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Rated: E | Short Story | Other | #1904304
vol. 2 STORIES OF FAMILY FRIENDS PETS ME
vol. 2 STORIES OF FAMILY FRIENDS PETS ME

STORIES OF FAMILY, FRIENDS, PETS, ME  VOLUME TWO

 


IT’S A WONDERFUL GIFT!

FAMILY GENERATIONS PICTURE PROJECT

FAMILY HERITAGE



}My brother is providing a wonderful gift to all of our families on both paternal and maternal generations.  It’s truly a wonderful gift!

The year before our mother died in 2007, my brother took a special interest in her photos.  He realized that divorces and deaths were causing the loss of family pictures.  So, he decided to do something about it.

At first, he was concerned only with the photos of our immediate family.  Dad had died long ago, in 1965 at the young age of 47, and there seemed to be few pictures of him. Our sister had died in 1997 at the young age of 57.  All of our grandparents had died before 1990.

There had been six divorces in the family.  That meant that many pictures were lost, in a way, to the larger family when the divorced spouse had taken family photos with them and some could never be recovered.

I was the primary photographer in the family during my teen years in the 1950’s.  Prior to that, Mother had taken a limited number of photos with her ancient box camera with a tiny viewfinder that limited the overall quality of the pictures.  After that, each separate family took photos and occasionally shared a copy with our parents and siblings.  Another limiting factor was the fact that many of the pictures were certain studio photographs of which there was only one copy.  The most significant example of this was the professionally colored portrait of our mother holding our baby brother who died at the age of eight months in 1942.

Ray Gross, my younger brother, began his project by first scanning all of his own photos; then, he borrowed Mother’s photos and scanned them.  From that, he scanned the photos of our deceased sister and older brother who died shortly thereafter in 2011.  It’s up to me to scan my photos and those of my three children.

Ray’s enthusiasm and his heartfelt interest grew because of his concern about photographs made by our aunts, uncles, second cousins and other extended families.  He knew as that as that older generation died, that the pictures of them and previous generations might be lost forever.  With that in mind, he visited every relative he could locate and asked them if he could scan their family photographs.  All of them presented their photos for his project.  In return they were to receive access to the full and final, if there is a final, set in his collection after all were scanned and available.

Ray visited family in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, and other states when he was given another name and address.  He met distant cousins and other relatives during that trip; many that he had never known about before.  One of them wanted to share her photos but all of them were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.  She was grateful when he scanned treasured photos from his collection and gave them hard copies.

While collecting photos, he collected information about the people in the pictures.  They included people he had never met and information that he had never heard before.  While working with the pictures, he added the detailed information.  Eventually, facebook became the ideal location for his collection.

Now, there’s joy across the nation in many states as family members learn where to find and view a myriad of photos on the facebook pages.  Some of us have disks with hundreds of his thousands of pictures.  I have added notes and details to enhance the value of his wonderful pages. 

Ray may never get the thousands of pictures on facebook; on the other hand, he just might get all of them there.  He has the heart to do so; God willing, he also has the time to do it. 

I am so thankful to Ray for this wonderful gift to all generations of all of our families.  What a treasure it is.








ANNIE GIRL, AN OKLAHOMA CHILD OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Annie Girl, as she was called by her favorite grandparents, was born to a eighteen year old mother who already had one child and was soon pregnant with another.  Tiny for her age, Annie Girl played at her mother's feet while her twenty year old father traveled by hopping freight trains "looking for work" because he didn't like the work available to him in Garvin County of Oklahoma in 1938.

During her first year, the young family lived in a tiny unpainted house under two large pecan trees where the water well was a distant walk from the house.  On winter days, that walk to draw and carry a bucket of water was extremely cold and the ground was muddy and slippery.  Annie Girl and her brother, Larry who was 361 days older than her, stayed in the little house alone while Mildred carried water from the well, wood from the stack she had chopped earlier during windy autumn days and visited the dugout cellar where canned jars of vegetables and fruit had been stored after canning days.

When Annie Girl was fifteen months old, her sister named Linda, was born at the home of their maternal grandparents.  Annie Girl and Larry enjoyed the care of the grandparents and two young aunts at their rural home near Paoli, Oklahoma.  Her grandfather was a farmer and grandmother worked hard as a farmer's wife in the days when the laundry was scrubbed by hand on an aluminum washboard, hung on the fence to dry except on wet and snowy days, and cooked the meals over a large iron stove that also kept the kitchen and living rooms warm. 

A week or so after Linda's birth, Mildred took her and her siblings back to their small house to live alone when their father came and went from home to Kansas and other neighboring states.  When alone, Mildred not only had to care for three small children including the baby, she had to milk the Guernsey cow each morning and evening, gather and chop wood for the winter, plant and cultivate the small garden as well as keeping house and doing laundry by hand.  She had little time to spend with the children in between demanding chores. 

There were two reasons that baby Linda was seldom at her mother's home during her first three years.  She was allergic to the milk from Mildred's Guernsey cow, but did not get sick from the milk taken from the herd of cows milked daily by her parents.  And, that summer, Mildred was pregnant again.  That pregnancy was problematic and Dr. Lindsaey required her to spend the winter months in bed.  Linda was never there to bond with her mother, her siblings or her father who took various jobs in Garvin County so he could take care of the young toddlers and handle the milking and other chores.  Even though he had responsibilities, he still found time to go to the bars in Pauls Valley and spend his money on whiskey and the bar life.

Ray was born in March 1941 in the Pauls Valley hospital.  He was a healthy baby and he and his mother returned home to the small house under the pecan trees a week later.  Fifteen month old Linda continued to live with her maternal grandparents, Ivy L. and Corrie Steward of Paoli.  Annie Girl and Larry were happy to welcome their tiny brother and their mother home again.  Wilburn stayed home with his wife and babies the following year while Mildred became pregnant with her fifth child and, once again, was required to spend most of that pregnancy in bed.  She spent her hours reading to her children and playing games to entertain them from or on her bed.  Annie Girl bonded closely with her baby brother and enjoyed taking care of him as much as a three year old might do to care for a baby as "mommy's helper" while Larry helped his mother as much as possible.  They hardly knew Linda was their sister because she continued to live with their maternal grandparents and girl aunts Marcheta and Barbara June, ages thirteen and nine.

Donald Gene was born in May after Ray celebrated his first birthday.  Larry adopted Donald Gene as his responsibility and was helpful to his mother in her care of them.  Annie Girl continued her closeness to Ray, playing with him and keeping him entertain during the hours her mother had to provide care to her newborn, Donald Gene.  Their father went to California with his aunt and uncle at the end of their visit to the family in Oklahoma.  He found a job working in the shipyards near Santa Paula, California,

Everything changed for Annie Girl and her family one morning when Mildred had an appointment for a local photographer to take a picture of eight month old Donald Gene.  Mildred had always arranged for a professional portrait for her children during their first year.  What was supposed to be a normal Spring day, Mildred took her baby to the photographer's studio and posed for portrait.  During his filming, the photographer questioned Mildred about the baby's tendency to drop his left leg and arm from the intended pose.  "Does he always drop his arm and leg when you hold him?"

Mildred's response was, "I've not noticed it before.  He does have the sniffles this morning so I am taking him to see Dr. Lindsay when we leave here."

"That's a good thing, Mrs. Gross."  The photographer took a beautiful portrait of the dark haired Donald Gene and his young, dark-haired mother.  The baby wore a pale blue two-piece suit and she wore a pink dress with a pale stripe pattern.

Dr. Lindsey checked Donald Gene and immediately sent him to the hospital.  He died two days later of spinal meningitis.

The family was devastated.  The following days were extremely difficult for Mildred, the children and her family.  Wilburn could not afford the costs to return to Oklahoma to be with his family during the tragic days.

Annie Girl carried only one memory of those years to adulthood.  Seventy years later, she only remembers being a child at her mother's knees while her mother and grandmother bent over the side of the coffin to tell the very precious Donald Gene "good-bye".

                     

                            Two Christmases in a World at War


CHRISTMAS DURING WWII

Holidays for both the servicemen and their families during World War II were not the same in 1941 to 1945.  They served across the world in two wars: in Europe and in Japan.  Hearts were lonely and income was limited for most families at home waiting for their men to return.  Hearts were also lonely in the war zones among men in uniform. Christmas is traditional and memorable family holiday, but it was different for hundreds of thousand families across America, as well as in the homes of the United States’ allies.

My family’s Christmas in 1944, the last year of World War II, and the first year after the war, 1945, remain the most memorable in my life.  My father and 7 uncles volunteered for the military immediately after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, “the day that will live in infamy”. 

During the war my family, Mom with 4 children under the age of 7, earned very little income and received a small stipend as the wife of a husband in the military.  To make it through the year, our extended family shared necessities by sharing garden and orchard products, canning fruits and vegetables, providing milk from their cows, and helping to make home-sewn clothing. My mother picked cotton and cut broomcorn in the fields---men were not available to work as hired hands because the young, middle-aged and strong were fighting the war.

We did not have a Christmas tree or gifts in our home when we awoke that morning in 1944; and, there were none at the home of my cousins or at our grandparents’ home when our families arrived there.  Being under the age of 7, all of us were disappointed.

At mid-morning, our Grandmother told all to go outside and play. It was a cold winter in Oklahoma that year, but they bundled us in warm winter clothing and sent us out of the house.  There was no snow, but the seven of us always had fun racing around the circular drive, climbing the low limbs of the big oak tree, and sitting on Papa’s John Deere tractor pretending we were plowing his fields.  My brother and I had learned how to stand on a 50 gallon barrel and “walk it” all around the lawn. In other words, we had fun while banned from the house for an hour or so. 

After a while, Grandmother called us into her small living room where there were still no gifts for seven disappointed children. As usual, we had removed our coats and left them on the screened porch before we went inside to get warm by the pot-bellied coal stove. When our grandmother went into her bedroom, as she often did, none of us paid any attention. 

Then, out of the blue, Grandmother hurried from her room and exclaimed, “Kids, Santa’s been here!  Come and see!”  We ran to the room with great hopes and excitement.

On the bed there were our coats and on each of them were gifts for us.  Each coat had both wrapped and unwrapped gifts on it.  As gleeful children, we were surprised and happy. 

Most of the gifts were handmade and a few had been purchased at Walker’s Five and Dime.  On my coat, I found a blue, dotted-Swiss pinafore dress, a white blouse, a blue hairbrush and comb and a blue crocheted dress for the doll that I had received the previous Christmas---anytime items were purchased for my sister and me, hers was red or pink and mine was always a shade of blue.

That year I learned about being happy for small blessings.

The next Christmas, after the men had returned from the war, was memorable for my family and for other families, except the hundreds of thousands whose father or son had not returned home---America had a million casualties and nearly 400,000 deaths. Fortunately, my father as well as my uncles had returned. His return was our first gift of Christmas that year. There were still a few dollars available from his military pay, for Christmas---after the costs for my sister, my brother and I had tonsillectomies.

On Christmas Eve, the four of us went to bed in our tiny house that shook on its foundation because it was a windy night.  Unlike most houses, it had been constructed on the side of a hill and rocks had been piled under the downhill side as the foundation.  The wind blew so hard all that night that it was impossible for us to hear Santa Claus arrive. 

My little brother awakened first, ran to the small living room, and then he squealed with delight.  That was the signal for the rest of the family to rush into the living room too.  The Christmas scene was beautiful.  There was a small, decorated Christmas tree placed high on a table in the corner with many wrapped presents by it.  Most of the gifts were unwrapped and placed on the floor between the little tree where the four of us were standing.  Our parents came from their room and were standing at their doorway with wonderful Christmas smiles.  That wonderful sight remains vivid in my seventy three years of Christmas memories.

The Red Flyer wagon thrilled all of us—it would be used every day to ride down hill of the dusty, red-gravel road, and roll into the bar-ditch many times.  Besides little red toy trucks and the green John Deere tractor, my brothers found that there were at least twenty cardboard farm animals, each placed on its wooden stand.  They seemed to fill the living room.  My sister and I rushed to the dolls that we knew were for us.  Hers was a rubber doll that wet its diaper when she gave it a bottle of water.  Mine was wearing a long lovely gown and her hairdo was divine---both of us still have the dolls and the wonderful memories of the day.

IVY'S BIRDSONG


Corrie Steward is sitting in her rocking chair where she enjoys her coffee every morning, alone because her beloved Ivy went the way of his forebears at the Summer Solstice.  His chair is empty. 

Corrie leans back in her rocker, closes her eyes and listens.  She smiles when she hears the song of the mocking bird. Ivy always told her that the song of the mockingbird was his birdsong.  Corrie hears Ivy's sweet voice and knows he's still nearby, waiting.

The telephone rings and takes Corrie away from her morning with Ivy.  "Hello, this is Corrie."

"So glad you called, Bernice.  I was on the porch listening to Ivy's birdsong.  I hope that little mockingbird never leaves me.  I hear him in her calls every day."

"Yes, I know you've heard it too.  It lets me start my day at peace and not feeling so alone as I do at evening time."

"I'm feeling just fine today.  Thank you for calling."

Corrie smiles.  It's good to be remembered.

She gathers the crumbs, potato peelings and leftovers from the kitchen and walks out to the chicken's yard where the white ones are scratching for bits of goodies or worms in the dust.  The little gray "banties" are fighting over a caterpillar.  "Here chickie, chickies, I got you some treats.  There's plenty.  You don't need to fight."  She laughs aloud as they swarm around her.

Corrie walks through the gate to see Chigger, Ivy's favorite ride.  Chigger whinnys and trots toward her.  "Corrie pats  the star on Chigger's face then feeds him an apple.  "You didn't think I'd forget you, did you boy?  I'm sure you miss Ivy almost as much as I do.  I can't lift the saddle or I'd give you a good run like I did when Ivy first brought you home."

Wistfully, Corrie looks down the lane.  She yearns for the day she might see her precious little Junee running toward her again.  The appendicitis took her away so quickly.  She was their only child and looked so much like her father.  She wonders if it's true what they say about meeting your loved ones on the Other Side when you die.  "I sure hope so", Corrie whispers as a prayer.

By the time she returns to the front porch, she's had her day's walk and garnered a good dose of sunshine. 

Corrie picks up the yarn and unfinished afghan she worked on while at Ivy's bedside.  She holds it up and recognizes that it's not even on all sides, rather one sided.  She laughs to herself to keep from crying.  While making it, her thoughts were all about Ivy and the illness that was taking him away from her.  She held the afghan close, remembering.

The long day gradually came to an end.  Sitting in her rocker, Corrie watched the sun go down.  She thought of the hundreds of evenings that she and Ivy sat together and watched the sun setting over the pasture while the cows were milling around, some were eating the grass, others were mooing softly.

She leaned back in her rocker to listen to all the sounds of evening on the farm she and Ivy shared.

The next morning, the mockingbird sings its song.  Corrie doesn't hear it.  She's in another place with her precious Junee and Ivy, who kisses her once again as he always kissed her at the gate when his day's work was done. 


Dedicated to my grandparents Ivy L. and Corrie Steward and their daughter, June.




MY MOTHER


Life was hard for my mother.  She was born in 1920 to a farmer.  As the oldest among four daughters and a son, she had to help with the farm work.  It was her job every morning and evening to milk the four cows from the time she was thirteen years of age.  After he tripled the herd, he joined her in the milk barn.  On the one hand, it was better having a co-milker, but on the other hand, it was rough because he seemed to always find fault with whatever she did.  More than once, he had used the leather bridle straps to whip her and her sister when he disapproved of what they did.  In the end, he lost because she got pregnant too early and ran off to get married.  That disappointed him and, he reconsidered his childrearing philosophy so life was far better for the younger children.

Pregnant during her junior year in high school proved to be a decision that ensured an unhappy life with the young neighbor who was a wanderer and became an alcoholic.  His elder sister stood with them for the marriage and drove them from Oklahoma to California in December 1936 in snow and cold weather.  He worked with his uncle there only until their first of five children was born.  Over the next five years, he spent more time "riding the rails" to other states supposedly job hunting.  It was during the waning years of the Great Depression and there was as much work in their hometown as anywhere else in the nation; but he preferred to travel around and letting her take care of the babies during each subsequent pregnancy.  She was alone the day her eight month old baby died suddenly of spinal meningitis. 

During his military service while he was serving in the United States Navy in the Pacific War, she had one thing that she never had the previous years.  She had a monthly check from the government to support her family because of his military service.  When the war was over, his wandering feet couldn't stay still; except at that time, those feet always took him to the bars with his brothers to enjoy women and whiskey.  She always worried whether there would be money for the rent or clothing or food. 

When his father died, he saw a photo when the family was looking through old family photos; suddenly he was mad as hell at her.  It was a photo of her with his brother that was taken one day before the brother left for the War in Europe and had gotten all of the family's young women, even the sisters-in-law to be in a photo with him.  Suddenly, he beat up on my mother every night while accusing her of an adulterous affair; at the same time, he ran his brother off the property one afternoon.  I lay in the next room, just the other side of a thin wall, crying every time he hit her. 

So, he left on his own and went to California.  Never did he send any money for the expenses Mother incurred with four children ages 8 to 12 years of age.  She worked in the broomcorn fields, cotton fields, orchards and other hard jobs to support us.  Since she had never finished high school, she never believed she was qualified for a regular job with a regular paycheck.  Even so, one day she applied for and was employed at Burr's Department Store as a cashier.  With the limited income from the regular job, she supported her children; then Daddy came home and asked her to move to California.

Mother never knew when she was well off but Daddy convinced her that he would be good to her.  He told her then and often, she told me, that "I'm half a man with you, but I'm no man at all without you."  That line always earned him her forgiveness.

Within two weeks of his return, we were on our way to California in 1951where she immediately got a job as clerk at JC Penney's where she worked until age seventy.  He hadn't changed his attitude or behavior at all.  He continued to spend most of his income on alcohol, women and even card gambling.  I can remember her crying as she tried to stretch her low salary to pay the rent and support four teenage children. 

My bedroom was upstairs but I could still hear him accusing and beating on her at night.  One Sunday afternoon, he made us four kids sit on the sofa and mother sit in a chair beside him for hours while he tried to make her admit to her children that she was an adulteress and who she had sex with.  Her Christianity was far too important to her to have ever committed that sin.  She had other faults but never that one.

All that Sunday afternoon, he held a loaded shotgun on her and the four of us.  Each of us looked down the barrel of that big gun which seemed as big as a canon; all the while, we expected him to kill mother and all of us.  Perhaps the moment of greatest relief that each of us ever experienced was the moment he stood up, grabbed his cigarettes and took that gun out the door.  Years later Mother told me that he went down to the river to kill himself, but changed his mind and threw the gun into the river instead.

Eventually, in 1955 Mother was happy moving into the first home they had ever been able to afford.  The kitchen and colors throughout were according to her design and she was happy there.  At the same time, she still had to put up with his alcoholism, womanizing, accusing her of adultery and taking care of her children.  When we were all gone to college and marriage, his abuse continued.  More than once, when I visited from another state, I found her in the hospital. 

Mother was a hard worker and a perfectionist.  She told me once that she learned to be that way from her father, "he taught me the importance of hard work and doing things the best you can."  She demanded the same from the four of us and was most demanding on my sister and I.  She was critical of everything about us; it didn't matter whether it was our hair styles, length of our skirts, how we folded the towels, whether we had dinner cooked on time and just everything.  I learned early in life to try to please her by what I did and what I didn't do.  Of course, that was a deep emotional "hang-up" all of my life.  When I came out at age 60, she was convinced I would go to Hell; but she eventually came around and even liked my sweetheart.

My sister was smarter; she just gave up trying to please Mother so she got the worst of criticism and the least amount of love.  I don't think Mother ever loved my sister until just ten years before my sister died suddenly at age 57.  Mother would spank her often and terribly bad from age six.  I remember how badly she always treated my sister who not rebel half as much as our older brother yet mother always, yes always, was good to him.  Even when he became an alcoholic who mistreated his three wives, she took up for him and blamed his wives for everything he failed to do for his four kids.  She was wrong so many times.  The baby of the family, my youngest brother, was her second favorite child and she never got angry with him until she was 84 years of age.  All of those years later, he finally learned why my sister and I had very different opinions of Mother because of her constant criticism of us, than he did. 

I tried to please my mother in all ways of my life.  I was always the one she could depend on who always did the right thing and never caused any worry or concern.  I wanted so badly to please her that I married the man she wanted me to and when I divorced him sixteen years later, I put it off several years because I didn't want to disappoint her.  You see, her other three children had already had divorces.  I tried to please her so much that I was even more active in church than she was until I was over forty years of age when I finally got counseling "to stop trying to please your mother and live your own life" because all of that helped to cause me clinical depression.  I hated all of her constant criticism that occurred right up until her death at age 88.

Yet, I loved my mother very much and she knew it.  I even intervened one Sunday afternoon when I was fifteen and Daddy was hitting her and accusing her all those years later about adultery.  He never stopped doing that until he died when she was just 45.

I moved to another state because Mother would always come to tell me all the bad things going on between her and Daddy.  I would try to advise her, of course, to get a divorce; but she would never take my undesired advice.  To quit being her listening post, I moved away so that there were only a couple of visit's a year with her.

