As parents move into the college years for their kids, so much changes, and with those changes come so many emotions. That is where my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen finds himself today. His oldest child, Chris is in his second year of Culinary School at Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyoming, and now, his youngest son, Josh has started college classes through the Boces program, while he is still a student at Kelly Walsh High School. While Kevin and my daughter, his wife, Corrie are both very proud of their boys, this year has also brought the changes in life very much to the forefront of their thoughts…and it really hasn’t been easy.
Kevin and Chris have worked together at Johnny J’s Diner, where Chris was a cook and Kevin a manager for several years now, but this year, Chris’ schedule will not really allow that. More likely, it is we, his family who will have to visit Chris, rather than the other way around. It is not even certain if Chris can get home for birthdays this year…his own included. This is a change that has been and will continue to be hard on Kevin, because his family means everything to him. Kevin is a great dad, and someone that the boys look up to. He works hard, and he has instilled those same values in the boys.
Then to make matters worse, Josh’s schedule is quite busy as well. When he isn’t going to school or working, he will be in evening classes at Casper College, where he is studying Fire Science, and eventually studying to become a both firefighter and EMT. While Josh still lives at home, I think Kevin and Corrie are starting to experience a little bit of empty nest syndrome. I think that most people experience that to a degree about this time in their children’s lives. Kids go to school and work, and what little bit of downtime they have is spent hanging out with their friends. Sometimes, parents get left in the dust. It is at those moments that parents wish that their young adults were still their babies. They wish the years hadn’t gone by so fast, but you can’t turn back time. We are all where we are at this moment in time.
No matter how little time Kevin and Corrie get with their boys, they are still so very proud of them, and all that they are doing. While this time in their lives is difficult, they know that in the future there will come a time when all the sadness of missing each other will be replaced with the joy of their successes. For now, however, as parents, they will be relegated to the background as their children get to shine. Still, I hope Kevin and Corrie know just how much their boys love them, depend on them, and look up to them. They have such a high respect for them, and they really want to make them proud. If the boys are busy, it is because they are working hard to do the things that they have dreamed about, and if their parents have taught them one thing, it is to follow your heart and you will achieve your dreams. These college years are fleeting, and will soon pass, and that will be an entirely new kind of change. Today is Kevin’s birthday. Happy birthday Kevin!! We know it will be hard, but have a great day anyway!! We love you!!
Children are a curious bunch. There is so much in this world that is totally new to them. Things we take for granted as being average, or even boring, they find interesting, and children aren’t alone in this either. Animals can be just as curious about the things that people don’t even think about. Things like taking pictures of seagulls can have them looking at you like you are from outer space. I suppose they have seen enough humans to know what they look like. Then to see one with a camera up to their face, makes them think that this is some new creature. As I scrambled to take this shot of a seagull as it flew over me head, I had no idea that I had snapped a shot of him looking right at me, as if to ask, “What are you doing?”
Dogs are especially curious about things, and since they aren’t afraid to come near humans, they come and stick their curious little noses right in the camera lens…and they are very likely to lick the camera lens…whether you like it or not. In a way they are like babies. The best way to figure out what something is, is to put it in your mouth…right?? Well, that’s just like a dog. If it’s cool enough for their human to have up to their face, it must taste good. Or maybe it’s a new kind of toy that their human bought for them. Maybe if they lick it and let their human know they want to play, their human with throw it for them. As funny as that sounds, the photographer probably isn’t so thrilled with that dog slobber all over their lens, but their dog is having a great time.
When it comes to kids though, they have a little bit more ability to get their hands on things. A wise parent knows that there is a time to kid proof your house. It doesn’t matter what it is, if their parents think it’s cool, so do the kids. And they don’t understand the concept of something being broken. They just want to see what it is.
My grand nephew, Jake Harman was very much that curious little boy, when his mom or grandma was trying to take his picture. I can’t say that the picture turned out the way they had planned, but you must admit that it turned out pretty cute anyway. If I didn’t know what he looked like as a little boy, I suppose this picture could have been a picture of any baby, but it isn’t, it’s Jake. Jake was always a curious little boy, and I suppose that like most kids, that got him into a certain degree of mischief, but he was, in all reality just a normal boy, curiosity and all. And while the picture didn’t turn out as planned, it takes me back to when my first grand nephew was born. It was a new experience, and we were all curious about who he would become. Hmmm…curiosity isn’t just a quirk of children and animals. Even adults have that tendency.
