Saturday, June 4, 2022

Class of 97/22

Two graduation videos taken exactly 25 years apart. By sheer coincidence, Jolie and I both entered front row, second from the left. No pressure to the boy next to her, but the one next to me did end up being her father.

Wish for You

When Jolie was in first grade, she came home excited to announce that there would be no school on Columbus Day. Curious what she had learned, I asked if she knew who Christopher Columbus was. “Yes,” she answered. “He used to be a man, but now he’s a statue.”

I’m proud to report that she has learned a thing or two since then, and will be graduating high school tomorrow.
It has me nostalgic for the night before she started kindergarten. We overheard her at her little sister’s bedside, explaining that things were about to change. “Tomorrow I’m going to be gone at school,” she said. “And you’re going to wish for me.” It was her little way of saying she knew she would be missed, and indeed she was.
Best of luck to our JoJo on her adventures at BYU next year, and beyond. We wish for you already.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Family Smell

I know I'm not the only mother who cleans like a maniac before leaving town. I do love the feeling of returning to a fresh home but if I'm being honest, am mostly motivated by the possibility that we could die while we're away, and I'm not about to be judged for my housekeeping after I'm gone. 

One Christmas, upon returning from a trip to Arizona, we pulled into the garage and saw a sign taped to the door that leads inside. It was on orange paper, and written in Sharpie in a child's handwriting said, "FAMILY SMELL." 

I'm sorry, what? 

I asked who left it there and Cal perked up, excited, "Oh yeah, me!" he said. "Family smell!" then unbuckled and and bolted into the house. 

Confused and a frankly a little scared, I followed and found him wandering slowly inside, sniffing like a cadaver dog.  Before I could decide whether it was better to ask or just not know, he explained. 

"Every family has a smell Mom," he said. "When you walk in their house you smell it, and you can smell it on their clothes even when they're not home." He proceeded to provide specific examples of families we knew with distinctive smells. 

Resisting the compulsion to suggest better uses for his scientific inclinations, I listened as he explained that the problem with family smells is that you don't know your own because you're so used to it.  According to Cal, the only time a person can identify their family smell is upon returning from a long absence, like a vacation. Not about to miss such a rare opportunity, he had left the "Family Smell" sign on the door as a reminder before we left town.  

He had a point I suppose, and I'm relieved to report that our own family smell is quite pleasant; light and airy with top notes of vanilla cookie wax melt and Lysol Lemon Breeze. 

Still, I'm haunted by the thought that, heaven forbid, we had not returned from that Christmas trip to Arizona, and whoever returned to our home would have been greeted with the words "Family Smell," and left to wonder why why why why

Going on record here in case it ever happens again. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Ballpark Prayer


It felt like the worst kind of dream. One minute three-year old Eddie was playing on the playground, and the next he was gone. 

We were at Calvin's baseball game, and I had turned away just long enough to watch him bat. After he rounded the bases I turned back to Eddie, but couldn't see him. 

I scanned the monkey bars, but he wasn't there. The swings. The slide. The sandpit.  

I stood from the bleachers and walked closer, trying not to run, but my heart was starting to pound. What color was his shirt? Light blue. Light blue, light blue. I glanced back at the bleachers. Surely he would be there. The snack bar? The drinking fountain? 

I called out to Jack, who couldn't seen him either. It was getting harder to breathe. Has anyone seen a little boy? Light blue shirt? Now I'm running.  

Several minutes pass and I'm starting to cause a scene. Kind strangers get up to look. Little boy. Light blue shirt. 

Another several minutes, an eternity, and an announcement comes over the intercom. All games are suspended, says the voice. We need everyone's help. Little boy, light blue shirt. Players leave their positions. 

People are calling Eddie's name all around me, and I drop to my knees. Jack, seeing my panic, grabs our other kids and brings them to me. 

"Calvin," he says. "We need you to say a prayer." Little Calvin, fresh dirt on his baseball pants, removes his hat. Hurry Calvin, I think.

Instead, a long pause. "Dear Heavenly Father," he finally begins. "We are so thankful for this day. We're thankful for our many blessings."

I open my eyes and look at him. Faster Calvin, I silently plead.

"We're thankful for our health, and that we live in a free country." Let's be thankful for them later, I whisper. He carries on as though we're sitting around the Thanksgiving table, and not at the center of a frantic search.

"Please bless those who are less fortunate than us." WE are less fortunate Calvin. Get to the point I am begging you. 

Above his voice, I hear of chorus of voices calling Eddie's name. Cal, meanwhile, has suddenly become Enos.

Finally, after mentioning everything from the food we have to eat to his last inning, he concludes with a plea that Eddie be found. "Amen." he says. "Amen." repeat the other kids.

And then, a moment later, Eddie. 

A man is leading him toward us from an adjacent parking lot. It turns out that he had had wandered to the point he was lost, then kept wandering and wandering. There's panic in his face too. 

I am overcome. So relieved. So grateful. So embarrassed. 

The games resume and I pretend to watch but all I want to do is bury a hole under the pitchers mound and hide in it. 

