Monday, March 31, 2014

Wedding Dreams


                                                                                                                    
My beautiful middle daughter is planning a July wedding.  It is part of the Year of New Hope my family is relishing after a rather sad, long stretch of grief and loss.  The timing is perfect; between the magical arrival of our family’s first grandchild, Jacob Quentin, in January and my youngest sister and her partner’s new baby, set to arrive in October. 

Like most young women, I suspect Alecia has fallen asleep many nights in her 30 years with dreams of a dramatic walk down the aisle (there has to be an aisle, right?) in a flowing white lace gown through an audience of friends, to stand next to an adoring groom stunned by her beauty with both families standing by beaming with love.

Wait, maybe that is my dream….

This mother will confess it is sometimes hard to separate my wishes for my daughters from their own.   But, I have always thought of weddings as not just a romantic ritual of love between two people, but as a coming-together of two disparate and unique families.  Done with proper care and feeding, it should be the Happiest of Days; one that will stand the test of time and brighten any unforeseen dark hours ahead with memories of love and joy. 

I understand that traditions are rewritten by each new generation; sometimes even ignored as couples create a wedding to fit their desires.  However, in reading about weddings and in talking to women who cherish their own personal “bride” experience, there are certain traditions that I believe should be preserved:

A wedding is ALL about the BRIDE. In the name of Juicy Couture. AMEN.   Weddings are and always have been female rites of passage, when the women of a culture come together to strategize and plan a celebration they believe will be worthy of the bride they love.

In days gone by, men were expected to arrange payment to the bride’s family (a groom’s dowry) for the honor of marrying their daughter; the lovelier the woman, the larger the dowry.  While this tradition has gone the way of the dodo in most (but not all) cultures, it speaks to the worth of a woman’s heart and the treasure she represents to her family. 

Weddings are NOT a joint venture.  99.99% of the time, men are thrilled to escape the details of event planning including the un-ending gatherings with discussions among the females about flowers, wedding gowns, bridesmaid’s dresses, make-up, hair, jewelry, shoes, food and shhhhh, bachelorette parties. 

A man who really loves a woman views their wedding day as a priceless gift he is giving to the sweetheart he loves as her chance to SHINE.  

She chooses:

Her colors, her dress, her bridesmaids, her venue, her photographer (after all, no one keeps 8 x 10 pictures of grooms on the mantle, right?)  A smart groom includes her family where he can and if asked for input, gives it, but in the end defers to her decisions. 

The groom, on the other hand, is only responsible to:

1.      Propose with a diamond ring the bride will be proud to show to her friends
2.      Show up on time to activities he is invited to participate in
3.      Make sure he and his groomsmen have tuxedos that fit (after the bride and her female entourage has chosen the style and color)
4.      Stay out of the way. 
5.      Show up on time on the wedding day with vows prepared (if appropriate)
There was an extremely popular show on television in my youth called “Queen for a Day”.  The show opened with the host asking the audience—mostly women—"Would YOU like to be Queen for a day?"  

Of course, every woman on the planet already knows her answer to this question. 

But as non-royals, there is only one day for each of us that will ever come close to that.  Is it wrong for me to want my daughters to each have that feeling for one day?  I don’t think so. 

In fact, this is one of those wonderfully rare times when her dreams and mine for her are the same.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February....again

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind
-from Answer by Sarah Mclachlan



