Remembering Napoleon (“Polie”) Nov. 04, 2004 – Oct. 28, 2019
Playing with the grandbabies back in the prime of his life… my West Highland White Terrier was the perfect family dog.
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My Aunt Alice Visited Me After All These Years…
And I Think I Know Why
I woke up this morning with my Aunt Alice on my mind. At first, I had no idea why she came to me. But, it was fun thinking about her and her love for me was comforting. I thought of all the fun we had I had when I visited my Uncle Dad and Aunt Alice Morris in Pineville, Mississippi – an area of what was “country” to me in the Long Beach area of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When I was a girl, they lived on the property established by Aunt Alice’s father as a dairy farm and business. Her folks were still living there in the house – the Franks – and I enjoyed visiting with them and getting to know them when I was younger. The Franks were good people! I thought their farm was paradise. There was a large pecan grove, a big barn, outbuildings and plenty of animals. Glorious!
At one time, my Uncle David started raising quail in the big barn. He would let us go out and look at the quail operation. He sold the quail for meat. When it was Easter time, we brought quail eggs back home and dyed them just for fun. Quail eggs are pretty small, but, they are beautiful! We boiled them and dyed them along with our regular chicken eggs. My grandmother, Mamaw, would even pickle quail eggs. I would bring home quail eggs and twice used them as elementary level school science projects that landed me in the city-wide science fair. Once, I made first place! I loved raising the baby quail I hatched in my little incubator. Uncle David and Aunt Alice were proud of me.
My Aunt Alice had a smile that radiated through her eyes – the joy shone through. She had a way of making me feel good about myself. She appreciated the way I would watch over her little girls as a big sister would. This would give her some freedom and rest for a little bit. She and Uncle David had four girls – my sweet cousins – built in best friends. But that is a handful! Did I mention Renee and Rhonda’s spunkiness? It was a thing. A FUN thing. I felt close to that family and they loved me ever bit as much as I loved them. It is something that is hard to put in words sometimes. I can hear the laughter still today and it has been many, many years that have passed since I saw last saw my Aunt Alice and her girls together.
On the occasion of my high school graduation, my Aunt Alice gave me a questionable and definitely unexpected gift that made me scratch my head. (I have to bust out laughing every time I think about it now.) She gave me a sea-foam green negligee. I was shocked! I hate sea-foam green, always have. Sea-foam green reminds me of hospital walls. The negligee, well, okay, then. I would not know what women wore those things for until a few years passed. I was still in my flannel phase when it came to pajamas. Momma, a Southern Baptist, was floored. I opened it and very appreciatively and respectfully gave my sweet Aunt Alice thanks. She was so proud! She fully expected to flabbergast my mother, I could see it in her eyes. She meant to rile my mother up. She laughed! She said that I would need that in the years to come. Aunt Alice was full of life and passion! Enough said. I loved her all the more for her gumption. I don’t remember ever wearing the negligee and I don’t know what happened to it. I suspect my mother intervened, don’t you?
Although I never got “preached to” by her, Aunt Alice had a way of conveying her spiritual beliefs and I went to church with the her and Morris girls a few times when I spent the weekends with them, which was several times a year. And. I. Loved. Going. To. Pineville. I loved going to their little church in Pineville, too.
I felt freedom at the Frank/Morris farm. I fell in love with everything to do with country life. Even mucking out the chicken house. But, I felt the true sense of what it was like to grow up with a momma and daddy at a time I was living in a fatherless home. I saw the love in Aunt Alice’s face when she was with Uncle David. I learned from her that you could love a man whole-heartedly even when you disagreed with him. And I saw my Uncle David’s love for Aunt Alice. I saw she loved her parents very, very much and they loved her. It did my soul such good to see a family living together. Two generations with much respect going both ways. Aunt Alice had a good soul and shared her joy with all of us.
