A Letter to Edd

On Monday of this week, August 21st, my father, Norman, would have been 107. On Wednesday of next week, August 30th, my mother, Evie, would have been 109. Their 87th wedding anniversary is on this Thursday, August 24th.

Because of that two-year age gap, in the lead up to their wedding, my mother flatly refused to marry my dad while he was still a teenager because she didn’t want to be regarded as a “cradle robber.”

They got married three days after he turned twenty. For those few days between the 24th and the 30th of August, they were only one year apart rather than two.

It’s no surprise then, that toward the end of August, my thoughts often turn to them. A few weeks ago, when I received a very touching email from Edd Kande, I had to respond in kind. Below, with only a few edits, is what I sent to him. Please excuse the repetitions.

My parents were married for 68 years. My mother was two years older than my father. Their birthdays were nine days apart. My father turned twenty on August 20, 1936. My mother turned twenty-two on August 30. They married on the 24th of August so she couldn’t be accused of being a “cradle robber.

They were true partners. They raised seven children together. My father worked. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. Growing up, I heard them quarrel one time only. After the being pregnant nine times total—seven live births and two miscarriages, my mother told my father that it was time for him to do something about that. Eventually my mother prevailed, but only after packing up the car, loading it with five children, and going home to her mother—from Bisbee, Arizona to Summit, South Dakota. By the time we came home, the future baby problem was solved.

My parents never saw the movie, Thelma and Louise, but when they moved into assisted living in their late eighties, they still had their Buick and planned their own Thelma-and-Louise-style exit. Then my father had a stroke and died, leaving my mother alone and mad as hell for the next five years because “Norman had no business going off and leaving her like that!”

In our family my mother was always a source of strength and joy, and she had a wonderful sense of humor. She also sang like crazy. She knew the lyrics to hundreds of songs. We sang while we did the dishes. We sang while we did housework on Saturday mornings. We sang while we rode in the car. Without ever having had a music lesson, she taught us to sing in four-part harmony.

After my father’s death, she insisted on leaving assisted living and moving in with my youngest sister. It’s a miracle my sister’s marriage survived. It was as though the Evie Busk we once knew had undergone a personality transplant. She became spiteful, mean-spirited, and manipulative.

I wonder now if perhaps she was dealing with some sort of dementia, but this is where your story and mine join forces. When my sister called to say that our mother was gone, I didn’t cry. When I went to Bisbee for her funeral, I didn’t shed any tears there, either. I knew she was finally where she wanted to be—with my dad.

In life my parents loved having forenoon coffee—a holdover from living on a farm and my mother taking a mid-morning snack to my father when he was out working in the fields. They also loved having forenoon coffee picnics. They traveled around Cochise County with a red-and-white-checked, oil-cloth tablecloth stowed in their trunk. They could spread that over any filthy picnic table they found along the way. They had an old Scotsman thermos that they filled with coffee. They had two faded Melmac cups which they had purchased from the high school garage sale. And then there was the paring knife my mother always carried in her purse. That purse was a wonder and a marvel. Obviously, she never traveled by air after 9/11.

The other ingredient for their forenoon coffee? A day-old sweet roll which they split in half with the paring knife. In all the years they were married, I don’t believe either one of them ever ate a whole sweet roll.

Is any of this sounding familiar? It should because of a scene right at the beginning of a book called Damage Control. It’s the one in which a little old couple have a forenoon coffee picnic at the Coronado National Monument in Joanna’s Cochise County. After they finish, clean up the debris, and repack the trunk, they get in their Buick and then, without engaging their seatbelts, the husband slams the gas pedal to the floor, and they go flying off the edge of the mountain.

I didn’t cry at my mother’s funeral, but I shed buckets of tears while I was writing that scene, because it was a writer’s way of grieving for my parents and a daughter’s way of honoring them.

So Happy Trails to all four of them—to your George and Eleanor and my Norman and Evie.

We were lucky to have them for as long as we did.

37 thoughts on “A Letter to Edd

  1. How I love these stories – and even more so because they’re true. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Yes, th grief and sorrow of life, for a writer, finds release in creating characters and stories to bear, the unbearable. Touched my heart

  3. I am crying as I type this, having just read today’s blog. Grief happens at the oddest moments.

  4. On Wednesday, August 23, my mother would also have been 109. I hope my mom and your parents got together and had a whale of a birthday party.

