Tuesday, October 29, 2013

That's The Life

We loved spending time on my grandparents farm. For myself, I enjoyed tagging behind my aunt and uncles. They were not much older than I. My youngest uncle lacks 4 days of being 3 years older than me. I got to hang out with the big kids for a change.

Sunday dinner on the farm was wonderful. Grandma would cook and she was such a good cook. If the weather was nice we could eat outside at the picnic table.

There was no indoor plumbing. Water for drinking, cooking, and washing was pumped and brought in from outside. There was a bucket of water with a ladle in it if you wanted a drink. Grandma's wood stove had a large reservoir that held water. If we needed to wash up we took water from that because it was warm.

There was an outhouse out back. I hate outhouses. I have to make this statement because I really hate them. They are inconvenient, unsanitary, and they STINK. You haven't lived until you had to use the outhouse on a hot summer day. And I have not even mentioned the flies. Then in the winter you cannot wait to finish because your bottom is exposed to all that cold air.

Anyway my grandparents outhouse was huge. It had three holes! And that is not counting the little one off to the side  for smaller members of the family. There was no toilet paper. It was expensive and tended to get knocked into the holes and was wasted. Sears, Roebuck, and Company put out a large catalog every year. It was at least two inches thick. They were easy to obtain so there was a supply of them. The pages were torn out as needed and used to clean oneself. I really hate outhouses.

There was a barn that was large enough to bring in the cows for milking. We would stand across from where Grandpa and my uncles were milking. We were not allowed too close in case one of the cows decided to kick.

The cows would be herded in at milking time and urged into stanchions. Their heads went into the stanchions where there was hay for them to munch on. A wooden bar would be moved to hold them in place while they were being milked.

So we would stand there and watch. If we were really good Grandpa and the uncles would tell us we could come slightly closer. Then they would aim and squirt the milk at us so we could catch it in our mouths

Grandpa always kept horses. He loved them so. He "broke" them for riding himself. He didn't ride them bucking and trying to throw him like you see in the movies. He gently broke them by being kind and letting them learn to trust him.

All of the children learned to ride and respect horses. There was no hard kicking or whipping. Nudges and movement of the reins was all that was necessary.

The horse that we learned on was phenomenal. Her name was Bird. She was so smart. She could tell by size and actions whether the person about to ride her was experienced or not. She was gentle and patient with us kids. She would walk around while we got used to the feel of sitting on top of a horse. As we gained experience she would trot, canter, and gallop.

Truly experienced riders were another matter. Bird would give them so much trouble. She would move as they prepared to ride. She would pull off the saddle blanket which was placed beneath the saddle to keep the saddle from irritating her skin and causing painful sores. She would nip at unsuspecting body parts. Her favorite trick was to hold her breath and make her stomach swell at just the time the person was trying to tighten the cinch that holds the saddle snugly in place. When she let out her breath and breathed normally the cinch was too loose.

One time my mother was riding Bird. Mom knew of Bird's trick about making the cinch loose. Mom knew all she had to do was give Bird a little poke in the ribs so she would let her breath out and an extra tug would tighten the cinch. That day Mom was distracted and forgot the nudge in the ribs. She mounted and went for a ride. All was going well until they came upon the first tree with a low lying branch. Bird headed straight for the branch. Mom ducked and leaned a bit to the side. the saddle slipped to the side and Mom found herself on the ground and Bird standing off a ways grazing on the fresh grass.

There will be more stories on the farm. Like I said we loved going the the farm.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fresh Homemade Bread

I learned to cook when I was young. It was one of the skills young women were supposed to know in order for her to take care of a family when she was grown. I was taught many things but baking was my favorite.

I remember the first meal I ever made by myself for my family. I was six or seven. My mother was at a meeting in the next town with the publishers of a magazine. She wrote short stories that were published. Anyway the meeting ran late and she was not home when suppertime came.

Daddy was home from work and the other kids were hungry too At that time I had only four younger siblings. I offered to make supper and Daddy accepted my offer.

I made scrambled eggs. I don't remember what we had with them but it was a meal. Daddy was so proud and Mom thanked me profusely when she got home. I beamed.

I like to bake. From the time I was small I would get up early on Saturday morning to bake bread. Of course in the 1950's there was no frozen bread dough. I started with yeast and built it from there. I would bake all morning. It was not a chore. It was something I chose to do.

