Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful #16, #17, #18 - Traditions, Grandparents, and My Stepdad

I grew up in southwest Colorado. . . a beautiful place that I still hold dear. It was there that I grew up hunting with my dad. Dad had good friends that came every year from Tennessee. They'd show up right around Halloween and I would wait with excited anticipation. I loved their southern drawl and how polite they were. They always brought me a big box of suckers. I loved the way my dad laughed with them. I got to see a different side to my dad when they were there. He wasn't just my dad, he was a man with friends.

Dad would eventually ask me if I wanted to go along. I'd wake up early in the morning and head out into the cold, frosty morning. It was dark and I'd be bundled up. I'd climb in the cab of my dad's Ford, rest my head on his shoulder, the heater blowing on me and fall asleep until we got there. I'd clamber out of the truck, saying a little prayer I'd get to be with my dad when he got his animal. We'd walk out...we could see our breath. We'd walk and walk and then find a spot to sit. Usually under a tree. Dad would pull out the thermos and give me a hot cup of coffee. We'd eat disgusting snacks like Vienna sausages and squeeze cheese. Just dad and I sitting, waiting. I'd work really hard to be as quiet as I could. But it always happened, without fail...eventually dad would tell me to sit still and be quiet. I hadn't talked but my coat would make swish-swish noises when I moved. Or my apple would crunch as I bit into it. Or eventually, I'd be humming some song in my head without realizing it.

Then my parents divorced and we moved to Oregon with my mom. We started hunting with her family and it was a little different. Everyone camped out at "Doe City." There'd be dozens of campers/tents in a circle with a central firepit. My grandma and some of the older ladies would have spent the week before making goodies - cookies, brownies, and patsies (kind of like pie crust filled with meat and cheese and potatoes). Old and young gathered around. Everyone came together for dinners around the campfire and the stories would begin. Grandpa would recall a story of the "big one" or a funny story about someone not hitting their target or stories about the Indians he remembers from growing up. My uncles would share stories, mom would tell hers. Us kids would sit around and listen - at times rolling our eyes but always a little enthralled. I knew Indians had roamed but it seemed so inconceivable that my grandpa would have firsthand knowledge.

Eventually, my uncle would "throw the bones" - he'd toss the elk teeth from hunts past and "foretell" the future - who would be the first to tag out. And then the men would decide who was going to which ridge and who was walking, who was on a stand, etc. We'd be in bed early, up at the crack of dawn, and hiking, hiking hiking.

I was always torn. I wanted to hunt and hike but I loved being at the camp with grandma. Sitting around the fire, helping prepare dinner, keeping the fire going and reading a book until everyone returned. I'd take the fourwheeler for a ride occassionally, search out pretty rocks near camp, and read my book in the cool Autumn air while the fire crackled and popped.

Now my sons have grown up knowing this same tradition. Marc enjoys the outdoors and would hike, fish, hunt, and camp every second of every day if he could. This year, he drew an elk tag and was excited to hunt with his great-grandpa.

Great Grandpa and Marcus 
They headed out opening morning and were at home, tag filled by 10 a.m. His smile was priceless. He was giddy with excitement and so proud of himself.

I smiled and the tears welled up in my eyes as I watched him skillfully care for his animal. He's been taught well and I was proud of this moment. But I was also so happy to watch my grandfather (his great grandfather) teach him a few things. Grandpa was proud of him too. I watched them joke and banter back and forth and felt so blessed that my son is lucky enough to know my grandparents - his great grandparents. Thankful for this tradition that gives my grandpa's generation a chance to bridge the gap and come together with my son's generation. My grandpa's generation who don't waste, who knew what it's like to go without, who remembers a time without electricity compared to my son's generation who doesn't know what it's like to go without, who can't imagine life without electricity and who sends photos of his elk to all his friends from the top of a mountain via text message - one of thousands of text messages he'll send in a day.

Me and Marc before his shower (ick)
We retreated to the warmth of grandma's house and listened as grandpa, Marc, my brother-in-law, sister, and mom retold the story of the hunt. They laughed and smiled. Grandpa teared up talking about the experience. We drank coffee while grandma fed us (the way my grandma shows love).

My grandparents, me, and Nate and Paige
The little kids ran around and played. Running around the ranch, playing make believe, running from soldiers or wild animals. Mining for "gold" in the side of the hill just down from grandma and grandpas house. Coming in for a piece of chocolate pie because they know Great Grandma won't tell them no. They come in covered with dust, their cheeks flushed from the cold weather and running around like little banshees.

My mom and Nate
And there's my #16 thankful - traditions and my grandparents. Traditions help us bridge those gaps, they give a sense of continuity. They develop over time and help us relate to eachother.

Combine tradition with my grandparents and you get my #17 thankful - my wonderful, beautiful grandparents.

And then you get to my #18 thankful - my stepdad. He's got the biggest heart even for me. I'm embarassed to admit how much I need my parents at this age and I sometimes hate that I've needed their help as much as I have but I'm so thankful to have him.

a blog I wrote about my stepdad in 2011

What a great weekend! I hope you are as blessed with an amazing family as I am!
Paige helps me make breakfast

Nate and Liam at the playground

Oh, remember my post about my grandparents' story being the best love story ever told? Here's the photo of them together when they weren't married yet. Look how cute they are! 

Grandma and Grandpa and they weren't married yet

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