Even that far away, she would tell me all the bad things until he died; then, she could only remember all the good things and got angry at me when I said Daddy was an alcoholic.  She got angry later when I said that my older brother was an alcoholic. One day she was criticizing my sister so much that I stopped the car, got out right in the street and told her to stop criticizing them.  After that she was better until on the telephone the next year she was criticizing my sister's kids; and, I told her to stop doing it.  She got mad then too.  Whenever she got mad at me, she wouldn't call or write for at least a year; then, I was the one who had to pay a visit to start the conversation all over again.

Mother was always criticizing someone in ever place that she participated: church, work, home, "back home", neighborhood, wherever.  There was always one person in her sphere whom she could criticize extremely.  I hated that about her.  It was so hypocritical of the Christian that she sought to be otherwise.

I loved my mother.  She, like my father, was always proud of me and my life accomplishments.  She was always faithful to her Christian responsibilities at church.  She was always a hard worker and demanded the same level of commitment of others as she did of herself.  That is, all others except her oldest son.

Mother loved her grandchildren very much; that is, except when they got into alcohol or drugs, then she was critical and unkind. 

I gage my respect of my mother with the one friendship that lasted from the first day that she went to work at Penney's until her death. Verlyn was my mother truest and best friend in every way all of those years.  Verlyn saw something in my mother that was truly right and good.  I respect that there were virtues which Verlyn saw that I never could.  So, because of Verlyn's friendship to her, I believe my mother was a truly good person.

Each of the four of us loved Mother very much.  Each of us accepted whatever love she gave even if it was based on how good she thought we were.  Maybe she tried too hard to be good and expected too much of everyone around her. 

I miss Mother very much. She's been gone five years now.  Her oldest son followed her in death.  I miss him and my sister also.

God bless you, Mother, with all the love and perfection that led you to be the person you were during your years as My Mother.







SUNSHINE TAKEN AWAY

This is a true story

It was 1959.  Audrey Ruth cradled the blanket that was wrapped around her baby girl whom she called Audrey Rose.  The blanket no longer held her newborn baby; at the same time, Audrey Rose was buried in her heart.  Rocking the blanket with the memories of her tiny little girl, tears flowed down her cheeks as she sang.  “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…………….”  The music of her heart fell on deaf ears because they took Audrey Rose away. 

Every day after that while thinking of her little girl who was growing up in someone else‘s home Audrey Ruth sang the beloved who lived in her heart, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.”  Through the years after losing her little Audrey Rose, she did the normal and so-called “right” things that her parents expected.  She married the same young man who had lost the same daughter and they had five other children.  Among the five, there was not one who could take the place of her Audrey Rose.

Her first horrible day was in 1958 when she realized that she was pregnant while still unmarried.  When her parents knew, they took her two states away to one of those “homes for unmarried teenage girls” and she did not see them again until her baby had been taken away.  After they picked her up and drove over a thousand miles to their hometown, they would not allow their granddaughter to be spoken about.  Because society was so condemning of pregnant unmarried girls and called the babies an awful name: bastards, they thought they had done the “right” thing.  They could never tell each other or their daughter how much they regretted what they had done nor could they forget the lost granddaughter.  With the birth of every grandchild, they mourned the loss of the one who had been given up.

In 1959 there was an older couple who had passed the ages of childbirth with empty arms.  Every day they wished for a little girl, especially after they adopted a baby boy.  One day while visiting family two states away from home, they received a telephone call, “We have your little baby girl who wants you to take her home.”  That hour, they rushed home to pick up their baby.  When they walked into the nursery room at the hospital where an unmarried teenager had given birth, they saw a tiny baby with bruised marks left by forceps during a difficult exit from her young mother’s long and painful hours of birthing the baby girl.  “She needs us.  Just looking at her lets us know that she has been through a horribly painful birth.”  With unimagined love, they took the baby whose mother had called “Audrey Rose” into their heart, their arms, their home.

During the days and nights when comforting the tiny baby girl, her parents sang, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”  They were a happy family and, because of his hard work, they were financially successful and provided all the needs of their little girl.  She was always little; full grown, she was only four feet, eleven inches. 

The young woman who would have carried the name “Audrey Rose” succeeded in high school and went to college.  During her college years, she asked her parents to help her find her birthmother.  She felt that as long as she did not know her birth father and mother, that there was something missing in her soul.  For her, it was like there was no sunshine in her heart.  She believed that knowing her birthmother that she might gain the sunshine, the warmth, the love, that seemed to be missing.  Unknowing the name of the state in which she had entered college, the girl called “Audrey Rose” by her birthmother, had moved to the same town where her birthmother still lived.

One day she called Audrey Ruth.

When Audrey Ruth received that telephone call, the love that she had carried in her heart for over twenty years was awakened. 

They met the next day at noon in a small café.  When they stood face to face, it was like looking in a mirrow.  Except for the difference in their years, they looked like twins.  That in itself was amazing; perhaps, if they had accidentally met in a grocery store, at church or the hair salon, they would have known each other.  Tears of loss, love and joy filled the two.  Both were thankful for the moment.

That same day, Audrey Ruth took the child that she had held only for a few minutes long ago, to see the grandparents who had not had even that privilege.  After calling her parents and telling them who she was bringing to meet them, Audrey Ruth drove her once-daughter to their home.

As the grandfather of the girl called “Audrey Rose” walked out the door and met her on the sidewalk, tears began to fall down his cheeks.  He reached his arms and said, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so, so sorry.”  He hugged her close as if he could bridge all the years and all the pain that that decision made because society was cruel, could go away. 

No, nothing could bridge the gap nor heal the pain of that moment long ago when decisions were carried out.  “Thank God, that society no longer condemns girls and families like they did then,”  has become the prayer of gratitude.  Thank God, the horrible loss such attitudes once required, is no longer the “right” thing to do in 2012.





AN UNINTENDED PREGNANCY





May walked out of the doctor’s office more angry than sad.  A woman ought to be happy to find out that she was pregnant, but not May Elliott.  The situation was untenable.

The last fourteen months had been horrible for May.  The pressures of a divorce, unemployment and being responsible for two little boys with a father who would not pay a single dollar of child support, had caved in on her and drove her to deep depression and a suicide attempt.  Worse, before attempting suicide, she had left her children with the State Welfare Department who put them into a foster home.  Help came before she died because a passing woman had seen her dying in her car.  That meant that she didn’t die and her kids had to stay with the foster mother.  Months of drinking her sadness away didn’t work because she met a man on the next barstool who took her to his hotel room; and, now she was pregnant.  Could any good from that? It didn’t seem so.

May cried all the way to her little the drug store where she picked up her Valium prescription and took two of the little pills before stopping at the bar where Dale would meet her later.  All the time, she was considering finding some bogus doctor who would solve one of her problems.  After two drinks, Dale showed up.  His divorce in 1962 in California wouldn’t be complete by law until another ten months passed.  He told her he had the money to pay for an abortion, illegal in America in those days, if she really wanted to get one.  After he had two drinks, they went to her apartment for the night.

The following morning, May was still pregnant, Dale’s divorce waiting period meant he couldn’t marry her, her boys were still in foster home and she was still unemployed.  The only good thing was that Dale would continue to pay her rent and live with her, at least for the moment.  He went to work and she went back to bed and cried herself to sleep.

A week later, May was still pregnant, but she no longer wanted to even consider an abortion.  Her Christian upbringing and each passing day of knowing that a real baby was growing inside her, made her promise herself and the baby that she would let the baby be born.  Having a baby without benefit of marriage in the sixties was still considered sinful. She had quit drinking wine or other alcoholic drinks because she did not want the baby to born deformed in any way.  Somehow, she believed, there would be a positive outcome to her situation.

Dale began to be more than the guy who picked up a lonely, drunken woman at a bar.  Now that she was pregnant, he treated her with greater respect and kindness that he had earlier.  She began to like him and his sweetness to her and believed she was falling in love.  His way of being with her was beginning to be that of a man who was falling in love.  Two people falling in love could find a way to solve their immediate problem and wait until divorce laws in California allowed him to remarry. 

While making permanent plans to be together in love and marriage, May began to enjoy the baby in her belly.  She and Dale decided that the baby would be given for adoption so that he or she could grow up without the stain of “being a bastard child” to always mark his or her life.  May felt at peace about the decision.  She followed her doctor’s orders in her diet and regarding alcohol.  Dale was fully supportive and loving to her every day.

Even though she was pregnant, May visited her children under the rules of the Welfare Department Child Services Division, and let them know that she loved them.  Both Bobby and Mark looked like their mother and they loved having her visit them.  They also loved Mrs. Crouch, their foster mother.  May’s mother, the boys grandmother, visited them at least twice a week.  She was a widow who worked fulltime at a department store so she couldn’t be their foster mother, but she loved Bobby and Mark very much.

One night when May was lying awake, she had a wonderful, perfect idea!  She knew who would like to adopt her baby; and, if they actually did, she would be able to watch him or her grow up. 

The next day May told Dale about her idea and he agreed that it just might be the perfect solution for all concerned.  That evening, she placed a long distance call to her uncle Odell, who was unable to have children because of having the mumps during his adolescent years.  He had married an older woman who was no longer able to conceive.  They had adopted a baby boy just two years earlier; and, Odell was excited to receive May’s phone call.

Odell was so happy in heart that he cried with Linda that he could have another child and he was the answer to her prayers.  From that day until the birth of the beautiful baby boy, Odell called May to talk about his adopted son, Bob, and his future son who would be named Rob.  May began to be thankful for her pregnancy because Odell was so happy with her.  His financial help while she was unemployed was also helpful.

The day she and the baby left the hospital, May traveled by air to Norman, Oklahoma, where Odell and Marie took their new baby boy into their arms.  A few days later, May returned home and within a week, found a good job. 

With a job, the adoption of her baby, and plans to wed Dale, May had a new life and happiness.  Dale was an older man, the same age as May’s deceased father, but he was good and loving to her.  Their love increased. 

Before they could wed, May had the most important decision of her whole life ahead of her.  She needed to do all the right things to make it possible for her to have a judge return her children to her because if he did not, someone else could adopt them.  She contacted her married siblings and asked them to try to be approved as a home for her sons if she was not given them again.  They were approved by their States’ Welfare Department and she had great hopes of having her sons back.  They might have been pre-schoolers but they loved their mother and that gave her hope.

The day the judge returned her sons to her was the happiest day of her life.

Later she and Dale married and eventually they had a daughter.  Theirs was a happy family and her mother agreed and visited them often.  Of course, it was a bit difficult to accept a son-in-law who was the age of her deceased husband; but that happened and it made May happy.  Often May’s siblings and mother visited them.  Dale’s daughters loved her and were happy that May was their father’s wife.  Dale adopted the boys as his own and they loved and respected him as their father; having been abandoned by their birthfather early in their lives.

May and Dale became grandparents as their three children grew older.  May visited her uncle Odell whenever she was in his state and she watched her son grow up and become a physician.  He never wanted his father to tell him who his birthmother was; however, he looked more like May than any of her other three children so other family members guessed that she was Rob’s mother.

May died in 1997 and Dale died seven years later.  Odell and Marie died but Rob lives on and his birth siblings wish he would contact them some day.









LOVE AND THE DYING SLEEP



         
“Frosty.”  With a ton of tears trying to escape her throat, Beverly called out again, “Frosty.  Frosty, where are you?  Come, Frosty.”  She shared every day with her precious little dog from the day of her fourth birthday party.  Frosty always came when she called, but not this time.  The twelve-year-old little girl knew that something was wrong; terribly wrong.

She went to the corner of the back yard and crawled into the playhouse that Mommy built; a special place where she and her loving, little Chihuahua-terrier spent thousands of hours,  “Frosty, Are you in here?  Where are you?  You always meet me when I get home from school.  You didn’t today.  Frosty.  Frosty.”  She looked under the small table and chairs and in the boxes where her “dress-up” clothes were kept; but Frosty was not there.
         
As tears dripped from her eyes, Beverly walked to the front door of her house---calling out, “Mommy, I can’t find Frosty.  Do you know where she is?  I’ve looked everywhere.”  She walked into the kitchen.  Mommy wasn’t there.  She felt alone and disappointed.  She searched the house, calling out again, “Mommy.  Mommy, I can’t find you.  And, I can’t find Frosty.”
         
Sudden despair drove her to drop to the floor while tears overtook her heart and body.  At first, the tears streamed slowly, and then they rushed like a river and dripped from her chin like rain.  She spread her body full length on the floor, sobbing, waiting, and hoping.          

To Beverly, it seemed like hours before Mommy came through the back door.  She had gone to the neighbor’s house to deliver a cake because their son died the previous day. 

When she heard Beverly crying loudly, she hurried to the living room where her daughter looked up at her. “Mommy, I missed you.  Have you seen Frosty?  I’ve looked everywhere and called her name, but I can’t find her.  Where is she?  Where were you?”

         “Honey, I’m sorry.”  She cradled her child in her arms her until the sobbing stopped.  “I haven’t seen her since I got home from work; but I’m sure she is here.  She must be.”  She lifted Beverly to her feet and with her arm around the narrow, thin shoulders hugged her closely. “Let’s go look for her together.  First, let’s look in all the rooms and under the beds.”  They headed down the hallway to search the three bedrooms and bathroom.

         “Let’s start with your room, just in case she fell asleep under the bed or in the closet.”  Beverly crawled under the bed and checked behind the toys stored there.  At the same time, her Mommy checked in the closet and among the clothing that was stacked on the big chair in the corner.  They did not find Frosty in the room.

         “Mommy, I’m afraid---what if someone took her?  We have to find her.”

         “Let’s keep looking, little one.  We’ll keep looking in the house, in the yard, in the garage, and everywhere, even at the neighbors.  It’s just not like her to be gone so long.  We’ll find her, don’t worry.” 

They checked every possible hiding or sleeping place that Frosty liked in the house, but she was not there.  Even as Beverly started crying again while Mommy assured her their search would be successful.  “Let’s check in the garage.  They walked outside.  “Have you already been in there?”

As Mommy lifted the heavy garage door, Beverly answered, “Yes, I have.  I crawled through Frosty’s door like I always do, and turned the light on and looked, but I didn’t find her.” 

“Well, let’s look again.  There are so many hiding places in here.” 

Beverly called out Frosty’s name over and over again as she walked to the back corner of the garage to look.  Mommy walked over to the cupboard doors by the water heater; and, when she reached to open one of them, she heard a soft whine.
“Here she is, Beverly,” Mommy spoke as she reached to pick up the quiet, listless little dog.  Frosty had climbed through one closet to a pile of boxes by the water heater, and lay in the darkness.  Knowing that dogs often go off somewhere to be alone when they are very ill or even dying, Mommy knew that something serious was wrong.

“Oh, Frosty.  Frosty, I love you,” Beverly whispered as she reached to take Frosty from Mommy’s arms.  “Don’t hide from me ever again.  Ok?”
“Beverly, I think we should take her to see Dr. Lee because she is too quiet.  Maybe she has a tummy-ache, or something else is bothering her.  Will you take her to the car while I get my keys and wallet?” 


By the time Mommy started the car, Beverly was weeping.  She held her precious Frosty close to her face to dry the tears.  She was speechless. 
As she held Frosty, now eight years old, Beverly’s mind rushed to and fro with memories of her and Frosty and how Frosty became hers.  After her fourth birthday party, Mommy took her to a lady’s house where there was a mommy-dog with six little puppies.

Most of the cute little puppies were very active and running to and fro, playing with each other.  All except one ignored her.  The smallest one, the color of creamed coffee walked over to her and looked up with so much sweetness that Beverly picked her up.  During their years together, she often always said, “Frosty picked me.  I didn’t pick her.  She picked me to love her.”

Beverly told Mommy, “I’m going to name her Frosty because she looks like Frosty root beer.”  That night, Frosty and Beverly slept with their heads together on a Raggedy Ann pillowcase.  They slept that way for eight years. 

Surprisingly, when Beverly was five, she woke up to find that there were four newborn puppies near the foot of the double bed that she shared with her older sister.  During the night while the girls slept soundly, Frosty birthed all four of them on their beautiful satin blue bedspread. 

Frosty and Beverly spent every day together, except during church and school hours.  Frosty enjoyed riding in the car and rode almost everywhere Beverly went.  She even rode from Idaho to California and back and went camping with her family.  To Beverly, Frosty was more than just a pet; she was her dearest friend---closer than a sister. 

During their years together, Beverly celebrated with birthday parties for each of them.  Of course, at Frosty’s party there was ‘birthday meat pie” instead of birthday cake, and Beverly had to blow out Frosty’s candles.  They had ‘teddy bear parties’ with Beverly’s friends, Jackie and Sheryl. 

Beverly often put Frosty inside her Raggedy Ann pillowcase and carried her all around the house in the same way that Santa Claus might carry his bag of toys.  Their quiet times were the best times for Beverly; just sitting by Frosty or holding her gently brought heartwarming pleasure. Through their actions and sweetness toward each other, they were saying: “I love you.”

Driving the car to Dr. Lee’s office, Mommy fought to hold back her tears.  She was sure that Frosty was going into a coma and she feared that Dr. Lee might not be able to help her.  Beverly kept crying and Mommy did not want her precious daughter to see her tears.

At the Veterinary Hospital, Beverly carried Frosty inside.  Mommy approached the receptionist and asked that Dr. Lee check Frosty as quickly as possible.  He was available and Beverly carried Frosty to the examination room where he checked her heart and lungs with his stethoscope, felt her stomach and kidneys.  Beverly winced and turned away when he poked her to take some blood with a syringe so he could test it to determine what was wrong.

Beverly waited patiently with tear-blinded eyes. Frosty lay on the examination table and Beverly held her head close to Frosty’s.  She wanted to touch her loving pet as much as possible.  They needed each other’s touch now, more than ever in their eight years together.

She lifted her precious Frosty with shaking arms. It was natural for Frosty’s head to lie close to her neck, just like loving mothers hold their babies. 

Dr. Lee returned to the room with the results of the tests and his diagnosis.  He saw the two of them and felt a twinge of pain to his heart because he knew that those moments of sharing so much love would be their last together.

Dr. Lee looked at Beverly’s mother questioningly, as if to ask whether Beverly should leave the room before he spoke. She said, “Frosty is Beverly’s, as you can tell, and I trust you to tell both of us what we need to know.” 

“Frosty has been poisoned.  Apparently, she found a bit of antifreeze somewhere and drank it.  Dogs like the flavor of antifreeze and when they drink it, it quickly freezes their kidneys and they go into a coma.  It doesn’t take long from the moment they drink it until it is too late to do anything to help.” 

After his explanation, Dr. Lee hesitated and petted Frosty who was still on Beverly’s shoulder.  “You are sure a lucky little dog, Frosty, because Beverly loves you so much; and she’s lucky too.”

“Dr. Lee,” Beverly turned her face toward him with tears pouring from her lovely blue eyes, “Please, help her.  Please.  Can’t you think of something to do?  I don’t want her to die.” 

Both Dr. Lee and Beverly’s mother believed that she understood the seriousness of the moment--- there was nothing that any doctor could do to save Frosty’s life.  The antifreeze had already done too much damage.  It had created tiny crystals in Frosty’s kidneys.  They stepped out of the room to discuss the process of putting the dying puppy to sleep, and to allow Beverly and Frosty some extra time together. 

The mantel of grief and sadness quietly covered Beverly as she held Frosty close to her face, and to her heart.  Although Frosty was in a coma, Beverly could feel her heart beating slowly.  “Frosty.  Frosty. I love you.  I don’t want you to die.  Please get well.  Dr. Lee just has to be wrong.”  The tears flooded her throat, choked her for a moment until Beverly cried aloud.  Her tears soaked the root beer colored hair of her best friend, her loving pet, her Frosty.  “I’ll keep holding on to you, no matter what.”

Mommy returned to the room, put her arm around both Beverly and Frosty and stood quietly.  Time stood still.  Time was gone for Frosty.  To give her a special drug that would let her die peacefully, without pain, in Beverly’s arms, was all that could be done now. 

Later, Dr. Lee returned to the room with the syringe and the drug.  He was followed by his aide, Maya, and the hospital’s receptionist, Kim, who stood quietly in the doorway until Beverly moved to the examination table, still holding Frosty with Mommy standing behind her loving arms around both of them.

As Dr. Lee began to give the drug to Frosty, everyone in the room reached to place their hand on Frosty, spoke her name, and thanked her for the love she gave to everyone, most especially to Beverly.  Tears fell from every eye as the Beverly’s beloved baby fell asleep on her shoulder.  Sadly, though, the sleep was not just for a moment, but was the dying sleep.

Maya and Kim brought a baby blue box just the right size for Frosty but Beverly said bravely, trying to hold her tears in control, “Mommy, will you take the box?  I want to hold Frosty all the way home.  She is still warm.” 

“Yes, little one.  We can place her in the box when we get home.  Then we’ll find a special place for her.  Even though we bury her body, her spirit and her love will always be with you, in your heart where you store your love for her.”

“Mommy, I like what you just said, but I am so sad that I might forget it.  Well you say it to me again tomorrow?”  She pulled Frosty’s body closer and walked out to the car.  The drive home was quiet.

Love filled their hearts.  Memories filled their minds.

-30-

Authors note: This story is true and Frosty’s name spoken often for she is lovingly remembered.  Beverly is 35 now.



