A 911 Call

The night had been chilly, but now brilliant, warm sunshine filled our lush, green backyard. The sky was an amazing rich blue and there wasn’t a single cloud in sight. I love early autumn!

Days off from my job at the hospital like today, were highly treasured. Getting to sleep an extra hour, then slowly working around my silent house filled me with peace. On days like this, even the radio in the dining room was seldom turned on.

I tickled my cat Oskar, who was curled up in a patch of sunshine in the middle of the kitchen floor. The phone rang. My 94-year-old mother didn’t bother with a greeting. Sounding anxious, she asked, “Kathy, are you listening to the news?”

Surprised, I answered, “No. I’ve just gotten up. What’s happened?”

In a shaky voice, Mom explained, “A little while ago an airplane flew into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York. The news reporter said it wasn’t an accident. Someone is attacking the United States!”

I tried to make sense of what Mom had said, unsure of how to answer. Having passed on the horrible news, Mom concluded, “I’ve got to listen to the television to find out what’s going on…bye.”

The linoleum felt warm under my bare feet as I stood thinking about what I should do. My husband Arnie had recently subscribed to a tv dish company, but he had never showed me how to use the remote. I wanted to turn on the television now, but I honestly did not know how. I stepped into the living room, pointed the remote in the right direction and methodically pressed all of the buttons. Nothing happened. Continue reading

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Having a License

I walked into the driver’s education classroom and immediately noticed the closed window curtains and the projector sitting on a desk in the middle of the room. Sighing with resignation I found a desk and sat down. Everyone in high school knew about “The Movie”. It featured a likeable, totally relatable group of teenagers who go to their high school prom.

Stress-inducing, tear-jerking films always made me feel ill. Feeling squirmy and nervous, I wondered if there was any way I could get out of watching it. Viewing “The Movie” was a rite of passage for all adolescents hoping to get their driver’s licenses though, so I knew escaping this ordeal was unlikely.

After drinking alcohol, the teenagers all pile into the car. Then, because the driver was impaired, their car crashes into another vehicle. The camera was not turned politely away from the gory, horrifying accident.

My behind-the-wheel-time with the teacher began in January when there was a new layer of snow on the ground and the parking lot was coated with ice. One of the first things the teacher had me do, was slowly drive through the empty parking lot. He said, “OK, now step on the brakes.” Continue reading

Termination Dust

Summer breezes played tag in the shade under the thin stand of trees. Balanced on the back of a horse plodding slowly behind three other horses, I looked around, loving the earthy woodland smell and the sound of calling jays. Coming to visit this “Dude Ranch” with my sister-in-law had been a good idea; she loved horses.

Hot sun dappled through the tall tree-top canopy. Deer flies buzzed annoyingly around my head, always staying out of slap range. Suddenly, my horse began to run. I bounced around on the leather saddle like the tenderfoot I was. Then I began slipping more and more to one side until finally I crash-landed beneath the horse. Miraculously, the horse stopped running and didn’t step on me. I rolled away from its hooves.

An hour later, none-the-worse-for-wear, I sat in my mobile home living room visiting with Arnie’s sister, Ann. Four years younger than my husband and married for just one year, my sister-in-law told me her husband had gone to visit Alaska. A cool breeze fluttered the light nylon curtain at one of the open windows.

Ann said, “Ben wants to stay. He told me to get airplane tickets and come join him.” I had done very little travel in my lifetime. I was sure Ann had done even less. My only flight experience was a 15-minute buzz over Marshfield in a small plane with Daddy when the airport opened in 1960. On that late summer afternoon, Ann was 21 and I, 24.

Did the idea of flying to Alaska alone scare Ann? Then, an idea popped into my head and I blurted it out, “I’ll go to Alaska with you!” The idea gained momentum in my mind, like an avalanche sliding down the steepest slope on Mount McKinley. It never occurred to me to consult Arnie, my husband. For that matter, it never even entered my mind to ask him if he wanted to come with us. In my totally self-focused state, I began to make plans. Continue reading

Colors of Sophistication

I stared sadly at my reflection in the mirror. Why didn’t I look normal, like other people? A huge pimple on my chin positively glowed. It didn’t help that I’d been pinching it. Guiltily, I remembered Mom telling me not to do that.

