Category: Writings

I have written all of my life and this collection will be diverse in content and genre.

The Content of Our Lives

By Pat Edwards

(written in 2014)

How can any of us really evaluate the content of our lives? There are so many facets!
I’ve found that, in the 72 years of my own life, my experiences, mistakes, achievements and each segment of it along the way has contributed to the person I have become – the good and the not-so-good elements.

As a young child, I was quiet and shy, and so very innocent. As a teenager, I still was. I never had the confidence or self-esteem that would allow me to emerge from my comfort zones. Today, I am still shy and even somewhat reclusive, but I’ve come to the realization that I was blessed with the ability to write my thoughts and my feelings in a way that I could never speak, vocally. Working and fighting my way through that shyness and self-doubt was a long, arduous journey that I could not have undertaken without the support of the one person who has been by my side for almost its entirety.

This story stems from recent reflections I have been having as my husband Jim and I celebrate the year of our 50th wedding anniversary. On May 30 of this year (2014), we were aboard a cruise ship heading for Alaska. With my sister, Barbara, and her husband, Dwight, we booked the 7-day cruise and a 3-day excursion by bus into the Denali just for that purpose.

How can 50 years have already gone by since that Memorial Day in 1964 when we said “I do” in the gymnasium of the St. Alice Catholic Church in Springfield? “Why a gymnasium?” you might ask. Because at the time, St. Alice, where Jim’s family were members, had just been torn down to make way for a spectacular new church that was in the process of being built – but, alas! not in time for our wedding. The church services and masses were, at the time, being held in the school’s gymnasium and it was apropos for the two of us to have basketball hoops visible in many of our wedding pictures.

Jim n Me 05-30-1964

We met two years earlier after Jim had returned from a 4-year stint in the U.S. Army in Germany… during the time when the Berlin Wall was being built. He was recruited by my co-worker and his friend, Jerry Cyphert, to play basketball for Jerry’s AAU team. Jim and his friend, Rick Herman, had spent much of their time in Germany playing basketball and football for the U.S. Army against neighboring bases. Part of their duties, too, was to maintain the gyms. At 6′ 4″, Jim had played with Rick on the 1958 Springfield High School championship basketball team as well as its football squad.

So, it now seems providential that Jerry Cyphert talked me into keeping score for his AAU team. Even though I was not an athlete, it seems now that basketball was ordained to be a part of our lives.

The purpose of this story is dedicated to Jim and to our 50 years of marriage. I’ll begin with the letter I wrote to him the day before our anniversary date:

Well… tomorrow, it will be 50 years… a half of a century! Can you believe it?
Throughout those 50 years and even before, you have always been there for me… always. You’ve never waivered in your devotion and dedication to not only me, but to our family, as well.

Together, we have somehow managed to raise the most wonderful children that either of us could have imagined.

We made mistakes… oh yes!… we made plenty! But, despite those mistakes and our ‘trial and error’ methods of parenting, we evidently instilled in them the values that each one of them exhibits today and they, in turn, have instilled those same values into their own children. What a legacy we have built… together!

One of the most tender moments I have of our relationship were those hours in 1983 when you sat next to my hospital bed, quietly holding my hand and placing cool washcloths against my forehead. The doctors were trying to tame the raging fever that had enveloped me so that they could remove what we all believed to be a malignant tumor that had enveloped my kidney. I know that you were frightened… I was frightened… but you never left my side and you willed your strength into me. Fortunately, against 80% odds, the tumor was benign and although my kidney was removed, the other has continued to provide for me well.

Remember? I wrote a story of that experience several years later, in 1987. I submitted it as an entry in a contest called “Always and Forever” (the name of Randy Travis’ new album) sponsored by KUGN-FM radio in Eugene. My letter was chosen as the winner and we were treated to a wonderful evening at the Hult Center, meeting and visiting with Randy Travis in person in his tour bus for about 20 minutes. At the time, he presented me with a beautiful handcrafted gold necklace with an open umbrella as its pendant. A tiny diamond raindrop dangled from one of the spines of the umbrella and I wore that necklace for years afterwards.

You’ve always been my Superman – my hero. There was never anything that you couldn’t do. You had the strength of a bull and a stubborn determination to accomplish whatever needed to be done. And, you always succeeded – not necessarily the way I was hoping it would be done, but if it was for me, I knew that it was done with love.

We’ve had disagreements; the road has been rocky in spots, but neither of us had any desire to take a different route, and that determination has reaped so many rewards.

So, here’s to our journey towards the next 50! I don’t know how far we’ll get down that road, but however far it takes us, we’ll continue to do it together… Always and Forever! Happy 50th Anniversary my Love!!

So, the content of my life has indeed had many facets, but the most important ones in the past 50 years, especially, have been family and home and they will always take precedence over everything else in my life.

Printed in Groundwaters (Volume 10 Issue 4; Summer 2014)

Memories of U.S. Highway 99

By Pat Edwards

While I was attending Queen Anne Grade School in Lebanon, Oregon during the late 1940s and early 1950s, my father owned the Smith-Kuehl International Harvester dealership there.

I vividly remember that our family recreation in those days, during the summer months, was to go to area stock car races each week. We’d all load into Daddy’s red International pickup truck. He and our mother sat in the cab and my brother, sister and I climbed into the open truck bed. Each of us would bring along a blanket and a pillow. We used them as seat cushions as we made our way north on Highway 99 to the Salem area where our favorite races took place.

