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My mother - age 8

My mother grew up in the Cumberland area of Tennessee during the Depression. They had no electricity or running water – unless you counted the mountain spring that ran beside her house. My mother was the only female in her house and therefore was in charge of most of the household chores. She cleaned, did the laundry, and cooked for her older brothers and father. According to my mother’s story, all the boys had to do was to provide the wood for heating and cooking. They were free to play all day long.

Her father was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and also owned a store that was adjacent to their home. His wife – my grandmother – ran off with another man when my Mom was 6 months old and proceeded to rob a train. My grandmother served 4 years in prison. (See Archive the Photo AND Tell the Story My grandfather wasn’t home much due to his jobs, but managed to be a rather good single-parent to his 3 sons and young daughter – my Mom. It was a hard life for them all.

Birthdays were very special days for my mother. It was the one day that stood out among the difficult days in her life. It was the one day when she was given the day off from her chores. It was also special to her because her father gave her a dollar bill and told her that she could spend it on anything she wanted in the store.

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My Grandfather's store & house

What my mother wanted was candy. It was a precious commodity in the hills of Tennessee, but for my mother’s birthday, my grandfather would stock up on the sweet stuff in his store. My mom was a smart young girl and her father’s favorite. She cleverly asked her father to keep the dollar bill for her for safekeeping. She spent a little bit at a time. For one whole year, all she had to do was to approach her father and ask him for a little bit of her birthday money.

It was the best birthday present – mostly because it lasted an entire year. My mother told the story that she is sure that spent $10 per year on candy – a sizeable sum in the 1920s. That birthday dollar bill was perpetual. Her Dad would play along with the charade and hand her some coins each time she asked for “her birthday money.”

This birthday gift might explain some of the dental problems that my Mom had later in life. But it also explains how her father made her life just a little bit better for my mother when she was growing up. And it only cost him a dollar a year.

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One Sure Thing

Paul and Kim current Photo scan We knew each other before we were born. Or so it seems. The way we think alike, our inherent understanding of each other, our imprint on each other’s souls has been there since the beginning of time. Our families lived 3 miles apart from each other when we were growing up in a little farming town in Ohio. I met Paul when we were in 4th grade – or rather he was in 4th grade and I was in the 6th grade. I am one year older than he is, but was two years ahead in school. I was a writer for our elementary school newspaper and I was assigned to write about Mrs. Benson’s 4th grade class. My younger sister was in her class and so was Paul. Paul was going to be President of the United States, he said with certainty. I noticed and recognized him. He was the other part of me.

Kim and Paul Picture This Photo Scan

Paul and Kim in high school

In high school, we were both trumpet players in the band. I was first chair and he was second chair, chairs we won by audition with the band director. Paul had an opportunity to challenge me for first chair, but declined to do so. He quickly became my best friend. I helped him find dates for the homecoming dance and he made me laugh. I was not too surprised when he asked me to the spring dance at our school. It was a bit weird to go with my best friend. But even though I was very young – and he was even younger, I knew I wanted to be with him as much as possible. He was my sure thing. He had answers to questions I hadn’t even asked yet. That school dance sealed our relationship for all time.

We married 6 1/2 years later on St. Patrick’s Day. Father O’Toole blessed our marriage that day – with an Irish blessing. The road did rise to meet us – but it was a rocky one to start with.

Our Wedding Photo

Before we left for our honeymoon, we opened gifts at the wedding, sorting them as we opened as to which ones would accompany us to Texas in our Plymouth Horizon and which ones would be stored. Immediately after the wedding, we left Ohio and headed for Texas for a 6-month internship job for Paul. I had already graduated from college, but Paul had two more years of school. On our wedding night, we stayed at a hotel one hour outside of our hometown in the direction of Texas. The next morning, we woke early to start the long drive and found that our car window had been smashed in and all of our packed wedding presents taken. We filed a police report, patched the car window and continued our journey.

We arrived in Houston, took a few days to move into our apartment, and then Paul started his job. In his first week of work, a car ran into Paul in our Horizon as he was turning right at an intersection. I walked over to the accident scene after Paul called me from a pay phone. He was not physically hurt, but our car appeared to be totaled. As our car was removed from the scene by a tow truck, Paul and I walked back to our apartment to figure out how to put the pieces back together. It seemed we needed to  cling to each other, as our few material goods were taken from us and all of our family was all back in Ohio. When Paul held me and we discussed our options, I knew we would be OK. What God has joined together, let no man pull apart.

