Friday, August 21, 2015
Dad - John Braden Waite - was a master of Dad-isms. I'm sure there are more, but here are a few:
* It's nothing to write home about.
* How about them apples.
* Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
* Let's not and say we did.
* When it's all said and done…
* "I see," said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.
* I couldn't get a word in edgewise.
* Actually from Dad's mom, Julia Braden Waite: Open the window and influenza, open the door and income tax.
* Move it or milk it! (directed at slow drivers)
* What a conspicuous waste! (directed at drivers of 1950's cars with a lot of chrome)
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
John Braden Waite and fellow identical triplets Robert and Ray were born on April 6, 1928, in Toledo, Oregon. They joined 4 older siblings, in order of their births, Stephen, twins Erwin and Arabell, and Edith. The parents of John and his 5 surviving siblings (Ray had died at birth) were Stephen Oren Waite (1884-1934) and Julia Braden Waite (1892-1980).
Janet Eleanor Waite was born Janet Rogers on May 30, 1931, in Portland, Oregon. She was the older of 2 daughters of Raymond Boyd Rogers (1896-1966) and Winifred St. Clair Rogers (1900-1985). Little sister Gayle joined the family in 1935.
Both of John and Janet’s extended family ancestors came mostly from New England and New York. Both extended families (grandparents and great-grandparents migrated west in the 1800’s with some “stopping off” places like Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. All 8 grandparents of John and Janet eventually arrived in Oregon and are buried or interred in either Multnomah or Jefferson counties.
John came from a family that farmed and labored from Central Oregon, to the Willamette Valley, to the Coast Range in Toledo, Oregon. Times for the family became especially tough when, in the depths of the Great Depression, the father Stephen Oren Waite died in work accident on February 14, 1934. The family did the best they could, splitting time between Toledo and Corvallis, but lost their Yaquina Bay oyster farm to back taxes. Regardless, new safety net programs of the 1930's helped them to survive. Thanks to older siblings and their spouses, plus the G.I. Bill, John was able to go to college, graduating from Oregon State University in 1953.
Janet Rogers Waite grew up in Portland's Eastmoreland neighborhood. Her father, Raymond, was a commercial artist, inventor, photographer, and carpenter. Her mother, Winifred, was a schoolteacher. Both had graduated from college – Ray from University of Oregon and Win from Willamette University. While this family was much smaller than John's family, Ray and Win had come from larger families where family and work were treasured. Janet graduated from Willamette University in 1953.
John and Janet met as new teachers at Grant Union High School in John Day, Oregon, during the 1953-1954 school year. They were married in Portland on June 25, 1954.
That summer they moved to Florence, Oregon, where John would begin teaching science and math at Siuslaw High School. Janet gave birth to David in 1955 and then to Richard in 1957. As the boys grew a bit older, Janet began teaching Home-Ec at Siuslaw. While Florence was somewhat isolated from the larger world, John enjoyed the hobby of ham radio operator. All family members enjoyed the experience of communicating with people from all over the world.
That summer they moved to Florence, Oregon, where John would begin teaching science and math at Siuslaw High School. Janet gave birth to David in 1955 and then to Richard in 1957. As the boys grew a bit older, Janet began teaching Home-Ec at Siuslaw. While Florence was somewhat isolated from the larger world, John enjoyed the hobby of ham radio operator. All family members enjoyed the experience of communicating with people from all over the world.
By about 1965, John had earned his Master's Degree from Oregon State University and had begun searching for a college teaching job. As would be the case in each future family decision of such a large scale, John and Janet involved their children in the decision making process. By 1966, they knew they would be moving from cozy, quiet Florence to a big city in the south, Norfolk, Virginia. Although the family treasured these years growing in Florence, they were very excited for a major adventure. The big move in July 1966 was an adventure in itself. It involved a U-Haul truck loaded with only the most important possessions. John drove while Janet navigated and kept a journal. David and Richard "helped" by staying fairly quiet sitting side by side on the bench seat between John and Janet.
John busied himself as a professor of sciences at Old Dominion University while Janet stayed home and planned the next big thing for the Waite family. John and Janet had always wanted to grow the family with a daughter or two, but were told that their blood types would lead to an increased risk of birth defects. So they began the process to adopt their daughters – sisters to David and Richard.
John and Janet were already progressive pioneers in many ways. During these years both volunteered at a community center in poverty stricken Portsmouth, Virginia. As for the adoption, they found out that they could adopt fairly quickly if they chose children that were non-white, older, or with disabilities. Or… they could wait years for the completion of an Ozzie & Harriet or Cleaver family. They chose to just make it happen, again involving their children in these decisions while discussing potential consequences. Nancy Gayle was born in 1967 and joined the family in about September of that year. Karen Susan followed in 1969.
While all this was happening, John and Janet were on the lookout for a new teaching and living adventure. They wanted a place in which the culture and diversity of that place would match or exceed that of the family. Once again, David and Richard were allowed to help with the family decision. Their choices in 1969 were Sierra Leone in tropical west Africa, or the tropical island U.S. Territory of Guam.
This move in the summer of 1969 involved nearly 8,000 miles on jet airplanes, rather than a U-Haul truck. It was equally the adventure. The family chose Guam, thinking it might be like Hawaii. Guam is not Hawaii. This disappoints many a "statesider". However, the Waite family would embrace this place and it's people, culture, food, lifestyle, and language.
