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I wrote this several years ago. Enjoy or re-enjoy!
Many years ago, in 1843, a man was born who was to have a profound effect upon many thousands of lives. His name was Russell Herman Conwell. He grew up to first be a lawyer, then a newspaper editor and finally a clergyman. As a clergyman, Dr. Conwell single-handedly raised several million dollars to found Temple University. He raised this money by speaking to millions across the country, by telling the true story of the “Acres of Diamonds.” This story touched me greatly when I heard it several years ago and I would like to share it with you now.
The story was about a young African farmer who had heard several tales about other farmers making millions by discovering diamond mines. These stories excited the young farmer so much that he couldn’t wait to sell his farm and go prospect for diamonds himself. He…
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To reshare with new friends. Especially Stuart!
Long day at work, couldn’t wait to get home. Long day means the “busy” and “excitement” did not exist that day. But then again, usually it’s just the “busy” that exists at work and “excitement” is rarely a part of my vocabulary anymore…especially the particular day this story takes place. None the less, my drive home was what I would call “Murder on Loop 1” (but I’ll leave that story for another blog) so I guess I could count that for excitement.
My drive home finally ended as I park my car in my driveway – anxious to get inside and relax and watch the news to see what might have transpired during the day. As I get out of the car I hear my dog, Dante, barking inside the house. Hmm. Interesting – he rarely barks let alone while he is in the house alone. Maybe he heard me get out…
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I met Austin exactly one day after Michael Jackson died in 2009. Yeah, there aren’t very many people I remember the EXACT day I met them! Umm…. Yeah that Friday in June of 2009 was the day I met Austin because Michael died on Thursday, June 25th.
Let me back up by a few days. I decided to attend a family reunion that was set to occur in Odessa, Texas in June of 2009. It wasn’t for my DIRECT family but it was as close as you can get. My mother’s sister’s kids had been having a family reunion for several years, every year. Pretty cool. I was invited that year (as I am often now) because my cousins are awesome and decided…let’s start inviting our other cousins!
I drove from my home base of Austin, Texas on Thursday June 25, 2009. I didn’t hear about Michael until about the time I was driving into the hotel parking lot I was staying at in Odessa. Michael Jackson died! Holy Cow! I was shocked. I had to get to my cousin’s house that was hosting the reunion, so I could think about something else.
It was great to see some of my cousins and their kids. Really great. Actually my cousin that was hosting the reunion was and still is my favorite cousin (don’t tell anybody). Her name is Paula and she is the youngest of my Aunt Ernestine and Uncle Tom’s five kids. Tom and Ernestine have passed away but their kids (of course now adults and all of them have grandkids themselves) do this amazing reunion almost every year….to honor their parents and really to honor each other and everybody in their family.
One of them, my cousin Denise, of course, was at the reunion. She was sitting in the living room on that Thursday evening of the 25th and said “Austin is going to be here tomorrow. He’s staying in Midland with his Dad.” I thought to myself, “Who is Austin?” but decided not to say anything. It didn’t matter really because Denise could read my questioning face. “Austin is my grandson!” Oh. Wow. I thought I knew all the ins and outs of the dynamics of the family, but obviously not.
“Caroline! You remember Austin! He was at Dad’s funeral (my Uncle Tom) with Frank!” Think Think Think. I still didn’t know who she was talking about it! “Caroline! Amy had Austin the year mom died (her Mom being Aunt Ernestine).” Think Think Think. I remember Denise’s daughter being pregnant. She was pretty young when she had Austin, so his grandparents took care of Austin. Yeah Yeah Yeah…it was coming back.
I just can’t go into detail anymore. I just have to say that it was a miracle that Austin came into my life. Austin was only 14 when I met him and he was just a cute shy kid that just sat and listened to everybody at this reunion. He was a fish out of water but was very blood related to this family. I was a fish out of water and wasn’t near as blood related to this family as Austin was, but I was able to swim in the water because I knew these people so well. Austin didn’t know them as well as I did but he tried his best to stay in and above water. And he did. He did just fine. For a 14-year-old he seemed very polished and well-mannered and I was just so very impressed by him. I could tell that whoever raised him, was doing a great job.
I decided at the reunion that I was going to try to get to know Austin and try to make him feel more comfortable. I don’t know if I did make him feel more comfortable but we became friends even though there was at least a 30 year difference between us. I mean…he was my cousin for goodness sake! I didn’t know at the time but he technically was/is my 1st cousin twice removed. Yeah, that’s it I think. Yes, that’s it – I just checked. My first cousin twice removed.
