Monday, October 23, 2006

A Footnote to a Toast (READ TOAST BELOW FIRST)

(October 23, Back in Texas)

ARRRRGGGHHHH!!! The sentence in brackets got left out! ARRRGGGHHHH!!!

So, for the record: it really does mean the world to our family that Bree is happy, safe and above all cherished by Todd.

Even if I forgot to say it. Honest. Really.

*Cue voiceover by announcer who sounds suspiciously like CDE*:

"And that, kids, is why amateurs should not try to do a professional's job at home."

Oh well. I guess we're still cousins anyway. . . .

A Toast to My Cousins

(Evening of October 21, The Great Overland Station)

I am Holly P., Bree's cousin on her father's side. In that branch of Bree's family, I'm the oldest grandchild and Bree is the youngest, a wonderful cap to our generation of the family.

Our family's tradition was to gather at our grandparents for Christmas, Fourth of July and other big celebrations. While some of us kept those gatherings lively (*insert takes-one-to-know-one glance at Carson here*), little Bree was a quiet presence as she tucked herself into the middle of the festivities.

I particularly remember the warm glow in her big, brown eyes, radiating such happiness to be surrounded by all the people she loved--and the people who loved her so very much. That glow was much like the lustre of a rare pearl, nestled snugly in a velvet cushion.

At these occasions, Bree was a child of few words. But one time, when she was maybe four or five, she came into the kitchen and to the womenfolk preparing the meal announced, "I'm going to marry a doctor."

It touched me when she said that, because--as so many of you know--Bree from her earliest years suffered from very severe asthma. Many, many times, during family gatherings and on ordinary days, Bree had to be rushed to the hospital.

While those times must have terrified her parents (and certainly caused the whole family to hold their breath), what Bree at that tender age apparently took from her experience was this:

A doctor was someone who was kind, who cared for her, someone she could trust.

So, as Bree's family gathers tonight to (finally!) officially welcome Dr. Todd into our fold, I would like to say to Todd: Thank you, for being the kind, caring, trustworthy man upon whom Bree can depend.

Please remember that we, Bree's original family, are counting on you--for today we have entrusted to your steadfast care a precious, precious treasure.

And to that precious treasure: Bree, it warms my heart to see the beautiful, accomplished and loving young woman you have become. [And it means the world to us, your family, that you are happy, safe, and above all cherished by this fine man.*]

But, what truly moves your eldest cousin tonight is seeing you still have the glowing eyes of that dear little girl who, some 24 years ago, told us that this day would come. I knew when you said it that, indeed, someday it would.

A toast: To Dr. and Mrs. N. God bless you.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Welcome (and Happy Birthday, Gramp!)

Welcome to my blog!

Today would have been my grandfather's 98th birthday.

Gramp was an ordinary fellow, and an extraordinary person. He wasn't the type to have a motto (that would have been putting on airs), but "If you want the job done right, do it yourself" would have been fitting.

Third of 11 children, he dropped out of school after 8th grade and went to work to help support the family.

He married my grandmother during the Great Depression. Lucky to have a job in town, Gramp also leased and oversaw a farm, giving many of my grandmother's cousins an opportunity to work for room, board and whatever income the farm could bring in.

After WWII, he bought some land outside Topeka. Working alongside each subcontractor, Gramp learned plumbing, electrical, stone masonry and more as he built their white limestone house from the basement to the rafters.

The first grandchild, I remember spending summer evenings in the garage, watching him work on engines--or in the basement, as he stood outside the back door, staring down a tornado.

Gramp taught me how to plant corn, what the color of smoke told you about an engine (black meant burning oil, white meant carburetor problems), how to catch a snake that was raiding bird nests (put a fishing hook in a raw egg and hang it from a branch), how long highway concrete should cure before driving on it (30 days, with regular wetting down), and what different cloud formations told you about the coming weather. If you wanted to know how something worked--natural or mechanical--ask Gramp.

Seven weeks before my wedding, Gramp entered his final illness at 93. The doctors gave him two weeks, a month at the most. From New York to California, Illinois to Texas, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren hurried back to Kansas.

Over and over, he told me he didn't want anything to interfere with the wedding--we were to put him in cold storage and bury
him after it was over. But, through sheer force of will--and love--he held on. Gramp passed away three days after the wedding.

I love you, Gramp!