John busied himself as a professor of sciences at University of Guam. Janet stayed home with Nanci and Karen, while David and Richard attended junior high and high school. During 1972-1973, the family spent the year in Greeley, Colorado, while John earned his PhD degree and Janet her Master's degree, both in education, at University of Northern Colorado. Then it was back to Guam, where Janet did some teaching, as well.
In 1976 John and Janet and Family moved to Longview, Washington, where John would teach sciences at Lower Columbia College. Besides continuing to be mom at home, Janet did some high school and college teaching.
In 1979 John, Janet, Nanci, and Karen left Longview for a 36-acre farm across the Columbia River in Rainier, Oregon. Besides continuing regular teaching and parent duties, John and Janet's hobby farm had 1 or 2 hay crops a year, cows, pigs, chickens, and (briefly) garden-munching goats.
John and Janet spent their last 20 or so years living at Willamette View Manor in Milwaukie, Oregon. They enjoyed friends, travel, and most of all, family and each other. Both spent years volunteering at the Manor Carousel and Manor Mart, and John as a Manor audio/visual technician. They left behind 4 children, 6 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren. Ironically, for John and Janet who wanted to ensure that they had daughters, 9 out of the 10 grand and great-grand kids are girls.
John and Janet are greatly missed and leave behind a better world for having been here.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
I "flew with Mom" in my dreams just days before she died on December 4, 2014. Besides really doing that, I had jotted down on paper all those places, all those memories, to later post on this blog.
At bedtime on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, I decided to "fly with Dad". Unlike with Mom in December, I was not trying to guide my dreams. I just wanted to document for later. So I jotted those memories down on paper, the same paper I had used for memories with Mom. It was of course very emotional, and I felt the same deep sorrow mixed with happiness as I had when I flew with Mom.
* Dad, there we are. You're holding me, singing all those songs you always sang, "Home On The Range", "Mares'y Dotes & Does'y Dotes" to name just two.
* Your knee is the best place to ride. "This is the way the lady rides, trot, trot, trot. This the way the gentleman rides, gallop, gallop, gallop. This is the way the farmer rides, hobledee hoy, hobledee hoy."
* If it's not a ride, then it's a trap. I always get out of your traps, Dad. But your brothers made "cry uncle".
* We're having a family picnic way up into the Coast Range. Could it be the north fork of the Siuslaw River? Or the middle fork? (See me chuckle… fork… spoon, knife; words are fun). You walk into a deep pool created by a small waterfall. You sink, sink until you are up to your neck. You are a head floating on the water. You ask me if I want to ride on your shoulders. I love you and trust you Dad, but I am scared something could happen. So I say "no", emphatically. Richard, ever the adventurer, takes the ride and returns to tell about it.
* Remember that bike I got Christmas in (I think) first grade? The training wheels are off and you are helping me ride by holding the back of the seat from the side and behind. "Don't let go, OK Dad?" I implore you. We did this a few times and you held on. We try again. I ride about 20-30 feet then stop and look back. Yup, you had let go and I ride by myself.
* The Belt. It wasn't just for holding up your pants. The Belt is so wide it has its own time zone. Mom has The Wooden Spoon, you have The Belt. Together, you and Mom play a pretty good game of "good cop, bad cop". I wonder if she knew. Sometimes you were the strict disciplinarian. "This is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you," you say gravely to Richard and me. The Belt glides swiftly through the loops and does its duty. Of course we say…"huh Dad? how could that hurts you more?" But other times you soften things for us when Mom is being the extreme disciplinarian. There we are, you with the same grave voice, yet tinged with a smile and a smirk. "This is going to hurt me…", as you close the bedroom door. The Belt whips through the loops and then makes a deafening "crack" sound as you fold it in half, hold the ends, and snap the two parts together in the middle. As instructed, after every "CRACK" we yell "OOOWWWW!" I wonder if Mom knew.
* Dad, I think I'm like you. When we go hunting or fishing, It's not the actual hunting or fishing I love. Rather it's being out in nature, walking and exploring. There we are in the Coast Range hills near Florence, you toting a rifle. It must be about October and I'm maybe 7 or 8 years old. Richard's too young and not there. You think you see a deer and take a shot. Nothing. You let me hold the gun, and with your help, we shoot a tree.
* 1960's Florence is a bit cut off from the larger outside world. But there you are, Dad, talking to the world via your HAM radio. You talk about "stuff" - seems pretty boring to us - but then you trade HAM radio "cards" with those other HAM's around the world. The cards are kind of like post cards. Your card, of course, was special. There we are on the dune behind our house. You have placed a 20+ foot radio antenna into the sand. You are climbing up with a wire in your hand to make that final connection. Suddenly, you and the tower begin the lean and then fall to the sand. You land with a thud. Richard and I don't know what to do. But Mom runs to your aid. You are stunned but OK. This particular event led to Grandpa Rogers (artist, photographer, inventor, everything) designing your HAM card. Your card depicts you on the tower with Mom holding the wire connected to the tower, pulling you and tower down. I wish I could find one of your HAM cards.
* There we are at the dinner table in Florence and you are saying grace. Richard and I snicker during one part of your standard blessing. "Stoweduponus! Ha, ha! What's that?" we say when you're done. This was a magical word, a word that seemed a glimpse into grown-up world, a word that sounded funny to us. Of course we figure it out later. You always included the phrase, "May your blessings be stowed upon us." Yes, words are fun.
