Saturday, March 23, 2013

Death, Dying and What's Over There

   In February my wife's mother, Elizabeth, who had lived with us for the last year and a half, died at almost 96, so I have been thinking about death and dying for more than a month now.

Grandma Elizabeth
   The first time I ever thought about death was when I was less than four. I didn't really think about it, I just started crying. My parents and I were at my Aunt Florence's home in Eureka, California, probably about 1944. My mother came up to me and said, "Daddy might go into the army."

   I started screaming and crying and yelling, probably what we call  "having a fit." I remember it clearly today. I didn't think about dying. I just started crying.

   "Don't you want to see Daddy in a uniform?" she said. I started screaming and crying again. I don't know what I was thinking, I just remember the crying.

   My father didn't go into the army, but he joined the California State Guard. The War ended the next year. He didn't have to fight.

   I cannot remember anyone who I knew when  I was that little that died in The War. Other than listening to the radio and going to movies with my parents. There was no T.V.  I don't know what could have triggered that crying fit.


    The next episode in my dealing with dying was when my Great Grandmother Eunice Hanson died. We had gone to see her a few times. She sat in a rocking chair and seemed very old to me.  Now I would have written that I was seven or eight when she died, but I just looked it up and I was 14. I cannot explain why my .......memories ......felt ......young.................. Now guess what..........?

My Great Grandmother Eunice Hanson Price
   That wasn't my Great Grandmother Eunice Hanson's death. I cannot remember when she died, but the time I'm thinking of just couldn't be her because when I was 14, I didn't live in the house where the memory is.

  The memory is of my mother getting dressed up, and crying. She was in the kitchen. I was in at least the third grade, but not in the sixth, because it was not just before we moved from that house, and we moved in the summer after my sixth grade year.

   I was between eight and ten. She told me she was going to a funeral, and I suppose she told me whose, and all these years until just now, when I tried to write about it, I thought it was my Great Grandmother, but it could not have been. So I guess that death didn't really affect me, but it affected my mother, and that caused me to be concerned about death, but I cannot even figure out who the person was. I don't have one person in my family history who was close to me who died in those years, so it was my mother's actions that caused me to think it must have been my Great Grandmother.


   We get a lot of our emotions and attitudes about occurrences in life from our parents without any verbal communication at all. If we are a little child and our mother sees a spider in front of her and screams, we will probably be afraid of spiders. I'm glad my mother never screamed in front of me with a spider near.
   My father's brother  died when he was 16,  about two years before I was born, and my mother's brother died about eight years before I was born when he was only 14, and my mother's father died  only four months after  I was born, when he was 56. They were all young,  so my parents had to deal with death right before my first memories. I suppose I got my early attitudes about death from them.
   Darrell Britt (we called him Tony) was a few months younger than me. We were in junior high and high school together for three or four years, in PE classes together, and he also worked with me delivering papers.

   Every morning we got up at 5 a.m. and rode our bikes down to the Greyhound bus depot and loaded the San Francisco Examiner bundles into Fred Whitmire's old grey Dodge car. He drove them to the "paper office," a little empty warehouse, where we folded them, loaded them onto our bikes and took off on our routes.

   Tony was late often. Sometimes he didn't show up. I called him. I even went to his house early, knocked on the door and tried to wake him, so he would get his route done. We often had to wait for the papers, so we'd talk, or we threw old papers at each other, or we'd wrestle. One time when we were wrestling we fell out the window, and I broke my collar bone.

   He liked to fish, and hunt ducks. He had a boat and rowed it in Humboldt Bay, hunting or fishing. When he did that, his Brother Russell took his route. Sometimes Russel would come instead of Tony for two or three days. I got to be friends with Russell who was a couple of years younger than Tony.

   Usually one or the other would finally arrive. When they were late, we rolled their papers for them and stacked them, so all they would have to do was load them on their bike.

Robby and Theresa 1963
   One morning neither Russell nor Tony showed up. I called the house, but there was no answer. I guess Fred Whitmire finally delivered the papers. That day there was talk at school that Tony had died, drowned in the bay while fishing or hunting ducks. The next morning it was in the newspaper.

   Tony drowned December 19, 1956.

  I didn't know how to deal with that, so I did what  I thought my mother and father did. I didn't think about it.

    I didn't know what to say to Russell when he came to work, ....... so I stayed away from him.

Betty & Cindy March 1963

   A little over a year later, Dorothy and I were married. We had three children, and then Cindy was born in August of 1962. She only lived a year and died in September of 1963. That was when I began to learn better ways about  dealing with death.......


 I will tell you about it in the next edition.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Don't Forget the Old People

   When taking pictures, don't forget the old people! I've been looking at collections of photographs and finally realized that most of us forget to take pictures of the older generations when they are with us, with their children.

