Nana

When I think of Nana, I think of color. She had a way of making the ordinary full and alive, and being in Nana’s house meant color–a backyard engulfed in plants and flowers to explore for hours, crystals hanging in the window making “rainbows” on the walls, wrapping myself up in the kaleidoscopic afghans she had crocheted. Her vibrant personality even flowed into her clothing– bright hues, bold prints, and not least of all her hallmark muumuus. But I think my favorite part about Nana was the multi-faceted shades that made up her life as a wife, mother, and grandmother. Just as buttercream, lemon, saffron, and goldenrod are all yellow, love, hilarity, strength, sass, tenderness, and a hundred other nuances combined make Nana unmistakably “Nana.”

Creativity flourished when you were with Nana. She could draw anything you could dream up–which meant I had close to an entire portfolio’s worth of cat drawings–crouching! sleeping! walking! sitting! She nailed them all, and I would try my hardest to copy them. The organ was never off limits, even though I can imagine now what a ten minute rendition of “Heart and Soul” played in the synthetic accordion and harpsichord must sound like. She tried to teach me to crochet, and when my enduring abhorrence of crafting became evident, she would sit by me and work on a blanket while I ditched plans for a blanket and worked on a long braid of yarn, changing the color for me as often as I wished. Because of Nana, pancake breakfasts will always hold a special place in my heart. Partnered with Grandad, there was not a single shape of pancake you could think of that they could not make.

Nana was always ready with a story to share about my dad, and aunts and uncles, and I was especially gleeful when it had something to do with them getting into trouble. She would tell me about animals and places where she had traveled. I remember being thoroughly certain that Hawaii must smell like Nana’s perfume. I remember she would let me roll around on her water bed until I was nearly seasick. One day I went in to play on her bed and I saw one of her wigs on a mannequin’s head. Not knowing she wore a wig, it scared the bejeezus out of me. I remember watching Nana very closely the rest of the day to make sure she hadn’t been kidnapped and had an impostor in her place. She obviously passed the test, as no one could come close to imitating her.

Being with Nana meant adventures big and small–a family trip to the theater in San Francisco, or a granddaughter-grandparent escape to Disneyland via train. Nana understood the importance of one-on-one time. We would often get coupons for hugs, sleepovers, and special outings. One of my most dear memories of Nana was using one of her “coupons” for an ice cream date, just me and her. I felt so special in that ice cream parlor, just the two of us. I knew I was important to her. It made such an impression that I think of it every time I go on our traditional monthly one-on-one “dates” with our kids. I want to be able to pass on that feeling I had just sitting in Baskin Robbins with my Nana.

Along with knowing the importance of meaningful time, Nana understood the importance of embracing everyone’s individuality. As an ineradicably shy little girl (and even as an adult), Nana seemed to understand that my quiteness and introversion wasn’t something to “fix.” Nana let me be quiet, and loved me, and was proud of me, not in spite of my personality, but I think because of it. I hope I can keep making her proud.

After hearing so many stories about her life recently, many for the first time, I feel like I am just beginning to know her. I know I will think of her all the more now when Adam has a lucky fishing day, when Haley pores over jewelry catalogues for hours, or when Jane flaunts her animated personality. I needed more time to soak up her experience, knowledge, and laughter. To say that Nana loved her family and was a bedrock of love to all those who had the privilege to know her feels like such an understatement–like trying to define color, I’m not sure if there are words to really capture it.

A Few Memories of My Mom

A few days ago, my Mom passed away. As a mother and daughter, we are uniquely connected with one another. When she gave birth to me, she was just a few months shy of 20 years old. As adults, it really is not much of an age difference. We always told one another that we would be awesomely cool old ladies together. I am heartbroken that we never got that chance. We would have been epic old ladies together.

It is hard to now move forward with everyday life without her in it. This is one of the most painful realities of being the one left behind. You can’t make any new memories. From now on, she is going to miss every birthday, every family dinner, every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At this sensitive time, it helps just a little bit, however, to think back to the memories I have of Mom, especially of my childhood. I really did have a fantastically wonderful childhood. Like a lot of kids, I did not fully appreciate it until I was much older. I know that I have a lot of great and tender memories to cherish to help me move forward without Mom in my life.