Words can't describe how much my heart aches to look at this picture of my parents. Taken on a happy day not long removed as lifetimes go, they look so present, unaware of what is to come, so very… HERE. Mom in her signature stance, smiling that slightly uncomfortable “I am NOT photogenic” smile and Dad looking content just to have his arm around his sweetheart.
Unlike Mom, who raged against the dying of the light nearly four years ago, Dad was resigned to his end. When he slipped away, somehow appropriate in the early morning on November 19, my relief for him was a buffer to all I was losing. His brave, heart-wrenching struggle with loneliness and a cruel, fast cancer was over and I could imagine his jubilant reunion with Mom.
My brother has a good analogy for how it feels to lose both your parents. He says it doesn’t make any difference if you unknowingly step in front of an oncoming train or if you brazenly go stand on the tracks, watching it approach. When the train hits you, it feels the same.
I would add that your heart still beating with all the years of loving them and being loved by them shatters into a million pieces on impact. Blown into the cold wind are all your moments of being their daughter or son, rebel, challenge, worry, heartbreak, disappointment, pride and evenjoy. The memories burn red hot with pain and you vow to gather them again when time has cooled them a bit.
Cliché or not, I am an orphan now. I am no one’s daughter anymore, just the oldest of four left- behind children. Yes, yes, this all might be part of the circle of life Elton, but for me, it stills feels like I was robbed in my sleep.
In days to come, I have good intentions to write again about happiness and the new little boy with my grandfather’s name. I hope to be inspired by more new places, interesting cultures and frighteningly original perspectives. I might even rave/ruminate a little bit about getting older.  
I also want to bear witness to the undeniable evidence of Higher Power in my life and the lives of those I love. And honor my calling to tell the stories of the family who came before...
But in this now, I just miss my parents. I ache to go home, but that place no longer exists. I long to hear Mom's low, slow drawl or Dad's comforting "Hi Ang"...absent voices filled with love I am starved for.
The silence without them is deafening. I have no choice but to wander on alone….

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Raisin-Filled Cookies


Beautiful Mom

It is that week in February again; Dad turned 81 on Tuesday the 19th. Mom died on February 20, three years ago yesterday.


My parents would have been married 57 years on Saturday the 23rd.

And today is my birthday.


I knew Mom would never forget. Through the years, she chose her own ways to honor this day. When I lived at home, she would cook my favorite dinner (usually something with rice and gravy) and make my always-the-same birthday cake (chocolate with a white creamy frosting that tasted like divinity).

For my 13th birthday, she gave me my first garter belt and nylons with a book on etiquette by Patti Page.

Sometimes she would send a Care Package, a box filled with small gifts selected just for me. Other years it was a beautiful card or a loving phone call at the end of the day.

One of my favorite birthday gifts was a tin of Mom’s raisin-filled cookies. It isn’t just that they were the best cookies known to all mankind; chewy and soft with the perfect mix of sweet and salty. It isn’t even that they got better the longer they sat in waxed paper.

It is the love that went into making them.


Mom was a Virgo…a deliberate perfectionist. She cooked with her whole heart, self-taught through trial and error and determined to excel at this important measure of successful homemaking. Many of her attempts to create, improve or modify a recipe ended up thrown over the fence. Never confident, her best dishes were often accompanied by a disclaimer, “I don’t think this is my best” or “this isn’t as good as I usually make”.

I know how long it took her to make raisin-filled cookies. It took hours!

That is if the dough was perfect. (I suspect many batches went over the fence before she perfected her recipe). She would linger over each step; cutting the bottom dough circles, grinding the raisins and then topping the mixture with more dough, using a fork around the edges to seal the magic in each cookie.

Yes, I miss her voice, her wisdom, her advice, her laugh. I miss her smile, her walk, her smell, and how soft her hands were. I miss going home to spend the day gabbing with her at the kitchen table or sneaking away for a special lunch at Fredrico’s Pizza.

I miss a million things about her today and every day. The absence of her on another birthday aches and I am lonely without her in the world.

What I would give today for a tin of my Mom’s extraordinary cookies….filled with raisins and her love for me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Just When I Thought It was Safe...



It can be difficult to tell yourself the truth. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between well-being and denial. In therapy, I am looking at the skills honed throughout my life to cope with stress, hurt, anxiety, or disappointment.

One of them has become my signature move: I RUN.


No, I don’t pack an overnight bag, jump in my car and drive to Vegas to become a blackjack dealer (although I hold on to that fantasy). I avoid truth and the accompanying discomfort by staying busy.

