october 13, 2018

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“Never underestimate the power of kind words” ~ Unknown

 

the elders (not pictured were Darrell and Judy)

 

We had our fall family gathering today at Uncle Harold and Aunt Phyllis’ farm in Morgan County (that’s Eastern Kentucky for those unfamiliar). Fall’s brisk weather finally swooped in and made the day crisp and overcast. Perfection. We ate hearty foods, drank hot coffee, had our annual hay ride, shared birthday cake for Dad and Aunt Linda, and told ghost stories. In fact, that may have been the most fun of the day, sitting in a room surrounded by the elders telling stories of visitations and haints galore; the fantastic and the believable. There was something very, very different about this gathering from the others we’ve had. I sensed a calm in the air. The bittersweet thirst for those no longer with us while reveling in their memories in unadulterated happiness. Perhaps Cousin Brian was on to something during the hayride. “We are the age our parents were when we went on hayrides,” he said as we sat sandwiched between first and third generation Terrys. It happens to every generation in every family, in slow, often imperceptible ways until one day Cousin Brian sees the culmination of time in a single moment. The realization that the changing of the guard is fully underway. This is just one blessing of this family; to have sustained multiple relationships over decades that can come together and celebrate goodness. To be truly grateful for the gifts in spite of the sadness, to me, is a mark of great faith. That is something this family has in spades.

 

funny elders (not pictured were Darrell and Judy)

january 21, 2018

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“Love yourself first because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with.” ~ TinyBuddha

 

the look

 

Annabelle Bick aka Apricot (Apricot Banana Bick is the whole name): she’s going to be the tough one in the Bick Family to photograph. I see that now. I first photographed her last year when she was just a wee baby, and nary a smile did I get. I pretty much met the same fate this year, too. Nevertheless, I persisted. And while I did manage to snag a half grin here, an Elvis lip there, I went with this photo because it’s her usual look, when she’s looking at me anyway. I call it the ‘furrowed brow of questioning.’ 

 

grandpa Joe

 

Meanwhile, Annabelle’s older brother, Jackson, is the exact opposite. He isn’t shy at all, and smiles for the camera. And while we don’t see him smiling here, I couldn’t help but love this photo with his grandpa Joe Bick. There’s nothing extraordinary about the composition or lighting. It’s just a portrait of a grandson learning from his grandfather, and that’s the beauty of it. Plus, Jackson looks so much like Joe that I couldn’t help but imagine Joe when he was Jackson’s age learning from his elders.

 

crawling into the sunset

 

It’s always a delight to be with the Bick/Barnes/Yelton family around the holidays, and this year was no exception. And now, with all the little ones, I’m forced to the floor for part of the day. I’ll be needing to get in shape if I’m ever to get Apricot to smile at me. 

 

january 2, 2017

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“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” ~ Henri Nouwen

 

siblings

 

Our hero continues his recovery at the VA. Sisters Lois, above, and Barbara were there when I went by. They’ve come to see him every day. I listened to the three tell some new stories (to me) of their shared childhood. The interesting thing about siblings with several years between them, and gender playing a role to a degree, is how differently their shared experiences can be. This is true for all of us of course. We’ll each recall the same event in slightly differing ways, but to hear these three recount their youth piqued my interest a great deal. No matter what stories they told, or how different the details, one thing was abundantly clear and that was just how challenging their growing up really was; for each of them but also for their mother. Their father was a miner who would sometimes be gone for weeks or months at a time. Meanwhile, their mother was a home maker trying to feed, clothe, and clean 14 children. Plus, there’s a generation between the oldest and youngest; the oldest born before WWII, and the youngest near the start of the Vietnam conflict. The first six to eight children were born in a variety of coal camps in Eastern Kentucky, and the last ones were born after the family moved back to the maternal family farm at the head of Railroad Fork in Morgan County. It is not an exaggeration to say few people can imagine such a life. While I’m very sorry they had to endure so much hardship, I appreciate the people it grew them into being. All 14 of my grandmother’s children have their own story; unique and powerful. And each one is a blessing.

 

telling stories

june 5, 2016

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“Listen to the wind. It talks. Listen to the silence. It speaks.
Listen to your heart. It knows.” ~ Unknown

 

granny and her babies
granny and her babies

 

This afternoon Marie and Robert Dale threw a high school graduation party for their oldest grandchild, Alexis (left). This young woman has endured a lot in her young life, and yet she has graduated with a scholarship to Campbellsville University. She’ll start in the fall. She’s pictured here with Marie, her brother Isaiah, and her first cousin/sister Skyla.

 

there's one in every crowd
there’s one in every crowd

 

Isaiah smashed cake on Alexis’ face, and someone repaid the favor. The last time I saw Isaiah he was a short, chubby little guy. Now his voice has dropped, he’s grown at least six inches, and he’s on the high school wrestling team. Marie and Robert gained custody of all three kids several years ago. The five of them act as a singular family unit so that you’d never know they weren’t parent and child. And they’re happy – all of them! Becky Ryder, Crystal Heis, and I carpooled to Paris for the party. They were a joy to be with of course. Seeing Marie with her family was a joy, but most of all, I was so proud of Alexis. She’s a beautiful, kind young woman who is going to do great things. Doggone it, I love a happy ending, and today was one. I was honored to be part of it.

 

Aunties
Aunties

april 12, 2014

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I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.
~ J. B. Priestley

James Trent
James Trent and Mabel

This is the baby of the Terry family, James Trent, and his sister Mabel. Her twin sister, Linda, died in the mid 1990’s of cancer. James recently completed radiation treatments and is now undergoing chemo. The prognosis is not good. He’s 56.

Missy the photo bomber
Missy the photo bomber

The family gathered today in Morgan County to throw my aunt Barbara a surprise 70th birthday party. Uncle Greg and aunt Virginia’s 50 wedding anniversary was celebrated, and all of my dad’s living siblings were together for what could be the last time. James had a moment of sickness this morning, but rallied to make the trip from his home in Stanton. He hoped to stay an hour. He stayed all afternoon, even playing a few rounds of Cornhole. His faith and outlook have him outliving doctor’s expectations. We’re amazed and grateful for every day he’s with us.

a big bunch
a big bunch

None of us are promised tomorrow, so when we have the chance to be in communion with one another, and it’s obvious time is of the essence, there’s a feeling of gratitude in the air that’s indescribable. The Universe obliged in kind today. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Food and birthday cake were plentiful. The children played in the creek, hunted Easter eggs, and none of them cried. The land was dotted with wild daffodils and redbuds. I imagine heaven will smell like Kentucky in spring. Today was magic.

[siblings R-L, oldest to youngest, with deceased in {}: {Randolph d2010} Norvin (Shorty), Gregory, Phillip Ray, twins Mabel & {Linda d1995}, Barbara Ann, Lois Nell, twins Harold & Darrell, {Ralph Paul, KIA Vietnam 1969}, Charleen, Danny, James Trent]