God usually teaches me humility in humorus ways. My latest lesson has involved showering. If you have been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that I am currently undergoing treatment at home for a bone infection that I got through a wound in my foot.
I currently have an intravenous line in my right arm, through which Amanda administers antibiotics every morning. I also have a bandage on my foot that Amanda changes every other day. I am lucky to have such a loving wife that is willing to do this for me. However, she does like to have fun with me as well.
For instance, in order to shower I need to duct tape garbage bags around my right arm and left foot. This is to keep my foot dressing dry, as well as my IV line. The duct tape that Amanda chose for me has ladybugs on it, which look great with the black garbage bags. Once I am all suited up I look like the “Ladybug Trash Bag Monster.” I then “climb” into our shower, which is the size of a small phone booth. It is fortunate that my shower chair even fits in there.
Getting out of the shower takes a leap of faith, as I am never quite sure how I am going to stick the landing. This morning I gave myself a 9.0, as I did not fall. I also maintained pretty good form through the dismount from the shower chair.
After I am out of the shower comes the fun part, the removal of the bags. This involves ripping strips of hair off of my legs, and some hair from my right armpit. I am beginning to think I should just wax myself down. That way the agony of the tape removal would be lessened. In addition, I’d probably become more aerodynamic as I race through the house in my wheelchair.
Yes, I choose to laugh at these times. If I didn’t life would be a daily struggle. However, I know that God is there. Likewise, I know He sees my struggles. He uses these to keep me humble. I am often frustrated, but I take comfort in knowing God has never taken His hand off of my life. My duck tape with the ladybugs and those black trash bags are reminders that God has a sense of humor. He continues to care for me even when I fail Him.
Recently I took one of those DNA tests. The kind where you spit into a vial, seal it
all up in a bag, and ship it to a lab in Utah.
I did this because I was curious to find out my ancestral roots. For the most part, the results were not a
surprise. I knew I had roots in the
United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy.
However, I was surprised to see that I also had traces of French, Swedish,
and Russian blood.
It was fascinating to see the results broken down into percentages. My ethnicity breaks down as follows:
English, Welsh, & Northwestern European – 36%
Germanic European – 29%
Italian – 12%
Eastern European & Russian – 8%
French – 8%
Irish & Scottish – 3%
Swedish – 2%
Baltic European – 2%
Seeing all of these percentages laid out like this made me
yearn to know the stories of my ancestors.
What were there lives like? What kinds
of personalities did they have? Where
did they stand politically? These are all
questions that I will never will be able to answer. However, I would love to do a little more
research into who some of these people were.
I know that much of my mother’s family were Germans who came
to the U.S. and settled in rural parts of Pennsylvania. I am sure many of them were farmers who tried
to make a better life for their children.
Fortunately, many of them came before Europe was torn apart by war. I would like to go back and hear their
stories. It would be fascinating to learn
why they decided to leave behind loved ones to come to a new country. This to me would have been terrifying.
My maternal grandparents Lauren and Betty Geil were both great people. I did not know my grandfather very well, as I was quite young when he died. But I do have memories of him. My grandmother Betty, was perhaps the coolest grandmother there ever was. I can remember her doing the “Moonwalk” after Michael Jackson made it famous. She was also one of the most giving people that I have ever known.
On my father’s side things are a little more ethnically diverse. I have been able to research the Bradshaw
family back to the 1600’s. It appears many
of them came from Lancashire, a county in the northwest of England. The Bradshaw line that I am from first
settled in Virginia, where it appears they were quite successful farmers, as
census records show many of them had quite a bit of land, and a few even owned slaves. The Bradshaw family began to spread out through
the Carolinas, Tennessee, and then into Illinois.
A few summers ago my wife Amanda and I visited a cemetery just outside of White Hall, Illinois where several of my distant relatives are buried, including my great, great grandfather. I wish they could have all spoken from beyond the grave to tell me what their lives were like. There is a place near White Hall called Bradshaw Mound. I’d like to find out the history of this place. It makes me wish that I’d have asked my grandfather these questions before he passed away several years ago. He was born in White Hall and maybe he could have filled me in on the history of the town where many of my distant relatives lived.
My fraternal grandmother was born and raised on the
outskirts of Shaw, Mississippi. She grew
up on a farm where her and her siblings picked cotton, that is until my great-grandmother
passed away. After this event, my
grandmother took over as caretaker of the family. She did the cooking, cleaning, and other
chores that her mother once did. This
means that my grandmother was also unable to finish school. However, she was a woman who knew how to take
care of her family.
Growing up I loved hearing the names of her brothers and sisters,
many of whom had been born in Italy before my great-grandparents Vincenzo and
Palmina Bastari came to America. My
grandmother’s brothers names were Rigo, Tilio, Aldo, Amilio, Cerro, and Sam. My grandmother’s name was Mary, and her
sisters were Edith, Emma, Jenny, and Clara.
I never had the opportunity to meet my great uncles, but I am sure they
all had great stories to tell about growing up in Mississippi. I can also imagine their lives, especially as
they were growing up, were very difficult.
However, they all went on to have their own families and lived full
I did have the privilege of meeting all but one of my great aunts and they were all feisty women. They also were all quite beautiful. Each one of them maintained part of their Italian accents as well. My grandmother’s accent was unique. It was part Mississippi and part Italian. Her family was from the town of Assisi, which is in central Italy. Hopefully, I’ll make it there someday. I am sure there are still some long-lost cousins who live there.
