When Darryl Woodson looks at the map in the library at the Fountains at Canterbury, he can't help but notice the contrast to the way things used to be.
Woodson, 84, recently took part in a project that maps the locations of the children and grandchildren of seven residents of the Oklahoma City retirement community, 1404 NW 122. The clear push pins represent the residents. The black pins represent their children and the red pins are for their grandchildren.
String and pins depicting where people live originate from Oklahoma City and crisscross the country, some extending off the map to Africa and Japan.
“As a kid we never got out of the county, let alone the state,” Woodson said. “Today in our society it scatters just like a bumble bee. Everyone is so mobile. Very few people in a small town stay there, they leave.”
The project has prompted much talk about family and its importance. Woodson graduated in 1950 from Northwestern State University in Alva and served in the Korean War. He had three children, including a son who lives in New Mexico with three of Woodson's grandkids.
“We keep up with each other,” he said. “We are a very close family. I have an iPad and a telephone and that's what we use. Letter writing isn't too frequent anymore.”
William Bennett, 77, grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Princeton University. His daughter served in the Peace Corps and married a man she met while in Africa. They live in Silver Springs, Md., along with his grandchildren. He visits them twice a year, and once a year they come to Oklahoma City.
Bennett moved to Oklahoma City 18 years ago to assist his stepchildren, one of whom was injured in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Like Woodson, he marvels at the way society has changed.
“My first flight was in 1958 and it had two propellers and you had to climb up to get into the seats,” he said. “It was loud. But I got to Rochester from Albany in less than an hour, that's better than driving.”
The finished map amazes William Rodgers, 82, who grew up in Arkansas and had three sons with his wife, who died in February. Two sons live in Oklahoma City and the third also lives in Silver Spring, Md.
“When I moved here a year ago I started going to a caregiver's class and the first two people I met lived roughly where I did growing up in Arkansas,” he said. “The map reminds me people don't necessarily have to be born and raised in a little town anymore, they're scattered all over the place.”
And distance is no longer a barrier when it comes to keeping up with family. Technology has changed that. Woodson delights in talking to his grandkids via Skype on his iPad. He's amazed he can read the Farmington, N.M., newspaper on the device.
“They can see us and I can see them,” Woodson said. “I recently watched one of my grandson's baseball games on the iPad.”
The map also represents the most important things in life to participants in the project — their families. Rodgers gets together with his sons often. He recently returned from a reunion in Arkansas that included 37 members of his family.
“Family is very important to me,” he said. “By the sheer number of people at our reunion you can tell it's important. My sons and I are big sports fans. We play golf. We root for our baseball teams. Spending that time together has always been very important to me.”
Woodson, a retired school principal and superintendent, also is a jail chaplain. He baptized his grandson and granddaughters.
He sums up family and the importance of maintaining those connections this way: “We remember birthdays, holidays and everything in between. Our kids have been successful and have been great kids. They look after their mom and pop. There's nothing more important than that. Not money. Not jobs. It's what comes first.”