Every year Peter gets a great idea for our Christmas card. This year is no exception. It is his creative outlet. The level of effort, time spent in front of the camera, amount of post processing, and man power for assembly varies from year to year.
The inspiration for this year’s card was Cornett’s new 360 degree camera, the RICON Theta. Peter brought this camera home from work and the tinkering began.
The set for our first photo shoot was in our house and the results were not the best we could do. We took a few shots outside that day, but it was more playing with the camera than having intentions of a Christmas card worthy shot.
We thought the outside shots had promise, so this beautiful afternoon was our second photo shoot.
I thought some of you might like a look behind the scenes of the Cook Christmas card. As the clouds came and went, photos were taken, settings changed, our furry house guest Murphy stayed out of most of the shots, and Pablo napped when he was not obediently sitting on a crate and looking at the camera.
He is actually my Great Uncle Paul, my grandpop’s brother. He lived in Knoxville, TN since 2008. This allowed me to visit him several times when driving past the Knoxville area. He was always welcoming and going out for a meal was always involved in the visit.
I was lucky enough to see Grandpop and Uncle Paul together last fall to celebrate their September birthdays and a combined 186 years! It was humbling to know the amazing lives of those two and to be in their presence.
Uncle Paul passed in his sleep March 19, 2017. His step-daughter, Barbara, presided over the grave-side service. Below is a transcript and wonderful summary of Uncle Paul:
Barbara: …Paul was a very, very private person. He had one of the sharpest minds I have ever known and he seemed to enjoy a challenge of any kind that he was involved in. He liked the challenge at work, on the golf course, and even solving the daily crossword puzzle and jumble in the newspaper. He and I did that every morning.
He was definitely a numbers man. He compared his figures out throughout the years for business and we found reams of paperwork where he had compared his figures.
He had a really dry sense of humor, or I thought that he did. He would throw out an unexpected remark that would make you laugh. His niece, Nancy, recalls a fond memory of the occasion, on the birthday while she was at UT, that Paul took her to Gatlinburg to eat, but on the way he had very little to say. Wilma encouraged her to continue talking and said eventually Paul would say something and he did – he asked “Are you ever quiet?”
Paul and I became closer friends after mom’s death and I am going to really miss him, especially our daily morning breakfasts at the Crystal, which was a big thing with us. Everyone we became acquainted with there enjoyed talking to Paul, that is if he had his hearing aide in. He got a big kick out of everybody thinking how much younger he looked than his age. They thought he and I looked the same age.
He enjoyed sports, but his great love was golf, at which he really excelled. He spent many happy hours on the golf course, but I feel he is even happier now being with God, Mom, his parents, and his golfing buddies. No more health problems, or worries for Paul, and his lonely times are gone. We are all really going to miss Paul.
Would anybody else like to say anything in memory for him?
Linda (niece): I am his other niece, Linda, and I remember the summer I was 16, my family had gone down to Oakridge for vacation. I stayed two weeks longer and Uncle Paul taught me how to water ski. My husband, who I had just started dating at the time, his family had a boat and they all water skied and I knew nothing about it, but I was determined that I had to learn to water ski. So I took those two weeks and you know Paul didn’t really say a lot and I also didn’t really say much, so I am sure it was pretty comical, a silent learning how to water ski. By the end of the two weeks, I had managed to accomplish that.
Shannon (step-granddaughter): Within the last few years, I got some bad news, I ended up with breast cancer and Paul came to the hospital and spent the whole time with me. It meant a lot to me. That is my fondest memory and probably the closest me and Paul have ever been. He was there for me when I needed him the most.
Linda (niece): I would also like to say, I was not very close to my uncle because of distance, but in the past 2 ½ years we have seen him more than I have since I was married and we really enjoyed it. I know my dad was really forming a special bond with Paul because my sister was bringing him here to visit when she would go to a UT game. I know they were forming a deep bond and he loved it. That was all dad wanted for his birthday was to come and spend it with Paul. Dad really wanted to be here.
Logan (step-great grandson): The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 KJV
To celebrate Uncle Paul, Mom, Dad, Peter, and I had breakfast at Crystal. I had the “Uncle Paul Special.”
The workers at Crystal all knew Uncle Paul. It was heartwarming to see how his daily breakfasts there impacted the workers. I am constantly amazed at how God locates friends and family and orchestrates work and trips as to spend time with those in our lives.
Today I celebrate my dear friend, Renee, on one of her milestone birthdays, I want to share some of the fun and adventures we have had over the years. We met at The Space Between, a mid-week, 20-something gathering at Southland Christian Church. As engineers are apt to do, we gravitated to each other, or maybe we were divinely guided, either way, the fun started immediately and has never stopped.
