Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Don't Postpone

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my office in the barn and the phone rang.

“Hello, Judy. This is Margret Hofmann. I’m 85 now and I don’t postpone things. So. When am I going to see you?"

We settled on a date. I told Margret I’d pick her up and bring her out to the Ranch, which she’d last seen in 2001. Unbelievably, that was also the last time I’d seen Margret.

Margret and I met in 1980, when I began attending the Friends Meeting of Austin (Quakers). She was clerk of the meeting.

Quakers must either reach consensus or have objections withdrawn in order to make decisions, not the easiest sort of business meeting to run, but Margret was good at it.

At first I was frankly intimidated by Margret’s efficient, non-nonsense manner. John Belushi’s Samurai skits were a staple on Saturday Night Live in those days, and some of the younger Friends took to referring to Margret as “Samurai Quaker Clerk.”

With great affection, you understand.

Margret came of age in Germany during WW II in a time, and in a place, where there was little reason for belief in the goodness of mankind. Her Jewish mother was interned and murdered in a concentration camp.

Margret lived through the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden. She decided early on that violence was never the answer to anything, and dedicated her life to working for the good of mankind.

In the scary days after our daughter Kelly was born with Down syndrome, Margret made the trek several times a week from south Austin to our home in northeast Austin, bringing casseroles and interesting things to read. She was the friend you turn to, the friend who was there.

Sterling, Judy, Kelly & Margret
How could I have let nine years pass without seeing her?

I picked Margret up one Thursday morning and we headed for the Ranch. We quickly got up to speed on family news, and into lamentations concerning the headlong decline of the English language. I waxed eloquent on the joys of diagramming sentences, but since Margret’s mother tongue is German she never had the pleasure.

“Better than Sudoku,” I said.

We had lunch with Margret’s daughter Heidi and toured Three Oaks Mine, where Heidi is human resources director. Jerry had been trying to connect with us all day so he could see Margret, so we came back out to the Ranch.

Margret and Jerry happily discussed the various large post oaks. Margret is famous for her work saving large trees from the developers in the 70s and 80s, and was recently honored by the City of Austin by the creation of the Margret Hofmann Oaks park, a tiny triangular cluster of old oak trees located on a quarter acre opposite the Council Chambers, where she once served.

Margret has struggled with heart problems for the past quarter-century and is frail in body, but indomitable as ever in spirit. She claims her cardiologist keeps her alive “for the stories,” and she has them in abundance so we confidently look forward to having her around for years.

It’s been a high honor of my life to know her.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Once upon a time....

Stephen Covey says everything that comes to be is created twice--first in the imagination and then in the material world.

So at Staff Meeting yesterday morning Jerry showed everyone a little pamphlet he and I made up and sent out way back in 1989.  In it we described the Ranch, years before it would be built, but already real and alive in our imagination.

Down Home Ranch was described as if it had already come to be, long before we had even seen the land where it would come to be or met the multitude of people who would help us bring it into being.

Some things didn't turn out exactly the same.  The Ranch is on 340 acres instead of 125.  The housing pattern is different, and there are only 35 of us living on the Ranch as opposed to the 85 we envisioned.

But what strikes everyone is how close the heart of the dream described in that pamphlet from 21 years ago is to the reality that is the Ranch today.

It spoke of a community where people with Down syndrome can live with dignity, where they can perform real work that matters, where they can explore their spiritual relationships and continue lifelong education in the midst of a loving community consisting of other people who want to do the same.  Above all, it would be a community of encouragement and a place to forge true, enduring friendships that can last a lifetime.

We envisioned homes, a bakery, a woodshop, gardens, greenhouses, crafts, stables and barns, horses, cattle, chickens, dogs and cats and even a swimming pool.

Nobody is as astonished as Jerry and I when we walk out in the morning and look around and--there it is!  People say, "Oh, you must be so proud," but nothing could be further from the truth. 

Far from proud, we feel humble and somewhat stunned.  We look back and marvel at the goodness of literally thousands of people, living and dead, who provided the means to build this place, who serve as staff, who volunteer, and who serve on our board.  We also realize that we have been phenomenally lucky in ways it has taken years to recognize.

