Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lawrence Alvin Weber 05/30/1925 - 10/03/2016

Picture taken February 8, 1944

Lawrence Alvin Weber died in his sleep October 3, 2016 in Aurora, Colorado. He was 91 years old and a long way from home. But he didn’t know it.
 He was born May 30, 1925 in Luther, Oklahoma to Lawrence Leland and Emma Mae Jarvis Weber. He was the second of four children, the only son in this farming family, surrounded by a thriving rural community of 613 according to the 1930 census. And of those, a good many were members of his extended family.
So much of his life’s focus must have come from his beginnings. He was a child during the Great Depression and Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl years. Being a child and busy with school and sports and his family and friends these hard times probably weren’t as much a concern for him as they were for the adults. Because his family farmed, they had food to eat. As long as the weather cooperated and their crops came in. But the national sense of unease, of not knowing where the next meal was coming from, must have filtered down to the children.
He would always be concerned about people having enough to eat. All his life, even when he lived in town, he grew a big garden and produced enough food to can or fill his own freezer and the extra he gave away. You couldn’t visit Momma and Daddy in the summertime without going home with fresh vegetables. After he retired, he volunteered at the Edmond Hope Center where he worked in the Food Room.
On the heels of The Depression and the Dust Bowl came World War II. In October 1943, his senior year in high school, he enlisted in the Navy. The Seabees, the Construction Battalions.
I asked him why the Navy. I knew he couldn’t swim. In fact he never was comfortable swimming even after he learned. He said it was because they were required to provide better food than any of the other services. Plus he liked heavy equipment and they would teach him to use it.
The Navy took him out of the small rural town where he knew everyone and sent him off to Rhode Island where he knew no one. In those days joining the Navy was “for the duration.” And nobody knew how long that duration would last or what the world would look like when the duration was over. The Allies were not necessarily odds-on favorites in the war against Hitler’s Germany. And the survival of any individual member of the armed services was far from guaranteed.
From Rhode Island, which must have felt very foreign compared to Oklahoma, Daddy was sent across the country by train to California.
That was the first time he’d been to Colorado. The trains were still steam locomotives. And they were routed north from Denver into Wyoming then west through the South Pass because the Rockies were too high in Colorado for the trains to pull.
From California, he was shipped out to the Solomon Islands. On April 1st 1945, the 82-day battle for the control of Okinawa started. Daddy was there. In all, the 10th Army had 182,821 men under its command including over 88,000 Marines and 18,000 Navy personnel (mostly Seabees and medical personnel.) Nearly 250,000 people died during that battle. 14,009 American soldiers. More than 149,000 of the island's 300,000 civilians, and more than 77,000 Japanese Soldiers.
His 20th birthday fell two-thirds of the way through that battle, in the midst of such death and destruction.
The only thing, really, that he ever talked about Okinawa was when they were hit by a cyclone. That must have been the one thing like home to a young man from Oklahoma.
When I wanted us to go to Mexico one vacation when we were on the South Texas gulf coast, Daddy said he'd promised himself when he was in the Navy that if he ever got back to the United States, he was never leaving it again. And he didn't.
It’s always frustrated me that he never seemed to feel that the apocalypse was at hand, like I did. Not during the Cold War when the magazines were filled with bomb shelter blue prints and the nation was stock piling water and dried food in public bomb shelters. Not during the most violent days of the Civil Rights Movement when American cities were burning. Not during the war and anti-war days of Vietnam.
I didn’t know that maybe it was because he lived most of his childhood in a world on the verge of disaster. And came of age in the midst of incomprehensible death and destruction.
I don’t think he’d have been too worried about this year’s election cycle even if he’d have understood what was happening.
I did appreciate that when we would move to a new house, if it didn’t have a storm shelter, he had one built and always one that was big enough to accommodate our family and any in the neighborhood who needed a safe place to come.
He grew food and provided safe shelter.
I think the thing I most admire about my Daddy was the way he took care of my mother. During her last years she developed dementia. To the point that toward the end she didn’t know any of us – even Daddy. She’d see him coming up from the barn and she’d ask “Who is that man?” But when he spoke she knew him. She always recognized his voice.
My Daddy concentrated on what needed to be done and did what he could. With grace and good humor.
He enjoyed babies – any kind of babies – calves, puppies, chickens, goats, grandkids and great-grands.
He liked to play. Cards with Momma and friends – the women against the men. Work-up softball in the yard after work with my brother and me and all the kids in the neighborhood. Or a pick-up basketball game at family get-togethers. He put up a basket down by the barn after he retired to his acreage in Logan County. That was so Momma and the grandkids could play HORSE.
And he cooked. And he ate. He was the best person to cook for because he liked everything. And he always appreciated good food.
When my brother and I were growing up, Daddy’d take us either to the Texas Gulf Coast or Colorado for formal vacation. When we moved to Colorado after Mother died Daddy would always comment that he never thought he’d ever live somewhere as beautiful as Colorado.
Oklahoma was always “home,” but his home in Colorado always looked “just like a picture.” And he felt at home there.

