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A letter to Jessie (1915-1997) . . .

Dear Big Sister,

I hope you like this photo—I have several shots of you from over the years, and this is my favorite—just check out that glorious smile!

I believe this is where you were living just before you and Victor bought a farm near the air base and moved there. I remember it clearly, especially because when I was home on leave having completed Air Force basic training, I climbed a tree in the front yard to inspect a squirrel nest and had to holler for help from Victor, your husband and my brother-in-law—he brought a ladder and helped me down from my lofty perch!

This coming December will mark the thirteenth year since you left us. My family and I have passed the time peacefully—very little fuss or muss. We have health problems, of course, the young ‘uns as well as those of advanced ages. I know there are no health problems where you are, and no calendars or clocks—there would be no need for them.

I can capsule the major changes in my family rather quickly, changes that have come about since you left. Important changes for my girls include Kelley’s marriage in 1998 and the subsequent births of a boy and a girl. The boy is now eight and the girl is 6 years old. They live in a nice Dallas suburb and are doing well.

Debbie lives just one mile from us. She works at one of our local schools and loves her job. Landen, her son, was graduated from high school last year and is continuing his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA. Lauren, his older sister, was graduated by UTSA this year. Her degree is in Early Childhood Development—she is great with children and seems happy with her work with a local Child Care center.

Cindy and Michael are a properly married couple as of last October, still living, loving and working in Northern Virginia. As you will probably remember, they had been a committed couple for many years, a total of twenty years prior to their marriage—they finally put it on paper! They seem very happy—no children, but they have two cats on which they shower all the love and rights and benefits that would be accorded children.

I won’t be able to bring you up to date on your family—you are probably more up to date than I am. I can’t tell you much about your sons, Wayne and Lynn, but I believe that Lynn still lives in South Korea and Wayne still lives in Maryland. I know very little about the boys and their families, but I imagine that you are watching over them—I want to believe you are, and because of that it takes very little imagination! I also know very little about your daughters or their families. I haven’t seen them since we were all together at your funeral. I talk to Toni infrequently on the phone, and exchange e-mails with Vickie even more infrequently.

Jessie, I’m writing this letter for the purpose of recording some of our mutual history in response to my daughters’ request to learn more about their aunts and uncles and cousins. As I continue with my writing I realize that it makes me feel I am in some way connected with you—if you would like to respond to this letter in some fashion, please do so—trust me, I’m up for it, and as the television commercial says, I’ll leave the light on for you!

This is the third letter I have written. The first was to Hattie, our sister that lived only one day—you probably won’t remember her. She was our mother’s second child, born in 1917, so you would have been only two years old at the time. Had she lived she perhaps could have shared some of your responsibilities as the eldest of six children. Looking back on those years, I know that it was tough for you, but you willingly shouldered those tasks and thereby took some of the weight off our mother’s shoulders. My letter to Hattie is posted on my Word Press blog and can be found here.

It’s odd, but I rarely heard any of my siblings talk about our father—a bit from Larry, a bit from Lorene and nothing from you. Most of what I know about Willis I learned from our mother, and I never heard anything positive. There must have been something other than the negative things, given the fact that our mother birthed seven children for him.

I wish you had told me about the incident in the garden between our dad and you, his teenage daughter. Mama said that he gave you an order and you did not comply quickly enough, so he beat you with one of the wooden stakes, or poles, used for growing beans to climb on—unmercifully, I believe, was the word mama used.

I also wrote a letter to Larry, our brother. You may have been looking over my shoulder when I wrote it, just as you may be looking over my shoulder as I write this letter to you. You can read the letter to Larry here. I was recently contacted by Larry’s daughter Deanna, and we are now friends on a web site called Facebook, a place on the internet where people can find new friends and chat with old friends—not necessarily old, of course! I have mixed emotions about the process, and am considering opting out of it.

