Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sandy ~ 66 years less 5.

Sandra Lynn Taylor Parks Cheek Wiswell: 
aka: Sandy Parks
aka: Sandy Cheek
aka: Sandy Wiswell
Dec 8, 1946 - Aug 21, 2007

My sister Sandy was one of those people who are sometimes described as a force of nature. 
She would have been 66 today. 

Originally I posted a sort of obit on MySpace as the cost of doing one in the local paper is prohibitive. MySpace still exists for the time being but that post is long gone. What follows is a combination of my account of her passing that I sent out in email and the eulogy I read at the memorial service for her. I certainly loved my sister but I feel enough time has passed that, in the interest of history, a more complete logging of recollections should also exist.  Her story is one of a very bright and complicated person. At many places along the road of her life she took turns that eventually lead to her final years being filled with tremendous despair, regret and physical pain. Yet, on the occasion of her passing I got this message from our Aunt Patricia: "She was such a wonderful spirit.  What I remember best about her is her sense of humor.  When Phyllis (Patricia's twin) and I were there for Bert's (our mom's) memorial and we wanted to see her and she came over; we laughed a lot though the circumstances were sad."
That’s the way it was with her.
When she was younger she was* tall, usually with hair bleached blond, done up in a bouffant and those striking blue eyes. Always quick with a laugh. She loved to laugh.

At this point in the service I asked the mortuary guy to play Blood Sweat and Tears'  ‘You've Made Me So Very Happy’ They resisted, questioning the appropriateness but acquiesced and everyone there who knew her got the point. Her eldest daughter Tawnya cried. BS&T were Sandy's all time favorite band. The kind of bluesy rock they played was almost too on the nose as her personal anthem. 

She was born Sandra Lynn Taylor to Robert and Bertha Taylor in 1946 in Lawton Oklahoma. They owned a poultry business and had a nice life there as I understand it. Our mom escaped the drudgery of life on the farm looking after her 6 sisters by marring an ambitious older man. Robert and Bertha divorced in 1949 or 50.  Our grandfather Charlie Hale was a civilian mechanic at Fort Sill outside of Lawton Ok, when Vandenburg opened here in California he came to open the mechanics shop. Mom and Sandy moved here too. Mom had learned bookkeeping from the poultry business and did that to make a living for the 2 of them. It was a rough time to be a single mother. Not a common or acceptable thing in the 1950s. 

Sandy spent a good amount of time with grandma Zephry and my aunts. The youngest were the twins, Patricia and Phyllis, they were only 12 or so years older than Sandy. 
Finally Bertha and Burl, my father, married. After 3 or 4 years. They moved to a new house in Bellflower California. Then I came along in 1957. The new baby was the apple of everyone's eye. Being 10 years older Sandy was the built-in babysitter. We were really close back then. Suddenly in 1963 my position as the center of attention ended with the arrival of Stacey, the new baby. Sandy was then the built-in babysitter for both of us. 

Sandy was a dedicated horsewoman. I remember her working at the stables and a meticulously drawn illustration of a horse with all the musculature. She was great at sketching. How many times did I, or any of us who knew her, find a napkin or scrap of paper with a lady's eye drawn on it.

Shortly after Stacey was born the family moved to Bakersfield as owner/operators of the A&W at 2525 south Chester.

Sandy was a carhop at the A & W. She must have liked it because later she spent 15 years in food service. Her natural athleticism and bigger than life charm made her a success. Even-though waitressing is a hard job, day in and day out, she loved the work. The people mostly I suspect.

As a teenager Sandy had the big hair and seemed oh so glamorous to me at the time. Teen pranks were not uncommon. I remember one time the little Fiat sedan my folks had, being covered in toilet paper another time graffiti all over it done with poster paint. Another time they had to have it pulled out of the canal along H street.  

Then in 1964 or 5 Sandy met Sonny. Sandra and Clyde (Sonny) Cheek Jr. Soon after came Tawnya, then Sonya. Sonny was a shy man that was a kind of James Dean type. Broken nose that gave him a nasal voice with a thick Oildale accent. He was a mechanic so had muscles. Curly blond hair and crisp blue eyes that I can see in his daughters. I can even picture him in a white t-shirt with a pack of smokes rolled up in the sleeve. They bought a house over on Centaur in South Bakersfield. 

At this point I wrote a number of paragraphs describing the birth of Kimberley (daughter #3), her divorce from Sonny and about her 2nd husband Richard. Then I tried to trace the her steps and where it all started to come apart for her. We never really lost touch during the last 40 years but our lives took place is different worlds that were most of that time only miles apart. We were closer during the last 20 but even that was stop and go. Each new memory would disrupt my picture of the time line. Then so many memories that there was no way to organize it all in one post. Our folks are long dead ,  Stacey has a completely different experience of Sandy and set of memories. Not many recent, as she moved away in the 80's. I could ask her kids but at that point it becomes more work than I had intended. This will continue to bother me till I get it done,  just not today.  

For now, so that you have an idea of where this story is going, let me briefly describe her last few years. After years of working as a waitress managing a household of 2 then 3 kids and an alcoholic husband she, I guess, had what they used to call a nervous breakdown. She was unable to finish raising her daughters and was racked with tremendous guilt over this the rest of her life. With her new husband she had a few contented years but that finally devolved into drug addiction, jail, a stroke, an odd kind of blindness and a paralyzed left side. She regained use of her left side, mostly. She learned to deal with the scrambled information that she got from her eyes, kinda. About the same age that our mother got it, in her 50's, she had osteoporosis*(makes you shorter, incredible pain). The thing that really made it difficult for many people to feel too sorry for her was that along with the bigger than life personality, wit and charm was a very dark and blue side. This part of her loosely hid a kind of contempt that was expressed in a pattern of lies and manipulation. 

There aren't many pictures of her after about 18 years. None that I know of that captured her charm and laughter. When I was a real little guy the Foremost Dairy had this promotion were every year a big truck would pull up in front of our house. Inside was a photo studio where we had our picture taken.  My guess is that this is 1960 and 1961. I think it illustrates the two sides of her personality. The hair style in the picture on the right (except in blond) is how I remember her best.  

At the end of the memorial service I had them play Blood Sweat and Tears' ‘And When I Die’
She is survived by daughters - Tawnya, Sonya & Kimberly
Grand children  - Tosha, Brandon, Kyle, Mikey & Kellie
I believe since 2007 more names have been added to this list.

1 comment:

  1. We love and miss u grandma sandy hope u and baby r having lots of fun together we will meet again one day in heaven until that day will be thinking of u always love ya lots...ur first grandbaby toshia moore <3