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MY AUNT APRIL...A HEART OF GOLD.

When you know someone loves you.





By Gloria Phifer

Some relatives are faint images in my mind. There are two aunts whose colors are vivid. Their memory is a sweet fragrance in my life. One of them was my Aunt April.

My mother had five sisters. April was 16 months older than my mother. They never had a close relationship…perhaps it was personality differences or competition in childhood.

Aunt April was about 5ft 5inches tall. She had large brown eyes and light brown hair. She was energetic, talkative, and always smiling. Her eyes lit up when I came into the room. Aunt April loved me. When I was a small child she would kneel down and talk to me eye to eye. I knew she cared. Like a magnet, I was drawn to her warmness and love.

In 1949, we lived in Bayard, New Mexico. My mother enrolled me into pre-first (equivalent to Kindergarten). I was five years old.

My brother, Lawrence Marion (Bronco) was born in December of that year.
My stepfather, Slim, and my mother decided to leave New Mexico. Slim wanted to search for a job in Montana. I would be staying in Sharon Springs, Kansas with

Aunt April.

April and her husband Kenny didn't have any children at this time. They lived in a quiet, older neighborhood. Their house was a white, two story. To a six year old (I had turned six in December) the house was huge.

I can remember my family leaving me and walking out the front door. My mother was hesitant, but Aunt April assured her I would be fine: and I was. I didn't cry. I felt uncertain but not abandoned. I was always a very perceptive child. I could always read the situation around me. I knew I was safe with my Aunt April.

My aunt enrolled me in Sharon Springs Elementary. Instead of Kindergarten (pre-1st) they put me into the first grade. For twelve years I was usually the youngest in my class. I graduated at seventeen years old.

I really have no memories of the school. My memories are of the neighborhood and my time with my aunt. I had my own bedroom off of the living room. When I came down with the measles, I can remember April taking good care of me. She tucked me into bed and shut the curtains. "To protect your eyes," she said.

Aunt April was always kind to me. She never raised her voice. She always seemed happy with me. I was the apple of her eye and I basked in her attention. I felt content.

There were a few kids in the neighborhood. I was the youngest. One day we were playing "cowboy and Indians". I had a toy pistol. The oldest boy took my toy and said I could not have it back unless I paid him a dime. I went into Aunt April's house and took a dime out of her purse. I gave it to the bully, but I never told Aunt April. (Sorry Aunt April. I owe you a dime.) One day, this same boy set up a situation where he thought he could take advantage of me. The whole group was playing in a tent…I ran home for a few minutes. When I got back, the bully was the only one there. What is interesting, at six years old, I knew he had sent everyone home and had set this up. He asked me to do something disgusting. With all the furious indignation, this six year old had, I pointed my finger at him and yelled "you are a naughty, naughty boy!!!" and I ran home. I never told Aunt April about either of these instances. Looking back she would have taken care of both situations. Why don't children tell adults what they are going through?

As I think about it now, there were numerous times in my life, that this God given instinct saved me from harm.

When school was out in the spring, I knew Mom and Slim were coming for me. I knew I was facing the inevitable…which as a child became my norm. I was riding the bike; April had given to me, as our 1949, black Ford passed by. My mother waved at me. I returned to the house but I wasn't excited. I'm sure my mother was disappointed that I had no reaction.

I was sad as I left my Aunt April. Looking back, I think it was the sense of peacefulness and security that I felt. And the love. Our family was always on the move. Never permanently settled and not much abiding peace? As an adult I realize that peace is very important to me.

The only memory I have, of the drive to Montana, was holding my baby brother, as I sat in the back seat. (This was before car seats and baby seats). He was over a year old now. My mother turned, from the front seat, with a smile on her face. "Don't you want to put him down? Isn't he heavy?" "No," I said "I just want to hold him."

That summer, in Butte, Montana, they rented a cabin that was small. It had a kitchen and a place to eat. (If I thought it was small at six years old, it must have been small.) At night, the four of us slept in a tent. Bronco was in a crib. My mother, Slim and I slept on cots. I woke up one night with a cat sitting on me. (Didn't take the love of cats out of me)

I spent a lot of time down the street at a neighbor's house. She let me play her piano and xylophone. She told mom that I needed a piano and lessons. She thought I was musically inclined
hey rented a house in Butte before winter set in. I began the second grade. The last half of the year, I finished the grade in Philipsburg, Montana, where we moved to.

