Columns

Quilts and the ties that bind

 

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Newly retired, Dad waited by the front door to take my mom grocery shopping.

“Tom, you can’t wear that,” Mom exclaimed.

“Why? Don’t I match?” he asked.

A fair question, since Dad was notoriously color-challenged.

But that wasn’t the problem. He’d donned a sport coat and a snazzy red tie with multicolored stripes.

“Sweetheart, you’re retired. You don’t have to wear a tie every day anymore, especially not to the grocery store,” Mom explained.

Disappointed, he removed the tie, but kept the jacket.

Dad loved his neckties.

He grew up picking cotton in Arkansas. As he labored in the sweltering heat, he dreamed of a different life – one that involved a desk job and wearing suits and ties.

His career in the United States Air Force, followed by a career with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, allowed him to achieve his dreams.

When he died in 1995, he’d amassed an amazing collection of neckties. My husband kept a couple, and most of them were donated to a local thrift shop. But I couldn’t part with all of them. I set aside a few dozen and gave them to some dear friends who incorporated them in a beautiful quilt. That quilt hung in my Mom’s bedroom until two years ago when she moved to a retirement facility.

Now, it’s draped over our living room sofa where I can see it every day and think about how blessed I was to have a dad like mine.

It’s also a daily reminder of the friends who took the time to create such a sweet remembrance.

I love quilts, like my dad loved ties. The beauty, artistry and stories behind the patterns fascinate me. Sadly, when it comes to sewing, I’m all thumbs and totally lacking in skill or patience.

Thankfully, I have friends who work magic with fabric, needle and thread.

The necktie quilt isn’t my only memory-filled patchwork. Eleven years ago, our oldest son was struggling through adolescence. His actions and attitudes grieved me. I worried. I fretted. I prayed.

A friend made a lap quilt for me to curl up in when I felt overwhelmed. Because I’d often referred to our firstborn as our “golden child,” she incorporated big golden hearts throughout the design. The border features the worlds of one of my favorite hymns, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

That quilt kept me mindful of my son’s true nature. Every time I wrapped myself in it, I felt cocooned in the comfort of my friend’s love and prayers, evident in each tiny stitch.

My husband has his own special quilt. A diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both hips a few years ago rocked him. A strong, active man, he struggled with the reality of a degenerative disease at a relatively young age.

Bonnie, my sister-in-law, knows that pain all too well. So, she went into her sewing room and crafted a cat-covered quilt for Derek. Using masculine colors for the backing and border, the counterpane delighted both of us – especially when we spotted the cat curled up in a basket that looks just like our Thor.

And recently, a new quilt arrived in the mail, made by an extremely talented, prolific quilter.

Its vibrant colors brighten our bedroom, adding homespun cheer, and the accompanying note warmed my heart.

“Thank you, dear friend, for all your glorious words which help so many,” she wrote.

You can spend hundreds of dollars on beautifully pieced quilts, but the quilts in my home are priceless. Each one is threaded with memories, and has been stitched with prayer and bound with love.

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War Bonds

My Veterans

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That’s my dad in his airman’s uniform just hanging around in the mid 1950’s, long before I was born.

He joined the Air Force in the waning days of WWll and shook the dust of Luxora, Arkansas, off his feet, returning only briefly before being summoned back to duty by the advent of the Korean War.

I was born at Fairchild Air Force Base and by the time I was 5 had lived on Guam and in California before Dad decided to retire back in Spokane, Washington. I learned to stand at attention and salute the flag before I could walk.

Dad was proud of his two-plus decades of Air Force service. His love of God and country anchored our family and his passing in 1994 left a void in my heart that cannot be filled.

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So, of course I fell in love with a man in uniform!

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I met my husband just after he graduated from flight school. He served in the Washington Army National Guard for 23 years– most of our married life. He’s duties took him to Panama and to Honduras, but he loved flying and mentoring other young pilots.

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My love for my father and for my husband gave me deep empathy and added insight when I begin to tell the stories of WWll soldiers, sailors, pilots and corpsmen.

I understood duty, courage, leadership and self-sacrifice because I’ve lived with it all my life.

Today I honor my father, Tom Burnett and my husband, Derek Hval.

Of all the veterans I’ve met, these are the two I love the most and their stories have made my own story so much richer.

Happy Veteran’s Day.

War Bonds

Dad

Tom Burnett at Harmond Field

 

 

 

Been thinking about my dad a lot lately.
March is his birth month and death month.
Here he is at Harmon Field in Newfoundland during the waning days of WWll.
He would have loved all the War Bonds hoopla and been at every signing and event. Because of my dad’s military career, I feel completely at ease interviewing veterans– especially WWll vets.
What kind of man was my dad?
He was so warm and kind that the man he shared a room with during his last hospitalization came to his funeral in a wheelchair having just been released from the hospital that day.
He knew my dad for three days and already loved him.

Wasn’t I blessed to have had a dad like that?