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I Wonder If They Knew: A Moment with Bill Reflection

Updated on November 13, 2015

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 of my extended family
Some of my extended family | Source

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.

Grandma and Grandpa Holland and my father, Dale Holland
Grandma and Grandpa Holland and my father, Dale Holland | Source

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?

My sister, Darlys O'Dowd Holland Smith
My sister, Darlys O'Dowd Holland Smith | Source

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?

Some of the O'Dowds...my mother on the left
Some of the O'Dowds...my mother on the left | Source

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?

Great, great grandpa O'Dowd on the right
Great, great grandpa O'Dowd on the right | Source

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)

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 24 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dianna and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 24 months ago

      I'm sure they would be very proud of your accomplishments, Bill. I enjoyed your sharing of personal history. I have similar stories of adventure and found them comforting.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I think they did, Lawrence. Thank you!

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      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      They knew, and they felt proud of their descendants (blood and adopted). They knew a better tomorrow was coming!

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope that's so, Deb. We are going to have some great visits when my time here is done. :) Happy Thanksgiving my friend.

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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, you know they are! They are in another dimension, in another time and place, telling each other al about their families, sharing laughs, and watching down upon everything as life newly unfolds, for other family members.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I agree with you, Sis! Washington is actually the western side and the eastern side...two completely different climates...and you probably get more rain than we do...but we do get a lot of gray...a lot of gray. Only 85 sunny days per year, which ain't much...so that perception of western Washington is pretty accurate.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Didn't you also spend a good deal of time in Iowa? or am I thinking of someone else. My DIL is from Iowa and she seems to think that the seasons there are fairly similar to my part of the world.

      I'm careful about fully believing the popular "myths" about an area's weather. Those are spread based on one or two basic descriptions that have lasting impressions on people (both natives of and others)....

      In other words.....When my area is mentioned, people automatically think: "Brrrr......Wicked winters, cold, stormy." Yes, that happens, but for all of 3 months and always to varying degrees....the other 3 distinct seasons are great. When I think of Washington State, I think rain rain rain.....but I have to realize that's not all there is to it. Hey....If I had the enthusiasm I'd do a hub on this....but I don't. LOL!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Perfectly stated, Sis! I lived in Vermont for two years and was amazed by the seasons. We kind of have four seasons here but you have to pay close attention so you don't miss a couple of them. :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I LOVE chilly.....it perks me up! this weather is when I spend the most time outdoors and feel more alive & creative. What do you suppose it is about the deepest parts of us that causes the "Seasons" to inspire our demeanor? What I know is that this is the very reason I feel lucky to have been planted & cultivated in the unique part of our country where there are 4 truly distinct seasons. Each season I'm given the opportunity

      to feel renewed and encouraged to switch my living habits! Wow.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sis! That's what I strive to do with these pieces...touch hearts. :)

      Hugs on this chilly Sunday

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sha and no, my sister was not adopted although my dad was her step-dad. Long story on that one. :) Maybe I'll dust it off one day and write about it.

      I don't know about being loved more as an adoptee....I guess it just depends on the families one compares. I know I was loved a ton for sure. :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Precious memories never fail to make me smile through tears, Your words have touched my heart this morning, bill. Family. So treasured, So true.

      I believe they knew, they know and they always will......as we will.

      Peace, Paula

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      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, seeing you first identified as a number breaks my heart. But then came Dale and Evelyn to take you in their arms, give you a name, fill you with love and guide you on the path to knowing who you are.

      I once had a boyfriend tell me that he was more loved than I because his parents adopted him. In other words they chose him. That really hurt, but I guess I can see where he was coming from. It takes a very loving soul to choose to adopt. We have so many children that yearn for loving homes. I applaud the people who make children's dreams come true. Not that natural parents don't do the same - they do. I think you know what I'm trying to say.

      I think your parents had visions of you attending and graduating college while they were raising you. I think all parents wish that for their children. The fact that you were the first in the Holland/O'Dowd clad to do so is an honor I'm sure you cherish. And yes, they do too. They all see you from above and applaud you with their love. Your great-great and great grandparents are thinking, "glad to know you Bill. I'm proud to call you my kin."

      This is a very moving piece, my friend. I don't think you've ever mentioned whether or not your sister was adopted as well. You don't really talk about her much. I'd love to hear more about your childhood.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have no doubt that they are, Mama! What a great reunion it will be when we go join our ancestors.

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      Karen A Szklany 2 years ago from New England

      Beautiful stories Bill. I think they know and smile down on you. I often speak to my ancestors, and honor them at the end of October every year. Some are closer to me than others, and I also hope that they are proud of me. ~:0)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I agree, Mary. You and I both won the family lottery. :) Thank you!

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      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      We are certainly the lucky ones Bill! Especially chosen and given a life beyond our wildest dreams. Surrounded by loving families that encouraged us as we grew.

