Arly. He was-complicated. Not sure how well I knew him, but we were related through marriage over 4 decades. The 4th child of Jim and Mag. Everyone assumed he was the baby of the family. To this family outsider looking in, Arly was always Mag’s favorite. He was a bit different. Even odd.

Les 8 standing, curly-haired John 1-1/2, & Arlyn 5 in 1949…

Lo and behold, with Eleanor nearing her 18th birthday, Jimmy entering his teens, Les 7, and the adorable 4 year old Arlyn, Mag, now 38 and so done with babies, found herself ready to give birth to John. My Hubs. John and Arly’s childhood together would prove to be rather rocky. John believed Arly despised him and was trying to kill him since birth. Arly scared the living snot out of Hubs for years. Until John finally started growing. Arly knew then he’d better leave him alone, or else. Sharing a bedroom until the 2 older boys moved out didn’t help.

Arly looked different than the rest of the brood. Slim, dark, quiet, and very intense, more like Jim. Elly, Jimmy, Les and John were more of a stocky build like Mag. John, easy going, didn’t grow up like the normal baby of the family. I should know, I’m also the baby. Spoiled rotten, the way the youngest of the family are usually treated. Not John. By the time Hubs went to school, he was pretty much on his own. Cooking his own eggs by age 6, he had the run of the town. It’s a miracle he didn’t get into more trouble than he did through the years. There was not a lot of supervision. But Hubs turned out just fine.

Arlyn, Jimmy, Les & John in the back. Mag, Jim & Eleanor, 1979…
My Hubs, John in 1948…

After high school, Arly went to Morningside College in Sioux City, about 60 miles from our hometown. He was president of The Young Republicans during the 1964 presidential election between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Anyone who knew Arly after age 30 would find this simply impossible to believe. He was the most liberal person I know in his political beliefs. He truly thought Hillary Clinton was going to take over God’s spot. (Well, so did she).

I don’t exactly know what happened at Morningside. He didn’t get his degree, but was very close. He dropped out of school, bought a 1959 Ford Thunderbird and ventured to Chicago for a few months. I think he was after a girl he loved in high school. But he forgot a couple of things. Making payments on the car. Bingo. Way behind and in a tight spot, he felt his only option was to sell the car and flee. He needed a fresh start. So he joined the military. Begged John to go with him. But Hubs preferred the Marines over Arly’s choice of the Navy. If you remember, John had a horrible accident when he was 15, riding a green broke horse. The horse got spooked, reared up, landing awkwardly on John’s foot. Long hospitalization, 2 surgeries, wheelchair and long rehab. Hubs could go to every recruiter in the continental US, nobody was going to take him or his totally messed up foot. He tried a couple of times and could never get that foot/ankle to pass a physical. So Arly joined the Navy. Actually wrote me a couple of letters from his ship, the USS Saint Paul, docked in San Diego. Telling me to take care of John and that he missed Rock Valley.

I think every person in the world has a friend or relative like Arly. To me, he was absolutely brilliant! I never wanted to get in a really deep discussion or worse an argument with him. He LOVED to argue. About anything and everything. Not me. You could see by watching him, his mind was going a hundred miles an hour. And he often wore this little smirk/half smile. It was somewhat deceptive.

Arly and the oldest brother Jimmy were very good card players. I don’t know if they counted cards, cheated, or got their information from above, but they always seemed to know the exact cards in your hand. How’d they do that? Half the time, I didn’t know what was in my own hand, let alone anyone else’s. Although it makes for a lot of defeats for the rest of us normal folk, it does tend to make the less frequent wins much sweeter. Arly taught us how to play double deck pinochle one Christmas Eve when I was about 16. There was a blizzard of epic proportions and I couldn’t get home, which was only about a mile away. There were about 2 dozen people stuck in Mag and Jim’s little house that night because of the weather. A group of us took turns playing cards most of the night. With Arly the card shark. My Mom was absolutely beside herself because I couldn’t get home. Thought my reputation was forever ruined in our small conservative Dutch town by staying at John’s house. Surely the whole group would give up a bedroom for the night so John and I could have wild sex and become parents soon after. That ship sailed Mom. Instead, we played cards all night long and had a blast. Mag had enough food to feed an Army.

