Succulent Ramblings

I like to ramble on about my plants... and other things! My hope is to log the progress of plants and talk about my frustrations with others. So, tune in, turn on, or drop out (if you find it boring!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wes and Sally were here for almost a week.  We had Mom's 70th birthday party and Wes's 50th on May 1st.  We had a great turnout and saw lots of people we haven't seen it years.  It was a blast!  I was amazed that I felt pretty decent after two LARGE receptions Friday and Saturday.  Of course, when things settled down and I went over to Mom's house after, I started to fade really fast.  But it was fun - Aunt Judy and Susie both came back for the party.  It was great to see them both!

Well, the day before Wes and Sally went home, we decided to drive down by the farm.  It's the farm we grew up on in Iowa, which sat between Red Oak, Elliott, Stanton and Grant, and had a Villisca address (go figure!)  My Dad's parents owned about 500 acres and my Dad grew up farming the land with his family.  We lived in a crappy old house - of course, I didn't know it was crappy until much later.  Other than the fact that it was very cold in the winter (we had space heaters instead of central heat), it was really a cool old house, but I remember when I was little (and from old photos) that the paint had long since weathered off the house and there was even tar-paper in places.  When I was maybe 10 or so, my grandparents decided they'd spend the money to put slate siding on it, but oh, since anyone driving by can only see three sides, they decided it was a waste of money to put siding on the back side!  Geez, were they cheap assholes! 

Anyway, part of what made it cool was the upstairs.  There were these two rooms in the "old" half of the house (it had originally been built, I guess, by my great grandparents, then added onto later) and these rooms had "stuff" that had been there since long before my parents had moved there.  It was never clear to me who it all belonged to, but it surely was someone in the family since it was a family home.  But it was like a treasure trove up there.  We really weren't allowed to go into that part of the house very often - I seem to recall they told us it wasn't real "safe" and they worried the ceiling would cave in.  I have a feeling it wasn't built as well as it should have been because I recall a feeling of, well, "movement" isn't the right word exactly... maybe a feeling that it wasn't real stable when we walked around up there.  Anyway, we never really used even the new part of the upstairs because there was no heat up there, so the whole upstairs was like a foreign land we only visited in the summer months.  

And then there was the "old house."  It seemed normal at the time (!!), but there was an old house that sat maybe 10 feet behind our house.  I still don't really understand where it came from or why it was there (I'll have to ask Mom about that - why don't I know this??), but we used it, at times, as a chicken house, but I remember spending time playing in the old house.  There was nothing at all dull about being a kid on the farm.  We could always find things to do, places to explore, trees to climb...  We were poorer than dirt, but I gotta say that I wouldn't change a thing about my childhood even if I could.  It was a magical place to grow up and I have great memories.  Not that EVERYthing was hunky-dorey ALL the time, but it was mostly great.  I remember how stunned I was when I was about 11 or so when I had the realization that we were very poor.  It never really felt that way.  Oh, we didn't have the stuff our friends had, but we always had plenty to eat and a roof over our heads.  Our clothes were mostly 2nd hand and home-made, but that was another fun thing to do - visit second hand stores...

Well, I got way off track with the walk down memory lane...  So we drove down to the farm, and first we drove past the house Dad lived in when he died.  Ok, I'm going to digress again!  We lived in that old house I described until I was about 13.  Then an old neighbor up the road passed away and my Grandpa bought his farm and the house he lived in, which we got to move into.  Moving into this house was like moving from a shanty to a mansion!  Not that it was large - I think it was actually smaller than our old house.  But it "felt" new and beautiful and modern.  I remember the kitchen seemed really cool with a vinyl floor that was black and white block, like a checker board.  It had a livingroom, dining room, a bathroom with a shower (a SHOWER!) and a big walk-in closet downstairs.  Upstairs were three bedrooms, all oak floors.  Merry and I got the biggest bedroom with a window that faced east and I remember how I loved the morning sun streaming in there - probably a hint of my future love of sun and growing plants!  I loved that room!  

Unfortunately, we were only there a couple of years before my parents divorced - not that the divorce itself was bad.  It was a long time coming.  Not that they fought or anything like that.  My Dad was an alcoholic - a fairly benign alcoholic - but he also had some psychiatric issues (never diagnosed, but we're all pretty sure me was probably schizophrenic...) and the issues seemed to become more apparent as he got older.  Anyway, so after the divorce, he continued to live in that lovely house, married two more women and divorced them, then spent the last 20 years or so alone there.  Well, never having been a "cleaner" ... ok, that's a gross understatement - he lived like a pig, let's be blunt...  When he died in 2004, that beautiful house was unsalvagable.  My cousin, Jon, who by then owned the property (THAT'S a long story in itself!) dozed in the house.  So the year after my Dad died, I went out there to drive by the house and there it was, in a pile...
That's what it looked like from the road.  Wow.  Notice the old apple orchard behind the house.  This orchard was very old and hadn't been taken care of in years - I'm not even sure if the trees still produced apples, but it was a veritable jungle.  I remember when I was driving up the gravel road toward the house when I took this photo in 2005... You know how super quiet it is when you're in the country?  I had turned down my radio to soak in the quiet, driving slowly up the road observing all the things I remembered and missed about this part of the country.  Well, I got to a place down the road, maybe a quarter of a mile from the house, and my ears perked up... "What's that?" I thought.  As I got a little closer, I realized it was birds - probably thousands of birds - that were living in that orchard.  It got louder and louder as I came up the road and by the time I got to the house, it was an amazing array of birdcalls.  It was like music to my ears!  And then I saw the house, and it was like my emotions pulling me in two directions - the musical sounds of thousands of birds and my eyes absorbing that once beautiful house in a pile of rubble.  The house where my Dad was found dead a year before...  Weird!

