When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story. However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives. Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted oral interviews from their responses. These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person. In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.” Both sections are written in the third person. Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.
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Reflections on the Interview:
On January 13, 2007 I interviewed both Grandpa and Grandma individually in their home in Wichita, Kansas. The home in which they raised their family. Prior to the interview, Grandpa Darrell and Grandma Wanda Plinsky both wrote multiple pages in their own handwriting along with filling out the initial project survey I sent to them. This made the interview much easier for me as I could just ask them to expound some or recount what they had already penned.
Born Wanda Mae McGeary, Grandma was born on a farm in rural Kansas just months after the stock market crash ushered in the Great Depression. Her parents were James Eber McGeary and Olive Anne Turner McGeary. She had two brothers and two sisters.
She started dating Grandpa Darrell when she was a junior in high school- the day he returned home from serving in the United States Navy during World War II.
In June of 1946, Grandma Wanda, nearly a senior in high school, paid a visit to local pastor’s wife. During their time together, Grandma invited Christ into her life. Although she wasn’t personally raised in church, she did attend with Darrell during their dating season and off and on through out her growing up years.
She graduated high school on May 20, 1947. She married Grandpa Darrell on June 29, 1947. She added Plinsky to her name. Together they moved to Denver, Colorado where Grandpa had enrolled in Denver Bible College- renamed Rockmont by they time he graduated.
Their first son, David, was born May 21, 1948 in Denver. Next son Timothy (Heidi’s Dad) was born June 18, 1951 in Salina, Kansas. Third son Carlton (Jamie, Michael, and Holly’s Dad) was born March 27, 1953 in Harper, Kansas. Their first daughter, Lori, was born June 1, 1959 in Attica, Kansas. Second daughter and baby of the family, Gretchen, was born October 16, 1966 in Wichita, Kansas. As a young mother, Grandma Wanda was busy at home, and home changed often until they moved to Wichita. Then in 1973 she began working at Christian Challenge School where she worked until 1990. From 1991-2000, she continued to work doing food demonstrations until she fully retired.
Throughout her life, Grandma has been active in her church as well as hosting countless friends in her home. From game nights to widows’ luncheons as well as celebrating her favorite time of year- Christmas, she’s gifted with flavorful food and welcoming hospitality. Fried chicken- no one makes it like our Grandma. (And she always made it for Michael, Jamie’s brother. She probably made it for Jamie, too.) And her colorfully, tasty Jell-O salads, we call “Fluff,” thrill any room full of guests. But as her grandchildren, I think we’re pretty convinced we liked them best. My favorite… picture a ginormous glass bowl with layers of crushed graham crackers, sliced bananas, and freshly whipped cream…oh my… the best.
Grandma remains passionate about reading. She claims she struggled with reading when she was a child, so she wanted her children to learn and love to read. She indeed passed that on as many of us share her passion. Some, like Michael, prefer the movie form…but we’ll save his story for another day.
And her sense of humor? Outstanding. She spills joy, and she wants to share it. Speaking of Michael… the banter interplay between Grandma and grandson still makes me smile. They just tease each other about all kinds of things. She helped us keep our sense of humor from being sucked away by darker times. Grateful for that, for sure.
Although their pace has slowed, Grandma Wanda and Grandpa Darrell still enjoy their friends, their family, their home.
And just to be honest~ they are a huge reason I am finally sharing this work. I really wanted them to see the realization of this project where the Shadow of the Almighty clearly overwhelms the shadow of death.
Living Hope ~ Heidi L. Paulec
The phone rang. I answered. My husband Darrell and I were sitting with our grandchildren as our daughter and son-in-law were out for the evening. “Hello? I’m sorry Steve and Lori are not home.” The caller stopped me. “Mom, this is Carlton.” Our youngest son.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize your voice.” I replied a little confused.
“I’m not too surprised, Mom, because I have bad news.” And then, he said the unthinkable. “Jamie’s committed suicide.”
Immediately, I shrieked. “Oh, NO! Oh, NO!” (I’ve felt bad about this as I imagine Carlton’s replayed that over and over in his mind too many times.)
Darrell hurried to take the phone until I composed myself. Darrell continued to talk with Carlton. I remember asking, “How did he do it?” I remember Darrell talking a bit longer, then he prayed with him and hung up the phone. I remember calling a dear friend to ask her to call another mutual friend as well as our pastor. Our pastor called us as soon as he knew.
Our youngest daughter Gretchen and her husband Roy also lived in the same city as we do along with our older daughter and her family. That evening, Roy and Gretchen were at his mother’s home for a birthday party. I called and told Gretchen. They left the party and came to Lori’s home. Lori and Steve arrived home shortly after. So many questions. Yet, so much silence still.
Of course, we were all in shock. I felt I must be strong for them. As we left their home that night to go back to our home, I prepared myself to break the news to my sister and her husband. They were staying with us as my sister just had a heart transplant. I was caring for her until she was strong enough to return to her country home.
We called our eldest son Dave and his wife Marie. Of course, we talked to Tim (Heidi’s Dad). We also called Darrell’s brother Dean and his wife Doris. We asked them to tell Grandma Neel.
I remember finally going to bed that night. Exhausted. Wanting to sleep. Trying to sleep. Tense and tired. Where is the rest at a time like this?
“Jamie was a lively little boy. As our first grandchild, he was both fun and extra special to us. He was brilliant. No, he really was. He read all the time. He thought things out real well, too. I remember playing games with him. He won easily without hardly trying. This frustrated his younger brother so much.”
Grandma Wanda Plinsky
We did get some rest that night. The next morning we faced many detailed arrangements, so we could be with the family. Meals needed to be prepared for my sister as we did not know how long we’d be gone. We called Carlton, who worked for a major airlines, and he made arrangements for us to fly to Denver. Somehow it all came together. Something to be thankful for. And we headed to the airport.
When we boarded the plane, I burst into tears. With my sister’s tender physical state, I had not yet found a place quiet and alone enough. Whether I was ready or not, the tears spilled out right there.