Friday, August 28, 2009

Beisbol Pt. V: Family History

My aunts Grace Vandellen, Dorothy Barbour, and cousin Ellen Dec (Grace's daughter). . .

Saturday, August 8 (p.m.): Tom and Susan hosted a family get-together the evening we arrived. I'm sure such gatherings aren't too out of the ordinary for the Chicago-area Stobs: most of my aunts and uncles and cousins live a couple of hours from each other, remarkable today given how far-flung most families have become.

My dad moved us from Chicago when I was five years old, away from my mom's family as well as his own (Dad's roots are in Grand Rapids, where his only sibling, William, still lives). Thus, apart from occasional pass-through visits from relatives while I was growing up, the closeness of the exended family is something I've missed. And with Mary's family largely in Mexico, it's sadly something our boys will miss out on also. Which is really a shame. We had a great time reacquainting ourselves with my family, most of whom we'd last seen during our 2003 visit (and you'll have to excuse me for forgetting a few faces and names in the intervening 2000-some days).

My mother, Evelyn, was one of seven children of Thomas and Jennie Stob. The elder Stob was a career railroader with the Pennsylvania Railroad. He worked downtown at Union Station as a bookeeper for the railroad's maintenance department, commuting from home in a nice middle-class working neighborhood, Englewood, around 70 blocks south of the Loop (a place you probably don't want to visit these days if you don't live in the area. If you know what I mean). After retiring in 1961, the Stobs moved to rural Crown Point, Indiana to a big piece of property I recall for touch football games during Thanksgiving. They enjoyed a long and graceful retirement, active in their Church and involved in family, until their deaths. They were life-long Roosevelt-era Democrats, and despite being South-Siders, grandpa was a Cubs fan.

Tom and Jennie were the parents of (in no chronological order) Tom Jr.; Grace; Dorothy; Ed; the twins, Evelyn (my mother) and Eleanor; and Jimmy. Tom Jr. married Susan; Grace married Ned VanDellen; Dorothy married Jim Barbour. Ed married Nancy. Evelyn married Lou Kooistra (my father), Eleanor married Dick Hopkins; and Jimmy married a Susan as well. From these unions begat many children and grandchildren. Some grew up to be Republicans, some Democrats. And life gets interesting during baseball season, for there are a few Sox fans mixed in among the Cubbie faithful.

Evelyn and Eleanor and Jimmy have since passed on, as has Ned. So, to me, it was remarkable to have the four remaining Stob sibilings together in one room in 2009. And, leave it to the photographer in me not to bother getting them together for a picture!

We had a grand time with the aunts and uncles and a few of the kids and grandkids (I'm sure I'll leave someone out, so I'll save myself the possible embarassment of listing everyone). An updated Stob family geneology was brought out, and Mary and I learned quite a lot about my roots. And I learned as well that my aunt Grace worked for the Pennsy as well as a secretary/clerk, as did my uncle Ed--as a car checker during summer vacations from college. They called it the "glory days" of railroading.

It felt great to be part of a family--a large family. But also a bit strange, as if from the outside looking in--largely my relatives are people I really don't know, have no strong memories of, and have no recent shared experiences with. It's tough to keep the family ties strong with only occasional visits, and to this I blame myself and my own family upbringing. I must say I'm envious of my cousins, neices and nephews who have strong family ties. That's probably a Stob family trait as opposed to us stand-offish Kooistras. But at the same time, I'm thankful I have my relatives, and that they've opened their homes and their hearts to make us feel part of the family.

And while Mary and I and the kids will be only occasional visitors to the land of my mom's family, I hope they all know our welcome mat is always out should they wish, for whatever reason, to visit Texas!

Our wonderful hosts, aunt Susan and uncle Tom Stob. . .

Back to School
School's started up again. E. is in the third grade, which in Texas means you have separate teachers for math/science and reading/history--not so much so the kids will learn more, but so they're more apt to inflate the scores for the school districts on the state-wide student aptitude tests, which directly influence state funding. Ah well. . . he's started riding his bike the .43 miles to school each morning. I've been accompanying him this week to make sure he's a good little citizen on the road. He enjoys this extra measure of independence.

Fall will be here too soon. The kids start fall baseball next week. It won't be long until daylight savings disappears and the lawns go dormant. But yesterday, while in our community pool with I., I heard the sound of a lawnmower over the fence and caught a whiff of fresh-cut grass. I savored it, as it seemed to be as fleeting as summer.

E.'s pretty happy to be back in school--and proud as well to be riding his bike there each morning. Ah, independence!

Back to Daylights
After at least seven straight years on the graveyard shift (and probably a bit more), next week I join the land of the polo shirts and docker-wearing living and go back to working days and afternoons. I was beginning to feel more like a zombie than ever on third trick. I've just been worn out lately, and while I can't say my health has demonstrably suffered, working midnights can't be healthy in the long run. There's more stress during days and afternoons, but the workday will pass more quickly. And I'll get to sleep when it's actually night time. In a sense, after being away from any truly challenging train dispatching for so long, I almost feel like a rookie, having to learn the mysteries of maintenance-of-way gangs all over again. But, ultimately, it was time for a change. I'm sure it'll take a while to rejigger my daily routine.

Rangers Take Yankees
Yep. Rangers win two of three against the Bombers. They held on from a 10-4 lead going into the 9th inning of Tuesday's game and barely escaped in spite of closer Frank Francisco. Thursday's 7-2 win found starter Nippert walking seven, getting yanked short of four full innings, and Texas' run production came from two three-run shots (the first one the Rangers' first hit of the game with two walked base runners on board) and a dinger. Texas' patience at the plate chased Yankees pitcher A. J. Burnett off the mound after six inning, running up his pitch count despite only giving up three runs off two hits and three walks, and striking out 12. But it was Ian Kinsler's two home runs and the bullpen troika of Grilli-Wilson-Francisco that made the difference. The Rangers remain four back of the Angels in the AL West and only 1.5 behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card.

They just don't give up.

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