Sunday, November 18, 2007

searching for "normal"

One of my very favorite people in all of the world died last weekend. My father-in-law, my friend. I could never adequately put into words what an incredible guy he was. Seriously, he's the kind of person who could have a book written about him.

Travis grew up on a farm in Nebraska during the Great Depression. His childhood wasn't an easy one. And yet despite the long hours of hard, hard work he put in daily on that farm, he finished school. And then he joined the Army. It was near the end of WWII, and he spent his service mostly in Japan. Like many veterans, he nearly never talked of that time in his life. When he arrived back home, he put himself through college...all the way through to earning his Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He worked for Rohm and Haas for 37 years, before retiring with a truckload of patents under his belt. He rubbed elbows with people like Linus Pauling and Wernher von Braun.

But he was a very down-to-earth, modest man. He didn't talk about his accomplishments as a source of pride. No, his joy came from his family, his gardens, his cement sculptures. He was undoubtedly one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. And one of the most hard-working. Idleness was not in his nature!

My children and I owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. Rich is simply the most fabulous daddy I can imagine. It's not surprising...he had the perfect role model. Even in a time when dads weren't often so involved, Travis was. He fixed the boys breakfast before school and took off work to come to their tennis matches. Rich's bedroom was right next to his parents' as a kid, and Rich suffered through growing pains and insomnia during different parts of his childhood. He said that all he ever had to do was give a little knock on the wall, and his dad always appeared instantly to rub his legs or fix warm milk.

And he never stopped providing support to his family. Physical, financial, emotional. He was always there. It would take months to list everything he did to help our little family. He helped us move and put up fences and build bookshelves. He stayed with Annie and me (because I was still not quite recovered from hyperemesis during my pregnancy with Gray) while Rich had to go to England. And he came and stayed with us again during my pregnancy with Max. I was put on bed rest at 24 weeks, and we tried to make it on our own. But it was so hard on Rich, working and trying to take care of the rest of us, and after six weeks he finally took up his dad's offer to come stay with us. Travis spent four weeks helping our family make it through, without ever complaining, before Max was born. It was only appropriate that he got to be one of the first people to meet Max, still in the NICU.

Max was the last of eight incredible grandchildren. And he was so proud of each and every one of them! He was always so incredibly supportive of Annie. He absolutely loved her poetry. And she absolutely adored him! The boys are sad about Grandpa, but they aren't truly comprehending. Annie, on the other hand, understands. She's having a bit of hard time. Who can blame her?!!

During the summer of 2006, we took a wonderful vacation. We saw some amazing stuff like Devil's Tower and Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, but the most special part of the trip was getting to spend part of it with Rich's parents. They drove out from Pennsylvania and met us in Nebraska. Travis showed us the farm and all around the area where he grew up. And then they traveled with us through the rest of Nebraska visiting Ash Falls and Agate Fossil Beds, before they headed back home and we continued on with the rest of our vacation. We simply couldn't be more grateful that we got to spend that very special time together! Though I have photos from more recent times together, I've just always loved this picture from that vacation...



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We arrived home last night after a week spent with the family. A good week. A hard week. A necessary week. I miss everyone already. But it's a fact of life, that we all have to now find a way to put some normalcy back in our days.

I can't wait to get caught back up with everyone out here...I've really missed reading what you've all been up to. But it will probably take a few days. You know how it is...lots of catching up to do...mail, e-mail, laundry, school, etc. In the meantime, I do hope you've all been well!

21 comments:

Kathleen aka Coffee Mom said...

It sounds like he was a wonderful man. I'm sure he was equally blessed to have you in his life too. Enjoy your wonderful memories :-)

Chris said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this Debi. Pass my condolences on to everyone. Especially Rich and Annie, I know that they must be taking this hard. He sounds like he was such an amazing man and he left y'all with some wonderful memories. You'll always have those!

gail@more than a song said...

He sounds like a really wonderful man, so sorry to hear about your loss. I love that picture...and y'all have wonderful memories too.
Been wondering if you were ok and what was going on. Thanks for letting us know.

twiga92 said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this, Debi. I wondered where you were. I hope that you'll be able to get back into a routine and work through your grief during this hard time.

Nymeth said...

I was wondering where you'd been...I'm so sorry to hear you've been gone for such a sad reason :(

He sounds like a wonderful and unforgettable man. I'm sure your great-grandchildren (Annie's grandchildren!) will be hearing stories about him.

I'm also sorry to hear Annie is having a hard time :( I can imagine how hard this must be for her. But time will ease her grief and yours, and you'll be left with the blessing that was having such a wonderful presence in your lives.

Jean said...

I've been thinking a lot about Travis this week. He was a good man who raised good men. He will live on. Hugs!

kreed said...

I am just heartbroken for all of you - I know how special Rich's Dad was to you and how wonderful he was to your family. I am thinking of you all and hoping all of the great memories help you through this awful time.

Kailana said...

I am so sorry for your loss!

Jennifer said...

Debi, I am so very sorry for your loss. Sounds like he was a wonderful man indeed, who led a great life and left an even greater legacy. I know you all will miss him terribly. May God bring you all peace during this time.

Take care of the important stuff first - we will all still be here. Hope you find your normal (or new normal) soon!

{{{Hugs}}}

marianne said...

Oh, Debi, I'm so, so sorry. He sounds like he was a wonderful man. I'm so glad you had such a special person in your life and your kiddies had such a special grandpa. Please pass on my condolences to Rich. Take gentle care of you too...

Melody said...

Debi, I was wondering about you... and I'm so sorry to hear about this. {{Hugs}} He sounds like a really wonderful man.

raidergirl3 said...

What a lovely tribute you wrote. My condolences.

Dewey said...

I'm really sorry about your and your family's loss. Travis sounds like a really special man.

And your pregnancy with Max sounds like mine with my son. Did you have pre-eclampsia? Or was it hyperemesis again?

Stephanie said...

It does sound like he was a fantastic person. You are very blessed to have such wonderful memories of him.

My prayers will be with you and your family right now.

~**Dawn**~ said...

OMGosh Debi. I am sorry I am so late getting over here with my computer crash... He sounds like an incredible man, and I am sure this will be a bittersweet holiday season for you now. I know my first without my Gram was. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Somer said...

I just recently stumbled across your blog through some book blog or another (actually I found Annie's first through her challenge), so you don't "know" me. But I wanted to give my condolences anyway. Your FIL sounds like an amazing man.

Org Junkie said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Debi.

Laura

Dewey said...

Hi Debi, came over to answer your comment. Yes, I had pre-eclampsia too, and it turned into HELLP syndrome. I was put on bedrest with twice-daily visiting nurses really early, I think 12 or 13 weeks, and hospitalized by about 16 weeks. I had my son at 31 weeks and he was in the NICU for a month or so. But now he is a big teenager and healthy, no serious problems as a result. I hope you and your baby were as fortunate.

Boudicca said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss,Debi. Many,many blessings to you and your family.

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss, for all of you. What an incredibly warm, loving, moving tribute this was to a special man. I know reading this would make him smile :)

Take care!

Carrie! :o) said...

Debi~ I am so sorry I'm just now reading this. My heart goes out to all of you. This was a beautiful post. What a wonderful man. I'm so glad y'all were blessed to have him in your life. (((HUGS)))