Saturday, June 20, 2015

Appreciating Our Fathers

I like to say that I am lucky enough to have had 2 wonderful men who were my fathers.

My biological father was Clint Huffman.  He was 38 when I was born and I was only 10 years old when he died, so I never got the chance to know him through adult eyes.  I have many fond memories of him from my childhood though. Sitting on his lap or next to him on the couch while we watched Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel or Bonanza on Saturday and Sunday nights while munching on homemade popcorn and malts.  He liked to go to estate sales and would take me along with him.  Sometimes we would come home empty handed, but other times I would watch him as he picked out his treasures like old guns and old clocks.  Some of the clocks I still have and I love them.  Not only

because they are antique and are examples of fine craftsmanship, but because they remind me of happy times spent with my dad.  Even though he did not attend church with me, my mom and my siblings, several times he helped with construction projects in the church and that made me feel proud.  I remember several family vacations we took to southern California to visit his family and to the Black Hills to see Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands.  My favorite memory of time spent with my dad I mentioned in an earlier blog entry and that was picking out the Christmas tree every year with him.  He & I would walk around the lot and he would point to several trees and I would say no and keep walking.  You see I had to look at them all before I could pick out the perfect one.  Well, I would finally decide on one and he would look at it, smile and shake his head and say "Okay, that's the one then."  He would pay for it and load it in the back of the station wagon and we would take it home.  I was always so proud of how beautiful it was.  Now, looking at the pictures we have of some of them, they really were pretty sad looking, but he always told me they were beautiful and wouldn't let the family tell me any different.  He wasn't perfect.  He had his issues, but I choose to remember the good times.  He loved me and I loved him.

A few years after Dad died, my mother remarried.  It was a shock to me and my life was forever changed.  I had only met him once and I had no idea she was even thinking of getting married again.  You see, I was 15 years old, totally self-absorbed and living with my brother and his wife for a short time.  One day, Mom comes to pick me up after a voice lesson and this man is sitting in the car with her.  She introduced us to each other, told me he lived in Arizona and then dropped me off at my brother's house.  A few days later she comes to see me and informs me that she is getting married and the two of us are moving to Arizona to live.  Wow!!!  That came out of the blue for me!!  She also tells me this is happening in the next couple of weeks!  So, she gets married, we move to
Arizona and I have a new father.  Joe Hardy.  He is a wonderful man and the best step-father a girl could ever have. The first thing he did, once we were settled in is ask how much of an allowance I got.  I told him and he immediately said that wasn't enough and raised it substantially.  That was one way to impress a teenager.  My dad Clint, had never been into watching sports on TV a lot, but Joe enjoyed it.  Since I didn't know anybody at my new school yet or in my neighborhood, I spent a lot of time at home with Mom and Joe.  I was introduced to sports big time and began to enjoy a few of them, especially hockey and the Boston Bruins for some reason.  As time went on, Joe proved to be a wonderful father.  He always supported me in anything I wanted to do, except for driving the family car when I went through drivers' ed in high school.  For some reason he didn't want me to do that, so mom would let me drive after he went to work sometimes.  That's really the only thing I can think of where he told me I couldn't do something.  Strange, but it was just something he felt strongly about for some reason.  As the years rolled by, Joe always showed me he truly thought of me as his daughter in many little ways. After he retired and I had my first child, he volunteered to babysit her so she wouldn't have to go to a day care.  That meant a lot to me because I knew she would get good care from him and she did.  In fact, her first two-syllable word was "football" because besides taking her for walks in her stroller, he taught her the important things in life like loving TV sports.  Then my second daughter came along and he babysat her too.  They both loved their Papa.  A few years later when I was getting divorced, I asked him and Mom if the girls and I could move in with them temporarily.  Joe immediately said yes.  Then the next day he quietly said to me, "You know, you don't have to worry about finding another place to live right away."  That meant the world to me.  Three years later he died after a long and painful illness, but I was there to help Mom take care of him. Some people asked me how I could do it because it was total and around the clock care.  I simply said "How could I not?"  He was there for me for 24 years. He loved me and I loved him.

Since tomorrow is Father's Day, I wanted to say thank you to my two wonderful fathers.  Even though they are no longer here on this earth, I believe they can see the love I have for them both.  They weren't perfect, but then no person is.  For those reading this, I hope you can find some happy memories about your father. If you can, tell him thank you, whether he is around to hear you or not.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Sense of Peace

One of my grandfathers.
I never had the chance to meet him.

There is so much hatred and unrest in our world today that it is easy to lose sight of old traditions.  As Memorial Day approaches, I would like to share with you a tradition I have to honor those people who helped make me the person I am today.  Since 2006, I have placed small bouquets of silk flowers on the graves of ancestors and friends who have no one left to remember that they existed and were loved.  I started out with just a few graves, but several years ago I decorated a total of 117 graves in 7 different cemeteries around the
Siouxland area.  Most are relatives whom I have known or ancestors who died before I was born.  One is a childhood friend who died much too young.  Another is an elementary school teacher who really touched my life.  Several elderly couples were my neighbors when I was a child.  And there is the man who was my piano teacher and his wife.

This tradition may sound silly to you, but it keeps me grounded and reminds me of what is truly important and how precious life can be.  I hope you try it sometime.  You just might find that it gives you a sense of peace to honor those who have carved a trail for you on this Earth, even before you were born. 

May we all have a safe and peaceful Memorial Day.            

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Making the World a Better Place

We may not all achieve success
That brings us wealth and fame;
We may not set the world afire
Nor win world acclaim.

We may not blaze a glorious trail
That will live in history,
Nor perform great deeds of daring
For sake of chivalry.

But each of us can surely try
To win what hearts we may,
And make this world a better place
Because we passed this way.

