Memories of my children

My children are very precious to me. I mostly have very happy memories of them when they were growing up. I’ve never really had hobbies, but when someone would ask if I did, I would say that my children were my hobby. Unfortunately, my memories of them are fading. Here are a few, in no particular order.

Before I get to the children, let me back up a bit and describe our life a little before any of them were born. We were living in the basement of my mother’s home when Therese got pregnant with Sarah. It was a real surprise. We had been trying to get pregnant for 6 months before the move to Ohio with no luck and were getting frustrated.

On the way to Ohio, we had an auto accident and Therese was seriously injured. It was my fault and I felt absolutely awful about it. She was in a hospital near Toledo, Ohio for a week. I was there most of the time, but after a couple days was invited to sleep in the home of a kind church member nearby. My mom and siblings came as quickly as possible and provided some much needed assistance. In addition to moral support, they helped me deal with our vehicles. My truck was totaled in the accident and our car was being towed behind a Ryder truck. They helped me take care of the truck, then unhitched the car, which was an issue because I had lost a critical part needed to reconnect the rear wheels to the drive shaft so it could be driven. Then they drove the Ryder truck to the farm, unloaded everything in mom’s garage, and returned it to a dealer.

When the doctor released us on Christmas Day, the only vehicle we had to deal with was the car. I drove very slowly with flashers on all the way. I was very concerned about damaging her neck further. As I recall, it took over 4 hours to reach Randolph. I can still remember the scene as we arrived at the farm. Everyone was in the house celebrating Christmas as we walked in and sat down in the love seat in the living room. Before I was married, I had often dreamed of bringing a girl home to sit with me in that seat. But I hadn’t imaged it quite this way. Therese had just been in a serious car accident, had a broken neck, and was wearing a halo brace. Everyone looked at her like she had just arrived aboard an alien spaceship. I had to admit she looked pretty scary with a steel ring around her head and rods attached to her shoulder and screwed to the brace and her head. It would have been comical if it hadn’t been so serious.

We lived in mom’s basement for 6 months. It was a very difficult time. The brace itself created open wounds on Therese’s skull due to the screws that are used to hold it in place, so constant care was necessary. Sleep was very difficult as was changing clothes, bathing, etc. It was nearly a full-time job for me and obviously an unpleasant experience for Therese. We also had no income and thought at first that we also had no insurance to cover the cost of Therese’s care. I had carelessly turned down extended coverage that would have taken care of the costs of the accident when I quit my job in Salt Lake City. Large hospital and doctor bills began arriving and at one point I cried under the weight, feeling like our plans and dreams for the future were ruined.

In the midst of all this, Therese somehow got pregnant. One would have thought that the halo brace alone would have made it impossible for us to have sex. We wanted a child, of course, but the timing hardly seemed ideal.

But things started to look up. In fact, looking back, it was truly a blessed time in our lives. First, I couldn’t explain it, and didn’t dare question it, but insurance money seemed to magically appear to cover most of the medical expenses incurred, including the initial hospital and surgical expense as well as ongoing expenses that continued to occur over the next several months. We found a surgeon that we really liked to help Therese through the the healing process. Despite the possibility that she could have been paralyzed for life, she eventually had nearly a 100% recovery.  I found a job within a few weeks and was able to begin purchasing things we needed for our baby. We even had enough money to purchase our own home and to start a home inspection business. All of this happened within 6 months of arriving in Ohio. By the time Sarah was born in October, we were in our new home, settled in our new ward, starting an exciting new business, and very happy.

I remember taking Therese to the doctor near Belden Village in North Canton for regular checkups during her pregnancy. These were happy times for us. We would turn the trips into a date, sometimes having dinner at the nearby Ponderosa steakhouse and buffet. We also attended Lamaze classes, which was fun.

Therese was convinced that Sarah would be born early, but the due date came and went with no baby appearing. Her parents had planned a visit for October 3rd, expecting that baby would have been born by then, but they arrived with us still waiting. They didn’t have to wait long, however. As it turned out, the timing was perfect. Very early the following morning, Therese’s water broke and we were off the hospital. Sarah arrived after a long labor, and Therese’s mom was able to provide much-needed assistance.

Therese will have a better memory of this, but the labor was at least 8 hours long, possibly 14, so she was exhausted afterwards. I was with her the entire time in the hospital room, getting exhausted myself just trying to give her some support. After Sarah was finally born and cleaned up, they handed her to Therese to hold and I remember Therese looking at me and exclaiming with excitement “can you believe we made her!”. Those were, indeed, happy times.

My memories of Therese’s other pregnancies are not as vivid, unfortunately. I have a sad memory of a miscarriage — I believe it was between Sarah and Andrew.

I do remember the labor periods becoming shorter and shorter as we progressed through the children with Michael being born within a half hour or so of reaching the hospital.

Emily’s birth was unique in that it occurred at home in our bedroom which at that time was the room on the northeast corner of the house on the first floor. Linda Halverstadt acted as the midwife in the delivery. Our main motivation at the time was to save some money, but we had friends that had good experiences with home delivery so we decided to give it a try. As it turned out Emily came so quickly I don’t think we would have had enough time to get to the hospital if we wanted to. So I think it really worked out for the best.

In thinking about Emily’s birth, I am also reminded of the financial difficulty we were experiencing beginning about 2 years before she was born. By 1990, I’d been doing home inspections for only 5 years, but was getting burned out with it for various reasons — never enough money despite being super-busy at times, too-slow periods during the winter, worry about complaints by realtors and homeowners for killing deals, fear of lawsuits by clients for missing something important, no time off on Saturdays, difficult to take time off for vacations, etc.

