Helen’s 70th Birthday

One of the tributes given to Helen at her “Surprise 70th Birthday Party” on October 28, 2011 was a 24-minute story of her life put to music by one of our dear friends, Don Brown. It begins with her as a child and continues with 70 well-lived years of love and family. It was very special for Helen, me, our children, granddaughters, and the many friends we’ve chosen to be a part of our immediate family.

A Poignant, Soul-Stirring Reunion

I don’t recall enjoying myself more. When Mark suggested the idea eighteen months ago, I had no reservations, thought it would work, but didn’t have a clue about the positive energy the reunion would unleash.

Mark Allen Evans, a first cousin, called me on the phone in the fall of 2009 from Boise, Idaho and asked if I was amenable to getting together with him and Keith Edwin Stansell, another cousin, at my Tucson home. He said something about the commonality of our intellectual gifts and his intuition some serendipitous good could come from it. Keith (71), Mark (63), and Yours Truly (67) have never been close. Other than being first-born, we couldn’t be more dissimilar, or so I thought, as we’ve traveled such totally different roads during our lifetimes. In spite of it, I thought it would be fun to share family stories and our unique histories because of the diversity.

Mark and I knew the biggest roadblock to a visit was Keith. I’m not sure what scared him most. Perhaps it was the idea of riding in a car with Mark for 2,000 miles or his apprehension of spending too much time with me. But, it was Mark’s problem to convince Keith to join us. While the two of them were never buddies, most of their adult lives had been spent circumventing the road of hard knocks. Both of them were married three times, were now single, had survived years of addiction problems, and now had no retirement nest eggs. However, they were cum laude graduates from the School of Hard Knocks.

When Mark called thirty days ago, he was convinced, although not certain that the two of them would begin their journey to Tucson in late February. I’m not sure if it was Keith’s kids or siblings who convinced him, but all of them told him to go, that it would be good for him. Maybe at his age, this would be the last time he’d be able to make such a trip. On the day before they left, Mark called to say it was a go and that Keith’s chance to see his son Mike on the way down had clinched the deal.

However, there was one big hitch on their trip down. Mark ran out of gas just north of Flagstaff. But, with lady luck, he hitched a ride within a few minutes of their untimely stop, albeit on the bed of an open pickup from two attractive Navajo women. Fortunately, the nearest gas station was two miles away because at thirty degrees, you can hunker down only so far in the bed of a moving truck. Cold is cold.
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