Papa (my grandpa) flew a P-47 Thunderbolt in WWII. He was about twenty-two at the time, during the War. He even has this amazing story of when he got shot down in the China Sea, and the Chinese helped him escape the Japanese. We have a copy of his story of it he wrote (typed up on a typewriter).

My main memory is when he told us he was flying, and an enemy plane was right beside him, and he looked across (as did the other man) and they looked at each other. And you know what? They were both human beings. When Ian was eight or so, Papa gave him his dog tags.

Papa met Mimi in Hawaii (Dad thinks). They stationed Papa there after the whole being-shot-down thing, to recuperate. Mimi was from California. Papa was from the Boston area. They fell in love and married, and they had three children (my dad is the middle child). Dad and Forrie were born in Cali.

There are several things I remember about Papa (both from my own memories, and from stories told me). He had a TON of integrity. He was super outdoorsy. He was an amazing photographer. He was extremely competitive (my dad is too). Dad says it was never a “win no matter the cost,” but he did say that Papa always “played his A-game, and never let me win by doing poorly.”

Me? I’m a perfect blend of Mimi and Papa, honestly. And yet, I am so much like my mom’s side of the family that it’s not even funny. When us gals get together… oh dear. We laugh loud, tell hilarious stories, don’t fret about table manners, and just generally have a blast. I fit right in with my mom, my grandma, my aunt, etc. They were work-with-their-hands type of people (Grandpa built his own house with his own hands). Grandma Eva was a very can-do woman, despite her polio.

Papa was very involved in both his families (he and Mimi divorced when my dad was eight or so). About a year later, and a friend of a friend mentioned Nani to him, and they went out on a date. The rest, as they say, is history. I grew up loving both my families, and both our extended families. That’s one thing I love about my family: We love each other a lot. Do you know how rare that is? My family is marked by a legacy of love.

Mimi was a Christian Scientist. Papa was a Methodist, though not a practicing one at the time. A lot of their disagreements were over religion.

He and Nani got saved later, and that’s when they started walking with Jesus. Nani gave me some of the best life advice I’ve ever received: “Stay very, very close to Jesus.” It was Nani who gave me my first Bellingham church, those years at WWU. The pastor of Grace Church had spoken at her church, and so she recommended that church to me. And that was my home church for my first year or so at WWU. I started my church-hopping because a gal friend needed to find a good church, and she didn’t want to go alone.

There are only two Allard boys in our family–my brother, and my cousin Kyle. Mom always said that if her kids turned out half as good as Forrie and Nancy’s kids, she and Dad would have done well. I agree, in a lot of ways. My cousin Kim is someone I really love, and I love my cousin Kyle too. It was because Elora (my writing group gal friend) reminded me of my cousin Kim that I chose to trust her and go to her for help. Kim just has this really sweet heart, honestly.

My other favorite cousin is my cousin Jody (she’s married to my immediate cousin, Nate). When I see her, I think: “That’s what my mom was like as a young adult.” She’s sweet, and tough, and strong, and tomboyish but perfectly feminine. I love watching her and her husband parent their kids. Their daughter looks a lot like Nani did as a little child.

Papa gave me my Scotland trip when I was fifteen. Did you know that? I remember that beautiful, hot summery day. I was fourteen. I came back from a walk, and heard: “We want to send you and Nani and your mom to Scotland.” And my heart swelled so happily, I was giddy for days. It’s what gave birth to all my dreams of visiting the Celtic lands.

I wanted to go to college at Aberdeen University (they have a great Celtic history program, and excellent classes in Gaelic). But it was too expensive, and I didn’t want to be that much in debt (and I couldn’t find any decent scholarships). Instead, I chose my Celtic trip (the one I took this past summer). My God is a good God. WWU was where I was meant to be.