Therese had suggested that I get into something more computer-related since my talent and interest seemed to lie in that direction. So I began looking for a buyer for the business and investigating new business opportunities. Both things seemed to fall into place in 1991. I sold the business to Chuck Witmer, and decided to go into the voice mail business.

While I was trying to get the new business off the ground, the new owner of the inspection business was kindly paying me to continue performing inspections for him. This helped a lot because starting the new business was proving much more difficult and expensive than I had envisioned. During this period, I took a number of odd jobs — delivering phone books, doing store inventories, and then started delivering pizzas in December 1992. The pizza deliver was actually a turning point for us. We started getting ahead financially for the first time in over a year. It was also during this time that we found out that Therese was pregnant again. Initially, this had me really worried. I really wanted another child, but just didn’t know how we were going to manage it financially.

But, a few months later — around the beginning of April, while home teaching a sister I had been assigned to, an idea came into my head that ultimately allowed me to quit the pizza job shortly after Emily was born, and provided us with a comfortable living for the next dozen years or so. This isn’t the place to get into all the details, but basically, I realized that this sister couldn’t call her son’s family toll-free, despite the fact that they only lived a few miles away. In fact, she was paying as much as 20 cents/minute — a lot of money in those days. I also knew that I possessed the technology that would allow her to make that call for just a few cents with no time restrictions. Lastly, I knew that a lot of other people were facing the same problem. A month later (in May), the Akron-Canton Connection was born and then in July Emily was born. In August, the new business was already doing remarkably well and I was able to quit the pizza job to go into it full time.

Looking back, I was blessed in a number of ways — for humbling myself enough to take a pizza delivery job at age 40, for faithfully serving as a home teacher, and for not letting financial considerations stand in the way of welcoming a child into the world. A little faith goes a long way sometimes.

I loved being a dad. One thing I remember about each child is holding them when they were babies. My favorite way to hold them was with their head lying on my shoulder and their neck against my neck. As a precaution, I always had a cloth over my shoulder as well (underneath them) to catch anything they might burp or throw up. Nothing unusual about this, but it was a pleasant experience for me. I also learned how to hold them in a more horizontal position with my hand holding one leg and their stomachs lying on my arm.

One memory I have of Sarah is her lying in her baby carrier on the kitchen counter, and discovering she could control her voice and singing “ah-AH-ah-AH” with her voice modulating with an up and down pitch — over and over again.

Here’s an unhappy memory of Andrew as a baby. One day, while we still had an office in one of the first floor bedrooms (for our home inspection business), I was was watching Andrew while Therese was away when I received a phone call. He was lying in a baby carrier which I set on a desk as I was talking, but didn’t do it very carefully. The carrier fell off the desk and Andrew’s head hit the oak floor resulting in a large lump. I called our doctor who assured us he was probably okay, but I’ve often wondered if that injury could have contributed to the learning disability he had throughout his school years.

Another unhappy memory of Andrew is when he split his lip – can’t remember exactly how that happened, but we had to take him to the emergency room where the doctor stitched his lip back together — very painful just thinking about that. I also remember his finger getting mashed in a car door on another occasion.

Another unfortunate memory of Andrew occurred when he was in pre-school. Therese would usually pick him up from school, but occasionally it was my job. Once I was a few minutes late, which didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but it was to Andrew. He was only child left in the room, along with a couple of teachers, when I walked in. He ran to me and jumped into my arms, holding me very tightly with both his arms and legs. That was the best hug I ever got from him. It was nice to feel so loved, but I felt pretty bad that I had caused him such anxiety.

When Michael was a baby, he had some sort of bowel obstruction so wasn’t able to have proper bowel movements. It was serious enough that the doctors advised surgery. Prior to the surgery, we gave Michael a Priesthood blessing. During the surgery, the surgeon couldn’t find a problem. Michael hasn’t had a problem since then. Another blessing.

The worst thing that happened to any of our children occurred when Sarah was diagnosed with leukemia. I’ve written more about it here.

 

When they were small, I liked to swing my children by holding their hands or feet which they always seemed to like. With Andrew, I learned that I could hold him by his ankles, upside down, and then swing him forward and then up and over my head, with him landing upright with his legs and bottom on my shoulders. One time, he promptly threw up on top of my head when he landed.

I sat in my rocking recliner with Sarah at bedtime and sang songs to her, including Rockabye Baby and Oh Suzanna, She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain,  Clementine, and always ending with Silent Night. One night she asked me with great concern “what happened to Clementine?” I tried to reassure her that Clementine was okay, but I paid more attention to the words of the songs I was singing after that.

Silent Night was what I sang to most of the children as I was putting them to sleep when they were very young. I would also sometimes stroke their faces as I was singing. As Sarah got a little older I stopped stroking her face, but when she was older (maybe 8 to 10) she asked me to start doing it again.

I frequently laid down with the children in bed in order to help them fall asleep. Andrew was the most fidgety. I discovered that the best way to get him to sleep was to lie down facing away from him. He would toss and turn against my back for a few minutes and then suddenly become still as he fell asleep.

Our bedtime routines became a highlight of the day for me. It was the best time to have a quiet conversation with them. I typically read to each child at bedtime, spending 15 minutes or so with each one. I remember Emily not being content to listen as I read. She always wanted to read to me even though she didn’t know the words. The pictures were enough to tell a story. The most common thing to read was out of the The Friend magazine.

At age 10 Michael asked me about girls at bedtime one night. I didn’t feel that the time was right to discuss the subject so I avoided his question, but now wish I hadn’t passed up the opportunity because it never came up again.

I used to dance with Sarah when she was about 2 by holding off the floor with her bottom sitting on my right arm and holding her right hand in my left hand. Our favorite song was “Sherry” by Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons.

