Sunday, May 22, 2011

Remembering My Mom, by Charlotte Boquist

Here is a short sweet memory, appropriate for the month of May, when we remember our mothers. ~ Bonnie

“Hi mom,” I said softly, rousing her from a nap. She was sitting in the recliner in her room at the Good Shepherd nursing home, where she was spending her last years. “How are you this morning?”

She smiled, “Oh hello honey, have you been here long?”

“Just got here,” I assured her, “The weather is gorgeous this morning the sun is out and not a cloud in the sky.” I sat down in the other chair and felt a pang of sadness, looking at her once robust body now so shrunken and fragile.

Mom replied that she already knew it was a lovely day, the nurse had described it for her earlier. My mother has lost her sight to glaucoma and now must rely on others to describe the delights that lay outside the big window of her room. She had been an artist, creating beautiful paintings of landscapes and the animals that populate the Wyoming mountains and prairies.

“There is a robin hopping around on the lawn this morning”, I said.

“He is probably looking for a worm for his breakfast”, she said with the authority of an avid bird watcher.

“I’ve brought the paper, should I read to you for a while?” She smiled and I unfolded the newspaper and began to read the news of the day.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Teen Ager, by Gail Earl

In 1968 my family moved from Michigan to Santa Monica, California. I had one year of high school left. We loved living right on the beach and spent many hours riding the surf and enjoying the beautiful weather.  I remember the anxiety of starting back to a school filled with strangers.  I didn't know a soul and didn't really go out of my way to initiate any friendships. 
My boyfriend then, (husband now) moved out here with my family, so I had no desire to meet new people.  He and I were in our own little world. I tried to be invisible at school.  Of course, being "cool" was most important at the age of 17.  I had always believed that I was cool, but none of these new people knew that yet. There was a very fine line between being cool and being invisible.  I never did anything to draw attention to myself.
One day while waiting in the hall for a class to end, I put my finger in into a little hole in the locker I was leaning on.  I'm not really sure what that hole is for, but some lockers had them punched out and some didn't. As all the students gathered in the hall talking to their friends, I amused myself by hanging my finger in this little hole. When the class emerged from inside the classroom and my classmates began to enter the room, I discovered that my finger was stuck.  Not just a little stuck but really stuck.  My finger was definitely not coming out. Now this is not good for an invisible girl!
The teacher came out and tried to help but had no luck.  He called the janitor who greased up my hand but also had no success.
Well as you can imagine, a crowd gathered and everyone watched as I stood there humiliated as students laughed and gathered their friends to come and see the girl with her finger stuck inside the locker.
After what seemed like forever, they ( 2 rent-a-cops and a janitor) decided that the only solution was to take the locker off the wall and go to the nurses office to work on my finger some more.  Of course, one locker would have been too simple.  This locker was attached to a row of six lockers.  So off the wall they came and I had to walk through the history building and down through the center quad, where all students gather and socialize.
Believe me, heads turn when they see a row of lockers being carried carefully so as not to injure an already swollen red finger.
Once we were in the nurse’s office, they iced the hand on the outside and greased the finger on the inside of the locker.  Eventually my hand was free from the row of lockers. 
So much for being invisible. From that day on, I'm afraid that everyone in the school knew just how cool I really was!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Kindergarten Debutante, by Margaret Takacs

Margaret wrote many wonderful stories. This one was a favorite for so many of us. I want to repost it today in remembrance of a life well lived.  ~ Bonnie

During a span of our lifetime certain childhood memories will stay with us, because our families and friends don't let us forget them. This is such a story.

My father died in World War I. At the age nineteen, my mother became a widow with one child. We had to go to live with her parents in a small rural town in Hungary.

My grandparents’ house was a long, rambling building with not much frontage toward the street, but reached far back toward the backyard and garden. At the whole length of the house was a veranda with lots of potted plants on it, and outside there was a flowerbed with roses. The front of the house was our living quarters; the back was used for grandpa's workshop and the students’ bunk Beds. I was not allowed to go in there, but I loved to peek in the window and watch how the boys were singing, hammering, and putting pieces for shoes together. Singing, always singing and bantering with each other.