A few weeks later, as Paul and I were getting ready for bed, we heard a man outside making quite a bit of noise. It seemed like an argument at first, then as we listened we could tell that someone was in immense pain. Paul ventured outside and I stayed by the balcony to our apartment to watch for his safety, but also to be close to a phone to call for help. Paul found two men and a 2-year old baby that had been in a motorcycle accident. The men, with the baby, had stolen a motorcycle and were traveling at a high rate of speed when an elderly gentleman pulled out at an intersection and clipped the bike. Both men were severely injured  – with body parts scattered at the scene. The baby was intact, but crying uncontrollably.

I went with Paul to try to figure out how to help. I tried to keep the baby still and assessed for injuries. Paul directed the emergency workers to the injured men and the older gentleman in shock. We returned to our apartment hours later, but didn’t sleep that night. We longed for the security of being with extended family and the comforts of home.

But all we had was each other and the faith that we could get through adversity together. Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us everything but the things that cannot be torn. God is still holding us in the palm of His hand.

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My grandmother with her husband's family

My paternal grandmother Edith married when she was 14, on October 4, 1911. Her husband – my grandfather, Harry – was 38, 24 years old years older than his bride.  My grandfather is the in the front row on the left. My grandmother, his new bride – is in the second row standing, second from the left –  the short young girl. I have spent a fair amount of time trying to imagine what my grandmother’s life was like and what was going through her mind at this time of her life.  It sound atrocious that my grandfather took a child bride. But the way the story was told to me was that my great-grandmother, Edith’s Mom, died when Edith was 1-year-old. Her father re-married and put her out of the house when she was a teen because his new wife didn’t want her there. She was essentially an orphan and there weren’t any homes for 14-year-old girls then.

A close up of my grandparents after they were first married.

My grandfather Harry had been married before and he had 2 children from that marriage. Their son was reported to have some affliction, perhaps Down’s Syndrome. My grandmother Edith was hired to take care of this son. It might have resulted in a marriage of convenience, but I believe my grandmother loved my grandfather and that he cared for her too. I have spent some time looking at this photo and my grandmother’s face. 14 years old. Alone and no one to turn to. Pregnant. Bound to a much older man. Finally having someone to take care of her financially and a home. Her expression looks blank. She doesn’t look scared. She has no idea how her life is going to be. Bewildered might be the right word to capture how she feels. Hardened might be another term that best describes her. I think she looks remarkably confident and resilient at 14 years old.

Laundry with 14 children

Her first son was born March 29, 1912. That was 5 months after she was married. The baby reportedly weighed 13+ pounds. Her midwife or doctor told her that she wouldn’t have any more children. She had 13 more after the first one, 10 boys and 4 girls total. (See Being a Middle Child, #7 of 14) Her husband would be ill most of his adult life and she would be required to provide for the family AND care for her children. They survived the depression by my grandmother taking in laundry for others and for farming out her 10 sons to area farmers during those times. But somehow she provided a happy home. The bond between my aunts and uncles was close and real. My aunt’s account during this time that their Mom “somehow” scrapped enough money together to buy the material to make them suits for Easter. Another remarked that she received a watch for a graduation present. She was sure that my Grandmother made payments for a year to be able to purchase the watch for her. After dishes were finished after the evening meal, they would play rummy at the kitchen table or my Grandfather would help his kids with homework. It is astonishing to me that my Grandmother was able to create this great childhood for her children – with only a little help from her husband.

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My Dad's family in 1939

This photo was taken in 1939, 3 years before 4 of her sons would go off to war. She is here with all of her healthy children and her 66 year-old husband. I found newspaper articles about my Dad in some newspaper archives that describe a very active family. Most of the boys and some of the girls played high school sports. My Dad was on the tumbling, volleyball, basketball, and football teams. Other uncles were also on the teams, making all-area honors. I have several photos of the younger uncles playing in the yard and by the creek. It appears to be a pretty wholesome family.

4 sons in WWII

In December 1942, my Dad enlisted in the war and reported to Camp Wheeler, Georgia.In October 1943, my Dad arrived in Africa for duty in WWII and joined his older brother Frank in the region. In December 1943, my Uncle Jim was the fourth son to enter the war. I have telegrams that were sent to my grandmother telling that my father was missing in action and then seriously injured and hospitalized during the war. I can’t imagine getting these telegrams with little information. It was another serious sacrifice that she made when her sons served their country. I remember when my grandfather died. I was six years old. We visited him at my grandparent’s house and my grandfather was in a hospital bed in the living room. I remember the tender care that my grandmother gave to my grandfather. She truly cared for him – it didn’t seem to be a duty.

