My niece, Kellie is going to be singing at our church on Easter Sunday, and as a special treat, we got to hear her song this morning. Our church has a program on Sunday mornings at 9:30 on KTWO television in Casper, Wyoming, and Kellie’s performance will be aired there on Easter morning. I hope no one minds if I plug that just a little, as I am very proud of Kellie. Her song was beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes.
But, more than the beauty of the song, is the miracle that Kellie’s life is. Kellie had a rough beginning. She was born late and so was not underweight, but as happens sometimes in late births, she had some breathing problems that caused her to have to be flown to Denver. I don’t know all the details of her condition, and that is not important anyway. Kellie spent the weekend in Denver and then came home, where she grew into a happy and very, very giggly girl, as anyone who knows her can attest.
Her story doesn’t really end there, however. Kellie was born on Thursday, March 15,1990, and came home from Denver that following Sunday. I bowled with some of the nurses here that cared for her before she was transferred to Denver. That Tuesday morning when I went into bowling, they asked me how the baby was doing. I told the Kellie was doing great and was at home. They said, “Home, home!! Not in the hospital here??” I told them yes, to which they replied, “That is amazing!!! We didn’t expect her to live, much less be home in just 2 days!!” They were so stunned and so pleased that they had tears in their eyes.
God had done, and continues to do great things in Kellie’s life. As I said, she grew into a giggly girl whose laugh has the ability to make everyone around her laugh, even if they have no idea what is so funny, and with Kellie, it may be nothing at all, because she just finds life to be a reason to celebrate, and she finds joy and happiness in every moment. I know that giggly girl will always live inside her, and that she will always be a blessing in that way, but beyond that, she is an amazing and accomplished singer. But for me watching her today, and looking back on her beginning…well, I found myself filled with a sense of wonder and pride at the woman she has become.
My mom’s mother was a short little lady of about 5′ (in her tall days), but she was as feisty as she could be, and definitely the boss of her nine children. She never had a drivers license, and never wanted to. She simply wanted to be wife to my grandpa and mama to her kids. I remember spending time at her house. There was always something to do. I suppose that was because with nine children there were a lot of grandchildren…30 to be exact. We had a wonderful time.
My story is not really about the grandchildren, however. As I said, Grandma was small, but mighty, and her kids knew who ruled the roost. If you chose to get out of line, it didn’t matter if you towered over her or not, you were in trouble!! Such was the case one day when my mom was 8 years old or so. My grandmother was in the middle of giving my Uncle Larry a spanking for something he did. My mother doesn’t even remember what he had done, and that isn’t surprising. Mom decided that Grandma was completely in the wrong for spanking Uncle Larry, and she proceeded to let her know it…in no uncertain terms. The spanking continued for a minute or so, with my mom just telling Grandma off. Grandma never said a word. She just finished my uncle’s punishment, and turned him loose. He headed out the door as fast as he could go, just in case she changed her mind. My mom started out the door after him with the intention of offering consolation, but Grandma had other plans. She reached out and grabbed my mom by the hair and turned her over her knee and gave her a good spanking. When she was done, she simply said, “There…how do you like that?” Well, I’m sure you can guess the answer to that question. My aunts and uncles were, from that day forward, on their own when it came to punishment, because my mom was no longer the defender of her siblings, when it came to their mom.
As the years go by and children grow, those spankings get fewer and farther in between, until you no longer need that form of discipline with your kids. They can look back on those days in their youth and laugh, since the sting on those spankings is only a memory. One day, some of the kids and Grandma were talking and laughing about those old memories. My Aunt Bonnie, who was standing beside my grandmother, and still laughing about those old days, said to Grandma, “Well, those days are gone forever, because you couldn’t take us now.” And in true Grandma Style, my grandmother didn’t say a word…she simply reached out and grabbed my Aunt Bonnie around the ankles and swept her off her feet and onto the floor. To a very shocked Aunt Bonnie, she said “There…how do you like that?”
Yesterday I wrote about the antics of my dad and my uncle, and after reading that story, my cousin, Tim and I spoke about some of the stories we knew about my aunts, one of whom is his grandmother, Laura. After hearing the things he told me, I feel like I know a lot more about my aunts, and I am very proud of both.