A challenging software sales career fills my Monday through Friday. I run after work chasing errands (groceries, nails, liquor, shoes, etc). Weekends are often more of the same. But emotional “running” can also include hours of television or surfing the web. These are my ways of avoiding time for genuine reflection.

But in those rare quiet moments, life slows enough for me to FEEL.

When I have an uncomfortable FEELING, my LOGICAL brain often comes in to edit it. “You can’t feel that way! That is stupid, weak, ridiculous, destructive, a waste of time, scary, and unpleasant.  You are too smart for that."

LOGIC often keeps me from even acknowledging or sitting with my FEELINGS, “I feel sad and afraid…hmmmm, how interesting”.

But here is how I FEEL (shut up LOGIC): I have been lying to myself about someone I love. Conditioned to take the love crumbs left over from family favorites, I have pulled away from engaging. Caretaking has replaced connection and ambivalence is my cloak of protection.

Confronted with what is left after my mother’s death, I keep telling myself to lower my expectations; if I don’t need or want anything, I won’t be so shattered by my permanent place at the back of the pack. Besides, everyone has the right to live on their terms, especially if they have waited several decades to do so, right?

Then why does it feel so tragic? Why does watching the withdrawal, the isolation, the acting out, and seemingly giving up hurt so much?

Because I still need someone I have only seen glimpses of; an emotionally engaged, involved, caring, unconditionally loving, present father.

More than ever now, it feels like time is running out.

And that is the truth.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Where Else Would She Be?

You can shed a tear that she’s gone
Or you can smile because she lived.
You can close your eyes and pray she’ll come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can remember only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she’d want; smile, open your eyes, love...and go on.


Mom and Katy Jo-Thanksgiving Past

Thanksgiving belonged to my mom.  She loved everything about this holiday; a chance to express gratitude and to gather together with family.  Following her lead, we dressed up for Thanksgiving; it was (and still is) like dinner with the Ewings.

It never mattered that she wasn't playing host at her home. She was the honorary hostess, showing up wherever the Shumway clan was gathering with a car trunk filled with Bonnie Rae specialties.

Mom knew how to make everything more beautiful and would often bring a special tablecloth or a fancy serving dish, pitcher or platter to add elegance to the event. 

Her perfected-over-time sweet potatoes were a standing request, and she would bring pies, salads, and extra dishes to add to the bounty.  Food was love to her, and it was another way of saying what was in her heart.

Mom strived to create family traditions.  She often gathered us together to take turns sharing our reflections on the past year and what we were most thankful for.

During family gatherings, Mom was always my go-to person for conversation and reassurance. She was a skilled conversationalist and I knew when I sat down to talk with her that it would be a good time. She made me feel special and important...she could do that with everyone.

I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year.  My Dad called me yesterday to tell me how much he is looking forward to us all being together.  He thanked me several times. It will be our family's third without Mom.  I miss her more than usual, and long for her to once again show up in my driveway, frazzled and beautiful. 

My oldest, Joni Rose is making Mom's sweet potatoes.  My sisters and daughters are pitching in to provide the other trimmings for our turkey/ham feast.  It will be an Open House of sorts, with family comings and goings throughout the day and into the evening. 

I am hoping that there will be a few moments tomorrow when we are ALL together.  As Mom would say, "the stars will align" and for just a short time, the people that loved and lost her will share the same room.  By gathering in the unique way that only my family knows and has come to cherish, we are inviting her spirit to join us. 

I can't imagine she would be anywhere else...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Idaho Ghosts

Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us 
as they are by those who stay.  
Loss is our legacy. 
Insight is our gift.
Memory is our guide.

     -Emmy Belding, Grieving Gracefully


The House Where Dad was Born-February 19, 1932

My grandmother "Muzzie" used to tell my father that he was born "on the banks of Spring Creek on a cold February day”. He was actually born in the house that sits on a hill overlooking the creek. Eighty years since my dad’s difficult debut, he sits with me in my car on the first stop of our sentimental journey. I step out into the cool October air to take a few pictures.

