Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thanks For The Memories Barbie!

Barb with CH. Anderleigh The Patriot (Patrick) circa 2002.  He is the only yorkie left in the home and is a buddy to her husband Frank.

On July 30th we celebrated the life of Barbara R. Alexander--an awesome lady, my second mom & "adopted grandma" to my children, as well a longtime Yorkshire Terrier breeder/exhibitor (with a Chin sprinkled in for good measure.)

I was given the honor of giving her eulogy and would like to share it with those who were unable to make it to the service.  I know she will be on the AKC Delegate's "In Memoriam" screen the next session and a tribute by our local kennel club (Central Ohio KC) but if anyone knows of others, please let me know so I can tell the family about it.  

Good Afternoon.  I’m sure I speak for the family in telling you how deeply they appreciate having each and every one of you here to celebrate the life of this amazing lady.
Bobbie, Barb, Barbie, Mrs. A, Mama, Mommy, Grandma, “What if Barbie,” “Mom the Worrier,” Bob-a-La and my Miss Daisy… Barbara Joan Ransdell Alexander had more nicknames than anyone I know- but each one was used by a distinct group of people and she answered to all of them.  She was steadfastly loyal, courageous, classy, reliable, generous, wise, diligent, witty, the best cheerleader and moral supporter ever, kind to everyone, patient, thoughtful, quick to forgive, gracious to others win or lose, a great teacher who freely shared her knowledge and able to laugh at herself. 
Barbara’s particulars are in her obituary, so I would just like to tell you about the Barbie I knew.  I appeared on the Alexander doorstep in 1986 and my life would never be the same.  We became instant friends.  Though I was there to care for the dogs, I was immediately included in everything and was never, I mean never, treated like an employee by anyone in the family.
I’ve had a long time to write this eulogy.  During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I got the call that Barb was at Riverside Hospital in ICU.  When I arrived, Barb was intubated and hooked up to monitors with her family by her side.  Fortunately, she had no memory of that awful day.  She improved to the point of wanting to make her parting wishes known.  I am honored she asked me to start writing this, but fortunately, I got to set it aside for many years. 
Barbie was little, but determined and tough.  She could’ve given up many times, but persevered and rose to challenges. During that initial health crisis she had to make a major decision.  You could tell the surgeon wasn’t particularly confident of the outcome.  He said she could die, lose a foot, have a stroke or heart attack.  It was all very bleak until he said, “or she could live another 5 years.”  She didn’t hesitate to choose the surgery because she didn’t want to keep living the way she was.  We were overjoyed she even had a shot at any more time, much less 5 years!  After some complications, she learned to walk again and we got 11 more years with her, mostly in decent health. She was in and out of the hospital, but she bounced back time after time.
Barbie always claimed to be a devout coward, but she was anything but that.  Aside from her health battles, she gave up alcohol and smoking cold turkey.  She warned others to never start.  If she decided to go on a diet, she would stick to it a long time.  She overcame her fear of computers and accounting to be the treasurer of the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America.  She did not take her responsibility lightly.  She agonized if she was off a nickel and would look for it for hours.  Then, she’d make Frank look for it.  Coming home from specialties sometimes meant she would have many thousands in cash in this dumpy gold carry-on she used as a “purse.”  It was so ugly she figured nobody would suspect there was money in it.  She would stand with it between her legs and her foot through the strap at the airline ticket counter.  I was in charge of the dogs and everything else, but she alone wanted to be responsible for that bag!  She was never more relieved than when she got that money deposited in the bank, every cent accounted for.
Barb was at her best and in her element when she took on a task.  She put her nose to the grindstone and made detailed lists, ran errands, made phone calls and set up a little station so she could keep items together.  She was quite organized, even if it didn’t appear that way.  She did all of this while doing the daily chores/errands, overseeing the dogs and cooking a full dinner nearly every night.
I never minded looking after her as she always took great care of me and later, my family.  My children think of her as their adopted grandma whom they love very much.  She was there through thick and thin, fun and celebrations, our illnesses/surgeries and when tragedy struck. When I lived with her, she had dinner on the table when I got home at 5 p.m., which was way earlier than they were used to eating, but she didn’t want me to wait until after I took care of the dogs to eat as that was another hour and a half.  If she was on vacation, the fridge and freezer would be packed with food and lots of Diet Coke. 