As the years passed, Aunt April and Uncle Kenny had three children and lived on a ranch. I would see her occasionally if we visited them or if she came to Albuquerque to see my grandmother. (By this time we were back in New Mexico.)

Aunt April became a business woman. She owned and operated her own fabric store. She now sported a short, blond hair cut. She always dressed nicely as did her children. I thought Aunt April's life was "all together". No one on the outside knows another's life.

Years later, she went through some hard times. A bitter divorce and tragic circumstances. She moved to Albuquerque and began working for the phone company.

She was still my Aunt April, but there was a hardness there. She was in survival mode. She smiled, but it was through a broken heart. Despite her many losses she still had a heart of gold. A giving heart.

I married, moved to Iowa and had children. On occasion she would call me. I loved to hear her voice…I recognized it immediately.

One year we were vacationing in Colorado. My husband CJ was making a long distant phone call from our motel room. The operator said , "Carroll Phifer, where are you?" It was Aunt April. We had a good laugh over that.

When we visited Albuquerque, Aunt April always insisted on taking us out for breakfast. She would not allow CJ to pay the bill. I think she liked the tug of war and loved having him give in. There was no arguing with Aunt April.

Twice I flew to New Mexico by myself. Once I had a lay over in Denver. Aunt April's daughter and her husband were living there at the time. I was so surprised to see them. How Aunt April knew my schedule I never knew. She had sent them to be with me during my lay over. They visited with me until I got on the plane.

On another flight, some years later, when I landed in Albuquerque, there was my cousin Kim …Aunt April's son. He helped me with my luggage and I had to transfer to a bus. I was on my way to meet my half sister for the 1st time. After the visit to Clovis, Aunt April picked me up. I stayed at her house until my brother Bronco came to take me to Farmington, New Mexico.

Aunt April and I had a good visit. She arranged for all my cousins that were in Albuquerque, to meet us for breakfast, so I could see them. Cousin Kim and his children were the only ones who showed up. She was "Hot"! I told her I was fine. I enjoyed being with her and her family. (I'm sure when she saw my other cousins she gave them "The what for!")

I had dreaded going to Farmington. Mom and my step dad Deryl were alcoholics. (Slim died when I was ten.) But, I actually found a blessing in Farmington. On Easter Sunday night, Bronco, Mom, Deryl, my Aunt Ruby, her family and I went to a church service. Deryl was sitting next to me during communion. He turned to me and said, "You really believe, don't you?" and I said, "Yes, I do." Then we both took communion. After the service Mom and Deryl held hands and went to the minister. They asked him to pray for them. Later, My Aunt Ruby cooked supper. As we were together, I heard Deryl say to Bronco, "I love you Bronco." And Bronco answered back, "I love you too Deryl." God had brought me to a place of blessing.

A friend of Bronco's, (Bronco had to work) my mother and Deryl brought me back to Albuquerque, from Farmington, so I could catch my flight.

Aunt April was at the air port. It was a heart stretching situation. Mom and Deryl were so fragile. (I knew they were trying so hard to stay sober). Aunt April held on to my arm as if she didn't want to let me go. .

What do you do when people that you love, are beside you and you know the many hurts in their lives? You love them, and tell them you love them. Then (as a friend told me) prayer is the best you can do. How do I know God loves broken people? Because, I come from broken people. I was a broken person. I needed a Savior Who would love me and take care of me. One who would never leave me and would never leave the people I love.

Of course I didn't know it at the time, but Mom and Deryl were headed for some hard times ahead.

And, it was the last time I would see April.

A year or so passed and Aunt April called me. She had undergone some surgery. She told me she was not feeling well, but was sure everything would be alright.

Within the month, I received a vanilla envelope. April had sent me the pictures she had of me.

When my mother called and told me Aunt April had passed away, I was not prepared for it. She had been a special person in my life.

After a few months, I was looking again at the photo's she had sent me. I happened to turn one over and there, pasted on the back, was an entry form…"The Most Adorable Child."

She had entered me into a contest, and I had never known it.

My wonderful, Aunt April, I'm so thankful you were in my life. I am thankful to God for your love for me. It made a huge difference…as love always does.

You had a heart of gold.






1961 GRADUATED







I had lived with a neighbor the summer before my senior year.

I discovered, because of changing schools so many times during

high school; I did not have enough credits to graduate from

Sandia High School in Albuquerque.

As you probably read, Mom and Deryl moved to Grants, New Mexico, because I had enough credits to graduate there.

When I left, our neighbor said to my mother "Gloria, will never

graduate from high school. "

Thank God she was wrong. After attending 14 schools in 12 years...I did graduate.