My aunts, uncle and my dad were young when our country was in the grip of World War II, and being patriotic people who wanted to help in any way they could, my aunts decided to join the mobilization effort by signing up for jobs in the shipyards in Superior, Wisconsin. Feelings were very raw at that time because people felt betrayed by the administration…betrayed and unprotected. But feelings aside, they stepped up and took on a man sized job. My aunts worked in those shipyards as welders on the ships. It was in the dead of winter, and the winters in Superior are bitterly cold. They feared for their health, and it was due to those frigid winter days, that they both decided that Wisconsin was not where they would want to spend their lives. Both would move to Washington state, and Aunt Laura would finally end up in Oregon. She would later say living out there was like living in the tropics by comparison. Eventually a sign was posted to commend the work of the many women who joined that movement, but they erred in calling them “Riveters” because they did not rivet the ships, they welded them, and that was a much harder job. Our Uncle Bill hated that error, and tried to get the sign changed, and after failing to get anyone to move on the correction, corrected it himself, because he has always paid close attention to detail and hates seeing an error go uncorrected, especially such an important historic event as the women of World War II who were heros in every sense of the word.
This is a part of my aunts lives that I had no idea had occured, and I truly thank my cousin Tim for sharing it. You see, this picture of my aunts is very foreign to me. My Aunt Laura was always an elegant lady, with a beautiful home, which I can still see in my mind to this day. She had so many beautiful and I’m sure precious things. My Aunt Ruth was a little more of a tomboyish person who liked the outdoors, but a welder…no…I could never have pictured it in either of them. They were two women, in a difficult time, who stepped up and did more than they knew they could. And I am very proud of both of them.
I did get a small glimpse of that toughness in my Aunt Laura one time, when she had just purchased a mobile home and while it was set up that Friday night long ago, the electricity would not be turned on until the next morning, and it was a bitterly cold winter night here. I insisted that she come and stay at my house that night, which she graciously accepted. Bob was working nights, so we had a little slumber party at my house…just us girls. We had such a wonderful time, and my Aunt Laura got to experience something that she really never would any other time in her life…little girls. You see she had sons, grandsons, and a great grandson…no girls. She had a great time with my daughters, and they thoroughly enjoyed playing with her. It was a treat for all of us, and a night I will always treasure.
When my Uncle Bill was out to visit us about a year before my dad passed away, I had the rare opportunity to hear some of the stories of their childhood first hand. Dad had two sisters, Laura, who was the oldest child, and Ruth who was the youngest child. Dad and Uncle Bill were the two in the middle, and being both boys, I’m sure added to the mischief they managed to get into. Of course, there were the typical stories about walking 10 miles to school, barefoot in 2 feet of snow, and it was up hill both ways…of course, but everyone knew those were just a tall tales.
And then there were the stories that I knew were true, and these were some of the most shocking ones. As is fairly common with boys, my dad and uncle were always into something, and braver that they probably should have been. They told us of one 4th of July morning when they decided to “celebrate” with some fireworks, and since they didn’t have any traditional fireworks…well they improvised…with dynamite!! They placed the dynamite on a gate post, and lit it. When it went off, the gate post was pushed several inches into the ground. It was quite obvious that their mother would notice this when she came home from town that day. Well, my first thought was, “How did you not blow yourselves up?” They told me that they had used dynamite before when they had to remove a tree stump, but that they never thought about what their mom would say when she got home…well, they fixed the gate post before that could happen. I can just about see the shocked looks on their faces when that gate post sunk. I don’t think they expected that, and the look on their faces as they told the story showed that they could still remember how they felt. I wish I could have seen that!!
Uncle Bill also told me about a time when he and my dad were out playing on the woodpile. Apparently they loved to climb all over that wood. I’m sure they played everything from war games to hide and seek, but apparently there was one time in particular that my dad, who was a couple of years younger than my Uncle Bill, and three years old at the time, had played himself out. My Uncle Bill told me that my dad fell asleep, standing up against the wood in the pile. I can just see that now. I’ll bet is was a precious sight.
My aunts didn’t ever appear in these stories of antics, which doesn’t surprise me really. Boys are so different than girls. My guess is that the girls didn’t really want to play the same rough games the boys did, but it is what makes my dad and uncle who they were in those young years. And they never lost that little boy mischieveousness…ever!
