Being the youngest of my grandparents’ nine children, my Aunt Sandy Byer Pattan, has become my go to person for family history information. She probably got to hear all the stories more than the other kids, because when parents are busy raising a large family, there are always other priorities. Of course, story time was a big priority in their family too, because it was something they could all do together. I’m sure the other kids heard all the stories about their family too, but Aunt Sandy seems to be the one who was especially interested in the family history. There always seems to be one or two who can easily be named the family historian. For the Byer family, the family historian would most definitely be Aunt Sandy.
In some ways, Aunt Sandy almost got to be that “mouse in the corner” listening to what went on in history. She may not have been there experiencing it, but the family she knew and loved, were there, so it felt real. Some of the family history stories were in Aunt Sandy’s time…not that she lived in ancient times, but that she lived during times in our history that were economically tough. She witnessed times when people often showed up at their doorstep…hungry, and they had heard through the grapevine that generous people lived in that house. Aunt Sandy recalls that no one was turned away, because her mother always made a way to feed more hungry mouths. I can’t imagine living through some of those times, and not have it affect my interest in family history.
Aunt Sandy always has a bit of a unique take on the family and it’s members. She often sees a side of them, good or bad, that I would have never known about. Every family has its rebels, and every family has its conformists. That is just a part of life, and for me, each is interesting. The runaway husband story she told me about my second great grandfather, David Pattan left me wondering if he was a cheating husband or just a little bit insane. Unfortunately, those are questions without answers. She has told me about grouchier family members, Some of these, I suppose, were just naturally grouchy, but others, I think might have been overwhelmed. Each will be remembered for the choices they made, I guess.
As to my Aunt Sandy, I will always remember her for the insight she has given me into the great big family that I am honored to be a part of. I think that every family really needs someone like Aunt Sandy in it. She spent many years listening to, and remembering the details of the stories of the family. Her amazing mind allowed her to remember the stories without writing much of it down. If someone is interested, she is willing to share. That, in and of itself, is a big part of the blessing she is. I think everyone of the family members should take a few minutes to sit down with her and find out about all the amazing information she has. Today is Aunt Sandy’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
A few days ago, a man commented on one of my stories, saying that he was Mary LuLu Taylor Leary Begier Warren’s great grandson. Joe Brown comes from her marriage to James Begier, the man she married after James Leary passed away. LuLu and James had three children, Minnie, John, and Mable. Mabel Claire married Edward Anthony Brown, and they had three children, Charles, Frank, and Mary. Frank Brown married Mary Lou Conway, and Frank Joseph (Joe) Brown is their son. Joe is my husband Bob Schulenberg’s second cousin once removed. Finding a new cousin is always exciting for me, but with the discovery of Joe, comes so much more. Joe brings with him a Gold Mine…a true Gold Mine. Joe has sent me pictures of his family, and his own drawings too. In return I have sent him pictures of our family and my in-laws family, so we are working on getting acquainted.
Joe has been researching his family tree too, so we have a lot to talk about and a lot to share. He has access to a bunch of pictures from a part of Bob’s family that I know…some well, some only from my own research and stories from Bob’s grandmother, Vina Leary Schulenberg Hein. Joe, however, has much information, and many pictures…pictures of people I didn’t think I would ever have and pictures of people I know well, when they were just children. I am so overwhelmed by all this and his generosity, that it brings tears to my eyes. What a gift he has given me and the rest of the family too, as this story will serve to inform them of this amazing gift we have received. Overwhelming and amazing!! Receiving these pictures was like being given a part of our family back. I have often wondered what Bob’s grandma, Vina Leary Schulenberg Hein looked like when she was a girl. Now I know. She was a pretty girl with long ringlets. I have never seen a picture of her brother, and now I have several of them, including one with his wife, Rose Schulenberg Leary. And the only picture we had of Marion Chester Leary was the one I have used in stories in the past. My father-in-law only knew of that one. Now I have several of him too. And I have pictures of Chester’s half siblings Minnie Begier Morgan, John Begier, and Mable Claire Begier Brown. I have pictures of the history that has taken place in Forsyth, Montana, where much of Bob’s family history is centered. Of course I can’t include them all here, so they will be used in a future story. I simply could not feel more blessed.
