Saturday, February 24, 2007

Unwinding and Absorbing

Good Morning! I figured I could say that now since it is, technically, morning. To me, it is still night and the time of the day when I normally tend to be the most wide awake. Try talking to me or getting anything semi-intelligible out of me between oh say, 6 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Odds are is all you'd get then is a half-way understandable request for information about coffee. Remember, I am a night owl, you know.

Earlier this evening I was digging into my research project - after a lengthy hiatus from it over the past two, probably three months or maybe even a bit longer than that. Actually, it's probably been more like almost five months since I really worked on the research stuff very consistently. When I got engrossed in blogging, that aspect just seemed to blot out everything else I needed or should have been doing! Does everyone go through a period like that at some point shortly after one discovers the fun of blogging or was that just my own "private little Idaho" thing going on there? Just curious, you know.

Actually, the last I had worked consistently on the research stuff, I was getting rather bored with it because the only things that were popping up in response to my search were either obituaries, marriages or birth announcements. Not that I found those things unessential in a boring sense but rather that it was all I was getting - nothing that brought other memories of the era I was digging into at all.

What am I talking about here - what research is this? Let me explain it a bit.

I'm researching information online through a database of old newspapers of which there is a very extensive collection of issues of the local daily newspaper covering from 1913 up to or through 1976. And what I am using right now as my search word is the name of my hometown so anytime there's something in the paper mentioning my hometown, I read it and decide if it is a "nothing of interest" piece or if it is something that tells a bit about the town as well as the people who populated this village. Once I get through the newspapers collection, I will go back and search through the papers again only using the names of any of the surrounding villages to glean the same type of data from them. Then, once I finish this monumental task, I will start to go through what articles I have transcribed, grouping them under various categories and post the articles in a time-ordered fashion - at least of some sort. The goal in doing all of this is to -hopefully - have selected information that will paint a picture of what life in the little smattering of villages in this township where I live has been like between 1913 and 1976. My goal is to provide information that would be useful to anyone doing family tree research for openers and also, to people like myself who are just curious about things from the past.

Tonight though, I found two articles that jogged my memory a good bit.

The first was a story about a guy who graduated from high school three years before me and who, the summer before I graduated from high school, was injured in a swimming accident that left him a paraplegic - with a young wife and a new baby to support too. And the story, written three years after the accident was about how he had managed through time spent at a rehab center in the state to pull himself together after the accident and become an instructor at the rehab center. Because at the time this article was written I was not living at home - I was working in Washington, D.C. at the time - I never knew about what had happened to him after word of the accident had drifted back home three years before. It was an interesting human interest type story about what he had accomplished and nice to learn 40 some years later what he had gone on to do with his life after sustaining such major injuries.

The other piece I came across involved a terrible automobile accident involving two cars that hit head-on on a highway about 25 miles from my hometown and the drivers of both vehicles were killed. One was dead at the scene, the other died enroute to the hospital.

That accident I knew about because my Mom had told me about it. One of the young men killed in it had been a classmate of mine. I also knew him from church too as we belonged to the same church, had attended Sunday School together from about 3rd grade on until he "outgrew" going to Sunday School or Bible Study. We were confirmed together. It was a terrible blow to his parents as he was their only child too. My Mom, of course, knew his parents quite well from church and as was her "duty" then, she had told me about going to the viewing at the funeral home for him.

As this area consists of what would be considered five villages large enough to have a post office and two other small communities that received their mail via the Rural Delivery, it's a township in which people not just in each village know each other but also know many of those who live in the adjacent villages or little communities. And, there is only one funeral home here - the next closest funeral home being about 8-10 miles away in an adjacent township - so when folks die - or are killed as was this instance - the funeral director comes to know just about EVERYONE.

My Mom knew the local funeral director quite well. They were on a first name basis as the funeral director had taken over the post when her father passed it on to her. And, Mom had told me when she went to the viewing for this guy, my former classmate, the funeral director had told my mother that he was the most difficult body she'd ever had to work with to prepare for a viewing - that was how badly crushed he was from this accident. My mother was a nurse and hearing that come from the undertaker she said it really shook her to the core as she had witnessed many things in her day of people brought into the hospital and having to care for them but hearing that, knowing this guy's parents, having known the victim too somewhat from things I had mentioned to her about him over the years in school and such, she just found that extremely difficult to comprehend.

And, because she knew I'd known him but also that I had never been very fond of him, she wanted me to think not of what he'd been like but rather of the pain this whole event had thrust upon his adoring parents.

You see, this guy was from the time I first met him at church, until he dropped out of sight in the fall of our senior year in high school, in my opinion, a spoiled brat and also, a bully!

Not only was he mean and spiteful to those of us around him at Sunday School where we only had to cope with his actions for roughly an hour one day out of the week, but after I entered 7th grade, I had to go to school with him, five days a week and listen to him make rude, mean, obnoxious comments to anyone within his range along with seeing how he also loved to torment a girl in our class mainly because she marched to her own drumbeat and not to those patterns held to by the majority of her classmates. His torment of her continued in junior high and clear up until the day he suddenly got up from a class, walked out the door of the school and went home, loaded up his car with his belongings and drove to the nearest Navy recruiting office and enlisted in the naval branch of the armed forces.

