Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bonnie Allen Crawford My Sister in Love

The first of seven sisters-in-law to live close to me
Yvonne (Bonnie) Allen Crawford
Born Humboldt, Nebraska 1924
Buried Camas, Washington 1986

Dear Bonnie,

Our second child, Marcy (age 16) with her Aunt Bonnie
If you were here today we’d laugh up a storm at some of our shenanigans.  The day we married Max attended our wedding. Your youngest David, sick with a cold kept you home a hundred miles away.
My new husband and I spent our honeymoon night on your “click-clack” davenport in Camas, Washington. The next day Max took Husband to Crown Zellerbach Mill to apply for a job.
That fall after our first child, Kathy Ann was born, we moved to our cracker box apartment on Hill Street less than a block away from you. We were so young. I was so lost and lonely.
With Husband working long shifts, a brand new baby, no phone, no car, no friends, and my first move away from my family, I was one scared eighteen year old.
I needed guidance and friendship.  You gave me both. 
“Why did you keep feeding us when I didn’t even volunteer to bring food to your house?” I asked about ten years later. You smiled in your quiet way and shrugged like you didn’t even remember those meals. But believe me, I did.
For three years, at least till after Marcy’s birth, we ate many meals at your cramped table in your tiny kitchen. Food a plenty served with laughter. Those were the days when I barely knew how to open a can, much less complete a recipe. 
Yes, you taught me to cook. 
Far left Warren, Gary, Max and Quin (David, Max's son in front)
About then your Max helped us buy the white house where the garage touched the corner of your backyard. Our girls loved to visit you. They’d squeeze between the garages and play in your fenced backyard. Many summer days Max lit the bar-b-que.  The brother’s and your boys played horse shoes or badminton.
Public Domain Photo
That’s when you showed me how to hang a neat line of clothes, taught me how to keep the diapers white, and tried to teach me to clean house.
One day you said to me, “I may not dust, but if I make the bed first thing in the morning, I feel good all day.”
I put that housekeeping tidbit into practice.
 If you were here Bonnie, I’d squeeze you close and tell you I’ve survived the mother-in-law hurts that you and I shared. You helped me through emotional trauma that, looking back, is of no consequence at all.
“In ten years it won’t matter,” you said.
You were so right on many things.
I did learn to hang a nice looking line of clothes, but my clothesline technique never equaled yours. Can you imagine my thrill when Husband bought me a washer and dryer?
I did manage to become a right smart cook. 

Oh yes and I taught our children to make their beds first thing in the morning. You’d be proud.  
Public Domain Photo
You were a special lady in my world. I’m blessed for having you as my sister-in-law—my sister-in-love.

Affectionately, one of your many sisters-in-law,

Marcy, Bonnie, Kathy Ann, James and Max about 1977
For my readers: Unfortunately we didn’t take a lot of photos when we first married. When I looked for a picture of Bonnie, I couldn’t find one with her alone. You notice Marcy standing close to her Aunt Bonnie. The two of them were very close from the time she could walk until Bonnie died. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Father Believed in Keeping Family Together

My father
For: Orin Stauff Demarest
May 21, 1917-June 14,1996

First written February 22, 2002

Dad about 1993
Dear Dad,

During this last Christmas season I missed you more than ever.  Your name came up often as we reminisced about Christmas past—especially when I expressed to others your dedication to keep our family together through the holidays. (I can’t say as a child that I always appreciated the hundred mile drive to Grandma’s house--at least until we arrived.)

These days I realize how difficult it was for you. Regardless of how old our vehicle, you packed the family of six into the car. There were no seat belts back then. We started out with all four kids in the back seat. Like normal kids, we scrunched one in the middle of the seat on those rattle snake
Lloyd The Void Photo 
corners. Pretty soon one or more of us whined, complained, or cried. That’s when Karla, the youngest climbed over the seat to sit middle front. Those were the good old days, Dad.

There is no way we can count how many times our car broke down miles from home.  You were a wonderful mechanic by trade. You spent so much time working to make a family income, your own vehicle suffered. There you were, under the car in a good Oregon rainstorm—or maybe even snow. You banged away and tinkered while we whined and fussed. In spite of those obstacles, you drove us from Eugene to the families in North Bend.

Always we celebrated Christmas Eve at your sister Pat’s home with her family, your brother, Uncle Vic and family, and your mother, Grandma Dee. We shared gifts, news, played games together, and enjoyed the love of family. Then Christmas day there was another large family gathering at Grandma and Grandpa Leatons.  That’s where I made a close bond to my cousins. So close, the two girls my age, Mary and Gladys, felt like sisters rather than cousins.
Gary, Kat, Karla Mom, Dad, Karl, Jack, Karen 

At the close of the Christmas day our family drove the many miles home for you to work early the next morning. The other relatives that attended either party lived close by—they didn’t struggle with the long trip.

Dad, there isn’t any way to express my thanks for keeping us connected with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, especially since you aren’t with us now. The one thing I can do is try to keep our children and grandchildren in touch with each other.

 Times are different in that none of them live in the same community. We live thousands of miles away and don’t have the opportunity to climb into a vehicle to gather the family all together. That means I must be more creative in keeping in touch. I’ll try to do as well as you did Dad.  You were a devoted son, a loving brother, and I’m glad God gave you to me as a Dad. Your love of family is appreciated.

From your oldest daughter,

For my readers: Those that knew my father are aware of his gift of gab. He knew something about everything—he didn’t just think he knew the info, he truly did. He didn’t know a stranger and he could curse cars until the air turned black. But in 1985, almost 69, my father asked the Lord to forgive him.
Last photo of my Father 
He dedicated his life to being a Jesus follower. What a change. In the last ten years of his life my father wrote letters and talked to everyone about Jesus.

