Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The beginning of our marriage...

We had only been married four months when Dan had to report to his Navy base in Norfolk, VA.  It was October of 1966 when he boarded the USS Harold J. Ellison DD-864, a destroyer, also known as a "tin can" due to it's small size.  I wasn't able to join him in Virginia yet, but knew I would miss him terribly.

At that time, my sister, Sandy, lived in New Jersey and invited me to come stay with her and her family.  Dan could come visit me every other weekend at her home.  He hitchhiked on the turnpike to come see me.  Back in those days everyone would pick up a sailor, or anyone from the military and take them as far as they needed to go.  When Dan would get to an exit he would find a pay phone and let us know where to pick him up.

On Sundays, we would take him back to the turnpike, drop him off, and he would hitchhike back to his base.  He always made a collect call, asking for himself, so I would know it was him, and that he had made it safely, but without paying for the call.  I guess that was one way of working the system back then!  We were poor, but happy...and so in love.

We celebrated our first Christmas together in New Jersey on our six month anniversary!  I can't remember if we bought each other anything, but it didn't matter because we were together.  After Christmas, I returned to Kansas, and Dan returned to his base where he would head out to sea for maneuvers for 7 weeks.

When I returned to Kansas I worked at Mobil Oil Credit Card Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri as a file clerk.  Several months went by, Dan finally got leave to come home, and took me back with him to Norfolk.  All of our belongings fit in the trunk, and back seat of our 1966 Mercury Comet!  We found a furnished  apartment, got settled in, and I got a job at Virginia Electric Power Company setting files to turn on, and off power for navy personnel, as these families moved a lot.

After six months, I returned to Kansas and went back to work at Mobil Oil Credit Card Center.  It was time for Dan to begin his journey in the ocean with the Navy.  Our time together was too short, and I longed for the day that he would return.

On November 2, 1967, his ship departed Norfolk and headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  From there, they were off to the Indian Ocean.  On November 12th, they crossed the equator, where those who had never crossed the equator before were initiated as Shell Backs.  This was a somewhat brutal tradition.  

After passing the equator, Dan's ship traveled to Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Bahrain Island, Pakistan, French Somalia, Saudi Arabia, India, Mauritius, and Kenya.  Aside from the danger of the war, this was a photographers dream journey, and Dan made a lot of memories that he was able to share through his pictures.  I spent many evenings watching his slides from his Navy days!

Dan finally arrived back in Norfolk on May 14, 1968.  He had to wait for two weeks to get leave to come home.  It was torture knowing he was in the states, waiting, and we could not be together.  Finally, we were together, and he was able to take me back to Norfolk with him while he finished his remaining days of service to our country.

~Ginger~loving wife to Dan

In October of 1968, we packed our car, and headed home to our new jobs and to begin our lives...as civilians.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Our love story...

Over 48 years ago...
There was a very young girl.  Sixteen, to be exact.  And a young man.  Only twenty.  This is their love story.

When I was in high school I worked at a store called Sav-On.  It was the first in our area and comparable, at that time, to what Walmart is today.   As you entered, there was a Topsy's Popcorn by the front door. *For those of you unfamiliar to Topsy's...you have missed out.  It's really good popcorn!*  Back in those days we made it fresh...no ordering online!  I made caramel, cinnamon, and regular.  *I can almost taste it!* Cheese-flavored came years later.  

Dan's mom never learned to drive, so he always brought her to get her groceries.  Thankfully, her store of choice was Sav-on!  Dan saw me working there and wanted to meet me.  A boy that he went to school with worked in the camera department, so he asked him to introduce us.  We visited for a short time. Soon after that first meeting, I had my tonsils removed and couldn't return to work for two weeks.  Dan thought he had lost me forever!  My first week back at work he appeared, but this time he asked for my phone number.  It seemed that every night I worked, thereafter, he came for a visit instead of just for the reason of bringing his mom to get groceries. He came to see ME!  

Dan started calling me on my days off, and finally asked me out on a date.  We went to the Empire Movie Theater in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and saw "The Great Race".  Upon taking me home, he asked if I would go out again.  After our first date, we began having weekly dates, plus phone calls.  On our 4th date, a month later, I finally let him kiss me goodnight.  He let me know it was going to be the last date if he didn't get a kiss!  I know he would have come back!  Haha!  We dated steady for several months.

