Five years-thereabouts…

I give thanks on the day he was born every year. July 24, 1946 is worth mentioning. Taking into consideration I wouldn’t be born for another 4-1/2 years, Larry was not part of my life very long, but what an impact he made. I used to dream what life would have been like had he lived longer, but the decades flew by and it’s hard to imagine my life with Larry still in it, so I tend to focus on short section of my life when he was a part of it. A big part. After discounting the years I was a baby and adding up the total however, not very long. Five years-thereabouts.

Larry 2, Mona 5 with dad 1948…

I wasn’t planned. Oops. Mom and Dad had the all-American family, a girl and a boy. Money was tight, the house was small, pay on the railroad was not great and I think an occasional lay-off from work was involved every year. Mom stayed home with my sibs but was determined to find a job as soon as Mona and Larry were in school full time. (Kindergarten was half days back then). Just as Mom was seeing light at the end of tunnel after 8 years of marriage and 2 school age kids, I was getting ready to make my entrance at the end of 1950.

Larry & me, early 1951…

I never felt unwanted though. The four of them doted on their new baby sister, especially Larry. He could have been resentful, assuming he was the baby of the family but he loved me. When I was a toddler he let me tag along in our big back yard or empty lots across the street. He stopped me once after a neighbor kid told me we were growing raisins in our yard. They were actually bunny turds on the ground below the rabbit hutches. Larry always had my back. Even when it was a pain or embarrassing.

Larry and Mona, 1949…

When we moved a mile away and a mere block and a half from Main Street, we didn’t play together as much as living on the west edge of town. There were more kids scrunched together in the middle of town. The school playground was 2 blocks east, and a shopping mecca to meet the simple needs of consumers-young and old, a block away in the other direction. Where you could buy multiple sweet treats when you had one thin dime in your pocket.

Mona 13, Neese 5-1/2, Spitzy & Larry 10, 1956…

It was 1955 and there were limitations to where this 4-1/2 year-old could venture, but Larry was 9 and had the run of the town. He had tons of friends, was crazy about baseball and shooting marbles in our driveway. He had a BB gun, a Schwinn bike, baseball cards up the wazoo (early to late 1950’s, what some of those cards must be worth today!) and always had a baseball card of a less popular player/team clicking in the spoke of his bike. Dad was a big Yankee fan so Larry probably followed suit. The difference in our ages really started to dictate how much we saw of each other. I was busy making friends. Girls my own age who wanted to play dolls or drive-inn using my cool play house in the backyard.

Larry’s kindergarten hand plaque…

Being born after him means I missed much of Larry’s already too short life. It still makes me part envious and a little bitter. So many everyday occurrences happened in his life I wasn’t privy to, him just being a daredevil boy. The 3 years we lived on 15th street before he died, he was this big kid who could be gone for hours without my parents worrying about him or getting in trouble. He was zipping around town with Dickie, Norm and Ken. These kids saw the goofy Larry, the baseball crazy friend who shot marbles left-handed. The fair haired, super blonde with a funny lisp. They had endless days with him hanging out at the dump and Van Zee’s sand pit with a small enticing island. Or catching pigeons in the rafters of barns after it was dark. I never got to go pigeon hunting with him and dad. Not that I wanted to but causes me pain to realize how much of his life I missed.

Day-cation 1956, Larry behind me, Mona and dad…

But we always had family time too. Mom cooked supper every night which was on the table by 5:30. Pretty standard procedure, no one was late or missed supper. We didn’t take long vacations, (I’m sure they were too expensive) but I remember several day-trips to Lake Okoboji, the Spencer County fair, visiting the Grotto in West Bend, Iowa, and the dam at Yankton, South Dakota on a miserably cold, wet day.

Visiting the Grotto in 1956, Larry, Mona and me…

Larry mowed yards, shoveled snow, helped our grandpa Gerritson and sold pigeons for spending money. One Christmas he bought mom a new fry pan. A little bit on the small side, maybe an 8” for our family of 5 but she was thrilled. Many years after he was gone she continued to use his last gift. The black Bakelite handle had long since crumbled into pieces so she always had a potholder handy when she grabbed the naked metal. That was the year he bought me a small, stuffed brown bear, which I still have.

Larry’s baseball glove…

No matter how hard I rack my brain, I’ve only got so many memories of Larry and nothing I can do to change that. Five year’s worth-not much. The Saturday morning he was riding (my bike, because he needed the basket) bike and got hit by a car remains vivid but horrific. Mom screaming, running in the street after a phone call. An hour later there was no place to park for 2 blocks on 15th street-waiting for dad to get home from Hawarden-30 miles away. Members from our church-wanting to help mom break the news to dad their only son had been killed.

Can’t help it, I love his headstone with his last school picture…

Still, it feels good to write another story about life with my big brother (repetitious, sorry about that). Larry would be 75 today so it’s been 63 years since I saw his beaming smile, blonde head or heard him speak. Each year brings me a bit closer to my reunion not only with Larry, but mom, dad, Mona and the grandmother I never met who died when mom was 2 weeks old. What a day that will be! Happy heavenly birthday Larry Wayne, July 24, 1946 to October 11, 1958…

Menial Tasks…

When you’re young and strong, they’re the mundane chores you never think about until you can no longer perform them. All of a sudden the little things you’ve always taken for granted are not only elusive but pritnear impossible to accomplish. What a difference 5 years makes.

Lugging wet laundry out to the clothesline, 1977…

Seems like I just got this 70 year old body out of the repair shop for a routine maintenance check after my warranty expired, when another part wears out, cracks or freezes up. While none have had a devastating affect on my life, it’s become exceedingly frustrating.