It’s strange to think that your children have been married twenty two years, and together twenty five years, but that is exactly where I find myself today. I can’t believe that so many years have passed since those two kids got married. They were babies really!! How could they possibly know who they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with? That seemed to like such a strange thought to me, and yet Bob and I married at about that age too, and we have been married forty years. You can know for yourself, but it just feels different for your kids. And to top it off, they just seem younger than you were…somehow. Much like when I look at kids in high school these days. They just seem so much younger than I was then.
Nevertheless, these two young people made the decision to stay together for life, and they have stuck to it…through thick and thin. There is no marriage on this earth, and I don’t care whose it is, that manages to go along with no storm clouds in it. That is simply not how life in this world works, but troubles or not, it is the fighters…the ones who are determined to make it work, who will endure to the end. I have often said that the main reason Bob and I stayed together all these years, is stubbornness…pure stubbornness. We were just to stubborn to quit. That’s how Corrie and Kevin were too. When tough times came, the tough got going. Their marriage has not been stress free…but it has stayed together through anything, and today, before me I see two wonderful people who have stood the test of time, and have come out victorious!! People talk about stubbornness as if it is a bad thing, and maybe sometimes it is, but from what I have seen, that stubbornness, when used in the right way for the right things…such as a marriage, is one of the best assets a couple can have. And so it has been for Corrie and Kevin all these wonderful years of their marriage.
The wedding day flew by so fast. We remember some things, such as the fact that just as Pastor Dan said, “Dearly beloved…” a clap of thunder was heard, and the rain poured down. The kids, who had thought about an outdoor wedding, looked at each other, and were glad they were inside on their special day. It was rather comical, because when they suggested an outdoor wedding, I told them that you can’t be sure of the weather. They were a little miffed at me…until that moment. Nevertheless, if it had been outside, we would have made it work too. Their ride across town to the reception was quite unique too, in that they were transported in a fire truck. Bob was the mechanic for the fire department, and the firemen did it as a special favor. Very cool, and something we would never forget. Still, even with these special memories of that special day, it is the years since then that have been the most amazing. The births of their sons, Christopher and Joshua, the blessings they have been to me and to our whole family over the years…especially in our parents times of need. I always knew that I could count on them to be there for me, whenever I needed them, and Bob knew it too, as did any of the family who ever needed them. Corrie and Kevin have always been people you could count on. Things like that can never be repaid. Before me today, I see two wonderful people, and I wish them both many more years of wedded bliss and the very best that God can give, for the rest of their lives. Happy anniversary Corrie and Kevin!! We love you!!
Since I was a kid, my eyes have been very sensitive to bright sunlight. I learned to wear sunglasses at a rather young age and as an adult, I continue to wear them. Looking back, I recall a time when my Mom had a really bad headache, and I gave her my sunglasses. Her headache went away. That was proof positive to me that some people are more light sensitive than others, because I know a lot of people who never bother with sunglasses, while others must have them.
Kids are no different, of course, they just have a way of showing it that is a little bit more funny, like the time our family took a trip through Beartooth Pass. It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny day, and we stopped at the top. As you all know, picture taking in sunglasses is not the way to see the face of the subject. Nevertheless, picture taking without the needed sunglasses, is not always easy…nor does it always have the desired outcome. Still, it can be quite funny. I have looked at this picture many times, but never really paid close attention to Amy’s face in it. She, on the other hand, caught it the minute I showed it to her. There she was, face all scrunched up in a serious squint, while Corrie and I managed to keep our eyes open. Her comment to the whole thing was, “It was just too bright, I guess.” And so it was. Looking at the beautiful view with the sun at our backs worked very well, but facing into the bright sunlight for the picture…not so much.