      I can relate so well and yes, I believe they know and they are proud.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DDE! I appreciate it very much.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Your great approach to this hub shines through. A powerful thought here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm passing you the Kleenex, drbj. Thank you so much.

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      drbj and sherry 2 years ago from south Florida

      Of course your ancestors know of your achievements, Bill, and they are smiling down on you with tears in their eyes - like the tears I have at this moment from reading this touching familial tribute.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope they are, John! I suspect so....thank you very much.

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      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This is touching, Bill. I am sure they are all looking down and felling proud as punch at how you turned out and your achievements. What a wonderful read.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      PS, thank you for your thoughts. I find great comfort in the people who came before me, the sacrifices they made...it is sobering and it is an honor.

      Blessings always

      bill

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, you said it all so beautifully...no one else has our individual role in the universe. Isn't that a wonderful thought?

      Thank you my friend and blessings always.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so very much, Genna! We all are, and what a beautiful tapestry it is. I know your family is as proud of you as mine is of me. Bless you my friend.

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      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      The tears do come when we reflect in this way, do they not, bill?

      We do wonder....and we are so greatful for all that those who came before us did to pave the way for a brighter future for us...such a lovely journey you took me on this morning as I begin my day...to read of the generous souls who gave of themselves tirelessly is uplifting to say the least.

      Hoping you and yours have a lovely new week.

      Once again the precious Angels are bound your way carrying blessings and hugs ps

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 2 years ago

      Many of them, all knew intuitively following the inner voice, fulfilling the mission assigned to them, no one could ever do, but them. The proof is here among us, in this time and space named William D. Holland as he is assigned to carry out just what now takes place in Olympia, Washington, no one else has this role throughout the vast universe, but you ... Encouraged by the great example we learn our share of action perfectly. Me too.

      Thank you my friend, and be blessed all the time.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Blossom and God bless you, my friend.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I will never understand wanton violence in the name of some principle. It simply is beyond my comprehension.

      bill

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much Vellur. I appreciate your kind words.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audrey, thank you, and thank you for sharing that story about your grandma. There were some serious survivors back in those days....and today.

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      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Ohhh Bill; this is a masterpiece -- a magnificent tribute. Yes, they know. As Reynold Jay wrote, "you are their legacy," and a proud one at that. My grandmother once told me that each generation has to fight a different set of battles -- both within and without. One of my ancestors came to this country in 1623, aboard the Little James. We read about them in books. Yet these early settlers were more than words on a page, images on canvass or names on a passenger list. They were individuals, like you and I, who had faith, dreams and hope for a better life for themselves and for their children -- just as we have hope for a better world for our children. And I think they wanted to be remembered for who they were. You have done this so beautifully; you are part of that stunning tapestry of family, Bill. You are both their gift -- and ours. :-) Thank you.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Although life was so tough, there were none of our current trappings such as TV, mobile phones, the web, etc. to trap the thoughts of our ancestors, and I'm sure they dreamt of their offspring and descendants making it good and making their mark in a future world they could barely imagine. You've done them proud! God bless you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, I don't know if any of us really realize the far-reaching effect we will have on others years in advance, but I love knowing it is true, for me and for you. Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Manatita, that is a beautiful comment. Thank you for sharing it...and yes, we try...that's all we can do, that and manifest love in all our actions.

      blessings to you always

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Bill. I've been taking notes from you. :)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Larry! Much-appreciated, my friend.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, thank you for that lovely comment. I don't think your views on spirituality are much different than mine. Bottom line, and why I always try to be tolerant of other viewpoints, is none of us really know for sure until we do die. I sure hope there is a surprise waiting. :)

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      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, bill. I've been checking on all my friends there and, thankfully, all are fine. A special friend's two children live and work in the city but they were out of that area. I don't understand how people can do that and my heart is heavy. I appreciate your thoughts and blessings.

      Ann

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      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      All of them will be so proud of you. Am sure they are looking from above admiring and blessing you all the time. Great photos.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is indeed, Buildreps. Thank you and peace be with you and all in Europe on this sad night.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, that is such a kind thing for you to say. Thank you so much. I am very touched by your words.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hmph, indeed, Eric. We know we're the lucky ones, my friend. You and I, we've dodge a few bullets in our time and we're better for it.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruby! I suspect they all know about us and they are smiling. :)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Beautifully stated, Ann. Thank you, and blessings to all in Europe on this sad night.

      bill

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      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Love this story! My grand parents and great grandparents were pioneers enduring many hardships during their covered wagon days. I only learned recently that my grandma Fellows was placed in an orphanage at the age of 2. She finally escaped by answering an ad for a bride at the age of 16.