Since when did mash potatoes become hard? (They aren’t if you cook them long enough! Some starchy humor). We often have mashed potatoes on Tuesday’s when Ariana and Jovi come over for supper. I blaming the Hubs (that was easy). About two years ago he made fried shrimp for supper (yum). We’re old and lazy and rarely eat at the table anymore unless some serious cutting with a steak knife is involved. BTW, not eating at the table goes against everything I grew up with or we did as a family when our kids were little. We ate supper together at the kitchen or dining room table more often than not. Now John and I fill our plates, and watch a 42 minute program while we eat before I clean up the kitchen.

So getting back to our little shrimp fest. Hubs forgot to turn the burner off which housed the pan of oil. (Had we been seated at the table like civilized humans instead of in the next room, one of us certainly would have noticed or smelled hot oil-I hope). It was on low but the pan was scorched beyond the two days I was willing to try and clean it. Well that was my potato pan, so I had to move up to a bigger sized pan when I’m cooking. Unfortunately I can no longer lift the pan from the stove to the sink, (3 lousy feet) drain the water and place it on a hot pad for mashing. I now prop it precariously on the side of the sink, tip the lid a half inch (doing my best to avoid the free steam bath burn) to get rid of the water. Ten years ago I could lift a peck of cooked beets in an 8 quart pan filled with purple boiling water and drain them suckers. Now I can’t do 2 pounds of spuds. How did this happen?

This worked to open jars and bottles until recently…

When we were in Yuma 5 years ago I went to a church craft show with my sister-in-law and bought a small rectangular piece of gorilla shelf liner used in cupboards so tableware doesn’t slip and slide around. The outside edge is crocheted. My purpose was using it to open jars and plastic screw topped Diet Pepsi bottles. Kept conveniently on the counter and it’s worked until 2021. My hand no longer has the strength to twist this grippy cloth and if I do get the lid to budge, pain shoots through my hand, pulsating in the bottom of my thumb for several minutes. Dang it, this is making me crazy.

What I use now. For how long remains a mystery…

Hubs ordered a gadget with several sized openings which have tiny grippers which hugs whatever sized lid you’ve inserted. Instead of my fingers and thumb doing most of the work, my supper bottle of Diet Pepsi is unscrewed with more of a twist of my wrist causing no discomfort. So far it’s worked great.

Love the smell but it’s not relieving my stress very much…

My next annoying ‘why can’t I do this anymore’ is my stinking ‘smells wonderful’ shampoo. The 16 ounce plastic bottle has a lid where the top part opens when you ‘pop’ it up with your thumb. My thumb has decided its no longer going to participate in this daily exercise. There’s not a big enough gap between the lid and microscopic indentation where my thumb should easily be able to snap that sucker open. Most days I can’t get it open using both thumbs. Argh. Now I have to grab the wet washcloth, using 2 thumbs and push up on the lid flipper.

Looks easy enough to flip open but is beyond my capabilities…

I know what you’re thinking. Just leave the exasperating, aggravating lid off the shampoo and pour a dot every morning, eliminating that minor irritant. However, you simply can not grasp how obsessive I am about my shampoo. That little quirk started 20 years ago when I got hooked on a John Frieda Shampoo for colored hair (by accident-the shampoo not the coloring part. I was still doing that on purpose). I forgot my overnight bag when I was driving 800 miles to visit my parents. Stopped at Walgreens during the trip and bought a set of travel sized hair care products. After using it once I wanted to grow my hair long just so it would be easier to smell. Sick, I know. A few years later Frieda discontinued the hair color treated type, forcing me to buy every bottle available on the black (after) market. Ok, it was e-Bay but every bottle was exorbitantly expensive. And I ran out of the shampoo (but not the conditioner-might have enough for my life expectancy) maybe 3 years ago. No problem because I stopped dyeing my hair about the same time.

My over abundance of conditioner…

Stumbled upon a great Bath and Body Works shampoo soon after only to realize they produced it occasionally. Our local store just started carrying the shampoo again so now I’m up to my eyeballs with bottles of the stuff which should suffice for my lifetime. Should I leave the bottle open and unprotected, my fear is when Hubs is showering he might fall prey to one of his sneezing fits (which last about 5 minutes with wind gusts between a Category 2 and 3). The tile wall is fairly safe but a less than pound plastic bottle of my favorite smelly shampoo on a dinky tiled, grouted shelf would be toast. You understand my concern now right? I should just look for a generic bottle that’s easier to open and fill it with my shampoo.

Here’s my last irksome task which has become combative. Everything gets placed in the sink before I do dishes (yes I still wash them by hand and never use my dishwasher. A waste of kitchen space in my tiny kitchen) that has a lid, like our double wall, insulated water glasses, Hubs loosens them or I end up carrying it into the family room, soap suds running down my arm and I’m about to fling that sucker across the street! The big picture is my overall health is excellent and I fully recognize and accept these loathsome changes as part of my aging process. I have much to be grateful for but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to ‘pitch a bitch’ about what’s happening in my life that’s driving me to distraction. Anyone younger than 60, you’ve been warned…

The Comment Debate…

Facebook. I love it half the time and hate it just as often. I realize without FB I would have 100 less people that I’m friends with, mostly from my Iowa childhood hometown. For a loner that’s significant and I’m grateful. But FB is nosey and likes to keep track of everything. So I don’t post or comment very often. Pictures of my grandchildren, food or canning pictures and my WordPress blog post that I move from their platform to share on my FB home page. I stay away from all quizzes where they ask leading questions like, “what would your first name be if it was your grandmother’s maiden name?”

