North Bank Reports

A slight, grey-haired man stood at my back door. His greeting was quaintly sweet and respectful, “Hello! My name is Elton Greta. I lived in your house until my mother sold the farm when I was ten years old. The river was my favorite play area. Would you please allow me to walk on your property along its bank?”

Surprised and wondering how many years it was since he was ten-years-old, I generously responded, “Yes. Go right ahead!”

That one-minute conversation in 1982 was the only person-to-person interaction I ever had with Mr. Greta. Only later did I find out that he was seventy-nine years old to my thirty-one years. I didn’t see how long he stayed or where he walked, because my two-month-old daughter had a clinic appointment. His car was gone by the time I returned home. I found a letter from him taped to my back door.

In a swirling script and with flowery prose, Mr. Greta described his childhood home and the land where it sat on the north bank of a small river as, “the hallowed grounds of my childhood.” His “sainted mother” sold the farm in 1913 when he was ten years old.

After eating supper that evening, I read his letter to the family. At the end, I looked up and said to Arnie, my husband, “I think this man wants me to write to him! He signed with his full Sioux City, Iowa address.” Continue reading

The Cat Exchange

I looked up from the article I was reading on the computer, drawn out of deep concentration by a metallic sound, like cutting wire. Glancing at the office window, I saw two white paws. Jumping to my feet, I ran to the back door.

Louie, a.k.a. ‘The Cat with can opener claws’, lets me know he wants in by getting up on his hind legs, hooking his powerful claws into the office window screen and doing a chin-up to look in at me. The screen is shredded again, although I had replaced it once already.

Pushing the back door open, my large white and black cat silkily slipped into the entryway like liquid mercury. I heard muffled thuds coming from the basement stairwell. Before I could shut the door, a large dark tabby cat appeared in the doorway. Jonah paused for a moment, then streaked across the room and gracefully slipped out the door into the darkening backyard.

The two cat’s fur coats briefly touched as they passed, but with merely a curious passing sniff, they kept moving. Surprised, I exclaimed, “Is it already time for the 9 p.m. cat exchange?” My wrist watch showed that it was fifteen minutes before 9. I shrugged and murmured, “Close enough.” Continue reading

Chef Bruno

The silence of the empty house wrapped itself around me. I clumped noisily down the steps from my upstairs bedroom, tired and bleary-eyed. Although I classified myself as a morning person, getting up was never easy. From experience I knew that after spending fifteen minutes upright, I would be ready to go full throttle into the day.

Nine-year-old Tammie and eleven-year-old Niki had boarded their school bus two hours ago. At about the same time, Arnie, my husband had left the house to deliver products to one of his farm customers. Taking advantage of my day off from working at the hospital, I’d crawled back into bed for an extra hour of sleep.

Mentally, I organized the chores I needed to do before Tammie, Niki and Arnie returned to the house hungry for supper. Glancing into the living room showed me that straightening the house topped the list. Papers and books littered the floor where Niki and Tammie had done homework and art projects. Sofa pillows were scattered across the room.

Since everyone in my family also wanted blankets to cuddle while watching television, four of them lay crumpled wherever they were used. Segments of the newspaper I’d read last night after supper, lay scattered next to my chair, along with an empty drinking glass.

The sofa, Arnie’s royal throne, looked as if it had exploded. One cushion was out of place and on the floor. The pillow and blanket he had used were tossed in separate directions. A few chocolate chips, raisins and peanuts were scattered throughout. An empty bowl and beer bottle sat on the table next to the sofa. The television remote control laid on the floor under the coffee table. Continue reading

Dinosaur Tales

Before going to my garden to pick tomatoes, Niki put her cell phone on the dining room table. Blaise, my four-year-old grandson saw his opportunity and snatched the device. His small fingers flew this way and that to bring up the You Tube videos he wanted to watch.

Although I didn’t grow up with computers, I’m not a total ‘slouch’ when it comes to technology. Seeing his expertise though, impressed me.

Ben, age thirteen, was sitting in the living room staring intently down at an iPad. The curtains were closed, so the room was shadowed. Ghostly blue-green light from the flickering game screen reflected on his face. Next to him, nine-year-old Jacob complained about having to wait for his turn and finally demanded, “You’re hogging the iPad. It’s my turn to use it. Hand it over!”

Gemma, my six-year-old granddaughter, was sitting at the dining room table drawing. She looked up from her picture and told me, “Last night we watched a You Tube video…” In great detail described what she had seen.

I’ve always considered myself to be a modern woman and looked in awe at how primitive the world had been when my mother was born in 1906. Few people had electricity, indoor plumbing or motor vehicles at that time, nor for many years after.

On the other hand, when I was born in 1950, most people had in-door plumbing, electricity, radios, cars and some even flew in airplanes. Television was introduced to our household when I was eleven. When I was eighteen, NASA sent men to the moon and brought them back. Continue reading

Little Sister

I gazed with admiration at my big sister. She was as beautiful as a princess. We were almost in different generations with my being eight-years of age to her twenty-two. She was grown-up and I was a little kid watching her dress for a date. Agnes’ clothing accented her slim feminine form. Her eyebrows arched beautifully and her dark hair curled smoothly under in the popular page-boy style.

Jim, Agnes’ boyfriend arrived driving a 1956 white and blue-green two-tone Chevrolet. Pulling to a stop in the driveway near the sidewalk, he pressed the car’s horn. Instead of a simple honk, it blared out a musical series of toots. He stepped out of the car laughing. Jim worked at one of the grocery stores in Stratford. Once, when I was there with Mom, he checked us out at the cash register. He joked and teased as he rang-up each item.

I liked Jim. He was tall and had broad shoulders with dark, extremely curly hair. Instead of ignoring me as many adults ignore children, he seemed to enjoy talking to and playing with me as he waited for Agnes to finish getting ready for their date.

Whenever Agnes was home from college during the year that followed, Jim came around to visit. By the time he asked my sister to marry him, I already considered him a part of our family. It made me happy that their first apartments were close to our home. I looked forward to visiting them. Continue reading

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

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