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Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Entry 90: 1970 The Boy and the Tow Truck

It was the middle of October.  Our baby was due any day.  Larry would not leave me at home alone in my condition so everywhere he went I went.  We were just about to enter the Argonaut Gun Shop in Modesto when we heard a loud bang.  I didn’t look toward the sound but Larry did.  There was a tow truck just a few feet from Larry. 
Those were the days before seat belts.  There had been two sitting in the truck seat; the driver and a little boy.  The little boy had leaned on the door handle causing the door to open.  When the driver reached over to protect the child he swerved to the left hitting a car in the next lane causing the crashing sound.  When the truck swerved to the left the little boy was jolted to the right causing him to fall out of the passenger side of the truck. 
I thank God I did not see what happened next.  As Larry looked toward the crashing sound he saw the little passenger, a beautiful little boy, fall from the truck and go under the set of rear duals.  The driver instinctively grabbed the truck radio and called for help as he leaped from his side of the truck.  Larry pointed toward the door of the gun shop.  He told me in a stern voice to go inside and not look out.  I’m so glad he did.  He protected me from future memories of this awful accident. 
Larry ran to the little one on the road.  His little body was crushed.  It was obvious he was dead.  When Larry looked up his eyes met the eyes of the driver.  A quick look at the boy followed by a desperate look into Larry’s eyes left no room for doubt this would play out to be one of the worst days of his life.  Not having any words that could possibly make the situation better Larry simply looked at this terrified man and softly said, “I’m sorry.”  No one talked.  When the ambulance arrived Larry came inside the store to me. 
We didn’t continue with our plans for the day but quietly headed for home.  Larry made the comment, “He was just a little boy.  He was wearing little red tennis shoes.  They were still neatly tied.  When his mom tied them this morning she didn’t know it would be for the last time.” 
The next morning we saw an article in the Modesto Bee describing the accident we’d seen.  The drivers name was Darrel Throne.  The little boy was his two year old son.
We have both mentioned this incident many times over the years and it has always been very distressing.  Thirty-five years later, in 2005, Darrel Throne called Larry inquiring about a piece of property we had listed for sale.  The moment Larry heard his name he was taken back again to the awful scene so many years before.  He asked Mr. Throne if he had lost a son in an accident in October of 1970 on McHenry Avenue in Modesto.  When Mr. Throne answered yes, Larry told him he was the man who had been kneeling beside his son when he came to the rear of the truck and had stayed there until the ambulance arrived. 
The two spoke for a few minutes.  Mr. Throne seemed grateful to Larry and Larry seemed pleased to speak with him.  I think it was good for both of them.  The accident had happened so quickly and been so horrible the two had only spoken a few words.  In a strange way, this short meeting on the phone seemed to offer some sort of closure to Larry. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Entry 89: 1970 The Monster Turkey

          Along with the chicks we had bought earlier in the Spring Larry bought a couple of baby turkeys.  I don’t remember what happened to the second turkey but one we saved and continued to feed past the recommended age for butchering.  It grew and grew.  He was huge.  I thought when we got this fellow into our freezer we would have a supply of turkey dinners to admire.   
When Larry put the turkey’s head on the block and chopped it he didn’t cut it off he only wounded it.  Larry was holding the turkey by the legs.  The turkey started flapping his wings and trying to get away from Larry.  It made sense he fought so hard after all Larry was trying to save our dinner and that turkey was trying to save his life!   The next day Larry’s arms and body were black and blue from the beating he took.  When the turkey was plucked and gutted we weighed him; he weighed over 45 pounds!
We were excited to divide the turkey into four sections.  I immediately got our first portion of the turkey into the oven.  I fixed potatoes, Jell-O, green beans, cranberries, whipped cream and pumpkin pie.  I was so excited to set the table with this feast. 
The table was set with flowers from our garden and candles.  I had used china and crystal we received as wedding gifts. Everything was perfect!  I had counted all day on a romantic dinner we could both always remember. 
By the time Larry took the turkey from the oven our house was filled with the fragrance of Thanksgiving.  Larry put the turkey on a cookie sheet. After it had cooled a bit he began carving.  We both began taking little nibbles of meat.  We both began taking the meat from our mouths and trying new bites.  After a while we began grinning and then laughing out loud! 
That silly turkey had won after all!  It was so tough and stringy we absolutely could not eat it.  What a disappointment!  We threw away all the meat.  I was heartbroken. 
Larry insisted having no meat did not mean having no meal.  We still had candles, beautiful dishes, flowers and each other.  He can usually make me feel better with his optimism. 
When all was said and done our dinner turned out to be one we truly would remember.  We had all the fixings for a turkey feast except the turkey and gravy.  As luck would have it; the fragrance of turkey lingered in the air through dinner helping make the meal almost perfect!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Entry 88: 1970 My Constant Companion