I often wonder about Larry’s first wife, Toni, and their two sons, Troy and Marty. If she is still in this life, Toni would be about 86 years old now—you might want to check around to see if she is there with you—one never knows, right? I’m sure you remember that I lived with Larry and Toni for a couple of years or so in Suitland, Maryland. That was a hectic time in their marriage and I was caught in the middle of it. That was not unusual for me—things were hectic from the time Mama married Papa John until I enlisted in the military at the age of sixteen, a period of some seven years. The military provided the stability I needed. I finished growing up in the military, and as you know I stayed with it and retired after 22 years. I can proudly say that I assisted Uncle Sam in fighting two wars during that period, wars waged in Korea and in Vietnam. We lost both wars, but I will always be proud of my contributions to them.

Hey, big sis, this letter seems to have a mind of its own, and it’s getting far too long for a single posting. Let me close this one out and get back to you later with more details. There is so much to talk about—perhaps we should consider putting the letters in book form when I run out of words—if I ever run out of words, that is!

Lots of love,

Mike

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Family, marriage, Travel, Writing

 

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Annabelle died on Monday . . .

AnnieBelleMy best friend died on Monday, the nineteenth of January 2009, at exactly 3:33 p.m. while I was rushing her to the doctor. She was born with an enlarged heart, a heart which abruptly failed after serving her well for more than 12 years. The friend that died was Annie, a beautiful long-haired calico cat, and a loved and loving member of our family for more than 10 years.

Sue, a dear friend who lives in Alabama, learned of our loss and sent a beautiful sympathy card and a touching consolation e-mail. After reading my response, she sent the following e-mail:

“My heart continues to go out to you and Janie—it truly does take time for a broken heart to heal. Thank you for the touching e-mail and for sharing your heart with me. What a blessing you, Janie and Annie all were to one another—truly one of life’s most precious gifts. I look forward to seeing you both again sometime this year. Meanwhile, keep in mind when you see Annie again, you’ll be seeing Cindy and me also—we’re a package deal.

“With so much heartfelt love, Sue.”

This e-mail was my belated response to Sue’s initial card and e-mail:

“Sue, please forgive us for not responding sooner to your heartfelt e-mail and your beautiful card. Janie and I have had a difficult time dealing with Annie’s death. We have just now been able to discuss her without both of us breaking down. We see her in every room and in every position, and hear sounds, especially during the night, which remind us of her and, for an ever-so-brief moment, bring her back to us. We have had other pets and loved them all, but before Annie we never knew that a creature’s love could be so deep and strong and forgiving, and that such love could be demonstrated in so many ways.

“Annie and I were a couple for ten years, and we remain a couple. Since her death I have come to realize that she and I were, and still are, soul mates, and I believe that our separation is temporary. Yes, I believe that animals have souls, and it appears that Pope John Paul II agreed with me. That can be confirmed at this web site:

http://www.dreamshore.net/rococo/pope.html

“I’ve spent a lot of time online recently. I found a poem, one so sad that it broke my heart, but it is so uplifting that at the same time my heart was breaking, my spirit soared. The poem can be found, with numerous variations, on many web sites by googling “rainbow bridge poem.”

Annie & DadHere is the poem in its entirety:

“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

“When a pet that has been especially close to someone here dies, that beloved pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals that were ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those that were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one thing; they each miss someone very special to them who was left behind.

annie at comp 2“They all run and play together, but the day will come when a special one—the most special among the special—will suddenly stop and look into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent. Her eager body quivers. Suddenly she leaves the group and begins to run, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.

“Annie has spotted me, and when we meet we will cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. Her happy kisses will rain upon me; my hands will again caress her, and I will look again into the trusting eyes of my Annie, so long gone from my life but never absent from my heart.

“Then we’ll cross Rainbow Bridge together. . .”

Annie2I took the liberty of changing the poem to make it personal—it wasn’t easy—making the changes was difficult and the tears flowed freely, but the physical catharsis provided some psychological relief—albeit temporary.

Thank you, Sue, for the sympathy and understanding expressed in your e-mail, and thanks for the beautiful card. You’re one of a select group of people, quite rare, who can convey their most profound feelings to others—willingly, unsolicited and without hesitation. Janie and I are proud of your friendship for us and for Cindy (our favorite daughter, but don’t tell the other two!).

May God bless you and keep you—you’re always welcome in our home.

We’ll leave the light on for you.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2009 in death, Family, friends, pets

 

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