The Search

Of everything
There is so much more than a name
There is so much more than an age
There is so much more than what you see
There is so much more beyond me


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finding Strength Part I

Mom & Dad on a trip taken in about 1975

This has not been an easy piece to write – emotions come to the surface as if they happened yesterday…. A situation that would be bad enough under normal circumstances, but with some controversy in her choice of treatment among “the family” this saga became a little more complicated. Because of It’s length I will post it in two parts….


My Mom’s “cancer life” could be described as Broadway play, expertly produced and directed from the beginning…. Looking back I watch it unfold, time and time again… I say that only because as I was in the middle of it, I feel like everything happened as it was meant to be….


During the years of her treatments, I went with her many times to Colorado Springs… driving her down or going to pick her up and bring her home, or sometimes when we as a family could get away, just to visit. There are many stories of driving in all sorts of weather from downpouring rain to raging snow blizzard, wonderful moments of time to visit with other….or sitting in the waiting room while she took yet another dose of radiation. She reminded me over and over again to just look around at the others who were there and to count our blessings…..


A couple of things she said to me driving in the car are still as fresh in my memory as if she were sitting next to me right now….. There were special songs where she would reach over to turn up the radio, her thoughts on life and love, and her memories of childhood….As depressing as it could be, I loved our trips because we could spend time alone together…


Chemo was relatively new in those days for her type of cancer anyway, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Standard” treatment for lymphoma was radiation on the new tumors when they appeared… Chemo was kept as the “last reserve” type of treatment and was totally and completely feared by anyone who had to go thru it in those days…..The day came when she had received all the radiation she could have and Chemo was the next treatment of choice….


It wasn’t until 1976 when she started on Chemotherapy….. If I remember right she had several treatments of Methotrexate. It was given intravenously. I’m thinking 4 to 6 in total…. She did not have a “port”…. I don’t remember her being given the option.


Along with this they also prescribed Leucorvorin as an antidote to lessen the effects of the Methotrexate. Leucorvorin was given as a shot and I was instructed by a nurse how to give it.Returning home after her treatment for a certain number of days I had to go to her house and give the shot.


Earlier in that last year Mom was hospitalized to have yet another procedure of some kind…. The day before surgery I was “summoned” to her room…. She had called the motel and just said she needed to talk to me with no one else around, I went immediately. Mom was in a zone I couldn’t quite enter. She gave me a piece of paper and a pen and told me to take notes that she had some things she wanted taken care of….. I did as I as told, puzzled. She needed to talk about if she died… She gave me instructions as to who would do her services, who she wanted to sing, etc…. what she wanted done with certain items, etc. When she was finished she simply said “I know I can trust you to complete all of this and make sure it’s done” I gathered my notes and left. I left like I arrived, feeling puzzled more than anything. I kept the notes she had made me take tucked away in my purse…


Throughout the 4 years of radiation and now facing chemo, “the family” which consisted of her Cousins, brother and sisters, questioned her decision to stick with conventional medicine.One of her cousin’s in Oklahoma had a son who was dealing with the same disease, a young man in his 30’s. His family had decided, due to some acquaintances of theirs, to take a different route and look outside of conventional medicine and into an unproven drug, a holistic type of treatment. They traveled to Mexico several times a year for checkup’s and to purchase of “Laetrile” a drug that many in the 70’s bought into.


The history of Laetrile can be traced back to the mid 1800’s becoming better known by Laetrile’s grandfather in the early 1900’s you can read the entire history of the drug on this website:http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/laetrile.html

Studied by Dr. Ernst T. Krebs Sr., and his son Ernst Jr. so called the father of laetrile, begin to market this as an anti cancer medicine around 1940….. Dr. Ernesto Contreras, MD of Tijuana Mexico, entered the picture in about 1960. The “Laetrile Movement” ran out of steam following a Supreme Court ruling.Anyone considering an alternative form of cancer treatment should read this drug’s history….


Mom stuck with her doctors in Colorado Springs, even as many in “the family” encouraged her to try the other route.


Later in that year, (1976) following one of her treatments, I went over that afernoon to check on her and she was in bed, …She was in a great deal of pain. I wasn’t sure what to do for her, I needed help as well as her. I called Dad who was at work, he suggested I call her local doctor. I did, he was out of town, his replacement was no help. Mom refused to be hospitalized there.Dad’s brother who lived in town and had a small plane offered to fly her she and I to Colorado Springs the following day….. Dad had to stay and take care of the business, it was their only livelihood and they needed the income….Someone needed to be with her…. I was designated Mom’s caretaker while he handled the store…..