I felt lonelier when Larry wasn’t around when I was pregnant.  Our home was eight miles from town.  We didn’t have neighbors our age.  The only people I really knew close by were Del and Alpha.  I loved them very much but I did get lonely.
I did have one constant companion.  His name was Romeo.  Larry gave Romeo to me the summer before we married.  Mom took care of him when I wasn’t home but when I was there he never left my side.  He even slept in my bed with me snuggled up by my side under the covers. 
           When we came home from our Honeymoon we stopped by my folks’ house to pick up some of our wedding gifts.  We also picked up Romeo.  When we got to our house he sniffed his way through each room.  He found his bed beside ours.  When it was time for lights out Romeo jumped onto our bed and made his way under the covers.  When Larry came into the room and touched the bed Romeo growled at him and threatened to bite.  I thought it was funny.  Romeo didn’t want to lose his place next to me but he did and he slept in the bathroom for several months until he realized he was no longer my number one fella.  When his bed was put back into our room he would sneak up on to the foot of our bed where he would half way pout and half way brag that he’d made it back to the “big bedroom.”

               When Larry wasn’t around Romeo always took care to watch me.  He was like a little shadow.  He gardened with me, he played with my mop when I cleaned, he sat next to me watching television, and he listened to me when there was no one else around. 

             Romeo was always my little protector.  The nights Larry was irrigating or in class Romeo was a great little watchdog.  He was nice to our friends but very cautious of strangers.
          One morning very early, before the sun had come up, Romeo escaped out the front door.  There was a dense fog.  We couldn’t see even one tree row away.  I stood on the front step of the house while Larry walked part way up the drive way calling for Romeo.  It wasn’t long before Romeo came running full speed to the house, passed by me on the step, and dove into his bed.  Larry was right behind him with a peculiar grin on his face.  He didn’t say anything.  He went to the kitchen table, poured some cereal into a bowl, and told me where he’d be all day.
A very sweet older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Dodge, lived on the other side of our driveway about half way to the road.  I just loved them.  They were so sweet to me.  They brought us lots of tomatoes from their garden before we had plants of our own. 
The Dodges came over later in the day when Larry and I were in the front yard.  Mr. Dodge was grinning when he walked up and Larry started grinning when he began to talk.  Mr. Dodge said he had heard something unusual earlier that morning.  He said what he heard reminded him of an English class he’d taken in school.  I imagine Larry was biting his lip at that point.  
I asked Mr. Dodge what he could possibly have heard.  He said he heard someone outside his window calling, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” 
Larry had wanted to find Romeo for me so badly he had gone into the Dodge’s yard searching for him.  He probably figured they’d hear him outside their window and didn’t want to frighten them so he called out in a familiar voice to put them at ease.  Knowing Larry he figured why waste the opportunity to make them smile too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Entry 87: 1970 The Flutter of Life

           In March I was excited to find I was pregnant again.  We were going to have a baby around October 20.  I was excited to tell Larry.  We were both happy to be moving forward again with plans for a family.  Dr Bigelow assured me there was no reason to assume anything would go wrong this time.  He insisted what happened was a one in a million thing.  He instructed us to enjoy our pregnancy and look forward to a healthy baby joining our family in the fall.
          I was eager to wear a smock again.  I waited and waited for my belly to begin growing.  It seemed to take forever.  No wonder everyone said I was so big the first time.  I was nearly five months along before I could even justify a smock.
I remember lying on my back to feel the flutter of life inside me.  I remember Larry talking to my tummy and waiting patiently to feel some movement.  I could feel it but he couldn’t at first.  When he finally felt a little kick under the palm of his hand he beamed.  We were so happy.
Larry was as busy as ever.  He was farming, going to Stanislaus State College, and busy in church.  We seldom missed a Sunday.  We loved our church family.  There was no one else in our congregation who would play the organ so that duty continued to fall on me.  I actually liked playing on Sundays but I really loved to practice during the week when the church was empty.  I loved to turn up the volume and the base and play one song after another.  More than once I caught myself singing along at the top of my voice. It was difficult keeping hand and feet and words all straight but I didn’t care.  When I played on Sundays I was playing for the church members but when I practiced during the week mistakes didn’t bother me because I was playing for my own enjoyment.