My wispy, baby-soft hair laid flat against my scalp. How I hated my hair!

What I hated the most about my appearance, though, was my body. I felt fat, awkward and overly-developed. When I was 12 years-old and in the sixth grade, I developed the body of a middle-aged lady. Mom told me that it would stream-line as I got older. I wondered when that was going to happen. Here I was, 15 years-of-age and still looking like a circus-side-show misfit.

All six of my siblings were older than me. Each one was good-looking and had style. I admired how they dressed, the colors they each seemed to prefer. Mom told me to stop comparing myself to them, to be patient. She seemed to expect her ugly-duckling daughter would soon transform into a swan. Continue reading

Coming of Age

When Mom said to my brother Casper, “They’re going to live in the top floor apartment of the old convent,” I suddenly became aware of the conversation at the table. Putting down the huge hamburger I’d been about to bite into, I waited to hear more.

When nothing more was said, I frowned and blurted, “What? Who’s going to live there?” Self-absorbed at fourteen-years of age, I often missed a lot of what was going on around me.

Mom prompted, “Riet and her two boys…” Seeing my puzzled expression she explained, “Fritz and Riet are friends of Agnes and Jim. They met when Jim and Fritz were stationed together in Germany.”

I nodded. When the Berlin wall crisis began five years before, my brother-in-law Jim joined the army and was deployed to Augsburg, Germany. My sister Agnes and one-year-old nephew went with him. Although both Fritz and his wife Riet were born in the Netherlands, Fritz was in the US army with Jim. Riet and Agnes became good friends.

Once I realized who we were talking about, I questioned with surprise, “Just Riet and her two boys? Where will Fritz be?”

My brother Billy said grimly, “In Vietnam. There’s a war being fought there, you know. Riet and their children can’t go with him because of that.” Continue reading

Stratford Convent

I loved the smell of coffee. To my seven-year-old nose it smelled rich and exotic. I’d come to recognize that when the scent of coffee was in the air, it meant that Mom and Daddy were in the kitchen having breakfast, or that company was visiting. Tasting it was out of the question, though, so I never tried. Mom said coffee was for grownups and, “Besides, it’s bitter and you wouldn’t like it.”

Daddy had milked our herd of cows before I’d even slid out of bed that morning, so he needed a good breakfast. Why he drank bitter coffee with it, I just wasn’t sure. There had to be something wonderful about it other than its great smell.

After having his breakfast, Daddy backed the family car out of the garage and patiently waited for us children to get in so he could drive us to school. I was in first grade that spring.

Our school and church were together in one big brick building. Next to it, looking for all the world like a very large farmhouse, was a three-story convent where the sisters who taught us lived. Continue reading

Harvest Gold

After slathering a slice of Mom’s homemade bread with butter, I lifted a freshly poached egg out of its pan and dropped it in the middle of the bread’s buttery field. Poking the egg made thick, yellow yolk ooze out. Sighing with satisfaction at having such a delicious breakfast, I lifted the bread and took a bite.

Some of the yellow yolk dribbled down my chin and landed on my top. Trying to scoop-up the runaway drop with my fingertip made it smear. I guiltily wondered where Mom was, then as I passed the basement door on my way out of the farmhouse’s back door, I remembered. I heard the chug-chug of the wringer washing machine. It was Monday, so Mom was washing clothes, of course.

Popping the last of the egg and bread into my mouth, I headed toward the barn. During my summer vacation from school, my daily routine was visiting several spots on the farm, riding my bike, visiting my neighborhood cousins and reading or re-reading our extensive collection of Dell Comic books. While a boring routine, I preferred it over attending school. I stopped at the well pump to run cold water over my arms. Although early, the day was already hot.

Adolph the milk man had parked his truck next to the milk house. I heard him talking to Daddy. Walking around to the back of the large vehicle, I watched as Adolph lifted a full milk can up into the truck as if it was light as air. He closed the cargo door and said, “I better get going.” Continue reading