Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Leona Ruth Kirk

I've never written about her, except for one diary entry long ago, which was unfinished. I've never written down her story until now. This is what I know:

Sunrise at Pandale.

She was a strikingly beautiful woman, but in an unusual way. Supposedly she was part Native American, from the Blackfoot tribe, though I've never been able to verify this. She never spoke of her mother.

She was careful in her speech to avoid all appearance of evil. In her vicinity, you could not refer to the male bovine as a "bull". You always had to say "gentleman cow". The police were always police, never "cops". And she was serious about this, too!

She loved to sing. She had a melodious voice, so that even when she was talking it sounded like she was singing. She would sing while she worked, whether she was at her sewing machine or whether she was cooking or sweeping the floor or whatever she did. She mostly sang hymns, although she liked the records I listened to, especially the Beatles.

I don't know if she grew up singing the songs of faith, but in any case she learned them and made them her own.

When my mother needed to have a word with you about something, she had a gift for getting to the heart of the subject and cutting through the, um, the gentleman cow.

"Do what you know is right," she would say.

She loved the outdoors. She loved camping and fishing. Baker's Crossing and Pandale, both in Texas, were her favorite fishing spots. She was agile. She could sit for hours on her ankles, in a most uncomfortable-looking position, while she fished. She could scamper over the large boulders at Pandale like few humans could do.

She could kill a chicken with one hand. (I'll spare you the details.)

She could swing a mesquite limb switch really effectively at a disobedient son.

Leona met Milton, my dad, while they were in their late teens in Waco. They married, and had their first son, Norman, when she was just 20.

When she was 42, after Norman left and joined the air force, she and my dad had some trouble and separated for a short time. She went to see her sister in Dallas. After a week or two, my father went and got her. They worked things out, got back together and had sort of a second honeymoon. Soon she discovered she was pregnant a second time. She broke the news to my dad on a fishing trip to Baker's Crossing.
This pregnancy would be much more difficult, considering her age and all. Her blood pressure nearly went through the roof. But in December 1958, she gave birth to me.

At the age of 49, she learned to drive for the first time. I remember when she got her license.

She was active in the PTA. She and another lady were sort of the class moms at Midland Christian School, where I went. My classmates loved her.

One year, she got to be the witch in the spook house at the Fall Festival. In the darkened room, she had a big cauldron with dry ice, and a plate for the kids to touch, with grapes and noodles representing eyeballs and brains.I remember she did such a good job that she had to console at least one frightened little girl.

She was always learning new things. She bought an electronic organ and took lessons. She played very well.

On Thursday, May 2, 1968, Leona was alone at home, talking on the phone with Norman. She collapsed, and he called an ambulance. The doctors said she had had a cerebral hemorrhage. A weak spot in a blood vessel had given way. She had been born with it, they said, and had never known about it. It was a miracle in retrospect that she hadn't died when she gave birth to me, when her blood pressure shot up so high.

The doctors said she would recover. It would be difficult for us all, most of all for her. She would have to have much rest for a year. Plans were made to care for her at home. No one believed she would die except for herself. She knew she wasn't coming back to her earthly home again.

Leona passed away on Mother's Day 1968.

In the years since then, many family members have joined her. My dad. My brother's wife. My grandmother. My stepmom. My brother and his wife's parents.

If there are rivers in heaven, as many people have said, there must be fish. And if so, I can imagine the family, those who fished anyway, gathering by the river. I can see my mother sitting on her ankles in a most uncomfortable-looking way on the heavenly banks and dropping a hook in the water, all the while singing a song earth cannot know, and making the song her own.


Monalea said...


This was beautiful! I can see all of the love and hard work that went into this. I wish I had gotten to meet Leona, but I will when I go to heaven. You favor her a lot. I too lost my dad in '69. It was one of the most traumatic things in my live. I'm so glad you shared.


David Kirk said...

Thanks. I finally learned to use my scanner.

Nicky said...

I remember Papa talking about her when I was little. He always said she was the most beautiful person he'd ever known.
I really enjoyed reading about her, and I'm glad you posted the pictures, too.


Loved the post. Gave us some insight to your past and to your heart. That's for letting us share in your life from a distance.

Monalea said...

There is a wonderful clip art place you need to check out. When you find the picture you want, save it and then upload it on your blog page. Go to

David Kirk said...

Nicky and Trey:
Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thanks. I'll check that out.

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