Arly ended up doing a couple of tours in Viet Nam. During an R & R in Japan he bought a Triumph motorcycle. When he got back to his ship, his CO greeted him with, “you can’t bring that on board. Send it home or get rid of it.” Arly returned the bike and bought the best set of component stereo equipment money could buy. Also got Mag and Mary Jane sets of china. (Les and Mary sent him the money) Hubs and I were eating off 5 dollar Melmac dishes. There was no china in our vocabulary yet. Then Arly mailed the stereo to us without telling us. We were newlyweds, living in a small house on Douglas Street. That fabulous system took up almost our whole living room. Along with the radio, turntable, and speakers as big as me, Arly mailed dozens of music reels he had recorded. A lot of work back in ’69-70. Every song from The Beatles and The Doors. Those 2 groups I remember very well. Memorized every lyric.

But along with his brilliant mind was about the most impractical person one would ever meet in life. Arly didn’t have a lot of common sense, and few skills for everyday life. He seemed oblivious at times of his surroundings. Once when Arly and John were pheasant hunting and he was about to graduate from high school, Arly commented how sorry he felt for the farmers around Rock Valley. Why, ventured John on a beautiful fall day? “Because all the corn is dying.” John explained that’s what happens every fall to the corn crop.

After Arly got out of the Navy and returned home, he met a girl from Hull. Vicki was the polar opposite of Arly. Several years younger, sheltered life and had graduated from Western Christian High School. But they really hit it off. Both of them liked to party and have a good time. A Hippie life style. After a short
courtship, they got hitched. Eloped at the same courthouse in Elk Point, South Dakota as Hubs and I not long before. By this time, we had moved to Hinton and Shannon was a few months old. Arly and Vicki were about to become parents too. They found a small house in Hinton to rent. When Hubs and I think about that year, we realize we did quite a few things with them and for them. John changed their light fixtures, replaced headlights, helped with their car, and I taught Vicki how to make Taverns, which was about the first supper I learned to cook. Remember, I couldn’t boil water when we eloped.

Seriously, Vicki was stunning…

Hubs was working at Channel 4. One of the perks (what a joke) of his fabulous job were press passes to Sioux City’s semi-pro hockey games. The Musketeers played at The Auditorium downtown. We took Arly and Vic along one night. The trouble with these free press passes, you had to wait until people took their seats, then find a place in the leftover spots, which were usually in the nose bleed section. The game was about to start, we were slowly making our ascent. Finally found 4 seats together and sat down to enjoy our favorite player, Pete (something, his last name is forever lost) strut his stuff on the ice. Can you believe it, Arly couldn’t see the puck flying across the ice. Why? He was too vain to wear his glasses. Hadn’t even brought them along. Oh my stars.

One night Arly came over without wearing a coat to borrow our shovel because we had a huge snowfall. John got the shovel and I gave Arly my red and black plaid wool shirt jacket (he wasn’t much bigger than me). A few days later he brought both items back. Not long after, I pulled the jacket on to shovel the front sidewalk, came back into our 3 room house hysterical. In the pocket of my jacket was an inch long cigarette of marijuana. I screamed, cried, and yelled at John, “the cops are going to arrest me and take Shannon away.” (Maybe a little over the top). Hubs grabbed me, hugged me tight, said “calm down!” He plucked the ominous-scary, life-wrecking, mother-ending, Nib-sized (anyone remember that licorice candy?) weed from my hand, tossed it in the toilet and flushed. Ok then. But something had changed. At least for me. I no longer wanted to be around Arly and Vicki as much. They just lived so different than we did. At that time, if the cops picked someone up with marijuana and you were with them, you got charged too. I was kind of scared to be with them.