My dad’s parents, Oris and Mary were married in 1940 in
Hernando, Mississippi. They lived for a
time in Memphis, Tennessee before moving north to Rock Falls, Illinois. I think it was hard for them to move away from
Memphis, but my grandfather came north to help his father and mother.
My grandfather was one of the most selfless men that I have ever met. He always put family ahead of himself. He gave up a career with the Walgreen’s Company so that he could take better care of his children once his first wife died. He then remarried, moved to Illinois and did various jobs to support his family. He was a Coke delivery man, and then towards the end of his working life, he was a custodian at the high school just down the street from where I live now.
I miss him every day. When my own father passed away I was just a boy. My grandpa always made sure we were all right. We all knew we could talk to him, as he was very patient and kind. He was also full of wisdom. He taught me the importance of staying connected to your family. Family always has been, and always will be important to me. Take time to learn your family’s history. Some things may be ugly, but I am sure you’ll also find some incredible things as well. I appreciate the things that I have learned about mine.
In celebration of the of the Major League Baseball season getting underway this week the following is a story that I shared on Facebook a few years ago after one of the best days of my life:
So, let me tell you my story. It all began at 2:30 a.m. on Friday, November 4, 2016. I was awake this early in anticipation of the day before me. My brother Cory, my niece Clair, and I would be setting off at 4:30 a.m. to be a part of the Cubs World Series victory parade and rally in Grant Park. We decided to leave this early so that we could catch one of the earliest trains into the city, as we knew that there would be millions of people attending the rally.
We arrived in Elburn, Illinois at a little after 6 a.m. and promptly caught the train that would take us into downtown Chicago. On the way we sat in nervous anticipation of the sights and sounds we would encounter as we made our way to the rally. We arrived in Chicago a little after 7 and we hopped off the train. Almost as soon as we left the train, there was singing and people waving banners. It was going to be a party!
On excursions such as these I usually take a wheelchair, as it makes getting around so much easier for me. So, I in my wheelchair, and my brother and niece on foot, set out for Grant Park, which is nearly a mile from the train station.
On our way, we saw thousands of others headed in the same direction. The streets were a flurry of activity, as vendors were selling t-shirts, beads, and flags. Street musicians were there providing a soundtrack to the city that was oozing with World Series euphoria. Was this really happening, or had the last two weeks just all been a dream? The Chicago Cubs, my team, our team, had finally done it. They had become champions, and we were going to celebrate!
We slowly made our way towards Lake Michigan. We then walked past the lions that guard the entrance to Chicago’s Art Institute. They were standing there proudly with their Cubs helmets on greeting the masses as they strolled passed. As we got closer to Grant Park, the crowds really began to thicken, for we all had to pass through a security checkpoint before gaining access to the park. We inched along with the thousands of others that had gathered until we finally reached the entrance to the park.
Hundreds of thousands of people were lined up along the parade route, while hundreds of thousands more began to find their places for the rally inside the park. Cory, Clair, and I made our way down a rather steep, and muddy hill into the park. This was kind of fun in a wheelchair. I don’t know how Cory was able to keep ahold of me and the chair. We eventually made it down the hill, with the help of a fellow Cubs fan. Some people are still very kind, a lesson that I was to be reminded of yet again a short time later.
We staked out our spot, which was nowhere near the stage, but close enough to a video board, that we’d be able to catch all of the events of the rally there. Cory and Clair then went to get some food from one of the many food trucks lining the streets outside the park. The smells in the air were amazing! As I was sitting waiting for their return I made some small talk with a police officer, who was standing inside the security fence that lined the interior of the park. We chatted for a bit and then I was approached by a very kind looking gentlemen, who was very busy, yet took time to speak to me.
This gentleman asked how long I had been a Cubs fan and how long I had been at the rally. He then asked me who was at the rally with me. I explained that I was with my brother and my niece. He asked where they were at, and I replied that they were getting some food. He asked if they would be returning soon, and I said yes. That is when I knew that this man had something in store for us. Something that would be like Christmas, my birthday, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.
I quickly sent Cory a text letting him know that he had better return quickly, as our day was going to be getting better than we had ever expected. Cory and Clair returned in a matter of minutes, upon which the kind gentleman opened a gate and led us down a long aisle that led directly to the front of the park. On the way he checked to make sure that I was not embarrassed by being wheeled along in front of thousands of others who were not being afforded the same treatment. He did all of this for me purely out of the kindness of his heart. Cory, Clair, and I were now approximately 30 feet from the stage. The stage that our Cubbies would be speaking from in just a matter of hours! We thanked the man for allowing us access to this part of the park, and he went about his tasks making sure that everything was ready for the rally to begin.
I assume by observing him that this man was the director of the event, as he went about making sure that others were doing their assigned tasks. I wish I knew how to thank him, as he gave us all an experience that we will never forget. In the few hours that we spent at the rally I had to keep asking myself why would someone do this for us? We did not deserve this this type of treatment. We were just there to watch the rally and soak it all in as best we could. The simple answer, there are still humble and kind people in the world. I fall short of this every day. This man taught me a lesson by giving me an incredible gift. It may not seem like much to others but I spent the day just appreciating being with family, enjoying the beautiful, blue sky, and getting to experience something that is truly once in a lifetime. I was a part of history today, a beautiful, blue humbling history. GO CUBS!