My grandmother realized the importance of family. It was perhaps because she didn’t have one that supported her when she was growing up. Without having the rich family experience herself, she crafted a wonderful household for her 14 children, even in dire economic times. When her children married and had children of their own, there were over 80 people in the immediate family, too many to gather in one home. In 1956, My grandmother started an annual tradition of our family reunion, held at a park where each family would bring a covered dish to share. There were games for the kids to play and a whole afternoon where all of her children could gather and celebrate their family. This reunion is still a tradition even though my grandmother, grandfather and most of her children are now gone.

Some people are given a birthright in form of money or an inheritance. No one in my family passed down any material goods for sure. My birthright comes instead from my grandmother doing the best she could with the little that she had. “Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future.”

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Me and my Dad

My Dad died 28 years ago. He had a massive heart attack when he was 60 and lived for a couple of  days after it. My husband and I hit the road to drive back home as soon as we heard that he was in the hospital, but we got there right after he died. My baby son was 2 months old and we stopped often on the road so I could nurse him. We ran into fog and was behind a 9-car pile up on a Tennessee  highway and we stopped for the night because traveling wasn’t safe. We called home before we left the next morning and heard that my Dad had died overnight. I didn’t get to say goodbye. My Dad didn’t get to see my baby son. He would have loved that. I would have loved that even more.

My Dad was the best dad. My Mom told the story that at my Dad’s 40th class reunion, each classmate had to get up and tell what accomplishment made them the most proud. All other men mentioned their career, or the car they drove, or the house they lived in. My Dad talked about his children and how well we were doing, how smart we were, and how happy he was. It was pretty progressive for a man of his generation to speak of his children. She said he even choked up a bit – maybe because he was nervous. But Mom wanted us to know what he had to say about his life and his accomplishments. He was telling his truth, even if it meant exposing some emotion.

My Dad saved a man’s life once. At age 58, he worked on top of a stack at an oil refinery. He used high-pressure air hoses to clean the stack. While working beside my Dad, a co-worker fell into the stack. Without company training, my Dad instinctively knew that his co-worker wouldn’t live long inside the stack without air. There were poisonous gases inside the stack and getting oxygen to him was critical. My Dad took one of the air hoses and pointed it into the area that his co-worker fell. His quick thinking gave the emergency response team time to climb the scaffolding to the stack and rescue the worker. My Dad received a citation and a plaque from the company for his quick-thinking. His photo was in the newspaper. Not only was he my hero, but in the eyes of his co-worker’s family, he was Superman.

A dance with Dad

My Dad enjoyed his organic garden ( My Dad – The original organic farmer.) , telling corny jokes ( Knock-knock) , playing with his grand-kids, and getting to know people – especially new acquaintances. He lent money to friends who were going through hard times, even when he endured going without work himself. He volunteered as a football coach for “Pee-Wee” football (Football Boogie ) in our community. He spent extra time with my blind cousin to make her feel special whenever he saw her. He taught us to dance  Saturday night in the living room when the Grand Ole Opry was on TV. He worked hard to provide for us as best as he could. He was essentially the laughter and soul in our family.

Even though he was one of 14 kids in his family (Being a Middle Child, #7 of 14), and grew up in a family were affection wasn’t really shown, my Dad somehow knew how to let us know that we were special. He parented us better than he was parented for sure and our lives were much better than he knew as a child.

Father’s Day used to be a tough day for me. But now I just spend some time with the memory of my father and the rich feeling that I am truly blessed to have had the father that I had.

My Dad

For my father’s funeral, we read a poem by Emerson that described my Dad exquisitely. He wasn’t a rich man, or famous, or prosperous in his career by any means. But he did triumph at being a father. He truly did the best that he could.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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During my childhood, I only had 2 real family vacations. I have vivid memories of both of these vacations – I can remember the tiniest details of each trip. Traveling in the car through the countryside made quiet an impression on me. Other than visiting my mother’s brother in Indiana or going to Cedar Point for the day, we stayed close to our home in Ohio. It was a real treat to venture for an extended trip on a “real” vacation.