She told to me then that her “cousin” had called and offered to send one of us to Mexico, pay for the plane flights provide a place to stay and pay for the drug. Mom said “What we’re doing now does not seem to be working and if it would make “the family” happy, I am not against giving it a try”… and that Dad agreed. Could you make the trip she asked?


I talked with Jim about it that night and we both agreed that I just needed to do whatever needed to be done in order to support her and Dad and help where I could….. Jim said he could handle the kids and things at home and help Dad as he could however long the trip took.


I was given instructions to call the cousin and do whatever he said. It was decided that as soon as we got her to Colorado Springs and got her settled, I would leave from that airport, meet the cousin’s son’s wife Jan, who would be on the plane from Oklahoma, and we would travel together to their “connections” in California who would keep us at their home and transport us to where I would meet with the infamous “Dr. Contreras” in Tijuana.


Mom had a rough night and my uncle came to the folks house the next morning to take us to our local airport…. Dad came home to help and we loaded her in the car, he set in the front seat, Mom was bedded down in the back seat and I crotched down on the back floorboard to be next to her….. I’ll never forget as we pulled away from the house she ask for help to raise up for what I now know was to take one last look. We got her loaded on the plane, Dad & brother nearly carrying her, and before I knew it we were in the air headed for the Colorado Springs airport…. My uncle had rented a car, he and I got her loaded in that…. Finally we got her to the hospital where they took over…

I had went thru this day completely “blanked out”…. Everything I did seemed automatic…. But my mind was numbed.


Mom was in desperate need of help….. the hospital personnel got pain relief started quickly and put in a call to her doctor.The uncle left Mom and I there, I was on the phone with Dad constantly calling with any news or he calling me to make sure we were doing ok. I just stayed by her side and slept in the hospital that night. None of us realized how bad she was, only she knew. The doctor came in the next morning and simply said it seemed that things had blown up on them and there was not a lot they could do but keep her comfortable.


I called my sis and ask if there was any way she could come and help….or take over the store so Dad could come…. I felt so alone. She and Dad agreed that he needed to be at the store and it would be better if my brother in law could drive Sis to the springs, help us get settled in a motel and put some organization to this whole ordeal. Everything had happened so quickly….. I ask myself what was happening.


Sis arrived we found an old motel not far from the hospitsl.….Dad drove down just a couple of days later. He left their car with us, and his brother flew him back home. Everything was finally falling into a routine. Sis and I would get up early in the mornings and set with her through the day at the hospital.When Dad came which was as often as he could, we would leave and take a break while he was there with her, Mom was not doing any better slipping in and out of consciousness. within a couple of days Dad suggested I call the “cousin”….


With one phone call the plans were made, “the family” was happy that we were accepting their offer. Sis took me to the airport then returned to stay with Mom. Dad and I visited with the doctor before I left…. We told him I was going to Mexico for other medications…. The doctor told us he understood that there were no other options left and if it was him he might do the same thing. I picked the ticket up at the airport where it was waiting on me, boarded the plane and was escorted to first class and seated beside my 2nd cousin’s wife Jan. I was glad to see a familiar face but I was scared to death…. She assured me at once that she had done this many times before, their connections were wonderful people who would take care of us, and we would be fine…I felt that all I could do is go along with the next direction….. I questioned many times where the strength would come from.....


Please continue to "older post" for part II


Finding Strength Part II

Soon we were landing at at the airport in San Diego. The family’s connections were there to pick us up. They were an American couple, a man and his wife, indeed very nice, and welcoming.


We drove many miles thru low sagebrush over rough hilly roads… I had no idea where I was at….or where I was going. To this day I could not tell you where I was. I was just a passenger traveling thru time, worrying about Mom, Dad, Jim and my kids.


Reaching their home I was shown my room, taken out to supper and was told that arrangements had been made to see Dr. Contreras at the clinic in Tijuana Mexico the next day…. I don’t believe I shut my eyes all night….


After we arrived in Tijuana at the clinic, I was led inside to a waiting room, and eventually into a large, beautiful office. Dr. Contreras soon came in, Jan was with me. Introductions were made and in very broken English he ask me questions about my Mother…. After further conversation he then said “You have waited too long, I can not help her”. He then picked up his telephone and spoke to someone else, hung up, wrote the name and telephone number of another doctor on a slip of paper…. He said this man has a new drug, it is a good drug, I think he can help you.


Jan took the paper and we went to another area of the clinic where she picked up another supply of Laetrile for her husband.


Back to the car, our connection’s called the 2nd doctor’s number and we were off on another journey, we were driving to the town of “Tecate”. I remember as we pulled into town there was a guard station with a man in it, he was holding a machine gun… we stopped, a few words were exchanged, directions were given and we went to another clinic, this one not so large or so nice.


