Wednesday, December 30, 2015

You Think You're Prepared.......

I had my wonderful father, Edward Anthony Kerkhoff, for over 49 years, and I know I'm blessed. I know I should be thanking God (and I am). But right now, all I can seem to focus on is that I'll never touch his hand again or hear him answer the phone.

I should probably wait to write this post about Dad. But it's very important that his future generations know him, and I want to get this down on paper. Maybe I'll write something more eloquent later. But considering that I'm not normally eloquent, that probably won't happen.

What do I want my great grandchildren to know about my dad?

He was a calm and gentle soul. However, if you wanted to tick him off, just disrespect my mom (even a little). This sweet man NEVER tolerated that. Mom was #1 for him (with the exception of God), and that's the way it should be.

Any Purgatory time he was going to have to endure was mitigated (if not completely erased) by the evenings he spent with me at the kitchen table, teaching me Chemistry and/or Alegbra. The more I cried and screamed, the calmer he got. But I knew that he couldn't understand why I didn't understand these subjects. He never made me feel stupid. He always told me I'd get it (even though I never did).

He loved airplanes and anything aviation. He took me to the Air Force Museum (Dayton, Ohio) and
the Blue Ash Airport every year (or so it seems to me). Even as a little kid, I cherished these moments. He seemed to know everything about every aircraft in the museum. He used to lift me up and place me on one of the pillars of the small airport so we could watch planes take off and land. He always knew which type of aircraft we were looking at and would tell me other facts (which went in one ear and out the other).

Alms Park and the Cement Slide!  It just didn't get any better than this for a family piconic. Plus, we would watch planes at Lunken.

He was a faith filled, devoutly Catholic man. He lived it. He walked the walk. His faith wasn't something he "showed off" on Sundays. It was something he showed to me (and all of us) every minute of every day. But he revealed it silently, humbly.

His blue eyes sparkled when he laughed. And he laughed a lot.

And he cried. When we found out that Sarah had died (but before she was born),  I witnessed my dad kneeling in  prayer and pleading with God to take him and not his granddaughter. "Please God, take me and not Sarah. I've had a good life. Please don't take her. Take me."  This was in 1991.

He loved his family--his Peachee, kids, grandkids, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, cousins,
etc). He loved family reunions and being in the presence of all of us.

He was kind--truly kind. And that is something that is very rare.

More Purgatory time was shaved off his time when he taught me how to drive a stick shift. "Feel the clutch, Marti."  WHAT?!  WHAT?!  SH!T--D@MN--SH!T (as I popped the clutch)!  "Feel the clutch."  WHAAAAAAAT???!!!!!  I'm surprised he didn't have to seek medical treatment for whiplash after spending more than 5 minutes with me trying to drive the Mazda GLC.

He was a master of the "airplanes" at Kings Island and taught me how to snap the cables. People would literally point at us as we sailed over their heads and then snapped the cables. He loved roller coasters (like his mom). I could never tell when the Barrels ride actually started because Dad would get those things spinning so fast, right away (as soon as we sat down).  He loved "The Beast" and the "Rotor."

He told me that my job as a mother was to raise a moral, ethical, law abiding citizen who could get out and do it on his/her own. My job was not to be that child's friend. There would be days, weeks, months that go by that the child truly believed he/she hated me. If I was doing what needed to be done to raise a moral, ethical, law abiding citizen, the so be it.

He created his own Cincinnati chili recipe, and we'd have chili parties. He kept his recipe a secret until the last few years before his death.  Everyone loved his chili. Everyone but me. He knew it, and it was ok. I just ate hot dogs with shredded cheese during those parties.

When I was in high school, he was a victim of age discrimation. I watched my father do what was necessary to support his family. I also saw my father sad. But I never saw him truly angry or full of rage.  Sad but never vengeful.

Dad called me once because Mom put him up to it. She wanted resolution to a certain issue, but I couldn't agree to what she wanted me to. It sounds more dramatic than it was, but it was something I felt strongly about. Mom understood that but was trying to balance other issues with it. When Dad called and gently brought up the subject, I blew. I rarely lost my temper with Dad, but I did this time. He listened and then calmly asked me, "Is this something you'll have to answer to God for?"  Yeah Dad, it is. "Then do what you need to do."  He didn't ask me to explain my position. He didn't require I run it past him before he supported me. He trusted me.