I did not write this poem and I was unable to find out the author's name.  The poem was included in a scrapbook given to me by my sister Rande when I was twelve years old.  To me, this is what life is all about.  Making the world a better place.  Not only for ourselves and those we love, but also for those who come after us.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Great-Great-Great Grandparents
Hachaliah & Harriet Cain
There are times when I would like to have a time machine.  Not so I could change history, but because I would like to meet my ancestors.  I have been researching my family tree since I was 16 and the facts and stories I learn about them only whet my appetite for more.  It is almost an addiction.  It is certainly a life-long hobby.

I was born into a white, middle-class family in the mid-1950s.  I never had the chance to know my father very well since he died when I was 10 years old, but one of my fondest memories of him involved a Christmas tradition.  Since I was the youngest child, he and I would always go to pick out the family Christmas tree together.  To me they were always the most beautiful trees in the world, but the rest of the family had a different opinion.  Looking at the old pictures now I have to agree with my family that 5-year-olds simply don't know what a beautiful tree is.  But the memories of that tradition are still precious.

My mother was the one who brought stability to our lives.  I don't ever remember a time when she wasn't working, yet she was always there---guiding us, disciplining us, baking bread, taking us to church and making us a family.  Even after my father died, she continued to work, raise the four of us children and she started going to college part-time.  I have always respected her for that.  One of my favorite memories of her involved helping her at work.  She was a clerk at a dime store and every year just before Easter, I would help her unpack the candy in the stockroom.  Any of the chocolate Easter bunnies that were broken could not be put on the shelves, so, of course, I got to dispose of a few of them.  It was a delicious job.

Family was very important to my mother and I can see how her actions instilled that thought in me.  The family gatherings we had during my childhood will be remembered throughout my lifetime.  I had lots of aunts, uncles and cousins in the area.  My maternal grandparents lived close by also.  Every Thanksgiving we would get together for a big family dinner and always after dinner we would draw names for the Christmas gift exchange.  It was always fun to hear the squeals of joy and see the rolling of eyes as everyone peeked to see whom they had to buy a present for.  Next there was always whisperings of suggested gift ideas and occasionally someone quietly pleading for a trade.  It was all so very fun.

Along with all the eating and catching up on daily activities that went on at these gatherings, stories of the "old days" were always told too.  My grandparents and aunts and uncles were always talking about things that happened in their childhoods.  I think these stories planted the seed of interest in me which grew into the study of genealogy.  I find it all quite fascinating.

One of the most intriguing stories I have heard, I have not been able to verify, but I am inclined to believe there is, at least, a little truth to it.  It goes like this......One of my great-great-great-great-grandfathers was found abandoned in a boat off the coast of England.  He was just an infant and no one could find out who his family was.  After an unsuccessful investigation, the Queen of England herself gave the baby the surname of Skidmore and the child was raised in England.  He eventually immigrated to America and had a large family which I have been able to trace to me.  I admit that this story sounds outlandish, but after I moved to Phoenix I was able to get a slight form of validation for it.  One day, while working on my genealogy, I decided to go through the Phoenix phone book and call some of the people with the last name of Skidmore.  I didn't know whether these people were relatives or not.  As I was talking to one gentleman, he related this same story.  The only difference was that the baby was found off the coast of Sweden, not England.  All other details were the same!  Amazing, isn't it?

I have many other stories equally interesting.  A great-great-grandfather was an inventor and also worked with a circus for awhile.  A great-grandmother traveled from Wisconsin to Nebraska in a covered wagon as a child.  A great-grandfather immigrated from Denmark as a young man, got married, had three children and when his oldest child was only five years old, his wife contracted pneumonia and died at the age of twenty-two.  For the most part, I believe most of my ancestors would not say they had lived extraordinary lives.  But just their day-to-day existence is extraordinary, in my opinion.  I am equally sure that they would be amazed at my day-to-day life.  It is so different from what they experienced.

All in all, studying my family history has been both frustrating and exciting.  It helps me to find my own identity.  It also makes history come alive when I think about my own relatives and how they related to the current events of their time. What about you?  Do you ever wonder what your ancestors' daily routines were like?  Why they made the decisions they did?  Why they traveled to another part of the country even though they knew there were dangers and they may never again see the family they were leaving behind?  If so, try doing a little family research. It may open up a completely different path in your life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Childhood Friends

Me and Larde
What is your earliest childhood memory?  How old were you when that memory was made?  3 years old? 4?  5 or older?  However old you were, I hope the memory is a good one. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are when I was about three or four years old.  I lived in a small house with my father, mother and three siblings.  A few houses down from us on the same block lived an elderly gentleman who I called Larde (pronounced Lardey).  A nickname I gave him because I evidently could not pronounce his actual last name.  Yes, I was living in a time when children actually called adults by their last name, prefaced with Mr. or Mrs.
Larde was a wonderful man, he treated me kindly and I loved him.  He was a widower and a retired gardener who loved flowers.  African Violets were his favorites.  I remember he had several small flower gardens in his front yard and many more flower pots on tables inside his screened in front porch. Our friendship took place in his front yard.  It was there where I learned how to do somersaults and cartwheels with him cheering me on after every little accomplishment.  I remember he always shared peanuts with me.  Next door to Larde lived another family who had a little boy about my age.  Joey and I spent hours in Larde's front yard playing all sorts of games while Larde watched and made sure we didn't get hurt.  It was a very enjoyable time in my life.  My family moved to a bigger house in a different neighborhood after a couple of years and I met new friends and had new adventures.  But, I never forgot the times I spent in Larde's front yard.

I think it is important for all of us to keep our good memories alive.  Whatever they may be.  We can still stay focused on the present and plan for the future, but by recalling a pleasant memory or two occasionally......well, it helps make it easier to keep a more positive outlook on life.  And that is a good thing.