Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Mother-in-Law

Shirley Alma Sneed (nee Krebs) was born at 4:10 pm on April 3, 1931 in the Cincinnati General Hospital, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. She was the second child of four born to Albert Krebs and Stella Nash. Her sister Betty Jean was 4 ½ years older, Alberta was exactly 2 years to the day younger, and Robert James (Bobby) was 11 years younger. Shirley had a great love for her parents and siblings and was very close with them. They often packed a picnic lunch and took site-seeing trips on Sunday afternoons. One of her favorite places to visit was Hoppi’s Island, where they would play, and swim.

Both Shirley and Garfield grew up in the Over the Rhine area of Cincinnati, which was a nice area back then. Garfield moved into the apartment next door from Shirley, and one floor up. Garfield says that the first time he saw Shirley, was the very next day. He was talking to a friend across the street from the apartments when she came bounding down the steps. His mouth dropped open and he said, “Wow! Who’s that?” His friend told him, “That’s Shirley Krebs, but forget about her—she’s going out with a red-haired boy.” Garfield said, “Well I can’t help that”. It didn’t matter to him that she was going out with someone else, he was smitten on the spot, and the challenge was on. He followed her everywhere.

They became friends and along with Shirley’s best friend Jeanie Traurig, and the other neighborhood kids, they’d scour the neighborhood for empty pop bottles and newspapers and take them down to the junk yard to cash them in for money to ride the rides at Coney Island. They played baseball, stickball, kick the can, mummbly peg, and road their bikes. But Garfield’s favorite game, but not Shirley’s, was spin-the-bottle. He remembers how every time he’d win, he’d pick Shirley to kiss. Once she said, “For crying out loud Garfield, why don’t you pick someone else!”

Because of the close proximity of their apartment buildings, one day Garfield looked out his window and saw Shirley looking out of her window just below him, and he began to sing, “The more I see you, the more I want you and somehow this feeling just grows and grows, with every sigh I become more mad about you—more lost without you.” Shirley slammed the window shut. He got a big kick out of it.

Once in metal shop at school, Garfield took a piece of aluminum and cut and polished and shaped it into a bracelet with Shirley’s name on it. Well, she gave it to another guy, and when Garfield saw him wearing it he made him give it back, and she looked at Garfield and said, “I hate you.” And Garfield said, “I love you,” and she said, “I hate you,” and Garfield said, “Well, I love you,” and then got back on his bicycle and road away. After two years of Garfield’s relentless pursuit, (okay, stalking), she finally gave up and sent a letter to him through her younger sister, Alberta that said, “Okay, I’ll go steady with you.”

Shirley attended Rothenburg Jr. High and William Howard Taft High School. Her favorite classes were swim class and gym. Shirley was very athletic minded. She withdrew from high school in the tenth grade to earn money for her family and went to work at the Gruen Watch Company, and then later the Palm Brothers Decal Company where she worked as a silk-screen operator. She stayed there until Garfield got out of the Marines. It was while she was employed at Palm Brothers that she consented to be his wife. They were married in the Lawrenceburg Methodist Church by the Rev. O.K. Malone—the only minister in the area that could officially okay a marriage license. They were married on July 29, 1950 in Lawrenceburg, Dearborn County Indiana and moved onto Mulberry Street not far down the road from where they both had grown up together. They lived there from July until January, when Garfield enlisted in the Marines, quit his job, and sold the car. Shirley moved back in with her parents on Seitz St., and stayed there until Garfield got out of the Marines on May 30, 1952. They moved across the hallway from her parents.

A few short months later, Shirley and Garfield would pass through a very difficult time, the stillborn birth of their first child; Garfield Dennis Sneed on August 20, 1952. Dennis’ death changed their lives forever and brought them to their knees in search for answers. Garfield had been raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but had stepped away from his upbringing. In mourning the loss of his first-born child, he turned back to Christ. He told Shirley he was going to start back to church, and asked her if she would take the missionary discussions. She said yes. Garfield had never read the book of Mormon before that time, and together they began to read a couple chapters each night. On Nov 9, 1952 Garfield was ordained a priest, (he held the office of Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood while inactive), and right after he was ordained a priest, on the same day, he baptized Shirley.

