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Haunted

One of the patients assigned to me for the shift put her call light on. I walked into her hospital room and she said, “I want to get up for a short walk, but I’ll need your help.”

I said, “I’ll unplug your IV pump while you roll to your side and sit up.” Leaning over, I put slippers on her feet and a bathrobe over her shoulders. As we walked, we talked, but kept to light topics. Returning to the room, the patient wanted to return to bed so I helped her in.

As I worked and answered her questions, I was thinking about the things that had happened to me a few months earlier when my husband unexpectedly died.

There were times in the year following his death that I would wonder with amazement, “No one knows I’m having these thoughts! I’m acting calm and untroubled while remembering the sheriff coming to my house, walking into the emergency department and seeing Arnie dead, making decisions that I never thought I’d have to make, calling and telling people!” Continue reading

Ashes to Glory

Pale dawn light was peeking in the bedroom windows when I opened my eyes. Rolling over onto my back I began to think, as I do each morning upon first awaking, about what day it was and what jobs I wanted to accomplish before night fall. It was already the middle of the week! At the beginning of winter, I had assigned Wednesdays as the day to do my once a week wood-pellet-furnace cleaning. If I wanted the fire out and the firebox cool enough for me to clean it by the time I was dressed, had finished my morning prayers and eaten breakfast, I needed to turn it off now.

Slipping out of bed, I thrust my feet into slippers and slowly shuffled toward the staircase. As I passed the living room, I noticed a doll laying in the middle of the floor. My daughter and her children had visited me last night as they do every Tuesday evening. The rest of my trip to the basement was spent thinking about my grandchildren. How protectively my grandson Ben had held his little sister Gemma when she cried! What a funny face toddler Blaise had made when he sucked on the fresh lemon wedge, yet kept going back for more! A flip of a switch and the furnace was off.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, landed on March 1st this year. I hadn’t started my winter routine of cleaning the furnace every Wednesday with this in mind, but today I chuckled about spending my day in ashes, both secular and liturgical. Continue reading

Fudge and Popcorn

My boyfriend Arnie and I were parked on a side road necking when he leaned back and said, “I want to take you to Antler’s Supper Club Friday night.”

I smiled and said, “Wow, that sounds great. It’s a popular place. Everyone who’s been there raves about how great their food is.”

Antler’s was a fancy restaurant one county over from where we lived. Friday night was Halloween. Since Arnie hated costumes, I knew he wasn’t interested in Halloween parties, but would happily stop to visit with friends at one on our way back to Marshfield.

Our date on Friday night didn’t get off to a very good start. I teased Arnie, but he wasn’t in the mood. He seemed preoccupied. After pulling into a parking place at Antler’s, instead of getting out of the car, he turned toward me holding out a small square box. He said, “Will you be my wife?” Continue reading

13th Child

Warm, happy waves of excitement and cold, shivery chills of nervousness washed over me in turns. Daddy was driving me into town on a Saturday afternoon for a birthday party. I alternately fiddled with the wrapped present on my lap and the hem of my Sunday dress. My friend, Karen had invited me and more than a dozen other classmates. The party was at her house in Stratford. Along the road, we passed homes that I recognized. We were getting closer to where Karen lived.

I was used to birthdays celebrated in class rooms. Usually the birthday person’s Mom would send a pan of brownies or a jar of chocolate chip cookies to school to be passed around when Sister said it was okay. Many birthday parties that I’d been to, were for my nuclear family or for one of my neighborhood cousins. Those parties were limited to cake and ice cream after supper. Today was different. Today I was going to a real birthday party with games and many other children! Continue reading

Chef B

My husband Arnie opened the door and I stepped into the small, old-fashioned café. Three old men leaning over steaming cups of coffee at a large table glanced casually at us before returning to their conversation. They were busily discussing how to solve major world problems, such as famine, war and snotty youngsters.

Sliding into a booth, I looked around for Arnie. I spotted him across the room at the cash register sifting through a pile of newspapers. He’d stopped to select reading material to enjoy while he ate breakfast. I hoped the paper he picked had a funnies page. I didn’t like anything too heavy with my jellied toast and coffee.

Arnie loved what he called, “Mom and Pop restaurants”. He’d say, “Those places have homemade food that’s far better than anything you can get at a franchise place.” I had to agree with him.

We were visiting a town neither of us had been to before. How he had spotted this place, I didn’t know. The street facade was unremarkable. I suspected that finding places like this was connected to his uncanny ability of seldom getting lost.

After our waitress, Alice, took our order and Arnie started reading the paper, I looked around more closely. The café looked like a stage set from Mayberry RFD. The vintage décor wasn’t just a decorator’s attempt at inducing nostalgia. I suspected that they had opened their doors four or five decades earlier. Other than keeping the kitchen and dining room clean, no one had thought to update the wallpaper, furniture or anything else. If it wasn’t broken, it clearly didn’t need to be fixed. Continue reading

The Missing Link

I shivered and pulled my sweater shut, buttoning it absentmindedly without checking to see if the buttons and holes lined up. A jigsaw puzzle on the card table in front of me held all of my attention. Should I set aside all of the flesh and blue dress pieces first or the red barn ones? My decision to put the little girl together first came just as I reached the top button on my sweater and discovered there wasn’t a matching button hole across from it. Looking down, I realized that I’d mismatched them.

A sweet memory of my Dad popped into mind. One day when he was growing older, he put on a sweater and like I had just done, mismatched its buttons and holes. Looking down, he’d commented, “I look like a lopdeeddle.” Smiling, I shrugged and went to work sorting the puzzle pieces by color.

The silly word Daddy used was so typical of his self-depreciating sense of humor. In my family’s dictionary of funny words, a lopdeeddle was a silly, clumsy, inept person. He felt silly because he’d done the buttons wrong.

Shivering again, I pulled an afghan off the sofa and pulled it over my lap. From memory, I could hear my late husband asking me, “Why are you so stubborn?” I had laughed at him when he said that. To my way of thinking, I was a willow constantly swaying to his wishes and suggestions. I didn’t consider myself stubborn.

It was only after Arnie was gone that I finally recognized the trait he’d seen in me. Once I make up my mind about something, I stick to the plan. One thing I decided as a widow is that a person doesn’t need to heat a house until the inside thermometer never goes above 58 degrees. Continue reading

Animal Talk

The ends of the two scarves wound around my head and neck flapped in the frigid wind. I leaned over to pour sunflower seeds into a bird feeder, thankful for the warmth of Arnie’s old work jacket. Even though it hung off my shoulders, past the tips of my fingers and made my movements clumsy, I could pull my gloved hands and neck deeper into the generous folds of my late husband’s coat like a turtle.

A chick-a-dee openly hopped around on nearby branches in contrast to a shy woodpecker hidden on the far side of the flowering crabapple tree trunk, but giving away his presence by a rhythmic, “thunk-thunk-thunk!”

I announced, “I didn’t forget about you, woodpecker! I’m putting a suet seed cake in the cage.”

Carrying the rest of the seeds and suet to the birdfeeders on the other side of the house, I slowly trudged through the snow, examining animal tracks along the way. Something with skinny limbs had leapt through the deep snow to a tree. Then there were no more tracks. I looked up. The tree branches touched the next tree and the next. That had to have been a squirrel from along the river. Those greedy rodents like to gobble seeds whenever they find a birdfeeder. Continue reading