I made loaves of bread. There is nothing quite as good as bread hot out of the oven with butter or jelly on it. I made enough to last for most of the week because store bread cost so much. I made dinner rolls because the little individual breads are every bit as good.

My specialty was sweet rolls. All I did was take some of the bread dough and roll it out a bit so it was flat-ish. Then I would sprinkle it with a cinnamon and sugar mixture. If we had them (remember we didn't have a lot of money) I would add raisins or nuts to part of the mixture. Then roll the dough into a log. Slice the log into hockey puck shapes. I would set them onto the greased pan and let them rise a bit then bake them. If I was feeling especially creative I would drizzle frosting over them when they were taken from the oven. Mmmm.

I always made a lot of sweet rolls. We were a large family. And I always made a few more. The reason was that if we went out the back door to the alley and turned left the little grocery store in town was a block and a half away. I took a dozen sweet rolls to the owners of the store every week. They were so gracious and appreciative. And I liked to show off that I was a good cook.

When they retired and sold the store, they moved to the state of Washington. The woman told me she would so miss my weekly delivery of sweet rolls. I of course piped right up and said that I would mail them to her. I have often wondered what became of those nice people.

I liked making pies too. I personally think my pie crust is the best. My poor deluded mother said hers was. Mine is. And I made all kinds of pies. Pumpkin, fruit, cream, and mince meat come to mind. Now I'm getting hungry.

Pumpkin pies were my downfall. I make a large amount of dough for the pie crusts. Then I just keep rolling out crust until it's gone. Pumpkin pie filling is also made in large amounts. I would just keep on making pies until both pie crust and filling ran out at the same time. One year I made forty six, yes 46, pumpkin pies. That was for Thanksgiving so all the other pie flavors were made too.

I was giving pies to everyone I had ever met! One of my nephews was furious. He was about four years old and actually thought he would get them all.

Those leftover bits of crust are good too. Lay them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle them with cinnamon/sugar. Bake for a little while and you have what we called kiddie cookies. Light, crunchy, and sweet.

I seldom bake any more. With no one to cook for it seems like a waste of my time. Often it is cheaper to buy ready made for just me. It is certainly not as good but it satisfies my sweet tooth.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fast And Free

My uncle was fast. Very fast. When he was a child he ran so fast that no one would race him because they had no prayer of beating him. My mother told me that in order to get someone to race him he would promise to run on his feet and hands similar to the way a monkey walks but with his hands palm flat on the ground. He still won by huge margins.

Apparently he was fast from the moment he was born. He had two teeth from the beginning. When he about two weeks old he managed to roll off my grandmother's bed and landed on the floor. Try to explain in this day and age how a two week-old baby broke his arm!

My uncle liked to party. Remember this was back in the 1950's. It wasn't legal for teenage boys to drink beer but it was more a "boys will be boys" attitude. Of course he didn't like getting up to do chores on the farm after a good Friday night. I always laughed when Grandma would take a ladle of water into his bedroom and douse him with it to wake him up.

One day I was being quite obnoxious and I got on his nerves. Finally I made him so mad I went running into Grandma's house to get away from him. There were buckets of milk all over the kitchen waiting to be run through the separator after milking the cows.

In crashed my uncle hot on my trail. He was looking for blood. I started backing slowly away as he advanced on me. He came forward, I inched backward. Before Grandma or Grandpa could stop this dance, I backed plop! into a bucket of milk. It was the only time I remember Grandpa being angry. And he was furious.

That milk was sold to someone for sale to the public and had to be kept clean.  Grandpa was fastidious about the milk and I had ruined a whole bucketful... with some help from my uncle.

As I said before my uncle was fast. He played in any sports event that was available at school. He excelled at track. He was entered in all the running events... mile, half-mile, relay, dashes of whatever size, hurdles. You name it he ran it. He set records in our state that held up for years. I was told the last one was finally broken in the 1990's. Remember he did this in the 1950's.

Yes. My uncle was fast.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Mother-In-Law

Have your ever been in a situation where you had to react quickly to find a solution? Then a while later it comes to you that you could have handled it better, you know, the right way. My mother-in-law would have done it right the first time.

My mother-in-law was the wisest woman I have ever known. Wisdom is not the same as intelligence. She was intelligent too but her wisdom was her strong suit. I called her Mom.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law were wonderful people. As a matter of fact when my husband and I divorced I kept his parents. I should mention that he kept my parents too. I have said so many times that we were fortunate to have come from good parents.