50As a young girl, I was Mom’s living doll and it was all about the hair.

Some of my earliest memories as a child involve the nightly routine of kneeling down at Mom’s feet for her to put curlers in my hair. This was a time before electric curling irons – so there was a well thought-out, time-consuming process to achieving perfectly curled hair.

After my nightly bath, Mom would first attempt to brush out my wet hair with heavy and deliberate strokes. For the inevitable tangles, she would place one hand heavily on top of my head, tell me to bend my head down towards my chin, and then with her other hand she would take a comb to my hair and hank down with all her might.

Once my hair was completely smooth and straight, she would place a good-sized glob of something called Dippity-Do into the palm of her hand, rub her hands together and then run her fingers dripping with goop into my clean, wet and straight hair. Dippity-do was a kind of hair gel. Whenever possible, Mom used the extra holding Dippity-do. It was translucent green and extremely sticky. In a pinch, she would use the regular pink version but she had a certain preference for the extra holding green variety.

Once my hair was good and sticky, came the part where I got to help. It was my job to hand her the curlers. In my very early years, she used black curlers with bristles for the smaller, tight curls and hard pink curlers for the larger, loose curls. The pink curlers had two parts- first a roller to wind the hair around and then a second piece that was a semi-circle clip to hold the curler in place.

Mom would take the sharp pointy end of the comb and dig it into my scalp to select and separate out the few choice strands of hair to place in a curler. She would say “left” or “right”, if I was to hand her the curler over my left or right shoulder. She was very precise about curler placement- winding my hair tightly and securely into place, every strand accounted for. After a long while, my entire head would be covered with hard curlers.

She would then kiss me good night and send me off to bed to sleep. Even now, I do not think I can adequately describe what it was like to sleep with full head of hard curlers-some with bristles. There are simply no words for this kind of beauty torture.

It wasn’t until I was about 5 or so, that Mom took pity on me, (or maybe it was the advances in technology) and replaced my prickly black and hard pink curlers for the softer pink foam kind. While they were a big improvement in the comfort area, Mom would get frustrated if a curler became loose during the night creating an unbalanced head of hair- some curly and some not. Eventually, Mom decided to place my hair into two side ponytails and then place the foam curlers into the hair. This was my preferred method. I found that if I lay perfectly on my back and kept my head straight, I could fall asleep without have to lie on any curlers.

Mom also loved to experiment with my hairstyle. One time when I was about 4, she cut my hair off into a short pageboy style- no curlers required. Dad hated it. I loved it. Needless to say, it was not long before the hair grew back and we returned to our curler routine.

Picture Day at school was a particularly inspiring time of year for Mom. If you were to look at my grade school pictures, you can see a progression of popular at-the-time hairstyles. I believe it was my first or second grade school picture that Mom decided to style my hair exactly like hers- ratted up into a huge beehive type style. Truly- we could have been twins. The picture instantly became a family classic.

Mom was never afraid to learn from her kids.

When I was about 10, my primary teacher taught me how to crochet. I would practice long chains of stitches for hours on end. Eventually, I got somewhat good at it and was able to make granny squares- which the family used as hot pads in the kitchen. My stitches and eventual rows were never quite even and the edges were lop-sided but Mom never said anything about it. She always told me they looked great. One day, she asked me to teach her how to crochet. I was very excited to do so.

25First, we went to the store so that Mom could have her own needle and yarn. I recall Mom looking at all the different size needles. She asked me how you know which size needle to get. I told her the larger the needle the larger the stitch. She studied the needles further until she was sure which one would be the right one. It could not be too skinny nor too thick. She ended up selecting a needle that was 2 sizes larger than the one I had been using.

We then went to the yarn aisle. Mom had no idea that there were so many types of yarn. She would first touch the yarn to see which one she thought would be easiest for her to work with and then she made her selection based on color. She would take a skein of yarn and place it to another colored skein until she had just the right color scheme. Like most creative things she did, she always had something in mind.

