Blood is Thicker Than Money


This past Wednesday, my 15 minutes of fame was kind of fun.  As Msn featured “A Father of Nine Blogs about Death & Peace”, the visits on my “stats” took off like a Geiger counter in a nuclear melt down.  It feels funny, though, to be described as “A father of nine.”  I merely think of myself as a father of some really wonderful children… and there happens to be nine of them.

            A large family is a lot of work and very expensive.  My Beautiful Wife and I aren’t pushing for anyone else to do the same, but it has worked for us.

            When our 9th baby was born, 6 years ago, a fellow I worked with asked why I would have so many children.  “Do you consider the impact all those children will have on our world?” he asked.  I have carefully considered it, and I am pleased to say that so far, without exception, the impact has been very positive.  The world is a better place because of my nine children.  Each one has a brilliant mind (more brilliant than mine).  And the contributions each one makes in the part of the world they live leaves it a better place.  Perhaps some of them will even take on some of the major world problems, discover an inexpensive and renewable type of energy, or develop an innovative cure for disease, or find solution to world conflict.  

            I was once involved in a business discussion, where the owner of the national company which I worked for defended a business decision which hurt us financially and helped his competing nephew. 

“Blood is thicker than money.”

His statement negated all other arguments and ended the discussion.  I have thought about that statement many times since.  Family relationships certainly are more important than any financial consideration. 

I’ll always remember a local news story of a fellow who, while exploring an old abandoned mine shaft, fell out of sight and sound of his companions and to his likely death.  The full resources of Search and Rescue were put to use for almost a week in trying to find him and retrieve the body.  Finally, they announced that the mine shaft was too deep, too unstable, the hazards to daunting.  And so the rescue was called off and talk of sealing the mine shaft ended the news report.  The next morning, a surprise announcement was broadcast all over the news.  “The young man’s body had been retrieved from the mine shaft.”  With search and rescue out of the way, secretly during the night, the family went into the mine shaft and brought the victim out.  When questioned by the news media, “Do you resent the Search and Rescue, with all their equipment and training for not being able to do what you have succeeded in accomplishing?”  The answer sounded a lot like my old boss’ response to the business deal. 

The reply was, “No, you are willing to do for your own family what you wouldn’t expect others to do.”

That’s how this “father of nine” feels.  Sometimes our time and money are s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d, and occasionally we are viewed as a little odd for having such a large family, but the credit card commercial says it all.  “Some things money can’t buy.” 


Gary Kent, Dad, and I

For the Upper Snake River Valley of Southeastern Idaho, the weather was wonderful for this time of year.  It was shirtsleeve weather. Back when I lived here, I would have called this an Indian summer.  The clear blue sky and warm sun offered the finishing touches to the picturesque scenery of the Rocky Mountains displaying the Teton Peaks.  The beauty of it was just one more indication that God was watching over us as we gathered at the Cemetery.  No one from our family had ever been buried here, even though our family had called Rexburg home for almost 49 years. 

            As family began to arrive, most were happily visiting and greeting one another, because some of us had come in from out of town.  Many of my nephews and nieces were setting up their musical instruments.  Two flutes, two violas, a violin.  An electronic Keyboard would serve as the piano.  Two of my sisters were standing toward the back, visiting with my mother.  I moved about the group and handed out programs.

My dad sat alone in the middle of the front row of chairs which were set up close to the tiny casket.  The effects of his cancer had him seeking a place to sit down and rest. 

Time seemed to warp for me.  At first everything was in slow motion.  I stood as if in a trance.  The image of my dad facing that tiny white vault which held the original casket burned into my memory.  Though his eyes glistened, I wasn’t sure they were tears of sadness.  My dad displayed this same face anytime someone in his family really pleased him.  It was his proud look.  I wanted to know his thoughts.  I imagined that his memory had taken him back over fifty years. 

His third son (and the older brother I never knew) was spirited and aggressive.  He could keep his two older brothers on guard.  If the three started fighting for a toy, the brotherly tussle likely ended with the toy in Gary Kent’s hand, and the two older brothers crying.

I studied the pictures on the program once again.  Yes, Gary Kent was a happy baby who loved life… until he was 18 months old.  Very early in the morning, before doing chores, my dad went into check on him.  Gary Kent’s eyes were open; as if he were staring up at the ceiling… his little body was cold… they called it crib death.

My thoughts were now back at the cemetery as my dad stood up and stepped forward.  He placed his hand on the casket and held it there.  This was another good-bye, fifty years after the first one.  Not long after Gary Kent died, my parents had moved.  They wanted him close again.  That’s why we were here today.

One of my older brothers conducted the short service.  Another brother, and myself offered prayers.  The sweet music added to the peaceful feeling.  I was thankful to be there for the Re-internment.  But what I will cherish most from that short visit back home, was what I observed in my dad.