Joe has told me that he has much more information to share with me, and while I thought I didn’t have very much to share in return, I am finding that I have the continuing story on the Schulenberg side, at least, and he has the continuing family of his side. That is an amazing combination, and with the history that he knows, I hope that I will be able to contribute some history too. Neither of us live in the area that we are talking about…Forsyth, Montana…and yet a lot of the family history took place there. What I do have is the stories told to me by my husband’s grandmother, our beloved Vina Leary Schulenberg Hein, and the stories told to me by my in-laws, Walt Schulenberg and Joann Knox Schulenberg. I am eager to share all of this history with Joe and his family, my family, and my readers. It’s going to be an incredible journey.
So many of us would love to know more about our family and the stories from the past, but by the time we realize that we are interested in those stories, the people who could tell us about them are gone, and it is too late. I feel very blessed that my grandparents had nine children, all spaced roughly 2 years apart. My aunt, Sandy Pattan was the youngest of those children. While the older children lived some things that Aunt Sandy was to young to have lived, she was nevertheless, not to young to have heard all the stories, and she was just curious enough to be a willing listener. While her older siblings were growing up and doing all the things a kid sister finds very cool, Aunt Sandy was watching with curiosity. She wanted to grow up just like her sisters, and she loved watching her brothers’ antics, as well as, their kindnesses. She also watched her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents…and she listened to the stories that were told.
Flash forward to today, and to her niece…me, who is curious about all those events from the past. I have asked other family members about those events, and received a little bit of information, but my Aunt Sandy has an amazing mind. Not to brag…but I think I take after her in that area. Once a story is told to her…she stores in I her memory files for all time, and she can pull it out and accurately pass on the details to those around her, who want to know, and are blessed enough to realize that she is an such amazing store of information. There is just no need to be in the dark about our family history, because if the information is out there, Aunt Sandy probably has it.
Aunt Sandy retired a while back, and is busy with a lot of projects, but she has it in her heart to put some of this information on paper, so that it can be passed on to other interested family members. I really hope she does that, because it is so easy for those stories to get lost and forgotten in time. Those who remember them pass away, and if they didn’t tell others the stories, they are lost. Aunt Sandy has a real talent for remembering the events as they happened, and for telling them in a way that makes them interesting to the listener. I have very much enjoyed listening to her accounts of the events of her life, and the ones that shaped it…as well as mine, and the rest of the family. Next time you get an opportunity, I strongly recommend that you take the time to talk to her about your history. You will be amazed at what you might find out. Today is Aunt Sandy’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
So often we think that toddlers don’t have the ability to remember things that happened when they were so very small, but the mind is an incredible thing. If our toddler’s mind has deemed something as important enough to remember, we will remember it for the rest of our lives. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sitting with my mom, Aunt Sandy, and my sister, Cheryl at my mom’s house, while we scanned some pictures, and talked about family history. We talked of many different family stories, but one that stood out in my mind was Aunt Sandy’s account of the entrance of my grandparents’ first grandchild, my cousin, Susie. For any grandparent, the moment when you actually become a grandparent for the first time is amazing…a moment you will never forget. But, what of the small children? Most of us assume that there really won’t be small children to consider when it is the first grandchild, but sometimes, the aunts and uncles are barely toddlers themselves. Such was the case with Aunt Sandy when Susie was born.
When she became an aunt, my Aunt Sandy was just three years old…too young to really remember much about it, right? Wrong! This would be an event that Aunt Sandy’s three year old mind knew was a life changing event. She was never going to be the same after that November day…she wasn’t just a little girl now…she was an aunt. I can’t say for sure that Aunt Sandy knew what being and aunt really meant, or that she understood that there was a new baby in the family now…at least, not at first. Then came the moment when the baby was to be brought over to meet her family.
