I was born on a small country farm near Branson. On Friday nights my parents stabled the animals and harnessed the horse and buggy. We would travel all weekend with Bush Arbor Ministries and do church outside. Mom sold the farm when dad died and we moved to the Lake of the Ozarks. Mom’s second husband had a resort with ten cabins. She cleaned the cabins during the day and waited tables at night. She built me a little red wagon so I could help her. I wheeled linens to and from the cabins and bussed and relaid the tables. People thought I was cute because I was only five years old.
Summers were magical; swimming, fishing, boating. I lived in a swim-suit except for church on Sundays. Some years later my parents moved us to Leavenworth and bought a farm. I rode my horse to school every day. My mom milked cows and made cream and cottage cheese whilst my father drank and was extremely violent. He would drive mom into town to sell the dairy goods. She had to turn over the money she made to him and he would go drink it up. One day we were driving along the country road back to the farmhouse and he got really mad. He started beating on Mom, pummeling her face and head. He stopped the car and screamed at her to get out, but she couldn’t get the door open. I jumped out. He turned and kicked her in the head and side with his big boots. When she fell out of the car she was unconscious and bloody. He screeched up the narrow road. I knew instinctively, he would find a place to turn around and drive back to run her over.
I rolled her into a ditch covered her with leaves and buried down too. He swerved up and down that road several times trying to find her. Eventually he gave up. When she came around, she couldn’t move. Her ribs were broken. I ran to the nearest house for help. The husband and wife put her in their car and drove us to the hospital in Leavenworth. I was 10 years old.
We went into hiding and eventually moved to Kansas City. Mom went to work in the ammunitions plant in Independence. Later she became an RN and bought her own house. We lived very quiet and calm lives. I graduated from high school and went to business school for secretarial work. I had a great career in the law courts. When I married I went into business with my husband. He was an embalmer and we opened a mortuary service. We had a wonderful marriage and a beautiful daughter. My husband passed 13 years ago.
I’m 87 now. I’ve just renewed my drivers license and I volunteer 30 hours a week. I have always loved children and fostered for eighteen years. I started in the 70’s and I have no idea how many children I have given a home to! The most wonderful part of my working life though is what I am doing now. Four years ago I went to a meeting at Reconciliation Services and met Ms. Renea and Ms. Olivette and I became a Foster Grand-parent for Gladstone Elementary School in north east Kansas City. It’s a wonderful school with amazing teachers. You have no idea how hard these teachers work, it’s out of sight!
Kansas City is a melting pot. We have children from all over the world. Many are refugees from war torn countries who have fled from killings and rape. The majority don’t speak a word of English. Can you imagine what these children have been through? They sit on the animal mat in class with up to 30 American and Spanish children. They look like they’ve just been dropped out of an airplane without a parachute.
These are the kids that come to me. I can take up to 4 but I prefer 2 at a time. They’re aged between 5 and 6. I will put a pencil in their hands and help them draw numbers and the alphabet. We might draw a tree or an apple and print the words. Pretty soon these children know what a tree and an apple is. They try to repeat what I say and then it clicks. If you could only see their beautiful faces when that happens! Their eyes open like saucers and their smiles go way up to their ears. You have to be there to see it! At the end of the school year, we can throw any number at the wall from 1 to 100 and the children can instantly tell us which number it is. They can walk around the room, pick out any book and read it to us. They are beautiful and they are smart!
A lot of the children don’t have a grandmother any more so I’m their grandmother. They’ve never seen white hair and they want to feel it. They have beautiful skin and mine is wrinkly—they like to touch it. I had to take a week off recently. When I returned they all came running up to hug me saying, “I missed you! I love you Grandma!” It brought joy to my heart!
There may be some people sitting at home, doing nothing, perhaps feeling sorry for themselves because they don’t have friends or a purpose in life. I would like for them to go and meet Ms. Renea and MS. Olivette at RS. We have Foster Grandparent meetings once a month and everybody knows everybody else. The people who are brand new are invited in and made to feel welcome by all of us.
I love to do things for people, especially children. I don’t do it for recognition, I do it because it makes me feel good. It makes me happy and I have a purpose. It takes only one child to change the world for the better!