Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Turning 60--August, Visiting our 49th State!

I know, I promised that I would write a blog a month on turning 60, beginning with August 2012 and ending in July 2013, the month I actually have my 60th birthday. It is late in August and I have not done so---yet.

The idea is for me to do something special for myself during each month, something I would not ordinarily do. Something different. It may be costly, it may not be; but it will be a new thing, or at the very least, a special thing. I am celebrating ME!

Enjoying a rest stop in Canada.
OK, so I admit I am cheating a little in August. We just returned from an Alaskan cruise and land trip that was fourteen days long. This WAS different and it did celebrate US, as we look forward to our 35th wedding anniversary in November. In November, we will be in "high wedding mode." There will be no time for any vacations of any kind. So this we do, now!

I have several other blog ideas from things I learned on this trip. Traveling with an educator, if nothing else, assures that you WILL be doing some educational things. I have learned this and appreciate it. There will be future blog entries on some of these things. But for now, we'll just talk about the specialness of doing it, period.

We first cruised four days from Vancouver. The third day we landed at Juneau and did a whale-watching tour, then got on the ship again to cruise overnight and land in Skagway AK, and begin our land trip from there.

Cruising is the most relaxing vacation there is. You don't have to do anything for yourself. You can be as lazy as you want or as active as you want. As we discovered, you don't even have to want to do the same things. The downside is you can't text each other without extra charges, so we had be aware of what the other was doing. We both like the shows. I enjoyed being served in the dining room. But Jerry liked being outdoors on deck, and I took a computer class.

We did not take this picture. It was
just blind luck from our fellow traveler
The highlight for me was the whale-watching adventure. I expected, yeah, ok, we'll see a few blowholes and maybe a jump or two--woohoo! This was far more than my expectation. We were able to watch what is called "bubble net feeding," whereby the whales form a circle and swim around the poor little fishies that are not long for the world. The fishes then swim upward to the surface, in order to escape. The other component of this is that the seagulls also want to eat the fish. So you watch the gulls and they sort of are doing their own thing, and then they "organize" themselves, and one gull heads for the water, and in this process all the whales come to the top at once. Our guide counted 13 dorsal fins. My mouth was just wide open.

We watched this repeated four or five times and none of us wanted to come in; even the crew was enthralled by this. We had a marvelous day in terms of weather; and it's my understanding that this happens within about a three-week period, and to have a nice day too was just amazing.

The following day we disembarked in Skagway, and from there took the White Pass Railroad up into Canada. This was interesting in that our engine broke down, and there we were on the side of a cliff of the mountain. No wine to be had! They were very efficient though, and another train brought up a new engine within 30 minutes. We got to witness train maneuvers and then we were on our way.

In Canada we went to White Horse and Dawson, Yukon Territory. During this time I learned a great deal about the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, and all the history surrounding that. It was very interesting.

From Dawson, with its dirt streets and wood plank sidewalks, we drove in a bus on a highway called "Top of the World." This was another attempt for Denise to lose her mind as we went around perilous curves. We actually had a "lead car" going before us to warn people coming the other way of our approach. If you've ever experienced the "Road to Hana" on the island of Maui, you get the idea. Scared out of my wits! I decided to just take a nap and be done with it.

After one night in Tok, AK, we traveled to Fairbanks and had a nice meal and stern roller riverboat trip. That evening we went to the late show of a salmon bake. The next morning we rode the train to Denali National Park and spent two nights near there. What a completely fabulous area! Jerry went alone on the plane ride over the mountains, not enough wine on the planet to get me to do that, and the following day we had our bus tour of the park. It was about seven hours long, and we saw moose, caribou, dall sheep and grizzlies. It was a clear day and we could see the Mt. McKinley very well, even from the distance.

The third day we got on the train again and rode to Anchorage. This was an eight-hour trip but it was comfortable. We had a nice dinner in the dining car. Arriving at the Hilton in Anchorage, we had about seven hours before we had to leave for the airport. We showered and packed and got a little sleep and then we began the twelve hour (total) trip home. We arrived in Dayton at 10:30 PM.

This was unbelievably special and it WAS expensive! Haha! But I admit, I will most likely never return as there are too many other places I want to see so I just took it all in.

On a side note, I bought myself a Pandora bracelet. I have wanted one for years; but other things get in the way. I also bought a whale charm as that was the highlight of my trip. We won a gift certificate in the Denali Lodge Gift Shop and I bought another one there. So I have two, and my plan is to buy myself (or maybe the kids will buy me one for Christmas...) a charm every month for the next eleven months. Then, when the year is over, I have a visual of my year. The charms won't necessarily match what I do, but they will be something to remember as I celebrate--turning 60!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thirty Five Years Ago: The Longest Six Hours of My Life

It was Wednesday, August 24, 1977.  I worked at Farmers and Merchants Bank in Fairborn, and we were off on Wednesdays.  I was engaged, and  this day's agenda consisted of going from my apartment over to my parents’ house to clean it, and then going to my bridal dress fitting.

This picture was taken at
a family reunion in mid-August
of 1977. Two weeks later, he
would be gone.
I probably got to my folks’ house about 10:00.  Dad was an insurance agent; his time was flexible and he worked out of his home.  I don’t know where Mom was that day as it was summer and she wasn’t working, but she had just been hired as a teacher at Five Points Junior High School and may have been getting ready for the school year.  Dad asked me to clean the house in such and such manner and I remember thinking, “I have got to talk to them about this situation. I am going to be getting married and keeping my own home. I don’t need to be coming over here on my day off and cleaning their house too." Dad paid me to do it, I wasn’t complaining about that. I will be forever glad that I did not bring that discussion up that day. Dad wanted the house to look nice for what he knew the next several days would bring.

