Down Memory Lane (pt.2)

For a couple of years, my brother, Paul, and I’ve been talking about preserving family memories. Our parents and parents-in-law are gone, two of our siblings are gone, and we don’t know what the future holds. Every time someone leaves this life, an encyclopedia of information evaporates into thin air.

How many times have you heard, or even said, “I didn’t really know him”? How many times have you thought, “How would he respond in this situation?” Or, “I know we grew up together, but what happened that gave her a different outlook on life than I have?”

It was time to start documenting Linzey family memories!

To begin, two major factors had to be considered.

1) Because everyone is so busy, the process must be simple. And

2) Because writing is seen as a chore, the process must be enjoyable.

The brainstorming session began.

Proverbs 17:22 informs us that a cheerful disposition (“a merry heart”) is good medicine to the body, but discouragement causes our health to deteriorate (“dries up the bones”).

We could let each sibling take turns choosing a topic to write about, but people’s minds sometimes go blank. Several of our siblings asked, “How do we choose a topic?” So Paul chose the Rememory Card® system. (Look up “Rememory Cards” on the web.) Nevertheless, with or without cards, here is the simple process Paul wrote.

  1. Decide how many months you would like the project to continue.
  2. Each week, take turns selecting a writing prompt and those joining the fun will write a memory on that topic. Write from a half to 2 pages per memory. Paul and I decided on one memory per week, but you can choose your own time cycle. We realized that if we waited too long, we’d lose the enjoyment and the momentum.
  3. Write whatever you want. Nobody will censor your language or stories.
  4. There is no pressure or mandate to write about every topic selected. If you don’t want to write about something, skip it.
  5. You may write about anyone in the family. Your stories don’t have to be only about yourself, however, you should be considerate of others’ feelings when writing about your family.
  6. You can draw from your whole history. Consider your whole childhood as well as your adult interaction with the family.
  7. This is a memoir project. Memory is not always accurate. In fact, it’s been demonstrated that nobody remembers perfectly. Also, we tend to interpret as we remember. We subconsciously fill in the blanks, expand, and erase some aspects of our experiences. So, we don’t challenge anyone’s memory. Memory is specific to the individual.
  8. Every family has both good and bad, painful and pleasant, positive and negative, funny and serious memories. Try to get your stories to reflect a balance and a blend of these dynamics.
  9. Not everybody will remember what you remember, so it might be a good idea to identify the year, the location, and the writer’s name after each person’s story.
  10. It’s OK if your stories focus on yourself, but, if possible, find a way to bring at least one other family member into the anecdote.
  11. This endeavor can create priceless documentation of your family history that your grandkids and great grandkids might never know otherwise.
  12. Simply take turns choosing a topic, gather the stories, and have someone compile them. If the family agrees, you may find a publishing company (expensive traditional or affordable self-publishing company) to format it and turn it into a family treasure.
  13. Keep in mind that this memory project is for your own benefit as well as for the rest of the family. And if you get brave, as my family might, you can have it published for the general public.

Our family started in January and will complete it in October. With six of us writing, we’ll have well-over 400 pages to edit and format into a family treasure.

There are ten kids in our family, with fifteen years between the oldest and youngest. Knowing that fact alone, you may understand why there’s a lot about each other that we don’t know – even coming out of the same family, same church, and same basic culture.

The fact is, we are all different and we all interpret life differently. But all six of us thoroughly enjoyed it, and, as a side benefit, this project has drawn us all closer than we’ve ever been before.

Down Memory Lane (pt.1)

In the summer of 2013, Carol and I were in Southern California when I learned that one of my cousin’s sons had died. Attending the graveside funeral, two other cousins and I began talking about family memories. The statement that caught my attention was, “When a person dies, all his or her memories are sealed in the coffin, never to be recovered – unless they were documented.”

Unless they were documented kept ringing through the corridors of my mind.

Documented how? When? In what circumstances?

We all know that nothing happens unless it is planned. Even accidents are planned out of ignorance by those who refuse to take safety precautions.

My cousins and I began talking about generating a family writing project, and the outcome could be a book of family memories. It could generate family cohesiveness. (We needed it!) We especially wanted to get memories from our surviving parents written down prior to their departure from this life. The farther back we can go, the stronger our family foundation will be. Our grandparents were already gone and our fathers (who were brothers) were gone. But our mothers were still here, and perhaps we could get the writing ball rolling. They could fill in memories of their husbands – our fathers.