DEATH BY QUACK

         “That damn butcher,” cussed Wes.  “He killed them both.  No telling how many other people he’s killed.  And, his whiskey’s no excuse.”  He lit his Lucky Strike cigarette, thought for a moment, then said to his brother, “Jack, Let’s go.  Let’s make that Quack regret it.  I’m ready.”  The two young men, just back from the war in Germany, put their hats on and started out the door.

         Jack said, “Wait a minute.  I think we had better take a gun; there’s no telling what the sonafabitch might do when he gets cornered.”  They went back to get Wes’s pistol and shotgun before driving to Paoli in his pre-war pickup.

         During the years that the two men had been in Germany, Jack’s niece, Junie, 12, died while Dr. John Hollyman performed surgery for emergency appendicitis; and now, their sister-in-law, Fern, 28, had died exactly the same way. 

         Hollyman was the only doctor in Paoli, population 1,022.  When the time came for him to start his medical practice, he found that Martin and Grant Counties had no physician; moreover, medical and hospital care were 9 to 20 miles away, depending on where sick people lived in each county.  Because vehicles, or horse and wagon, were slow, and distances were long, sick people of the two counties depended on him as their primary physician.

         During their enlistments in Uncle Sam’s Army, the brothers served in separate Divisions in Germany after being on the frontlines in the battles on “D-Day”, the sixth of June 1944.  Jack was a medic; therefore, he carried medical supplies instead of a gun.  Wes, on the other hand, was an infantryman who was required to use his Government Issued rifle.  Both G.I.’s had served honorably and received discharges proving it.

         During the war, great numbers of American doctors were enlisted or drafted to serve on both the wars in Europe and Japan.  The best and the fittest physicians were expected to serve across the world to help the U.S. servicemen who were fighting or were hospitalized.  Dr. Hollyman was not drafted.  He received his medical training at Baylor University in Texas and completed his internship in Oklahoma City.  Hollyman’s wife had divorced him during the war and moved to Texas. 

                Junie Stanton and her family lived on their farm eight miles from Paoli.  She was a lovely blue-eyed child with red hair that flowed around her shoulders.  Being a very active child, June played basketball and softball at school, and her favorite home activity was “walking a barrel” across the front yard.  She would balance on the side any fifty-gallon drum with her bare feet, and roll it all around the yard.  She was a good-natured girl who was always willing to help her parents with any task they asked of her. 

                One evening two years ago, Junie complained of pain in her side and she developed a high fever.  Her parents rushed her the eight miles to see Dr. Hollyman.  As they feared, she had appendicitis and needed an emergency appendectomy. 

                Mr. Stanton became aware that Hollyman had been drinking; but he believed that there was no time to drive another sixteen miles to the hospital in Paul.  Dr. Hollyman, with his nurse started the operation.  Mr. and Mrs. Stanton worried about Junie; and whether Hollyman was sober enough to conduct a safe, successful surgery.  Too soon, they found out---Hollyman came to tell them that Junie had died. 

                At that time, the doctor’s words slurred---he was drunk.  In their grief, the Stantons deeply regretted that they had not taken the chance of transporting their daughter to the little hospital.  By some miracle, she may have survived.  That decision would always torture him.

                When the war was over, Wes, Jack and their three brothers returned to civilian life.  Wes, a bachelor, lived and leased a farm with his oldest brother, Willie, whose wife, Fern, was a beautiful, hard-working, loving mother, wife, sister and friend. She was the heart of Willie’s extended family; always hosting family gatherings and helping anyone in need.  Her relationship with both Willie and her daughter, Susan, was a loving one filled with fun and laughter.  One day everything changed for the family.

                Wes and Willie went to the house for lunch and found that Fern was in pain; her fever was soaring.  The nearest doctor was Hollyman so they rushed as fast as their 1940 pickup would drive the seven miles of gravel road to Paoli.  Like Junie, Fern needed an emergency appendectomy.  Until that day, Willie and Wes did not know that Hollyman was a drunk. 

                While they waited for him to examine Fern, Wes saw a partial bottle of whiskyon the doctor’s desk and realized that Hollyman’s breath, eyes and speech were affected; but Willie had no choice except to hope he could still conduct the surgery.  Like other people in the community, they had previously heard Hollyman say that he could ‘perform an appendectomy with his eyes shut.”  Fern died during the surgery.

                  After Fern died, the family was furious about Dr. Hollyman’s drunkenness. Jack told them about Junie’s death.  Even in the depths of his grief, Willie determined to meet with community leaders to put pressure on the State Board of Medicine to have Hollyman’s medical license revoked. 

                Wes and Jack had a different idea when just the two of them were discussing the matter.  In intense and increasing anger, on the spur of a moment of fury, they decided to revenge the deaths of Fern and Junie.

                  After grabbing the shotgun, Wes and Jack headed to the Office of the “Quack,” as Wes called Hollyman while they drove Paoli.  The more they talked about his drunkenness, the furious they became.  By the time Wes parked his pickup across the street from Hollyman’s office, and they started walking toward the office, they were determined to shoot him in his appendix and let him die a slow death. 

                    The two young men were acting irresponsibly and out of character. Perhaps the driving factor in their behavior during that hour was that Wes had killed Nazi soldiers during the war and Jack had served as a medic trying to save mangled American soldiers.

                    The doctor was in his office---probably having one of his afternoon drinks of whiskey.  His receptionist locked the door of the clinic and rushed to tell Dr. Hollyman that she saw the brothers coming toward the door with a gun.  The “Quack,” as Wes had called him, hurried out the back door to his car, and erratically drove the back way to get out of town. 

                    Fortunately, the brothers did not destroy their lives by becoming murderers. Hollyman, never returned to Paoli; consequently, his landlord sold all items from his home and office to the new physician who was recruited by the people of the counties.  Willie, Wes and Jack and their entire families continued to deal with grief while they celebrated that sick people of Grant County would no longer die at the hands of the drunken “Quack.”

                                           
          
As Told to Me by my Mother

                It’s good to be independent and self-sufficient, except when it’s not.

         I spent 82 years feeling that if I depended on others, they would think I was weak.  After having a stroke, I realized just how wrong I was.

         I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma and was responsible for many chores. The primary chore that Daddy assigned to me was to milk three cows every morning and evening.  I did that job very well because I wanted to show that I could work independently. I determined that I would never ask for help unless I was sick. 
         
         In my late 20’s along with other field work, I decided to cut broomcorn.  Lindsay, a town in our county was called “the broomcorn capital of the world” because in those days, brooms were needed.  I arrived at the field early each day and watched the men bend 2 of the 6 to 8 feet tall broomcorn stalks into a table-like structure with the seeded heads over the sides. Then, I made sure that I was the first to start cutting the heads off.

         Not only did I enjoy being a “Broomcorn Jonny,” but I was determined to be the best. I was pleased when those who worked with me said that I was the best broomcorn Jonny in the state.  When I received compliments like that, I felt independently self-sufficient.

         I learned that my determination to be independent and self-sufficient was not always good when I was a clerk at a small pharmacy. My co-workers and I were friends and got along just fine. 

         Shortly before my 82nd birthday they began to see me reach my hand to my head, stumble or almost lose my balance.  Each time, one of them asked, “Are you all right? It’s so unusual for you to stumble. What’s wrong?”  The same thing happened at church.  To be my independent self, my answer was always, “I’m fine.” 

         I didn’t need anyone to worry about me.  I always took care of myself.

         Suddenly, one morning while at church I had a serious stroke. Just before it happened, two of the members expressed concern because I was walking “like a drunk.”  I told them, “I’m fine.”  Then I fell to the floor.

         The stroke damaged my body so much that I must use a wheelchair now and my speech is still difficult for people to understand me. When my children and physician asked me to go to an assisted living facility, in my strong-minded way, I returned to my own home instead.

         If only I had allowed my friend’s concern for me, my life would be better now.  I should have answered them truthfully because their observations were correct.  If only I had followed the suggestions of others and had gone to an assisted living facility instead of being so independent. 

         I went to my home where I’ve sat in a chair most of the time. That caused my arthritic knee to freeze-up.  If only I had taken good advice and recovered in an assisted living facility, I would have stayed active and interacted with many people.  Instead, I wanted to be take care of my self in my own way. If only I had listened, I would now feel better and be happier.

         It is of great value for people to be self-sufficient and independent; however, I have learned that sometimes it’s wrong.



DNR---LEAVE ME DEAD

My mother lived alone.  One warm summer morning, she went at her church at 10:00 for Bible study.  The church seldom planned Saturday meetings but having one that day proved to be a miracle for her.

She arrived on time, stumbled as she went to her favorite pew, and just as she started to sit down, she reached her hand to her head, moaned and fell. A friend rushed to her while the pastor hurried to the office and called 911.  In minutes the emergency vehicle and emergency medical technicians arrived, stabilized her condition and rushed her to the hospital. 

She had suffered a severe stroke. As soon as she could, she asked the hospital to verify that her Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document was available to her physician and the Critical Care Unit staff.  Since that day, I have questioned our cultural values as they relate to the Do Not Resuscitate order. 

The DNR form is signed by thousands of people in America every day to ask that no measures be taken to resuscitate them if their heart stops beating.  They want nature to take its course.

Now, more than at any other time in human history, medical technology actually makes it possible to bring the dead back to life. My mother knew this.  After having the debilitating stroke, she wanted a natural death as directed by her body rather than by the medical staff. She did not want a machine to restart her heart if she died. 
         
Perhaps signing the DNR forms can be interpreted as one way to seek passive suicide.  If mechanical and technological devices restart a heart, do they intrude on the timing of natural death?  Is there any difference between DNR, so often requested by elderly patients like my mother, and the Death with Dignity law in the state of Oregon law? 

In contrast, if a physician does not use all possible measures to restore or maintain life, is he following the Hippocratic Oath of his profession?

She was not asking to die. Rather, she knew that the stroke had made great changes in her body, emotions and mind and that she would never recover her energetic life.  The contrast in her, before and after the stroke, was significant. 

Mom, a petite woman, had silver-white hair that crowned the loveliness of her lovely face with its golden-rose complexion.  Her light brown eyes always reflected the special love that lived in her heart.  Before the stroke, her engaging smile was grand and expressive and her eyes glistened when friends visited or when she winked a grandchild.  Her only wrinkles were the laughter and smile lines visible at the corners of her eyes and just above her thin lips.

Mom embraced the belief and the hope that she would live long and enjoy old age, like her mother and grandmother.  Thoughts of suicide were impossible for her.  Her joyful heart and Christian faith could not allow death by her own hand.

Before the stroke, Mom’s exuberance and her physical capabilities led her to push herself to the limit.  At 84, she was still working full-time at her favorite drugstore after retiring from JC Penney department store 19 years earlier.  Unlike most people who rest on their weekly day off from work, Mom did not.  She would clean the house, and even windows and carpets.  Following that, she would tackle the lawn and landscaping before she went to the hair salon for her weekly appointment.  She chose Sunday as her day of rest. 

That Saturday morning the stroke struck her like a booming bolt of thunder. It was only because she was among friends who acted quickly that led to emergency assistance that saved her life. Until that dreadful moment, her life was good, even wonderful.  In that moment, her energy melted, her laughter died, and her body and her spirit dramatically changed.  The life she had known was suddenly stolen.

Two special days vividly illustrate the contrast that the stroke made in Mom’s appearance, her life, and especially her way of participating with family and friends.  Eventually the stroke and medications deadened her emotions---she couldn’t cry, laugh or even become angry.  She was left with only an occasional simple smile on her expressionless face.

Those two days were her 75th birthday and her 85th birthday.  With joy, I remember her strength and liveliness at her 75th birthday party; and, with sadness I remember how weak she was the day she turned 85.

More than 175 friends and family attended the 75th birthday party hosted by her children and grandchildren. At the party Mom felt great and had no obvious health problems or disabilities.  She walked briskly, smiled broadly, and spoke fluently with excitement in her voice.  Her smiles were interwoven with laughter and delight.  Her back was straight, and her body relaxed.

She shared precious moments with everyone. She moved with energy and balance in a pastel dress of her favorite aqua color. She enthusiastically conversed with one person alone and, she had numerous group conversations.  Her smiles, laughter, full participation, and interactions with people were like gifts from heaven for her.

Three years after the stroke, she attended a gathering of many generations of her family.    The gathering was held the week of her 85th birthday. For her, it was an event of total contrast when compared to the day of her 75th birthday party.  More than 40 family members shared that day at the community center in the quaint small town of Paoli, Oklahoma, where she had spent her childhood.  That day, Mom sat at the end of a table in the same chair most of the day. 

She seemed to be out-of-touch, almost invisible.  It's difficult for her to move around the room to speak and laugh with her large family.  Her face wore a wrinkle for every worry with which she had wrestled after the stroke.  When she spoke, her mouth was distorted.  Her smile was twisted.  A silent sadness filled her face.  Her movements were no longer energetic and her back was no longer straight.  She could not glide with grace throughout the room as she did at her 75th birthday party.

She could not join group conversations because the high-pitched sounds from her hearing aid interfered.  Conversations with one person at a time were special for her that day but there were too few of them.  When she reached to hug her loved ones, her arms were weak.  In turn, they carefully gave her a fragile hug, as it they might break her apart.

When I asked Mom why she had had signed the DNR order, she reminded me that her favorite aunt, Oma, had remained in a coma for 15 years after being resuscitated after a serious heart attack.  Mom said that she did not want the same for herself.  Even more, she preferred that her family move on with their lives and memories, rather than to endure endless heart-pain during a long goodbye. She did not want to spend years in a bed at a nursing home.

In this age of amazing medical technology, natural death as experienced from the beginning of mankind can now be delayed.  Is the signing of a DNR form evidence of a death wish?  I don’t know.  Does resuscitation steal a natural death?  I don’t know.
         
I do know that in our world today, these and many other bioethical questions are being discussed along with values related to life, death, DNR, Death with Dignity, and suicide. Simple answers are no longer possible.  Individual points of view differ wildly. 

Former patients, whose lives have continued as a result of resuscitation, often have opposite opinions. Some of them have lived a full life with happiness, laughter and peace. Others of them simply take one breath after another while they spend their final years in a nursing-home bed, have no interrelationships and lie in death’s shadow. They are not able to either hear the questions nor speak their response.

Perhaps the most valid answers left with those whose passing resulted from the application of the DNR order.  Their wish was granted; therefore their absence makes it impossible to give their responses.  My mother and other individuals who choose to sign a DNR request, or to allow every possible measure to be taken, have the right to fulfillment of their request.  My mother desires a natural death. That is her choice, not mine nor any other person or entity in our society.  By honoring her request, her physician, I believe, will truly be following the Hippocratic Oath.

Natural death, as known for centuries, can now be delayed by the flip of a switch on a cardiac defibrillator.  They are now available at Hospitals, ambulances, fire trucks, nursing homes and other medical facilities.  Technology has produced small defibrillators that are being placed in homes, churches, and numerous public places. This mass placement of technical equipment that can cause a dead heart to beat again, may, at the same time, betray the elderly and other patients even though they have signed Do Not Resuscitate orders.

Perhaps, DNR is a blessing, not a curse, and simply allows natural death, not suicide.



"MY HEAD HURTS SO BAD!"

“My head hurts so bad; nothing I do nor medications I take, seem to faze it one bit.  I can hardly stand this pain.  God, it hurts,” said my Dad that Thanksgiving Day in 1964.  He and Mom had come from California to Idaho for what was to be Dad’s final visit with me.  He died on Valentines Day 1965 at the young age of 47.  That headache never went away.

Dad’s head hurt him terribly from early October 1964 until the moment that the blood bubble burst in his head…sudden death.  During those months his doctors tried everything they knew to reduce the pain.  They told him that there was no test available in Modesto, California, where my parents lived that could explain what was happening in his brain.

The only possibility of finding the cause of the pain was for Dad to go to the University Hospital in San Francisco for a test.  During the test which required extreme stillness, he could have died.  And, even if they found a tumor or bubble on an artery, there was no solution to stop the pain, avoid massive brain damage or kill him.  Dad believed that he had a brain tumor and knew from the death of a dear family friend, Margie Cherry, that an attempt to remove such a tumor would be more damaging than the pain he was suffering.

After his sudden death, the autopsy showed that a bubble on the artery on the back of his head had been causing the pressure that created the terrible pain; and, when the bubble burst, the aneurysm could not have been repaired in any way. 

Earlier in our years together, Dad had told me that “when I die, I want my eyes to be given to help a blind child to see again.”  I was not in California that day when he suddenly died and Mom did not know or was not able to make his wish come true.

But, Dad’s headache of those months and his death did save the life of another person ten years later.

In 1975 while I worked as Administrator of Community Services for the wonderful City of Davis, California, one of my employees arrived at a morning staff meeting and said, “My head hurts so bad that I can hardly stand it; and, nothing I take seems to even touch the pain.”  Immediately I turned to Barbara and said, “Barbara, I want you to leave this meeting, call your doctor and see him today.  Don’t delay, because you just said what my Dad said.  I know that now, just ten years later, that surgeons can go in and remove the bubble and you’ll be back at work in six weeks.”

Barbara took my advice.  She returned to work six weeks later with no evidence that she had had the same aneurysm that Dad had except that brain research and medical procedures could go in, clip the damaged section of the artery and sew the ends back together to allow permanent healing.

I know Dad would have been happy to know that he helped to save Barbara’s life.  Unfortunately, no medical care was available to help my sister, Linda, at age 57 when the damaged artery that burst was in the right front of her brain.  She had no headache or other indication that there was a problem when the bubble burst in her brain as she was talking on the telephone to our brother, Larry.  She just said, “Larry, I’ve got to hang up.  My head hurts so bad.  I love you,” and she fell from her chair in 1997. 

If only, medical research was like in Star Trek where all ailments could be resolved immediately.  But, we are fortunate that in our time, so much can be done.






BRUISED AND BROKEN





PRELUDE

Gay was almost sixteen and she was pregnant.  It was 1958 when teenagers with a baby in her womb were shipped off to “Aunt Somebody” to have the baby.  Society had no tolerance with such girls then; instead, they ostracized both the girl and her family.  In earlier days, her parents raised the baby as their own or she and the baby’s father rushed to Reno, Nevada to get married.  Or, there was a “shotgun wedding” in her hometown and the boy was required to marry his pregnant girlfriend.  None of their options were happy ones.

At a Home for Unwed Mothers, Gay waited eight months until taken to the hospital for the birth.  She was one of the fortunate whose baby was born in a hospital instead of a darkened room in a “hellhole” with a butcher of a doctor delivering the precious infant.  Gayle wasn't even allowed to see her tiny little girl before the baby was hurriedly signed over to the Seattle adoption agency.

Mr. and Mrs. Fillmore lived in a nice house with their adopted son, Joey.  Over the age of forty, they had not been able to have babies yet they yearned for a boy and a girl.  They were on their way to take Joey to Disneyland in Anaheim, California when the telephone call came, “We have your baby.  She’s a little girl and she’s anxious for you to come get her.”  Immediately, they turned their car around, giving up Disneyland for a baby girl.

When the Fillmores walked to the hospital’s nursery and looked through the windows at several pretty, precious babies, they wondered which one was their tiny Molly Ann.  But, Molly Ann, the name they had kept in their hearts for their little girl, wasn’t to be seen through the windows.  She was in a separate room recovering from the damage by forceps used during delivery.  When they saw how bruised her small head was, in tears her mother said, “This little bundle needs me.”  She was a professional physical therapist who had helped babies and children during the polio epidemic in the 1940’s.

Molly Ann began to recover that day in the nursery prepared for her on Mercer Island across the bay from Seattle.  Her brother was gleeful that he had a baby sister.

When Molly Ann was colicky and cried during the night, her mother sang John  ‘s song, “When It’s Springtime in the Rockies” to soothe her.  Without knowing, she was telling her baby girl where her birthmother lived.  In the mountains of Montana.



CHAPTER ONE


The Fillmores were a professionally successful couple and provided well for their children.  Mrs. Fillmore had quit working when Joe was adopted and Mr. Fillmore owned a thriving lumber mill after working in the forests from the age of fifteen to support his mother and siblings when his father was killed when a truckload of logs rolled over him.  They lived in a beautiful home on the island with other successful families.  The children never had a need that they couldn’t fill during childhood and adolescence.  Molly Ann had her choice of universities after high school graduation.

She chose to attend CBN University in Nofolk, Virginia, then the University of California at San Diego and the University of Montana.  When she made her choices, she did not know that she had moved to the same Montana town where her birthmother was still living with her father and her five siblings.

Molly studied to work in television news and began her career in Billings, Montana where she produced daily news programs and won many awards for the station.  On one of her visits to Mercer Island, she asked her parents to disclose who her birthmother was.  Unbelievably, after she researched to find their 1962 address, she found that they lived in Billings. 

After calling Gay to arrange for a meeting, she walked through the door of a local restaurant and saw a woman sitting in a booth who could be her twin. Not only were the same short, petite size, but their facial features and hair was the same.  Both of them realized that they would have known each other even if they had met on a remote island in the Pacific.  With tears, they hugged hello; then, they sat and talked over cups of tea for a long overdue visit.  Gay’s happiness was extreme as she enjoyed the presence of the daughter that she had never held in her arms so many years ago.  Molly began to feel whole as she gazed into the eyes of the mother who never wanted to give her up.

