I Wonder If They Knew: A Moment with Bill Reflection
This Writer's Thoughts Before We Begin
Nature vs. Nurture, a timeless debate....which has more influence on the upbringing of a child?
I guess I provide an interesting case study. I was adopted at the age of nine months. I have no clue about my birth family. All I've ever known is the family that adopted me and raised me as their own. They raised me with love and compassion, and they did the best they could. I think I turned out all right, so let's score one in the nurture category.
I do not have their blood in me. The stories I heard of ancestors are stories of people who share no DNA with me, but they are my family nonetheless. Their stories are my stories. Their struggles are my struggles, their victories mine. And that's as it should be!
This, then, is for them, the men and women who came to America, etched out a living in this country, and provided not only for themselves but for the generations to follow.
Some thoughts about love
The Year Was 1970
And I was twenty-one years old on that May afternoon, the sun shining, the clouds parting, the stage filled with dignitaries and the audience overflowing with hope and anxiety.
The day I graduated from college was a special day.
Oddly I only have two pictures from that day. One shows me standing with my best friend Frank. He had said something typically hilarious and I was laughing my fool head off. In the other, my mother was giving me a kiss, while another friend stood by and watched the tender moment.
Two pictures capturing a rather momentous occasion for the Holland/O’Dowd families.
You see, I was the first in my extended family to graduate from college, the first since those immigrants stepped off the boat at Ellis Island and swore allegiance to this country.
I Wonder If They Knew
I wonder if Great-Great-Grandpa O’Dowd knew this moment would come as he was bringing his family “out west” to Minnesota in a Conestoga Wagon, braving the wilderness in hopes of finding a better way of life. As he risked life and limb to provide for his family, as he repaired broken axles and plowed rock-strewn land and survived the loss of two children and eventually died at the age of fifty, I wonder if he knew this day would come, when an O’Dowd graduated from college?
I wonder if Great-Great Grandma Holland knew when she cooked on an open campfire while her first log cabin home was being built on the prairie, two young ones sleeping at her feet under the stars. I wonder if she knew as she rode a horse twenty miles to take a sick child to the doctor, or when she cleaned up the debris from a killer tornado that leveled that first home. Was she thinking of a Holland graduate when she milked the cows before sunrise, fed the chickens at dawn and then worked another fourteen hours on that homestead?
Could They Have Possibly Known?
I wonder if Great Grandma O’Dowd knew when she married at fourteen and gave birth, by candlelight, at fifteen. I wonder if she could possibly comprehend that one day her descendant would walk down an aisle with diploma in hand. Would she have smiled back then if she had known, her breasts swollen with pride?
I wonder if Great Grandpa Holland knew as he struggled to make a living under the brutal summer sun in Charles City, Iowa, his plow churning the land, his hopes fueling his efforts, his dreams extending no further than a good crop in September and a decent price at market. As he repaired fences and dug wells, as he survived floods and tornadoes, drought and torrential rains, I wonder if he had an inkling that William Dale Holland would do what no member of the family had ever done and, if so, would he be excited?
Do You Suppose They Dreamed of It Happening?
I wonder if Grandpa O’Dowd knew as he fought against the Germans in World War 1, the war to end all wars, the war that led to crippling Depression and then to another war. Could he have possibly known as he lived in the trenches for months, enduring unimaginable hardships and dangers, that his grandson would one day be a family’s standard bearer?
I wonder if Grandma Holland knew when she stood in the bread lines in 1930 and did the laundry of rich folk for a nickel per day. I wonder if she knew when she skinned squirrels for stew and bowed her head in shame when their farm was lost during the mid-30’s. I wonder if that sliver of hope in the future was enough to at least make her smile for a few moments as the bank foreclosed and sent her and her family packing.
Do You Think……
Do you think it’s possible that Evelyn O’Dowd knew when she signed the adoption papers and the little foster baby, Baby #27356, became William Dale Holland? Do you think she envisioned twenty-one years into the future and that same baby educated and ready to take on the world? Do you think she knew as she worked any odd job available to provide a good education for her son?
Do you think Dale Holland knew when he fought in five campaigns in Italy during World War 2 and then came home, married Evelyn O’Dowd and moved his wife to Washington and the chance of a better life? Do you think he realized the effect his hard work and love would have on his son? Do you think he knew that sixty-seven years in the future his son would be writing this with tears in his eyes?
Is It Possible…..
Is it possible for me to somehow send my gratitude and love across the decades, back to the great-great grandparents, back to the great-grandparents, back to the grandparents and back to the parents, all gone now, but do you suppose it’s possible to reach back in time and tell them it all worked out perfectly, all their hard work and sacrifice was worth it?
Or, as some believe, if life is everlasting and eternal, do you suppose those relatives are looking down now at the man who represents two-hundred years of deprivation and going-without, and if they are looking down, are they smiling at that man?
Now I Lay Me down to Sleep
Great-Great Grandma Holland died at age forty-two from cholera. Great-Great Grandpa O’Dowd died at fifty when a horse kicked him in the head.
Great-Grandpa Holland died at sixty from a bad ticker and Great-Grandma O’Dowd died of tuberculoses when she was fifty-one.
Grandpa O’Dowd died of cancer at eight-one and Grandma Holland died, also of cancer, at seventy-nine.
My father, Dale LeRoy Holland, died of a heart attack at forty-nine and my mother, Evelyn Josephine O’Dowd Holland, died of cancer at eighty-one.
And yet they are all very much alive to me, and as I lay me down to sleep tonight, I wonder if they know how eternally thankful I am for the life and the opportunities they gave Baby #27356.
God, I hope so!
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)