When they could walk, the children would frequently ask “Daddy, put on my shoes”, to which I would often reply “but they they’re too little for me” or “but I already have my shoes on”, and then their response, “put them on me“.

I remember walking and holding hands with Sarah and Andrew in the back yard when they were 4 and 2 respectively, and Sarah saying to me “you have 2 children!”.

Sarah one day announced with great pleasure “I rememberized it!” Can’t remember exactly what she had rememberized, but thought it was a clever word.

Other words I remember Sarah saying  – “totophone” for telephone, “ossice” for office, and “ogret” for yogurt. Sorry – can’t remember cute words the others said, but I’m sure they said similar things.

018_PE.HS.FB.VDL.0926We weren’t very consistent with holding Family Home Evening, as advised by church leaders, but we did attempt it a number of times. One of my memories of those occasions was of Michael directing the music and doing a masterful job of it, holding his hands something like this when he was about 5 or 6 years old (although this man isn’t directing music).

I built an indoor playset which consisted of brightly colored sides with large round holes made of plywood. It also had a slide made of plywood that was heavily coated with urethane and hinged at the top, and it featured a ladder and a pole for sliding down.

I tied a rope on a branch of a mulberry tree in the backyard and attached a swing seat to the rope. The tree was a blessing and a curse. I enjoyed eating the berries and it was the best tree on our property for a swing, but every summer we’d have to endure a month or so of mulberries all over the ground, staining our shoes and feet deep purple when we walked on them, and then the purple would get tracked it into the house. In addition, the birds loved the berries and would drop purple bird poop on our house, car, etc. after eating them.

Pushing the children on the swing was a favorite pastime. It wasn’t really a proper swing, being attached with only a single rope to a high-up branch. This made it difficult to keep the children facing the right direction as they swung back and forth. The problem was that the branch just wasn’t the right shape to attach two ropes to. Plus I was barely able to get one rope attached due to the difficulty in reaching it. I didn’t use a ladder, but simply climbed up the tree, as far as I could, to attach it.

In the later ’80’s we bought a wooden swing set with 2 swings and a slide. It was a nice addition, but not as fun as the swing on the tree.

Years later, around 1995, I built a large (10’x10′) sandbox playset and then proceeded to design and build a good-sized wooden play set over and around it. It didn’t have a swing, but did have a slide and a 2-story deck with ladders to reach each level, and a pitched roof on top. It also featured a pole that went from the 2nd floor down to the sandbox below.

The whole structure was strategically placed so that the swing on the mulberry tree could be mounted (meaning that the children could sit on the seat) from the first floor of the playset and then the children could launch themselves, although I don’t really remember them doing that – I still continued to push them, but the play set helped make the ride more thrilling.

A favorite thing thing to do was push the children in a wagon around the basement floor with Emily typically on my back hanging onto my neck and with her feet stuffed into the back pockets of my pants.

When Andrew was 3 or 4, I took him to our first Father-Son campout. This was an annual tradition, sponsored by the church and always took place in May around the time that we commemorated the restoration of the priesthood. On this particular trip, Andrew was very young, of course, and we had no camping gear so just slept in our van. In the morning, Bishop Foutz cooked breakfast and remember watching with amazement as he fried eggs over an open fire. Not that the fire was so unusual, but I remember how the eggs bubbled up like crazy. It was one of the best breakfasts I’d ever had. The other thing I remember about this trip was that there was a lake nearby and we walked up to the edge. I remember Andrew looking out over the lake and then I watched in horror as he suddenly took off running toward the water. I wasn’t able to stop him before he got drenched. Fortunately the water was not deep. He apparently thought that he could run across the top of the water. I was pretty calm at the time.

When the boys became scouts, we had a lot of opportunities to go camping. I don’t remember very many specific trips, but we gradually accrued a pretty good collection of camping equipment – tents, sleeping bags, air mattress, cot, lantern, stove, etc.

When Andrew turned 12 he became a First Class Scout and was eligible to attend the annual Scout Camp at the Seven Ranges scouting camp. He was hesitant about going, but agreed to try it. I was worried about him, however, so decided to spend the first day and a half with him to help him get accustomed to the experience. He had selected 3 or 4 badges ahead of time that he would try to earn during the week. The first day, I went him to the various locations where he learned about the requirements for each badge. This routine was to be repeated every day. I needed to leave after lunch the second day (Tuesday), feeling quite uncertain about leaving him alone. I wasn’t convinced that he would be able to get to the various locations on his own. Plus I was worried that he would be very lonely and not feel accepted by the other boys. When I returned to pick him up on Friday, I was relieved to find him fishing with a couple other boys. However, he wasn’t able to complete any of the requirements for the badges that year. The following year he didn’t want to go and we didn’t push it. However, the following year Michael became eligible and wanted to go so we convinced Andrew to try it again. From then on he went every year and did a decent job of completing requirements for badges, eventually earning Eagle Scout rank.

Every winter, our troop would participate in the Klondike camping trip. These were generally a test of your endurance since they were held in February. I remember taking Andrew when he as probably 12 or 13 and it was bitter cold. The poor guy just froze. I remember that we had hand warmers which helped, but we just didn’t prepare him well enough for the trip.

Every year during Christmas break, our troop would “camp” at one of the scout camps, except this was the one time during the year when we stayed in a heated building instead of tents. We slept in bunk beds, watched movies, ate snacks, and played games. It was a nice break from the normal camping routine. As part of this camp, we would also climb a nearby hill that was quite steep, rocky and covered with trees. We had a special name for it, which escapes me at the moment. The boys would race to see who could get to the top first.