The house was filled with all the family members. That wasn’t such an unusual thing for my grandparents’ home, so it probably didn’t seem like anything new to Aunt Sandy. Then my Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George brought the baby into the house. Everyone gathered around the new little family. There were the usual ooo’s and ahh’s, as everyone vied for a position where they could get a good look at the baby. But, standing in the back of the crowd, momentarily forgotten in all the excitement, stood my Aunt Sandy, her eyes as big as silver dollars, as she took in this incredible scene. Her little three year old toddler mind was trying to figure out what all this meant, because it didn’t take an adult to know that everything in her world had changed…she knew it, she just didn’t really know how much it had changed.
Feeling maybe just a little bit nervous about all this activity, Aunt Sandy went up to her mom, and put her little hand out and touched her mom. Grandma turned around, perhaps realizing for the first time that the prior youngest person in the family had been momentarily forgotten in all the excitement. As she looked down at her youngest daughter, her youngest child, she knew just what was needed. She said to Aunt Sandy, “Do you want to see the baby?” Aunt Sandy nodded, Grandma picked her up, and she was able to get her first look at the baby that had changed her life forever…the baby that had made her an aunt. She now knew that something amazing had happened in her family, and this was a moment she would remember for the rest of her life.
As we talked about the way that such an early memory could stay with a person, I could see on Aunt Sandy’s face, that the picture of that day was very clearly imprinted in her mind. It was almost as if she was that three year old toddler again, standing in back of the crowd of family members wondering what was going on. That earliest memory had so completely imprinted itself on her mind that she could still see it as if she was back there again.
As the youngest of my Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s family, my Aunt Sandy got to hear all the stories of her family’s lives, starting at a very young age. Her siblings were already out there doing things with their lives, and it all sounded so interesting to her. I suppose that is why she has been the one that was most interested in the family stories, and my go to person when I need information on this person or that person for a story I’m working on. I really need that kind of a person, because there are many stories I hadn’t heard before. I have enjoyed our talks so much, and look forward to the next one. It’s funny, that sometimes when I ask my mom about something to do with one of her siblings, she will say, “I was married by that time, but Sandy will know.” And mom is right.
Of course, eventually Aunt Sandy began to have stories of her own unique experiences, such as the traveling peddler of sorts, who was allowed to take a picture of Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Sandy, or the trip she and grandma took to Wisconsin to visit my family, when we lived there. And as a little girl, she became an aunt at an early age when my cousin Susie was born. They would be almost like sisters in those younger years, and at least, great playmates. Every life has a story to tell, and Aunt Sandy paid attention to all the stories, keeping them safe in her memory files…just waiting for someone to take an interest in all of those little treasures waiting there. Some people have a knack for remembering the really interesting stories of a family’s past, and Aunt Sandy is one of those people. She has an amazing memory for the details of situations that happened a long time ago, and she can relate them in such a way as to keep her audience spellbound throughout her story. That is a great skill to have.
These days, Aunt Sandy has retired from the job she held for many years, and she is taking life a little easier. She and my mom have been spending a little more time together, and that has been such a nice thing for my mom. She hasn’t gotten out as much is the last few years, so those get togethers with Aunt Sandy have become very special. Today is Aunt Sandy’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!!
Bob and I went out to the nursing home to visit his mother on Saturday, and very uncharacteristic of her, since she got Alzheimer’s Disease anyway, she was very talkative. She was telling us about her day…at least as she remembered it. Her story moved from one scenario to another, making little sense, unless you knew some of the characters, and the places she was talking about. The other problem with her story was that it spanned at least 6 decades, and they were all intermingled. Probably the most disconcerting part of the story, however, was the fact that she was talking about Bob and me, almost like we weren’t there, and yet at other moments, she talked to us, knowing who we were. It was very strange to feel the need to speak of myself, as someone else, so it didn’t confuse her. It was also strange to shift gears, when she asked me what I was making everyone for the dinner she had decided I was cooking.
I’m sure a lot of people would have been a little bit freaked out by this strange visit, but with Alzheimer’s Disease, that is somewhat normal. The main reason it isn’t very normal, is that many Alzheimer’s patients, including my mother-in-law, don’t usually talk so much. It was quite an interesting conversation, really. She mentioned several family members, including Bob and me, our daughters, Corrie and Amy, and two of my grandsons, Chris and Josh. She also mentioned my brother-in-law, Ron, and my nephew, Barry as well as my sister-in-law, Jennifer. Then she mentioned the names Adolph, Brady, and Cody…names that made no sense to me, and two of which will most likely always be a mystery. Adolph and his wife Loretta, apparently were good friends of my in-laws, a long time ago.