I went into this doctor’s office by myself. I repeated the conversation I’d had with the first doctor. This doctor told me his drug could save her… The name of the drug was “Tekirena”. One week’s supply cost the same as the Latril, $500. I excused myself, went back out to the car, and explained the situation. The male connection came back into the office with me, a few words were exchanged in Mexican street language, and we left, headed back to our connection’s house…. Again we stopped at a little restaurant for a bite to eat. I remember the dirt floor, two ladies making tortilla’s by hand, and the best Mexican food I had ever eaten in my life.


Returning to their home, we rested and visited, then about 11:00 p.m. we drove to I know not where… It was a large parking lot full of cars behind a warehouse. We parked and set for a few minutes. Two rows over was a car that flashed his lights twice. Jan gave me a paper sack, I was told to get out and hand it to a man who would hand me a paper sack in return. What I had in my paper sack was the $500.


We met half way, the exchange was made, I went back to our car and slumped over in the back seat…. I was drained of everything….all energy, physically and emotionally. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move, I could not acknowledge my own presence. Jan took the bag and looked in it and showed me about 10 small viles, plus a piece of paper with dosage instructions written on it. There were two more flashes of the head lights and the other car left. We returned to our connection’s home, and I slept fitfully out of total exhaustion. I was more tired that I’d ever been in my life.


The next morning very early, my orders were to put all of my luggage on the back floor where it was obvious with the “drugs” laying at the bottom of my purse with everything else piled on top of them. I was told to smile like a tourist and act natural… We had no problems crossing the border and the guards did not look twice. Waved on through, I was then taken to the airport…. I was told not to be concerned about the drugs, the airport would probably not even check my purse…and they didn’t. Jan was staying another day so I was dropped off and I was on my own….


Standing in line waiting to board, my heart was beating fast and loud enough I could hear it and wondered if others could. On the plane I was seated beside a little girl about 5 years old. She told me she was going to see her Daddy in Colorado…. As the plane took off she reached over and took hold of my hand. Little did she know that she was giving me as much comfort as she hoped to receive from me…. I kept assuring her “we” would be ok and to just hang on.


Returning to Colorado Springs, Dad was there to pick me up at the airport. He took me to the motel to reorganize. I told he and sis my story – Mom was still hanging in there but she was failing fast…. I visited her that evening for just a while - I was so tired, sleep was no problem.


Dad went back home the next day and I studied the instructions and begin to give Mom her new medicines. Other than the Leucorvorin, I had never given a shot in my life. I had went to the local drugstore that morning and bought some diabetes shot.


The Director of this production was giving me every move, every emotion, guiding me through each step…. Instructing when to be brave, when to let down, when to cry and when to smile for other’s sake….


.The shots were to be given twice a day… x number of cc’s each. We followed the doctors orders… Her door was closed, sis held back the covers, watched the door, and held Mom’s hand while I gave the injections. Finishing, I would go out of her room and just set and shake for about 30 minutes to calm myself down. Her kidney’s had stopped at this point and she was very close to death. 24 hours after the first injections her kidneys started again… Was this reason for more hope?


Again, Dad returned on the weekend, I had given Mom shots for about 3 or 4 days…. The doctor called a meeting with us… Dad, Sis & Myself. He told us, you can not continue with your medicines, that we were all losing ground as each was fighting the other…. He said “It is your choice but I think you should give up, she is not going to make it.” I told Dad I just could not go on and keep injecting her, it was too hard on me….. Dad and Sis agreed, it was time we stopped.


I remember there was a ledge by the window, a huge window wall looking out towards the majestic Pike’s Peak, just to the west of the hospital…. I set on the ledge and stared at the mountains and sobbed…. My heart was hanging bloody and torn outside my body… it would not ease it’s torture on me…. I was totally raw and wished I could go out the window I was setting beside….


Dad spent another day or two – my memory fails me at this time, but after he left Sis and I pretty much moved into the hospital with Mom spending night and day….


Approximately 3 weeks after I had taken her to the hospital, in the late evening of Thursday, September 2nd, 1976 she passed away…We called Dad the minute it was confirmed by the nurse. There are some moments in your life too private to share, but finally she was without pain and at peace.


Sis and I set with her body until the mortuary arrived, we returned to the motel late that night, we couldn’t sleep so we packed, made the three hour drive for home about 2:00 in the morning.


I dropped sis off at her house, went to Dad’s, we set for few moments and cried together then I drove to my house. It was about 6:00 a.m….. I took a shower, got the kids off to school and the day passed. There were phone calls to make, plans to be made, Dad to be looked after, a trip to take her back to Kansas and a long list of painful emotions to deal with… somehow we survived it all. My Dad’s brother got all the necessary permits and flew Mom’s body and Dad back…Old friends met them at the airport along with the mortuary. Sis & family and I and my family took the minister and drove back…. We stayed at Mom’s sister’s house…. Returning home after the services, life resumed, but I couldn’t…. there were the holidays to get through….. Where could I ever find the strength.....


