Essentially Esther Banner

Saturday, April 30, 2005


September was a month of getting used to Jennifer being gone, looking after mom and working. We talked with Jennifer on the phone several times and Becky was on the phone a lot. With the freedom and independence that came from going off to college, there was a culture shock in the package. Whereas ‘mom’ used to fix everything that blew up from an ill wind, now she had to cope and make decisions. It’s a real eye-opener to find that sometimes the decisions don’t hold the options you want.

One positive thing in her favor was the offer of an office job in the Alumni Assn. on campus. I don’t know if Jennifer had computer training at that time or not. I would imagine she didn’t since she graduated from a small school in the Ozarks. Funding wasn’t very good for a town of 2,000 people and their school system. At any rate, she either learned or honed her skills in this job. Older women were her co-workers and she did very well with them. Jennifer spent a lot of her life with her mother and me as role models and communicated very well. She usually had difficulty getting along with her own age group. She found them immature….which is natural when you spend your time with adults.

Another thing that helped her find self-worth was the sorority she was initiated into. She wanted this one particular one and was happy to be selected by them. During her time at college and working in the sorority she plumbed depths of talent and organizational skills she might never have known. We watched her become confident and more independent with every visit. She left the dorm and moved into the sorority house….again, becoming good friends with the older woman who was their “house mother.” After feeling such a loss with her gone we were beginning to see the metamorphous taking place and were very proud of her growing capability.

Becky, Bear and I continued our visits to see mom. During the day when questions or problems came up…..decisions to make, Bear was handy to take care of it all. He did a masterful job of all the paperwork and watching out for her interests. He kept the yard well groomed, ran all the errands and cleaned house every Friday so I didn’t have to waste the week-end with the chores. I couldn’t have worked, looked after mom and kept the home fires burning without his help.

September and October are busy months in our church. The nominating committee is busy finding new officers and the finance committee is busy with the church budget. The new church year begins the first of October and so everything was in place and ready to welcome new (and in many cases) the same faithful ones to serve. Bear and I had carried a heavy load for many years with multi-responsibilities. It was becoming increasingly harder with mom’s health turning worse. Still, we couldn’t find it in us to cut back on the areas we filled. It was a “faith” exercise that somehow we would find the time and strength to get it all done….and God provided.

My brother’s wife came to visit during October for his birthday. It had been a year since she had been able to come. Of course, after a spouse is gone there is endless paperwork and bureaucracy to work through. She still lived in their home in Renton, WA. and the distance kept her from coming sooner. Bear met her at the airport in Springfield and they were here when I came from work. George drove down from Shawnee and we had a nice visit with both of them over the weekend. We visited mom and brought her out for meals while Gail and George were here.

October passed with the preparation for winter. Leaf removal is always a job when you live under many oaks and that requires the leaves to be removed from the roof. Becky came down for coffee one Saturday morning and when she found out I was planning to do, she had a fit and did it for me. I never did that job again. Bear painted the garage and managed it all except the very highest part. He pulled himself up the ladder with his arm strength and planted his foot on the rung….he always amazed me with his determination and strength. I never thought of him as “handicapped” …..it would have been a misnomer.

And so, the beauty, the majesty and the harvests relented their domination as November came to call………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, April 29, 2005


The fourth of July came on a Wednesday so we had a break in the middle of the week. It was good to kick back and enjoy the extra day we could be home. For me it always meant opportunity to do a little extra cooking or cleaning. Since it was a holiday I started cooking. I was at the table making a menu as I did some thinking about holidays in general. I note the words I wrote out of the 1990 diary….. “I was sitting here thinking how differently we view holidays as the years go by and we get older. More a time of remembering other years, past. The older ones are mostly gone now, the younger ones are busy pursuing a “free” day of activity and those of us in the middle are grateful to reflect and set our course for tomorrow’s work day. Age is sobering but not without it’s merits.”

I baked a cake, put a brisket in to slow cook and started potato salad. Becky, Jennifer and Chris came for our picnic and then we went out to see mom a while. Becky made ice-cream to go with the cake and later we watched fireworks that Becky and Chris had. I thought it would be fun to see what our Morris kitty thought of the fireworks so I held him on my lap as Becky lit the first ones. That lasted until the first flash and bang….then he jumped from my arms and ran like a gazelle to the back yard. We were all in close pursuit because Morris had no claws to protect himself and I was afraid he’d get lost in the dark and we couldn’t find him. Lesson learned. We finally did get him back but back in the house. He was a year and a few months at the time.

Giving driving lessons in July and August is miserable. Some of those old cars were more of a blast furnace than a vehicle. I was pretty wilted by the time I got home during the heat of the summer…..the streets seem to soak up the heat. The offices we worked out of were mostly in old Courthouses around the area with no AC. There was no relief until we got in the car to head home. I spent 50 straight days going to see mom after her hospital fiasco and she continued to be pretty unstable and depressed. Nothing seemed to cheer her up and by the time I dried out from a hot day I’m afraid my cheeriness was a little forced. By the time I left each evening we were both depressed. It was just a situation no one could win. The days went on and we managed as well as we could.

It’s absolute torture to see the mother who cared for and loved you through all your life, die by inches. I’m sure it was torture for her to struggle along, much of the time in a confused world all her own. We were both locked in a dance that never seemed to end. Of course we hoped for her to get better but we knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Jennifer worked all summer as it was her last year at home. In August she would move into the dorm at Canton, Missouri and attend college there. She had worked hard and earned a full 4-year scholarship. Her birthday was on August 3rd which made her 18-years. We had pizza here after work and had a nice evening. The coming Sunday was her last one at home. She and a friend of hers sang a duet at church for the evening service, titled, “Friends”…..the girls did a nice job. They were so young and fresh ……full of excitement about college and being out on their own….it was a wake up call that she was moving away from Grandma…… and those nice visits we enjoyed would have to be written or on the phone from now on. It was a bitter sweet time to let her go. When the day came for her to move, Becky, and we loaded our cars with her things and she had her car full as well. Becky led the way, then Jennifer and we brought up the rear in our little caravan moving north.

