Celebrating Gerald!

A few years back, Gerald decided he needed to go see a softball series to celebrate his birthday. I cannot remember whether that trip was to see our son coach or one of our granddaughters play. Nevertheless, a tradition had begun. I think he has managed to go see games for his birthday ever since.

This year the softball series nearest his birthday was March 18-20 when Texas A&M would play Ole Miss. Nephew DuWayne was ready to be a willing driving assistant; the two of them always have a good time watching Gerry's teams. I was not up to sitting on cold bleachers instead of following the games in the comfort of home, so I declined.

I thought I ought to start the project of uncluttering my office. However, as always, I became too interested in old papers and would have to read them, so I did not get far on that project. I did manage to fill a big tall wastebasket and get those papers into the trash barrel in the garage. This is good for me because I am addicted to paper, and it hurts me to part with long-ago drafts or saved interesting articles that I might want to use someday for research. Long before researching on Google was possible, I had files of saved research on family history and other interests for writing I have never had time to accomplish unfortunately.

Since A&M swept the weekend series, Gerald came home in great spirits Sunday night. The shared the bleachers with fans, who with gave them credit for helping win and urged them to come to all the games. I heard the radio broadcaster telling how great the food on the Oxford square was, which was what Gerald had told me the night before. Vickie had primed Gerry to be sure Gerald had a birthday dinner there. With only one game a day, Gerry had time for visiting with his cousin and dad, so the whole weekend was successful. Gerald slept good that night back at the farm.

By Monday, the texts, phone calls, Facebook greetings, and birthday cards had started. Gerald gave me DuWayne's message that not only would Gerald's birthday breakfast be in Marion for our convenience, but they would even delay it until eight if I could come. I was flattered and embarrassed at the same time, and I assured Gerald to tell DuWayne I could surely make it to a 7 o'clock breakfast once a year!(When Ernestine was here, I told her she was the only one I would go clear to Jonesboro early in the morning to eat breakfast with, but that was an exaggeration –a synonym for a lie. Actually there are many people I would rise early for, but just not on a regular basis. Ha.

So on Tuesday morning, Gerald and I calmly traveled to town to share breakfast and laughter with his brother Garry and Vera and five of our nephews—DuWayne, Tim, Kerry, Bryce, and great nephew-in-law Eric. We felt even better when we learned that oddly all of the younger generation were actually working up in our neck of the woods that day anyhow, so coming up to Marion instead of Jonesboro for breakfast worked out well for them too.

Gerald continued getting birthday messages all week, and Wednesday brought the most beautiful one of all. This brightly multi-colored handmade card was an elaborate fold-down one with even its large envelope brightly decorated by our artist daughter. Gerald had to take it in to show Katherine on Thursday.

Gerald's last official party was one Mary Ellen cooked up for Saturday night. Brianna had been on spring break all week, but at the same time, Mary Ellen was selling real estate and finishing up their April issue of House2Home's magazine. They had hoped to find time to look for Bri's apartment for next year at Murray, but they were pushed shopping for her upcoming trip to a roommate's California beach wedding at the bride's grandparents' home this weekend.

Our Freeport granddaughter Cecelie was also on spring break from high school, and her brother Elijah had put her on a train in Chicago to travel down for a week's visit their sister Leslie in Nashville. So on Saturday, Leslie was bringing Cecelie up here to catch an early Sunday morning train in Carbondale back to Union Station, where Elijah would meet her. So I was looking forward to seeing them.

Naturally they were planning to see Brianna and Trent. Mary Ellen and Brian invited us all to meet and have pizza together to celebrate Gerald's birthday. We were shocked to find when we arrived at the designated pizza place, there was not a single parking place available—not one! We hastily called Mary Ellen, who called the others, and we all ended up at another favorite place, where parking was available. And their pizza was delicious as always. We had a good time talking and laughing, and the younger four got together for even more visiting while we went home to contemplate our blessings. Cece ended up staying all night with Brianna, and I enjoyed a wonderful end-of-the-evening talk with Leslie hearing all about her new work as an independent worker in her home office. Going rogue she calls it. She and Gerald visited briefly over the coffee pot the next morning, and I assume Cecelie caught her 7 am. train and Leslie made it home to Nashville and Mike.