As soon as we got home, I set to teaching Mom how to crochet. Mom was a quick learner but she did things her own way. While Mom was right handed, it appeared that she was left-handed when she crocheted. I would show Mom how I did the stitch. Then she would try it but it looked backwards to me. I kept telling her that she was doing it wrong. Mom would just say, “I need to do it my way and it will be fine”.

And, it was fine. Mom became quite talented with her crochet work. We had colorful crocheted blankets on all of our beds and she made dozens of baby blankets for friends and family over the years. Mom’s stitches and rows were always even. She only gave up crocheting when the arthritis in her hands prevented her from continuing.

Mom would go through certain periods of her life where she would try different things creatively. She learned to do ceramics. She learned how to can fruits and vegetables and that making your own ketchup is not worth the effort. She learned embroidery. She learned cake decorating. She learned how to garden. She was passionate about every new endeavor. And the best part is, that often, I got to learn with her by her side.

No mom is perfect. But Mom was the perfect mom for me.

I remember when I was about 8 years old, I ran away from home. I packed my yellow and orange flowered suitcase with a few clothes, some candy, a couple cherished and well-worn books and all my life’s savings… about $3.52.

I had a plan.

I would hop a bus out of town and go and live with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma and Grandpa had lots of books and Grandma made awesome rolls- they were legendary and something the family talks about still to this day. I saw myself spending my days reading endlessly and eating yummy rolls to my heart’s content. It would be paradise… my idea of living happily ever after.

I do not recall exactly what triggered me to take such as drastic step but I do know it involved my 3 brothers. All my short young life, my three brothers seem to love to do things- terrible things from my perspective- just to get a reaction. And I always gave them one, which in hindsight, just seemed to encourage them even more.

It was probably just the typical things that brothers love to do … like making fart noises with their hands and armpits; wrestling to see who could squeeze out the loudest fart or at night- engaging in an epic, grand fart war. I never understood why a fart war required the cover of darkness. My brothers took a lot of pride in their ability to fart on demand. In my view, a lot of time was spent on this endeavor. I think if asked today, they would tell you that it was all worth it.

I was never really clear on the rules of fart war but I am pretty sure the winner was crowned for having the loudest and smelliest fart. I can also tell you that after a while, it gets smelly and it gets loud- very loud. It is all the time. It never lets up.

In short, with 3 brothers, I was out numbered. There was no hope.

So, I ran away.

It wasn’t until I had gotten around the block and was standing in front of my piano teacher’s house, that I heard it.

“Deborah Lynn!”

“Stop, right now!”

“Deborah Lynn! Deborah Lynn Westover!”

You need to understand that at that time in life, Mom did not like to leave the house unless her hair was done and her make-up carefully applied (This is something that she decidedly got over as she got older). I stopped and turned around and could not believe what I was seeing.

Mom had no shoes- she was barefoot- which in itself was not strange. It was the rest of it that astonished me. She had only half brushed her hair. She had no make-up on. She wore a thin nightgown. If the sun hit it just right you could see things that should not have been seen in broad daylight by anyone. Mom was running, yes actually running towards me, arms flaying in the air, yelling at me at the top of her lungs. She was truly a mess and a sight to behold. I remember thinking “Wow, that’s my Mom. And she was willing to do this for me.”

The entire neighborhood heard and saw all of the commotion. Mom did not care who saw or heard her. To me, she seemed panicked and downright terrified. I remained frozen in my spot. I had never seen her this way.

Once Mom reached me and she had regained her breath, she calmly asked me where I was going. So, I told her my plan as well as my litany of grievances against “the brothers” as they came to be known.

She listened to it all. She did not interrupt me- not once.

When I was done. She was remained silent for a few moments. I continued to look at her with unwavering determination that I would carry on with my plan. I was expecting some sort of demand to return home immediately. None came.

Instead, I recall her telling me for the first time that she does not understand this “whole sibling thing”. She said as an only child that she simply did not “get it”.

Then she surprised me further with what she said next.

“You are not going to leave me alone with them, are you?”

This thought had never occurred to me until that very moment and knew that I could not leave her.

