Remembering mom

Topeka Capital-Journal
May 11, 1986

The nuns who taught us in the grade school saw to it that we learned early and well the importance of Mother’s Day. Like we always did at Christmas and Easter, we hauled out the crayons and drew a special card for mom.

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Leona Frances Shively

We spent so much time with the crayons, doing those cards, that it’s a wonder we learned to read and write and do our ciphering. But we did, and the cards were, in our minds, works of art.

I remember sister Mary Chrysostom best. She was my teacher in the 4th or 5th grade. She would draw a sample card on the blackboard and we would copy it as best we could.

She would come around and help the less gifted, and that’s one of the reasons I liked her. She spent a lot of time with me, so my card always came out looking pretty good.

The cover would have maybe a hill or two, some birds, a tree and a flower, and above it or below it or across it would be the word, “mother.” I was best at drawing hills and the sun. I was fair with the birds, terrible with trees and flowers.

Inside were two things. One was the message, expressing our love for mom. The other was called a “spiritual bouquet.” It was a list of prayers we had offered – or we were promising to offer – in mom’s behalf.

Even way back then I was into deficits. I’m afraid I padded my bouquet.

We would fasten these crayon-covered sheets together with colored string, or brass paper fasteners and then, at the proper time, present the card to mom.

She would express genuine pleasure at the total effort, an equally genuine surprise at the numbers button being promised. She never said anything, but I probably wasn’t fooling her.

I probably never did fool her. I know I didn’t the day a couple of other foolhardy adventurers and I skipped school to go downtown and hang out for awhile, and then go to a special high-noon baseball shootout between the Oklahoma City Indians and the Tulsa Oilers. Continue reading

Buel and Mr. Barnes

Topeka Capital-Journal
December 24, 1986

When I think of Christmases past, which I am inclined to do when I have to write a column for Christmas Eve, it isn’t long before I get around to thinking about an aunt we called Buel and her longtime employer and friend, Mr. Barnes.

The name “Buel” was a badly mangled version of Elizabeth, uttered by one of my brothers or cousins in an early attempt at speech, and it stuck. For the rest of her life, she wasn’t Aunt Elizabeth or Aunt Buel. She was just Buel.

She was my mother’s sister, one of the three Shively girls whose mother died when they were very young. They’re all gone now, and so is their only brother, who was in his 80s when he drowned in the Platte River in his hometown of Saratoga, Wyo. while fishing.

Buel never married. She worked for Mr. Barnes for maybe 30 years. They had a close relationship, so he became close to our family, too. Buel would bring him to our house often, and at Christmas he would share in the exchange of presents and in the big meal. Continue reading

Family Money: Carving the Oklahoma Pie

Topeka Capital-Journal
April 28, 1997

You’ve heard this before: put some relatives and family members around a table, and in the center put some money or valuables to be divided among them, and you’ll see some greed, resentment and even some skullduggery. I am speaking as a victim when I say I’ve been there.

I was done in by my own blood brother, who lives in Dallas. Like most highbinders, he says now it was all a mistake, and he even places the blame on an Oklahoma lawyer, one of the worst kind, who is now deceased, making him one of the best kind.

I’d like to believe him, but his mistake – if you want to call it that – was so enormous, and the stakes were so high, that it is difficult for me to do. I’ll tell you the sordid story, and you be the judge.

As you read this, consider the possibility of a conspiracy among all the relatives involved in this, and try to think of a reliable lawyer who might represent me. I realize “reliable lawyer” is oxymoronic, and I may have to settle for considerably less. Continue reading