Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Obituary for My Dad

My father died peacefully on Friday, 25 May 2018, after a very brief illness following a fall. Here is his obituary, which will appear in the Tyler Morning Telegraph on 8 June 2018:

2016 MYERS, BillA memorial service for William Cleopheus “Bill” Myers will be held at Emerald Bay Community Church on Saturday, June 9, 2018, at 2:00 p.m., with Dr. Darryle Dunks officiating, under the direction of Stewart Family Funeral Home.

Mr. Myers, age 90, died Friday, May 25, 2018, in Tyler. He was born on February 18, 1928, to William Marvin and Susie (Keel) Myers in Williamston, N.C. He went to Duke University on a football scholarship, where he majored in business and joined the Kappa Alpha Order. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aerial photographer and graduated from Duke in 1950. He also studied at New York University Graduate School of Business.

Bill met the love of his life, Margaret “Peg” Flanders, on a college double date and married her on December 15, 1951, in Newark, N.J. They were together 62 years, living in New Jersey, Kentucky, and Dallas before moving to Emerald Bay in 1985. He was a life member of the American Water Works Association and spent over 40 years in the water meter industry before retiring in 1990 as Vice President of Master Meter, Inc.

He was a member of Emerald Bay Community Church and a member and past president of the Emerald Bay Club, where he resided for 33 years. He loved children and read to first graders at Hazel Owens School for over 20 years after retirement. His favorite book to read to them was Pickle Chiffon Pie. He enjoyed playing golf, travel, ice cream, picking up pecans and golf balls (not at the same time), learning new things, and spending time with family.

Bill was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Peg and is survived by daughter, Anne Myers of Emerald Bay; son, Thomas Myers and wife Cecelia of Wheelock, TX; grandsons, William Myers and wife Claudia of McKinney, TX, and Robert Myers and wife Ellen of Houston; granddaughters, Elizabeth Applegate and husband Josh of Fort Collins, CO, and Lauren Barrandey and husband JohnPaul of Arvada, CO; and great-grandchildren, Gianna, Noah, and Eli Applegate, and Liam and Samuel Myers.

In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to make a contribution to Emerald Bay Community Church, 160 LaSalle Rd., Bullard, TX 75757 or to The Hospice of East Texas Foundation, 4111 University Blvd., Tyler, TX 75701.

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52 Ancestors – #20 Medical Language

I had a plan for writing this week’s theme of Other Language. But then life intervened.

Maker:L,Date:2017-8-23,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-veMy 90 year old father fell on May 1st and hit his head on a low brick retaining wall. It was a bloody mess. We went to the ER and he got staples to close the wound, fluids, and a CT scan which was negative. No one mentioned concussion and the list of things to watch for was, in retrospect, woefully limited. After a few days he was sleeping more, eating less, and having more verbal confusion. When we brought him in to get his staples out, the doctor  decided a brain MRI was in order to see if there was something going on to explain the changes we were seeing.

Last Saturday, Dad was able to drive his golf cart and had dinner at the club with my brother. Sunday he wasn’t feeling well. Monday, the day of the MRI, he was unable to stand and dress himself. The MRI showed a subdural hematoma, bleeding or fluids on the brain, pressing on the areas that control speech and motor functions.

So now we entered a new world of neurology. Terms like “confusion” that mean one thing to lay people mean something else to doctors. The hospital is crowded, busy, and really loud, the worst possible environment for elderly neuro patients. Surgery to drill a hole in his head to drain the fluid was quickly deemed unrealistic for Dad, given his age and condition. When a neurosurgeon says “no surgery” when their job is to operate, that says a lot. Not operating brings its own risks, as we have no idea what happens next. We don’t know if the bleeding will continue or subside and reabsorb on its own. It will be 6-8 weeks from the fall to assess the full long-term changes.