Sometime camping trips included long hikes. I remember one hike in particular that was several miles long. I wanted to participate, but my back was hurting and I was having trouble walking, and I didn’t think I could make it. Nevertheless, I started out slowly and just kept going. By the time I got to the end of the hike, my back was fine.

The kids and I (girls included) camped a few times in the woods on my parent’s farm. My dad had passed away, but my mom still lived there. We had a favorite spot near a large tree where we built a fire and roasted hot dogs. One year, my mom walked from the house to meet up with us, which was quite a feat for her given the distance and her age.

Also around the age of 12, Andrew became very interested in having a mini-bike and I remember looking at magazines and catalogs with him, trying to figure out how to build a minibike for him. I’m not sure why now, but I eventually convinced him that a home-built go-kart would be best. I resisted the idea of just purchasing go-kart thinking it would be a good learning experience and save some money if we built some of it ourselves. I purchased a kit for the base, but used an old lawnmower engine and designed a special shaft and pulley to transfer power to the wheels. It worked pretty well, although not quite as well I wished. Andrew enjoyed riding it around the yard, but got a bit bored with it in time partly because there weren’t very many places he could ride it. I’m happy to say that a couple years later, it was still working, and he sold it to a friend for a profit.

As a side note, the go-kart engine was originally on a riding lawnmower that I purchased in 1986. The engine was still in good condition after the rest of the mower stopped working. I used a push mower for a couple years and then purchased a used riding mower with a poor engine which I replaced with the engine I’d saved from the first mower. Eventually that mower stopped working properly, but the engine was still good. So the engine was used on at least 3 vehicles.

After mowing the lawn with a riding mower, I would give each child a turn sitting on my lap as I drove it around the lawn for a lap or so.

I used to worry about the children during the summer months because they didn’t have much to do. I was especially concerned about Andrew, but I was concerned about all of them. I tried to think of things that they could do that would be more constructive than just sitting around the house and playing on the computer. Some things that occurred to me were making leather items and selling them at the flea market, or building and selling picnic tables. The most obvious thing they could do was to mow lawns. When Andrew turned 9, he began to learn how to use a push mower. At age 10, I thought maybe he could mow some lawns in the neighborhood and earn a little money. I created a flyer and we distributed it around the neighborhood. It had a photo of him with contact information. The result? Nothing. No responses. So I forgot about the idea for a few years, and then in 2002 (or 3), my nephew Nick called me at the office and asked if I would hire him to mow the lawn there. This made me realize that I could hire Andrew to do it. Read more here.

I’ve always enjoyed riding a bicycle. Therese and I purchased used bikes shortly after moving into the house in 1985. Mine was a single-speed Schwinn. When Sarah was born, I added a child seat on the back of my bike for her. I ended up keeping that bike with the child seat until 1997 or 1998 when Therese bought a new bike for me as a birthday present. Every child got to ride in that child seat. As each one turned 5 or 6, we bought them their own bike and I taught them to ride it. Michael learned to ride when he was 5, but then lost interest for a time. He acted like he couldn’t ride, but I knew better. I think he may have gotten a bit traumatized because of an accident while learning, but I wasn’t away of any specific incident. At any rate, he finally got back on a bike at around age 8.

Riding bikes around the neighborhood was a favorite activity during the warmer months. As we ascended a hill near the house, I would sometimes hold a child’s arm helping them make it up the hill as I rode along side them.

Around the year 2000, Andrew and Michael began asking us if they could have a paper route. At first, I didn’t see how it could work — at least not every day of the week. As I thought about it, though, I realized that we could make it work if we delivered the Canton Repository which had afternoon delivery at the time. The Akron Beacon Journal was the other choice, but it had morning delivery.

Afternoon delivery required me to come home in mid-afternoon every weekday to help them. Fortunately, my business was finally at a point where that could work. At first, I was driving them around every day, but the boys were both in scouting and needed to fulfill some merit badge requirements. I devised a plan that would allow them to fulfill some of the requirements for two different badges — the Personal Fitness badge and the Bicycling badge.

This required riding bikes to deliver papers for at least 12 weeks. Fortunately we had the summer months before us. On the downside was the extra time required, but my business seemed to run fine without me during that period and I needed the exercise. Plus there were gasoline savings and the boys needed something to fill up those summer days.

So, every day I would come home from the office and we would load the papers onto Andrew’s bike which had a special rack for the purpose. Then we’d start from the house, ride south on Carnation Ave. to Andrews St., then head east, crossing Market St. and State Route 43 where the road changed names to Lake Ave., finally depositing us in the center of Hartville where we began actually delivering papers. After a while we devised a plan to split up in town, allowing us to finish the job more quickly. After completing the job, We would often stop at the Hartville Chocolate Factory — not for chocolate, but for a cold drink. Other memories of those days include generous tips at Christmas-time, battling snow and ice during and after winter storms, and just being with my boys. After two years of paper delivery, they grew tired of it as other interests were beginning to consume their time. We quit the route, but the pleasant memories live on.

One day at church, I was talking to one of the missionaries when he told me that his father owned a business and paid his children to clean the office. At the time, I also owned a business and was paying a cleaning lady to clean it weekly, but the Elder’s comment struck home. Why not hire my children to clean the office. It could be a win-win situation – giving them a work experience that might teach them some important things, and the opportunity to earn a little money. Plus it was a chance for me to spend a little more time with them. That’s how we started cleaning the office every Saturday. Another side benefit was that it gave Therese a break every week. On payday, we had a little ritual. I would come home and we’d gather together as I gave them the wages they earned and also explained that a portion of the money should be paid as tithing, and another portion was going into a savings account for them. We did this for about two years. I only wish that I’d thought of it sooner.