Unloading to the 3rd floor of the dorm was a job because it was an old college and the parking lot was not close. The heat and the trips back and forth were not pleasant. Finally we completed all of that to her satisfaction and then went to an orientation meeting for students and family. We hurried to the auditorium and heard the ground rules and pep talk. Then the students had 10-minutes to tell their families goodbye………we headed back to where the car was and by the time we got there and started to say goodbye, Jennifer teared up and didn’t want us to leave. She was frantic because the clock was ticking and she knew in minutes we would be gone……..we all cried and held on to each other until we had to tear ourselves away and get in the car. The last scene we had of her she was running towards the auditorium, wiping her eyes.

Took the heart right out of all of us and I think we felt the umbilical cord snap as we drove away…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Yesterday I wrote of aunt Beulah’s death. It so happens the second blog I wrote, on January 5th 2004, was a tribute to her life and the relationship we had. I was only one of many who found her to be inspiring and always pleasant. My mother and she were friends closer than sisters. They both married brothers and are two of the few women I have known who never gave in to criticism, gossip or self edification. Her only son, Dale, follows in her path of giving the other guy the benefit of the doubt and not concerning himself with pettiness. He is her legacy of a good life, lived………and I am posting it once more in her honor.


This is another of those depression days stories. Born at the end of one of the nation’s largest financial disasters isn’t the way to plan your future. I was the youngest child of two, born to parents who could barely eek out a living for themselves. Life was non-the-less good and filled with all the warm fuzzies that kids need. There were grandparents, lots of aunts and uncles and cousins to play with. In short, we had the essentials of life served up on a chipped platter.

This is not about my meager beginning, however, but rather about a lady who made my young life exciting and hopeful. She instilled a sense of carefree abandonment to the rules and expectations often foisted by my parents. If I thought I could bake a cake she immediately went for the recipe and measuring cups. If I thought I could sew a blouse, before I could blink, out came cloth, patterns and pinking shears.
Knitting lessons followed under watchful supervision and I actually made most of my first sweater. This is power stuff when you’re a 10-year old and most adults think you’re too young to waste their time with.

In short, I had my own “Auntie Mame” who in reality was my aunt Beulah. She was generous in nature, divinely forgiving, undemanding and fun. Through life she was agreeable, pleasant, complimentary and adventurous. Where most of my other family mentors were rigid, lecturing and made much of adult expectations, she was truly a joy.

We were soul mates until her death and she is still a reminder to enjoy life with childish anticipation. It was fitting at the graveside when a butterfly slid down a sunbeam and danced among the flowers on her casket and then suddenly flew away. I think my Auntie Mame and the butterfly flew away together.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


June certainly held it’s sorrows for our family. Mom was unable to stabilize and she refused much of her food but did take some nutrition drinks which helped. She seemed to be constantly restless. My emotions were up and down thinking she was better, looking for any little sign to encourage me and then hitting bottom. It was all beyond anything I could do to help so I was on the outside looking in. I tried to be realistic about her condition but I couldn’t kid myself very long.

Cousin Dale called on the 12th of the month to tell us he came home from work and found aunt Beulah on the floor of her mobile home and it had been a very warm day. He said she was taken to the hospital but was very confused and disoriented, wouldn’t eat. Of course he was distraught because the situation didn’t look too encouraging.

John and Barbara came on the 15th……..we went out to see mom and she was happy to see them. Mom had been fussing about the I.V. for some time and wanted it out so they finally did remove it. She was feeling better about that….it had been a constant annoyance to her. John and Barb stayed with us a few days and then drove on to Shawnee to spend time with George. Later, on their return trip, we met them in Springfield for lunch and shopping. On the 23rd I was up early to fix breakfast for them before they had to leave. We sure hated to see them go….L.J. is growing up fast.

I was back at work on the 25th and then we went to see mom and check on her. When we came home Dale called to tell us aunt Beulah died about 8:00pm that evening. With mom so sick and restless I decided not to tell her. I think she must have known something was wrong because she asked if I’d heard from aunt Beulah lately and I told her that I hadn’t……but made the excuse that she and Dale had been busy.

George came from Shawnee to be able to attend aunt Beulah’s funeral with Bear, Becky and me. It was held in Mountain Home, Arkansas and after a nice service in the Chapel, she was laid to rest by her husband, uncle Ted. We went back to her home in Gassville, Arkansas after the funeral to visit with Dale and other of her relatives that we were acquainted with. It was a time of remembering her and the impact she made on all of us. Dale and I had much in common….raised in the same family we were the only two cousins left that we knew of or where to reach any of them if they were alive.

After we arrived back home, we stopped at the nursing home to look in on mom.

She was resting quietly and at peace.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


With the trip to Boston and the Spring yard work I am getting a late start back to the life and times of Esther and her family. Thankfully a little shower chased me in so I can continue with the year 1990 in the month of June…where we left off.

Mom had been taken to the hospital and had suffered a wild frenzy of over dosing on medication. She was experiencing terrible effects from it and the tests and hospital didn’t show any results. She had been given a new room and had been given a bath, was lucid when we visited the first day of June. She recognized and was happy to see us. She ate oatmeal for me and drank some water and milk…but later began regressing again. Becky encouraged her to eat some custard but she wouldn’t take any medication nor drink. I came home pretty discouraged.

The next day was the same. The pain in her leg didn’t diminish with any of the treatments. It was Saturday and I stayed with her all day as well as Sunday. I had no reason to hope that things would be better…I thought the staff was pretty disinterested in coming up with any solutions. I second guessed everything until I was out of ideas. Monday I went back to work, feeling guilty to be working when mom was doing so poorly. Bear went down to see about her and stayed most of the day to ease my mind about her……she still wasn’t eating.

Wednesday they moved her to the extended care unit and it was much cleaner and the help was better also. They quit giving her so much Demeral and hoped that would make her more alert and help with her eating. On Thursday I went to see her after I got off work. Bear had been with her, reporting that she ate some breakfast, had a shower and shampoo in a wheel chair…..had therapy and slept good. Becky was with her when we arrived that evening….she was feeding mom and mom was sitting up in bed eating like a little machine. A tuna sandwich of all things. She was so much better we were amazed. She looked at us and smiled like, “What happened?” She was decidedly better and I felt the first relief in days.

