Goodbye to a Legend

Can it be? Can he really be gone? Eddie Van Halen was a fixture. Although he did have an unhealthy lifestyle of alcohol and probably drug abuse as the lead guitarist and cofounder of the 70’s rock group Van Halen, it just seemed he would live forever. Music is immortal. I guess musicians are not.

Eddie in his later years. Still so handsome.

I believe it was my brother who introduced me to Van Halen in 1978 after their first self-titled album came out. Popping that 8-track tape into his car’s tape deck introduced me to “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Eruption,” and others. I was hooked. This was back in the day before music videos and YouTube, and we had no idea what these guys looked like, either. The album cover on the tape was barely visible. We just knew that we really liked their music.

The first album’s cover.
The boys (left to right): David Lee Roth (later replaced by Sammy Hagar) , drummer Alex Van Halen, Eddie, bassist Michael Anthony (later replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang).

That same year I met the boy who would become my husband. He was a concert aficionado, so when tickets for the legendary annual concert, the Texxas Jam, became available the next summer, Jimmy ordered two and we found ourselves at the Dallas Cotton Bowl stadium in June.

I saved the ticket stubs from the Texxas Jam. We didn’t stay late enough to see Boston.

Summer in Texas is no joke, and even though June isn’t the hottest month of the summer, our seats were high in the stadium and in direct sun. Young and dumb as we were, we used absolutely no sunscreen and brought no water. I wore a spaghetti string top and was burned so badly my shoulders were solid blisters for days, second-degree burns which could have made me sick and could still lead to melanoma. I just didn’t know better.

This is the pendant I bought at a concert. The chains either broke or were lost.

It was all worth it when Van Halen came onstage. Seeing the band in person, seeing what the band members looked like and how they performed was magical. Lead singer David Lee Roth and lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen captured my heart. Who could resist David’s long blonde curls, sexy voice, and athletic stage presence and Eddie’s cute smile and guitar riffs?

More ticket stubs. . .

Jimmy and I would see three Van Halen concerts before our kids came and we stopped going to concerts altogether. We saw them at Shreveport’s Hirsch Memorial Coliseum (where we also watched Ted Nugent and KISS) in 1980 and Dallas’s Reunion Arena in 1981.

These are programs we bought at their concerts in 1980 and 1981.

Eddie Van Halen married Valerie Bertinelli, whom I also loved from the TV show “One Day at a Time,” in April of 1980, just four months after we married in January of that year. As I grew busy with raising a family and teaching school, I grew less interested in the band and what was going on with them, and when David Lee Roth quit the band and Sammy Hagar became the lead singer, I lost interest. It was my feeling that no one could replace David. It was sad that the band couldn’t get along.

Valerie Bertinelli with Eddie.
Jimmy and me in 1979. He’s wearing a Ted Nugent concert shirt.

Losing Eddie Van Halen almost feels like losing part of my past. I know that his family is mourning, and I don’t mean to diminish their grief at all, but I’m sure that many other fans from that era must feel the same way. We can’t go back, but we can certainly listen to the music (thank you, Spotify) and fetch those memories of our youth.

I hope Eddie knew the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray he did. Thank you for the memories and the music, Eddie. They will live on.



Meeting Mr. Darragh

It was 1966 when I entered second grade. I was tasked with keeping up with my brother Allen on the school bus, making sure he was on it in the afternoon and that he got off the bus in the morning once we arrived at school. He and I were often mistaken for twins, but he is fourteen months younger than I am, so he was in the first grade.

Wasn’t I a dumpling?

My teacher that year was Mrs. Russell, and I fast became one of her favorites. Or at least I thought I was. Maybe every one of her students had the same thought. She chose me to help her make bulletin board pictures, placed me in reading group one (bluebirds, or something of that sort–everyone knew we were the smartest), and sometimes kept me in the room during the last recess to be her helper.

One day as I was working at my desk, a tall slender man with black-rimmed glasses came into the classroom with Principal Moore. Mr. Moore was getting up in years with plans to retire. The man who had come in with him would be our new principal the next school year.

Mr. Darragh spoke to Mrs. Russell and then knelt down by my desk. What was he doing? I’m sure my face turned red, being singled out like that.

“What’s your name, young lady?” he asked, and after I told him, he told me what a pretty little girl I was and what a beautiful name I had. From that point on, Mr. Darragh would go out of his way to talk to me and even took an interest in what I planned to do with my life later on. Once, when I was in high school and saw him in the school cafeteria, he told me he thought I would make an excellent teacher. At the time I had no intention of being a teacher, but God had different plans, and He hinted at them through Mr. Darragh’s remark.

Mr. Darragh, 1968

Second grade was a fun, innocent year of becoming a fast reader, moving to a new house, chasing and being chased by boys on the playground, and enjoying just being a kid growing up in the country. I was blissfully unaware of the Vietnam War, civil rights unrest, the shooting rampage at the University of Texas in Austin, or the marriage of Elvis Presley to Priscilla Beaulieu.

