A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
My thoughts running through my mind on this Father's Day morning are concerned with the blessings of fatherhood. I was given the gift of a wonderful wife who endured my faults and remained loyal and loving and supporting all through our nearly 63 years of marriage. Many of the blessings of fatherhood I have received are due not to me, but to the patient and incredible ability my wife had of raising our children. As my thoughts turn to my children today, I am grateful beyond measure for the kind of lives you have led. You have all devoted much of your lives to occupations and voluntary efforts that have given gifts of tremendous help and service to others. As I remain alone as the head of our extended family, I look down the line at the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren that somehow have branched out from that moment in the Salt Lake Temple 63 years ago when Velna and I held hands across the altar and pledged ourselves to eternal marriage, just as I witnessed yesterday in the beautiful ceremony for Kate and Brian that replicated exactly what we did all of those years ago.
Yes, there have been a few bumps in the road here and there and some unexpected problems here and there. But everyone has done the best they can do to overcome these difficulties. Mentally, I have gone down our family line today and have thought for a bit about each child, each grandchild, and each grandchild. I can tell you that I love each and every one of you with all my heart. There is nothing more than I can hope and wish for all of you than that you follow and emulate the lives of grace, honesty, hard work, and service to others that your parents have all demonstrated. Most of the sermons that stick with us are not sermons of words, but sermons of example, of patience, of long-suffering, of courage when hopes seem to have vanished for a bit, of demonstrations of love and support for each of our family and for the strangers we meet each day, of smiles, of forgiveness, of perseverance, of striving to learn and grow and shine. You are all my eternal gifts on this Father's Day. The memories I hold dear for each one of you are the most priceless memories and possessions I have. Yes, I miss Velna more than I can tell you on this Father's Day and I have re-read some of her Father's Day cards from the past with tears streaming down my cheeks but I can tell you that the gifts that matter most to us are the lasting gifts of the love we have and demonstrate for each other. I miss my Dad and my Grandpa Wasden every day of my life. But with my years my understanding and appreciation of family and the primary importance of our families in our lives have become more precious, more clear, and more significant to me. One word says it all: Family. And the second word says even more: Love. I hope you all have a Happy Father's Day. From your Dad, your grandpa, and your great grandpa.
Velna and her sisters: left to right, Joyce, Velna, Evetta, and Beth
Dear Velna, I skipped a progress report at the seventh month because I didn't know what to write. I'm not sure I'm making any progress. I think I am feeling a bit better at least some of the time, though my not-so-hot feeling hours still remain some days for no respectable reason. Your daughter brought some nice petunias to the cemetery for you on Memorial Day but a couple of days later they were stolen. To correct that problem, I hired the landscape gardener who has such beautiful flowers in his yard every year that I have photographed hundreds of times to put in some decent dirt and plant some flowers in front of our house and three tomato plants, a cucumber, and a zucchini in back. The nice dirt that should grow things beautifully will be there after I am gone. I saved your yellow lilies and your straggly pink rosebush out of long-standing sentiment. I want these flowers to be in your memory, something I can treasure each day as I look at them as they start to grow and bloom and adorn the days of our summer.
And you will never guess what I did yesterday: I took your red wheeled walker and went down to the Jordan River Bridge. I woke up from a short nap with the impression that this was what I must do, I must go to the river where I haven't been for two years because of my vertigo and balance problems and your illness. It was difficult, and I got wet in the rain, but I was bound and determined I was going to show you a thing or two, and I made it down to the river bridge where I took photos and back home again. It wasn't easy, the walker wheels are too flippy-floppy, and it is a bit of a struggle on any downgrade. I've got to get a better walker. At any rate, I felt like I had achieved a great victory in doing something that I never thought I would ever be able to do again. Of course, I wish I could just get out and walk, but my therapist tells me that is never likely to happen without a cane or a walker.