The director yelled “cut” and the curtains came down.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Lights On and Off

Through all of the Harry and Mary drama, Joyce and Cary remained our close friends…. When I was keeping the 4 little girls, Joyce would help out in emergencies or any way she could…. One day shortly after Mary left, the kids were all outside playing when I heard a scream… Refusing to wear shoes, the little one had gotten a thorn in her foot….. Long and buried deep, it had to be taken out but she would let no one touch it… Out of all the girls, this had been the hardest on her, she was too little to have been left without a mama…. I tried everything I could to get her to lay still while I poked and prodded with a needle – nothing would work. I called Joyce for help. She came over, we laid the little girl on our kitchen table, the rest of the kids standing right there watching… Joyce’s 3, my 3, and her 3 sisters….all of them crying for her. Joyce held her down while I finally got the damn thorn dug clear and pulled out with tweezers…. Surgery over, filled to the brim with iodine and covered with a clean bandaid, Joyce and I had passed another crisis together….


About 1975, Cary got a chance to go to work for a large company in Lakeland, Florida. Always anxious to get back down south closer to his roots, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. With many tears & memories we helped them pack a u-haul truck and told them goodbye. There will be more stories about Joyce & Cary in the chapters to come.


****************


As another part of my life, separate from everything and everyone else, I had gotten a real job in about 1970. Other than cleaning house for our next door neighbor when I was a kid, and the responsibility of running the trucks for Jim’s Dad’s trucking company, I had never worked but I seen no reason I couldn’t handle it.


I had to lie to get the job, but I was hired. It was for the local radio station, who needed a bookkeeper. I told them I had kept books for the trucking company, (which I had not). I knew nothing about keeping books, it was all I could do to keep our little checkbook which never had anything in it….. This job was before the age of computers so I had to deal with a big old desk sized, double entry ledger by hand. I had to enter all checks for ads and debits, which included doing payroll. Along with keeping the books, I had to “run traffic”… meaning that I scheduled commercials for the announcers, and I transcribed the incoming API news every morning that came in over the wire or received over the phone as a recording…. Once in a while I was asked to do a commercial…. The boss liked my voice.


Soon, (within about 3 months), it became apparent I was not a bookkeeper… I was called into the office and relieved of my duties, thank God, because I hated it. The boss liked me though, so he offered me my own radio show if I could sell it to the local businesses to pay for it. I didn’t see anything hard about selling, so nothing ahead scared me. I had to find a way to increase our income.


I sold the show with no problem to a couple of local advertisers, wrote my own Ad copy and named my show – “A Moment with Mary” - a 15 minute segment every morning at 9:45 before the 10:00 news. I discussed mostly home keeping issues, entertaining, children, some recipes, decorating, and read small bits of unusual stories off the wire that didn’t make the main news. It always went too fast! Along with my show I announced local parades, and did extra commercials, receiving extra pay when I had a chance to perform.


Because a new bookkeeper had been hired in the office to replace me, plus all the DJ booths being full, I was relegated to work from home most of the time…. I had to drive out to the station about every day to pick up new copy, or help with traffic if the office girl got behind, or to write copy of my own, but this arrangement allowed me stay at home with the kids most of the time and not have to pay a babysitter to be with them. I loved the freedom of being able to fit everything in on my own time schedule. The only timed commitment was the 15 minutes I was actually on the air. My show was actually delivered over the airwaves from my telephone at home. The kids were put outside in the summer with the instructions “not to kill each other”. In the winter I had already taken them to school before the show started. The arrangement worked well, I loved it, I had regular listeners and fans who wrote nice letters to me and it was so great to have an extra paycheck.


Looking back I can’t believe how active my life was, I was on the go all the time, loving and learning every minute of it.


After about 3 years our station was sold to another company, a lot of changes were made, most of our announcers were laid off, our station manager (my boss) was fired, and my little show was canceled. It was sad to do my last show…..


About the same time, which would have been around 1971, another surprise change in our lives happened. My Dad had been laid off from the company he had worked for his whole life…. He had pumped some old wells, sold and sharpened farm disc’s, worked security for an underground missile company, but as with so many others in that area, our home on the creek and small town failed to provide a living…..