When the time finally came for more than my homemade smocks Larry sent me to town to buy a maternity dress for Sundays.  I was so excited to wear it.  That dress was like an announcement to anyone who didn’t already know we were expecting a baby.  I felt motherly just putting it on.  It wasn’t too long before I had to scoot the organ bench back a few more inches so I could scoot in and out comfortably.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Entry 86: 1970 His Hand on My Shoulder

           I’ve always thought it funny how the slightest little thing can jolt your memory into the past.  When I smell oak leaves burning I immediately feel like I’m fifteen again sitting at the organ in the Hughson Church I attended for so many years.  The smell of Pastor Brown’s leaf pile burning as he cleans the outside for Sunday Service while I’m practicing the hymns inside to make sure I do my best at services. 
          When I smell peanut butter I always think of my Grandma Stevens.  She would make peanut butter candy for us when we would spend the night.  If I smell rubbing alcohol I always think of the smell in the doctors' office just before I’d see the shot coming towards me as a kid.
          Usually it is a fragrance that pushes my memory into the past but I remember one time it was something I saw.  I had been working in our back yard.  I had mowed the lawn and picked a few dead flowers off my little plants.  I remember I was on my knees pulling weeds from the little row of flowers planted against the back wall of our house.  

           I noticed everything start to take on an odd color.  I guess I figured it was a little later than I'd thought and turned to get up and go start dinner.  As I straightened up to a standing position the color of the sky caught my eye.  It was the brightest and truest pink I’d ever seen.  It was so intense the air around me seemed pink too.  I don’t know why it affected me so intensely but all I saw was pink.  All I could think of at that moment was the two beautiful little girls we had lost just a few months before.  I burst into an uncontrollable few minutes of tears.  I still don’t know why I broke unless it was my eyes and heart connecting the vibrant pink to our recent loss.
          I remember sitting on a lawn chair wiping my tears away with hands covered with mud.  Larry walked into the yard from the field.  When he looked at me he didn’t know if he should comfort me or laugh at me.  He said I looked like a sad raccoon.  With the raccoon comment everything seemed better.  Soon we were laughing and enjoying our dinner in the freshly groomed garden.
          When I had time to think about it I felt like God had colored the sky so beautifully that afternoon just for me.  I felt He was reminding me life is precious, make it count, and don’t be afraid to laugh or cry.  I felt as if God had put His hand on my shoulder.  I love it when He does that.  It makes me feel special.              
Even now when I see a brilliant pink sky I claim it as mine as a reminder God is always near and knows our every thought, every memory, and every need.  I hope in your life you seek Him when you need comfort but I pray sometimes you feel His comfort and His presence when you haven’t asked for it.  I pray you feel Him touching you on the shoulder. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Entry 85: 1969 The Mailbox Walk

I lived in fear each time I went to gather the mail praying there wouldn’t be a draft notice for Larry.  I know he would have gone and once he learned how to take an order, he would have done well.  God must have known I could not have made it without Larry.  We were so young.  I know He kept Larry home with me.  I know He’s always watching out for me. 
Larry’s status changed from a 1-A (eligible and going) to a 2-S (student deferment) and back several times.  He had a 4-F deferment for a short time at one point because of his chronic asthma but it was changed to a student deferment again.
 I hated my walk to the mailbox.  Every morning I would put it off as long as possible.  The mail was delivered at about 9 in the morning.  Larry would come in for lunch at about 11:30.  He always wanted to see the mail right away.  Our driveway was pretty long.  It took a few minutes to walk from my front door to the mailbox.  My heart would pound and feel like it was in my throat.