* Dad, this is my absolute favorite story, partly because I revealed the truth to you 45 years after it happened. In your eyes, your eyes in front of your brain that was descending into dementia, I could see that you understood and that that understanding hurt you. I hope you forgave us. It's a quiet summer day in Florence and Richard and I have nothing to do (except get into trouble). There we are on the dune behind our house, the one overlooking Rhododendron Drive as it winds its way - sort of - along the Siuslaw River on the way to north jetty and the ocean. Besides the sandy dunes all around Florence, there's a lot of sandstone from ancient beaches and dunes. We called these broken pieces of sandstone "dirt clods". So there we are… on top of that dune throwing dirt clods at cars passing on the highway below. We score a few near misses. But then we get a direct hit through the open passenger window of a car heading toward the beach. The car screeches to a stop and begins to turn around. We skedaddle (yes, we used that word in the '60's) back over the dune and down to home. Inside, just as we catch our breath, a knock comes at the door. "Your boys are throwing rocks at cars and they hit us!" Dad, you turned and looked at us. "No, we're not doing that!" we said. Dad, you said, "if my boys say they're not doing that, then they're not doing that." You shut the door. Your eyes, your dementia eyes could still show disappointment. I'm sorry Dad.
* It's a Saturday morning and you have work to at the high school. While you work, I'm in the gym with a basketball. As I dribble, spin, stop, jump, shoot, I imagine that I am Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robinson, Jerry West, and any number of 60's NBA stars. I dream big. During some of those sessions I visit the staff lounge. As a teacher now, Dad, I know staff lounges. The 60's high school staff lounge REAKED of cigarette smoke. And I'm talking on a Saturday when there were no teachers to be seen (except you, Dad). You and your colleagues left ash trays behind on Friday afternoons, heaping with butts! Teachers today only leave scum in the microwave and old food in the fridge. By the way, as of 2015, the old Siuslaw high school building has been torn down and the football field is for sale.
* Richard and I must be old enough to be asking you and Mom about where babies come from. Maybe we're talking family talk about new sisters, or something. You are telling us that the dad gives the mom a seed and that makes a baby. So we implore you to give Mom a seed! I know, what a coincidence: we just happen to enjoying blackberry pie for dessert. So, with a smirk on your face, from your plate to Mom's, you give her a seed. Clever, Dad.
* Family trips. It doesn't matter if it was just to Grandpa and Grandma's house in the ritzy neighborhood of Eastmoreland in Portland, or Grandma's house in the working-class mill town of Toledo, or anywhere else, you are the driver while Mom is the navigator and peace keeper. Richard and I are the annoying twits in the backseat. "Do I have to come back there?" you shout. "Do I have to turn this car around?" you add next.
* In that regard, what an accomplishment. You drive us about 3000 miles across the country in a U-Haul truck from Oregon to Virginia. You couldn't "come back there" because we all sat together on the same bench seat. You wouldn't "turn this [U-Haul] around"… just because we would not do that.
* Dad, in Virginia you're not the high school teacher that must maintain… appearances. (Remember, Mom had to maintain "appearances", too, which is why we had to move from John Day, Oregon, to Florence, Oregon). Therefore… the pipe. And the beard. You are (were) the quintessential 60's-70's college professor. You keep the beard well beyond its stylish'y statement and purpose. In your later years and months the beard appears and disappears, like your memories.
* In Virginia, Richard has decided to run away. Rather than dictate that, "NO, you CAN'T do that", you accommodate him by asking where and when he would like to go. It's dark and the three of us pile into the car. Mom stays behind to take care of baby Nanci. We drive around Norfolk and eventually find a somewhat rural location with a field and a barn. You ask Richard is this place OK? He says yes. So Richard gets out with his few belongings and heads across the dark field. You and I wait in the car. We drive around a bit. After awhile, we stop and wait. Richard comes back and you ask, "are you ready to go home?" So we go home. Dad, this shows your special character and fatherly patience. You allowed the lesson to play out - safely, without possibility of danger or disaster.
* There we are - you, me, Richard - at a TV repair shop in Agana, Guam. The proprietor is a middle-aged Filipino gentleman. We come in behind another customer, a middle-aged Caucasian man, possibly military. The customer is absolutely "ripping a new one" on the proprietor. He is cussing and shouting. He is calling racist names, like "gook". The proprietor, embarrassed, can't say a word. We just watch. Dad, you always knew when it was time to speak up and take a stand vs. when it was best to just let it go. You chose to let it go and not add to the scene. The customer left. I'm sure I wanted to apologize to the proprietor, but I don't remember what happened next.
* Dad, I loved and still love our vacations. Whether it was a quick trip to diverse points in Oregon. Or others around the west and northwest - 1962 Seattle World's Fair, California Redwoods - we had fun and the memories are forever-lasting. Then there were the vacations with Guam as the home base - Saipan, The States, Japan. There was that one vacation to Hong Kong which Richard and I were not included. (Staying behind to keep the house in Dean's Circle, etc.). But Japan during Christmas 1970 was the best! The cultural and esthetic adventures were beyond the pale. When it was all said and done, I announce that I will marry a Japanese girl. I would not. But the natural beauty and culture would have a profound impact on me. Kyoto was and is an amazing place. It remains a shame that the 1960's Bullet Train in Japan has not been replicated here.
