Family

I was watching the news tonight about an American family that had just found out that their daughter was among the casualties of the tragic earthquake and tsunami a little over a week ago. Taylor Anderson, an accomplished English teacher who had been living in Japan and teaching English to young students there, used what precious time she had to escape, to make sure her students were safe. It was a brave and selfless act that cost her her life in the end. She was the first American known to have been killed in the disaster.

Losing their daughter was probably the single worst event in the lives of her family, but to add to the tragedy of that loss, is the fact that, as often happens in the aftermath of a disaster, information can get mixed up. Taylor’s family had been told that she had survived and was safe, only to find out later that they had been misinformed. A devastating turn of events. Almost impossible to believe.

I know how this family feels, and my heart goes out to them. My family also experienced a similar devastating situation of misinformation. My Great Aunt Gladys was one of the victims in the 1989 crash of United Airlines flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa. Our family was also told that she had survived, and it was even on television…but it wasn’t to be. Somehow her purse had arrived at a hospital with another woman, so they thought it was her. We couldn’t believe it, and even continued to watch the reports, hoping against hope that they had been wrong.

Losing a loved one in any kind of disaster is unbearably hard, but when you are told they made it, and then find out they didn’t…well, it’s like losing them twice. It is no one’s fault, of course, and those people who have told someone their loved one is safe, only to have to tell them they were mistaken, are torn to shreds too. It is devastating to all involved, and my heart goes out to each and every one of them.

Most people like either dogs or cats, and my parents were always dog lovers. We had cats one time when I was little, but after that, we had dogs during my entire childhood. Dad always thought cats were pretty worthless.

A short time after my dad passed away, an orange cat started hanging around my mom’s porch, literally howling. She figured that if she left him alone, he would go home, but after several days, she couldn’t stand it any longer. She and my sister Cheryl, let him in and fed him. He was obviously starving and abandoned. Once he had eaten, he decided that he had found a home, and he would not leave. He has made himself quite at comfortable, sleeping anywhere he wants, but his particular favorites are the laundry basket and the bathroom sink, which I find quite funny.

So, it would appear that Mom had a new pet…but, Quincy, as he has been dubbed, is not her pet…she is his!! At least that is what he seems to think. He is very protective of her. When she has fallen a couple of times, and is waiting for Bob and me to get there to help her, Quincy never leaves her side. He knows she doesn’t belong on the floor, so he doesn’t feel comfortable until we get her back in her chair. He has to check on her periodically just to make sure everything is as it should be. He also likes to be near her when she is walking around, and since she has a walker with a seat on it…logically, his spot is that seat…of course, getting a ride is certainly a plus.

As I said before, my parents were really dog lovers, and Dad never thought cats were worth a lead nickel, but with this particular cat, I think my dad would feel differently, because Dad always made sure Mom was taken care of, and since Quincy feels the same way, I can’t help but think Dad would approve.

Bob was called Papa from the moment our first grandchildren could talk. We were so excited about being grandparents. A new phase of our lives had begun…a wonderful phase. New little lives were here. New little people to spend time with…to spoil…to maybe help to shape in some small way. We are so very blessed.

The memories of those early days of being grandparents are many, and varied, but sometimes the most special moments are the quiet times. The moments of watching in amazement while that tiny little one sleeps, and thinking how blessed you are to have received this little life. Watching the wonder on their face as they discover something new. Or just sitting together, quietly, as in the moments I captured between Papa and grandchild.

Bob very much enjoys sitting out on the front porch on a summer day listening to the birds, and just looking at the beautiful day. These two moments with our grandson and then our granddaughter, were so precious that they begged to be captured on film. As I look at these pictures now, I find myself wondering just what little tidbits of wisdom Papa might have been giving these precious babies, or did they just sit quietly in wonder at the beauty of the day. And does it really matter what they were saying or thinking. Probably not, because the really precious thing is the opportunity for Papa and grandbaby to just be together.

Another fun memory I have of going to Forsyth, Montana to visit my husband’s grandparents, is the old swimmin’ hole. I know, anyone who has ever had family that lived on a ranch in the country, might have memories of the swimmin’ hole too, or the pond, or the creek or river, but my memory of it is a little different. As I told you yesterday, my husband’s grandfather was a bit of a pack rat, and he simply hated to throw things away. Someone might find a use for it at some point. Or it simply might not be broken. No matter, he would just keep it around until he found a use for it. Such was the story behind the old swimmin’ hole.