My mother-in-law was very small when she was orphaned. She told me that no one ever told her that her parents had died and she would sit at the window watching for them to come home. She did not understand why they didn't come home.

She and her brother and sisters went to live with her mother's parents. She had few good memories of her grandfather. She said he was a mean man. I do not know whether he was physically mean or just mean-hearted. I could never bring myself to ask. He eventually shot himself to death.

The children grew up and moved out of the grandparents' house. They stayed close to each other, at least in spirit. One sister died before I knew her. I did meet her brother once but it was early in my marriage and I really do not remember him. Her other sister I knew quite well and will tell you about at another time.

Mom's brother and sisters all had wild streaks that drove her crazy. She was a very practical woman who worked hard to get everything she had for her family. But she had a sense of humor too. That probably kept her from losing her mind with some of the things that happened to her.

Mom was a farmer's wife even though Dad did not farm for a living. He farmed as a side thing. She made good solid meals that stuck to your ribs. That was important for the men to be able to put in the work they needed to do. When it was time for supper (or any other meal for that matter) the girls fixed a plate for the boys. After the boys married their wives were expected to do the same. We did it out of respect for her.

Mom and Dad raised 9 children. My husband was one of the little ones. He was close to his mother and in times of crisis was often the only one who could make her feel safe.

They moved a lot throughout their marriage. Mom hated it but Dad couldn't seem to find contentment anywhere. They were much like my parents in that way. Finally they moved to the farm they lived in when I began seeing their son.

I remember the first time my then boyfriend took me out to the farm. I sat in the living room. Mom was bustling about as I soon learned she always did. Dad was sitting in his chair. Now I had never seen married people argue except on television before they got a divorce.

So there I sat and Mom started arguing with Dad. She stood in the doorway wagging what has come to be known as the family finger. She would point her finger for emphasis and give him a good tongue lashing. I sat there with my mouth hanging open in amazement. Dad just sat with a smile on his face and rocked gently back and forth.

Finally she just wore herself out. She looked in disgust and said, "Oh, ring off!" and walked to the kitchen. I barely had time to close my gaping mouth before she came back saying, "And another thing..." and started all over again. This happened several times. I felt like I was in another dimension.

I married into that family that argued for recreational amusement. My goodness was I out of my element. But they loved each other. They could argue all day long but don't let anybody else say a word. Every single one of them will turn on that person as one.

The only one of my husband's siblings that I did not get the chance to know was one of his younger brothers. When he was just starting to walk he became ill. Being a farm family they attempted to treat the flu symptoms at home. When Mom realized it was far more serious than just the flu they rushed him to the doctor.

He had spinal meningitis and was near death. The doctors told Mom and Dad that he had only a couple of weeks left to live. It was recommended that he be placed in a facility where he could have the care he needed. The doctors knew that there were other children in the home and said it would be better for all concerned. Mom said NO.

She said that if he was going to die it would be with people who loved him not in some institution. Then the doctors explained to her that she was not trained to give him the care he needed. She stood firm. When they told her he would need to be fed by inserting a tube into his stomach she forced them to teach her.

She learned everything they could show her and she took her son home. He lived until he was almost 15 years old because she loved him enough to take care of him. He was almost completely paralyzed from the neck down. He could breathe on his own and his internal organs worked but the outside of his body was not as good.

He could move his head just a little. There was a small tree just outside the living room window. A pair of cardinals made their nest there every year and my little brother-in-law got such joy from lying on a blanket on the floor and watching them.

As a side note the cardinals were still coming back every year by the time I came around. The last time I saw one it was the male and he was completely white with age.

My brother-in-law died the year before I met my husband. I have seen pictures and my oldest son looks a lot like him. When the other siblings woke up that morning they knew he had died because their parents weren't there. They were never left with nobody to supervise them.

My mother-in-law was in local history books. We have copies of two different books. I do not remember what one of the entries was. In the other Mom was driving all the children from their area from school to their homes. She never learned to drive a car. In this case she was driving a horse and wagon.

The horses took the lead from her and they were on a runaway course. Luckily most of the children had been dropped at their homes. Mom still had her children on board. My oldest brother-in-law was named in the book. What stopped the runaways was that they ran between two trees that were not far enough apart for the wagon to get through.

When Mom had breast cancer she was terrified. All three of her daughters were with her. My husband and I and our children lived far away. We owned a business. I told my husband to go and stay as long as they needed each other. I could take care of the business for that amount of time. As soon as he arrived, she was at peace and recovered quickly from her surgery. The cancer did not return.