In 1996 Dad and Mom drove from Oregon to Omaha to visit us for five weeks. Dad talked often about "Orin Junction." He wanted a photo taken in a place named after him.

The next day in Ruppert, Idaho my father was killed in a car accident. He told me several times during our last visit, "Honey, I pray when it's my time, the Good Lord will take me quickly." And the Good Lord did. Often after his death husband would say, "Your father always said..." or "I sure wish your Dad were here now to help me."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Third Ear-My Special Friend Lauri Cabe

written in 2002

Dear Lauri,

Maybe 1999 
Most people are blessed with two ears. 
Me, I have three. The ones placed on either side of my head at birth work well. Then, in 1992, a year of struggle through life with Husband after his emotional, physical and mental breakdown I found you, my third ear. 
You listened. 
When I cried, you cried. When I kicked a door you stood aside and let me.  When I stopped by your place and said, “Go shopping with me,” you let me spend money without admonishing me. (We both knew my budget didn’t leave money for even second hand stores.) On the day after a shopping spree when I whined that I spent too much, you listened and laughed.
When I needed exercise you walked with me.  When I needed space from husband you drove over, picked me up, took me to coffee and listened to my non-stop prattle about my disintegrating marriage. 
Yet, when I threatened to leave Husband, while he struggled through the trauma after his breakdown, you said, “No.” 
In most instances you refrained from giving me your opinion. When my staying or leaving hung in the balance, you tipped the scales.
“You don’t want to leave. Not now. He’s not well. Give him space and time,”
About that time, no matter if we were in a coffee shop or at home, Husband would show up. He’d tell a nutty joke and you’d laugh at him. Through his nonsense and your laughter, I saw a glimmer of hope. A man that courld make my friend laugh couldn't be all bad.
Lauri, Me and Husband's Fun Nebraska Pickup
Somewhere in those years I heard a speaker say, “Everyone needs a safe person to listen to them.  A trusted individual that will allow one to run off at the mouth and they continue to love you anyway.” 

Do you remember when Husband showed up with huge plastic ears for you? He knew the importance of you being in my life in those tumultous years. 
God placed you in my world, my precious friend. You are my third ear.
When I wrote this letter we'd been married forty-three years. Husband had recovered from his breakdown and truly listened to me.   

Thank you for loving both of us,

Special note for my readers: Husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary before he died of a sudden heart attack. We enjoyed our trips from Nebraska to Oregon and Washington, along the way we stopped to see Lauri.
Lauri in Enterprise Park

Lauri in the Lodge at Enterprise Park where we ate lunch 
Last ummer, four years after Husband’s death, Lauri became my driver. She drove me over 1600 miles through the northwest while I spoke in places where Gary ministered. 

On our journey I talked Lauri's ear off and you know what? She still likes me.J

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Mom Gave With No Strings Attached

Dear Mom,

Mom Early Morning Giggles 
I’ve written to you many times over the years to thank you for your continual support. Your no nonsense approach has kept me afloat more times than I can count. Those times when I thought I’d cave under the pressure—facing surgery or a family problem that I couldn’t handle alone.
I’ll never forget when I called you long distance to say I faced a hysterectomy. Your first quesion, “Do you have insurance?”
“Do you get paid while you are off work?”
“Well then?”you said. “What are you worried about—it’s a common surgery.” You listed off the Aunt’s and friends that survived the ordeal. I have used that example with many ladies over the years.
“Why fear? Others have handled this, you will too.”
The awesome reality about your initial phone conversation is that you hung up and said to Dad, “Kathy needs me.” Then you climbed aboard a Greyhound to ride forty-four hours to care for my family and me.
I’m not the only one that received your ‘nursing’ care. When Aunt Theresa died you helped Uncle Larry; You lived with Aunt Elnora and Uncle Tommy when he arrived home from the hospital after a logging accident—and you’ve gone back to help since then.
You’re the daughter that cares for a ninety-eight year old mother. You’re the mother that that took care of both my ailing sisters in this past year. You’re the friend that drives a cancer patient to a doctor. You’re the sister that cares for siblings …and the list goes on.
I’m sure I’ve said thank you in ten thousand different ways over the years, but I don’t think it’s enough.
Your "No Strings Attached" approach to life gave me a foundation to share with others willingly. I remember you sharing a loaf of your hot homemade bread with Mrs. McCoy, the elderly neighbor across the fields south of your home. When our girls visited you in the summer time, you sent them up the gravel road to the egg lady, Mrs. Branch. Most of the time, you shared a plate of food or vegetables from your garden with her when she didn’t feel well.
Of course, there were those second hand store shopping sprees, too. You usually purchased a little bauble for one your friends. “You know the lady that cuts my hair? She collects these blue bottles,” you said. Or, “You know the lady down the way she helped me with the upholstery … “If you were not buying for a friend, it was one of your grandchildren. You never came home without some little treasure to give away.
Even today you still give and give and give.
Thank you, Mom for your common sense approach to life and for unconditionally giving of yourself. None of us can repay you for your generous acts of kindness and help.
I love you Mom, you are a wonderful example for today’s world.

Your oldest daughter,

I shared this letter with Mom before Gary was diagnosed with Psuedomyxoma Peritonei (PMP)—a rare cancer with a prognosis of only days to live. Mom flew from Oregon to Omaha to live with us and help me.
When Grandma fell and broke her hip, Mom flew back to Oregon to care for Grandma.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer Gary took care of me, but when he died suddenly of a heart attack, my 86 year old mother flew from Oregon to Omaha and became my caregiver.

My mother’s caring spirit touched many more than she ever thought possible.