Well, that didn’t happen. The only memories from our parents that we were able to compile was from their private writings in letters and diaries. And that wasn’t much.

When one of the cousins asked why we need to get memories written and what difference it would make, all I could say was, “For you, it wouldn’t make much difference because you are not interested in your past. And it infers that you aren’t interested in teaching your kids about their past. But enquiring minds want to know.” He openly agreed that it doesn’t matter to him, but that didn’t hurt our relationship. We still enjoy great camaraderie.

But I’ll answer that question for you folks.

Family history is important. Among other things, it helps to establish personal identity, self-esteem, and helps us understand the direction we’ve chosen to travel in life. Several examples follow.

Both of my parents were musicians, they came from a line of musicians, and my nine siblings and I are musicians. Dad was a chaplain, Mom’s side of the family includes a line of ministers of the Gospel, and nine of us siblings have been in or are in Christian ministry.

Dad was not only humorous, but quite pragmatic. What about the ten of us? All of us are pragmatists, and all but one has a well-developed sense of humor. Yes, we laugh a lot sometimes in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Let me add here, no matter how funny the story might be, try NOT to laugh at a funeral. It is the wrong place and the wrong time.

Everyone has quirks, traits, or habits that are peculiar to them. Why do we have them? Where did we get them? Does it matter?

It does matter for several reasons.

If we are being harassed or pestered about a personality trait, we might want to change. Understanding our past can assist us in making the change. But understanding our past can also strengthen our backbone if we don’t want to change. We just might like who we are!

I’ve been told often, “You’re just like your dad!” At first, I didn’t know how to take that hit. But when I stopped to analyze the situation, I was happy. I like my dad! So I was happy to be “just like him.”

One time I introduced Dad to some of my colleagues in New Mexico. After a few minutes of interaction, one of my friends said, “Chaplain Linzey, you’re just like your son.” Dad and I looked at each other, looked back at my friend, and broke out laughing. When the one who made the comment realized what he just said, he broke out into a big laugh, too.

Proverbs 17:22 informs us that a cheerful disposition (“a merry heart”) is good medicine to the body, but discouragement causes our health to deteriorate (“dries up the bones”).

So, what does that have to do with writing family memories?

Thanks for getting me back on track.

I have nine siblings. Two are in heaven, and two don’t have time to write. But six of us decided to get this family memory project going. I’ll tell you more next week.

If in Doubt, Throw it Out

“Mamma, what’s that yucky green stuff in the ice box?”

Wait a minute. Do any of you know what an ice box was?

Years ago, those things that held food didn’t plug into the wall and were made out of wood. The door on the upper portion was not for ice cream or to freeze your meat and vegetables. You opened that door to put in a 25-pound block of ice. As the ice melted, you could put other food in with it. The ice absorbed heat, melted, and cooled the food in the lower section. Cool, huh?

By the time I entered this world, my parents had long-since replaced the ice box with a fancy thing called a refrigerator. No more visits from the Ice Man. By the way, Carol and I saw a real wooden ice box in the Tillamook County Museum in Tillamook, Oregon. Memories! Buy some Tillamook cheese while you’re there.

These new-fangled refrigerators plugged into the wall and had a compartment that would keep ice cream hard if we put it in the back, but it would freeze meat, vegetables, and water anywhere in that compartment.

Because of our upbringing, we still called it an ice box. However, I had to start calling them refrigerators because in the 1970s I was an appliance repairman, and no one knew what an ice box was.

But where was I? Oh, yes. It was in the 1950s and my parents were visiting some friends.

The mother came into the kitchen to answer the cry about yucky green stuff. “What’s the matter, Maureen?”

“Mamma, there’s yucky stuff on the cheese. What is it?” The little girl was pointing to a dull greenish-blue fuzz.

“Oh, my goodness! Mold is growing again. Well, let’s just cut the green off, and we can eat the rest.”

Today, we understand that the roots of the mold grow deep into the food, and we usually just throw the moldy food out. However, our ice bo – excuse me – our refrigerators today still grow mold under the right circumstances. And we now understand that mold and bacteria are growing before we can see any of it.

So how do we know whether or not the food is fit to eat? Usually, we smell it.