    And yes, as I read thru this weeks blog, I noticed elements from your books.

  5. in doing research of documents and info Photos Have come to the conclusion that my FIL tried to do the same as the Four you mentioned. But he miscalculated the Large Doug fir and he lived almost two months and she in a separate hosp for almost 3 months. HE had lived with Dementia and deterioation for almost five years. Taking his bride to dinner at the same restraunt that she met NEW people each week. that Disease is almost as Harmful to others as the Big C. Thank you for sharing as helps me process tough memories in a very positive light. Chuck in Tocoma the OLD Shuttle express driver.

  6. What a beautiful story…my wife’s and my birthdays and our anniversary is also in August. We can closely identify with your stories of your folks…we love them and your books. We’ve read every one.

  7. Oh, Miss Judy! I love your story about your Mom and Dad. My mother was also older than my dad, but she didn’t know it when they got married! Their birthdays were August 12 (for my Mom) and August 28 (for my Dad). When they first met, mother believed there was only a two-week distance between their ages. She discovered the truth on his birthday after they were married. They were celebrating his birthday at his mother and grandmother’s house. It was August 28, 1938, and my mother had celebrated her 19th birthday on August 12. She was chatting with his grandmother and my mother said something about Jimmy now being 19. His grandmother told her he was celebrating his 18th birthday. My mother was stunned, to say the least, and my dad was embarrassed when his grandmother spilled the beans!

  8. I always wondered where the inspiration for the story in Damage Control came from! Thank you as always for sharing your life with us!

  9. Wow! I cried buckets when my dad went – he left 4 days after Christmas (but we got to have that last Christmas together – Dad, Mom, my brother John and I. Then he had something go wrong that sent him to the hospital and we were all together when left. But when Mom died 7 years later, it was like she was supposed to go. My brother said he felt like she “left” thr night before even tho her body was still breathing. The day before, she had sat up in bed (she hadn’t been able to “wake up” or talk, or move etc. for several days) and with eyes open, and a child like look on her face she smiled and said Mama? Papa? Bob (my dad)? Paul? (one of Dad’s good friends who was in a coma and dying) Shadow???? (a beloved kitty who’d died years before). She saw those who’d gone before.
    This whole episode went on for many minutes as she admired the landscape behind them and how beautiful it was. And when they all started moving away, she became pitifully asking them not to go then asking if she could go with them.
    I saw it as them coming for her. I told her they’d be back for her shortly and she said “oh” in sad little way, shut her eyes and lay back down. She was gone within a day or 2.
    One other thing that we should keep in mind tho is that while a friend of hers was visiting, and we were talking, I looked at Mom and said ” you know Mom can hear us! Can’t you Mom?” And MOM SAID YES” . She COULD hear us but couldn’t respond til then. Perhaps since she had her eyes closed the whole time, she hadn’t responded because we weren’t addressing HER! So – never assume that just because a person SEEMS to be in a coma etc. that they are because SHE WASN’T!
    Years later and on more than one occasion I have cried for her loss and for my ineptitude at caring for her properly those last 10 days. But I feel her and hear her anytime and anywhere! My parents aren’t gone they’re just changed.

    • Have you ever read my book of poetry, After the Fire? On the night my former husband died of chronic alcoholism at age forty-two, he was in a coma while his mother and I kept vigil. As the hours went on, his mother asked me if I would sing, and so I did–one song after another. There was no acknowledgement from him, but I’m sure he heard me.The poem I wrote about that night is called Vigil. If you’d like me to send it go you, please send me a note at jajance@me.com.

      • Can you send me a copy of your Vigil poem as well, or perhaps publish it in the blog or online?

  10. Lovely–thanks for sharing. I’m in the process of rereading all your books–have done the Beaumont, Ali, and Walker ones and am finishing up with the Brady ones. Just finished Partner in Crime. Going to Google sodium azide and see what is happening there.

  11. Thank you for a heartwarming reminisce about your parents. The part about your mother’s change in personality late in life, reminded me that we should always offer grace to people who are aging or ailing. It’s hard to walk in another person’s shoes.