Bob had the same problem when he was a little kid, and his mom was taking a picture of him and his two older sisters, Marlyce and Debbie. While the girls had no easy time of keeping their eyes open, Bob found it to be an impossible task. Nevertheless, he did manage a smile, even with his scrunched up eyes. Really, I think those scrunched up smiles are just a cute as they can be, and it shows that the child is really trying to smile, but some things, like opening your eyes in the bright sunlight, are just impossible. And most of us can totally relate, because it always seems to me that the minute they get the pose right, someone isn’t looking at the camera, or smiling, or their hair is in their face. By the time everyone is ready, your eyes are watering, and your are having trouble seeing anything, because of the bright sunlight that has been shining in your eyes for far too long.
Babies are by far the funniest though, because you can’t convince them to keep looking at you, and they don’t mind letting you know just what they think of you making them look into the bright sunlight. Nevertheless, they will look over at you again, every time you call their name, and then look away immediately. That was Bob’s little sister, Jennifer’s problem in this picture. She tried several times to look at the camera, as is evidenced by the fact that there are several pictures taken at the same time, but she was doomed to fail, or simply close her eyes, because it was just too bright outside that day. It’s funny, when you think about it, that we always try to take pictures where the subject is facing into the sun, but mostly all we get are scrunched up faces. Maybe we should opt for a spot that is just a little less bright. Hmmmmmm!!
As my two oldest grandchildren approach their 18th birthdays, just a little over a month from now, it occurs to me just how quickly time flies. It seems like only yesterday that we were awaiting their arrival. We never suspected that they would be born just a day apart…Chris on his great grandmother’s birthday and Shai on Leap Day. When Corrie went into labor on the 27th, we all knew the closeness to her grandmother’s birthday. How cool it would be for Chris to arrive on that day, because Corrie had been born the first great grandchild on her great grandmother’s birthday, Bob’s mother, and now, the upcoming birthday was her own birthday, and Chris was her own first great grandchild…a rare occurrence indeed. When midnight passed, we knew we had made it, and we were all very excited about that.
Then, the next day, Amy called me and said that Corrie had “inspired” her, and she was now in labor. I couldn’t believe it. It would be so cool to have a Leap Day Baby, but she would have to hurry, and it almost seemed impossible…but then with our anniversary being on March 1, I thought that day would be cool too. Shai, however, had planned an unusual day for herself, one that would be all her own, and one that would only come every four years…Leap Day.
So it was that we were given two grandchildren, one boy and one girl, in two days. Seriously, does it get any better than that? I don’t think so. The two kids became instant best friends, because of the amount of time they spent together at my house and at Amy’s house, because Amy babysat Chris. I was living on cloud nine at that point, and I felt like the most blessed grandmother in the universe. I had told the girls that I wanted to be a grandmother by the time I was 40, and so they decided to oblige…hitting my goal twice just two months before my 40th birthday. The funny thing was that when Corrie said, “We made it Mom”, I had to ask “made what?” She laughed and said, “You are a grandmother before you are 40!” I had been so excited about the arrival of my first grandchild, that I had completely forgotten my goal.
Now, here we are almost eighteen years later, and looking at both of them getting ready to graduate from high school, and planning their college days and the rest of their lives, and all I can think is, “Where had all the years gone?” How could those precious little babies suddenly be adults? It seems impossible, and it makes me more than a little bit sad, but then I think, “Hmmmm, maybe I could be a great grandmother by the time I’m 60…not a bad goal at all. Time will tell, I guess. Maybe I’ll need to start putting a bug in those two little babies…now adult’s ears. And maybe, I shouldn’t have let that secret idea be known, because I’m not sure my girls feel ready to be grandmothers just yet. Still, that’s a couple of years down the road, so they will have a little time to get used to the idea. Seriously…it could happen.
As I was helping my sister-in-law, Brenda and my daughter, Corrie with some projects around Brenda’s house today, we started talking about Christmas Eve, which is always held at Brenda’s house. The talk was really about planning for the upcoming holiday, but my thoughts drifted back to Christmas Eve celebrations, as well as other holiday celebrations, of years gone by. This is a year of firsts for our family. Since my father-in-law’s passing on May 5th, we are facing the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and every other holiday without his presence. My mother-in-law is still with us, but with Alzheimer’s Disease, she cannot live alone, so she is in a nursing home. She is quite happy there, but since she hasn’t walked since March, bringing her over to celebrate with us is just not feasible. She doesn’t know what day it is anyway, so she doesn’t miss the holidays. The sad thing about our situation is that with her in the nursing home, and my father-in-law in Heaven, we are almost going through that year of firsts with both of them at the same time.