Missing Jim and I and their grandchildren, when a chance to buy a rental business came up in the same town we had moved to, they decided to purchase the business and move out there. I loved having them close again! No longer at the radio station, it allowed me to help with their business… The lessons I learned there could fill a book about dealing with public in a “rental” store…. Dad was in all his glory, he loved maintaining the small equipment, and actually did pretty well dealing with the public when he had to. My Mom was the *star* at the front counter though…. The customers loved her…. She was so good with them calming their nerves when they had to use a sander for the first time, or reassuring them that they could use the garden tiller. I remember one time a customer was renting a little disc sander to refinish a table. He ask her how long the sandpaper would last, and without a beat Mom replied “until it wears out”. The customer left happy. Returning it a few days later very proud of himself for accomplishing something he didn’t think he could do!


What Mom did not do well was handle the bookkeeping! She had never done state sales tax forms before…. Or been a business owner with all it’s demands…. Even though I had very little experience myself, I had learned enough at the radio station to get us by. And then………


Not feeling well, and having a lump appear on her clavicle; in 1972 my Mother was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma….


**********************


Those who have been through it know what I mean when I say the lights went out in the world when we received the call that confirmed the diagnoses. Nothing else mattered at that moment, everything stopped.


Both her doctors in Kansas (who removed the original lump) and her general physician in Colorado told Mom that “Penrose” in Colorado Springs had the best treatment center in a 5 state area …. Referrals were made there and an appointment was soon set for her to meet the oncologists and other specialists that would be directing her treatments for the next five years.


As some other tumors were discovered, Radiation was the treatment of choice. Mom had to move to Colorado Springs, rent an apartment, and received the treatments for 6 to 8 weeks at a time. It was about a 3 hour drive from home. Dad took her down and got her settled and stayed with her as long as he could……I ran the rental store when he spent time with her.


We took turns during the next 5 years visiting her, being with her as much as possible, and trying to carry on at home as well….We each had small reel tape recorders that we could send messages back and forth. We all missed her so much and it was hard on her being there alone, but Dad missed her the most…..


Many stories came from those days, and a lot of heart ache, but somehow we made the best of it and everyone did what they needed to do. If I ever need a boost of bravery for my own sake, I can look back and gain inspiration from she went through then…. As the last chapter unfolds in the winter of 1976, it’s hard to this day to even write about. To be continued when I am able…..



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tarzan Time.....


Post Edit: I didn't like calling these brief stories what I did, so since I own the blog I can change anything I want. Thus:.....It will be Tarzan Time!

There are times I have a thought enter my mind that really belongs to no story but it’s a notion, a reflection, or maybe just a feeling or short story I need to write or want to share with the reader. These are not long essays as many of my posts are. From here on they will be called a “Tarzan Time”. It may be an update on my condition, or something that relates to what I’m doing at any particular moment…..


October 30th, 2011….Today’s Tarzan Time is to rejoice how good I am feeling! This last treatment on the 21st was a rough one and really put me down for a while.


Then yesterday I woke up full of energy and enjoyed getting some things accomplished. I started about noon putting together a huge pot of homemade Vegetable/Beef soup, adding everything editable I had in the house. I chopped long beautiful carrots, stalks of celery, big yellow fall onions, browned and caramelized luscious chunks of rich beef, frozen tomatoes & green peppers from our garden, a package of frozen mixed veggies and Brussels sprouts, and about 6 cups of bite sized chopped fresh out of the field, Colorado golden potatoes. all seasoned with spices & herbs…. The house was filled with a wonderful aroma as it simmered together throughout the afternoon.


Cooled down and left to enhance flavors through the night, I’m warming it up today and have invited company for dinner. The table is set on a warm golden cloth with the big soup pot in the center with green and gold bowls resting on plates at each setting. The silverware is wrapped in fall colored striped cotton napkins setting across the top of the bowls. I will fix a cheese plate and some bowls of sweet & dill pickles to nibble on, along with a big round loaf of “rosemary” infused warm bread. We’re having hot from the oven Apple Crisp for dessert, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream…


Life really can’t get any better than a casual homemade dinner with people you love…



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Relationships

Later that year there was a new couple moved into Joyce & Cary’s neighborhood, just across the street…. It wasn’t long before Jim & I were invited over to meet them. Their names were Harry & Mary…. Mary was a gorgeous dark haired gal, they were about 10 years older than us, but, had kids, our kids ages. Four little precious girls, stair step, starting at about age seven…going down to a four year old.


Mary was outgoing, loud, never met a stranger, had an addictive laugh, and loved to entertain. Mary played the guitar and sang…. She and Harry had met while each of them played in a band. They married and had the kids, then Harry decided it was time to get a real job, settle down and take care of his family…


The first time I remember meeting them, Joyce called one evening and ask us over for hamburgers. When Jim got home we went, had a fast supper with them and they suggested we walk over and meet the new neighbors. They were just finishing supper, introductions were made, we helped clear the table and here came Mary with her guitar….


