I talked to my Aunt Sandy Pattan yesterday. She wanted me to post that the family picnic was coming up. That is a common event each year, but what surprises me is that so many people do not attend. I know what they are thinking…there’s always time next year, but what if there isn’t. As Aunt Sandy said, we are all getting older…and the older ones are getting fewer and fewer. We have lost so many over the last few years…Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Elmer Johnson, my dad, Al Spencer, Uncle Larry Byer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and our cousin, Forrest Beadle, along with various other cousins that passed as babies. For these, there is no more time. We will not see them again in this life. And there is no time table that we are privy to that tells us just how much time we have with each of our other family members.
For me, there is a loneliness that comes with each passing. I always wish that I had more time. I kick myself for thinking that there was always time to go visit them. We are all busy, but on this one day, and the Christmas party day, it is easy to go see several of them at once. When they come together in one group it is a joyous occasion and the stories fly. It really is a blessed time. It’s a time to meet any family members you might not know or at least, not well, because as we grow, it becomes harder to know everyone well.
For Aunt Sandy, the youngest of the nine siblings, the passing of each brother-in-law, feels like it did to lose her own sister and brother, because some of them have been a part of her family since she was a little girl. She told me that they are as much her brothers as her own brothers. Sometimes, you don’t think about that. They have always been there, it seems, and the thought that they might not be someday is a hard thing to think about. The older we get, the more that realization comes to us. Regret is a cruel emotion, and one that only you can avoid. Never look back on life thinking I wish…! It is the hardest thing to do. So many moments present themselves each and every day, to do things that we give us peace…or as much peace as is possible after a loved one dies…that we did everything we could to let them know we love them, and that we enjoy being around them. Don’t wait…there isn’t always time…the time is now.
When we look back over the years of a family history, we have a tendency to look at the family icons…the ones who, at least in our generation started it all. Often all of the great grandparents have passed on now, and so it is the grandparents that you look at, thinking, “Look what you two started!” From two people, this family has multiplied to seventy one people, with one more due in late September, and of course, if you look back to great grandparents, the number goes up exponentially. Love starts a marriage, and then adds children, who grow up, marry and have children, who continue the whole process. I have to wonder if my husband, Bob’s grandparents, Robert and Nettie (Noyes) Knox had any idea how much their family would grow over the years. I don’t think any married couple really does, until they look back at their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…often in awe of how many there are.
Grandma and Grandpa Knox would be celebrating their 85th anniversary this year, if they were still alive, but of course, they are not, so we will remember it for them. Grandpa Knox passed away on December 17, 1985, at the age of 76 years, and Grandma Knox passed away on July 29, 1990, at the age of 82. They celebrated 56 anniversaries together before Grandpa’s passing, and they experienced many different eras in our nations history. They lived through the Great Depression…a time which would bring them to very much distrust the banking system. Grandma often carried large sums of money in her purse, much to the concern of her family, but no one ever robbed her, so I guess the money was just as safe with her as it was the bank. They farmed the land they lived on, raised sheep and cattle on the ranches they worked on, and helped out their oldest daughter, Joann on her place in Casper, Wyoming, while living on the land they had too. They lived a full life surrounded by their grandchildren and great grandchildren, two of whom would be born on their respective birthdays. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
When they left us, it was a loss that was felt very deeply throughout the family. They had always been there, and it was inconceivable to think that they were actually gone. It felt like they were taken too soon, even though they lived longer than many people had the chance to do. We miss them still…especially their granddaughters, Corrie and Machelle, who were born on their birthdays. Today would have been Grandma and Grandpa Knox’s 85th anniversary. We wish they were still here to celebrate it. We love and miss you both.
Yesterday’s rare tornado on Casper Mountain while not scary, because I didn’t know about it until it was over, did take me back a in time a bit, however. A number of years ago, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim Wolfe were at my mom’s house visiting, we were under a tornado watch. No one was worried about it because it was only a watch, and we didn’t expect anything to come of it. I think we were under the mistaken assumption that we would never have a tornado here…at least I think I was. I’m sure the adults knew that a tornado could happen anywhere, but I was a kid, and I still wanted that cushion of protection. It’s a lot more comfortable to a child to think that these bad things can never come here, and you don’t want your dream world shattered. All too soon you reach an age where you know that storms like these are possible anywhere, and you become watchful, just like my Aunt Ruth was.