At about 6:00 AM the next morning, January 7, 2015, the phone rang with a call from a nurse at the Manor. Dad had passed away early that morning. You can draw your own conclusions, but I think that when Dad and I flew, he knew it was time to go to Mom.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
In his 60's (and maybe 50's) I think Dad often worried about descending into dementia, as had his mother. Then his two older sisters, Arabell and Edith, did, too. By about his early 70's Dad and Mom knew that Dad was beginning the long, gentle slide. Cancer got twin brother Bob at age 69, so we'll never know if this was to be a shared disease. But then cancer didn't get Dad. Older brother, Erwin, seemed to be dementia free, but died at age 82 partly from complications of an auto accident. Oldest brother Stephen lived to age 89, always sharp as a tack to the end.
One feature of Dad's dementia in his 70's was that he began to have trouble with short term memory, but could clearly recall many events from his childhood and young adulthood. One defining event in his later 70's was when he decided to drive himself from the Manor in Milwaukie across the Willamette, over the west hills, and into Beaverton to visit us. He ended up at a major intersection about 3-4 miles away and called from a pay phone: "I'm having some trouble here," he reported. "I can't seem to find my way." The keys and car went away soon after that.
Over the next couple years he began to loose the ability to manage any financial affairs. Mom, bless her heart, and despite her increasing challenges with Parkinson's, was his guide. But Dad still knew and recognized family members. Even into his early to nearly mid-80's he remembered details about family members and asked about them. For example, he still asked about my teaching career, about my daughters - his granddaughters - and about the great-granddaughter he saw in-person several times a year, and more frequently on Skype.
By his mid-80's, Dad could no longer remember how to sign his name. The dementia caused some personality changes that increasingly wore on Mom - and their fellow Manor residents. For example, Dad would become angry about others getting in and out of "his" elevator.
Mom was a rock through all of this. She was the anchor chained to Dad. Because of Mom's physical challenges due to Parkinson's, and Dad's excellent physical condition, Dad was the sail that took them where they needed to go. Without any disrespect, I characterized them together as the brain and the body. Neither could function without the other.
Bless my brother Richard and Mom for taking the steps to get Dad moved into Memory Care at the Manor. Weeks after moving out of their apartment and into the Health Center, Dad seemed to be declining quickly. By later in August he qualified for Hospice Care. But he rebounded and seemed to settle in to the new routines, partly because of a new medication that calmed him. Mom visited him daily, which Dad looked forward to greatly. They chatted and held hands. It was very hard to know how much understanding Dad had of these events. But as we would find out later, he may have had much understanding but was unable to express it.
As Mom fell and broke her hip in early November 2014, she was no longer able to visit him. Between that event and her death on December 4, we toyed with the idea of bringing Dad to visit her. We felt that Dad would not understand, and especially that the moving about would upset to his routine. Again, based on events to come, I wish that we had tried.
Because Dad and Mom's out of town children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were in town in early December (at the time of Mom's death) and again later for the holidays, Dad enjoyed many visitors and many extra visits. Sometimes he was "with it" and sometimes not. We treasured these visits and treasure the memories of them.
Here are some of the highlights.
Sister Nanci and friend Brian were back for Mom's graveside service at about Christmas. Brian and a fellow musician played some old folk and bluegrass favorites at that ceremony. Several days later, we had quite a crowd at Dad's Manor Memory Care unit to sing songs with Dad. As we came in, Dad was sitting in the common area in a rolling chair, head down non-responsive.
We sang a bunch of songs: She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain, Mares-y-dotes, My Bonnie..., Crawdad Hole, and others. Dad really perked up. He even sang along and sang the refrain to Coming Around the Mountain. (A big wish later: that we had sung Home On The Range, which we used to sing as kids with Dad).
Even weeks after Mom's death, we had still not told Dad about Mom's death. We struggled with this a lot, but felt that he would not understand. But for this visit I had brought a photo of Mom to show Dad. We told him that Mom "had gone home" (passed away). He looked at me like a he REALLY did understand. His eyes spoke that he understood. "Good for her," he said.
Well into this musical session, Dad looked at me and said, "it's time for me to go." We had been there for quite a while, and I assumed that Dad meant that HE was done and it was time for US to go. I looked at Dad and asked, "go where Dad?" Dad looked back and, with his thumb, pointed down to the ground. We knew what he meant because he used to joke about that when his cognitive awareness was stronger. In those days he would add, "down to the ground."
"Mom's coming to get you," we told Dad a number of times.
Later, Nanci and Brian's final visit was on their way to the airport on about January 2. With Brian's mandolin, they sang familiar songs. This time in his room, Dad was dressed. He had felt some physical pain, and didn't want to get up. Nan held Dad's hand. He greeted them, said hello, and wanted to kiss Nan. Nan held Dad's hand the whole time and he squeezed back the whole time. Dad hummed a bit, mouthed the words, but was not as animated this time.
In the middle of it all, during the singing, Dad randomly looked around the room, and started randomly waiving his hand. "I don't need all this stuff. I want you to take all this stuff, this is for you," he said. Without those words, it was like Dad was saying, "I'm ready to go, this is goodbye". He had spoken in complete sentences, something he had not been doing for months. He really seemed lucid, communicating "this is it, I've had it, I'm done".
When it was time to say goodbye, he perked up. He looked directly at Nan. Nan said, "I love you, Daddy." "I love you too, sweetheart." Dad really seemed like he knew what was happening and he was ready to go, he was done and ready to say goodbye. He said "goodbye" in a very final way, in a strong, Dad voice.
After Christmas, Maureen, Jon, and the great-grandchildren made a final visit before they had to travel back home. A major highlight of this visit - I wish I could have been there - was that Dad told them, out of the blue, "I have to get back to Janet." Wow.