Right away she begin to sing and encouraged all the rest of us to join in. Joyce had an old guitar so she went home to get it….soon there was a small jam session going…..Having been born and raised with music, I was enjoying every moment of it, and Mary kept telling Harry to go get his guitar….


I figured Harry would be just another “picker”, but to my surprise, when he started in it was one of the most special sounds I’ve ever heard…. This guy was good! He played in a Merle Travis style that not many can match… He had a special way of doubling the melody and when he kicked in to “I’ll see you in my dreams” you couldn’t tell the difference between he & Merle… He wasn’t just another picker, he was talented and very much a professional. He made Mary sound great and you could see and hear the years of experience between them….. Harry was good friends with a couple of big name stars in Nashville, and had been invited many times to play in recording sessions with them…


However; Harry was just Harry, said he had seen what their careers had done to their family lives and wanted no part of it…. His family meant more to him than that.


Joyce, Mary and I became close friends, as was our kids….. We spent a lot of time together… we all had metal detectors in those days and would spend hours at the park or out in the country trying to find treasures….of course there was always a party in the planning, coffee klatch’s were more mornings than not…..


The parties were awesome, now we had real entertainment! Harry and Mary were good together, Mary even got me into writing songs….nothing great but I was able to finish a few they enjoyed doing….. It was a fun time in our lives…. The guys all got along great and the six of us spent a lot time together.


Often times I would get a call to come to Joyce or Mary’s house for coffee and when I got there, maybe around 9 in the morning, they had already opened the bar and both were drinking. Never really caring for liquor, and having seen it destroy a lot of families, it was not fun any more to sit over there and watch the two of them get drunk. We stayed friends but I did not go over as many mornings out of the week as I had before…


We did continue to get together with them as couples, or if any one of us needed anything the other was there for them. I remember a particular Sunday afternoon, Jim was home and we got a phone call from Mary…. Harry had to go out on a job and wasn’t home, so she had gotten another neighbor to babysit and she was down at one of the local bars.. Mary did not like to be alone, she ask if we would come down for a while….. We did, and soon it was obvious she was very drunk but was entertaining all the old boys lined up and down the bar stools…. Jim and I were finally able to get her out of there about an hour later – drove her home and made sure she and the kids were ok……..


It’s hard to remember dates and times this many years later, but I know it was during the late summer, we were all getting ready for the kids to go back to school and Mary & Harry’s oldest was probably 9. Their youngest was going to start kindergarten that year.


Mary called and said she was coming over…. I put a pot of coffee on and she showed up within minutes, all the little girls in tow. She seemed agitated and nervous when she arrived and told all the kids to go out and play then dropped the bomb. She told me she had written Harry a note and she was leaving, and had brought the kids to me to take care of until he got home. It all came out in one long breathless sentence…


I was more than stunned…. No Mary, I told her…. You cannot do this! She told me that she wanted to pursue her career and she would not be able to keep the kids with her…. She knew they would be safe with me until Harry could find someone full time to watch after them. She already had a train ticket that would take her to Chicago, then she could call her sister to pick her up and drive to their old home. She would make her plans from there, but she would never have contact with Harry or the girls again…


I begged her not to do this…. I cried, I yelled, I cussed her out, I pleaded with her, I told her everything I could think of…. That she would regret it, what beautiful children she was leaving, and that she could never replace them with an entertainment career…. I told her how I knew how much Harry loved her and that’s why he worked so hard…. I begged some more, but nothing would change her mind. She went outside and kissed each of the girls, got in the car and drove herself to the train station….. I sat and cried. I called Jim and ask him to come home early if possible… He got there shortly after 5:00. I had fixed supper so I could feed all the kids and us before it got too late. I knew Harry usually got home around 5:30. Sure enough it wasn’t long before the phone ring and it was him…. Mary had told him in “the note” where the kids were and where the car was. He came over, stayed and talked and cried for a while with Jim and I, thanked us for being there for him & the girls, had Jim drive him to get the car then came back for his car and the girls. Then he asked if he could bring them back at 6:00 in the morning until he could figure out a plan….For the time being we were a family of nine instead of five….. I was never able to understand how she did what she did…..


I kept them every day for about six weeks until he found a full time lady to watch them in the mornings before school and every day after school, and help him with shopping and preparing meals…. Eventually he did find someone, an older lady about 60 who was widowed, needed extra income, and lived a long distance from her own family. She arrived every morning to help get the girls ready for school…clean house, cook an evening meal and stay with the girls until Harry got home at night.


Mary took nothing with her except her clothes & her guitar…. In the years to come she never ask Harry for anything… she simply disappeared from their lives for at least another 15 years…..


We took care of Harry and the girls, had them over for meals, took the girls shopping, and though no one could ever replace their mother, I tried to fill that gap she left. Harry just continued to work hard and be there for them as much as he could. For sure, it was never the same.