From the restaurant, Gay drove Molly to see the grandparents who had sent their daughter away and had not seen their granddaughter until the moment the car parked in front of their house.  As Gay opened her car door, her parents opened their front door and walked off the porch to see the young woman who looked just like their daughter did when they dropped her off at the unwed mother’s home in Seattle so many years ago.  Her grandfather, who did not see his granddaughter grow into the lovely young woman she was that day, reached his arms wide to welcome her as tears washed down his face, and he said, “I’m sorry.  I’m so very sorry.”  Molly knew then just how hard it must have been for him, for his wife and for Gay, to have left her in Seattle that day in 1959.

During that visit, Molly learned that most of her birth family of two generations were alcoholics; her parents and grandparents were living their recovery from that debilitating medical disease through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Recently, in her college years in California where she was active in the Campus Christian Student Organization, and one evening after a meeting, the Christian leaders had driven some of the students to a nearby bar and bought Molly her first alcoholic drink.  Because her birth family was extensively alcoholic, that first drink was poison to her physical body.  Her DNA had already determined that her first drink called for more and more, just like four of her five birth siblings.  During future years as alcoholism overpowered her, she angrily blamed those Christian leaders for exposing her to alcohol for the first time.  She always believed that if they had not hypocritically failed her and other college Christians like her, that she would never have had her first drink.

Her life was uniquely different in another way as she grew into an adult through high school, college and the early days of her 1970’s career.  During those years, she was popular as a student and co-worker making friends with everyone yet, she never dated her male friends.  Deep within her heart and total being, she was different.  Her romantic heart was attracted to her same gender but it was an attraction that she could not allow herself to acknowledge.  To fully accept that she was a lesbian could have led to termination from her professional jobs and would have diminished her parents’ love for her.  Homosexuals were men and women whose choices were dictated from the womb.  Being unable to acknowledge the heart’s lead, they buried the secret deep inside and lived with the resulting depression.  Molly was no different and that pressure led her to isolate in her home with gin or vodka.  She couldn’t go to a “gay bar” and just be who she knew she was; and living alone, hiding inside herself, she felt a great loneliness.

Eventually, an excellent job offer took her to Portland, Oregon in the 1980’s.  By then, not only did she know that she was homosexual, but she recognized others who were hiding the same secret.  They never talked about being “gay“, the newly accepted word to replace “homosexual”.  One day a guy, who worked at the same television news station, asked her to join him after work to “have a drink during Happy Hour”.  As he drove away from the station, he asked her, “Where do you want to go?”  She responded, “To a gay bar.”  Without having discussed it, each knew, they had that “gadar” feeling, that the other was gay so he took her to his favorite Portland Gay Bar. 

For the first time in her life, Molly felt at home among the crowd around her. She was a lesbian in a gay bar.  In that moment, she knew that she was among “family” who would allow her to be exactly who she was.  That did not mean she wanted to date the first lesbian she met; no, it meant that she did no longer had to carry the shame that heterosexuals and Christians in America’s society always heaped on her and other women whose romantic hearts were attracted by birth to other women.  The same for the homosexual men, the gay guys, who also found “family” at Embers on Broadway. 

Because of society’s discrimination and injustice, the only place to be among other gay people of Portland, was at a gay bar.  And, there she continued to enjoy her gin and tonics every day.  During the next years, the AIDS epidemic killed many of Molly’s friends at Embers on Broadway and other homosexuals throughout the country and the world.  It was a sad time going to so many memorial services for their friends.

One evening when the music was playing and the dancers performed a festive Drag Show in glamorous costumes, Molly saw three lesbians near her age sit at a booth over near the decorated brick wall.  Two were a couple who sat down at one side of the booth and the other one sat across from them.  It was in that moment that Molly’s lesbian heart danced within as she looked their way. Her romantic heart signaled her head, “that’s the one; she’s the one for you”. 

Molly looked toward the booth several times, wondering if she should go over and say hello.  She wanted to meet the tall attractive lesbian with dark hair and a nice smile.  Then, as if on cue, she stood up and walked over the bar to order drinks for herself and the couple.  Standing right next to Molly’s barstool, she turned and said, “Hi, I’m Sue.  You’re new here aren’t you.”  Molly’s heart jumped again and the feelings within her seemed to swirl electrically as she looked into Sue’s eyes.

“I’m Molly. How’re you doing?”  Sue responded with an invitation for Molly to join her and her friends.  That was the beginning of a seven year relationship.  The two of them moved in together and lived in love and happiness.  For the first time in her life, Molly experienced the joy and pleasure of sexual love and passion.  She felt whole and, for the first time, she felt like she really did belong someplace with someone special in this world.  The good days of being wife to Sue and having Sue be her wife in a seven year committed relationship were wonderful days.  Unfortunately, the eighth year of their life together, Sue began to use street drugs and her behavior became unpredictable and was scary for Molly.  Sue became physically abusive to Molly and constantly increased their debts until Molly left her and moved to a smaller apartment; alone once again.  She depended on the friendship of her friends at Embers on Broadway and the gin that put her to sleep every night.

Molly’s parents did not know that she was a lesbian; however, they did know that alcohol was stealing her from them.  They visited occasionally. Her visits became less and less frequent even though she lived less than three hours away by car, train or bus.  When she would visit them, she retired early in the evenings believing that they did not know that she went to her room to be alone to drink from the bottle she would bring with her.  Well aware that their precious was a seriously active alcoholic, they worried that one day the telephone would ring and the message was that she was dead because of the alcohol.  They grieved and they prayed.

One day Molly went a different bar, a new bar especially for women.  She sat at one end of the bar and, while drinking gin and tonics, she became aware of a balding woman with bright blue eyes sitting at the other end of the bar.  After a while, the woman introduced herself as Shanie, and a sweet relationship began.  They began to meet daily after Molly was off work, visit for hours and they fell in love.  Soon, they rented an apartment together in the school district where Shanie’s teenage daughter attended; and the daughter began to call Molly her Second Mom.  She would introduce Molly to her friends and had no problem with the fact that her mother had recently come out as lesbian. 

For two years Shanie and Molly were happily wife and wife in a state where homosexuals, gays, could not marry.  In every way, they lived as married, sharing their incomes as one, sharing a bed as lovers, caring for the daughter as theirs.  It was a wonderful marriage and happiest of homes.  The love they shared was as wonderful, as fulfilling and as real as any love between any two people could ever be.

Two years to the day after they met, Shanie was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in Molly and the daughter’s arms a mere two weeks later.  It was a fast-growing cancer that had appeared without there ever being a lump in her breast to be found by her regular mammography and xrays.  The ugliness of the disease and its unbelievable pain made those two weeks dreadful for them.  The morning Shanie died and the hearse took her body from their home was the most devastating day of Molly’s life.  Grief overwhelmed her for months.  Eight months later, Molly moved to the apartment near Embers on the Avenue.  Her parents helped her move.

When the moving was finished that day, Molly’s tears were unstoppable and her parents were confused.  Usually the death of a friend was more consolable than what they saw.  During those moments, Molly looked at her parents and said, “Mom, Dad, Shanie was my wife.  My wife is dead.  The woman I loved more than my own life, or anyone, is dead and I’m alone.  Yes, I am a lesbian.”  They were shocked for they had not let themselves recognize what they had just heard.  Over the next weeks they hoped she would settle down and quit being a lesbian.  More than once, she hung up on them when they broached the subject or mailed her books about becoming a “recovered homosexual”; their Christian beliefs were threatened if they accepted her declaration.

Every day after Happy Hour and many drinks, Molly would leave Embers with a quart of vodka or gin in her briefcase and drink herself until she passed out.  The grief that wouldn’t go away was overwhelming and leading to her death by alcohol poisoning or suicide which she tried more than once.  Each time, she chose to live and try to recover from the river of grief that flooded her every day.

On day while sitting with a drink at Embers on the Avenue, Molly realized that a silver haired woman a few years older than herself, had sat by her and was drinking a Cherry Coke.  First she teased the woman about not “drinking an adult drink”.  After a delightful response that made her laugh, Molly liked her and asked her name.  She said that she was Ann from Idaho.  That afternoon and for several weekends, Ann returned from her home in Idaho, sat by Molly to chat and drink her Cherry Cokes. 

One evening as they walked together from Embers on the Avenue, Ann stopped at her car with the intention of getting in it and letting Molly walk to her apartment alone.  Molly looked inside and saw blankets and realized that Ann was living in her car every weekend that she went to Portland on weekends. 

“Ann, you can’t sleep in your car.  It’s not safe.  Come home with me.  I have an apartment just two blocks away.  You’re welcome and you’ll certainly be safer.  Do come.”  She intended to not take no for an answer from her new friend.

As they walked the two blocks to Molly’s apartment, Ann told her story.  She said that as the custodian for her seventeen year old grandson, she had delivered him to Portland to live with friends because he was not safe in the little town of Idaho where she lived, Homedale.  His father, her son, was in the U.S. Air Force and his mother, an evil bitch, had disowned her son and delivered him to her doorstep with a few items of clothing in a black plastic garbage bag.  He had not adjusted to the new school in Homedale and had gotten adopted by the wrong crowd and committed theft so was on probation.  He was thriving in the Portland home and she visited him there every week.

Ann added something special to her story.  “Since I’ve been coming to Portland to see my grandson, I have decided to do something that I have wanted to do for a long time.  When I was sixteen, my father told me in 1953 that I was a lesbian and he encouraged me to keep it private.  So, I married, had three children and seven grandchildren.  Now I’m coming out in Portland and want to live as the lesbian that I was born as. I’m finding just how wonderful gay people are, especially at Embers, and I plan to move here both for my grandson and for my new life as a lesbian.

Ann stayed over with Molly that weekend and for several weekends.  She listened each evening to her grieving new friend and sought to console her.  At the same time, Ann knew the “States of Grief” an encouraged Molly to keep moving forward and that one day the grief would be in the past tense while Shanie’s love and their memories would be forever with her.

During those months of intense grieving, alcohol more than Ann’s presence in her life.  Their evening talks were always about Shanie’s death and Molly’s tears.  Ann continued to return to her home and job in Idaho knowing that Molly’s telephone calls kept them together while she was wrestling with the knowledge of how damaging a home could be when alcohol was a compotent.  Her father had been an alcoholic from the day he had returned home from World War II.  He died young at the age of 47 and, many times, the alcoholic caused anger and trauma as she grew up.  Knowing that she was falling in love with Molly, she searched her heart to decide whether to continue the relationship.  Would the joys and laughter of the relationship offset the heartaches and drama that the alcohol would cause.

When Ann reached retirement age, she decided to leave Idaho to be with Molly and to be closer to oversee the life of her grandson.  On a beautiful, warm Saturday morning while she and Molly were together and Molly was being delightful and funny, Ann spoke from her heart.  “Molly, I’m in love with you.”  In response, Molly not only said that she loved Ann also, but she asked that Ann move in with her permanently. 

A short time after Ann moved to be with Molly, she met Molly’s parents.  While Molly was in surgery at the hospital, Ann talked with her parents and learned how much heartache they shared because of the alcohol.  She told them that she understood the reality that alcohol was the cause of Molly’s declining health including the surgery that day; and she told them that she an Molly had talked about it and that Molly wanted to stop drinking the alcohol far more than anyone else wanted sobriety for her.  She encouraged them in her belief that their prayers would one day, maybe soon, be answered for Molly’s sobriety.  During that same conversation, Ann talked to them about Molly’s grief and that she and Molly were also a couple, two lesbians who were committed to love and spend their lives together.  They had always avoided that subject based on the Bible as they believed it; however, Ann proved to them that she knew the Bible as well as they did and was able to respond to their views with her own.  Somehow, they were willing to acknowledge that Ann was good for their daughter and chose to be kind to her and would always welcome them to their home.  During the following months, Ann drove Molly to Seattle often to visit with her parents.  They would visit only a few hours, never overnight, because Molly needed the alcohol every day just to stay alive, to avoid going into seizures or a coma or even death.  Her parents became grateful to Ann for “bringing our daughter back into our lives”.

Ann and Molly soon acquired a little puppy to join their household.  Within a few months, they purchased a home and added a second puppy. Galileo and Indigo Girl were both small, loving Chihuahua/poodles.  Their response to Molly’s drinking and alcoholic behavior helped to show her the trauma that was happening in her home.  At times when she was drunk, her anger caused the doggies to exhibit fear and emotional trauma just as it did for Ann.  Worst of all, Molly’s physical health was further deteriorating and her physician proved to her that her liver was so damaged that she would probably need a liver transplant within six months.

Shortly after receiving that information from her doctor, Molly drove their car to the liquor store to buy another quart of vodka.  As she reached toward the brake with her foot, it slipped onto the accelerator and she totaled one car, dented a pickup, damaged two bicycles and chipped bark from a tree.  While the police arrested her for driving under the influence of alcohol, Ann arrived on the scene and learned that the totaled car belonged to the President of the local president of The Alano Club, an organization that provided the building in which Alcoholics Anonymous groups in the area met several times each day.  When Ann apologized for the damage to her car, she said, “The car doesn’t matter.  It’s her that’s important.”  Molly immediately went to the Betty Ford Center to become sober and learn to live without alcohol.  Her first day back in Portland, she went to the same AA meeting that had been interrupted the day of her accident.  The president of The Alano Club met her with open arms, a hug that told Molly that she was among friends who would help her stay sober for as long as she trusted and followed the AA program.

Ann was overjoyed with every step that Molly took toward sobriety and good health.  Molly’s parents were grateful and felt that the answer to their prayers was Ann whose love for their daughter helped to lead her to live without alcohol.  On her father’s 90th birthday shortly before his death, Molly gave him a birthday card, signed:  “Love from your sober daughter”, the best and most cherished gift he had ever received.  As he lived his final days, he had the assurance that Molly would be present and sober to help care for her aging mother.  From the time of his death until the present, Molly has spent at least two weeks of every month with her mother in Seattle.  Ann suggested that and takes care of the doggies, finches, rabbit, hens and their turkey named T-Bird while Molly is there. 

Theirs continues to be a happy home where love abounds and is liberally shared with two lesbians who were apparently brought together in response to the prayers of two faithful, loving parents.  With that, it’s no wonder their ‘marriage commitment” is one that’s made in Heaven.






RELATIONSHIPS AMONG BROTHERS AND SISTERS: WHY ARE THEY THE WAY THEY ARE?




I’m now 73 years of age.  A moment ago I was smiling as I looked at a picture of me with my siblings.  All four of us were smiling with our arms around each other.  We were dressed in our finest that New Years Eve when all of us were in our fifties.  From the smiles and the love exuded, it was apparent that we were happy to be together.

The years before we passed age 50, and the years after 60, there was not as much delight and joy in being together.  I wonder why.  What made the difference?

I can name some family events that might have caused us to seem to separate into our own little bubbles in which we could build life as seemed safe and without emotional pain.  Our baby brother died suddenly at eight months of age due to meningitis. Our sister, third in line, was raised her first four years by our maternal grandparents. World War II took our father from our midst for four years.  He returned from the war as a weekend alcoholic who often arrived home in a mean mood.  Our mother seemed to separate from all of us into her newly found life as a born again Christian; a role that allowed her a personal transcendence above her alcoholic husband.

I don’t know what made the difference but I do know that our childhood years did not draw us together in one heart; but we seemed to become more separate from each other during those years.  I remember when the boys at the rural school hurtfully teased my sister because she wasn’t slender; and, my older brother joined them in taunting her.  I recall that my little brother spend playtime separate from the rest of us and he ‘talked’ to his imaginary playmates.  My sister never felt like she belonged in our family and she was spanked terribly by our young mother whose anger toward her was extreme and unkind.  I always felt invisible around all of my family and relatives except the pedophile who quietly groomed the small, quiet girl that I was to be his victim at the young age of ten. There are few memories from my childhood where the four of us were happy together, bonding for our lifetime ahead.

By the time we were teenagers, we had moved over six hundred miles away from extended family.  During those years the drunkenness on the weekends by our father was the single event that we could depend on.  Out father had some twisted idea that our Christian mother had committed adultery while he was away at the war.  Every weekend he spent hours accusing her and hitting on her.  He even held all five of us at bay all one Sunday afternoon with his loaded shotgun, demanding that she tell her children that she was a hypocrite and adulteress.  The four of us fought each other as if a win against a sibling would change our father’s behavior.

Marriages and college led each of us away from the family that none of us had seemed to really call ‘home’.  My sister and younger brother had two marriages; my older brother had three.  I had one marriage that ended after sixteen years.  Apparently, the unhappiness that our parents shared so often, even though they always said they loved each other, did not teach us how to have one permanent marriage.  For me, my father had told me at age 16 that he was aware that I was a lesbian; and, he asked me to keep the knowledge private. Two weeks after college graduation,  I married as expected by my mother, church, society and the one boy who determined to marry me the first day he had met at church.  Our father died when we were all in our forties.

With all of the marriage and family situations before we were fifty, we did not have much to offer each other.  Then, in our fifties, when we visited each other from California to Idaho to Nevada, we were happy together.  We shared Thanksgiving and Christmas together and celebrated other special occasions.  All was well and we loved and enjoyed being together.  They were our best times together.

Then came our sixties and seventies and all of our children were married and some were getting divorced.  Our sister died at age 57.  I came out as lesbian at age 60.  Our mother had a stroke.  There wasn’t joy shared among us when we were together to help her with a garage sale.  She chose to only allow her oldest son to help her in any way as she adjusted to life after the stroke.  Her choice and dependence on him and her vibes against the remaining two of us, stopped our relationships from enduring.  By the time that Mother died, there was no sense of togetherness left for me with my siblings.  Then our older brother died at 72.  My younger brother and I are trying to find the kind of sibling relationship that we should have while we live six hundred miles apart.  He and I were close as children perhaps because caring for him was one of my roles because out mother immediately became pregnant again after his birth. 

He has a loving partner who has been his beloved for more than twelve years.  I have the same with my beloved lesbian partner of ten years.  We talk by phone often and, he stops by each year when he travels through Oregon to visit his children and grandchildren in Washington.  I am grateful for that for I find him to be loving, kind and delightful to be with.  We each have a family project.  He collects and shares photos of all generations of our families; I write our family history.

I wonder often, if there had been neither alcohol nor World War II, would my brothers and sisters and I have had happier decades together.  At the same time, I am thankful that we did share one of those decades with joy and peace together.








RELATIONSHIPS AMONG BROTHERS AND SISTERS: WHY ARE THEY THE WAY THEY ARE?




I’m now 73 years of age.  A moment ago I was smiling as I looked at a picture of me with my siblings.  All four of us were smiling with our arms around each other.  We were dressed in our finest that New Years Eve when all of us were in our fifties.  From the smiles and the love exuded, it was apparent that we were happy to be together.

The years before we passed age 50, and the years after 60, there was not as much delight and joy in being together.  I wonder why.  What made the difference?

I can name some family events that might have caused us to seem to separate into our own little bubbles in which we could build life as seemed safe and without emotional pain.  Our baby brother died suddenly at eight months of age due to meningitis. Our sister, third in line, was raised her first four years by our maternal grandparents. World War II took our father from our midst for four years.  He returned from the war as a weekend alcoholic who often arrived home in a mean mood.  Our mother seemed to separate from all of us into her newly found life as a born again Christian; a role that allowed her a personal transcendence above her alcoholic husband.

I don’t know what made the difference but I do know that our childhood years did not draw us together in one heart; but we seemed to become more separate from each other during those years.  I remember when the boys at the rural school hurtfully teased my sister because she wasn’t slender; and, my older brother joined them in taunting her.  I recall that my little brother spend playtime separate from the rest of us and he ‘talked’ to his imaginary playmates.  My sister never felt like she belonged in our family and she was spanked terribly by our young mother whose anger toward her was extreme and unkind.  I always felt invisible around all of my family and relatives except the pedophile who quietly groomed the small, quiet girl that I was to be his victim at the young age of ten. There are few memories from my childhood where the four of us were happy together, bonding for our lifetime ahead.

By the time we were teenagers, we had moved over six hundred miles away from extended family.  During those years the drunkenness on the weekends by our father was the single event that we could depend on.  Out father had some twisted idea that our Christian mother had committed adultery while he was away at the war.  Every weekend he spent hours accusing her and hitting on her.  He even held all five of us at bay all one Sunday afternoon with his loaded shotgun, demanding that she tell her children that she was a hypocrite and adulteress.  The four of us fought each other as if a win against a sibling would change our father’s behavior.

Marriages and college led each of us away from the family that none of us had seemed to really call ‘home’.  My sister and younger brother had two marriages; my older brother had three.  I had one marriage that ended after sixteen years.  Apparently, the unhappiness that our parents shared so often, even though they always said they loved each other, did not teach us how to have one permanent marriage.  For me, my father had told me at age 16 that he was aware that I was a lesbian; and, he asked me to keep the knowledge private. Two weeks after college graduation,  I married as expected by my mother, church, society and the one boy who determined to marry me the first day he had met at church.  Our father died when we were all in our forties.

With all of the marriage and family situations before we were fifty, we did not have much to offer each other.  Then, in our fifties, when we visited each other from California to Idaho to Nevada, we were happy together.  We shared Thanksgiving and Christmas together and celebrated other special occasions.  All was well and we loved and enjoyed being together.  They were our best times together.

