Category: Essays

My personal thoughts and observations of life

Sweet Lorane Community News, November 8, 2018

Fern Ridge Review
Creswell Chronicle
Sweet Lorane Community News
November 8, 2018
By Pat Edwards

My brother, Jim Burnett Sr., aka Jimminy Cricket in Groundwaters, is dying. He’s in the end stages of terminal esophageal cancer and has been told he has only a short time remaining.

Yesterday, my sister Barbara (I call her B.J.) and I drove to Vancouver where Jim and his wife Jonni currently live, to spend some time with him. He is no longer able to eat or even swallow and has not eaten anything considered “food” in about 2 weeks. He’s been existing on ice chips and up until yesterday, occasional sips of warm tea. Yesterday, the tea would no longer go down.

Despite all of that, we spent those seven hours talking, laughing, crying and sharing portions of our lives together that we have either kept hidden or have just not shared until now. Most of the talking was done by Jimmy. He seemed to need to open up and talk about his life and the parts of it that he has carried with him during his 81 years… his blessings, his regrets, his feelings of inadequacy, his proud moments, his sorrows and above all, his love for us, his family, and the many friends he has gathered over the years.

He talked about his frustration that none of us get a chance to take part in our own celebrations of life, and how he is reaching out to as many of his special people as possible via phone calls and emails to touch upon these special relationships one more time. He showed us pages of printed email messages that have begun to pour in to him from former co-workers, people whose lives he touched as a minister, and others he has not seen for some time. He sent them messages, telling them how each has touched his life in special ways and, in essence, to say goodbye.

Jim shared with us not only his acceptance, and even, excitement, of the journey he is about to take—“It’s time to set out on a new adventure.”— but also admitted to his nervousness about the actual process of dying.

Next Tuesday, he will be moving into a beautiful hospice center located close to his and Jonni’s home in Vancouver where he will be lovingly attended to until he is called home.
Just before B.J. and I wrapped ourselves in his wonderful hugs and said our “See you laters!”— not “Goodbyes”—he began to ask me to send word to our Groundwaters family of his great appreciation for the experiences that Groundwaters has given him over the years. While trying to get the words out, he broke into tears. Taking on the persona of Jimminy Cricket in the “Philosopher’s Corner” of each quarterly magazine and now the annual anthologies gave him a voice and a connection to each of you that he has long carried in his heart.

The only gift I brought to him yesterday, besides my presence, was the newly published 2018 Groundwaters anthology which he lovingly looked through as soon as I presented it to him.

I know that he would love to hear from any of you in a message sent to his email address of dadburnett13@gmail.com. In that way he can feel that he is participating in his own celebration of life.

Thank you all for your kind words to me and the concern that you have shown for his well-being. He’s in good hands.

Godspeed, Jimminy Cricket—Jim Burnett Sr.—my brother!

Respecting the Past; Accepting the Present; Looking to the Future

by Pat Edwards, October 18, 2012

Community baseball game

Although no one has ever told me directly that I need to quit living in the past, I’m sure that the thought has occurred to some… especially with the recent issues that we, in Lorane, are facing regarding the closing of our school. Much of the emotional turmoil that has bubbled up around that reality comes from the fond memories that the school has evoked in those of us whose lives have intertwined with our small rural community, however briefly. The past has impacted our lives in ways that those from other, more urban, communities can’t fathom.

In the past, when life revolved around home and a single bread-winner, we knew our neighbors and shared our lives with them. Social activities were centered in the church, the Grange, the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs… but especially in the school. There were potlucks and dances and smelt feeds and 4th of July celebrations and baseball games. We had Christmas programs in our school where we watched our children perform and we would all join them in singing Christmas carols. Even as recently as a few years ago, large funerals have been held in the gymnasium because no other venue in the community would hold the hundreds who gathered to pay their respects. Our neighbors were many times our best friends and, we generally respected each others’ differing political views and could good-naturedly discuss them without fear of making them an enemy.

In the 1960s, we mothers usually went to town once a week to buy groceries and we frequently scheduled doctor’s appointments on the same day. Lunch at a hamburger stand with the kids on that one day was a big event. When we were lucky enough to lunch with another adult, we actually talked and listened to each other. Unlike today, conversation did not have to be woven around phone calls or while the other person was reading her text messages or playing a game on her phone.

Kids spent their summers building forts and taking hikes in the woods, bucking hay, gardening and playing outside in the sunshine and fresh air all day long. Usually, if they didn’t, they found themselves cleaning their rooms or practicing the piano, instead. During the school year, after school and on weekends, they raised livestock or learned to sew or cook in 4-H clubs. Some older boys helped their dads in the woods, learning not only to cut timber, but to build a strong work ethic, as well… and there were always daily chores in addition to homework.

