Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fishing in the Family

A Fisherman's Prayer
God, grant that I may live to fish
until my dying day.
And when it comes to my last cast,
I then most humbly pray,
When in the Lord's safe landing net
I'm peacefully asleep,
That in His mercy I be judged
as big enough to keep.

If I was into sports at all, I would probably be into fishing, and I would come by it naturally. My father, Herman Kraen, was a fisherman. He only fished creeks in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, and didn't get to do that very often, but every 4th of July weekend when he was alive, he would allow the family to come along on his pilgrimage. We would arrive at the cabin at Lucasta Camp (up Highway 16w from Buffalo) and later The Pines (further up) where he would leave the unpacking to us, and scurry off to his favorite fishing spot on the creek with his fishing pole and creel and find his peace. He would fish for hours and hours, and only reluctantly make his way back to the cabin for supper or when it was getting too dark to see.

Herm didn't care if his catch was big or little. Each was a fish, and he was accepting of every one he caught. It was against every fiber of his being to throw one back, so he kept them all. Many a time I remembered Friday nights at home when dinner was a platter full of little 6-inch trout that were mostly bones with two or three mouthfuls of edible fish. Once in awhile he's snag a big one, but that was the exception to the rule, and I grew up thinking trout only came in two sizes, small and smaller.

My Dad died in 1979, and his love of fishing lay dorment for almost thirty years. Then one day, his granddaughter, Emily, caught the bug (or the worm) and the Kraen tradition of fishing continued. Now Emily's boys, Taidje and Orion, love to fish too, though they tend to throw those 6-inchers back to grow a while longer. They are still learning the fine art of gutting a fish, which their 9-year-old cousin, McKenzie (a girl!!) had to show them in detail while we were in the Big Horns recently for a family reunion.

Emily first took Taidje fishing when he was three or four, and at that time they consistently threw them back because Emily didn't know how to clean them either. Taidje was very agitated one day when they couldn't throw one back as the hook had caught on one of the fish' vital organs. Taidje exclaimed, "Look, Mom. His gordian came out!" That particular fish and several more like it ended up fertilizing the lilac bush.

My Dad would be proud of his granddaughter and great-grandsons, who have inherited his love of fishing (though not his fondness for eating them). He would be happy that they too have found the quiet and peace and the "restoration of the soul" that fishing can bring.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom

My Mom would have turned 90 today. Born at the tail end of 1919, she missed World War I, but was present for almost a century of amazing inventions (affordable automobiles, commercial airplanes, television, computers); medical breakthroughs (which helped to prolong her own life to age 88); economic hardships ( she was a child of the Depression - the BIG one); and raised six children during a time when Moms stayed home and took care of their own kids, and Dads went to work.

She experienced World War II at home by using her ration books for sugar and meat and gasoline, and listening to updates of the War on the radio and during pre-movie newsreels. While her husband, Herman, was deferred for service because of the number of his dependents, her brothers, Dayle and Kenneth, were serving in the Army in various places around the world. War seemed to be a constant during her lifetime - World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and Iraq II. She was very proud of her daughter, Janet, and sons-in-law - Joe, Tom, George and Larry who served in the military, as well as grandchildren, Martha, Joe, and Anthony (Molly's husband).

During her lifetime she watched sixteen presidents come and go - starting with Woodrow Wilson and ending with George W. Bush (who tied with Richard Nixon as her least favorite..) She was alive when the Internal Revenue Service started collecting federal taxes, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, when Medicare was started, and when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

All of these happenings, though, seem puny in regard to the full life she lived on this earth and how, during those 88 years, she truly enriched the lives of her family and helped make us the people we are today.

We sure miss you, Mom. Happy 90th Birthday!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On the Corner of 5th and Grant

The Kraen house was the Kraen house for 51 years. It actually stayed the Kraen house when my sister Judy Kraen inherited it after Mom died in May of 2008. For a settling year, it stayed empty - as a silent monument to Mom? Because Judy didn't want to sell it to just anyone? Because it was waiting for the right family? We can probably nod "yes" to all of those questions. But, as of May 13th, one year to the day that Mom left us, her house officially belongs to her granddaughter, Emily, and will be a "new" 92-year old home for she and her two boys. I think Mom would approve.

Emily has already taken out a wall that Mom and Dad put up in the late 1950's to make a more definitive living room. Mom hated the open floor plan of the original house, and wanted a living room separate from the dining room. A handy friend spent a day putting up a paneled wall that stayed up for over 40 years. Emily wanted it back the way it was in the beginning, so the wall came down and carpeting came out. When the refurbishing of the house is complete, there will be polished hard (and soft) wood floors everywhere upstairs but the kitchen and bath and an open living room/dining room area.