With Dad as my guide, I want to see the places that my grandmother’s family called home. This is what I know about them: 

  • My great-grandparents, Leslie and Martha Bowcut Wickham had a farm outside of town. 
  • They had six sons and two daughters (The oldest son died as an infant)
  • Son Peter ran a sawmill. 
  • Son Walt had a big potbelly and drank on his porch. 
  • Leslie built Martha a home “in town” after her years of working the farm with little help from her sons.  Perhaps he was trying to atone for the time he was away on a Mormon mission
  • Muzzie was born the year after he came home.
I believe seeing their homes and the places they lived and worked will help me understand more about a virtually invisible side of my family.  I am hoping it spurs my Dad's memories as well. 

I never met any of the brothers; just Muzzie's sister, Freda.  Most of them were alive when I was in high school. Why was I never introduced to these people? 

My Aunt Judy remembers that as a child, she was not allowed to associate with her Wickham uncles or their families. It appears to be another sad example of misplaced judgment, keeping people divided on issues that in the end, don’t matter one bit.

As we drive through Franklin and out to the farm, my grandmother's energy fills the air around us and I listen with reverence while other Wickham spirits join her to tell their stories through the quiet, comforting voice of my father.


The Wickham Farm

As a child, I remember seeing the Wickham farm from the main road.  It is just two or three miles out of town, with a final turn down what was once a long tree-lined lane. Today the trees are gone, and the farmhouse has been replaced by a modern brick rambler with a white heavy door.  Dad stands on the porch while I knock. We want to introduce ourselves to anyone who answers and ask for permission to look around. No one is home. 


Grandpa Wickham built this garage

The original garage that Grandpa Wickham built is still standing. An old shed and this one-car structure are all that remains of the past. Dad wanders into the back yard and the landscape suddenly drops off into a beautiful valley. A river ambles through the trees. Dad tells me that he remembers playing here as a child, and I step away to let him relish his memories.



Muzzie's Riverbottom

 
  Johnny Jump-Ups

When Muzzie wrote her memoirs, she reminisced about “skipping through the johnny jump-ups”, a small flower that grows wild in the fields and along the roadside. This has become somewhat of a joke in our family; an example of hyperbole and of viewing the past through rose-colored glasses. 

But as I stand there looking over this pristine valley with my Dad, I understand what a magical place the river bottoms must have been for her as a young girl; a hidden playground, complete with a bridge her father built especially for her to  cross the stream.  It won't be so easy for me to make light of that memory anymore.  

I start to tell Dad this and see he has tears in his eyes.


The Tiny Blue House

Folklore from my childhood whispered that some of Muzzie’s brothers were drunks.  I had heard the names Walt and Joe, but especially sad was the youngest, Kelly (real name-Ross).  Until I saw this two-room house, I didn't know the whole story. We park across the street while Dad remembers:

So small
Coming here with his mother, he always had to wait in the car. Muzzie went into the house alone and was gone for what seemed like a long time. When she came out to the car, she would often be crying.  She asked her children to keep these visits a secret from their father.

 

 Now I know that Kelly’s young wife Alice died only two years after they married and as a new mother, less than one year after giving birth to their son Leslie.  She was 19. Tragically, Leslie was killed in a jeep rollover accident months before he turned 22.

I suspect Kelly found numb comfort from his loss in the bottle and I feel a compassion for him that stays with me long after I return home.  I ache for my grandmother, who was forced to see her brothers mostly in secret to avoid the harsh judgment of others.  
    


Dad and I end our journey at the Franklin City Cemetery.  

My mother is buried here, not far from Leslie, Martha, Peter, Muzzie, my grandfather, Kelly and Alice. 

I realize once again that Mom isn't here; not really.  They are all in the wind now, perhaps summoned from eternity to hover nearby when we say their names, remember their faces or tell their stories.    

In the "I can't believe I didn't do this" category, I did NOT take a picture of my Dad during our sojourn. His white hair was longer than usual (a haircut seemed unimportant in light of our mission) and his face often beamed with the glory of remembrance. 