My cats would go with me on my mailbox walk.  I’d stop often to look at the blossoms or the maturing almonds or a gopher hole or anything to keep me from my goal.  Once I had the mail in my hand I’d sort through it quickly and when there was no mail from Uncle Sam I’d walk quickly back home.  
Once back at the house I'd get on with the business of living and daily chores  knowing the following day I'd be making that dreaded walk again.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Entry 84: 1969 My First Christmas Baskets

           It was not by our choice but a lot of growing up went on in our home the summer and fall of 1969.   We were as active as ever in church.  I was teaching a kindergarten class of seven little boys and girls.  They were a handful.  During the church hour I played the organ so I was either up front at the organ during songs or in the back row with Larry during the service.
          I had volunteered to make candy as our contribution to the Christmas baskets for our church shut-ins.  These folks either lived in rest homes or just couldn’t get out to church and mingle with other folks. 
          I had a dear friend, Carol Martin, who had given me several great candy recipes and taught me how to follow them.  The three candies I chose for the baskets were English Toffee, Caramels, and Chocolate covered coconut balls.  They were my three favorites.  I spent a whole day working on each recipe.  When I loaded my trays of candy into my car they were beautiful.  

        It was about 9:30 on a December saturday morning when I headed out to the church. I had plenty of time. We were meeting at 10:00 to sort and fill baskets with all the different goodies the ladies had made.  I was so proud of the beautiful candy I could hardly wait for everyone to see what I’d made. I was driving through an older section of Turlock, obviously paying too much attention to the trays of candy on my back seat and not enough attention to my driving, when I heard a loud crunch noise and the back of my car flew sideways.
I had been hit by another car!  I had just passed thru a four way corner with no stops signs.  Someone else had too and we collided.  I could tell my candy had scattered a little by the sound of some of it hitting the floor but I didn’t look.  The other driver, a fellow about my dad’s age, and I both got out of our cars.  We exchanged insurance information and he asked me if I wanted to call the police to report our accident.  I didn’t think we had a choice so I blurted out yes.
Together we went to the house we were directly in front of and asked to use the phone.  The other driver called the police and, seeing I was very upset, asked if I’d like to call my husband.
“Yes,” I said.  “I would like to call him.”  I took the phone and just stared at it.  The fellow asked what my phone number was and said he’d dial it for me.  I told him I never called myself and couldn’t think of my phone number.  Next he asked if I’d like to look it up in the phone book.  I said I would but I couldn’t think of my husband’s name!  He gave me such a strange look and I felt so totally embarrassed we both began to laugh.  The owner of the house started laughing.  The police officer who had just arrived heard me and he started laughing too.
Somehow all the laughter made me feel better and I remembered Larry is my husband.  I still had to find our number in the phone book. 
           When I told Larry I was in an accident his first question was if I’d be hurt.  When I said I was alright he asked if the car had been hurt.  I told him I thought there was a dent in the back over the wheel.  I told him where I was.  He said he was on his way and hung up the phone.
Everyone was still there when Larry arrived about ten minutes later.  He looked at me and gave me a sideways smile as he walked to the rear of our car.  “Yes, I’d say it has a dent alright Joyce, I could get into the trunk without opening it if I wanted to!”  He was smiling at me like a cat would smile at a trapped mouse.  He never raised his voice or got mad. 
When the reports were finished and we were ready to leave Larry asked me if I was okay to drive.  I said yes.  He tossed me his pickup key as he climbed into our car.  He told me to stay right behind him all the way home.  I did.  I had to stare at that smashed trunk at every stop sign!  
When we got home and looked into my car I saw three days of work splattered all over the back seat and floor.  I had forgotten all about the candy and the church baskets.  I gathered every piece of candy and took it into the house. 
I called the church to let the ladies know I wasn’t just late and I wouldn’t be coming to help at all.  I felt like I’d really let them down.  This experience was just one of the many times we made plans only to have “life” change them.  There was a little bit of sand mixed in the candy from the floor of the car so I could no longer give it for the baskets.  Larry and I ate it over the next few weeks.  There was no way I was going to throw it away!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Entry 83: 1969 Larry's 1913 Ford Restoration