As the children got older they each became interested in a sport. For Sarah it was softball when she was about 9 or 10. Our dentist, Dr. Luckner, was the coach (actually I think he became our dentist after we met him as Sarah’s coach). I have some fond memories of going to Sarah’s games and walking around the ballfields in Hartville, a little south of the Frontier Restaurant.

Sarah may have also played soccer, although I can’t remember it. But the rest of the children got involved with that. I was even Andrew’s coach for one season – not my favorite thing to do as I really didn’t know much about soccer, but I enjoyed being with Andrew and the other children.

Michael and Emily got into track in high school, although Michael was more into it. His favorite sport, though, seemed to be cross-country running, which he really excelled at. The meets were always fun with people everywhere and beautiful settings.

I enrolled all of the children in swimming classes – held at either the YMCA or Walsh College, both in North Canton. I remember treating them all to Smoothies at Wendy’s afterwards. Andrew turned the offer down the first time because he didn’t know what it was, but after he found out that he liked them, he wanted one every time. Most of the children learned to swim pretty well which I was happy about. I took some lessons as well as a youth, but never did very well, which has always been a regret. I don’t seem to have the talent for it. Andrew may have inherited that from me because he decided to quit before completing the lessons. He just couldn’t get the hang of it which made him feel bad. I didn’t push him any further with it, but was sad when he quit.

Vacations were a happy time with my children. The first one I can remember was a flight to Salt Lake in 1987, I believe. Sarah was a baby and I don’t think Andrew was born yet. I don’t exactly remember the purpose of the visit except to visit old friends.

We made a couple of trips to Niagara Falls with the children – the most memorable one was the first one in the early 90’s which was done in connection with an open house for the Toronto Temple. I took a video camera along (back when they were pretty large) and recorded parts of the trip. For years after that, I remember watching those videos with great fondness.

We made trips to Idlewild Park in Ligonier, PA for two years in a row in the mid ’90s. Both times, we stayed at an inexpensive motel run by a very friendly, but a little eccentric, woman who would stop by our room in the evening and hand us each an ice cream bar. The park was set in a beautiful forest. I remember parking under shady trees, and never being far from large trees as we walked around the park. The rides were perfect for younger children and the crowds were not bad. One of our favorite areas was called the Storybook Forest where there were fun things to do all themed around children’s books. I remember a huge cargo net in this area that we had fun climbing on. They also had a large water slide that we really enjoyed the second year. And the price to enter the park was an amazing $12 for the whole family, as I recall. I may be off on that a bit – that seems ridiculously low now – but I definitely remember it being far cheaper than Cedar Point and a lot more enjoyable. In the nearby town of Ligonier, we also found a large and very entertaining playground for the children with lots of swings and slides on wooden play equipment.

I loved our trips to Idlewild and hoped they would become an annual family tradition. Unfortunately, they were a lot of work for Therese and she lost interest after the second trip.

Other trips included Geauga Lake Park and Seaworld — both in Aurora Ohio.

Several of our family vacations included a trip to Iowa to visit Therese’s family. Her parents (Adrian and Carol) lived in a very small town called St. Marys. It was a very rural area with lots of farms around, in fact her family lived on a small farm. It was a pleasant and relaxing place to visit. One trip was for their 25th wedding anniversary. It was quite the social event with dozens of people attending mass at the local Catholic Church, and a dinner and reception afterward .

Probably our most memorable visit was when we flew there during the Christmas season in the late ’90s – 1998 I believe. Other family members were there as well. I remember handing out Christmas presents to our children in our large bedroom on the second floor on Christmas morning. Most of our trips to Iowa were in the summer so this was different. It was very cold so couldn’t do much outside. Upon returning to Cleveland, I also remember our Suburban not starting — we hadn’t had it very long at that point. We later discovered that a visor light that we couldn’t see was causing the battery to drain.

By far, our most ambitious vacation was a trip across the U.S. in an RV, also in 1998. It’s something we had wanted to do for years and could finally afford it. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I wasn’t sure I could leave our telephone business unattended for the planned 3 weeks or so. I was unsure right up until it came time to pick up the RV. But, I gathered up some faith and courage, along with a laptop, and we loaded up a took off.

We didn’t get far before I misjudged where the rear of the vehicle was in a parking lot in Canton, and damaged one of the rear corners of the vehicle and the bumper. I had to use a rope to hold the bumper in place for the remainder of the trip. Fortunately there were no other accidents on the trip, although we did have trouble keeping the generator going. We first headed for Texas where we visited the Jones family (Creed and Renel) who we had known in the Canton Ward. They had a beautiful home with a swimming pool. Their children were similar ages to our own so we really enjoyed visiting with them for a day or two. Then we headed west, visiting the Grand Canyon and then going north to Salt Lake City where we spent a few days with the Lindstroms (Kirk, Tammy and their 4 boys). We weren’t sure if we could stay in their home until actually arriving, but they welcomed us in, somehow finding room for all of us to sleep in their relatively small home. Our children seemed to bond with theirs. I remember them all playing chess together.  Michael was particularly into it. I can’t remember how long we were there, but it must have been at least 3 or 4 days. With some sadness, we headed east — all the way to Iowa, although we stopped briefly at Winter Quarters near Omaha, Nebraska. We stayed with Therese’s mom and dad for a few days before heading back to Ohio. I don’t remember much about that part, but I’m sure it was enjoyable.

