Wednesday, August 15, 2018

70 Years

My family gathered for a milestone celebration earlier this month.

My parents celebrated 70 years of marriage on August 8, 2018. They were 21 and 23 when they go married in 1948, both of them recent graduates of the University of Illinois. Dad had already been to war and back. He had left the university in 1944 and enlisted in the Army in February 1944. He served as a Artillery Observer with the 291st Field Artillery Observation Battalion and participated in the WWII Campaigns of Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. Dad received his Honorable Discharge from the Army in 1946 and returned to the university, also spending a semester at Cornell. When he came back to U of I, he met Mom, and they married soon after.

They had James two years later, and then Dad went to war again—this time in Korea.

Dad writing to Mom while in Korea. Love the picture of Mom and James there on his desk.

Dad came home, they bought a farm in southern Illinois, they both went to graduate school (Dad got two master's degrees and a PhD, Mom got a master's degree), and then had four more kids—there are 16 years between James and me. We moved to upstate New York when I was 18 months old.

This picture was taken with our grandparents right before we moved from Carbondale, Illinois to Geneva, New York in 1967.

This picture cracks me up. I'm probably three in this picture, maybe four, and James is 19 or 20.

My parents spent their first 40 years in Illinois and their next 40 years in New York, where we lived first in this wonderful house on Castle Street and then we built this amazing house on Seneca Lake.

665 Castle Street, Geneva, NY
4233 Glass Factory Bay Road

We all miss our house on Seneca. Wow, how we miss it! But our parents moved down to Tennessee in 2009 —that house on the lake was getting challenging. And, more than anything else, all the grandkids were here in Tennessee.

And now there are even more grandkids and a bunch of great-grandchildren, too.

With all of us except our oldest brother, James, who is always missing.

With #2 son, John and Sharon

With #3 son Peter and Nancy
With #4 son, Stephen, and Jen

With me, #5 and only daughter, and Randy

With #2 granddaughter, Ellen, and Justus

With #1 grandson, Owen, and Bri

With #2 grandson, Isaac, and Courtney

With all the grandkids and most of their spouses: brothers Maxwell (3) and Kollman (6) on the front, all the way to siblings Owen, Ellen, Isaac, and Seith; to my kids Laurel, Duncan, and Jesse; and April (her sister Esther, the oldest grandchild, is the only one missing)

Rory, Xavier, Judah, Soren, Justus, Lucy, and Miles: all the great-grands except Corena and Abigail.

All the grandkids, most of their spouses, and most of the greats.

That was a 10-minute summary of 70 years of living. I left out almost everything. I left out heartbreak. Lost dreams. Uncertainty. I left out counting pennies, washing out dirty diapers, sickness. I left out sleepless nights, loneliness, doubts. I left out terse words, cold shoulders, and slamming front doors. I left out secrets, desires, and unmet expectations. I left out loss, pure anger, and heaps of disappointment. I left out the struggle.

I left out the magic of discovering the world anew with each child, the magic of a moonlight sail, the magic of snow. I left out thousands of days spent in the orchards, thousands of nights spent beside each other on the same double bed, thousands of meals started with a simple prayer of gratitude. I left out little sticky hands and the smell of peaches ripening on the counter. I left out the sounds of laughter and skis slicing through fresh snow and the waves lapping the shore. I left out my father's terrible jokes and his stories around the dinner table. I left out my mother's apple pies and her sewing machine and how she made tiny dresses for my Barbie dolls. I left out the two of them singing and reading the Bible and going to church every single Sunday. I left out redemption stories.

We all have our own stories to tell and memories to share of our family history, sure. But what makes up this marriage are the stories held just between the two of them, the ones we can never know and can only begin to understand as we travel in our own marriages.

I believe what my parents would say is that it all comes down to this: 33 lives directly connected to these two, and so many more to come. Our inheritance is richer than any bank account; their legacy of love surrounds us all, pushes us to greater things, to love and cherish and protect and encourage.
To rise above, to spread our wings, to always keep this in our hearts:

Love never fails.

(My father reading his poem "Always 21" to my mother.)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

First Day of Summer, 2018

This morning I read lots of Mary Oliver poems, and I was struck again by just how utterly united with nature she is, how her poems reveal her absolute devotion to the natural world. “I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t admire,” she writes in “Hum.” “If there is, I don’t know what it is. I haven’t met it yet. Or expect to. “

 I carried lots of Mary Oliver with me today, making a promise to myself to spend more time watching the raindrops gather on the bee balm and less time liking posts on Facebook.