Brother Richard heard from Manor staff that Dad was heard having "conversations" with some imaginary person in his room. Maybe Dad and Mom were talking again.
Dad knew more than we gave him credit for. He just could not express his understanding. I wish for a redo.
Just as I flew with Mom, I flew with Dad, too. That's coming on the next post.
Monday, June 29, 2015
|Janet Eleanor Rogers Waite and John Braden Waite, June 25, 1954|
So they moved her back to Willamette View Manor, but this time in the Health Center. She would be ready for her apartment again after some more recovery time and physical therapy.
Parkinson's Disease had slowed her down over the past 10 years. But with adjustments in medications, she had been doing better up to this point in 2014. With Dad's declining mental state due to Dementia, 2013 and 2014 were more difficult for her in other ways. By August 2014, Dad had moved into Medicare Hospice, out of their apartment and into a memory care unit at WVM. Up until November 2, Mom was able to go upstairs to visit him on an almost daily basis.
Mom continued the recovery and physical therapy at WVM Health Center during the middle of November. But she seemed to be losing some momentum. The physical therapy became more of a chore. She was no longer able to go across the hall and up to visit Dad. It was more difficult for her to swallow her Parkinson's meds. As we would find out soon, those meds were only available by mouth, not by I.V. Mom spent Thanksgiving in bed at the Health Center.
I believe it was the day after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2014, when the Health Center nurse called. She had been off for a few days and upon her return was worried about Mom. Mom had been running a fever and had some unusual swelling in her neck. The Health Center sent Mom back to Providence Milwaukie Hospital. They immediately recognized something much more serious than they could deal with and sent her by ambulance to Legacy Emmanuel Hospital.
Mom went into surgery (I think it was Saturday morning) for a huge abscess infection in her neck. The next day and a half Mom remained heavily sedated and monitored. She had a breathing tube and could not speak. She was able to understand and squeeze hands to communicate. She began to refuse food down the feeding tube, as well as suctioning.
By Monday, December 1, the breathing tube was out. The doctor called my brother Richard and I that Mom was refusing care. Richard and I went in on Monday evening. With a strong, but raspy voice, Mom said, "just let me go." She said it several more times, for good measure.
The next day they discharged Mom to Hopewell House, a hospice home owned by Legacy in Portland's southwest hills. What a beautiful but sad place. But the beauty evoked so many happy family memories. Mom was still able to understand, smile, squeeze hands, etc. By Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Mom became less and less aware. By the time she died mid-day on Thursday, December 4, most important people in her life had been able to visit and be with her. Dad, of course, was not.
Monday night. We knew the inevitable. As a teacher, the most annoying thing is when work/school take over dreams and thoughts during sleeping hours and waking moments when I can't get back to sleep. I dream about school situations. Dream voices tell me, "you need to..." and "don't forget to..." and "what about...". In my dreams I plan. In my dreams I do report cards. In my dreams I create lessons and units. In my dreams I make mistakes so I don't make them the next day, week or year.
Monday night. I REFUSED to dream of school. I decided to take charge of my own dreams. I decided to fly with Mom through my memories. Here's where we went and what we did:
* In 1957 we flew to the bus station in Florence for our Greyhound trip to Portland for my eye operation at Emmanuel Hospital. On the bus I ask you why that man had a big nose. You shush me and tell the man, "sorry." (You're there now). Then I am on a cart. You tell me you are there and everything is OK. A man tells me he is going to put a bell over my nose and mouth. I go to sleep.
* We fly over ourselves, you, me, Richard, walking to the library. It's quiet there, while we look for books to carry home.
* There we are, you holding me and telling or reading stories.
* Here I am visiting you in your classroom at Siuslaw High School. You are teaching. I stand and look at myself (and your class) in a large mirror.
* Here we are at our old house in Florence. You are taking a bath. I am about 4 or 5. I open the bathroom door and you scream for me to get out. Come on Mom!
* At the old house still. I ride my trike down the driveway hill of Mrs. ?? (her last name was the name of a bird, and Dad always said that she drove a Lark). I turn in and land on my face. Two neighbor girls take me inside and you clean me and patch me up. I never do that again.
* Still there. You are reading. Richard wants your attention. He keeps crawling around on the living room floor while saying, "roar, I'm a tiger!" You ignore him. So he bites your leg. You pull down his pants and he gets a good lickin'. I feel bad and am glad it's not me.
* There we are on Sunday at the EUB church. You sit with me, Dad, and Richard. Except for when you sing in the choir. (Once Dad said he heard fire alarms while you were singing). Before and after we visit with people. Sometimes we have church picnics. The hymns always make me yawn.
* You are cooking Sunday dinner after church. We always have something special. I'm watching NBA basketball on our 5-channel TV. The meat, potatoes and veggies are always separated on the plate. Over the years, Mom, we came a long way in the food department.
* Now we're at the drive-in movie. Dad takes a funny looking speaker thing off a post and attaches it the driver-side car window. Richard and I watch the first feature (maybe). We have popcorn. When we're tired, or when the late feature comes on, Richard and I climb into the back of the 1956 Chevy wagon and into our sleeping bags.
* The wooden spoon. It wasn't just for cooking. The threat of the "wooden spoon" was usually enough to get us to toe the line. We've come a long way here, too, Mom.
* I'm home sick from school and you're taking care of me. A blanket, hot tea, mother's love.
