On July 24, 1946, Larry Wayne was born at home, on the west side of Rock Valley. I wouldn’t show up until December of 1950. I also made my debut in our kitchen, on the table. No trips to a modern hospital for us. I don’t remember how close Larry was to our older sister Mona, who was born in ’43. But once I was potty trained and could keep up with him, Larry and I were good buddies. There were a few kids in our sparse neighborhood, but we played together a lot.
|Larry 2. Mona 5, sitting on car, 1948…|
That would really change when we moved to 15th street. Larry, then 9 had much more freedom, going places to play with his friends, shooting marbles, fishing, the dump, riding bike. Me, not quite 5, stayed closer to home, raising my family of dolls in my fabulous play house. Played an awful lot of “drive-in.” Eating rhubarb with salt with the new neighborhood kids, the Schmidt’s, Van Oort’s and Beumer’s. Still Larry and I were close.
Strange, I never laid eyes on this picture until 10 years ago. This is about a year before Larry was killed, so the summer of 1957. In the upper right hand corner it reads, Lake Okoboji, Iowa. Must be our family version of day-cation.
|Neese newborn, Larry, 4-1/2, 1951…|
There was a kind of freedom in our small town that none of my kids have ever experienced. Really bad things just didn’t happen in Rock Valley. Oh there were accidents, marriages that failed, and a few folks with a questionable moral compass, but as a whole I felt safe, utterly safe in my home town. That didn’t change much for me when Larry died, but many things in my world did after October 11,1958. I was hopelessly lost without him, but to my parents, the world seemed to have ended. The tenuous thread that kept them (and us) together for more than 15 years was irrevocably severed. There were no affairs, no divorce, money problems, drinking, drugs, or gambling. Just two very unhappy people stuck in a loveless marriage, living in the same house with their 2 remaining daughters. We were almost 8 years apart, and had nothing in common.
|Larry’s school project in kindergarten…|
Dad would find comfort and purpose in doing for others. For Mom there was no comfort or purpose for a long time, then I became almost her obsession. I think she would have benefitted greatly with therapy and counseling to help deal with her grief. But once Dad had been saved, he could not equate her depression with any physical medical problem. For example, high blood pressure. He truly felt if she were a better Christian and prayed more she wouldn’t be depressed. When he suffered a herniated disk, of course he sought medical treatment. Then had subsequent surgery. But medical help or talking through her grief was not his answer for Mom’s problems. To Dad, she just flat out wasn’t the strong Christian he was. He would not allow her to seek treatment for her chronic depression. I’m pretty sure she was bipolar. At times pretty high on life, then sinking to some very scary depths.
|Dad, 43, Neese 7 mo. Larry 5, 1951…|
Mona got married quite soon after Larry died. To the world outside of our house, the word of the next decade would be “perception.” It was much more important how we appeared to others than how we were actually doing. Mom started becoming uncomfortably attached to me, period. Dad slipped further away, fulfilling his needs by helping others in need. Just never Mom or me. It’s said when tragedy hits head-on, you either get bitter or better. After Dad saw the “light,” he went so far over the top, we just no longer appeared on his radar screen. But to the outside world, we needed to be seen as a well-adjusted, happy Christian family. In the 10 years after we lost Larry, to when I moved out, we never celebrated Christmas. Not one Christmas tree in over a decade. So it was no surprise that I preferred to be almost anywhere else, usually at one of my friend’s homes. We had a quiet, somber house, not much laughter, rarely had the TV on.
Could I have helped them? Probably. But in this unhealthy environment, it would seem this young girl preferred to play one parent off the other. Usually got what I wanted, though sometimes it took a lot of effort, and caused fights between them (really, the only thing they fought about anymore). Makes me sad now, but at the time I felt they were both hurting me terribly. Either Mom was smothering and manipulating me, or Dad’s indifference. Dad’s indifference probably hurt more, because he always seemed to go out of his way helping others, but would not or could not help me with Mom.
|Larry, 1st grade…|
Well this has been a downer, sorry. Really just wanted to give Larry a shout-out in heaven on his 68th birthday. Hard to believe the last 55 birthdays celebrated without his little sister, Neese. Feel kind of bad that I keep blowing off his party invitations. Sorry, I’m a no-show again. I’d like to say “I’ll see you soon Bro, but not too soon.” I enjoy watching my 3 adult kids happy, healthy, and successful. But even better, the immense joy and pleasure I get watching and participating in the lives of my 4 incredible grandkid’s lives. One of my many and best blessings. By the way, if you had any say or influence with God when He chose the kids and grands to be part of my life then many, many thanks Larry. You’re still the best brother ever…