• Stop the presses! Never mind

    by Cathy Speck

    I grew up reading The Davis Enterprise. I love The Davis Enterprise. I love holding the actual newsprint in my hands as I read my beloved The Davis Enterprise. I love it so much I want to marry it. But that’s not legal, not even in California.

    My parents Gene and Dorothy Speck moved our family to Davis in 1955. I had not been born yet, but I still believe those good ol’ family stories. If I ever had questions, the answers were confirmed by the hundreds of Kodak slides and photos my Dad took and chronologically placed in photo albums and slide trays. (I still have our family’s first slide projector; it must be almost 60 years old. It still works, and it smells the same way it always did after slide show was nearly over. Hot dust.) I’m pretty sure my brother Jim was a paperboy for The Enterprise, but I didn’t search the photos for proof.

    Anyway, my parents bought the lot that would become 903 Oak Avenue, more commonly known as the Speck’s house. It still is. Because the house wasn’t completed yet, our family lived in a rental on Tenth Street, I think for about four months. Maybe I’ll check the slides. Oh yeah, speaking of slides, we can prove that our house was the end of town, or our part of town back in ’55.

    The slides show that our backyard, with no fence, was the edge of town, nothing but fields and irrigation ditches. The Davis Senior High school had not yet been built. My oldest brothers Paul and Larry went to high school in the red brick building that now houses the City of Davis offices. The Civic Center pool and gymnasium were filled with short-haired boys, and girls with bobs.

    When 903 Oak was ready for our growing family, we moved in and populated the block with a gaggle of active, athletic and musical kids. I’m not bragging about the Speck kids; I’m showing respect and giving thanks to my mother and father who are still incredible role models. Dad turned 90 this summer. Mom died of ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) just before Christmas in 1972.

    And yes, our family continued to grow as all good Catholic families did back then. My dad, who wasn’t Catholic, ended up building three more bedrooms and a study as Mom and Dad produced more roommates for us. My youngest sister Mary was one year old when Paul graduated from the new Davis Senior High School. All eight of us Speck kids graduated from that respected school, only one did not. We had a brother Stephen who died of SIDS between my sisters Barb and Peggy.

    Sometimes the family slide shows just seemed like the same old ones, and I and my sister Peggy would complain that there weren’t enough pictures of us. Actually, Peggy claimed that there were no shots of her as a baby or toddler, and that she must have been adopted. Seriously. I, on the other hand, just liked attention, and being the second youngest of nine, I was loudly creative. The Talley and Terra kids joined me as we put on countless shows: musicals, plays, beauty pageants, carnivals, and basketball camps. I even charged our parents and anyone else who came to be entertained at least a nickle to pass through the gate into our backyard. The only free presentation was when we were playing church with an ironing board for the altar and Neccos candy as the communion “host.” I, of course, was the priest because I liked given sermons. Some things never change.

    Wow, that takes me back (I’ll get back to my love for The Davis Enterprise in a moment) once again to smells, and how they evoke memories. We have many slides and photos of those of us who were baptized at the original Catholic Church in Davis, which is now the Newman Center. Hmmm, another red brick building. The framed photo of my baptism hangs in our hallway. My godmother, Victoria Crampton, is holding me in my christening blanket, with my godfather Beecher Crampton, next to her. Left of the little baby Cathy are Mom and Dad, and on the right is Father James Newman, who, by the way, had the same birthday as I — November 28. Scattered around are the rest of the kids. I’m the star of this one, no charge.

    The air around the steps of the Newman Center still reminds me of the good ol’ days, but now I go to the Davis Community Church. Prior to becoming a DCC-er, that sanctuary had only one memory for me — it smelled like red hot rage, betrayal, and dark, dank devastation. Just a year and a few weeks after my mom died, my dad married a woman who… I’ll leave it at that. The good news is, Dad and I went to therapy over the years, and our relationship grew, and we continued to grow closer.

    And then, and then, once again, the feelings of traumatic powerlessness and pain came to our whole, huge family. My brother Larry was diagnosed with ALS, the same disease that killed our mom, and broke so many hearts. Larry was diagnosed on May 6, 2008 and he died June 22, 2008. He had been misdiagnosed for years, and no one really wanted to push the ALS button. I was diagnosed in January 2009. My brother Paul’s diagnosis came just a couple weeks before we participated in the Walk to Defeat ALS for the first time. Paul died May 16, 2011. I’m still here, at least as of 11:26 p.m., Monday, Sept. 3, 2012.

    And now I return to my love for The Davis Enterprise. On Sunday, Sept. 2, Debra DeAngelo’s column in The Enterprise knocked our ALS story through goalposts, and she hit a home run, too. I did know that she was going to write her column about the upcoming Walk to Defeat ALS and my ALS advocacy. And even though I know what an incredible writer and high quality human she is, she still amazed me with her literary power and compassion.

    I was filled with gratitude, and warm love, and almost speechless. Debra has been nurturing me and my skills as a columnist for iPinion, an online syndicate, and she encouraged me to use the column for ALS advocacy. As tremendous as that is, nothing will ever beat holding the actual newsprint of The Davis Enterprise.

    Okay, remember when I mentioned that my family rented a house on Tenth Street for awhile? And later I mentioned Father James Newman who baptized me and shared my birthday? Well, after he left this diocese, he died of ALS. And the woman who lived in the Tenth Street house before our family did also died of ALS. The ALS in our family is genetic, so even though this seems to be a “Twilight Zone” moment, we still have no answers. There is no cure or treatment for ALS — sporadic or genetic.

    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body.

    Only two percent of ALS cases are genetic. Some members of the Speck family inherited a rare SOD1 genetic mutation, which comes from my mother’s side.

    The Walk to Defeat ALS is Saturday, Oct. 6, at Raley Stadium in West Sacramento. The event starts at 9 a.m., and the Walk itself begins at 11 a.m. All other Walk details can be found online at my personal Walk page: http://websac.alsa.org/site/TR/Walks/Sacramento?px=3149044&pg=personal&fr_id=8361

    • Having met the amazing Cathy, I support you all the way. Your story is one of survival and beauty and yes, sorrow. But, you are an amazing woman with such strength-a true role model to me and many others. I will be with you in spirit as you walk.

    Leave a Comment