We scrambled to find a care facility in a matter of 30 hours. Thankfully my brother was here and we could do it together. The first place, while certainly competent, dropped my heart and my head screamed, “No, no, not that for my Dad.”  The doctors mentioned skilled nursing hospice – another word that threw us for a loop. I know about hospice, of course, but almost always in the context of life-ending cancer. I know hospice care happens at home, in a care facility, or in their own facility. But did that mean Daddy was dying?  What were we planning for?  Why weren’t they being more precise or at least explain? And why weren’t they saying the same things when we asked?

All the places we looked at have their own vocabulary that conforms with Medicare terms. No matter what, we were basically told Dad would transfer in as a rehab patient because Medicare pays everything for the first 100 days. How did this relate to “skilled nursing hospice”?  I don’t know. I got more confused with almost every person we talked to.

SerenityPrayerDad is indeed in a rehab section of a facility that offers levels of care including rehab, skilled nursing, and memory care – and he doesn’t want to be there. We don’t know how he will respond to rehab but any recovery is dependent on working hard. He hates being in “one of those places” and my heart hurts to see him there, lost and confused. We may have him for a short time or for years.

In a heartbeat, my life changed. After two and a half years as live-in caregiver, I need to find a new normal, and learn to just let go what I cannot change, which is pretty much everything relating to Dad. My nephew reminded me of the Serenity Prayer and the power of accepting things we cannot change, even if we don’t like them.

Please say a prayer for my daddy, for comfort and strength and patience. I need some, too.


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52 Ancestors – #19 Grandmother Susie Keel Myers

Everyone in town called her “Miss Susie.” I called her Grandmama.

KEEL Susie - c1940 - NC

Susie Keel Myers, c1940 – Norfolk, VA

Susie Lanier Keel was born 31 August 1906 in the rural community of Everetts in Martin County, North Carolina. She was named for her aunt Susie (Sudie) Peal Lanier and her middle name became a family tradition, passed down to daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.  Susie was the seventh child born to farmer William Jesse Keel and his wife, Sarah Annis Peal. Of their eleven children, only four survived infancy, and she and her older sister Mary Magdalene (Maglene) Keel were particularly close.

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Susie and Maglene Keel, c1909 – Martin County, NC 

SCAN0013 (2)She wanted to be a teacher when she grew up and history was her favorite subject in school, she told my father.  According to the 1940 census, Susie completed four years of high school, two years more than her husband, William Marvin Myers. They met in Robersonville, NC, at the movies and something sparked between the social farmer’s daughter and the quiet man from Hertford. They were married at the Baptist preacher’s home in Williamston on 23 July 1926.  Grandmama told me that what she remembered most about her wedding was that her parents didn’t come. I believe that was because she was pregnant; her first child (my dad) was born seven months later.

Bill and SusieSusie spent her life in Martin County, raising sons William and James and daughter Jeanette, and burying a fourth child (Joseph) who died at seven months. When first married, she and her little family lived with her parents, Bill and Sarah (Sade) Keel. By the 1940 census, though, the head of the household was her husband, not her father. Both parents continued to live with her until their deaths in 1948 and 1952.  This was not unusual for the generation or the community.

But money was tight.  Bill Myers worked for the local tobacco company and Bill Keel hunted and fished, providing food. Susie also worked most of her life, sitting in the window of the local dry cleaners doing sewing alterations. She also brought work home, doing piecework for a local dressmaker.  Once when I was feeling guilty about hiring someone to alter my own clothes, I realized that she made a living because people hired her, and that she would probably approve of my helping someone else survive.

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Susie Myers at Alpha Cleaners, Williamston – c1980

Grandmama not only raised her own children, she also raised two of her grandchildren after her daughter remarried in 1960. She and my grandfather opened their home to a new generation, as they had opened it to an older one years before. I was jealous of them because they spent so much time with her and I only saw her about once a year; trips from New Jersey to North Carolina didn’t come easy.

Susie Keel Myers loved her God, her family, and her friends. She cooked wonderful Southern meals and drank gallons of sweet tea on the porch, visiting with friends and family. She grew up in the Primative Baptist Church but spent her adult years as a member of the Williamston Presbyterian Church. She loved to sing, especially hymns, and was a good and supportive friend, respected and loved by her family and community.

