Van Riper


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personal history, 6 x 9 hardcover, color interior

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A Race Worth Running Kathy Van Rip◊r


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A Race Worth Running Kathy Van Riper


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All proceeds from the sale of this book go to Kathy’s Camp for Kids. ©2009 by Kathy Van Riper All rights reserved. Produced by Personal History Productions 707.539.5559


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Preface T his is the story of my life! This is the real thing—from my childhood to my motherhood and all that’s been in between. It contains the heart-wrenching battle with cancer that my family and I have faced, as told in many entries I’ve included from my cancer journal. It also recounts the blessings of my life and how I have done my best to hang on to “normal” through the storm. This story was written for my children (and grandchildren—because I would love them so!), my husband, and my family out of my passion to leave behind a legacy. I thank my friends from New Vintage Church for making this book possible. You have allowed me to make a treasure for my family and have given me the opportunity to preserve my story. I hope and pray that my zest and determination for life, my love for family, and my utmost faith shines through in this, the story of my journey.


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I n 1973, when my sister, Jenny, and I were little kids living in our family’s first home in San Rafael, we played a game I still remember. We’d wait on our front lawn until we heard a motorcycle zooming down our street, and then we’d run away. The fast moving motorcycles would thrill and scare us. They were loud and unpredictable. At that time in our blissful young lives, the sounds of loud motorcycles may have been our biggest fear. Running away fast enough was our biggest challenge. Since then, of course, I’ve learned that not all challenges are welcome and not all fears can be dealt with by running away. Starting Off in San Rafael My earliest of memories are of my sister and me. We were two peas in a pod; everything she did I did too--or at least I wanted to! It’s hard to believe my parents had two kids 16 months apart on purpose, but apparently that’s what they did. Jenny was the first, born on April 29, 1968, and I came next, on August 20, 1969. I was born on my dad’s 30th birthday. (My mom was 27.) My parents planned it that way. Like Jenny, and like our younger brother, Danny, I was delivered by a scheduled Caesarean section. My mom’s first pregnancy had ended tragically when the placenta ruptured. The doctor performed an emergency C-section to save my mom because the baby had already died. That happened about two years before my mom had Jenny. At the time I was born, my dad, Bernard Roy Dalton, was a dentist in private practice in San Rafael, and my mom, Mary Ann Davis, was a stay-at-home mom. My mom had me at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. I was a small baby at birth; I weighed only six pounds, four ounces. 


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 Kathy Van Riper From the hospital, my parents took me home to our first house at 61 Ridgewood Drive in San Rafael. We lived there only until I was four, but I still remember living in that house. It was painted yellow. I remember the swing set we had in the backyard and the wooden stairs that led up to the “bar.” The bedrooms were on the house’s ground level, and my sister and I shared a room. Upstairs, there was a room where my parents entertained their guests. My dad had his bar in that room, and we had an upscale stereo system there. My parents did a lot of socializing with friends and relatives up there. Our family had a Chihuahua named Leroy, who my parents got before I was born. Leroy was kind of snippy, so we kids were always kind of careful around him. I never got fully attached to him, yet I always had a level of sympathy for him. As he got older Leroy suffered from a deterioration of his lower spine, and he became unable to use his back legs. My dad was always trying to create some kind of contraption to help Leroy lift his bottom and hind legs off the floor so he wouldn’t have to drag himself around. I remember looking in catalogues to help him, but don’t remember my dad actually buying anything. Steak Dinners and Hershey’s Chocolates While we were still living in San Rafael, we spent a lot of time with my dad’s parents, Thelma and Frank Dalton, because they lived nearby. About once a week or so, they’d invite us over for dinner. That was always a lot of fun. My grandpa would cook up some steak and my grandma would rub our backs and tell us stories about when she was little. My grandpa treated us to our own taste of wine in miniature wine glasses as we got older. They always had treats at their house for us—Hershey’s chocolate bars and cookies. It used to make my mom so mad that Grandma would fill us up with sugar. My brother would act so hyper as a result, and of course Mom thought all the sugar was bad for our teeth! But that is one of the best memories you can have—being a kid and getting treats at your grandparents’ house.


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A Race Worth Running  My grandparents also treated us with monetary donations. Grandma would shove a five-dollar bill in our pockets when we were on our way home. We also loved it when each of us had a birthday because no matter whose birthday it was, we all got money! My grandma didn’t want to leave anyone out. We also used to spend time with my dad’s sister, Aunt Wanda, who lived nearby with her family. She had three kids. My cousin Lori was about the same age as my sister and me. Then there was Bobby, the middle one, who was a little older. And then Steven, who was the oldest. When I was around five, I remember thinking Bobby was cute and wondering if he would ever want to marry me. Come to think of it, I can hardly think of any conversations or interactions I even had with him at that age. Funny . . . Strong-willed from an Early Age As a child, I was quick to smile. Some might say I shared the smiling eyes handed down from my mom. I recall hearing comments about my smile as I was growing up. My brother would get the same comments. Behind my smile (from what I am told) stood a strongwilled child! I remember feeling stubborn and rotten at times; for instance, if things weren’t going my way, I’d either take charge or cry till I got my way. But I also had an empathetic side to me as well, and that kept me a pretty decent friend to all. As a kid, I could hardly focus on certain things, like reading or anything that required sitting still, and I didn’t watch much TV. But when it came to other things—physical things—I had more than my share of determination and was able to do things that seemed out of my reach. I had a competitive drive, which allowed me to become very good at many things. I remember practicing things over and over and over until I got them right, a trait I see in my daughter, Jillian, and in my niece, Jennah, today. My intensity as a kid sure didn’t keep me from having fun, although it may have gotten me in trouble. I was the middle, bossy child. Supposedly, I started trying to boss my sister around when I was


