Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Ground Zero AKA “AR00”

I share the following details not because I think people are interested in them. Rather, I need to document this day for my own sanity. When I started writing today, I had planned on a completely different focus. But this is where my mind ended up. So we’ll just let it ride.

The day the unspeakable happened, I was running a few minutes late in getting out of work. My boss and I had a meeting that butted right up to the end of my work day. At 4:29 pm I sent a text to my husband, expecting that he was already waiting for my exit from the building. “Few mins” was my message. No reply was needed but not receiving one was not the usual. I didn’t think too much of it. At 4:41 I walked out of my building and Rob was not in his usual pick-up spot, right up front. A few more messages went out with nary a reply.

I kept it cool at first. It wasn’t until I learned that he hadn’t shown up for work that day that I panicked.

Upon learning this, I called my mother, 10 miles up the road, and she was in her car and headed towards me within seconds. We both knew something was horribly, horribly wrong. I paced outside in the 35-degree cold until she got to me. She picked me up in a whirlwind and we made a beeline to my home, where Rob’s and my shared truck was parked out front. Before mom even put her car in park, I jumped out and ran towards the house. Finding the door unlocked, I hurried in yelling for Rob.

From room to room I went, more frightened after discovering each one empty. After searching the entire house, I finally sat down in his desk chair and toggled his computer’s mouse. A document appeared before me where the words were incomprehensible but the meaning was clear.

Rob was preparing me for his exit. The phrase at the end that I recognized through the dread told me he was gone: “inevitable outcome.” It was then that I called the police.

While waiting for them, I called my son across the state, Rob’s parents in Florida, my dad 60 miles away, and several close friends scattered throughout the US. “I don’t know where he is but he’s done something,” I repeated again and again, “He could have stepped in front of a train for all I know.” The news was met with horror and surprise. How could this be happening?

After 20 or 30 minutes, I called the police department again. They said someone was on their way.

Sgt. Smithmeier showed up and asked the usual questions: When was the last time I saw him? Had he ever done anything like this before? What makes me think he’s done something drastic? Did he leave a note? – All easy questions. The hard one was: “Where is he?”

He walked throughout the house with me and after a few more casual questions asked me if I had a shed out back. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had mouthed that question to him behind my back, as she knew it was the only place I hadn’t looked on the property. According to her, she had been hopeful that I wouldn’t go look out there; she panicked at every door I flung open as it was. But back to the question. “Um, yes,” I remember barely saying aloud, “there’s a shed.” “Is there a lock and key or would it be open?” Sgt. Smithmeier asked. “Huh? Oh, yeah…,” I said as I moved toward my grandmother’s oak buffet, “there’s a key to the lock in here.” I opened the top left drawer and looked in the front of the right side, where the shed key, attached to one of those cheap aluminum bottle openers, was always found. But the key wasn’t there. “Oh,” I said dreamily, “it’s usually right here…” And I tried to play it cool. But I knew.

Sgt. Smithmeier headed out the back door, suggesting politely but firmly that I stay behind. I stayed seated in my living room. I couldn’t see him as he approached the back door again, but I could see my mother’s face, at first hopeful and then crestfallen. Sgt. Smithmeier came in, not meeting my gaze, and asked me what clothing Rob would have been wearing. “Gosh, ummm,” I recalled, “Something dark, a dark t-shirt and dark sweatpants maybe, maybe his leather coat?”

And the news followed from out of the mouth of Sgt. Smithmeier: “Then I am so sorry to have to inform you, but your husband is deceased. He’s out there.” I don’t remember the exact words he spoke. I just knew that my Mr. Wonderful was gone forever. And I remember nodding as I stared at Sgt. Smithmeier’s mouth speaking the words to me. Somehow that made it easier to focus on what he was saying? I don’t know…

At this point, my mother and I got on our phones and called family and friends. My son was driving on the highway when I told him that Rob had killed himself. I had to tell him to pull over; I was afraid he was going to get in a wreck. I’ve never heard him cry like that. He and his girlfriend were quickly on the way from St. Louis. They would arrive four hours later.

I had called Rob’s parents when he was missing but when my mother offered to call them with the news of his death, I agreed. They had recently placed an ultimatum before Rob: their help and their money or me, so at the very moment I learned of his death I had no intention of speaking to them ever again. Their actions suggest that they agree with that plan, but that’s a story for another day.

Several more police officers filtered through the house in the coming hours, and by that time my dad had arrived. I sat somewhat catatonic throughout further questioning from the Coroner’s office, answering but kind of floating above everything mentally. I stayed in that floaty state for several weeks.

To be continued…

Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Grandma’s Reminder

I’ve been told that journaling might be a good outlet for me. Because this blog already exists for me to vent, I’ll just park those rants right here. My husband built this blog (and many other websites) for me. Thanks, baby, for giving me an audience.

My husband committed suicide on November 7 of last year and although I appear to be functioning, I feel as far from that statement as is possible.

I go to work, I take care of my dogs, I pay the bills, I return some phone calls. I make my bed, I brush my teeth, I fuel the car, I cook, I clean… But I’m not really here.