This week has not been so pleasant for Gerald as he had serious dental work yesterday, which was checked again today. He looks great in his new dentures, and he has seemed to enjoy soft meals I've served him of mushroom soup, jello,and ice cream.

Before they left for Mississippi, Gerald had hurried to get some CRP ground burned off, a storm-damaged shop roof repaired, and a couple martin houses cleaned out. The martins are already nesting in them. Today he was replacing a handle on the downstairs toilet that had quit working. No wonder we celebrated that 87-year-old man!!


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

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It Could Have Been Me: In Memory of Helen Bailey

When I read about the brutal murder of Helen Bailey I knew right away that it could have been me. Helen Bailey (1964 - 2016) was a British author who wrote teen fiction. She was also a widow.

In 2011, at the age of 46 while on vacation in Barbados, Bailey's husband of 22 years died suddenly. He went into the sea for a morning swim, was caught in a riptide and drowned. In her own words she was still  a “wife at breakfast” and became a “widow by lunch."

In spite of her deep mourning, Bailey did everything within her power to get better and move on. She sought the help of a bereavement coach who helped her deal with her grief, she wrote a blog called Planet Grief, in which she detailed her struggle to cope with the sudden loss of her husband, and she joined an online support group for people who had lost their spouses.

And then something joyful happened, after eight months of widowhood she met through that group a  “gorgeous grey-haired widower" (her words), whose wife died suddenly in 2010.

Helen Bailey probably felt that she met a kindred spirit. They started out as friends, then grew closer, started dating and finally moved in together and bought an old house in Royston, Hertfordshire

According to her bereavement coach, Helen Bailey was a person who wanted to feel “secure and safe”, like she had with her late husband. She added that “there was never any inkling or sign that she was anything but safe” with her new partner.

It seems that after her world was shattered, she could rebuild her life with her new partner Ian Stewart. So in order to make him feel secure as  well, in case she died, Bailey changed her will and left him all her money, She gave him  power of attorney as well.

People love a happy ending, and there is nothing more heartwarming than a story about a  widow and a widower who find  love and happiness.

But on April 2016, Helen Bailey disappeared, and three months later her remains were found buried in the Royston house. Her new partner was charged with her murder.

I am almost certain that most of the people who read about Helen Bailey and her tragic death ask themselves how could she have been so naïve and so blind? Didn’t she suspect anything?

But to me as a widow it makes perfect sense:  I was not used to being suspicious, I had no reason to. Moreover, in the first year of mourning, when I was hungry for warmth and kindness, I trusted people even more. I can even identify with Bailey’s wish to insure the future of her new partner in the event of her death. Hadn't he suffered enough?

Actually, apart for the ending, my own biography is almost identical to that of Helene Bailey. My husband died when I was relatively young, I was helped by a kind bereavement coach, and like her, I found my partner another “gray haired gorgeous widower” online.

My partner and I were both safe and secure in our previous life, and that is why we  were not used to being suspicious. We were probably naïve, but we gained a lot by being able to trust each other.

This is a horrifying story for everyone, but it is especially scary for widows. Still l believe that it is better to be generous and trusting, like Helen Bailey, than to lose your faith in love and humanity. I am so sad that she was proven wrong.