So on this day we were coming up the road (from the other direction) toward the house Dad had died in now almost 7 years ago, we peaked the hill and guess what?  The house was gone - which I expected - but so was the orchard!  It was perfectly silent.  OMG, my cousin had dozed all the trees that surrounded the house.  Dozed every remnant that there was ever a home there.  The only evidence was there were still some piles of trees that hadn't been removed yet.  What a souless bastard!  Didn't he care about all the animals that were living there?  Of course not...  SIGH... 

On up the road to where the old house was that we grew up in.  Now, I knew that had been gone for many years.  I couldn't even say when he dozed it.  I'd heard that he used it for a few years as a farrowing house for hogs.  (Wasn't fit for humans to live in - oh, except our family back in the day!)  This is where the old house sat...
 
You can see´╗┐ where Grandma & Grandpa's house was off in the distance.  It's still there - my other cousin (Larry, Jon's brother) lives there now, doing to it what my Dad did to the beautiful house.  I'm sure it will have to be dozed down, too, when my cousin is gone... It's weird - like our childhood never existed.  Every remnant is gone.  I know - that stuff stays alive in our heads and hearts, but when we're gone, it will be like it never happened.  Most people can drive by an old house and say "I grew up there!" or "My family lived there for awhile"... I had always hoped that MAYBE one day we'd get a sliver of the land out there and be able to put up a little cabin we could visit to get out of the city.  But my cousin Jon managed to, ahem, "immorally confiscate" every bit of the land that was to be inherited by my Dad and Jon's mother and brothers.  Oh well...

So back to the story of our trip.  Wes really wanted to go to Pilot Grove cemetary.  This is where our grandparents are buried.  Dad was cremated, but we had a plaque made and put on the back of our grandparent's headstone in his honor, and Wes (I think) wanted to make sure it was still there, because there's (obviously) bad blood between us and cousin Jon, who bought the grandparent's headstone.  I knew it would be there - Jon may be a morally bankrupt asshole, but I think he's smart enough to know he doesn't want our wrath coming down on his head!

Here's a photo of Grandma & Grandpa's headstone...
And here's Dad's plaque:

Simple - there wasn't much to say about Dad.  Could you say "loving father" - mmm, not really.  Not that he was UNloving, but he wasn't even remotely affectionate.  He came from a generation when it wasn't manly to be affectionate.  We KNEW he loved us, and he was a hard-working man, but he had serious limitations due to his upbringing (his dad treated him like an unwanted step-child and a slave and his mother made sure he believed he was incapable of living a life off the farm...) and his mental issues (which were probably brought on by his sucky parents!)  Considering all that, he did ok and we felt like honoring him, but honoring him without pretending he was something he really wasn't.  When we had his "service" (which we held in his favorite park a few miles from the farm - his "escape" from his reality that sucked so bad...), we made it private and invited only those who knew and understood him, and we all just sat around and talked about him, telling it like it was...  It was SO much better than one of those fake services where some preacher gets up and says things about someone they never even knew. 

Redirect again!  So walking through the Pilot Grove cemetary, I snapped photos of some of the stones - some of old friends gone, some of interestingly ancient stones.  Here's the stone of my childhood best friend's parents...

I remember when we were kids, her parents seemed ancient!  Mom was 17 when I was born, so when I was say 8, she was 25.  Mrs. Rasmussen was born the same year my grandmother was born, and she was 40 when my best friend (whose name is also Denise Kay!!!) was born.  Denise's parents were quite rich by our standards.  Today, I'm sure they'd be seen as very middle class, but I remember she had a lot of the up-to-the-minute toys, new clothes, etc., and their house seemed very modern! 

The Rocks lived in the area and we used to get honey from them...

I don't remember a lot about them except they lived in a nice, newer home that was tastefully decorated.  I remember they were nice people...

The above one brought back some memories!  Neal Buss was like a handyman.  I remember having him at our house occasionally to fix this or that.  (My Dad was never much of a handyman...)  This will sound weird, and I don't know why, but every time I see The Wizard of Oz, the scarecrow reminds me of Neal Buss!  And Neal had a brother, Lyle, who I think was a plumber, and I remember he never married - an old confirmed batchelor! 

I also snapped some pics of some just plain interesting markers.  When we looked at this one, we laughed - Lottie Dau!! 

I later looked closely at the photo and noticed the dot after "Dau" and realized it was short for "daughter."  This was a side-stone to a larger family stone.  But I still can't quite figure it out - "1891 to 1892, three grandsons".  What does that mean?  That Lottie, mother of the three sons, lost three in two years?  Had triplets and lost them all?  Maybe Lottie died while giving birth to triplets?  If so, what doesn 1891-1892 mean?  I wish I'd paid closer attention to the family stone to get a family last name to do some research.  I may have to drive back down there to get the name and do some research!

Now this one made me feel sad...
Ernest died just short of 2 years old, just a month after his mother gave birth to his brother, Eddie.  Then Eddie died at just 2 years 2 months old.  How tragic for Mr. & Mrs. Spicer.   I can't imagine burying two children in just over two years.  Wow.

There were a couple of others I took photos of that were just plain interesting.  Unfortunately, Blogger turns them back to their original position when I try to post them, which makes the photos on their sides.  GRR.  One was just pretty, but the other was carved to look like a tree stump.  It's absolutely cool!  I find old cemetaries fascinating.  Visiting them may become a hobby after I retire!

'Nuff for today!