I didn’t mention how we spent most of our nights on the road. This was something that concerned me a lot before the trip. Keep in mind that we didn’t have smart phones with Internet access back. We did have a cell phone at least and I remember my mom calling me while I was driving through Oklahoma, as I recall. Before the trip, we joined AAA and I asked for a personalized guide map to help us along the way. My biggest concern was finding a place to park our RV every evening. As it turned out, this was a relatively simple task. I had never noticed it in my previous travels, but there are RV parks everywhere, particularly KOA. I don’t remember having any trouble locating a park every evening. As I recall, most had water, sewer, and electricy hookups which was very handy. We developed kind of a routine when we parked, hooking everything up, then exploring the area a bit. The parks were generally in beautiful wooded settings. You’d get your own fire pit or grill. Often there were amenities such as swimming pools or community centers with food and snacks. Every place we stopped at was different. It was fun just doing a little exploring. It was so much nicer and cheaper than staying in motels.

Although there were some things I had to fix at work when I got back, my crew had held thing together pretty well. It had been a wonderful trip.

In later years, we made some trips without Therese. I would have preferred to include her, but I also didn’t want to lose out on opportunities to do things with the kids. I knew my chances to spend time with them as a group would be limited as they got older.

We visited Ohiopyle State Park in PA twice, riding the rapids on rafts and spending a night in a lodge each time. Around this time we also took a trip to South Bass Island and Put-In-Bay. We rode the ferry, rented golf carts, and fed the birds on the beach. We may have stayed overnight on the island, but I can’t remember.

The year 2004 was a big year for trips. In March, during Spring break, Andrew, Emily, and I visited Salt Fork State Park, spending the night in a lodge and riding on the water in a small rented motorboat. In June, I took Emily to Knoxville where we spent a few days relaxing with Mary and her family. Then in July and part of August, Andrew, Emily, and I traveled west once again, primarily to visit Sarah who was attending BYU-Idaho. This time we took my Hyundai Santa Fe, stopping in Bountiful, Utah, where we visited with the Lindstroms again, also went on a little camping trip with Bob Hatch and his son. We also spent some time in Salt Lake, checking out the Conference Center and other things of interest. Then it was off to Rexburg where we spent a couple days with Sarah.

Andrew was a fairly new automobile driver at the time and wanted to do most of the driving, although he wasn’t real comfortable with it yet. I remember him sighing with relief when we made a rest stop after a long stretch on the freeway. He had been holding the steering wheel so tightly that it wore him out. Emily and I relieved some of our boredom in the car by singing a line in Oklahoma, the musical, every time we saw a car with Oklahoma license plates.

On the way back, we stopped at Mt. Rushmore, and also discovered Wall Drug Store, an amazing 76,000 square foot drug store in Wall, SD. It was much more than a drug store, of course, having expanded over many years in a haphazard fashion, taking over adjoining buildings and practically taking over the town. It’s a huge tourist trap where they sell virtually anything a tourist might want, but very curious and entertaining.

Then we decided to visit Therese’s mom, Carol, in St Marys, Iowa. I was hesitant at first because I had separated from Therese less than a year earlier, but she wanted to see her grandchildren. It ended up being a very pleasant visit, and I’m glad we saw her. She died less than a year later.

In the Spring of 2005 I took Sarah, Andrew, and Emily to the east coast — specifically Ocean City, MD and Washington DC. It was a bit too cold — I wish we could have done it during the summer — but fun nevertheless.

Emily and I visited Sarah in Nashville, TN while she was living there. She had gone there to work as a nanny, but that didn’t work out so got a job at a retail store in a very nice shopping mall there.

I believe it was around Thanksgiving of 2007 when Sarah called me, while still living in TN. She wanted to see me so we planned to meet midway, which happened to be Cincinnati. We spent less than a day together, and it was cold, but I really appreciated her desire to spend some time with me. When we parted, she gave me a Willow Tree figurine entitled “Father and Daughter”. It’s something I will always treasure.

I want to mention a couple of Christmas memories. I’ve already mentioned our Christmas in Iowa. When Therese and I were first married, we got real trees (not live though) and put them in the northeast corner of the living room (about where the computer desk was in the family room after the remodeling and at the time I moved out).  My job was to install the tree and the lights. I also placed a star or angel on the top. Therese was pretty much in charge of other decoration, although it was pretty much of free-for-all. We just hung what we had on the branches. There was no pattern or special theme.

The first trees were pretty small and I believe we had them on a table or something to help keep them out of the reach of little ones. I have a vague memory of tying a tree to the ceiling, although I can’t remember why I did that exactly.

We tried live trees a couple of times, but that was a lot of work. In the late ’90s, despite our vow to never have an artificial tree, we purchased one which turned out to be so much easier to work with.

One year I surprised the kids at Christmas with a “fort” that was built out of 2×4’s and could be assembled like Lincoln logs. It had windows and a door. A roof would have been nice, but could never figure out how to add one.

We frequently got a Kynex toy kit for Andrew as a Christmas present and I’d spend a couple hours helping him assemble it in his room.

I remember Sarah saying at age 8, “I don’t believe in Santa Clause. Yes I do”. A traumatic phase for children to go through, apparently.

A outdoor Christmas star was a tradition that carried from my childhood. The first star I remember putting on the house was actually just lights that I strung on nails on the west wall of the house. It was large, being nearly as tall as our 2-story house, and very crude. I’m sure none of the children remember that. Sarah would have just been a baby.

After that I built a more permanent 5-pointed wooden star which I mounted on the roof and tied to the chimney on the west side of the main house. I stored it under the south porch during the of the rest of the year. Annually, I’d pull it out, inspect the lights, sometimes getting lucky and not needing to replace any strings. Then I’d use my folding ladder to take the star up to the lower roof and from there on to the upper roof. Andrew started helping me when he was about 14.

