Living to be 95 years old is an amazing accomplishment, and one that few people are blessed enough to achieve. Today, that is the place where my husband, Bob’s great uncle, Frank Knox is. I think Frank was always my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s favorite uncle…doesn’t every girl have one or even two. When I found my mother-in-law’s childhood scrapbook among the photo albums and old pictures she had in a box in her closet, as we were preparing to sell their home to help pay for her care, after my father-in-law passed away, I noticed several pictures with her and her Uncle Frank, as well as pictures of him alone.
Frank was stationed in England during World War II, as was my dad. I’m not sure where in England, but it would have been interesting to see if they ever crossed paths. It’s possible that worry and the unknown were things that made my mother-in-law love seeing her uncle, because even when kids are young, they are well able to understand the dangers that their loved ones are being placed in, and they worry that they will not make it home. There really is no definite skill that keeps a soldier alive in a war. Some just come home, and others don’t. That is probably the thing that makes the homecoming so very sweet.
The first time I met Frank was the end of June, 1976, when they brought Frank’s parents, my mother-in-law’s grandparents for a visit. It was partly, I’m sure so that they could meet their two great great granddaughters, my girls, Corrie and Amy, but also to see the rest of the family. Living so far away, in Yakima, Washington, they didn’t get to see this part of the family very much, and Great Grandma and Grandpa were getting older. We did not know it then, but it would be the last time we saw Great Grandpa, since he would pass away the following August…just two months later. I think we all felt very grateful to Frank, his wife, Helen, and their youngest son, Richard for bringing Great Grandma and Grandpa Knox to Casper for such a lovely visit.
Frank is a very intelligent man, and while his mind may not be quite as sharp as it was in his youth, he still remembers all of us and his little niece, my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. He always calls her on her birthday, and while she won’t have a phone this year, we will make sure that we get them on the phone for that very important call. And perhaps we can surprise him today with a phone call from her, because I think she probably did that too, before Alzheimer’s Disease stole the memory of the date from her. Today is Frank’s 95th birthday. Happy birthday Frank!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As each generation in a family looks at the addition of a new generation, I have to wonder what is going through their minds, and if it’s the same as mine…amazement at where the family is now. I remember seeing my daughters and my grandchildren for the first time, and I know that I was thinking just how amazing it was that they were here, and they were mine. You have a tendency to marvel at how beautiful they are and that they descended from you. Every grandparent is excited about those little grandbabies, but you don’t always get a picture of the exact look that expressed just how blessed a grandparent is feeling.
Nevertheless, that rare shot was what we accidently got, when my husband, Bob’s great grandfather first met his great great granddaughters, Corrie and Amy. The loving look on his face as he held Amy simply said it all. He was feeling so blessed to be able to see this next generation of his lineage. Many people never see their great great grandchildren…they don’t always live long enough, so he was very blessed. He was blessed in his life…living to be 93 years old. It was only a couple of months later that a fall would break his hip and the shock would end his life. That made his chance to meet his great great granddaughters that much more special, whether he knew it or not at the time.
I think every grandparent feels that deep sense of great blessing when they see those babies for the first time, but so often it doesn’t show in a picture of such a loving look. This picture has become very precious to me for that very reason. I only had the opportunity to meet Bob’s great grandfather the one time, before his passing. We had planned a trip to Yakima, Washington to visit with them again, in September of that year, but he passed away in August. We made the trip to see Bob’s great grandmother, but I always felt sad that his great grandfather was not there for the visit. Mostly, I was sorry that he was gone so soon after meeting him. The picture of him was one of the few I have now. Having met him, I can say that he was a gentle hearted man who loved his family. I really think that he felt such a deep sense of accomplishment that his family had grown so much, and that he got to see it before he left this world. I was glad that we were able to give him his great great granddaughters before he passed away. I think it meant so much to him.
As my life moves forward into the next phases, I am beginning to look forward to the day when I will have great grandchildren too. It could be down the road a ways, but with two grandchildren out of high school now, it could be right around the corner. I don’t mean to say that I am pushing the grandkids, but I look forward to that special day whenever it happens to arrive. Babies and grandbabies are a great blessing, and I know that whenever my great grandchildren start arriving, I will feel just like Bob’s great grandfather did, so amazed at where the family is now.
Some people have such a wonderful way with children that they seem ageless. That is the way Bob’s great grandma was. When we went to visit her in Yakima, Washington, when Corrie was just 15 months old, and Amy was 4 months old. Corrie and her great great grandma had such a connection. It didn’t matter that there was an 88 year difference in their ages. Grandma understood Corrie, and Corrie loved her very much. The chair she gave to Corrie was part of that connection they had. Grandma saw that Corrie would cherish the little chair, and her instincts were correct. It has been a treasure to Corrie.
Grandma truly was a timeless person. So many people who are in their 80’s and 90’s, have little tolerance for the silliness of children, but Grandma was no ordinary person. She loved life, and the people in it…especially her little great great grandchildren. And she was so full of life. She was one of those people whose age is hard to guess, because they are so much younger than their years. Grandma lived alone for the 8 years after Grandpa passed away, and prior to that, they had lived together in their own home, with Grandpa doing the maintenance on the house. They were both amazing people. Grandpa was 93 years young, and Grandma was 96 years young when the left us, but they weren’t feeble and weak. They lived their lives fully right up until the end.
When Grandma was 93, her son Frank and his wife Helen brought her out for a second visit since the birth of her first great great granddaughter, Corrie was born. Even though they had not seen each other. 4 years, and it is hard too say just how much Corrie remembers of that visit, but the connection between her and her great great grandmother is very obvious. Grandma and her little great great grandchildren were all having a wonderful time together.
It would be a short 4 years later when Grandma went home to be with the Lord on February 10, 1984, but the influence she left behind for all of her family was huge. She was a woman who took an interest in life, both past and future. It was Grandma that gave me a good start on Bob’s side of the family history, and not just it’s people, but the history of things too. Sometimes it is the history of things that brings home the history of people. Those were the stories that Grandma told me on that visit, and looking back now, I can see that what she was doing, was passing along our heritage…just like she did for her grandchildren, to the best of her ability, even if they don’t remember much of it. We do, and we will keep it and her alive, to pass on to those little ones, now grown.