There might have been a pond somewhere on their property, and I know there was a big watering trough for the cows, but who would ever want to cool off there, right. At that time, there were a number of little kids in the family, my girls being two of them, and summer in Montana can be really hot! Now, imagine two little girls, cranky because of the heat, and no real way to cool them off…because there was no air conditioning at Grandma’s house…they still had an outhouse, so air conditioning was not a high priority. Well, you get the picture.

So, Grandpa’s solution was an old bathtub in the front yard. He didn’t figure the adults really needed to cool off, but those little kids needed a wading pool, and since he had the bathtub, there was no reason to go spend good money on a cheap wading pool. He would just bring the hose around and fill up that bathtub, and presto…you had a wading pool. And they lived out in the country, and of course the kids are little anyway, so who needs a bathing suit. Undies and water. That’s all you need. The girls were set, and no longer cranky…problem solved.

When my girls were little, we made sure that they got to know their family in Forsyth, Montana by taking a trip up there every summer. Grandma and Grandpa owned a ranch up there, and we would stay at their house. Their ranch was unique to say the least. Grandpa was a bit of a pack rat, and there was always a variety of interesting things to be found on their place. My girls had a wonderful time exploring.

Going to visits Grandma and Grandpa was always a treat. Coffee with real cream, Strawberry Rhubarb jam on our toast, plenty of milk, fresh from the cows, fresh eggs from the chickens. It was wonderful to be out there, away from the hustle and bustle of home. We could just relax and play cards, which we did for hours on end, because that was what Grandpa most enjoyed doing, and he was ruthless at it, which is why I always wanted to be his partner.

But, the funniest memory I have of those early visits when my girl were young, is their first…and subsequent encounters with the chickens and rooster. I will never forget it and can very clearly see it in my mind. They took one look at those chickens, and started running after them, trying to catch them. Ha Ha Ha Ha, it was hilarious. They ran round and round, and I’m told that normally, the rooster would have gone after them, but he just took it all in stride, and ran. The adults laughed until our sides ached, and tears poured down our faces.

Grandma and Grandpa have been gone for a long time now, but those memories will live in my heart forever. They were the sweetest grandparents a girl could ever marry into.

When I was a kid, the summertime would bring hours of playing outdoors. All the neighborhood kids would be involved. We didn’t watch a lot of television, and video games didn’t exist. We used our imaginations, coming up with crazy games like “ditch it” in which we would all play in the yard, until a car came up the street. The first person to see it would yell “ditch it” and everyone would drop on the grass. This game was always played after dark, so the cars couldn’t “see” us when we dropped to the ground. The idea was that the cars were obviously the “bad guys” and we were the “good guys”. Of course, we had no idea what the “bad guys” had done, because we had never really thought the game through to figure that out.

We would play “hide and seek” for hours on end. When you live in a neighborhood fille with kids, there were always enough kids to make the game interesting. An unusual thing in our neighborhood, was an unusual amount of families with all girls. There must have been 4 or 5 families with all girls, and at least 3 more with mostly girls, so we had plenty of people to play house, jacks, jump rope, and other girl games. The kids simply dominated the block all summer.

Because we lived in a different time, you could play outside well after dark, and your parents didn’t have to give it a second thought. We were usually allowed to play outside until 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm. There just wasn’t anything to worry about. When I think back on that time, I feel sad, in a way, because our children today can’t safely play outside late at night, because you just don’t know who is out there.

I suppose my idea of life in the fast lane might seem very different from most people’s idea of it. When most people envision that statement, they think of rushing out to parties, clubs, dances, and other such social events. For me, life in the fast lane means a life filled with family, work, and responsibility. It means meeting yourself coming and going, because there is too little time in the day. It means staying up late in order to get the things done that didn’t get done during the rest of the day. It means using a little bit more gas, because I make extra trips to the homes of family who need my assistance. It means keeping my cell phone on and with me at all times, so that if I get that call saying that someone has fallen, I can go to them…even at 3:00 in the morning.

Sometimes I get weary, I’ll admit that, but I can’t say I would change what my life is. There is something to be said for being needed. It is rewarding to know that because of what you do, the life of another is made easier and better. Whether it is helping with my grandchildren or my mom and my in-laws, I know that what I do gives comfort and peace of mind. I love my family, and I enjoy nothing more than spending time with them, in any capacity.

Yes, I lead a very busy life. I work, walk, care for others, blog, Facebook, Twitter, bowl, read, spend time with family…basically I live my life. Yes, it is life in the fast lane, but I guess that is the only way to get into my life, everything I want most to have in it, and that is ok by me.