Mag (the good cook) and her baby (the Hubs) 1990…

Nearly four months ago it started out simple enough. It must have been posted by one of my friends but I don’t recall who. A question posted from The Slow-roasted Italian. Worded like, “Who adds mustard to Mayo when you’re making potato salad?” Oh my goodness. I’d say I started a shitshow or shitstorm but I’m trying to refrain from saying shit so often. (I don’t think it’s working). Well sh—. Never mind.

The delicious or offensive bowl of potato salad causing all the ruckus…

For the record, I don’t care for Mayo (whatever brand, but dang folks are passionately loyal and vocal on that subject), or Miracle Whip, the brand I prefer and never add either to my sandwich, not even my favorite, the BLT. But something’s gotta hold my Pea, 7-layer, Veggie slaw or potato salads together right? So it’s got to be one or the other as the base for my dressings. In my defense I don’t use one more often than the other in the various salads I make. But if I’ve always used Mayo for my pea salad, I would never switch it to Miracle Whip. Wouldn’t taste right. And I would never use anything but Miracle Whip in my potato salad. Period. There lies the rub. I never imagined there would be such a heated debate on my humbly written comment on how I make potato salad and what goes in it (or even on top of it). “Paprika you fool,” not sliced egg dusted with black pepper.

Being taught clean up duty followed cooking…

Anyone who follows my blog knows I couldn’t cook or bake when the Hubs and I eloped in 1969. Not because my mom was a bad cook. She was a good cook but never wanted me in her kitchen or messing it up. She wasn’t eager to teach me and I was less than eager to learn.

It seemed innocent and hardly offensive at the time…

Once the Hubs and I got hitched, I knew that had to change. We had to eat-period-and dining out wasn’t an option. (Payday was every other Friday, and a stop at McDonald’s was a big stretch on our minuscule budget). John’s mom, Mag was willing (even enthusiastic) to share her prowess in the kitchen. She was a fantastic cook and baker and I was better at retaining skills if the lesson was visual. So that’s the way she taught me. By standing side-by-side in her kitchen or mine. The only problem, Mag rarely measured ingredients. She just added a dash of this, a squirt of that, a small amount from the palm of her hand, a rounded spoonful, a titch or a pinch to most of her entrees and salads. Who needs those pesky measuring spoons anyway? So that’s how I learned. A few years ago, Erica my daughter-in-law asked for my potato salad recipe, I finally had to break down and make a big bowl with measuring cups and spoons handy. (After she made a large quantity for a potluck she lamented what a pain-in-the-ass it was and it would be long while before she offered to bring that stuff again). Hahaha.

And now some of my favorite comments
Haha…
This woman is hard to please…
Ok I’m done here…

Verbatim this is the comment I wrote: Miracle Whip, titch of yellow mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, potatoes, eggs, diced celery, radishes, sweet pickles, green onion. You’re welcome…

Live long and prosper…
Opposing views…

To which I added a picture of a bowl of my potato salad in my beautiful Blue Delft Bowl. Over the past several weeks there’s been 550 comments-about my comment. Holy sh—. Granted I answered almost half of those. Many were positive, heartfelt, grateful and nice. No one knocked my bowl. Duh. A few were downright unkind and most of those were written by guys. Sous-chef? Gourmet cook? Asswipe? I don’t know, but I never answered with a negative comment. Not once. (Although I did bless a few of their hearts).

He’s probably my age…
He didn’t think it was as funny as I did…
Graphic…
Hahaha…

The words in my comment causing the most discussion was MIRACLE WHIP and SUGAR, followed by hotly contested RADISHES and SWEET GHERKINS. (I mean who in their right mind would add such outlandish ingredients)? Only me I guess. Probably 50-50 on MW vs. Mayo. The Miracle Whip-ers were “yum,” “that’s my recipe,” “sounds good,” and “looks delicious “ while the Mayo enthusiasts were, “Hellman’s,” “Best Foods,” “never MW,” and a gif of Jim Carrey gagging (which makes me gag just to think of him-period).

That’s a long time…
Strong conviction…
Rather harsh…
Maybe a bit harsh back too…

But I learned a lot about the tastes we’ve grown accustomed to when talking about “their family’s recipe for the best potato salad in the world! And don’t you dare try anything different or change my mind.” Olives, bacon, orange juice, vinegar, green peppers, paprika, Bermuda onions, garlic powder, tomatoes, (my favorite food but not in potato salad) cucumbers, jalapeños, dill pickles. The list of people’s favorite ‘must include’ ingredients was lengthy. Others thought potatoes and eggs were enough and came down pretty hard on “too many crunchy things in there,” “or is this really just a dessert?”

Spelling lesson was well deserved…
Another teaching moment for Richard…

For a gal who avoids confrontation at all costs, it was an interesting few weeks. A couple times a day I’d read through the 40-50 new comments and answer a few, smiling, nodding or shaking my head in amazement thinking, it’s just a picture of the way I make my potato salad. Cool your jets. Be nice. Heaven help me should I actually ever write something controversial. Not in this lifetime…

A compliment and in my defense…

The Token Gift…

We were nearing our third anniversary and the year was 1972. We were living in Hinton, Iowa, population-not much. Renting a small 2 bedroom with an oil burner stove which kept the dining room 105 degrees, but the rest of the house a cool 50 something. But no heat worries because it was summer.

Shannon, 9 months…

We had some great neighbors, an older couple with a spitfire, ornery chihuahua named Ginger (who smoked), a newlywed couple with a long-haired dachshund named Kippen, and Keith and Patty behind us. Keith and Patty were a few years older than us. Keith worked nights like John. Patty and I became friends passing the evenings together after the kids went to bed. By kids, I mean her 2 hell raisers and our little angel. Curt was about 6, Glenda was 4, and our 18 month old, Shannon (the angel).

