Sun Lakes Writers’ Group

Kidnapping Grandma

Frank Garshak

Not only was I lucky regarding finding the woman to whom I was married for almost 63 years, but also acquiring the wonderful parents she had. Except for taking their daughter away with me around the world, they seemed to like me and I never had any bad in-law stories. Eventually Maureen’s sweet Mom got 91 years old, widowed, and lonely. She also became legally blind from a severe case of macular degeneration. It was obvious that she couldn’t live alone without help and we lived 2000 miles away. She was terribly attached to the home she spent the best part of her life in and rationalized that she could get along just fine in spite of her poor vision because she knew just where everything was. Then she fell and broke her arm, and regardless of her resistance to leave her home, we had to find a way to bring her to live with us.

She was terribly afraid of flying and that made our plan to get from Pennsylvania to Arizona even more challenging. So we devised a way to essentially kidnap her. She never drove a car so she had no driver’s license. I had to get her an ID to get on a plane. So while visiting her, we treated her to a hair salon appointment. Then while driving her back home, we stopped at a DMV office where I had pre-arranged to get her an ID. Thank goodness that the folks there were very supportive of what we were doing. I told her that we stopped along the way because her hair was so pretty that we wanted to sign her up for a portrait. The helpful DMV clerk had us wheel her to the front of the line where they snapped her picture and issued a non-driver’s ID to board a plane.

We had an early flight on the morning of our reservations. When we woke Mom up, she was given a Xanax to calm her and relieve any anxiety. It took an hour to get to the airport and we raced through a rainstorm to get there. Then before boarding the plane, she got Xanax #2 to carry her through our four-hour flight. Our kidnapping plan was a success! Shortly after she got  to our home and came fully awake, she said, “Well that plane ride wasn’t so bad after all.” She soon realized how much better off she was and also enjoyed the company of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And we also truly enjoyed having her in our care for the next two years until she passed at age 93.

The Special One

Lee Murray

George Miller’s mother knew her son’s life wasn’t going to be easy from the beginning. Her pregnancy was a difficult one and her son was born eight weeks premature in the Fall of 1948. The doctors at the hospital were not optimistic that he’d survive at all, but through a combination of prayer and excellent medical care he made it through those early days.

Little Georgie’s development was always behind the curve which worried his mom and he developed a stutter at a young age. He also contracted polio at the age of four which left him with one partially paralyzed leg.

His mom would always tell him, “You’re special, Georgie,” and her words always brought him comfort.

Between the stuttering and the semi paralyzed leg, life for Georgie was very hard. The bullies at school loved to make fun of his stutter and on the playground, they delighted in pushing him down just to see him struggle with his bad leg to get up. When he finally did, they’d push him down again until he was so exhausted, he was unable to stand up. When he’d come home from school with fresh bruises and soiled clothing, his mom was beside herself with worry. Yet George persisted each day and tried his best to reassure her telling her that he’d be okay. And she would always tell him, “You’re special, Georgie.”

It is said that there are guardian angels that come into our lives to see us through the most difficult times and one for George came in the form of a classmate, Ralph Kiley. Ralph was a well-liked kid who happened to be outside one day when George was being tormented by the bullies who were pushing him around, taunting him and making his life miserable. Ralph went over and gave each one of the bullies a black eye and a bloody nose and, the cowards that they all were, ran away.

Ralph helped him up and told him, “I’ll be your friend, George. Those guys won’t bother you again. If they do, they’ll answer to me.” Ralph started to include George in his circle of friends, having lunch together on school days and including him in conversation and activities with others.

Ralph’s friendship made George more popular and as his confidence grew, so did his grades. By his last year of high school, George was on the honor roll and selected to give the commencement speech at their graduation.

While George made plans for his first semester of college, Ralph enlisted in the Marines. It was 1966 and there was a good possibility his enlistment would mean service in the Vietnam war. George saw his friend to the train station when he shipped out and embraced him, telling him, “Ralph, you’re the best there is. Godspeed, friend.”

Six months later, George received word at college that Ralph had been killed during an enemy assault on his platoon in Cambodia. It was reported that Ralph single-handedly fought off enemy fire on their position until reinforcements could arrive, saving his entire platoon from certain death. Ultimately, his bravery cost him his own life.

Devastated at this news, George asked Ralph’s mother if there was anything he could do. She asked him to give the eulogy at her son’s funeral.

On the day his friend was laid to rest, one by one, each member of Ralph’s platoon walked by his casket and saluted him, and George, choking back emotion, gave the finest eulogy he could muster, one that was befitting of his friend, describing what a great life he’d lived in only 19 short years.

He finished by saying, “My mother always told me I was special,” George said. “The real special one was this man, Ralph Kiley. None of us will ever forget him.”

He then nodded to the choir director who led the congregation into a heartfelt singing of “Amazing Grace” and “Auld Lang Syne.”

George slowly turned and walked away into the darkness saying prayers for his friend, the finest man he would ever know.


Ruby Regina Witcraft

She was always a little proud of herself but they had, loosely, kept track of each other after college and through the years. She was surprised to hear Adrianna’s voice on the phone as it had been quite some time since she had heard from her.

After much small talk and mutual interest in what each was doing, they decided to meet as Adrianna was in town for the week. Twelve, lunch at the club on Friday was agreeable to both and she couldn’t help feeling good that she would be able to show off our beautiful clubhouse.

The appointed time came and while waiting at the door this beautiful, black Porsche came and who was at the wheel but, you guessed it, Adrianna. Well, so much for showing off the club! She was dressed in an eye-catching suit that looked like she just stepped off of a Milan runway. The vanity plate on her car was AAAGEEZ. How touching!

