In terms of family we rarely look beyond the boundaries of those we encounter in our own lives. As children, we are aware of three core generations during our life. That core shifts from our parents to us as we have children ourselves. Experience of the great-grandparents or great-grandchildren is uncommon.
I was fortunate to have met my mother’s grandparents. Every summer our family would drive from California to my parent’s childhood homes in Idaho. I especially loved the 160 acre Vinyard Farm 10 miles east of Twin Falls across the old Hansen Bridge on the Snake River. I loved everything about the farm. Nothing during the rest of the year could compare to be on the farm exploring the wonder of animals and things I couldn’t find in the city.
One of my most vivid earliest memories is the day my great-grandfather died in July of 1952 when I was five years old. I remember his distress call to the family, “I can’t see!,” as he emerged from his bedroom outside the kitchen where the rest of the family was gathered. Later that morning, I remember looking out the window from across the driveway at the back of the main house. I was being hugged by my aunt Lois. She was in tears and I was bewildered by the huge ambulance parked outside the back door to the kitchen. He had died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
My mother would talk often of my great-grandfather, Charles Centennial Vinyard. He was the most important man in her life and she idolized him. My grandfather was a great storyteller, and between the two I have plenty of stories of life on the farm. And then I had the museum of rusting horse drawn farm implements to play on behind the barn.
After my mother died in 2014 I realized that I had lost my last connection to my family ancestral narrative. And because I had not taken full advantage of this, I knew I had a responsibility to not let what I knew be lost to my grandchildren. So empowered with the family knowledge I did possess, I began the search for whatever ancestral bits I could find to add to the family saga. My goal in the beginning was to develop each parent’s lineage back to the immigrants to this country. Going beyond that seemed improbable. I was wrong.