Here is just a fraction of the fun we have had together over the last 12+ years:
We tap into our creative side at Halloween coming up with no-cost costumes we can wear together. As engineers, we still have to be thrifty! We’ve have been the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding duo, beach volleyball players, and one year there was a biohazard theme going on at my house.
We have celebrated birthdays and weddings.
There have been bad recipe parties, progressive dinners, Oreo elections, free root beer float runs all around town, and weekly dinners together where the only rule is a new recipe must be tried and pizza is always the back-up plan.
Renee and I have met up in Huntington, West Virginia; Vasteras, Sweden; and the Noordam cruise boat in Vancouver, BC. I have visited her in Columbia, South Carolina. We have traveled to MI and NY together.
Renee invited me to Pumpkinfest one year, an annual event I always look forward to assuming Renee still invites me!
My only ice skating lesson came about because of Renee. I had a blast and know why she likes it! We have attempted “vaulting” at the Horse Park during a warm-up event prior to the World Equestrian Games. Attended musical events together. I have watched ice skating shows and routines. We have even made pretzels together. Truly I think we would try just about anything!
We have looked after each other’s houses, collected mail, checked on pets, painted, cleaned, removed wallpaper, worked in the yard, and all sorts of other chores and duties for and with each other. I can only imagine the people we have entertained taking all sorts of crazy items down the street from one house to the other – a vacuum comes to mind as one of the items.
Renee – you are my best friend and I cherish the silly, the fun, and the crazy that happens when we get together. You have taught me how to snag a good deal, shared the best places to thrift shop, taught me that just about anything can be categorized and analyzed with spreadsheets, inspired me in your adult hobbies, introduced me to a cat with the biggest personality, and I discovered our comfort zone is huge when the two of us are doing it together. I look forward to where in the world we will rendezvous in the next 12 years. I also chuckle thinking about us as old ladies! I send you all my best today from Kentucky and wish hugs and smiles could fit in an envelope to sent through the mail. I love you my friend.
Today, on what would have been Pap’s 92nd birthday, I wanted to share a story about fifty bucks I have supposedly owed him since the day I was born.
I am the oldest grandchild on my father’s side and with that I feel like I have a particularly special relationship with my pap (grandfather). There are a couple reasons for this. To me, Pap made me feel special. His kind words as we said goodbyes after a visit, his compliments when introducing me to friends and extended family members, his instructions to boyfriends/husband to take care of me, or the way I just “fit” in his arms for those awesome Pap hugs made me feel extra special in his eyes. Now, I imagine each one of us grandchildren can say similar things about Pap. But one thing that was just between us was me being teased by my pap, as long as I can remember, that I cost him fifty bucks when I was born and therefore I owed him those fifty bucks,
Since I can’t remember the day I was born, from what I have been told, this is how it all went down and why I have owed Pap fifty bucks:
Pap had a hunting camp in Tionesta, PA. The camp was being built the year I was born. As a matter of fact, Pap was up at camp on Friday, September 23, 1977. He had headed up early and my parents were planning to join him after my dad got off work that Friday.
Let me pause here and say that my mom was pregnant and due in November. Mom and Dad had just attended their first lamaze class the night before, Thursday, September 22. My mom had been feeling a bit crampy that afternoon and mentioned this to the instructor after class. The instructor was not concerned and my mom went home to a fitful night’s sleep.
The next morning she told dad she was ok and didn’t feel any worse and he went off to work. Mom planned on canning bread and butter pickles with a friend, Barb, that day. Barb was to cut up and deliver the cucumbers and mom was going to can them. She wasn’t feeling great at this point, worse than the night before actually, when the cucumbers were delivered by Mike, Barb’s husband. So Barb ended up canning the pickles while mom watched and with the encouragement of Barb ended up going to the hospital. It became apparent that I was not waiting until November to enter the world and mom had been experiencing labor.
To continue the story: due to the events transpiring back home in Butler, there was need to talk with Pap. No cell phones back then kids, so Grandma called the state police and asked them to get a message to Pap. A policeman drove up to the cabin and found that Pap was not there, so he tacked a note to the door with a message saying “call home immediately.”
Pap had been in Tionesta, probably for dinner, and when he returned to the cabin he saw the note and accurately thought something happened at home. His mind thought his wife or one of his children had been hurt, in an accident, or had an emergency. His first grandchild about to enter the world did not even cross his mind.
