Sunday, June 6, 2010

Missouri or Misery?

(Who would put this on their grave placard other than a man who
lived and died by those words...or wished he had)

Now, I've lived in California all of my life. So I'm used to life in the fast lane. I find myself flying through traffic, getting mad at anyone who gets in my way and hitting my steering wheel when I hit a red light. But why? I guess usually because I'm a procrastinator and more often than not I'm late to get somewhere. Besides that, what's the purpose? I really don't think there is one except that California lives life in the fast can't really show down when everyone around you is speeding through life at 100 miles and hour also. People often don't take the time to give you a curtsy smile or a polite wave when you pass them on the street. More often than not, if someone sticks there hand out the window in rush hour traffic, it's definitely NOT to give you a 'thank you' wave for letting them change lanes in front of you. Living is HARD here. My husband works hard all day and is more likely than not going to have to have his knees replaced by the time he's 30. We live in a one bedroom, one bathroom, 399 square foot '5th wheel'/mobile home and are blessed tremendously to have some land for Emily to run around on (even if it is just dirt). Aaron makes quite a bit of money but SOMEHOW, the living in California sucks every little bit out of us. I could get a job, but the odds are, any 'job' I find right now wouldn't pay the cost of day care for Emily. This whole state is a Catch 22 and even though it's the only place I've ever lived...I'm finding that I hate it.

Missouri on the other hand was pretty. The grass is always green. You just mow whatever you want to be your front yard. I am convinced that every house owns it's own ride on lawnmower (although I did see one crazy woman halfway done mowing what must have been 30 acres with a push mower) Everyone has a perfectly manicured front yard. There are little rolling green hills with pretty oak trees as far as you can see. It's pretty much like a gold course. There are no fences. Everyone just shares their backyard. The houses are huge and usually come with a nice little chunk of land and guess what?! Houses are a 1/8 the price of a house here in California. They have deer like varmint, turkeys, guinees (saw my first one ever...thought it was a funky turkey), snapping turtles with a death wish that try to cross the road and wild red eared slider turtles. Best of all...NO MOUNTAIN LIONS! The people would stop and smile at you. I wouldn't be surprised if they would start up a conversation about lifes deepest mysteries if you allowed them. Time slows down there. The days are longer. Life is just something that is appreciated and spent well.

Here's a little history lesson for ya'll:
Some of you know that I am a HUGE civil war buff. I love everything about the era; the style of the houses, the clothing, the heartache and all intrigues me. Missouri was the middle ground for the civil war. It was neither part of the Confederacy nor the Union Army, but had it's star on both of the flags. Half of the state was "free" and half owned slaves, therefore it became the middle ground for some of the bloodiest battles fought. The largest battle south of the Mississippi River was in Kansas City. This was American against American, statesman against fellow statesman, neighbor against neighbor. It is a fact that out of 6600 known battles of the civil war 1,100 of them were in Missouri alone! Since Kansas was a free state who joined up with the Union Army, there was much fighting on this border. One of the biggest battles was fought right in Independence, MO, just a hop skip and a jump away from where I was. The Union army also issued what was called "Order #11" where everyone in Cass, Bates, Jackson, and Vernon counties (Jackson County is were I was) were ordered to leave their houses and properties in 15 days. The women who stayed where raped and the men were murdered. The Union Army marched through the city streets of Jackson County with a license to kill and set fires to buildings houses and crops and killed cattle. These counties became known as "The Burnt Districts" because there was nothing left to them but ash. There is some sad sad history associated with this state and I would love to research it more when I go back.

Many who read this know that the reason I went to Missouri was for my grandpa's funeral. I didn't know my grandpa that well. With him living in Missouri, I had only seen him a total of 4 times in my life that I can remember. 2 times where before I was 6 (ish) and 2 times were after I was 18 (wedding and 6 months ago). We also talked on the phone every September 9th since we shared the same birthday.

It was about 10 minutes into my grandpa's viewing that I quickly realized what a HUGE chunk of my life that I have been missing out on knowing. I honestly, cried more for myself and the sadness that I had for not getting to know my grandpa better than I did for anything else. I didn't mourn that he had passed, because it was obvious on where he was going and that he was prepared, I mourned for what I had missed. I got to hear the memories that he left behind and the joy that he brought and shared with everyone else and figured out that it was ME who lost out on these things!

Although I knew (through facebook only a short while ago) that I had a line of Stiegemeyer blood hiding somewhere back on the Missouri/Kansas border, I had honestly never thought about it much. Again, I found me kicking myself for never tapping into this branch of my blood. EVERYONE I met treated me like I was the prodical 'daughter'. I had never met a single one of them, and maybe it was the mutual blood that we share, but I felt as though I was part of the family IMMEDIATELY! Everyone know who I was, and talked to me like I had known them all of my life. This was an AMAZING feeling; tear jerking actually.

I met two people in those 3 days of my trip that will stick with me forever.

1) My dad's first cousin Carol

I was at my grandpa's viewing and this woman walks up to me...with a sly somewhat shy smile on her face and pulls me aside. She says "Hi, I'm Carol, come here and give me a hug!" Of course, I had met her before through facebook, but I also learned this weekend that profile pictures lie...most people look better in person. She went on about how much my grandpa love me and Emily was especially his pride and joy. She then said something that caught me off guard and made me bawl like a baby later that night. My grandpa had always thought that we resembled eachother {refer to above picture....just cover the mouths} and that this weekend (which was supposed to be our family reunion) my grandpa was just 'tickled' (another word I learned in Missouri) that he was going to finally get Carol and I together for the first time to take a picture together for him to have. This broke Carols heart that he had waited 22 years to get this picture and wasn't going to be able to take it, so she wanted to take a picture of us together and place it in my grandpa's casket for him to keep. I grabbed her arm and with tears in my eyes we went right outside and took the picture above. That night while I printed the pictures off to put on in his casket and I cried. The next day before they closed my grandpa's casket, Carol and I walked down the aisle arm in arm and put this picture in his casket for him to keep forever. I couldn't help but think of the smile on my grandpa's face when he saw that picture from heaven.

The second person:

Uncle Eddy, my grandpa's brother

Oh Uncle Eddy. My trip would have been lost without this guy! I first met him at the viewing where he nestled himself right in between me and my dad and proceeded to explain our relationship to every person who's had we shook. I learned my entire family tree...and a little more. I was fond of him after that night, but the next day he found a special place in my heart for him.

Originally, my grandpa had planned on taking us on a tour of our family history and all the places he grew up around Missouri. Since, we weren't able to do that, Uncle Eddy came up to us after the funeral knowing this and offered to give up his entire Thursday afternoon taking as all over SW Missouri where him and my grandpa grew up.

I really grew to like Uncle Eddy in those two days. He walked, talked, and smiled the way my grandpa did. And maybe there was a little bit of an immediate bond there because he did remind me so much of my grandpa. Whatever it was, I look forward to many many more visits with Uncle Eddy.

Here's some pictures from the day:

So my original question..."Missouri or Misery?" Given, I have not spent a hot summer day with 100% humidity there...yet, I would definitely say the answer is Missouri. I brought alot back with me. I was happier, I smiled at people alot more, and I slowed down and took the time to "stop and smell the roses". There is a little piece of my heart laying on that Missouri/Kansas line.

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