Mom had a strong sense of family. I believe that is one of the reasons we got along so well. She told me a lot of the family history. I have even been able to help my sister-in-law with providing facts from the past. I am proud of that and happy to be able to help.

I drive by their farm often while on my way elsewhere. Each time I go by I feel the pain of missing both of them. Their little ramshackle house is gone but Mom's big weeping willow tree still stands at the corner of the driveway and the road. It gives me comfort.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Not Just A Girl

I have always been grateful to my parents because they never, not one time, told me there was anything I could not do because I was a girl. I was encouraged to try anything (as long as it was fairly safe) and praised when I tried.

My grandmother used to tell me that after I became fourteen years old I would no longer be able to 1. wear shorts, 2. tie my fathers shirt at the waist when I wore it, 3. go barefoot, and a variety of other nonsense. My parents didn't directly contradict her to me. They only showed me by example that I could do whatever I felt I had the capability to do.

Naturally I was considered a tomboy because I liked playing with the boys. But I liked to play dress-up and have tea parties too. Naturally I got into a lot of trouble too.

As it is with a lot of large families some of my aunts and uncles were very close in age to me. I followed them all over the place. A couple of my brothers were there too.

The boys decided it was a fun thing to catch snakes. Not to be outdone I caught snakes too. It wasn't until much later that I realized I had caught all the snakes. Those boys were as scared as I was but I was the one stupid enough to show them that I was not afraid.

Volleyball was the acceptable sport for girls in the schools I attended. One school I went to had a really good volleyball team. I loved playing there. Our team was undefeated for several years. That included tournament games. We were good.

I played softball and football with the boys. Not at school. That would not have been allowed. I went to one school where the boys and girls even entered the building through separate doors, for goodness sake. No fraternizing with the opposite S.E.X. To this day I have not figured out how several of the girls got pregnant (pardon me, became with child) under those circumstances.

When I was in high school I took courses to prepare me for college. I had English classes, science classes, math classes, civics classes, swimming, pep club, chorus, band, modern dance, gymnastics, and team sports. It looks like a lot when I look at the list but it was spread over several years.

The one class I was not able to take was calculus. Why not, you might well ask? Does being a girl sound familiar? I was a girl and what on earth would a girl ever need with calculus? I was shocked. I had never been restricted in that way before. I went to the proper authorities but they all had the same opinion. So I do not have calculus on my resume.

So, well before Women's Lib became a cause my parents let me follow my interests no matter what other people thought should limit me because I was female. I am thankful every day that they allowed me to become a strong individual.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Another Passing

After my mother's funeral, my brothers and sisters and I were sitting at the kitchen table in my youngest brother's house. Those who came from out of town were leaving the next day. For the living there are things that must be done. Jobs, school, and day-to-day things must be done.

My eyes suddenly filled with tears. My sister noticed and asked what was wrong.  I said; "I just realized that the next time we will all be together it will be because one of us has died." How morbid.

With that we all pledged to get together. Funerals are not the only family functions after all. There are births, weddings, and countless other excuses to gather. And we need not really have an excuse... just do it.

Those celebrations all happened. But for some reason it seemed that there was always at least one of us who could not be there.

About 20 years after my mother died, I was awakened by the telephone. My sister was calling to tell me our brother had died. He was one year younger than I.

My brother was what my mother called in a loving way a most unsatisfactory baby. He did not like to be held even during feeding. He liked being alone.

His was a difficult birth. Forceps were used and as a result one side of his face was paralyzed for about a day. Other than that he was as perfect as any baby should be.

One of my first memories is when I was very small. We lived in an apartment building. There was another young family with a little boy my brother's age. Mom used to trade babysitting with Skippy's mother. It was a good arrangement for both. My memory is Skippy's mother at our door collecting my brother to go spend some time with Skippy.

Skippy's mother bathed him by putting him in the tub to soap up and then turning on the shower for a rinse. One day she dropped both boys into the tub and turned on the shower. My brother had not ever had this done before and was completely traumatized. He never did get over his fear of water.

I loved being the big sister. All my life as a matter of fact. My mother put my brother in the high chair one day to eat and was called from the room. Well I was a whole year old.... the big sister. I took care of him.