I don't have his picture, but I won't forget how beautiful he looked that day. Not for the rest of my life.           

Friday, October 19, 2012

Letter to Beau



Beau,

You might not remember our first meeting.  Wow…he is big! That is what I thought the first time you appeared from around the corner of my house.  You and Jackie were car-shopping (I think) and she had apparently dragged you along. You were wearing long shorts and I noticed a large Celtic tattoo on your calf.  You were polite but didn’t smile…not once. 

Joni Rose was rather oblivious that day. Or maybe that is just what I thought.  She was reeling from her recent break-up with the abusive Frenchman, so I was surprised when a few months later, I discovered that a spark had ignited between her and the Hulk with Tattoo.  But something was happening; and even though I was absorbed by a new romance of my own, I could see it all over her face.

In the nine years since you asked my permission to marry Joni Rose; I have come to love the gem of a man underneath that first impression.  You are handsome and extremely intelligent.  But you are also all the other things mothers want their daughters to marry; responsible, ambitious, principled, and tender-hearted.  I believe you will love Joni Rose for this lifetime and beyond.  I know you healed her heart and made her shine again.

The first time you met our extended family, Joni told me you couldn’t believe that people really talked and interacted that much. Even so, you have carved your own place among us and have discovered how to flourish around gregarious men and opinionated women.

I admire your rebel spirit and patriot’s passion.  Being around you makes me feel safe, and I have no doubt you would give your life without hesitation for your principles and the people you love

But you and I are connected by something more now.  We are grieving.  I might be further in the journey than you, but I recognize the emptiness and pain in your eyes.  Living with the loneliness of life without my Mom, I have been humbled to watch the staggering losses you have experienced in such a short time.

Uncle Barry, Grandpa Bill, Uncle Kent and now perhaps the hardest of all; Grandpa Moore.. in death, they have taken with them pieces of your childhood, your life experiences, and countless shared, now sacred memories. It feels like part of you is gone too, doesn’t it?  I have listened to the way you talk about each of them. They are your heroes; diverse and unique … strong, driven, masculine, courageous, protective, tender, kind men. They were keepers of your innocence and the architects of your spirit.

Protective as you are, I know you worry for those left behind.  You helplessly watch your Dad grapple with losing his band of brothers while shouldering the burdens of the last living son. Like you, my heart aches for Grandma Joyce, widowed just in time to bury her youngest child.  And Grandma Afton, losing her sweetheart after years of their struggle to hang on to independence and to each other…a poignant love story I hope you will cherish.

I don’t understand why certain people leave us so soon…I am still struggling with why they leave us at all!  Even when our sick and infirm are released from pain and suffering, we ache in places we never imagined would hurt so much…and for so long.  I can tell you it will get a more bearable with time, but as you know so well already, it will never get easier to lose people we love.

I am so sorry this has happened to you so young.

How lucky we are to know you.  This family stands with you and will be there for all that is yet to come.  I am sorry for your loss. But because of you, we know more about these men who shaped your journey. We see each of them in you.
  
Know they are proud.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Crossing Over


There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all.
        - from In My Life by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

Back in March, I wrote about the pilgrimage Ron and I made to one of the iconic landmarks of our generation.  While in London for two days, we had frankly struggled to find the magic; until we walked from the St. John's tube stop into a quiet British neighborhood.  There we would join fans of all ages at the "zebra crossing" on Abbey Road.  

As children of the 60's, we both grew up listening to the musical revolution called The Beatles.  We saw their first appearance on American television while glued to The Ed Sullivan show.  I never screamed like the thousands of hysterical (stupid) girls whenever they came into view but I had a little crush on Paul (later it would be John). 

Construction did not deter the mission of those who waited with us that day.  We took turns scrambling into the road between traffic lights to pay homage by imitating our musical heroes. 

Knowing that I was walking in the footsteps of the Fab Four seemed remarkable to my farm girl heart.  John, Paul, George and Ringo were young and beautiful in the summer of 1969. So were we.  It made me melancholy for my childhood, my younger sister and my Mom....  


