Sunday, August 29, 2010

The 30 Day Meme: Day 3 - My Parents (in great detail)

My father was born in the early thirties.  He was born in the same town I inevitably was raised in.  He was the youngest of three boys and there were 3 and 6 years, respectively, separating him from his two older brothers.

When he was only seventeen years old and a senior in high school his father died of cancer.  By then both of his older brothers were married and had started families.  Luckily in the fifties there was some semblance of "mentoring" still going on.  And the high school principal took my father under his wing and made sure he kept his grades up, scored well on the right tests and inevitably went to SUNY Plattsburgh just 50 miles away.  If not for the guidance of his principal he likely would not have gone on to college, nor enlisted in the US Army.

Meanwhile, just a couple of years later up in the Adirondack Mountains my mother was born.  She was the oldest of 3 girls.  Her sister, Marilyn, was 2 years younger, and her other sister was eight years younger.  Sadly when my mother was only four years old Marilyn died of cancer at the all too young age of two.  A few years later my other aunt was born.

My mothers first several years of school were in a one room schoolhouse in which her mother was the teacher.  She ended up skipping eight grade and started her freshman year of high school as my father was starting his junior year.  Since the one room schoolhouse only went through 8th grade my mom ended up having to go to the same high school as my father.

And that's when/where/how my parents ended up meeting.  My father slipped a note in my mother's locker expressing his interest.  My mom showed it to her mom, my grandmother who dismissed it as being a practical joke of a fellow student with too much time on his or her hands...  Until that Sunday when sitting in church my mother noticed her admirer, my father, was singing in the church choir.

Over the years my parents were on again, off again, on again.  They dated other people one of which even really wanted to marry my father.  But in the end my parents ended up together.  Shortly after they married in the mid-fifties my father was stationed in Germany.  So for the first couple of years of their marriage as my mom was finishing nursing school they were an ocean apart writing frequently back and forth to one another.  Upon my mother's graduation from nursing school she joined my father in Germany where they lived together and when time allowed went on trips around the continent exploring Italy, France, Austria, & Germany rather extensively.

When they returned to their hometown after my father's discharge he received a call from his former principal who was now superintendent asking him if he had a job lined up.  When my father said no he was told he'd be teaching sixth grade at one of the local elementary schools.  My oldest sister was born a year or so later and when the principal of my father's school retired his old mentor saw it fit to make my father the new principal of that elementary school.  A job he held until his retirement in the late eighties.

Around the same time my sister was born, my mother decided she didn't want to go back to nursing.  Her schedule kept her away from her young family far too much.  So she received her teaching certification and started teaching sex ed at the local junior high (later Middle School).  As a result, over the years, all of my siblings, many of my cousins, and I all learned about the birds & the bees from Mom...  at the same time as about 20-25 of our respective peers.

Around 1960 my parents decided to become home owners.  My father contracted a friend of the family to help him build a house... the house that all of my siblings & I were raised in and my parents live in to this day.    My eldest brother was born around the same time.  And in many of the old pictures from this era that show the house being built he can be plainly seen playing on a blanket while the house is being built from the basement up in the background.

By 1964, with five kids my parents thought their family was complete...  Until the nation's bicentennial year when surprise of surprises my parents learned they would have another.  Me...

In the mid-80s the sixth graders from all three of the local elementary schools were moved in to the junior high which then became the "Middle School" and when I "graduated" from the 5th grade and was about to enter the Middle School my father opted to take an early retirement at age fifty five.  So from then on my father was the one at home, the one who would take me to doctor, dental, and orthodontist appointments.  In more recent years my mother has remarked that I was lucky in that regard as I ended up getting to spend far more time with my father than any of my older siblings.  As such, personality wise, I'd argue I'm more like my father than any of my brothers (something my wife frequently reminds me of).

In December 1984 my other grandfather died.  I'd never known my dad's father and losing my other grandfather at age seven, I honestly have very little memory of what it's like to have a grandfather.  Shortly after my grandfather died, my grandmother moved in with my parents & I and my aunt who had been living across the street from my grandparents moved in to her parents old house.

From the point my grandmother moved in with my parents & I on I essentially had three parents that at times were at odds with one another on how best to raise me.  It made for some rather confusing situations for me growing up but my grandmother made a point of taking me with her to visit he sisters and their families.  She gave me a sense of extended family I doubt I'd have had, had she not been around.  Considering my other grandmother died when I was only about five years old I barely knew and never met too many people from the extended family on my father's side of the family.

My mom retired the same year I graduated from high school.  Now that the nest was empty she and my father and grandmother wanted to enjoy their freedom.

As the years progressed my grandmother's health started failing putting my parents back in the role of her caregivers.  In mid 2001 my grandmother slipped and broke her hip.  She never fully recovered from her injury and never returned home.  She died in the early hours of December 26th, 2001.

Since then my parents have started spending increasingly more of their winters in St. Augustine, FL and less time in their hometown.  The winters up there are rather brutal and unforgiving.  Heavy snowfall, temperatures that frequently dipped into the negatives (and that's on the Fahrenheit scale) don't make for pleasant winters.  My siblings and I have tried encouraging them to sell the house and move closer to one of us or maybe get an RV and see the country half the year and spend about a month with each of us over the rest of the year... So far they haven't bitten on that idea.

Sadly my father's two older brothers have both passed on.  Some of my cousins have referred to him as the family patriarch in the years since his brothers' passings.  He's outlived both brothers and his father.  Despite having both knees and a shoulder replaced (one knee has actually been replaced three times now) my father is in rather good health.  My parents are continuing to enjoy their retirement and we're hoping they take another visit out here to see their youngest granddaughter sometime soon.

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