"Down Home Ranch was first and foremost a place for persons with Down syndrome to live and to work, to love and be loved.  To laugh, to cry, to grieve, to labor, to play, to sing and dance.  Others with physical or mental differences and challenges also became "Ranchers."  The Ranch depended upon these Ranchers, and they upon DHR.  All Ranchers, as well as DHR staff, shared in the successes and failures of the Ranch."

That was the dream.  Now we daily live the reality.

I left the staff meeting and walked out into the cool morning.  Christopher, whom we've known since he was a toddler and who has lived at the Ranch for several years, had settled himself down next to Lady, our old fat black lab.  Christopher was earnestly singing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" to Lady, who looked soulfully into Christopher's face as he sang and gestured.

I can't think of a better way to start the day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Those Wedding Bells

A friend reminded me recently that I'd promised to blog about the workshop Jerry and I went to at the National Down Syndrome Congress meetings in Orlando.

That was the "marriage" workshop run by two sets of parents--the bride's and the groom's to be specific--with a great amount of expertise and experience.  Their children were married last year in a "sacramental" rite with all the bells and whistles, and seem to be doing just fine.

Because of the danger of losing benefits should the young people have married civilly, they eschewed taking out a marriage license.  If the state in which the couple resides were to declare them legally wed under common-law marriage, the state could conceivably recover benefits from them.

The notion of this is infuriating, because the benefits we are talking about here are meagre at best.  Yet couples are indeed penalized for marrying while being intellectually disabled.  (The state has many baffling traditions, not the least of which is periodically checking in with me to see if Kelly still has Down syndrome.)

There were lots of  parents at the workshop, with lots of stories and opinions to share.

After a brief introduction and video on the wedding of their children, the group leaders opened up the discussion, and soon the discussion was all over the place.  The couple in question had been married in the church but not in the eyes of the law. No problem there. 

But one man objected to the notion that adults with Down syndrome should have to be married in the first place to express their sexuality, while another gave an impassioned defense of the sanctity of the union of man and woman.  Most of us fell somewhere in between.

Several people wondered whether it's the marriage or the wedding the young women are after.

"Good point," said the leader, going on to say that one acquaintance's daughter had been completely satisfied with an elaborate ceremony cementing her and her male friend as "best friends forever," after which they happily returned to their respective group homes and evening talks on the telephone. 

We have observed here at the Ranch (and our male residents have certainly lived through it) that our young women tend to be much more interested in boy-girl issues at a much younger age than the men.. This probably reflects the general cultural norm, but stands out more because our kids are so open and frank about their interests and desires. 

One friend told me of her son's girl friend, who had been sneaking off to make payments on a wedding gown without her parents' knowledge.  Before they discovered it she had practically paid the whole thing off!  My friend's son's sole interest in marriage at this point might...only the flavor of cake served at the reception.

Kelly, 12, and Sterling 11
Meanwhile, the couples at the Ranch are in various stages of marriage mania.  For some it's clearly a fantasy, and the object of one's desire changes from week to week.  But for others, there is every evidence of enduring love, deep friendship, and comfort.  Kelly and Sterling have been going together since mid-high school, and they've had their rough patches but for several years now it's been pretty smooth sailing.  Two other couples have been going together for a year.

So Kelly thumbs through dog-eared copies of Brides magazine and Sterling draws floor plans for their future home, which he's surprisingly good at.  Casey holds relationship classes for the couples and I keep purchasing multiple copies of 101 Questions to Ask before Getting Engaged.

Most residential places just ban marriage for the residents.  How they do this in good conscience I cannot fathom. 

Which is not to say we've figured out how to pull this marriage thing off. 

Kyle and Alaina at Special Olympics
For one thing, we have no idea how we would house them under our current licensing.  We have single-sex homes.  I wouldn't have any objection to their moving into Sterling's house provided they had one side of the house to themselves, but that would mean whatever young man Kelly displaced would have to go into a women's house, and that's just not going to fly.

We can hope and pray that their HCS numbers pop up at the same time, but what are the chances of that happening?  Plus, the state says we can't offer HCS services here at the Ranch so they would have to move away, which they don't want to do.

We're overdo for another heart-to-heart with Sterling's folks about the issue, and how it will all work out in the end I still don't know.  We all have concerns, most having gone through divorces.  We know more than we'd like about the potential difficulties as well the joys.

