Monday, February 15, 2016

Having Fun

The headlines are grim.  The world is chaotic.  Senseless violence is on the upswing.  And politicians give a whole new meaning to the word corruption.  Sometimes I need to just back away before my head explodes.

So this weekend I did some work entering data into my genealogy program.  Part of that time was spent sorting through pictures, deciding which ones I wanted to add.  While doing that I found some that reminded me of the fun that happened when my parents and their siblings got together.

This is my Dad and his sister, Clarice.  There was a special bond between them that lasted over 90 years.  It began when they were children.

Close to the ends of their lives they both lived in the same nursing home in the small town not 10 miles from the farm where they grew up.  Clarice's memory went away and Dad's body wore out.  But their senses of humor remained intact.

My cousin told me this story about the brother and sister.  Both used wheelchairs.  Some days they, along with other residents, sat in their chairs and did exercises to help maintain upper body mobility.  Seated side by side they dutifully did the required exercises.  Until Dad would reach over and tap Clarice on the back of the head.  They would continue on until Clarice's arm would shoot out sideways, smacking Dad lightly on the shoulder.  This went on, both of them looking straight ahead, doing their level best to maintain a straight face.  Until the physical therapist said, "You two Matheny kids behave yourselves," and they would dissolve into laughter.

About 15 years ago Dad gave me a cardboard box of old family photos.  They weren't in albums but were just loose in the box.  I spent hours going through them, sorting and remembering.  While trying to bring the pictures to some sort of order, I found this.

Curiosity got the best of me and I called Dad.  I explained that I had found a picture of somebodys backside.  I said I recognized the stairs in the photo as being the ones attached to my Grandma's house in St. Paul.  But I wanted to know about the picture.  Dad chuckled and then told me about it.

Dad and Mom grew up within 10 miles of each other.  Dad knew Mom's family all of his life.  He was always on good terms with Mom's brother and her five sisters.  On the day that photo was taken, Mom's sister Margaret was teasing Dad about something long since forgotten.  Dad, being Dad, could not let the teasing go unchallenged, so he countered with a smart remark of his own.  At this point Margaret proceeded to express her disdain of his remark.  And Dad snapped the picture.

After I was able to bring my own laughter under control, I asked Dad why on earth he had kept that photo for well over 50 years.  He said it reminded him of the fun that happened when they were all together.  Dad and Mother's family remained close for the rest of their lives.

This is a much better picture of Margaret!

You might say that those of my parent's generation lived at a time when America was still America and their freedoms were still intact, so it must have been easier for them to laugh and have fun.  Really?

Those people lived through two world wars and at the end of the second one, they had all their illusions about humanity shattered with the news of the concentration camps in Europe.  There was hardly a family that escaped losing a loved one in the wars.  They lived through the Great Depression where people couldn't find work and where folks were lined up on city streets to get their only meal of the day at soup kitchens.  Their lives were no walk in the park.

One evening maybe 20 years ago I sat with my Dad on the balcony of his apartment, watching the sunset and enjoying the cool of the evening.  We had talked of many things, including the shenanigans of the children in his large family.  I asked him how it was that they could keep a sense of humor during such hard times.  He said humor was what kept them going.  If they could find something worth laughing about, it didn't change anything, but the cares of the world didn't seem quite so bad.

Dad was a pretty smart cookie.


  1. Good times, good people, good memories.

  2. Gorges...Exactly. I need to think about the good times in order to deal with the bad all around us. It is easy to concentrate on the evil and forget that there is good in this world as well.

  3. We have so much to be happy about. The Doom and Gloom is most certainly there but people need to also see the great joys in life and the joys of family! I think of my Father and how much time we spent laughing over new calves or enjoying the bird feeders. Ralph so enjoys our poultry and it is worth all the extra work for both the good food and the mental stimulation. I can see your Father and his sister...wonderful.

  4. Fiona...It is so easy to let ourselves get dragged down by the evil in the world. I know we need to be aware and keep an eye on the things that will affect us, but I think we need to also enjoy our lives as much as we can. For me, that is a day spent with needle and thread in one hand and cloth in the other. Or the excited voice of a grandkid, calling to tell me about their day. Or watching the eagles swoop along the river. There are just too many glorious things in this world and it is a shame if we miss them all.

    And yeah...Dad and his sister were a hoot! Good memories.

  5. Vicki - I so enjoy reading your posts thought I don't often comment. Loved seeing this today! That's what I remember about all of the aunts and uncles - how much fun and laughter there always was when they got together. I miss that so much! I remember getting to be the age where it was more fun to sit in on the adult's conversations than it was to be playing with the cousins :) Do you know which house of Grandma's is in this picture? I also enjoyed your post from a few days ago about your dad and how hard he worked. I remember that about him. Did he work nights when they lived in Willmar? I seem to remember him coming in from one job and going to another when we were visiting. And he always had a smile on his face and never complained although I'm sure he was exhausted. It's true - that generation was never afraid to work hard and they understood that sometimes you don't get everything in life. Not like some of these babies today that want free everything and have someone else paying for it. I will have to print that picture of Mom and pull it out when I need a good laugh! Much Love, Debbie

  6. Hi Debbie...That house was the one on Hewitt by Hamline University. My parents and I stayed with Grandma for a time before Dad got the job in Willmar. I remembered the stairs because I used to play underneath them. That area made a great playhouse for a four year old!

    I remember all the laughter when our aunts got together. And Grandma, who never said much, sitting back and smiling at her daughter's antics. I really miss those days, too. Seems like families are way too busy to spend as much time together as we did when we were young.

    Your memory is correct. As my Mother's illness became worse and the medical bills increased, Dad took on a variety of jobs. He had his day job of grain sampler. Then he would come home, have something to eat and head out to his night jobs. He worked for a while feeding turkeys at a large turkey farm close by. He worked as a janitor, cleaning our church as well as cleaning a couple of offices. He didn't do those all at once, but I always knew when money was getting tight because he would be looking for another part-time job. I think he would rather have died than apply for any kind of welfare. I don't know how he did it. Likely would have killed me off!

    I absolutely loved that picture of your Mom. It just tickled me because I remembered how she and her sisters loved to kid and joke with Dad - probably because he gave as good as he got. I can see your Mom "expressing her opinion" in that fashion. And the fact that Dad hung onto that picture all those many years just made me laugh. (My Mother was probably scandalized!}

    The other picture of your Mom and my Dad is one of my favorites. I miss them both.