Then came our sixties and seventies and all of our children were married and some were getting divorced.  Our sister died at age 57.  I came out as lesbian at age 60.  Our mother had a stroke.  There wasn’t joy shared among us when we were together to help her with a garage sale.  She chose to only allow her oldest son to help her in any way as she adjusted to life after the stroke.  Her choice and dependence on him and her vibes against the remaining two of us, stopped our relationships from enduring.  By the time that Mother died, there was no sense of togetherness left for me with my siblings.  Then our older brother died at 72.  My younger brother and I are trying to find the kind of sibling relationship that we should have while we live six hundred miles apart.  He and I were close as children perhaps because caring for him was one of my roles because out mother immediately became pregnant again after his birth. 

He has a loving partner who has been his beloved for more than twelve years.  I have the same with my beloved lesbian partner of ten years.  We talk by phone often and, he stops by each year when he travels through Oregon to visit his children and grandchildren in Washington.  I am grateful for that for I find him to be loving, kind and delightful to be with.  We each have a family project.  He collects and shares photos of all generations of our families; I write our family history.

I wonder often, if there had been neither alcohol nor World War II, would my brothers and sisters and I have had happier decades together.  At the same time, I am thankful that we did share one of those decades with joy and peace together.





Your GranPa is the Angel on Your Shoulder, Greg.  In those moments of craving a beer or other alcoholic drink, just tune your ear to hear what he’s whispering to you.  He learned in his forty-six years of living that the whiskey, the beer, any alcohol, was detrimental to his life.  Many times he promised himself that he would not drink any of it again; but, the alcohol would win again and again.  It cut his life short; so, he’s not here to talk with you whom he loved so very much.  You were his first grandchild and he poured so much love into your life.  He showed you love when he didn’t know how to show it to anyone else.  You were blessed with his hugs, his help, his enduring love. 

I look at you today, almost the very age that he was when the artery in his brain burst and he was suddenly gone; and, Greg, in your face I can see your GranPa.  One day when you were still a toddler, he held you in his arms watching you eat a juicy peach.  The smile on his face just wouldn’t go away because he loved you so.  I hope you are listening to him now, as the angel on your shoulder, telling you of that love and encouraging you to stand strong against alcohol and the damage that it can do to you and through you.  I don’t believe anyone understood that better than your GranPa; so, dear Greg, listen to the voice of the angel on your shoulder and be strong in your stand against the craving. 

Greg, let the voice of your loving GranPa strengthen you to never drink the poison again.  Love yourself as much as he loved you and show that love to yourself by what you drink and don’t drink.  How blessed you are to have the angel on your shoulder.



SO SIMPLE TO DO JUST ONCE A DAY

I’m watching the two latest pets in our family.  One is a three month old chicken named Unique and the other is a two month old white turkey named Sweet Tea.  Their actions have a message for every human being on the planet.

You see, Unique is so-named because her beak is deformed as an X preventing her from eating normally and from being able to groom and clean her feathers.  Little Sweet Tea has adopted Unique as her special friend. 

At the moment, Sweet Tea is carefully grooming the reddish brown feathers of Unique. Her single act of kindness each day makes life better for her companion. 

Every day there are human beings who just walk by, not even taking notice, of other human beings who could use a little kindness.  The kindness doesn’t need to be money; it can just be a smile or a kind word of acknowledgment.  Sometimes the need is the sort that is thought of when we say, “help the little old lady across the street.”  That doesn’t take much effort; but it can truly “make the day” for the one in need of a kindness.

If only, human beings would see other people with the same heart of kindness that little Sweet Tea shows to Unique.  Just show a little kindness once each day and the whole world will be a better place.



MY GRANDCHILDREN’S VISITS…COURT ORDERED


When my son was serving in the United States Air Force, a service he gave his country for twenty-six years, his wife went for a divorce.  She chose to do it while he was serving sixty miles south of the North-South Korea dividing line of a war still not ended.  He had no access to an attorney to speak for himself or the children. 

I went to Paul Buser, an outstanding family law attorney in Boise Idaho at the time.  I asked that he represent my son and that he work to make it possible for me, the paternal grandmother, to have rights to all of my son’s visitations of my three grandchildren.  Mr. Buser agreed and he fought for my son’s rights and my rights for the children’s sake.

The final decision of the Judge in the Divorce Decree named “Ann Patterson, paternal grandmother” in parenthesis next to my son’s name for every right the children were to have under the Divorce Decree.  Those rights included everything except my son’s responsibility to pay child support and provide health insurance for the children.

The three children won when the Judge signed that Divorce Decree.

I wanted the right to have the children’s visitations so they would be able to participate in every possible way with their paternal family:  aunts, uncles, grandparents, great grandparents and others.  Because I sought that right in 1986, all three of the children enjoyed hours and love from their paternal relatives.  Today at age thirty, twenty-eight and twenty-six, all three of them have warm and loving relationships with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandfather and others. 

Unfortunately, years later when the girls were eleven and thirteen, their mother managed with an unethical lawyer (had been found guilty of seeking sex in lieu of money from economically poor women) to take away the “required” visitations to me, their paternal grandmother.  She and the lawyer accused me of ‘requiring the young teenagers to sleep both boys and girls in the same room’, something that I never allowed.  I had no attorney in the situation so her attorney ‘had the judge’s ear behind the scenes before, during and after the court situation.  To increase the pressure of their accusation, the mother and lawyers (hers and the one who said he was the girls’ lawyer) demanded the girls lie on the stand and say specific things that seemed to agree with their accusation.  A witness friend of mine actually watched the lawyers shake their fingers in the girls’ faces and “demand that you say ……”.  The little girls were scared and showed their fear and could not even look at me, their loving grandmother, just because of hate and anger of the mother.  The Judge decided what her lawyers wanted: that she no longer was required by the Court to provide the divorce decree pre-determined visitations; that when requested, they could see their paternal grandmother.  Of course, she never allowed them to visit me again and she never had to prove why or if they ever asked to visit their grandmother; I had no money to seek further visitations.

Even so, today the girls have wonderful relationships with aunts, uncles, grandfather and others but not me, their father or their brother.

With my broken heart, and a million tears, I have not seen the girls since 1997.  In the intervening years, the mother taught the girls so many lies and so much hate, they do not relate to their father or to me.  Their father, my son, is now USAF retired and is sad, as I am, that his girls do not see him.  One of the girls is much like her mother, the other is a sad, victimized, quiet young woman.  I miss them so much that I still shed my lonesome tears for I love them.

Five days before my son was to ship out to Desert Storm, the children’s mother did not want her son anymore so she dropped him off at my son’s doorstep with a few clothes in a garbage bag and a note, “I don’t to ever see him again.”  Obviously, her new husband didn’t want the young lad around, just the girls and their mother.  The morning my grandson awoke and was told “pack your clothes”, his mother and her husband went first to an attorney and found that ‘in Idaho, one parent can abandon a child and not be charged, charges brought only when both parents abandon a child.”  Sadly, her parents lived across the country and hand minimal interaction with the children, their choice.

We had a weekend too get a judge to give me custody of my grandson because USAF members must have immediate 24 hour child care available or they could not have custody.  (Today he is a fine, successful employee, father, husband and son living in the same town as his retired father, my son.) 

Many times they did not have good shoes so I bought them shoes and clothing and helped their mother provide for them in other ways.  Sadly, before she took their visits from me, one weekend when all three of them took their new shoes home, the man who lived with their mother used his hunting knife and cut the shoes to pieces while cursing their grandmother as they looked on.  The visit after that took place, the youngest girl was quiet, fearful and sad until her brother told me what had made her that way.  He scared the life from her.  (Later, when their mother went to divorce him, she found he was still married to a woman in another state.)  One of her men made my grandson pick up dog-poop with his bare hands from the lawn; put my grandson on top of the garden shed all afternoon on the hottest day of July that year; picked up my grandson and threw him like a sack of potatoes down the hall; and other painful, fearful actions through the years.


So, because of the actions and hatred of their mother, the children were separated from me for the remainder of their young years.  And, because of her ‘hatred brainwashing’ I have not seen them since they became adults.

THAT’S THE HARD PART OF THE STORY, NOW FOR THE GOOD PART:
Besides the three children, one grandson and two granddaughters, I had three other grandchildren: two grandsons and one granddaughters.  I wanted the children to grow up with their cousins as friends and playmates so I had all six of them every third weekend through the early years after the divorce.  It was work but also joy having six of them with me every third weekend, but it allowed them to become lifelong friends as well as cousins.

I lived in a small three bedroom house and had an eleven year old daughter whom the grandchildren loved dearly.  I allowed the grandchildren to have friends stay overnight or to stay overnight at a friend’s home.  One afternoon while the grandchildren were with me, I counted nineteen children playing in my yard.  They had the privilege of sharing lives with many friends.

I never had much money from my employment but I always found fun things for the grandchildren to do.  During the summers, I took them to every city park in Boise and Meridian, Idaho.  I’d drive them for a picnic up in the mountains or along a stream of water through the fairgrounds or other places where kids could have fun.  I took them to meet their great grandmother and other relatives in California and invited them to meet great grandparents who visited at my home. 

I took them to the fairs, parades and other community events.  By the way, their favorite thing was to play with neighborhood friends at my house.

Because of Paul Buser, my lawyer, and my role in seeking rights as a grandparent, other grandparents across the nation have received similar rights, especially when their adult child died.  One couple whose son had died went to Paul Buser and were granted visitations with a grandchild four states away. 

The case is studied in law school.  The grandchildren are grown up now and have children of their own.  I’ve still not met nor may never know my great grandchildren of the two granddaughters because the mother’s hatred, the lawyers lack of ethics and morality and the judge who had a closed mind.

And, today as adults the two granddaughters are friend and family with their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandfather, just as I had hoped would happen; the reason I sought visitations.

Who won?  Who lost?





A LOVE STORY

The Vision
         At first it came in waves, then the loneliness engulfed her with an invisible power.  Leota shivered.  It felt like a wet dark blanked wrapped around her, blocking out the light in the room and suffocating her.  A cold hard darkness that would never end.

         “Dear God, since Fred’s death, I just can’t find a light in this darkness.  Every time I am alone, I feel this desperate loneliness cutting through my heart.  Please help me.”  The words of her prayer were not audible.  To even speak a prayer took more strength than Leota could muster.  The loneliness and the silence continued.

         Sitting in her well worn chair, Leota looked to her right at the empty chair where Fred sat with his cup of coffee and a warm smile when she would look up from her letter writing or embroidery.  Through the years they would talk about the weather, an upcoming election, plans for planting a tree in the front yard; or they might have just enjoyed the silent presence of each other.  With his chair occupied, she had not felt loneliness or fears.

         Leota tried to remember some of the good moments of her years with Fred but the power and awful darkness of that loneliness blocked all words and pictures that she sought.  Her mind wasn’t just blank; the loneliness left it black as the midnight.

         After what seemed like hours of loneliness, Leota saw the child, only four months old wearing the bright blue dress with the rounded white collar, pulling herself up to the arm of the chair.  That little baby head nodded gleefully as Beverly reached out to touch the hand of her beloved babysitter.  Looking up with clear blue eyes into Leota’s saddened eyes, Beverly said, “Nana, Nana,” and lightly patted the trembling had before her.  “Nana.  Nana.”

         She was there.  She was right there.

         Then she was gone.  And, from Leota’s eyes a tear fell.  On her lips a smile ventured.  There was the answer to her prayer.  God had given her a wonderful loving little girl to push away the loneliness.  Going to Beverly’s house five days a week as babysitter was not given just as a job.  It was a gift.  It would bring healing.

         “Thank you, God.  Thank you for giving me this precious baby to care for.  Thank you for this vision.  I understand now that You have sent Beverly to replace the loneliness.  I understand now and will let her presence and reminders of precious moments with her soothe my lonely heart.  Thank you, dear God.  You’ve not forgotten me.”


The Family
         Early in their thirty-six year marriage Leota and Fred enjoyed the birth of first a son and then a daughter.  Their family was just the right size and they were happy.  For the world, those were years of turmoil with the rise of dictators in many countries, most notably in Germany, Italy and Japan.  When the great war came, Fred was called to serve in the U.S. Navy for eighteen months while Leota cared for the children.

         It was during the winter of 1945 when Fred returned home from the Navy.  His safe return had given the family reason to celebrate.  Together, they purchased a small home in one of Idaho’s rural communities, the small town of Eagle.  It was a happy time for all of them with Fred home from the war, both the children in school and Leota baking cookies, planting a garden, waiting at the front door when they arrived home at the end of their day.

         Then the flu epidemic struck their home and their eight year old little girl had strep throat.  The doctor visited their home bringing medicines and prayers for her recovery, but nothing seemed to help.  Her life slipped away leaving a hole in Leota’s heart.  That hole was so big it seemed that no other part of her existed.  Depression and sadness was a part of her every day as Leota went about her life caring for her husband and son with that love she could no longer share with her precious little girl.

         Leota learned what mothers of the world, during the centuries of human life, knew.  The presence of a daughter in a mother’s life was one of the greatest joys, and the loss of a daughter left a hole that was filled with a torturing loneliness.  Life could go on, but the daughter could never be forgotten.  Memories were a part of every single day.  Leota was thankful for every precious memory, both those which brought smiles to her heart and those bringing tears to her eyes.

         Her family was smaller.  They loved and enjoyed each other during those years.  The three of them worked and played together.  After his graduation and marriage, their son was no longer the center of their lives, allowing time for Fred and Leota to grow closer during those last years before his death.

         Fred had seemed to enjoy taking care of his “Baby Girl”, as he often called Leota because she was so small in their early years.  He took care of her and all the family business so there would be no worrisome burdens for her. In their little town, the post office, grocery story and church were in walking distance so there never seemed to be a need for Leota to learn to drive.  Fred made sure she had the essentials for doing what she needed around their home and drove her into Boise when she wanted to buy colorful florals to sew a new dress.  She became accustomed to his caretaking.  It had seemed so natural for him to take that role, just as it had been for her father to fulfill that same role in her home while she grew up.  He was so like her father that way.  She liked that caring.

         She was past sixty when Fred died.  Then, there was no one to care for her.  Her son helped as he could, but he lived and worked in Council, a long two hour drive from Eagle where she lived.  His children, the three of them, brought joy to her when they came for Sunday visits once in a while.  But, loneliness was her main companion week after week as she tried to adjust to Fred’s absence.  Leota had to learn to care for herself though her strength was lost in the despair of clinical depression.

         After months of medical care, there was some healing of the depression and Leota returned home to continue to build her life as a widow.  Her friends at the little Baptist Church down the street visited her and told her they would try to help find a part-time job for her.  The doctor had told her to keep busy, and she needed some money to supplement her social security income and pay the medical bills. 

         She prayed.  God answered. A new family moved to town that summer of 1971.

         The Pattersons were a family of five with three children.  Tracy Dean was ten years of age and he enjoyed playing baseball.  Nancy Ann was nine and learning to twirl a baton.  Beverly Jeanne was born in April and was learning








                    A SHARING OF SWEET HEARTS


“I could never forget you, GranMom.  I love you.”  Sweet words.  A promise.

Those few words, spoken years ago by my precious granddaughter, eased the pain that seared my heart.  Carissa spoke them to me at the end of our telephone conversation on Thanksgiving day when she was 11 years of age.  After that, her mother would not allow her to contact me.

Carissa will soon be twenty years of age.  The year that she was born, my son, Tgst. Sergeant Tracy D. Patterson, and her mother were divorced while he was in the United States Air Force.  He and I knew that he would be absent from our state, and even the country most of the next twenty years.  Therefore, together we enlisted the same attorney, Mr. Paul Buser of Boise, Idaho.

Mr. Buser was a pioneer and specialist in Family Law.  We explained to him that we wanted to ensure that Carissa and her siblings would have the right and privilege of visiting their extended paternal family.  At that time, no legal precedent gave visitation or other rights to grandparents.  Mr. Buser was pioneering many precedents that could help families, including grandparents throughout America.

Carissa was a baby at the time, however her older siblings, Logan and Arianna,had already developed loving relationships with their father’s family, including grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I wanted to be sure that those relationships could  continued during subsequent years, even though their father might not be always be present to exercise all of his parental rights.  Believing that the children deserved that privilege, both Mr. Buser and I were determined to do our best to make it possible.

Even though he was served with divorce papers while on leave from his station in the Philippines, it was impossible for my son to be present during the months of negotiations required to determine the numerous elements of the Divorce Decree.  I participated in every attorney conference, and my son maintained contact with his attorney and I by numerous telephone calls.  The most contested element in the negotiations with the children’s mother was my determination to allow the children the right to regular visits with me whenever it was impossible for my son to be available for visitations.  She wanted to isolate them from both their father and his family.

The Divorce Decree that was presented to the Judge included the visitation rights we sought.  The Court Ordered that the children had the right to visit their father every other weekend, when he was available.  Otherwise, if he was out of the state or out of the country,  they were given the right to regular visitations with me.  My name as paternal grandmother was entered into the decree, inside parenthesis, each time his name was included, except for references to the divorce and child support payments.  This legal precedent has since made it possible for other grandparents to acquire legal rights for visitations with grandchildren in divorce or death of an adult child. 

During the years following the divorce, my son has served his country in the Philippines, Spain, Korea, Greenland, Desert Storm and various states.  According to the Judge’s Order, their mother was required to allow the children to visit me every third weekend, half of each year’s holidays, one month during the summer and certain special days during the year.  As often as possible, my son was present.  Those were both wonderful and turbulent years. 

One time because of fear in their home, the children were found walking along Interstate 84 to walk to GrandMom’s house, 8 miles away.  At times when the children were subjected to physical or emotional abuse, I was thankful that they had the privilege of visiting my home, a place for peace and fun.

The most significant, damaging event that permanently damaged 5 year-old Carissa emotionally was when she watch the hunting knife cut her shoes to pieces she heard loud damning statements about her GranMom whom she loved dearly. Three weekends after that ugly event, I picked the three of them up on Friday afternoon and drove directly to the special playground, which they called “Tracy Dad’s playground” because my son---their loving father---often took them there when he was home for  summer visitation.  That day, Carissa sat silently alone at a distance from all of us.  She seemed to be curled up inside herself in great sadness.  She was extremely scared of telling me what was wrong. 

Logan and Arianna eventually overcame their fear of telling me what had happened and described the incident that had occurred in their home.  Even with all the love and attention that I gave to Carissa that day and thereafter, she never seemed to recover emotionally.  A silent sadness replaced underpinned her usual cheerfulness. 

During her tenth year, Carissa’s mother and lawyer boldly lied to a judge, and caused him to order an end to scheduled visitations.  However, he ordered that they be allowed to visit me whenever they requested to do so.  Thereafter, no visits were ever allowed by their mother.  I shed a million tears during those years. 

SIDEBAR:

Grandparents are often prevented from visiting grandchildren after the divorce or death of an adult child.  Since the Judicial Order in my son’s Divorce Decree, grandparent visitation rights have been granted to other grandparents in the country.  Among them were friends of mine in Boise, Idaho, who had not been allowed to visit their grandchildren after their son had died; nevertheless, they gained that right even though the children lived in Arizona. 

(this writing will help guide me as I take on the challenge of writing an autobiographical book that may one day help someone else on their life's path.  Ann)



MOTHER’S LOVE TEACHES LOVE

         Holding her eighteen-month-old Autumn Ann in her arms, Beverly looked at me in her beautiful loving way and said, “Mom, I understand now.  I understand how much you love me. Now that I have my precious child, I understand.”

Those loving words today filled my heart as tears of love filled my eyes.

In that moment, I knew that I had learned a great lesson.  Mothers teach daughters to love by their way of loving and showing love to their daughter.  From the first moment of a daughter’s birth until the last moment of their lives together, love is being taught. 


Love is of the heart.  When a Mother lets love flow continuously as devotion, trust, respect and appreciation throughout the life of her child, she is preparing the way of love that will be given to her own grandchildren. 

The initial love, which a mother feels for her child, is exciting to her own heart and a blessing to her tiny infant.  For most mothers, that love continues to evolve with every task and every touch she gives to her baby.

For some mothers, that excitement and initial love changes as the day-by-day activities become a blur of soiled diapers, midnight feedings and related stressful activities and responsibilities. 

Sometimes, a mother finds herself grumbling so much that the initial love fades into resentment in the presence of her demanding baby.  In such moments, the baby feels the change.  The mother’s touch becomes different, perhaps even painful to the sensitive skin.

         The nervous system of a human being of any age and size functions better than radar does.  The baby senses positive and negative feelings in the mother’s tone of voice as well as the words spoken.  She understands within the depth of her being when she is being loved and when she is not. 


The baby senses the message given in the movement of mother’s hands upon its body, and is aware of the message given in her mother’s manner of laying her onto the bed or floor.  She receives a clear message according to the length of time it takes her mother to respond when she cries for help or comfort. 


Negative feelings felt within the very being of the infant are strong teachers.  They implant a message that love does not exist; or that it exists only when certain conditions are met.  When a mother’s message about love is painful, her daughter’s future and her granddaughter’s future are being sadly determined. 

The loved daughter, even as an infant, senses mother’s love and responds within her quiet spirit.  Knowing and feeling love is healthy and healing to body, soul and spirit. 

Every mother influences the spirit of the child of her womb every day in every way.  Those early months of her baby’s life are significant in teaching love.  Even more important, I believe, are the adolescent years. 