Sleep is elusive. Connections with people are difficult. I desperately want attention but don’t want people fawning over the widow.

In short, I’m a little lost.

I’m going to start off this blog series, Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful, with an article I wrote about my grandmother back in late 2004 or 2005. I wrote it when I was with a small publishing company in St. Louis.

It serves to provide me with a reminder of what my role is in life going forward. (I hope.)

2004 will go down in the story of my life as the year that I sat up and took notice of the little things.

My grandmother died this past Spring. My mother’s mother, she was 75, and had battled cancer for almost 20 years. She was opinionated, sweet, wise, and always upbeat and fun. She took pleasure in the little things, and never asked for approval from anyone. She approved of herself, and people respected her for that.

Up until two weeks before her death, she traveled extensively. Her last trip was with a group from her church and I remember talking to her about whether or not she should go. She said she just didn’t think she was up to it. We all knew she was dying; she had been in poor shape for months. But I encouraged her to take the trip. “Grandma, if you’re going to feel icky, do it somewhere with a view.”

She relented, and went on that trip with her friends. At her funeral, her church friends remembered aloud how much fun they had with her on that and other trips, and they shared stories about her fearlessness. They all knew that she didn’t feel well on that last trip, and admired her for smiling and laughing with them nonetheless. She would never dream of complaining; she would say that she was lucky to get to go at all. At her funeral, someone asked my mother if there were any of grandma’s grandchildren who were “like her”. I almost burst into tears when my mother replied that I was took after grandma most. What a compliment, and what an incredible legacy.

Since her death, I have been decidedly free-wheeling. I’ve traveled more, I’ve laughed more, I’ve loved more, I’ve lived more. It didn’t necessarily take losing her to make me re-think my life, but I have re-evaluated how I view things. If she were here she’d say how that’s “just part of it.” She’d smile at me in her knowing way, and I’d feel silly for questioning an experience that has made me a better person.

Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding day, 1947

I’ve met someone, and it makes me sad that she will never get to meet him. She and I used to compare notes about dating, as she was widowed more than ten years ago. She and I had a decidedly similar view of dealings with the opposite sex: stay around till I get sick of you, then go away till I tell you to come back. Her stories about the man who tried to bully her into a relationship with him made me laugh and laugh. As I listened to her recount yet another way he had aggravated her, I could relate, and we would giggle about it together. Bullying me has never worked either.

If she were here now, I would tell her, “I’ve finally met him.” She’d smile, like she always did when she expected she knew what she was going to hear, and then she’d say, “Tell me all about him.” She’d then sit, lean in, and ask all the cutely worded questions like, “How dreamy is he?” It was times like these that she would tell me stories about my grandpa, like what a great kisser she thought he was. I imagine I have that same dreamy look in my eyes when I talk about my “him” just like she did when she talked about hers.

I rest in the knowledge that she’s “looking at me from the clouds,” like she explained to my 10-year-old son that she would. Although I’ll never get to tell her, she knows, and she’s giving me her trademark, knowing smile, like she expected it all along.

Photos Found In Missouri Are Heading Home

Busy day yesterday! I made the trek to Richmond, Missouri and on to Lexington, Missouri to check out the antiques and thrifting scene. I was so happy I went because, especially in Lexington, the antiquing was great! The day was beautiful and the town very picturesque.

Downtown Lexington Missouri

Downtown Lexington Missouri

Lexington Missouri Courthouse

Courthouse at Lexington, Missouri

I was thrilled to find, in two different antique stores, several photos with names attributed to them for reasonable prices.

I spent most of last night sending out emails to folks associated with some of them and today has me responding with the images. A super-great day for genealogy!

image

Antique Family Photos Return Home

I might be a little weird. I get a charge out of buying old attributed photos and finding their family members to share them with.

I don’t pay much for the photos, I’d say never more than $5 each. Since I’m a member of Ancestry.com, I’m able to take the information presented – usually just a name and location – and start digging for a match. Men are easier to track down because we women like to change our names to match our husbands’, but I’ve found some of the women too.

Belle and Lulu Driskell caught my eye at an antique store on a business trip to Iowa. They were so naturally beautiful and the information on the back of the cabinet card photo was more than enough to track them down. Their married names were included, the city the photo was taken in was included, the date it was taken was even noted! I ended up getting in touch with someone who had posted their family tree on Ancestry and they were so excited. They said they had never seen photos of the sisters before, so I was doubly excited to share them. Isn’t Lulu gorgeous?

Belle and Lulu Driskell 1884

Belle Driskell Bates and Lulu Driskell Haywood 1884

I always offer to email the image to the family for no charge but if they want to buy the original they need to reimburse me. Most of the time they just want the scanned image, which is fine too!

Mr. Meldahl just found his home this week, thanks again to Ancestry. It was also pretty easy to find him because his name is unusual, the city name is there and if I needed to dig really deep, I could find out when the photographers were in business in order to determine when the picture was taken, but I didn’t have to go that far.