    • That is such a neat story. My mom and dad had 7 kids. I don’t know for sure but, think my mom had a breakdown after the 7th. We stayed with some friends of theirs for a few months after that birth. No more kids after that. They had a wonderful time together

  12. It’s a good thing you cannot see my tears, and and even better that I can write this on the computer…if it were pen and paper, it would be all soggy and unreadable.
    Judy, you unleashed a bucket full of memories of my Mom and Dad…some good, some God-awful, but thank you.

  13. What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it. I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes. In my Mother’s final hour she was talking to my Father who had divorced her for another woman over almost 40 years before and then he died about 4 years after that. I’ll never forget that day and her asking him why he left her and his 3 young daughters. I knew she had never stopped loving him all those years even though she called him every name in the book whenever his name came up. I like to think that during her final moments he answered her and helped her have a peaceful crossing.
    I do believe that that Norman was waiting for Edie and he probably knew he was going to get an earful about leaving her. And after that I bet they had coffee.

  14. Thanks for sharing this wonderful, very touching letter to Edd- Grief can certainly
    cause the bereaved to become enraged, as I have seen with someone in my own life- It does seem as though they are in an altered state-
    I am 17 months older than my husband-
    The “forenoon coffee picnics” were lovely, intimate rituals for your parents-
    Coffee has recently been shown to be good for our health, whether caffeinated or decaf, although not so for instant coffee-
    I love the group singing Evie organized in your family! What a joyful, uplifting custom, making chores a fun family routine-

  15. Thank you for sharing your precious memories of your parents. My parents were a little closer in age, both born in 1927, dad in September, mom in October. They each turned 21 yo after they met and were married that December. They always slept ‘spoon’ style and always held hands when walking until mom needed extra balance and held dad’s elbow. In May 2015, following their 66th wedding anniversary the previous December, mom passed away. Dad lasted until February 2017, telling me often how lonely he was. I, too, am grateful we had them so long and that they are holding hands once again.

  16. My Daughter-in-law grew up with a jovial grandfather, Boppy. Whenever they would go on a special car trip, he would begin with singing, “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.”.
    When DIL Lynn joined our family, she introduced this lovely ritual. We loved it. “ “We’re off the see the Wizard” makes any trip a little brighter… even a trip to the grocery store.
    Boppy lives.

  17. Tomorrow, August 26, is my 51st anniversary and my third without my husband. My daughter will stop by and we will go to Forest Lawn to place roses in his niche’s vase. Then she and I will go out for Chinese dinner or ice cream, Roy’s two favorite items for a date night. I will not be expecting a double rainbow like the one which appeared after our wedding ceremony. We had enough rain over the weekend when tropical storm, Hilary, moved through our area. I am no longer angry, just disappointed that Roy died before I was ready to let him go.

  18. Loved your blog today. Cried this time too when without seat belts they went off the cliff (cried when I read it in the book also). Thank you for these little pictures into your life.

  19. I grew up on a farm in Central Iowa. We used to take morning coffee out to the fields for the men. We’d sit in the shade of the tractor near a fence where there was grass growing. Grandpa could find four-leaf clovers with no trouble. I saved them, but have no idea what happened to them.

  20. Beautiful story.
    It reminds me of my Grandmother–she too had the paring knife.

    Until we meet again…

  21. I feel the same way you do. I feel blessed to have had my parents as long as I did as they were 40 & 42 when I was born. My dad was 87 and my mom 96 when they left us.

  22. Yes, that’s a difficult time for everyone!
    My Mom didn’t want any help. My Dad was in Alzheimer’s clutches, and Mom wasn’t able to take care of him, the house, cook good meals, or take good care of herself, and hadn’t driven in some time.
    She was mad at me for trying to help. When they were both really going downhill and in care homes, I “went to town” cleaning and staging their house to sell (why didn’t I take pictures?), and sold it within a week. I even had a new central air unit installed. What a relief that was, since I was working there every day for weeks. I had already sold their Buick LeSabre.
    Anywayyy, they didn’t always get along, but were lost without each other.
    When I think of them, it’s always that Dad was so patient, and they both had a good sense of humor, most of the time (4 daughters, jeez).
    Mom loved Saturday Night Live, sewing, and keeping the lawn pristine.
    Dad loved to go fishing, and let us use tools, and drank instant coffee, with no complaints.
    Life is a trip!

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