Sunday, May 6, 2018

My Uncle Morrice Dean

My Uncle Morrice Dean - we always say the Dean - was 10 years old when mama and daddy married. He was 11 when I was born and still young enough to get a kick out of pushing a giggling toddler around and around the house in a plain ole' cardboard box.

Mama was only 16 when she married and left Oklahoma City to make her home with my daddy in Arkansas. Although she was welcomed by her new family, she was frequently homesick and would send for her baby brother to stay a few weeks with her.

Clockwise from the top: Tallest is My Uncle Bob, My Grandpa, My Uncle Toby,
My Mama Virginia, My Uncle Morrice Dean, My Grandma, My Uncle Ted.
Morrice Dean was pretty much informally adopted by daddy's family and was a frequent visitor at the Middleton family home. He and Uncle Paul became great friends. He is most remembered by his always present glasses, wide smile, and free and easy disposition.

Mama, Morrice and Paul (Paul says Mama's knees in his back really hurt)
With Grandma's permission, Morrice Dean joined the Marines at only 17. He met and married a pretty blonde girl at the beach while stationed in California. Aunt Geri told me that the beach they met had so many beach goers that there was only room to spread a towel on the sand. Morrice Dean probably scooted someone out of the way to spread his towel next to hers.

Morrice Dean In Uniform at Lake Ludwig

Mama and Morrice at Lake Ludwig
They had a baby girl shortly afterward and named her Sheral Dean. My Uncle Paul had a baby girl around the same time and named her Paula Kay. Mama was expecting and planned to name her third baby Paul Dean if a boy and Paula Dean if a girl. She always laughed that her name choices were taken by Morrice Dean and Daniel Paul. She opted to name her baby girl after the grandmothers.

When Sheral was about a year old, Morrice Dean and Geri went camping and let me tag along with them. We swam and fished during the day then sat by an open campfire and slept in a tent at night.

It was lots of fun but I got a raging sunburn. Grandma G. soaked brown paper bags in vinegar and placed them on my back and legs. I smelled like pickles but by morning the sunburn's sting had lessened considerably.

It must have been that summer that they took me home from my summertime visit with Grandma G. This was before I-40 and we ran out of gas about 3 AM going up that long haul hill going into Ozark. When it got daylight Morrice Dean walked to a house along the highway to borrow gasoline. Back then, people often kept gas around to give to stranded drivers. There was usually no charge with just a caution to "pay it forward" before there was an actual "pay it forward" campaign.

Mostly what I remember about Sheral Dean was her curly hair, the little bibbed sunsuits she wore, and how Grandma always talked about all the cute things she did.

After Sheral, they had an adorable little boy named Dean. He held a special place in mama's as well as my daddy's heart. I guess it was because he was so danged cute with his almost white hair sticking straight out everywhere. Nah, it was actually that sweet disposition.

While visiting Morrice and Geri once, I saw a grenade lying on the coffee table. Morrice Dean told me not to touch it because it would explode and kill us all. I left wondering why they would have a grenade around their two little children.

It was then that Aunt Geri taught me to drink milk without making a milk mustache. Why did I not know that?

After we were all grown, Mama spent a week or two with Morrice and Geri on their house boat. She talked forever about how much fun she had fishing day after day with them.

Mama and Morrice Dean had a special relationship. They could laugh, joke, and talk long into the night. Of course, I don't remember any serious discussions with my Uncle Morrice. It was always a mischievous banter.

My Last Visit with Morrice Dean
Morrice's response when I asked about things that happened when I was a kid or maybe about him or mama as kids was, "I don't remember that far back."

On my last visit with Morrice Dean, I let him call Daniel Paul from my cell phone. His first question was, "Are you still as ugly as ever?"

I awoke at 6 AM this morning with Morrice Dean on my mind. Knowing that the doctors had given him only days to live, my prayer was that Jesus would cover him with a protective blanket of His perfect love. I asked that He would ease the pain in his body and any discomfort he might have in his mind or soul. 

I had made plans to visit my uncle on Monday. I intended to tell him I loved him and to ask if he saw Mama before I did to tell her I loved her too. 

He slipped away early this morning before I got to make that final visit. He was the last of mama's siblings and one man that will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Family Treasures

After only seven short years, our new house no longer has the minimalist decor I swore it would always have. Although I fully intend to have garage sales this summer to clear out the clutter, some things I will always keep.