Children come in so many different sizes, and grow at different rates. Age doesn’t always make a determine size. Such is the case with my daughters and their cousins, on both sides. We have grandchildren who are older than my girls who are much taller, because my girls are…well, short, as is their mother. My niece Kellie, who is tall, calls us the wee ones. And then she giggles, because that is what Kellie does…giggle…a lot!! You see, in this picture, my girls, Corrie and Amy, who are the oldest and second oldest grandchildren, are the second and forth kids in the picture, and Machelle who is first in the picture is in reality the third grandchild, Barry, who is third in the picture is the forth grandchild, and Susan who is the fifth in the picture is the only one in the right place.
Pictures are the documentation of the past. A view back to a time that can only be visited in our memory. Once children are grown, that time in their lives is over, and it goes so very fast. Old pictures become treasures, as we ooooo and awwww over them. Stair Step pictures bring memories of the differences in size that can be so pronounced as kids grow. They are a great way to document the changes in children as they occur. Children vie for the position of tallest, or sometimes…shortest, because not everyone wants to be the tallest. I never did, nor did my girls, which is good I guess, considering the way things turned out.
And no one is safe from the Stair Step picture, no matter how old you are. People just like to look back from the early beginnings of childhood to adulthood. It has a tendency to put our lives in some kind of perspective. We are able to see if our expectations for the child, fit the adult they turned out to be.
We seldom think about what our parents are teaching us until they are gone. Then the lessons come back to mind in floods, bittersweet with regret, because they are gone. The lessons from my dad that I find the most important, are the ones of caring and compassion. My dad was a very forgiving and understanding man, something I am not always able to be, but a goal that I have put in front of myself.
Dad was a problem solver. He had a way of making you feel like everything was going to be ok. No matter what the problem was, Dad could fix it. I can still hear him saying, “Here is what we are going to do.” He always had the answers, and I always knew he could fix anything. Maybe that statement isn’t exactly true, but in my mind it always will be, and I keenly miss that feeling of perfectness my world had those days. Now, there are times that everything is wrong in my world. There is an emptiness I can’t fill, a pain I can’t stop, and loneliness that lives in my core.
You see, my dad and I thought quite a bit alike, and while we did have a tendency to debate many subjects, it was mostly in good fun. I did always know when enough was enough though, because Dad would say, “Don’t argue with me.” Well, that was the point when he was done with our little debate, and I…well, I knew it. It’s funny because my sisters could never believe that I lived through those years. Whenever my dad and I argued, they were sure that I was about to get the “death sentence” because they would never have dared to argue with Dad like that, but I just knew that Dad didn’t mind a good debate, and even relished them to a big degree.
One of the greatest lessons Dad taught us was to live life to the fullest. He loved this great country, and made sure we saw a whole lot of it. When my grade school teachers asked what we did on our summer vacations, I always had an interesting place to tell about. Dad and Mom took us so many places, and we were truly blessed in that. We learned a lot about this great country. My cousin said of my dad after bringing Dad’s brother, his dad, for a visit and looking at all our travel pictures…”Man, he really lived.” And he was so right. Dad really…really lived!!
When my girls were little, we decided they should have a pet. Bob and I liked cats, and instead of one, we ended up with two white cats. A male and a female. Little did we know what that would start. By the time we decided we didn’t want more cats, we had probably had a couple of dozen. They were farm cats, since we lived out in the country, but they were pets nevertheless.
Those first two cats were named Pest and Tumbleweed. Corrie and Amy had such a great time with them. We all did really. Their antics were a source of laughter for all of us. They would sneak up on each other, pounce, and then jump straight up in the air.
Amy was just a little teeny girl, but she loved the cats so much, and she wanted to carry them around. So she would pick both of them up around the middle at the same time. Now this worked pretty well for Pest, our female, but Tumbleweed was bigger than Pest, and heavier. The next time I looked, She was carrying Tumbleweed by the neck, because he had slid down. He was such a patient cat. He just looked at her as if to say, “Please don’t choke me little girl.” But he never scratched her or bit her. He loved the attention, so he put up with the little inconveniences. And no matter how many times I tried to rescue poor Tumbleweed…the next time I looked, he was in the same precarious position again, only moments later.
Tumbleweed always had to be in the middle of things. He liked to see what Bob was doing. Whenever Bob was working on a car, Tumbleweed had to be involved. If Bob was working on top of the car engine, Tumbleweed would perch on the air cleaner, as if he were the supervisor. And if Bob was under the car…well, Tumbleweed had to be right beside him, head to head, both looking at the “problem” to see what the solution would be. Tumbleweed was a pretty good mechanic.