Frank Meldahl

Cabinet Card of Frank Meldahl by Cadwallader and Loomis – Cor Market & 7th Sts. Parkersburg, W VA. All negatives preserved. Duplicates may be had at any time. Cadwallader & Loomis, The Photographers, 627 Market Street, above B. and O.R.R. Bridge, Parkersburg, W. Va.

Mr. & Mrs. Sproul were a little more difficult but not very. With the added “Mother Perkins” reference on the back of Mrs. Sproul’s photo, I was able to pinpoint a potential family. Just moments ago I emailed the images to a family member. Even without the location, it was a doable endeavor to track their family down.

Mrs Sproul

Mrs. Sproul raised Mother Perkins

Mr Sproul

Mr. Sproul

The Blackmans were SO EASY. I mean, check out the information detailed on the back! I had everything I need to find, verify and get in touch with their people quickly, and I sent off the image within a day of finding the family.

Mary Elizabeth Billings Blackman wedding photo

Mary Elizabeth Billings Blackman wedding photo

Charles Morris Blackman wedding photo

Charles Morris Blackman wedding photo

I’m still waiting to hear back on another batch of photos and some I fear I’ll never match to interested parties, but it’s fun to try. And I guess I’m hoping if someone ever comes across my family photos, they’ll take the time to find me too. 🙂

History of the Keck Family

I bought this little nugget of history at an estate sale in Baltimore a year or two ago. I grabbed it up out of reverence more than anything. I mean, the thoughtfulness of this guy to write down his family history and publish it for the ages – I admire Mr. J.A. Keck.

This little booklet has additional family history dates and notes in the margins and attached throughout. My only hope in posting these images (and a considerable amount of SEO attached), is to draw a family member to this site one day. I’m saving it for you, Keck clan! You need only contact me to procure this fabulous piece of family history.

I believe I bought other family photos from this sale. Just send me a note to get these in the right hands.

Nothing Chair Has Glamorous Past!

This poor chair has been with me since 1994, when my son was born and I was setting up my first, very own “home”. It was, undoubtedly something that my grandparents picked up years ago at an auction, as they were known to do that here in Clay County.

Let’s see – this chair has moved with me no less than 10 times (let’s see: Pittsburg-Topeka-Creve Coeur-Overland-St. Charles-Virginia Beach-Virginia Beach-St. Charles-St. Peters-Miami-Liberty-Baltimore-Liberty) in that time. I never paid much attention to it. If it’s had a place in my home, it’s had a slip cover on it. It has always looked just as it does in this pictures: Blah.

It was only recently that I checked the underside to find this label: Brent’s Homes furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, Calif. Naturally, I was curious. And guess what I found? Practically NOTHING! The only thing I could find was a reference in the Advertising Cyclopedia, using their catchy “Homes Furnished Complete” slogan as a teaching tool, and a 1922 Los Angeles Directory with their name included.

Not one piece of furniture, not one ad.

So here it is, world, the only surviving piece of Brent’s Furniture.

And it has a weird splatter paint on it and nasty blue corduroy. There is another layer of fabric underneath the blue, and the deep maroon color holds some promise, with the understanding that the spatter paint goes and this is as gorgeous as I think it is underneath. I would guess it’s oak. We shall see.

Another project just made the list.

antique chair labeled Brent's Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

antique chair labeled Brent’s Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

antique chair labeled Brent's Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

antique chair labeled Brent’s Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

antique chair labeled Brent's Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

antique chair labeled Brent’s Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

antique chair labeled Brent's Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

antique chair labeled Brent’s Homes Furnished Complete 716-722 South Main St. Los Angeles, CALIF

Home is Where the History Is: Liberty, Missouri

And history there is!

My husband and I have lived in this quaint little slice of heaven, just north and a little east of Kansas City, Missouri for just over two years but my roots run deep here. Liberty was settled in the 1820s and eventually became home to many notable rogues: Jesse James, the Dalton Gang, the Younger Gang, and so on. So it’s steeped in real “Wild, Wild West” kind of history. And it’s where my father’s mother and father’s kin settled back in the early origins of the town.

My grandmother’s line is the most notable, with relation proven back to both the Youngers AND the Daltons. My grandfather’s family was said to have been related to the Jesse James family (one story says his parents were friends with a great aunt of my grandfather or something) but don’t quote me on that. The Cates family name can be found in some of the county’s earliest publications and there is a natural greenway also that bears our name.

My grandmother’s beloved uncle (by marriage) was the County Coroner in the 1940s, and his wife filled his seat when term limits require he vacate the position.

image

But that’s not the point: the point is that there are so many old treasures in this part of the country that I’m finding I need to sell a few things to make room for some of the things I’m seeing but can’t justify (our house is tiny, after all). So I’ll be listing some things on eBay and Etsy for fun.

Today I got to list this license plate that I found at an estate sale in Leavenworth this morning. I imagine it being bent along the bottom so it can be used as a desk name plate, but that’s just me. What else could it be used for?KS 1990 Pearl License 07