She was a cheerleader. He was a basketball player. Nearly 60 years ago, these two people met on the Kansas State Teachers College campus. Little did they know then that their future son-in-law and granddaughter would end up choosing the same college, now known as Emporia State University.

My maternal grandparents, Doug and Mary Blessing, met while they attended the Kansas State Teachers College. My grandma, who then went by her maiden name, Ishikawa, was not only a cheerleader, but she volunteered for as many things as she could. My grandpa was actually a two sport athlete, playing both basketball and baseball.

Before either could graduate, my grandma got pregnant with my mom, and my grandpa enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. They married shortly before having my mom, Carol, in 1964.

She was born in San Antonio, Texas, on the Lackland Air Force Base. After my grandpa finished his tour in Vietnam, they moved back to Kansas—Living in Wichita, where my grandma’s family is from, and eventually to Mission, where they have lived for over 50 years now.

My family’s history is something I really enjoy learning about. I love hearing the stories from when my grandparents first met, to stories about my mom growing up. Just this last week I was over at their house for my grandma’s birthday, going through old photos she’s kept organized, going all the way back to the early 1980s.

These photos included some from when my mom and dad first started dating, and wow, do my sister and I look just like our mom.

In a lot of weird ways, we look a lot like our dad, often making the same goofy faces as him in family photos.

My parents married in 1987, and had my sister in 1993, which is around the time my dad, Brian, actually started attending ESU for his accounting degree. He graduated before I was born, but has carried his college pride well after, and especially now, considering his youngest currently attends the school.

Even my grandparents feel that renewed sense of ESU pride, often joking that I’m the favorite grandchild for choosing to go here, unlike my sister, who graduated from Pitt State.

She gets flak from time-to-time, but it’s all in good fun (though we both know who the favorite really is).

As it’s my last year at ESU, I’m finding myself reflecting much more on who I am and where I come from. Just last week I was looking through the 1962 Sunflower Yearbook to see if I could find any photos of either my grandma or grandpa, and sure enough, I was able to find my grandma’s freshman class photo, and my grandpa’s basketball group photo.

I cannot express just how grateful I am for still having that record of them.

With it being probably my last Veterans Day in Emporia, I find myself thinking specifically about my grandpa, and how thankful I am for ESU being the place to connect him with my grandma.

It also gives me a special bond with my dad and my grandparents, one that I’m happy to share through my writing.

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