.
I promised her it would get better, and later in the week, I made plans to take her bowling so I would have time to coach her. Shai’s friend, Sterling was going to be a substitute on the league, so she came along. The first thing I told the girls was that they would be doing an approach, because it is the correct way to bowl, and the best way to improve quickly. There were some very funny moments, such as sliding on the wrong foot, and gutter balls that barely got past the foul line first, but they stuck with it, and in the very short hour that we had to get this lined out, the girls made great strides. Of course, the real test of our success would be the following week…this week.
The girls were nervous, but I assured them that they would do great. I reminded them that I didn’t want to see any bowling with no approach. They assured me that they would bowl correctly. It was time for the real test. I was glad that the girls were bowling next to each other. There is still comfort in having a friend nearby. They both did great. No, they didn’t break 100, but they had decent games. Shai went from having a 176 series the first week to having a 244 series this week, and while Sterling didn’t bowl last week, she had a 233 series this week. Last week, Shai was convinced that she didn’t like bowling. When I asked her how she felt this week, she said it was fun. All the seasoned bowlers made the girls feel welcome, both last week and this week, but the difference is that this week, Shai felt more like a real bowler. Here comes the next bowling generation.
With Summer’s heat and lack of rain,
Trees and grass dried on our mountain’s terrain.
As Fall approached, with relief we did sigh,
Maybe the fire threat had passed us by.
September 9th would bring to pass
The fire that would take what lay in its path
We worried and watched…helplessly
As firefighters and planes fought…desperately
To save the mountain, the cabins and trees
All most of us could do was get down on our knees
And pray with all the faith that we had
For minimal losses and damage not too bad
By the time the fire would be contained
There would more than 15,000 acres that were fire stained
Spring will arrive bringing grasses green
The burn line will no longer the hillside stain
And the skeletal trees will be the only evidence to remain
My Uncle Elmer died in 1981. Most of his nieces and nephews never got a chance to know him very well. The other day, his son, Elmer was telling me some of the stories of his dad’s childhood, and the mischief he and his 2 brothers got into. This story reminds me a little bit of some of the MASH episodes. Having had no brothers myself, I didn’t really understand the inner workings of the minds of three brothers who were egging each other on. The story Elmer told, goes like this…
One day Uncle Elmer was plowing with an old tractor at his dad’s place. His dad went out to use the outhouse, which is what they used back then. That is when Uncle Elmer and his brother Les got an idea. Uncle Elmer drove the tractor right up by the outhouse. His brother Les hit the outhouse with a 2×4 as Uncle Elmer revved up the engine. Their dad came running out of the outhouse with his pants down around his ankles and the Montgomery Ward’s catalog in hand. Their dad wasn’t very happy with them, but he was relieved that the outhouse made it through whole ordeal in good shape.
Of course, not many of us knew Elmer’s grandfather, but he was quite the man in his own right. He pumped oil out in Midwest early in his adult life, but in the 1940’s he received a piece of property on Poison Spider Road in the Homestead Act. He continued to pump oil in Midwest while he and his wife and sons built the house on Poison Spider Road. The boys lived in an old crude oil tank that had been cut in half, like a Quonset hut. It had a dirt floor and a pot belly stove for heat. In the Fall, the boys learned early on, to throw something on the floor before getting out of bed. Apparently the rattlesnakes liked these cozy surroundings, and as the weather grew cooler. A throw rug thrown on the floor was a good way to alert you that danger was on the floor, and so your feet shouldn’t be.
Yes, what Uncle Elmer didn’t think of, his brother Les did. Their brother Tom was the baby and therefore wasn’t involved as much, but he had a mischievous side too. Elmer figures it is an inherited trait, and one that probably got Tom is as much trouble later on, such as when the boys were racing their Harley’s out by Evansville. I don’t know how many of you know about the Evansville area, but the police out there don’t take much to racing…if you know what I mean. I’m sure Uncle Elmer and his brothers found that out too.