After a couple of years Harry got transferred through his job, and he and the girls moved to St. Louis MO. They came back to visit us and we went to visit them many times…. He raised them with all the love any Dad would have for his daughters and if he ever thought about it, he never once said anything about turning away from his responsibilities. His girls grew up to be fine decent women with lives of their own, never wanting anything to do with their Mother….. During those years I received many calls from Harry and each of the girls asking for help in many situations from “I hate my Dad and all my sisters and I’m running away”….to “Teri started her period today, what am I supposed to do”! Thank goodness most of the problems were easily solved by the end of the phone call, be it from one of the girls or their Dad. The girls remain close friends with Jim and I, and our kids to this day, and still call me “Mom”…..


Mary did surface a couple of times…. Once when the girls were in high school, and again after they had all left home. I encouraged them to try and forgive but they would not out of loyalty to their Dad. Mary never tried to get in contact with me again and I never spoke to her again.


Harry would often call when he got lonely after the girls had left home. Or he would call to discuss a new song he had heard, or a trip to visit one the of girls, or some funny thing he had read or heard.…… The phone rang one evening and he said you’ve got to hear this song! He told me he had heard a remake on the radio the other day, and had went shopping and found the original on a CD that day, and that it had been so many years he had forgotten about it. It was an old Bob Wills tune, "Goin Away Party” He had the CD blaring in the back ground and when it got to the line “Dreams don’t make noise when they die”, he stopped it and played it over again…. He said that’s got to the be the best line ever written in music….. Dreams don’t make noise when they die. He said “boy that says it all don’t it”.…. As it turned out I also had the disc set “Bob Will's Encore,” disc 3. Harry knew his music and I was his number one fan….


A couple of weeks later one of his daughters called to tell me he died….. Jim and I immediately got a plane and flew to the funeral…. Of course he had also shared the song with the girls so they played it that day. I am proud to say we remained close to Harry until his death in 2002. The world lost a talented man that day, but it also lost a wonderful human being.


The oldest daughter called to tell me she had gotten word from a family member that Mary had died just two weeks after Harry died….


They were indeed a special couple and I always felt they belonged together…. Starry dreams in the eyes of one and reality in the eyes of the other kept them apart. There are other stories relating to Harry and/or Mary or the girls that I’m sure will come up later…


My relationship with Harry and Mary taught me much about the uncertainty in life and human nature and the pain associated with love.



Friday, October 28, 2011

growing and learning


The first year was hard on Jim…. Cleaning a machine shop was not an easy job, he shoveled and carried shavings out in a wheel barrow for about 5 machines, swept the floors, cleaned the bathroom and finally was given a “promotion” as the guy on the big machine was wanting to retire….


Jim worked with some wonderful people – With his other duties he was expected to learn the machines from Paul….. .An older man and a wonderful mentor… Paul and his wife meant a great deal to us but Paul was getting ready to retire and had eyes only on returning to his home in Texas. Jim paid attention and within a year he was on the machine with Paul at his side teaching him all he knew…. Paul left Jim his tools when he walked out the door and Jim has them to this day… along with many of Paul’s old books that Jim has memorized over the years…


We only had one car in those days and with all three little kids still at home, I was stuck at home unless I took Jim to work so I could have the car to go to the grocery store or whatever was needed. A year later we were finally able to get a hold of an old pickup that Jim drove to work, a 1967 Ford….. It was a chore to keep it running but he did, enough to get to work and back. Our son started kindergarten and life became a little easier with two vehicles. That allowed me to get out more…..


And during this time I was making new friends…. The first who come to mind are Bob & Katie. For lack of a better way to describe our relationship, they adopted us. They were older than we were by probably 20 years. Their family had all grown and left home, they grandchildren a distance away, and they were lonely… They fell in love with our children, and us, and as lonely as we were, they became our surrogate parents. Bob worked with Jim at the shop and Katie cooked at the one of the local grade schools…. Often times if there were left over’s at the school Katie would dish them up and bring them over to us….. Her comment was always, “now they were just going to throw this away, so if you don’t need it don’t worry about it pitching it”….. She would not accept any thanks, it was always just here you are, I’ve got to run. So many times that was the only thing we would have had to eat and it was so welcomed…. We enjoyed card games with them, holiday meals when we couldn’t make the trip back home, and fun times on weekends at the lake. They had hearts of gold and I’m not sure I could have survived those first few years without them….

Through others Jim worked with we were introduced to Joyce & Cary, which opened up a whole new world to us.