The next day it was a different story. We arrived at the hospital to see mom sitting in the area of the nursing station slumped over in her wheel chair, asleep. Her I.V. was out of her arm and dripping on the floor…it was obvious she had been there a long time. I was just sick to find her like that. Her nurse indicated mom woke up at 4:00am and wanted “up” so they put her in a wheel chair. It was after noon when we saw her and she had not eaten nor had anything to drink. The nurse made no excuses or bothered with any explanation. She did refasten the I.V. We wheeled mom to her room and asked the roommate what happened….it seemed mom woke and wanted up and she was in quite a mess. They got her cleaned up and put her in the wheelchair and the roommate said she had not been back to the room since. It had been approximately 10-hours ago.

Mom was back in bed when the doctor came to check on her and he told us the nurse said “our family was causing a lot of problems over the care of mom”……that was the last straw. I told the doctor I wanted her moved back to Willow Care in Willow Springs where she received good treatment and was well cared for. He seemed miffed and curtly said, “It will be arranged.” I didn’t tattle on the nurse and what happened, I knew the nurse had already covered her tracks and he wouldn’t believe anything I could say. To this day, I do not go to that doctor or to that hospital. When the picture comes to mind of my mother sitting so pitifully in that wheel chair I become angry all over again. It’s part of the past I cannot deal with and remains unresolved for me.

The next day was Sunday and mom returned to WC in an ambulance. Naomi, the nurse, had prepared a nice room for her, in with an old friend from church and a birthday club they used to be in together. When mom came into the room she was so thrilled and happy to be back. The hospital had been a place of horrors for her. Some of the ladies came by to welcome her back and mom was so happy she couldn’t get rid of the smile on her face…..she was “home.” We fixed her room up with things of hers and made it homey again……..so she settled down to rest and we left her later in the evening.

This began a long time of highs and lows that came and went so quickly, I never relaxed with mom’s condition again. It’s a very sad time to write about but part of who we are and ……where we have been. And so it must be told.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, April 25, 2005


I have listened to John’s accounts of his running, dating back to his college days. I’m not sure why he started but I noticed every time he came home, he had magazines about running. Little by little it became less of a jogging thing and more of a long distance effort. He would walk to a tree in the front yard and go through various stretching exercises…..then start jogging towards our road where he would routinely disappear for a time and reappear as he made his rounds. He was young and strong. Add determination to that and pretty soon he was trying to beat his own time. He was motivated beyond recreational running……he wanted to run the races….just to be part of the scene, I supposed.

Through Seminary, marriage and two years in Illinois with his church vocation, he continued to run. His enthusiasm was endless. As mother’s do, I listened to each account and wondered to myself…. “what makes Johnny run?” I never was very athletic and the very thought of running the distances he did made me tired. I did some walking and tried jogging…….walking was better. It never romanced me as it did John. It was just plain work as far as I was concerned. However, I was very proud of John and because of my dislike of it for myself, it made me realize how great his accomplishments were. It’s either in the mind…..or not at all.

In Boston, as he made his way to the fence area where I waited, he looked so thin….and hot!! His face was red from the effort and I could tell he was weak. Still I grabbed him and hugged him…..and yes….said, “Hold still, John….I want to take your picture.” Then a picture with me…then one with Rocky….then a passerby offered to take one of the three of us. THEN I noticed my Johnny was dying….he sat down on the sidewalk curbing and hung his head down….still drinking the water given him. He was undergoing the rigors of post-exertion that I could never know…..a volunteer came and offered water, then poured some over his head.

George and Barb caught up with us and were disappointed that they missed him at the finish line. It turned out I was at a key place to “find” him passing by. God works close with mother’s you know. All the time, John was feeling better and better…..it was beginning to soak in that he ran the race and he ran it well. Not the time he hoped for but Heartbreak Hill had killed most expectations for everyone that day. Finishing in the top third of runners from all over the world can’t be too shabby. He got his medal and soon after he was up walking after his gear from the bus.

We all went back to their hotel and snacked while John showered….then we headed out to eat lunch somewhere. The great thing about Boston is that you can walk all over downtown where the buildings of the 17-and 18-hundreds find a common place with 2005 architecture. I was totally blown away with the camera shots so richly positioned everywhere I looked. John called it a photographers paradise and he was right. Being born and raised in the Midwest, there is little of the very old standing among the new, as flowers in a patch of weeds. It was a fascinating day of exploration and family.

We had to say our goodbyes after our supper time. John and Barb headed for their hotel and we headed for the subway steps to take us back to North Station for the hook-up with the commuter train back to Anderson. When we arrived at North Station we could hear our train leaving……..it was a long 40-minute wait. There were no places to sit. The crowd had hit the station about the same time to return to their starting places. People were sitting on the floor, reading, talking on cell-phones, eating…..as for George, Rocky and me….we just stared at the clock, watching the agonizing minutes click by. We were dead on our feet because we drove into our motel at 1:30 that morning and got to bed by 2:00.…we were up at 6:00 to eat and find the train and subway to take us to the hotel where Barb was waiting. After that, it was lots more stairs, walking, standing….all of which made Rocky and I feel our age.

The next morning we repeated the commuter/subway connections with great confidence. Done it once….now we were experts. Shortly after we arrived at the hotel, Jennifer and her husband, Marc, arrived. We had the customary family hugs and greetings and then embarked on a plan to enjoy all we could out of what Boston had to offer. After a bit of shopping for us gals, we met the guys on the street to learn Marc knew a tour bus owner whom he called and we were to be picked up shortly. After a walk to the pickup point on one side of the Boston Commons we climbed on the bus to learn it was “on the house” from Marc’s friend. We were given paid passes which would have been $26 for each of us…….way to go Marc!!! That improves your appreciation a thousand percent as far as taking the tour to the most scenic areas.

We were entertained by a bus-driver who should have been a comedian. Or maybe he was a comedian who should have been a bus driver…..I don’t know. He made it all memorable and at one point, we transferred off and walked to the dock where the USS Constitution was moored. It was 10-minutes till the gift shop closed so we hustled over and made some fast decisions. The clerks made it very clear the doors were closing at 5:00 sharp….I selected a coffee mug with a depiction of the Constitution and a refrigerator magnet. After that, we were shown the door. We passed close by the old ship……incidentally, she never lost a battle. How many of us old gals can say THAT?