         Putting up with old cars has always been part of loving Larry.  Over the years I have learned to love them too.  However, many times over the years time with me got put off so Larry could visit his “Lizzy” in our garage.  Many trinkets and household items were delayed so “Lizzy” could have a new radiator or a new set of wheels.  And as if one car wasn’t enough I don’t exaggerate to say there have been dozens.  
To be fair I must admit if updates were needed in the house, if the kids needed something unexpected, or the ranch needed an extra amount of spray or fertilizer Larry never hesitated in selling a car or two to get us through the crisis.  He seemed to enjoy buying them in pieces, sometimes in boxes, fixing them up and selling them.  He loved figuring out what was needed to get them into running shape.  He loved working on them. He loved the sound of the motor the first time it would start.  Many times he’d come get me so I could hear the motor the first time it “turned over.”  I will admit there is something magical about putting all the pieces together and making something as grand as a working automobile.  
          This story is about a 1913 Ford.  The first picture shown is in Larry’s parents’ driveway.  He had driven the car over to show them what progress he had made on it.  I was already at their house.  I took this picture and he asked me to hop on for a ride.  Of course I hoped on.  Do you see the towel in the picture?  The towel is to keep gasoline from slopping out of the gas tank because we didn’t have a gas cap for the tank.  We started up the rode for a short ride when I noticed the not-too-terribly-uncomfortable place to sit was wet and my bottom felt as if it was on fire.
          The gas from the tank had not splashed out but it had splashed and been soaking into the towel as if it were a wick. Larry pulled to the side of the road.  When I turned and showed him my gas soaked britches he laughed.  I didn’t think it was funny.  I started walking back to the house.  Larry turned the car around and waved a real big wave as he passed me.
          When I got to the house Larry and his dad were standing there laughing big belly laughs as I walked into the back driveway.  Larry’s mom didn’t laugh out loud but she sure had a funny grin on her face.  The following are all pictures of the same car as it progressed.

          Yep, that’s me driving and sitting on a real seat!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Entry 82: 1969 The Rooster Attack

In my opinion if you’re going to have a rooster you need to have two.  One will crow occasionally but if there are two they will try to “out crow” one another.  I’ve even been known to hide beside the coop or in the backyard and crow too just to get them started.  I had many hours of fun playing with and watching our chickens.  Nothing is cuter than watching a mother hen teaching her new chicks to hunt and peck for food and to hide under her skirt of feathers when she calls to them.
As it happens we got to the point where our fifteen chickens were laying fifteen eggs a day.  There was just Larry and me to eat the eggs.  We had scrambled eggs, boiled egg, and fried eggs.  We had potato salad with eggs, egg salad, and egg sandwiches.  Out of desperation I searched for recipes calling for eggs.  I found angel food cake.  Who would think angel food cake could be an answer to prayer!  An angel food cake recipe calls for twelve large egg whites!  I figured our eggs to be small and medium size so I used fifteen egg whites in each cake.  I would use the yolks of the eggs in scrambled eggs or meatloaf or feed it to our cats.  I never wasted any eggs.

Along with all our sandwiches, salads, and breakfast eggs I now added angel food cake to our list of bountiful foods.  Larry kept a small garden which provided many vegetables for our table.  We would get a good deal from a farmer friend occasionally and split a cow for our freezers with Del and Alpha.  And we had eggs.  Boy, did we have eggs!
I remember being in the coop gathering eggs into my apron one morning.   Everything was going as it did every morning.  Most of the chickens had laid their eggs in the cubby hole nests Larry had build for them.  Those nests were easy to reach.  A few chickens always tried to build nests on the floor for their eggs so while they weren’t hard to reach it was a little difficult to bend down without banging the eggs in my apron into one another causing cracks. 
           Sometimes I felt bad for the chickens when they would argue and half-heartedly peck at me as if to say they wanted to keep their eggs and “sit” on them and hatch them.  Usually the chickens let me reach under them and take the eggs without much confrontation aside from the cackling.

