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Living in the Future, Looking into the Past

Irish Woman unboxed her “Merry Christmas to Me” present tonight.  She bought herself a new Epson photo scanner, and was running some old negatives she got from the lady who raised her through it. It’s something she’s wanted to do as long as I’ve known her, but scanner technology just didn’t do it well enough.   It took her a while to figure out how to use it, but then old snapshots of family started coming through.  There were the shots of men fishing, children posed in their Sunday finest, and such.  And then she found this:

That’s her mother as an infant being held by the uncle who raised Irish Woman for the first few years after her mother and father died.  Irish Woman’s mom was born in 1926, so that negative is 86 years old.   This is the only photo that Irish Woman knows of that has her uncle and her mother in it.

To say that Irish Woman is excited is an understatement.  She has a few mementos of her parents and their families, but only a couple of pictures.  Most of the photos she has are well-staged portraits and such, so an intimate snapshot like this is a wonderful find.

We have a big box of negatives in the basement.  A lot of them are from photographs that I took when I was stationed in Europe, with a heavy leavening of shots of the kids when they were little.  Irish Woman has hundreds of her own negatives to scan, and of course she has that envelope of old odd-shaped negatives from almost a century ago to go through and bring her family back to life.  I think I’m going to look forward to this project.

Hunting Report

Long story short: There will probably be no venison on the menu on Thanksgiving, unless I fill a tag ala Ambulance Driver.

Girlie Bear and I made our yearly trip out to the wilds of Fort Knox to participate in the annual draw hunt this weekend.  This is my seventh year doing it, and Girlie Bear’s third.   I had hoped that she would be able to carry her new rifle for the hunt, but I asked her to hold off another year so that she could practice more with it and have a better chance of making an ethical kill.  We joined with Hunting Buddy and his daughter, who was also making her third trip out.

Our assigned hunting area was right against the southern boundary of post, and was some truly pretty country.  Not much flat land, and certainly no large open areas, but except for some very steep hollers around the creeks, it was just wooded land with gentle inclines.

The first morning, we went to the southern end of our area and staked out an area above a creek.  It was about 35 degrees with little wind when we got out there, but warmed up quite a bit once the sun came up.  We settled in and waited, and it wasn’t much past sun-up that we heard several shots being taken.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything before we decided to pack up and head back to the truck for lunch at 11.  Note to self – Walking along a creek bed might be a good idea if you’re young and strong, but when you’re old and fat, you have to remember that every foot down a steep grade you walk will mean a foot you have to walk back up if you find that going down the creek bed isn’t going to work.

Lunch this year, as I mentioned yesterday, was MRE’s.  Girlie Bear still thinks they’re a treat.  I offered some to Hunting Buddies daughter, but she politely declined.  Guess there’s no accounting for taste, but then she might be the smarter one in this discussion.

That afternoon we decided to try our luck on the other side of our area. which went from hardwoods on soft earth to cedars growing out of limestone outcrops.  Again, we followed a creek bed until we found an open area and squatted down in a bunch of cedars.  Again, we didn’t see hide nor hair of the horned beast, but had a good afternoon being quiet and occasionally talking softly.  We walked out around 3 and headed to the truck because we have to check out with our area guide by 5, and there’s no sense in shooting a deer when you will only have a couple of hours to look for it, gut it, and drag it to the truck.  On the way out we saw several rubs and scrapes, and lots of droppings.  However, the droppings were badly decomposed and looked to be at least a week old.  We also found several old ammo containers that said “Ammunition, Caliber .30, Blank” on the side and a pile of the metal end caps from the shipping tubes for 3.5 inch rockets.  I left those alone, but it was kind of neat to show them to Girlie Bear so she could know how long the military had been using the area.

Hunting Buddy and his daughter had a little better luck than we did.  They reported that as they sat on opposite sides of a tree, his daughter had a doe walk about 20 yards away from her.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t armed and her dad couldn’t get around the tree to take a shot without spooking the deer.

Hunting Buddy and his daughter didn’t go hunting on Sunday due to family constraints.  Girlie Bear and I headed out bright and early and went back to the area we had hunted the day before.  When we checked in with our area guide, he showed me pictures of the large 13 point buck one of the other hunters had gotten about 1/4 of a mile from where we had hunted the morning before, so I had hope for the morning.

We settled down a hundred yards or so away from where we had been the day before, and got comfortable.  Again, the weather was pretty much perfect:  dry, chilly, and no real wind.   We sat until lunchtime and pretty much just watched the squirrels.  Mr. and Mrs. Whitetail were apparently at church this Sunday.