She made sure that my Golden Retriever Windi and I (and yes, even Rex the parrot) were comfortable in the back wing of the house on Olentangy River Road, then later on Bright Road.  She and Windi became fast friends as she took care of her while I was at work.  Windi could be found on the kitchen floor by Barbie’s feet because “she didn’t want her to be lonely.”  When Barbie went out to dinner, she would often bring Windi home part of her steak.  Sometimes, Windi even got it.  Other times, she would open her purse a day or two later and pull out a yucky napkin with meat in it. Barb went with me when it was time to put Windi to sleep.  We both cried the whole way home.  Rex was another matter.  She bribed him often and considered it a win when he didn’t bite her.  She never stopped trying to win him over.
The Barbie I knew loved daisies (saying who could be sad looking at them?) and playing Bridge with her club friends on Thursdays for more than 40 years.  She tried to teach me a time or two so I could be a sub.  I played other card games, so she thought I could learn.  She was wrong.  However, she did teach me how to knit—something I never thought I’d be able to do.  After 30 years together, you would think I could remember her favorite color.  I think it was blue, but it could’ve been any of the 50 shades of beige she liked to wear.  While choosing a wall color, she had a huge pile of swatches, all beige.  She pointed out the nuances—there was cream, taupe, off white, a peachy beige, a pinky beige, a tannish beige… she was a very detail oriented lady indeed!
Though raised in the land of the Boilermakers, Barb cheered on the Buckeyes and claimed their football games were stressful! She yelled at the TV when things weren’t going well. 
Barbie was a well-read, voracious reader.  She read everything, including cookbooks cover to cover (and she was already a great cook!)  She especially did this while dieting, which I never understood.  She said it made her feel better.  She loved anything from best sellers, whodunnit’s, women’s magazines, news magazines to her “scandal sheets.”  She said she didn’t buy the ones that were too “out there” but was never able to clarify that for me as I think they are all “out there.” Her “Enquiring Mind” sometimes bought the same issue of her scandal sheets twice.  Whenever she was in the hospital or nursing home, Janet dutifully bought them all every week and there was always a stack of reading material for her to pass the time.
Barb was a student of the political world.  She had the news on most of the day as well as political talk shows, live events and the like, no matter which side of the aisle.  We didn’t get into political debates, but just would rib each other and agree to disagree.  I am sorry she is missing the end of this election because there is more drama than ever. I know she would’ve voted for Hillary.  She joked that she and Frank’s votes just “cancelled each other out.”  Frank, for the first time in 70 years, your vote will count.
Even though neither of us really held back on our opinions, I don’t recall us ever having an argument.  We had discussions of course, but I don’t think I changed her mind on anything important.   However, she was always good listener.  She was determined to remain current and rarely slipped into the “granny frame of mind.”  She said surrounding herself with young people kept her young as well.
Her other favorite things were movies, dining out (nearly always getting a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake or a steak if we went upscale.)  We loved hitting the hot spots when we travelled such as Tavern on the Green, Twenty One, The Russian Tea Room and many more.   Barb quit drinking the year before we met and I’m not much of a drinker, but I remember stopping by Sardi’s on the way to a show.  While waiting for a table she said “Be thinking about what you want to drink because we are not walking into Sardi’s and getting two Diet Cokes!  So it was a Diet Coke for her and a Rum and Diet Coke for me.
Barb was well-travelled and I enjoyed hearing about all about the trips she and Frank often took.  Most trips were happy ones, although they weren’t all flawless.  She told me of time in Europe when they were at a restaurant that was bombed later the same day.  She had the misfortune to get stuck at a Newark airport hotel after opening the room curtains and seeing that plane hit the second tower on 9/11.  Fortunately, it was an AKC delegate’s meeting, so Charlie Garvin was there and got her home safely. 
One of her favorite trips was an African Safari with her friend Margie.  She enjoyed it thoroughly and I am really impressed she went as she was getting older and the trip had to be exhausting.  She brought me back this necklace which has always been a favorite.
Barb and I always had fun on our trips, even when things didn’t go as planned.  (Which was often the case.)  I could go on all day about our travelling stories.  Many of you have been on the road with Barb so you know how much fun she could be.  But it wasn’t all fun and games…one NY trip I lost my wallet/cash/credit cards/license AND someone was shot in the room below us the first day we were there.  (I was an ear-witness to the murder, she didn’t hear a thing.)  Barb said I could either get over it or let it ruin the rest of my trip.  With her help, I got over it (mostly.) 