MYERS Susie, William, Tom, Bill and Rob - 1985 - Emerald Bay

William Myers, Tom Myers, Bill Myers, Susie Myers, Rob Myers – Emerald Bay, TX – 1985

Grandmama died on 10 December 1987 at age eighty one and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Williamston next to her husband and sons and close to her parents. My life is richer for having had her in it.


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52 Ancestors – #18 Closeup on Aunt Jinx

My Aunt Jinx was family in every way but blood. She was my mom’s oldest and closest friend, although actually she was my aunt’s friend first; Mom was the youngest of the trio. Still, the three of them were thick as thieves and stayed close all their lives. Here they are about 1944 and again forty years later at my brother’s wedding:

JaneAnnFlanders, VirginiaWhite, PegFlanders

Jane Ann Flanders, Virginia Wight, Peg Flanders – Manasquan, NJ – c1944

Jane Anne, Peg, Jinny - August 15 1983

Jane Ann Helms, Peg Myers, Virginia King – Houston, August 1981

Virginia Wight King was passionate about her family, her faith, and her friends. She and my mom cleverly managed to live very close to each other as young married couples raising families in 1950’s New Jersey.  I grew up thinking that her daughters were blood relatives and was so happy to have girl cousins to play with. I still consider them to be family.

MYERS Anne Keel Baptismal Certificate 1954Aunt Jinx was my godmother, a responsibility she took seriously all her life. I was baptized in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Newark, the same church where my parents were married and my mom was both baptized and confirmed. Aunt Jinx pledged to see me make my confirmation before a bishop and never felt that my Presbyterian confirmation counted in quite the same way, so she was thrilled when I decided to be confirmed in the Episcopal Church during my senior year in college. She sent me a prayerbook and a long, thoughtful letter about how much her faith meant to her during hard times. I’ve kept it for 40 years because it really spoke to me about who she was as a spiritual person and my godmother, about what her faith meant to her and how she lived out her life.

AuntJinxConfirmationLetterSnip1976
She was passionate about education and taught English at Monmouth College for years.  Sometimes I would worry about grammar and punctuation when I wrote her, but being in touch was more important than being completely correct – I hoped.  She would remind all of us to “Be a Lady” or “Be a Gentleman” whenever she closed a conversation, especially in her wonderful letters. We still say it with a smile and remember her when we do.

Aunt Jinx also had a wicked sense of humor and a rich, wonderful, smoky laugh. I can picture her with my mom sitting over endless cups of coffee and cigarettes, talking and laughing for hours. Her daughter Carol and I did the same in England years later over cups of tea (and minus the cigarettes, at least for me).  We are a second generation of shared history and memories. I will remember her always, though, at Manasquan.

The last time I saw her was, at my grandfather’s funeral in 1983. She was local to him and proudly introduced me to her parish priest, who conducted the service, as the newly elected vestry member of my church. She had a wicked smile as she did so, knowing that Fr. Hulbert didn’t think women should have such a role. But she did. She was proud of me for just being me and she always let me know I was loved and supported.

Virginia King died in 1994 after a hard-fought battle with emphysema, a lady to the end. Her funeral brought family and friends together, including my parents who drove from Texas. We would not have missed this chance to support the family or say our goodbyes to someone who lives in our hearts.

Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon her.

May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


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Remembering My Grandparents

I was not quite six years old when my maternal grandmother died of colon cancer in 1960. Mimi had five grandchildren but I was the only granddaughter. They lived an hour away from us, but I don’t have many memories of her because I was so little. I do remember having tea parties with her at her house in Newark using a little metal tea set that was set aside for me.  Her silver sugar bowl filled with silk flowers sits on my bookshelf, and I think of her when I see it.

