Monthly Archives: November 2011

When my sisters and I were little we were told things like “You get things by ages” meaning bicycles and such. We also got privileges by ages. I think it is probably that way in most families. Kids need to be a certain age in order to be safe doing certain things, and going places…so we knew that was just the way it was. Naturally, whenever we became old enough for something new, it was a pretty big deal. Looking back on it now, it’s almost funny how big a deal something so small could be.

We lived on East 3rd Street, where my mom still lives to this day. It was and is a quiet, safe neighborhood. There was a gang of kids that lived on our street, and oddly, it was mostly girls, which worked out well for our family which contained 5 girls and no boys. There was a variety of ages among the girls on our street, so we usually had a friend our age. We all had pretty much the same standard of rules…I’m pretty sure our moms discussed all that and agreed on something…well ok, maybe not, but the rules did seem the same. In the summertime, you could play outside with your friends as long as you checked in regularly, stayed on our street, and came home before suppertime. After supper, we got to play outside again, until it got dark, then it was time to head home.

As some of us got older, and were allowed to venture out into the surrounding neighborhoods on our bicycles or on foot, and the ones left behind started to feel the sting of being younger. It just seemed unfair to us somehow, not that our sisters got to go somewhere that we didn’t, but that they got to be the older one. I guess we just knew that arguing the point was futile, but we sure didn’t like it much.

I will never forget how grown up I felt when I was finally allowed to leave the street in front of our house on my bicycle. My friend, Toni and I were allowed to ride our bicycles clear down to East 8th Street…wow, what a day!! We felt so grown up. We actually went just 5 blocks. Not really a very big distance, and considering that I now live on Sally Lane, two houses off of East 8th Street and I can walk to my mom’s house in about 5 minutes, it occurs to me just how small a distance that really is. Still, at that time, it was like traveling to the moon. We were free at last, and we felt that freedom clear down to our toes.

It’s somewhat rare…being double cousins, but it does happen. I suppose it is rare enough that many people don’t even know what it is exactly. It might not even be a exact term, but it is the only one that describes this situation.

When two brothers marry two sisters, their children become double cousins…and that is exactly what happened. My grandfather, George Byer married my grandmother Harriet “Hattie” Pattan on December 24, 1927. Then my uncle, Theodore “Ted” Byer married my aunt, Gladys Pattan on November 2, 1928. Hattie and George would go on to have 9 children, Evelyn, Virginia, Delores, Larry, Collene, who is my mother, Wayne, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy. My Aunt Gladys and my Uncle Ted would have one daughter, Margaret. From the moment Margaret arrived, the children of the sisters and brothers were double cousins. And later there would be double second cousins, double third cousins, double second cousins once removed, double third cousins once removed, and so on.

Now as often happens, the children of the double cousins weren’t as close as the double cousins themselves. As the years go by many of the cousins don’t know each other well, or at all. I have been blessed in that for me things would turn out differently. When my girls were little they began bowling with two girls who were also sisters. Little did we know, until my mom heard their dad’s name, that these girls were the grandchildren of Margaret Byer, the very Margaret whose birth began the double cousins in the first place. So, every Monday night, during the winter bowling league season, I get the privilege of spending the evening with my double second cousins twice removed, and their daughters, my double second cousins thrice removed. Margaret’s son Ted and his wife Donna, and their daughters, Jaime and her husband Willie, who also have three children, Kaleb, Kielei, and Haley, and Ted and Donna’s other daughter Jackie. I am very thankful that I have had the chance to know them all these years. They are awesome people. Love you guys bunches.

A number of years ago, my sister, Cheryl had several friends who got together as often as possible for coffee at what was then the Ramada Inn. They would sit and talk for hours, but it would seem like such a short time to them. They were having such a good time. They talked about their lives and kids, and hopes and dreams…just whatever came to their minds. It was girls’ night, before girls’ night became so popular.

Now, in those days, there was no such thing as a cell phone, so when people were not at home, they were not easy to get a hold of. And when the girls got to talking…well, lets just say they weren’t worried about being found. Everyone knew where they were anyway. The guys, however, thought it was somewhat like a bunch of hens, clucking along.

