Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Don’t let the past stay dead and buried …

Trips and vacations are excellent vehicles for reviving memories, some wonderful, some not so wonderful.

My dad as a baby with his Grandpa Louis Iuppenlatz
A long drive gives a man – or woman – a chance to think. In my case, it was nearly nine hours of driving, 90 percent on interstates, nine hours to remember other trips up to Grantsville, West Virginia, and Beverly, Ohio, over the last quarter century.

My memories of my travels along Interstates 40 and 77 up to Beverly in 2003 are especially poignant. That year the drives were what I now think of as deathwatch journeys. We’d learned mom had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and was slowly dying. On that first trip northward after learning she hadn’t suffered a stroke, but had somehow contracted the still-cureless neurological killer, my thoughts while driving kept coming back to this unsettling thought: How was I going to cope with watching her die, and could I handle being in her bedroom with her when she took the last few breaths?

Of course, I coped. And I was in the bedroom with her, sitting in her easy chair, when she – as the song “I’ll Fly Away” says so beautifully – flew away “to that home on God’s celestial shore.”

My sister Jody and I one Christmas in the early 1970s.
On my most recent trip around Independence Day, my sister Jody and I took walks through her neighborhood including a foray through the village cemetery and past mom’s grave, decorated with summer flowers.

Last November I turned 61, and more often than I like I find my thoughts returning to the past. I had believed that my Uncle Denny had my Grandmother Mid’s photo scrapbooks. No, Jody told me, she had them. “He didn’t want them,” she said, bringing them out from a closet for me to thumb through.

My re-enactment days ... Gettysburg 1976.
Jody lacks the scanning equipment to turn the old photos into jpegs, so I took some of them – as well as some of mom’s – back to my house in Wilmington to scan and save. I intend to post some of them on Facebook with newsy captions, maybe even a short story or two.

A few days earlier, dad and his wife Linda had picked through a box of old photographs looking for Brownie snapshots of his mom Nan, his dad Bud, his sister Emmie and other Staton and Iuppenlatz relatives. One photo in particular stood out for me – a slightly out-of-focus shot of the extended family taken sometime in the mid to late 1940s. By then dad’s Grandpa Louis Iuppenlatz was no longer living. The photo shows Emmie as a child, and dad's brother Steven is a toddler.
I love that photo, even if it doesn't include Great-Grandpa Iuppenlatz. I never knew him and barely knew my Grandpa Bud; he died in August 1960 when I was eight. But I spent many, many fun evenings chit-chatting with my Grandmother Nan and her sisters, Hortense (my grandma’s identical twin) and Avis.
Staton/Iuppenlatz family in 1940s.
They lived together in a supposedly haunted two-story house in Sharon Center, Ohio. I never stayed overnight in that house until one summer when I was in college, and I have to concede … I had trouble getting to sleep … I half expected the ghost of a young woman in a Victorian era dress to make its way down the hallway past my open doorway.
The stories these photographs summon to consciousness could someday give rise to scenes in yet-unwritten novels. My books now are fantasy-genre tales, but future endeavors could see me wandering far from that genre. First, though, I have to finish Assassins’ Lair, the last book in my trilogy, and see it published by my publisher.


  1. You are creating a legacy for your family, Mike. Great photos.

    1. Yep, trying to get the stories down before the latest generation passes.

  2. Did you go to Warren High School? That's where I went. We're close to the same age. Earlier today, I was talking about the people in my life who had "flew on". Of course the most recent my daughter's husband. Last week was an extremely bad week for her, but today she said she was doing better. Cher'ley

    1. Wow. I didn't realize you went to Warren. I graduated from Fort Frye in 1970. A friend of my sister's, Denise Hooper, (now Pottmeyer)graduated from Warren a year or two after I graduated from Fort Frye.