Welcome friends...thanks for coming by. We're seeking beauty in all of creation... in our faith and our families; our art and our music; our crafts and kitchens, and even in our own backyard. We'll share a poem or a recipe, a picture or a memory; maybe a dream of how we wish our life could be. And though we acknowledge that the world can be harsh, we're keeping it pleasant in our little corner; endeavoring to keep the words from the Book of all Books: ...Whatsoever things are lovely; think on these things.

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Photo: Bee and thistle: Taken high in the Cascade Mountains where there is a bee buzzing on every thistle. by Debora Rorvig

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For Dallas

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Dear Dallas,

     You were born too soon, and you died too soon.
     Premature you were; born at 7 months, I think. Mom said, that you'd have died  at birth except that old country doctor saved your life. When she brought you home your skin was transparent and bluish and you were so delicate she was afraid to touch you.  I suppose if you'd been born today they'd have kept you in a incubator for some weeks. Maybe this is why Mom always felt so protective of you.
     You were the middle son. Raymond was the oldest, he was just a toddler when you were born. And Allen was the youngest boy who when you were adults, became his brother's keeper during your troubled times. Then came Linda. I was born a long time later. You'd joined the Air Force by then.  It wasn't until I was almost a teen that you came home from the service to stay. So Linda's filled me in on your younger days.
     Well brother, I guess I don't have to tell you that everyone's gone now, except  Linda and me. Why, there's more of our family in heaven now than here on earth! Linda and I spend hours together, pouring over old photographs of you and the boys, Mom and Dad, and our grandparents. We have long talks about the folks and you boys. It's like we're sifting through the sand; searching for golden nuggets from our past...memories that will make us laugh until we cry; and sometimes make us cry until we wipe our tears and smile. Just yesterday we were looking at that old picture of you sitting on that spotted Shetland pony. It's a cute picture, that's for sure; but we could tell that you were scared.
     Linda says that when you were just a little kid; walking home each day from school the bullies always picked on you. They made you walk that whole way home from school in the ditch. So every day you'd come home, your feet all muddy and your shoes soaking wet. (And I'm sure you remember how precious shoes were back in those days!) The folks told you to fight back. Finally you did- and won. After that  you never had to walk in that ditch again. Back in your day; boys fought a lot. So Mom and Dad put an old mattress in the upstairs bedroom for you boys to wrestle on. Ray was quick and wiry; and Allen strong as a bull. You never won those wrestling matches.  That must have been real hard for you. It wasn't that you couldn't fight; you just never wanted to. You were a gentle soul.
     But smart...my how smart you were! You got A's in school and you didn't even have to try.  Linda says she always hoped that when Mom and Dad went out,  you'd be the one that had to babysit her. You were always extra nice to her and would always play checkers with her-even taught her how to win.That's why no one can beat her to this day-you taught her that!
     Brought up in a poor family like ours; you never had a lot. New clothes were rare to us; more often we wore hand me downs. But in spite of that you were always optimistic.
      "Just needs a little fixin'," you'd  say with a lilt in your voice. And you were good at fixin' stuff.  Remember the time you talked Dad into hauling that old convertible home from some vacant lot or field? It didn't run-but you had big plans for that old jalopy. Shortly after you got it home, it started raining cats and dogs. Everyone laughed when you ran outside and jumped inside that old car and started rolling up the windows-in your excitement you'd forgotten that there wasn't a roof!
     Then you and Raymond joined the Air Force. How proud we all were of you boys. Mom had a double picture frame with her two handsome boys in uniform conspicuously displayed in the living room for everyone to see. It was kind of like a shrine, that picture. I dusted it every Saturday morning and placed in carefully back on the old buffet. Wouldn't do to break that picture; I'd really catch it if I did. Well, the Korean war was on and you were shipped off to Guam. Just 18 years old you were. You were an A and E (airframe and engine) mechanic; and a darned good one. Quite an accomplishment for a country boy! Your friends back on base used to tease you about your family, living 'back in the sticks'  in Washington state.
     They'd quip, "I bet your daddy even wears bib overalls out there in those woods."
     And of course, he did. But you never cared about what they said. You loved us all anyway. I still have that beautiful yellow kimono you sent to Mom. And Linda keeps a picture of herself wearing that Jantzen sweater you sent her. It was way too big; but she didn't mind; she wore it anyhow. It was one of the few name-brand things she owned.
     It wasn't too long after that you met a beautiful girl named Barbara. You remember don't you, how you would sing that 60's song  Barbara Ann over and over to her? She had dark brown hair, sparkling eyes and a beautiful smile. She looked like one of those girls on the Miss America Pageant. You two had beautiful babies; 4 of them right in a row. Laurie and Greg favor Barb. But I think Cindy and Raymond look like you. And just the other day on facebook Dal, I saw Nikki your grand-daughter. She's absolutely gorgeous;  just like your Barb. I know I shouldn't say 'your' Barb. After all you two divorced; but we know, (Linda and me) that you never really got over her. And we think sometimes she felt the same...oh how we wish that things might have turned out different for you two.