I was finishing up my morning collection from the floor nests when it happened.  All of the sudden our big red rooster attacked me.  He was not an Araucona, he was a Rhode Island Red and he was really big!  He had talons on his feet and was jumping up throwing all his weight onto my legs.  I have no idea what set him off.  I hadn’t done anything I didn’t do every morning.  I had all the eggs in my apron which I began throwing at him and screaming in self defense.  I was really scared.
 Every time I threw an egg at him that rooster seemed bigger.  By the time I made my way out of the coop and pulled the door behind me he looked like a fifty pound bird instead of his actual four – five pounds.

I didn’t get a single egg to the house that day!  Larry happened to be in the shop and heard me screaming.  When I told him about the rooster and showed him my bleeding legs he grabbed his hatchet and went straight to the coop and procured our dinner!  I’m glad to say that fried chicken (rooster) dinner was excellent!  I enjoyed every bite!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Entry 81: 1969 August 27...Joyce and Jayne are Born

           The Viet Nam war was raging.  Del was always looking ahead.  He was always up with the latest ideas in farming.  He read everything he could about current events, new laws, and agriculture.  He and Alpha had showed us a dairy on Bradbury Road.  It had an older home on it that needed a lot of work.  The four of us talked about the house and the land.  We talked about fixing the house for me and Larry.  We drove through the land, cows following, talking about how to set up irrigation and varieties of trees.  We all decided it would be a lot of effort but Larry and Del were sure they could make it work to benefit the family and grow the farm. 
          Alpha was having trouble with a vertebra in her neck, Larry got his 1-A in the mail, and I got pregnant!  The 1-A meant that he was up for the draft and could be called at any moment to enlist.  Del weighed the possibilities of the new land gains with the possibility that either Alpha or Larry, or both, would not be able to help with the growth and development.  In the end we all decided together to give up the down payment and not buy that property.
I was under a different type of growth and development plan.  It was a scary time.  I was pregnant and our whole family, not just me, was under the threat of losing Larry.  I wondered how in the world I could survive without him. 
I wasn’t just afraid of being without him for a short time.  I thought of having children without a father, of having a home without a husband, of living day by day without him.  I have always loved him with my whole heart, sometimes I thought too much, as if no other human had ever loved that deeply.  As it worked out Alpha had surgery and came through fine and Larry’s 1-A soon changed to a student deferment.
The very next day after we found we were going to be having twins I woke with a belly ache.  Larry took me to his folk’s house.  I was so na├»ve about everything.  Alpha and I were actually timing when I’d hurt.  It finally sunk in to someone that it might be labor.  Larry, Alpha, and I got in the car and headed for the doctor’s office.  Larry had called ahead.  When we arrived the nurse took me straight into an exam room.  
The doctor came in immediately and when he asked me to lay on the table I obeyed.  As soon as my head hit the table my tummy exploded with a gush.  It sounded like a waterfall hitting the linoleum floor.  My eyes met Dr. Bigelow’s eyes.  He looked very upset.  His office was just across the street from the hospital.  He grabbed Larry and told him to get me to the emergency door as quickly as he could.   
Alpha was in the car waiting for us when we came back outside.  I sat in the front seat next to Larry.  Alpha was in the back seat.  She scooted up close to me, put her hands on my shoulders, and tried to comfort me.  I guess I was in shock.  I can remember the whole incident as if I was watching it happen.  It took us less than a minute to get to the emergency door.  Nurses were waiting for me with a gurney.  They helped me climb on telling me to hang on and not to worry.  One gave Larry directions too but I didn’t pay any attention to her.  We rushed down hallways and through a big double-door.  I remember it was really cold in the room.  I remember the big lights and lots of mirrors.
Dr. Bigelow said he wanted to get the babies out as quickly as possible just in case we were farther along in our pregnancy than we thought.  He said he wouldn’t be giving me anything for pain because at their delicate stage anything could hurt them.  I was wearing a loose dress mom had brought me from Hawaii.  Dr Bigelow commented we would be having Hawaiian babies and kind of chuckled.  That was the last chuckle of the day.
My feet were buckled into stirrups, an I-V was started in my arm, and two incubators were placed just to the right of me.  I turned my head focusing on the incubators praying when we left the room they would have my babies in them.
Within just a couple of minutes Dr. Bigelow told me to push.  Dutifully I pushed.  In the mirror over the doctors' head I saw a tiny baby girl appear.  The doctor placed her on my tummy.  She made a small cry.  It is a cry that haunted me from that day forward.   It sounded like the cry of a small deer we saw at Yosemite who had been separated from its mom.  It was just one little breath.  Then it was silence.
