Friday, June 28, 2013

Lolly Turns 80

She is 15 years my senior, but of we four girls, Dolores has maintained a youth & vigor uncommon for a woman who's just turned 80.

My memories of her from youth are vague.  By the time I was old enough to notice much about Lolly ~ the name coined by Barbara (2 years her junior), used affectionately by our father, & eventually chosen by my own tongue ~ she was readying to leave our family home.  It is because of the rarity of those specific memories that I pen them here. 

I'm not sure how old I was, but I delighted in being squired about in a baby pram on at least one occasion.  The older girls loved the show-and-tell part of their baby sister; except, that is, when they would have preferred I not interfere in their altogether sophisticated lives. 

(Photo/1949:  Dolores, Mother holding me, Carol)

At one time all four of we girls slept upstairs in the home that is, even now, the joyful harbinger of our collective musings.  The older girls shared one room, while Carol & I shared another.  

One of the things that imprinted on my small mind is the contents of that upstairs space in which they, Dolores & Barbara resided ~ Dolores playing Felix to Barbara's Oscar.  It was a world of combs & brushes, international dolls framed in windowed boxes & arrayed on the walls (no doubt out of reach of little hands), smelly perfumes, & books.  Lots of books.  

She loved all things penned by Zane Grey, as well as the writings of Mildred Wirt Benson, best known for Nancy Drew mysteries.  I vividly recall the terrible disappointment I experienced when opening those linen-clad tomes, greeted only by words & more words, as mine was a penchant for pictures in that day.  Their room could easily have been Terabithia or Narnia, so foreign & curious was it to my toddler-sized senses.

It made no big impression on me when Lolly turned up missing.  At 19, & with our parent's blessing she & a girlfriend made their way to California for employment and adventure.  I would have been three or four at that time, unaware of the shifts taking place beneath my napping nose. 

I was equally non-plussed at her return some two years later until, that is, I found her ~ along with Barbara ~ bandaged & bedridden on the couches in our living room (*).  Their condition didn't fascinate me so much as the fact of their simply being there.  And I confess, too, at the jealousy I felt (yes, I really do remember it) when mother spent so much of her time ministering to their needs.

On one level my childhood was idyllic ~ sweetly gaited & secure.  But on the level that involved Dolores, it seemed a bit confusing.  And it also seems to have been perpetually on Fast Forward.  From her sickbed on the couch to her becoming a real-life princess, my next memory is of her wedding day.

It wasn't long before Dolores & her husband, John (who passed away just 2 1/2 years ago) added three little ones.  Rick & Jim came first, and only 10 months apart; followed by Diane two years later.  Many years hence, when the first three were teenagers, a 4th, David was born, followed a year later with the adoption of Monica.

From the start, Dolores devoted herself to family.  She kept an immaculate home, cooked & canned, hung laundry in the backyard, & made all things domestic appear easy.  I would later come to know just how much work her devotion entailed.

While I was first applying lipstick & relishing the hand-holding romance of my first love, Dolores lived in the background.  Yet on family gatherings, holidays, and even at our father's death when I was but 16, she is a pivotal figure.  I see her still; she & the little ducklings always near her heels.  Solid.    

I can't say I really knew Dolores in those days.  She was my sister, but in many ways she was more like a favorite aunt.  Barbara too.  I had so little in common with them that I rarely gave them a thought, preferring to occupy my head with the selfish years of my youth.  

When our mother suffered a stroke in 1974, we girls sat vigil at her bedside for 3 long days.  It was then I began to see Dolores in a different hue.  She was the sturdy one; the prayerful one.  It was she that jostled us awake to announce that mother was leaving; to gather us around to hold mother's hands & bid her goodbye.  To this day I don't know how she knew, but she knew. 

As my own life played out, and as my children were added & grew up, we all came to know and love Annie Lorus (as my then-toddler daughter dubbed her).  The seeds of friendship between us were sewn deeply then.  Eventually those shoots would become the powerful Oak that is today's connection, and shared equally by our other sisters.

Much has happened in the intervening years ~ the years between my watching her children grow up, marry & have children of their own, and my own family's growth & goings.  We've shared many events:  holidays, shopping forays, Arizona visits, and sister gatherings (as we like to call them) ~ when we four make time to spend days on end together.  Since returning from my ten year hiatus in Arizona, she & I now spend every Wednesday together.  It's my favorite day of the week. 

As I draw these musings to a close I cannot help but regret the many details I've left out.  I could easily have written a novella about Dolores' noble character, her honest tongue, her loyalty.  Of happy times at her beach retreat at Mason Lake.  Of Christmases in her home.  Of our shared experiences with a horse name Flicka. 

Dolores subscribes to an ongoing & powerful roadmap is:  Family matters.  In times of joy and in times of trouble, family hangs together... 

(Dolores' family today,
now missing the Patriarch ~ her husband, John
~ but with one more added, & two more on the way.
Family matters!) 

It's a roadmap I've begun to endorse in the lives of my own children & grandchildren, inspired by a sister who deserves great praise.  Even now, her children & grandchildren & great-grandchildren rise up and call her blessed.  How appropriate!

Happy 80th birthday, Dolores. 

Thank you for being who you are, for loving the Lord with your entire life, for never wavering in your devotion to Him, to your beloveds, to we sisters ~ and, especially to me. 

I love you.


(*  I later learned that Barb had followed Dolores to California, where they both met the men they would eventually marry.  But they returned home when our father was left unemployed, at which time they both took jobs with the burgeoning employer known as Boeing.  While driving home one dark & stormy night, they were struck by another car & injured severely.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Family Reunion

When Annie Clare McFadden and James Elmer Wells married, they could hardly have known what that union would produce, entail, have to endure, or even how they would inspire so many generations to follow.