Shannon and Tina, Hinton, Iowa 1972…

Our lot went as far back as the next street so Keith & Patty actually lived kitty-corner from us. We plowed up a big section of back yard and shared a garden with them one summer. Emphasis on the ONE. Patty pulled/ate everything before the veggies matured. You know how vegetable producers just take big carrots, clean and cut them to look like baby carrots and sell them that way in the store? Well Patty picked all of our carrots when they were babies, about 2-3 inches long. Never shared or explained her motives. We got some tomatoes that summer because the crop was too much for her. But besides hoarding our summer crop or their bratty kids, we liked them a lot.

John and Keith…

Keith brought this hair-brained idea to John. Keith been approached/invited to attend a sales pitch/seminar to buy lake property (minus the lake, which was but a sparkle in their eyes so far), before any groundbreaking took place. Get in on the ground floor while the prices were cheap. If Keith brought along another prospective customer (sucker) as an incentive he would receive a cash gift. The extra guest (sucker) would also receive a very nice gift, but no money. John was skeptical, I was totally against the whole idea. We didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together and we knew it, K & P weren’t in much better shape-ok they might have been rubbing quarters. In simple terms, neither of us had an extra dime to be spending on speculative ‘Lake’ property. But Keith was motivated by those dollar signs.

Our rental in Hinton, so no we couldn’t buy lake-less property…

Being gone an entire Saturday was appealing but what to do with Shannon was an issue. Driving her 60 miles to my parents would cost about as much as hiring a babysitter for the day. Plus we’d have to drive back to Rock Valley to get her on Sunday. Our local babysitter was a divorced school teacher who was in her 40’s. She was a great kid watcher but harped on us constantly about the dumbest things. She was obsessed with our few piddly antiques, trying to buy them from us for a pittance. (We started collecting antiques because we couldn’t afford the new white, particle board dresser for $49.99 from Sears when we were furnishing Shannon’s room. We found an old oak dresser at a yard sale for 5 bucks-more in tune with our budget of zilch). She could not be in our house for 5 minutes without offering to buy the little bit of furniture (antiques) we had accumulated.

The babysitter’s coveted dresser we wouldn’t part with…

This-soon-to-be-lake-property was near Des Moines, about 4 hours away. Since we were their guests, tagging along for a free lunch and gift to be revealed later, there was no way we were driving. We had a 1968 2-door Mustang which had a collapsible front passenger seat (unintentionally-a flaw which had not been recalled) and only started when the temperature was above 45 degrees. Keith was driving a big Chevy Impala which was much roomier. Not too long afterwards Keith would accidentally fire his 243 high powered rifle right next to the Hubs (trying to hand the gun to John in that car, through an open window, with his finger still on the trigger, rendering Hubs deaf for a week. Took out the car floor, bell housing, clutch plate and buried the bullet in the cement. Dumb ass).

With the lure of a free meal, (and Keith’s cash gift already burning a hole in his pocket) we got on the road early. No GPS or Siri steering us in the right direction, just an old, creased Iowa map. The itinerary stated the sales pitch would be the first part of business (so you couldn’t sneak out), lunch, then driving out to the housing addition site to see our future vacation home, visualizing where the lake would be. If we couldn’t afford to build right away, simply hang onto the lot until it’s worth a ton-o-money. Yeah right.

Shannon’s 2nd birthday party in Hinton. Clockwise, Shannon, Kelli, Kristin, Glenda, Helen & Chad, Eleanor, Matt & Wendy…

The sales pitch was a hard sell, frenzied speaker, high on everything but life. The pressure was enormous, but for these 2 broke kids-a walk in the park. We knew pressure. We had bill collectors calling. Lunch was a turkey or ham sandwich, a handful of potato chips, cookie and a glass of punch. As his sermon wound down, small boxes were handed to us. Oh goodness, what could it be?

Orange ‘ya glad they didn’t come in another color?

Well, it was a chintzy set of dishes. Orange. Melmac. A set for 4. Kinda like plastic, kinda like rubber. Bendable, like undone bacon. The dinner plates were the size of saucers, the cups held 6 ounces. As poor as we were, we threw them away after we got home and bought our first set of Corelle Old Town Blue dishes.

Our first Corelle set of dishes…

I don’t remember the exact location outside of Des Moines-proper, where the future lake homes neighborhood would be. I had trouble visualizing the ‘big picture’ with nary a drop of water in sight. But there were some eager prospects looking to sign up for payments in hopes this would be a successful venture or their new home shortly. Hubs and I had no such vision that day, but I think Keith was sorely tempted. Patty was the practical half (and the hardworking half) in that marriage and after a couple of sharp elbows to his rib cage, he thought better of signing on the dotted line…

The Tonsil Train…

It was a fairly common practice back in the late 1940’s, 50’s and ‘60’s. Mothers hauling their young-uns, en masse to the doctor to “get your kid’s tonsils out. Adenoids included at no extra charge!” (The adenoids part may or may not be true. It sounds snarky though). Our family physician, Dr Hegg performed these tonsillectomies routinely right in his small, downtown office. Many kids in our elementary or junior high had their tonsils removed. The medical community felt it stopped a lot of infections. My Mom set up such an appointment one day in the early 50’s for my brother and sister. Mona was about 8, Larry about 5. The reason I was not included in that day’s festivities was because I was 1.