MYERS Susie and Bill - c1985 - Emerald Bay

Susie Keel Myers with her first great-grandchild, Bill Myers – 1985

Susie Keel Myers, my paternal grandmother, died in 1987 and I have many memories of time with her because I had her longer.  Grandmama flew out to see us carrying bags of frozen creamed corn so she could make Dad his favorite meal of fried chicken with proper sides. Guess she knew Mom wouldn’t have creamed corn sitting around in the pantry (which she didn’t).  When I lived in Virginia, I got a research grant that gave me four weeks of paid time off a year to abstract Martin County land deeds, and I spent those weeks with her.  After dinner I’d sit at the out-of-tune piano in the living room and play old Baptist hymns I’d never heard before, mostly about blood, while she warbled the words in the kitchen. We sat on the front porch drinking sweet tea and reviewing every branch of the family genealogy, forwards and backwards. Every trip I would bring a big paper bag of used Harlequin RO-mances, trading out old ones for new ones. She adored her “stories” and would fall asleep on the couch with one in her hands. Her pincushion is an embroidered heart that hangs every year on my Christmas tree.

Granddaddy, my paternal grandfather, died just before my 10th birthday, and I don’t really remember him at all. We only saw them about once a year at that point, since we lived in New Jersey and the grandparents were in North Carolina. He was a quiet man who kept to himself. Mostly I remember that he was quiet. That’s not much to remember and is kind of sad.

Flanders Bill 1965 retirementPop, or the Original Pop as he’s known in our family (since my father is Pop to a different generation) was my mother’s father. We saw him often while growing up since he was just an hour away. He came for holidays and we spent summers at his house in Manasquan, where most of my memories live. Pop loved to grill steaks and would trim them within an inch of their lives, getting them “just so.” He peeled and fried tomatoes for breakfast, and gave me money to walk down the boardwalk to buy him a morning paper and some crumb buns from the bakery.  When I lived in Virginia, I drove up to spent time with him in his retirement village. We’d watch reruns of Lawrence Welk and look at old picture albums, trying to remember/figure out who everyone was. He was lonely at the end of his life living far from his daughters and having outlived most of his friends and family; he died in 1983 at age 82 when I was 29. In my memory, his face was round and smiling. Whenever I have sparkling wine, I can hear his voice say, “Every bubble is a grape.”

I miss them. And I’m glad I can remember them – not for things they gave me, but for who they were as people and were in my life.  Genealogical research has told me more about them than I knew when they were alive, and I was too young to ask questions.  But they are alive in my memory.


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52 Ancestors #13 – Homestead of the Heart

Manasquan is the homestead of my heart.  Sea water is in my veins from years spent at a summer home on the Jersey Shore, a place cherished by my family for two generations.  It is a house but more, it is sand and salt and sea and freedom. It is memory and friends who are closer than some blood relatives. It is a place that stands strong in my memory, though it has been 50 years since I spent a summer there and more than 20 years since I’ve seen it in person.

Manasquan - 417 Beachfront - August 1934

417 Beachfront, Manasquan, 1934, with Jane Anne and Peg Flanders

My maternal grandparents bought the house and the one behind it as a unit in 1934 during the height of the Depression (and who knows why anyone thought that was a good idea).  They were on a relatively quiet beach close to the Manasquan Inlet.  The other houses in the neighborhood were owned or rented by families with children so there were always kids to hang out with, for my mom’s generation and for mine.

Myers and Nau Kids, Manasquan 1961

Typical beach picture – our house is second from the left. Houses were background, not the focus.

We spent long days going from towel to surf and back to towel, talking and listening to music and entertaining ourselves with those our own age, whether that age was 5, 15, 32, or 60. We were in and out of each others homes and lives, summer after summer. We became family.

BeachBall.jpgWe marked the summer by dates:  Opening Day when beach badges were required. Memorial Day, when we took down the window battens and swept away the winter sand, opening the houses for summer. July 4th meant fireworks seen from the sandy beach, grilled burgers and corn and fresh juicy Jersey tomatoes. Summer ended with Labor Day, which always brought rough surf, families gathered from multiple houses to share cookouts, and the packing away of the houses. I still go there in my mind and heart and keep it close with a small glass ball on my desk, filled with sand and shells and seaglass from Manasquan beach.