The saying is, "I wouldn't take a million dollars for it." That is how I feel about this small handmade table I believe my grandpa made.

As I am now an orphan with only younger siblings, I have no way to authenticate this sweet table's history. But just in case, it is not for sale.

Table Made by Grandpa G

Although this pretty print in an original frame is not the same one Grandma had at the farm, it is still precious to me.

I must have been seven or eight years old when Grandma gently explained the meaning of the picture. She said Jesus sent an angel to watch over the two children as they crossed the broken bridge.

I think she wanted me to also notice how the older sister was helping her little brother in hopes I would be kinder to my own brother. Anyway, I am comforted to think of the angel's protection.

Print Depicting Angel Hovering Over Children Crossing Bridge
This little metal footstool was made by my Grandpa. I have this stool and another taller one that I am saving for my kids.

My Mother's daddy was a large, rough around the edges man and a welder by trade. I thought he looked like John Wayne.

Since he lived in Texas, we did not see him often. When I was growing up Texas was a lot farther away than it is now.

Mama took me and my brother on a train there once. We drank a lot of water out of the little cone-shaped paper cups.

Metal Footstool Made by Grandpa G
I fell in love with these rubber squeaky dolls when I spotted them in a flea market. Someone told me later that my nine days younger cousin had a boy doll just like this one. He probably used it as a teether.

My cousin's name was Jimmy but they say I called him Shimmy. He died when we were fifteen.

Vintage Rubber Dolls
Christmas at my Oklahoma City Grandma's house always included these mischievous-looking bookend elves. They were displayed on a shelf above her picture window. I loved to look at them but was never allowed to touch them. I leave them out year-round.

Christmas Elves
This was Mama's lamp. She kept a philodendron growing in the lamp base as well. Her plants looked better than mine. She is such a pretty little redbird. I am keeping her.

Vintage Redbird Lamp
I plan to sell several vintage odds and ends I have collected over the years.They may have more monetary value but they are certainly less valuable than the ones handed down from family.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Remembering Grandma on Mother's Day

Grandma Middleton almost wasn't my grandma. The story she told me was that she was born a twin. She was named Dena while her sister's name was Gina.

Gina died at birth and as grandma's daddy was going to town to bury the tiny baby, he was told to hurry back as the other one would die before he returned. He intended to buy a goat to milk for grandma but while in town someone told him to feed her Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. He did and grandma survived to marry and bear nine children.

My grandparent's first child was born in 1926. She was my Aunt Inez. Grandma said when they were staying in Tulsa, she was so afraid someone would steal her baby, she pinned Inez's nightgown to her own. My daddy was the second born child.

Grandma, Daddy, and Aunt Inez

Grandma raised her younger children during the Great Depression. Daddy said they never had much but they never felt poor. 

Grandpa worked hard, grandma grew what they ate, and they made do with what they had. 

Grandma did get a job at a canning factory in town but when she came home to see all her babies lined up along the fence line awaiting her return, she did not go back. 

The last of Grandma's children was born two years before her first grandchild. I would like to think her first grandchild was her favorite but grandma never played that game.

Since grandma started taking me to church when I was three weeks old, most of my early memories are tied to those services. Memories like Sunday School stories of David tending his flock and Noah building his ark depicted on flannel backed paper cutouts stuck to a fabric covered easel. 

I have a vivid memory of sitting beside grandma during song service as she patted my hand against hers in rhythm to "I'll Fly Away"I remember Sunday School songs like "Jesus Loves Me" - this I know for the Bible tells me so. And "Jesus Loves The Little Children" - they are precious in his sight. I learned that "Jesus Loves Me" meant Jesus loves ME and that while I am weak, He is strong. I was taught that "Jesus Loves the Little Children" meant He loves ALL the children - not just the ones that look like me. 

These sermons in melody impart lessons that last a lifetime.

Since they still had five children at home when I was born, my grandparents did not often buy the grandchildren presents. We found gifts from grandma in everyday lessons and experiences.

I learned that grandma was always there, calmly listening, never judging, ever wise. She taught by example without raising her voice.