My childhood vacation in Tennessee

The first vacation was when I was seven. My Mom grew up in mountains of Tennessee  (See: The Story part of Family History) and though she left the hills when she was young, her brother and his family still lived there.  My older brother, my Mom & Dad, and my two sisters and I fit into a borrowed truck with an attached camper on the back and we drove to Tennessee. We stopped at roadside picnic tables to retrieve the prepared fried chicken with honey from inside the camper. Mom thought it would be a good meal for our travels because stopping to eat along the way at a restaurant was too expensive and fast food was not very available. We loved the chicken with honey, but the bees loved it too and swarmed us as we tried to eat it. My dad’s potato salad (See: Schlumgolian ) and Kool-aid rounded out the lunch-time meal. It was a perfect lunch for a family with kids.

The Smoky Mountains

Before we went to my Uncle’s house, we spent some time in the mountains at a camping ground. We feared the bears and stayed close to the camper during the day. There was something about this trip that made my mom anxious. She was not enjoying herself and perhaps her anxiety rubbed off on us. I thought at the time that she was afraid of the bears as well, but found out later  – much later – that she was claustrophobic in the camper. She couldn’t sleep at night and stepped out to be able to breathe, only to be chased back inside by mosquitos. She later remarked that she grew up without indoor plumbing or electricity, and by cooking over wood. She had absolutely no appeal for camping. It reminded her of her tough upbringing and she liked the comforts of home. Camping was a means to an end, as we could afford to take this vacation in the camper. We would not have been able to pay for a hotel room for sure (see My Dad – the Original Organic Gardener).

We visited a Cherokee Indian reservation in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and watched an exhibition and tribal dance that the natives put on for visitors. Bears lived in the area and we saw a baby bear just off the road. We wanted to hug it – thinking it would be like our stuffed animals at home. But my mother was aware that the Mama bear some distance away would be protective of her cub and Mom kept us away.

After a few days of camping, we arrived at my uncle’s home in Eastern Tennessee – near Cumberland Gap. He lived in the country, near a pond and a wooded area. We warmed up pretty quickly to our older boy cousins and were playing outside. Cousin Bruce pushed us on their swing set. Mom came off the porch and asked us if we had seen Jane – my youngest sister who was 3. We didn’t know where she was. Panic surrounded us when my Mom ran inside the house, then back outside shouting her name. Mom started out into the wooded area near their property, shouting her name more and more loudly. She instructed my Dad to check near the pond. Neighbors quickly sensed that an emergency was occurring and dropped their activities to join in the search. Eventually someone called the sheriff to report my missing sister. My Mom started to cry and she N-E-V-E-R cried. I went back into the house to see if I could find her and looked under beds and in closets, but there was no evidence of my sister anywhere. After what seemed like an eternity, my aunt came out of the house carrying my sister. Jane became tired after playing outside and retreated to one the bedrooms to take a nap. She had crawled under a makeshift mattress on the floor that we slept on the previous night. It had been propped up to dry when one of us wet the bed the night before. She was under it far enough to conceal her nap. Afterwards, Mom seemed as protective as the Mama Bear that we had seen a few days earlier. She kept a watchful eye on us all. She enjoyed visiting with her brother and sister-in-law, but we could tell she was ready to return home.

Our second vacation didn’t happen until I was in high school. My dad’s favorite childhood cousin had come to town for a visit and asked my Dad to return to Michigan with him for a week. My Dad was unemployed and it was easy for him to take the week off. This cousin lived near a lake located on back side of a state park in Machinaw City. They intended to fish for a week – just like they did in their younger years when they were free and unencumbered with family. The following week then, we would drive to Michigan to visit for a few days and drive back with my Dad.

The trip to Michigan was in our family car and it held 6 of us. It was crowded  and we even took a tent with us as there wasn’t room in the their house for us all. My younger sister’s boyfriend came with us and my Mom forced my Dad to sleep outside with the kids to make sure that all was totally proper. We all drove north to visit the locks at Sault Ste. Marie and even ventured into Ontario, Canada. It was a big deal that we left the United States – even if it were only for 1 hour.

The thing that impressed me the most was the blueberries. We strapped the handle of gallon plastic water jugs that had been cut back at the top to our belt loops and set out in the woods to pick blueberries. I ate twice as many as I put in my gallon container. I tried to conceal how much I ate, but the blue on my teeth gave it away. We still came back from the woods with gallons of blueberries. For dinner, we celebrated with blueberry pies and cobbler. It was probably the best dessert I ever had.

