My grandfather, Raymond Brown Wilson, was born in 1907. He grew up in the Rockies during one of the hardest times our country has ever seen. He managed to attend public school until 9th grade, but then had to drop out when his father went blind and couldn't work. Ray worked hard, and stuck by his parents and siblings through the great depression, but there were times when there still wasn't enough money to make ends meet. The whole family was homeless for a time, and the government gave them a tent to live in on a patch of land. They lived in the tent and ate vegetables that the LDS church gave them out of the local ward gardens. To this day, my grandpa can't stand the sight or smell of cooked carrots.
When the depression ended, and his siblings were older, he was able to begin to make a life for himself. He was married first to a woman who wasn't my grandmother. They were married for 10 years, and one day, he got an anonymous note in the mailbox that claimed that his wife had been having an affair for some time. He had never even suspected.
A few years later, he met my grandmother, Afton Elizabeth Thatcher, at a single's dance. They were married in 1939. They had four children, my mother being the youngest, and eventually ended up in the little house in Idaho Falls where they lived for as long as my mother can remember. That house was so full of delightful nooks and crannies, just crammed with recipes clipped out of magazines, the few pretty things that my grandma had, my grandpa's books and journals, pictures, and all sorts of curious things. I didn't get to visit too often while I was growing up (we were in Chicago), but I loved just opening a dresser drawer and pulling out the old photo albums, full of black and white pictures of my mother, her siblings, and my grandparents. Their lives were very simple. Ray worked odd jobs until he eventually settled down as an employee for American Linen. He drove their delivery truck for many years. He wasn't ambitious, but quite content to live the life he had and enjoy his wife and family.
Ray was a brilliant man, despite his lack of formal schooling or drive to move up in the world. He loved to learn new things and ask questions about the world around him. I can remember once when he was visiting us in Chicago and I was in high school, I found him reading my physics text book with great interest. He looked up at me and pointed to something and said "Did you know that? Isn't that amazing?"
He knew how things worked, down to their innermost parts. He could always rig up some device that would help make things more efficient around the house. He had a wood-working shop where he made small doll house furniture for his wife and daughters. My favorite of those were the pianos he made. He became famous for those and they were so beautiful, little miniature grand pianos with benches, keys and everything. In that shop, he also made rocking horses. Beautiful black and white horses with red rockers and handles. I'm looking at our latest one as I type this. (we went through 2 or 3 by the time all seven kids grew up.) He made over 300, and he marked his initials, and the # on the bottom of each one. They're collectors items now. He loved that shop and he made a lot of people happy with the things he made in it.
But the most unusual thing in the house by far, was the marble machine. The marble machine sat on a long table in the basement. My grandpa started building it when he saw my brother Alan rigging up vacuum hoses in a pattern and running marbles through them. (those large dark blue marbles, you know the kind?) He attached a can opener motor to one of his wooden marble pumpers and soon it would work on its own. It started so small, and every now and then, my grandpa would add a motor, a whirligig, or a gear to make it more interesting. He added lights, several different paths for the marbles to take, one of those old-fashioned wooden men that danced on the board underneath him...I remember him taking posession of my happy meal toys when I would cast them off for garbage. Everything got attached to that machine and "That was the beauty of it. It didn't do anything." It just moved marbles through pumps and paths and down shafts, all the while entertaining us with bells, whistles, lights and spinning tops. By the time he stopped adding to it, it was about 6' long and 4' tall and contained more gears and motors than I could count. He made it into the paper in Idaho Falls, and people would actually come from miles around to go down into his basement and see the marble machine.
4 years ago, my grandfather sold that house. It was terrible to clean it out and find all of my grandmother's junk that my grandfather couldn't bear to get rid of after she died. But, the marble machine was moved to the front window of my Uncle's tax business in St. Anthony. Now passers by can enjoy it too. (I'll have to see if I can find a picture of it to post.)
My favorite thing about my grandfather though, was that he was a poet. A true blue, rhyming, funny, dramatic, deep-feeling poet. He filled hard bound journals with the poems he would write about normal every day goings on, or his deeper thoughts. He wrote a poem about me when I was born, he wrote countless poems about his wife, her flowers, and how much he loved her. He wrote about Idaho and won blue ribbons for some of those, and the funniest poems were about things that annoyed him, like the snow plow. When I visit him, it's hard for him to hear me, but I go for those journals of his where he's kept scraps from magazines, newspaper articles that mention his rocking horses or the marble machine, funny pictures that he wrote his own hilarious captions to, and all of his poetry and the awards he's won because of it. I always sit and look through them and listen to my grandpa tell the stories I've heard before. Hilarious stories about how his boss' tie got stuck in the taffy maker when he worked at the candy factory, or his hijinks as a delivery truck driver. My grandpa was funny, smart and he enjoyed his wife and children. He took such tender care of my grandmother when she lost her sight and fell into depression. He was sad to see her go.
