Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kids, Kids, Kids, Who Needs Kids?

My very first memory of my grandpa was him asking this question as we explored his yard together.  It was summer time, I was probably 4 or 5 and I remember jumping off rocks and picking raspberries.  We would go for hikes on the mountain behind his house and he would listen as I talked and talked and talked.  Later in life I asked my grandpa what I was like as a kid and he laughed as he said, "I don't know if I ever knew a little girl that loved to talk as much as you."  After my grandpa would ask that question, "Kids, kids, kids, who needs kids?"  He would wait for a minute and then exclaim, "I need kids!"

There are many people that knew my grandpa better than me.  People that knew him as a rocket scientist or maybe even as a sheep herder.  I will not even pretend to know that man.  Today I would like to talk about Wesley Evans Bartholomew as a Grandpa.  Because in my humble opinion, I am one of the luckiest grandkids the world has ever seen.
One of the fondest memories of my childhood was spent at a little lake high in the mountains of central Utah every summer.  The excitement up waking up in the freezing cold temperatures of the early morning to hike down to the fishing boat and see what the lake would offer that day.  Now I have a confession.  Fishing to me is possibly one of, if not the most, boring things to do.  But every year I couldn't wait to travel to Fish Lake and go out on that boat with Grandpa.  I wish I could remember what we talked about for hours on that boat.  I wish I could go back and watch him set up my line, teach me how to cast, and patiently watch as I tangled up my pole within minutes of getting it.  I wish I could see the excited each and every time we caught a fish that none of us liked eating.  I wish more than anything I could explain to my Grandpa how much these little fishing trips meant to me.  I think these trips taught me a lot of things.  I think it taught me about work, sacrifice, and patience.  I think it taught me to love nature.  But most important, I think these trips taught me how much my grandpa loved me.

I feel like I was very lucky to gain a relationship with Grandpa because I often went to stay at his house by myself.  I attended school in Idaho so any time I was on my way to or from college I would always stay the night at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  During these visits unlike visits with my entire family, I got to spend time alone with Grandma and Grandpa.  Sometimes I would quilt with Grandma but most of the time I would just sit and talk with Grandpa.  We would talk about all sorts of things like current events, outer space, but most of the time I would ask questions about his past.  He told me stories of his trips to Russia and the friends he made there.  He talked about his experiences at War and in the military.  One time I even asked him what it was like for a sheep herder from the desert of Utah to see the ocean for the first time.  I loved talking with Grandpa. His quick wit and kind eyes were always so inviting.  Whenever I would have to leave he would say, "Know our home is always open. (to me of course because my Grandpa's house was never open.  He locked the doors and checked them almost hourly)  Come again and stay longer."

Grandpa and I would go for walks outside around his yard and garden as we talked.  His yard was always perfectly manicured but when I think of his yard I can taste the bounty of sweet ripe raspberries.

But the most valuable thing I learned from my grandpa and the legacy he left behind was the importance of freedom.  My grandpa was a pilot in the south Pacific at the end of WW2.  Although he rarely talked about the fighting he spent the rest of his life teaching about the importance and value of freedom.  Freedom because of the sacrifice of so many men and women before me but also a different kind of freedom.  The freedom that my grandpa fought his entire life to ensure, his kids' and grandkids' was freedom through education.

My grandpa was born into a land and a world where life was not very free.  In the desolate high deserts of San Pete county he lived, experienced, and witnessed where life revolved around the weather, the sheep, and trying to survive.  His schooling was sacrificed to help the family survive.  While other children were in school my grandpa was out in the hills and mountains surrounding the little town herding and protecting their livelihood, sheep.  But my grandpa was not satisfied with this life.  And at the age of 18 with a couple of friends, he left that desolate wasteland and went to find a new world in California.  I really try and imagine what it would have been like for my Grandpa to go to Los Angeles for the first time.  Seeing a big city, seeing the ocean, seeing a world so different from the world he knew of small minds, sheep, and farmlands.

His friends didn't last long in California but my grandpa was different.  He saw airplanes (probably for the first time) and the course of his life was changed forever.  So many know the story of my grandpa's journey better than me, but there is one thing that I know well.  The thing that drastically changed his life and has affected my life just as much.  My grandpa discovered the golden ticket, the get out of jail free card, the one sure way to live the American Dream.  My grandpa was on a crusade the rest of his life preaching that discovery.  That discovery was education.  He watched the people of his little town be trapped and saw the way out.  Through education my Grandpa got out, helped get man on the moon, and had a wonderful life doing it.  He passionate about a lot of things but nothing was more important to him than to make sure all of his posterity knew the secret to success.  He wanted his posterity to be was smart, educated, respectable, contributing members of society.  And I am happy to report I think he did a pretty darn good job.  He had 5 children with 5 Bachelors, 3 Masters, and 1 Law Degree.  He had 26 grandchild with 22 Bachelors (with 4 still in the works), 7 Masters, and 5 Doctors.  This unbelievable feat was no doubt because of him.  He loved freedom. he was passionate about freedom.  And he was willing to sacrifice to ensure that I had that same freedom.

One time I emailed my grandpa and asked him what freedom meant to him.  I am so glad I kept that email. Even now I smile when I read his response.  My grandpa knew no way to respond but in the most eloquent, formal writing that only a scientist could create.  He started with saying,

"Many have addressed the subject that you have suggested and ended up writing a book.  Even when receiving such broad treatment, its readers find the essays not to agree with its reader's personal attitudes."

He went on to elaborate even more on the deterioration of freedom because of individual moral decay, but here is the final paragraph.  His statement:

Now finally, what does freedom mean to me? Freedom is a condition where I can exercise my selection of options, without negatively infringing upon other’s ‘rights’, and have no fear of being infringed upon myself. Where I can plan my life within boundaries that are compatible with my willingness to exercise or expend the energy required to achieve my own preset goals. To pick and choose those entities within my social environments deemed best for me and acceptable to others that might be effected. To do all this and yet recognize that my freedom is but an infinitesimal entity among the freedom rights of the whole human species.

There is no question that my Grandpa was a genius.  My grandpa achieved greatness.  Losing him is unbelievably hard for me.  He is my hero and it wrecks me a little bit to know that Brad will never know this great man.  It wasn't until I was looking through the pictures I have of my grandpa that I discovered something.  Something that I am sure I should have known long ago but I didn't.  If there is one physical characteristic that I get the most compliments on, it is my eyes.  My whole life people have commented on my eyes.  And of course it is the same for Brad.  I never knew where those eyes came from.

  My mom has green, my dad has brown.  I never knew.  And then I found this.

I am so proud of where my eyes came from.  I am thrilled that for the rest of Brad's life whenever someone comments on his eyes I can teach him about the man that I hope he will be like someday.  The man that fought for freedom and won.

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