My dad joined the Army Air Force in March of 1943. The Army Air Force was a branch of the service that was pretty much unique to its time, and no longer exists today. Dad was trained at Miami Beach, Florida, Gulfport, Mississippi, and Dyersburg, Tennessee. He was then stationed at the 8th Air Force Bomber Station at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England as a member of the 385th Bomber Group for the next 8 ½ months. Dad was the top turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress and also served as the flight engineer. At the time of his discharge, he had reached the rank of Staff Sergeant.

During his service, he took part in two major aerial engagements including the D-Day attack on Normandy and the England-Africa shuttle bombing of the Messerschmitt aircraft factories in Regensburg. He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, signifying extraordinary achievement, courage, coolness and skill while participating is numerous bombing attacks on military and industrial targets in Germany and installations of the enemy ahead of the advancing Allied Armies in Western Europe, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, signifying his shooting down 4 German fighter planes, and two gold stars, signifying his part in two aerial engagements.

Another notable experience that my dad had during his career was when the plane was coming back to base after a bombing run, and the landing gear would not come down. My dad then hung upside down in the open bomb bay doors area, while being held onto by several men, and hand cranked the gear down, getting it locked just moments before the landing.

My dad rarely spoke of the war, and never thought of himself as a hero, but I know better, as did, I’m sure, the men he saved by making sure they could land safely. I’m so proud of you Dad!! I love and miss you very much!!

My sisters and I have always loved a good surprise, especially when it came to my parents. When we were kids, Mom and Dad always made sure we had ways to get gifts for our sisters, etc. When I was about 13, the neighbor down the street, who owned a beauty shop, asked me if I would clean it and wash the towels every Saturday. I accepted, and suddenly had my first job.

When Christmas came that year, I had enough money, with what my sisters were able to put in, to buy my parents a nice 4 slice toaster, which our family really needed, and since it was a hot new item, many people didn’t have yet. So, Christmas morning, after all the gifts had been opened, and my parents had received the little school craft gifts from us, and had been told that the big box in the back was going somewhere else. Mom said, “Well, Merry Christmas everyone.” My sisters had agreed that I would hand them the gift, since I had put in the most money. So, I got up and handed them the gift. They looked at us in stunned silence and opened the gift. Then, came the greatest satisfaction a gift giver can receive…their mouths dropped open in pleased shock, and of course, my mom cried. We always knew how pleased she was, because she cried.

Through the years we have given Mom and Dad other surprises. One of the most fun times we had was for their 25th Anniversary. We went together and bought them new living room furniture and had it delivered while they were at the store. When they walked in, their mouths dropped open in total shock. They couldn’t believe we had pulled that off. And of course, Mom cried. It was great fun.

Probably the best surprise gift we gave them, however, was for their 50th Anniversary. We totally shocked them with a cruise to Alaska. They had always wanted to go to Alaska, but weren’t even remotely expecting a cruise. It was probably the greatest gift we could have given them. They had an amazing time. And that probably surprised them the most. They had never considered taking a cruise, and afterwards they wondered why they hadn’t.

Surprises can be so much fun and such a great blessing to the recipient, but in reality, they are at least as much fun for the giver. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I will always have the memory of the shocked…pleased…amazed…happy faces over something I have given them.

When I was a little girl, we had the most amazing German Shepherd dog ever. His name was King…for short. My parents actually named him LarKing Raesuekayal Vonlished. I can’t say for sure that I spelled that correctly, but if you sound it out, you will come pretty close to the correct pronunciation of his name. King was named after all for my sisters and me. Middle names were used for the three older girls, and the first part of the first name on my younger two sisters. Mom and Dad wanted his name to have special meaning. And it always has.

King was just about the greatest dog ever. When we were little he gave us girls “horsey” rides, and seemed to love doing it. He was very loving. King loved having the neighborhood kids come in to play, but we did have to tell them not to climb the fence without one of us girls there. Dad trained him not to bite obviously, but even more, you could put your arm in his mouth, and he would never even let his teeth touch your arm. But when it came to protecting his family, watch out. He wouldn’t have to bite…his bark was usually enough. He did bite one time, when a neighborhood boy was throwing rocks at him…boy was he in trouble with his mom when she found out. She wouldn’t even let the police issue any kind of ticket or warning, of course there was the required quarantine, but that was all.

The funniest thing King ever did though, was one time when my mom’s dad came over for a visit. Mom was on the phone when Grandpa knocked on the door. She motioned him to come in, and went on with her conversation. A few minutes later, she realized that he hadn’t come in. Thinking that he hadn’t heard, she motioned again. Then, she realized what the problem was. King was “guarding” the door. She said, “King, you let him in!!” She said it was the only time she had seen a dog smile. King sheepishly looked away, with a grin on his face, and my grandfather was able to come inside. I really miss that dog!!

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