As I contemplate the 51 years that have elapsed since my arrival on that presumably cool 24th day of November in 1946, I'm reminded that we all have our story and perhaps the telling of this story will remind me of who I am.
A glance at my ancestry, at least as much of it as I'm aware of will reinforce the facts of my modest beginnings... I descend, apparently on both sides of the aisle, from those who left the British Isles in the late 1600s and early 1700s for the promises of opportunity in the New World.
I'm sure the emergence of World War II was the impetus for my parent's marriage, and as you can see from the date of my birth, my conception followed closely on the heels of the conclusion of my father's military service. My parents were both in nurse's training and as was expected in the culture of the day, my mother quit school to raise her son. Mom, one of eight children from a salt-of-the-earth Wisconsin family, was always the anchor in our home.
By my 16th birthday, we had lived in 16 different houses in six states. At times I've been asked if I kept in touch with any of my childhood friends, and I've had to say that there are very few names that I can even remember. In spite of all this, I'd have to say that my parents were both loving and supportive during my formative years.
Dad always raised a big garden, and when we weren't tending to weeding and harvesting vegetables, he and I did get in the occasional fishing trip. Mom was known for her homemade bread—a skill she successfully passed on to my wife. What a wonderful bridge between my past and the present this bread has turned out to be, and I will venture to say that the bread of the present is even an improvement over the bread of my childhood.
Some of the good things I remember about my childhood were outdoor barefoot summer adventures. I loved the frogs, snakes, turtles and fish that inhabited the woods and waterways surrounding the town in central Wisconsin where we lived for several years, and would escape to them whenever I could. One beautiful spring day I was walking in a clearing in the woods and came upon a mass of probably 200 garter snakes—talk about boy paradise! I picked them up by the handfuls and had a great time. Of course this ten year old boy didn't realize that he'd broken up a mating scene...
One of the highlights of our summers is when our grandchildren come to visit. Our grandson, currently fifteen, has been diagnosed with a complex of musculo-skeletal problems that may very well shorten his life... while he was here this summer, we ended up in the lounge chairs outside, after dark, looking up into the starry heavens with binoculars. On his own, he started asking me questions about life—what I think is important, what I think about the end of life, what I think about relationships, what I think about God. Once more, as I write this, remembering those precious moments brings tears to my eyes. He must have related his experience to his sister, because when she came down a couple of weeks later, she also wanted to look at the stars with grandpa. It just doesn't get any better than that.
SONG: "The Winter's End" (from Celtic Christmas)