My eyes moved from the doctor’s face to the incubators.  I was surprised by what I saw.  Above the incubators was a figure.  A handsome but rugged figure of a man.  I knew instantly he was an Angel and I knew he was there for my baby.  He was her escort to Heaven.  I had no doubt then and I have no doubt now.  He was wearing a white robe with a second shawl-type wrapping over his shoulders and around his waist of a burgundy color.  He had a beard but no mustache.  His hair was parted in the middle and shoulder length.  He was looking toward me but his arms were stretched outward toward the incubators.  A sudden peace replaced the panic I had felt building inside me.  I instantly knew although these girls were not to be in our family I would have a family someday.  I knew in the midst of everything, despite the current tragedy, my life was as it should be. 
This Angel was similar in almost every way to people of our time and to people described in the Bible.   In one obvious way he was different.  He was floating between the ceiling and the incubators.  His body ended around his hips.  That is to state the obvious difference from the usual. 
I turned to Dr. Bigelow and asked, “Do you see him?”  He replied, “Do I see who?”  I turned back to the incubators and the Angel was gone.  It was in that moment I  heard the one soft heartbreaking cry from our daughter. 
Dr. Bigelow said, “These babies are not going to make it, there is no reason for her to watch.”  Without saying anything else to me the nurse added something to my I-V making me unconscious until everything was finished and I was ready to go to my own room.  When the nurse brought me back to reality the first thing I did was turn toward where the incubators had been.  When she saw me turn she told me there had been no need for the incubators and they had been taken away.  She didn’t realize I was looking for the second Angel, the one to go with our second daughter, but they had already gone.
When Larry joined me in my room, I shared with him what had happened in the delivery room.  I swore him to secrecy.  That evening Dr. Bigelow came to check on me.  He was followed by one of the nurses I’d seen in the delivery room.  I noticed she held one hand behind her back.  I assumed that was just the way she walked.  When he neared my bed he asked how I was.  I told him I only had one question.  He got a discouraged look on his face like he was going to have to go over all the particulars of what had happened earlier that day. 
He was greatly relieved when my question was, “How long do we need to wait to get pregnant again.”  He smiled, held my hand, and sent the nurse away.  When she turned to leave I saw a syringe in the hand she was holding behind her back.  He must have thought I was going to blame him or throw a fit or something about what had happened.  He said we should wait three months before getting pregnant again.  He made small talk about a friend of mine named Mina who worked at the hospital.  He stood up straight telling me he’d explain in detail when I wanted to know what had happened.  When he left my room he greeted someone in the hall and started to talk about me and the way I was handling my day. 
I was in the hospital for five or six days that time.  Larry made all the arrangements for our daughters' funeral.  He said in the cemetery there are lots of stones that simply say “Baby Girl,” or “Baby Reed.”  He said if picking a name would be too hard we didn’t need too.  I insisted that giving our daughters each a name would be the only thing we would ever be able to give them.  The stone he picked simply says, “Joyce and Jayne, Our Darling Daughters.”
The funeral was graveside.  I didn’t get to go but Larry did take a couple photographs of the coffin.  He had picked pink and frilly, just like two little girls would have liked.  They were in the same little coffin together.  Larry said the funeral director carried it to the grave from the car in his arms like it held the most precious thing in this world.  That made me happy. 
I spoke to the doctor the following week.  He told me the fluid that surrounds the babies inside the mother is continually expelled and replaced.  The fluid in me was not being eliminated as fast as my body was making it.  My womb actually broke under its size.  I did look really big, but like I said before, it was all firsts for me, I didn’t realize I shouldn’t be as big as I was. 
Because this whole story would have been unbelievably difficult for me to accept if someone else were telling it I didn’t share it with anyone other than Larry at that time.  About five years later my mom and I were having a close moment when I told her.  She believed me.  It meant the world to me that she did. 
In 1984, fifteen years later, I spoke to our pastor at that time, Pastor Reynolds, about what I’d witnessed.  He listened to every word.  When I finished he said he had one way to tell if indeed I had seen an Angel.  He asked me if I’d received a message at the time.  I said yes.  I shared how when I saw the Angel I knew someday I would have a family and that I didn’t need to be sad.   He got tears in his eyes thanking me for sharing with him what I’d kept a secret for so many years.
As more years have passed I’ve been able to share my first delivery room experience and the Angel I saw with more people.  Usually it is with one or two people who I know are believers.  To me the whole thing was a very precious gift.  No matter what has happened to me in my life I’ve always found tremendous comfort in knowing someone is here watching me, guiding me, and protecting me.  It is too precious to share with someone who might scoff at it.  In the end I don’t care if anyone believes me or not.  It was my gift.  It was for me.  It was to get me through a special day but it has comforted me for a lifetime.
I couldn’t bear to think of my children and grandchildren not knowing this about me and my life.  This was one of the easiest picks for my little book of memories.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Entry 80: 1969 24 Hours of Pure Joy