Picture taken December 2013

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Election Cycle 2016 -- Nonfiction

 2016 Colorado Ballot
(Page 1)

You notice I've labeled this blog post "nonfiction." Would it were not so, but it is. This election cycle has made me long for the old TV shows 'Dallas' and 'The Bob Newhart Show.' Remember when they woke up and the whole previous season had been a dream?

Well, not so this election.

Above is the Colorado Ballot. Beginning Monday, October 17, more than 3,125,300 of these are being mailed to active, registered voters.

We Colorado citizens are being encouraged to contact our county registrars if we do not receive our ballot in the mail, but we think we are registered. Perhaps our mailing address is no longer valid. Perhaps we haven't voted in a long time. Perhaps we're not actually registered. Not a problem. We can do it Online. If we register before October 31, they'll mail out a ballot. We do have until the Official Voting Day, November 8, to register. But if we wait until then, we'll have to go to an actual polling place.

The ballots can be completed at our leisure and returned anytime before 7 p.m. November 8. They can be mailed via the U.S. Postal Service. (Postage required.) They can be hand-carried and deposited at a Ballot Dropoff Site. Or you can find your official Polling Place and take it there beginning October 24.

And you know what I think? I like it. I think this is exactly as it should be. No excuses. We all can and should do our civic duty.

I got my handy-dandy 2016 State Ballot Information Booklet three or four weeks ago. Well, it's not really my booklet. It was addressed to "All Registered Voters" at my address. So technically I have to share it with my husband.

I read it cover-to-cover.
It gives the full text for six Amendments to our State Constitution. One of which is an amendment to make it more difficult to amend the Constitution. It also gives the full text for three Propositions to change State Statutes. Plus biographical information and reasons for and against retention of 20 judges.

There are blank pages in the back headed NOTES. I didn't make any notes.

The ballot itself lists 22 pairs of names for President/Vice President and a blank for a write-in, seven names for U.S. Senate and a blank for a write-in, three for Congressman but no blank for a write-in. It also lists umpteen state and local government officials to be decided upon. And all those Amendments, Propositions, and Judges.

It took me 38 minutes to carefully complete, properly refold, insert into the Secrecy Sleeve, insert into the Official Ballot Enclosed envelop, and stamp it.

I used two first class stamps -- kinda like wearing both a belt and suspenders to be sure your pants don't fall down. I drove it to the local post office and handed it to the nice letter carrier emptying those big mail boxes outside.

After weeks and months and years, probably even generations of election news, campaign ads, charges and counter-charges, I am done. And no, I didn't watch tonight's debate.

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Daddy Died -- Nonfiction

My Daddy was truly a good man.

His kindness showed in the way he cared for his wife, his children, their children, other people's children, his animals, his children's animals, wild animals. He'd carry spiders outside. Momma had an unreasonable fear of spiders. I think it must be genetic, because I'm afraid of them, too.

I always said Daddy raised three only children -- me, my brother, and my mother.

