Bob Perry · 1263
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My Stepmother PJ Perry (Eades) [10/03/1938 – 04/14/2016] … Where she met my Father …I was 11 years old when they started dating, just starting to get strange thoughts regarding the opposite sex myself!! Dad had been dating a very wonderful widow woman for quite a while named Irene, who had several children of her own. We were all very close and that closeness remains to this day. In fact, I had a huge infatuation crush on one of Irene’s daughters. Hey ‘Lainey, do you remember that monster catfish you caught from our boat one evening under the stars on the river? Everyone I’ve ever stayed close to who knew us well back in the day will tell you, most people either loved my dad like a brother or stayed the hell away. At that time my dad and my grandfather both worked about 25 miles away from home (Clinton, ILL), in the twin cities of Bloomington/Normal ILL, in a Eureka Williams© Vacuum cleaner manufacturing factory that may possibly still be in operation today, not sure? Dad was a quality control inspector and grandpa was a custodial worker. Dad told this story unchanged MANY times over the years. One day he and grandpa were sitting down on a metal walkway elevated above the manufacturing assembly line floor eating lunch. Both being salty old seadogs from the military, Dad being a Marine, Grandpa being a world war II sailor, you can imagine the conversation between them while eating a sandwich and watching the line where the vast majority of the machine operators were women!! Well of course during the course of their normal work both of them had pretty close contact with everybody in the factory, one day Dad nudged Grandpa in the ribs and pointed out a red head on one of the machines and stated to grandpa that he’d be marrying that one, about 2-3 months later he did and remained that way till his death on her couch 44 years later. Their first date…This story also not witnessed by me personally, but the facts unchanged in each telling of it no matter who the witness was. Many of yuns can relate to this I’m sure!! The short story is that when he arrived to pick her up for their first date, he was not happy with the dress she was wearing and made her change, she was living with her parents too, her mom was present and they didn’t cotton to this until later when they got to know my dad better…I don’t recall whether it was his third date with her, but around that time and definitely her first date with us three boys present… the five of us went for an all day boating trip to the Vermillian River west of us. It was a 14 foot fiberglass hull runabout with 40 horsepower Gale© outboard motor, great fun for both skiing and fishing. My first impression of PJ was, “Way to go Dad!”, and as the day went forward, it became clear she didn’t get out like this much, a city girl itching to be a country girl… as usual, we ended the day of cruising fairly fast and dodging debri, with anchoring in the middle a while and going for a swim. PJ was not a swimmer at all, but my Dad somehow convinced her (with a little help from three boys already in the water and way too far away from the boat to pose any threat of dunking her under, but within chiding distance accusing her of being a scared-y cat and such!). She gets in with a floatation cushion from the seats in the boat, reluctantly at first, but was having a ball paddling around in the cool water until she noticed dad pulling up the anchor and starting the engine. She was maybe 20 feet or so away from the boat and Dad had it neutral most of the time but was gunning the engine up and slowly moving the boat closer claiming he was going to help her get back in the boat, it totally freaked her out. The closer the boat came, the louder she screamed. Then he bumped her hard enough to get her hair wet, we burst out laughing cause we knew he bumped her on purpose. But we also knew there was no chance at all for anything dangerous to happen to her with him there, he was an expert swimmer and he was in “his” element being out in nature.Next thing I know we are at a wedding in my aunt’s Nazarene church watching them get hitched… but I remember now that he did hold a short meeting with us boys beforehand to state what the plan was. Many, many, years later the truth comes out that it wasn’t him that convinced her to marry him, it was us boys. She fell in love with us first. And as for myself, their relationship was an honor to witness as she grew to know what a real man’s love & partnership can accomplish. Sometimes when I ponder those early years it’s hard to tell who the “real” disciplinarian was, there were times her Irish temper would surface that was far more frightening than the “look” Dad would give us when upset, that was usually sufficient to the point that I don’t recall ever getting a physical whipping from either one of them. I only witnessed her strike one of us once, kids can be cruel without realizing how hurtful certain comments are and my brother Norman found out quickly not long after she met Dad. We were all traveling somewhere together in Dad’s truck which only had the one bench-style seat for five people, my youngest brother was sitting on her lap. If memory serves I myself had already noticed that when she was about to laugh or smile she’d cover her mouth