During the usually hot summer afternoons, we gloried in the feel of the wind whipping our hair into our faces and mouths whenever we tried to talk – at least my sister and I did – our brother always sported a crewcut.

By the time we made our way home after a long day of dusty car races and destruction derbies, darkness had usually descended and we’d wrap ourselves into our blankets and lay our sleepy heads on the pillows which did not do a whole lot to cushion the bumps. My older brother and I laid there singing ‘Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ at the top of our voices while our younger sister invariably fell asleep in her little cocoon between us.

We always stopped at a drive-in near Albany to get an ice cream cone before heading east towards our home in Lebanon. My brother and I were very careful not to wake our little sister who usually slept right through the stop. Then, mean kids that we were, we teased her about missing her ice cream treat the next day.

We moved away from Lebanon in about 1954, but later returned in 1958, where I graduated from Lebanon Union High School in 1960. Sometime before my sixteenth birthday, my mother would frequently take me out to practice driving so that I could get my driver’s license. Our favorite practice spot was on an unopened section of the new Interstate 5 freeway that was being built through the Albany area. I had miles of smooth pavement to drive on with no other traffic. I’m not sure that it was legal at that time, but we never got stopped or fined for doing it. It turns out that I flunked my first driving test, though… I couldn’t parallel park!”

Included in OREGON’S MAIN STREET: U.S. Highway 99 “The Stories” by Jo-Brew (2014)

Family

by Pat Edwards

Those who know me are aware that the most important thing in my life is “family.” From the very beginning, I was blessed with a loving family. I not only had an adoring mother and father, but I was raised with an older brother, Jim, and a younger sister, Barbara. We siblings were all five years apart; I was the middle child. When I think of my childhood, my memories always include my close relationships with my paternal grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. Our life revolved around shared family times – holiday get-togethers, travel, camping trips, lake fishing and a move every few years. My maternal grandparents and extended family lived in Southern California and, although we visited frequently, our relationship was always long-distance and not as close.

My father never seemed to be able to put down permanent roots. He was a good provider and always had a job, but he always seemed to have a bit of the wanderlust inside. Wherever we moved, whether it was to Lebanon, Oregon, Phoenix, Arizona, Eureka, California, Portland, Oregon or Eugene, Grandma and Grandpa Smith were always close by or frequent visitors. Grandma Smith was always my role model. Even though she’s been gone a long time, I still miss her.

One of my first memories was sitting on the broad back of old Bid, half of Grandpa’s work team of Champ and Bid on their ranch located near Lorane, Oregon. I have no doubt that is where my deep love for horses and farm life was born. I read every horse book I could find in the libraries nearby. Even though my childhood, except for that short stint on the ranch, was spent in urban areas, my dream was to someday have my own horse. That didn’t happen until my junior year of high school, but I’ve had one ever since.

Grandma Smith and I were pals. We both loved to play games and our favorite, when it was just the two of us, was to play “Double Solitaire” in which each of us tried to beat the other in adding ascending cards on the piles in front of us. The games would get so intense, we frequently laughed hard enough that tears would begin running down our cheeks.

I remember how much I enjoyed helping Grandma do her laundry in the old ringer washer and hang it out to dry on the clothesline in the backyard.

While we were outside, we’d always make sure to pick a nasturtium leaf for Petey, her canary, and his song would always accompany whatever activities we happened to be doing, almost always in her kitchen.

Grandma and Grandpa always had a dog and while I was growing up, it was a golden cocker spaniel named Bonnie. One of my favorite activities while at their house was to take Bonnie for a walk. Frequently, my sister, who I’ve always called B.J., and cousin, Carol, would join me on the walks around the 16th and Willamette area of Eugene where Grandpa and Grandma’s house was located, and since Carol lived close-by on 22nd and Emerald, she would usually bring her dog with her.

So, this is the basis from which my love of family has evolved. My own adulthood began on a rocky note when I put my first baby up for adoption. It’s an event that has marked my life and left me with a feeling of guilt, even though I know in my heart that it was the right decision at the time. Stacey re-entered our lives over 20 years ago and I feel so blessed that she and her family have joined ours.

I married a man who had the same love of family that I did. Jim grew up in a large, close-knit family of eight children and both of us wanted to put down roots and give our own children the kind of childhood that would allow them to explore possibilities and grow in whatever directions their interests and talents would take them. Once again we were blessed.

In fact, I feel blessed in so many ways and am very much aware that others have not had the close relationships with parents and grandparents that I have had over the years. But, does that mean that they cannot ever experience “family?” So, what is family, really?

I don’t think any of us need to have genetic or blood ties to be family. To me, “family” denotes those people who you grow to love; those you have bonded with in some way. “Family” keeps growing to include not only the group you were born into, but all of those who you have a special connection to.

I keep adding to my family. Over the years, I have felt the closeness and warmth of good friends even though we don’t get to see each other often. To me, they are part of one my families, because I now realize that I have many. I have my immediate family, my extended family, my Groundwaters family, my community family, my UO Neuroscience family, my writing family and all of those special people who have entered my life over the years and have stayed close even though we don’t see each other often. This is what family should mean to each of us.

I am truly blessed, and Grandma would be so proud!