Friday, August 25, 2017

Memories of Warren and Bertha



My Dad's parents lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas in the same house for the first 35 years of my life.  My Dad was in the ministry and for the first 5 years of his ministry we lived in close proximity to them.  After that, we lived away from them.  My Dad's only sibling, a sister, died in her 40's and that left my grandparents with really no one nearby other than the 4 children of my Aunt that had passed away.

My Grandparents with my Dad and his sister
 We managed to see them at least a couple of times a year and I absolutely loved going to Warren and Bertha's.  Bertha was a character!  She was such a fun Grandmother and she loved to play games and so did I.  These were not games like today, they were mostly paper and pencil games such as tic tac toe and sometimes Dominos.  Her house was generally a mess but she could cook like no body's business and I loved to be in the kitchen when she was cooking.  She could make rolls that would melt in your mouth and never once had a recipe.  It was just a cup of this, a cup of that and a dash of something else.  And, she never put leftovers in the refrigerator, they remained on the kitchen table covered with a tablecloth until someone wanted to dig in.  How on earth we didn't all die of food poisoning is beyond me but........I'm quite sure she wasn't the only person that did leftovers that way.

Warren was a gentle man, not a big talker, a hard, hard worker and a master carpenter.  He could get so aggravated with Bertha but would always give in to her.  I think he thought it was just easier that way.  I remember so well him push mowing their yard with a push mower and not a powered push mower, it was powered with his own energy.

Me with my Grandpa eating watermelon in 1955

Warren and Bertha did fairly well until they reached their late 70's.  By this time my parents lived in Virginia and my Dad mentioned something to them about moving there so that Dad and Mom could look after them.  That idea was not even considered, they wanted no part of leaving their home at that time.  But, within a couple of years it became evident that they could no longer live alone.  My Dad did not like the idea of putting them in a nursing facility there where there was no one to oversee their care, but they still were not on board to move to Virginia.  One day while my Dad was talking with his Dad on the phone his Dad said, "We might consider moving to a facility where Lea lives as it isn't so far away."  Well, you guessed it!  The wheels went into motion to find a nursing facility here.  That was in 1987 and I was 35 years old, I had an 11 year old and an 8 year old and was a very busy wife and mother.  Dad  and I talked about the additional responsibility this would put on me but in the end, I decided that I was willing to take it on.~ignorance is bliss~

I knew the head of nursing at one of the nursing facilities here and she went to work to get a room that would accommodate the two of them. My Daddy went to work orchestrating getting them moved from Ft. Smith to NE Louisiana.  My parents went to Ft. Smith to get Warren and Bertha and they soon became residents here in NE Louisiana with me as the overseer of their care.


And, here they are in their room.  Talk about sad!  Oh, my goodness, the day we moved them into the nursing facility was gut wrenching.  It was the end of life as they had known it and the beginning of the last phase of their lives.  They had been married almost 60 years at this time and they often struggled to live together but neither could imagine life without the other. I so well remember crying when we left them that first night.

 While their health was failing, they were neither bed ridden and I was able to bring them to our house for some visits for a few years following their move in.  I soon slotted them into my  routine and I could write a book on some of the conversations that we had during their remaining years.  About 5 years after they moved, Warren passed away at the age of 87.  He suffered from Black Lung due to working in the coal mines in his younger years.  At the time of his passing they had been married 68 years. We were all sure that Bertha would not last long without him but we were very wrong.

Bertha enjoying an outside stroll
She missed their heated discussions and arguing but she hung in there for 7 more years.  As her health begin to fail we spent many hours in the ER and many days in the hospital.  She had a constitution of steel and she always bounced back. But, during an illness in 1999, at the age of 94, she went peacefully to be with the Lord.

As I look back on the 12 years of overseeing their care I have many, many fond memories.  I also look back and often wonder how I did it.  But, it was that time that prepared me for a whole lot more "overseeing of care" with other family members.  I've learned sooooo much through these times and I've learned that absolutely everyone that is in a nursing facility needs an advocate.  I've gone to bat sooooo many times and I continue to be an advocate for my Dad and will until his dying day.

I hope you enjoyed this really different post from me.  I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting these memories of Warren and Bertha, better known as Grandpa and Grandma Duncan.


Lea
Lea

Hi there! My name is Lea. I've been wife to the best Hubby for 44 years....Mom to a son and daughter....CiCi to 4 precious Grans....lover of family and friends....enjoy laughter and a good time....shopper....picture taking maniac....maker of delicious fudge....organizational enthusiast....memory maker....Southern Belle...and most importantly.....a Child of the King! Welcome to my little corner!

11 comments:

  1. Oh, how I LOVED this post! When I saw Bertha in the first picture, her smile cracked me up! I thought, she looks like she was something else even before I read that you said she was a "character." Thanks for introducing us to Warren and Bertha!

    P.S. My Great-Grandmother's name was Bertha, too!

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  2. Oh Lea, I loved this post! I'm sure you had your hands full, but also what a blessing to have them move closer to you. My grandparents passed away 3 years ago, (10 days a part) and I miss them everyday. They lived half a mile from me, and Grandma was one of my best friends. The end of life is so hard and sad, but the memories can be just as sweet. That picture of you and your grandpa... so cute! :)

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  3. What a Wonderfull post. My grandmother also left the leftovers on the table covered by the tablecloth. She had a tiny ice box, not a refrigerator. My grandparents lived about 40 miles from Ft.Smith on the Oklahoma side.

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  4. Lea,

    This was one of my favorite posts of all time. Sometimes God puts people into our lives for a reasons we don't see at the time, but when we look back we realize why. How blessed they were to have you nearby.

    I always thought that it was so bizarre that my dad got diagnosed with cancer so soon after I moved home from college, but looking back it was in God's plan all along.

    Have a good weekend,
    Kiki

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  5. Lea this was a beautiful post. Those family ties are such a strong part of life, and your role as a caregiver says a lot about you. Warren a warren and Bertha were very lucky!

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  6. I was indeed blessed by this post Lea, I am a firm believer that nothing happens by circumstance, God is always preparing us for what is ahead, I am so thankful that there is Someone who is always looking after and preparing me for what is ahead. This post speaks volumes of your character.
    Thank you for sharing, of your precious grandparents.
    Blessings,
    Sue

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  7. Thanks for warming my heart with this post. Blessings, Lea!

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  8. Ahh what a angel you are to have overseen their care! A true testament to your giving heart and how lucky they were to have you. What sweet memories and the pic of you with the watermelon...precious!

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  9. What a beautiful story! I love that picture of you with your grandpa -- how sweet! I could almost picture myself in that kitchen (with those leftovers sitting on the table covered with a towel haha!) and listening to them argue and fuss. I know with my mom having dementia it's just a matter of time until she is moved to a facility. I know it will be difficult -- almost like admitting that it's kind of over. What a blessing you must have been to them both and an example to your family and others of how to care for our loved ones.

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  10. SUCH a good post, Lea! My sister and I are in the midst of looking after our mother, who currently lives next door to my sister. It is a trial at times, to say the least. We are determined to do all we can to maintain her dignity and do what is in her best interests even though we get a lot of push back from our mother.

    I may have mentioned some time ago that my mother's family came from Fort Smith and then migrated to Tulsa to find work, way back in the day. You and I may be cousins, 16 times removed, or something like that!

    Thanks for this post and pictures.

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So glad you stopped by and hope you enjoyed your visit. I love your comments and read each and every one of them and I always try to reply to them. Blessings to you this day!