It was very strange to know that she knew who we were, and yet also had a picture in her memory of what we looked like 30 years ago. The two pictures seemed like two different people in her mind, so it made perfect sense that she would be talking to us and about us at the same time. I suppose many people would find that sad, and think of Alzheimer’s disease as a horrible thief, and to a degree, they would be right, but so much of this disease…if looked at with the right mindset…can be found humorous. Yes, she makes up her stories, but they are about things in her past. Yes, she doesn’t always know us. But there is a lot to be learned there too. I never knew about their friends, Adolph and Loretta, but maybe someday she will tell me a little bit more about them…perhaps, in another story session.
It’s strange to think about the amount of things you don’t know about your dad, or anyone else for that matter, but when I think about my parents, I expect that I should know most things about them. I guess there are stories that were never told, or little things that just didn’t seem important, and so were passed over. Such is the case with my dad’s time in World War II. I’m not talking about the major things that Dad couldn’t talk about in his letters home, but some of the smaller things. Today I was reading his letter dated August 1, 1944, in which he talks about having a little down time from flying missions. He and a friend went to the gym. In his letter, my dad mentioned punching a bag for a while, among other unnamed exercises.
I never knew that my dad had any interest in boxing, although I vividly remember playing a little boxing game with him every once in a while in the hallway at home. Of course, he never hit me, it was a game. Dad was very quick, and no matter how much I tried to defend my face, he always managed to get a tap in. Looking back, I think my dad taught me a lot about self defense in those little sparring matches, but it never occurred to me that he had any real interest in boxing. I just thought it was a natural ability he had.
Dad had a great time with those sparring matches, and I guess I must have been a bit of a Tomboy, because I did too. I managed to get in a few good taps during those years, but I promise you, it was very few. Talk about feeling uncoordinated!! Nevertheless, if I got one in, I knew it was real and it was an accomplishment, because he didn’t just let me get one in…which is something I was always grateful for. Letting a little kid win at a game once in a while is fine, but if you do it too often, they don’t learn to play well, nor do they learn sportsmanship. Dad’s laughing, fun way of teaching me self defense was something I will always remember fondly about him, and now I know a little bit more about what he was like back then.
Many people think that the elderly have nothing left to give to this world. They are pretty much done, and maybe even waiting to die, right? I couldn’t disagree more. I have been a caregiver since 2005, and while there have been challenges and sadness, the overall experience has been very rewarding. While there have been times when they are irritable, or even downright grouchy, I have found that if you will just walk a mile in their shoes, you will walk away with a new understanding of what they are going through and why they might have mood swings.
I have also found that if you take the time to listen to things they have to say, you can learn a lot about their lives while you are caring for them. These people have live in times that we have no idea about, and listening can teach you a lot about the past…a past that is your heritage. So many of my stories have come from just such talks about days gone by, and I will be forever grateful for having been given the opportunity to hear about it. All too soon, these people could be gone, and with them go all the stories they have stored in their heads. If you have that opportunity, I strongly recommend you have a talk with your parents or other aging loved one so that you can see what it would have been like to walk in their shoes.
Last night and this morning, I found out what it really is like to walk a mile in their shoes, when I experienced a headache that just would not go away, and would not allow me to even think much. My neck was out of place, and after my Chiropractic appointment, I felt much better. Still, it was an eye opener for me, because the one thing a caregiver can’t do, is feel the pain of their patient. For days now, I have been and probably will continue to try to minimize the back pain my mother-in-law feels in an effort to get her to continue to walk. She experiences pain in the low back and would love to get out of walking, which is something I can’t allow, hence the need to minimise. I doubt if she will believe me when I say the it is not so bad, but with Alzheimer’s disease, she will also not remember it later….a very good thing. Nevertheless, I will do whatever I can to minimize it, because after the horrible headache I had last night, I can honestly say that I have walked a mile, or maybe two, in their shoes.