Grandpa was a master shoe maker and president of his guild. Students who wanted to learn a trade had to do it the old fashion way, moving into the master's house. They paid for room and board as tuition, and spent years  practicing and learning their trade till they become masters of their own.

I was four years old, going to kindergarten. We went to school earlier than in the U.S.A. We learned to count, build with blocks and paint. We spent time making crafts, cooking with baby small utensils, and, of course, playing a lot. Good manners and social graces, getting along with each other was a very important subject.

At the end of the school year our teacher always put on a show for our parents showing off our accomplishments. At the end of the show she let us individually perform something of our choice. I told my mother that I had a surprise for her which would make her very proud of me. I could hardly wait the day to come.

Finally the day arrived. There I was, dressed in my prettiest pink pinafore dress, velvet ribbon bow cascading down my hair. I curtsied to the audience and whole heartedly delivered a song -- a dirty, bawdy song, which left my audience in the state of shock! I curtsied again and looked around waiting for my applause to come. Stone silence from the audience, except my mother’s wish to be dead from embarrassment came a sobbing question; "My God, Where did you learn that?" I said, "From the boys in grandpa's workshop.” By that time I was in tears.

The audience sized up the situation feeling sorry for the heart broken child gave me applause, saying my performance was one what they would never forget. And they didn't ~ teasing me from time to time, asking when my next performance will be scheduled.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Randy and Margaret

I received an email from Nora this morning, telling me that our dear friend, Margaret, had passed away peacefully on Saturday, May 7, 2011. Within less than an hour of reading that email I received a call from Kacie, telling me that she had some sad news. I assumed that she was going to tell me about Margaret. Instead she informed me that another former member of our class, Randy, had also passed away this weekend, just shy of a year after the passing of his wife and another special friend of ours, Judy.

As a tribute to these two precious souls, I have posted a story from both Randy and Margaret. The stories were written several years ago as a part of a class anthology, in which each writer wrote about their memories connected with our class.

As you consider posting comments on the following stories, please think about your memories of these friends and use this space to share your thoughts with other readers of this blog.

Thank you.

Two by Randy

V is for “A Valued Class of Vintage Memoirists”
By Randy Brandemihl

My senior memoir class is a very special group of people. The variety of their vivid backgrounds is one of the very things that make them valuable. Their vintage years and vivacious friendship is the very thing that binds us all together.
In the very beginning, we all came here seeking a variety of pleasurable pastimes, such as humor, knowledge, companionship and, of course, memoir writing.
Of that goal I feel, without a doubt, that we have all vanquished a darkness and found a very fine and victorious bright day.
Viva la Vida!!!

What Makes this Group Special?
By Randy Brandemihl

I would like to say thanks to this special group of memoir writers and explain what makes you more special than any group I’ve ever known.
The groups I’ve known in the past, beginning with my youth in grade school and going forward into my high school years and then my military service, all provided me with great memories. We were young then and shared such good things as movies, birthdays and first kisses. The groups in the military were different from the school groups. We were no longer children; we were men and women. My military friends and I shared good memories, but we also shared our fears and losses. My memories of those years are some of the worst and some of the best.
As we grow older we make all these great memories as we move down the long epic road of life. I’ve come to this group, here in one bright cheery room in Norwalk, all these years later and a million miles from where I was born. I’ve found a place where I could tell all my stories that I’ve collected over these years; not only that, but I’ve found great people that will listen and even enjoy my stories as I enjoy theirs.
Unlike the stories we told in school that revealed our youth and inexperience, the stories in this room are stories that reflect, collectively, over a thousand years of lifetime experiences. To tell them and to tell them well, we have become poets, storytellers and playwrights. Each one of you has touched my heart.
Thank you and our great group leader, Bonnie.

