The Life And Times Of Wanda Bruner Butler

by Wanda Bruner Butler
Copyright © 2000

Chapter 9

* Guilt Feelings
* The Going-Away Party
* The Final Farewells

"Guilt Feelings, Oh , all the guilt feelings I had."

I couldn't move for a while. I just sat there feeling drained. When I became aware of the kettle's whistle, I walked over and turned it off. Boy, this was going to be harder than I thought. I hadn't planned on all this guilt everyone was laying on me. I found my list and wrote "Call Rev. Mayhall."

The next morning when I called, he said to come on in, as he was free for the day. After calling Cathy, to make sure she planned to come in, I finished the kitchen, threw in a load of laundry, dressed, and was ready to leave when Cathy arrived. As I started to leave, I told her I planned to see Rev. Mayhall, then stop in and see the grand kids. As an afterthought I said, "You know the house sold, you need to start looking for a place to rent. The buyers said Alan and Vickie can stay until after the baby comes but otherwise they want everything vacant on September first." Cathy said she knew the people were interested and thought they would buy, so had planned to start looking.

I felt better after spending some time with Rev. Mayhall. He helped me to understand what the children felt about the home. At a very difficult time in their lives, we were like a port in a storm. They knew they couldn't stay there forever, but if a new storm came, they knew where a safe port was. His parting words were, "Remember, they have been survivors up until now and you have given them the strength to continue."

After spending a couple of hours with Sue and the children, I felt better. I told Sue I didn't know what I expected, but I sure wasn't prepared for this. When I got home, I called Beverly in Yakima, telling her the house had sold and about everything that was happening to me. She said, "Wanda, when one of those 'guilties' attacks you, just think of all the children in Yakima that need you. Now get busy packing and everything will fall into place." As I walked into the kitchen, I noticed my list. What I needed was a box, not a list, so I crumpled the paper and threw it away. I went to the back porch for a large box and upon returning to the living room I removed all the pictures from the wall. Funny, how pictures are the first things packed, but it was a step in the right direction.

A few days later everyone was back to normal. Some of the older girls even started helping me pack. Jewel, Donita, Kai and Mary Jo started planning a going-away party for Wes and me, and everyone living at the home. They decided it would be a "bang up party," as that was Jewel's favorite saying at the time. On the fifth of August, Donita was notified that she would be moving August tenth, so that speeded things up. The girls went to their rooms early and sat up late making a list of everything they would need to shop for, like chips, dip, and the party things you usually buy.

I offered them some money, but they kept saying, "This one is on us." August eighth was picked as the big day and on the seventh, when I went grocery shopping, the four girls tagged along. But this time, instead of the usual goofing off and looking for boys to flirt with, they were very serious and on their best behavior. After picking out party things and seeing the cost, they decided maybe it would be O.K. for me to help pay, which really meant, they pick and I pay. After doing their share of filling the basket, they ask if there was time to run down the block to the dime store as they had money to buy gifts. I ask if anyone needed more, but they answered, "Nope, not this time, we saved our allowances for this." Then with a quick, "Don't leave us," they were off on their secret mission, pushing, shoving and giggling.

The next night, right after dinner, they shooed us out, closed the door, and started preparing for the big event. About seven-thirty, they called everyone in, to start the party. They only had to call the younger ones once. Then someone ran upstairs to get Pop and Curtis. Everything looked so nice with streamers hanging and gifts all wrapped. There were cake, ice cream, chips and dips; they had really outdone themselves this time. It really was a "bang up party."

I wish I could remember all the gifts we received that night, but two that stick in my mind were the ones from Jewel and Donita. Jewel's was a matching pair of young, ebony, black girls. She whispered, "So you won't forget me." (I kept them until 1990 when we bought the mobile, and when we unpacked after moving in, I couldn't find them) Donita's gift was a set of white plastic mixing bowls. Being her normal, sure-footed self, she stepped in the middle of the gift before I had a chance to open it. She giggled and said, "Be sure and wash it before you use it." I still have the card they gave me and the lovely things they wrote in it.

Back to Top

The Going-Away Party

Things were starting to move so fast it was hard to keep up with. It was hard to pack and run the home at the same time. Food had to be bought as usual, laundry had to be done, the house had to be cleaned, and the children had to be cared for, all while trying to pack. Wes pulled the trailer close to the house and started stacking boxes in it.

