It is amazing how you can find out so much about yourself, by taking a look at those who came before you.
One of my growing hobbies is genealogy; the study of family history. At first, I did it for myself out of curiosity. I wanted to know who came before me; who those people were and what they did. Now I continue the work for the benefit of my boys. I never want them to be in the dark about who their immediate ancestors were as well as those who names and faces have been all but lost to history.
Through my work, I have found that I am related to people whose names are household words: writers, politicians and the like. But the two people whose lives continues to touch me time and again and those of my maternal grandparents: Perry Weatherly and Alice Lorraine Keller.
I had the benefit of growing up with them in a very real way. Grandma and Grandpa weren’t people I visited only on the holidays. I grew up with them in the same house. They were always there. By the time I knew them, they were older. My grandparents were 55 years older than I was. A full generation (and then some) separated me from them.
One thing I always try to find in my research is what they were like when they were younger. What made them tick when they were in their teens and their 20’s? What were they like when they were the age I am now? These are very specific pieces of a very specific puzzle that I am trying to put together.
So I was thrilled when I was able to come across a picture of Perry and Alice Lorraine when they were in their early 20’s and not yet married. I do not know exactly when the picture was taken. I also do not know exactly where but if I had to venture a guess, I would say Des Moines, Iowa…where both of them were born and raised.
I look at this picture and I think so many varied and different things. This is, to a large degree, how I remember them: standing firm and standing together, side by side, two of them against the world.
It is interesting to look at them and see something that resembles youthful optimism. I suspect Alice Lorraine is standing on something, because Perry was nearly a foot taller than she was.
I look at them, standing together and I know that at this time they had already discussed early plans of marrying and making a life together. But what they did not know when that picture was taken, but what I do know thanks to the hindsight of history, is what their life together would hold. Within a few short years, Adolf Hitler would threaten the world. They would marry and then Perry would leave for four years of overseas service.
When he came home, they resumed building their life together. They held the reins of their own business and eventually started a family of their own.
There would be weekends at Rock Creek near Kellogg. There would be races at Knoxville. There would be births. There would be deaths. But the constant through all of their decades together was that they had each other.
My Grandfather was the toughest man I ever knew. I had him in my life for 24 years and I saw him cry once; on the day my Grandmother died. She was my best friend growing up and it is amazing to me that I have now lived more of my life without her than with her.
Perry and Alice Lorraine never gave up on each other. And they were about as opposite as they come. They held similar beliefs and similar goals. But the differences were real and stark. He loved to laugh. So did she…but not as often as he. He would occasionally have a drink. She never touched alcohol. She had patience. He did not. And when they would argue, it would be something to see. I clearly remember her saying to him, “Perry, sometimes I think I need a 2 by 4 to get you to understand what I am saying”. And during arguments….he would get so flustered that he would run through the names of everyone in the house when he was trying to say only hers. “Brian…Kathy…..uh…Lorraine…..”.
But there was no doubt they loved each other. They were such a team. They were such a superb team and wonderful people. And when I look at this picture of them, it makes me feel happy….because I know that they accomplished what they wanted to: a happy life together. But at the same time, I also feel sad. Sad because with Perry and Alice Lorraine…life has done what it was supposed to do: if gave them a period of time to be together and then eventually….first her….and then him….that time came to an end.
Perry lived six-and-half-more years without his bride. But I wonder what those years were really like. I benefitted from more time with him. But I wonder if he was really happy. I wonder what he thought about his life without her. I wonder if he ever silently closed his eyes and relived the past in his mind. Because in the past, he could still be with her. In the present, he could not.
I know they are together now.