Did you have a fun second grade experience?



A New House

Me on the top right with my brother and sisters on the front doorsteps.

My parents rented houses and apartments for their growing family up until I was seven years old. I remember living in six different houses, but there was at least one I don’t remember. Then Daddy decided to buy us a house. A new house. A bigger house. Less than five years old, with three bedrooms and full closets, wood paneling, and a huge yard. Mama was so excited. They financed it with Daddy’s boss and a mortgage for $8000. (This was 1966.)

So I grew up in that house. My brother and two sisters and me. My sisters shared a bedroom with me, and we had three twin beds in one room, just like “The Brady Bunch” sisters. In fact, I idolized Marcia Brady. I wanted to be just like her.


My brother, being the only boy, got a room all to himself. He didn’t stay in there by himself, though. He took great delight in terrorizing his sisters. He and I are only fourteen months apart, so sometimes I got to do things with him that our younger sisters did not. He would build an entire ranch in the dirt pile under a huge oak tree at the corner of our backyard, and allow me to use some of his Tonka trucks to have a ranch near his. He used his wide open hand to make the roads. I always asked him to make mine because I just couldn’t quite get the knack for it.

After moving into that house in May, we played outdoors all summer long, riding bicycles in the asphalt road, making roads in the dirt, playing with the water hose, and running barefoot everywhere. We got poison oak (similar to ivy), chiggers, ticks, wasp stings, pinworms, and sunburns, but we had a blast.

I guess this house was “the house that built me.” What about you? Do you have fond childhood memories? Was there a special childhood home?



Why I’m Surprised (but Grateful)

Spanish villas overlook the Mediterranean Sea at La Herradura Southern Spain. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Here I am, retired and nowhere near where I expected to be at this stage of my life. What happened to those lofty dreams of years ago when I pictured myself in a luxurious mansion sipping cocktails by a pool overlooking the Mediterranean? I guess I killed them. I didn’t choose to kill them. I killed them with my choices.

Choice #1: Going to college instead of joining the Navy. The Navy appealed to me as a high school senior because it promised world travel with a good salary and future retirement benefits. I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend, so I went to college. I also didn’t believe I could make it through basic training because I am basically a wuss when it comes to physical activities. I am not athletic in the least.

Choice #2: I followed my heart while in college. I married before I graduated, and he was young. He had to find a good job and never went to college himself. He did work hard providing for me and our eventual kids, though. He said he wouldn’t change a thing, but sometimes I think he would have been better off waiting. I would have been, too.

Choice #3: Not finishing my pre-med program. I didn’t take Chemistry or Physics in high school because I was afraid of failure, and my first Chemistry class was a disaster. I learned nothing because the teacher wasn’t a good one. I barely passed the second semester under the other teacher, so I decided I would never be able to pass Organic chemistry. I also have a phobia of needles, which people say you get over, but I hate fainting in class (which I did three times).

Choice #4: Not taking Chemistry and Physics in high school. I was scared of the teachers and failure.

Choice #5: Letting fear control my decisions.

I did make other choices affecting my life’s journey, and I’m not saying I regret making easier choices, but I am in a different place than I expected to be. But isn’t that what God is all about? Taking us on new and unexpected journeys? He has blessed me with a loving husband, two beautiful children and their spouses, and three wonderful grandchildren.

My cup is full, although my mansion is a 1961 wood frame three-bedroom home and I might sip coffee or wine on my deck or front porch. Who needs a mansion on the Mediterranean anyway? I have one “just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old” (old church hymn) anyway!

What about you? Have you landed where you least expected? I’d love to hear from you!



Back to school

Those three words used to create dread and excitement when I was an elementary school student. I dreaded things like getting up early, riding the bus, being in P.E., having to get to know new teachers, wondering which of my friends would be in my class, eating in the school cafeteria. Few things about the start of school were exciting, but I did (and still do!) love shopping the new school supplies, getting new clothes, and seeing my friends again.

Summer vacation meant sleeping in and waking up to Mama sweeping the floor. It meant morning cartoons on TV and riding my bike or playing in the dirt pile until it got too hot in the afternoon. It meant my sisters and me running lemonade stands stocked with Koolaid and only having one customer and that was the man who came home with Daddy at lunchtime. It meant Vacation Bible School and getting to hold the Bible during the pledge to “God’s Holy Word.”

Summer meant getting to skip a nightly bath occasionally even after playing outside until dark. It meant fireflies and family “work up” baseball in the yard. It meant trips to the lake and family vacations staying in state park shelters and visiting relatives.

But summers didn’t last forever. So, armed with a new Big Chief tablet or loose leaf notebook, new pencils or pens, crayons or map colors, and a King Edward cigar box to hold everything, I entered the brave new world of the next grade.

I can still smell the new crayons and the janitor’s cleaning solutions. Close your eyes. Can you?

God bless the teachers, staff, and students as they enter the brave new world of school with Covid-19. May they all stay safe and well!