Austin and I connected and talked allot and it was great. I was so happy to get to know him but soon discovered something about him that was very troubling. We happened to be at one of our reunion events on Saturday, at another home, and Austin suddenly was VERY sick. I mean VERY sick. It had come on suddenly. Long story short…here was a 14-year-old boy suffering from a VERY strong migraine. It was just horrible. I felt for him so but I had asked him about it and he said that unfortunately he has them often. Wow. I mean no fun. But Austin handled it okay and it was obvious he was used to dealing with this horrible malady. He suffered at least one more migraine during that weekend.
I told myself that I was going to stay in touch with this young man because I felt he was very special and was put on this earth to do good things. I was proud that he was a part of my extended family and I barely knew him! Fortunately Austin seemed to like our friendship too and was happy to get know another cousin (even if I was a heck of allot older). And I couldn’t wait until he could meet my kids too. They were a bit older than Austin, but I knew it would be another great connection.
I remember when Austin was about 16 or 17 I asked him about college and if he was planning to go. He told me yes and it would most likely be Texas Tech, in Lubbock. I asked him if he had ever considered Texas A&M in College Station and he said that he hadn’t thought about it much especially after college day at his school and the people representing Texas A&M really didn’t impress him. I was pretty upset because I knew Austin would be a perfect fit for Texas A&M. I’d have to work on that later!
Who would ever know that I would become close to one of my first cousins twice removed?! But I have and it is such a special relationship for me. Austin is 19 now and you know what? He is an AGGIE and he LOVES Texas A&M. (I knew he would, but he just had to figure out that for himself).
Austin had another medical challenge his first year at A&M…his lungs kept on collapsing. Can you imagine?! He was growing so tall and fast his lungs couldn’t keep up. This was called Pneumothorax. He finally had surgery to make sure he’d make it as it was extremely dangerous to have your lungs keep on collapsing! Fortunately one of the best doctors to do this surgery lived in College Station, Texas! Oh, and yes, that is where Texas A&M is!
One never knows where a connection will happen. Don’t ever take for granted someone who you meet. Get to know them…ask questions…pay attention…listen. You never know what that person will add to your life, or you to their lives! In this case, Austin, my first cousin twice removed, will forever be a favorite person of mine that has added a lot to my life, because I made a point to pay attention and learn about him on that special day after Michael Jackson died in June 2009.
I don’t remember the ladies names. So I will give them names so as not to have to say “the lady in the brown coat” or “her cousin.” I do remember that these two ladies were cousins. I will call my two new friends Sarah and Emily. They were very close not only in age, but also in stature.
As I mentioned in my previous chapter, it became apparent quickly that Sarah and Emily were quite excited to have an American sitting at the table they decided to sit down at to have their tea and scones. I realized quickly these two women had a story to share. Just as we all have a story, these women’s story far outweighed many stories I had heard or could have imagined. I will attempt to recreate their conversation they had with each other, with me sitting at that round table in the tea shoppe in Hungerford, England.
“I remember the train that day more than anything, don’t you Emily?” “Yes,” Emily said, looking down at her tea, as she started to rub her index finger slowly on the side of the tea cup. “Yes, just seeing the train was exciting but knowing that I was going to be taking my first train ride was so frightening at the same time, wasn’t it Emily?” “Yes and you were only 6 and I was 5. But we grew up so much that day, dear Sarah, so much.”
I still hadn’t caught on. I didn’t know if Sarah and Emily were talking to each other, talking to me or what. They just started talking like it was in the middle of a conversation they had been having. I didn’t know why they started talking at all but they obviously wanted me to hear the story they were about to tell me. I put down my newspaper, The Observer, and listened politely, as I didn’t want Sarah and Emily to think I was some impolite American.
“1939 or 40 was the year I believe. Mum and Dad and brother and I lived in London and I remember it was great fun until the war started. Then the war started and things so changed for us! Even though I didn’t know it at the time, many families had been ordered to send their children out of London to escape!” Sarah said. (It was at this point my ears perked up quite a bit. War? Escape? What is going on here?) “It was frightful the day we had to go to the train station. All Mum told me was that we were being evacuated so we wouldn’t get hurt by the bombs!” “I was so young I couldn’t even imagine what that meant but I knew it was scary and I knew I didn’t want to die.” Wow, I thought to myself. Wow.
