Next Saturday June 17th would be my father’s birthday. I don’t remember him. I was two years old when he died, but I think of him often, a lot more so as I’ve grown older. It seems he’s never far from my thoughts. Over the years I heard a lot about him. Of course he was loved by his family and he exemplified love as a devoted son, brother and uncle. People said he was kind-hearted with a great sense of humor.
Richard Delmont Lines (1924-1955)
Described as tall, good-looking, broad-shouldered and physically strong he was also blessed with musical talent. It was said he was a gifted singer, well versed at playing guitar and a songwriter.
My dad, like his nine other siblings who lived into adulthood, had a rough life growing up. Coming from a broken home, they struggled through the years of the depression. At a very young age they often had to fend for themselves… just to eat. And on occasion some found themselves at odds with the law.
In talking about those days and their tough, undisciplined childhood an uncle described one of his brothers as “one rough character, eleven years old and packing a thirty-eight revolver.” That young boy, through his own determination, overcame those beginnings, and even before the war, was well on the road to turning his life around. He would go on to honorably serve his country as a combat soldier. He was one of the most respected, admired and finest men I’ve ever known.
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
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.
Family History and the Story Tellers
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.
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 contemporaries 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
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
Happy is harder than money.
Anyone who thinks money will make them happy, doesn’t have money.
~~ David Geffen ~~
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
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 [23,700 as of June 2017]. As carefully as I can I’ve tried to assure there are no duplicate records and no mistakes. More than half of them 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