Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heritage


My mother was hospitalized yesterday as she has lost all feeling in her legs and feet and has become completely wheelchair-bound. They will be keeping her for a bit as they need to run tests to find out the source of her issues. In the meantime, my sister continues to care for my father and travel back and forth to the hospital. While I know I did my own caregiving stint in the first few months of the year, I feel once again as if I'm not doing enough. The weight of guilt is again heavy and stagnant and I feel every mile I'm apart from them. My heart just bleeds for all of my family.

As my thoughts reside with my folks, I'm reminded of my last post speaking of eating the beef that came from the cattle Keith's Dad raise. I think of the ever-worsening physical and mental battles my parents wage and so I remind myself of the hearty stock from which they came. Both of my parents come from a long line of self-sustainers; of proud farming families who fed their many children from the food they grew and raised themselves. My great-grandfather Abe Haught(pictured top left, who I just learned was adopted...there's an ancestry.com adventure in the making) was renowned for his bountiful gardens and orchards. He would not only provide for his family but for many of the neighbors as well. My grandparents on both sides had large families and lots of mouths to feed. While sometimes it was a mad scramble for who got what, no one went hungry, even in the worst of times such as the Depression.

My grandfather Rinehart(with Grandma Agatha at left), my Mother's father, would come home from a bone-weary day in the coal mines and head straight for his gardens. He'd work just as hard in those gardens but this seemed to be more therapeutic for him...as it would be for my Mom and Dad and as it is today for Keith. Grandpa Rinehart would also provide for many of the neighbors as well. Sometimes he would drop off fresh vegetables to folks and other times Grandma(pictured at right in later years as feisty as ever) would invite people to the house for a big party where she would cook up a feast from their bountiful gardens for everybody.



My dad's parents, Arzie and Grace(at left at 50th wedding anniversary), also raised their own food in gardens where all the kids would work. My Dad and his siblings have decades of memories of the gardens and of their mother Grace in the kitchen. Grandma Grace(pictured top right as a young girl), a gentle, soft-spoken woman was forever cooking in the kitchen, often ignored while Grandpa Arzie held court in the living room but I believe the kitchen is where she found her own personal comfort as so many in my family did and do. Her small smile was the same one she wore as a grandmother...I always felt she bore the weight of the world. The brief time I knew her she always made sure there were fresh-baked cookies ready for me. God bless her, she also made sure they were chocolate-chip even though she was known for her raisin cookies. I didn't have any of my grandparents in my life for long and I will always regret not knowing them better.

My parents continued with their own gardens. My mother's flower gardens were always lush and widely admired. My father raised a wonderful vegetable garden every year and we impatiently awaited the bounty from it every summer. Sure enough, Dad would bag much of it up to share with neighbors, friends and strangers alike.

As the trend which will hopefully evolve into more than a trend evolves celebrating heritage foods and the farm-to-table movement, I am reminded of the trials my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents weathered and the lives they enriched simply by growing their own food and being kind to their fellow man.

Watching my parent's struggles, I remind myself of what truly powerful human beings they have been and of the powerful lineage from which they came. I will just have to keep praying for us all to find the strength that's kept the family going for generations.

4 comments:

Kristy said...

A beautiful and fitting tribute to your ancestry Greg. As I sit here in the home of my childhood I often peer out the kitchen door and I can picture your dad out there pampering his tomatoes and diligently plucking every weed. Sometimes I open that door in hopes that there will be a bounty awaiting me on the porch....that being a big paper bag full of cucumbers and tomatoes and whatever else your dad had harvested. In my youth we were often surprised in that way, and the standard response was always "Rex has been here." As you might imagine, sharing the "wealth" is still standard practice in St. Marys. Neighbor Bill has a large garden and often leaves me gifts of tomatoes and corn. I doubt Bill knows how much a really do appreciate this gesture. I can imagine that my parents were inherently grateful for your father's offerings more than he might have known. I can tell you that to this day Rex Haught is one of the men that my father has the utmost respect and admiration for and even though my father does not live here anymore he makes a point to always ask about your parents...especially your dad. Being the storyteller that he is, his inquisition into your father's wellbeing inevitably turns into at least a half hour of reminiscing about Rex and his garden or your mother and her beautiful flowers. (By the way Dear Readers, Greg's mother grew the most beautiful African Violets ever seen.) It seems that things have truly come full circle. You and I didn't have much money growing up but we never went without. NO ONE on Cherry St. ever went without due to the shared responsibility of its residents and willingness to pool individual resources and talents take care of each other. I'm back here and again without much money but times have not changed so much with respect to that same willingness and shared responsibility. What once was a fond memory is now one of the happiest parts of my reality and for that I am humbled to know that I have the priviledge of living it once again.

Anonymous said...

Greg-

I can't tell you how much I appreciate these refections and the memories you are sharing. It is so clear how much love you feel--it is in every single word you write. And the photos are amazing!

Isn't it remarkable that the very sense of community and family that they felt and supported without question has come full circle not just to many of us personally and locally but now globally as well?? Your words really made me stop and reflect.

Thank you for these tender reminders that legacy is of utter importance and that our own small town, WV legacies are infinitely powerful.

Kaki

Lisa Mandina said...

What a really neat post. So neat to see pictures of people in our pasts. I love looking at pictures of my grandparents when they were younger, etc.

Ronnie said...

I really appreciated the post as well. As my parents age as well, I think about the meaning of heritage and my connection to my family. Seeing your photos made me want to call my mom.

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