My friend, Gayle had MS for 16 years. She spent the last 49 months at Concord Care in Garner. When her sister died in April 2017 I volunteered to drive her to the funeral in our church’s handicap van. That’s when our friendship became part of my everyday life.

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I had been acquainted with Gayle’s family, her siblings and their spouses for over 40 years. Gayle was the member of the family I knew the least about but 4 years ago I saw her with her sister at Concord and struck up a conversation.

After her sister Phyllis died I began visiting Gayle and taking her out to her favorite restaurants in the handicap van. She could not feed herself so I always sat on her right side, her best side, to feed her and hold her beer up to her mouth. One time when it was just outrageously hot, I locked the keys in the van getting out. Gayle was already out of the van and we had to call a locksmith. Good grief!

We invited several of her friends to go with us on separate occasions and there were two CNA’s at Concord that were her favorites that she invited several times. Many times that first summer I found myself “wishing” I didn’t have to take the time to go out to eat and then I’d remind myself that Gayle MIGHT not be able to go in the van at some point and then I’d feel bad.

Last November was the last time we went out to eat and December 16, 2017 was the last time I picked her up in the van. I brought her to my house to see the Christmas decorations. From that point on I watched her health deteriorate and it was heartbreaking.

This was the woman who accepted her disease and her fate without complaint to me at any time. What grace and what courage it must have took! She was a great conversationalist and her boys would say, “We’ve still got the best part of Mom!” Her boys Shane and Chris lived 3-1/2 hours away but visited often and called just to say ‘I love you! many times a week.

I never once walked into her room without her noticing what I was wearing or telling me I was cute. I don’t care if I went there in my chore clothes! How could anyone always look on the bright side when their body wouldn’t even move anymore? She impressed me constantly. She also swore a lot and I reminded her many, many times that swearing really bothered me and then she would apologize. The lessons I learned from Gayle were extensive. She taught me to wrap green olives with bacon, spear them with a toothpick and put them under the broiler. They are delicious and I made them several times for her. She also loved hot dogs but they aren’t allowed at the Care Center because of the choking hazard. I grilled big all beef hot dogs and ate with her on several occasions and we both washed those hot dogs down with beer. Not long ago I took her some chicken tortilla soup and her comment was “this is pretty good soup for somebody who hates to cook!” Haha! I could go on and on with stories.

In 1960-61 Gayle and Phyllis played on the Ventura, IA state tournament basketball team – I jokingly refer to those previous years as when REAL girls basketball – made up of 6 players, not five, was being played. This picture hung in Gayle’s room at Concord. It’s a painting done by their coach’s wife of the 6 members of the team. This is such a family treasure! Are there any readers out there who played 6 girl basketball?

But my greatest story is about Rox. Many of you have wondered what happened to little Roxanne. I’m afraid if I keep writing on this post, the site will crash so I’m going out to do chores and I’ll finish in a separate post.

This is how I found Gayle every time I stopped by her room – with a smile.

36 thoughts on “Gayle

  1. Felicia Hamlin

    Mary, there are people who were put in this world to teach us about what really matters. It was a blessing that you could help Gayle and it very nice that you shared this story with us. Have a great eeek.

  2. Jean

    Many blessings come with the giving and receiving inherent to relationships. How blessed you were to have each other as friends! Thank you Mary, for sharing with us.

  3. Sherry Whalen

    Wonderful story about your friend Gayle. I played 6 on 6 in ’73-’74, the year Crestwood (in Cresco) FINALLY got girls basketball. We had begged for years to be able to compete, only to be told there was no money for girls sports. Thank goodness for Title IX!

  4. Carol

    I suspect you got more by giving to Gayle and will come to appreciate it more as days go by when you remember her.

    I played 6-on-6 girls basketball in the early 70s at West Central, Maynard, IA. For such a small school, we had excellent teams through the years.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Carol – I remember the West Central of Maynard team as being a great team. Just think -all those small schools are now gone and consolidated. My idol was Peg Petersen from Everly – remember her? I think you’re too young maybe.