But in the end, the old phrase keeps coming to me: "A dream deferred is a dream denied."  And I wonder why my daughter and her fiance have to be so at the mercy of outside forces because of their disability.

Bride's gown picture from:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meanwhile back at the Ranch

Last week was busy!  Volunteering was the key word all around.

Kara, Julia, Terry and I helped welcome the Elgin ISD faculty and staff back to school by volunteering to serve at the First United Methodist Church of Elgin's annual luncheon last Tuesday.  We love this little church because they do church right and have welcomed our Ranchers with open arms.  The worldwide United Methodist Church media department even did a video on us!

Charles worked on getting the new pond in the Community Garden, where we will shortly plant our fall vegetables!

Later in the week Dell volunteers came out, along with friends and family, to help out with the annual poinsettia planting.  How else would we get 15,000 pots planted!?

Former staff member Jim Hooyboer came out to tune up and fix the Ranchers' bikes and trikes, and stayed busy at it all day!

The chicks finally decided it was OK to explore the great outdoors, exiting the Chicken Hilton to explore the grass just outside the door.

Enjoy the pictures!

Kara and Terry serve up at the take-out window for the Methodist Church luncheon

 Dell volunteers planting baby poinsettias

Charles working on pond in new Community Garden

Neighbor Linda Potts waters baby points to get them off to a good start while Dell volunteer looks on

Casey helps Chris move his bike down to the Pavilion where Jim will give it a tune-up

The chicks, now four weeks old, investigate the world beyond the Chicken Hilton

Friday, August 20, 2010

An Open Letter to John Shaffner, CEO, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

Dear Mr. Shaffner,

I read your "From the Chairman" letter posted on the Academy's web site concerning this year's Emmy awards. I am impressed by your description of the multiple roles television plays in our lives, and your respect for the craft and those who work in every aspect of it--writers, musicians, producers, sound men, engineers.

You say the medium can "help heal our spirits," and "gather us as one."

You close by saying that television can even participate in "the renewal of hope" by being "television with a conscience," and cite the examination of the "treatment of persons with disabilities."

I am the mother of a young woman who has Down syndrome, which, as I'm sure you know, is a condition that results in significant intellectual disability. Your organization has permitted a song characterizing Down syndrome in the crudest, most heart-breakingly offensive, and misleading terms possible to be nominated for an Emmy award. That song is "Down Syndrome Girl" from the show The Family Guy.

If this song characterized Jews, African-Americans, Latinos, or--God help you--the prophet Mohammed in like terms would it ever have been considered worthy of a nomination by members of the Academy?

Women with intellectual disabilities are the single most sexually abused population in the world, because they are very easily led into harmful situations, often lack judgment, and are unable to defend themselves.

Can you imagine a song about guys looking forward to a date with a quadriplegic girl, anticipating her inability to fend off her "date" for the evening?

Your pride in the work of the industry, and of the Academy itself, is misplaced if you choose to air and/or present an award for this song. In addition, you will have brought heartbreak to hundreds of thousands of family members, friends, and others who care for and love a person with Down syndrome.

Do we not all want to be worthy of the work we have been called to do? Please do not dishonor our children, the Academy, and your work by allowing this song to air on the Emmy program.

By all we honor as Americans, you have the right to do it, but by all we honor as decent human beings, we ask you not to.


Judy & Jerry Horton, Founders of Down Home Ranch
Kelly, Kristen, Kara, Julia, Mike, Sterling, Travis, John, Kyle, Chris, Alaina, Mark, and Matt, Ranchers

Monday, August 9, 2010

The travellers have returned.

Kelly and Sterling headed off with Casey to fly to Kansas last Thursday, a trip they've made many times before but always on a direct flight.

Now there are no direct flights between KC and Austin, and even though the plane change was just at Love Field, we were nervous about their negotiating it all by themselves.  After thinking it over, we decided to send Casey, the Ranch Case Manager, along on the first leg to do some real-life training. 

Don't think I've never tried!  On many a flight together I would stand with Kelly at the Arrival-Departure boards doing everything but twisting her ear to make her look at them and locate our next gate.  All I ever got were eye-rolls and sighs of exasperation.  Moms don't get no respect!