But I'm sure he was delighted when he finally was able to see her tonight, for the first time since she died 10 years ago. He left this world peacefully in his sleep after taking to his bed a week ago. He was 97 years old.
I'll miss him. I'm all by myself right now, so I'm telling you his story because it makes me smile to think of him. Thanks for listening.
We were kind of expecting him to go sometime soon, so I'm surprised at how hard I'm taking it. I wish I could have been there with him this week, it's hard to live far away.
Posts: 6415 | Registered: Jul 2000
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Here's some poetry I found. (Sorry, I can't seem to stop. This thread has turned into my tribute, so thanks for your patience.)
I only have a few here in a little booklet that he published. There are literally hundreds. I'll have to hunt around until I find more of my favorites. As you can see, he's not the best poet as far as rhyme and meter. But these poems had so much heart and soul...and most of them were hilarious.
My head is slowly pushing Its way up through my hair I have to wear a stocking cap Because it is so bare If I could find a way To aim the sun's direction And engineer it so -- To get the right reflection I could utilize My very shiny dome And save me from my gas bill By heating up my home
Here's the one he wrote for me.
Picture of an Angel
I dreamed I was in heaven Where angels walked around Everything was lovely Green grass was on the ground All the angels were so pretty Just pure joy to see But I could not find one Who said that she knew me Of all the angels that were there Not one of them I knew And I became so lonely I didn't know what to do And when I awakened from my dream My sadness only grew And then the mailman came around And brought a picture of you At last I'd found my angel I was happy as could be She was the prettiest of them all And her name is Cecily.
Ode to Cologne
Many Christmases have come, I perceive Birthdays, Father's Days too, When inevitably I receive Some colored or smelly goo Of many presents I can rave And of some I really brag. But my accumulated aftershave Is beginning to be a drag. I've saved them all, and stacked them up On shelves both low and high. To say that they are pretty Is a fact you can't deny To see them all lined up so keen Is quite a sight to se There's red and yellow, blue and green Just like the pharmacy. I need an idea, "Ah!" there's the rub It's nice to smell your best I think I'll fill the old bath tub And throw away the rest. Then doff my clothes and bravely step Into that fragrant sea And no no else in all the world Will smell as good as me When Santa comes, with his little elf, If they bring some more I'll cry. Or shall I built another shelf and start a new supply?
This is one of my favorites. He wrote it about his wife, my grandmother. She was a goddess of a gardener.
There Must Be Flowers in Heaven
As I look out in the garden And see her standing there Surveying all her beauties The sunshine on her hair I see her touch each leaf so soft Each tender bud so green My cup is overflowing To view this tender scene My fondest hope, is when she leaves This earth, and all behind, That she will be allotted A place where she will find A garden filled with flowers Of every known hue Where sunshine fills the hours And morning brings the dew I can see her there so plainly Walking down each even row Touching and caressing Each tender bud to grow If this should be her future In heaven, I'm sure twill be I will be contented with Any fate that falls to me There must be flowers in heaven There simply has to be And if perchance there aren't, She'll plant some, wait and see.
Thank you for sharing with us. His love of life and laughter are apparent and your tribute to him is wonderful. May he be fashioning gardening tools for his love as we read.
Posts: 2022 | Registered: Mar 2004
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Thanks everyone. Your kind words and notes mean a lot to me. It's important for me to share these things with my friends, it makes me feel better.
Posts: 6415 | Registered: Jul 2000
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It's interesting, I linked this thread to my livejournal because I was too lazy to put all the poetry and pictures over there. I linked several people to my livejournal entry and was surprised when I heard that they clicked over here and had read the poetry.
I'm in a professional journaling class right now and my class is just fascinated by my blog and the online communities to which I belong (there are only 9 of us and only one other person that's familiar with blogging). My professors are actually writing a book about professional journaling and using journaling with your students...when I linked them to my livejournal they were so fascinated to see that it's more of a community, where people can respond and comment. Isn't that interesting? In all their writing, my professors hadn't considered some folks' wish to have an audience. To them it all seems so personal to share with others...but I guess I just figure that no one will read most of the time, so I don't have to worry about privacy.
Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts after talking to my prof on the phone about missing class. She came over here to visit and loved what she saw.
Posts: 6415 | Registered: Jul 2000
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