We hugged and had an instant understanding and unbreakable bond. She reached for my suitcase with one hand and for my hand with the other and together we walked home, heads held high, in silence, ready to do battle as a team. From that day forward, I realized that Mom and me were in this together.

There were so many other times in my life that Mom did exactly what I needed to have done or said something I needed to be told. I could count on her to be direct and honest. We rarely had the typical teenager angst and disagreements that so many others seem to experience. On those rare occasions, it was my own stubbornness that created issues.

At times in her life and especially during her last few days, it seemed that our roles were reversed. However, the one true constant was I could always count on her to tell me the truth and she could count on me to do likewise. One of the last things, Mom told me was that she knows things that I do not know. I just wish she was able to tell me what those things were… I just know it was wonderful and amazing. It had to be. Otherwise, she never would have left.

Mom died on her own terms. We cried often as I knew that she loved us more than anything. Her family was everything to her. Mom never did like being left alone.
Even at the end, I knew that Mom and me were in this together until she decided that it was time for her to finally move on without me.

There is no question and absolutely no doubt in my mind… Mom was not perfect. But, Mom was the perfect mom for me.

Memories of My Mom

As we celebrate Mom’s life this week I have asked my siblings and children and Mom’s grandchildren to contribute memories of her as part of her history. So I’m trying to lead by example here and it was a pleasure, of course, to do this. There is so much more that I could have said. I encourage others to please contact me to share your memories of Mom and help us build the record we’re keeping here. — jsw

135I have never figured out just how my Mom got her Mom-training. She was an only child, she didn’t have a lot of extended family around her and she married and had children so very young. She did not have a lot of role models. And it is not like there was a “How to Be a Mom” handbook out there either.

She just knew what to do.

My Mom had her own style, her own command of “mom-ness”. She was not keeping up with anyone, she had no peers and there were no fads she followed. It was all blazing trails for Mom.
Being a middle child I suppose I could just conclude that Mom had everything figured out before I came along. But that not only would be wrong it would do an injustice to Mom’s creativity and passion for being Mom.

And that’s the thing: she loved being a Mom. It was – and we were, as her kids – her life.

Mother’s natural abilities were frequently pressed into service. She was an artist. I can remember being very small and crawling up into her lap and asking her to draw me something – Mickey Mouse, or something similar – and she could do it brilliantly, without thought and in a second.

I remember one time being at a friend’s house and hearing about a school project an older sibling of my friend was working on. Their mother was trying to supply a hand drawing of Donald Duck. The finished project looked something like what a five year old would do. I asked when the “mom drawing” was going to be added and they told me that WAS the drawing their Mom did for them. I was stunned. I just thought all moms were great artists by nature. Mine was.

Halloween at our house around 1966 or so. Mom-style.

Halloween at our house around 1966 or so. Mom-style.

Her creativity took her in all kinds of directions. Halloween was a favorite time of year because Mom stopped at nothing with our costumes. Using everything from sheets to paper mache there were no store bought costumes for us. I was never Spiderman – I was always a creation of my ideas coupled with Mom’s creative impulses. We got wows when we trick or treated.

Summer vacation was also a time when Mom’s handiwork was on display. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and seat belts in cars then were not part of the equation. The only one stationary in the car was the driver, who was usually Dad. The rest of us roamed all over the back of the station wagon, especially on long trips. It wasn’t a car, it was a playroom. And Mom made it up. We had curtains on the windows that she made, complete with brass curtain rods. There was a massive foam mattress in the back, covered, of course, in a polka dot slip cover that Mom made. There were matching pillows. Mom put us in shorts, gave us sun glasses and we were styling down the road.

Mother was never a Cub Scout. But I was and we won awards. When it came time for the cake contest for the Blue and Gold dinner? Yeah, we won. Mom baked three flavors of cake, cut it into shapes and covered it with seven colors of frosting to make a Cub Scout cake. It was a work of art.

And the Pinewood derby? Yes, Mom was all over it. Dad engineered the basic construction and got the wheels running. But Mom was the body shop and while I never won a race I had the best looking car on the track.