No, it was not an idyllic life. Money was usually tight. Kids usually wore hand-sewn “hand-me-downs” from older siblings or cousins. There were no designer shoes or clothing that separated the “haves” from the “have-nots,” but respect was taught. Usually it was done with love, but, like today, for some, it was taught with a hard hand.

Yes, it is easy to live in the past, but even though I am now a septuagenarian, I am still able to look to the future as well as live and function in the present… and I do that every day. As far as the school closing is concerned, I am a realist. In light of our poor economy and the school funding situation, it’s apparent that the school board had few other choices in order to make the school district run as efficiently as possible. Lorane is about 25 miles from Eugene; Crow is about 15. Most parents now work in Eugene, so placing all of the district’s elementary-age children in Lorane was not feasible when you consider the burden that would be placed on parents who needed to pick them up mid-day for doctor’s appointments, etc. I know this with my mind, but my heart wishes it wasn’t so.

I am a realist. Life, as I described it above, no longer exists in Lorane and I realize that we will never get it back. Modern technology is here to stay. Most women have taken their rightful place in the work force… not only as a matter of financial necessity, but because that’s where most of them would rather be. Designer clothes, computers and X-boxes, cell phones and texting have taken over our lives so completely that there is no turning back.

I know this, but it still hurts, deeply. The closing of the school is threatening to put a final stamp on our past and move us into a future over which we have no control. Our rural way of life, not only in Lorane, but all over the state and nation, is at risk with the closing down of our local schools and post offices.

We look for solutions that no longer seem to be there. There is evidence that the numbers of those willing to work towards finding those solutions, however, are swelling. A group of dedicated community members in Lorane are working diligently to form a charter school. If that does not happen, many of us envision the school building turned into a community center, but the financial obstacles seem almost insurmountable… especially in this economy. If we could fiscally figure out how to obtain, upgrade and maintain the building, how much use would it really get? These things need to be explored. They are concerns and questions that may never find answers because our time is running out.

Regardless of the outcome, in the time that we have remaining to search for these answers, we want our past… our history, embodied within the Lorane Elementary School… to be treated with respect. Only by understanding and respecting the successes and failures of our past, can we move confidently into the future knowing that we have done everything possible to control our own destiny.

Lorane Elementary School 1280 pix

Reflections

By Pat Edwards (originally written on July 16, 2007)

I recently waved as my 65th birthday passed me by. Oh, I am aware of the years that have piled up, one on top of the other, but it is so amazing to realize that their numbers say to the world that I am truly getting old. I don’t feel “old” as I always imagined that “old” would feel. I do feel my body wearing down some. I no longer can pick up those bales of hay out of the field each summer, and the aches and pains remind me that my bones and joints have supported my body for a really long time. Even though I’ve slowed a bit from my youthful vigor, I still feel vital and alive, despite what the accumulation of years tell me. The realization of age, I think, tends to send each of us back into our past, to reflect upon and evaluate our lives – it’s a way of validating our existence. I am no different.

I think back to my childhood. My father was somewhat of a nomad. After living in one place for 2 years or so, we moved on to another. My brother, sister and I experienced new places and new adventures and lifestyles, but were seldom in one place long enough to cement long-term friendships. I was shy and kept to myself a lot, although I had my share of playmates. My daydreams always seemed to be centered around horses. I loved going to the library and I read every horse story I could find. I devoured Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, reading each book multiple times. I also became very interested in the stories of the great American Indian chiefs in the days of the vast migration of white settlers. As a teenager, I loved to write letters to penpals and to the friends I had left behind. Words became fascinating to me and I was told that I wrote well. Like many girls of my era, especially, I tried writing stories but, inevitably, my imagination stalled and I never got very far with them. I’ve always envied the authors who write fiction, but I never could.

I spent my high school years living my dream of having a horse of my own. Several summers of picking strawberries and beans, hoeing weeds in the same crops and row-bossing allowed me to buy Rocket, my best friend and constant companion in those years. My sister, my friends and I spent long weekends and summer days astride our horses, riding bareback, many times running full out along our familiar trails. I have had horses ever since.

During the one wonderful year that I attended Linfield College following high school graduation, I loved the writing assignments and I discovered a real fondness for my music and art appreciation classes, as well. World history, math and science were my stumbling blocks. But, I made friends who helped me learn to have fun and explore my self-worth. The funds for my college education ran out after that first year, but I have never regretted the experience of attending college even for that short time.

