Anything is Possible!

With Love, Hope, and Perseverance


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Family History: Secrets and Light

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We’re in Connecticut this weekend for two events. We come here every June for my mother-in-law’s birthday. She’s 80, and looks about 70. She’s doing great!

I liked her when my husband and I dated in 10th grade, and I like her now. She is gracious and has a lovely laugh. She always reminded me of Sophia Loren. I’ll see if I can find a photo for you…..

Carol Silvia

My mother-in-law in 1967

The other reason we’re here, this year, is for my father-in-law’s memorial service. My husband’s family graciously waited to schedule that when we would be here anyway for his mom’s birthday. My husband’s relationship with his father was strained. There’s not a lot of information about his father’s family. My father-in-law’s father died when he was very young. The rest of the family history is a mystery. That’s too bad.

I believe getting more information about family history can help us understand why our parents act the way they do.

We have lots of family history on my mother-in-law’s parents, Malcolm and Edna. I know that after my mother in law got divorced, her father used to bring her a bag full of change every week to help her get by. I never met them, but feel as if I know them from the stories my husband tells me.

I love to listen to my father talk about his family, growing up in Wisconsin, and sometimes about his twenty years in the Corps. My mother’s family tree is more mysterious. I never knew my maternal grandfather and heard he worked in the circus and then owned grocery stores in Washington, DC before I was born. There are secrets on that side of the family. Like there are secrets on my husband’s father’s side of the family.

Growing up, I always thought my mother was weak. I wish I had more information on her history, because I believe she lived through challenges I know nothing about. I do know she grew up during the depression and would never throw away food. In restaurants, she’d wrap leftovers in a napkin and put it in her purse. I don’t know if they had “doggie bags” back then when I was a kid.

After my mother died, talking with my father about Vietnam, which he rarely talks about, I asked him how he got through that horrible time and the nightmares after he came home.

“It was your mother’s love,” he told me. Your mother got me through it.

This new information surprised me. The love of the woman I thought of as weak was strong enough to save the strongest man I’ve ever know.

This week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday Post was “information.” If you’d like to join in the fun, visit:

http://lindaghill.com/2015/06/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-615/

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!


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Memories from Dad: Nothing is Impossible

http://pixabay.com/en/photos/?q=boy+scouts&image_type=&cat=&order=best

My blog title “Anything is Possible” was inspired in part by my father.

When I was 12, Dad told me “Nothing is Impossible.” It was his response to my question about whether it was impossible for us to stay in North Carolina. He was about to retire from the Marine Corps and we were going to move again. I was so tired of moving. We drove up to Pennsylvania, but the deal fell though on the house and the moving van hadn’t even gotten out of the gate, so we headed back down south proving that anything is possible.

Recently I asked my dad, who’s now 83, where he got the “Nothing is Impossible” philosophy, guessing it had something to do with his 20 years in the Corps. But that wasn’t it. He told me he got it from his scout master, Earl Nelson.

When Dad was a boy in Wisconsin, his scout troop’s mission was to help plant Jack Pine seedlings near Bear Paw Lake.  The scouts had thousands of trees to plant over 20 acres that had been burned. Fifty boy scouts were supposed to be on site, but on the first day, only 15 showed up, including my dad, who said it couldn’t be done. They didn’t have enough scout power to plant all those trees. That’s when Dad first heard his scout master say, “nothing is impossible.”

Jack pine

Over the next five days, more scouts arrived, and they planted 150,000 trees. Earl Nelson apparently said “nothing is impossible” many more times after that.

I asked Dad if he ever thought about “nothing is impossible” when he was in the jungles of Vietnam. He said no. He was too busy.

I believe “Nothing is Impossible” was imbedded in him to the point that he didn’t have to think about it, and that he needed that belief most after he came back from Vietnam to help him figure out how to live with the horrors that haunted him, the ones he doesn’t talk about much because they still give him nightmares.

But he did say he used the motto when teaching classes on map reading. He explained to me all about how old maps, like the ones they used in Korea and Vietnam, become out of date because the earth moves. He explained about map grids. “Over 30 years, a building or a river bend can move into a completely different map grid,” he said.  One of his recruits said it was impossible to find anything with those old maps, and got the “Nothing is Impossible,” response from my Dad.