Nevertheless, sometimes you needed to be able to get a hold of people…not that it was any emergency or anything, but it might have been, so it just made sense. I suppose that is why cell phones were invented…you are never out of touch with a cell phone. But, that invention would not come for a few years yet, so if anyone needed to get a hold of Cheryl when she was having coffee with her friends, they had to call the Ramada and have her paged. They knew her, so they always went to her table to get her, without paging her.

One time however, was a little different. My brother-in-law had a plan…and he was pretty good at those plans. He didn’t need anything when he called the Ramada, he just wanted to try something. So he called the Ramada, and asked them to bring Cheryl to the phone. Now as I said, Chris had a plan, so when they paged my sister, this is what she heard. “Telephone call for…Marathon Masterson!” Well, you can just imagine her shock when she heard that being said. She knew it was aimed at her, and it was now a nickname she would carry around for many years to come.

Bob and I walk 2 hours a day about 5 days a week. In the winter, we walk at the mall because it is too cold and windy outside. But in the summer, we walk on the trails around town…with our main weekday trail being the one we can access by walking a block down our street. Walking on that trail as often and as long as we do, we have had a chance to get to know the people that are on the trail daily like we are. We have built a friendship with them. If we don’t see them for a while, we wonder where they are, and even ask about them to others who also know them. When we were absent from the trail for a time, many people wondered about us too. One friend even drove by our house to see if we had moved or something. It is comforting to know that people notice your absence and try to check it out. The absences had always been simple to explain, and nothing serious…until now.

When Bob and I were at Walmart on Sunday doing our grocery shopping, we ran into a friend, Tina from the trail. She always walked the trail with her dog…Toby. When we told her we hadn’t seen her in a while, she told us that her Toby Dog had died, and she had not felt up to walking much without him. I couldn’t believe my ears. Her dog was so sweet. I felt such a loss…and Toby wasn’t even my dog, so what must she be feeling.

Toby was an old dog, and had been the victim of other dogs who wanted to attack him at times, so he was a little nervous around people he didn’t know…especially if they had a dog. We didn’t have a dog, and Tina is the girlfriend of a friend of Bob’s, so we would always stop and talk for a minute when we passed each other. The first time we saw her on the trail, she introduced us to Toby. We petted him and from that day forward, we were accepted by Toby as a friend. The minute Toby would see us on the trail, he would step up his pace a little in anticipation of the coveted petting he was going to receive.

It was just a minute or two several times a week, and yet finding out that I won’t see Toby again, made me very sad. Pets wiggle their way into the hearts of their owners every day, but it is unusual for someone else’s pet to find their way into the heart of someone he only saw for, maybe 15 minutes a week. Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened, and I will miss Tina’s Toby Dog very much.

When your kids start driving, most parents are a nervous wreck. You try to tell them about all the possible scenarios and hope they will listen to you enough to stay safe. Most of the time, the kids think you are a total nag, and they wish you would just realize that they know what they are doing…duh!! Nevertheless, as parents, we know that they only think they know all about it. They will someday realize…probably about the time they are teaching their first child to drive…just how they sounded, not to mention, just how little kids know about driving when they first start out.

We lived out in the country when our girls started driving, and that compounded the problems substantially. You add icy roads that are not salted with the chemicals they use in town to melt the ice, and the deer and antelope that roam our area and like the roadway because the food supply is easier to get to there, and you have what could be a recipe for disaster if the drivers don’t stay alert and don’t know what to do in certain situations. During the time we lived out there, there were several rollover accidents, and at least one death because the driver swerved to miss the antelope.

That said, Bob was diligent about telling the girls what to do in those situations. I’m quite sure they secretly rolled their eyes at what they believed to be their over-protective dad. Still he kept on nagging them…drumming it into their heads. I’m sure they thought he was using a hammer sometimes, but one night, all his nagging paid off. Amy was on her way home from town after babysitting, and as she was driving along, an antelope ran out in front of her. Her first instinct was to swerve, and she says she even tightened her hands on the wheel in readiness for that move, but then, her dad’s words came back to her, and she thought, “No…Dad said don’t swerve!!” She slowed way down, and the antelope did hit her car, but he left no damage except a small dent, and she drove home relieved that she hadn’t rolled her car or worse. Her dad’s nagging had probably saved her life.