Probably the biggest thing we did was find Arly a job. This is a tough one for me. I was enormously proud/smug/happy when it happened, but if I knew then what I know now, there’s no way I would ever call him excitedly about this job. I have no idea if this changed the course of his life. I certainly hope not, but I fear it did. Could be the way his life turned out was my fault. Here’s what happened. Arly didn’t have a job. John and I were out for a rare evening. Who we were with I cannot recall. Maybe the Reinke’s, or the Duits, although I believe Dale and Beth had already moved to Minnesota. We were in Sioux City at The Jockey Club, inside the Holiday Inn. I ordered some fancy drink that didn’t taste like booze, sloe gin fizz or perhaps a strawberry Daquiri. Anyway, it took forever, plus they made it wrong. I complained and the manager walked over and apologized. Said he couldn’t keep a decent bartender. I piped up and said my brother-in-law had just returned from Viet Nam, was a hell of a bartender and could make every drink in the world perfectly. Manager said, send him down in a couple of days and I’ll interview him. John spent the next 48 hours grilling Arly on how to concock every imaginable drink in the book. Arly aced the interview and got the job. Stayed with Holiday Inn for awhile, got offered a promotion if he would move to Montana, so they did.

Jim, Arlyn, John, Elly w/ Les on the steps about 2000…

They moved back to Iowa a few years later. By then we had already moved to eastern Iowa, later, Michigan. Arly and Vic had 2 more children about the ages of Joshua and Adam. We’d see them sporadically, usually at Jim & Mag’s house for holidays. The brothers still got into some very heated arguments, everything from what bag balm (cow tit salve) could cure (John swore it could help the blind-but just did it to bug Arly) to if drawings of a new concept car could be considered ‘art.’ Oy vey.

About 10 or 12 years ago, very close to Easter, we received a phone call saying Arly was in the hospital and very sick. Hubs hopped on a plane and spent several days with his brother and the rest of the family. I don’t know if we learned what the diagnosis and prognosis was right away, but it wasn’t long before Arly told John he had cirrhosis of the liver. Arly said he could never take another drink if his intentions were to remain here on earth.

The complicated lives of Arly and Vic. Five years ago, March 1st, 2012 we got a call that Vicki had fallen in their kitchen, hit her head and died. Unbelievable, she was 3 months younger than me. Arly called John the next day telling us not to come to Iowa for the funeral. It was ok, the rest of the family was nearby and more than enough support. John and Arly talked on the phone every couple days after that. Arly was mellow, quiet, sweet and grateful for this close relationship that had somehow formed. So was John. One night towards the end of March, Arly called saying he didn’t feel well at all. John begged him, “please go to the doctor. Do you want me to come home? I will. Let me go to the doctor with you.” “No John, there’s no need for you to come. I’ll be ok,” Arly answered. Later that night Arly somehow managed to drive himself 25 miles to a Sioux City hospital. But it was too late. His organs were shutting down. Arly died the next day. He was 67. It was 4 weeks to the day after Vicki had passed away…

Arly, gone too soon…

5 thoughts on “Arly…

  1. Aunt Denise, you were in NO WAY responsible for Dad's illness. It went beyond alcoholism, and he would have found alcohol regardless of what job he had.Thank you for writing. I always learn something new when you tell a story. Much love!


  2. Thanks Wendy, you know I would never intentionally hurt your feelings, but your dad was part of my life when you were too young to really realize it. Telling 'our' story was important but not at the expense of any of you. Your parents and John and I had some unique times together, plus I figured there were a couple of things you might not have ever heard before. However, I still feel bad about landing him that first job at the Holiday Inn. Love you too…


  3. I couldn't be prouder of my mom and dad. They are and were simply the coolest. I am immensely proud of their whole generation. Things only get stranger, but I will not trouble you with all that. ha ha They gave me all of their record collection, which is all over the place. Some of it I might not get back, which is okay. One of my mom's Beatles records was a strange compilation my friend Marty, who knows Beatles' material quite well, had never seen. It had Vicki written on it. But it went missing. It literally either vanished or someone came into the house recently and took it. Which I am glad to see mom spread around like that. And I've got a Bob Dylan record with Arly written on it which I listen to. I've been thinking of them and admiring them quite a bit lately.I know a lot of people thought my home life was rough, but I never quite bought it I don't think. It was pretty hilarious and I will always remember leaning between my mom and dad's seats on vacation and enjoying their company. I suppose a lot of people found mom and dad strange when they had kids. I just think people should lighten up.


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