Growing through adolescence to adulthood is a difficult period in life.  A daughter who does not feel loved or acceptance by her mother may always be

confused about what love really is and how it feels.  Later she may be unable to express it to her own daughter.

During her teenage years, a daughter finds herself being drawn to her mother and pushing away from her mother at the same time.  The one important influence on her success in doing both is confidence in her mother’s love and in the way her mother shows that love.

When a daughter knows without a doubt in her heart, that she is fully accepted exactly as she is by her mother, then she knows that mother’s love can be depended on to remain constant or even increase.

On the other hand, if she feels within her spirit that mother’s love is demanding, is conditional and can be withdrawn, her heart’s pain may not allow her to successfully enter adulthood truly knowing love.

My daughter has never doubted that have always loved her very much, even the one time that we disagreed on an important matter, she interpreted my concern into a matter of trust.  That happened when she was sixteen years of age and began dating her first and only boyfriend.  After a few days of bad feelings, she did the one important thing that I had always tried to teach her. 


She came to me and spoke a message from her heart to mine that she felt that my trust of her was being withdrawn.  She said that she deeply valued my trust and that she needed it more than ever as she made her life’s decisions in her steps toward adulthood. 

I understood her message and responded as a loving mother, a single mom, who believed in her decisiveness and asked forgiveness for my personal fear of failure as a mother.   

I had taught her to always be open and honest about her feelings.  She was and I was grateful.  She spoke with love and moved me to “get back on the right track,” the track of trust, respect and appreciation of who she was and who she was becoming.  Our love for each other continues to increase in a positive, maturing way as adults. 

I have no doubt that her daughter will always feel a continuous flow of love, respect, appreciation and trust from her mother.  The beauty of that flow is that it can flow downhill generation after generation.

I wish the same for every daughter born in America.  Only unconditional, unlimited love from mothers can build loving children and eventually a loving world.





THOSE WONDERFUL TWO-ROOM SCHOOLS


         
Sixty-one years ago I walked up a red graveled rural road in Oklahoma to the small two-room schoolhouse to begin the first of  6 years of formal education in rural Oklahoma.  Contrary to what people believe today, being in a classroom with 4 grades provided a quality education. 

In those schools there were probably fewer distractions for us than in today’s large schools and classes, and the teachers had an amazing ability to teach their students of 1 grade while those of 3 other grades in the room read or completed assignments. 

Most of those wonderful schools have been torn down, turned into barns for storing hay, tools and collectibles.  Some are houses and libraries.  Regardless of their demise, their histories are not forgotten by those of us who enjoyed those special years of schooling.

My first grade teacher at Scoby School, near Paoli, Oklahoma, was Mrs. Azalee Thomas and her husband, Aud Thomas, taught grades 5 through 8.  As I remember, Mrs. Thomas was a beautiful woman who cared about each of her students.  She taught me to be an excellent reader and instilled in me a love for learning; gifts that served me well through 16 years of school and college followed by a successful career.

We carried our lunches, stored them in the “cloak-room” then ate them at our desks on cold winter days and in the school yard when the days were warm.  I remember my friends and I sitting on the merry-go-round eating our lunches before playing until the teacher rang the bell that signaled the students to get back into class, and informed neighbors as far as a mile away that school was in session. 

Whippings with switches or paddles were allowed in those years.  When I was in 5th grade at Moore School, not far from Scoby School, one day my brother and his friend talked and laughed too much while Mrs. Sterling, an old fashioned teacher even in those days, was teaching my class geography.  After scolding them a couple of times, she told them to go down to the willow tree by the boys’ outhouse and bring back a switch because after school was dismissed, she would be whip them.

Larry and Bill were glad to leave the classroom and do as Mrs. Sterling asked.  They brought a big limb to her.  She sent them to the willow tree again.  They came back with two small branches and she sent them out again.  The next switch was just the right size for a switching, but I don’t think that any strike onto their overalls’ pockets hurt a bit.

Sometimes the two teachers at Moore School had to deal with major misbehavior that created a crisis, nothing compared to the crises today with guns, drugs and fear that school personnel must deal with.  That day, the first snow of the season, excited all of the students.  At noon, many girls hovered in the girls’ outhouse to stay warm.  My friend, Jo Whatley, and I joined the older boys in a snowball fight.  The boys, Jo and I started throwing snowballs into the outhouse and then my sister, Linda, her friend, Anne Whately, and other young girls began to throw them back at us. 

Having a snowball fight just didn’t sit well with Mrs. Sterling and Mrs. Randolph, so they stopped our game, and sent everyone back to class early.  I remember the two of them standing in the doorway between the two classrooms and discussing the penalties that would be meted out.  We weren’t scared and some of us were giggling among ourselves as we waited for the penalty.

In those days, the teachers could not suspend us from school so they had to choose lesser means of punishment.  We were given the choice of taking a whipping or writing “I will not throw snowballs at school” 200 times.  My sister and Anne were the only ones in their classroom to choose a whipping.  Jo and I chose a whipping, as did all the boys in our classroom.  The paddles were to swing after school that day.

I suppose that Mrs. Sterling’s arm was tired after whipping all the boys before she used her paddle on Linda, Anne, Jo and I.  After the defined number of blows, we joined the boys outside the schoolhouse who were applauding each student when they walked out the door.  That memorable day gave me a fun story that I have told my children and grandchildren many times during their growing-up years. 

Whippings weren’t designed to hurt, but to humiliate a student.  I don’t think that worked, but parents, including mine, often gave their child a whipping at home after they got one at school.  I don’t remember that any student got a whipping at home; instead many parents found it amusing that winter day.

I remember our first month at Moore School, my 6th grade brother, Larry, arrived home with a bloody nose and scratches because another boy, Bill DeArmen, had won bullied and fought him on the way home.  Daddy told him that he would get a whipping at home if he let that boy beat him up again.  The next day Bill fought and won.  Larry got a whipping.  The next day Larry came home with another bloody nose but he ran to Daddy and said, “Dad, I got the best of him today.  I won the fight.  He’s bloodier than I am.”  Needless to say, Larry got a pat on the shoulder and “good boy” that day.

Later, at a school community event, Larry introduced to Bill, an 8th grade boy, to Daddy and told him, “This is the boy who I fought with.”  Seeing that Bill was taller and bigger than Larry, Daddy felt like a bully himself and he was more proud of his son than ever.  That story has been told many times through the years in our family. 

Perhaps the best thing that happened in those small rural schools was that whenever there was an evening school event, everyone came whether they had a student in the school or not.  We had many music and drama programs as well as holiday


functions and I remember that the school would always be crowded with people from throughout the area.  The folding wall between the rooms were pushed back to make the stage and room large enough to accommodate the crowd.

In 7th grade my family moved to the large school in Paoli which had 1st through 12th grades then we moved to California when I was in 8th grade.  My memories from the larger schools are not as wonderful as those that I have from my 6 years in America’s small, rural, two-room schoolhouses.  They served our nation well.





SIBLINGS SHARE THE BEST & WORST OF MEMORIES


When was your last fight with your brother?  What was the meanest thing your sister ever said to you?  Have you quit speaking to or even seeing your brother, your sister?

Today at lunch, the waitress said hello and reminded me that she met me when her sister was my next door neighbor.  She said, “we haven’t spoke to each other for two years.”  I remembered her sister.  What I remembered most was that her sister was a hateful, angry, pouting woman who yelled at her children every single day.  And, there came a time that I determined never to speak to her again because of her angry words at me over some small matter.

While I ate my hamburger with onions and a pickle, I thought about my sister.  She was never happy in our home because she spent her first three years living with Grandmother and Papa.  She rejoined our family when she was three years old and we were boarding the train to move 2,500 miles away from our grandparents.  During all of her years, she never felt at home and loved; she stayed angry.  In her early twenties after two children and divorce, she was angry most of the time.  She spoke so hurtfully at me the day our father died, blaming my and Mother’s religion for causing Daddy to have an anyoeurism; of course, she knew that wasn’t true.  But, I returned to my home 700 miles away and we never spoke or had contact for three years.

Is it worth it to lose months or years being mad at your sister or brother?  Life is so short and relationships can be fragile.

Today, after finishing lunch, I called the waitress over; and, I spoke to her:  “I know that your sister is hard to deal with and she can be hateful and hurtful.”  She agreed, “You’re right.”  Then, I told her, “My sister and I wouldn’t talk or write or see each other for three years.  She died young at age 57.  And I miss those years.  I miss her.  I would give anything to have those three years back.  I would love to talk with her.”

The waitress was quiet a moment; then, she sincerely thanked me for telling her that.

I said, “You know, one way to do it is to visit or call; and stay until/unless the anger or hurtful words or criticisms of anyone is spoken by her, then leave.  Go back again or call again, and when the bad happens again, leave or say ‘good-bye’ until another day.  The wound will heal; and you’ll have a sister again. 

I wish you well, my friend.  Enjoy the moments and don’t miss the years. 







DRY ICE AND JESUS

         “Children, before the Saturday evening services, there will be a special service just for you when our evangelist will bring ice that looks like it is smoking, even though it is not on fire.  And, the church will bring store-bought ice cream for you.  I hope you come.”

         That was 60 years ago.  Our church met in Scoby School near Paoli, Oklahoma.  It was a small, two-room school where Christians Aud and Azalee Thomas were our teachers.  When I was a child, a missionary organization went to rural communities where small groups of people met together to worship and they came to minister to us every Sunday.
         
At the service that evening when the pastor announced the Saturday service for children, my young mother, 25, trusted Jesus.  Her example opened the way for me to seek Jesus for my salvation.  Parents and trusted adults can lead the little children by example and kindness.

My brothers, sisters and I looked forward with excitement to that Saturday evening. As children living in rural Oklahoma during World War II, we had never heard of dry ice, and we seldom had store-bought ice cream. 
         
         Saturday afternoon came and we walked up the hill with many other children to play games and worship Jesus.  When we arrived, the evangelist broke the bad news to us.  He had been unable to find any dry ice in either Paoli or Pauls Valley, two small towns nearby in Garvin County.  We were disappointed but wanted to stay anyway.

         We played children’s games like “London Bridges” and “Red Light, Green Light” before the evangelist talked about Jesus and salvation in words that children could understand. He told us how to invite Jesus into our lives. Then we joined in a circle and sang “Into My Heart Lord Jesus”.

         I can still remember the circle of children and my friend Weta Whitaker standing by me.  She and I always sat together each evening, and talked about our mothers who had been baptized a few weeks earlier.

         With my hands folded over my heart, my eyes closed and the sweet words “Into My Heart Lord Jesus” wafting in the country air that summer evening, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart.  He did.
         
         All of us enjoyed store-bought ice cream before we went to the church services that night.  When the invitation was given during the final part of the service, I went forward, told the evangelist that I trusted Jesus.

        Later that year, I sold more boxes of cards than the other kids and received my first Bible.  I still have the Bible, and the condition of shows that I read  Years laterl I earned enough money babysitting to buy a new one.

         
         God blessed my life.  My heart, like the heart of the Grinch, grew bigger and better because of that day.

         I am grateful to those missionaries who served the Lord in our small rural community so many years ago when, even though there was no dry ice, Jesus came into the heart of a little girl who sang, “Come into my Heart, Lord Jesus”.
                                                 


Switches and Britches
(formerly Mrs. Stern Sterling's War)

“This is the last time I am going to tell you two eighth grade boys to stop talking while I’m teaching the fifth grade,” demanded Mrs. Sterling.  “One more word out of you and you’ll both get a switching after school!”

  Whippings with switches or paddles were allowed at school during 1947. My brother, Larry, and his friend, Bill, were well-acquainted with the weapons.  The seemed to enjoy frustrating Mrs. Sterling but they usually stopped the act just before she told them to stay after school for a switching.  One hot, summer day in Oklahoma, their drama went a bit too far.

Disciplinary events always come to mind when I remember my years in rural schools. I attended Scoby School and Moore School near Paoli, Oklahoma. Both were two-room schoolhouses.
 
Mrs. Sterling taught 5th through 8th grades.  She was a stern disciplinarian who scared the timid students and challenged others to make life difficult for her. 
The primary punishable action in those schools was talking or laughing with nearby students while the teacher was focusing on a lesson to another grade. 

They had an amazing ability to teach the students of one grade while those in three other grades quietly attended to their assignments---some weren’t quiet at all.
Mrs. Sterling was teaching geography to my 5th grade class late one hot summer day. 

All of the students were restless that day because the temperature and humidity made all of us feel miserable.  She was on edge too. 

The loudest of the other students were Bill and Larry.  I always believed that they baited her just for the fun of it.  No doubt, they hoped that she would send them home early for being bad boys.

Mrs. Sterling scolded them several times for interrupting our lesson; eventually she told them that they would get a switching after school. 
She demanded that they march down to the corner of the school yard and bring back two switches.  They walked slowly out of the room and down to the large willow tree. 

Obediently, they returned with two switches. 

Each was approximately a quarter of an inch in diameter and 13 inches long.  Bill and Larry enjoyed the spotlight when the other students giggled at their ingenuity.  Mrs. Sterling did not.

She scolded them and sent them back to get appropriate-sized switches.  As they walked out of the room, we could hear them laughing.  They returned carrying two switches---actually, they were big branches. 

The other students laughed when they brought their switches into the classroom. 

The 2 switches were 2 inches in diameter and 5 feet long.  It was clear that Mrs. Sterling was reaching the end of her rope. 

Pointing and shaking her pencil at them, she spoke slowly and deliberately, demanding that they bring the right-sized switches immediately. They hurried out the door and returned a short time later with two switches, handed them to her before quietly going to their desk. 

They did but nobody laughed. 

She finished teaching our lesson and soon rang the bell that she kept on her desk.  Everyone hurried out of the room, except two smug 8th grade boys who stayed seated.

By the time that Bill and Larry caught up with the rest of us down by the creek, they were laughing at the stunt they had played on Mrs. Sterling that day.  And, they laughed at the switching because they had not felt any pain. 

Anyone who thought that those two boys had not planned ahead, was wrong!

Their denim overalls had big pockets and both boys had a handkerchief in each pocket. 

(This story is true.)










\        SCHOOLMARMS AND SNOWBALLS

               

              One snowy day during the morning recess at the small Moore School, some of the girls took refuge from the cold by going into the girls’ 4-holer outside toilet. 

              Led by Bill DeArman and my brother, Larry, the older boys decided to throw snowballs over the outer wall of the girls’ outhouse with hopes of scaring the girls.  Jo Whately and I joined the boys and threw just as many snowballs as they did. 

                From inside the small building, our sisters, Anne and Linda, along with “Toady” DeArman, led the girls in throwing snowballs back over the wall at us.  Soon, it seemed like everyone joined in the escapade.

         Snowballs and students filled the sunny winter playground until both teachers heard the laughter and yelling and saw what was happening.  While Mrs. Randolph rang the big school bell, Mrs. Sterling herded everyone inside.
         
              Unfortunately, all the students who were not throwing snowballs lost out on recess time along with the rest of us.  Later, when the guilty snowball fighters were asked to raise their hands, some of the innocents raised their hands too.  They must have thought it was a badge of honor to be included.

         I remember overhearing both teachers while they stood in the doorway between the classrooms and discussed the punishment for the guilty snowball fighters.  They finally decided that all of them must either take a whipping or write 200 times: “I will not throw snowballs at school.” 

              They also decided that Mrs. Sterling would use the wooden paddle and Mrs. Randolph would oversee the writing.

              My little brother, Ray, chose to write those 200 sentences.  Anne, Linda, Toady, Jo and I, along with the older boys, chose the whipping. The paddles were to swing after school that day.

                  Mrs. Sterling paddled a dozen the boys before four girls, Linda, Toady, Anne, Jo and I, had to bend over her desk.  After the defined number of blows, we joined the boys outside the schoolhouse who were applauding all students when they walked out the door. 

                  Most assuredly, Mrs. Sterling had an aching arm that evening.

                 





Bill DeArman, “Toady” Virginia DeArman,, Jo Whatley and Anne Whatley graduated from Paoli High School, Paoli, Oklahoma.  A few years later Bill was killed in an accident.  Larry, Linda, Ray and I graduated from Modesto High School, Modesto, California.  Linda died suddenly at age 57.  Larry lives in Turlock, CA.  Ray lives in Antioch, CA.  I live in Portland, OR. 



ONE BLACK HORSE AND A RED WAGON

By
Ann Patterson

Moore School, west of the tiny town of Paoli, was one of many rural schools in Garvin County in Oklahoma.  It was a two-room schoolhouse with grades first through fourth in one room and fifth to eighth in the other. 

Mrs. Randolph taught the youngest pupils and Mrs. Sterling, a “school marm in the strictest sense”, taught the older students.  Mrs. Randolph was kind to her little pupils and Mrs. Sterling was tough as nails with the oldest boys. 

The schoolhouse was on the hill just beyond the Randolph Church.  My family lived in a small house just across the red gravel road from the church. The house is small cattle shed now.

Only one small building at the school has survived destruction since the 1940’s. That building is the boy’s outhouse.  It sits in the same location, is no longer schoolhouse white and is covered with poison ivy vines.  Perhaps, boy-carved words are still on its walls.

My brother, Larry and I were in Mrs. Sterling’s classroom.  He was in the sixth grade and I was in fifth.  Bill DeArman, a tall 7th grade boy, picked a fight with him the first day of school.

Fortunately for both of them, the fight was not on the school grounds.  It was down by the creek between the school and our home.  Mrs. Sterling would gladly have used her wooden paddle if the fight had occurred at school.             

Larry arrived home that day with red-dusted, torn overalls and a bloody nose.  When Daddy asked him what had happened, Larry told him about the fight.

Daddy asked, “Who won?” 

Larry confessed that the other boy wasn’t bleeding; and then Daddy told him, “You fight him again and beat him. I’ll not have my son be a loser.”

Larry’s shoulders shrunk as Daddy added, “If you don’t beat him, you’ll get a whipping from me everyday that he beats you.”

Larry was determined to whip the other boy and prove to Daddy that he could take care of himself.

As expected, the next day he fought Bill and lost. Even with scratches and blood on him to prove that he had tried, Larry got a whipping at home.  That happened three times.

Eventually, Larry came home with what was called “one black horse and a red wagon,” otherwise called a black eye and a bloody nose.  He also had a big smile on his face as he rushed to tell Daddy that he finally got the best of Bill---that he won the fight!

At the community-wide Halloween party at the school that October, Larry introduced his new friend, Bill to Daddy.  The look on Daddy’s face as he sized up the 7th grader was one of unbelief and understanding.

A big grin spread across Larry’s face.


(Larry and Bill remained good friends for the remainder of their years in school together and visited together each time we vacationed in Oklahoma after moving to California.



                     
                          LIGHTNING STRIKES AT HALLOWEEN


         Halloween in rural Oklahoma was usually a time for tricks more than for trick-or-treating.  It was far different in the 1940’s than is in the 21st century.  Then, costumed children who lived in rural America, could not walk in the dark from house to house with their plastic pumpkins and paper bags.  Houses were far from each other and usually located on the hills instead of the downhill hollows between them.

         Often, fathers would drive the children to certain neighbors’ homes to trick or treat.  It was exciting every year when my father did that.  As kids then, we weren't old to figure out tricks to play on the neighbors. Only the older kids and young adults would talk about their tricks on the neighbors during the days following Halloween night.

         The primary event in our rural area was held at the schoolhouse on the hill just beyond us.  All of the kids would arrive in costume and the adults were judges of the best costumes.  The first activity was for all the kids in costume to line up in front of the crowd.  Most people knew all the kids first through eighth grades.  Parents helped keep it a secret which kids were theirs.  The people in the crowd had to name the child behind the costume.  My little brother won that contest one year by dressing like a girl.  After the school event, out family went to visit with a family with kids who were our best friends.  I was in sixth grade that year when old Uncle Lightning was tricked and so were others.

              While we were visiting with the kids, Mother and Daddy visited with Doug and Ruby Whatley at their house on a hill not far from Paoli, Oklahoma.  The adults played cards, a game called Pitch, while the five Whatley kids and four of us played outside in the moonlight or just sat and ate the Halloween treats that we had gotten at the celebration at the school.   

         Late into the evening, Daddy and Doug ask us if we wanted to trick-or-treat old Uncle Lightning, a single old alcoholic, who lived down in the hollow across a small creek.  Uncle Lightning was not a relative to either family. 

              Of course, every kid was excited about Doug and Daddy’s suggestion. 

         Daddy told us that he would stay at the Whatley house and let Doug drive us down to Lightning’s home.  All of us piled into the back of Doug's old pickup and he drove slowly instead of his usual thirty-five miles per hour. We were laughing and talking about the adventure and wondering if Uncle Lightning would even be home.  It was a dark night; the moon was a true Halloween moon and we couldn't see anything beyond the headlights.

                In our excitement, we had not wondered why Daddy hadn't come with us.  What we did not know was that, while Doug drove slowly, Daddy took Doug’s shotgun and walked through the pasture, down the hill, across the small creek and got to Uncle Lightning's house before we did.

              Uncle Lightning lived alone in a tiny little house by the creek in a pasture.  He had gotten his name because of the liquor he used to make during Prohibition days of the 1920's.  His liquor was called "white lightning" so he was named Lightning.

