A Day I’ll Never Forget

Yesterday, Aug. 21, is a day I’ll remember for years to come.

My family and I viewed the solar eclipse from our home in Rigby, Idaho. Our property was right in the path of totality. At 11:30 am, when the sky went dark, we cheered with excitement. We spent the remainder of the day together under a big tent in the front yard enjoying good food and conversation.

The experience became even more memorable in retrospect. Today, as I was remembering what happened, I was struck by the fact, that for a little over two minutes, our family, our neighbors, our community, our region, and people across the nation, had their eye on the sun.

We looked up with wonder and shouted for joy as we witnessed the sun’s corona, the outer edges of the sun, shine its light around the moon. For a few minutes, the moon appeared to glow.

We were riveted as we watched the moon gradually move out of the path of the sun. The light quickly returned, and we moved on with our lives.

I wonder if we truly understand the profound truth of this experience.

For me, it was a reminder to always look up & keep my eye on the Son. There will be darkness for a time, but “the Son” will always rise. His light will penetrate the darkness and shine brightly for all to see. The future will be bright.

As I try to sort out the failures of my life, I find myself wondering who I am and why I am here. Yesterday, as I listened to my uncle talk about my grandpa, I learned another important truth.

I never knew my grandpa on my dad’s side. I was only an infant when he died. For some reason, I’ve had a lifelong curiosity about him, and lately, an interest in my family history.

My grandpa Kenneth served as a fighter pilot in World War 2. Little is known about his experiences in the war and how that affected him. It apparently affected him enough to not ever talk about it with anyone. My uncle says that he had PTSD before PTSD was a known condition. Over time, he dealt with it and overcame it, but it deeply affected him for years. During this time, he developed some bad habits.

The house I grew up in is the same house my dad grew up in. Many years ago, Kenneth built a cinder block building that became a garage and a barn. My uncle says his dad took a lot of pride in this building. The garage and the barn still exist today.

Kenneth started building a wall to separate the barn from the garage. He began laying bricks, one-by-one, without any thought of measuring or making sure it was level. He, with my uncle, who was a young boy at the time, worked together on this wall. When they were done, they noticed they were about a foot shy of reaching the roof.

The brick layer showed up, and after asking if they used a chalkline, finished what they started. My uncle laughs when he talks about it, and says the wall looks terrible.

“Dad came by farming naturally,” my uncle said. “He could see what he wanted to do with his land, and he did it.” According to my uncle, Kenneth did things that earned a profit for his family, but when it came to maintenance and daily upkeep, it was not a priority.

Kenneth changed over the years. The father my uncle grew up with was not the same father my dad grew up with, who is 18 years younger.

Kenneth Levi Nelson

July 1, 1920 – August 2, 1986

I learned that my grandpa was a good man. He was passionate and ambitious, but not very patient. He was flawed in other ways as well, but despite the challenges he experienced, he improved. His weaknesses allowed him to become the man he later became.

There are qualities in my grandpa that I recognize in myself. I, too, am an imperfect man. I am passionate and ambitious, but not very patient. There are many flaws I struggle to overcome. I want to believe I’m a good man, and I try, imperfect as I am, to live a good life.

For the first time in my life, I feel a connection to my grandpa. But more importantly, in learning about him, I know a little more about who I am.

It was a day I’ll never forget.

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