On the ninth, Earnestine returned home and on the tenth, Donita moved to her new home. Now we were down to eleven plus ours. On August twelfth, the probation department placed three little sisters; instead of losing we seemed to be gaining. On the fourteenth, welfare picked up three and that same day probation came for the three sisters. August eighteenth, Kai was moved; she was a very sweet girl and we would miss her. Still, no home for Jewel and my heart ached for her. I tried to give her extra love, which was easy to do.

Now our count was down to eight. We closed down two of the bedrooms and sold the furniture. Curtis moved into the main house so we could clear his room. By now the trailer was full, so Alan and Wes build sideboards on the pickup and we started filling it. We would need furniture for the new home, so we had to be careful what we sold. With the house becoming bare, some of the girls started doubling up at night, saying the house was too big and scary; with most of the furniture gone it did seem big and scary at night.

August nineteenth, Sue called and said not to plan any dinner as a few of our friends were getting together for a pot luck at the fairgrounds. We were to be there about six p.m. When we drove up, Wes almost turned around and left when he saw all the cars. Sue came out to meet us and laughed when Wes said, "I though you said a few friends would be here. Looks like the whole town is here." Sue, knowing how Wes would react to a large going-away party, didn't tell us that nearly a hundred friends and family would be there. When we entered, flash bulbs started going off and a couple with a movie camera set a spot light on us and recorded our evening for us.

I jumped when I was grabbed from behind and kissed on the cheek. When I turned around, there stood our Hell's Angel. He held both hands up and said, "Don't worry mom, I'm clean, nothing tonight, this is your and pop's big night." I ask where Theresa was.

While he went to find her, my memory flashed back to when he and his friends would come in a group, to see Theresa. Sometimes they came in full colors, with their big Harleys roaring up the driveway. They would be on one of their rides and would stop in before taking off for a few days. After a few times, I ask him if I could talk with him. I explained that it didn't set a very good example for the younger ones. I didn't mind him coming out, but I did mind the others. I felt intimidated with so many riders. He sat for awhile, then said, "I sure wish there had of been a place like this when I needed it. You won't have to worry, I understand what you mean." For the rest of Theresa's stay, he only came on visiting days, sometimes bringing candy to the little ones, sometimes flowers to me, and sometimes both. On Theresa's last day, just before she was moved, he called and asked if he could come out, I told him "Sure." That night as he was leaving, he turned to me and said, "You know, you're pretty neat for a square." This was the first time I had seen him since June.

When he returned with Theresa, we kissed and hugged. Then she told me that when her probation officer told her about the party, she just had to come and tell us how her stay with us had helped her. She planned to stay in school and finish her last year, and her long range goal was to work with troubled youths, maybe starting with summer camps. There were no words that could say how proud of her I was, so I just gave her another hug and said, "You're an O.K. kid, and you'll make it."

Sue said it was time to eat and I still didn't know who all was there.

Back to Top

The Final Farewells

I kept seeing people I hadn't seen in ages. I don't know how Sue put it together without us finding out. She said Don and Gloria, the Braga's, Jerry's mother Helen, my cousin Mae, and the welfare and probation departments all helped.

After everyone finished eating, Sue took us to the center of the room and pulled a sheet off of a pecky pecan table. Someone came up and set a money tree on the table, loaded with white envelopes. I was overcome as I thanked everyone for everything they had done and for the support they had given the home. On the way home, I told Wes it would be hard to replace our friends. His answer was, "Don't try to replace them, just add to what we already have."

On August 24th, a home was found for Mary Jo, Jimmy, and Mike. Now only Jewel, David, Lonnie and Jackie were left. The 25th, David was placed in a home in Vallejo. Time was getting short. We closed more rooms, and either packed it in the U-Haul trailer, or sold it. Don and Gloria (close friends) promised to come up in a couple of weeks and bring our trailer. I couldn't back a trailer. It would go every which way except the way it was suppose to go. I would do well to find my way to Yakima, without having to worry about pulling a trailer. August 28th, Welfare picked up Jackie. That evening we received a call that a home had been found for Jewel and Lonnie. That worked out so we would be able to leave August 31st, as we had planned.