Then Dad, went on to explain that they used something called a  declination diagram at the bottom of the map to compensate for the movement of the earth. He said the declination diagram was developed after WW2 and after  Admiral Byrd’s confusion in the Arctic. compass-163722_640 pix a bay

My head was spinning about the earth moving like that and how much my dad knew. He never went to college and graduated from high school by taking night classes while he was in the Marine Corps. I was surprised to learn that he never made Eagle Scout. He said he was too busy.


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Make Time for Memories

“I thought I’d never see you again!”

That’s what Aunt Ruth said when we surprised her by flying to Wisconsin for her 92’d birthday.  Dad had been talking about going to see his sister for months, but at 83 he was hesitant. His war wounds from Korea and knees that need replacing make every step a challenge, even with leg braces and a cane. But with Aunt Ruth despondent about being moved into an assisted living apartment and telling us in every phone call, “I’m praying for the Lord to take me,” Dad decided he needed to go see his sister.

Working on recovery from over-dedication to my job, I decided to use some of the ample vacation time I’ve earned to accompany Dad. Maybe I’ve learned not to put things like that off, since I never got around to visiting my sister in California before she died. I thought I’d have more time.

With help from airport staff, who wheeled Dad through security, through the Atlanta airport to our connecting flight, and all the way to the rental car, we made it to Milwaukee. We stood in the hallway outside Aunt Ruth’s door and called her on the phone since she didn’t hear the buzzer or the knock. Dad didn’t want to tell her we were coming, because he didn’t want her to worry. We just told her there was a birthday surprise on the way.

Her eyes sparkled when she recognized us. As she invited us in, I saw that she moved with enough agility to dance circles around her baby brother.

Aunt Ruth usually doesn’t remember what she had for lunch a couple hours ago. Sometimes she forgets that she even had lunch. But she and Dad collaborated to recall colorful details of growing up in Wisconsin. During our three day visit, I was privileged to soak up memories of family history, especially about the grandmother I never knew.

“Our mother was full of love,” Aunt Ruth said. “She could make do with anything.” Making do was an important skill for a woman married to an alcoholic who was “always right,” — but that’s another story. They talked about how their mother, Marie, made most of their clothes, often by re-sewing hand me downs from neighbors. She raised chickens and grew vegetables to “put up” in the basement. Every Saturday she baked 12 loaves of bread, and on Sundays, she made pies and cakes and took flowers from her garden to church. She cared for her mother who lived with them and took in the orphaned children of her brother.

During our trip to Wisconsin, Dad opened up to me more about the horrors of Vietnam, something he’d stopped talking about years ago because it gave him nightmares. He talked about drinking heavily when he got back to the states to try to medicate what we now call PTSD. He told me that he though about taking his own life when I was 12 and totally clueless. But the best story he told me was about the Navy chaplain who took him under his wing and helped him give his pain and guilt to God.

Taking this quality time with my Dad and his sister blessed me with rich memories that might have otherwise been lost. It was a blessing for them to be able to share their memories after having made it through all those years. I will treasure forever the afternoon I listened to them reminisce for hours as  I drifted off to sleep on Aunt Ruth’s sofa, feeling safe and comforted by the memories of love that prevailed over all the hardships.

What memories have given you strength or comfort in difficult times?

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Me and my Dad


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70s Family Photo

Dad told me a new and enlightening story today at IHOP about my Mom who passed away a few years ago:

Just one week after my 16 year old sister was killed by a drunk driver on her birthday, Dad’s minister told him they needed someone to take the church youth group on a scheduled camping trip because the regular youth group leader was pregnant and having some physical challenges. Dad wasn’t sure, but when he asked Mom, she said, “when do we leave?”

After a couple days the youth group kids were bored and ready to go back home because they’d already learned everything about camping.  Mom convinced them to stay so they could teach their skills to other kids. Against advice that they were asking for trouble, Mom got Dad to drive the church bus to the infamous Hay Street in Fayetteville, NC and gathered kids from a church and a two kids from a bar who wanted to go camping. No permission forms or anything, but it was the mid 70’s and my parents were middle aged church youth group leaders. The youth group kids spent the next three days teaching the kids from  the Hay Street area to pitch tents, paddle a canoe, build a fire and four kids even learned how to swim.

Dad said going camping with the youth group was the best thing they could have done during this time of unbearable grief.

I was 18 and clueless  at the time about what awesome people my parents were. I knew my Dad had to be pretty brave since he fought in  Korea and Vietnam and had a couple purple hearts. But I had no idea what a brave Mom I had. I think my next book is going to be about them.