He loved Christmas morning. He would plonk himself down on the floor and play with me and my friends Fisher Price Castle.

He taught our dog Kahnsy how to swim in our pool and get herself out of the pool (using the ladder).
Dad was afraid she'd fall in and not be able to get out. He made sure she could.

He saved my nephew Brandon's life during the 1974 tornado. He grabbed him (from where Brandon--a few weeks old--was sleeping) and quickly brought him down into the basement. And just as they both got down into the basement, I heard glass breaking and "the train" overhead. The tornado story could be its own blog entry. CAN'T A MAN EAT IN PEACE???!!!  LOL!

Dad always told us he loved us. Actually, it was usually "Luvs ya" as he was kissing you goodbye.

He held our hands while he was in the hospital for the last time. He liked us (Mom, the 7 kids, his sisters, grandkids, etc) there with him. Even when we thought he was "out of it" (due to his pain medications), he let us know he wasn't. If we tried to pull our hands away from his before he was ready, he would tighten his hold on us.

He never took me (or any of my siblings, I think) camping because "I camped enough during the war."  Who can argue with that?

He was a great story teller. His infamous "Shot at and missed--Shit on and hit" WWII tale is classic. So is the story about how he found out his real name was Edward Anthony and not Edward Frederic like he had thought for he first almost 18 years of his life. And him reciting the events that got him expelled from Covington Latin for smoke bombs is a joy.

Dad's death had NOTHING to do with Alzheimer's and/or dementia. I don't care what's on his death certificate. One of his doctors made some notation about Alzheimer's and/or dementia years ago (in his chart), and we were never able to get it removed. Dad had NPH. That means he had NormalPressure Hydrocephalus. That was commonly misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Dad was not in the midst of dementia when he died. He was "with it."  The shunt he had in his brain (for the NPH) did its job. I hate that the official cause of his death is not absolutely correct.

I think this will be an entry I constantly update. If you have a story about Dad, will you please share it?  I'll add photos later. But I feel a "push" to get this out out there.

I'd like to speak to my great great grandchildren--Please know that Ed and Peachee loved each other just like what you read about in books. I didn't fully appreciate it until very recently. I took it for granted. It's what I grew up with. And I stupidly assumed (somehow) that it's what most people had.  What Peachee and Ed had/have is incredibly rare. Don't settle for anything less. Just don't.

Friday, January 30, 2015

What Would They Think?

I try to put myself in my ancestors' shoes (wooden shoes for some of them) and imagine what they were thinking as they first saw the United States.  I'm sure the kids were filled with excitement, but if I were a mom who had left everything I knew and put all my eggs in this immigration basket, I think I would have wanted to throw up over the side of the ship.

My ancestors came to the States through a number of ports, but Castle Garden in NYC was the main one.  My Kerkhoffs arrived on 28 October 1864 after leaving Haselünne, Germany on 15 September 1864.  In a matter of 6 weeks, they bade farewell to a very small town that had been the only home any of them had ever known and then had to face navigating an overwhelming New York City.  

Hasestraße 4
The Home of My Kerkhoff Family

The Adler
The Kerkhoff Family's Ship

Lately, I've been reminded of their arrival and that it has, in part, made me who I am (this goes for all of my ancestors).  It has played a significant role in the opportunities I enjoy and the path my life has taken.  And since May 2014, that path has taken me to NYC.  I'm based there now and commute 2 or 3 times per month.  More often than not, I have to fly into LGA and cab it over to JFK.  And if I sit on the left side of the aircraft, the view reminds me of my Kerkhoff family's journey here.  I see the area that they saw (now Castle Clinton).  And I have to wonder......what would they think of their granddaughter who now flies into NYC at least a couple of times per month?  FLY???!!!!  Travel from Cincinnati to NYC in a couple of hours????!!!!

I love this view even though I know the Statue of Liberty wasn't there when my ancestors arrived.

See the "bottom" of Manhattan? That's where The Adler sailed into.  Now, it's Castle Clinton.

What would they have thought of their great great great granddaughter standing in the same place they stood?

Great Great Great Granddaughter of Casper and Lisette Kerkhoff

Every single time I fly into NYC, I think about my ancestors.  I know that if they hadn't made the decisions they did, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.  I owe everything to them.