     So many things we wished that we could have changed for you. It was so hard to see you sick, especially toward the end. I'll never forget the day the Mom called me up at work to tell me about the cancer. Mom had never called me at work before; so I knew it must be bad. She and Linda took you out to the old infirmary. Linda said she dreaded that day; she and Mom; but you made it easy for them. Most of the people in that place were very old or mentally ill; and here you were just in your forties. It should have been your prime. When you walked down the hallways there was a kind of crazy guy shuffling along. "Looks like he's sweet on you, Mom!" you laughed. And they laughed too...through their tears.
     In the following weeks you became reflective. Linda spent a lot of time with you; as she didn't work and her place was just a few miles from the infirmary. That was nice for you, wasn't it? You two would talk and reminisce; and chat about your kids. One day she got the nurses to give you an oxygen tank-and off you went; just the two of you. Out to the country you drove; past the places you grew up and where our Dad lived when he was young. The Kickerville Road. With rolling pastures, cows and barns. I still drive out there by myself when I want to think about our Dad. Well on that day you didn't joke...you shared how scared you were. "I've never done this before... I don't know how to die." (Linda still chokes up when we talk about that drive.) She did her best to comfort you-the same way you always comforted her when she was a little girl; and you were babysitting her. She says that day your senses seemed particularly heightened to all the life around you. "Look at that bird," you would exclaim. "Funny how you never notice things like that..."  That day for Linda was the loveliest, saddest day of her life.
     And there were other talks too. About what to give your kids to remember you by.
     And about J.C. That's Jesus Christ. You spent a lot of time talking to J.C. You wanted to get baptized; you never had before. So Linda set it up for you. Got a minister to come to the infirmary and do the baptism. You were so exicited about it that you wanted everyone in the family to be baptized right there with you. I already had; but Linda hadn't and neither had Mom. Now our mother would never have gotten baptized and Linda knew it.
     She jokingly said to you, "Oh Dal, Mom'll never let someone dump water on her hair. All that dye will come running out of her hair and stain her clothes!"
     Linda didn't get baptized that day either;  and to this day she's still sorry she didn't have the nerve.
     As I remember it you died on a weekend. I was sound asleep early that morning when I woke up to a presence. At first I was scared, but then I realized that it was you. I didn't actually see you; but I felt you in my room. You were saying over and over, "It's OK, I'm OK."  I think you must have known how upset I was about you. I'd been crying out to God for weeks to heal you. I knew He could. I'd seen it happen for others. And I was getting pretty upset with Him about it. So I always took that visit to mean that  even though my prayers weren't answered like I wanted; you were fine. Better than fine;  at home with the Lord. But it was still so hard, Dallas, to let you go. To wonder about the life you could and should have had. And when I think about you; it's still hard. You were born too soon and you died too soon.
   Well Dallas, say hi to Ray and Allen. Tell Mom that I do love her; in spite of our differences. And tell Dad how much I still miss him after all these years. Tell him Okie Dokie Billie Okie--Tomcat. He'll know what I mean.  Linda sends you all her love and she's making sure no one forgets any of those sweet and precious times with you. We're doing fine, she and I. And your kids are doing great. You'd be real proud of them.                                  

You were a good brother. Your gentle spirit will stay with us forever.

Debbie and Linda


Linda O'Connell said...

Deborah, I sit here sobbing, and want you to know that this is publishable and should be out there for all to read. I also love the poem on the left side of your page.

ellen b. said...

What a wonderful tribute to your brother. It must be hard losing one of your siblings so young. I have 7 brothers and sisters and they are all still living along with my 88 year old parents. We still have this kind of loss to experience. One of my sister-in-laws died from complications of Cystic Fibrosis when she was 36...that was tough. I'm glad you directed me back to this post since I missed it...

laura massaro said...

thank you so much Debbie! Reading about him makes me miss him so much but there is so much I don't know about him and with your words and memories I feel alot better! By the way I still have the bracelet that he gave me right before he died,it's my most valuable possession.I remember going to the infirmary and being so scared but you were there and made all us kids feel better! All I can say Debbie is that your words are beautiful and please don't stop writing!And to my Dad.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY! I love and miss you more than you could ever know!

Cindy Thomas said...

Thank you Debbie, The tears in my eyes are tears of joy, being able to hear about my Daddy in such a positive way. I truly thank God for my Aunts and Uncles who care so much to share their good memories of Dad.


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