It was getting time for him to go "active duty" into the Navy for the Vietnam War.  He hated leaving me, so he proposed, but not in the traditional way.  He said to me, "I want you to go with me, and the only way that can happen is for us to get married."  He asked my mom for my hand in marriage, we set the date, and got married on June 25, 1966.   We went to Noel, Missouri for our honeymoon for just the weekend.  We didn't have much money for an extravagant honeymoon.  In fact, we were quite poor. 

Dan served in the Navy from 1966 to 1968 on the destroyer ship, the USS Harold J. Ellison DD-864.  I supported him from various places in the states, and waited eagerly for him to come home, and for our lives to begin...together.

We just celebrated 48 years of marriage! Of course, with this disease we weren't able to celebrate in the traditional way this year, but we still spent the day together.  Each day is difficult, but still so precious.  I said I would love Dan in sickness, and in health, until death do us part...and I meant it.

After marriage, and the military there were houses, and children, and boats, and motorcycles, and LIFE!

~Ginger~loving wife to Dan

Next...The early days of marriage...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

It's a boy!

Our dad, Danny Leroy Gulley, was born in Kansas City, Kansas, January 31, 1945.  He was one of ELEVEN children to Earnest Armenian Gulley, and Lola Melissa Belle Bratcher Gulley.  His SuperMom delivered all eleven of her children at home.  Dad was born in the dining room!  He was the second to last child.

Like so many others, dad came from a poor family.  His dad was seldom home.  His mom babysat and washed other's laundry to make money to support her family.  

Dad was a cute little guy!  As a little boy, he had white hair and the mailman called him "Cotton Top." We have been told by dad's older siblings that when dad was a little boy he would walk around telling everybody, "I've got to find a job, so I can buy my little brother some shoes."  Even then, he wanted to work hard to provide for his family.  That never changed!

When dad was only 12 years old, they strapped boards to the pedals of the car, and grandma put him behind the wheel for a cross-country trip.  It was dad, grandma, and his brother, Larry. Grandma never learned to drive, and we have no idea how dad figured it out so young.

Dad graduated from Wyandotte High School in 1963.  After graduation dad sought a job and was hired at Southwestern Bell in January of 1964.  This was a proud accomplishment!  Dad was "Dan the phone man" for his entire career until he retired.  

At the age of 19 dad received the blessing of his first child, Sherry.  This was a treacherous time in our world with the Vietnam War.  Many men were being drafted into the military.  Dad chose to enlist in the Navy, and proudly served our country for four years.  Dad has always loved photography, so traveling the world was a perfect opportunity for him to use his skills.  We used to sit in the living room and watch slideshows of dad's adventures during the navy.

Before leaving for the Navy there was a little introduction.  Boy meets girl...the odds were against them...they were so young...there was already a child...he was leaving for months to serve our country.

And so, the love story begins...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

We have lots of catching up to do!

We are at the latter stages.  By "we," I mean...my dad.  But, in reality, the "we" is my entire family.  My dad is fully in stage six, exhibiting most of the symptoms, but with a few symptoms we are seeing a step into stage seven.

You may be at the beginning of this journey, or maybe you just want to understand what Alzheimer's is, or what it does, or what you should expect for a loved one.  "Stages" may mean absolutely nothing to you.  To understand what symptoms are experienced in each stage you should go here: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_stages_of_alzheimers.asp

Through this journey we have come to realize that information is sporadic, and spread all over.  We have felt so lost at times.  We knew more than we desired to know about the disease because our grandfather, my mom's step-father, died from complications of Alzheimer's.  Still, we had never been completely immersed in the daily devastation of this disease.

This blog will be a family effort.  Each person in my family will share knowledge, memories, fears, tears, websites that have been helpful to us...basically, we will share what we have personally learned through the process.  It's A LOT!  We don't want others to feel as lost as we have.  Hopefully, by sharing what we have learned so far will help another family through the trials of this tragic disease.

We have lots of catching up to do!  We are six years past diagnosis.  A lot has happened in those six years.  Follow the journey with us.  Experience life with us.  Grieve with us.  Find joy in the special moments with us.  Ask questions.  We are open.  We want to help.  We will share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Let's go back to the beginning...

Kerry (4th child of Dan, baby of the family)