Emily looked at Sarah and smiled briefly. “It’s okay Sarah, you don’t have to talk about this, why are you talking about this?” Sarah looked at me and then Emily and then back to me and said “I really don’t know why “, as she smiled at me with a sad smile. I stared at Sarah wondering what she was going to say next.
“It was a most difficult day, the day my parents had to put my brother and me on the train. Not even knowing where we were going. There was so many of us children that had to be put on trains. Parents were crying, children were crying, I was crying, my brother was crying.” Emily said, “I was crying too. It was horrible!” Both Sarah and Emily were talking to me, straight at me as if they were begging me to listen. Not to worry, I was, I definitely was listening.
Sarah and Emily proceeded to tell me a little history behind the reasoning of evacuating children from many of the larger cities in England during World War II. The British government knew that it was only a matter of time that Germany was going to try to invade England by bombing the larger cities, especially London. So, in order to save the children the government told families to evacuate at least the children to safer spots in England that the Germans were not likely to bomb, smaller towns to be specific. It was not a required evacuation, but the government highly suggested this and provided the means and organization to get the children out of the larger cities.
My eyes were getting bigger and bigger as I was imagining this. I was starting to remember that I had read a little about this either in school or in some magazine. But it was just a story that was only faintly in my memory. And now here I was listening to these two women, Sarah and Emily, share their memories of this amazing time in history.
Emily said, “I remember thinking about you Sarah. I was so afraid I was never going to see you again. Our families were both on the same platform waiting for the train to come in. We got on the train and you were in the next train car. We had no idea where we were going.” Emily said, “And Mum and Dad were so upset that they had to let us get on that train without them. Of course at the time I had no idea what they were going through. I only was seeing it from my point of view.”
Sarah and Emily proceeded to tell me how they both ended up in a town south of Newbury where the train had dropped them off (which actually was only a few kilometers away from Hungerford, where we were drinking our tea). They had been living of course in the much larger city of London so going to a small town was quite a shock for them apparently. Emily, “I didn’t like it in at all at first. The worst by far was being away from Mum. I missed her so much and was so afraid the bombs would kill Mum and Dad and I would never see them again.”
By this point I was so honored to be in the company of these two women. I didn’t know what to say or do. For both of them to have gone through something like that at such a young age, paled in comparison to anything that I had been through my whole life, let alone by the time I was 6! Sarah and Emily began to talk a bit more about the town they ended up in but in a few short minutes they moved on to another topic. I do not for the life of me remember the rest of what they said as my mind swirled and swirled in awe in what I had just learned about these two fantastic women.
I will never forget my brief time with Sarah and Emily and I am so happy that I stopped by to have a cup of tea at my favorite tea shoppe in Hungerford, England that day.
With such a fortunate life of living in several different places, living in England was by far and away the most exciting. I had the opportunity to live in England three different times most recently as an adult, in the late 90’s. I took my two young children with me so they too, could have a taste of England and live in a place that was far far different than the state of Texas, where they were born and raised.
We moved to a very small hamlet that literally had maybe 5 or 6 homes, in the little village of South Fawley that was in the southern most part of Oxfordshire. We lived in a Manor house that was oh, maybe built in 1067 or something like that! It was incredible. How fortunate we were to be able to do this. So many things happened there I cannot even begin to tell you the oh so many stories. I will someday, but there is one day that stands about amongst many, that I must write about now.
It all started with the magic elixir….tea which is the hot drink of choice for probably close to 100% of English people. I became obsessed with it during my second “tour” in England when I was a teenager. After that I was addicted and drank it growing up and continued to do so. A cuppa hot tea is even better when I can sit down in a tea shop in England and have someone make it for me! Mainly because of the crumpets, digestives and other sweet things that one usually has with hot tea.
When I was living at the manor house in South Fawley, I kept busy during the day when my children were out at school. I didn’t work so I filled my days with special events and outings. It was great fun. One of the many things I liked to do was go out and have hot tea at one of my favorite tea shoppes. These places were in small towns such as Wantage, Abingdon, Hungerford, Newbury, Great Shefford, Farringdon and sometimes even in big towns such as Oxford and London.
