The Gift of Life

Week 52: #52 Ancestors – You

By Eilene Lyon

HalseEilene - Orleans 19630001

I am my ancestors’ future.

Their legacies to me were their hopes, aspirations, and privileges…as well as their fears, anger, and disappointments. These things, passed down to me, shape who I am today.

From my father, I learned the work ethic that came through generations of farmers. Many of his ancestors were German immigrants who arrived in this country in the mid-1800s, though he also has English roots tracing to New England in the early 1600s. They all eventually migrated to the harsh northern great plains. It was not easy to wrest a living from the South Dakota soil.

With my parents upon my graduation from high school in Fairborn, Ohio, 1980.

His parents took their sons to Oregon where the boys all worked for the local paper to pay their way through college, the first generation to attain higher education. Dad insisted I get at least a bachelor’s degree. He taught me life skills I needed to be independent: balancing a checkbook, car maintenance, getting a job and being a responsible employee.

HalseEilene 001 c1998
My degree in Accounting allowed me to make a decent living in a tourist-economy town, though I did not love the work.

My father also came from a line of people who seem to have had happy, strong marriages. But he did not find a way to that with my mother.

The roots of my mom’s unhappiness lie deep in past generations. On her maternal line, her great-grandparents suffered so many losses in life that Mom’s grandmother endured not only her father’s death when she was a small child, but her mother’s grief and hardening of heart.

Clara Ransom found solace in education, and this she passed down through five generations of female scholars. But happy, warm and loving, she was not.

My beautiful picture
Mom taking us camping in Oregon in 1970.

My mother’s father also had rough times after losing his beloved mother at an early age and having an unwanted stepmother in her place. He was the only one in his family to attend college and, perversely, his siblings looked down on him for it. Though Laurence and Clare Smith had a very long marriage, it left a stain on future generations.

I keenly felt that having children was a bitter burden for my mother. I would not follow that journey in life. Even finding a way to a committed relationship became a difficult trial, after observing the weed-choked path of my parents’ marriage.

Eilene M Halse c1976 Guatemala
Mom and I both took riding lessens while we lived in Guatemala.

But my maternal legacy is not all negative, of course. From my mother I learned to love nature and travel, to love books and learning, to explore creative endeavors, and to handle the domestic duties that would also prepare me for independent life. I consider these to be sources of the greatest joys in my life.

In a few days’ time, I will be celebrating the passage of 58 years of life. I can honestly say that each year is happier than the preceding ones. Life is a grand gift and my heart is open to receiving it fully, and giving in kind. Every day is a new opportunity to learn and grow.

HalseEilene 1996 Women of the San Juan
Both my parents loved performing in theater and passed that love to me. Here I am playing Madam Bessie Rivers in “Women of the San Juans” in 1997.

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this journey with me through my blog. I look forward to exploring more lessons from history in the future and bringing them here for you.

After getting a second bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology in 2007, I spent a decade in my dream job as a field biologist (southwest Colorado in 2010).

Feature image: Me in 1964 on my first visit to a cemetery, Oak Lawn in Corvallis, Oregon, where my grandfather, Everett Halse, was laid to rest in 1961, the year I was born. Being a family historian, you can often find me in cemeteries everywhere these days.

41 thoughts on “The Gift of Life

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  1. If I were to get a second degree it would have to be anthropology. Although the best of it may be dwindling away, there are some great anthro’s that lived the life I’d love to have. Maybe I’ll get a do-over?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a firm believer in the “it’s never to late” school of thought. I enjoyed attending Fort Lewis College so much more than the big universities I attended in the early 80s. My fellow student probably didn’t appreciate me busting the curve.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I went back for two years to finish at 38 and had to take an entrance exam for CWU in Ellensburg. The counselor said wow, you’ve scored in the top 1% of incoming freshman. I replied “so your saying I’m smarter than an average teenager”? It was a very good experience though. Now at 57…maybe a pottery class or something. I was surprised however, that I had lost nothing in math. That was a win for me.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. What an interesting post, very open and honest. I agree totally that every year is happier than the last, which in someways is frustrating as I look to the diminishing number of years ahead! Oh to have been so at ease with myself when young. Glad to read in the comments that you are healing well, if slowly.


    1. Thanks, Liz. Glad you liked the essay. I thought it was a nice way to pull my family stories together into a background about myself .

      Finally off the “stupid” drugs (OxyContin) so I can get back to work. Yay!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your very honest and understanding musings on your parents’ legacies. I think I’m guilty of focusing too much on the negative when it comes to my parents, though of course they have good points too. I do love my family, it’s just not always easy to like them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do find it easy to focus on Mom’s negative issues. She was abusive and those memories really stick. But I felt it was appropriate to give some credit where it was due, too. I think it’s rare that anyone or anything is “all bad.”

      Liked by 1 person

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