Another change that Mom made was to enclose the front porch for warmth during the raging Wyoming winters. Emily wants to have the old porch removed (the floor is catty-wampus) and have it rebuilt the way it was when I was still at home. Sitting on the porch in the summer was one of my favorite things to do. Watching the cars go by, catching an odd cool breeze, keeping track of the neighborhood squirrels, getting a whiff of the blooming lilac bush... just a few of the entertaining diversions available while porch sitting.

As my daughter prepares to contact workmen to replace the furnace and roof, remove old siding, sand floors, replace windows in the living and dining rooms, and rebuild the porch, I get to reminisce about my childhood on the corner of 5th and Grant, and rejoice in the fact that my grandsons get to do most of their growing up in the same house that I did. You can't tell me that their Great-Grandma Kraen didn't have a little hand in bringing that about.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Missing Mom

A year ago today in the wee small hours of the morning, Virginia Bates Kraen took her last breath in this life and went back home -- to her husband Herman, her parents, Rose and Claude, her two sisters, Alice and Thelma and three brothers, Lyle, Dayle and Kink. They had all gone before her, and she was ready to go too. It was reunion time in heaven.

Her six girls and 15 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren were not ready for her to go - after all, Mom was the hub of the wheel, the strong glue, the safety pin --that held her far-flung family all together. But, there's only so much a worn-out body can take before it says, "no more," and Mom came to that point in her 88th year on Our Lady of Fatima Day just after 1:00 am.

As I look back on this first year without Mom in our midst, it amazes me how fast the time has gone and how many significant happenings occurred. In the Kraen family, there have been 3 retirements, two engagements, three weddings, one baby, three cross-state moves, three graduations, several new jobs, and an honorable discharge from the Marines. There have been trips made to New York City, Lake Tahoe, Denver, Montenegro, Serbia, Las Vegas, Argentina, Connecticut, and Hawaii, to name a few.

It seems appropriate that today, May 13th, 2009, Emily signed the papers to buy Mom's house from Aunt Judy. The other day when I picked Taidje and Orion up after school, Orion (who just turned 7) said, "You know Grandma Bumpy, we won't need any of Great-Grandma's things to remind us of her, because we will be living in her house and that will help us always remember her." What Orion didn't realize is that she is also living within each of us --as close as a thought -- or a smell of Estee Lauder perfume or the gooey, carmelly taste of sticky buns, or the sound of a Strauss waltz or a grandboy practicing a loud burp like Great Grandma taught him.

Mom called Emily in the afternoon of April 30th last year, the day before she went to the hospital the last time. Mom knew Emily had stayed home from work that day because Oggy was sick. Molly had sent Mom a box of goodies from Hawaii (usually good Hawaiian coffee and macadamia nut and chocolate candy). She asked Em if she could come over right away because the mailman had left the box on the porch and some of the squirrels (that Mom had fed for years) had smelled those nuts in the box and were attacking it. They were chewing the corner out of the box and Mom couldn't reach down to get it. Emily's last good memory of her Grandma was her standing behind the screen door supported by her red walker giving that squirrel heck for chewing on her box of nuts! What a better memory could you have than that?

We miss you Mom. See you before you know it!

Love, Jolyn

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rose and Claude Bates: "Simply" Extraordinary

It's January 31st for a few more hours, and before this day turns into February I need to say Happy Birthday to my grandma Rose Bates who would be 119 years old today. Though Rose died in 1960 when I was only 12, she was a big influence on who I became as a person. It seems that I talk a lot about those who have gone before me, but as I get older and hopefully wiser, I feel the need to say "thank you" to them and to what they taught me about being a member of the human family.

Rose's mother, Mary, died at the age of 24 of "consumption" when Rose was only 4 years old, leaving her husband, Edmond, and three small children. Though Edmond remarried a young widow three years later, and soon after loaded the family into a covered wagon and moved to northern Wyoming from Indiana, it was as if Rose and her older brother Leo and younger sister Annie became a burden to their father and his new wife. In the 1900 census records of Sheridan County, Wyoming, Rose is listed as a "servant" as the ripe age of 10 for a family living in the area. Her father and his second wife, Melissa, had two daughters, the second born in the cold wintry month of February, 1901. Melissa died in childbirth, but the new little daughter survived, and Rose returned home to care for the family at age 11.