Casey, however, enjoys an exalted status here at the Ranch among the Ranchers.  If Casey says it you can count on it then it's right and it's true.  Casey is their wise counselor, slayer of dragons, advocate, Jewish mother and Dutch uncle all in one.  Because she performs these roles with  elan, humor, and compassion they love her.  And they listen to her.

So off they flew.

I called Casey late Thursday to see how things had gone. She said that--somewhat surprisingly--Kelly had taken the lead in locating the flight and the gate.  The most confusing part turned out to be distinguishing between the arrivals and departures screens. 

Kelly found the flight and the gate, figured out which way to walk, and got them to the gate, which was just up the hall a ways.  Casey saw them off and waited for her flight, which got delayed for several hours.  She made the next one on stand-by, but then the flight crew discovered 10 minutes out that a baggage door had not been closed and the cabin wouldn't pressurize, so back to Love Field it was.  (No word on whether suitcases rained on De Soto and Red Oak or not.)

Yesterday they returned.  I'd told sister Carolyn to tell them to meet me in the baggage claim area.  In other words, I would not get a pass to meet them at the gate.  I wanted them to figure it out.

A few minutes after the plane landed my phone rang.

"Hi!" said Sterling.  "Where are you?"

"Downstairs in baggage.  Where are you?"

"We here," he said, irrefutably.

"You need to find the escalators and come down to where you get your bags."


Five minutes later the phone rang again.  "We not find it."

"Ask someone at a desk to help you," I said.  I was determined not to intervene by alerting someone upstairs to direct them.

Several minutes later the phone rang again.


"Where are you?" I asked.

"Looking you talk on phone," he said impishly.

I turned around and there they were, grins wide as--yes--Kansas itself.

They already had their bags.  It had been 30 minutes since the first phone call.

Off we went to Subway for lunch and a recap on the vacation, and then back to the Ranch.  At Martha House Kyle and Alaina were just returned from visiting Kyle's family in Seguin over the weekend, and there was much back-slapping and general merriment as suitcases were hauled in.

Our plan worked out to be, all in all, a great success.  Small steps open up big adventures. 

And we're getting there.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Life Its Own Self

Once many years ago, when Kelly was a toddler, I was in conversation with a man from San Antonio, which has nothing to do with anything except that's the only thing I remember about him, aside from what I here relate.

When he learned my daughter had Down syndrome, he spoke of a family friend and his wife who'd had a baby with the condition.  Then he said, "Fortunately, the child died young."

Time froze.  My ears stopped hearing. 

My eyes were on Kelly as she sat on the carpet playing with a beam of late afternoon light that slanted through the window.

Hand in,
hand out.


Fingers open,

fingers closed.

I recall nothing more of the man's visit, not who he was nor why he was in my living room, what I said, or how long he stayed.  The curtain closes on that memory in deafened silence, with me staring at Kelly's hand:

Hand in, hand out.  Bright, dark.  Fingers open, fingers closed. 

Many years later, Jerry and I attended the funeral of a much-loved young woman who was among the first to come to Down Home Ranch.  She didn't have Down syndrome.  She seemed healthy as a horse.

Yet, unaccountably, one morning she died in bed shortly before dawn, and nobody ever knew why.  She was 30 years old.

At the funeral her dad was clearly heartbroken, but told us,  "My one consolation is that she went before me.  You know, that was my prayer for her, that she would always have me to look out for her and take care of her, so she'd have to go before me.  And my prayer was answered."

Jerry and I understood what he meant (after all, Down Home Ranch is our attempt to keep on taking care of Kelly after we're gone and we'd be lying if we said it wasn't true) but our hearts were breaking for us.  We loved this woman.  She was one of a kind--loud, funny, opinionated--a true character, and we grieved the loss of her.  There was no consolation for us in her death.

But that's the terrible path we walk--those of us with children who need us forever. 

Today Kelly flew off to Kansas with her boyfriend Sterling to visit her oldest sister Carolyn.  They are quite the accomplished travelers, given a packing list and enough numbers programmed into their cell phones.  Just to be on the safe side, since this is the first flight they've taken with a plane change on the way, we sent  Casey, our Case Manager, as far as Dallas to conduct an on-site training in gate-changing in hopes that next time they'll be able to navigate it by themselves.

