1997 - 1998
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As I said, the marriage to Tom which started with so much promise just didn't work out. We wanted different things, and as I approached my 50th birthday I knew that there were dreams which I needed to pursue for myself that were not going to be found where I was.
Gene (the kids' Dad, who had changed his name to Christopher Marten after our divorce) died on Christmas night 1996. Even though we had been divorced for many years it had an impact on me, making me once again realize how precious every day is and that I must live each one to it's fullest.
When I made the decision to leave I didn't quite know where I was going though I had several options. I had online AA friends that I had met in Texas, Nebraska and Pennsylvania who all offered me places to stay until I got on my feet again. I never did like the heat of Texas and wanted out of the midwest. Nebraska was just too cold and still a bit too midwest, so I opted for Pennsylvania. I had been friends online with Bob for about 6 months as co-officers in an IRC AA chat channel. When I told him I was leaving Kansas but didn't have a destination he offered me a place to stay in Pennsylvania and an offer to share his job as a caregiver in exchange for room and board. We knew we had a good personality match online as friends and decided to see if there was anything else once we'd met. We also knew that we were good enough friends that if it didn't work out romantically we would retain that friendship. So at the end of January I packed what I could fit in the van and a trailer. Bob flew to Kansas City and we met there for the first time to drive back to Pennsylvania - a new adventure in life ahead of me. Of course the family figured I'd once again gone out of my mind, but so far it seems to be working and I'm still here in Kittanning, PA after nearly two years.
We took a week to make the drive to have time to get to know each other a bit. We took a detour through one of my favorite places, Eureka Springs, Arkansas and then on down to Alambama to visit with another online friend of ours. We stopped in Nashville to tour a wonderful plantation. The most special part of the trip for us was our stop in Akron, Ohio, to visit Dr. Bob's house, where AA was born. It was amazing to us to sit in that house and just think that if those two drunks had not met and decided to get sober together over 60 years ago, then Bob and I probably would never have met. Two guys in a house in Ohio had a dream to help people recover from the disease of alcoholism that spread and spread and spread until finally two other alcoholics met in an AA meeting online, one in Kansas and one in Pennsylvania and decided to get together. A pretty humbling thought...
I certainly am not disappointed in my beautiful new hometown! The town is right on the bank of the Allegheny River in the foothills of the Appalachain Mountains. The picture on the left is the view I see every time I drive home from the grocery store. We live in a trailer park on the other side of the river, all the way to the left of the picture with the bridge. The park in the other pictures extends from the bridge to our trailer. The river is literally our back yard - only a driveway behind the trailer separates us from the bank of the river. Down beyond the trailers is a lock where we watch barges go from one level of the river to the next. Every August we have the Armstrong County Folk Festival, full of craftsmen from all over the place, wonderful foods, entertainers - it stretches from the trailer park to the bridge. On the other side of the bridge they've built a huge river park, with an outdoor amphitheater and docking for river boats which extends the rest of the length of the town. It's a gorgeous spot to live no matter what season of the year. If you look down the path in the picture on the right you can see the first of the trailers where we live.
In addition to the new town to introduce myself to, there was a new family. Bob has lived with and worked as a caregiver for Ruth for the past 4 years. The picture on the left was taken the first Christmas I was here 1997. On December 13, 1998, we celebrated Ruth's 90th birthday. This has been a real education for me as I've never worked in this field and never spent much time with the elderly. Ruth has been a delight and when I got here spent many hours regaling me with stories of her childhood. She loves the old old music that I used to play and sing with my Mom and I used to play piano for Ruth quite a lot when I first got here. She had a stroke in April of this year and is not doing very well now and requires a lot more care from us for her personal needs, but she has surprised us time and time again. I call her the Energizer Bunny because she just keeps on going. She has a sister who was 91 years old in August, so I think she's going to be around for quite awhile. The other woman in the pictures is Jan, Ruth's daughter.
The cute guys here are Ryan and Evan, Bob's sons. They live down in the Pittsburgh area and last year we were able to see them quite often. We had them come up and stay for weekends once a month or so before Ruth had her stroke.
The newest member of the family is Zero, the cat, given to Ruth by Jan when she came home from the hospital last May. When we asked Ruth if she had any names for the cat she said, "No, Zero!", so Zero he is. He likes to sleep in the sink in the bathroom.
In the fall of 1998 a Kittanning friend and I drove to Virginia Beach to visit with Bryce Aaron and meet an online friend who lives there, too. I didn't get to see Shawnmarie because she was visiting with her folks, but we had a wonderful time with Bryce and stuffed ourselves with fresh seafood and salt air.
Mickie, my online friend is someone I met over two years ago about the same time that I met Bob. She and I are planning to have a real adventure. One day we're going to drive the entire length of historic Route 66 from Chicago all the way to Santa Monica, CA and then up the coast. We will document the whole trip from planning to end on our webpage called Serenity Breeze, and we have friends from all over the Internet helping us to plan the itinerary. We will meet several web friends along the way. Bob's working on trying to fix us up with a laptop computer and the digital camera so we can take pix every day and download them to my computer at home each evening and use the laptop to journal the trip! Ahhh, technology! Gotta love it!
Well, kids, I think this brings you pretty much up to date on the family photos. It's taken a lot of memory cells to fit these all together in a logical order - especially since I wrote dates on the back of very few of them! It was pretty amazing to me as I put it together to see all the places we've been, people we've met, things we've done and to see how we've grown and changed along the way. Actually, I'm pretty darned proud of all of us! If you will each send me pictures during the year we can keep adding to this virtual history album as we go along and never lose the treasure of pictures to old shoeboxes which are prone to loss and damage.
I hope you both enjoyed this, along with the rest of the family who will be invited to share it. I love you both so very much and am proud of the way you've both grown and changed and turned into wonderful adult human beings. Take care of each other, love each other, love yourselves, and be happy!
PS - February 2006. Many changes have taken place since I last updated this album. At the height of my web business success I suffered my first of several heart attacks. Since then I've had to give up the full-time web design business and take care of my health instead. I've also left Pennsylvania and am living with my son and his family in Atlanta GA and am on a whole new journey, enjoying my grandchildren and renewed activity in 12 step work. My daughter has also married and moved to Florida, so we are all finally on the same coast.
Paths on the journey down Family Lane
Page 1 - For My Children - Christmas 1998
Page 2 - The Willey Family - Kansas (My Mom's Family)
Page 3 - The Bland Family - Virginia (My Dad's Family)
Page 4 - 1947 - 1954 - Early Lolly - Key West
Page 5 - 1954 - 1965 - Growing Up - Key West, Paris, Connecticut, Oklahoma
Page 6 - 1968 - 1971 - Marriage & Babies - Kansas to New York
Page 7 - 1971 - 1980 - California Years - Southern CA to the Bay Area
Page 8 - 1980 - 1984 - Single Mom & Kids - Part I
Page 9 - 1985 - 1987 - Single Mom & Kids - Part II
Page 10 - 1987 - 1989 - Married Again - California to Tulsa
Page 11 - 1990 - 1997 - Tulsa, Kansas and Both Kid's Weddings
Page 12 - 1997 - Now - Kansas to Pennsylvania - A New Life
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