On The Road That I Have Taken….#244 (the 90’s)

Robert and Opal Willson

The 92’ Buick again journeying north to Wichita,  Gary and Jan’s separation being congenial the couple and their daughter Sandra traveling together arriving  at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport,  the family having  convened for a second a flight to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airdrome.   The Willson’s returning to the Illinois  Great Lakes Training Center for their son Robert’s Wedding, the navy seaman about to board the ship of matrimony.   Gary  as usual enjoying the flight, especially  into the busiest Airport in the United States,  the approach requiring the  United Airlines  737 to venture far out over lake Michigan,  the lakes white wave tips giving it motion,  bringing the resting lake waters to life.    The inbound flight joining  a variety of aircraft lined up for their airborne descent into O’Hare,  an airliner landing every 45 seconds.   Gary procuring the  rental transportation,  Sandra in the navigator’s seat studying the map,  Dad being guided by her directions,  traveling the tri-state tollways north before the eastward journey towards Lake Michigan and the reception Hostel just outside of the entrance gates of Great Lakes RTC.

Terminal C - O"hare International

Terminal C – O”hare International

Wedding Location Illinois Beach State Park

Wedding Location Illinois Beach State Park

Toasting each other

Checking in to hotel,  Jan and Sandra having  joint provision,  Gary remaining solitary,  Robert’s navy friends conjugating down the hall to commemorate his last night of bachelorhood.   Jan and Sandra spending time with Opal, the newest and future member of the Willson hierarchy.   An early morning breakfast,  the anticipation building for the outdoor Illinois  Beach State Park Lake Michigan ceremony.   Gary and the family adhering to the direction to the park that Robert had provided,  arriving early,  but soon finding a host of activity.   Robert’s grandparents Bud and Helen Murrow from Kiowa whom had journeyed to Jan’s Uncle Mel and Aunt Leona Weyneth in Metamora a small farming community just outside of Peoria about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the wedding location.   Gary a very much admirer of Mel,  a world war II veteran like his father,  Mel serving in the European theatre,  an artilleryman in Patton’s 3rd Army division and like his father and many other world war II veterans very reluctant to convey their experiences.   Also in attendance for the Navy Chaplain officiated ceremony was Jeremy Birzer, Robert’s best friend and the weddings Best Man designate.   Surprising and unexpected was Jan’s sister Gayle from Overland Park Kansas flying  from Kansas City and adding to the fray was the continuity of his Navy  compatriots.

Mom looking on

Mom incognito looking on

Helen Murrow, Uncle Melvin and Aunt Leona Weyneth

Best Fiend Jeremy looking on

Gary was impressed,  the wedding ceremony service being dictated on the shores of Lake Michigan,  the setting displaying a welding of nature’s life,  not inhibited by the confines of a chapel but in the open air macrocosm of God’s natural wonderment.   The bride and groom both components of the United State Navy,  Opal Marie Ray and Robert Garald Willson accepting the matrimonial vows of a life long commitment,  the Chaplain endowing the two before God and mankind as Man and Wife.   The groom’s father a front row witness to the ceremony,  affording a tear felt emotion,  recalling a heartfelt time in Wichita Falls Texas  twenty years earlier,  a dream fulfilled,  but as in John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost,  the intervention of Manichaeism evolved and acceptance that was bequeathed him.   The Illinois Beach celebratory event completed, Gary instead of walking directly to the car ventured to the lakefront,  touching the water before leaving, and when asked why, not desiring to assert his action as a memory keepsake of the meaningful event,  his reply not exactly veracious,  “because it was there”.   Returning to their hotel abode the evening commemorations  beginning, Robert and Opal hosting the presentations of the matrimonial gifts appreciating the show of love from  family and friends.

The morning finding Gary, Jan, Sandra, readying for a return to O’Hare  for a departure to Wichita,  but accompanied with an added person.   Jan’s sister Gayle having flown into Midway International requesting a ride for her return flight to Kansas City,  Gary more than happy to oblige her, appreciative that she had come, recognizing that her wedding appearance was meaningful to Robert.   At O’Hare, the three boarding their Boeing 737 for Wichita,  Gary of course partaking of a Chicago Dog before leaving,  looking forward to air travel experience home.   Reflecting on Robert’s Marriage,  noting in his mind the difficulties that were in store for the newly wed couple,  with both abiding in the Navy, and the liabilities of different duty stations,  but knowing one thing,  indubitable love if given can conquer all obstacles.

Norma Feaster

Gary was saddened when hearing the news, the Lord having called a caring and admired lady from her earthly sentential of life.   A true patriot of education,  a giving person without retribution that one could be associated with having passed away.   Norma Feaster  was a beautiful person and the embodiment of the educational domain,  an exemplar of the teaching profession.  Gary having witnessed this mentor to a second grade class of seven-year old students expand their horizons, administered all this with her countenance of character and her reflective striving strength of love.    It was his Mother’s birthday,  July 22,  Gary arriving at the cemetery in Hardtner  having informed hospital administrator  Buck McKinney  that he would be attending the Graveside Services for Norma Feaster.   Gary was taken aback at the number of people,  expecting a much larger attendance,  especially from the teaching profession.  With no school in session during the summer months,  he may have been presumptive,  Norma having retired from her teaching profession before the sudden illness.   Gary immediately perceiving those about him, Norma’s friend Juanita Smith and a few others from the Kiowa School system,  Max McGee,  Vee Hill,  Carol McKinley,  but it was the absence of many that was very apparent that very hot afternoon in July,  the privilege of having known this lady would forever be treasured.

A final resolution

 It was July when Gary received a divorce decree to be signed so Jan’s Alva Attorney Larry L Bays could  file it with the Woods County District Court.  The couple having come to an agreement, Gary not contesting the proceedings, retaining his car and personal possessions,  their 21 year journey down the road of life together officially coming to an end.  Gary somewhat melancholic questioning the reality of the past events, but concluding it was neither he nor Jan that were the real casualties, but Jan’s mother Helen who had to bear the pain.  Helen having to witness to the breakup of her daughter Gayle’s perfect union, now Jan’s public display and divorce,  what was heartbreaking for Gary to watch was Helen’s withdrawal from her beloved Apostolic Christian Church Wednesday night services.   Because he was party to the problem, was void of a way to console his true feelings for this loving family but through prayer and with time he knew that Helen would once again resumed her Wednesday attendance.  Soon after the degree Jan’s Federal Lawsuit filed against Share Medical Center finally coming to fruition,  she was somewhat disappointed the court only awarding her $50,000  due to her demotion but nothing for pain and suffering as expected and with her departure the stigma of her actions remained.

Gary concluding the road of life sometimes twist and turns, no two directions are ever the same, yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination, the 56-year-old recalling a Dean Koontz passage from the novel Dark Rivers of the Heart.

On the road that I have taken
One day walking I awaken
Amazed to see where I have come
Where I’m going, where I’m from

This is not the path I thought
This is not the place I sought
This is not the dream I bought
Just a fever of fate I caught

I’ll change highways in a while
At the crossroad one more mile
My path is lit by my own fire
And I’m going only where I desire

On the road that I have taken
One day walking I awaken
One day walking I awaken
On the road that I have taken.


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