I tried to stand taller as if that would make me look any better in my last year’s Macy’s knock off. The smile on my face beamed as we greeted with a hug and lied that neither of us had changed a bit in the last 10 years.

Not wanting her to think I was destitute, I insisted that I was buying lunch. She let me! I made the proper motions by nodding while she told me what a wonderful family and home she had, but my ear and complacency was wearing a little thin. I forced myself to compliment her on the five-karat diamond she was sporting, my patience hit the fan as she said, “Her sweet old hubby bought that for the wedding.” Taking a deep breath I said, “My aren’t you special.” Next she continued with, “This fur coat was for my first baby.” There again I followed up with, “My aren’t you special.” Then came the coup de grâce when she told me that the Porsche was for a second baby.” Didn’t your hubby ever reward you that way? So I calmly mentioned that he did send me to finishing school. She commented, “Well, whatever did you learn there?” I took a deep breath and said, I learned to say, “My aren’t you special instead of who gives a horse’s patoot!”

Haven’t heard from Adrianna since.

Childhood Neighbors

Ellen Brittingham

Donny Reay was one of my playmates when I was four or five. His house was five houses south of my house on North Oregon Street. He was a boy and his toys were boy toys but he was nice to me and much kinder than the other boys in the neighborhood. There was a dearth of girls around that time. I remember he had cowboy wallpaper on his bedroom walls. My favorite thing about playing at his house was his sandbox. I remember it as huge and filled with wonderful cars, trucks and a road grader. Donny was happy to play with me until noon. That was when Suzy Jones got home from kindergarten. Suzy lived two houses south of him and had a little brother, Charles who also came outside after lunch. Donny and Suzy were a year older than I was and they didn’t have time for me when they got together.

Kathy Berry also lived nearby but her mom seldom let her play outside. One day I was playing with Kathy in her basement. We were having a tea party, when I accidentally dropped one of the China dishes and it broke. Kathy burst into tears and her mother came running. Kathy told her that I had dropped it on purpose. “I think Ellen needs to go home now,” Mrs. Berry said. I went home and indignantly told my mother about the incident. This was when I still thought things should be fair. Mom said, “Would you like me to call her mom and explain?” “No, never mind,” I grumbled.

Across the alley from my backyard was a trailer park. People didn’t stay long enough for me to get to know many children; until the workers building Interstate 84 came to town. The freeway moving east across Oregon and beyond was a huge undertaking and Ontario was where the eastern part was headquartered. Many families of the big rig operators building the road moved into the park, several families lived in double-wide mobile homes that were new at the time. Now my playmates in the trailer park stayed long enough to become friends. They liked to play in my yard, probably because we had a big grassy play area and a long cement driveway to ride trikes on. When I was around 10 years old, we used blankets on the clothesline to make a stage and performed skits for the neighborhood kids and moms. We also used that driveway to roller skate.

I spent many hours playing hopscotch with neighborhood kids. We used a stick to draw the grid for hopping in the moist dirt around the trailer park. I remember one specific time. A girl named Edmona and I hopscotched one Thanksgiving Day for many hours while our moms prepared our families’ feasts. I took off my coat and dropped it on the ground to allow for free motion. When I heard the bell at my house ring two times, I knew I had to go home. It was then I realized how cold I was. I had been so focused on the contest I hadn’t noticed the temperature dropping. It took hours before I felt warm again.

Another neighbor, Sharon Edwards lived two houses south of mine. Sharon was three years older than I was but considered me as a confidant. She lived with her father and her stepmother. Her mother had died. She told me of many unfair treatments she received from her stepmother. She was the fairytale kind of stepmother, as in Snow White’s and Hansel and Gretel’s. I can remember several conversations when I, age nine tried to help her, age 12 deal with these treatments. I offered suggestions of diplomatic things she could say to her mother and father to ease some of the tension. Even at the time, I was surprised anybody listened to what I had to say about family communication.

One of the best things about my childhood neighborhood was the little grocery store two doors north of our house. Some of the kids in the neighborhood bought themselves sweet treats all day long and they wanted to share with my brother and me. To control the sugar we consumed, my parents told us we could not ever eat treats other kids offered us but we could buy our own treats. We were allowed three cents per day of penny candy or a popsicle or a bottle of pop. My brother and I loved our daily trip to the store for our treat. I still really love candy and I think it’s the worst problem in my fight for weight control. Do you suppose that daily excursion for candy was what started my problem?

The summer I was 12, Susan came to the neighborhood. She was 13. Her aunt, a friend of my mom’s, lived in the trailer park and her uncle was one of the big rig operators on the freeway. Susan’s mother was having a hard time managing her daughter who was trying to grow up too fast in North Bend, Indiana. Aunt Ruth’s house for the summer was the solution. I was immature and I thought Susan was exciting for a friend. I remember she told me she wore a black bra underneath her white blouses because it drove boys wild. Bra? I didn’t even own a white one. Susan thought Kookie Burns from the TV show 77 Sunset Strip was dreamy. Such thoughts had never occurred to me. Susan taught me how to make pom-poms for cheerleading and she taught me several cheers. They never came in very handy for me but I was ready just in case I was needed to lead a cheer. Susan also taught me how to sew straight lines using my mother’s sewing machine. I made several padded potholders and I’ve been sewing ever since. That was the Summer of 1959 and Susan was staying all night with me on the August night of the big earthquake in Yellowstone Park. We were still awake when we noticed the opened door swinging left and right for a few seconds. This was hundreds of miles away from Yellowstone in Eastern Oregon.

Susan went back to Indiana at the end of summer and I never saw her again. The following winter we moved across town to a new house and new neighbors.