Two and a half years later, on February 12, 1954, they were blessed with a baby girl, Vicki Lynne. On June 28, 1955, 16 months after Vicki was born, another baby girl entered their lives, Gail Susan. But that small apartment on Seitz Street, would welcome yet another child with the birth of Garfield William (Bill) on July 11, 1956.

In November, Garfield and Shirley, along with Vicki, Gail and Bill moved into their first home in Goshen. They had started to build the house in Goshen just before Bill was born, on July 3. Garfield tells the story of how Shirley shoveled every bit of the 40 tons of p-gravel through the basement window onto the dirt floor that November, only 4 months after Bill was born. He remembers how very tired she was, but how she never gave up, until the job was finished.

While they lived in that small house in Goshen, Shirley gave birth to Lorin David on Oct 3, 1958. Lorin was eight months old when the Sneed family packed their 1959 Ford station wagon, no air, and drove close to 2100 miles (no freeways) to Loa Angeles California, and Garfield and Shirley were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple for time and for all eternity on May 29, 1959. Three days later, on June 2, after driving from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, Utah, they had their children sealed to them in the Salt Lake Temple. Garfield says of that blessed occasion, “The kids came into the sealing room with white gowns and beach-blonde hair and suntans and they glowed like angels, and then the matron came in the sealing room with eight month old Lorin and laid him on the alter and Vicki, Gail, Bill, and Lorin were sealed to Garfield and Shirley for time and for all eternity. It is a seal that will never be broken.

Nine months later, on March 9, 1960, James Arthur was born. A little over two years passed, and Shirley and Garfield suffered the painful loss of another child, Karen, on August 10, 1962. She only lived 20 minutes. A year later, Lois Diane was born on September 8, 1963, and a little more than a year after Lois was born, on November 17, 1964, Wendy Robin completed the Sneed family. Gail says that her mom was “always pregnant”, and that Aunt Vera said that if Shirley came up pregnant one more time, she was going to have a little talk with Gar. She had nine pregnancies in thirteen years.

Shirley had a taste of becoming a country girl while they lived in Goshen with pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and a big garden, but it was after they moved out of their small house in September 1968, and into an even smaller house at Old St. Rt. 32, that the transition from city girl to country girl became complete with the addition of cows and horses to their 17 acre farm. But farm life was not always fun for the kids. Some of the animals were raised for a purpose and Jim and Bill say that there’s nothing like coming home from church and finding your pet pig gutted and hanging from the swing set. They remember their mother saying to Garfield, “You murdered it, you clean it.”

It was while they lived at the farm that Shirley was called to be the Young Women’s Girl’s Camp Director and then later the Stake Girl’s Camp Director. Gail Says, “Mom always had girl’s camp training at our home, and our house was full of kids from church, and the neighborhood.” We found this story written in Shirley’s own handwriting.

Shirley absolutely loved working with the young women and they loved her. About Girl’s camp, and Shirley, Jim’s wife Terri says, “At girl’s camp everybody was, ‘there’s them and there’s us, but Shirley wasn’t one of them, she was one of us’”. Shirley was known throughout the stake, and throughout the years as, “Mom Sneed”. In fact one of the messages left on the online obituary for her refers to her still, as “Mom Sneed”. She was a mom to many at different times in different ways. Everyone came to Mom.

Chicky says that just recently Shirley overheard her tell Garfield that she and Tom used to call her “Shirley Mom” and Shirley perked right up and said, “Yeah, how come that stopped!” Calling her Shirley Mom may have stopped, but the feelings of love that Chicky and Tom and Shirley had between them will never stop, and will go on forever.

After living and loving in the old farm for 25 years, Shirley and Garfield finally sold it, and built a lovely, smaller home on the six of the acres that they kept. All of Shirley’s homes were always clean and orderly. Dishes never stayed in the sink, laundry never piled up on the laundry room floor, table tops and counter tops were never cluttered. She bought wax in a can and got down on her hands and knees and waxed the floors, and then had her children put on their socks and slide up and down the hallways. But once, at their Goshen home, Garfield remembers her pointing at the boys and then down at her clean floors and yelling with an exasperated look on her face, “Look! Just look at them!” She pointed to the mud covered steps going downstairs, and then at her mud-covered sons. Apparently, the land next to them had several trees that a landscape company came in and dug out and Jimmy says that they left large empty holes that naturally filled up with water. They made great “swim holes”. And Bill remembers that a part of his mother’s vocabulary was, “Get outside and play!” so it really wasn’t their fault. What’s a boy to do?—especially if he’s a Sneed. Needless to say, Shirley’s washing machine was always going, and it seemed like seeing fresh laundry draped over long clotheslines stretching clear across her yard was pretty much a given at her house.