They were both Jim’s age, older than I. Joyce had left her home after high school to join the air force. She was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi where she met and married Cary who was born and raised there, then they moved back to Colorado. They also had 3 children. They also loved to dance so we went out with them as often as possible. Almost immediately they became very close friends. Joyce loved to party so it seemed that she and I were always planning something. It didn’t take much of an excuse to decide to get a bunch together…. I always took care of the food and Joyce made sure there was a good bar and that everyone was invited. We made quite the team when it came to entertaining, our parties were always a success.


In 1970 they had planned a trip back to Biloxi to visit Cary’s Mother & family, and ask us to go with them. Jim or I had ever been in another state past Kansas, Oklahoma, or Colorado…. We had never flown in a large plane before…we had never seen water larger than cow creek, and we had never taken a vacation away from the kids for a whole week.


As plans progressed and became a reality to us, we were being transformed into a totally different way of life neither of us knew anything about…..


The folks agreed to keep the kids, we had our plane tickets bought and from the moment we boarded the plane we were on a discovery journey that I remember to this day… When the stewardess found out it was our first flight we were invited to the control cabin to meet the pilot, something of course in this day would never happen. I remember the fear and excitement of take off and finally landing in New Orleans where we rented a car to drive to Biloxi.


As we walked down the steps of the plane on to the tarmac my first thought was that I had walked into an oven…. It was a heat I had never experienced before, but that was only one of many things I had never experienced before. Immediately I realized how much about this old world I didn’t know….


I had written in one of my earlier blogs about my limited contact with blacks, and as we were leaving new Orleans that day in the rental car we passed a park. Most all of the people in that park was black. In complete seriousness and total naivety, I turned around and ask Cary if they were having a convention. He laughed and seeing him just last June, 40 years after the fact he is still laughing about that and many other firsts we had experienced in his company. We were accepted into his family with open arms….. We met his brothers, aunts, uncles, & cousins and they were all there for some of ‘granny’s” gumbo & watermelon that first evening. I can see in my mind standing in the kitchen and watching Cary & his two brothers standing behind their mama as she was putting the gumbo together… each one would sneak under her arm or around her shoulder to steal a fresh shucked oyster out of the pot without her seeing them. I could only stand and smile.


We were there on the 4th of July so as soon as it got dark we drove down to the beach to watch fireworks off of boats out in the gulf…. I stood in the gulf for the first time, I ate my first raw oyster, I learned to dance the boogaloo, I seen my first live oak tree, I visited my first fresh fish market, I was buried in the sand for the first time, we went crabbing that night when the fire works were over, I ate red beans and rice for the first time, and we partied at small juke joints every night we were there….


The day before we were to fly out, we drove back to New Orleans, Joyce and Cary & one of Cary’s brothers & sister in law went with us. We rented a motel room and proceeded to see the city… We started with coffee & beignets at CafĂ© Du Monde in the old French market, walked around Jackson square, visited the cemeteries, toured the beautiful Madame Pontalba’s buildings with their intricate iron works and bought some pralines to take home to Mom & Dad.


That afternoon the six of us went back to the motel to rest and pick out a restaurant for dinner…The first criteria was that they serve fresh lobster. I had never eaten it before…. Reservations made, we then crashed and caught maybe an hour of sleep before time to hit New Orleans at night. Dinner was everything we expected and more…. I remember my uneasiness when a very black waiter approached me from the rear to tie a bib around my neck. I was simply amazed as he dressed the lobster for me… gently removing every little piece of meat, it was placed on the plate and he explained each part as he did it. I savored every morsel..


Dinner over, we drove to the dock area and watched some of the big ships unloading cargo…. Then we boarded a dinner/dance riverboat that left at 8:00 and returned at midnight….It was our first time on a riverboat and on the Mississippi river! That’s probably when I fell in love with cruising, and we listened and danced to some great jazz music……..


Getting off the boat we found our way back to Bourbon Street which was just coming alive….. The bars were calling us in, the activity on the street holding us out. We spotted Pete Fountain’s bar, immediately went in and made reservations for the 2:00 a.m. show, then continued wandering up and down the strip until time…. His show being over at 4:00 a.m. Jim and I were dropped back at the motel…. Joyce & Cary had another week so they all drove back to Biloxi that night. We ask for a wake up call at 6:00….and called a cab to pick us up at 6:30…. Our plane left at 7:00 a.m. The next thing we knew the cabby was knocking on the door…. He waited until we hurriedly dressed and rushed us to the airport…. We were the last to board and our plane took off west. Home, family and work awaited us….. Over 40 years later I consider it to have been a big step in growing up…. This was as foreign to us as someone else traveling overseas….


The trip had been a gourmet taste of life beyond Cow creek. This trip was definitely one of the highlights of my life…..


As I was soon to find out there was a lot more to learn about life just waiting on us……