Uncle David and Aunt Alice did love their beer on the weekends. Uncle David turned us girls lose in the pecan grove with big burlap sacks and told us to pick up pecans that had fallen on the ground. He gave us fifty cents for a full bag. The bags were waist high on me and I was the tallest one of us kids in my family and theirs because I was the oldest. That was a lot of work, but, it was fun. I have never forgotten the smell of the pecan grove. I don’t know how to describe it, but, I have dearly missed it. Every fall, is still pecan time for me. I noticed Uncle David and Aunt Alice would leave us in the grove (right next to the house) and they would go drink beer with Momma and Mamaw on their front porch. Momma and Mamaw did not drink beer. At. All. They had coffee, thank you very much! That must have been a respite for all four of them to let us run wild while they rested from work.
The days I am thinking’ of were before the youngest daughter was born. She was born when I was around 17 and I loved to hold her. But, even after the youngest was born and was a toddler, I went camping with them on the Wolf River on our Uncle Johnny Morris’ private property – it even had a beach! They loved to fish, I loved to swim. Heaven. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent loving the Morris cousins and my beloved uncle and aunt. They were so good to me. I associate the word “freedom” with that family.
My Aunt Alice and Uncle David married when she was just 16 according to Mamaw. He was a tall and very handsome man. She was a stunning beauty. They both had the most beautiful eyes and smile. I did some of Aunt Alice’s family tree in connection with my family tree on Ancestry.com. Her ancestry was fascinating and her family history surprised me because I knew so little, really, about her background. I remember associating the Franks with German background when I was growing up. And I seem to remember some sort of foreign accent with Poppa Frank, but, that memory is now too far away in my mind and I may not be remembering correctly. I just know that marriages were strong in that family. And family was everything…
Except… the bowling alley (and church). I was luck enough to be the one in my family that got to hang out with the Morris cousins the most. They would pick me up and we’d all go to the bowling alley in Gulfport. My aunt and uncle were dang near professional when it came to bowling. They were in leagues. That was professional in my mind. They had their own bowling shoes and bowling ball. I was so going to have my own bowling equipment one day. I wanted to follow in their footsteps. But, actually, when they were bowling, they were all business. They won prizes for bowling while I ran with their daughters as what I now would call being “bowling alley rats”. We played in the background and I kept an eye on my cousins as my aunt and uncle seriously bowled. They were in tournaments. I was so amazed at them.
Aunt Alice went to tech school to get her diploma in medical records transcription. She went to work at Gulfport Memorial Hospital. She was “smart-as-a-whip”, as my mother liked to say about her. All four of my Morris cousins were smart-as-a-whip, too. I saw my Aunt Alice as a “women’s libber” and I saw she raised her daughters that way, too. She did not take any sh*t from nobody. That was something I admired in her. She could have a hot-temper, but, only if it was deserved. She had a strong will and a strong mind. I hope I have incorporated Aunt Alice into my life. I think I have, but, I could use more of her personality in my life. She knew how to have fun. I miss her laughter. And the expressions she made with her face. She could be so funny.
My Uncle David was in the Air Force and was a staff sergeant at Keesler Air Force Base. I remember visiting him at his office at Keesler. I was raised an Air Force Brat, so, anytime we had to go to the doctor, it was to Keesler A.F.B. hospital and clinic. Uncle David’s office (in an old barracks building) nearby. He was very handsome in a uniform I must say! Aunt Alice was proud of him, I could tell even if she did not say it out loud.
So, this was all in my head as I lie in bed this morning thinking about her. Sometimes I feel the angels in our lives come to us in the nighttime. Are they truly guardian angels? That is what I believed as a child. I think it is true now as well. I feel them the most in the morning and sometimes during the night. I will experience the need to get up and write about the special one I have on my mind. I think they are there for a reason. They seem so fresh in my memory. No years have passed, we have not aged. Sometimes I cry because I miss them so much, but, comforted that they have come back to visit.
In the 1990’s my mother sent me a precious ceramic figurine one year for Christmas from Mississippi when I lived in Palm Harbor, Florida. She said my Aunt Alice had made it in her sister’s ceramic shop. I had no idea Aunt Alice was crafty! Such painting talent! Is Aunt Alice’s spirit attached to that ceramic cow? All these years I have kept that Holstein cow on my kitchen window sill, until sometime a year or go I had moved it to my dining room hutch fearing I might accidentally break it. But, yesterday, I moved the cow back to my kitchen window sill, to make room for a little memorial shelf dedicated to my little Westie, Polie, who went to Rainbow Bridge last week. Was she sending me a sign that she was happy to be back on her window sill? I often thought of her as I washed dishes. Did she help me fix the memorial for Polie knowing she loved critters as much as I do?
