Died on the Fourth of July

On this day as we gather our families together with picnics and fireworks to celebrate our country’s independence I can’t help but think of my 2nd great-grandfather Edward Byron Patton. He was 34 years old on this date in 1860. Less than a year later Abraham Lincoln would become president. The father of 4 small children ages 1-6, the youngest, my great grandmother Mary Jane.

Edward Byron Patton

Edward Byron Patton

There was no celebration for Edward or his family on that Fourth of July and I would imagine it was tainted every year after. For on that morning his 27-year old wife Esther passed away. A newspaper account read that so greatly admired was she, and through respect to her memory in their small town, “all patriotic demonstrations were suspended and not an unnecessary sound was heard throughout the day.”

Edward never remarried and over all those years ahead, as a single father, he raised his children. Along the way he became a successful builder and contractor. I can imagine he was a beloved father, grandfather and patriarch.

I often think of what it must have been like for my great grandfather on that solemn day, traditionally set aside for happy celebration. I wonder what it would have been like to have watched him on that day conduct his affairs with the loss of his young wife. He was once a breathing living person, as real as you and I. Not just a name with dates and places among a long list of thousands who came before us. How I would like to set across the table from him and get to know him.

That’s a little of what I think about, every 4th of July.

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Family History and the Story Tellers

There is Beauty All Around

Mt. Reindeer

“Mt. Reindeer”

The world is a beautiful place, no doubt about it. I don’t have to go far to recognize it either with the grandeur of Mt. Rainier a short distance away. But even we here in Seattle, as lucky as we are, grow far too accustomed to it. We drive along our roads and freeways with it towering in the distance some 29,000 feet high and ignore the beauty that is there. Amazingly taking it all for granted.

I’m reminded of my son Matt. As a little boy while riding in the car with me one afternoon he noticed the mountain (actually a volcano) amid the trees along the road ahead. With excitement in his voice and pointing toward it he said, “Look daddy, there’s Mt. Reindeer!” Might have been close to Christmas but despite his not quite understanding the name he wasn’t denied the joy a child has, and often acknowledges, for the interesting things they notice all around them.

But age and the hustle and bustle — those ever-present distractions of life — will often do that to us. They make us take the sights and sounds, as well as even the people around us for granted. I’d like to think I don’t take the important things of my life for granted, but I know I’m often guilty as well.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses and to appreciate your surroundings, family, friends and life itself especially for there is beauty all-around, if only we’ll take the time to notice.

FindBeauty

Generation to Generation

Life is an everyday occurrence, until one day it’s not. ~~ Susanne Strempek Shea

A few weeks ago I was looking at hand tools, many of them with a lifetime replacement guarantee. As I read those words I was reminded there really are no guarantees, not with tools and not especially when it comes to lifetimes. Here today, gone tomorrow — no time outs, no second chances and few replacement parts.

Like most of us when young and stupid I thought myself invincible, that I would live forever. At least I envisioned the inevitable so far off that it seemed that way. Even when I experienced the death of What was I thinkingcontemporaries my attitude, my life style and the risks I often took spoke of an assumed immunity.  That only happens to the other guy, tomorrow never comes! But as one ages — receiving experiences and education that almost always come with the passage of time — we realize the years quickly pass us by. For me the inevitable is a lot closer than it was once perceived.  So, I’ve changed my mind, time to savor the moments. Continue reading

A Little Bit Country – Summer Days and Summer Nights

When I was about nine years old I spent more than a month of my summer vacation staying with one of my uncles and his family.  He and his second wife had around nine kids at home.  Most of them were hers, while three of them were theirs together.  Suffice to say, and especially from an only-child’s point of view,  there was a lot of cousins to play and have fun with.  My uncle had lost his 36-year old wife years earlier to cancer while his second wife was previously married.

The family lived in an old two-story house in the country amidst narrow dirt roads that wound past numerous farm houses, barns and outbuildings.  The house, which sat in a wooded area on several sides and had to be nearing 100 years old, was located a few miles from my birthplace in Clearfield, Pennsylvania in an area called Bailey Settlement.  Continue reading

Who’s Your Master?

Happy is harder than money.
Anyone who thinks money will make them happy, doesn’t have money.
~~ David Geffen ~~

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I once had a plaque on my den wall that read: He who dies with the most toys, wins!  Another displayed nearby said: The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.  One is definitely true while the other is most definitely not.  Can you guess which one?  I don’t know what’s happened to those wall hangings, I haven’t seen them in a long time.  But like most things of material value they can be easily lost, even forgotten.

As a young father years ago struggling to make a living and hoping for financial independence I gave up a lot to work many of the jobs I once gave a big part of my life to.  I held very few positions where I wasn’t required to work nights, weekends and holidays.  I would often miss many extended family events, holidays and birthdays, even a few vacations etc..  I often reflect on how much is too much and what sacrifices must some pay in that struggle to get ahead? Continue reading

Family History and The Story Tellers

Eli & Mary Jane (Patton) Lines Family

I’ve been fascinated with my family history since I was a young teenager. Among the first lists and notes I created were those devoted to who my earlier family members were and anything else I could learn about them. Unfortunately I didn’t ask nearly as many questions as I should have nor did I always write things down. It wasn’t until I was an adult and well into my years that I really began to conscientiously keep written track of nearly everything I was told.

I’ve spent untold hours in the cause of documenting all I can learn about my family. Over the years I’ve gone from a few dozen names, with dates, places and sometimes stories, to a few hundred in the mid 1980s to around 1,200 ten years later. By the year 2000 those numbers grew to a few thousand. Now my database has more than 18,000 names. As carefully as I can I’ve tried to assure there are no duplicate records and no mistakes. More than half of them (9,100) are blood relatives spanning 34 generations. The photo above was taken in 1905 in Clearfield County, PA. It’s of my great-grandfather Eli Lines and his wife Mary. Two of their six children are standing behind, they are a brother and sister of my grandfather’s. I knew both of them. My great Aunt Cornelia was 12-years old when that photo was taken. She died at the age of 99.

One thing is certain. As I look at the records of my paternal grandparents Harry and Nora Lines and the names of their 13 children all of whom I knew except three boys who died as young children in 1910, 1921 and 1926 — and my father who died when I was two — I’ve come to appreciate how short life really is. It wasn’t that long ago that all nine of my aunts and uncles were living, breathing people who I visited with, spoke to, loved and admired. Continue reading

Tribute to a Dad: William Thane Avery

My ex-father-in-law played an integral part in my life for more than 20-years.  He is the only father I’ve ever known.  Today is his 90th birthday.

It’s hard to imagine that so many years have gone by, but that seems to have become normal for me when recalling fond memories of the past.  I’m older today by a few years than he was when we first came to know one another.  At the time I was 23.  He was bigger than life, outgoing, happy-go-lucky, energetic and just plain fun!  I liked him from the start as does anyone privileged to know him.  The father of six daughters and now the grandfather and great-grandfather of dozens more he’s lived a rich and full life.  I hope today he would reflect back on those 90-years and can say he’s enjoyed the journey.  I think he has.  And I hope too he would know how proud his father, and his mother too, would feel about their son’s many accomplishments. Continue reading