* It's summer and Richard and I come in for dinner. We tell you that we're not hungry. We had our fill of huckleberries along the miles of trails behind our Florence house.
* We fly through a Viking football game in 1965. The old field looks so small. The stands are barely enough for spectators of a small town. But the sounds and smells are the same: cool coastal fall air, popcorn and hotdogs, glaring field lights, amateur announcer, number 32 and 44.
* I take you to the places you never knew about. The trail to the airport. The trail to the garbage dump. The trail to the Siuslaw River. The trail to the dunes with small bodies of water; quicksand? we knew to stay away. The trail to the construction site where I started up an earth mover. Our adventures on bikes all over town and across the bridge to Ada. We never got lost, we always made it back. Did you worry?
* It's summer 1961 and we have a new house being built off Rhododendron Drive, the highway to the beach and north jetty. The fresh pitch on new 2x4's smells devine, the taste a bit piney. We have our own sand dune behind the house.
* It's October 1962 and I'm at school. The principal's voice comes over the classroom loud speaker. (I don't remember his name, but some kids called him "Your Highness"). "There is a storm coming. The school is closing early." You, Dad, and Richard come to pick me up. Winds are already stronger than anything I've ever experienced. We stop at Bray's IGA for food we can cook without electricity. Dad runs in while we stay in the car in the parking lot. A large piece of plywood flies through the air and knocks out the windshield of the convertible sports car next to us. I look over at the car/airplane model shop (a kid's dream!) and see a huge tree topple in front. We drive the 5 minutes to home. Dinner is hot dogs cooked in the fireplace and cans of shoe-string potatoes.
* It's July 1966 and there's a U-Haul truck backed into the driveway. We get to carry the little things. Dad and friends carry the big things. We leave friends and our cats (Mimi and Annie) behind forever. Oregon to Virginia! You would be the navigator and journal scribe. Thank you for the 8 page record of our amazing trip.
* Before we get in the truck, we fly through all those familiar places. The beaches and their tide pools; Devil's Punchbowl; Yachats and Reedsport; north jetty and south jetty; Coast Range and beach parks, picnic areas, and covered bridges; and best of all, Cleawox Lake and miles and miles of dunes. We fly the best dune buggy ride ever!
* Oregon to Virginia in just minutes, not days! We fly around and see the sites of our new home. There's Old Dominion University; the military bases; the big city downtown; segregated neighborhoods; historical sites dating back to the 1600's and before; WW1 and WW2 vets with missing limbs begging on street corners; a new kind of beach with a wooden boardwalk and warm water, but no rocks, no tide pools, no waves to chase.
* We fly by our house on Monaco Court. The bomb shelter is right there in the backyard! It still smells dank, dark, and musty.
* We find a new church, the United Methodist on the border between Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The people are friendly. My old friends are there. We attend a church fish fry. The fish and hush puppies are excellent. The hymns still make me yawn.
* There I am at school, 6th, then 7th, then 8th grades. The kids are different here, but not only because they are stupid pre-teens and teens now. We overhear one bragging about killing Ni*g**s when the Poor People's March comes through on the way to D.C. in June 1968. It's the end of 7th grade.
* Adoption. You always said that you wanted daughters, too, but because of mis-matched blood types there were risks. So here we are on Nanci's first day with us in 1967. Then there's Karen in 1969. They don't look like us. You tell Richard and I that some people might react negatively, that we should be ready. They do and we are. There at the church... some turn away and refuse to talk to you and Dad.
* 1969 and it's time to move on. You trust Richard and I with helping to make the decision - Guam or Sierra Leone. Wow what a contrast! In my 8th-grade-ishness, I worry about finding a wife (I didn't even think about girl friends first). Tropical beaches on a tropical island vs. the unknown in Africa? We choose Guam.
* Before we pack all our possessions for the container ship trip to Guam, we fly over all those historical sites. (Dad called them hysterical sites). Thanks, Mom, for the love of history and genealogy you've given me.
* No U-Haul truck this time, even if we could put pontoons on it. We fly to Portland, visit Grandma Waite in Toledo and Grandma Rogers in Milwaukie - the Manor is so cool! We didn't know it would later become your home, too. Then we spend 3 glorious (NOT!) weeks at the El Rancho Motel in Milwaukie. There's nothing to do, so we listen to the radio - Led Zeppelin, Credence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, etc. We wait for our tickets and clearance to fly to Guam.
* We retrace our flight to Guam through Honolulu. We fly around the airport complex and, sure enough, there it is. That really weird spigot outside on the side of a building. We pull it and pineapple juice still comes out! It must be for airport workers, but we found it in 1969 and we find it again.
* Guam. We spend a few months in a furnished rented house in Tamuning. Roosters wake us up at sunrise, no alarm clock needed. Mom, do you hear that "garage band" playing The Doors the next street over? They're really good - they sound like The Doors! (Remember, Jim Morrison's dad was an admiral at the navy base on Guam).
* Later we fly to Dean's Circle. The houses we lived in there are still there, but now they are University of Guam offices. We fly around the campus, especially Dad's science classrooms, the planetarium, the Marine Science Center.
* Here we find a new kind of beach. The water is always warm, there is no boardwalk, and most of the beaches are protected by a reef. The waves are good enough for body surfing.
* We experience new adventures in food, language, and culture. We are the minority, the newcomers, the statesiders, the Haoles. We learn, we grow, we understand, we adapt.
