While in Wisconsin to visit relatives, we stopped at the graves of my grandparents, my dad’s parents. It was very strange to be standing in the very spot where they lie resting…to be so close to their physical beings. I never knew my grandparents. Grandpa died before my parents were married, and Grandma when I was six months old. I always had only one set of grandparents, and I always felt like something was missing. My friends had two sets of grandparents, or at least they had known their grandparents, before they had passed away. But I didn’t. That always felt strange to me, and maybe a little bit lonely. I only had a picture or two, and the memory of seeing my grandmother in old home movies.
In studying the family history my Uncle Bill put together, as well as the pictures taken by my grandparents and their families, I am starting to put together a picture of what they might have been like. While they had the chance to experience some of the more modern things, like cars and television, they also knew of times when the only mode of transportation was horse and buggy, and radio was the entertainment of the day. They were pioneers of sorts, traveling to places around the nation to follow their dreams. They lived in the freezing Northwoods of Minnesota, and the sweltering heat of Texas, but Superior, Wisconsin was, I think, the place where their hearts lived. I believe it was for them, the place they would always call home.
It’s hard for me to picture my grandfather and my Great Uncle Albert setting off to the Northwoods area of Minnesota to make their fortune trapping for the winter. Of course, like most of this type of adventure, while they had success in trapping, they also almost froze to death. My mind can picture these two young men huddled in their blankets near a dwindling fire, trying to look tough to their partner, but finally both had to give up and say, “I quit!!” They would head in to town to find jobs elsewhere, finally settling on the lumber industry. While the work might have been harder and still very cold, it was very likely much warmer at night.
As to my grandmother, who always seemed so tough and capable. She ran a farm and raised four children…often alone, because my grandfather worked for the railroad all week. She made hay, planted a garden, purchased groceries and other supplies for her family and managed to keep her kids out of any real trouble. She lived in the woods, on a farm, and even ran a hotel. She traveled to several areas of the country with her husband and kids, and yet I can see in her face, the gentle and loving mother that she was to her children. I know that she was, because her children always loved and respected her so much. They would rush home from out of town jobs at the end of the summer to help with the haying, and when my dad was in the war, he would do whatever it took to protect the feelings of his mother. He did his level best to keep her from worrying, whether that was possible or not.
My grandparents on my mom’s side were always known to me and I felt the love they had for me. They were sweet, kind, and always glad to see us, but the grandparents on my dad’s side always seemed sort of larger than life. My mom’s parents lived in the same times as my dad’s parents, but since they also lived in modern times, I could see what modern conveniences they had. So it really didn’t seem like they had lived it the old western times, like my dad’s parents had. It didn’t really seem like my mom’s parents could have understood what it was like, but they did. I guess it’s similar to a teenager thinking that their parents can’t possibly know what they are going through…like they were never teenagers. I have discovered that both sets of my grandparents were multi-talented people, who lived in several eras of history, and I believe that in reality, they are all larger than life…or maybe they just lived to the best of their ability.