Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Generally Don't Suffer From Insomnia

It's 2:00 a.m. Normally I would be sleeping. Along with eating, it's one of the things I do best. I have found that losing a loved-one can take the pleasure out of eating and the rest out of sleep. My nights are filled with thoughts and reflection--memories of Dad--forty seven years worth; and recollections of his life--nearly nine decades. Am I sad? I'd say my overpowering emotions are gratitude and respect. My mind reviews every detail as if I must grasp onto them before they fade away like an old photo left in the sunlight.

My Dad at age 80 - Thanksgiving 2002

Did you know that Dad weighed ten pounds at birth? Holy Cow! Poor Grandma Cheney! And to think that she went on to have five more children after that. No wonder I remember her walking so slowly. Dad was born on a cold winter Idaho morning in their small family home on the 20-acre Cheney farm. He was the fifth of ten children born to Clarence Marcellus and Alice Leal Blackburn Cheney. Here's a picture of the first five children around 1923 when dad was still a baby:

One of my favorite stories of Dad's childhood was his experience farming beans. I remember seeing the newspaper article with his photo and hearing that he received a congratulatory letter from the governor of Idaho. I thought that was pretty cool. He started by planting one bean. From that one single bean, he yielded 225 beans. The next year, he planted the 225 and yielded 2 quarts. The third year, he planted the two quarts and yielded 50 pounds. FIFTY POUNDS of beans all from one little bean and my dad's hard work. The photo that was in the newspaper shows dad on one knee in his bean field. I love that photo and am waiting for my brother Karl to send me a copy. Hard work and the gospel of Jesus Christ were the core lessons he learned growing up on a farm in Idaho.

Dad about age 10.

Dad attended Madison High School in Rexburg. As a Madison Bobcat, he played the lead part in a school play, sang in the A Cappella choir, was captain of the basketball team, played football, and was Student Body President. His favorite involvement was basketball and he would sometimes walk eight to twelve miles in order to play in a game. He was one of the ten best basketball players in southeastern Idaho and was selected for the All Star team as center. I'm waiting for my brother Karl to send me high school photos of Dad. Here's one from junior high; he's the tall one in the back.
In reflecting on my elementary school days, it seems like there were a few years that my dad worked two jobs to provide for our family. He was a guidance counselor for Culver City Junior High School during the day and then would return to work at night school. I remember the table was always set and a hot meal ready so that we could have dinner together as a family between his two jobs. When it was time to eat, Dad would stand at the back gate and whistle which was our signal to immediately stop whatever play we were engaged in and run home. He had a loud, distinct whistle and we could hear him from just about anywhere in the neighborhood. In my mind's eye, I can clearly see him at the head of the dinner table loosening his tie, sliding the knot around his neck, and then flinging it to his back to keep it clean while he ate. After dinner, dad would hold mom in his arms and give her a long romantic kiss before heading back to work. All of us kids would watch and make silly "oooohhh" sounds. Sometimes he even dropped her gracefully in a dip. Their display of affection may have embarrassed us a little, but deep inside, we were grateful to know that he loved her and she loved him. Of their devotion to each other, we had no doubt, and this added to our feeling of security.

My mom in the 1940's.

I'll never know why I have the good fortune of being his daughter... of being raised in a home that was filled with affection and the spirit of the Lord... and of receiving the perfect balance of discipline and love. I will be forever grateful.

The day I was sealed to my parents in the Los Angeles Temple.


  1. love you Girl...lets make some Holiday treats to get you back to eating!

  2. Oh Colleen... I'm so sorry. My dad is a whistler too. Any time I hear that sharp whistle my head whips around to see what Dad wants. (((hugs))) to you.

  3. Dear Colleen,
    You are definitely a talented woman. I love your blog. That's really cool.
    Love you, cousin!

  4. Colleen, your dad sounds like an amazing man! I love how he would dip your mom and kiss her. And turning one bean into 50 lbs. of beans!
    What wonderful stories, and memories!
    You carry his heart. You carry it in your heart.