Larry and I spent the afternoon and evening together irrigating the day we found out we were having twins.  When we came in for the evening I made sandwiches for dinner.  I was too excited to fix a meal.  We were hungry and wanted to eat right away.  After dinner we called several friends to share our news.  This will seem odd to my kids but at that time it was long distance to call Hughson from Turlock.  We were very careful not to call and spend that dime unless it was for something really important.  Our news was too good not to share.
When we went to bed that night we talked for a long time of how the plans we had made for a baby would need to be modified now to accommodate two babies.  Alpha was planning on buying two cribs now.  We were going to need a lot of bottles and a lot of diapers!
The longer we talked the more things we thought of that would be needed.  The longer we talked the more we realized how much work we were in for.  I knew help would not be a problem.  My mom and Larry’s mom would be there for me any time I needed them.
My heart would feel as if it might burst with joy one minute and the next it would thump in panic.  In the end, before Larry and I drifted to sleep, we felt confident we would easily be able to handle the wonderful new changes coming to our family.  While I was falling to sleep all I could think of was me holding my two babies.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9.11.2001 Lest we forget!

Larry woke me telling me something horrible was happening.

He was certainly right!

 I remember calling my dad and waking him.  I told him to get up and turn his
tv on as there was breaking news in New York.  We were being attacked!
I remember him so clearly asking, "What channel?" and me replying..."Well...any channel dad!"

As the morning unfolded images were seared into our memories.

And the images kept coming...
 Live news kept us at the scenes...
Firefighters, policemen, folks going to daily jobs became heros...
We watched from our homes and offices as our countrymen lived 
through hell right right before our eyes...
The Pentagon was attacked...
Flight 93 came down...
I think the buildings and the airplane must have been surrounded
with weeping guardian angels as they watched...
I know people did this who hate us simply because of who we are...
How sad these people must be...
How empty their lives...
How hopeless their future...

They tried to break our nation
and dishonor our flag...

But our nation came together immediately...
Flags bloomed on our homes and streets...
Flags waved proudly at every opportunity...
and in unique ways...
Felt a protective love for our nation....
We called on the Lord for healing and protection.
A new date marker was branded into our hearts.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 9, 2011: Mom and dad. Together Again!

Rodney Albert Starn   1923 - 2002
Helen Louise (Stevens) Starn    1927 - 2011

God be with you till we meet again;
    by his counsels guide, uphold you,
    with his sheep securely fold you;
    God be with you till we meet again
Till we meet, till we meet,
    till we meet at Jesus' feet;
    till we meet, till we meet,
    God be with you till we meet again.

8th Grade Graduation

High School Graduation

16 Years Old

Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Dan and Cornie Baptista
Bob and Lorraine Lindquist (dad's baby sister)
Rod and Louise

Santa Cruz Boardwalk Arcade

Guess Where?

Dad, Mom, David, and Me

David, Mom, Me

Ruby Bergman (dad's twin sister) and Ben
Dad and mom

David, Dad, Mom, Me, and Phillip





Fishing in Monterey



Trip to Hawaii
Celebrating 50th Anniversary

50th Anniversary Party





When I think of how holding them
Once more would please us...
I remember their home now
In the sweet arms of Jesus!