Mom heard my brother crying and gagging in the kitchen and came running in. I had found a jar of baby food in the trash and tried to feed it to him. He had baby food and maggots all over his face.

My brother liked solitude. He spent hours and hours in his room playing with his baseball cards. He shared the room with our other brother who was welcome to join him any time. He often took friends in there too.

One day my sister and I heard them in there playing cards. We had evil thoughts and decided to act on them. First we put on every stitch of clothing we owned. Then we knocked on the door and asked if we could come in and play cards. My brother wanted nothing to do with dumb girls and said NO.

Then we said we wanted to play strip poker. My brother was completely outnumbered by all the other boys in there. We were admitted.

They saw that we were dressed for the occasion but knew they could beat dumb girls. The first hand was dealt. My sister and I managed to win. We were kicked out of the room and the door was locked.

In high school my brother went out for football. After a couple of weeks of training he could barely walk. Mom took him to the doctor. His Achilles tendon was too short causing the whole back of his foot and leg to hurt. He had to drop off the team.

That short tendon could not keep him out of the Army though. He was drafted. He went to Basic Training. He had a furlough between Basic and the second training. After the second training he was home again before he went to Officers' Candidate School. He did not care for the training and dropped it. He was transferred and helped test some new tanks the Army wanted to introduce.

He was then home for close to 2 months. He received his orders. He was going to Korea as an MP.

The border between North Korea and South Korea has been an active war zone since the early 1950's. My brother wrote that there was often shooting. He said that the shots fired at night were like fast moving fireflies zipping across the border.

An event happened one night in the guard shack where my brother was. He was not allowed to give details and never did. All we ever knew was that it involved a gun going off inside the shack. Every person involved was called in to give a report. Apparently it was something serious. My brother told the truth as to what he saw. He was the only one that was not immediately transferred.

When my brother was discharged from the service he came home and enrolled in college. While he was there he met a nice young woman, they began to see each other, and eventually married.

Our family loved her too. The funny thing was that they looked like twins. Their hair color and skin tone was almost exactly the same. Their first names even rhymed. What they did not have in common was their personalities.

My brother liked being alone. He was slow to wake up in the morning and was grouchy until he was fully awake. She was outgoing and needed people around her. For her it was the more, the merrier. She would wake up with energy and be ready to meet a brand new wonderful day.

They wanted children but it didn't happen. Gradually they realized their marriage was not going to work. It was an amicable divorce. They used the same attorney and went to lunch together after the proceedings. They remained friends but they could not be married. We have all stayed in touch with her too.

My brother's job often took him to other countries. His employer made industrial computers which would break down from time to time. It was my brother's job to find the problem and fix it.

During his travels he began dating fashion models. There was one in New York City that was special to him but not special enough to give up his alone space.

My brother had his first heart attack when he was only 42. It was just at the start of Hurricane Andrew. He felt mildly uncomfortable but remembered how quickly our father's heart attack escalated. He decided to call emergency.

They came and took him to the hospital. By the time the immediate threat was taken care of and he was made comfortable the only contact phone number he could remember was his work number. By the time we knew anything had happened,  he was home and recuperating. Several of us offered to go to him to help him. He wanted to be alone.

The blood thinners he needed to take put a stop to airplane travel so there were no more trips out of the country. His company found another position for him. They moved him from Florida to New York.

One hot day after work he stopped at a convenience store for a snack. He suddenly told the clerk he did not feel well and left the store. He was found by other customers lying in the parking lot.

My brother died as he preferred to live... alone. Once again we were all together just as I had feared. After I gave a eulogy full of tears we had his ashes interred in the same cemetery where my parents and another brother are buried.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Grandpa was a cowboy. Not the kind you see in movies that go around shooting each other. Technically those are gunslingers. But Grandpa rode the range and herded the cattle. He was out there for weeks at a time. Civilization was too far away to stop in town every once in a while. It was a 2 day ride by horse. Horse was the only transportation available unless you wanted to ride shank's mare. That means walking to you tenderfeet.

Grandpa loved the animals. He especially loved horses but all animals were special to him.  He always had a dog too. Occasionally Grandpa would be the cowboy chosen to go to town for supplies or maybe to just see people who weren't looking after cattle.

As I said it was a two day trip. Often Grandpa would stop and stay with an Indian tribe for the night. They always welcomed him. Besides letting him sleep there the Native Americans fed him. One time there was a delicious stew that he ate with gusto. He asked what kind of stew it was. They said it was made with snake meat. He was a bit taken aback but thought he dealt with it well.