Road trips were interesting.  She preferred not to drive, so I did most of it.  Our friend Sheri Clark was in the same boat with Kathleen Kolbert.  So we nicknamed them our Miss Daisies.  My Daisy was a backseat driver in the front seat.  I was not always right, but I was enough that she should’ve trusted me.  I learned early on to self-navigate as much as possible. We were on a country road looking for some fairgrounds with Barbie holding the map and directions.  I asked her “are you sure we’re going the right way?”  She paused and said “Well, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West…” I lived on Payne Road 17 years and I don’t think she ever made it straight there.
I could go over all of her achievements in dogs with her beloved Yorkshire Terriers.  However, achievements were a by-product.  She loved her dogs, the breed, her dog friends and the travel.  Many people gauge their success on certain wins or the number of champions they bred.  Barb knew that was the fast track to taking the fun out of it.  Not that she didn’t like a good win, but our lives didn’t depend on it.  If it did, she would’ve used a better handler than me!  It was more important to put a quality dog in the ring.  She had a great eye for that and was never kennel blind.  To say she was a good sport is an understatement.  She was a great sport, which is one of the reasons she was universally well liked.
I can’t count the number of finishable dogs Barb just placed as spay/neuter pets—many dozens, I’m sure.  She would rather they had a loving forever home.  It was also rare for her to do an outside stud service or place an intact dog.  She just bred occasionally so we would have something nice to take to shows.  Every Anderleigh champion earned the title by its’ own merit.  They were never dyed, their ears never tied and were always deserving specimens of the breed.  That was why Barb was a respected leader in Yorkies for many years.  She was given the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America’s highest honor, The Johnny Robinson Award, for her service to the club and the breed.  She also received the AKC’s Lifetime Achievement Award nominated by Central Ohio Kennel Club members for her dedication and work for the club and purebred dogs.
I was ringside waiting to get a photo when a lady asked me how was it to handle for Barb.  I said “It’s great!  If we win that’s nice, if we don’t there is another show tomorrow.  She never gets bent out of shape over it.”  Little did I know Barb had walked up behind me and heard it all.  She thanked me and said she was really touched by that.  But I was just telling the truth.
Sometimes not everyone was happy when we won (and they didn’t.)  When she heard there was chatter to this effect, Barb taught me a great lesson on dealing with it.  She said “Whenever someone is badmouthing you and doesn’t have the guts to tell you to your face---YOU need to walk right up to them with a big smile, look them straight in the eye and say Hi!  How are you? It’s the worst thing you can do to them.  That is exactly what she did!
“What If Barbie” was never afraid to speak her mind.  For example, I knew she wasn’t thrilled about Mark and I riding around on a Harley.  So, when I told her that I got my own bike she said, “Well, at least the kids might have one parent left.”  “Mom The Worrier” put up with Steve racing cars and skydiving.  Then came Janet and Michael trekking in dangerous places.  She said that the daredevil gene must have come from Frank’s side of the family as she was the aforementioned “Devout Coward.”
But she was very brave as her life was drawing to a close.  Sometimes it would be a few weeks between visits and each time I noticed her getting frailer.  She loved coming up to my place, then going to Marie’s candy store in West Liberty every season to see the decorations.  I promised to take her to the zoo as we hadn’t been there in the 10-15 years since our previous trip. After several delays, we finally got there, just a few days before she would be forever hospitalized.  My Daisy braved a fairly hot day, drank Starbucks, ate a hotdog and enjoyed every minute of it though she didn’t feel well upon getting home.   She said she would probably never see the zoo again and I said “Sure you can.  It’s just up the road!”  But that was wishful thinking.
That Saturday she broke her hip and endured a partial hip replacement.  She came out of the surgery fine, but once again, complications arose.  Once she got to the nursing home for rehab, things went from bad to worse.  When Audra and I saw Barbie July 2nd she was alert and telling her stories, but physically, I knew she was never going home.  A few days later she had worsened to the point of hospitalization.  After enduring more tests and treatments, Barb knew that this was only prolonging the inevitable.  Her family honored her request to go to hospice, and thankfully for her, it wasn’t long until she was free from the pain and physical frustrations she had long suffered.  I am so grateful I was able to get there in time to say goodbye.  She told her family she was ready to be with God and on the morning of July 14th, she took her last trip peacefully.  She knew she was loved, had a life well-lived and that all would be taken care of as she wished.

I hope you are able to spend some time thinking about Barbara, your good times and what she meant to you.  For me, she was a second mom, the dearest of friends, travelling buddy, mentor and confidant.  I loved her very much and will always cherish our 30 years together.

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