Your children continue to support me in many ways. Kim and family came to visit, Russell takes me places, Jim and Ron check in, and Carolyn is coming on Tuesday. Our dear neighbors check with me frequently and occasionally bring unexpected meals and share their love and concern for both of us. Veronica, our housekeeper, made a big batch of chicken fajitas and rice that I have been eating since Thursday, and I made my much-liked clam chowder, which I know you hate because you think those little clams are still squiggling and wiggling, yesterday so I am well fixed for food.
No one has written a manual on how to recover from the loss of your mate. Suggestions abound, but most advice and ideas come from people who haven't ever faced the reality of being absolutely, totally, alone and without a companion when you lose your wife or husband. I am trying to recover, and I do feel better, physically, at least some of the time. I have discovered Starz westerns which I watch at a rate of one a day. I am really working hard to learn the ins and outs of my new Mark III super-duper camera, but the manual is one of the more difficult learning tasks I have ever tackled. I have to go over and over the same stuff. There must be at least 2,000 bells and whistles on the camera and I am bound and determined I am going to learn them all. Then I need to learn how to use my new iMac computer, and get back to scanning photo albums on the razzle-dazzle Kodak PS80 scanner. So I have lots to learn, and I hope my brain and intellect will hang together long enough to make some progress.
Once in awhile I wake up from a nap in my recliner and, out of habit, instantly look over at your chair, expecting to see you sitting there where you belong, and then, with a jolt and a tear, I realize once more that you are not there. Oh dear Velna, I could have done so much more for you, I could have paid more attention during the long, long years of work, I could have made more of our marriage than I did. The lessons you and I both learned during our last three or four years sort of became a crash lesson that uncovered our eyes, awakened our senses, and brought to us the eternal gifts of marriage that now are so indelibly imprinted on every fiber of my being. I don't know where you are, but I feel your influence and your love and compassion every minute of every day. You aren't here when I come back from the doctor with news that my kidneys are o.k., that my blood pressure is nicely controlled, that my leg pain wasn't a clot. I still ask you if you think a new symptom I get is really, really serious, and I ask out loud, expecting an answer, but I can't hear your words, I just hear your echo "I'm not a doctor, how do you expect me to know?"
So we watch the June days go by as we enter into the heart of the beauties of summer. I will do my best to honor your legacy and to live up to your expectations. And don't tell me I could have written this letter with fewer words, I needed every word to tell you what was on my mind. Your loving husband, Dwight.
I was home in Penrose that summer after I finished school at the University of Wyoming in May. I had a job working in the insurance department of the First National Bank in Powell, 13 miles from home.
June 29 1950
Dear Dwight, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to hear from you but I got your letter this morning. The folks went on a picnic this afternoon so it is quiet (for a change). They left me here because I have to go to work at 3 p.m. My cousin from Idaho is here for about a week, he is Frank's age and Mother is trying to find something for him to do.
Today will be my seventh day of work. We are supposed to have a day off each week after this, I hope so because it gets kind of tiresome to work every day. Mr. Peterson, the new owner, has really remodeled it. It is kind of fun to work there but by 10:30 I'm pretty tired. Sunday evening we were just swamped, we had to practically run every where. Monday night was pretty busy too. We didn't get the dishes done until 11:00. Most of the customers are these old maid school teachers. Thrill.
Dolly and Kathie are gone to Iowa for a week to a Presbyterian convention. Jean is in Kemmerer, Nina is leaving any day now, so here I am. Lyell works in the daytime and I work at night so we don't see much of each other either. I guess Dolly is going to Lander as soon as she gets back and stay for about a month.
We got a letter from Aunt Norma today and they want us kids to come up Sat. and go to the Park with them for about 3 days, over the 4th. But we can't, because I'm working, and Frank just got back from there about 2 weeks ago.
I sure hope you do get to come back, we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed. I liked the comments you made about the Campus Shop and also the good English you used. It sounds as if you are having a good time. I just fool around in the morning, practice baton, etc., and go to work in the afternoons. Thrilling existence, I'd say?
Well I finally got around to getting some stationery, fancy, huh?