I believe in yesterday.

Ron and I didn't exchange many words. We couldn't have spoken them anyway.  Surprised by our emotions, we stood outside the gate at Abbey Studio and Ron scrawled our message on the wall. A cute young couple offered to take our picture.  We returned the favor.  

Ron submitted pictures of our crossing to the website below and they were recently posted .  You can visit the site at:
www.AbbeyRoadCrossing.com
(Click on September 2012)

Or you can see them here:


"Hi There. We are Ron and Angie King from Salt Lake City, Utah. We are happy to share our pilgrimage to the Abbey Road crossing. Despite the fact the road was torn up due to the replacement of the ancient Victorian water line, we acted like little kids (we are both in our fifties) at the opportunity to make this crossing. We were only in London for one day and this was the single place on our absolutely can't miss list. We can now cross this event off our bucket list. The picture above is Angie on the crossing................
..................then the two of us, Ron and Angie, in front of Abbey Road Studios......................
.......................the message we left on the studio wall...................
.......................and finally me, Ron, on the crossing. Thank you for the opportunity to share our memorable day. Ron and Angie King"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Out Here On My Own




It is surprising to what lengths I will go to keep from breaking down. For so many days in a row, I keep my tears and loneliness buried, pushed under, wearing my mask of happiness while staying busy (running).

  
There are probably many who think my mother’s death is now ancient history. She is gone, grieving has been sufficiently attended to, let’s move the hell on.  Just like a failed love affair, people can only be supportive for so long before they start to think you have perhaps “gone round the bend” with your over-wrought days of pain.

But here is my truth:
  
  • I lost my dearest friend in the whole world. Not in the Facebook friend way (God, no) but in the genuine places of my heart that only a few people will ever know. It is pretty empty. 

  • As an oldest daughter, Mom was my mentor to aging. She was forging the dark, wooded path through the slithey unknown and I developed a new compassion watching her vanity and lifelong quest for the holy grail of youth give way to something deeper.

  • She was the keeper of my secrets. Women have as many of them as men think they do; those sacred things they only say out loud to other women. Mine were safe with Mom. I could go to her with my fear, uncertainty, anger, indignation and desperation to say whatever came out (minus the swear words, of course) but this was a small price to pay for her listening ear and the wisdom of her heart.

I can’t tell my daughters these secrets. They are only for someone who has seen what the future looks like and can reassure me that I can make it; because they already have.

  • She was my advocate; always on my side, just the way you dream someone who loves you will be. She was protective and wanted to “choke stiff” anyone who hurt me. She could be wickedly sarcastic and laughing at the absurdity of my situations meant victory…oh how we laughed!

  • She was my Xavier; and I was a proud graduate of her School for Gifted Youngsters. I had superpowers when she was around. I was funnier, smarter, more intuitive and happier. Grief has robbed me of them still…I get glimmers, but they fritz out in an instant.

Today is the 2 ½ year anniversary of her death. Saturday will be the 3rd anniversary of the surgery that doomed her and all of us to what is our now.

Yesterday, I melted down. I let the loss of her in... to overwhelm me again. I am vulnerable, scared, uncertain and so very lonely.  I keep waiting for my husband, my aunt, my sisters or SOMEONE to channel all the attributes of my mother, even while I know it is absurd…and impossible.

It is time to talk to someone. A professional.

I can say whatever I want, and maybe even WITH the swearing.

I will let you how it goes…

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Deathbed Promises

Margaret Josephine with children: John Daniel, Jessie Adeline and Robert Franklin (sitting)

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
      -Robert Frost

Until now, my maternal great-grandmother has only been remembered for the violent, horrific way she died.  In my quest to learn and share the stories of my family, I have discovered that it is how she lived that should be passed on as well.

She made two deathbed promises to her husband that changed her life.  But they also altered the destiny of her descendants.  It is this story that I want my brother, sisters and our children to know.