The fungi and bacteria on meat will normally give off an unpleasant odor before the yucky green stuff, or any slime, is visible.

I don’t want anyone to die, or even get sick, from food poisoning; so, years ago I developed one very important phrase as an appliance repairman, and I still say it today: If in Doubt, Throw it Out!

It’s worth memorizing because our health is much more important than a few dollars’ worth of food.

You can find on the internet the procedures for handling and caring for various kinds of food. And it’s quite simple.

But there is a more insidious poison growing in our culture. I call it spiritual and mental poisoning.

Mental health today is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and is complex, cumbersome, and costly! The primary reason is that people don’t see or smell the problem. This poisonous garbage has been insidiously foisted on our culture. But if it is culturally acceptable, it must be good. Right?

Wrong!

Many people are being accused and jailed for sexual immorality. It is gross, ugly, demeaning to men, women, and children, sexist, humanly degrading, and is one of three primary evils offered to our culture through theaters, television, advertisements, and DVDs.

Another evil is hatred. Blatant, cruel, murderous, evil hatred.

The third is evil music accompanied by gross, inane actions of the singers.

The church isn’t helping the situation because a large section of its members supports the garbage industry by paying for it and watching it; and many Christians are just like the world: they don’t seem to understand that it is poisoning humanity.

If people would simply evaluate what they’re watching and listening to, they would easily see that it is destroying us. But reading and studying the Bible would give them wisdom and alert them to the calamity they are bringing upon themselves.

First Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Stay away from everything that is evil.” Simple! That would cure most of the mental problems.

If people want to do what is right, they could objectively realize that it is not good for them. They would realize that it destroys families, society, and the church. They should get rid of it.

But for those who are not sure: If In Doubt, Throw It Out!

Actually, whoever is feasting on it, is either sick, or deceived by the world.

Judgment starts in the House of God, so you Christians should get the garbage out of your homes and lives. Then we can make a positive impact on the world.

What’s Over the Next Hill?

“Daddy, what’s over that hill?”

“What do you think you’ll see?” Dad chuckled. He must have been humored at my numerous questions. He continued, “If you sit still for a minute, we’ll be on that hill, then we’ll both find out.” Dad knew but wanted the view to be a surprise.

From my earliest memories at almost 3-years old, I’ve always wondered: What’s around the corner? What’s in the box? How did the mountain get there? What’s fire made out of? What’s over the next hill? I’ve always had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I still do.

That was a special trip for me. I was 5 years old, and seldom had the privilege of spending time with dad and mom by myself. Eventually, I had five sisters and four brothers, and this trip would be the first of three trips where I was the only one dad and mom took with them.

Mom was taking a nap in the front seat of the Hudson Hornet, my four sisters (two older and two younger) were left with elders in the church, and I was leaning over the front seat looking with eyes wide open. I had never seen mountains and valleys like this. Seat belts hadn’t been invented yet, but we never had a problem.

There were no freeways where we lived in 1951, and our highways allowed us to travel at the break-neck speed of 55 miles per hour. However, some of these mountain roads allowed only 35-45 mph. Our destination was about 400 miles away, and we left home long before daylight.

As we approached the crest of the hill, dad asked, “Eugene, do you know where we’re going?”

“Yes, we’re goin’ campin’.”

“That’s right. But do you remember where mother said we’re going?”

While I was trying to remember that hard word, we reached the top of the hill. Dad pulled over to the side of the road.

“Ooooohhhhh Daddy! Someone broke that mountain in half!” I was stunned to see half a mountain standing on the side of the valley.

Dad already had his camera in hand and was opening the door. “Son, that broken mountain is called ‘Half-Dome’ and this is called Yosemite Na… Eugene? Where are you?”

Dad found me hiding inside the car, not wanting to get out. I was scared spitless of heights, and when I saw the valley floor WAY DOWN THERE, I panicked. But peeking out the window, I couldn’t take my eyes off that broken mountain.

“Okay, Eugene. Would you get out of the car if I hold your hand?”

I shook my head, “Hu-uh.”

When mom said, “Daddy will let you look through his binoculars if you get out of the car,” I agreed to hold daddy’s hand and get out.

That was my introduction to Yosemite National Park.

We drove down into the canyon and dad took me on a few short hikes. I enjoyed playing in the heavy mist of Bridal Veil Falls, then helping dad set up camp. I don’t remember how much of a help I was, but it was fun being with daddy and mommy.

