Sometimes, when you look back in the history of a family, you come across a number of events that by themselves are devastating enough, but when they are put in the context of the entire history of that family, they can leave you wondering just how much one family can take. While visiting with my aunt, Sandy Pattan a week ago, she told me about a tragedy that I had heard a little bit about before, but really had no details as to who was involved. Now, with a name to put in the story, I set out to find out the exact details. I did find those details, and much more. Enough, in fact to leave me in complete shock.
It seems that when my great grandmother, Estella Shaw Pattan was a girl, she survived a tornado that took the life of her little sister. The circumstances were horrible to imagine, because Estella, or Stella as she was called, was doing everything she could do to save her little sister. People just didn’t know what they needed to do in a tornado. Stella was tightly holding her little sister, Ella Shaw who was just six weeks old, when the tornado ripped her out of her big sister’s arms. Ella would not survive, nor unfortunately, would her older sister, Bertha Delilah Shaw, who was just nine years old at the time of her death. During that same event, their grandfather, Angeloah Shaw was missing for a time. He was found however, and he would live until 1914. These two deaths were devastating enough, but they were not the only tragedy to visit the family of John B Shaw and his wife Harriet Emma Baker Shaw. In fact, at the time of the June 4, 1890 tornado that ripped through the area, the family was already trying to recover from a prior loss.
In late 1889, Diphtheria struck the Shaw family. While vaccinations used today prevent most cases of Diphtheria, these weren’t available in days gone by, and so contracting Diphtheria could have been a death sentence, and often was. In late 1889, the John B Shaw family faced a nightmare situation, and they tried to take care of it in the best way they knew how. Unfortunately, for Ethel Ada and Myrtle Shaw, as well as many other people who contracted Diphtheria, it was not enough. Myrtle passed away on November 7, 1889 at just one year five months, and Ethel passed away on December 7, 1889 at four years nine months. These deaths would bring to a total of six the loses in the Shaw family, and four in just seven months.
Yes, I did say, six. In 1878, the family faced their first of four tragedies, and the first of a total of seven children who would die at a very young age. The first child to die of Diphtheritic Croup, was little Mabel Mary Shaw, who was nicknamed May. May died on April 15, 1878 at just three years five months. Diphtheritic Croup is a diphtheritic inflammation of the larynx. Also called laryngeal diphtheria. Basically it is a bacterial infection that causes swelling in the throat. If immediate action is not taken, the child will suffocate quickly. For the parents, it would be the most helpless feeling. To add to their devastation, their son John Shaw Jr would succumb to Diphtheritic Croup the very next day, April 16, 1878. John was just four years and 5 days old.
With all the deaths that hit John and Harriet between 1878 and 1890, death was still not quite done with them. While not much is known about the death of Edna Shaw, who passed away at three months eighteen days, on September 29, 1894, my guess is either sudden infant death syndrome, or another case of Diphtheritic Croup. When Aunt Sandy told me of the tragic loss of Great Grandma Stella Shaw Pattan’s little sister in the tornado, I had no idea that my research would uncover such a tragic set of circumstances. All I can say is that this family had to have been very strong, because in addition to the seven children they lost, John and Harriet raised five more, my great grandmother, Stella, as well as, Maggie, Albert, Elsie, and Orvil to adulthood.
I don’t know about your family, but in mine and in Bob’s, the women seemed to wear curlers in pictures a lot. The funny thing about that is that the ones wearing curlers in pictures have short hair, which would dry very quickly. So it would seem that there would be little need for wearing curlers all day, and yet here they were in picture after picture. It’s almost as if the curlers are a way to keep their hair under control for a while, much like people with long hair might wear a bun. Curlers in your picture seems to be something rather unique to my mother’s and grandmother’s generations. I know that my sisters and I would not have been caught dead outside the house with curlers in our hair…at least when we were old enough to have a say.
What always struck me as funny is the fact that whenever Mom had curlers in her hair, and the event was special enough for pictures, it seemed like Mom’s intention was to look good for the event that was upcoming. So, it always made me wonder why she left them on for the event itself. Of course, they never left the curlers in for the really special events, like church, weddings, or funerals, it was just the casual, special events that seemed to allow for curlers in the picture. There again, I would never show up for those events in curlers either, and knowing my sisters as I do, I know they wouldn’t either. It’s kind of like going out without your make up…it just isn’t done.
Nevertheless, that was a different generation. I’d like to say it was a different time, but my mom still might wear curlers in a picture, and think nothing of it. I suppose Bob’s mom might too, if she didn’t have a perm now. To that I say, to each his own, but you will never catch me in a picture with curlers in my hair.
There are events in your life that you can look back on and know that they changed your life forever. Things like marriage, motherhood, grandmotherhood, as well as the sad moments like death, come upon you and the world is suddenly just…different…forever. Few things are more exciting in the life of a mom than the day her children have children. I have been blessed to have 4 grandchildren…3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. They are all the most wonderful gifts my girls and their husbands have ever given me. Each grandchild is special in their own way. Each one is unique, with their own personalities, skills, and ideas. The day each of them arrived changed my life forever, and for the better.
When my first two grandchildren, Christopher, my older daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin’s son, and Shai, my younger daughter Amy, and her husband Travis’ daughter, arrived a day apart, my status changed forever in a matter of two days. It was a whirlwind. I literally spent the better part of those two days at the hospital, witnessing my first and second births ever. I have been going through old pictures and I came across the pictures of my daughters right after giving birth to their first child. Their beautiful, glowing faces filled with awe and wonder as they held the most wonderful gift of God sleeping peacefully in their arms, is priceless. They both tell me that they looked awful, but that is not what I see. I see two beautiful girls who, I am happy to say, God blessed me with.
My younger two grandsons came in fairly quick succession, with Caalab, Amy and Travis’ son, born 17 months after his older sister, and Josh, Corrie and Kevin’s son, born 2 1/2 years after his older brother. So, within 2 1/2 years all my grandchildren would have arrived. It was a whirlwind…and a bit of a culture shock for their grandma, who having had 2 daughters and no sons, was…shall we say, somewhat unprepared for the difference in how girls act and how boys do. Nevertheless, those boys got me broken in pretty quickly, and now I am an old hand at boys as well as girls.
As the 16th anniversary of the day I became a grandmother arrives, I find myself still in awe of the blessings that God has given me. It seems like only yesterday that we were anxiously awaiting their arrival. How could that have been 16 years ago? Where has the time gone? Before I know it, and I know that my girls probably don’t want to hear this, my girls will become grandmothers and I a great grandmother. And just “days” after that, a great great grandmother, because time goes by so very fast that the years seem like days. If was after all, only yesterday the Bob and I were welcoming our beautiful daughters into this world, and also just yesterday that we welcomed each of our grandchildren, so it stands to reason that the next generation, and the next will feel exactly the same way. Yes, time goes by so quickly, but I wouldn’t change one second of it where my kids and grandkids are concerned. I am so very blessed, and I thank God for such wonderful gifts.