We walked to the ferry dock and waited for it to take us across where hopefully we could find a good meal. In the Italian neighborhood, the guys picked a very small very busy restaurant that was run by Italians, cooked and served by Italians. We enjoyed a bottle of wine with our native fare and gave our blessings to them all. With your chair rubbing the chair behind you, all was in good humor. People laughed, talked, scooted their chairs for you to get up or down…….it was chaotic to say the least but wonderful. The food and ambience were excellent.

The worst part of any trip, especially a family trip, is when it’s time to say good-bye. We walked towards the subway station where Rocky, George and I must board to meet with the commuter. Now we had a schedule and planned no waiting. As we each hugged and hung on for one last squeeze, brushing tears away, we told each other we loved them, knowing it would be some time before we could meet again. Leaving is always sad for the heart wants to hold on.

George went back to the hotel in a dash to pick up the items left there and raced back just as the subway came in. By running at the commuter station we caught it just before the doors went shut. We huddled in our seats, holding our cameras and packages, each of us with our own thoughts. Anderson Station came and we literally hobbled up the long ramp to the parking lot to drive back to our motel. We were all exceedingly tired……but happy.

The next morning we were up and left early, taking a different route home for a change. We were hit with a fierce rain storm in the mountains and we saw a terrible wreck shortly after it happened. An 18-wheeler was upside down and the cab crushed into a sandwich. A policeman and motorist was trying to find a way to the person inside………we were afraid, a fatality, maybe two people were inside. We passed on by with a prayer for whoever it was and for the emergency teams that would have to deal with the rescue. The rest of the trip home was uneventful.

Home!! Home!! It’s such a wonderful place……..our kitties greeted us at the door and we unloaded our baggage and settled in. Becky was here to welcome us back and we visited for a time…..telling her about it all.

I have one thing to say that was surprising to me. Along with all of the aforementioned categories, I would like to say….. “Bostonians need a round hand of applause. You welcomed the world to your city, you shared every amenity you owned, you embraced us all and with extremely good humor and good manners. My hat is off to you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the hospitality.” May it ever be, and as Bob Hope would say.. “Thanks for the memories”…………you are in my heart.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Sunday, April 24, 2005


The trip to Boston. It sounded so far away when John began talking about it last year. He was in serious training to run the qualification marathon. He hired an on-line coach and began the arduous work it would take to even qualify. As his mother, I have always watched him reach for something far away and work until his dream was accomplished. That’s what mother’s do…..we give them all we have for the first part of their life and then we stand back and see what comes of it. I have three wonderful children who are excellent in their own rite…..their rite of passage.

George sticks with something. Where John and Becky would find his organized life too boring to manage he just finished 30-years with the Department of Defense. He has a very ordered life and sticks with it. Becky is over organized and often crashes on the scene with over-kill only to chuck it and fly by the seat of her pants. She has many ideas still trying to catch up with her physical activity. It works for her. John started out with what they call in golf….a handicap. Actually, two handicaps. The amazing thing is, most of us can’t remember what they are. He has ‘overcome’ so much and achieved so high we often think we are the ‘handicapped’ ones.

And so, the family waited for the December marathon with our hearts in our mouth. It is our custom to close rank with the one who is reaching far into their imagined possibility. Female elephants make a circle of defense with their young in the center while they face outward to fend off any attacker who may prey on their young. So we all sat on that day, waiting to hear if John made the cut. It was an act of determination that he did.

He got off the trail at one point and had run for some time (in running time) before someone yelled at him and he found his way back to the course. He was actually behind time to make the finish line when his son, L.J. and a buddy, Ben, yelled at him about the 2-mile marker and said, “DAD, DAD…..you’re behind about 2-minutes,” and then they ran along the outer limits of the course to urge him on. I can only imagine the pride John felt with his son’s intense emotion to see him reach that finish line. As it turned out, he did, with time on the clock to spare. Barely.

When we heard the news, the first one to say something was Rocky. “We’re going to Boston,” he declared…….. “I want to see him run the marathon! That’s really special.” And so, in December we knew we would see him in his next marathon that is the grand-daddy of them all……the 109th Boston Marathon. Four months away and four hard months of training for John…it seemed a long ways off at the time.

Becky never planned to go. She didn’t have enough vacation time to spare and work requirements made it impossible even if she did. We called George to see if he would like to go with us, which he did, and we made plans for him to drive here and then continue to Boston the next morning. There was a flurry of things to get done before we could leave…..the time just evaporated and before we knew it we were on the road to Boston. Our first day went well. We drove as far as Columbus, Ohio and then decided to take in Niagara Falls since George nor I had ever been there. It wasn’t that far and we started early Sunday morning. We encountered quite a few toll roads and by the time we ate and arrived our time had shrunk considerably. Getting through Customs took longer than we anticipated….we were in a long line of motorists who were on a Sunday outing and our line was the slowest.

Undaunted, we took in the falls which were as impressive as I had imagined. George and I took lots of pictures with our new digital cameras while Rocky drove up and down the streets, giving us time to take it all in. He finally found a parking place and joined us. He was disappointed to see how commercial it had become in the years since he had been there. The natural beauty and pristine setting was now shadowed by high-rise hotels, crowds and shops. Sometimes it is best to remember things the way they were.

While we were impressing ourselves with the photo-op and the sheer beauty we were observing, the time evaporated and we were faced with a lot of miles to go yet between the Falls and Boston. Needless to say we drove until 1:30 the next morning and I think I sat in every position possible to relieve the long hours in the van. We had reservations in Woburn, Mass. and we called ahead to confirm it since we would be arriving later than we planned. Arriving in Woburn it took quite a while to find our motel but the urge for a bed and shower drove us on.

Monday arrived with the phone ringing and a recorded voice telling us it was time to wake up. We were operating on pure adrenalin at this point. The long hours yesterday wiped us out, physically, but heck!! Today was THE RACE. We’d waited four months to get to this point. We decided parking the car and getting through the congested area might be bad so we drove to the Anderson Commuter Station and bought tickets for the ride into Boston. We had a 40-minute wait but it came on time and it was an education for all of us. When arriving at one of the stops in Boston, we exited and walked up steps to street level, crossed the street and caught a subway ride as far as we could go. The stop nearest the hotel where John and Barb were staying had been closed to eliminate congestion. We climbed more steps up and out of the tunnel into bright sunlight at the very edge of the Boston Commons.