 Larry Shoemaker with his three daughters, Dorothy, Edna, Betty and Frances at  Elk River on an ancient redwood stump.
   I have a collection of my grandmother's, Alta Bockhouse, and her pictures are mostly of scenery, mountains, and places they visited. I only have one picture of her mother. Grandma Bockhouse was taking pictures in the 1940's, but there are no pictures of her mother or step father. Her mother died in 1945.

   The picture above is a good example of what we should do, a parent with the children. Taken about 1947.

   In the box of my Grandma Moody's pictures, also in the 1940's,   I only found a few pictures of her mother or father, or her husband,  or his mother though she did not die until 1955.

   In my mother's pictures there was only one picture of her father, though I have found many since then from her sisters' collections, but usually only one or two from each collection.

   It's as if we only think of taking pictures of children. We have hundreds of pictures of our children.

   We lived in Arcata, California for only two years and have many, many pictures of our children there. My parents lived only a few miles away, but I don't remember any pictures of them in Arcata. We did make it a point one day when they were visiting to have my father talk into a tape recorder and tell his childhood stories. But I can't find any pictures.

Angelina Hamilton 1829-1915
   I have looked through our Arcata pictures many times and never saw any of Dorothy's parents, or her father's sisters, or her father's mother, yet her father's sisters were there, near by. We did visit them. Finally, in looking through Dorothy's mother's pictures we found some that her father Larry Shoemaker took in Arcata, so now we know that they came to visit us there, but we have none of them in our pictures at that time. Grandpa Shoemaker took pictures of our children and our house, but none of them or us (at least that I have found yet).

   We forgot the old people.

   Sometimes we remember to take pictures when our elders get really old and hardly look like they did before. So when you are taking pictures of your children, take pictures of the older people too.
Rufus Moody 1851-?

   This picture, above,  is of my great great grandmother who died in 1915.  In those days the pictures were quite expensive, so people treasured them more.

   Since I wrote those few lines above, I have had some second thoughts, so I have to "walk back" as the politicians say, some of what I said. Dorothy and I have certainly not taken enough pictures of the "Old People," but there may have been other factors involved in why I haven't been able to find pictures of the "Old People."

   My Grandmother Moody knew I was interested in family history, so she made a special effort to make sure I had copies of some of the "Old People." She had the picture of Angelina Hamilton above made and also made sure I got a copy, She also had copied  pictures of my Great Grandfather Rufus Moody and made sure I got one, and some other pictures, too.  But....

   Most of the boxes of pictures I have received have been "picked over." I received them through a cousin, or other relative after they probably took everything they wanted, so I  didn't get a copy. The pictures I received were those that were left. The "Old People" that were known had their pictures removed from the box.

   Other reasons pictures were not recorded of the "Old People" were family feuds, divorce, and distance. We have only two pictures of Rufus Moody. He lived on the east coast, and he was divorced from my Great Grandmother Eunice Hanson.

   We have  a picture of her (on the left), which seems to have been taken at the same time and in the same place as her mother's (Angelina Hamilton), but the other pictures of her are when she was much older. Grandma Moody made sure I got this one, but others I got  from my aunts' and uncles' collections were when she was so old I don't think my relatives who had the boxes of pictures knew who she was.

   She came to California after she married her second husband, so the divorce and the distance kept the family from having other pictures of Rufus who was on the east coast. The family didn't even know when he died.

   Then there are the family feuds!

   Dorothy and I are now going through boxes and boxes of things from her mother's home. Dorothy's mother just died less than a month ago, and I had to revise my reasons why we couldn't find many pictures of the "Old People." Dorothy and I just forgot. We forgot to take pictures of the "Old People," but others may have neglected the "Old People" because of family feuds.

Gene Blake, Edith and Larry Gene Blake at Elk River
   We are discovering that Dorothy's father, Lawrence Shoemaker, has a wonderful set of pictures of everyone during most of the time he was taking pictures. He remembered to take pictures of the "Old People" most of those years. We have not yet gone through all the pictures, but we have seen that he has taken pictures of everyone.

   Most of the time....

   I am counting the "Old People" as  any that are significantly older than us.

   I noticed that the pictures of Gene and Edith Blake, Dorothy's aunt and uncle, seemed to disappear from Larry Shoemaker's pictures. Edith was his sister, but at a certain point in time, which I have not yet determined exactly, pictures of her stop appearing.  It may have been the distance because Larry moved away, but I remember hearing rumors of some kind of feud at about the same time. Sometimes people deliberately do not go and see relatives when they are in the area.

   The Shoemakers came to visit us and we found pictures of our family in Arcata, California those two years we were there, but I didn't see any pictures of Larry's sister, Edith, or mother who lived not far from us with those pictures of our children.

   It may have been the feud. 

   I also remember rumors of a feud between my Grandmother Bockhouse and her mother who we only have one picture of.

   Pride and anger are terribly destructive  to families.

   When the "Old People" are gone and we are sitting looking at some of the wonderful old pictures, and the memories of the good times come back, we will probably regret those useless family feuds.

   As my Uncle Harry said at one family reunion years ago, "The old people are us now."