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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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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

Whip Poor Will

I sat back on my heels to rest for a moment while weeding my lawn-turned-garden. Gazing at the stand of oats behind our farmhouse, I noticed shimmers of heat rising from the field. Each plant was busy forming beautiful, small grains. A breeze swept past, cooling my skin. The invisible force gently teased and tussled the crop, making the blue-green plants dip and sway like waves in an ocean.

Eight-year-old Niki and four-year-old Tammie sat nearby on the grass in the cool shade of our farmhouse. Thankful they were happily playing together, I went back to weeding the ground cherries, tomatoes and cabbage. As I worked, I thought about my childhood growing up on a farm.

Having a campfire in the woods was one of the summer highlights for me as a child. Once my neighborhood cousins and I reached a certain age, we were allowed to occasionally go to the woods in the evening by ourselves to have a campfire picnic. We brought foil-wrapped potatoes to bake in the fire, butter, salt and pepper. Other goodies, if there were some in our kitchens, included hot dogs and marshmallows.

When the cows were milked and let out of the barn, they came to the woods. The nosey beasts stood in a semi-circle around the gully where we had a campfire ring next to a boulder. Snorting, mooing, making waterfall and plop-plop sounds, they watched us as the sky grew dark and their eyes glowed iridescent blue-silver in the firelight. Continue reading

Sunday Afternoon Oasis

I rushed around the kitchen preparing supper. My nerves were strung as tight as guitar strings. I didn’t know when it would begin, but wanted most of the supper prep done before then. Tammie, my two-month-old daughter began wailing before I had the potatoes pealed. Glancing at the wall clock I thought, “She’s starting early tonight.”

The pediatrician told me Tammie suffered from colic. He said eventually she would stop her incessant evening-into-the-night cries; cries that sounded as if she had great pain; cries that nearly drove my husband and me out of our minds.

Tammie had been born missing her fore arms and with a bleeding disorder. I was well past feeling upset about her missing bones. My fear at this point was that all her straining while crying for hours every day would cause an internal bleed. When I examined her in the mornings while she was calm, I noticed that her skin had freckles of broken capillaries from her waist on up. The roof of her mouth was bruised from suckling. Nothing was easy with this baby.

Dumping the unpeeled potatoes into a kettle with some water, I put it on the stove over a medium flame and went to scoop my infant out of the bassinet. I knew from experience cuddling, bouncing, back pats, diaper changes, sips of food or water wouldn’t calm her. Placing Tammie on her stomach on my shoulder, I trudged from one end of the house to the other. Walking reduced her crying a little, but she continued wriggling as though uncomfortable. Continue reading

Wild Storm

The jangling of an alarm woke me. Instead of a light-infused spring dawn peeping through the bedroom windows, a dark, foreboding quiet surrounded our mobile home.  I had the day off from work, but Arnie, my new husband needed to get up. I shook him and gently pushed him out of bed.

Being the good little new wife, I got up with Arnie and made him a scrambled egg breakfast. It didn’t matter if he appreciated my efforts or not, I was filled with self-satisfaction. The minute he stepped out of the house, I trotted back to bed.

Far away thunder rumbled. Rain pelted our metal mobile home roof. I stretched, yawned and snuggled under the covers with a smile. I loved to lay in bed listening to thunder storms. An occasional flash of lightning and closer rumbles of thunder entertained me for the rest of the morning. Continue reading

Good Old Fashioned

A glance at the kitchen clock told me that if Arnie was on schedule, he would be in the house looking for supper soon. I glanced into a kettle and gave the stroganoff a stir. It looked perfect. Carrying the pot of cooked noodles to the sink, I tipped it to drain the water. Steam clouded the evening-darkened kitchen window.

The slam of the front door signaled my husband’s arrival. I had another five minutes before he’d be done washing in the bathroom. Our two daughters also having heard the door slam, ran screaming to the entrance to greet Daddy. Hearing them chatter about their day made me smile as I poured bright orange carrots into a serving dish.

Arnie came into the kitchen just as I placed a frosted cake on the counter next to the table. Tammie, aged four and Niki, aged eight tumbled into their places at the table. Niki blurted, “Daddy has a surprise for us.”

Smiling, Arnie said, “I had some business in town today. Before coming home to start chores, I stopped to look at television video tape recorders. I ended up buying one. I’ll set it up later after milking the cows.”

Not sure we needed a television video tape player, I nodded and answered doubtfully, “Okay..” Continue reading

Healing Laughter

I dropped down on the sofa and watched my three-year-old daughter sitting in the middle of the living room floor playing with Harvey, her long-limbed stuffed toy. Flicker the cat lovingly purred as he rubbed against her. His long tail kept getting into her face. The tickly sensation seemed to delight her.

A little over a year earlier, the black and white tuxedo cat joined our family on the first day after we’d moved to this house. The cat was young, about six months old. That evening as I unpacked boxes, he silently moved around the perimeter of the room checking out the place. From the corner of my eyes I saw only small flickers of his white markings in the shadows so I named him Flicker.

Flicker had started out as a slim, long-legged male feline, but he had turned into a large, sleek handsome pussy cat during the past year. He fell in love with my daughter. Niki adored her kitty. They often played together.

I smiled with happiness. The holidays were very close. My husband and I had a sweet little girl and I’d just found out that a new baby would arrive in July.

Other than feeling a little morning sickness, I felt well as I dove into preparing for Christmas. Niki was excited by all the decorations. Flicker tried to eat the ribbons. On Christmas Eve I raced around to make the gifts look as if they were put under the tree while Arnie and Niki waited in the car before going to church.

On Christmas day I knew something wasn’t right with my pregnancy. As a precaution, I began to rest and not move around as much. That didn’t help. The problem persisted.

The afternoon of January 4th I started to feel like I was in labor. Horrified, I told Arnie, “I’m only 14 weeks along!” Continue reading