I guess I'd better be getting ready to go to work, it takes me between 15 and 20 minutes to walk up there. Please excuse all the errors, my brain isn't working so well today (as usual). Write real soon because I sure look forward to getting your letters. Love, Velna.
Note: I just don't know what to think every time I read one of these letters for the first time in 66 years. I don't know whether to cry or laugh, and some times I do both. These letters portray such an indelible part of my young life, events that I remember more clearly, of course, than those that happened in my later years. Every thing seemed so important then, so hopeful, and full of possibilities.
Dear Velna, I suppose you are wondering what has happened to me, and I am wishing that at least half of the letters I write would get mailed, because now I won't hear from you now at least for another week, which is way too long, so will do better next time, and mail the first letter instead of the leventieth.
Things are very confusing and seem to be tough all over about going back to the brain factory. It is to the state now where I had to let the University dairy and processing plant know whether I would work for them again this next year. My only answer under the present circumstances as much as I hated it had to be-----no. I won't bore you with the grisly details because I doubt very much if it would make very enlightening reading material. So all I can do now is wait for a miracle and see if I can help one along.
One week things look optimistic, the next week the opposite, so I don't suppose I'll know for sure until Sept. If I don't go back lord knows yet when when I'll see you again unless you can come up some time this summer--I hope. Have never been so confused about everything in general. In fact I am only sure of one thing and am positive of that--have been debating for 5 months about whether or not to admit it, but I am very much afraid that I am in love with you and am too weak willed to keep from admitting it any more. So now I guess I've told you and don't care what you'll think but gee whiz I can't say that, because I do care more than anything else in the world and maybe some day I'll find out.
How are things at the Campus Shop and have you decided what to do with your fortune. Sounds like you are having a lovely time. Have you decided to go to Wyoming and not to BYU when you get out of dear old Laramie High. If you haven't it looks like I will have a full time job to convince you, huh?
Went to Billings Wed. to get a new pair of glasses with lovely orders to wear them all the time. Ha! I mean ha?
There's no news except trials and tribulations and they are all too gruesome so I will do my best to speed up this slow mail between here and Laramie in the future. If you didn't give me up as one strictly sad case before you read this or as a sadder case afterwards. Please write soon. Love Always, Dwight.
This letter, written 66 years ago by a lovesick seventeen year old teenager and read or the first time since then this morning, seems especially poignant to me as what would have been Velna's 83d birthday has just passed on May 24 and since we visited her grave site yesterday. I guess I must have found out what she was thinking.
Velna Blood with her parents, Volney and Pearl Black
My parents, Russell and Minnie Blood
Today is a day of remembrance. My wife, the mother, grandmother, and great grandmother of our own descendants has been gone since October 22 2015. Velna's parents , Volney and Pearl Black, and my parents, Russell and Minnie Blood, stand at the head of our growing family. We each carry a gene or two from each of our forebears. Not a day goes by that I don't remember my parents for the love, example of integrity and honesty that they endowed us with, and the enormous sacrifices they made to raise their family of six children, first through the Great Depression of the 1930s and then through the arduous years of eking out a bare-bones living on the farm in Penrose.
I often remember Velna's parents who were so kind to me and supportive of the blossoming friendship between Velna and me and then raised not a single objection to our marriage. I think of Volney, the locomotive engineer, going around town to pay his bills in his engineer's outfit, to save the postage of mailing the bills. I think of Pearl, Velna's mother, who took me in and fed me when I was starving and who flashed the porch light to signal to Velna that it was time for her to come in from the freezing Laramie cold.