The station wagon with the curtains in the back.

The station wagon with the curtains in the back.

Mother’s passion for creating things was not limited to art projects and holidays. She did not shy away from foods and food storage. Not everything worked out, of course. I can recall hot summer days when she would line up baskets of berries and peaches and apricots and we would can jams. What a treat that always was. But when she experimented with dry frozen foods or long-shelf life stuff things got a little weird. I remember Mom adding food coloring to pickles and getting these odd fluorescent pickles that no one would eat. They tasted fine but none of us could get over the idea of maybe eating something that looked radioactive.

One of the most famous incidents involving food came from something called TVP – “texturized vegetable protein” – and it was supposed to make things like meat healthier. The results for us were hamburgers so hard you could break teeth. It was hard to tell if Mom was making dinner with the stuff or building grenades to be lobbed. It was anything but edible.

Healthy foods were generally a failure in our house. Not that Mom didn’t try. Brussel sprouts were a horror that just kept coming back at the dinner table. I could not stand the sight of them. It took to putting them in house plants or stuffing them in pockets. Of course, Mom always discovered that when she did the laundry and I had to learn to line my pockets with sandwich baggies when such offending foods were served.

That worked pretty well for Brussel sprouts but broccoli with cheese was a bit trickier.

Mom was always on to us. It was like she had eyes in the back of her head. But she was out-numbered and while she could always suspect what we were up to she sometimes failed to understand our motivations.

Case in point: Mom always wore a wig. Always, ever since I was little. She made the Marge Simpson hairdo in the 1960s popular. And this was forever a tempting target for me and my brothers. We would sneak things into her hair at church. She could come home and pull a feather or a small paper airplane out of her wig and say “How did that get in there?” Mom could entertain us by just sitting there.

My Dad for his work would order duplicate slides by the thousands for training programs he put together and they came in small potato sized boxes that were perfect for throwing. On cold winter days my brother and I would occupy ourselves in the garage by building forts on the opposite ends of the garage and playing war by launching these hard, sharp-cornered boxes at each other. We had epic battles.

Unfortunately Mom would sometimes have to come out to do the laundry, passing through No Man’s Land with every load. She always felt she was a target and she would lecture us that chucking boxed towards her was no way for a boy to treat his mother. But we were not bombing her. We were trying to knock her wig off. We never once succeeded, though we tried every strategy. I’m sure she got hit a couple of times in our efforts to down the wig but she never complained.

She just got even.

Mom’s punishments were legendary. You just didn’t want to cross her. When one of us had a problem completing the chore of getting dirty clothes to the laundry you just ran out of clothes and had to walk around the house wrapped in a sheet.

Mom could sometimes throw food. It was usually because someone had a smart mouth but sometimes it was because Mom’s arms were short and throwing was easier than trying to give us a well-deserved smack. My brother once got a hot chicken pot pie to the face.

I'm not sure what is going on in this picture...maybe Christmas morning? But Mom's hair here is just epic.

I’m not sure what is going on in this picture…maybe Christmas morning? But Mom’s hair here is just epic.

Mom did other Mom things that used to horrify us. I have stubborn cowlicks in my hair and Mom fought them with a vengeance. Any time we would take pictures – and my Dad was a photo geek and we took pictures a lot – my hair could get unique treatments of hair spray and goop to fight the tendency it had to stick up in odd places. Mom sometimes had nothing to work with and sometimes she’d just lick her fingers and wet the hair down. I would always complain and she would always have to tell me to “be quiet and stop embarrassing her”.

If Mom took unorthodox methods to her raising of little boys she continued it into our teenage years. This was when I really remember my mother’s tender side.

Teen years are hard and I was no exception. I was always a little big, frightfully shy, a bit uncertain and never quite possessed of the confidence of my brother. He was a genius. He skated his way through school, while I struggled. He could play any sports where I was always the last guy picked for dodge ball. And Mom was always watching me, always cheering me on, always aware of my unspoken yet tender feelings and sometimes broken heart. Mom championed me in everything.

Even girls.