Larry, me and Mona around the time they got their tonsils removed, 1951…

I don’t know how many sore throats my sibs had before Doc suggested getting rid of those unruly balls in the back of their throats. Penicillin shots were doled out to combat serious throat infections but I think many of these constant infections stopped once the problem tonsils were removed. Mom brought Mona and Larry home after a few hours and nursed them through their recovery. In a few days they were feeling great.

Larry and Mona 1950 before I arrived. They look healthy here…

Doc Hegg’s office was about 2 blocks away. I walked to it many times by myself. I was never afraid to go to Doc’s office. Once again I had woken up that morning with a fever and terrible sore throat. Mom would take my temperature, give me an aspirin before she went to work. Doc Hegg’s office didn’t offer set appointments. You stepped into his outer office and sat down on one of the U-shaped bench seats and waited your turn. As Doc called “next,” the person closest to the inner office door went through it. Then the rest of us ‘wait-ers’ would shuffle forward, moving ever closer to said inner door, leaving room by the outside door for the next sicko to start the waiting process. I can only remember a couple instances when someone went-in-out-of-turn (a lot of dripping blood or a broken bone accompanied this particular person. The rest of us were uneasy/queasy with this poor dude’s mishap and just wanted him taken care of and out of sight). Mom would call me at home from work and tell me it was time to walk to his office and get a shot. I dreaded the shot but hated being sick worse.

Dr. Hegg’s office about 2 blocks from my house…

After the age of 8, I routinely ended up parking my butt in Doc’s office’s last seat, especially during our long winters. People who knew Mom and Dad would talk to me sometimes, trying to make me feel better or offering comfort because I was alone. The only part I was nervous about was the actual shot-which hurt, but I knew by tomorrow I would feel a lot better. Doc was a bit gruff, mumbling and chain smoking as he cared for Rock Valley’s patients. I never had money when I went to see Doc but Mom would stop by in a few days and pay for the shot and office visit.

Dr. & Mrs. Hegg…

After a couple years of penicillin shots every couple months, Doc thought it was time to have my tonsils removed, but he no longer did tonsillectomies in his office. (His namesake, Hegg Memorial Hospital’s groundbreaking would not happen for another 5 years). Doc did surgery at the Le Mars hospital about 40 miles away. He called Mom and offered several dates to choose from for my tonsillectomy. I would stay in the hospital overnight. Probably the biggest concern was their use of ether for anesthesia. It was well known for causing nausea and vomiting, not the best solution after just having your tonsils removed.

About the time my tonsils were removed in 1960. Can you believe the “spit-curls!

But I did great. Wasn’t sick afterwards and got pampered and treated to cool foods that went down easy. When I was awake and alert a volunteer came to my room pushing a decorated cart. I think she was surprised that I was 10 years old instead of 5. She explained every “kid” who’s a patient at the hospital is offered a small gift to pick out from the cart for being so brave. Problem was these ‘gifts’ were geared towards someone younger than 7. Hokey little stuffed animals that bordered on embarrassing for this big 4th grader. But I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away either. If they were offering me a present, I was taking something off that cart. I chose a little blue and white stuffed doll with an elastic strap sewn on the top of her head. A small plastic O-ring was stitched on top so it could be hung somewhere for babies to grab and tug, developing their dexterity. That little doll hung on a nail in my bedroom until I left home. Now she sits with most of Larry’s toys in an antique cabinet. I just love my little baby toy because of my bravery.

My ‘gift’ for bravery after my tonsillectomy is the little blue and yellow doll. Larry gave me the little plaid dog before he died…

When Mom came to the hospital late the next morning, she asked if I felt well enough to stop somewhere for lunch on the way home? “Sure do. This sore throat’s nothing compared to the ones I’ve had. Let’s go.” So we drove to Sioux Center and stopped at a restaurant in town. Mom looked the menu over carefully, searching for soups, jello, puddings and other soft foods. She said I could have a malt if I ate it with a spoon instead of a straw (no sucking for a few days). I ordered a hamburger and French fries, best food I ever ate. Slid right down the hatch-no problem. I hadn’t felt that good in a couple years.

Joshua about the time he started getting throat infections, 1982…

What a change when I had my kids during the 70’s, just 15 years later! Tonsillectomy’s were no longer encouraged but were frowned upon. I’d never really thought about that common childhood surgery until Joshua, our middle kid was school age. That poor boy was sick all the time. He’d just get over a throat infection and finally finish a round of antibiotics when I’d walk in to check him late at night and his room smelled like he was baking 4 loaves of bread. All yeasty and sour. He’d be running another fever, his tonsils swollen, inflamed and coated grey, covered with a moldy gunk. He suffered through mononucleosis, an enlarged spleen which kept him bedridden for a couple weeks, all because of his enormous tonsils. But Dr. Miller was required to document Joshua’s infections to ‘prove’ his tonsils needed to be removed before he could recommend surgery. I’m pretty sure he had to have 6 throat infections within a 12 month period before they took out those loathsome things. Our other 2 kids had sore throats on occasion but nothing like the miserable years Josh had with them from age 4 to when we finally got the go-ahead to get them taken out.

Josh and Adam in 1985. Tonsils were gone and he grew and grew…

Think Josh was 8 when his tonsils were taken out and felt about the same way I did afterwards. So happy not to be sick all the time. In the months following, he grew several inches and gained 10 pounds. Surprised at how hard he could play and how much food he could eat. So Hubs, Shannon and Adam still have their tonsils but for Josh and his mom that tonsil train was a trip worth taking…

When you buy 2 (or more)…

We moved to Michigan during late winter of 1987. This was a big change. We were 750 miles from our Iowa hometown. Hubs and I morphed from newlywed rookies to seasoned veterans in the marriage department (18 years and counting then) and had 3 kids, 16, 11 and 7. Although the two states were similar weather wise (more snow in Michigan, Iowa totaled more blizzards), there were many differences.