Mom told me that Grandma was only able to attend school through the fourth grade because in order to go at all she had to take her baby half-sisters along too, which wasn't the easiest thing to do. Rose cooked and cleaned and ran the household for three years until January 1904 when an itinerant priest urged her father Edmond to send all the children to the South Dakota Children's Home Society in Sioux Falls for adoption. Of course by this time Rose was considered too old to be adopted out, but again she was sent to various households to be a servant or live-in nanny, as was her sister Annie. Her two half-sisters, being much younger were adopted almost immediately, and she lost touch with them for many, many years. Her older brother, Leo, just ran away from the orphanage and made his way back to Sheridan to again live with his father.

Though I don't know all the circumstances, I do know that Rose was diagnosed with tubucular glands in her neck, and probably through the orphanage, she was sent to the Mayo Clinic in the fall of 1905 for surgery. Dr. Charles Mayo was the surgeon, and she was allowed to stay at the convent of the sisters who ran St. Mary's Hospital there until she was totally recovered. She helped the sisters with cleaning or any other jobs she was able to do to help out.

In the 1910 Census Rose was listed as once again living in Sheridan, Wyoming, but in May of the same year she was back at the Mayo Clinic having more tubucular glands on the other side of her neck removed. My Mom said Grandma had a scar that almost encircled her neck from the two operations, and tried to always wear clothing that covered it.

Rose met my Grandpa, Claude Bates, in Sheridan in 1912, and they married at Holy Name Catholic Church there in March, 1913, a mere two weeks after Claude was baptized into the Church. Claude was born on the boundary line of Missouri and Arkansas and his mother was very against him marrying a Catholic. She promised him a trip around the world if he would give up Rose, but instead he and Rose married and stayed married for 47 years until her death.

They homesteaded on a piece of land in Clearmont, Wyoming, where they made a barn into a house where they raised three boys and three girls. Grandpa was a blacksmith who fed his family through the Depression by sharpening plowshares and shoeing horses for farmers in return for beans or flour or beef. Shoes and clothes were hard to come by, but as my Mom got older toward the end of her life, she would talk about those days as being the happiest of her life.

When all the kids were married except the youngest, Aunt Thelma, World War II started and Grandpa and Grandma packed everything up in their old car and moved first to Boston to work in the shipyards there, and then later to Oakland, California. Grandpa's welding skills were put to work on Navy ships for several years. Some time later when he was visiting some of his children who settled in California, his blacksmithing expertise came in handy when Knottsberry Farm was being built in southern California. He was one of the technical advisors in building the true-to-life blacksmith shop there.

Grandma Rose and Grandpa Claude Bates. What a legacy of hard work and quiet determination and love of family they left us. Happy 119th Birthday, Grandma Rose!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Melancholy Celebration

Tonight my sisters and I are going out to dinner to celebrate my Mom's 89th birthday. Mom will only be there in spirit, but we figured she deserved a party, so we're having one. It will be a melancholy gathering, as are all "big days" during this first year without Mom.

We'll go to one of her favorite restuarants and think of her. We'll order one of her usual picks on the menu and think of her. We'll sing "Happy Birthday" and think of her. But mostly we'll just miss her and wish she was there with us making some funny remark about being another year older.

If you still have your mother, take her out to dinner on her birthday and give her lots of hugs. That's what we wish we could do today.

Happy Birthday, Mom! Are you and Dad going dancing tonight?

Love you always,

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas - The Day After

Christmas 2008 is behind us, and I'm relieved. It was the first without my Mom, Virginia, and George's Mom, Oda -two strong women who outlived their husbands and siblings and hung on to life until the ripe age of 88.

Both Virginia and Oda were plagued with numerous ailments throughout their lives. Oda was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 40 and Virginia lived the last years of her life without a colon and a left leg, but they were the linchpins that held families together. Now that they are gone my generation is the oldest and that's a very sobering thought.

When I think of all the changes in the world - in morals - in technology - in transportation - in medicine - in general knowledge - that our mothers experienced in their 88 years of life, it's mind boggling.

Will we measure up to the Great Depression and WWII generation of our parents? Do we have the determination and single-mindedness of heart and mind necessary to mentor younger generations and inspire them to become better people and thus make the world more livable for everyone? It's a big order. Hope we're up to it.



"Simply" Extraordinary

"Simply" Extraordinary
At home - Clearmont, WY

Rose & Claude Bates

Rose & Claude Bates
Newly married, 1913