As we were visiting, no one was really paying attention to the weather. Suddenly, my Aunt Ruth jumped up and ran to the back door. She looked out the window and said, “There is a tornado somewhere!!” I remember thinking, “No way!! We don’t get those here!!” She insisted that there had been one, but with no way to confirm it right then, they went back to their conversation. I, on the other hand felt a little apprehensive for the rest of the evening. I kept thinking, “Tornados don’t happen here, do they…or do they? Is it save to be here? Should we be going somewhere to hide r something?” Still the adults didn’t seem too concerned, so I went back to what I was doing too, but the memory of that moment has really never left me. I can still vividly see my Aunt Ruth standing at the back door, looking at the sky for clues as to the location of the tornado. I can still hear her voice, clearly saying that there was a tornado somewhere. She was so sure of it
Later that night, as we were watching the news, the weather man said that there had been a tornado on the mountain. I was a little shaken up by that report. The memory of that moment has lived in my memory files for all those years. I don’t know exactly how she knew it that day, but she did. I think I was a little bit in awe of her knowledge of storm systems. I suppose that was because she had been right about it. Now, of course we have things like radar, and rotation patterns to tell us ahead of time that something is coming, but I am here to tell you that those systems don’t always do exactly what they are supposed to do. Yesterday’s tornado on Casper Mountain did not set of any of the warning systems. I wondered how that could be, until I found out that the tornado was called a Land Spout Tornado, and apparently those don’t show a rotation pattern that can be picked up by radar. So even with all the warning systems we have, no system is fool proof, and there can be the rogue storm the goes against everything known to man concerning storms. Still, they happen. I suppose that then the only warning system is a person to can feel the weather, like Aunt Ruth.
To every little girl who has a big sister, she is most likely the first person she looked up to. Big sisters are wise, because they have done so much in this world. They can show you all the cool things that they have had the opportunity to see in their lives. They show you the ropes, and they are there for you through thick and thin…even if you fight occasionally in those early years. When it comes down to it they would fight any foe, bully, or even and friend…if they came between them and their little sister. That was and is the kind of friend I have in my big sister, Cheryl. She always seemed so much more sophisticated than I was. And still does to this day. I don’t know how she does it, but she just has that something about her. With all she has done with her life, I find myself feeling very proud that she is my sister.
I suppose there are many younger sisters who feel the same way about their big sisters. I mean, big sisters always seem to have the answers, all the cool friends…not that you get to hang out with them, all of the cool clothes…while you wear hand me downs, and they get to do so much more than you get to do. Still, sometimes, they give you a little bit of their time, and you get to bask in the warmth of being with that person who is so much cooler than you are. You get to go do things together…like exploring in the back yard, or playing with the cool toys they have. Your life is perfect, simply because that cool big sister gave you a few minutes of their time.
It is at this point in time that you really get a full understanding of how much your big sister loves you. It doesn’t matter that most of the time they really want you to just stay out of the way. It doesn’t matter that most of the time they want you to leave their toys alone. Those thoughts fade into a distant memory. You get to hang out with the wisest, coolest person you know. They get to teach you from all the wisdom of their years…even if there are only 2 years between you, and you are only 6 months old at the time. I guess that wisdom isn’t nearly as important as the love your big sister has for little old you.
The first time I met the Montana branch of Bob’s family, I felt more than just a little overwhelmed. I was shy, and it seemed like there were a lot of them. In reality, there weren’t that many people, it was just me and my jangled nerves. One of the things I remember most about that first trip to Montana was Bob’s Aunt Pearl. Pearl is the kind of person who is always happy…or it seems like that to me. Every time we went to Montana, she welcomed us with open arms, a big smile, and her woderful hospitality. Pearl is one of those people who are the perfect hostess. She wants to make sure that you have everything you need, and that makes you always feel very welcome in her home.
Needless to say, that first trip to Montana went very well, in spite of my nerves. Pearl played a big part in that successful trip. It’s nice to find such a friendly face in a place where you don’t know too many people…especially if you are as shy as I was. Shyness can be quite painful, and there isn’t a lot that can be done to alleviate it, but a smile truly goes a very long way toward doing just that. Pearl endeared herself to me on that first visit, and I was one grateful girl.