SEVENTEEN AND NO WAY OUT...





Al was my way out. He was my future. The end of the school year was near..

SENIOR PROM 1961



          A week before the Junior-Senior Prom I received a letter


 from Al. The engagement was off. I couldn’t eat…I didn’t want to live.


          A friend arranged a double date for the prom.  I posed for the

 picture in my long, pink-laced formal.  I smiled but my heart was

 breaking.
                                 **************
 

           It was time for graduation. Mom and Deryl wouldn’t go to

 Baccalaureate so I didn’t attend either.

           I received a telegram…


          Congratulations on your graduation…Good Luck…Al

          Salt in a wound.
It had been one of the hardest years of my life, but I had a high

 school diploma.  I didn’t know it was just the beginning of hard

 times and wrong decisions.

I felt so lost....


HAVE COURAGE

                                                              Gloria Phifer


My husband recently asked me when I was going to continue writing "Footprints of my life."

I have taken a little sabbatical. It will take courage to share the things to come.

I will share my story because it gives God glory for the way He delivers and saves.

My courage is coming...

LOSING UNCLE DARIN



“1961

                                               
Darins funeral. Left to right...Aunt Virginia, Aunt April, Grandma, Aunt Ruby, My Mom, Don's wife.
            

               “No!” Mom screamed into the phone. 

  “Darin shot himself!”
 

          Uncle Darin, Mom’s brother was visiting Cy (Aunt Vivian’s X-husband) in Magdalena. He had been drinking. He placed the barrel of his handgun to his head and pulled the trigger.

                                                     ***************

          The one level, adobe motel on Central Ave in Albuquerque was full of our relatives. Darin’s funeral and burial was the following day.

          Al drove up to our motel room in his white Impala.

          “Mom, Al and I are going to get something to eat”

          She glared at me but allowed me to leave.

          When I returned she was furious.


          “I should take you to that funeral home and lock you up in that room with Darin!” she fumed.

          Once again I made a vow to myself, “as soon as I am able I’m leaving!”


          After the funeral, pictures were taken of Grandma and her daughters and oldest son, Don. Grandma had lost her son, and Mom and her siblings had lost their youngest brother.


          Mom and Aunt Ruby were convinced that someone had murdered Darin. They couldn’t accept “suicide”. They consulted Aunt Ruby’s Ouija board. A board of deception can give you nothing but fear. Mom was beside herself. We returned to Grants in hopelessness and chaos.
                                                               ***************

          Mom and Deryl were yelling in the kitchen. The drinking had begun again. From the living room I saw Mom flip the light off and hit Deryl with a bottle. They fought on the kitchen floor.


          Mom was nagging me constantly.  Nothing was up to her specifications. Nothing I did pleased her.


          One night she was arguing with me about Al. I sat on my bed in tears. She took my wrist and checked my pulse. She laughed about how fast it was beating.


          Al was my way out. He was my future. The end of the school year was near..*******


          (After writing this I have thought a lot about my mother and Darin. They were both hurting people. I feel sad for Uncle Darin and the pain he must have been trying to cover up with the alcohol.  There are many "if only's" in life. If only we had been a family of prayer. I do trust my Heavenly Father, He is full of mercy. He sees the hurts and pains of all people and He has compassion.)


   

 

A PROMISE OF MARRIAGE AFTER GRADUATION AND A DEPRESSED MOTHER



1960-1961
          


          A few weeks later Al came to Grants. He told me he had been having a hard time.  Of course I forgave him.  We took up where we left off.  He drove us back to Albuquerque where I picked out an engagement and wedding ring.  Al put them on lay away.

          “We’ll get married next summer as soon as you graduate.” Al said.

          Grants was 70 miles from Albuquerque.
          Route 66 passed through the long main street of Grants.  Uranium mines and mills were the town’s main income.

          A small three-bedroom house was rented and Bronco and I began school. I was the youngest in the 1961 senior class. I made many friends and had opportunities to date, and socialize but I was “engaged.”

          Life was good at first. But as the year continued Mom was moody. Something was bothering her. There were mornings when she fixed breakfast for Bronco and I.  But some days she didn’t want to get out of bed.   She confided to me that she had tried to over doze on pills but it hadn’t worked.

          I didn’t have a car so my friend Louise picked me up for school every morning. Her parents owned the jewelry store in Grants.   
          Later in the year, one of our friends from our class, died in a car wreck.  As I attended the funeral with other classmates I once again was faced with death.