         Daddy and Doug had intended for Lightning to be at home and could easily be awakened when Daddy knocked on the door.  They intended to enlist him to play a trick on us kids. That's not what happened. 

              When Daddy arrived there, he knocked several time.  Lightning didn’t answer the door.  Daddy assumed he was in town at the little bar celebrating Halloween so he stood behind the house to wait for us to knock on the door with the gun loaded and ready to shoot.. 

              He planned to shoot the gun at just the right moment to give us the scare of our life that Halloween. 

         When Doug parked the pickup.  All of us, ages six to thirteen,  climbed out of the pick-up and crawled under the barbed wire fence strung along the property to keep the cows in.  The oldest kids raced to Lightning’s door.

                Like kids still do every Halloween, we knocked on the door.  There was no answer.  Then, to scare us, Daddy shot the gun.  A place like that below a hill, along a small creek, was called a "hollow".  When that gun went off, it echoed through the hollow and sounded extremely loud.

         We cried out and started yelling, “It’s just us Uncle Lightning.” And, we were running back toward the fence, scared to death that Uncle Lightning might shoot that awful gun again.

         Suddenly, the trick turned Daddy and Doug.  Lightning was at home and in his loudest voice yelled and cussed in his drunken voice, “Who the hell is out there?”  As soon as he yelled, Daddy ran toward the fence with us.  He knew that Lightning could easily grab his own gun and shoot into the dark at all the people yelling and running.

                Climbing under that fence was no small task.  Being in a hurry, I tore my jeans and am sure some of the other kids did too.  My brother scratched his hand on the barbed wire.  We had either crawl on the ground under the first fence line, or carefully but quickly climb between the first and second line of wire; or, do like Daddy.  He was running so fast that he put one foot on a lower line, then threw the other leg over the top.  He was as scared as we were.  I still think he ran the fastest.

              I don't think a herd of kids and their Daddy ever ran faster than we did that night. 

              Later on, when Lightning was sober, Daddy and Doug told them about the trick.  Lightning laughed the hardest, Daddy has said, because he scared those two grown men that night. 



BROOMCORN JONNIES AND ITCHING KIDS



         My mother was called, “the best broomcorn jonnie in the county.”  Broomcorn jonnies were the field workers who cut the heads of broomcorn in the fields.  Usually the same group of broomcorn jonnies went from one farmer’s field to another until all the broomcorn was harvested.

         In the 1940’s, broomcorn grew more than 8 feet tall.  The first step in harvesting a field was for men to walk between two rows and bend the stalks toward each other to form a table with the long heads of the broomcorn reached a foot or two over the sides of each table. 

         My mother could cut the heads off faster than most other broomcorn jonnies.  With a certain kind of knife, she had to cut each seeded head at a nice long slant.  After cutting a handful, she placed them on the table. 

         In the afternoon, men would stack the broomcorn on trailers with the cut ends pointed outward in a certain way.  Meanwhile, the broomcorn was taken to the seeding tables where a few of the jonnies, usually family members lined up on each side of the threshing machine where they bounced the stalks against the side of the trough to set all cut ends together before they went through the thresher.

         The itchy part came next.  Armloads of the freshly threshed broomcorn heads were handed to the line of cousins, my siblings and I.  We carried bunches of them to our uncle.  He spread them on the slats in the broomcorn shed so that they dried and looked like small brooms.

         After a few weeks, the broomcorn had to be bailed and taken to Lindsay Oklahoma, called “the broomcorn capital of the world” to be made into brooms.  That was another itchy part of the process for the line of kids.  We had to carry bundles of the dried broomcorn to the bailer where the adults bounced the ends together before the bailer stacked and tied them into large bales.

         The seed hulls caused us to itch so much not only because we had to carry the broomcorn, but because the thrasher spewed the seed hulls into the air.  Those hulls caused us of us kids to itch for days!



                                    My Memories of Papa and His Cows
                             


Childhood memories are not always about major life events.  Sometimes, they’re about the little things.

I have 2 milk stools that were made and used by my Papa Steward, Paoli, Oklahoma, in the 1940’s.  During my first 10 years, I enjoyed watching him, great Uncle John, Aunt Ree and my mother, sit on the single-legged milk stools with cow tails brushing their faces, and the sound as streams of milk hit the sides of the buckets.

Papa was tall and moderately heavy so he had a taller, sturdier stool.  Uncle John was a little man who required a short stool.  I have both of them. There were other stools for the helpers like Aunt Ree and Mother.

They preferred one leg on their milk stools instead of having 3 or 4 legs when they needed to grab the stool and move fast. Some cows tended to kick.  They just didn’t like the pinching and squeezing.

When the milkers were wise, they attached metal hobblers behind the cow's back legs to reduce her chances of kicking them.  Most of the cows were very gentle; however, those who kicked were quite unpredictable.

A few cats were always sitting nearby sitting nearby waiting for a stream of milk to be squeezed from the generous cows by Papa or Aunt Ree.  Every cat caught every drop of the sweet treat while the grandkids, like me, laughed.

I was totally fascinated when I watched Aunt Ree or my mother pour the foamy warm milk from filled, stainless steel buckets into the “milk separator.”  There were two spouts on the side of the milk separator.  From one, the cream flowed.  From the other, the skim milk flowed. 

I still don’t know how it separated the cream from the milk while the milk was still warm.  It was easier to understand how my mother skimmed the cream from the top of cold milk. 

A couple of my cousins also enjoyed a cup of warm milk.  I preferred mine ice cold served by grandmother from her aluminum milk pitcher.  The pitcher kept the milk ice cold in the icebox that she used before refrigerators were available.

We didn't have an icebox.  To keep milk cool, Mother put the jars of milk in a bucket, tied a rope to the bucket and lowered it deep into our open well---called a cistern. I might add that there was very little water in that particular well for some reason. Several frogs lived down there instead.

I the 1970's, I used the milk stools and other items from Papa Steward’s barn as decor on my 12 feet high wall.  The milk stools with clay pots of ivy on them were central to the décor. 

Included that decor and later as yard decor were the skulls of two of Papa's cows.  Wolves or coyotes had killed them in the pasture far away from  the house and barn.  Artists have painted Indian art on skulls to give the monetary value.  I have enjoyed mine just because Papa's cows are part of my childhood memories.  The last time I was with him was him and he was unable to walk or ride his horse, he drove me to all the pastures to check on his white face herefords.  That's when we found the skulls and bones of two of the cows.

Added to the decor were other unusual items from the barn.  A favorite piece was something Grandmother hung on her kitchen wall for many years.  Flat and shaped like a three-quarter moon, it had medium-sharp iron spikes on it.  Stubborn baby calves that were hard to wean from their warm milk feast by their mama had to wear them.  With the item attached to their noses, mama cow didn't like it when the spikes poked her bag of milk.

Another strange object that none of the cows liked on the farm was designed to keep them from knowing that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.  Most cows wouldn't put their heads through barbed wire fences.  Those that made it a habit ended up wearing a rather cumbersome necklace.  It was placed around their neck with 2 feet of iron or wood extending upwards and also downwards.

Those stubborn cows learned that it was best to just eat the grass on their side of the fence.  If they pushed too hard against the fence, iron spikes tickled their chins.


LOVE AND THE DYING SLEEP
       
“Frosty.”  With a ton of tears trying to escape her throat, Beverly called out again, “Frosty.  Frosty, where are you?  Come, Frosty.”  She shared every day with her precious little dog from the day of her fourth birthday party.  Frosty always came when she called, but not this time.  The twelve-year-old little girl knew that something was wrong; terribly wrong.

She went to the corner of the back yard and crawled into the playhouse that Mommy built; a special place where she and her loving, little Chihuahua-terrier spent thousands of hours,  “Frosty, Are you in here?  Where are you?  You always meet me when I get home from school.  You didn’t today.  Frosty.  Frosty.”  She looked under the small table and chairs and in the boxes where her “dress-up” clothes were kept; but Frosty was not there.
       
As tears dripped from her eyes, Beverly walked to the front door of her house---calling out, “Mommy, I can’t find Frosty.  Do you know where she is?  I’ve looked everywhere.”  She walked into the kitchen.  Mommy wasn’t there.  She felt alone and disappointed.  She searched the house, calling out again, “Mommy.  Mommy, I can’t find you.  And, I can’t find Frosty.”
       
Sudden despair drove her to drop to the floor while tears overtook her heart and body.  At first, the tears streamed slowly, and then they rushed like a river and dripped from her chin like rain.  She spread her body full length on the floor, sobbing, waiting, and hoping.         

To Beverly, it seemed like hours before Mommy came through the back door.  She had gone to the neighbor’s house to deliver a cake because their son died the previous day. 

When she heard Beverly crying loudly, she hurried to the living room where her daughter looked up at her. “Mommy, I missed you.  Have you seen Frosty?  I’ve looked everywhere and called her name, but I can’t find her.  Where is she?  Where were you?”

“Honey, I’m sorry.”  She cradled her child in her arms her until the sobbing stopped.  “I haven’t seen her since I got home from work; but I’m sure she is here.  She must be.”  She lifted Beverly to her feet and with her arm around the narrow, thin shoulders hugged her closely. “Let’s go look for her together.  First, let’s look in all the rooms and under the beds.”  They headed down the hallway to search the three bedrooms and bathroom.

“Let’s start with your room, just in case she fell asleep under the bed or in the closet.”  Beverly crawled under the bed and checked behind the toys stored there.  At the same time, her Mommy checked in the closet and among the clothing that was stacked on the big chair in the corner.  They did not find Frosty in the room.

“Mommy, I’m afraid---what if someone took her?  We have to find her.”

  “Let’s keep looking, little one.  We’ll keep looking in the house, in the yard, in the garage, and everywhere, even at the neighbors.  It’s just not like her to be gone so long.  We’ll find her, don’t worry.” 

They checked every possible hiding or sleeping place that Frosty liked in the house, but she was not there.  Even as Beverly started crying again while Mommy assured her their search would be successful.  “Let’s check in the garage.  They walked outside.  “Have you already been in there?”

As Mommy lifted the heavy garage door, Beverly answered, “Yes, I have.  I crawled through Frosty’s door like I always do, and turned the light on and looked, but I didn’t find her.” 

“Well, let’s look again.  There are so many hiding places in here.” 

Beverly called out Frosty’s name over and over again as she walked to the back corner of the garage to look.  Mommy walked over to the cupboard doors by the water heater; and, when she reached to open one of them, she heard a soft whine.
“Here she is, Beverly,” Mommy spoke as she reached to pick up the quiet, listless little dog.  Frosty had climbed through one closet to a pile of boxes by the water heater, and lay in the darkness.  Knowing that dogs often go off somewhere to be alone when they are very ill or even dying, Mommy knew that something serious was wrong.

“Oh, Frosty.  Frosty, I love you,” Beverly whispered as she reached to take Frosty from Mommy’s arms.  “Don’t hide from me ever again.  Ok?”
“Beverly, I think we should take her to see Dr. Lee because she is too quiet.  Maybe she has a tummy-ache, or something else is bothering her.  Will you take her to the car while I get my keys and wallet?” 

By the time Mommy started the car, Beverly was weeping.  She held her precious Frosty close to her face to dry the tears.  She was speechless. 
As she held Frosty, now eight years old, Beverly’s mind rushed to and fro with memories of her and Frosty and how Frosty became hers.  After her fourth birthday party, Mommy took her to a lady’s house where there was a mommy-dog with six little puppies.

Most of the cute little puppies were very active and running to and fro, playing with each other.  All except one ignored her.  The smallest one, the color of creamed coffee walked over to her and looked up with so much sweetness that Beverly picked her up.  During their years together, she often always said, “Frosty picked me.  I didn’t pick her.  She picked me to love her.”

Beverly told Mommy, “I’m going to name her Frosty because she looks like Frosty root beer.”  That night, Frosty and Beverly slept with their heads together on a Raggedy Ann pillowcase.  They slept that way for eight years. 

Surprisingly, when Beverly was five, she woke up to find that there were four newborn puppies near the foot of the double bed that she shared with her older sister.  During the night while the girls slept soundly, Frosty birthed all four of them on their beautiful satin blue bedspread. 

Frosty and Beverly spent every day together, except during church and school hours.  Frosty enjoyed riding in the car and rode almost everywhere Beverly went.  She even rode from Idaho to California and back and went camping with her family.  To Beverly, Frosty was more than just a pet; she was her dearest friend---closer than a sister. 

During their years together, Beverly celebrated with birthday parties for each of them.  Of course, at Frosty’s party there was ‘birthday meat pie” instead of birthday cake, and Beverly had to blow out Frosty’s candles.  They had ‘teddy bear parties’ with Beverly’s friends, Jackie and Sheryl. 

Beverly often put Frosty inside her Raggedy Ann pillowcase and carried her all around the house in the same way that Santa Claus might carry his bag of toys.  Their quiet times were the best times for Beverly; just sitting by Frosty or holding her gently brought heartwarming pleasure. Through their actions and sweetness toward each other, they were saying: “I love you.”

Driving the car to Dr. Lee’s office, Mommy fought to hold back her tears.  She was sure that Frosty was going into a coma and she feared that Dr. Lee might not be able to help her.  Beverly kept crying and Mommy did not want her precious daughter to see her tears.

At the Veterinary Hospital, Beverly carried Frosty inside.  Mommy approached the receptionist and asked that Dr. Lee check Frosty as quickly as possible.  He was available and Beverly carried Frosty to the examination room where he checked her heart and lungs with his stethoscope, felt her stomach and kidneys.  Beverly winced and turned away when he poked her to take some blood with a syringe so he could test it to determine what was wrong.

Beverly waited patiently with tear-blinded eyes. Frosty lay on the examination table and Beverly held her head close to Frosty’s.  She wanted to touch her loving pet as much as possible.  They needed each other’s touch now, more than ever in their eight years together.

She lifted her precious Frosty with shaking arms. It was natural for Frosty’s head to lie close to her neck, just like loving mothers hold their babies. 

Dr. Lee returned to the room with the results of the tests and his diagnosis.  He saw the two of them and felt a twinge of pain to his heart because he knew that those moments of sharing so much love would be their last together.

Dr. Lee looked at Beverly’s mother questioningly, as if to ask whether Beverly should leave the room before he spoke. She said, “Frosty is Beverly’s, as you can tell, and I trust you to tell both of us what we need to know.” 

“Frosty has been poisoned.  Apparently, she found a bit of antifreeze somewhere and drank it.  Dogs like the flavor of antifreeze and when they drink it, it quickly freezes their kidneys and they go into a coma.  It doesn’t take long from the moment they drink it until it is too late to do anything to help.” 

After his explanation, Dr. Lee hesitated and petted Frosty who was still on Beverly’s shoulder.  “You are sure a lucky little dog, Frosty, because Beverly loves you so much; and she’s lucky too.”

“Dr. Lee,” Beverly turned her face toward him with tears pouring from her lovely blue eyes, “Please, help her.  Please.  Can’t you think of something to do?  I don’t want her to die.” 

Both Dr. Lee and Beverly’s mother believed that she understood the seriousness of the moment--- there was nothing that any doctor could do to save Frosty’s life.  The antifreeze had already done too much damage.  It had created tiny crystals in Frosty’s kidneys.  They stepped out of the room to discuss the process of putting the dying puppy to sleep, and to allow Beverly and Frosty some extra time together. 

The mantel of grief and sadness quietly covered Beverly as she held Frosty close to her face, and to her heart.  Although Frosty was in a coma, Beverly could feel her heart beating slowly.  “Frosty.  Frosty. I love you.  I don’t want you to die.  Please get well.  Dr. Lee just has to be wrong.”  The tears flooded her throat, choked her for a moment until Beverly cried aloud.  Her tears soaked the root beer colored hair of her best friend, her loving pet, her Frosty.  “I’ll keep holding on to you, no matter what.”

Mommy returned to the room, put her arm around both Beverly and Frosty and stood quietly.  Time stood still.  Time was gone for Frosty.  To give her a special drug that would let her die peacefully, without pain, in Beverly’s arms, was all that could be done now. 

Later, Dr. Lee returned to the room with the syringe and the drug.  He was followed by his aide, Maya, and the hospital’s receptionist, Kim, who stood quietly in the doorway until Beverly moved to the examination table, still holding Frosty with Mommy standing behind her loving arms around both of them.

As Dr. Lee began to give the drug to Frosty, everyone in the room reached to place their hand on Frosty, spoke her name, and thanked her for the love she gave to everyone, most especially to Beverly.  Tears fell from every eye as the Beverly’s beloved baby fell asleep on her shoulder.  Sadly, though, the sleep was not just for a moment, but was the dying sleep.

Maya and Kim brought a baby blue box just the right size for Frosty but Beverly said bravely, trying to hold her tears in control, “Mommy, will you take the box?  I want to hold Frosty all the way home.  She is still warm.” 

“Yes, little one.  We can place her in the box when we get home.  Then we’ll find a special place for her.  Even though we bury her body, her spirit and her love will always be with you, in your heart where you store your love for her.”

“Mommy, I like what you just said, but I am so sad that I might forget it.  Well you say it to me again tomorrow?”  She pulled Frosty’s body closer and walked out to the car.  The drive home was quiet.

Love filled their hearts.  Memories filled their minds.

-30-

Authors note: This story is true and Frosty’s name is still spoken often for she is lovingly remembered.  Beverly is 35 now.

© Copyright 2006 Ann Patterson (UN: best4writing at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.


LARRY, BILL AND A BLOODY NOSE

My brother, Larry and I were in Mrs. Sterling’s classroom.  He was in the sixth grade and I was in fifth.  Bill DeArman, a 7th grade boy, picked a fight with him the first day of school.

Fortunately for both of them, the fight was not on the school grounds.  It was down by the creek between the school and our home.  Mrs. Sterling gladly used her wooden paddle when a fight occurred at school.             

Larry arrived home that day with red-dusted, torn overalls and a bloody nose.  When Daddy asked him what had happened, Larry told him about the fight.

Daddy's responsed, “Who won?” 

Larry confessed that the other boy wasn’t bleeding; and then Daddy told him, “You fight him again and beat him. I’ll not have my son be a loser.”

Larry’s shoulders shrunk as Daddy added, “If you don’t beat him, you’ll get a whipping from me everyday that he beats you.”

Larry was determined to whip the bigger boy and prove to Daddy that he could take care of himself.

As expected, the next day he fought Bill and lost. Even with scratches and blood on him to prove that he had tried, Larry got a whipping at home.  That happened three times.

Finally, Larry came home with another bloody nose.  He also had a big smile on his face as he rushed to tell Daddy that he finally got the best of Bill---that he won the fight!

At the community-wide Halloween party at the school that October, Larry introduced Daddy to his new friend, Bill. 

Daddy seemed speechless as he reached out his hand to Larry's big friend.” 












Larry and Bill remained good friends for the remainder of their years in school together and visited together each time we vacationed in Oklahoma after moving to California.

Bill graduated from Paoli High School and died young in an accident. In 1955, Larry graduated from Modesto High School, Modesto, California and has recently retired.  He spent many years working as a concrete finisher alongside Dad.  After Dad died, Larry owned and operated a western store called California Saddlery in Sacramento, California.  Later, he owned and operated his bar called Cowboy UP, in Modesto. 



                            SNOWBALLS AND PADDLINGS

By Ann Patterson

         Moore School, west of the tiny town of Paoli, was one of many rural schools in Garvin County in Oklahoma.  It was a two-room schoolhouse with grades first through fourth in one room and fifth to eighth in the other. 

                Mrs. Randolph taught the youngest pupils and Mrs. Sterling, a “school marm in the strictest sense”, taught the older students.  Mrs. Randolph was kind to her little pupils and Mrs. Sterling was tough as nails with the oldest boys. 

         The schoolhouse was on the hill just beyond the Randolph Church which, along with the school served as a community center for the families of the area.  My family lived in a small house just across the red gravel road from the church. The house is small cattle shed now.

                Only one small building at the school has survived destruction since the 1940’s. That buildin is the boy’s outhouse.  It sits in the same location, is no longer schoolhouse white and is covered with poison ivy vines.  Perhaps, boys-carved words are still on its walls.

         One snowy day at the morning recess at the School, some of the girls took refuge from the cold by going into the girls’ outside toilet. 

                Led by Bill DeArman and my brother, Larry, the older boys decided to throw snowballs over the outer wall of the girls’ outhouse with hopes of scaring the girls. 

              Jo Whately and I joined the boys and threw just as many snowballs as they did.  From inside the small building, our sisters, Anne and Linda, along with “Toady” DeArman, led the girls in throwing snowballs back over the wall at us.  Soon, it seemed like everyone joined in the escapade.

         Snowballs and students filled the sunny winter playground until both teachers heard the laughter and yelling and saw what was happening.  While Mrs. Randolph rang the big school bell, Mrs. Sterling herded everyone inside.

         Unfortunately, all the students who were not throwing snowballs lost out on recess time along with the rest of us.  Later, when the guilty snowball fighters were asked to raise their hands, some of the innocents raised their hands too.  They must have thought it was a badge of honor to be included.

         I remember overhearing both teachers while they stood in the doorway between the classrooms and discussed the punishment for the guilty snowball fighters.  They finally decided that all of them must either take a whipping or write 200 times: “I will not throw snowballs at school.”  They also decided that Mrs. Sterling would use the wooden paddle and Mrs. Randolph would oversee the writing.