Did Aunt Alice come to me to comfort me after the death of my sweet little doggie this past week? She passed years ago. I had not thought of her for some time, since the cow was no longer on my kitchen window sill, and now she shows up at a time I am feeling very spiritual about my dog. She was one of the great animal lovers in my life. She always had a dog or two hanging around on the farm. She re-homed our mean Shetland Pony and told me the pony drank coffee with her on her front porch. She loved him when he bit most of us kids. This is why I woke up and went straight to my laptop to record my memories and thoughts of her, so I would not lose them. I smile because I am comforted by thinking of the love Aunt Alice and Uncle David gave me. Without a doubt, I am grateful and I am blessed.
And now, the cardinal couple just appeared at my bird feeder. Angels watchin’ over me…
Alice Claire “Frank” Morris (11 AUG 1938 – 13 OCT 1999)
I took a break from blogging out of necessity. Life got in the way. I have enjoyed creating and maintaining this blog and I didn’t want to slow down or even stop. But, you know how it is, my mind would be consumed with survival during some choppy waters in my life. We all go through these periods, and usually the hard times don’t come one right after another, but, sometimes we get hit with tidal waves that knock us of our feet. We struggle to get back up, but another wave hits and another. It feels as if we will drown, but, keep trying to rise up to the surface. I am a good swimmer. I love to swim, so, fortunately, after repeated attempts, I have risen to the surface and am back to blogging.
It took the death of my beloved West Highland White Terrier to make me realize I needed to write and share my experiences with others. And I realize this is a blog about family history and genealogy, but, I have always shared a little bit about me here from time to time. I have included some childhood memories and some school days trivia and memorabilia. I got to thinkin’ that the post I published yesterday about Polie, my Westie, was maybe family history after all. I realized our cherished pets are family to many of us. And I thought about how I wanted to share more about my biography and life events. Blogging is easier to me than writing a book, so, why not write about my life these days a bit and continue to write about my family of origin, share some fun photos and stories about life in general.
Genealogy can be dry and it can be a little boring if you just have facts and no information about your ancestors’ personalities. Don’t you always wonder about your great aunt or great great aunt’s daily life or hobbies? Did she just go to church all the time as all the genealogical information you have found seems to imply? Was she really as sweet and devoted as her obit describes? I am often left with the feeling I would love to have a visit with these folks in my family tree. Let’s face it… you can visit ancestors in the cemetery, but, it leaves you stone cold (as in monuments) and sort of empty. Names and dates on a gravestone. What were their daily lives like?
I often think, as I wash dishes in my sink, wouldn’t it be fun to have your ancestor with you to see the modern conveniences in your kitchen? My great grandmother did not have running water in her house. I think: Wouldn’t it be neat to show her my sink with a faucet with hot and cold water, adjusted just to the right temperature, that flows into the basin of that sink over my dishes? I would think she would either be astounded in a good way, or perhaps, frightened by all these new things? I like to think she would get a kick out of spending time with me in my kitchen. She could teach me how to make a pie crust. After all these years, I would have someone to teach me first-hand how to make pie crust! I was told by one of my mother’s cousins, Billy, who grew up with my great grandmother, that she made wonderful pies, but, that she put too much sugar on the top crust. (How could that be a bad thing? Ha! Ha!)
I asked Billy if she was diabetic, because that seems to run in my family. He said that he didn’t think so. But, my grandmother, (her daughter) would not get tested for diabetes, so, how could she know. My grandmother was a nurse, but, she had a weight problem that maybe shamed her into denial. I asked Billy if Grandma Mary Jane was heavy-set, or overweight. He said no. Stuff to ponder. Perhaps I got my weight issues from a different family line. Maybe my father’s side? I just wonder things like that pretty often as I go about my daily routine. I have also wished I could go back in time and spend a day with one or more of my ancestors.