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      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      This is such a heart warming expression. Your ancestors would have been proud of the productive, prosperous citizen you have become. I wonder if they knew how far-reaching their investment of love and kindness to you would extend to Billybuc fans like me! Have a great weekend!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Pop! I think so too.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Zulma! I think the same about them....and about all of us. :)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Reynold Jay, thank you so much for those kind words. I am touched.

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      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Touching Hub, and one asking all the right, yet searching questions. I do not know that we truly understand. We come here, get dealt our cards and try ..some better than others. Sometimes the journey is too steep and the horse so swift, that we can only do so much. Yet we try, and life unfolds in mysterious ways.

      So proud that you did so well, Bro. There are no certainties here, I don't think, and young Bill Holland will do his best and try to make a difference and then leave ... not now, not now. Who knows this play of Forces?

      But we try Bro, we try, and sometimes fortune blesses us with those who make our lives richer and instil noble ideals, which one day we remember ...

      This is your Hub, Bro, I'm ranting too much. Such a beautiful Hub and one with a clear thankful Spirit. I like that. Peace to the loving pioneers, I say. Who ever they are, but yes, especially our loved ones, who in their own unselfish way, manifests this Love. Glory be!

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      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Wonderful essay, Bill. Very heartfelt. You are fortunate to know this much about your family ancestors. Congratulations! ;-)

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      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      An intriguing look into the true American experience.

      As always, wonderfully done.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Bill, what a beautiful tribute to your family, a family who loved and nurtured you to adulthood. I have a different viewpoint from the average person (in case you haven’t noticed) on spirituality. I believe that your family were all good people, and I firmly believe that the souls of those who have crossed over before you check in on you from time to time to see how you are doing. I think they are sad when you are sad, and they are happy when you are happy. I think right now the spirits are singing. They say there are no tears in heaven, but if they are crying for you, it is tears of joy. Love and light to you.

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      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      Wonderful how you expressed your feelings, brother. Your forbears are very proud of you, that's for sure. Gratitude is a powerful force.

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      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, their greatest legacy is not that you earned a college diploma. How proud (I know they are) of the man you have become--a loving husband, father, and friend. A kind human being who shares with others and strives to make this world a better place.

      It all starts with one--one smile, one word of support, one extended hand, one hug. You have done that, again and again, and like the flame of a candle, that kindness is never diminished by being shared. It spreads.

      You can't change the entire world, but your being here has certainly improved the little part of the world in which we live.

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      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      To this day I celebrate my "chosen" day. Far more important than the early morning with the first snow that I was born. Fortune and fortunate are fine words to describe a baby born alone but brought into the richness of a family. Some give no thanks for their birthright. Hmph!

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      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Your story reminds me of the hard times and tribulations my father's family had to endure as unwanted Indians in a land that belonged to them. On my mother's side immigrants who came from Germany. We are so blessed to be in a country where everyone was welcomed with open arms. Your story moved me to tears. I hope and want desperately to believe your family knows what you've accomplished and they are smiling BIG time.

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      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I'm sure they know, bill. I often think of my ancestors (I can go back a fair way) and wonder what they would say about it all. They certainly had more to put up with than I did, even my parents. Thanks to all their hard work, good humour and good morals, I'm here today with a good attitude and wonderful memories, plus much to pass on to my children and grandchildren - aren't families amazing? We have much to be grateful for and you have much to be proud of. Life is what they made of it and what we make of it now, to do them justice.

      Ann :)

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      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      They know.......

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      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      I think somewhere in their minds they knew all their hard work and sacrifice would pay off some day. Maybe not in their lifetime but some day. It's what drove them to leave the old country and find a new life; the hope that some day...

      Beautiful hub, Bill.

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      Reynold Jay 2 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      You are their legacy--the reason they toiled all their lives. You did well to know all of this family history, something that eludes me so often. Another heart rendering HUB. It is your heart that runs through all your HUBS and makes each one so special.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Jackie, this adopted kid realizes how wanted he was. :) Thank you for taking the time to stop by and comment, and Happy Weekend to you.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Linda! They may not have had that exact thought, but I'm sure they had hopes and dreams for their future family.

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      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Beautiful Bill and adopted kids really cannot imagine how loved and wanted they are. I came from a family of seven and I doubt a one of us were wanted! We were just accepted and loved, not chosen!

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      Linda Bilyeu 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

      That was an awesome blast to the past! I couldn't help but wonder if they ever wondered that one day you would be sharing your thoughts on the world wide web and helping to inspire others! :)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! I have been so blessed, and my life is so much easier than my ancestors. I just wanted to put that into words.

      Happy Weekend to you, my friend.

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      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      Aw, Bill I think they know where ever they are. I like to think the same with my grandparents and great-parents, who are long gone, but most certainly not forgotten here by any means either. Beautifully written and most certainly left me with so much hope today. Happy Friday and have a great weekend ahead, too now ;)