Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 3)


aunt-karenJamie and Heidi wrote each other letters quite often, especially for their young age.  Heidi would get so excited when mail came for her.  Their move (Carlton and Kathy) to central Nebraska expanded all our experiences.

From time to time, we’d drive the six hours to visit and leave Heidi for a few days.  And they’d do similarly with Jamie.  So, we were able to maintain family connections.  Mother  (Grandma Phyllis) and I were able to be there with Kathy when Holly was born.

During their elementary school years, Heidi and Jamie both excelled in school.  They both enjoyed challenges.  Heidi… very competitive, in general.  But, Jamie’s work  was near perfection, and already had a vision for his future.  Focused.  Serious, indeed.

Actually, Jamie and I shared a dream.

Both my Dad (Grandpa Ken)  and my uncle were pilots.  My Dad flew The Hump (Himalayas) during World War II.  And despite being in a small plane crash with my uncle (yes, really… private plane in a field), I quietly dreamt of getting my pilot’s license one day.  Jamie, on the other hand, set his sights on the Air Force Academy.  In time, he knew exactly which planes he wanted to fly and why.  He knew exactly what criteria he needed to fly those planes, including all the rigors of getting into the Academy.

His love for aviation only grew when his Dad took a job working for a major airline in Denver, Colorado.  Part of the benefits package includes flying privileges for immediate family members.  This meant Carlton and Kathy’s kids grew quite accustom to airline travel.  I think they all enjoyed it.  But, Jamie listened and learned every time he flew…he firmly planned on making his visions of flying planes a reality one day.

Even when we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1986,  Carlton and Kathy came to visit as often as they could.  Jamie commonly visited us on his own as well.  He spent a lot of time with us… a lot of time- nearly a month every summer as well as periodic weekends throughout the school years.  Even as they aged into their teens, Jamie and Heidi got along very well.  He was easy to have around.  He was neat and tidy… helpful.  And not nearly as argumentative as Heidi could be at that age.

I think we all had high hopes for these two, our twins.  My own college experience, though limited, stirred delight and intrigue that I truly hoped for both Heidi and Jamie as well (and Michael and Holly, too).

The university’s (that several of us in the family either attended or graduated from) hymn is “A Mighty Fortress.”  A grand… epic song.  No journey is without struggle.  Higher education offers opportunities to learn, to wonder, to question, to grow, to share… to solidify our own faith.  Sure, there would be days they’d be tested.  Yet, I truly thought the sky was the limit for Jamie and Heidi, and I expected he’d be a pilot first.

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever”

Martin Luther (circa 1527)

I do remember Kathy mentioned Jamie’s attitude beginning to sour  around his freshman year in high school.  He initially attended a larger high school in Colorado.  He had to get glasses which caused a great disappointment because he’d no longer be eligible to fly the planes he’d been planning on for so long… as the military standards still disqualified persons with such “handicap.”

Although I don’t remember noticing anything significant in his demeanor until summer 1991.

That summer he flew from Denver to Tulsa to stay with us a few days before he & Heidi traveled with youth groups to Washington DC for a youth conference called DC ’91.  I remember him being exceptionally quiet that trip.  We’d set up a bed in Tim’s study for Jamie, and he seemed to linger there for long portions of the day … alone.

I remember walking by the study.  He was listening to metal music.   We didn’t allow Heidi to listen to that kind of music, so I asked him to put on his headphones because I didn’t want her to hear it.

This has lingered with me for years… I’ve wondered if he thought I didn’t care about him enough … to ask him to stop listening to the music – which just seemed full of repetitive negativity… to apply the same standard of protection that I had for Heidi?

I also remember that around that same time he seemed to be battling something like depression.  He had just had a battery of medical tests run, and he was quite hopeful they would find an imbalance that  could be corrected with medication.

The next time we saw Jamie alive was Thanksgiving 1991.  Again, he flew into Tulsa to road trip with us to my parents who were living in Leavenworth, Kansas at the time.    He seemed to have a weight on his mind.  Extraordinarily quiet… but also somewhat tense.  He mentioned that he needed to talk to Grandpa and Grandma while he was there.

My energies much of that trip were focused on planning, preparations, clean-up, and helping Mother host all of us.  I do remember he did talk with Mother and Daddy.  I remember him being quite helpful with the Thanksgiving meal (see him pouring drinks in photo above).  But, my favorite memory of that trip came when we drove him to the airport to fly home.  Even on the drive to Kansas City, he seemed lighter… less preoccupied or agitated.

When we walked him to the terminal (we could still do that in those days), he checked in & we hugged him and said our good-byes.  As he walked through the corridor, Uncle Tim moo-ed, yes…moo-ed (a real talent he has… he actually sounds like a cow… we’ve had herds come across a field to his call).  Jamie turned over his shoulder, with the biggest smile, and he laughed.


continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 4)


One thought on “Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 3)

  1. Pingback: Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 2) | Shadows Presence

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