         The age-old question resonated in my mind …why was I here?

          Mom and Al were having a silent war. They couldn’t stand each other.

          “The sooner you get away from your mother the better,” Al said.

          One weekend I was invited to go to Albuquerque with a friend and her mother.  My objective was to see Al.

          “No, you are not going to Albuquerque!” Mom said adamantly.

          I spent my senior year angry and frustrated with my mother. 
          Mom was angry with all of us. There was no way of pleasing her.  Because I was "engaged" I spent most of my time at home, so I was with her a lot. 
          When I folded the towels, she said they should have been folded a different way. No matter how I did them it was never right. 
           The house had wood floors. She went on a rant that they had to be polished with wax. If they weren't just right we were all in trouble.  

It was like walking on a tight rope. 

(As a young adult, I thought it as my fault that I couldn't please her. But, now I know she was desperately unhappy.)



 

GRANTS, NEW MEXICO






                                Moving to a Grants to graduate...1960


GRANTS, NEW MEXICO MINING


Albuquerque was left below in the valley, as the “57 Chrysler drove west up the nine mile hill.  Red rock formations stood majestically in the desert, as Route 66 wound its way to Grants, New Mexico.

I was on my way to Grants to graduate from high school but I was with Mom, Bronco and Deryl.  When Mom received my letter Deryl quit his job in Dulce and they came for me in Albuquerque.

Dottie had not been happy when I left. Her parting words to Mom were, "Wanda, Gloria will never graduate from High School"

“There’s a sight for sore eyes,” Deryl said as we approached some road construction. The Chrysler parked on the side of the highway, and Deryl walked over to the heavy equipment. He was smiling when he returned to the car.

          “I start work Monday morning.”
          I was touched that Deryl and Mom cared enough about my graduating that they would move to Grants.
         
             (I knew they loved me in their own ways. And I loved them no matter what happened.) 

PERMISSION TO MARRY AT 16......HEARTBROKEN




          Deryl is coming after us. He’s working on a road job in Dulce, New Mexico," Mom said with a huge smile, as she hung up the phone.
          “Mom, I don’t want to leave Albuquerque. I don’t want to leave Al!”
          She wasn’t listening to me. She was into her own plans.
                                      ***********
          We’ll get married!” Al announced 
          Knots and butterflies alternated in my stomach as we sat before Mom in the apartment living room.
          “Wanda, I’m asking permission to marry Gloria. I know she’s only sixteen, but I promise she will finish school and get her high school diploma.”
          Mom’s face was a mask. But I could tell from her eyes, she was not happy with the proposal.
          “I’ll think about it!” she said crisply
.
          Mom’s answer to me the next day was, “NO!”
          “But Mom,” I negotiated, “don’t you understand how I feel? You will be with Deryl because that is what you want? You always get what you want.  I want to be with Al.”



 (This was the first time I really stood up to my mother.)
          I couldn’t believe my ears…
          “You can get married but you have to finish high school.”
                    “OK!” I was overjoyed. “If I find a place to live can I stay in Albuquerque until the wedding?”
          The answer was “yes!”
          Mom began packing. She was happy. Deryl was coming to her rescue again.
          I phoned Dottie, a former neighbor who lived in Princess Jean Park. I had cleaned her house when we lived in the neighborhood.
                              ************
          Mom and Bronco left Albuquerque with Deryl. I moved into Dottie and Don’s home. I helped Dottie with her house and four children.


          As the weeks passed I saw less of Al. I wasn’t sure what was going on.  I was beginning to feel uneasy.
One night on the phone he informed me that his father had put him in a bind financially. He never did fully explain everything.


 Al became increasingly distant. After some denial on my part, I realized it was over, we were not getting married.


 My heart was heavy. I couldn’t sleep and I wasn’t interested in eating. Dottie was worried about me.
          “Gloria, you can stay with us. You can attend Sandia High this fall.”
          When I checked on enrollment at Sandia, I was in for a surprise. I was lacking credits because of our many moves.
  
Dottie’s mother and sister Mary Lou visited that weekend. 

Mary Lou was one year younger then me. We had become good friends.
 When Dottie’s mother saw my predicament she made a wonderful offer:
          “Gloria, come to Grants, you can live with us. You will have enough credits to graduate from Grants High,”
 
          Dottie was frowning at her mother’s suggestion. She didn't want me to leave.


          “Thank you for inviting me, but I can’t move to Grants with out asking my mother.”


             Mom and Deryl didn't have a phone, so I wrote her a letter and waited.