Sometimes it is hardest to write about the things the mean the most. I had this problem when I first tried to write about my grandparents years ago for their 50th anniversary. It had been asked at the time (around 1990-1991) to have people write down memories of Grandma and Grandpa. I tried to write how I felt about them but I just could not capture it well on paper. I would start to write but it just came out all jumbled up.
Not until this blog have I been able to write about them clearly. I’ve been wondering why it was true. There seems to be a few different reasons why. First of all, a relationship with your grandparents is largely based on things that are inherit to the family. Many of these things are assumed and also are not ever in any way written down. I’m not trying to make excuses. I just have realized how difficult it is to write about relationships that are so close. This is usually because the relationship has a strong context and also is much more complicated than it first appears.
My strategy here worked because I have only focused on one topic at a time and also tried to tell you about my family from stories more than through descriptions. My story about learning how to drive illuminates how understanding my grandfather was. I guess that is the only decent way to represent someone is through their actions seen through someone else’s eyes.
There are people in my life that are much more difficult to write about than my grandparents. My Mom and Dad are two people that I could say are going to be incredibly hard to describe here. It’s not really that hard to summarize the elements of their lives but rather it is frustratingly close to the most complicated relationships I have.
Mom and Dad met at the University of North Dakota around 1960. Dad was in the USAF program for flying jets and Mom was doing undergraduate degree work for business. Mom had a two year degree whereas Dad took the whole four years. There are a few old stories about Dad doing work around the campus. One of them was to reset pins at a local bowling alley. This is before Grand Forks got the first automatic reseting machines. It sounds as if they really hit it off in the early days however neither of them now recall much about this period. I suspect that both of them had bigger plans than going back to the small towns from which they had grown up from.
Mom and Dad got married in 1963 in Humboldt, Minnesota. I believe the date was April 11th to be exact. I don’t remember much about this time except that it was not long before they moved away.
The first assignment in the Air Force took Dad and Mom to Laredo Texas. This is where they bought their first car, a 1964 Chevy Corvair. It was a strange small car with an engine in the back. I only remember this car when I was much older when it was retired to a shed on the farm and which it still sits today. This was a very different time for both Mom and Dad having only experienced North Dakota and Minnesota small towns. No one in either family had ventured so far away in recent memory. Mom has talked many times about how hot it was and that Laredo had lots of bugs and wildlife that she had never seen before. I don’t know exactly what prompted the next move but it must have been Air Force related.
In 1965, Mom and Dad moved to Topeka, Kansas and lived at or close to Forbes Air Force Base which was closed in 1973. Topeka is where I was born later that year. It is strange to say that I was born in a place that I do not remember but it must be fairly common for children born on or near military bases. The stay in Topeka was relatively short due to Dad being sent to fly based out of Taiwan at the end of 1965. Mom and I went to Humboldt, Minnesota.
This lasted for around one year until Mom decided that she wanted to be closer to Dad even though he was based out of Taiwan. So, not knowing anyone there, she concluded that living in Taiwan was a good idea and that it wouldn’t be that hard to take a one year old there. I’m being a bit cheeky but this really shows how strong Mom can feel about doing something when others would have considered otherwise.
For one year, Mom and I lived in Taiwan while Dad flew flights on C130 Hercules cargo planes. As revealed in another post, most of this flying was related to Vietnam and I only knew of this within the last 10 years or so. Mom adjusted fairly well to being there and had an apartment in Taipei Taiwan . Mom has told stories of having to go light the fire under the water to get hot water and also having to hire a maid to help out with the chores. It certainly was a different lifestyle.
Mom didn’t see Dad much during this time. I imagine it would have been mostly weekends when he was off duty. I’m not even sure that he was always based out of Taiwan. Mom managed to keep busy and even took trips to other Asian places like Hong Kong and Japan.
Mom has lots of souvenirs from that era including chopsticks, tea sets, dining sets, and even some nice bamboo based furniture. Many of these things have survived to this day and Mom has taken very good care of them.
1967 would see the return of the family to Topeka. I imagine that Dad’s tour was over and it was time to prepare for the next stage of life.
I know this is all action and not really about the relationships but I’ll be able to cover that in a future post. This is really just to warm up the background of where things came from.
Sometimes I wonder why I’m bothering to write this down but I’ve concluded that the answer is really about sharing this information with family. It really isn’t meant to appeal to the wider audience. As I stated in the beginning, this stuff is important to me and that is why I write about it.
Hopefully I’ll be able to write enough to collect enough together to preserve it in something more permanent like a book.
Until then, I will struggle on.