We were right in the middle of Boston. What a sight!! There was electricity in the air. People were going in every direction, asking directions, looking at maps for directions and pointing in directions. It was the most “directed” sight I ever saw but obviously the city was full of spectators, all wanting to get to the race site so see their special person run. As for us, we got directions to the Omni-Parker Hotel where John and Barb had been staying. John left early that morning to be picked up and taken to the area of runners but Barb was waiting for us and came to the lobby to meet us. The hotel happened to be the oldest operating hotel in the country. It had a new face-lift some time back, millions spent on her and the result was absolute drop-dead-gorgeous. The long walk we had through the Commons to get there was forgotten and we each fell into Barbara’s arms for a hug. We don’t get to see John and Barb but once or twice a year so it’s always special when we get together.

After going up to their room and checking John’s time on TV, his estimated TOA was about 3:30pm. We walked to the area which would be in the vicinity of the finish line and waited in the sun. The weather was beautiful but warm for the runners…we had exchanged pleasantries with others while we waited and watched the first runners come in. George and Barb decided to go on down to the finish line but Rocky and I opted to wait where we were. Our vantage point provided steps to stand on and it was about 2:00pm. After a half-hour went by I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make John hear me above all the cheers and crowd noise so I went down to the fence area along the route and stood.

The runners began coming by in droves, all receiving some kind of shiny wrap at the finish line (to keep their body temperature in) before they passed by where I was standing. The result was like looking at aluminum foil with the sun bouncing off it which was blinding. I stood an hour and a half at that fence scanning the constant flow of people passing by, looking for my Johnny boy. Shortly before 4:00 pm I saw his face!! As loud as I could muster, I called…. “JOOOOOHNN” and he turned to look in the vicinity of the voice. Then I called…. “STRAAAAAAIN”……..and he looked directly at me while I waved wildly. He broke rank and headed towards me.

That moment!! That moment was the culmination of the trip for me!! When I read his blog later, about the experience, he wrote, “I heard my mother call my name……” only a mother could understand what that meant to me.

Tomorrow we finish the trip.
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Due to the upcoming trip to Boston to see John run in the marathon I am busy getting the house and yard in order. George is arriving Friday evening to make the trip with us by car and we plan a tour of Boston the next day; also a trip to see Niagara Falls. We are hoping our granddaughter, Jennifer and hubby Marc, will be able to meet us in Boston for a small family reunion. Becky will have to miss the trip this time…..maybe next year SHE can run the race.

Enjoy this beautiful Spring wherever you are and I hope to see you back here after the trip……..God be with you.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

APRIL AND MAY....1990 

Uncle Roger called on the 2nd of April to tell us aunt Phyllis was diagnosed with cancer….where the esophagus and stomach join. The doctors were hopeful it could be removed with surgery and she was scheduled for a CAT scan the next day. She had surgery on the 16th at 8:30 a.m. Little John celebrated his 5th birthday on the 19th and Becky took Jennifer to Canton, MO. to register Jennifer in college, where she had earned a four-year scholarship. We were very happy for her because she had worked hard to keep her grades up.

I had been keeping up with aunt Phyllis’ progress by phoning Blair every few days. The news was heartening because they were able to get it all……..she was having some difficulties after coming home which was understandable. Mom had been having more trouble with her right knee and the doctor required partial wheel chair use until it was better. She was getting over the flu and kind of down in the dumps.

Jennifer’s Senior Prom was on the 5th of May and she looked so young and fresh. She developed into a pretty girl and her emerald green formal made her look like a princess. She wore a corsage at her wrist and we took lots of pictures. A few days later she applied for a job at the Char-Broiler in West Plains and they were quite taken with her interview and put her right to work. She wanted to work all summer for college money.

We celebrated mom’s 86th birthday on the 12th and she enjoyed the meal and her gifts. Becky and Jonathan came to help make it more festive…..Jennifer had to work. Later in the afternoon, Hank came after Jonathan and Jennifer got off work so we all had birthday cake together. When Bear and I took mom back to WC the tornado siren went off and they moved everyone out of the rooms into the center of the building and closed all the doors. I called Becky and she came out and brought Dara……it had been rainy most of the day and spawned a tornado about 40-miles west of us, turning three mobile homes over. When the all clear sounded we took mom back to her room and came home…….no damage here.

Jennifer’s graduation from high-school was the 18th of May. I took the day off work to clean house and get food ready for a party afterwards. George drove down from Shawnee to see her graduate so it made it more of a “family” celebration. The graduation was held in the school gym and we went early to be sure of getting a seat. The gym was packed and there was a lot of energy and excitement flowing throughout the program. I never hear “Pomp and Circumstances” without shedding some tears. I can remember my own high school graduation as we stood in the hall by alphabetical order, waiting for the school band to play the old familiar song…..then whispers of “step…step….step” as we made our way in making sure we were stepping in rhythm.

Afterwards we welcomed our pastor and wife to celebrate the occasion and then watch Jennifer open her gifts……..it was a happy time. Now at the end of summer she would be on a journey that only she could travel. She was a product of our family but now she would be exposed to a different aspect of life. Choices without parental advice and independence without restraints. It is only then that who you are is basically how you have been taught. Will you throw it away and replace it with a grab bag of new choices or will you rely on the past disciplines? Those choices will tell more about you than words can ever say.

My birthday came on Memorial Day this year. Becky and Jennifer walked down to have breakfast with us….Jennifer had to work at noon so she would miss the dinner. We went out after mom to come for the meal and took flowers to the cemetery in the afternoon. We wandered around the family headstones as we put the flowers out, recalling sentimental or humorous things about each one. It struck me when we took her back to WC that she had never mentioned my birthday. This little woman who always made my birthdays so special didn’t even comment about it today. Her world was becoming smaller and smaller and I could see her leaving us, inch by inch. It was sad to watch and hard to accept but I knew the last separation was inevitable………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, April 11, 2005


The first Sunday in April, after church, Becky and Jennifer came for dinner. Later, we did our walking and then went to see mom. It was such a perfect day we went out and took mom for a long ride to enjoy the spring flowers and shrubs. The pink crabapple blossoms, mixed in with our native redbuds were a canopy for the azaleas, cardinal bushes and forsythia. On the next level the daffodils, hyacinths, creeping phlox, and tulips were just some of the many colors and textures to enjoy.