My mother was a passionate, quick tempered woman. And stubborn. I may be a bit like that myself. And my brother certainly is.

I only saw Daddy get really angry with Momma once. At breakfast.

Now, Daddy always got up first. He'd make coffee then wake Momma and she'd have her first cup and wake up a bit then start breakfast. Daddy would wake Matt and me. Or when we had a willing and able dog, he'd send the dog to wake us. And we'd all eat breakfast at the table together.

Pancakes were almost daily fare in our home. I don't remember what Momma did that morning that so frustrated Daddy, but there was a wrapped stick of butter on the table next to his plate. Margarine actually. Well, he snatched up that stick of margarine and hurled it to the floor. Not at Momma, just at the floor by his chair. Such an act was so uncharacteristic of Daddy that, let me tell you, we all hushed up.

Even at work Daddy had a rather peaceable method of correction. He supervised the maintenance and grounds crews at Oklahoma Christian College and had lots of students working for him. If he felt that one of his employees was shirking or otherwise not doing their best, he didn't chastise them or berate them. He had them work with him. Daddy was always pretty high energy and got a lot done in short order. The employee in question soon discovered what it was like to keep up with Daddy and came to the conclusion that it was just a lot easier to do their work properly and efficiently on their own.

Most of the time, Daddy didn't get angry with Matt or me either, mostly he'd just be disappointed with us. That was usually enough.

But there were times.... Momma and Daddy raised us to think for ourselves, then they'd be dismayed when we did. I won't go into detail, but I'll just remind you that my brother and I were growing up in their essentially southern, conservative household during the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Daddy didn't care much for hunting or fishing, but he'd take Matt. Daddy liked to tell the story of the first time he took Matt squirrel hunting. Matt asked "Where should I shoot him?" Daddy responded, "Behind the ear." Daddy had a dry sense of humor. Armed with Daddy's Dad's single-shot 22, Matt took his shot and, sure enough, he shot that squirrel behind the ear. Daddy suggested they look for another squirrel, but Matt had brought only the one bullet so they had to go back to the car first.

And when Daddy would take Matt fishing, Daddy'd put his line in the water, prop the pole up with a rock, curl up around it, and take a nap. He'd sleep until Matt needed something or was ready to go home. I don't think Daddy even bothered to bait his hook.

Daddy left school early to join the Navy in 1943 where he spent his time in World War II as a Seabee in the Pacific Theater. After returning to the U.S. he worked for a few months on road construction for his old Chief Warrant Officer. Then he moved back home to Luther and married Momma.
They were married August 6, 1946, by a judge
at the Oklahoma County Courthouse. As you can see in their wedding picture, Daddy wasn't too concerned about clothes. He left his tie hanging over the review mirror in the car when they got to the photographer's studio. Daddy had turned 21 the previous May and Momma was not quite 18.

They farmed in the Luther area until after I and my brother were born. Daddy left farming to be a lineman for Central Rural Electric Cooperative and they moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma, more than 40 miles away. This was in a day and time when speed limits were well below today's 75 MPH interstate highways and long distance telephone calls were all toll calls. That was the first time Mother had ever lived away from her hometown. It must have been hard for her, leaving her family and friends. And, by extension, for Daddy, too. Then he supervised the CREC district out of Jones (fewer than ten miles from Luther.) We lived in and Momma ran the office in the CREC house there.

Daddy changed jobs pretty regularly, always moving up and we moved with him -- but never very far from Luther.

They truly were a team -- Momma supporting Daddy when he took on a new venture, and Daddy supporting Momma when she did.

After I left home, they moved back out into the country. I was determined never to live in the country and Daddy loved me enough to wait until I was on my own. They raised cows, pigs, chickens, and, best of all, prize-winning dairy goats. Nubians to be precise. And a huge garden. Daddy was always a farmer at heart.