One day in particular stands out like no other, when it comes to my hot tea experience. That day I went to my favorite tea place in Hungerford. Hungerford was maybe 15 miles away from South Fawley and it was only a hop skip and a jump for me really. The weather was quite unsettled as it was cold and chilly so it was a great day for a cup of hot tea with scones and digestives. I couldn’t wait. My tea shop was on the main street in Hungerford which was called, High Street. (As many main streets are called in many towns actually). As I walked in the tea shop I noticed that many other people had had the same idea I had. It was cold and chilly outside so why not have a cup of tea! There were hardly any tables but I was lucky enough to get one of the last tables available.
As I began to drink my tea and read my newspaper, The Observer, I noticed that a few more people had come into the tea shop. I didn’t think too much about it really so I just kept on reading and drinking. For some reason I couldn’t relax. I looked up and saw two older ladies that were probably in their 60’s talking to each other looking for a place to sit. They were awfully close to the round table I had claimed…which actually had 2 other chairs around it. I looked at the chairs thinking, “I hope they don’t sit here and interrupt my tea and solitude.” Well…I couldn’t think that fast enough because the next thing I knew one of the ladies said to me in her very thick British accent, “Pardon me young lady, but does it matter that we sit at this table with you? There is nothing else to be found!”
I mean, what could I say, “NO?” Of course I wanted to say that but of course I could not say that because of course my mother taught me better than that so of course I said, “Of course!” As I gestured my hand to the two empty chairs at my table, both ladies sat down and smiled and waited for the waitress. I must say at this point I knew that my relaxing time in tea shop had gone downhill and I was a bit upset to not have my solitude. But I really had no choice and had to make the best of it. The two ladies began to talk a bit between themselves and I quickly got back to business of reading my newspaper and drinking my tea.
When the waitress came to the table and asked them what they would like, the waitress also asked me if I would like anything else. I told her “Not now, thank you anyway.” That’s all I said and the 2 ladies perked up a bit and said in unison “You’re American!” I smiled and said “Yes…you can tell already?” One of them said why yes, “Your accent gave you away!” Silly me. The other lady said, “I’ve always liked Americans!” I was thinking to myself, thank goodness. So I said out loud, “That’s a good thing; I guess I’m safe then!” They both chuckled and looked at each other in a way that was much like a “knowing” look. This is hard to explain but the knowing look between them was almost like a comforting look. I couldn’t even come close to guessing what it was, because after about half an hour I found out what it was.
What happened in the next half hour pretty much blew me away. Here I thought I was going to have a quiet cup of tea at my tea shoppe, but instead I had one of the best history lessons about World War II I could have imagined and I know I never learned in school what they were about to share with me.
I so wish I could have taped the whole conversation. It was truly incredible and by the time I walked out of that tea shoppe, I was so thankful that these two women had not only asked to sit at the two chairs at my table, but I was so thankful that these two women shared their common bond and experiences of World War II with me. The fact that my being American and my American accent triggered this was fortuitous for all 3 of us. I became friends with these 2 women who I was never to see again after this day but who, at the same time, left much more of an indelible mark on my brain that most people I have known for years and years!
The bottom fell out from beneath my siblings and I, during our second stay at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, when I was in high school. My Mom and Dad separated and Mom moved out of the house that we lived in on the Air Force Academy a couple of years after moving back. It truly was a very difficult time for all of us. But I do know that when a parent moves out of the house things are NOT the same for anybody in that family ever again. We were no exception. Talk about an adjustment. It was not a good time. But to tell you the truth, I knew it was coming and I think it had to happen. I was at that age where I understood my parent’s relationship was not that great anymore and I knew for a while it was coming to an end. The separation and ultimate divorce was tough. Our life as a family was gone and none of us were the same. It was heartbreaking at the time.
When my mother left, my twin sister Cathy decided to live with her, in downtown Colorado Springs. Me, my older sister Bonnie and my younger brother Matthew stayed at the house with my Dad. Bonnie had just graduated from High School and was going to soon move to go to college so it was just me, Matthew and my Dad living in the big white house near the south entrance of the Air Force Academy.
Matthew and I became very close and we pretty much became the cooks of the house, the cleaners of the house and did just about anything my Dad needed us to do. He was always so busy working that Matthew and I also did what we wanted to do and cooked what we wanted to and watched the shows on TV that we wanted to. (I remember that the Walton’s TV show was one of our favorites)!
