This is the Cliff's Notes version of a life of 45 years together including 41 years of marriage. It's a tribute to the woman that endured my nonsense oh those many years and is the mother of our 2 children and and grandmother to 5. She passed away 02/10/14 from Huntington's Disease.
In another place and time a friend of mine (the erstwhile Ranger Rick Smith) worked for an ice cream company in the SF Bay Area called Loards. There were several Loards stores (best ice cream ever btw), including one in Alameda. Alameda happened to be the home base of a BYU student named Sharon who as luck would have it was working at that Alameda store while home on Christmas break. The Loards delivery driver - another friend of mine - happened to stop by that store to make a delivery and chatted with Sharon a bit and invited her to a New Years Eve party. Sharon said sure and could she bring along a friend of hers also home for Christmas. Now John Dailey was no dummy - he knew he'd be a hero for bringing 2 good looking young ladies to the party and immediately agreed.
On December 31, 1968 I rapped on the door to my friend Ann Amundson's house and let myself in, ready to party. I waltzed into the living room, resplendent in my newly earned letterman's jacket from the local Junior College and was unexpectedly greeted by a pair of complete strangers who introduced themselves as Sharon and Lynn. I hustled into the kitchen to grab an adult beverage (even though I was not legally an adult at the time - ahem) and started questioning the gang about the newbies in Ann's living room. John volunteered one worked at Loards and the other was her classmate at BYU.
And then I did something completely out of character - I went back into the living room and started talking to the two cute girls. As it so happened, one was a jock - she was a gymnast at BYU and played softball too. When we danced - something else I rarely did - I notice her hands were as calloused as a carpenter's. She then explained to me how hard the uneven parallel bars were on her hands. We spent the remainder of the evening together and had a great time. I got her number and promised to call before she went back to BYU (632-3610 - I still remember that number). 4 years and a day later we got married.
It lasted 41 years and was always a source of pride for our kids when the subject came up.
In 1976 Lynn's company opted to expand nationally and that opened a job opportunity in Hartford, Connecticut for her. The plan was we'd establish the office (which we did in a place called Rocky Hill), get the thing up and running and I'd find another job. That plan didn't work. Lynn spent a good part of a year on the road traveling to places like Syracuse, Buffalo, Boston, Montpelier, Augusta and more. Unfortunately I could never look for another job as someone had to be in the Rocky Hill office. Plus, we found New England to be somewhat inhospitable to a couple of transplanted Northern Californians. We had no social life beyond Lynn's cousins in Middletown until I convinced the local package store (liquor store) owner that I was a good softball player and convinced him to let me try out for his team as they'd just lost a player. A pair of 300-ft. home runs in my tryout game earned me a spot on the team and we made some friends. The remainder of our time in Connecticut was pleasant and there was no better place to be for the Bicentennial than New England. But when an opportunity opened up for Lynn in the LA office we seized the opportunity to get our way paid back to California - even if it was the southern end and so we loaded up our Chevy Monza, packed her dog Sherman and our cat Mr Peabody in with us and set off on the cross-country drive to Los Angeles. We stopped in Denver to hang out with friends for a few days and in Pueblo, Colorado - where I was born - so Lynn could meet my grandmother and taste some of the best fried chicken and homemade soup on the planet. My grandmother was a spectacular cook. I stole many recipes from her. Along the way Lynn experienced some stomach issues - aka morning sickness.
You guessed it - she was pregnant with Jamie, our daughter. We took up residence in a neat 2BR 1BA apartment in Hermosa Beach. It was a mere 2 blocks from the ocean. LA being LA, it was a 30-45 minute commute to work each day to Lynn's office - right next to Dinah's Fried Chicken. Great place - and a real restaurant next door called The Hungry Tiger. We met William Conrad - AKA Frank Cannon there as it was one of his favorite watering holes. I took a job working 11-7 at a local 7-11 while I searched for more suitable employment. As luck would have it, reorganization of the home office opened up a job that was right fir me and so Lynn and I worked for the same company once again. Not so lucky was the fact that Lynn left the company within 6 months and in retaliation I was let go. That set in motion my beginning to work at RadioShack and our return to Northern California. Plus Jamie was born April 14.
Back in the Bay Area again. Me working for RadioShack and Lynn - answering the call from someone we'd worked with in Los Angeles - went to work as a trainer for a company that sold software to insurance agents. It was a great job, paid well and she worked out of the home. She was very good and her territory expanded from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest. We went through the typical ups and downs but got through them. Our family grew when Sean was born in February of 1982 and we purchased a condominium. Things were moving along quite nicely until Lynn's company was sold and she was laid off. Also around that time she received notice that her uncle in Washington (state) had passed away from something called Huntington's Disease. Her mom insisted she be tested for the disease. We wondered why since there was no indication - so we thought - her father had the disease prior to his death from a heart attack in his early 50s. The test came back negative so we went on with our lives. In 1986 I was offered a position with RadioShack in Hawaii. I took off in June to find a place to stay and then the deal was modified - our return guarantee was pulled off the table so I agreed to meet my 6 month commitment as long as I was home by Christmas. My boss booked a return flight on Christmas Eve and we had two households. Lynn and the kids remained in our condo in Hayward and I rented a room from Ranger Rick (he was at that time Chief Ranger on the Arizona Memorial) and his wife Laurie. I was forced to purchase a motorcycle for transportation - I swear it was not my idea (typed with crossed fingers). It was a Suzuki 550 -
yeah I know it looks like a Honda 50 with me sitting on it. And those 6 months - well lets just say I had more fun than Lynn thought I should have. Every time she opened the Master Card bill I got a call. I picked up a few tabs to get some extra cash. Shame on me - LOL. She was having a hard time believing the Banyan Gardens and Pearl City Tavern were really cultural exhibits I dare not miss. But she and the kids were there on 12/24/86 at the SF airport and Lynn hugged me so hard it took my breath away. I wasn't sure if she was happy to see me or relieved to have help with the kids.For ego sake I went with the former. And, she was then working for RadioShack in my old office in Hayward. Once again we were working together.