* There I am in school, 9th grade at George Washington Jr. High, then 10th and 11th at George Washington High, home of The Geckos. The kids are a whole different kind of kids. About 10% look like me, and many of the rest look something more like Nanci and Karen. It's a whole new world.
* On to Greeley, CO, Mom, for my senior year of high school. Thanks Mom (and Dad) for all these experiences. I feel that it's easy for me to adapt to new places and situations. Since we've carried a beach theme throughout this Mom, we re-discover that there are no beaches here.
* Then back to Guam until 1976. Mom, we could fly to all those places I went, and things I did, after I flew the nest. But you weren't there then, so we won't go there now. Sorry Mom!
Tuesday morning. I woke up with a different feeling. I went to school and, among the usual things, prepared sub plans for the rest of the week. Emmanuel Hospital would be moving Mom to Hopewell House for her final hours or days.
For most of Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday, Mom did not speak a lot. She mostly communicated with smiles and hand squeezing. I got the chance several times to share with her parts of our flying trip through my memories. It was very difficult and I choked up too much to really be able to tell anything. I guess it was more for me than Mom, anyway. She had her own memories to fly through, if that's what she was able to do. By late Wednesday night she was still existing, but in a different, secret, unknown world, a world where she would not return to tell us about.
During these days and into Thursday, we let her know that she should go get Dad. It was OK to go home, but get Dad, too.
But back to Tuesday night for a special non-Mom moment. Nanci had arrived that day. Nan and I were visiting Mom. I wanted to let Mom know that her great-granddaughters, Elsa and Azara, would be arriving later in December. I held out hope that she would be able to see them one more time. When I mentioned this, Mom looked up at Nan and I and said, "you're not going to get rid of this old bitch that easily!" I looked at Nan and asked, "did she say what I thought she said?" "I don't think she said she had an itch!", responded Nan. This was so out of character of Mom. She had never allowed herself to BE "naughty" (in her words). I'm glad she got that one in there.
This in and out continued into Thursday morning. There seemed no way to predict when Mom would leave her new state of being, either. In the morning Zenny, Nancy, Karen, and I drove to the Manor to wrap up some business and pack up some things between the Health Center and her apartment. We visited Dad. We did not think Dad would understand what was happening with Mom, so we told him nothing. Later, in late December and early January, we found out that he could have understood. We should have told him then, not later.
Done at the Manor, we headed back toward Hopewell House, thinking about stopping somewhere for a quick lunch. My cell phone rang with a call from Maureen. Knowing about my flying memories with Mom, her words were, "Grandma flew." I wish I could have been there. So did Maureen and Lorna, who had walked away for 10 minutes for a bite to eat. Fortunately, Mom passed while surrounded by other loving family members.
Headed up the winding, wooded driveway of Hopewell House I flashed my headlights into her window. We could see someone changing the bed for the final time for Mom. In the room Mom was now quiet, peaceful, no more raspy, rattly breathing, a flower placed in her folded hands.
We said our final goodbyes.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
January 31, 2015
Earlier this month Maureen found an old photo album with fast fading handwritten pages I wrote years ago. She suggested that I type them up before they are lost forever to fading time. So…
September 22, 1979
I've been threatening this for a long time. I haven't kept a journal since 1972-1973 when I was a senior in high school. I'm starting one now for several reasons: I see an interesting, exciting life ahead for me, a baby on the way!, and I'd like to record it. And, I'd really like to write a book or books in the future and I'm sure this will help.
I threw away my first journal. Maybe I'll regret it someday, but I don't think so. I was alot [1-31-15 I finally did learn how to spell a lot] different person back then. I didn't like myself too much, and reading that old journal reminded me of that – so I didn't like the journal either. The more I changed – and I have changed – the more painfull [and painful, too] reading it became.
I hope that won't happen with this journal. One rule (or non-rule) will help: I'll write only when I have something to write and as little or as much as I feel like writing. No minimums or maximums. No finger-tapping or brain-wracking, trying to come with something to fill in every day of the year.
October 15, 1979
I tried for thirty minutes to get to sleep, but I couldn't. This was my traditional nap-before-going-back-to-work-after-my-night-off nap. I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd write.
(I want to interject something here. When I was laying in bed thinking, I was really ready to write, I was rarin' to go! But now I can't get my thoughts together. I took twenty minutes to write that first paragraph – really struggled with it, wracked my brain. That's exactly what I promised to avoid. Maybe I'm warmed up).
I layed [laid] in bed and came to two conclusions. One, that Zeny has an aire of childlike innocence when she sleeps, her face free of wrinkles and worries. Not earthshaking, but that's what I was thinking. Two, having a baby is really mind-boggling and mysterious! It's all hard to comprehend. I'll take any chance I can get to hold my hand on Zeny's stomach and feel the baby. This sleepless thirty minutes was no exception. I could feel a little body right there in Zeny's stomach, our baby! Fascinating!
November 14-15 (written December 28, 1979)
November 14 at 11:30pm, just as I was leaving work to home, Zeny called to say she was in labor. I whizzed home and found her complaining of intense pain lasting 45 seconds, about 2 minutes apart – our baby was on the way!
I waited outside the Delivery Room area, while Zeny went in for the standard enema and cervical dilation check. After about 20 minutes of pacing and worried excitement, I was allowed in.
A concerned looking maternity nurse handed me a scrub suit. "We're not getting fetal heart tones," she said. "It may be the machine, or it may be more serious than that."
