Role Reversal in Ashland

Jul 15, 2016 | 0 comments

Randal at Our House Last Week

Randal at Our House Last Week

When the Bays Family Irish Band arrived last Saturday, one of the first things Randal said to us was:  “Guess who I saw in Ashland last week?  Sharon Van Heuit!”  He was in a rush leaving a session at the Black Sheep; she was on her way in to hear the music.  “She was out of context and I couldn’t think of her name… but I knew I’d seen her at many an Oysterville House Concert.”

“Yes,” we told him.  She sold her house a year or so ago and is living in a little cottage behind her daughter’s while she makes arrangements to rehab a larger place for the two of them – also in Ashland.”

The conversation reminded us to call Cherry Harding to get Sharon’s contact information and, in so doing, we got the dreadful news that Sharon’s daughter Maura had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We were unclear whether they would be back home from OHSU in Portland, but we would call…

Morning Glory Restaurant

Morning Glory Restaurant

In a way, Sharon has been part of my life since we were both in fifth grade at Lincoln School in Alameda.  It was in 1945, as Sharon tells it, that she was standing on the playground with a mutual friend who pointed across the way and said, “See that girl with the curls over there?  Her name is Sydney Little.”  And they both laughed.  I’m unclear if it was my name or the way I looked that caused their amusement but, for whatever reason Sharon and I didn’t meet for a long, long time.

Years later – it was 1979 – Sharon was at an Oysterville Vespers Service and a woman named “Mrs. Little” gave the opening welcome and, perhaps, mentioned something about California.  Sharon (typically, as we would learn about her forthrightness) approached Mrs. Little after the service and asked, “Do you have a daughter named Sydney?”  And, the rest, is history, as they say.

Sharon in Ashland, Yesterday

Sharon in Ashland, Yesterday

In subsequent years, Sharon and Nyel and I served on the Water Music board together.  Sharon came to our House Concerts and our Shoalwater Storytellers performances.  We tried to go to textile events where Sharon was demonstrating weaving.  We occasionally had lunch together at Bailey’s Bakery and Café and we always read her thoughtful (and forthright) letters to the editor in the Chinook Observer.  She was part of the daily fabric (so to speak) of our lives and when she sold her beautiful home on the bay and moved to Ashland, things weren’t quite the same.

Yesterday we met for breakfast at the Morning Glory Café.  Sharon looked beautiful, as ever, and we spent a pleasant hour and a half “catching up.”  We also talked about her daughter’s diagnosis and, inevitably, spoke of others we have known with brain cancer – my dad, Rick Murfin, Mike Robinson’s brother, my mother’s cousin Barbara Espy Williams… The list is long and the scenario for each person was very different.

“It’s early days yet,” I said, “but it looks like you’ll be the one taking on the role of caretaker.  “Yes,” Sharon agreed.  “We’ll just have to see how things unfold.”  I couldn’t help thinking that, unlike the plays being presented daily on the other side of town, real life is unpredictable and all the more precious for being so.

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