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

Eulogy - John & Janet Waite

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. 

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

Flying With Dad

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

John Braden Waite - April 6, 1928 to January 7, 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.