      1. Carol Odekirk

        I don’t remember her, but I do remember Denise Long from Union Whitten and Jeannette Olsen from Everly. I think that was 1968 or 1969. Fun memories.

  5. Miriam

    thank you for sharing such a lovely friendship with us. my condolences.
    I played 6 girl basketball in intramural sports in the 50s.

  6. Sharon Lowy

    What a sweet tribute to your friendship with Gayle. God bless you for being the kind person you are.

  7. Evelyn

    Six-on-six basketball was a great game. Both my daughter and I played. Her class (1986) was the last year to play before they switched to five-on-five. Amazing how far you can go with only two dribbles. Iowa had some great girl teams over the years. Thanks for the memories.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Evelyn – I just commented to another reader that Peg Petersen of Everly was my idol – I think the game of girls basketball is less of a game now, those were the days, weren’t they?

  8. Colleen

    You were so kind to step up and commit to visiting and beyond to an ill old woman. It’s so good to learn a bit more about your relationship with Gayle. Just as she greeted you with a smile I hope you remember Gayle often and those memories put smiles on your face.
    Also that she was able to help you solve your doggie drama successfully all is well that ends well

  9. Susan K

    Gayle sounds like a wonderful person. I’m so glad she had your friendship and you hers. I feel that God puts people like her on earth to teach us all what a blessing life is and to be thankful for whatever gifts/blessings we have. RIP Gayle.

  10. Nancy J Finch

    Mary, I feel blessed to have met you and the fact that you have shared your life with me a stranger. Having farm families in my family who are not near, it brings them closer to me reading your blogs. Of course my hubby native Iowan that he is, has always enjoyed them. He even made it a point to meet you guys at several quilt shows we attended.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Nancy J Finch – I don’t remember you or your husband but tell him thank you!

  11. Sue in Oregon

    What a wonderful person Gayle must have been. Anyone would be lucky to have known her. And, you made her life so much better. Her sons must love you, too.
    She looks sweet under that great quilt. Did you make it for her?

  12. Kathy in NY

    It’s so uplifting being around people who don’t find all the bad in the world was dealt to them but accept it and trod ahead. They become inspirational to us all and how we chose to live our lives. You chose kindness in picking her up to drive her to restaurants and the memories you made for her and you show what a wonderful friendship you shared. Bless your heart Mary.

  13. Ann Barlament

    Those of us with chronic illnesses aren’t faking being sick. We are faking being well….

  14. Gail

    What a blessing you have been to Gayle. And yes, I played 6 team bb for LV-A in the 60’s. Life has changed but friendships area lasting memory.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Gail – I remember Lake View Auburn as a powerhouse B.B. school! More great memories!

  15. Diane

    You and Gayle were both blessed to have shared this friendship. I am blessed to know one of God’s angels on Earth….you.

  16. Lisa from Eastern Washington state

    How wonderful to have had a friend like Gayle, you were truly blessed!

  17. Cheryl

    You were such a blessing to her and she to you. I marvel at how God brings people together, as only He can, and a wonderful friendship develops. I have a friend in the nursing home, who is near death. My life is richer for knowing her and there will be an empty when she is gone, but how sweet the memories that will remain.

  18. Judy Brennan

    What a beautiful relationship the two of you had! Amazing what we can learn from each other. You were blessed with a rich and sweet friendship. Thank you so much for sharing your story of your friendship together. How sweet.

  19. Jeanice Domino

    My dad had MS. Not only did it paralyze him it caused his optic nerves to deteriorate thus blinding him. Terrible disease! I am sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing your memories of your dear friend!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Jeanine Domino – Gayle was my first experience with MS – it’s a terrible disease!

  20. Robin Boggan

    Mary you have been blessed with true friendship! We are so lucky when someone like Gayle come into our life’s. We learn so much from people like her. Thanks for sharing her story. 😊

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