The essay first appeared in the Times Of israel

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/it-could-have-been-me-in-memory-of-helen-bailey/

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A Fun Weekend

The fun started when we learned that Geri Ann was flying from Oregon into Saint Louis around midnight Thursday with plans to drive a rental car down to the farm. Erin was to be surprised since she did not know her younger sister could make the upcoming baby shower. Gerald told me with emphasis not to tell. Imagine my horror Thursday night when I texted Geri Ann asking if she were in Saint Louis yet, and almost instantly I received a reply from Erin saying: “No, I am not flying into Saint Louis until Saturday morning.” (I knew this already from her call to Gerald, but she probably thought he had not told me all the details, which included her plan to meet her mother-in-law there, who was flying in from Minneapolis.)

Since my copy of the sent text showed plainly it was to Geri Ann, I was afraid Erin would see that if she looked the text a second time. I did not want to be the guilty one ruining the surprise. Fortunately, I have now learned that the name of the intended recipient does not show, and so Erin did not suspect that I was really talking to Geri Ann!

I have a terrible time with modern technology, and I did not dare text either sister again Thursday night. I went to bed puzzled. It took me until the next morning to figure out that I had put Erin's phone number not only under her own name but also under Geri Ann's. Obviously, I am not too familiar with texting, and I guess I had not texted Geri Ann recently to discover my error. (I dropped and broke my phone and had to put all phone numbers in a new one.) Ah well. It is corrected now. Geri Ann was asleep in the brown room when we got up the next morning.

(The brown room is where people choose to sleep if they need to sleep in. Our house has a walk-out basement and lots of light enters, but three back rooms have no windows—a bedroom and my office and Gerald's office. The bedroom has tan walls and ended up being called the brown room to distinguish it from the bedroom in front with yellow walls.)

After a nice visit, Geri Ann was off to Johnston City to visit her long-time friends Cierra (Cece) and Dustin and little Matt—Geri Ann's god child—now a toddler. We knew our daughter-in-law Vickie and the third sister, Tara, were starting from Texas after attending Tara's three boys' school musical, and they might be arriving sometime after midnight depending how soon they were able to actually get on the road. However, some time during the night, Gerald had a text saying they had decided they better stop at a motel before continuing. I think Geri Ann came back late after visiting Gma Shirley and spent the night again in the brown room. Quite frankly, that was the last I even tried to keep track of those coming and going!

Saturday morning Vickie and Tara came through Anna and picked up the special cake with a pink elephant on top with at large pink bow (all made of icing) and Caroline's name on it. They went onto the event center at West Frankfort where some entrepreneur had revitalized the Old Fire House for celebrations such as this. Geri Ann was directed to go there to wait for whenever she was revealed to Erin!

A huge high ceiling-ed room awaited them there that had once housed fire trucks, and they wanted to make it pink and pretty for little Caroline's first party. So they were busy unloading table cloths for the many circular tables, table flowers with peanuts holding them in their vases, tables for signing and gifts, and bags of animal crackers for favors. They also had to gather various foods and set up to feed us the next day! I am not sure who all showed up to help. Gma Shirley was there to visit and help, and Mary Ellen and Brianna showed up before the day was over. Since the hostesses did not want Erin to have to prepare for her own party, we had the pleasure of a long visit with her during the afternoon before we took her down to spend the night at her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris's house.

Sometime in here, Elijah had arrived from Chicago, and he and Trent were briefly at our house before they went shopping for baby gifts, I think. Before the evening was over, Geri Ann and Brianna had joined them for whatever mischief they had planned. Having Geri Ann with them was a special treat, though they missed Cecelie and Sam, who could not make it. By then we had learned that their cousin Leslie and husband Mike would not be coming up from Nashville until Sunday, so there would be a bed instead of a couch available for Lige. Tara and Vickie arrived at the farm after a late night supper in town. I knew they must be tired after their previous 36 hours of travel and party efforts. We quickly agreed to leave the door open for whoever showed up later and went to bed as soon as possible.

The next morning Gerald went over and picked up Erin as we both wondered why we had not thought to just let her borrow the truck the evening before. (But we had enjoyed taking her and, thus, visiting a little longer.) Because of our colds and also because I had been needed at Katherine's house, Gerald and I had missed church for a couple of weeks. So we headed out while Vickie and her three daughters were able to visit a bit at the kitchen table. Rather than eat in town as we usually do on Sunday, Gerald and I came back for a quick light meal before we headed to the Old Fire House to join everyone there.