Margaret Josephine Phelps was an Alabama girl, born the second of 10 children.  Her father, Daniel served as a Sergeant in the Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate Army.  He was granted land by the government as a soldier-survivor of the Civil War.  Just like me and my siblings, Margaret grew up on a farm.

At age 20, Margaret met and fell deeply in love with Franklin Wakefield Peacock, 14 years her senior.  Franklin had been raised on a large plantation and loved working the land.  Like Margaret, his father had also served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. 

Franklin had been alone for almost 12 years, since the death of his first wife and baby during childbirth. He had  moved to Covington County to homestead 160 acres of woodland.  He became acquainted with Margaret’s parents and was soon introduced to their beautiful oldest daughter.

Franklin and Margaret were married on Christmas Day in 1890 at her parent’s home. It was said to be quite the soiree.  For the next few years, the two of them worked their land together. Three children joined their family;  their oldest son, John Daniel is my grandfather, Jessie Adeline and Robert Franklin.

It was late July 1898 when tragically, Margaret would lose her love.  She was forced to confront the reality that she was going to be left alone to raise three small children (7, 6 and 2) and run a large and demanding farm. Franklin’s health had been declining and now he was suffering. There was no real treatment (and certainly no cure) for Bright’s Disease, a term used then for kidney failure. 

In some of their last precious moments together, Margaret promised Franklin that she would NEVER remarry.   
     
Margaret would have several other suitors and opportunities to remarry; to make her life and the lives of her children easier. Even with the help of her family, she struggled. (My grandfather, John was forced to quit school after eighth grade to work full-time).


My mother wrote that the combination of hard-work, worry, stress and grief changed Margaret’s appearance and aged her prematurely.  My grandfather remembered many nights when his mother would disappear to walk the fields crying for Franklin.

Margaret Josephine kept her romantic pledge to her first and only love to the end.

*******

It was her second promise that would forge a future she couldn’t have imagined, rippling through time and the lives of those who came after. It is the reason my parents would someday meet and marry in the desert.

During Franklin’s illness and decline, he had converted to the Mormon Church.  He was baptized on August 20, 1896.  Margaret joined the church eight months later and her parents and sisters were baptized shortly thereafter.  

This was not a popular decision among the “hard-shell” Southern Baptist community.  Since this new religion was neither established nor looked upon with particular favor, they were encouraged to move west to “Zion” to be among those who shared their faith.  This became their dream; to someday live among the saints in the west and to be near an LDS temple.

But Franklin knew he wasn’t going to live to see this dream realized.  And so he asked Margaret to promise that if possible, she would move west to be closer to the faith they had chosen together.  She should go somewhere near an LDS temple so she could finally participate in the rituals and ordinances of Mormonism. 

It took nearly 30 years, but Margaret Josephine was determined to keep her promise.  In the latter part of 1928, she moved across the country to settle in Mesa, Arizona.  My grandfather John and his wife Katie Mae followed in February of 1929. 
 
The 1930 census shows Margaret and her widowed sister, Mary Etta Manning, living together in Mesa, just a few blocks from the LDS Temple.   I just learned that Mary Etta died on April 11 of 1934, leaving Margaret alone again at 64.
 
Apparently on June 23 of that same year, Margaret was working in her garden when a ram (goat) charged at her, knocked her down and gored her to death. 

On her death certificate, the medical examiner reported extensive bruising on her head and chest. 

She must have been terrified.  I wonder if she screamed for help, or if she fought alone… or at all.  I don’t know how long she suffered or who found her, but it makes me sad to know this is how she met her end. 

*******

I will always regret that I didn’t ask more questions about the Peacocks while my mother was here to answer them.  I am ashamed to admit how often discussing my own dramas seemed more interesting than listening to tales of dead relatives.

Nearly 2 1/2 years after Mom's death, I finally screwed up the courage to begin sifting through the contents of her study.  She left behind a treasure trove of notebooks, pictures, stories and poems. For whatever reason, she did not share many of them with us. But I believe she wanted to.

It's not too late.  See Mom, I am listening now.