We drove home as quickly as we could. We now had 7 in our Chevy Impala and with 4 in the back seat, we couldn’t get home fast enough. It really was an adventure to go on vacation. But sometimes just the process of getting away makes you appreciate home even more.

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I have a plethora of  first cousins – 58 at last count. My Dad was one of 14 children (See Being a Middle Child, #7 of 14) and most of his siblings had several children each. Most of my cousins lived in my home town and I had regular interactions with them. I also have several cousins from my Mom’s side of the family (See Archiving Photos, and Telling the Family Story). They lived in another state and we didn’t see them very often.

Several of my many cousins

On Sundays, my Dad would take us kids for a drive  and we would drop in unexpectedly at his numerous brothers & sister’s houses – as well as his mother’s.  I remember making the rounds when my mother had a baby and was in the hospital for a few days. He threw us in the car and we visited between 8 or 9 of his siblings that day. He told the same stories and details to each family and all the cousins were impressed with the idea of a new sister. We played with all of the cousins’ toys and games and returned home with new appreciation for the fun of playing with cousins. There was something special about it. We didn’t know them that well (there were so many), but they seemed to like us and treat us in a way set apart from other childhood friends that we had. The connection was  a mystery to us – we were bonded to each other in a way we didn’t really understand.

My Grandmother's House - My Dad and his family

There was always another family or two at my Grandmother’s house. There were several cousins that I didn’t know well, but it was like a school playground in her backyard. We climbed trees or played some kind of ball while waiting for our parents to visit. We went there unannounced and it was a surprise to us to see who might be there.  I knew the cousins that lived closer to us much better than the ones that went to another school. But they were all interesting to me. There was one other cousin that had red hair as I did and it intrigued me to see how she handled the teasing. Sometimes I felt like I was looking in a mirror. There were 4 boy cousins within a year of my age. Their antics were very impressionable to me when I was about 7 years old. They decided to have a peeing contest to see who could pee the furthest from behind the line. I couldn’t figure out how to participate, but observed that their antics looked like they were having fun.

My grandmother started a tradition of a family reunion 55 years ago. There was not room for all family members to meet at one location, so someone reserved a park shelter and we all met there. Every one would bring a casserole or dessert to share and the kids were usually treated to ice cream or popsicles. There were some organized games for the cousins, but the best fun was the impromptu activities that occurred on the playground. I didn’t know who were brothers and sisters with each other and didn’t know who their parents were, but it didn’t matter. It is still a tradition even though the older generation has mostly died. It is mostly just the cousins and their offspring that attend now. The connection still exists. Our histories are forever entangled.

My parents lived around the corner from my Dad’s brother Jim and his wife Mid. They came over to our house each weekend to play pinochle and my cousins Brian and Shelly came with their parents.  Brian was exactly a year younger than me and Shelly was 3 years younger. Sometimes we played our own card games to play, but usually we found more interesting activities. We went outside for hours until late in the night to shoot the basketball. Several times the ball would hit me in the face because it was too dark to see it. To this day I can beat anyone I know in the game of H-O-R-S-E. Brian worked on his ’56 Chevy in his high school years and I hung out with him and observed his hobby. In college I changed the oil in my own cars and changed out the water pump when it malfunctioned. In our activities together, Brian became my brother. The photos of my antics with my cousins may have faded, but my memories have not. These memories are the essence of my childhood in a very large family.

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To an outsider, Mom probably appeared to be a dour person. She was nice to people, and she always taught us to be respectful. But unless she had a reason to really be friendly to someone, she didn’t necessarily smile. Now to her family and friends, she laughed more often. But to people who she didn’t know, she gave a grave impression.

My Mom Smiling

Part of the reason for this was because her childhood was difficult (See: Archiving Photos and Videos – Preserve the Family Story). Another reason to keep an austere demeanor was that she was ashamed of her smile. She feared dentists from a very bad childhood experience. I recall a story about the dentist in the mountains where she grew up wasn’t a dentist at all, just a town barber that owned a chair that would tilt back. The only remedy for a toothache was to have it pulled. Out of fear, she simply didn’t visit the dentist. My mother conserved her smiles and laughter.