with a hand because she had a really bad case of pariah of her teeth, all of them were dark black so she was understandably self-conscience about letting people see them if possible, well apparently it was my brother’s first time noticing them and made a joke about it, PJ slapped him, not hard at all, but he deserved it and after they got married it was the first thing medically Dad fixed for her, she got them pulled and she got her first set of dentures. From the very beginning, she was fanatically conscious about letting us boys witness ANYTHING not lady-like about her. All blinds pulled shut and keyholes covered when she bathed or used the restroom. Never once in all those years did I see her naked. For years they had their date nights and in those days almost every adult I knew drank alcohol regularly. One night we were in bed when they got home but there was definitely something wrong with mom, she drank a bit too much and was hysterically pleading with Dad not to let us boys see her like that, bless her heart. Up to when they got married, we had mostly agreed between us that Grandma Ruth, my dad’s mother, was the best cook in the world. But PJ quickly replaced her with ease, there was very few times the spreads were meager and always healthy and delicious. As the years went on, I was privileged to witness my Dad bring the introverted city-girl we first met out of her self-imposed shell and spread her wings, so-to-speak. Her love of nature was evident to all of us right away. It was very common even before they got married that our family and my Dad’s sister Suzanne Ballenger’s family to visit each other regularly. Creed and Suzy Ballenger had five children, my cousins, four boys and a girl. For years it was a regular thing for all the boys to go hunting, fishing, and swimming with Dad (uncle Pete to them) and/or Uncle Creed. We lived right next door to them for a while, and we lived with my Grandparents at times too. Uncle Creed was a conductor on the Illinois Central Railroad for 30+ years, for those of yas that aren’t aware, in those days conductors were paid very well to be a “badass” when needed, and my uncle’s typical “run” was from Clinton to East St Louis and the rails ran directly through the ghettos, he always carried a .357 magnum revolver in his “grip”. It only took a small group of criminals a few minutes to jump onboard and strip a car, then get back off with the loot, this was back in the days when there was no armored plates sealing up the rail cars that were designed to transport automobiles from factories to dealers. Each car had three levels and about 5-6 vehicles on each level, and these trains sometimes had 50 or more of these car carriers in a single train. When these enormously long trains move through an urban area they have speed limits and were required to move slower as they got closer to the destination and through busy urban areas. Out in open country they clipped along at a fairly good speed. But if you happened to get caught at a crossing when these monsters were passing by it was best to turn the engine off because you’ll be there a bit waiting even if they were moving fast! We kinda liked sitting there watching them go by and seeing the new vehicles coming out of the factories. There’s something magical about trains to kids, even in today’s culture, I loved trains as a boy and my own youngest went snaky when we’d see a moving train. Anyway, I remember one visit Creed and Suzy made, for Dad & PJ’s anniversary if memory serves, and I think cousin Paula was with them. They cleared an area in the dining room and PJ and Creed gave a great demonstration of dancing the Jitterbug, it was the coolest thing, never knew my 300 pound uncle could move like that!! Dad was a cowboy at heart, John Wayne was his idol. When we lived on a farm for a while, he bought PJ a horse that she absolutely adored. This was a rather high spirited male Quarter-horse and we had plenty of back-road access nearby to work him out nicely. It was a regular ritual during good weather for her to ride the back roads on him, but when he got to the turnaround point he knew the next stop was the barn and he wanted to flat get it coming back, and she would occasionally let him cut loose. Well it was late in the harvest season so the fields and our garden were full of dried out cornstalks, I was driving a small surrey pulled by a pony we had in the small field of clover next to the garden, and the two brothers were playing some sort of war game in the garden, the road mom rode the horse on was on the other side of the clover field and we heard them coming, they were flat getting it. We didn’t know until that day what would happen if he was spooked while running flat out, we discovered by accident. My brothers ran out of the garden to watch them run, the loud noises of the dried out cornstalks being stomped on spooked him big time, he suddenly slammed on the brakes and stopped dead in his tracks, of course mom went flying through the air doing a summersault over his head. Still hanging onto the reigns, she smacked hard on the ground in front of the horse in a sitting position, smashed her tailbone and it affected her back for all her remaining days. But was the funniest thing to watch in person, for a moment anyway. That was the last of her horseback riding days.