My Grandparents ~ Jim & Annie Clare

Annie & Jim gave birth to ten children:  Frank, Martin, Edith, Elmer, Dan, Hugh, Jimmy, Ed, Evelyn, Helen.  Jimmy is my Father, who went on to marry my mother ~ yet another "Helen".

The Rawson Clan
Tim (died in a car crash at the age of 20),
John, Helen, Mary Ann, Bob, Richard & Hank
The Wells Clan
Carol, Jimmy, Me, Barbara, Helen & Dolores

When the youngest, Helen, was just a toddler her Dad (my grandfather) was working far from home with several of the older sons.  In a sad twist & due to the lack of good dental care and/or anti-biotics in that day, he died rather suddenly of an abscessed tooth in 1919 ... only 50 at the time.

(Left to right:  Frank, unknown, unknown, Martin, unknown,
James Elmer/Grandpa, unknown, unknown & unknown) 

An indomitable woman, Annie continued to homestead & raise her brood alone until, one-by-one, they left home to begin a life of their own.   Eventually she moved from the farm into town, where she continued a life of family devotion & community service until her death in 1956. 

Annie Clare & her sister, Bridget (circa 1945)
Since I was born in 1948, this is how
I remember my grandmother.

Jim & Annie Clare are long buried and so too all of their children.  My cousins, sisters & I are now the "Oldsters", having taken the baton passed to us with the departure of our beloved fore bearers.  Beyond us extend a vast & growing sea of children, grandchildren and ~ now ~ even a few great-grandchildren.   

Last weekend many of these generations gathered for a Family Reunion.  It was a tradition established a long, long time ago, when the children of siblings Jimmy & Helen often got together in similar fashion halfway between our locales (they lived on the East side of the Cascade Mountains; we lived on the West side), either at a campsite near Leavenworth, or at a park on the old Blewett Pass.  

My family represented the citified folk; theirs the country cowboys.  Our times weren't limited to reunions, for often each family would travel to visit the other.  Many of "we kids" would be left to stay for weeks on end with the cousins.  

How I loved leaving the all-things-girly realm for the all-things-gritty one.  Afterall, the Rawson Clan had four boys & one girl (who the brothers continue to affectionately torment to this day); and those boys meant plenty of baseball, tree-climbing, Snipe hunts, sleeping under the stars, scrapping & teasing.  I cried every time my parents came to collect me, not wanting to leave.

Much of this is a distant memory now, which is why we endeavor to make new ones.  Moreover, we seek to honor Jim & Annie-Clare, Jimmy & Helen, and Bob & Helen.  They left us a treasure so rich, so deep, & so vast we are blessed to this very day.

As we oldsters seek to pass the baton ourselves, there continues to be an emphasis on family that makes that passing a true delight.  Besides, we've got big shoes to fill, and so will the coming generations.

Reunion June 2013   

A blend of Rawson & Wells cousins
and their progeny.
This represents about 40 % of us;
the remaining 60% were
not able to join us this time.  
P.S.  It is our hope to share this tradition in 2018 with the other descendants of James & Annie Clare ~ other cousins that derive from their noble stock.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Perfectly Ducky

Today's headline:  "Some Washington Police Dogs
Re-trained to Avoid Smelling Marijuana".

What's pooch to do?  First they're trained to sniff out anything that approximates a drug, then they're trained to ignore certain drugs that were once illegal ... but no longer.  Here in Washington State, those clever canines can no longer catch the Cannabis criminal.  There's no such thing.

It's a true tale in these here parts.  Like the end of Prohibition of a bygone era, Marijuana is now showing up anywhere one takes a notion to pot it.

Too, Billboard Magazine boasts the "Top 20 Weed Smokin' Songs".  We have been granted a whole new genre to choose from when singing along on long car rides, or at family gatherings.     

I was 50 years old before I heard/knew/understood what a Doobie is.  It's not the only thing that was lost on me.  To this day I believe a joint has everything to do with knuckles & knees.  I discover such things rather often, in fact.     

My intention is not to rant about the perils of Marijuana usage (even though we all know how much I do enjoy a good rant now-and-then).  I don't know what, if any, those perils might be anyway.  Many, even physicians, tell us it's very effective in treating certain illnesses.  They may be right. 

You see, it ~ Weed ~ followed on my heels as a child of the 60s, but didn't make its popular debut until long after I was of a mind to even try the stuff.  The generation(s) following me had no such impediment, much less reticence.  It was well known & well loved by those of the tie-dye crowd.  Many others as well.

Make no mistake:  I've done my fair share of wild & whacky things as a young woman, some I'm not terribly proud of.  So this isn't about assigning guilt or shame, or even to judge the happy campers here in Washington State that are overjoyed with the State's change of laws where Marijuana is concerned. 

Actually, my particular pithy purpose is to point out the plummet of principles & practices once perilous (if not downright immoral or illegal), but which are now perfectly ducky.  Marijuana use is itty-bitty by comparison.  

Today you don't have to be a Hippie to hug some Hemp ~ at least not here.   But that's not the half (or even the quarter or eighth) of it.  There's a growing group of things far more concerning than Marijuana use that have made their way to the Perfectly Ducky Domain as well.  Like the police pooch enduring an unlearning drill, we are being asked to do likewise.

As for me, I'll take my Perfectly Ducky cues from God's word instead of the government or culture.  I never was very good at unlearning drills anyway.

What sorrow for those who say
    that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark,
    that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)   

So whether you eat or drink or whatever
you do, do it all for the glory of God. 
1 Corinthians 10:31