Census reports are great and wonderful tools for family history, but, they lead me to more questions about my ancestors. I want to see them as human beings, not statistics. Then it happened. My kids gave me one of their Amazon Fire tablets last Christmas. They were upgrading to newer models. I have to say it is the best Christmas gift anyone has ever gotten me, including The Beatles sweatshirt I got in 7th grade! They knew I had long been curious about how those gadgets worked. Since I had started having some health issues and not able to get out and do stuff as usual, this was a great way to spend some of my time. I was also having to deal with a sort-of hospice situation with my little dog who was very ill at times, this Fire tablet helped with the depression I’d felt as I went through these difficult times. I really wasn’t even able to sit with my laptop and work on genealogy or blog or “surf the net” without it being painful.
As I got acquainted with the Fire tablet, I explored all the literary advantages. I signed up for Overdrive using the local library card to access the resource. I had always loved library books and spent much of my life reading most everything I could (I yearn for knowledge!). I live in the country, so the library is an inconvenience for me these days and bookstores are an hour’s drive to and an hour’s drive back to my home. Until now. Lots of books make me feel rich! This IS a common thread in all my family tree lines… they loved to read and owned lots of books, published music sheets, hymnals and were highly educated. Many of my ancestors were teachers.
I, of course, have fallen into Prime reading, Kindle Unlimited and just recently I have delved into Audible. It is magical!!! Free books galore! Historical books, novels, biographies, such a huge world to escape in while I worked on feeling better and tending to my little dog. I set my goal on Goodreads to read 100 books in 2019. I didn’t pay much mind to that until the other day I discovered I had read 174 already! Astonishing. I have now had physical therapy that enables me to stay at my computer desk for longer periods of time and have begun to get caught up. So, I began hankering to blog again.
When my sweet little dog passed a week ago yesterday, as you may understand, there has been this huge heartbreak and this enormous void of time I’d spent toting him around, giving meds and holding him wrapped up in his afghan I’d made for him. I was feeling completely lost, empty, bewildered, devastated. I’d lost many pets in my lifetime and I knew this one would be perhaps the worst because he has had to be there for me as the adult children have grown busier and busier and the grandkids had grown up, too — high schoolers! This little dog was my world. My source of kisses and lovin’ I no longer got from family, or, even my husband who had his own health issues along with mine and the dog’s. I knew this would be tough. I had decided long ago that I would not bring another pet into my home when Polie passed. He was my third and final Westie. If you know the breed, you know they can be challenging. That was something I totally loved committing to when I was younger. Well worth the challenges! But, now, in my early 60’s, I just don’t have the stamina and strength to bring another pet home. So, this is the end of an era when it comes to my lifelong love of pet family. The emptiness is very painful at this time…nothing that a few decades won’t ease the pain just a little bit.
As I sat in my chair, the one with the dog bed no longer aside, I had cried my eyeballs out and I looked around. I heard the pet memorial wind chimes and I thought positive thoughts about Polie still being here with me — I hear his collar jingling still from time to time and I keep seeing him out of the corner of my eye — I decided to return to my blog with yesterday’s post. I decided then, that I would write more about my life. Which, if you think about it, really is family history because it is about my biography I would write to my kids and grandkids. It will be the sort of stories I would want them to know about my past and my family of origin’s past. There is a really amazing story to how I came to be against all odds. And apparently, I am some sort of mega survivor. And I think this may be a good way to share family history of the not-to-distant past. I do plan to restart my older ancestry research. This has been a 40 year hobby for me, so, I can’t give it up. But, I want to share more about my story and it is an interesting one that a few of my friends have said would make good Hallmark movie material. Ha! Ha! We would always laugh, but, it is true.
I think this may be a gift to me from my little dog, Polie, though. I think he is nudging me along with his little black nose and he is with me when I write. When I take my therapy walks everyday, I have dedicated those to him as well. I has been super hard for me to return to walking. Polie was my walking companion. I can’t stand walking without him. Anyway, that is a little of what I’ve been up to since my blog went silent for so long. I had withdrawn into my own little world with a lot of heartache knowing I would lose my best friend and doglet, Polie. And the world is changing so much for me as I face the future without kids or grandkids nearby. I am fairly isolated living in the country, would love to move to more civilization, but, that does seem to be an option. So, here I am again, folks. I’m back!