A lot of snow but it rarely comes with wind in Michigan…

In the natural resource department Michigan took the prize in water (the mighty Great Lakes plus thousands of smaller ones) and trees (billions and billions). Iowa has better farmland, crops and the meat industry is up to the task of feeding the world. Iowa had a couple of great grocery store chains like Fareway and Hy-Vee, but neither could compare to what became my favorite shopping mecca after we moved to Jackson. A chain called Meijer (Thrifty Acres).

Beautiful Lake Michigan…

I’ve lavished praise about Meijer on my blog before. A colossal shopping experience with a mixture of (remember this is 1987) K-Mart, Walmart, popular grocery store, lumber yard, drug store combination. Jackson did not yet have Menard’s, Lowe’s or Home Depot. Established in the 1930’s and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Meijer family had their finger on the pulse on how families wanted to shop. With approximately 250 stores in 6 Midwest states, Meijer’s goal was really one-stop-shopping. No need to drive another 4 miles down the road to the lumberyard or bank.

All stores are regularly remodeled…

One of the kids need a haircut? Meijer’s store had a barber/beauty shop. Hubs spilled a glop of ketchup on his suit jacket? Just haul it along when you’re at Meijer and drop it off to be picked up, dry cleaned and retuned to our favorite store. Want to rent a VCR tape of Adventures in Babysitting? Stop in while you’re at Meijer. They carried several copies of all the latest releases.

One of our favorite movies…

Right after we moved, the boys were playing basketball in the driveway and broke a small pane of glass in our garage door. Hubs gave me the measurements and while I was shopping, the Meijer lumber department cut the glass for me. (We replaced panes twice, after that John removed all the glass and replaced them with wood panels, cut to size at Meijer of course). We had several doors leading outside of our rambling ranch. We bought 4 Forever Storm doors-at Meijer.

Joshua and Adam, spring of 1987 in Jackson…

One small Meijer section was a restaurant where you could get an omelette, toast and coffee for a couple bucks. If hubby was tired and cranky (much like hauling the kids along) he could sit and enjoy a fresh donut or bagel while people watching or visiting someone at the next table. But he often roamed the store while I shopped because he was as fascinated with it as I was. Don’t bother with a trip to the liquor store, there’s plenty of booze, mixes, wine and beer at Meijer.

Unbelievable produce department at Meijer…

Have a package to mail, need a money order, pay your Consumer’s bill, or buy stamps? No need to go to the post office, Meijer had its own postal department. Need a fancy bonsai shrub, some mulch, tray of annuals, a fresh flower bouquet or bird bath? Right, it was all in the Meijer nursery. Prescriptions got filled, Shannon needed a new pair of tights, Josh outgrew his boots again, or a new Bugle Boy shirt for Adam, some marked half off-at Meijer’s. Need a couple of porterhouse steaks but want them cut thicker? Meijer meat department. You can see how I became so smitten with this chain.

Had to take out the glass from the garage doors to play hoops…

With the demise of K-Mart, Montgomery Wards, Sears and others you realize businesses that remain stagnant or refuse to update, remodel or change don’t have a long future ahead of them. And Meijer did change with the times. More stores were staying open 24/7 and only closing a couple days a year. Some people wanted/needed to shop at 10 pm while daddy was watching Sports Center and the kiddos were sound asleep. A couple years after the aforementioned big box stores opened, Meijer got rid of lumber, doors, glass and downsized several other departments that were lagging behind, because there was stiff competition from these new businesses.

Sales ad before I was forced to buy 3 quarts of strawberries for 5 bucks. One would cost me $1.67…

But Meijer never scrimped in the grocery/produce/meat/bakery/frozen foods department. It’s awesome and extensive. Why supply 8 varieties of potato chip when you can offer 20? Hubs grew perturbed when he was along because the plumbing or nuts/bolts and screws had dwindled down to a couple of packages of picture hangers when he expected the department to look the same as 1990 before Lowe’s and Menards arrived.

Yeah, I have to buy 10 to get them at the sale price…

It’s because I’ve been a loyal Meijer customer for over 30 years, (often shocked when I return from a 2 week vacation to find my store is still open-without my shopping or money) an unpaid champion/cheerleader/advocate that I feel entitled/compelled to (gasp) criticize Meijer. I am so ticked off with my favorite store! Because they have incorporated a new sales gimmick that discriminates against every senior citizen or any shopper on a fixed income. I’m not allowed the savings unless I’m willing to buy the number of products the store insists on. It’s a racket and a bad business move. Why should I be penalized into purchasing 3 enormous boxes of cereal so I can get them for 3 bucks a piece instead of $4.50? If I only need one, I have to pay 4.50. Is this really good business? Is it fair? Not hardly.

Yeah, that’s what seniors need, 3 humongous boxes of cereal or pay full price. Sad…

I realize it’s been a tough year. For all of us. The pandemic, first time ever I experienced empty shelves in the grocery store and shortened shopping hours. For months Meijer didn’t offer their weekly sales flyer that normally comes with the Sunday paper. They still have not recovered because this week’s ad is one newspaper sized sheet, so 4 half pages when they used to have 10 or 12 half sheets. Of the skimpy sale items listed on 4 half sheets this week, 40 of them require a certain quantity if I want to get the savings. Forty. Requiring me to buy anywhere from (2 or more) to 10. So if I buy 9 yogurt containers I have to pay regular price unless I ante up for that 10th one.