So Pap jumped back into the vehicle and drove quickly back to Tionesta to make a call home. In his haste, he blew through a stop sign and was seen and promptly pulled over by a policeman. As the policeman wrote out a ticket, Pap explained that his reason for failing to stop at the stop sign was due to a note he found on the cabin door instructing him to call home immediately and he was concerned something had happened at home. At this point the policeman realized he was already familiar with this situation because he was the very same policeman who had delivered the note.
You would think Pap would be off the hook right? But the policeman had already started writing out the ticket and apologized to Pap saying he could not tear it up. So Pap got a fifty dollar ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign while driving to town to call home to find out his first grandchild was born.
And with this, Pap thought it quite appropriate to remind me as often as he thought of it that I owed him fifty bucks for being born because that is what I cost him.
I am writing this about a year after Pap died. I have spent periods of time looking back at Pap’s last several years of life and marveling at the time I had with him. You see, ever since I graduated from college, I have lived 6.5 hours from Pap.
Growing up, Grandma and Pap literally lived over the creek and through the woods and a wee bit more from us. It was just part of life to see them often. When I graduated college and moved to Kentucky for my first job, it took more effort and planning to see my grandparents.
After changing jobs in 2009, travels for work often took me to the Pittsburgh area starting in 2010. This gave me many opportunities to visit Pap. Between 2010 and March 2015, I traveled to western PA about two dozen times. That probably equated to at least 15 extra visits with my pap! What a blessing.
For the last couple years of Pap’s life, each time I said goodbye to him after a visit I would wonder if I would see him again. Peter and I spent Christmas 2014 in PA with my family and of course visits with Pap. He was noticeably frailer, a bit more unsteady, and had been having some health issues. I was grateful for a long trip to PA over Christmas and New Year and the family time that afforded.
Come March 2015, I found myself in PA for work. This was two weeks after buying a house in the country. I had made a plan to take Dad back to KY with me after the work trip. Dad was going to help with some work on the new house for which I was incredibly thankful.
While in PA, I recall visiting Pap and Eleanor. I remember seeing the joy my parent’s dog, Marley, brought to Pap’s face as he ran around the living room and played and was an energetic, entertaining puppy. I remember telling Pap about the new house and what all Dad and I planned to work on. I remember leaning over to kiss Pap goodbye and seeing a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face as he told me how good it was to see me, to be a good girl, and to take care of myself.
That next week as Dad and I were working on the new house, Pap went into the hospital. All week we kept in close contact with my mom and aunts in Butler, getting updates on Pap. My mom was to drive down to KY at the end of the week and we were to spend Easter together. My parents returned home Easter day and went straight to see Pap. I spoke with Dad that night as he was showing Pap pictures of the new house. I heard Pap in the background sending a greeting. Dad said he was doing well and thought he would go home in a few days. I had no thoughts to driving home to PA. That was on Sunday night.
Monday had a completely different tune. Pap had declined, he was medicated to be made comfortable. My Aunt Chris was en route from Seattle to Pittsburgh to get home to see Pap. I spoke with Dad and contemplated heading home too and Dad wisely stated “What do you want your last memory of Pap to be?” If I felt I needed to see him again get in the car and drive up. If I was content with my last memory of Pap, just stay put. At that moment I cried tears of thankfulness to God as I remembered the twinkling eyes and little smile I had so recently seen on Pap’s face just over a week before.
Pap held on until Aunt Chris made it in to see him and he passed on Tuesday afternoon. I like to think it was about the time I was having lunch with my boss and coworker and telling them of the opportunity my recent trip to PA had given me to see my pap and how thankful I was for that opportunity.
The events in the first quarter of 2015 were wonderfully orchestrated. The buying of the a house, my work trip to PA, visiting with Pap, Dad’s work trip to KY, Pap going into the hospital, Mom joining us for Easter, Mom and Dad getting back to see Pap, Aunt Chris making it in town to see Pap. So many things going on and from my perspective they seemed to fit together perfectly.
When I was in the midst of this time, I didn’t realize the extent of God’s gift. Only that I had gotten to see Pap so close to his passing. But on further reflection, I see God’s gift started when I was hired at Donan. The work travel to western PA so often, the number of visits with Pap over the last five years of his life.
I know God gave me the gift of time with my pap and the opportunity for my last memory to be observing the joy Marley brought him, sharing my excitement about a new house, kissing a soft cheek goodbye, seeing twinkling eyes and a cute little smile, and hearing those familiar words of gratitude for the visit, request to take care of myself, and “be a good girl.”