Gerald was pleasantly enthusiastic about going to his first baby shower. While some of our men thought they just were not meant to attend such a party, a lot of them showed up. There were Glasco, Martin, Johnson, and Borum family representatives there as well as Crab Orchard high school friends of Vickie and, of course, her daughters' school friends from Johnston City. I was relieved we did not play some of the games that have been invented in recent years, and instead we just enjoyed visiting and table hopping and lots of eating. I loved seeing people I had not seen in way too long although I am no longer nimble enough to do much of the table hopping. 

I did appreciate Gerry's cousin DuWayne keeping me up on the scores of Gerry's game going on down at College Station.  A highlight for me was seeing little ones there that I especially wanted to see in person rather than just on Facebook--one of whom was DuWayne and Vickie's pretty little granddaughter Camie. And now we have photos of them that Gerald took. Erin looked so pretty and healthy, and she proved she was ready for motherhood when she raced to the big heavy outside door and rescued her cousin's son Bentley, who had managed to open it—even though he is not yet two!

The big event,however, was seeing Erin open so many gifts and seeing the sweet tiny clothes that are so abundant for today's babies. I remember making six flannel night gowns for our babies—and they all four wore those gowns before I gave them away to another mother to use. I also had cute diaper sets given to me—little plastic-lined ruffled pants with tiny cool tops which were a new item in those days. Little girl babies traditionally wore soft light-weight pastel dresses made in the Philippines. I was blessed with an abundance of those because my sister-in-law Ginger had received a carefully hoarded supply from her family in Missouri when her daughter Vicki Sue was born. Ginger passed them onto me, and I think I remember ironing fifteen of them in the living room of our little rented house and laying them on the back of the couch to enjoy before I hung them up. I did enjoy that work although no one needs to iron baby clothes now. I am sure I passed those on also although I would enjoy fondling one of those little dresses again.

Now babies are dressed in soft footed sleepers as well as exquisite clothes for going out and about. Yet young mothers are still passing clothes on since babies grow so rapidly that newborn clothes are too quickly outgrown to ever wear out. Erin loved going through the large shopping bag of her cousin Sarah's beautiful clothes all carefully laundered and ready for Caroline now that Lily Mae no longer needs them. I saw Erin go through that bag twice enjoying those clothes showing them off, and I am sure back in Texas now, she is handling and dreaming over the pretty new things she was gifted with Sunday. Gerald's overalls (size 6-months)and a couple of other farm outfits for Caroline were especially appreciated by all—or at least giggled over. I want to see up close all the books Caroline received if we someday get to visit her Texas home.

I was at Katherine's house after the party, but family members gathered to eat party leftovers that Vickie fed everyone at our dining room table. I am sure they were all tired but happy,  I arrived home in time so enjoy this too. Soon the younger ones were off to eat Mexican in town and continue to wind down.On Monday morning, although it quickly melted, there was snow on the ground. Vickie and Tara were already long gone before I woke up at 8. Erin came over from Chris and Louie's, and we had a good visit before we had a final early lunch in town with Erin and her mother-in-law Roxanne before they drove back to Saint Louis to catch their respective flights back to Minneapolis and Dallas. I know Erin was very eager to get back home. Her husband Josh had been on a training event in California for a month; and as service people's lives would have it, he returned to their home just two hours after Erin had to go to Dallas to catch her flight here. So he was being “dog daddy” for their little bull dog while Erin was up here. He had to return to base the next day after she returned home, but she was hoping he would have some time off later this week while she is on spring break from her school. And if so, I am sure she is showing him Caroline's clothes.

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Whence and Whither

The whence of beauty always is unclear.

The whither, that we know, is far from here.

 

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