I can recall being about 15 years old and there was a girl I liked. I didn’t tell a soul about it but Mom had eyes. I can remember her once sitting me down and telling me how to wear my clothes, how to smile and how to compliment a girl. What other Mom does that with a teenage boy? Mom was sensitive to me and she knew my struggles.

I grew up, got older and moved away. It happens. We all go through stages, even Moms. But Mother has been a steady part of my life. I learned early on that home meant Mom – not the house where we lived. She set the tone, she controlled the smells, she made the warmth that was home.

She was always fun and sometimes surprising. Summer vacations meant a lot of travel and sightseeing. And sometimes some fishing. It was something we all did together – even Mom. And she loved it. Dad’s learned method for trout was to troll at a low speed over Fish Lake and we would hit that magic hour late in the evening just before sunset with lines cast out all over the boat.

Everyone wanted to fish but my big brother – the first teen driver in the family – was more interested in driving the boat. But controlling the course of the little boat with six lines out was something beyond his abilities. And that frustrated Mom who had a knack for reeling them in. Inevitably the lines would get crossed and Mom would begin to curse like a sailor. Oh, it was legendary. Mom wasn’t shy about the use of occasional language but nothing caused her to erupt like fishing interrupted. She took it to a level we never heard at home – only in a boat.

When it came to things like anger and frustration Mom actually rolled with things pretty well. She had a “don’t complain” approach to most things. We were all mostly close in age and she had to get production from us on everything. She didn’t put up with a lot of guff and she certainly didn’t like hearing us moan about anything. I think this came from her own growing up years as an only child. She had to do everything.

But occasionally a “damn” or a “hell” came out. And it never failed to crack us up. I can remember once being at church, of all places. And my little sister, who was NOT sick, turned an innocent burp into an accidental vomit projectile. She was watching her big brothers have a burping contest and it looked like fun to her. But she had to work at it, really reaching down deep to get that authentic belch to bellow, just like the big boys. We worked with her on her technique and she was doing pretty well until she tried a little too hard and we ended up with a mess. That earned a “oh hell”, right there in church.

Speaking of “Oh Hell”, we sometimes played a card game by that name on holiday breaks. I learned in later years it was more of a game of chance than a game of skill. It was supposed to be fun. But I can recall seeing a side to both of my parents playing that game that I never otherwise saw. I can recall my Dad slamming his cards down on the table in frustration or my Mom letting loose with a few choice words at the cards she would draw. Once she got so mad at a smirk on my father’s face that she dumped her cards in his lap before the game was over and walked away from the table.

Fall and Christmas were my Mother’s time of the year. She just relished the seasons and squeezed the life out of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our Christmas tree hunts were epic and the arguments over the right shape of the tree were legendary. I never, ever, ever agreed with Mom’s choice for the tree. She got it wrong every time. But by the time the day was done and the tree went from being in the ground in the morning to being up in our house later that night it was always a thing of splendor. Mom had the eye.

Losing Mom this past week has caused us to naturally consider all the many stages of her life. There is so much more to her than what I am recounting here because the stage I’m really talking about are the years of my childhood.

But I don’t want these years forgotten because Mother was really an attentive, creative, and engaged Mom. She was the center of my world as a kid and that is really how it is supposed to be. She anchored everything and everything was right with the world with Mom there. And she was always there.

I never wanted to disappoint her. Never. And that was the thing about Mom. Even when I did disappoint her she was gentle with me and would never, ever let me hear that she was disappointed in me. No, she loved me. No matter what.

Fish Lake -- where Mom was the fish whisperer.

Fish Lake — where Mom was the fish whisperer.

I had a magical childhood not because Mom was a teller of fairytales or an inventor of imaginary worlds. She used her own creativity in trusting the development of our own imaginations. I recall being about six and playing with my cars, which I had by the dozens. We had a brick fireplace, the lines of the grout serving in my mind as perfect lines for parking my cars and I covered the entire fireplace with my fleet.

I remember my Mom watching me in silence. I was, for some reason, a little embarrassed and quickly took my arm and swept everything off the fireplace at once. “Why did you do that?” Mom asked me. I confessed that I was embarrassed at her watching me. “But why?” Mom said, “I was learning how to do that and you took it away from me. Show me again! I want to know how to do it.”