Another time he stopped and there was stew again. It tasted different from the snake stew. They told him it was made using horse meat. Now Grandpa loved horses. They were special to him. However he reasoned that not everyone felt the same. And after all there would be a lot of meat there. The whole tribe could eat a nice healthy meal. He hated it but he dealt with it.

Another trip to town saw him stopping again. He hoped they weren't serving horse because he loved horses. He even asked and was assured that horse was not on the menu. After a delicious meal he once again asked what they had eaten. It was dog. Grandpa never stopped again. He just could not deal with eating man's best friend.

Even before that Grandpa would often just ride all night to get back to the herd. It was beautiful out under the stars. And a cowboy doesn't mind being alone out there. It is what he does all the time.

One night he saw two glowing eyes with the creature behind them waiting to attack him. Grandpa was not afraid. He carefully lifted his rifle from its carrier, aimed, and fired. He aimed between those two glowing eyes and shot the creature right where he aimed.

It was a bobcat. Grandpa had it stuffed. The taxidermist put it in a ferocious pose. It looked ready to leap right then and there. Its mouth was open in a snarling growl.  That thing sat at the top of the stairs of the attic. I was terrified. It looked so real.

When it came the time that Grandpa decided to become a family man he quit being a cowboy. He went home to the farm his father had left him to marry and raise his children.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Dad

What can I say about my father? He was the most important man in my life. I adored him. Like all little girls my first love was my daddy. That is the yardstick we use to measure all other men, especially in choosing a father for our children.

I was a teenager before I realized that my father was not perfect. I also realized that he was so close to being perfect that the imperfections did not matter.

Daddy was born into a family of 11 children. He and his slightly younger brother were what was called "change of life babies" because their mother was older when they were born. Most of the older siblings were already gone from home.

It was a dysfunctional family. My grandmother was a cold woman who found it hard to care for anyone. I do not know the reason why or if there was one. Daddy loved her though.

His father was a heavy drinker.... sort of the town drunk. He worked as a brakeman for the railroad. My father always had a fascination for trains and had them for the boys to play with all the time.

The older siblings were gone from home. They could not wait to get away from the turmoil. Most of them moved far away and seldom came back for a visit.

I know very little about Daddy's childhood. I know where he was born and some of the places he lived when he was growing up. I know that once there was a terrible flood that destroyed their home and everything in it. That is about it.

Apparently Grandpa's drinking was a problem for Daddy. One day my father came home and found his father drunk again. They had a terrible argument. Daddy told him that he was through getting in fights to defend his father. Then Daddy left the house and joined the Navy.

World War II was in full swing so it did not take long for him to be sent to the Pacific arena. We do have a picture that he had taken somewhere in California before he shipped out. On the back he wrote "To the best Mom in the world".

Daddy was a gunner's mate first class, whatever that is. He told us very little about his experiences in the war. I do know that his ship engaged the enemy more than once. One time they were on radio silence for days. That menat no communication at all with the outside world.

When the silence was finally lifted he was notified that his father had died. It was too late for him to go home for the funeral. His last interaction with his father had been an argument. I know it hurt him for the rest of his life.

Daddy got the required tattoo of a sailor. Apparently it was a naked lady on his upper arm. He could make her dance by flexing his muscles. When they married my mother told him he needed to cover that lady because they wanted children and her children were not going to look at a naked lady on their father's arm. He went back to the tattoo parlor and had clothes put on his lady.

When the war was over he went home, met my mother, they were married. they were happy to find out that they would be having a baby soon after. My parents turned out to be very fertile.

Daddy wanted a daughter. He had come back from the war with a kimono for his wife and one for his daughter. I was the daughter he wanted and I have always felt very special because of that. 

My father is proof that a person can rise above a bad childhood. He was a loving family man. He truly enjoyed his wife and children and we all knew that. He showed it in so many ways every day.

That is not to say that he did not make mistakes. I guess when I was a baby I was crawling around with no diaper on. It was believed that fresh air helped prevent diaper rash. Anyway I bumped the table where his glass of iced tea was sitting and spilled it. He had a terrible temper and swatted my bare behind before he realized what he was doing.

When he saw the red mark left by his hand he vowed to never hit any of his children again. There were a couple of times that he went back on his word but we usually deserved a lot more that the smack we received.