Pearl has not change much over the years. We don’t get to see her as much these days, since Grandma and Grandpa passed away, and we don’t go to Montana as often as we used to. I keep in touch with her mostly by texting these days, and I am very grateful for that technology. It keeps people in touch, even if they don’t get on the computer, and especially on Facebook. Maybe one of these days her grandchildren will even get her into that. I look forward to it. Today is Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Baby girls are always so pretty. It doesn’t matter what they look like, baby girls are just pretty…each with their own look and pretty in their own way. Some people may not agree with me on that, and in fact, I know of people who will tell you that babies aren’t even cute, but there is something about a baby girl that has a cuteness all her own. As they grow into toddlers, they start finding their girly side, and feeling really pretty in their little dresses, or playing dress up in their mom’s things.
Then come the adolescent years, and it seems like everything is off. No matter how much the girl tries, she just doesn’t like the way she looks, and she really wishes that people would not take her picture ever again, because everything is all messed up. Unfortunately, for many of us, those years go on far too long, and she becomes convinced that she will be living in the awkward years…forever!! Of course, those years aren’t nearly as long as she thinks they are, but rather it is that, while she is living in those years, it just feels like forever.
Finally those years are over, and most of us realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that those who really matter can see a beauty in us that we can’t even see ourselves. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that every girl deserves at least one picture that, when viewed by others, brings the same reaction…”Oh, you look beautiful!!” That one picture that is simply, undeniably beautiful. Of course, beauty really comes from the inside of a person, and maybe that is why the picture I ran across of my sister-in-law, Marlyce, looked so beautiful to me. The essence of this picture was so clearly about the beautiful girl my sister-in-law was. Her sweetness, kindness, and gentleness glowed from her face. When I saw that picture, I was unable to look away for a few minutes, because I had never seen such a great picture of Marlyce before. She was beautiful, inside and out. This was her perfect picture…the one every girl deserves to have at least once.
Throughout all the years that I knew Bob’s grandpa on his mother’s side, we all knew with certainty that he hated having his picture taken. So much so, that he would look away, or glare at the camera. We all just knew that any picture he was in would have him looking angerly away, and that made us sad sometimes, but there was nothing we could do to change things. I often wondered why he wouldn’t just cooperate, but we all assumed that he simply hated having his picture taken…badly enough to practically throw a fit about it. It got to the point where it was easier to leave him out or to let him be grouchy about it.
As I was going through some of the old pictures from my in-laws’ house, I came across a few pictures here and there, that were a little different. The grouchy look was gone, and he was looking at the camera. I began to wonder about something else…like what could have happened to make him hate having his picture taken. He wasn’t always that way. The pictures proved that. Life can change people sometimes. Sadness can take away their smiles, and every life has some sadness in it, but I couldn’t think of a deep sadness that had happened to him since these pictures were taken. So what could it be? What could have stolen his smiles, and turned him into someone who didn’t want his picture taken?
Since Grandpa died in 1985, I suppose that we will never know. It saddens me that he died with some deep dark sadness still living inside him. It saddens me that we never got to see the other side of him…the side of him that had smiles and laughter in it, because I think that side would have been very nice to know. I wonder why he locked that part of himself away? No, I guess we will never know what happened to Grandpa to make him that way. But, after looking at the pictures of his smiling face, looking directly at the camera, holding my brother-in-law, Ron when he was a baby and his smiling face looking lovingly at his mother, I will always know that there was a time when things were very different.
Today is one of three un-birthdays that Shai, my granddaughter will have before she gets to have her next real birthday. Shai is a Leap Day baby, and officially she is 4 1/4 years old today…or actually on that nanosecond between February 28th and March 1st…that is as close as we can get to her birthday, three out of 4 years. Most people, myself included, think the Leap Day is a cool birthday. It makes her 1 in 1500. That is the odds of being born on Leap Day. Not as rare as lots of other things, but rare enough.
Shai was a little grown up well before the years would make her a young woman, so it is fitting that today she is seventeen, but not really. That has always been the case with Shai, older than her actual years. She took care of my parents when they were sick and she was only 10 years old, or 2 1/2. She babysat for my niece Jenny at 12 years old, or 3. And like most kids, she drove at 16, except that she was really 4.
