Dale, our next door neighbor, was a Boy Scout troop leader for many years. He really believed in equipping young men with a variety of skills. He had a full scale workshop next to his house, and he could build anything from a doll’s cradle to a go-cart.
But the greatest gift Dale gave our family was his willingness to teach Charlie, my husband, how to do numerous things in and around the house. Charlie was an expert gardener, but he had not been a Boy Scout, and his father had not been interested in doing his own repairs. Dale had only one requirement of Charlie. Down the road, he wanted Charlie to teach someone else what Dale taught him. Dale never did anything for Charlie; instead he worked alongside him, showing him how to do things.
By the time we moved to Connecticut, Charlie had many skills from plumbing repairs, through drainage ditches, to carpentry thanks to Dale’s tutelage. We didn’t really know how we would manage without Dale next door to help us with any new household problems. We couldn’t imagine that we could ever be so fortunate as to find a Dale clone.
When I was eight, my family moved from a close knit neighborhood to a very isolated house. My mother said that she didn’t like the neighbors overhearing her fighting with my father. She definitely saw neighbors as intrusive and nosy. But as you can tell from my earlier posts, I had come to depend on the kindness of neighbors and appreciated their noticing me.
Living next door to Dale and Alice meant that they noticed my life on a daily basis. When I was a single mother, I really appreciated knowing someone was watching out for me. Then, when I was dating Charlie, Alice and I had an amusing interaction. Charlie drove that brown car from yesterday’s post, but he also had the use of a state car for the travel his work demanded. One day, before returning the car to the pool, he dropped by to say hello. The next day, a very worried Alice casually asked me who I was now seeing in addition to Charlie!
To her great relief, I told her it was Charlie, just in a state car. I realized that the neighbors were all rooting for me to marry Charlie. The yard was tidy and I was happy. I was glad they all noticed!
When I married Charlie, I gained another car with a whole new set of stories. I don’t think this is actually a picture of that car, but it could be. It does have an Oregon license plate. Anyway, it was so ugly that the kids wouldn’t let him drop them off at the door of their schools. They groaned whenever we suggested taking it, preferring to be crushed in the back seat of the Tercel.
The car was notorious in many ways. It was stolen twice. In Portland, car thefts were so common that they weren’t investigated. The police did suggest that probably kids at the near by high school had taken it so they wouldn’t have to walk in the rain. So we drove all around that school until we found it parked. It still had the wrappings from a fast food lunch and part of a gigantic candy bar in the front seat. We drove it home.
Once Charlie came out from playing tennis and saw a man unlocking the front door of our car. Apparently they were so easy to steal because they all used a similar key! He yelled and the man ran off.
But Dale came to the rescue one summer when we were on vacation(in the Tercel.) We drove up the street to find our wagon tied with a huge rope to a curbside tree. We thought Dale had outdone us in the practical joke battle. But, apparently the parking brake had failed and the car had rolled down the road. Dale had towed it back up and tied it to the tree so it wouldn’t run off again.
In the end, to everyone’s relief, we bought a new car.
I have been writing regularly about all the good people and events in my life, and I will return to that theme tomorrow. Today, though, after spending the last few days thinking about my little sister, I wanted to highlight the best time of our lives together.
In the summer of 1980, Patsy married Robert Loganbill. In attendance were me (left row, furthest back) and Robert’s three children, Robert Jr., Larisa(next to me) and Heidi (only visible with her glove.) They married in a tiny old church which had just the lovely chapel shown above. Love abounded in the service. The children seemed to have made it through the trauma of their early life, and Robert had established custody of them, the first father in his county to be granted custody of children.
Tragedy on tragedy followed for this lovely little family. Robert succumbed in 2010 to Hepatitis C acquired from a needle stick at the hospital where he worked. Robert Jr. died in a car crash at 19. Larisa lost her struggle with heroin in 2008. And now Patsy has left this earth for her promised home. Only Heidi and I remain from this wedding party.
We never know what the future holds, thank goodness. We fully rejoiced that day as Robert and the kids joined Patsy to form a new family. And for that day, all was very very good.
Yesterday my beloved little sister, Patsy, lost her 12 year ordeal with breast cancer. She was free for the first five years, then had a recurrence, then free for five years, then it came back as Stage 4 all through her body. She was a woman of deep faith, trusting God with all her heart. She looked forward to a reunion with her husband and two of their three children who had gone before her. She had a hard life, but she was deeply loved.
We had a plastic heron lawn ornament in front of our house. Alice and I had often traded practical jokes, but this time she outdid herself. We came home to find that she had tied a bag of diapers to the heron, in imitation of the storks that neighbors used to announce new babies.
I had to get back at her some way, but couldn’t think how. Then my husband brought home a small mechanical bird. Alice and Dale were avid bird watchers and had a large platform feeder outside their kitchen window. Early one morning we snuck the bird into their feeder and wound it up. We hid in the hedge between our houses as they got up for breakfast and began to study the bird in the feeder. They even got out their bird identification book. We couldn’t contain ourselves, so we popped up laughing. They saw us and realized we had done them even one better.
Some people like to live far from neighbors, but our lives were continually enriched by ours.
Alice and Dale’s two children were grown and had families of their own. Alice supported me as I was raising my daughter by myself. She listened one afternoon when I was at my wit’s end over some struggle or another. She calmly said, “She will be grown before you know it. It is all over very fast.”
In the middle of the challenges of raising my daughter, I really felt as though my life was going to be one continual hurdle after another. At that point, I was not finding much joy in being a mother. So Alice’s comment caught my attention. First, of course, I received it in a way different from the way she intended it. I figured she meant it wouldn’t be like this forever. But then, I grasped her true meaning. She was wistful and was letting me know that there was great happiness and meaning to be found right now in my life. I needed to appreciate my child and not feel I was waiting out her childhood.
Alice, from South Dakota, was a woman of few words. But she really reached me that afternoon. I began more often to appreciate my life as a mom. And she was right. It was all over in the blink of an eye.