(Tim, Ellen, grandma and grandpa, and Reid during a recent visit prior to my folk’s move.)
This post plays directly on the few preceding it. Ellen and Reid have been all ears about their grandfather’s situation. The three of us have gone back and forth; they with their questions, me with the latest news and updates. We have borrowed time, enough so to collect both current information – and collect ourselves. Really, it is all about a family drawing together.
As it is, I’ve sat with my dad, he in his bed, me sitting in an institutional chair. We’ve talked candidly and openly, father to son and son to father, about two important matters: what lies ahead, and what is in our past. We know the first is coming and it behooves us to address the latter before it is lost forever. I write this on Saturday evening as I watch him sleep in his bed.
For years I’ve silently wondered about our roots; where we came from and who my/our ancestors are and what they did and where they lived. Every so often over the years would I poke around for tidbits of information but now my reporter’s notepad is out and open. My pen has plenty of ink. Dad knows what’ I’m up to as I glean as much as I can before he tires. The concerted effort to archive information began when I was here a few weeks ago. Much of it surfaced in a letter you can read a few lines further down this page.
This is important to my clan. Both Ellen and Reid commented as much as soon as they got last week’s letter that chronicled some of their grandfather’s memory. This is essentially an oral history. Of course there are ancestry web sites that offer to do the legwork for you. Or you dredge up the past in bits and pieces; just as I’m doing. There is something consoling and correct when you sit across from your ailing father and he opens up all he knows about his, and my, past.
Here is last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.
June 1, 2010
Ellen/Reid: EP, hard to believe that a year ago this time you were in a frenzy to get all the wedding plans finalized and done. It just seems like yesterday.
This Friday I go back to Omaha for a week to help prep your grandparent’s home for sale. It’s been a pretty abrupt turn of events since I was there two weeks ago. Your grandfather is now in what amounts to a convalescing wing of the same facility where this all started. Your grandmother spends her days in yet another wing, a lockup really, where she can’t wander outside the confines of the building. They can still see each other and have meals together, so that is all good. I’m a little worried about seeing him this Friday vis a vis his condition from just a couple of weeks ago. It’s just tough dealing with what he’s dealing with and then to throw in major stomach surgery on top of that. Your grandmother will move full time to her wing and when he’s able, your grandfather will join her in this new suite. It does not have a kitchenette and is apparently smaller so some of the furniture we moved will have to be moved again. We’ll rent another U-Haul this Saturday to move the heavy kitchen table and a dresser. Not sure what we’ll do with it once it’s moved but we’ll figure it out.
Your uncle and Gayle have apparently cleaned up the house as best they can and have already moved out all the valuables. The house goes on the market tomorrow. I’m somewhat perturbed with the real estate agent who falls back on that same old, same old formula of painting it neutral and re-doing some carpet. All that does is make it easier for her rather than her selling to the home’s strengths and overcoming objections. It’s in a great neighborhood, close to downtown, big wooded lot, etc. My job apparently will be to begin boxing things up. Reid, some tools are coming your way (or at least I’ll stow them for you) and maybe some other paraphernalia. It is somewhat difficult knowing your grandparents hardly had a moment to think about the move, let alone say goodbye. Boom, it was over and done with. Personally I have very little emotional investment in the house since I never lived there. I don’t foresee any of the furnishings as salvageable in a stylistic sense. It’s all period pieces you guys probably aren’t interested in. They weren’t much in the way of buying antiques and such. Cookware is what I have my eyes on.
I also want to keep an eye peeled for family history stuff. Your great grandmother, Mary Bradley, lived in Gretna, Nebraska. Her last name was Allington. Her dear sister was my Aunt Ollie, and she was a gem. A great woman with an incredible attitude. You guys probably don’t know this, but the entire time I was growing up, Mary and Ed (your grandfather’s dad) never lived together under the same roof but always lived in adjacent housing. Both very strong personalities. Back in the ‘40s, your great grandfather made some investment in wheat in southern/western South Dakota. He and Mary were going to move to Martin, South Dakota, in part because Mary had asthma and the thinking was the dry climate would be better for her. She did in fact make the move but Ed didn’t. Not quite sure what happened. But Martin was very close to the Pine Ridge/Wounded Knee areas of the Dakota Sioux which we visited often, and not too much to the liking of the Sioux. Your uncle and I spend parts of many summers roaming the plains. You guys may not remember it, but we made a side trip to Martin one summer vacation when you were peanuts so I could show you the old homestead but it didn’t register with either of you. One summer your grandmother was up to visit, and one evening they said “come on boys, let’s go visit the cellar.” We didn’t know they’d seen a funnel cloud west of town. The tornado removed every stick of the garage, lifted oil tanks at the Standard Oil depot next door and razed some housing across the street, but it left grandma’s house intact. We never heard a thing. Mary ended up back in Omaha and lived out her days in the house we moved into when we left Sundance, Wyoming. I’ll fill you in on Wyoming later.