But when my mother did find something funny  –  Oh My! – laughter would erupt out of her. She had no control over it. One event that triggered this was someone falling down. She couldn’t help it. She wasn’t mean, in fact, she would empathize over the embarrassment and certainly hope they weren’t hurt. But if someone fell, particularly an awkward fall, my mother would start to quiver. She’d bit her lip, her eyes would start watering, she’d hold her side and then explode with laughter. She would laugh for a long time. Just as she would get it under control, she would catch someone’s eye who was enjoying this spectacle, and she would start all over again. It could go on for what seemed like an hour. We grew up in Ohio and the winters were icy. There could be several episodes of people falling on ice each winter. She was never able to control herself. Each time was like the first time that she had ever seen someone fall.

Another instance that would elicit this outburst of laughter from Mom was someone mixing up their words while speaking. Actually, Mom did this quite more than most people, and she laughed at herself as well. If, for instance, someone said “amn dapple”, meaning to say “damn apple”, she commenced into another spell of uncontrolled spasms.  Man, she would crack up. An hour later, she would return to her serious expression, as if her portion of humor was over for the day. That is, unless she tried to relay the story to someone else. She would start laughing all over again in the re-telling.

I remember when I was about six years old an event that made the top of the all-time story-telling list in our family. My younger sister and I were playing on the swing set in the back yard. My 5 year-old sister wore corrective shoes and one shoe was larger than the other on the sole of the shoe. There was an old tin coffee pot in the back yard (perhaps used to water plants) and while we were playing, my sister ran and accidently put her shoe into the coffee pot. Her foot wouldn’t come out of the shoe and the shoe wouldn’t come out of the pot.  My sister was crying because she was walking around very awkwardly with the coffee pot stuck to her shoe. I ran inside to tell my Mom what had happened. When Mom saw the predicament that my sister was in, she started laughing so hard that she could not do anything but convulse into laughter onto a swing on the swing set. She couldn’t  help herself. She was hysterical.  Eventually, the neighbor man saw that something was amiss and came over to cut the coffee pot off of my sister’s foot with tin snips. My sister was fine. There wasn’t a thing he could do to help my mother.

My Dad a few weeks before he died

When my father died unexpectedly at the age of 60, laughter was Mom’s best medicine.  She mourned and cried to be sure. She weeped uncontrollably many times. But two episodes happened during the course of the funeral that caught her off-guard and the laughter started. She didn’t mean to be disrespectful – in fact, my father would have enjoyed the circumstance. He agreed that laughter – even through tears – is the best emotion.

At the funeral, Mom stood at the casket and greeted the MANY people who came for visitation at the funeral home. As the night wore on, a trio of ladies that she didn’t know came into the room. They seemed to move in one unit as if they were tied together. They all had scarves tied under their chin and huddled together as they approached the casket. The site of them was humorous. Mom stood the side, and waited to talk to them. One of them said while dabbing her eyes, “Boy – he must have been really sick for a while.” (Pause) Another one said, ” Yes, this just doesn’t look like him at all”. (Longer Pause) The third finally said, “Wait a minute, this isn’t John – we must be in the wrong room.” Mom heard all of this and just started laughing so hard that she started crying and couldn’t stand up straight. She summoned me to come over and escort her out of the room. She thought that people would think she was crazy because she was laughing so hard, so she pretended to be breaking down crying. She left until she could compose herself. It took several minutes for the laughter to stop.

A few weeks later, my two sisters and my Mom went to the National Monument Memorial Stone Company to pick out a headstone for my father’s grave. My father received a flat military stone for his gravesite (See: The Front Line) , but my mother decided that she wanted a headstone as well. On the way, they started talking about some of the “memories” of Dad and they started laughing. As they pulled up to parking lot, they were already laughing pretty hard. Then my sister opened her door and caught her foot and fell out of the car.  My mother witnessed it and you can guess the state she was in. As they walked into the place uncontrollably laughing, the fellow that was trying to help them was fairly perplexed. I imagine that was the first time anyone came into his store acting like that. They really tried to stop and gather ourselves before we went in but it was impossible. Somehow they managed to purchase a double headstone for both my father’s grave and one that would serve in the future for my mother’s as well. It had my father’s name, his date of birth and his date of death. On the other side, it also had my mother’s name, her date of birth and a placeholder for the future date of her death.  I would have liked the grave stone to also say “A smile starts on the lips. A grin spreads to the eyes. A chuckle comes from the belly. But a good laugh erupts from the soul.”

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