We did not come from a wealthy or even a well to do family but grandma taught us to be thankful for what we did have. Nightly prayers and mealtime grace taught us to appreciate simple things like a safe home and food to eat.

We understood compassion from the stories of grandma and great grandma feeding the railway hobos who showed up hungry on their front porch. We saw generosity in grandma's family filled Sunday dinners that also included many members of the church congregation.

Over the years, countless weary families would knock on grandma's door requesting assistance to get closer to their destination. Did they sometimes take advantage of grandma and grandpa? Perhaps, but not one time were they turned away without a bit of money or a bite of food.

I learned honesty and integrity from grandma and grandpa. I was blessed to never hear curse words pass their lips.

If either  gossiped, it was not around us children. I was honored to know that grandma and grandpa always spoke the truth.

Grandpa said a man's word was his bond and that all men had value. I was given the knowledge that if I was scared, or sick, or about to have a baby my grandparents had the ear of God.

The most important lesson I learned was that if no one in the world loved me, my Grandma did.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

It is just me and The Man today. Portent of things to come, I guess. We are binge watching NCIS as I scroll through all of my Facebook friends' Christmas posts and photographs. I wonder why we did not take more pictures of our Christmas celebration?

The only picture I have of our food is this "thing" Laura found inside of a pepper she cut for her vegetable platter. Kinda' looks like a bull's head doesn't it?

More than once this year, I had to get Don to lift a heavy pan or pot from the oven or stove. I've become a weakling in my old age.

I also let the potatoes boil dry and nearly scorched my pan twice. Now that is something not many can say they accomplished.

Dinner was ready to eat just as everyone arrived. We had plenty to eat without much waste. I wrestled an hour with that fatty ol' shank ham before I got the bone out to season my New Year's Eve black eyed peas.

Although I don't think any of us spent much on gifts, they were all given with careful thought and much love.

My daughter in law has such a knack for choosing special items for each one of us and then wrapping them in such a pretty manner.

My single-mother daughter sometimes struggles financially yet sacrifices so her children have the things that are important to today's kids.

My widowed sister doesn't have a lot of extra money either but has a talent for handmade crafts. Just look at the lovely pillow slips she made for me.

They are made of polka dotted 100% cotton fabric with French seams and trimmed with a lovely aqua birds and flowers print. She said the birds remind her of her late husband.

We still miss him coming to visit for Saturday coffee and a bit of bird watching from our back porch.

Christmas Day at our house this year was so relaxed and we laughed so much. I don't remember what we found so funny but bless his heart, some was at Blake's expense.

He is a handsome fourteen year old who we tease mercilessly about the young ladies. His response to why he doesn't hang out talking to the girls in the school hallway is that he only has so much time to get to his next class. It was funny yesterday but I guess you had to be there.

I waited too late to buy gift tags and although Greg usually passes gifts out on Christmas Day, I had to help this year. I got a wee bit confused and kept handing them out and grabbing them back before I figured out where they actually belonged.

In the midst of the action, Don went outside and brought in the black tulle skirted dress form I have had my eye on for years. I had bought a gold one a couple of months ago but every time I go in to Hobby Lobby, I look for the black one. I didn't even know Don had heard me say anything about it. Both Laura and Rachel deny giving him hints.

He said it was a little embarrassing carrying her out of Hobby Lobby and the kids said it looked funny laying in the back seat of his car. I don't know if it was covered up like a corpse or just out in the open for the world to see.

I cried when I saw it. I will add her to our bedroom with my mermaid painting, shimmering vintage mermaid dress, and huge framed photograph of Rita Hayworth.

Granny June was able to come down to eat but she is so frail she needs assistance with everything. She eats very little, and doesn't even want the coffee she used to drink during every waking minute.

She can't give and take like normal conversation requires and even asked to go "home".  I think she tends to sleep most of the day. Remembering the proud, independent, and beautiful woman she was, we did not take pictures of the shell she has become.

Elizabeth, Konstance, Blake, and Sierra played board games after dinner and gift giving. It was so pleasant listening to them laugh.

Frequent breaks were taken for little snacks. Sierra loved the seasoned crackers Laura made and I sent the last of the pinto beans home with her. The only reason I made a pumpkin pie this year is because Konstance loves it. I hope she isn't just eating them to be polite.