FAST FORWARD about 11 or 12 years to the year 1985. This was a MAJOR year in mine and Matthews’ life. Matthew gets married early in the year and he becomes a father later in that year. I become a mother at the end of the year. Of course a lot had happened between 1975 and 1985. I went to college in West Texas, moved to Austin after graduating and met my future husband and married a few years later. Matthew obviously finished high school, went to college and met his future wife and married.
When I was a young mother my children and my husband at the time, made it up to Colorado about once a year, from our home base of Austin, Texas. It helped that my husband’s family lived in Colorado too. As a result, when my children were young and Matthews children were young (he had two girls), our families remained close. My twin sister had 2 sons by then, so there were 6 cousins that had a blast with each other and they all got along pretty well too.
Yet, it was during this time and shortly after that it was becoming a bit obvious that Matthew and his families’ connection to us, his birth family, was slowly deteriorating. I do think Matthew stayed pretty close with Dad though. But the relationship with the women in the family was cracking. Matthew was obviously not only a Dad now, but also a husband. It was important to him that his family takes a firsthand seat. And that was fine and totally understandable.
I can have my guesses as to why the relationship with my brother deteriorated. I do not want to speculate on any other relationship Matthew has with others in our family. I can only write what I know in this case and I can only write what I perceive and believe of our relationship. It may be right, it may be wrong but it is what I perceive and know.
Bottom line, this day and many years now…my relationship with my brother is on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being great and 0 being horrible….I would say it is at a 1. I mean, I don’t even know Matthew any more. He doesn’t know me anymore. We both have not put any effort into making our relationship better or good for that matter. Call it “life”. Call it “lazy”. Call it “I’ll do it later”. Call it “why”. I know my next door neighbor better than I do my brother. It’s shameful.
I used to listen to a great radio show in Austin for close to 18 years. It was called the JB & Sandy Morning Show. I became an avid listener to the point where I pretty much became friends with JB & Sandy even though I had only met them once at some fund-raiser. It is really interesting listening to a radio show for that long because you get to know these guys like they are your best friend…or even your brother. I mean I know so much about those guys JB & Sandy, that if you gave me a test about them and a test about my brother I would pass the test about JB & Sandy with flying colors. The test about Matthew I would fail miserably. And he would fail a test about me too.
It is such a great regret of mine. The older I get the more regret I have. From what I understand, Matthew is a great father. But how would I really know for sure? From what I understand, Matthew is great at his sales job. But how would I really know for sure? From what I understand, Matthew is a great soccer coach. But how would I really know for sure? From what I understand, Matthew is a very Christian man. But how would I really know for sure?
I don’t know Matthews favorite TV show. I don’t know Matthews favorite things to eat. I don’t know the company that Matthew works at. I don’t know if Matthew likes sports but if he does, what are his favorite teams? Would he enjoy watching football with me? I don’t know if Matthew is a good husband – I mean I’m sure he is – but how would I really know? I don’t know if Matthew enjoys life. I don’t know if Matthew is a happy person. I don’t know if Matthew has any health problems. I just don’t know a thing about him. And you know what, it’s my own damn fault that I don’t know these things. Now, it’s been so long that it would seem like an almost strange thing to try to reboot the relationship.
Some would say “This happens all the time in families!” Well yeah, so. Is that supposed to make me feel better? And truthfully I don’t know why I’m even writing this right now, as I don’t know where it is going. I just know that if I have to write this – and if no one reads this blog, that’s fine. I know my Mom and sisters read my blog and will read this, but Matthew probably won’t read it because I don’t think he knows I even like and enjoy writing, let alone have a blog. Shall I go ahead?
If Matthew and I valued our relationship … we’d have a better relationship and even know what was going on in each other’s life. I mean, the last time I saw Matthew was at his youngest daughter’s wedding in 2011. And that had been the first time I had seen him in YEARS. It was obvious that Matthew would do anything for his children. And that was a great thing to see. It was SO good to see Matthew. I LOVE him so.
The last time Matthew contacted me was about a year 1/2 ago when he was very upset with me about me butting my nose into something I should not have butt my nose into, regarding his family. I thought I was being thoughtful, but I was not, as Matthew let me know in an email. At first I was shocked to get an email from him! But, it was quickly obvious it was not to say hi. It was to say: stay out of things. He was protecting his family, I understand that. I blew it. If there was any chance of reconnecting with Matthew, I lost it that day that.
This writing isn’t coming together. But then again, why should it? My relationship with Matthew isn’t together and hasn’t been together for a long time.