It's days, in fact, before I can stop obsessively replaying the events and what ifs. What if things had turned out worse? What if we never found him? Why did I look away? What were people thinking? When I'm finally able to settle and reflect, an image emerges in my mind. It's not of Eddie, but of Calvin and myself on opposite ends of a continuum.

On the one side is Calvin. He is faith. On the other side is me. I am works. 

While I had put all my energy into the effort required to find Eddie, Cal had relied entirely on a higher power. I would love to have had his faith in that moment, but we both had good intentions and I believe that, ideally, we fall somewhere in the middle. 

I think that's what James meant when he wrote that "Faith without works is dead," or Saint Augustine, who said, "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you." 

Before every game since that night, I said a silent prayer that Eddie would be safe. And then I never kept my eyes off him. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A Brother Like No Other

(Written by my mother Susan Foutz,
who would like to clarify that she actually has two brothers like no other )

If you lived in Arizona in the 80s, 90s or 2000s, Kent Dana was probably in your home every night at 6 and 10 p.m., reporting the news. To many he was a famous local anchor but to me, he was my beloved big brother. Being the fifth of seven children, I sometimes fought for recognition in a large family. Kent was definitely the antidote for that. 

Back row, left to right - Reed, Carol, Kent, Judy, Susan
Bottom row - Marilyn, Joe, Kathleen, Dora 

A favorite early memory of Kent, is of him at the helm of our family boat. I was always in the far back with the biggest, most reliable life jacket available, shaking with fear that any minute we would capsize and our family would be lost to Saguaro Lake. I have never been a lover of water sports like most of my siblings, and prefer hiking on solid ground in the mountains of Greer, Arizona, our family's favorite vacation spot. 

On one trip to the lake, Kent announced that it was time for me to learn to water ski. No thank you, was my response. But Kent was a master of persuasion, and when it came to teaching skiing he had a perfect record. Before I could resist, he was in the water with me, adjusting the skis. After dozens and dozens of tries, and me swallowing gallons of lake water, he told me we were not leaving until I was able to stay up. Lo and behold, I finally got up. My self esteem soared, and I have never stopped bragging that I can ski despite my water anxiety. 

Kent always make me feel important. When he was in Uruguay on a Church mission he would frequently write letters just to me. I still have each one. 

The following is an excerpt from one of my favorites - 

"I want to propose a plan. When I get home, you will be 16 and a half and well into your social life. From what I predict, you will be quite a beautiful young lady. As you know, your big brother will be quite out of it as far as dating manners, latest dance steps, where to go, etc., so I want to ask your help. I want to take you out before anyone else so you can correct me in my blundering. I will be a social left foot and will need up to date advice, will you do it?" 

He was always a loyal cheerleader in my life, and could bring light to any dark day with his contagious laugh and optimistic outlook. 

In April of 1973, Kent called me to announce the birth of his third child, a daughter, and said her name would be Susan. As tears flowed, my husband thought there had been a tragedy, when actually, I had just received the greatest compliment. 

In the early 90s, he was interviewed by the Arizona Republic.

The reporter asked him, “What is your most memorable meal?” and he answered -  

“A holiday meal at my sister Susan’s house. She invited all our siblings and their spouses over. She put on a feast and a demonstration that I have never even seen in a restaurant. She went above and beyond, she blew us away.” 

He may have been prone to exaggeration but he sure knew how to make his little sister have a good day. Actually, he knew how to make everyone have a good day. 

He even lifted me up on the very worst day of my life. On November 11, 2002, my beloved husband Jim suddenly passed away. Kent immediately left the news station and was the first to arrive at the hospital. I will never forget the bear hug he gave me and the tears he shed with me. I think that was the moment I knew that somehow I might survive. 

In the twenty years since, his phone calls and support have lifted me up and helped me go on. Kent’s compassion and kindness was unparalleled. I will always be grateful for the joy he brought to my life, and his unwavering love and support.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Remembering Uncle Kent

I always felt lucky to have a childhood hero who happened to be my uncle. After he passed away last night, I went through my memory box and found this.

It was a playdate at the park with my cousins that doubled as a photo shoot. Our smiles are genuine because we knew that time with Uncle Kent always ended with a trip to Baskin Robbins.

He was constantly doing favors for his nieces and nephews - all 37 of us. Visits to the studio, appearances in student government campaign videos, celebrity introductions. Once he even arranged to land a helicopter at my elementary school. No matter how busy he was, Kent always took our phone calls, and never hesitated to say yes.

I pulled this article out of my memory box this morning, and it made me smile. His answers perfectly encapsulate his wit, and I especially love the first line:

“Kent Dana is more than Channel 12’s TV news anchor. He is also the kind of Dad every kid wishes for at one time or another. He possesses a warm smile and a twinkle in his eye - like a today’s ‘Father Knows Best.’”

As a journalist, his top priority was always to deliver the truth. The reporter who wrote this description of him passes the test.

Class of 97/22

Two graduation videos taken exactly 25 years apart. By sheer coincidence, Jolie and I both entered front row, second from the left. No press...