Windshield Wipers

When my husband and I moved to the Seattle area two and a half years ago, we had both just graduated from BYU. He was on his was to a PhD at the UW. I didn’t have a job, his job didn’t start for six months, and we were living in his parents’ basement until we found a place.

Our windshield wipers had already been baked by an early Utah summer, but it was still pouring rain in Washington. Still, with no immediate promise of income, I was willing to put up with a few streaks on the windshield rather than buy new wiper blades.

But after my husband and I returned from a walk one day, my father-in-law, Jim, mentioned in passing, “I put a new pair of windshield wipers on your car for you.”

Alone, it’s a small, sweet example of the way he lived his life, noticing needs around him and quietly filling them. But you have to understand that Jim was suffering from severe back pain, so bad that he hadn’t been able to lie down for months. He had tumors the size of golf balls spreading through his body. He was in and out of chemotherapy, and suffering from neuropathy from previous bouts of chemo. And through all this, he was still working so hard to keep up with his job as a sports photographer for the Seattle Times.

And he had gone out, bought windshield wipers, and installed them for us while we were out walking.

We had six more months with him before the cancer treatments became too much. That was two years ago today.

Those windshield wipers are starting to leave streaks behind, and with holiday travels ahead of us, it’s probably time to replace them again. But I count it a blessing that this gloomy Washington weather gives me frequent opportunities to use those wipers and give quiet thanks in my heart for the selfless man who changed our wiper blades.

Family History, I Am Doing It

You know where you can find some really amazing stories?

Your grandparents.

Your great-grandparents.

And so forth.

I’ve been up to my elbows in family history work lately, formatting a life history of my grandparents, typing up various life sketches from generations back, translating German letters from my aunt’s ancestors, scrapbooking, and exploring the endless documents available on Ancestry.com.

The longer I work, the better I get to know these people who came before me, and the more interesting stories I find and file away to tell my children later. The boy who stole his teacher’s whip during church and chopped it into tiny pieces, the man who was shot through seven times and survived to pass on his faith to his family and countless others he served throughout his life, the woman who kept a tenuous balance between association and enmity with an aggressive Indian as she established a home on the plains.

If you’re looking for some good material to hack apart and reform for your own creative purposes, take a look into your own family history. Talk to your parents and grandparents, great-grandparents if you’re lucky enough to have them. Take a look at family history websites. Google people. You’d be surprised what you can find about your ancestors in this day and age.

Have you done much looking into your family history? Any good stories that you like to tell? Anything you’ve stolen from ancestors past for your creative writing?