Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Continuing story.....

Silly joke just passed to me from Kevin: How does a doctor know what to do for swine flu versus bird flu? If you have swine flu, he gives you an oinkment. If you have bird flu, he gives you tweetment. GRRRROAN!

Ok, back to the May family.

Both lost their spouses in the month of March 1964.

At the time, Paul was 31 and on the high council. After considering his options, he told his Stake Pres (on a Sunday)he would be moving back to Burley, where his mom was caring for the new baby. That same night friends called him to attend a "fireside" just to get out of the house. It turned out to not be a fireside at all, but a set-up to meet Sharon, who was similarly conned by the same friends. Though not a bit interested romantically, they did find their common grief as a talking point. On Monday evening they talked until 1:30AM. On Tuesday evening they talked until 5AM. In retrospect, both say it was a relief to find someone who understood so clearly their devastation. On Wednesday night they went to a movie and he kissed her. On Thursday night he proposed and she said yes. By the end of the week, they considered themselves engaged.

Family reactions were not positive. His mother (who had bonded with the newborn and did not want to give her up): "You two are too dumb to care for this baby, let alone 7 children." Her mother: "You are being impulsive and stupid." Her former father-in-law, who turned out to be the beneficiary on his son's $10000.00 life insurance policy and who had hoped to step in as a father figure to Sharon'children, refused to share even a dime of the insurance.

Paul and Sharon married anyway, mid-summer 1964 and proceeded to move their 7 children into his 2-bedroom home. She got pregnant immediately, had six more children plus numerous miscarriages up until age 48. She continued her nursing career. He was an engineer and all-around fix-it guy. Together they raised their kids + whoever else needed raising. They've been married 45 years now. Twelve years ago, as a retirement project, they bought the ranch, with it's old farmhouse and a collection of rickety log out-buildings. Slowly they have repaired, built, added on, and improvised until now they are booked solid from June 15-Aug 15 with massive reunion groups. Their own descendants can come home and all the g-kids have room to run and beds to sleep in.

One note of sadness. On the 14th anniversary of the earthquake, Sharon's oldest daugher was killed in a car wreck.

So I had to ask, "Weren't there any adjustments with a courtship so brief?" "Heck Yes!" Sharon replied. "I used to wake up in Paul's arms crying because I missed Richard. When that happened we would get out of bed, get out the movie projector, and watch the 2 reels of 8mm film I salvaged from my home." (which contained brief snippets showing Richard)

I could go on and on. These are people you have to meet. He reminds me of a white-haired apostle Holland.

Grandma Ison says we should have the next reunion in 2011. Whadya think? The May Family Ranch would bankrupt our reunion fund. On the other hand, we sisters could have an affordable writer's retreat and probably not write even a sentence. You come too, Melanie.

Stay tuned for Part C. I'm not done with anniversary stories.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lightning, earthquake, true love & a chef!

Congrats to Angela on your new blog. New to me anyway.

I have skipped FHE on the lofty pretense of not spreading my cold about--a cold which I didn't have yesterday. Grrr. Anyway I took down the Halloween decorations and am supposed to be in bed, but Angela's blog distracted me.

How much anniversary can I write about in less than 30 minutes? Hang on......

Look up the May Family Ranch (Clayton, ID) on the net. Read every page and then save your dollars. What a grand Ison reunion we could have there! They can sleep 85 people and handle 200 (with tents or trailers). That's where we went.

We stayed in the big house/B&B, guests of Paul & Sharon May and "their" chef. Get this--Robert, the chef, was a nonpaying friend of the family, just moved down from Alaska. Robert is Japanese and has cooked under or with every big name chef you can think of. He's been on Iron Chef teams, taken classes from Julia Child, competed all over the world. Normally Sharon May does the cooking for her guests, but he was there and itching to be in the kitchen. The only restriction she put on him was "don't buy more food. Just use what's in the pantry." He cooked not only breakfast for us, but dinners too. What the man could do with a can of green beans and the spices in her cupboard!! HE said the seasonings must never overwhelm or disguise the flavor. "How do you know which and what and how much to use?" He couldn't explain. He just knew.

On the night he cooked trout, I begged to watch since I love fish and always ruin it. All four burners were occupied. Three vegetable dishes going, plus a pan to carmelize onions, truckloads of butter, great splashes of extra virgin olive oil. Do you dip fish in a pan of mere milk and dredge in mere flour? NO. There must be curry, oregano, garlic, parmesan, a variety of pepper powders and green bits of this and that--each step in the process narrated with, "Is this not nice? This is lovely. This is beautiful. This will be perfect." He literally worshipped the food with his hands and words and eyes. He had no sense of humor whatsoever. I don't mean he was mean. I mean he was reverent and this was no place to crack jokes about too many zucchinis in the world. He regretted he was serving family style as opposed to plating the food. And you felt as you ate (with him eating right next to you) a lack of adequate adjectives to describe the pleasure. shoot me, but it was impressive.

Now, back to the Mays, Paul & Sharon. Between them, they had 13 children, 3 Indian Placement students, exchange students every year, plus a 6-member Vietnamese family for several weeks. They've never let the beds get cold, so they don't treat you as a paying guest. You're family. Thus we learned their unbelievable life stories.

At age 15, Sharon May was at a girls camp outside of Driggs when a thunder storm came up. Lightning struck the tree under which she and several girls were eating lunch. Four girls and one adult woman leader died. She herself suffered burns on the bottom of her feet, at every rivet point on her jeans, and on her right hip where a flashlight was stuffed in her pocket. The two girls on sitting on either side of her were some of those who died. What she remembers is waking on her stomach, with face in the dirt, feeling overwhelmingly sleepy. The lone Priesthood leader, who was knocked unconscious himself for a time, had to virtually perform triage on the mountain--sending some girls down for help, building a fire to keep the living/injured (8 or 9 girls) from further shock, and staying until men rode horses up to carry out the dead. Boy scouts climbed the mountain and improvised stretchers from logs and blankets. Sharon remembers being carried down and feeling scared because the climb up was so rocky steep, she wondered how they would get her safely down in the mud and rain.

At age 27, she was living in Valdez Alaska with her first husband and 3 little children. He made a living operating a tourist fishing boat, but supplemented with occasional longshoreman duties when cargo ships docked. On Good Friday, March 1964 he was on the dock unloading when the 9.0 earthquake hit. The dock, everyone on it, and a fish cannery disappeared into the bay forever. She was at work--a nurse--when the hospital walls split open and black sludge sewage spilled through. Her children, in the care of a babysitter, survived being thrown across a developing fissure when escaping their home, but the babysitter broke ribs and a leg attempting to jump it.
The quake lasted 5 minutes and the contents of her home were destroyed in the 4 ensuing tsunami waves that hit over the next 24 hours. Four days post-quake, as a shell-shocked new widow, still wearing the same clothes, the church flew she & her children home to her mother in SLC. Thirty three people died in Valdez, only 2 bodies recovered. That was the end of Alaska for her.

But the story gets better.

In the same month, Paul May, living in Granger, UT lost his wife to heart problems one month after she gave birth to their 4th child, a premature 2lb baby. The baby went to live with his mother while he regrouped with his children.

Whoa.....I've got to go to bed. Stay tuned for Part B.