Zeny lay on the delivery table. I walked into the delivery room, a step of confidence, a step of fear, then a step of hope. A blue-green surgical suit, mask and cap hid much of my feelings. My eyes probably broadcast the fear and hope I felt, but all were too busy to notice.
Zeny rested on the table – briefly. She motioned that a contraction was beginning and the doctor ordered "push". The contraction subsided and Daisy, maternity nurse, again attempted to pick up our baby's heart beat with the Doppler. Silence.
Hopeful eyes became worried eyes. I placed a hand over Zeny's tummy, where our baby lived. "I think I feel movement!" Hope shone in my worried eyes. "But maybe it's just her uterus moving." Worry prevailed.
Zeny – what a sport! She knew nothing of what was really happening. The nurses talked in low tones and I kept silent. She pushed during contractions, rested in-between, barely a peep out of her, working hard at birthing our baby, indifferent to all else.
During contractions the doctor performed the episiotomy – local anesthetic and "snip, snip, ship," thus a larger opening to help the baby make its debut without ripping mom's vagina.
November 15 (written January 16, 1983)
Some more contractions and then she was born. We didn't have to wait for the doctor to turn the baby when the head was out to make it easier for the shoulders. She was born all at once, very quickly, but all motion was the result of the last contraction.
The nurse held a stethoscope to our baby's chest. The traditional spank to promote breath would not be necessary because the nurse looked down and shook her head "no".
I will never forget that scene – how Teresa lay lifeless, how the nurse used the stethoscope and shook her head. Nor will I forget Zeny. She strained to lift up her head to see, still oblivious to it all. The nurse had wrapped Teresa in a white towel and were laying this bundle on her chest. "What did I have?" asked Zeny.
My feelings at this point were of shock and disappointment, little grief, which would come later – and still comes on occasion.
"It's dead, hon." I said painfully.
"Huh?" I'll never forget the way she said it. It was not what she expected to hear, she had no idea, and the words belonged to a television show – to Dr. Welby, or whatever – and not in this delivery room where she had just delivered our baby.
"She's dead, hon." Zeny frowned in disbelief, straining to see the lump of baby, Teresa Jean, being held by nurses on her chest. My had was on her shoulder and I was down closer to her ear. She kept frowning in disbelief and shock. They took the baby away to wash it. We just stayed there in silence, Zeny staring at the ceiling, me at Zeny.
November 15 (written November 15, 1985)
At the time I couldn't grasp the seriousness. I thought the grief would be at a minimum and be brief. I though we could move right on to other things and forget all about this. At the very first instants I envisioned that there would be no burial, no funeral, no name. I thought the hospital would just "take care of it."
Well, I'm glad that it didn't end up that way. I'm glad we handled things – and continue to do so – as if she had lived a few months and then died. Almost as if. I always keep the "almost" in perspective.
And yes, we did move on to other things – to Maureen and Lorna!! But I do not feel the least bit embarrassment about remembering Teresa on her birthday, visiting her grave, etc. – even six years later.
January 31, 2015
After that last paragraph I rambled on for another two. Our friend from Guam, John Wilson, had just died a week before. Most of what I said seems weak and irrelevant now, compared to all that has happened since. The only relevant thing I said in those two paragraphs was, "I think of Teresa and I think of what could have been. I think of John and I think of what was, and what could have been."
Here's why that matters. With a stillborn baby, there is only "what could have been". But on November 15, 1979, and the days that followed, Zenny and I promised ourselves, and the World, that we would never forget Teresa. She would be an equal. She would be more than a lost baby. She would never be forgotten. We would think of her on November 15 every year. We would visit her every year. And we have kept our promises and never missed a year.
We gave her a name, not just "baby Waite" like I had imagined was the protocol. We gave her the name we had planned to give a daughter. We didn't save the name for the next daughter. That was her name. Teresa Jean Waite. She was what was and what could have been.
Some more "never forgets": In our time after the delivery, as we visited together with Teresa on Zeny's delivery bed, I will never forget how warm she was. I wondered, I hoped… had they made a mistake? Was she still alive? Was she really dead? On about November 16, 1979, my mom and dad came to visit us at Kaiser Hospital on North Greeley in Portland. I will never forget the obvious surprise of Kaiser staff when we asked that they bring Teresa up to Zeny's room. Our request must have been unusual at that time. I like to think now that we helped change the usual. I remember my co-worker at St. Vincent's Hospital who was shocked that we took pictures of Teresa that day they brought her up to us, as well as a picture of her in her little baby coffin. I don't think that's unusual now. I think we helped change the usual.
(Of interest, this would be the hospital where Maureen and Lorna would be born, in 1980 and 1982 respectively. This building is no longer a hospital, now Adidas USA headquarters. Also of interest, the hospital in Prairie City, OR, where I was born on January 12, 1955, is now a nursing home; I like to think that I could do as salmon do, if I wish).
So much has happened since November 15, 1979. New lives have been created and old lives have passed away. Maureen and Lorna were born, grew up, and married wonderful sons-in-law. Now there are grandchildren, Elsa and Azara. Two first cousins passed away prematurely. Grandparents have passed on. Most of my aunts and uncles are now gone. Mom died on December 4, 2014, and Dad five weeks later on January 7, 2015. I was once young, fulfilling my role with the old. Now I am among the old, fulfilling my role as uncle and grandfather to the young.
And then back to Teresa, in her special place as our first, our oldest daughter, where this journal entry began. Teresa remains an equal, who truly was, and was what could have been.