During our walk out, we found some  old .30 brass and several clips from M-1 Garands on the ground, which after showing them to Girlie Bear, I left where they were.

We also came across some bones.  I’m pretty sure the leg bones are from deer, but I’m not sure about the skull.  That ridge on the back for muscles to attach to doesn’t look right for a deer, but it’s not hog or coyote either.  Anyone out there have any ideas?

So, overall, not a bad weekend.  Yes, I’d have liked to have pulled a deer out of those woods, but I got to spend two days with my daughter without cell phones, puppies, or little brothers.  I won’t have too many more of those days, so I’m going to enjoy them while I can.

Rifle, clothing, and other gear: About $1000

Hunting license, deer tags, and fees to get in the drawing for the hunt – About $100

This smile after spending a day in the woods with your daughter: Priceless

What I Meant

Yesterday, I wrote about how fortunate I am that my loving wife has chosen me out of what on face value would have been better options.

You see, when we met, I was less than two years post divorce, had three children from two marriages, no money, lived in a dump, and had just moved to Louisville.  Heck, I was still doing stuff for my ex-wife’s mother so that she would loan me her lawnmower and I could mow the lawn of my rental.  My life was work, study, and kids.  My social life was pretty much summed up in the word ‘sleep’.

She, on the other hand, was a beautiful career woman, who owned her own home, travelled pretty much on a whim, and had no responsibilities that interfered with all that.  When we met, she allowed my madness into her life, and madness it has been.

Since we met in 2001, she has stood by my side through:

  • Losing her job of over a decade, at least partly because we were dating.
  • Taking over a “parental consultant” role of three children, with her presence neither wanted nor welcomed by their mothers
  • Almost losing Girlie Bear and Little Bear to a fire, then two months of rather gruesome recovery
  • Almost constant guerilla warfare between me and the ex’es, with me doing my best to not retaliate because I don’t want to hurt the children.  She has seen me take abuse and insult without hitting back and I know that gets under her skin.
  • Found a way to get me to get diagnosis and treatment for a condition that was slowly pushing me into a world of pain and immobility, then supported me through some ugly side effects from that treatment.
  • Having first one, then another of my children move into our home on a full-time basis.  One of them was a joy, the other not so much.
  • Four years of almost constant bickering and fighting between Junior and me before he graduated high school and left.

A lot of women would have taken one or two of them as an excuse to break up.  Instead, Irish Woman has been the glue that kept our family together, and has been a steadying and calming influence on me when I’m ready to do something stupid.

And yes, I realize that in some very narrow subjects, I’m smarter than the average bear.  In a lot of other subjects, I’m smarter than some, but can’t hold a candle to others.  When it comes to people skills, especially family relationships, I was a complete idiot when Irish Woman met me.  In the intervening years, she’s smoothed over some of the rough spots, gently taught me how to act like a human being, and shown the patience of a saint.  Yes, I’ve come a long way, but I’m still only a steps away from knuckle dragging most days.  I don’t think I will ever be described as a “people person”, but my darling wife is always willing to look past that, and she has a skill for putting me in my place when I cross a line.

So that’s it.  She’s much more than I deserve, and it never fails to amaze me that I got a second date.  I’m sure that’s not a unique story, but it’s mine.



Thought for the Day

Ladies, when you come home and your loving husband has done the dishes, scrubbed the kitchen, vacuumed, swept, and mopped all of the floors, done laundry, cleaned the bathroom, and gotten your child ready for bed the appropriate response is not to get embarrassed and say ‘I was going to do that.’ Just accept what has been done and move on with your evening.

This falls into that ‘I know you’re capable, but you shouldn’t have to’ thing I’ve expressed. Irish Woman is capable of being a domestic goddess when the lines of time, energy, and responsibilities converge, but it’s not her main purpose. Just because she’s capable of doing all of those things better and more quickly doesn’t mean she should always do them.

An Open Letter

Dear Mother of my Oldest Son,

20 years ago this week, you and I pledged to each other that we would be good partners to each other and good parents to any children we might bring to this world.  We had plans on being married Command Sergeants Major by this point, travel the world, and have a small clutch of children, but like the saying goes, there’s many a slip between cup and lip. 

It took less than two years for us to start failing at our jobs of spouse and parent, and by our sixth anniversary we had thrown our hands up and admitted failure.  Unfortunately our inability to be functioning adults together had a harsh negative impact on our son, some of which I fear will take years to even begin healing.