This is the way shelves looked most of 2020. It’s better now, but the sales sure suck…

Each time I walk into Meijer (we have 2 stores in Jackson) I stop a manager and voice my concerns about their crazy strict sales requirements, hoping they will pass my dissatisfaction on to the powers that be at headquarters. I hate to think my love affair with shopping at Meijer has come to end. But they need to change this discriminatory sales practice to get back in my good graces…

And the eyes have it…

I am a composite of many things. I’m not gonna bore you with an adjective that might fit, but there’s a slim-to-none chance of a new acquaintance harboring these lingering thoughts, “oh I can’t wait to get to know her better.” In a nutshell, I’m a nondescript person living in a descriptive world. Fair warning though, this post lacks some finesse, so if your bothered by minor gory details, maybe you should skip this one.

My mid 20’s, eyebrows and eyelids are where they’re supposed to be…

I’ve never considered myself vain. I’m not fashion conscious and wear minimal makeup on rare occasions. I carry some negative baggage on how I look. Meaning I wish there was less of me to see. I just feel so much better about life when I look decent in clothes. My yo-yo weight issues have kept me company for most of my adult life. I gain a few pounds then spot ‘Will Power’ close enough to become my bosom buddy, only to have the little shit disappear a couple years later, just as I’m relishing his long term commitment plan on maintaining for granted. He obviously doesn’t view our relationship in the same high regard as I do his. (Or he presumes I’m gonna stop shoving food in constantly). A couple years later I grow weary of lugging the extra 25 pounds around when suddenly I see ‘Will’ on the front steps again, willing to renew our friendship. He’s fickle.

Mid 40’s, most everything is still in its appropriate spot…

I recently passed a milestone birthday. A biggie. As this momentous occasion loomed on the horizon last winter, there was a niggling in my brain suggesting I have a thorough maintenance checkup on some of my parts since my extended warranty had finally run out. (The dude from India just stopped calling). Went to my primary care for my physical and Dr. Arntz suggested:

1. Make an appointment with my orthopedic doctor who specializes in hands. Dr. Aubin diagnosed Dupuytren’s contracture (a thick cord of tissue that pulls a finger into a bent position, aka, trigger finger). I had a twofer. Yay Neese. A quick and easy fix though. A shot of cortisone in 2 spots of the fleshy part of my palm. Ouch. A sore hand for a week but it’s better.

Ariana 20, me 60. Starting to notice the southerly eyebrow descent and puffiness…

2. Make another appointment with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Carpenter who replaced my right knee in 2019. Now my left leg was bothering me. X-rays showed my knee is not good but the pain is in the back of my leg, from my upper thigh to mid calf. He sent me to a neurologist who ordered a round of physical therapy after an MRI showed my back/spine is in pretty good shape. The physical therapy is for Piriformis Syndrome. Laymen’s term please. My big butt muscle is compressing on nerve causing tingling, numbness, pain and a limp. It’s fixable. PT is helping.

3. Have a thorough eye exam. When the eye doc asked about any noticeable changes I told him my peripheral vision was way off. Hubs strung a clothesline in the laundry room downstairs 5 years ago. When our shirts are partially dry I hang them up (no clothespins, just plastic hangers). As I turn from the dryer, the clothesline is literally 15 inches away and a foot above my head. I miss the damn clothesline 75% of the time on the first try. I don’t know why but that’s definitely different than a couple of years ago.

He wanted to run another test so I went back couple weeks later. He had me look through a view master like device. Simple enough. I pressed a button every time I saw a yellow dot. One eye at a time, the other eye was covered. Out of a possible 64 dots that flashed, I saw 6 with my right eye and 16 with my left. Never thought from my 3 minor health issues, my eyes would take the trophy.

Another referral to a specialist named Dr. Ambani. (The snowball effect with doctors. Still, would rather get a referral from my PC rather than have him try 6 different things before sending me to a specialist). She sat me down and explained my eyelids are so ‘hooded’ they’re covering part of my eyeballs, limiting my vision. One of the reasons I lift my eyebrows/forehead when I read-that movement simply lets me see better. Right eye is worse (I sleep on my right side so it’s puffier). She got out her iPhone and took 20 closeups of my face. It was embarrassing and quite unflattering. Said I should have surgery to remove some eyelid skin/fat (gross) so my eyes will open further. To make matters worse, my eyebrows were drooping and would sag even further south after removing eyelid tissue unless they were boosted north. Oh the ‘gravity’ of the situation.

These pictures and her diagnosis went to Medicare for approval, emphasizing this was for medical reasons not cosmetically. After a few weeks the surgery request came back with a thumbs up, so I was put on the surgery schedule a month in advance. I’m not gonna gross you out by trying to explain what’s entailed in the 2-1/2 hour procedure. Same day, in and out in a few hours, (which turned out to be my only criticism). I wasn’t coherent or ready to go home. The post op staff kept murmuring in my ear because they couldn’t get my hearing aid back in. “Wake up Denise, it’s time to go home. We can’t give you any more medication, let’s wake up now.” I don’t remember getting in the car, the ride home or walking to the house. I slept in my recliner for 36 hours. My head had to be higher than my heart to curb swelling. I was still pretty nauseous, so only a few sips of water and a couple bites of toast during that time.

We were twins for a week…

What I looked like is hard to describe. Part Herman Munster, (but without the gaudy scar because my surgeon’s meticulous) part Bart Simpson, part walking wounded Civil war soldier. My entire head was wrapped in a foam ace bandage, beige colored, mummy headgear, cupping my chin. Tufts of my silver/white/gray hair stuck out everywhere. (My iPad Pro has facial recognition and it didn’t know me for 4 days-hahaha). My eyebrows were visible and my right ear (at least they remembered the appropriate ear for my hearing aid). If I hadn’t been mostly unconscious-even I would have found this hysterical.