This afternoon, during my usual visit to my parents, my mother told me this week’s stories, ones I have heard several times lately. About picking the green beans, about how her shoe fell apart, about how she did a load of laundry, and back to the green beans. At 91, her stories loop, and I nod and smile each time I hear them.

And then my mother started talking about the rain. “I didn’t get a good nap today,” she said. “I heard the rain and had to get up and listen to it.”

 Something in my heart wrenched and sang with joy at the same time. My mother heard the call of rain, after two weeks without, and rose to greet it. Oh, my mother, my poet, my kindred soul, who taught me the names of flowers and put jelly jars of the sweetest smelling Lily of the Valley by my bed at night.

 “I loved the solitude,” she continued. “I sat on the bench and listened to the rain. I watched the little cardinal flicking raindrops off his wings.” She flapped her elbows a little and gave herself a little shake. “Then the little finch came to the feeder and took a little nibble, flipped his wings and flew up to the big tree.”

 Here is my mother, the embodiment of a stanza from one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, “Sometimes”:

            Instructions for living a life.
            Pay attention.
            Be astonished.
            Tell about it.”

To listen to the rain fall, to watch the cardinal flicker, to follow the finch’s flight, to breathe in wet earth, to abandon sleep to soak it all in: that is how to live a life.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Junior Year (or Senior Year 1) Wrap-Up

I think I can officially say that school is over now. We usually stop before Memorial Day, but Duncan was taking an online Brave Writer class (Photography and Writing) through May and studying for the ACT, which he took last weekend. So... we are now done!

Because we are doing a 5-year high school plan with Duncan, I guess this technically was his first senior year. I'm not exactly sure how this all works, but I'm just going with it. Basically, we skipped 7th grade but then decided last year that Duncan really would benefit from graduating at 18 rather than 17. Five-year high school is becoming quite  a trend around here. It gives kids a chance to explore more classes, have a little more free time, take dual enrollment classes, mature a bit more. I am so glad we listened to that still, small voice that said: "He's not ready."

Our year has been so relaxed but so productive. We've had time to incorporate "extras" while sharpening some specific skills. Had he been pushed to graduate, some of these things just would not have happened because he would have been so pressed for time. Instead, here are just a few of the awesome things that happened:

Ten day trip to Northern Tier Adventure Camp in Minnesota: a week of dog-sledding, skiing, and more.

Received his Eagle Scout Award


Plenty of adventures:
Mountain biking
Spent a week in New York working on my brother's farm

Spent an entire night in the Philadelphia airport on the return flight!
Whitewater rafting
20-mile hike in the Smokies
Rock climbing at Torrent Falls, Kentucky

Awarded Scout of the Year for the local and district VFW

Student Ambassador for HonorAir Knoxville Flight #26. Duncan got to serve as an escort to four Vietnam veterans during this one-day trip to Washington DC to see the Korean, Vietnam, WWII memorials, and watch the changing of the guard at Arlington. What an amazing opportunity!

Lots of hanging out with friends




Besides all the extras, Duncan's classes were fabulous this year. He took Art Appreciation/Art history and Classic Literature at co-op. (Both were classes I taught.) We had loads of fun, and he worked really hard. Books read and discussed included: The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, The Count of Monte Cristo, Hamlet, Lord of the Flies, and lots of short stories, which the students were responsible for teaching. It was a fabulous year.

He also did Plant Science with my Dad, ACT Prep at home, the Photography and Writing class through Brave Writer, and current events at home. I'm probably missing something, but those were the highlights!
Art Appreciation/History class trip
Literature Class

Plant Science with his grandfather

So what's up next year? I'll save that for another post.

And a report on my two homeschooled graduates:

Jesse is still working for American Airlines and just took the LSAT earlier this week. He plans to go to law school in Fall 2019.
Jesse and two of my other first students at my literature class party.

Laurel just finished her junior year at Lipscomb University! I can  hardly believe it. She again made the Provost's List with a 4.0. She is living and working in Nashville this summer. She works at the same elementary school where she works throughout the school year, and is just having the kind of fabulous summer that every 20-year-old should have.

Hunter graduated; she's next!

And that ends our school year! 18 down.... one to go.

More on next year later!

Linked up with Homeschool Highlights and  the Weekly Wrap-up