When your brother-in-law is a cop, and 6’4″ to top it off, you might as well know that you are going to be picked on…a lot! The year was 1993, and the event was my daughter Corrie’s graduation party. The party had progressed to the point of cutting the cake, when Chris decided that this was the perfect moment to pick on me. He grabbed my hands and hand cuffed them behind my back and promptly walked away. Of course, I started trying to convince him to unlock the cuffs, but he told me that he didn’t have the key. The party was put on hold for a few minutes while my sister and I tried to get him to unlock the cuffs. For a while there, I really thought I might have to try to cit the cake with my hands behind my back. Finally, Chris unlocked the cuffs, laughing the whole time at how easily he could overpower me.

Since I am only 5’2″, overpowering me was not too difficult for my brother-in-law whose more that a foot advantage over me in height gave him the clear advantage. This was proven quite effectively when Chris decided to help me out with my height problem…by picking me up and depositing me into a tree in my parents front yard. I’m sure he was trying to be helpful…don’t you think? You don’t? Well, you are probably right.

Through the years Chris has picked me up by my feet and held me upside down, held me in different sorts of police holds for subduing criminals, and put me upside down in a chair, just to name a few different torture methods, all in good clean fun, of course. He would never hurt me or anyone else who happened to be his next victim, but he could definitely show you who was boss. And this was proven quite effectively whenever he decided to pick on me or my sisters. All I can say is, I’m sure glad he was never arresting me for real, because I don’t think I would want to go up against him if he weren’t just teasing.

It was one year ago today that Princess Laila entered our lives, but her time with us was not to be very long. She would leave us to live with Jesus 18 days later. With her passing, would begin a sad journey toward the healing of our broken hearts. Laila was the answer to her parents’ prayers. Jenny and Steve have three wonderful and healthy boys, and they wanted a girl to complete their family. Laila was to be that little princess…and a princess she was, beautiful in every way. She was and is loved by all who knew her, or awaited her arrival.

Laila’s time with us would be cut short due to Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which means that the left ventrical of the heart is too small or is non-existent. The heart should have 4 chambers, and Laila’s 4th chamber was too small, and could not effectively pump blood to her body. The doctors tried surgery to repair Laila’s heart, but her little body was just not strong enough, and she went home to be with Jesus on November 22, 2010…and very sad day for all of her family.

It is so hard to believe that a year has come and gone since Princess Laila would change our lives forever with her sweet spirit. Today was to have been a day of celebration…her first birthday…a day to celebrate all those little firsts…first tooth, first word, first steps…but it was not to be. Instead, Princess Laila, we wish you Happy First Birthday in Heaven, where you are being held in the loving arms of Jesus, and where your heart is perfect and whole. I know that you, Grandpa, and Alyssa, along with all your other Heavenly family members are having the greatest first birthday celebration ever. We only wish we could all be there with you today as our baby girl turns one year old…but know that we are with you in spirit, as we know you are with us.

Jenny, Steve, Xander, Zachary, and Issac, I know that your hearts are very sad and lonely today. I know that as God’s Word says, He has sent you the Comforter to hold you is His arms, just as Sweet Princess Laila is being held in Jesus arms today. I know today will be very hard, and I am keeping you in prayer. The day is coming when we will all be together again, and I can’t wait to meet your precious Princess Laila. I love you all very much.

Going to the dentist is not usually something that kids like doing. It normally frightens them because of the painful Novocaine shots and the scary sounds of the drilling. Once they have been there, most don’t want to go back…but my niece, Chantel had a little bit different experience with the dentist, and I will never forget just how funny it was.

Chantel went to a children’s dentist. That was pretty much unheard of in the mid 70’s when she was a little girl, or at least it was pretty new to us. This dentist wanted to make it a good experience for the kids. So, when she had to have her teeth worked on, he gave her something to relax her. That would make her sleepy by the time she would receive the Novocaine shot, and probably pretty numb too. My sister gave her the medicine about 30 minutes or so before the appointment. Of course, it not only relaxed her, it was similar to being drunk. She got pretty goofy.