Other things I remember about Christmas — staying up late Christmas eve wrapping presents, putting the “fort” together and placing it near the tree to surprise the children in the morning, our children actually sleeping in on Christmas morning. We were lucky. Our kids didn’t force us out of bed at 5:00 am like other children I’d heard about. Therese making a tea roll for Christmas breakfast. The nativity set that Therese made during a Relief Society homemaking meeting that consisted of characters made out of 2×4’s, and then me adding a 4-pointed star, also out of a 2×4, because I felt it needed it to complete the set.

One Christmas, possibly 1995, I remember feeling particularly happy. Our business was doing pretty well, allowing us a little more freedom to do things with our children. We’d heard about an amazing outdoor Christmas display at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV and planned to travel their the day after Christmas. I remember just feeling very content on Christmas day after we’d opened presents, with everyone in a good mood, and knowing we were going have even more fun the following day as we traveled to Wheeling. We went, saw the beautiful lights, and spent the night in a motel. Those were good times.

After I moved to the house on Lynnview, the children had to split their time with Therese and me on Christmas, which I know was not a happy thing for them. They would typically spend Christmas Eve with one of us and then Christmas Day with the other. After the first Christmas, I didn’t have much money to spend on them so that was always a struggle.

I have a sad memory of a gift that they jointly gave me on the first or second Christmas I lived there. The gift was Sarah’s idea. They pooled their money to buy me a device that would prop the rear wheel of my bicycle up which turned it into a stationary exercise machine. I remember her telling me in advance that I was going to like this present. And I did appreciate the gift, and used it a number of times. However, months later, I was looking for things I could sell on Ebay to raise a little money and decided to sell it. I did, but when Sarah found out months later, she couldn’t believe that I’d done that. I still remember the look on her face, and I felt saddened and very ashamed at that moment. I had done a stupid thing.

A couple years later, as I previously mentioned, Sarah gave me the Willow Tree figurine, which I will never give up.

Regarding gifts, there’s another one that’s very special to me, also given jointly to me by all of my children – and again orchestrated by Sarah – and that is the wooden swing seat, with a portion of the rope attached, from the swing that was hanging in the Mulberry tree in the backyard of the house. Sarah had salvaged it from the tree when Therese had it cut down. All the children wrote on the seat and signed it. They presented this to me as a Father’s Day gift in 2006. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, but kept it in a safe place. Susan discovered it after we got married and felt that it needed to be framed so it’s now a prized possession. My only wish is that I also had a photo of me pushing one of the children on that swing.

Back to holiday memories, I remember having a movie night with just Emily on New Year’s Eve shortly after I moved in. And, regarding movies, Emily used to play Yours, Mine and Ours (1968 version with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball) at bedtime every night which would help her fall asleep. Later, she switched to The Pink Panther (2006 version with Steve Martin).

By the way, a short history of the house might be appropriate. The original house was built in 1910, I believe. It was a farm house with a very long driveway that ran north from Andrews Street. In fact the original address for the house was on Andrews. Around 1960, an addition was added to the rear (north) of the house which turned it into a duplex.

Unfortunately, I don’t have original photos of the house, but these two photos give you an idea of what it looked like.

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Our house looked very similar to this, but was in slightly better condition.
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This home has a short second story that’s similar to ours.

I’m guessing it was probably in the 1970s, that the farm was sold off and all farm buildings were demolished except for the house. The land was turned into a housing allotment. Streets were put in and the address of the house was changed to 1**9 Peony St.

In the years before we purchased the house, it had fallen into disrepair. As I mentioned, a large addition had built on the north side and the home was actually a duplex, but for whatever reason, they didn’t feel the need to make the two sides match. The styles were different. The roofs were two different colors. The siding on the north was clapboard, but on the south it was asphalt. Plus everything was overgrown outside

When we purchased it in 1985 for $48,000, the home was a duplex and had renters living on the north side. We weren’t real happy that they were there, but the rent money was very handy. When they moved out a couple of years later, we panicked and hired Kirt Horning (no relation) to fix things up on the south side, thinking that was the only way we’d get decent renters back in. We ended up wasting about $5000 and eventually decided that we didn’t need renters after all. That side of the house ended up being vacant until about 1997 when we were finally able to remodel the entire house.

After our renters left, we decided to place lights that looked like candles in all the windows. This seemed to be a Hartville tradition and added some charm to our home.

It’s unfortunate that Peony was put so close to the house. The house is quite a bit higher than Peony St., which gives you a nice view, but the steep hill and ditch along Peony was something I was never happy about. In fact, I tried a number of times to get permission from the Zoning director to install a drainage pipe along the street and cover with and soil and grass. This would have made mowing much easier. After about 3 tries, I did finally succeed in getting their permission. However, it was a little too late. I moved out of the house before the work was done.

Here’s a view of the east side of the house after remodeling:

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East side of our home after renovation. Playset is also visible, but mulberry tree has been removed.

When I moved into the house on Lynnview, I remember a moment when I had a bit of a panic attack, fearing that I’d made a terrible mistake. I was so used to seeing all the children every day that the thought of not living with them anymore was extremely sad. Fortunately, they were all pretty good about the breakup of our marriage, and still wanted to see me as much as ever. I was able to work out a pretty good arrangement with Therese. The children spent every weekend with me and also Wednesday evenings when I would take them to youth activities at the ward building in North Canton.

wallBefore I moved into the house, Sarah took it upon herself to paint the master bedroom and did a very nice job. She wanted to try something different so she painted the walls yellow and then went over that with blue, creating an interesting brushed look – something like this image.