As I took the trash out when we were finished with our project, I looked at Brenda’s patio, which had often been the place for family barbeques in the summertime, the sad and lonely feeling that had been there throughout our conversation, persisted. Anyone who has lost a parent understands quite well just how hard that year of firsts is. The traditions that had been a part of life for so long that they were taken for granted, must now be completely re-worked to reflect the changed family unit, and no matter what you do, there is always and will always be a hole in them…that empty place that belongs to that loved one who is now gone. Yes, you move on and make new traditions, be they never really feel quite right, somehow. You keep thinking that maybe next year it will feel normal, or at least not feel like something is missing, but it just doesn’t. The subsequent years of holidays are joyous, just like before, but with a little hint of loneliness, that never goes away.
As a look at the old pictures of holidays from years gone by, I can’t help but shed a tear, because those days are gone forever. I think one of the hardest things about the circle of life is the changing face of tradition. I love tradition…families gathering to celebrate holidays in the way that their families did, and the way their children’s families probably will. Unfortunately, change is inevitable, and traditions will change…as loved ones pass, children marry, and babies arrive, but some changes feel good, while others feel forced…and laden with a hint of loneliness.
Have you ever noticed that when babies are given a toy to play with…it goes directly to their mouth. I know, everyone will tell you that they are learning about textures and such, and that is probably right, but nevertheless, odd. We all did this, of course, but when I think back on that as an adult, I know I would be very grossed out. Oh, I know that we still do stick stuff in our mouths now and then, but it still seems like a really bad habit. Of course, my grand niece, Aleesia was not really planning to eat her sunglasses, and may have even seen other people do that with them, so she thought it was the thing to do, but there have been people who have chewed on their sunglasses to the point of ruining them.
When babies a really little, they use their mouth as part of playing with their toys, and by the time they are done, the toy is a slobbery mess, and needs a bath of its own…yuck. Even when my girls were little, I remember picking up a toy they had been playing with before they fell asleep, only to find it all wet and gross. I’m not squeamish or anything, but I’m not fond of having other people’s saliva all over my hand either…not even my kids. It just felt icky!!
Well, thankfully babies grow up a little, and they quit sticking so much stuff in their mouths. Pretty soon they even get to a point where mostly, it is food that goes into their mouths. Of course, the food isn’t always less messy, but it seems different somehow to see a baby with a food mess on their face than it does a slobbery toy. There isn’t anything more fun than to see a baby on their first birthday, covered with cake, and happy as a clam. After all, these are the messy years, and parents just have to deal with it.
Can a house feel lonely? Well, maybe not the house itself exactly, but it really can take on that feel after the loss of a loved one, and the moving of the other to a nursing home. We have been preparing my in-laws’ house for the sale to my nephew, JD, and the more things that get removed from the house; the more lonely it feels there. When I think back to all the wonderful times we have had in the 24 years that my in-laws lived there, it feels like the house took on their personalities to a large degree. That is the way it goes, when you own a home. You pour your own style into it, and it becomes almost an extension of you.
All the good times and the sad times that went on during the years they lived in the house, keep coming to the top of my memory files. I remember the sadness we felt when Marlyce passed away, and the excitement as each new baby came into the family. Gone are the times when the kids would come by before a dance or to trick or treat on Halloween. Gone is the noise that was always in the house…the television that was always on and turned up loud so my father-in-law could hear it, the laughter and chatter from all the visitors they always seemed to have, and even the rumbling of the oxygen concentrator that was a mainstay in the home for many years. Gone are the birthday parties, holidays, and family get togethers. All are gone from the home now, and it is quiet…too quiet really. That is an amazing thought, since they lived on one of the busiest streets in Casper.
It’s funny, how much my mother-in-law hated the noise of the street, and yet loved the flurry of activity that always accompanied that traffic noise. Everyone stopped what they were doing when an emergency vehicle went by, and grumbled at the loud motorcycles and vehicles when they roared by. Toward the end of their time there, it was all that traffic that gave them something to look at and wonder about. Their chairs were set up so they could look out the big front window and see the hubbub of activity going on, because whether they ever admitted it or not, they liked all of it…except maybe the noise in the summer when the doors and windows were open.