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 Kathy Van Riper only one and a half or two years old. My mom tells stories about how she’d be driving the car and Jenny would yell out from the back seat, “Mommy, Kathy’s hitting me.” My mom got so fed up with our bickering that one day she and my dad went out and bought a bigger car. I am not proud of the way I acted sometimes. In fact, I’ve told my brother and sister, “I am really sorry for being such a jerk.” They’ve just teased me and said, “I hope you have kids just like you were!” What a temper I had! Luckily, my kids are not quite like me in that way. Even though my mom wasn’t working at the time, she had helpers who would stay with us so she could get out by herself to do errands and go grocery shopping. (Thinking about it, I kind of wish I had done that too. I always seem to be dragging my kids around with me.) We had a great babysitter named Jeananne who lived nearby and just kind of hung out at our house. She was just a teenager, but we were really little then, so she seemed old to us. There was also an older woman named Mrs. Lapayne who would come over to watch us. She seemed really old to us—like 60 or 70, and I think she helped my mom with the house too. I never liked it when my mother left us with babysitters. I would cry and scream, even when Jeananne, whom I really liked, was babysitting. Separating from my mother was always traumatic for me, but I don’t know why. She wasn’t gone a lot. My dad was always working when we were little. He kept long hours. I remember going to visit him at his office. Most dads weren’t as hands-on with their kids in those days as they often are today. My dad admits it. He’ll say, “I didn’t do much to help take care of you guys when you were little.” I’m glad that my mom got a little relief. Flying Around My dad had his pilot’s license, and he and his father owned a little plane together. We took a lot of trips in that plane. My dad belonged to a group called the Flying Dentists’ Association. Basically, it was an organization that planned mini-conferences on topics in dentistry in fun,


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A Race Worth Running  faraway places. All the dentists would fly to the conferences in their own planes. I remember flying to Durango, Colorado, Sante Fe, Oregon, and Disneyland for dentists’ conventions. One time we flew all the way to Mexico and landed in an airport that was no longer, “an airport.” My parents’ tension eased when the three men put their guns away, after they saw that my parents had children. Dad kept his plane at a small airport in Napa. After returning from trips we’d often stop for a meal at a restaurant in the airport called Jonesy’s Famous Steak House, which is still there. The best part about that, were the after-dinner mints! About once a month, our family also would fly down to San Luis Obispo, where my parents kept a little trailer. We’d fly down and spend the weekend. In addition, we flew to places as far away as Texas. In a little plane, that’s far. My mom’s mother lived in Austin, Texas, and we flew there to visit her. There was no crew, just my dad flying the plane. On longer flights, we’d fly for several hours, then land and gas up, and then take off again. My dad’s first plane was a four-seater, which became an issue when my mom became pregnant with my brother. My mom told us how she panicked when she found out she was expecting because she didn’t know where she’d put a third kid in the airplane. She said she cried for one full day and then got over it. My dad ended up trading in the four-seater for a six-seater. In the new plane, everybody could have a seat, but that left hardly any room for luggage. So the three of us kids often sat together on the bench seat right behind our parents. That seat had only two seatbelts, but that’s where we’d sit. I remember my sister used to get airplane sickness, so I never wanted to sit next to her. My first awareness of my lifelong vomit phobia! The Miracle of Birth, The Sadness of Death My brother was born on February 27, 1972, when I was two and a half years old and my sister was almost four. Because my mother planned


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Above: Jenny (22 months) and Kathy (6 months) with the family dog, Leroy, 1970; below: Jenny (3½ years old) and Kathy (2 years), October of 1971.


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Above: posing for my dad, who must have had a new camera. Kathy, Danny, and Jenny, 1976; below: with the grandmothers: (back row from left) Grandmother Davis, Grandma Dalton, Kathy’s parents, (front) Kathy, Danny, and Jenny, 1978.


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Left: Grandfather Davis as a younger man. See his smiling eyes? Below: a new bike! Kathy with neighborhood friends Ellen Booker (on right) and Julie Booker and Jenny (in back), 1978.


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Right: Laura Adams and Kathy dressed up as Martians for Halloween in costumes they made themselves, 1978; below: one of Kathy’s very first track races, freshman year track, spring of 1984.



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