By the way, I want to mention that when I first found the house, I loved it immediately, but didn’t think it could work because the bedrooms weren’t large enough to hold everyone. There was a master bedroom plus two other bedrooms, one of which was too small for 2 people. I assumed I would need 3 large bedrooms. I was stuck on that thought for a number of weeks and then realized that I didn’t have to sleep in the Master bedroom. I could use the smallest room and let the girls use the master. That put me next to the boys with which seemed more fitting anyway. So the boys ended up with the hall bath and the girls with the master bath. As it turned out, however, Sarah didn’t stay at the house very often. She graduated from high school less than 6 months after I moved in so was off doing other things. Plus, she didn’t want to leave her mother alone.

Memories of my time living on Lynnview St seem to mostly involve Emily. She used to say that she loved coming to my house. Sarah wasn’t around much. She graduated from high school 6 months after I moved in. Both Andrew and Michael were in high school and had other interests and activities or work that would take them away. Michael sometimes complained that I liked Emily more than him. While it’s true that I did spend more time with Emily, it wasn’t because I loved her any more than the others. She was just at an age where she wanted to spend time with her dad.

I remember her hanging onto my arm as we walked into Marc’s to buy groceries when she was 10 or 11. One time she was describing a visit she had with a therapist (Therese’s idea – never found out why she wanted Emily to see a therapist). She said she told the therapist that she “had to see her dad”, which made me feel good. We frequently went on Sunday walks around downtown Hartville after church, although she resisted them as she got older. Emily “got” my sense of humor. We watched VeggieTales videos sometimes and there was a line in one that Emily particularly liked – “I am a caterpillar. Well, that’s not entirely true. My mother was a caterpillar, my father was a worm, but I’m okay with that now.”.

For Emily’s 12th birthday she wanted a party at the house so we made up invitations for for about 8 boys and girls. We had part of it in and around my house and part of it at a nearby park which was within walking distance. The party was fun, but kind of disorganized. I think the parents probably weren’t terribly impressed with my party planning and organizational skills. When they came to pick up their children, I had difficulty locating some of them.

Sunday dinners were probably the highlight of every weekend. I only knew how to fix a few meals, which I rotated – spaghetti, lasagna, roast beef with mashed potatoes, hamburgers, and chicken in various forms. Sometimes I would experiment a little, but the children didn’t like experimentation and would sometimes express doubt in my culinary skills.

When the kids would leave every Sunday evening, the house was suddenly very quiet and lonely. I got into the habit of going for a walk around Hartville by myself right after they left. It was still lonely, but getting out of the house seemed to relieve the feeling.

A Christmas tradition that began several years before I got married and continues to this day was to make toffee. I was never completely happy with the results so I tried various methods and often had batches that didn’t turn out at all. The children seemed to like what I made which helped keep the tradition going.

A Christmas tradition was to make cookies, toffee, etc. and then everyone would get into the van to deliver them to home teaching and visiting teaching families. As the children got older, they would participate in the baking. I can’t say I have a lot of memories of them actually helping to bake cookies, but I do remember taking them all to my mother’s house to make and decorate sugar cookies. I did that simply to give Therese a break.

This also reminds me of picking apples with the kids and then making applesauce with them at home.

Our church operated a farm in Mantua – on the same property as the John Johnson farm. They had apple trees which had to be pruned every Spring and then picked every Fall. It became a tradition for me and the children to visit the farm during both of these seasons every year to help out.

They also grew strawberries on the farm and every June, we’d go up to help pick those as well. I always enjoyed the visits. It was a bonding time for us. The children learned a few things about growing fruits and it gave them an opportunity to serve. I was disappointed when the church made the decision to rent the land out and no longer needed the help of volunteers.

In his younger years — around 5 or 6 let’s say — I remember thinking that Michael seemed like a little professor with his glasses, and always thinking deeply and saying some pretty intelligent things. I don’t remember anything specific, but he was always analyzing things and providing his own critique.

I also remember Michael as being our most imaginative child. When he was around 8, he frequently dressed up like Helaman (or was it Captain Moroni?), complete with cape and sword, and then would leap off couches, chairs, or his bed and run to the other side of the room, imagining that he was fighting the Lamanites. He could do this for hours at a time, it seemed, and went on for a couple of years. I always thought it was very cute.

I was impressed when I learned that Michael was keeping a daily journal at around age 10 or so. As far as know he’s continuing it to this day.

Emily spotting me as I arrived at Girls Camp, and running up to me as fast as she could and nearly knocking me over as she hugged me.

After graduating from high school, Michael got a job with a security company. His job was alarm installation in homes in the Columbus area. He worked in a couple locations as well during that period. While he was still in Columbus, I took the other 3 children down there to visit him. We stayed at a very cheap hotel (I was very poor at the time). It was near railroad tracks and the sheets were not clean. We had a nice visit with Michael nevertheless, and also visited botanical garden while there. The children weren’t too impressed with that.

Michael was able to save a sizable portion of his income from that job and was proud to purchase very generous gifts for me and his mom. He took me to a clothing store in Akron and bought me a new suit — pin-striped black with vest. He knew I was quite poor at the time.

I was a member of the Lake Township Rotary Club beginning in 1994 and have some great memories of that, but the reason I’m bringing it up here is that I remember taking Sarah to some of the meetings with me. Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly why. Perhaps she does. It may have been in connection with her leukemia or something school related. For example, I have vague memory of our club honoring one of the Gazdacko children as a “student of the month”. They lived across the street from us and Sarah was best friends with Misty.

I just remember Sarah being with me more than once and her commenting at one point that “those people love me”, referring to the other club members. The did love her, and I loved having her with me.

Sarah would sometimes accompany me at meetings and events in place of Therese (not just for Rotary). This happened more frequently as Sarah grew older and my relationship with Therese deteriorated. It was a sad reality, and perhaps an unfair burden on Sarah, but I did appreciate having her support.

You can find a few photos here.

 

 

 

 

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