My father never seemed to find his "home" as far as where we lived. He was always looking for that place over the hill and far away. We moved a lot. I went to 10 different schools before I graduated from high school. And that is not counting the times we lived somewhere only during the summer.

Most of the places we lived were in Nebraska. We lived on farms and in small towns. If we stayed in a town for any length of time we moved to different houses. We kept looking for the place that was his.

One summer we moved to a dairy farm outside Spokane, Washington. I loved it there. We lived at the top of a mountain. The only employee of the farm who lived as high up as us was a man who lived in a small mobile home nearer to the barns.

Evergreen trees covered the mountain. We could run and play in the trees to our hearts' content. And we did. My brothers got caught smoking up there one day. They were made to smoke cigarettes until they got sick. It did not stop them from smoking when they got older. Pobably did not stop them then.

The Spokane River was at the bottom of the hills and across the highway. We used to go fishing almost every day.

Daddy got very sick while we lived there. He had the Asian flu. The doctor said to keep all of us away from him. Daddy was put into the boys room. Mom had to take all his meals to him even though he could hardly keep anything down. She had to take care of all his needs plus care for all of us. Poor thing.

It seemed like he was in that room forever. He was so sick. And we were not allowed in there at all. He had never been sick before. It was a little scary.

Finally he began to get better. Sometime after that we were allowed to visit him for a few minutes only. No touching and no getting too close. He looked so thin and weak. It was hard to see him like that. Eventually he recovered and was good as new.

It was a happy day when my grandparents arrived. They moved there with my youngest aunt and two uncles. Grandpa had a job at the dairy farm too. They lived about halfway down the hill from us. My aunt raised worms for us to use for fishing. What she did was keep the soil under a big rock loose. She put coffee grounds in it every once in a while. We had plenty of worms for fishing.

The owner and his wife lived in a big fancy house at the bottom of the hill. The wife had three big bulldogs. They were her babies and she spoiled them rotten. Everyone laughed at her because when she took them for a walk to "do their business" she carried clean white cloth hankies to wipe them afterward.

The owner died at the end of the summer. His wife sold the dairy farm. We packed up and moved back to Nebraska.

Daddy always found work. He often worked as a farm hand. One time he was on the back of the tractor while the farmer backed up to get near enough to a piece of machinery that Daddy could hook it up. Somehow Daddy got his foot between the hitch on the tractor and the tongue of the machinery. He broke his foot and the farmer had to replace him.

For  a few years he worked for a house mover. People would own a house and buy new land to put it on. It was the responsibility of the house movers to get it there safely. We sometimes got to go watch them if they were driving near enough to home. One time they were close and we drove out to watch.

Daddy and another man had long poles with a "V" at the ends. They had to hook the utility wires and lift them so the house could roll safely beneath them.

While they were holding the wires up Daddy was waving to us and maybe showing off a bit. They rolled that house right over his foot! Thank goodness for those old dusty dirt roads. His foot sank far enough into the dust that all he got was a bruised foot.

After a severe car accident and long recovery Daddy got some training. He was able to get a job as a foreman on the night shift in a factory.  He loved his job. But the factory was experiencing financial diffficulties and they shut down the night shift. They told him they wanted him to stay on as an hourly employee but he declined.

I had my first son before this. I wanted my father to see his grandson but we lived so far away then. I finally saved enough money so I could take the bus with my baby and visit my family. Of course Daddy was proud to be a grandfather.

When it was close to time for me to go home to my husband Daddy told me that he would drive me. He and my mother had decided to move again. They moved to the big city that I was living in.

Daddy found a job almost right away. He was a foreman at a chemical plant. He and my mother actually bought a house. He found his place. He was so happy there.

The plant manager who was also an owner decided to retire. My father was made plant manager. He was liked and respected by the men who worked there. He was a very likable man. Most people liked him immediately.

One Good Friday a friend and I went shopping for Easter. My husband insisted that I take his beeper so he could contact me. I took it but I turned it off. I do not like being so connected. When we were done shopping my friend dropped me off at home.

When I went inside no one was home. In a few minutes my friend called me and told me my husband and children were at her house. They wanted me to come on over. I decided to stay home. It was quiet for a change. She insisted and said she was on her way to pick me up.

When we got to her house my husband finally worked up the courage to tell me that my father had died of a massive heart attack. I wanted to see that my mother was alright so we went to their house.