We were asking her questions just to hear her slurred speech as she attempted to answer us. This was not the first time she had been given this med and so we kind of knew what to expect, and she loved her dentist, because he had found a way to remove the fear of dentistry. Not only was she not afraid, she was always given gum after the dental work, as a reward for doing so well throughout the procedure. No wonder she liked him. What little kid didn’t like gum.

So, we asked her where she was going, and she said, “To da detist.” And then giggling, we would ask her again, just to hear the funny slurred speech. She tried very hard to tell us the whole story of the upcoming adventure she was going to have…with us laughing all the way through it. Finally we asked her why she liked the dentist and she said, “Ma buddy guve me gum.” Aw yes, the ultimate reward for a sweet little girl on medicine to make her relax.

I remember a visit to my birthplace, Superior, Wisconsin, that my family took when I was a little girl. My Uncle Bill and his family lived up there and still do today. Uncle Bill was and is an interesting sort. He has always liked to collect things. I remember that he had a slot machine in his basement, years ago. Of course, no one was allowed to use it that wasn’t family…a guy could get into trouble otherwise. He collected guns and coins, and he is fanatical about the family history, which I suppose is how I got started writing about the good old days. Uncle Bill got me interested in my past, and my daughters, Corrie and Amy got me into blogging. Writing about the past just seemed to be a good fit for me.

As I said, Uncle Bill liked to do things a little differently. I remember going out to pick blueberries and experiencing the difference you can only get when you eat blueberries that have just been picked. It is hard to describe how amazing that taste is.

Uncle Bill was a history buff too. He has always been interested in the shipwrecks in Lake Superior. He could probably tell you about every one. When Bob and I went up to visit the year after our marriage, he told us about many of those wrecks, and how many were visible from the air. That seems odd to me considering the fact that Lake Superior is the deepest of the Great Lakes.

But, one of the most unusual things that Uncle Bill did was a complete surprise and totally delightful to all of us. We had gone for a visit, and he was going to take us out for dinner. When we got to the restraunt, it was not what we expected. It was an ice cream shop. We looked at him in amazement, and he announced that we were having an Ice Cream Supper. So, we went in and Uncle Bill said to order whatever we wanted. We had a wonderful time and supper was delicious. Uncle Bill insisted on everyone eating their fill of ice cream. So, when we were all full, Uncle Bill said, “Now…what do you want for dessert!!”

If you were ever a kid, you have played this one…the secret clubhouse.  Ours was located in the attic of my parents garage. It was enclosed so we could walk around, provided we were careful not to step between the rafters and thereby through the floor.  We spent a lot of time up there in the secret clubhouse…friends and sisters alike. It was just a great hangout. Of course, we had to have a president, vice president, and secretary/treasurer. Not that any of these positions really had any kind of an official job, except possibly the secretary part. She had to take the minutes of the meetings. Not that much ever happened at the meetings, besides maybe deciding on the treats for the next meeting. The main thing I remember about the offices of our secret meetings is that the names of the officers were written on the walls of the attic. They are probably still there to this day.

Secret club meetings can be held in a variety of places, because lets face it, not everyone can meet in the attic of their garage. Some are held in bedrooms, some outside…sometimes in a box, and some even in spare bathrooms…anywhere that kids can hide from the rest of the world and spend a little time in a fantasy world. They might pretend to be spies, which I know we did, or they might play school, which always strikes me as funny, since they don’t seem to want to go to school in real life. I’m not sure what makes it different in the world of make believe, except maybe the recess is a lot longer. Or they might even plan a play to be presented to their parents…or the neighborhood…for a fee, of course, since the dues weren’t ever really enough for the treats needed at the meetings. Thank goodness for mom or grandma for providing the necessary treats for the meetings, but our goal was always to be able to make that all important trip to the store to get special treats.

My girls had their secret club meetings, as did my grandchildren. It was always fun to watch them…from a distance, of course…no adults allowed you know, and remember when that was me, my sisters and friends holding our secret meetings and planning whatever it was that was on the agenda that day. I would love to show you pictures of those meetings, but everybody knows that there are no cameras allowed in the secret club meetings!! It just isn’t done. In fact the only evidence of secret club meetings is a few scattered and discarded notes, and maybe some empty dishes to point out the fact that the secret members were here. And once the cleaning lady came through, no evidence at all.