When about two days after he had done that and the word got around school about his enlistment and all, I remember coming home and telling Mom about that and being really relieved to have him gone from our class. Now, I didn't want to see his life come to an end the way it did - not for him, certainly not for what it put his parents through - but being rid of his bully ways in school was something I found worthy of rejoicing in at that point in time.

At our last class reunion, the girl he had tormented for so many, many years though walked up to a very good friend of mine -not just from school but she had grown up next door to me - and the girl who'd been tormented had told my former neighbor/friend/classmate that she had wanted to thank her for something she'd done over 40 years ago. The neighbor friend had been, back in high school, in the upper echelon of our social structure - pretty, good student, friendly, popular, a cheerleader - and one day, as she was walking down the hall she came upon this guy who was in the middle of one of his normal sessions of tormenting the girl who walked to a different drum beat and who had about had it up to her eyeballs with the daily ration of garbage he would toss out at her. She was ready to haul off and throw a punch at him, knowing full well it would no doubt have gotten her a severe reprimand, at the very least, possibly even expelled back then too but she was at that time, at her wit's end. And, my neighbor and friend seeing what was going on had marched up to the bully, face to face, and calling him by name told him in no uncertain terms to stop what he was doing to this other young woman, our classmate. And, to the victim's surprise, he had actually backed off and away and shortly thereafter, had made his exit from the stage of our school life.

Funny, isn't it, how that little confrontation stopped him, dead in his tracks! I never knew anything about that happening, even though the girl he'd been bullying for so many years and I were friendly - not best of friends, but we associated to a certain degree. But she'd never told me -or to my knowledge - anyone else that she associated with at school either, about what my neighbor/friend had done and the impact it had had on the bully. Not for many, many years after had she told me of this happening. But I think now, especially when I hear things in the news or watch programs on tv about bullying in schools and such, how one person made another's life a living hell and another managed to stop it with a short, sweet confrontation. And then, she had also promptly walked away and forgotten about it until the other girl came to her 40 years later to thank her!

Where am I going with this? Be darned if I know. I'm just remembering how things were back when I was a kid, how this guy had been such a brat, a bully one at that, how rude and disrespectful he was to anyone he regarded as not being on his high social level and how he also got away with acting that way for the majority of his life too. My Mom's best friend was also a cousin of this kid's mother and I remember her telling my Mom back when I was a kid how his parents had no control over him but she felt it was because they had never exercised any form of control over him from the time he was born so he had been raised to feel he had the upper hand with virtually everyone else - since he wielded it so easily with his parents, it was a natural thing that it be transferred over then to kids around him too.

And, I think now too about my own kids and how I worried when they were growing up that because I tried to keep them walking a straight and narrow path as much as possible for a single mother and one who worked two jobs and relied heavily on the oldest of her children to watch the two younger ones so she could keep up with the two jobs and keep the house afloat, that I would somehow cause my kids to take out their frustrations in a manner that might actually make them turn out someway, somehow, like this guy I'd known back as a kid and as a teen.

Trying to balance teaching kids when to be strong and stand your moral ground, how to use empathy to understand where others are coming from, is no easy task. Kids can indeed be cruel and it is hard to walk away from those who don't accept you for who you are inside yourself. I often worried and wondered if I was taking the right path in how I went about trying to teach those things to my kids. My first rule of operation with all three of mine was that if they ever got into any type of kid's fight with another kid, they'd best not come home crying about it to me and expect me to call that kid's parent and in essence, fight their battle for them. They had to go that road alone because it was my firm belief if you did that, you and the other parent would inevitably be holding a certain amount of anger towards each other for years to come while the kids would be back to being friends again, usually within a matter of a couple of days - sometimes within hours. It was a hard and fast rule my Mom had with me and one that I decided long before I had children of my own that it made sense and to this day, I still believe it's the best way to operate.

And, now that both my daughters have children and the older girl's son is in school and could be encountering situations like that, she tells me she understand completely now what I meant when I set that law in stone for her and her two siblings. THe younger girl, with the two little ones here also understands the need to realize that much as we like to think our children are always the perfect ones, it's always someone else's child who is at fault, that is not always the truth! And discipline, with respect to other people's feelings is something very important for kids to learn early on in life.

By the way, my other rule, of sorts, to my kids was when they would complain that this or that thing wasn't fair - whether it be some order I had given or something that happened to them somewhere along the way - "Life isn't fair - get used to it!"

And now, tonight here I sit, worrying and wondering yet again and about one of my kids too, no less! Why? Because my son is on the road, driving truck - he left early Tuesday morning and hasn't called home since Wednesday evening and that's not like him. Usually, he calls home at least once sometime during the day, just to "check in" and let us know where he is, that he's ok. And, the fact that I called his cell phone around 5 p.m., his sister tried to reach him around 11 p.m. and all either of us got was his voice mail and no return call, really has me edgy. I have no idea where he might be as all we know is that he and his partner were headed for Denver on Tuesday but they had no clue what direction they'd be heading after they got to the terminal there.

Now, you can bet your bottom dollar that when he does finally call and report in - and it better be sometime early Saturday morning too - he's going to get an earful from either his sister or from me - depending on who happens to pick up the phone when he does call home! If he knows what's good for him, he better hope it's me and not his sister who answers the call! She can be much more demanding - and tempermental than his mother can be.

She takes after their father you see!

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