There were arrangements to be made. Several of us kids went with her. When she was picking out his coffin she was having a hard time deciding between two. One was a nice hardwood  and the other was a metallic gray. Both were nice. Mom said she kept being drawn back to the metallic gray one and could not understand why. When I gently told her it was because it was the exact color of a suit she had given him for Christmas when I was a little girl she smiled and chose that one. She loved that suit because she said it went so well with his blue eyes.

Daddy put great stock in honoring the dead. Visits to the cemetery and keeping graves looking nice were a must. And attending funerals was a way to show respect.

The chemical company was a union plant. When someone died the union would send a delegation to show respect. That is what they did when Daddy's predecessor died.

When Daddy died all the workers in the plant demanded the day off to attend his funeral. The plant finally realized they would have to close for the day.

It was a beautiful spring day. Much too nice to be indoors. Every last one of the men from the plant came to Daddy's funeral. They could have gone boating or anywhere else and they came to the funeral. The funeral home was so full of people they had people outside waiting to come in. He would have been so proud and touched. I know I was.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Love Story

My aunt was dating my uncle. No, silly, they were not brother and sister. My uncle's older brother had just returned from serving in the Navy during World War II. My uncle wanted to show his brother a good time so he asked his girlfriend, my aunt, if she had a friend they could double date with. My aunt's best friend was her sister who agreed to the blind date.

The brother was a good-looking young man of 20. He was glad to be home after the horrors of war. He had an outgoing personality. People liked him immediately upon meeting him.

The sister was beautiful. At the age of 17 she had just graduated from high school at the very top of her class. She was shy but confident.

The two hit it off immediately and began to see each other regularly. My aunt and uncle eventually went their own ways and married other people. The brother and sister married each other and had a long and happy marriage. You have already guessed that the brother and sister are my parents.

My father worked as a truck driver for a time. As was the custom at that time my mother stayed home and took care of domestic things.

For their honeymoon they actually spent some time at my mother's family's farm. One day as an activity they decided to go hunting. I'll never know why because shooting was not something that interested Mom. It must have been love.

Anyway off they went. Mom had a shotgun, I don't know what kind of gun Daddy used. They had been gone for several hours before they came back. Daddy was carrying Mom. Somehow she had shot her self in the foot. She was not seriously injured but I can remember seeing her through the years picking a little BB of shot that would surface from her foot every once in a while.

Daddy was a sports fan. Again because she loved him Mom would watch or listen to and sometimes even attend a game. She soon because as avid a fan as he was. When we were older and had families of our own Mom would say, "You are welcome to come over for New Years Day (or most other holidays). I'll be cooking and there will be plenty to eat. Just don't get between me and the television while I'm watching football."

Daddy on the other hand never really understood why we did not live at home when we started our own families. He said there was plenty of room. He really did not understand it.

My parents had seven children. There were also 6 pregnancies that did not make it to term. Can you imagine a family of 13 of us?  I was the first. One year later came a brother, next year another brother, two years went by before I had my first sister. After another two years came another brother.

My youngest brother was getting ready to start school and was worried about who would take care of his mother while he was at school. My parents took care of that by giving us another sister. Then five years later our youngest brother was born. There are fifteen years between me and my youngest brother.

When my father came home from war he brought a kimono for his wife and a kimono for his daughter. He did not know about either of us at the time. He wanted a little girl and I was it. You can only imagine how special I have always felt because I was truly the twinkle in my father's eye.

Our parents loved us. there was never a doubt for any of us We didn't have a lot of things. Money was scarce. But time was spent with us and we always knew it was because they wanted to not because they had to.

A short time after my father died I dreamed that he came in the door at 4:00 like he did every afternoon. Only this time he had been gone for a long time. He was carrying a ditty bag like sailors carry.  I was so happy to see him that I threw my arms around his neck and held on for dear life. Everyone else in the family was looking on with their mouths open in shock.

All except Mom. She stood and stared for a while then she walked over and examined his neck (that I still had a lock on). She backed up to the wall, crossed her arms, and said, " I hope you know I spent all thst money." She was talking about his life insurance.

Of course she had not spent it all but that was my mom. She was practical and Daddy was more impulsive.

I was a little hesitant about telling Mom about my dream but I told her. She started to laugh. It turned out that she had dreamed about him recently too. He had come back and all she could think about was how she was going to repay what money she had spent for his funeral.

I hope you can understand what good parents I had and how lucky I was that I was their daughter. I used to hear my friends complain about how terrible their parents were. I truly never felt that way.