My sweet little boy, Napoleon “Polie”
(11/04/2004 – 10/28/2019)
Polie never loved the camera perhaps because is took my attention away from him? Or maybe he could not see my eyes when I was focusing on him? We talked through our eyes many times. In this photo, he had stopped to lick, or kiss, my camera lens.
Polie normally preferred stuffed toy squirrels to this plastic hamburger. But, one day he took a likin’ to it and flipped it up in the air, ran around the house with it and wore himself out with it. Then, he didn’t touch it again for years. I guess he’d killed it and there was no more work to be done in his smilin’ eyes. Or maybe he learned to prefer the real hamburger to the fake.
One day during a snowstorm, things slowed down for a bit. Polie and I went out to play. I started taking photos of the record snow fall – it was beautiful! But, when I looked down, I could not see Polie and I panicked, my heart leapt out of my chest – he was lost and the snow plow was headed down the road. I started yelling and yelling his name. No response. After a few minutes, I stood still and heard Polie’s collar (he spoke to me often by jingling his collar, he was not much of a barker). He apparently had been down at my feet the whole time, but, the sun had come out so brightly my eyes had not adjusted and with a sparkly white little doggie, they are camouflaged in the clean white snow. I was so happy and so was he although he did not quite know what the celebration was all about but if Momma was happy, Polie was happy.
Polie enjoyed my grandson, Brett, walking him on the leash. He was a great walker, trained not to pull and very patient with all of us. Great family dog!
My grandkid, Kenzie, with Polie exploring the corn filed. So much fun!
Napoleon LOVED the grandkids. Even when they got older and weren’t around as much, he still looked for them when he heard cars pull in the driveway. He was very loyal to them, and sometimes I felt like he treat them as if they were his puppies. Very paternal. I believed the best times Polie had in his life were the ones we got to spend time with the grandkids. We went on many adventures together and he usually got a bit of their corndogs when they were not looking.
In this photo, Polie had rolled in some turkey poop and was quite pleased with himself as you can see by the pride in his demeanor. It was not my favorite time with him when it happened, but, today it makes me smile and giggle a bit to remember what a little “stinker” he could be. Ha! Ha!
This is my all-time favorite photo of Polie – on Lover’s Retreat (or Castle Rock) here on our property. We loved to go for hikes and climb the hills (Highlands!) or explore the woods. In this photo, he had climbed up onto the sandstone rock formation and was proud of his independence from Mom. Good Times!
This photo was taken last year in 2018, last winter, and Polie was growing so much older and achier from arthritis in the cold months. He had cataracts in his eyes and was mostly blind and he was very hard of hearing. Later on he developed bladder cancer. It’s been a hard year for us. Rainbow Bridge was beginning to be in our future. What a sweet, sweet boy always and forever!
Polie, like I like to remember him in his better days… he was a beautiful dog and a wonderful, wonderful companion for me. He was my doggie-son and I am devastated to lose him, but, relieved he no longer suffers. I will meet him at Rainbow Bridge and remains with me as a spirit right now. It has been a week since he died. Life is so much harder to live without my Polie.
His Westie wings were ready,
my heart would never be…
Interesting blog post to share. Great job by “misspreservation.com!
My comment about the post…”W.T. Harkness’ father was J.R. (John Rankin) Harkness, an architect by education from Pelham, Massachusetts. J.R. Harkness was my Great Great Grandfather. The family was a Biloxi pioneer family who built many of the Biloxi buildings long since gone and undocumented as told to me personally by my Great Aunt Stella, J.R.’s daughter.
Perhaps you ran across that newspaper clipping from my blog here on Word Press? I have researched and posted extensively about the Harkness family. I grew up knowing, thanks to Aunt Stella, the Harkness family built the building known as the People’s Bank. I can assure you no tantrums were at issue in this family’s history as they were instrumental in the progress of their beloved Biloxi.
My blog is The Tenderly Rose Collection. That is where that newspaper clipping was originally posted about W.T. Harkness. It had never been available until I began my documentation of the Harkness pioneers.”