Like everyone who has ever lived, my dad has had his share of trouble and turmoil.  He’s made his mistakes and suffered disappointment.  But in the face of the storms of life which are billowing on his horizon, my dad is at peace with himself.  Since returning back to my own home, and returning to my challenges and turmoil, the image of my father’s serenity shines in my mind.  He is like those Teton Mountains which grace his landscape.  They stand firm, majestically, as inspiration to anyone who will take the time to look at them.  They are the same even if storms are brewing.  Even if they are so covered in clouds that no one can see them.  My dad is that way.  I want to be like that too.  More than anytime in my life, I want to be like my Dad.    

Early Memories


Another blogging friend, Zeynep Ankara, told in one of her blogs of a very early childhood experience.  She said of that experience, “I remember that night like today.”  Then later, when she was in college, she told one of her psychology professors the story.  But the professor told Zeynep that she “can’t remember for the first five years.”

            So that got me thinking about my early childhood memories.  Like Zeynep, I can clearly remember many things from my first five years.  Some are good memories and some not so. 

            I love the peace and security I still feel when I remember laying in my crib in the early morning hours.  I heard my father leave the house to go do chores.  And then I stuck my feet through the bars of the crib and played footsie on the wall and listened to the birds begin to chirp as the sun welcomed another day. 

Another happy memory was at the drive-in theater.  Our whole family was in our Rambler station wagon.  I was in the far back where the seat was folded down to make a bed.  The movie playing was “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world.”  I remember listening to my Dad laughing so hard at that movie that it made me laugh, even though I couldn’t figure out what was funny in the movie.

            Compared to what Zeynep wrote of, my bad early memories weren’t really that bad.  I remember things like long boring church meetings, being picked on by bigger kids, and witnessing the cruel treatment of others.  I also have some early memories which give me little reason to wonder why I became such an introvert.

            I know some of my early experiences have made me a better person.  One memory I have was when I was either three or four (depending on which younger sibling was the baby in my story.) 

I walked into Mom’s room to ask her something.  As I started into my question, “Mom, can I…?”  Mom sent me out of her room abruptly, telling me she was trying to get the baby to sleep. 

I felt “put out” by her, so I went into the kitchen where Linda, my two years older sister, was and said, “Mom is a Nincompoop.”  Linda looked at me in shock and said, “I’m telling Mom.”  She quickly ran to tell, and I was immediately struck with fear.  Nincompoop was the meanest, ugliest word in my vocabulary.  I ran upstairs and hid under my older brother’s bed. 

Soon, though it seemed forever, Mom started calling my name from the bottom of the stairs.  At first, I didn’t move.  But as the sternness in Mom’s voice increased, my fear of the repercussions for disobedience exceeded my fear of facing punishment for my verbal disrespect.  And so I was soon timidly standing at the top of the stairs. 

I was compelled to make a confession of what I had said, and then I was taken to the bathroom where my mouth was washed out with soap and water.  Mom then sent me out to help Dad.  I was glad to go.  I think that was what I was trying to ask Mom in the first place.  As I stood out in the snow watching Dad work, I thought, “I’ll never call Mom any names again.” 

To this day, I have always had complete respect and honor for both my mom and my dad.  I’ve seen quite a few people who needed their mom to wash their mouth out with soap.    I feel sorry for them.

            While pondering my early memories, and how I now might be influenced by those memories, I have wondered about my Great grandma, Anna Christina Holm Haroldsen.  She was still a small child when her father died.  The harsh realities of survival in the American West of the 1860’s forced Anna’s mom into a marriage that wasn’t good.  Like most men who lived in that area and era, Andrew Jensen had a nickname which everyone including family used.  Andrew Jensen should have been known as “Wife and Kid Beater” but Brickmaker was the name which stuck. 

            Brickmaker was so brutal, even with his own children, that Anna’s mother sent her children away when they were only ten or eleven years old.  She thought that facing the cruel world alone as youngsters would give them a better chance at survival then staying at home and within the reach of Brickmaker. 

            Anna worked for several other families in the area.  Some treated her well, and others not.  Wherever she stayed, the work hours were long and the pay amounted to little more than room and board.  Later on, in her teen years, she worked for a cooperative dairy, milking, and herding cows in and out of the pasture.    

            Anna’s adult life was more normal as she married, raised a family and even kept her own small dairy herd, so she could make and sell butter to the folks in town. 

            Senility settled in on Anna in her later years.  As time passed, she seemed to revert to her bitter childhood memories.  She would sit in her rocking chair and twitch and flinch while muttering the hated name… Brickmaker…  Brickmaker…  Brickmaker.

            So now I wonder, in my old age, will I become a total hermit, because of my early memories which I consider socially traumatic?  I hope that my happy memories of life on our farm will be on my mind when I’m old and feeble.  Maybe I can lie on my bed in some rest home, and put my feet on the wall through the bars of the guard rail, and watch the sunrise though my window while thinking that I can hear my father get up and quietly go out to do chores.