                My little brother, Ray, chose to write those 200 sentences.  Anne, Linda, Toady, Jo and I, along with the older boys, chose the whipping. The paddles were to swing after school that day.

                I suppose Mrs. Sterling’s arm was tired after paddling a dozen the boys before she used her paddle on Linda, Toady, Anne, Jo and I.  After the defined number of blows, we joined the boys outside the schoolhouse who were applauding all students when they walked out the door. 

              That memorable day gave me a fun story that I have told my children and grandchildren many times during their growing-up years.           




An Alternate ending:
In those days, the teachers could not suspend us from school so they had to choose lesser means of punishment.  We were given the choice of taking a whipping or writing “I will not throw snowballs at school” 200 times.  My sister, Anne and Toady were the only students in their classroom to choose a whipping.  Jo and I chose a whipping, as did all the boys in our classroom. 

After school that same day, Mrs. Sterling lined up at least a dozen boys and five girls facing her desk in her classroom.  Bill and Larry were first to bend over the desk.  They got the hardest whipping but were leading the laughter when everyone else went outside one by one, boys first.   

I’m glad I was wearing my flannel-lined jeans that day.  Actually, I think Mrs. Sterling’s arm was tired by the time she got to me!

         

         DEATH BY QUACK


         “That damn butcher,” cussed Wes.  “He killed them both.  No telling how many others he’s killed.  And, his whiskey’s no excuse.”  He lit his Lucky Strike cigarette, thought for a moment, then said to his brother, “Jack, Let’s go.  Let’s make that Quack regret it.  I’m ready.”  The two young men, just back from the war in Germany, put their hats on and started out the door.

         Jack said, “Wait a minute.  I think we had better take a gun; there’s no telling what the sonafabitch might do when he gets cornered.”  They went back to get Wes’s pistol and shotgun before driving to Paoli in Wes’s pre-war pickup.

         While the two men were in Germany, Jack’s niece, Junie, 12, had died while Dr. John Hollyman performed surgery for emergency appendicitis. Their sister-in-law had just died exactly the same way.  Hollyman was the only doctor in Paoli, population 222.  When the time came for him to start his medical practice, he found that Martin and Grant Counties had no physician; moreover, medical and hospital care were 9 to 20 miles away, depending on where sick people lived in each county. Because vehicles, or horse and wagon, were slow, and distances were long, sick people depended on him
         During their enlistments in Uncle Sam’s Army, the brothers served in separate Divisions in Germany after being on the frontlines in the battles on “D-Day”, the sixth of June 1944.  Jack was a medic; therefore, he carried medical supplies instead of a gun.  Wes, on the other hand, was an infantryman who was required to use his Government Issued rifle.  Both G.I.’s had served honorably and received discharges proving it.

         During the war, great numbers of American doctors were enlisted or drafted to serve on both the wars in Europe and Japan.  The best and the fittest physicians were expected to serve across the world wherever U.S. service men and women served or were hospitalized.  Dr. Hollyman was not drafted.  He received his medical training at Baylor University in Texas and completed his internship in Oklahoma City.  Hollyman’s wife had divorced him during the war and moved to Texas. 

         Junie Stanton and her family lived on their farm eight miles from Paoli.  She was a lovely blue-eyed child with red hair that flowed around her shoulders. Being a very active child, June played basketball and softball at school, and her favorite home activity was “walking a barrel” across the front yard.  She would balance on the side any fifty-gallon drum with her bare feet, and roll it all around the yard. She was a good-natured girl who was always willing to help her parents with any task they asked of her. 

         One morning, Junie complained of pain in her side and she developed a high fever.  Her  parents rushed her to see Dr. Hollyman.  As they feared, she had appendicitis and needed an emergency appendectomy. 

Regrettably, Mr. Stanton became aware that Hollyman had been drinking; but he also knew that there was no time to drive another sixteen miles to the hospital in Paul.  Dr. Hollyman, with his nurse started the operation.  Mr. and Mrs. Stanton were in the waiting room, worrying about Junie and whether Hollyman was sober enough to conduct a safe, successful surgery.    Too soon, they found out---Hollyman came to tell them that Junie had died.  At that time, the doctor’s words slurred---he was drunk.  In their grief, the Stantons deeply regretted that they had not taken the chance of transporting their daughter to the little hospital. 

When the war was over, Wes, Jack and their three brothers returned to civilian life.  Wes, a bachelor, lived and worked on the farm owned by his oldest brother, Willie and his wife, Fern, 27, a beautiful, hard-working, loving mother, wife, sister and friend. She was the heart of Willie’s family, always hosting family gatherings.  Her relationship with both Willie and her daughter, Susan, was a loving one filled with fun and laughter.  One day everything changed for her family.

One Wednesday, Wes and Willie went to the house for lunch, Fern was in pain; her fever was soaring.  The nearest doctor was Hollyman so they rushed as fast as their 1940 pickup would drive the seven miles to Paoli.  Fern needed an emergency appendectomy.  Until that day, Willie and Wes did not know that Hollyman was a drinking man.  While they waited for him to examine Fern, Wes saw a partial bottle of whisky on the doctor’s desk.  Hollyman’s breath, eyes and speech were affected; but Willie had no choice except to hope he could still conduct the surgery.  Like other people in the community, they had previously heard Hollyman say that he could ‘perform an appendectomy with his eyes shut.” Fern died during the surgery.

After Fern’s death, the family often talked about Dr. Hollyman’s drunkenness and learned from Jack about the death of Junie.  Willie was determined to meet with community leaders to get Hollyman’s medical licensed revoked.  Wes and Jack had a different idea when just the two of them were discussing the matter.  In their anger, they decided to get revenge.  As their anger increased, they decided to go to his office right then.

After grabbing two guns, Wes and Jack headed to the Office of the “Quack,” as Wes called Hollyman while they drove the nine miles to Paoli.  The more they talked about his drunkenness, the angrier they became.  By the time Wes parked his pickup across the street from Hollyman’s office, and they started walking toward the office, they were determined to shoot him in his appendix and let him die a slow death.  These young men were acting irresponsibly and out of character. Perhaps the driving factor in their behavior during that hour was that Wes had killed Nazi soldiers during the war and Jack had worked to save mangled American soldiers.

The doctor was in his office---he may have been having one of his afternoon drinks of whiskey.  His receptionist rushed to tell him that she saw the brothers coming toward the door with guns, and then she locked the door.  The “Quack”, as Wes had called him, hurried out the back door, and erratically drove the back way to get out of town. 

Fortunately, the brothers had not destroyed their lives by becoming murderers.  Hollyman, never returned to Paoli, consequently, his landlord sold all items from his home and office. Wes and Jack and their entire families continued to deal with their grief while they celebrated that sick people of Grant County would no longer die at the hands of the drunk “Quack.”

         
      AN ACCUSING NIGHTMARE


Tina shudders awake.  Hot tears fill her eyes.  Perspiration covers her skin.  Ghostly cold air sweeps through her.  Images of the nightmare flick through her mind like a horror movie. Black coffin.  Mother's face.  Prison bars.  The dreadful nightmare has been haunting her for 5 years; and recently it has been becoming more and more disturbing.

A slender, attractive young woman, Tina, 21, has dark brown eyes and bronze complexion.  Her black hair is striking with a natural silver streak brushed onto her forehead.  As a valued employee, she is energetic, goal-oriented and an excellent writer; more significantly, she is kind, loving, and gracious in all of her relationships.


Tina, a successful journalist, has been the full time city-beat reporter at The Observer newspaper in Woodland, Washington for three years.  Even though the goal for her career plan had been to attend the University of Washington to receive a Journalism degree, the sudden death of her mother required her to delay her educational pursuits.

After her mother’s death, the State Department of Children’s Services began to make arrangements for her two younger siblings, Marty, 7, and Donna, 5, to be placed in foster homes because their father had abandoned the family three years earlier.  Tina requested that she be allowed to care for them and the department acquired a special Court Order appointing her their guardian.  Recommendations from her teachers and her minister, who affirmed that she was a mature, responsible and kind individual, were supportive and helpful in making it possible for her to keep the family together.

The same teachers continued to be helpful to her during the remainder of her school years.  They were willing for Marty and Donna to accompany her when she participated in after-school activities, including her yearbook, newspaper and sports programs. The school allowed her to work part-time at The Observer during the final two hours of each school day. 

Fortunately, her minimal income was not been the only money available for her family of three; because all three of them were under 18 when her mother died, her mother's social security was issued to her.  Their mother’s best friend of 24 years, Madge Barton, has always been available to help the children in a role that they call “Second Mom”.

For Tina, Journalism was not only her favorite subject in school, but Mr. Dooling was her favorite teacher.  He took a special interest in her as a talented student and arranged for her to work as a student trainee at the OBSERVER, an opportunity that led to her part-time work during school years and provided her a full-time job after graduation. 

The support of others has not been helpful to her in dealing with personal thoughts and fears that have sometimes troubled her, especially the terrifying nightmare and its accusatory power over her disturbing feelings about the morning of her mother’s death.  Lately, Tina has shuddered awake with it every night; and it has caused her to toss and turn restlessly in her bed and prevented her from having a peaceful sleep. 

As in most households, each day begins the same. Abruptly, the alarm sounds, she turns it off, gets out of bed sleepily, and hurries to the kitchen and turns on the stove to provide warmth and heat hot water for coffee. After she sets the Cherrios, milk, bowls and spoons on the table for her brother and sister, she awakens them. 

Quickly Tina dresses for work, then returns to the kitchen where her siblings are waiting, dressed for school.  She checks both of them to be sure that their shoelaces are tied, collars straightened, faces clean and hair combed.  The three of them rush out the door and Tina drives to Aunt Madge's house where Marty and Donna stay each morning until it is time to leave for school.  This has been the morning ritual since the day of her mother's funeral.

That horrendous day, five years earlier, began as a cold, foggy day.  As usual, their mother awakened Tina and Marty for breakfast and the school day.  Even though she was 5 years-old, Donna did not go to school because there was no kindergarten in the Woodland School District.       

         Velma, 42, awoke with one of painful headaches; and, as she always did when they were severe, she rolled a handkerchief then tied it around her head.  That seemed to prevent the painful pounding of the migraine.  Just three weeks earlier, she had seen Dr. Smithson for a complete check-up.  He found no health problems except the migraines, and he could offer no medical help to stop them. 

After eating a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast that her mother had prepared, Tina went to her small bedroom---just four steps down from the kitchen.  That morning, she became frustrated because she could not find the skirt and sweater combination that she preferred to wear, consequently, she hastily put on her green-checked dress that she had not worn for months.  It was a bit wrinkled but she believed that the dampness of the fog would make them disappear as she walked to school in the fog.  After brushing her hair and putting on her make-up, she walked up the steps with an armful of books.

As Tina walked across the kitchen to pick up her lunch sack, her mother noticed the wrinkles in her the dress.  "Tina, don’t wear that dress.  It needs ironing.  Can't you find something better to wear?”  Abruptly, she commanded, “Take it off and I’ll iron it for you.”

"No, I don't have anything else to wear and I don't want to have it ironed. You always have to find something wrong.  I don’t understand why."  Tina's voice reflected the frustration that she had begun to feel when deciding what to wear and she snapped, “I’ve got to go.”  Then she rushed out the back door, allowing it to slam behind her.

As she jumped off the porch and headed for school, Tina mumbled to herself, "I'm old enough to decide what to wear.  I don’t like being treated like a child.”  The energy of her anger helped to hasten her steps so she arrived earlier than usual. When she got to school, she went directly to her locker, and then hurried to the main hall to meet Lee, her boyfriend for the past year.  They walked and talked until the bell rang---being with Lee always helped to calm her down and cheer her up.

Algebra, her first period class, was always mind-numbing; conversely, English, her second period class, was both interesting and a favorite class because Mrs. Taylor was a positive person whose smile lifted Tina’s spirits---besides, English was one of her effortless subjects. 

Halfway through her English class, a heavy-set, stern-faced woman knocked on the door and asked to speak to Tina.  When Tina saw who it was, she was puzzled and could not comprehend why Hattie Hanson would be asking for her.  Hattie lived just down the street, near Aunt Madge, and she always yelled at kids when they played in front of her house.  Tina did not like the idea of talking to Hattie; nevertheless, she walked to the door.

"Your mother’s dead."  The neighbor said in her usual blunt way. Stunned, Tina could not speak nor cry; she just walked back to her desk, picked up her books, looked over at her best friend, Charlene, and then with a dead-pan face, she walked out the door.

“The ambulance was still there when I told them that I would come and get you,” said Hattie as they walked down the hall.  No other words were spoken by either of them as they got into Hattie’s car.

As they drove to Tina's house, her head was filled with words that accused her.  "I caused it.  I caused Mom to die.  I shouldn’t have sassed her, then walked out, and slammed the door, as I did.  I didn't mean to..."  The words trailed off as the car turned the corner and stopped on the side street by her house.

She saw the ambulance as it drove away, its siren screaming.  Several neighbors were standing on the side street watching it leave.  However, Tina was glad when she looked toward the front of the house and saw Aunt Madge arriving in her car with Marty and Donna.  Tina rushed to be with them.

She fell to her knees and held Marty and Donna and they cried with broken hearts---words weren’t needed.  Aunt Madge wrapped her arms around the three broken-hearted children as her own grief overwhelmed her too. A few moments later, Tina and Madge took the small children by their hands and walked inside before other people could interfere in their grieving moments. 

Later, Aunt Madge told Tina that little Donna was in the kitchen and saw her mother fall to the floor, then had the presence of mind to call her immediately.  Madge first called for an ambulance, then rushed to be with Donna and see if she could help Velma, her best friend of thirty years.   

Not only was Tina feeling powerful sadness, but she was also feeling powerful guilt.  She had convinced herself that her earlier behavior had caused her mother's death.  The blaming words in her head were torturing her soul.

During the following days, Tina was in a daze as she and Aunt Madge notified family members, cleaned house, planned the funeral, prepared meals for Marty and Donna, and selected her mother's favorite dress for the burial.  Aunt Madge purchased new clothing for all three of the children to wear to the funeral. 

The Coroner reported to the family that the cause of death was an aneurysm that burst in Velma's brain.  Aunt Madge reminded Tina and other family members about the severe migraines that Velma often had; and, Tina remembered that her mother had tied a handkerchief around her head the morning that she died.  Tina’s guilt increased after she learned that her mother's headache might have been related to her death.  She told herself that if she had not left the house so angry, her mother would not have died. 

Since the funeral, Aunt Madge has been at their home every day, helping Tina.  She cares for Marty and Donna during the hours when Tina has been busy with school or work at the OBSERVER.  Tina never goes on dates or to special events unless she can take Marty and Donna with her.  She shows great responsibility in the ways she takes care of her siblings, keeps the house clean, shops for groceries, cooks good meals, and mows the scrubby Bermuda grass that they call a lawn.  The treasured moments of her loving care are always the moments when she tucks her young siblings into bed with two kisses each: one from mom and one from her. 

Even though five years have passed since her mother's death, the blaming words still torment Tina through the nightmare during the night and in her thoughts when she gets up every morning.  Paradoxically, they both exhaust her and energize her as she goes through each day. Although physically tired, she turns her anger at herself into the drive and determination needed to fill her roles as mother, father, student and sister. 

Recently, the recurring dream has occurred more often and it has also increased the grief and depression that has never fully gone away since the moment that Hattie stood at the door of her classroom.  The nightmare includes darkness and flashing lights in which a black coffin thrashes around before landing in front of her---prison bars are between her and the coffin.  A rush of tears fills her eyes and throat as the lid of the coffin opens and she sees a face in the coffin.  It is the face of her mother, not in her beauty but in her anger.  While looking at the face, Tina suddenly shivers as fear overcomes her when she hears words being shouted from the darkness: "Guilty!  Guilty! You are guilty!" 

Tina has finally realized that depression is interfering with her work at The Observer and prevents her from maintaining the appearance of happiness when she is with Marty and Donna.  In turn, she is observing that the two of them are beginning to be sad and are more quiet than usual.  That troubles her even more than her own feelings and fatigue; however, she feels helpless to make things better in her own heart and theirs.  The weight of her guilt and depression is causing Tina to believe that they would be better off without her.

Tina and Charlene sit together on the front porch after Marty and Donna have gone to sleep.  For Tina, the visits with her best friend about their lives and work, have helped her to find her way out of confusing and difficult moments, not only since her mother’s death, but also during the previous six years after Charlene moved into the neighborhood.  While, they drink the root beer floats that Charlene has brought with her, Charlene notices that her friend is continually staring at the stars, which are reflecting from the tears that are rolling down Tina’s face.   

After waiting quietly for Tina to share what was causing the tears, Charlene says, “A penny for your thoughts.”  For years, those five little words have signaled Tina that a loving, caring heart is waiting to listen.

At that moment, the moon hides behind a cloud.  Tina begins to sob, her body shakes, and she wails from the depth of her soul.  Charlene gently places her hand around her friend’s shoulder, and waits quietly as weeping tears sweep down her own face. 

Eventually, Tina’s sobs subside and she sits still, again looking at the star-filled sky and she sees the shielding cloud move away to let the light of the blue moon free to envelop the two friends sitting on the weathered wooden porch of a small, old house in Woodland that night.  She stares at the moon.

Suddenly, Tina stands up, makes two fists then pounds them in the air as if she is beating the devil, then yells between clinched teeth, “I can’t stand it any longer.  I don’t want to live.  I deserve to die.  I killed my mother.  I killed her.  I can’t stand myself.”  She pounds on the metal mailbox at the end of the sidewalk, and then breaks into tears again.

Shocked, she listens to her friend accuse herself for the most terrible happening in her life and wish to die.  She turns to look into the house to see if Tina’s loud voice has awakened Marty or Donna.  She does not see them---their bedrooms are in the back of the house.  Walking over to Tina, she asks, “Tina, what’s going on.  Why would you say that you killed your mother?  Why?”

Gritting her teeth, Tina pours out her story, “Char, that morning, I was so bad.  Mom got onto me for wearing a wrinkled dress and I blew her off.  Even worse, I slammed the door when I stormed out---just to make a stupid, adolescent point.  I know that’s what caused her to die.  It happened so soon after my horrible attitude.”

“So you acted like lots of other teenagers.  But their mothers don’t die.  You didn’t cause the artery to burst.  You didn’t.”

“But, I did.  I should’ve known that she was having a serious migraine.  She had tied a handkerchief around her head like she always did when her pain was unbearable.  I should have known and not upset her.  Why didn’t I pay attention and not get so mad?”

She stopped raving at herself for a moment, then told Charlene, “I’ve not told anyone this.  But, for years, I have been having an intense nightmare.  It’s recurring every night now.  I wake up terrified and feeling so guilty.  In the dream, Mom is so angry at me.”

“Tell me what the about it. Why is it so terrifying?”

“It starts with me standing in a cold darkness, then there are images of a black coffin thrashing around, flashing streaks of blinding lights of all colors, dark prison bars are between me and the lights and coffin, and then suddenly the coffin lands in front of me and the lid opens.  Then…”  She stares into the night and holds her breath.  “Then I see Mom in the coffin, she’s dead and her eyes open as she starts yelling like an angry witch at me, telling me that I’m guilty, that I killed her.”

“Tina.  Oh, Tina.  What a appalling dream. But it’s not real.”

“I know.  I know.  And, I know that Mom could never be that way.  I know, it’s all coming from my own mind.”  Her voice softens, “Char, I want to dream good dreams about Mom.  I love her so much, but I do feel that I caused her death.  Everyday my mind accuses me.  These days, I can’t seem to kill the thoughts that somehow, I did cause it.”

“You can’t do it alone, my dear friend.  You are such a strong, loving person, and you do so much to take care of Marty and Donna and make them happy.  I wish I could help you to stop the accusing thoughts, but I can’t.  I can only be your friend.”

“I know, Char.  Besides, if you tried to be my psychiatrist, I’d probably end up in the nuthouse,” she started giggling, and then both friends laughed together at the absurdity of the idea.

The laughter among friends relaxes both of the young women.  Tina tells Charlene, “Just talking about it has helped me tonight.  Thank you.  And, yes, you’ve convinced me.  I know that there’s medication for depression that can help; it’s just that I don’t like to take any kind of drugs.  But, you’re right.  I promise to make an appointment with Dr. Benefield tomorrow.  Okay?”

Charlene breathes a sigh of relief, smiles warmly at her friend. “Okay. You can’t break your promise.  Let me know what he says then I’ll know for sure that you’re going to get better, be happier and feel your mom’s love again.”


Deciding that she must take better care of her health she decides to see Dr.Benfield for help with the depression.  He prescribes medication and refers her to Joyce Becker, a professional counselor for talk-therapy.  During her appointments with Joyce, Tina describes the horrendous nightmare and the blame that she has felt about her mother’s death. 

Through her tears and self-forgiveness during the counseling sessions, she has finally let go of the guilt and hold to the love and memories that she and her mother shared during her first sixteen years of life. 

Memorial Day has arrived, and a healed and happier Tina takes Marty and Donna to place roses on their mother’s grave and to talk about their memories of her.  By letting go of the guilt, Tina knows that she can now honor her loving relationship with her mother.  The horrible nightmare has been replaced with sweet dreams of her mother and of the lives that they shared together with Marty and Donna.


a true story of my friend Pat

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