Like her cousin Chris born the day before Shai, I was there for Shai’s birth, and that was only a week ago, so how could she already be seventeen years old, even if seventeen is really 4 1/4, I take no consolation in the fact that we can call her younger than the years that have passed since her birth, because they have simply gone by too fast. My only consolation is the fact that Shai, like her cousin is a good girl who stays away from trouble and loves the Lord.
Shai doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life yet, and that’s ok. The possibilities are endless, and I know that whatever she does will be perfect for her. She could easily go into nursing, because she has had 7 years of experience in that area, but I’m not sure that is the choice she would make. She is a very social person, and it would not surprise me to see her go into a field like public relations. She worked in my office for over a year, at late 14 through 15 years of age, which is very unusual for a kid of that age. She did so many things early, and it made me even more aware of how fast the years were rushing by.
Today, Shai is unofficially seventeen years of age, and while it seems to me like a week ago, I have long been aware that she was growing up very quickly and right before our eyes. Happy birthday Shai!! Have a great day, and maybe slow down a bit, ok. We love you very much!!
A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law, Ron gave his dad, my father-in-law a calendar from 2012 that he had used at work…not for the calendar but for the pictures. They were all pictures of tractors through the years. We all took a look at that calendar, because it was interesting to see how much tractors had changed over the years, and the different makes for that matter. I remember seeing one that could have easily passed for a travel trailer, were it not for the tractor wheels. And there were makes that even my father-in-law hadn’t heard of, and having grown up on ranches, I would have expected that he would know them all.
Since the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1760 to somewhere between 1820 and 1840, when manufacturing transitioned from hand production to machines, technology never stops changing. There are always new ideas, and someone to invent them. I recalled seeing a couple of pictures among the old pictures I have been going through, that showed a couple of different tractors used by members of Bob’s and my families. Even though these pictures probably weren’t taken that far apart in years, the two tractors are very different from one another. I suppose that the tractors themselves could have been much different in age, since you often use a machine for many years before it wears out, and they could have been for different work, thereby requiring different designs, but I was struck, nevertheless, by the vast difference in their design. My father-in-law also told me that it could depend on the area of the country, as to what makes of tractor were available. That makes sense too, in that different climates, and growing seasons might require different types of wheels and designs. I suppose that humidity could play a part in how the engines ran as well, and so could affect what tractor make would work better in those areas.
Technology is changing so fast these days that tractors may one day be obsolete, you never know. I mean…who ever thought there would be a vacuum cleaner that cleaned by itself, and yet now we have them. I don’t mean to say that crops will ever harvest themselves, or that the ground will just stay plowed, but one day there might be a machine that does those jobs with just a little bit of programing. Then, like the Roomba, which is no longer called a vacuum, the tractor might change its name with the modern advancement of automation too.
Christmas Eve in 1927 was a special Christmas Eve…at least to my mom’s soon to be large family. That was the day her parents were married. What started with two young people is love, has grown in those 85 years to a family of more than 300 people. There are new babies being born all the time. I know that if Grandma and Grandpa could see their family now, they would be very pleased, but I don’t suppose they would necessarily be surprised. They were surprised at one time, however…or at least in awe.
I recall their 50th wedding anniversary in 1977. By that time I was married and had two daughters, so I was one of those who were growing the family. It was a wonderful party. Our family has a family Christmas party every year, but this one was very special. We were celebrating the patriarchs of the family…the ones who, at least in our remembrance, started it all. Grandma and Grandpa looked great. They were so happy, but then that was nothing new. They had been happy all their lives together. They celebrated life and the joy of living every day of their lives together. Singing could often be heard in their home, as well as the continuing laughter of the little children and grandchildren that loved to spend time in their home.
At that special party in 1977, I recall Grandpa and Grandma’s glowing faces, as they looked at each other. You could tell that theirs was an everlasting love…a love that grew bigger with each passing year, and each additional member. They were so happy and they felt so blessed. Their marriage had been such a happy one, and their family had grown to such an amazing size, seemingly overnight. The conversation turned to the size of the family, and Grandpa looked at Grandma and said, “Mommy, look what we started!” He was amazed on that day at the bigness of the family, because when you think about it, who really expects or thinks about how big their family will be, when they are a young couple just starting out. Yes, Grandpa was right. They had started something great on that special Christmas Eve 85 years ago today.