            What are your earliest childhood memories?


And the story goes, on and on.



My workday, last Friday was going as usual.  Sometimes peaceful, with time to think and reflect on what I choose to think about.  And then out of nowhere, I am bombarded from all directions. 

I was in the bombardment stage with three different people coming to me with six different problems needing immediate attention.  I needed to hurry out in the processing plant to change something on the pack list for a rush order.  While I was still out in the plant, the USDA inspector wanted to review the preoperational inspection which he had performed that morning, and one of my vendors (a salesman) stopped in to see me, and one of my new shipping guys had questions on loading a truck. 

Of course with all this going on, the phone starts to ring.  The first page (a call over the PA system) “Ron, telephone line 2…Ron telephone line 2.”  I wasn’t even headed toward the office to answer the phone before the second page sounded.  “Ron you have a phone call on line 3, Ron you have phone calls on lines 2 and 3.”  While heading to my office, I answer my shipping guy’s question and tell the processing supervisor what changes to make in the production line.  And then I hurry into my office, hoping that the calls are conformations from trucking companies that they can pick-up on schedule. 

As I sat down at my desk and reached for the phone… I could now see lines 1 through 4 all flashing.  “Which lines were mine?”  I couldn’t remember, so I took a guess.

“Hello, this is Ron.”

“This is … Harris.”  There was an awkward pause, like he expected me to make a response to his name.  And even though he stated his first name, I didn’t hear it clearly enough to make it out.  Before I did say anything, he spoke again.  “Do you know who I am?”  Now, I knew that I had heard that voice before, but I hear many familiar voices on the phone.  I figured that this guy was another trucking concern trying to win my business.  (I hear from about one new cold contact a day in this way.)  So my answer reflected what my brain was still thinking at that point.  “I know I’ve heard your voice before.  Are you with a trucking company?”

I now heard a nervous laugh.  “No, I’m dating your daughter.” 

I’ve never had such a fast paradigm shift.  Instantly, I was no longer at work (Mentally at least.)  Now I DID know who I was talking to.  Bryan Harris!  Jessica had brought him home months earlier to meet us.  And just like the rest of my family, I loved this guy.  I was very glad he was dating my daughter.  I felt comfortable around him, and I had the idea that the feeling was mutual. 

So now I was very embarrassed that I hadn’t recognized his voice or even his name.  Also, I knew of only one reason he would be calling ME.  I had heard rumblings from others and I knew that Bryan and Jessica’s relationship was now serious. 

Well, we had a nice little chat.  In the chat, Bryan had a question for me and I gave him the answer he was looking for.  That phone call was a wonderful respite from my hectic workday.  At the end of the conversation, I hung up the phone and just sat back in my chair with a big smile on my face.  I was now ignoring everything else that wanted my attention.  That was a cool experience.  I’ll now have two son-in-laws.  And both of them are really great guys.  In fact they are perfect for my two oldest daughters.  I went about the rest of the day thinking about that phone call.  Another wedding…  Wonder when it will be?  I thought of their future plans.  They still have school… and work … they will find a place of their own… and live where? 

As they usually do, my thoughts wondered to my progenitors.  They too had dreams… found love… got married … started a new life together.  We are the products of their dreams.  My thoughts now centered on my Grandpa George Haroldsen.  He is the one person of all my ancestors that I have the recorded story of him having the same little chat with the dad.

It was 1909.  George drove (his horse and buggy) to the south of Ammon, Idaho, where the Adam Smith dry farm was located, to talk to his perspective father-in-law.  This is where Adam and his sons spend most of the summer as they cared for their crops.  It would have been about a two hour horse and buggy ride to get there from George’s home.  He tried to get Adam off by himself to talk, but George later related, “I couldn’t get close enough to the old man to talk without big ears listening.”  He was referring to Kate’s brothers who apparently surmised what was afoot.  After a bachelor supper at the dry farm (there were no women around), George finally got Adam to sit in the buggy and talk.  Adam gave George some daddy-in-law advice, and George drove back to St. Leon (where he lived) that night. 

As I think of poor George, who was all scared and nervous to talk to “The old man” as he put it, I can’t help but smile.  “The old man” Adam Smith was once young too.  He too was once a suitor.  He had his awkward moments as well.  When he came courting his future wife, Helen Everett, at first she was afraid of him and so she’d go and hide, leaving him only to visit with her mother and father. 

I guess one way or another, everyone who gets married has to find their way into the lives of another family.  I think that just adds to the magic of love.  I am very happy to see my family now growing in this manner.  I won’t lose a daughter, but rather gain another son.  Congratulations Jessica and Bryan.  Your anticipated future is the product of my dreams.  And the lives we are living now are the product of our progenitor’s dreams.  And the Story goes, on and on.