Shirley never owned a dish washer. She never liked them and didn’t want one. Bill remembers that his mother cleaned their rooms, and that would explain a lot of things. Here are two meassages to Shirley from two her children.

She was a hard worker, and right to the very end, you’d see her bent over picking up small pieces of paper, or pulling weeds in her beautiful flower gardens.
She knew how to do everything, from working alongside of Garfield on top of high scaffolding, to sewing frilly Easter dresses. She enjoyed stripping paint off antique furniture and restoring them to the original grandeur. She loved to be outside hiking, camping, having BBQ’s, and picnics. She enjoyed water skiing, and Garfield and she would leave the kids on the beach to watch them ski. She loved to swim, and liked to skip rocks across the surface of the river. She was great at softball and had a mean pitch and Wendy and her team went undefeated. She was an incredibly fast reader, and could finish a novel in one day. She had a natural knack for compassionate service and if she felt like you needed help she was there. She enjoyed quilting, and sewing and making all sorts of crafty things from painted porcelain dolls to cross-stitch. She didn’t care that her boys had long hair, although Garfield did. And there were few, if any, that could rival her cooking. She could make a delicious meal out of next to nothing. She enjoyed canning her own home-grown garden vegetables, and they never went without food. One year she canned nearly 100 quarts of green beans, carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato juice. Once she canned sassafras root beer in glass bottles and one by one the bottles exploded in the cellar—probably a good thing they did before any one drank them. Shirley and the girls milked the family cows, Gail says the boys slacked on that one, but, in defense of the boys, Bill says, and I quote, “Weeellll, Dad and us boys were always out laying bricks on the stinking house laying up the last brick at 3 in the morning.” Though I could be wrong, I’m betting that Shirley was too.

Here are some more messages from one of Shirley's children and two of her grandchildren:

She never sat down and was either organizing a bake sale or an ice cream social or some kind of a project. There was always something happening at the Sneed’s home. From morning until night the radio was on, or music played, and she was singing and bopping to the tunes. Chicky tells a story that happened recently; Shirley did not want to resort to the inevitable and refused to use the bathroom anywhere but in a real bathroom. Gail was on one side of her, and Chicky was on the other, and as they led her slowly to the bathroom, she stopped and became very still and Chicky thought, Oh no! What’s wrong?—when all of a sudden, Shirley got a goofy look on her face and started be-bopping to the music playing on the television. She had a great sense of humor.

Lois asked me to add this to her mother's eulogy from Lorin's funeral a few years ago-

She wanted more than anything to keep the family together. Things had to get pretty bad for her to complain, but every complaint that she had was softened by her great love for them. She was the core of the family and like all great mothers many times went without, in order to meet the needs of her children. Sometimes Garfield would come home from work and find Shirley arguing with her children, and try to step in, but like a lioness she would turn on him and defend her kids. She could argue with them, but heaven help anyone else that tried to. She was fiercely protective of her children and her grand children and her great grand children. These are Shirley’s words and not mine. We found them after praying to find something that she had written—something that she would want her family and friends to know.

Shirley’s smile and laugh could light up the room. She loved hugs, and loved people, and always comforted them. She was positive and lifted them up when they were down. Many times Wendy called her mother because she was having a bad day, and her mom would cheer her up telling her tomorrow would be a better day.

For all of us who loved Shirley, these are her words; tomorrow will be a better day. The sun will come up and go down, and come up and go down again, and eventually the better day will come, and IT WILL COME. Until that day, the memory of her smile and her laugh will light up our lives and hearts every time we think of her, as we continue on life’s journey towards becoming an eternal family.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"I Hate Mirrors" (or, it's best to put your make-up on the dark)

I hate mirrors!
Don't call me old
If I hadn't looked
I'd never have known
Years of smiling
Etched in deep lines
Reflections of a life
Well lived
I love mirrors ...