I was getting nervous about leaving Alan and Vickie as the baby was due anytime. Vickie's parents lived nearby, and Sue was about 5 miles away. Everyone kept saying everything would be fine. Jewel seemed to relax when I told her a home had been found. She smiled and said, "Guess someone wants me after all." On the 30th, she became very nervous while waiting for her social worker to arrive. I kept reminding her that she had proven she could make it in a foster home. After all, she had lived with us since April 13th, and if she could live with me that long, she could live with anyone. She just laughed and said, "Oh, mom." It was late in the day when they came for her and she had the honor of being the last to leave our home. As she left, she turned to me and said, "No one can take that away from me." I was going to miss her. That was the only thing I disliked about our job, you would just get attached to them and then they were gone.

That night, after clearing out our last boxes, we drove into Dixon for a last visit with Sue, Jerry and the grandchildren. I couldn't stop the tears, until Steven said, "Grandma, put me down, you're getting my shirt wet." Debbie, who was old enough to realize what was happening, started crying. It was a tearful goodbye. As we were leaving, we promised to come down next summer for a visit.

When we arrived home, Carol started looking for a shoe box to make a home for "Butterfly," her new kitten. She and her dad found a box, punched holes in the lid and put some old soft rags in the bottom and it was ready to travel with. We were having a hard time with Trisha, our dog. Every step we took, she was right under our feet. I told Wes there was no way we could leave her behind, she would beat us to the car. When Curtis spread his sleeping bag on the floor, she was the first one to jump in the middle of it. He had quite a time trying to push her over so he could crawl in the bag. When he laid down, she settled down and stayed put for the night.

Before turning in for the night, I walked out back to visit with Alan and Vickie. After visiting for a while, I returned to a house so empty and quiet, but so full of memories. Could it be four years since I had doubted I could care for, and love all that would pass through our doors? It was easy to love them and I had cared for them the best I could. As I turned out the lights for the last time, I said, "God bless all our children."

Next morning we packed our car with last minute things. Wes and Trisha, had started earlier. He was driving the pickup and pulling the trailer. I was sure we would catch him somewhere up the road. Alan and Vickie came in to see us off. I told Vicki I didn't think she had many more days to go. She said if it was up to her, she would go now. Alan and Carol went to catch butterfly and put her in her box. Carol had a bowl with plenty of water and food, already in the car. Doug, who had kept his promise to help drive, had returned two days before.

As we got in the car, we once again told Alan goodbye and headed down the driveway. Doug wanted to stop and take the large sign that said "BUTLERS CHILDREN'S HOME" with us. I said, "Let it be, leave it to remind our neighbors that there are children out there that need them." He didn't like the idea of leaving it, but for once he listened to me. I think it was because I was driving and refused to stop.

As we turned out of the driveway, we met the new owners who were coming in with a load of furniture. The big, old house wouldn't be empty long. Soon the swings would be in full use again.

We waved and were on our way.


Back to Top

In Remembrance Of Edward Wesley Butler
Feb. 10, 1922--Sept. 19, 1997
Foster Father to 686 Children from 1963 to 1984

A Message for Grandpa

by Sarah Shaylene Butler-Marquez
Copyright © 1997

I remember when I got the news that you had taken ill,
Fear and sadness were the emotions that I began to feel.

I wish I were there for everyday while you were getting stronger,
But reality got in the way and made our distance longer.

And when you finally made it home, joy was in my heart.
How I hoped and wished and prayed that we would never part

We thought that you had cleared your hurdles, and the race you'd finally won,
But the dream was quickly shattered and our plans were left undone.

The day I knew that you were leaving was when you ask for prayer.
It was then you said you loved me and your secret you then shared.

Now not quite a year has passed since you said your good-byes,
And still when I start to think of you all I do is cry.

But there's one thing that makes me smile and helps me dry my eyes.
And its knowing to feel close to you all I have to do, is make your apple pies.

Written by Wes Butler's granddaughter, Sarah Shaylene Butler-Marquez in 1997.
[Wes was the apple pie maker in the family.]

Back to Top

Back To Chapter 8

Back to Home Page