My favorite part was watching the fire fall down the face of Glacier Point. The park ranger gave a talk each evening, and an entertainment group sang as others prepared a roaring fire on top of Glacier Point. Then at 9:00 PM, the ranger hollered, “Let the fire fall!”

Several men then pushed the burning material over the edge with bulldozers, and a river of glowing embers fell more than a half mile (some 3,000) feet to the valley floor. Little boys never forget things like that. (The final “fire-fall” was on January 25, 1968.)

The question of “what’s over the next hill” has never left me. I might see an elk, a river, a glowing sunset, the wide expanse of the ocean, or another mountain. I never tire of it. And I am blessed with a wife who shares the same adventurous spirit.

We’ve been in every state of the Union and have driven over many hills. But there is one “hill” I cannot experience yet, and I can only imagine what the other side looks like. I’ll go over that hill after I take my last breath here on earth and enter heaven. I’m not in a hurry to get there, but God, dad, and mom are waiting for me, and I won’t be afraid of that height. Who knows: God might have thousands of hills over there for me to experience.

Memories of Dad

I was five years old, we lived in El Cajon, California, and the church building dad and the deacons built was completed. I was allowed to run in and around the building during certain phases of construction; but after completion, running in church was not allowed.

But I didn’t always obey my parents.

Reddy was my best friend, and when daddy wasn’t watching, we liked to run up the long flight of stairs on one side of the sanctuary, race in the upstairs hallway, and run down the stairs on the other side.

Dad warned me with, “I’ll tan your hide if you don’t obey me.” But for some reason, I did it anyway. I also went into his church office whenever I wanted to. After all, I was the pastor’s kid.

One Sunday morning dad had a personnel issue to handle, and told me to stay out of his office. I could obey that order. Until …

I told Reddy that Daddy was busy so we could run. “Goody!” Reddy almost shouted.

Up one side we ran, down the hall we raced, and ran down the steps on the other side. But getting ready to run down the steps on the second round, I tripped on the top step.

I tumbled head-over-heels all the way down. Miraculously, not a bone was broken and I wasn’t even bleeding anywhere. But my breathing mechanism had totally shut down!

In that situation, there was only one thing to do – Go See Daddy!

Not breathing, I burst into his office. Dad turned and was about to order me back out but saw that my face was turning blue and my mouth was wide open.

“Oh, my Lord!” I remember hearing dad say.

He quickly placed me over his knee, gave me a hard whack on the back which restarted my breathing, and said, “That’ll take care of you ‘til we get home!”

Now I had a different problem.

Back home after the church meeting, dad asked me what had happened. Fearfully, I admitted that I disobeyed him and tumbled down the stairs as I was running. (The picture is dad holding my sister, Sharon.)

I was amazed – and relieved – when dad pronounced, “Tumbling down the stairs was your punishment – this time.” Then pulling me to himself and wrapping his arms around me, he gently said, “Eugene, that fall was a hard lesson. Do you think you can remember not to run in church?”

There was only one answer: “Yes, daddy. I won’t run in church again.”

And I never did.

Three years later, we lived in Baldwin Park, California, and dad was in his final year of preparation to re-enter the US Navy as a chaplain. His schedule of seminary classes, being a pastor-husband-father, and sneaking in a few hours of sleep whenever possible, was quite full.

One Friday when I was sitting at the kitchen table with dad as he was finalizing his sermon for the coming Sunday, mom told me it was time for bed.

“Can I stay up with Daddy for a while?”

“No; it’s time for bed. Come on.”

“Can I PLEASE stay up for a little while? I don’t get to see Daddy very much.”

Dad looked up and said, “Eugene, if you want to stay up with me, you need to be very quiet. Don’t make a sound.”

“I’ll be quiet.” I never said something that fast before in my life.

Mom gave me a pencil (no pens back then), and dad gave me some paper. I was in heaven for another hour with my daddy. I have no idea what I wrote, scribbled, or doodled that night, but I remember the extreme joy of being with my daddy. And the well-worn Bible that dad was using that night is now in my office.

Dad is in heaven and our communication is over until I get there. But I do have the extreme joy of spending time with God – my eternal Father in heaven. He enjoys my visits.

God has an open-door policy, and continually invites us into His presence. Have you visited Him lately?