Following college, I worked in a finance office for several years as a secretary. It was a difficult period in my life. My parents were divorcing, and I was trying to make my way through a world of dating with little knowledge of what was expected of me. I was still timid and naive and totally unversed in the realities of what “real life” presented. I had a baby out of wedlock and gave her up for adoption. It was a period in my life that I have always tried to forget, but despite its harshness, it too helped forge the person I eventually became.

As I entered my years as a young wife and mother, there was little time to do much with my love for writing. My husband Jim and I bought our first home on 30 acres between Lorane and Crow, Oregon. It was there that we put down our roots and raised our 4 children. While the kids were preschoolers, I was too busy changing diapers, nursing runny noses and doing the chores on our small farm to take much notice of what was happening around us. I only made one trip to town per week in those days – to do my grocery shopping and to take the kids to lunch. Once the kids were in school, I began looking around at life in my community. I immediately began involving myself  in my childrens’ school and their activities. I look back at that time as if I were a flower bud, slowly opening to the world.

When our oldest daughter was old enough, I volunteered to establish a 4-H livestock club in Lorane that she could participate in. A neighbor/rancher was willing to lead the club if I was willing to organize it. I loved doing it so much that I soon volunteered to be the Lorane 4-H coordinator, setting up all types of new clubs for the Lorane area youth. I soon realized that I needed a way to get the word out about what the established clubs were doing and which ones were being formed. I began my first local newsletter called Pat’s People which I manually typed and mimeographed on the school’s old purple-ink machine. I distributed them at the local stores. I was soon shooting off letters to the editor about local issues that concerned me, as well. Once again, I was using my writing skills for not only others, but for my own self-esteem, as well.

When our oldest offspring were entering high school, the Mitchell family decided to sell their store  in Lorane. Jim had managed Mayfair Markets in the area for years and had always wanted his own business; but, the little Mitchell Store was not making enough to sustain a family of six. So, after we purchased it in December 1977, it became my new job. I loved working within its crowded dusty confines with the creaky wooden floor that slanted ever so slightly towards the back where the timbers were beginning to sag. I loved greeting the people who came in to buy a bottle of pop and a candy bar and to stand and chat about their lives. The loggers with their cork boots were confident that I would not scold them for walking on my very un-pristine floors, leaving bits of mud and dirt in their tracks. Every time I swept, the dust would always settle back on the merchandise even though we oiled the floors several times a year.

Two friends, Nancy O’Hearn and Marna Hing, helped me run the store during those 8 years when it was in my charge. Like so many others, we all became interested in our own family histories when the television series “Roots” awakened the world to genealogy. We began extensive research into our own families and from that work our interest in our community’s history evolved. We knew, from Nancy’s own family history, that Lorane would be celebrating its 100th birthday within a few years. They asked me if I would be willing to write a book on its history – if they would help me research it. It seemed the right time and the right thing to do, and we pursued our goal for over 3 years. I bought my first computer and taught myself WordPerfect word-processing software so that I could record all of our research in an organized manner. We finally published Sawdust and Cider; A History of Lorane, Oregon and the Siuslaw Valley in 1987 in conjunction with the Lorane Centennial Celebration.

When Jim took over the running and modernizing of the store full time, I searched for a full time job in town despite the fact that I had not worked at a regular office job for over 20 years. I took my computer experience with WordPerfect to a temp agency which immediately put me to work. I was soon offered a permanent position at the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon where I used my computer skills extensively for 15 years. I gained respect and knowledge in my position there and retired with a confidence that my skills would allow me to succeed wherever life led me.

While working at the University, I began publishing another newsletter called the Lorane Historian. It profiled local people and businesses and I wrote about Lorane history that had come to light since 1987. The Historian was alive and well for 3 years until my lack of time and energy brought it to a halt. After my retirement, I spent a year completely updating and revising Sawdust and Cider, incorporating some of the history from the newsletter and profiling the current businesses and people in Lorane. I published the new and much larger edition called From Sawdust and Cider to Wine in September 2006.

I’m now becoming more and more involved in the publication of Groundwaters, thanks to the confidence that Judy, Sonny, and Jen have shown in me. They have welcomed me to their literary family and I am learning so much from them. I’ve discovered that no matter how much we learn and how long we have lived our lives, there is always room for more experiences and adventures. I have also learned that every experience, good or bad, in our past goes towards shaping the person we eventually become and each person leaves behind his or her own legacy. I am comfortable with the legacy that I will leave behind for my children, descendants and community because it is a part of who I have become through all of my own experiences.

So, despite the years that say we are old, as long as we have an interest in life and an eagerness to learn, how can any of us truly become “old” in anything but years?