Saturday, November 3, 2007

Thankful For: Family Ties

In the fall of 1909, in a small town in Washington state a baby boy came into the world. One of ten children born into this family, this little boy would grow up in a difficult time, and eventually leave his home at the approximate age of *12 years old. As he set out on his own in the early 1920's, hoping to find a way to provide for himself, he was not unlike any other 12 year old boy, on his way to becoming a young man. The one big difference was of course, was that he was now on his own, and would have only himself to depend on.

For the next several years he took what work he could find to support himself, and eventually joined the US Army. He travelled the world and served his country, and eventually married his sweetheart and had four children. A man of industrious means, he raised up his children with a strong work ethic and was the backbone of love and respect in his family. His children grew up and married and had children of their own, and some of those children were fortunate enough to live close by to the man and spend their childhoods and young adult lives with their grandfather as a strong influence in their own upbringing. Some of those children married and had children of their own and then there was a third generation that also lived close by their great-grandfather, and grew up with that same influence in their own lives.

He was a quiet man who believed in a good education, and continued to persue his own education throughout his life, in a variety of ways. He was a man who believed in a strong family ethic, and a man who could operate just about any hand tool or power tool ever invented. He could take an everyday stone, cut it and polish it and turn it into something beautiful. He could take a piece of wood and turn it into a fine piece of furniture that would be treasured for generations to come. He loved to play pool, he loved to bowl, and he was an excellent competitor at both, with a wall filled with trophies as a result of his participation. He put a pool table in his basement and taught his grandchildren how to play, and how to play well. He would often handle a wrapped gift handed to him on his birthday, or Father's day or Christmas by gently shaking it (no matter what size or how obvious it was) and say with a smirk "well, it's not a jigsaw puzzle". We'd all smile, even though we knew that's exactly what he was going to do, and say.

The man I speak of was my GPa, and today was his birthday. November 3, 1909. The phone call that came the morning of November 9, 1992, just a week after his birthday, telling me that he was gone, was the worst phone call of my life. All the wind seem to simply exit from me and I slipped to the floor in shock. I just sat there and cried for the longest time. He hadn't been well and we all knew it was coming, but to actually have that day arrive was the most surreal event I'd ever experienced up to that point in my life. I grew up without my own dad present in my life, but my GPa was there every day. Coming to school events, baseball games, parades downtown, graduations, birthdays, Christmas day... all the events that mark out a growing child's life, GPa was there. GPa was just always there, and now GPa was gone. There's still an empty place in my heart, all these years later. Yes, there is a lump in my throat and a slight sting in my eyes as I type this.

Today I am so incredibly thankful that my GPa was a part of my growing up, and was there for me for the first 28 years of my life. The values he and my Gma raised my mom with, that she in turn instilled in me and that I witnessed in him as I grew up, are the same values I strive to raise my own kids with. Only my oldest girls ever knew him, but he left a legacy for them that I hope some day they also raise their own families with.

(*Some of the events of his childhood may be a bit fuzzy, as I'm only going on memory.)