I’m not saying I miss our marriage, because I don’t, but I regret the way it turned out.  I sincerely wish we had listened to the advice of our friends and family and waited to make sure.  I’m pretty sure that if we hadn’t short circuited the courtship process and gone our separate ways for a year or so, we would have had a remarkably different, and possibly happier, outcome.

I cherish the child we created, even if he makes me absolutely mad sometimes.  I recognize that without the bad circumstances of our marriage, I would never have had the children that were born after we split up.  For their sake, I thank you.

I hope that your new life is successful and fulfilling.  I hope that your new child brings as much happiness into your life as my children bring into mine.  I must admit that I do enjoy a guilty amount of pleasure when I learn of some minor trevail in your life, or read how your professional life is unpleasant when your name or employer occasionally pops up in the news.  I’m sure that you sometimes feel the same when you learn about some complication in my life.

In closing, let me leave you with this:  It’s been 20 years.  I’d be out on parole by now.

Best Regards,


Thoughts on Family

I’ve been emailing back and forth with an old friend a lot the past couple of days, and she’s been asking some pointed questions about my family. And of course that got me thinking.

You see, I have what most people would consider an unconventional family. When Irish Woman and I described it to our pastor, he called it “biblical”, because noone in the Bible had 2.5 children and a nuclear family.

Some details:

I’m married to the Irish woman, but she’s not my first wife.

I got married to Junior Bear’s mother when I was young and foolish. We stuck it out for a few years, but it didn’t work. I did however, get a great son and a taste for Asian food out of that.

I married Little Bear and Girlie Bear’s mom when I was getting over Junior Bear’s mother. Here’s a hint: Never get married on the rebound.

That being said, I don’t regret marrying either of these two women because they gave me three wonderful children.

Little Bear was in utero when I met his mom, but I’ve raised him as a son since he was born, and he is my son in every way except biology. I never asked about how he was made, and when he found out about the situation, it didn’t change a thing between us.

I don’t differentiate at all between the kids as to who comes from whom, or who’s related to who in which way. We’re all family, they’re all my sons and daughter, and they’re all brothers and sisters. For the most part, the kids don’t make any distinctions either way.

Of course, the ex-wives love their children. But the Irish Woman loves the whole brood.

I am the oldest of 5 brothers and sisters. I’m only in contact with one of my brothers at the moment.

My mother gave me an ultimatum over the first wife, either she goes or the rest of the family goes. I stuck with my wife and child, for good or bad.

When my mother died, I got back in touch with my brothers and sisters, but made it very clear that I wasn’t interested in a continuing role in the family drama. Unfortunately, my two sisters and one of my brothers chose for some reason to not accept that. So, I keep my distance, but I’m not hiding. It’s not hard to get in touch with me if you want to, and the rules for being a part of my life are pretty clear: play nice, or take your ball and go home.

Moving beyond all of that, I have a really large extended family made up of people who have touched my life throughout the years.

My oldest friend is as close to me as my brother, and she keeps me honest by dancing around and pointing out hypocracy or muddled thinking.

I have brothers and sisters around the world from my time in the military, and although we don’t talk all that often sometimes, they’re always in my thoughts and prayers.

My kids, wife, and I have been adopted by several other families as one of their own, and we have a great time with them at every step.

There’s the Hoosiers, of course. Hoosier Mom and Dad adopted the Irish Woman when she was a teenager, and have always been there for her. I met them and their family at the yearly Hoosier Roundup, and Little Bear and Girlie Bear were calling them Grandma and Grandpa by the end of the first day. The rest of the Hoosiers are the big, noisy, loving family that I remember from my family in North Dakota when I was very young, and they just threw us into the mix with the rest of the kids and their kids. Everyone is Aunt that or Uncle this.

We also have another set of adopted grandparents that the kids call Mammaw and Papaw. They are the parents of Little Bear and Girlie Bear’s godmother, and they consider us as much family as we consider them.

So, the point of this rambling is:

  1. No relationship, including blood, is worth your sanity. If they can’t treat you right, they don’t deserve the privelege of being a part of your life.
  2. Genetics doesn’t make a family. I love Little Bear no matter who his biological father is. I’m his dad. Hoosier Mom and Dad have loved and cared for Irish Woman for decades, and didn’t bat an eye when we asked Hoosier Dad to walk her down the aisle.

So, enough with the emotional stuff. I’m going back to being snarky for a while.

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