In Kansas they will stay up too late, and laugh and giggle most of the night, and Sterling will exchange mock insults and barbs with (future) brother-in-law Bryan, who calls him "Sterling-darling" to annoy him.  They'll go swimming, to a movie, eat at Five Guys, and help a little with the farm chores (but probably not much).

In a hundred years, we'll all be gone.

Kelly is enchanted by bubbles
But Lord, while we're here, lead us in the dance.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Well, Ranch Camp’s almost over.

This is the next-to-the-last week, which, as I recall from my days running camp, is the tiredest, hardest week of all for the camp staff.

Next week their hearts will be bittersweet sad/happy, remembering the campers they’ve served over the summer, not knowing if they’ll see them ever again, hoping they will or—in some cases—they won’t!  They'll know an important time is coming to a close, and they'll feel energized to make sure it counts.

Here’s a wrap-up on camp last year by Trevor Melvin, our lifeguard. This young man not only serves as lifeguard for the summers, he also comes out with his fraternity for a week at spring break to work on Ranch construction projects as part of P.U.S.H. America.

The most important thing I want to do is thank you for such a tremendous privilege. Serving your campers was an indescribable joy, and I count my decision to work here among the best I’ve ever made. My experiences over the last eight weeks of camp include many memories I will not soon forget.

The summer began with quite a bang. Andy and his friend Steve were perhaps two of my favorite campers. I don’t mind being insulted when the names are as original as “chicken-nugget” face.

During the second week I finally got a hug from Glenn. That was special.

Throughout the first teen week I was shot, chopped in half, taken prisoner, and thrown in the dungeon. The boys’ lodge was a veritable war zone. Force fields worked to some extent, but invariably Danny, Daniel, and Ethan would decide whatever invisible weapon they had was more powerful.

After our break Michael came to camp, and for two weeks I spent an extra five to ten minutes getting him out of the pool. It began as a frustration, but soon got to be pretty funny

I remember arguing furiously with David L. that he could only have one wife—he can’t have both Carrie and Monique.

David F. and Cody were two of my favorite campers. I always got a smile and a hug from David, and he loved coming to the pool. Cody was unpredictable, but that guy loves to talk. He is hilarious! I would hang out with him any day outside camp.

Tjakea asked for more work but I was sorry to have to tell him I had already cleaned the pool. He was extremely good at remembering the rules, but eventually I would have to stop him from explaining them to give the campers any time at all to swim.

This week I watched Space Jam like it was a live NBA final. If the Looney Tunes had a real team they would have the best fan base in the history of sports. I haven’t cheered for anyone half as hard since watching Tiger Woods win the Masters back in ’05.

These are just a few favorite memories, but this summer was filled with other things, too: hundreds of Popsicle wrappers picked up, thousands of grasshoppers in the skimmers, countless basketball retrievals, and numerous rejections on the dance floor (although these paled in comparison to the number of “yeses).

The most important number, however, was zero, which was the number of times I had to jump in the water to save anybody. Johnny’s tumble out of bed at 2:00AM was the worst I had to handle, besides yelling at people to stop wrestling in the pool.

I could go on and on for pages about how amazing this experience was, but only I think because none of the words would be adequate—what happens at Ranch Camp is indescribable. The best I can do is say that it is miraculous.

When I first got here for P.U.S.H. someone said, “This is God’s country.” What he meant was we’re in the middle of nowhere, but I see now that he was right.

The Ranch is God’s country, because God’s work happens here every day.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

“For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest.” (from Ecclesiastes)

“This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’” (from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 13)

Will it or not, these verses call to me of the building of Down Home Ranch.

I used to say to my friend Gay that I was certain (as regards the Ranch) that I would live to see the Ranch, but like Moses and the Promised Land, never to dwell there. (This was usually at the end of the first week of Ranch Camp after six 15-hour days.)

Lack of sleep will put you in a gloomy frame of mind.

So, having awakened at 3:00 AM this morning for no good reason at all, and quite certain that going back to sleep was not an option, I got up, made a pot of coffee and downloaded the Mass readings for August 1, 2010.

Hoping for a jolt of inspiration, I got the above and more. The psalm (90) reminds us that we are like the changing grass that springs up at dawn and wilts and fades by evening.

OK. Got it. They say if someone tries to put a halter on you three times in a day, it probably means you’re acting like a mule. Still, a memento mori--much less three of them--was not exactly what I was looking for, but it’s what I got, and doubtless what I needed.