My mother was first and foremost a teacher, and she did more than frown if we shirked our duties. My dad was one of the hardest working men I ever knew, irrigating and haying and shoveling and milking cows and working 16 hour summer days and yet with the gentle and creative soul of an artist in his legacy of marquetry work that graces the walls of all of his descendants. Of course, there are many others: my grandparents, Velna's grandparents, and others among our families who went before us. But we pause on this memorial day with a thankful heart and a head full of wonderful memories as we shed a tear or two for our losses and try to emulate the examples of those we have lost to make the best of our own remaining days. To my wife, Velna, you were the love and light of my life and I still struggle some times to get through the day without stumbling, without having you to ask if my symptoms are serious, to have someone to show my photos to and read my writing and tell me that whatever I cooked, no better how bad I thought it was, was still delicious. Dear girl, I do not ever remember an act of unkindness or criticism or regret from you in all of our years, and that is far more than I deserved. But we remember you and our other forebears in a special way on this special Memorial Day 2016.
To summarize: I went to Laramie in January 1950 and went on a blind date with a blonde girl named Velna hoping that she would possibly, hopefully, maybe like me. I was 17, she was 16 until she caught up with me on May 24 1950 and turned 17. I went home to Penrose in northwest Wyoming after school was out in May. This letter is one of the first letters that 17 year old Velna wrote to me when I was home moping around over my sad plight. The letter is a memory for me in honor of Memorial Day.
June 20 1950
Dear Dwight (Cinderella)
I got your letter this morning and it sounds like you're having fun, well, so am I (ha). I didn't realize you were such a brain, coming out with a 1.58 average, you should tell me these things. Another thing too, I didn't know you were an artist, the pictures were real clever. (I drew pictures of myself with a flat top).
Oh! Guess what? You can't, so I'll tell you. I finally got a job. I haven't started yet but will probably start Thurs. I'm going to work at the Campus Shop. (student hangout across from the university campus. footnote: we temporarily later owned the apartments built on the original site of the Campus Shop). Some new people took it over and are repairing it, they seem real nice. I'll be working from 2:30 until 10:30, so I guess I'll catch up on my sleep, 10:30 is early you know. I don't really mind working at night (footnote: which meant walking home about 10 blocks in the dark), because I can't sit home and wish I were somewhere else or try to think up some way to spend the little money I got from Frank's paper route. I don't know just what I'll do yet. (footnote: Velna saved every penny, almost, that she made and ended up with $500 when she graduated the following year, and used the money to go to BYU for two quarters since her dad wouldn't pay for going there since the University of Wyoming was in her back yard. That, of course, broke my heart).
I helped with (university) registration Monday, there were more old school teachers. I worked with Beverly Mayhew (she was a majorette in h.s. and is a majorette in the UW now) and she is going to give me baton lessons so I guess I'll have to get busy. (footnote: Velna was a majorette in the LHS band).
Went to church Sun., that place seems so funny with no students to be raising kane. I haven't been keeping up on m y practicing the organ very well lately but the Institute is locked and I would have to go get the key every day, and another thing, the E flats won't work. Excuses, I guess I am just lazy.
I have been ironing all day, I'm trying to get some clothes ready to work in, and I helped another lady with her ironing too.
Frank and I went and played tennis this afternoon, I beat 5 out of 6 games. I haven't played for so long, it really gives you a workout.
Lyell, Kathie, Dolly, Jean and I (footnote: the gang of five special and dear and lifelong friends of Velna from high school) went to the street dance tonight. (footnote, for years Laramie held street dances in the evening) They just "Square Dance." I won't get to go, though, I'll be working (poor me). Oh well, I'll get rich (ha!).
Evetta was asking Beth who her boyfriend was and without any hesitation she said "Dwight." According to Mrs. Lewis, though, "that Blood boy from Penrose is Mary's boyfriend."
I sure wish you could come back this fall, but from your letter, things don't sound very promising. I think you and Red (my friend from my home town) have spoiled Dolly and me and we just can't get used to the idea of staying home, but your being here means a lot more than that. (footnote: finally! some words I wanted to read!) This summer is the most boring one I've spent so far. I hope I can come up to Lovell (town about 12 miles from where I lived) for a week, maybe I can come the last of August.