L is for “Love, ” By Margaret Takacs

“L” is the beginning letter of the most powerful world of our dictionary. It covers a multitude of emotions, which can trigger a multitude of events from history and from individual lives.
“Love is a Many Splendored Thing;” so says a lovely old song I have heard my daughter Kathy sing so many times. It can take many forms: love of family, friends, cherished pets, plants, favorite possessions, and foods – all the colorful mosaics of our lives. It surely has taken me to the pinnacle of happiness and to the depth of despair in my lifetime.
Throughout the years, as my daughters heard (maybe too often) the stories of my life, they always encouraged me to put those stories down on paper. I don’t know what held me back: maybe procrastination, laziness or reluctance, not knowing how to reveal the tumult of my life.
Then in my retirement, when my physical disabilities started to affect the vitality of my life, came an unexpected pleasure I greatly value and enjoy today. Before that, one of my daughters, Judith, gave me a book to read and record the important events of my life.
It touched my cord of resistance, and I thought it would be a lot easier this way. And then my other daughter, Kathleen, met by chance with Bonnie Mansell, and she sort of enlisted me in Bonnie’s memoir writing class, leaving me no more excuses.
Joining Bonnie’s memory writing class brought many pleasures into my life. Her sunny-spirited guidance overrides my occasional glum and my resistance to writing. We have a wonderful company of classmates who become friends while sharing each others stories ~ sometimes with tears of sorrow, sometimes with joy, sometimes with great humor and laughter. We value and enjoy the stories of each other’s lives.
In my writing class I find companionship sharing each other’s joys or sorrows or burdens, and in the process we rediscover that love is a many splendored thing, which can teach even my ninety-year-old heart to sing. Yes, love is truly a “many splendored thing.”

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A PRELUDE TO A SLEEP, by (Kacie) Kathy Cooper

My emotions exceed my power to contain them
And so I sleep...
Should I raise my voice and complain then?
T'would only make me weak

For who would hear my deepest sighs?
A trailing of the wind
And who-so-ever would recognize
The sadness I hide within

Only He who towers high on high
Beyond the marvels of existence
No time or space can ere deny
His beauty, his consistence

Be with me then, inside my darkness
Erase my "worldly" view
Tighten up my sense of sharpness
And let me see, see only You

Monday, May 2, 2011

Brother Bill’s Conversation with Toby, by Charlotte Boquist

(As told to Mary Jane and Charlotte March 3, 2011)
            Toby, son of a Baptist lay teacher, is married to Bill’s granddaughter, Carolee.  These two men had a special relationship; they were buddies and shared much through the years.  They had, on several occasions discussed Heaven and Hell at length, while sitting out on Bill’s patio.
            Visiting him in the hospital, Bill not being able to call out indicated that he wanted to speak with Toby, so Carolee traded places with her husband who was minding the children outside the room. 
            Toby leaned down close to the bed since Bill was so weak that he was only able to whisper, the first thing that Bill said was, “Don’t think this is from the drugs or that I’m hallucinating.”  Then he told of seeing friends that some had been dead for twenty-five years, walking around, waving to him on the other side of something that was hazy, like looking through a glad bag”.  Bill was reaching out and grasping at something in the air.  Toby asked what he was doing.  Bill said that he was trying to get though the veil.  He wanted to be there, “But” he said, “Don’t tell Grandma because she will fight to keep me here.”
Toby asked if his friends talked to him.  Bill replied no, just the lady spoke to him.  The lady was dressed in white, all fluffy like lace or ruffles.  She was first up in the corner, then in his face, and then over there.  She was flitting about the room.  Bill asked her who she was and she replied that she was “The Greeter”.
            Toby asked if he saw anyone else.  Bill replied that there were lots of people walking around and that he wanted to get over there, and he kept picking at the veil.   (Toby told us that Bill would reach up with his hands and pick at the air).  Toby asked him if they said anything, Bill said he couldn’t hear them.  He couldn’t see his Mom and Dad, but he knew they were there.
            Later Bill told Shirley (his wife) and Debbie (his daughter) that he just wanted to go home.  They, of course, thought he meant back to Basin, but he meant “over there”.