At any rate, I was looking forward to hearing Fr. Larry hold forth on these readings, but he’s gone on vacation so we had a guest priest at Mass. Seated behind him in the choir pit, I couldn’t really hear anything so my mind spun off on meditations of its own.

I got to thinking about my aunt Mary, who gave me many wonderful experiences and much happiness in an otherwise bleak childhood. Mary was of the “Auntie Mame” category of aunthood. Childless, she fussed over me, made me costumes for Halloween, taught me manners, and bought me dresses and forced me to wear them. I adored her.

Mary was my father’s sister. She had raven black hair and violet eyes like Elizabeth Taylor. She was beautiful by any standard.

And she was smart and adventurous to boot. She earned her pilot’s license and moved to west Texas to work in the oil industry. She was the first in our family to go to college, spending a year at UT in the midst of the depression.

She worked for a year in Washington as secretary to Senator Claude Pepper of Florida, and she married often, but never well.

Despite being ahead of the curve in terms of women’s lib, though, what Mary desired most in her life was to be a mother and the various husbands were mainly a means to that end. Marriage after marriage, she would conceive, carry the baby a while, and then miscarry. Her grief over these losses was boundless.

I lived with my grandmother, Mary’s mother, and was still in junior high school when the third marriage tanked and Mary moved in with us. My brother was away at college, so she took his bedroom, and we had lots of time for girl talk, which I loved.

Mary never lacked long for male attention, and soon a handsome young officer from Dyess AFB came calling. As he was 13 years her junior she suggested he might be interested more in me, but nothing was to come of that, and before we knew it they were a steady item.

Then one night out of the blue, Mary came into my room and informed me that she was pregnant.

“What are you going to do?” I asked her, delighted to have a full-fledged soap-opera drama unfolding right in my family’s bosom.

She replied that she would tell Robbie that he could marry her or not, but that she was going to try to carry the baby to term, and if he didn’t want to marry her she would move to Corpus Christi and tell everyone her husband had died in a car wreck. I was thrilled with this plan.

But Robbie indeed wanted to marry her, and the pregnancy ran smoothly through until term, and Kevin Garrow Robinson was born. Mary was 39. She quickly conceived again and Kevin’s little brother Rod was born. All along the problem had been an Rh incompatibility and both boys were O negative, as was their mom.

With motherhood and the wisdom of age, Mary began to feel spiritual stirrings. To those of us who knew her, this had to be the most unlikely development of all.

From Beltway sophisticate that she had been, Mary began changing. I’d married and was living in New Hampshire. When I returned home for a Christmas visit, I was amazed to find her with her hair to her waist and weighing a good 50 pounds more than when I’d last seen her. No makeup and the Neimann Marcus wardrobe outgrown and jettisoned.

She and Robbie had become Pentecostals. She explained to me that one night she had been lying in bed sound asleep when a voice came out of nowhere and said, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee,” which startled her awake. At daybreak she walked out of the house and down to a little church a block away, and knocked on the door. When the preacher answered, she told him of her experience and asked, “Do you know what this means?”

“I sure do, ma’am,” he said. “Come inside and we’ll talk about it.”

Well, Mary’s life continued its unusual arc. She and Robbie and the boys left Texas and lived in Utah and Hawaii, and finally wound up in Western Australia. While I was never sure of Robbie, I never doubted Mary’s faith.

Mary died at the age of 52 of cancer in Australia. I didn’t hear of it until some months later as I’d moved with my husband and family to El Salvador, and we didn’t get much news of anything there. The night I learned that she had died I dreamed that Mary was taking me all over the area around Perth, showing me her life, making amends. It might have been so and I hope it was.

The boys would have been young teenagers at the time. I never saw them again, and though I’ve made efforts to find them, I’ve had no luck. I don’t know if she and Robbie were together at the end or not.

How hard it must have been for Mary to leave her boys. No children had ever been born that were more wanted and loved than those two. I wonder about them every now and then, and prowl about on Facebook looking for them.
Of course I remember them as fresh-faced little boys, while now they’re in their 50s.

You turn man back to dust, saying, "Return, O children of men." For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night.

And these are just things I thought about, during the homily I couldn’t hear.