Dad left about 11:30 AM and my last words on this earth to him were “See you later!” As long as I live, when I use those words, I think of him and realize they could be the last words I say to someone. I finished up my work and was at the seamstress’ home at 1:00 PM for my fitting. In the meantime, my father had gone to a gun shop, purchased a gun; and probably sometime during my fitting, went out into a field off Haddix Road and shot himself in the head.

After the fitting, I went home to my apartment on the south side of Fairborn. I had taken a shower and my hair was literally in a towel, when my mother called me and she had found three notes on Dad’s desk (the original home office) telling that he was going to leave us. Hair still in the towel, I rushed over to my parents' house, and she had already called the police, specifically the police chief, who went to our church.

There was nothing to do but wait, and hope something would go “wrong” or he would be stopped in time. I called Jerry and he came over. We went out to dinner with a friend, and Jerry has never forgotten me watching out the window of the restaurant on Broad Street, hoping I would see my Dad’s car. I was not good company.

We went home and watched TV. We had a most highly inappropriate choice on TV that night. It wasn’t “Mississippi Burning,” but it was a show about racial problems in the south and was a crime story with violence and ugliness in it. It was the last thing we needed to be watching. At 10:00 PM the doorbell rang. It was our pastor and the police chief. I knew this wasn’t going to be good. The police chief asked, and I was able to describe what my father had been wearing when he left.  I thought perhaps he might be alive, but he had died instantly. Mr. Cox had identified him so there was no need for us to do any of that.

But, the waiting was just terrible. It was “only” 6 hours, but it was terrible. I can’t imagine what days or weeks or months would be like. My heart goes out to anyone with a relative or friend that goes missing, especially those who wait for a long time, or never have closure. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Family Reunion: A Celebration!

So far away. Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?*

As Jerry and I went to the family reunion, it was not beyond my notice that we celebrate the longevity of our family and our relationships.

Every time we go, we visit the graves of his parents and the house that I remember. His mom and dad were married 64 years, and only lived in two houses. The first home, my father-in-law purchased from his grandmother, as she “downsized,” and that was the home my husband was raised in. I have been in this house, between renters, but never had a real connection with it other than a rental of my in-laws (they had three). Nevertheless, we always drive by this house.

At both of their funerals, the procession moved out of town (Defiance, Ohio) and drove by this house, and then past the other house they lived in for the last 40 years of their marriage, the home my husband and I refer to the “home place.”

After Jerry’s grandfather died in 1961, Jerry’s dad “commuted” a few miles to run the apple orchard and farming of the land. Jerry graduated from high school in 1964 and the move to that house was during his sophomore year in high school. Two children were still at home, one in junior high school and one in elementary school, but the family moved into “grandma’s house,” while a small two-bedroom home was built on the property for Grandma to live out her remaining years.

My point is, people didn’t always move all over the place. And my other point is that, for the most part, people stayed married for life.

Jerry has one sibling that started out married life in that first home—as a renter. They built a home about 8-10 miles away that they still live in. My brother-in-law had one job, in addition to farming, all of his life. My sister-in-law had two, I believe, other than raising her family. They will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary next February. They have three children and fifteen grandchildren, two of whom are married. Their children live (1) down the road, (2) soon to be in Columbus, Ohio (I am beside myself!) and (3) in Kenton, Ohio; all within a two hour drive. No great-grandkids yet.

The baby of the family built a home on a piece of land he bought from my father-in-law. They celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary in October, and they have never moved, nor has he changed employers. They have three daughters and three grandchildren. The daughters have all actually moved to Fort Wayne, an hour away.

Jerry was the rebel. He moved to Fairborn to take a teaching job at Fairborn High School, where he stayed for thirty-four years. The rest is history. He lived in a couple of rentals before we married, but we have only owned three homes in thirty five years; our “starter” home in Fairborn, our “family” home in Mad River Township, and our “retirement” home in Fairborn. We have two children, one grandchild and have been married thirty five years this November. One child lives in Columbus, Ohio, and the other will be local, at least for now.

Jerry’s other sister moved where her husband’s job took them, to Jackson, Michigan for a short period of time, back to Defiance, where they lived in the little grandma house while my sister-in-law taught school, and her husband went back to college. After one year, he found a job in Fort Wayne, Indiana; which by the way, he still works for that company. Their marriage was dissolved in 1987, after 14 years and three sons, who have given her six grandchildren. 

Although she ran a business out of her home, she has only lived in two houses in the past thirty four years, the “starter” home and the “family” home. She has remarried, and they plan to stay in that home as together they have five adult sons and eight grandchildren, all living close to them.

This is really a pretty stable group! Most of the grandchildren are settled now, or in the process of becoming so, but it remains to be seen how many of them will move with jobs or other reasons.

Jerry is taking the picture!
As we get together, we are thankful for the stability of this family. I think one thing that contributed to this is that both of my in-laws were only children. Their parents were close by all of their lives, and it was a very small, connected family. I know they had good relationships with cousins—I met many of them—but my own spouse had to get used to the idea that I had cousins. He just didn’t get those relationships at all. 

I believe another reason is that this family was taught "contentment." That is, they are satisfied with their place in life and not always looking for a new thing. This is NOT to say they are lazy, in fact, most are some of the hardest workers I have ever known. A farm culture does not breed laziness. I am, by comparison, probably the most "laid back" of the group, but I am content.

We also celebrate the fact that for the most part, we all get along well. Oh, there may be differing opinions on some things; but we communicate in a respectful manner. Some are naturally closer than others, because of age, life circumstances, or interests. Children play because they love to play. Adults tease each other.

It is truly wonderful to be a part of something that carries on the traditions and with our technology, has kept us closer than ever. We are so blessed.

Lyrics copyright © 1971 by Carole King. All rights reserved.