I just love the antics of cats…always have. They have such great personalities. And if you are having a bad day, you can take a moment to watch two cats at play, knowing that it is a sure way to put a smile on your face.
Recently, one of the companies I write insurance for gave our office a Garmin, which my boss gave to me (because he is a very nice guy) and this is the first really long trip we have used it on. The Garmin is a wonderful item, and one I would highly recommend to anyone who likes to travel. We easily maneuvered Salt Lake City, as well as Reno, and all along the California coast and across Oregon. Normally, these trips would find me with an atlas making sure we are on course, but this trip I was able to relax and let someone else be the navigator.
The Garmin girl does have a couple of quirks, however. She just doesn’t like it when you disobey her orders. If she were a real person, you could say she was controlling. And I guess you could say it anyway, but there is not much you could do about it. Whenever you decide to stop, be it for a pit stop or something interesting you want to see, she begins the directional repairs. “Recalculating…drive 1.2 miles then turn left, and turn left…” It is all designed to keep you from getting lost, but we found it quite funny. It was like being scolded for not following directions at school. We laughed every time, and even warned each other that she was going to be upset, because we were about to get off course.
The poor Garmin girl just couldn’t understand that we knew what we were doing that time. All she could see was that her charges simply refused to listen. So….here we go again, “Recalculating…drive 500 ft and turn right…then turn right…so you can get yourself back on track…you silly driver who can’t listen, and refuses to pay attention to me. Don’t you know that I am in charge???” Finally in desperation, she says, “Make a U-Turn…Whenever possible, make a U-Turn!!!” I guess we freaked her out!! We laugh and go our merry way, and then when we are ready, we begin to follow her instructions, and once we are back on track. All is right in her world again, and she can relax.
While traveling in California, I noticed one particular tree. Now, I know that is odd considering the vast number and distinct types of trees in California. We were on our way to the Redwoods, but this was a little fir tree of some type. I’m sure many people would have considered it insignificant, and even weird, but it got me thinking. The tree was full and well shaped, but sticking out all over it were dead branches, from some event that happened to it. But this little tree had persevered and was coming back. The dead branches were simply battle scars from its fight for survival.
The reason this particular tree got me thinking is that it reminded me of many people around us. People who have been down a tough road, and with the scars to prove it, but through hard work and perseverance, they are still alive…still moving on…still living life. They are coming back from their battle, and working on being, at least to a degree, the person they were before.
So often we look at people who have bee through it, and decide that they have let themselves go, when in reality, maybe they have been through it, but they haven’t let themselves go, rather they are fighting their way back. Every person is beautiful in their own way, just like that little tree. Sure, there are some rough edges, and a few battle scars, but the tree was lush and green around all those dead branches, quite unique. I didn’t take a picture of that tree, and have regretted that, because I looked and looked for another, and found none. It was unique, and it was alone in its look, and that was why it was so special.
Today we went through more of the Redwoods, including the Tour Thru Tree, and the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway where we saw The Big Tree, which for that area was bigger than the rest…and those were all giants. It was gorgeous!! You just can’t comprehend the beauty of the rain forest and the Redwoods until you have experienced them for yourself. We took lots of pictures and walked the trails in the area, and as we went, I was struck with awe at just how small I was. I realize that I am in no way as tall as any tree, but next to these, I felt the size of a mouse or something. It is truly amazing that they can get so big.
These trees were amazing in several ways. We were surprised at the fact that when a tree fell, often another tree would just begin growing right over the fallen tree. Before long, the living tree and the dead tree were one. Another thing we saw was a tree that attaches itself to another tree, and after the lower section of the tree broke off, the upper part just kept right on growing due to the fact that it attached itself to another tree. It’s like the whole forest is connected and it just continues to use what is available. The clover grows on the dead logs, the moss attaches itself to the trees. Everything is used, nothing goes to waste. It all supports everything for the common good of all life there. How very unusual that is.
As we head home today, it is with some regret, that we didn’t have a little more time, and yet I am thankful that we got to come at all. We had not planned on the California coast or Oregon, but we were able to do both, and found both to be incredibly beautiful. We live in a beautiful country, and I feel very blessed to have seen as much of it as I have.