Mom had done a lot of flower gardening in her life but more after she was widowed and had more time for such things. I could see her often times in the early morning slowly walking around her yard to see the latest blooms that were offered. She fed the birds and squirrels and had a nice little sanctuary for them. I followed in her steps and learned how to transplant or to divide and replant. Over the years it pays off when they mature and begin blooming. It takes patience to be a gardener. You are planting for the future bloom that you know will be somewhere down the road when they come into the fullness that God created them for.

Bear didn’t like yard work when we first married. Our second year, we moved where we are now to be of help to my aging parents and because dad had cancer. For someone who didn’t like yard work, Bear was slapped in the face with a horrendous challenge for any one who tackles landscaping. The Ozarks is especially difficult to grow anything except rocks, hard clay soil, and spouts. No matter how many times you cut spouts away from a tree stump they will continue to grow and you will continually have to cut them back. An oak tree will drop acorns and there will be a million more sprouts springing up. Now if you perchance dig a hole and plant a healthy tree from the nursery……..you will have your hands full trying to keep it alive. Nature is hard headed and prefers her own way of doing things. She will decide what will grow and what won’t.

We moved in August, the most miserable month in south Missouri. The humidity, heat, ticks, mosquitoes and flies make outdoor projects difficult to say the least. Dad had spent the summer hacking out sprouts and tilling as much as he could to clear the lot for the mobile home we purchased. When we arrived it was necessary to get the yard ready to sow grass. Bear picked up rocks from the front for weeks and piled them into a diagonal wall across the back yard. It was dad’s idea to keep our dirt from washing down the hill after it had been plowed. It was back breaking work but it made a beautiful wall and good place to begin my flower garden.

Since our yard has different slopes and slants it was fun to create the eventual way it would be planted. We had a few of the oaks cut out that were misshapen or small and close together. Then the work began on the lawn. Eventually, it took on the look of the grassy lawn we had hoped for and Bear dreaded mowing. With a half acre in grass now it was quite a job with our push mower. It wasn’t until he lost his leg ten years into our marriage that yard work took on a whole new meaning for him. Now it was a challenge and therapy for the missing leg. He was relentless in his efforts to manage the mowing himself.

He walked with his crutches and had the mower handle pressed against his stomach. He would then walk along pushing the mower in this manner until at the end of the row he shifted one crutch to the other arm, turned the mower and then did another swipe across the yard. He continued mowing in that manner until the yard was finished and well trimmed. It was some years later that he at last gave in to my suggestion he get a riding mower. He never gave in to defeat and eventually would find a way to conquer a problem.

He was never a handicapped person. He was a person missing a left leg who triumphed over adversity……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, April 08, 2005


We had been waiting to see if Becky was going to be selected for the vacant Driver’s Examiner spot and after her oral interview before the Board she felt pretty good about her chances. Just when the anticipation was at a high point, she was informed that a complaint was made since two of Troop G’s people were on the Board. The complaint, made by another applicant, felt there was too much favor for Becky who would work out of this Troop.

A second Board was arranged and the applicants again made their best pitch for the job. Again we all held our breath and waited. The next day our DE Sergeant called to let her know the job was hers. Needless to say it was a very big victory. Troop G had never had a female DE until they hired me in 1986. My intent was to prove that women could and would work within the traveling crews without causing problems. In fact, that was why the Captain hired me in 1979 as a 3-day-a-week clerk to go with the crews. He needed someone who would blend in, do the office work and relieve the guys for sick leave or vacation leave. Since I was older than all of them except one, I became ‘Granny’ and a good listener for the topic of the day.

When they hired Becky it made me very proud. It was, to me, a notification that I had done well enough in my job that the Troop was willing to hire on another female……and in particular, my daughter. It was cause for a family celebration and a high note after so much recent heartache. Good times always seem to follow bad times and if I interpret the Bible correctly, it is intended to help us become more mature in our faith and more grateful for those good times.

It was a wonderful boost for Becky who had been cleaning houses’ and working 3-days a week as clerk for the DE traveling crews. Now she would have a 40-hour week with week-ends and holidays off. Good sick leave benefits, vacation time and retirement were enough in themselves but to acquire free insurance was the crowning point of the package. She had been holding her breath without insurance for some time. Now Troop G had two female DE’s and I would probably be safe in saying…..the only mother-daughter team in a Troop anywhere……..

On March 26th it had been 10-years since Bear lost his leg. His recovery was amazing and he got around on his crutches like Gravelle…..his goal. When we were in Fitzsimmons shortly after his amputation there was a young man who whooshed past our room several times every day on crutches. His stride was amazing…….he thrust his arms out full length and swung his body even with the them……then another thrust…. He could make the full length of the hall in seconds. Every-time Bear heard the click-clack of his crutches coming he would wheel to the door and watch him. He would just shake his head and laugh….. “That’s how I want to go,” he’d say.

In no time, he was….and he devised ways to do every thing he could do before losing the leg. It delighted him to out-walk me and at times I thought it was folly to use the Handicapped Parking space. He was more capable than a lot of the folks who didn’t have the privilege. In late March he was having a round of problems with his blood pressure and his sinus’……enough to make him miserable. His doctor changed his medication in hopes it would correct the problem. He took Becky to Springfield for her false tooth/bridge fitting on her 36th birthday while I worked.

The month had been dreary with gray sky and soppy ground. The earth was saturated and vegetation was an ugly brown. But, as the calendar turned to April, the world began to change into a magical garden. It was “green up time” in Missouri…………….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, April 07, 2005


The new year came in rather quiet. I turned more attention to mom who had been complaining of her right knee hurting. She was taken to the doctor who told her the cartilage was gone and he didn’t want her on blood thinner anymore. He changed her pain medicine and it seemed to be beneficial. Becky had been having terrible pain with her mouth. She made trips to the dentist who said it was a sinus problem, not a dental problem. When she made an appointment with the doctor, he said it was dental trouble….definitely not sinus.

Becky always had teeth problems. She often had infections but this was worse than any thing she’d had before. She exhausted her finances trying to find a solution and was at her wits end when we were talking to the choir director’s wife at church one evening. Her husband had many of the same symptoms once and an allergist in Springfield found and corrected his problem. We jumped at the chance to get his name and phone number and made an appointment. We were determined to help her get over the infection because she had been sick with it all fall.

