I Remember Helen
The house on the end of Monroe Avenue is very special.
The Dunlaps live there!
We get to walk there often from Highlawn Elementary School for lunch--four blocks down, four blocks back.
And Mrs. Dunlap is there--with her smiling face--and glistening eyes--and a good lunch.
And always an encouraging word. "There's that bright young man!"
I tell my newest joke to her smiling face and have her full attention--the eyes sparkle, and now it comes, quietly, sincerely, with the ever-present smile: "Oh, ha ha ha!" Each syllable clearly and merrily pronounced. Does she really laugh like that? I feel very special at her attention.
We get to watch parts of Queen for a Day and Truth or Consequences on their television!
"Forty-niner, David," comes her gentle, smiling call when he gets too close and blocks another's view.
The neighbor knocks. "Why Eddie, what a gentleman, taking your shoes off to come inside!" That smiling face, then "Take your shoes off at the door, walk in stockings on the floor," she quotes.
I have scratches on my arm from the cat. "Robin, we'll put some Bactine and a Band-Aid on this; bring them here please." That special attention again.
"Douglas, bring me Law and Order," comes the rare, stern reprimand when necessary.
The long stairs to the attic are perfect for walking the Slinky down.
The steep roof is perfect for playing Ante Over. Or is it Auntie Over? Her head goes back a bit. "Ha ha ha!"
Another gentle call. "Kool-Aid!"
I'm going to the Dunlaps' for supper! Mr. Dunlap asks me questions about the chalkboard to my left. Time and again I gullibly look at it to give an answer. Suddenly I notice my plate of food, silverware, napkin, and drink are gone! Everyone laughs that I have been tricked, and everything reappears from under the table. Helen smiles to let me know she is on my side and it's all right.
And then they move.
All the way down to Teays Valley.
It takes longer to get there, but the trip is very special.
Valley Drive-In. Thompson's Crossing.
Scary Creek Bridge, everyone!
Then up the hill to the left and out the winding road. Dead man's curve!
Turn here, then Mount Vernon Baptist Church, down the dip and up the other side, slowing down, "Oh, there they are, out in the yard!"
Cindy! David! Doug! Robin!
And Rod's strong smile, and Helen's beaming face and twinkly eyes again!
We get to spend the night! "Lights out, boys," her voice smiles to us in the dark.
That gentle call again, this time from the top of the stairs: "Pancakes!"
Up we go, and she has let Cindy make the hot brown sugar syrup!
Too soon we're home again.
Bridge tonight for the grownups.
"Mom, the Dunlaps are here!"
"Look, Mom, all Mrs. Dunlap's cards look like little valentines!" I tease. "Oh, ha ha ha" that special laugh again. I love that laugh.
We are home for Christmas. Rod brings her by Seven Keiffer one last time. The smile is trying to be there, too. The eyes glisten only a little, as from a distance.
Another Christmas we visit her in her new home where she curls up on the big chair, hands clasped beneath her head on the chair's arm. Her eyes search, try to recognize us. Just a bit of a smile for me.
Cindy's e.mail that Helen is gone comes as a softened blow.
And I see that merry smile again and hear that light laugh.
I love you, Helen Dunlap.
"I love you, too, John Gwin."
Photo credits: top, WV rhododendron (like grew at Uncle Ted's cabin!) taken from the internet; above, Rod and Helen in the carport at 7 Keiffer Drive by Adrian Gwin.
Return to http://helendunlap.netmemoriam.com
Above, clockwise from Helen: Robin, Cindy, Doug, David. Photo appears to be taken at
Doug's and Robin's bedtime one evening when Rod must've been working.
I can't tell whether this was taken at the Monroe Avenue or the Teays Valley residence. Photo by Adrian Gwin
Douglas C. Dunlap, 54, of Alderson, died Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2005.
He was the son of the late R.O. and Helen McCoy Dunlap of Hurricane. Doug graduated from Marshall University, and the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies and was a licensed social worker. He was employed as a family therapist by Timberline Mental Health Agency in Lewisburg and lived by the banks of his beloved Greenbrier River.
He is survived by his daughter, Beth, of Huntington; son, Jon of Nitro; sisters and brothers-in-law, Cindy and David Ellis of Red House and Robin and Brad Elley of Incline Village, Nev.; brother, Dave of Rockport, Texas; and nephews, Jack Elley, Nick Childers, Dave Sales and Mike Sales.
His family expresses their gratitude to Doug's co-workers and friends in Kanawha and Greenbrier counties for their care and attention that allowed him to live independently.
His body has been donated to the Human Gift Registry.
Friends may gather to celebrate his life from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26 in the Fellowship Hall, First Presbyterian Church of St. Albans at 201 Kanawha Terrace.
In lieu of flowers his family suggests that donations be made to the American Lung Association of West Virginia or the Alzheimer's Association of West Virginia.