Time marches on. Shortly after returning from Hawaii I left RadioShack and went to work for one of my customers - an insurance broker in San Leandro. Lynn was offered a job working for an employment advertising agency run by an old friend from the Connecticut and Los Angeles days. We sold our condo and purchased a house - doubling our monthly expenses and when the bottom fell out of our job situations we were left scrambling. More challenges - Lynn then had a short lived job as system administrator for a home health care agency. When that went away she worked for the Hyatt Regency Oakland for a while until office politics and a mini feud between the Director of Engineering and Lynn's boss caused her to leave. It was during this job, however, that Lynn started having problems concentrating. Work that had once been easy and natural to her became a struggle. We thought it was just caused the stress of our circumstances.
In a call with a RadioShack friend in Ft Worth he mentioned there were jobs available there in Ft. Worth. Long story short - we put the house on the market at the absolute worst time and I headed of to Texas leaving Lynn behind to deal with the sale. Luckily our Realtor was an old friend from my HS wrestling days and my days as a soccer coach and board member for the Hayward Youth Soccer League. Paul got us out of the house with enough money to move our belongings to Ft worth and for Lynn and Sean to fly in. Jamie stayed in Hayward with my folks to finish HS at the school she started (and I graduated from).
That is how in May of 1994 we ended up in Texas. Lynn immediately got a job in small company similar to the one we'd both worked and grown with. After just 5 days Lynn was let go and accused of being on drugs, She continued to have trouble working on the computer and would stare off into space occasionally. And the strongest thing Lynn drank as a Bartles and James wine cooler. Pills? Not a chance in hell. She then took a job working in a doctor's office and seemed to be back on track. The MD was however verbally abusive and Lynn was not one to take that kind of nonsense laying down. She fired back and started looking for another job. Unbeknownst to either of us, the MD suspected she was on drugs. Something I learned only a few months ago. Again, nothing was further from the truth. By that time I'd transferred from Product Support to Customer Care so Lynn took a job as a Product Support agent. After 6 months or so it was clear she could not do the job. Her ability t concentrate and make the necessary quick decisions - again something that used to come naturally to her had simply vanished.
Lynn's last job was working part time at a retail chain (Kohl's). After having trouble bouncing back from a root canal she was terminated. Texas is after all a right to work state and you can be terminated for any reason.
About that time we happened to be at a movie with our friends Bob and Susan Archenhold. Bob and Lynn were walking ahead of Susan and I and Susan and I noticed Lynn was walking very oddly and even stumbled once. Susan became immediately concerned and we asked Lynn about it in the car. She had no idea what we were talking about and so we convinced her to see our doctor. The appointment with our doctor threw up enough red flags that Lynn was immediately referred to a neurologist. 3 days later that appointment was kept and 2 days after that I got the phone call advising us Lynn had Huntington's Disease. The hushed tones and sadness in the voice of the caller were immediately frightening so I started researching the disease. If you have any interest in HD, try this link Huntington's Disease Society of America. That was the beginning of the 10+ year ordeal that ended with Lynn's passing on 02/10/14.
Initially the changes were small but the disease began to take the essence of Lynn from the kids and I. She became argumentative and overly aggressive - both of which she had never been. Jamie had moved to Louisiana with her 2 daughters to try and salvage her relationship with the girls' father. That Christmas Sean took Lynn to Louisiana for Christmas. When he brought Lynn back home, she almost immediately threw a tantrum much like a 3-year old would, including the kicking and screaming. I settled her down but that seemed to break the dam. It was a rapid downhill ride after that..
We moved to our current residence 6 years ago. Things went steadily downhill from there. Mood swings and violent outbursts, constantly telling me she hoped I'd die and she hated me. The same to Jamie. That was hard to take regardless of the fact it wasn't her really speaking,. The voice was hers - not the words. We got that but still..
She started having trouble walking and then started falling. She was stubborn - and the stubbornness was magnified by HD. Whatever meds we gave her to keep her calm quickly stopped working and she'd try to get up and walk. There was never any quit in her.
Finally she became totally immobile and we asked for hospice help. Within a few days there was a hospital bed setup in the living room and that's where she stayed for the last 5 months or so. There was still a bit of her there - I tracked down one of her two very best friends - Sharon - and when I showed her the picture Sharon sent she actually smiled when I asked if she remembered Sharon. That was actually the last tine I saw a glimmer of a smile. I also tracked down her childhood best friend Donna who sent a great letter of remembrances of their friendship including several photos I'd never seen. Unfortunately it was too late for Lynn to enjoy but it was a delight for the kids - Jamie and Sean to read.
The last few weeks were awful - she became emaciated to the point of looking like a WWII concentration camp prisoner and completely lost the ability to speak. Finally at about 1PM Monday 2/10/14 she succumbed. While not unexpected, and accompanied by a degree of relief from all that her suffering had ended, it was more heartbreaking then I could have imagined.
HD robbed Lynn of at least 10 years of her life and our lives together. Never was the statement "life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" clearer tha through this ordeal. I miss her terribly. Truth is, I have for years because so much of her essence was stolen by HD. Still -
Good bye Lynn.