That was Mom’s gift – she could see things within us we could not see and she taught lessons in less than obvious ways.

She always gets a lot of laughs as my siblings remember the chicken pot pies or incidents where she had one of us arrested for stealing a candy bar. Mom could be out there for sure.

But I remember her more for her subtleties. She could teach us when we didn’t know we were being taught.

I loved my mother’s handwriting. I struggled with handwriting early on because I was naturally left handed but made in school to use my right hand. Mom was always so fluid in her handwriting and I admired it. I wanted to write like that. And Mom knew that. She would encourage me and sit me down to show me how to maybe shape things a little different in very small ways. I remember learning cursive and her telling me to make my capital letter “J” like the head of a bird. She knew and I knew I would never be the artist she was. But she knew I wanted nice handwriting, just like my mom. We never talked about it. But she helped me over and over again because, being Mom, she knew what was important to me.

Knowing my heart is what I always loved about my Mom. Being a boy meant being brave and not always displaying hurt feelings or tears. Mom was aware of that. But she was also so aware of my sensibilities and she viewed them as strengths – something to be cultivated and encouraged.

I cannot go back to those days. And now I can’t have my Mom back either. Sad as that is I also know that Mom, where she is, still knows my heart. And she speaks to me that way. I know when she is happy and I know when she isn’t. That was always our connection and always will be.

Deciphering Handwriting of the 19th Century

I had some interest in this article today in the Deseret News about the handwriting of early Church scribes. It speaks exactly of a struggle we are having right now.

In preparing each video we’re producing we are looking for any and all specific information about each of our subjects. The Church has available — free for the asking — the patriarchal blessings of our deceased ancestors. I have been able to secure several and will share them over time.

Our next two videos will profile Edwin Ruthven Westover and his 2nd wife, Ann Findley Westover, the parents of our William. Several months ago I had requested copies of blessings for William and Ruth and was saddened to learn the Church had no copies of blessings for them. Perhaps they never got a patriarchal blessing. After that experience, it seemed doubtful to me that we could find blessings for Edwin and Ann.

I was wrong. They arrived in the mail this week.

But here’s the problem. The Church had these blessings on microfilm and what they sent me was a photo copy of that film. Anyone who has retrieved documents of that kind know how problematic they can be, just by their nature.

These copies I received though were good. My problem is getting past the handwriting.

I’m using reading glasses, magnifying glasses and I’m looking for a used Urim and Thummim to help me out if necessary.

I plan on sharing these AFTER I transcribe them, and likely after we release the videos (which ARE coming soon).

Edwin and Ann have big stories to tell — both as a couple and as individuals. Their’s was the epitome of the pioneer experience and they lived it fully. But these blessings are personal and intimate — sacred — and I think they are best reviewed after having what background we can provide first. They open up new questions in my mind and I cannot help but think there has to be some more surviving documentation of their times and travels somewhere.

Here’s a couple of tantalizing tidbits for you to consider in advance of seeing the videos and the blessings:

1. Ann’s blessing is dated 1861 in Mendon, Utah. William was born there in April of that year. From what we have learned from Edwin’s history the family was living at that time in Grantsville with Electa’s sister, Hannah. Being about 100 miles away from Mendon it is not inconceivable that Ann would visit her parents and her brother’s family with some semi-regularity.

2. Ann’s blessing is given to her by Patriarch Issac Morley — we think. (Trying to confirm that). Interestingly, it appears that she was given a father’s blessing by her father, William Findley, and then her father joined the Patriarch in giving her a patriarchal blessing.

3. The Church provided us with three blessings for Edwin. The first, dated 1850, was given by Patriarch John Smith. The second, dated 1875 while living in Hamblin, was also given by John Smith. The third, dated in January of 1877, was given by Patriarch Pulsipher (Zera?) in St. George, Utah and it is the most difficult to read. We think it speaks of temple work as this was the time Edwin and Electa and families did a large amount of family work in the St. George Temple.