We have, in our family three boys who while they weren’t bad boys, did have a flair for antics. I’m going to call them The Three Musketeers of Mischief. As those of you who have been active in the Family Stories page I set up on Facebook might already know, these three boys were full of mischief. In case you don’t know who I am referring to, that would be Greg, Forest, and Elmer. They are all fairly close in age, although sadly, we lost Forest July 3, 2005, and because they were all close in age, they liked doing the same things, which mostly included being places where they probably shouldn’t have been, but because they were the kind of boys they were, they survived their own mischief…mostly due to sheer luck, but probably a goodly amount of skill too.
One time, these boys had gone swimming in the river, where it runs through Mills. That was the thing to do in the summer. They got to the train trestle and decided to cross it to the Amoco Refinery to get some wax to make wax hands with. Forest and Greg had gone across the train trestle many times, and so were pretty good at running across them, when necessary, but Elmer was more of a novice at running the tracks…until that day. As they were going across a cart that hauls workers and such, came up behind them. Greg and Forrest ran on across, but Elmer was still going along pretty slow. The other boys yelled out to Elmer to run!! He went a little faster, but not nearly fast enough. As it came closer, and they yelled louder, Elmer decided it was time to get outta Dodge, and he learned in a really big hurry how to run on the trestle. Greg says he was probably better at it than he and Forest were. Not that Elmer thought that information was any kind of good news.
The wax hand incident didn’t have such a good ending though. One time, Greg and Forest were making wax hands, by building a fire in the back yard, but it was raining, and the fire wouldn’t stay lit. They decided to go into Greg’s house and use his mother’s new stove, since his parents weren’t home. The stove worked very well, but when they were finished playing, they began the clean up work…a little late, unfortunately. Greg’s parents got home, found the mess, and they were…well less than pleased. Forest was sent home immediately, and Greg had a meeting in the shed with his dad…yikes!!
Yes, these boys were definitely the Three Musketeers of Mischief…in their younger years. They all outgrew these childish pranks, and turned into great guys. And really, I don’t think their childish pranks were any worse than any of the rest of us. Just boys being boys, and kids being kids. They did make life interesting whenever I was around them though, so I can’t say their pranks bothered my much at all.
While visiting Bob’s great grandparents in Yakima, Washington in 1976, Grandma Knox showed me a family heirloom of a different type than most, but priceless nevertheless. It was a drawing of a tree, on which the trunk and branches were the names of family members. It was a true family tree. It must have been a copy of several or many that were made and given to family members in the Knox family, because I have since seen it on the Internet. And was able to save a copy on Ancestry.com.
I think about the person who did all that original work. Her name was Hattie Goodman, and she is a relative on Bob’s side of our family. I would have to dig deeper to tell you exactly what the relationship is, but we are related, and on the copy that Grandma had, we know where our family section is. Of course, the tree does not show the names of my children or grandchildren, or even Bob and his parents, but his great grandparents are listed, so we know where we fit. It is an amazing piece of history, painstakingly written down by a woman I would love to have known, because I think she must have really been something!
Bob’s great grandparents are gone now, and I am quite sure his Uncle Frank still has the family tree drawing, as he is one of the last of the brothers born to Bob’s great grandparents, and the healthiest one for sure, making him the best choice to keep it. And he is also the one who would be the most interested in the family history, so he would treasure it.
It is quite a responsibility to be the family historian…and yet quite exciting too. You carry the memories in your head, and you feel the need to get it down on paper, or online these days, so that it can be passed on to generations who would not have known these stories any other way. There are family historians in every family, and you know who you are. The memories live in the filing system in your mind, but they are not content to stay there. They continue to spill out in your writings as a memorial to times past. You feel the need to leave a legacy of the stories of the past, so that future generations will not forget where they came from.
That is where I fit into the family, but I am not alone. Most families have several or sometimes even many people who are interested in those stories from the past. They can sit down and hear a story from the past, and immediately commit it to memory, and turn around and tell it to others to preserve the family history. This stuff just sticks in their memory so easily, and once it is in there, it stays. They are the family historians, and they have an important role in the family. Keeping the past alive for future generations.