When her appointment time arrived, Bear took her for the examination. It didn’t take long for him to tell that she had a king-size infection going in her mouth. It was so bad he wanted to make sure it wasn’t sinus cancer before he did anything. He made an urgent call to a clinic for a CAT-scan and waited for the results to come back. Breathing a sigh of relief he said it was not cancer and she would therefore need to see a reputable dentist to begin treatment. Since we lived out of town Bear asked for a recommendation and was given the name of his personal dentist, whom he respected, greatly.

It was late in the afternoon by now but the allergist called Doctor Beasley, gave him a run-down on the situation and Doctor Beasley said to send her over, he’d try to help her. It was quitting time but he and his assistant were still there and would wait. When he saw Becky’s mouth he backed off and could not believe the damage in her mouth. His compassion kicked in and he did the best he could to get some instant help…..then sent her home with antibiotics and we were on a long list of visits to his office. Since I was working, Bear took her up each week, sometimes twice a week for treatment. In the end, she had bridges, crowns, cavities filled and all manner of infection gone. It took all spring but finally she owned a healthy mouth and we were glad to get the help for her. I’ve never seen anyone have the mess in their mouth that Becky did…….because of the caring and dedicated work Doc Beasley did in her mouth, we all three became his patients.

Mom had some bad reactions to her medication and I was beginning to see more signs of her failing health. It seemed each week she was becoming more frail and more lost in her memories. Some days she scarcely knew who I was and would become distracted with my visit and go wheeling off down the hall to sit at the nurses station. I cannot find words to explain the effect it had on me. She would have periods when she would be cognizant and happy to see me but those times were becoming less frequent.

I was beginning to feel the pressure of making choices for my mother. I was less confident about them. I felt there was a lack of interest in her health by the health-care people and too many times the caretakers in the nursing home were negligent. I tried to tell myself I was becoming too paranoid. I expected them to take care of her as I would and it wasn’t possible. I experienced all of the guilt others feel when they can no longer take care of their family member. It’s sad and there are no good answers.

Becky had applied for a Driver’s Examiner’s position and we hoped she would be selected. Jennifer was in her senior year at school and in the fall she would be going to college……Becky needed a steady job that offered tenure. Being a single mom, she needed all the help she could get. We made it a matter of prayer and nothing to do but wait for the results. March would soon be here and there were many changes on the horizon for our family……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


After paying homage to Missy, I will continue with the year, 1989 and try to finish up. It was strange that Jake was put to sleep the day my brother died and when I was about to write of my brother’s funeral these many years hence…. we had to put Missy to sleep. Sometimes a higher power is very evident in the grand scheme of things. I am one who believes God is very active in each day of our lives and sometimes we get a glimpse of him working out the plan. I believe nothing is lost to his attention and is there to nurture in good times and bad. We learn from both.

My sister-in-law, Gail, followed my brother’s wishes to have him cremated and brought back to Willow Springs for burial. We had a family plot where the four of us would be with our spouses. It took time to accomplish the inevitable string of red tape that goes with a death and flying half-way across the country. Gail asked me to plan his funeral since I was here and knew what to do and who to ask to complete the service. I had planned our dad’s funeral and now my brother’s. It was a labor of love for me……I knew what they would find appropriate without a lot of fanfare.

On the 30th of November, Gail flew back with his ashes, on a day that should have been a happy one for her and Louis both. Instead, she was coming back for his burial….it would have been their 26th wedding anniversary. It was also Bear’s birthday. After we picked Gail up at the airport we took her to a quiet restaurant for lunch….none of us had eaten and it was a nice way to relax before heading home.

The next day our family began arriving and continued all through the afternoon. Uncle Roger and aunt Phyllis, aunt Sally, Mark, Maggie, Joyce and Bruce….then Gail’s mother, her brother and his wife and a cousin. It was a time of tears and laughter, mixed….the many fun times we spent with Louis and the sad demise of an early death, due to lung cancer. He spent his 61st birthday in ICU a month before he died.

The day of the funeral we were inundated with food and visitors. In a small town, even though Louis had been gone many years and only a few knew him, mom and dad were well known in the community and Bear and I had been here 18-years at the time. There was a sizeable crowd for the funeral and it would have done my brother proud…..the front of the church was a bank of poinsettias for the holiday season and two large wreaths hung behind the choir loft. The service was short and after a brief prayer at the cemetery, we brought mom back to a warm house. She stood the service pretty well, except she kept fidgeting with her hanky and leaned over several times to say, “I don’t know why he did that…..I wish he hadn’t done that….” and then her voice would trail off. Her eyes were glued to the small child sized casket that held his remains throughout the service. Mom never could come to terms with his cremation.

The next day relatives were leaving in all directions and the family circle was pried apart once more. December brought the usual Christmas activities but it wasn’t the same after all the sorrow of the past few weeks. The heart has never functioned well with days on a calendar……now it was just mom and me from our little family of four.

And so my brother’s death affected two of our pets, Jake and Missy in a strange way. I hope when it is my time to go through the last gate that someone holds me in their arms as I held Missy on Saturday….and I hope I will find the grace and courage that little cat had. We are not meant to stay…..our journey ends when we are welcomed home the last time…..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


As the summer wore on, Missy was favoring her front joints which made her walking slow. Her body was higher in the back-half and lower in front. I gave her ample time to get over whatever it was but it didn’t improve. She never flinched or acted like it hurt her. I was puzzled about it because I hadn’t seen any reason for the apparent difficulty she was having. I took her to the vet for a big round of tests and he could find nothing. Although she was leukemia positive none of her symptoms were connected to it. Doc did find a break in her pelvic area and one back leg (from the x-rays) that had healed and were old injuries. He thought maybe she had been hit by a car before she came to me. He was as puzzled about it as I was. He didn’t think it would help to have further tests…..

Missy never left our yard. She did have her little routines that she followed religiously and she enjoyed sitting in my “retirement rocking chair” on the deck. It was close to the door where she could see me every time I came and went. It was frequent because the garage was also our storage area for everything we didn’t have room for in the house. She was always happy if she could hear me running the sweeper, shutting the door on the dryer or even passing by on the other side of the house…..her ears would perk up and it was my signal that she heard me and knew I was there. Her world was content.

