The stories are about them, but they help me learn a little more of who I am as well.
Uncle John, the oldest male, number two in the order of seven, was always ‘the President’ in my eyes while I was growing up. He carried the title and ran the family business. John, along with his wife Ginny raised four daughters. In my youth, interactions with Uncle John were always laced with a slight level of uncertainty. Was it his position in the company? My status as the youngest male to carry the family name? He’d never said nor done anything to me, yet there was often some trepidation when I was in his presence.
As I grew older, I witnessed him suffer two significant losses. The deaths of both his oldest daughter, Kathy, followed years later by the loss of his wife Ginny, showed me a much softer, more vulnerable man than I’d ever known.
When I recently sent an email to my aunts and uncles asking them if they’d participate in my photo project, John was one of the first to reply with his consent.
He shared with me stories of his time growing up on the family farm; how influential his Dad was in his life. From a letter that his parents wrote asking for an exemption for him from the draft (John declined the exemption and served in the Army Signal Corp during the Korean War), to the suspected role that his dad had in serving as matchmaker by having Ginny working in the family business when John returned from the war.
I also learned a surprising fact: when John asked his future bride on their first date together, she was wearing a ring that had been given to her by another man. I love learning that people are people, no matter the times, and not everything is as conventional as any of us might believe.
When asked what makes him happy, John replied with “Seeing my kids happy and content. Watching my grass, and my gardens grow.” The company of his dog Dixie, as he keeps up with the property named “Honey Hill” that he and Ginny bought together in 1979.
How about something that you’re proud of? His answer came easily: Creating S.A.F.E. The Springport Area Foundation for Education. Both contributing to and raising funds for the advancement of kids from his community. http://www.springportschools.net/domain/111
A few days after our time together, I got a follow-up email from Uncle John. He wanted to share more, to send me both pages and photos of his days in the military. Tales of the family business, and how he and his wife met.
This project is giving me more than I ever imagined. I look forward to both learning, and sharing more.