You are probably getting bored and I don't think my eyes are going to stay open much longer. I hope you can read this. (I doubt it). Love, Velna
So thus, I probably read over this letter a dozen times, focusing on how my being there in Laramie "means a lot more to me than that," and the "Love, Velna" ending. And so the romance of two 17 year olds began. I haven't read this letter for 66 years, in fact, I didn't even know it existed until a few weeks ago when I snooped through Velna's trunk, but it all seems like yesterday. Such are the treasures and gems of our memories and of our lives.
Dear Velna, tomorrow is May 24 and you would have caught up with me in age as you always did once a year. You were only 16 and a junior in Laramie High School and I had reached the advanced age of 17 when we went on that first blind date, neither of us even imagining that we would be signing up for a life time commitment just for finding out what each other looked like when I rang your doorbell on that cold January night in 1950. It never entered my mind that I would have to remember your birthday all alone in an empty house. I went to a funeral viewing for our neighbor on Saturday and it was the first time I had worn the new suit Russell helped me buy when you left us after I sat on the bed and cried because I didn't have a decent suit to wear. Now this was the first time I have been in the church building since the day of your funeral and I had to muster all of my courage to be there.
I think I am doing better in some ways, at least. I keep thinking I need to show you a photograph, or ask you where you put that, or what I should do about this, or how can I help you, or a million other things. I still can't get used to the fact that I am here by myself. I don't watch much television and I spend most of my time trying to clean up the clutter that I artistically accumulated after you left me and now I am making some progress, actually, honest. I spend a lot of time on pictures and you will be shocked to see the new camera I ordered that will be here this week. But I figured I'm not paying on an expensive car and I can keep searching for memories and beauties of nature to preserve and give to others. For several years, I hoped to sell photos. Now, my only goal is to give as many pictures away as I can for personal use with the hope someone else will find a moment of inspiration or comfort in one or more of them.
Somehow I will get through your birthday tomorrow but it will be difficult because I will be flooded with so many memories like the memories from the picnic we went to at Vedauwoo between Cheyenne and Laramie probably in 1951 remembered in the photo above. I will never know why you said yes to a second date, and then a third, and then a dozen or more, and so we just kept going to the movies at the Wyo and the Fox and to parties at the LDS Institute and then to Elitch's in Denver when your mom loaned us their car so we could go. I had to scrape by to find the price of a movie ticket when I was only making 75 cents an hour and I remember often being tired on our dates because I had to work nights. But you were the light of my life, my source of strength and courage to continue to struggle against the odds to get through my undergraduate years at Wyoming and then you helped me work our way through a year at Montana State and three years at the University of Michigan. Then, without complaint, we moved here and there, and you always seemed willing to try new adventures in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., back in Laramie, Fort Collins, Montana, and then our final spot in Utah of all places, a state I once vowed I would never live in at a school I had turned down several times.
Now I relive those precious moments that were the milestones of our lives, the marks on the door frames that measured the height of our kids, the band concerts and little league games and football games and basketball games and the long hours I worked so we could have a nice home. You did become impatient when, as a chronic hypochondriac" I kept asking you, "Velna, do you think it's serious?" To which you would answer, alternatively, "I'm not a doctor, how should I know?", or "How many times are you going to keep asking me that?" or, if you think it's serious let's get you to the ER." Now if I have a symptom I am on my own.
So I remember you on your birthday as you were always quick to forgive my faults and never brought up mistakes I made and always approached life and your own life-ending trials with patience and courage and a smile. So many people have told me how they remember your response when they asked how you were and you always said, "I'm fine." Now I am trying each day to emulate the strengths you so quietly and patiently demonstrated. And I honor your birthday in your absence knowing that some day in the not too far distant future I will see you again. I was just a farm boy from Penrose and you were born in Cowley only a few miles away and a few months later and our paths would cross a few years later and then we would travel life's road together along with all of the detours and wonderful blessings and difficult challenges that polished the love we had for each other into a bright and shining reality that shone ever brighter, ever more precious, as we faced our last years together and realized the blessings that we may have overlooked too easily earlier in our lives. So happy birthday, Velna. Your loving husband, Dwight.