Her favorite times were when I worked in the flower garden and would be in one spot for a while. Many times I’ve been working away and suddenly see her inches away under a bush…I think she got a kick out of startling me like that. I swear that Missy almost grinned at those times. She was like a wisp of gossamer …she could walk so quietly and move through and around things daintily and precise.

The months went by and we knew Missy was never going to get over her strange malady. By fall she would laboriously go up or down the steps of the deck to either lie in the rocker or to lie under bushes in my rock garden. She loved the sunshine but as time went on she must have felt vulnerable because she would try to find a protected spot. I spent more and more time with her because I knew the day would come when I’d have to say goodbye.

When winter came we brought Missy into the house. Fifteen months went by after that. She couldn’t stand up long enough to eat what she needed so she would take a few bites and then lay down. Fearful of her losing weight, I began feeding her from a small dish with a three-tined fork that belonged to my grandmother Stricklett. It had a horn handle and metal tines. It was perfect to push little bits of food over to her mouth and after a few days she began eating enough at a time to sustain her. I kept her on a wing-back chair so the “house cats” wouldn’t bother her. I became the owner of two other strays before Missy came and two, since. It was a chore to have four kitties indoors but I was determined to make Missy as comfortable as I could.

Winter passed and spring came the second time.…..Missy stayed on the chair by day and the floor by night. I carried her to the litter box so she could potty…..then back to the chair after she had a brief clean-up. It was hard on me to take her most private functions over for her….mentally, I hated it for her. She was very fussy about keeping clean and was unable to do so any more. I groomed her several times a day and massaged her right side which was the one she preferred laying on. She would meticulously “wash” her front paws which was the only body parts she could get to. She accepted whatever we had to do in the remaining months to keep her fed, clean and comfortable.

We took her on two trips to Shawnee when we visited George and one trip to Sikeston, MO. where we met Rocky’s family for a reunion. She made the trips very well and was happy as long as she could see me in the car or the room where she was. She continued to weaken and finally by Easter time she refused most of the food I offered. I knew then the time was near. She would eat just to make me happy for a few bites and then turn her little head. There was never any wondering if Missy didn’t want something. I allowed her to choose or not to eat. Though my concern grew larger every day I knew I had to let her make the choice to go or stay.

In the end, I think she knew I could never let her go, so she did what she had to do. Her gift to me was taking the decision out of my hands. It was only when her breathing was becoming shallow that I knew I must let her go. On that last day I held her in my arms like a little baby as the young vet gave her the shot. We stood outside in the bright sunshine that she loved; the birds singing caused her ears to perk up for a moment……a familiar sound to a kitty who spent most of her life outside…her nose took in the fresh air and she slowly closed her eyes as she drifted away.

It was hard to say goodbye.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, April 04, 2005


Missy came into my life on a cold, drizzly, November evening. Becky and I had been walking up and down the road in front of our place several times and over our conversation, I heard a cat meowing. We commented on it and kept walking. The cat was discovered across the road in small brush and she followed us down and back but kept her distance. I mentioned the cat and Becky said, “Yah, she must be a stray. I’ve noticed her for a week or more over across there…..someone has probably dumped her out.”

Those words always bring volumes of pity to me. I can’t think of anything more cruel than to take a pet who trusts you and pitch them out like so much trash. I immediately began talking to her and trying to coax her out of her safety net. Darkness was setting in and the woods were drenched, soaked by several rains and fog was setting in. It would be a miserable night to be alone, without food and needing a dry place to sleep. My coaxing was unsuccessful.

I finally walked to the house and came out with some dry cat food and a saucer of milk. I called her several times and she watched but wouldn’t come closer than across the road and to our front yard. I came in, shut the door and watched to see what she would do. After several minutes of hesitation she came to the food and ate. She was small framed and all black, very dainty. I looked for her the next morning and I didn’t see her any where….but I figured she was where she could see me. I left more food and milk and stayed away from the front of the house. Each time the food would be gone until one morning I opened the door and she was sitting on the porch.

It was the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. By the last of November she had a little routine. She came night and morning to be fed and I would see her around the edges of the house or yard during the day. She stayed close on our property. One evening I didn’t see her but left her food out. It was untouched but Becky came early and went in the garage for something and Miss Kitty came strolling out of the garage. She had taken refuge under some boxes stored there and seemed quite satisfied. It began a routine of the years Missy stayed with me. Each evening I would take her food to the garage and she would follow me in…..I would close it up for the night so animals wouldn’t come in and bother her….nor could she roam around and get hurt. Each morning I would bring food and she would eat before leaving the garage.

At the time I still didn’t know what sex the cat was so I coaxed her close enough to pick her up and put her in a pet carrier. She was frantic for a while …..especially when I put her in the car. I was quite sure she had been dumped or hit by a car sometime earlier. I took her to our veterinarian and he checked her over good….then informed me that she was kitty leukemia positive. I was just crushed. “It” turned out to be a she so I made an appointment for her to be spayed.

Doc Lewis told me as long as she had good food, a dry place to sleep and someone to love and care for her she may never contract it. He felt sure she would live quite a few years. She was healthy in every other aspect. The day he was to spay her, he shaved her and was ready for surgery when he noticed a scar on her abdomen. She had already been spayed. He called to tell me I could pick her up the next day after she slept off the anesthetic. In those days I did a lot of yard work and stayed outside much of the time. Wherever I worked, she would lay under a bush, a step, or a tree and watch me. She was a lot of company. Warren died a year before she came and I figured that God gave me someone to be a companion to. Many times we sat on the deck together after some mowing or when I just wanted to rest for a while.

Missy was a lady. She walked very daintily and always curled her tail around her back feet after she lay down. She kept much of her independence and I didn’t impose upon that. We both knew where and when to draw the line. Our relationship was strong over the years. She was about a year old when she came to me and I had her for 6-years and 5-months. She would only let me hold or pet her…..she didn’t like men at all and as the years went by our hearts grew together, as one.

One day I noticed she was walking strangely with her front feet. I didn’t know then it would be the beginning of a slow decline for my little friend. Tomorrow I’ll finish Missy’s story.

Until then,
Essentially Esther