Sunday, April 25, 2010

Larry Tyler: November 23, 1939 to April 25, 2010

Jeanette rolled Beverly into the hospital room and right over to Larry’s bedside. We had been waiting for the last sister to arrive. She immediately stood up out of the wheelchair, leaned close, and said, “Larry, Beverly’s here. I’m here.” Then she started to sing. “One glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away…”

He was the 6th of 8 kids and grew up poor. By 8 or 9 he was driving a tractor to help support his family. They were an ornery bunch. The sisters tell stories of Marty and him playing tricks on them while they were in the outhouse and riding the girls’ tricycle until it fell apart. He had a dog named Queenie (who ended up being a tripod) and then many, many more pets after her. Larry loved his pets. According to the sisters, one of the dogs was riding with him when he was pulling a plow once and jumped out. Before Larry could do anything about it, the dog had been killed. He was so upset that he couldn’t even tell anyone. For three days he was physically sick and wouldn’t even talk until they finally got it out of him.

His nieces and nephews didn’t call him Uncle Larry…it was Uncle Red. And it’s no surprise! Larry was always a tall, thin man with a shock of red hair and an ornery smile. It’s no wonder he caught the eye of a petite, dark-haired beauty—Carol Hayden. The two of them must’ve made striking young couple.

God gave Larry many gifts, but one of the most extraordinary was his musical talent. Without ever having a lesson, he was able to pick up a guitar or sit at a piano and play a tune. But it didn’t end there, he could also sing. And he wasn’t the only talented Tyler…they could all sing! My goodness, Beverly could play any instrument she ever picked up. How many family gathering were filled with the blessing of the Tyler kids playing and singing gospel and bluegrass?

After Brenda came along, Larry and Carol struggled to have more children. It broke their hearts when Bruce was stillborn. God blessed them with Todd a few years later and the doctor let them know how much he looked like his older brother. What adventures he and Carol had with their two children! When Todd was only about 3, Larry decided it would be a good idea to take the family out for a drive…on the motorcycle. That’s right! All four of them went for a ride out on a motorcycle. All would’ve probably been fine, if a spray plane hadn’t been out doing a job. Carol looked back and started hollering that there was a plane coming. Brenda remembers is vividly. Larry gunned it and they sped down the dirt road trying to outrun the plane. Apparently the plane pilot never even saw them because, before it could hit them, Larry laid the bike over with his whole family on it to avoid a collision. The good Lord must’ve been watching over them because nobody was injured. But they sure had a hard time convincing Todd to get back on that thing to go home.

Larry worked for more than 20 years for City Service which became Williams Natural Gas. He was a good provider for his family and was always willing to help those in need. Through those years, he walked his daughter down the aisle, welcomed a new daughter-in-law into the family, and became a grandpa 7 times over.

Each grandchild was special to Larry. Of course, Tyler was first and given his grandfather’s surname as his first name. He was beautiful with his blond hair and bright blue eyes. Soon after, Joel came along with his shy and loving personality. Nevin was third—such a stressful pregnancy and tiny little guy. It was a relief when he entered the world and both he and his momma were safe and healthy. Larry inherited his next grandchild when Todd married and became an instant father to 5-year-old Heath. Larry and the whole family took in Heath as his own. The three older grandsons got along famously and looked like brothers with their blond heads and tanned skin. Before a year passed, a granddaughter (Tana Carol) stole Larry’s heart when she entered the world on a cold, snowy day. He doted on this precious granddaughter and she loved to spend time with him. Finally, the last two grandchildren came along. Andrew and Annie were a handful but, although he wasn’t willing to change a diaper, he was always willing to hold or play with them. He enjoyed watching his son be so involved with each of his babies. The world was certainly different than it was back when Brenda and Todd were small. Andy reminded him so much of Todd…quiet and shy, while Annie was always crawling up in Grandpa’s lap. Just like Tana before her, Annie was crazy about him.

The twins weren’t very old, however, when Alzheimer’s started stealing grandpa away. By the time that Tyler left us too early and so suddenly, Larry was confused enough that he really struggled to understand what had happened to his beloved first grandson. Over the last several years, Larry has forgotten how to play his music, the names of his family members, and even his ability to communicate with others. However there have been rare times of clarity when he has plucked out parts of a favorite song on a piano or sang along to one of his favorite old tunes. All have been thankful that through his battle with this disease, God has blessed him with a happy-go-lucky disposition. Larry never lost his gift of gab…even when he called you by “Honey” rather than your name.

Larry’s legacy was made long before Alzheimer’s stole his mind. It was made through his years of hard work, love, generosity, faithfulness, humor, and responsibility. He will be remembered, not as a confused old man, but as the happy-go-lucky “Red” of his younger years. His gifts will stay with those he loved the rest of their lives. We were so blessed to have him.

His last night on this earth, Beverly continued to sing to him and the other sisters joined in—Sharon, Jeanette, and Kathy along with Sam, Ranee, Brenda, Carol, Todd, and I. Even the nurses out at the nurse’s station said they were singing. Yes, there were some missed notes and forgotten words, but it was still beautiful…and perfect.