On this Memorial Day I remember all the solders that have fallen in battle throughout the history of our country, making sure we will not lose the freedoms we cherish.
I also remember family members - I miss them so very much:
My father Joseph, who died in November, 1977. He was a tall silent Swede - a good husband and a good father. Because he was so quiet and undemonstrative I didn't realize just how much he loved me until I was grown and away from home. What I remember most about him was the way he would come home from work, wash, change clothes, shave, and then come out to kiss all his "girls". I remember the feel of his smooth cheek and the wonderful way he smelled after he shaved. He was a sheet metal mechanic who literally made entire kitchens for public buildings. He was a true craftsman. I have a cooking fork I cherish that he created from a scrap of sheet metal.
My mother Florence, who died on Christmas eve, 1991, at the age of 84. She was always a stay-at-home mom. She was very intelligent, creative and loved to sing. She taught us to use our imaginations. We were never bored. We read a lot and watched TV only a little. When I was grown I learned that the things she did for us as children were unique and so enriched our lives. When we were children we thought everyone did those things. "Hidey sack lunches" stand out in my mind. She would make us sack lunches then hide them - outside in nice weather and inside in the rain - and we got to eat after we found them. We loved this game, and thought every child played it with their mother. We were very poor, but we didn't realize it. We thought everyone drew pictures on paper towels - that's what we did. When I made and sold teddy bears as an adult she knit countless sweaters and crocheted countless hats to dress those bears in so I could sell them for more money. My sister and I were the most important people in her life.
My brother Russ, who drowned in a diving accident in 1987 when his diving equipment failed. Russ was adopted when by my parents when he was 5. He was a very difficult child who'd been taken from a neglectful mother by the court, adopted twice before and brought back as uncontrollable. My parents fell in love with him and were determined to keep him no matter what. For years they struggled to raise this son who gave them nothing but grief. He did unmentionable things - many I know I never knew about. He ran away from home when he was 16, lied about his age, and joined the navy. I was two at the the time, and I remember nothing about him until he showed up at our house with a new wife when I was about 12. For 10 years my parents didn't know whether he was alive or dead. He was brilliant and self-educated, and got his GED in his 40's. He finally came to terms with his problems after a failed marriage, the loss of his children (courts didn't give visitation rights much back then), and the loss of a successful company he'd built from the ground up. He stayed sober the last 15 years of his life, took very good care of our mother, and built up another very successful company from nothing but his sweat and hard work. He was very generous to both my sister and to me, and though we didn't see him that often as he lived 4 hours away from us here in Vancouver, we got to know him as the wonderful adult he finally became.
My sister Paula, who died in February 1995 from a brain tumor. This was the hardest loss for me, as Paula was younger than I and I always thought we be there for each other. She was also the last one left of my immediate family. As I stood by the grave where we placed her ashes on top of our father, and looked at the next plot where my brother's ashes rested on top of my mother, I felt so alone. My husband and children were around me so of course I was not alone, but the severance with my childhood was acute. My sister was always my best friend. She was brilliant, a genius, with an IQ off the charts. She was a geologist with graduate degrees and an executive position with a branch of Standard Oil. She married at 30 but never had children, so she doted on our kids. She was such a kind, loving person - everyone adored her. She could do everything better than I could but that didn't ever bother me. I think trying to do things as well as she did made me stretch and reach heights I never would have reached on my own. After graduation she lived in California, so we saw each other only now and then. Nevertheless, she was always my best friend and I miss her dearly.
Finally, I remember all my beloved aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who are no longer with us. We were a very large family, but now everyone in my parents' generation is gone. So are many cousins in my generation. I thank God daily for making me part of such a wonderful extended loving family, and I cherish the memories I have of each and every one of them.