I was told Grandpa was always given the chicken gizzard when they fried a chicken until he finally confessed he didn't really like gizzards.

Our soon to be EMT got to eat and open gifts but then had to dress for work in the ER. I heard her come in sometime after 3 AM. A twelve hour shift.

God bless the hospital and emergency personnel, police officers, firefighters, and and our military men and women who serve regardless of the day or holiday.

And God's blessings on all of my friends I rarely see but love to hear from.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Holiday Memories Part I

This time of year I start remembering Christmas holidays from when I was a kid. Things like the smell of a new vinyl doll on Christmas morning.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is of the year my Grandma bought me twin boy and girl dolls for Christmas. They didn't have lifelike hair but they came complete with full wardrobes that she had made.

It snowed that Christmas and I dressed and undressed those dolls all day long. I remember not wanting my two year old brother to play with them.

That was the year Daddy was working in Oklahoma and I went to first grade for part of the winter. That was also the year I told my teacher Daddy didn't have money to buy me a new coat. Someone at the school bought me a beautiful red one.

Mama and Daddy took it back and told them they had just been waiting to go to the city to buy me one. I have no recollection of the one they bought but still remember that pretty red coat.

I remember Daddy telling me to step in his tracks through the deep snow from the house to the car. I wonder why he didn't just pick me up and carry me. I was pretty tiny in the first grade.

A few years later, my brother got a Huckleberry Hound doll for Christmas. I remember he was turquoise blue, had a yellow hat, and looked just like the one in the cartoons. Of course, when we were watching Huckleberry Hound on television back then, he was just black and white.

I thought it was cute but David really loved him. While teasing him one night, I threw Huckleberry's hat right out the car window onto Main Street. I regret being such a brat. I apologized a few years ago.

Me and My Brother in 1954

I remember Mama promising they would take us window shopping when Daddy got off work. I remember the multi-colored lights crisscrossing Spadra Bridge and the brightly decorated storefronts.

Even on the coldest nights, we would tumble out of the car to stand closer to the windows. My brother liked the dump trucks while I loved looking at the baby dolls.

I don't remember actually getting anything that was in the window though. Unless it was that doll carriage I got right before my sister was born in January.

I remember my Uncle Paul and Aunt Louise coming by to proudly show off their newborn baby girl shortly after Christmas. I remember the baby smelled pretty. Mamas baby powdered their babies really well back then.

I begged them to spend the night and let Paula Kay sleep in my new doll carriage. I told them she would fit perfectly but I guess they didn't believe me.

Speaking of Paula mother and two of my aunts were expecting Christmas babies about the same time. (The Middleton cousins seemed to come in little clusters.)

Mama had planned to name our baby Paul Dean if he was a boy and Paula Dean if she was a girl. Both names would be after Daddy's brother Daniel Paul and Mama's brother Morrice Dean. Mama and Daddy loved those two boys.

However, both aunts delivered first and named their daughters Sheral Dean and Paula Kay. When my sister came along Mama named her after the two grandmothers.

It is late and that is enough reminiscing for now. I'll tell about the Christmas trips to Oklahoma City next time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Living Legend No. 844

Last month we had a steam locomotive watch party in our back yard when Union Pacific's 'Living Legend' No. 844 made its trek from Tennessee back to Wyoming.

While it did not stop behind our house, the engineer did blow the whistle long and loud.

My cousin Rob took this fabulous photograph as the steam engine rounded the curve by our house. 

We had a perfect view and an even more perfect get together with about twenty of our friends and family awaiting the train's arrival.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Touching Base

After becoming quite disillusioned with Facebook, I am returning to blogging. I am looking forward to reading and writing about quiet everyday matters. I plan to resume dropping in on my favorite blogs to see how you all are doing.

My life is still hectic as I am working full time. I have worked the last 14 years with the state of Arkansas in the In Home Services nursing program.

On August 1, 2016 we were bought out by a large home health agency. It was a traumatic event. I am sure I will rant about this later.

For now, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving Day. Our children and grandchildren have scattered and we will be having a quiet Thanksgiving Day with just my mother in law with us.

She has developed Alzheimer's since my last post. A cruel and heartbreaking disease. We will talk about this later as well.

It is late and I need to go to bed so I can go to work tomorrow.

Good Night All.