I’m glad my nephew is going to buy the home, so it stays in the family, and I’m glad for the home that it will once again have someone living in it…someone who will remember the good times that we all had there for so many years. Oh I know that JD will change the house, add things, and make it his own…that is inevitable, but to us and him, it will simply always be remembered as his grandma and grandpa’s house…at least somewhere in his memory files…and that makes it all feel better somehow. A house needs to be lived in. That is its whole purpose for existence, and when it isn’t lived in, it is simply a house…so lonely.
The bronzed baby shoes had been on the shelf in my in-laws’ home for many years. They had grown dusty sitting there for so long on the back of the shelf…neglected, as most such trinkets become over the years. Now as we cleared out the contents of the home in preparation for sale after the passing of my father-in-law and my mother-in-law’s move to a nursing home, the shoes came to my attention again. I had always loved the idea of bronzing baby shoes, but never managed to get it done for my own babies…just too busy living life, I guess. Baby shoe bronzing had been a fad at the time when my sisters and I were little, but not much is said about it these days, although you can still get it done.
To my surprise, the shoes had not been chosen as a treasure by anyone else in the family, so they found their way into my home for safe keeping. I’m a bit of a nostalgic, you see…or maybe, more than just a little bit. The things I find to be of value in an estate, are the momentos and photographs…the reminders of the past, and therefore, our connection to it. The bronzed shoes belonged to my late sister-in-law, Marlyce, who passed away in 1989 at the far to young age of 39 years, 1 month, and 5 days.
Marlyce was developmentally disabled, but that was something those of us who knew her seldom noticed. She was a sweet, loving person, who smiled her way into my heart the first time I met her, and never has left in all the 39 years that I have known this family. Her passing was a sad time in all our lives. Gone, were her delicious chocolate chip cookies, which no one could really match. Gone, were the stocking caps she used to knit. Gone, was her smiling face, her love of babies, and her pride at being an aunt.
All that was left of those 39 years was a little pair of bronzed baby shoes. They seemed such a little thing, and yet the steps they represented far overflowed their tiny size. I could see her first little baby steps…her school days…her work…her hobbies…her love of family, especially babies. So many accomplishments. The accomplishments of a lifetime…short as it may have been.
Baby faces are so cute, and funny, and amazing, but have you ever stopped to wonder what is really on their minds. When babies stare off into space…like we all do from time to time, I have to wonder just what thoughts they are thinking. We have lived so many years, compared to their short time here, so what deep thoughts could they have when their mind drifts. Are they thinking of their next meal, or maybe just their binky or bottle. That was most likely the case with Bob. I don’t think a hungrier child ever existed. He was always ready to eat, and if he wasn’t eating, my guess is that he was thinking about eating.
With Aleesia, who loves to have her picture taken, and is very quick to smile, my guess would be that her thoughts would have to do with the best shot to add to her portfolio. It’s not a matter of being a model or anything, although this little girl could sure do it with her smiles. It’s just that this baby loves to ham it up for pictures. The camera comes up, and she starts to pose for the picture. It might be that she is used to having her picture taken, since her mom takes new pictures all the time. So…what would Aleesia be thinking in this shot…oh, maybe something like “should I say cheese?”
Aurora, seems to be a deep thinker. I notice that in her a lot. Maybe, it is because I have that same tendency. A deep thinker, might be thinking…”Mom said no. So, how can I get another cookie anyway?” Or she might just be thinking something like, “I am sooooo mad at you right now!” Even as she thinks that, she is trying not to let you know what she is really thinking. Sometimes that is a good idea. I mean you don’t really want to let your mom know how upset you are with her. That can cause some real problems when it comes time to sweet talk her into giving you what you want next.
Then we come to Reagan, who has had her fair share of cute little suitors. It helps when your parents have friends who have boy babies your age. Nevertheless, sometimes moms can get carried away in setting their daughters up with boyfriends. They always seem to have their own idea of who you should be dating. Typical of moms!! And sometimes a girl has to put her foot down. It makes no difference whether or not you like the guy, it is simply a matter of having your mom set up your dates. How rude!! Still, I think Reagan has the situation well in hand here, when she says with her eyes, “Seriously Mom, quit setting me up with dates!!”