That acreage was their dream home. He would say, after he retired, that he "didn't see how he had had time to work, there was so much to do on the place." Their place in the country was a second home to each of their three grandchildren, representing stability, peace, and wonder. Momma provided daycare for my son John and Matt's daughter Julie from birth until about two. They were born 36 hours apart at the Edmond hospital. Daddy was great with babies of any kind, human, canine, whatever. Fifteen years later they got to reprise that role with my daughter Grace.

While my husband Scott, Grace, and I lived in Arkansas, Mother started to fail. She had dementia. Daddy being Daddy sold their goats and gradually let their livestock dwindle so they could come and visit us. Then our business failed and we moved back to Oklahoma, putting a mobile home next to them.

During her final years, Daddy took tender, loving care of Momma. At the end, she didn't recognise anybody, including me. She'd see Daddy coming up from the barn and ask me "who is that man?" But she always recognised his voice. She died December 21, 2004. They had been married fifty-eight years.

Before Mother got so sick, Daddy volunteered as a Master Gardner for the Oklahoma Extension Service. Then after we moved back to Oklahoma he volunteered with Edmond's Hope Center in the Food Room. He got Grace and me to volunteer there, too.

He did things because somebody needed him to. He had no hobbies. Somehow the term hobby meant "not useful." About the only way to get him to come visit was if we needed him to do something. And he could do just about anything you might need done -- electrical work, carpentry, auto repair, lawn and garden -- you name it. He was also an excellent cook.

Scott took a job in Colorado and I stayed in Oklahoma with Daddy for a couple of years. Daddy and I joined him in December of 2011. As far as Daddy was concerned he came to take care of me. Scott's work took him away from home as much as two weeks out of the month, and Daddy knew it would be easier for me if I weren't alone in a new place so far from home. Also, he didn't want me to worry about leaving him in Oklahoma.

As it turned out, because he needed care, he did take care of me. He had heart surgery in early 2012 and needed cardiac rehab which rolled into regular exercise at the local rec center. And, of course, since I had to drive him, I just stayed and participated, too. He needed to walk on a regular basis, so I did, too. I fixed healthy meals for him and ate them, too. We went to lectures on healthy living. We entertained out-of-town guests (his, mine, and ours.)

Then Grace and her fiance moved to Colorado and stayed with us until they got their own place. So for a while, he was spending time with her everyday like he had when she was a baby.

He loved living in Colorado. We live at the base of the foothills of the Rockies, so almost anywhere we went in our daily lives was downhill toward Denver, away from the Mountains. And when we came home again it was toward the Mountains. Almost every time as we were coming home he would look at those mountains and admire "It looks just like a picture."

And we both learned to love the snow.

As his dementia progressed we got in-home help from Visiting Angels and I met some wonderful, caring people. Then he went to Atria Inn, an assisted care facility, and I met more good folks.

From there he went to Serenity House, a kind of group home where he again got good care. While there we took our last real outing to Hudson Botanical Gardens with my son John Ryan and his family. They live in Texas. Daddy enjoyed it thoroughly and he knew them.

As Daddy's world closed down, mine expanded. I learned to celebrate the little things. Like when he imagined his granddaughter Julie had been to visit him and he was worried that she might not have gotten home safely. Julie lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and has not been to Colorado. Daddy didn't remember that he no longer lived in Oklahoma. He enjoyed visiting with his cousin and best friend Melvin. Melvin was gone. He waited patiently for Mother and wondered why she wasn't there. He'd visit with his Grandpa, gone before I was born. There was no reason for me to explain that they hadn't been there. That many of the people he thought he was visiting with were long dead or lived too far away to visit. His world was suiting him just fine.

  Finally, in August he went to New Dawn Memory Care where he apparently had a stroke and Compassus Hospice came into our lives. I thought it was ending then and made arrangements, but he rallied. Not back to where he'd been. He slept a lot and he didn't recognise me, but he was responding to the people around him.

And there was the day I visited him at New Dawn just a couple of weeks before he died and he recognised me from across the room. He introduced me to his hospice social worker. "This is Claudia, my daughter," he said.

I'm grateful and sad that he is gone. And I am glad I am Claudia, his daughter.