The design for my head bandage…

Dr. Ambani warned me to leave the Civil War headgear on for 48 hours before my first shower. I stewed about this before surgery but since I was so miserable it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I could shower after Hubs unwrapped my head. Stitches and staples (really the thought of seeing staples in my head sort of freaked me out, but they were very small) dotted my hairline. Gulp. If you took a horseshoe and lined it up behind both ears, that was the section I could scrub without pain or feeling faint. I dribbled water over the front third, gently touched a couple drops of shampoo and rinsed. Pat, pat, pat with a towel. But I felt human!

I needed to keep Vaseline on my hairline and Bacitracin on my eyelids, so I looked like a grungy greaser an hour later. But both salves stopped the pinching and tightness. Only bruising was about 2 inches below each eye, kinda swollen too. I’m astounded at how little pain I had. Hubs cut a pain pill (mild opioid) in half for me 3 times during the first 3 days. That was it. I had 2 ‘spots’ on my head that bothered me a lot but we’ll get to that during my post op visit.

Day 8 after surgery for post op visit to have stitches removed (hopefully staples too). Nurse led me to an exam room and asked permission if a resident tagged along with Dr. Ambani to see patients today? Sure. Sigh. They walk in and Doc stops in her tracks. “Oh Denise, I love your eyebrows!” Me: “I know, me too! Noticed them a couple days ago and thought, well that’s where you guys were 10 years ago!” Doc wants more pictures (if she ever loses that work phone or gets ticked at me, she’s got a lot of ammunition). “We gotta have before and after pictures.” To make her point, she shows me (and the resident) a couple before’s. “Look at your eyelids. They were starting to cover your IRISES! Now look.” Sure enough, there’s a lot more of my eye showing, even with the swelling and stitches intact. The next before picture’s even worse. She had gently pulled the mass-of-too-much-pouchy-skin out towards my ears. Not sure if I looked more like a flying squirrel or a bat. This was a humbling experience. And embarrassing. There’s a strong possibility I’ve never looked worse.

Very similar to what docs pic of me looked like as she stretched it out there. Ugh…

She leans me back and starts removing the stitches and staples. Every tug stings because she catches a hair or 2 at the same time. She and the resident are having a teaching moment which is distracting but ok. “What kind of thread is that?” “Some of it has dissolved already. I use that type on kids more often so there’s less stitch removal.” “Why did you use that type of stitch there?” “Are you married? Do you have kids? Where ‘ya from?”

Finished that small ordeal and she asked about any issues I have. “Well there’s a spot on my right forehead that’s mighty painful.” “Yes, there’s a clip under your skin (oh I can’t even). It’s gonna be very sensitive but will dissolve in about a year.” (I vaguely remember her explaining that). After I find I can still speak, I move on, “there’s a baseball size tender spot on the top of my head, upper left. Hurts even when I yawn.” “Hmm, remember when I told you had a receding hairline on one side?” “Oh bloody hell, I do not.” “Well, I wanted to match both sides, so I hitched your left side up a bit. Probably why that spot’s a little tender.” (Ok, there’s nothing more I want to be inquisitive about. So done).

I’m still scary to look at, so no pic yet. Enjoy great granddaughter Jovi instead…

I’m amazed at how well I see, especially when I’m concentrating on an object, then see how much my peripheral vision can take in at the same time without moving my eyes. Eyes are still sensitive to light but getting better. If I were wearing ear muffs, everything in front of the muffs is numb to my forehead. Think that’s going to take awhile to get feeling back. Never realized until now how appropriate it was when someone says, “Neese, you’re such a numb skull.”…

Tales of Larry…

The month of June has some significance for this lowly, unimaginative storyteller. The name of my blog was relatively easy. Storyteller from a One-Stoplight Town is the way I remember my home town of Rock Valley, Iowa when I was a kid. With one lone stoplight (giving it a ‘big’ town feel for all 1,600 of us). A couple weeks after my 16th birthday, (late December, 1966), I came within one snide, sarcastic remark, a covert eye roll or a smirk of getting a moving violation (ok, ticket) when I was pulled over by our Chief of Police (after finally reaching my first big life goal of getting my driver’s license on the 1st try).

I loved my blog background when I started. Thanks Marlys…

This, the very same stoplight that still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. (I hadn’t come to a COMPLETE STOP after the traffic light went into blinking mode, flashing red one way, yellow the other. I was heading east, after 10 pm. In my defense, not only a rookie driver after completing 3 months of intensive driver’s education training, (the ONE TIME I raised my hand during the classroom segment, I offered the answer that car gears were sanforized instead of saying synchronized to the guffaws of every boy in the class) but still learning the nuances of a clutch and a 3-speed on the column of a gigantic 1963 maroon Chevy Biscayne, plus looking cool at the same time. Not an easy task for me. I failed, but didn’t get the ticket. A win, really.

Make and model of what I was trying to drive when I got stopped. The first time…

Fast forward to eight years ago, June, 2014. I had been invited to a childhood friend’s house in Holland, Michigan. Our families had been close during the late 1950’s when we all lived in the same small Dutch community in northwest Iowa. My tribe of 5 (I was 7 at the time) had been shattered by a horrible accident which claimed the life of my 12 year old brother Larry. My friend Marlys and her family went to the same church as we did and her parents offered friendship and comfort during our loss. Not long after Larry’s death, the Kempema’s moved to Michigan and the Gerritson brood of 4 stayed in Rock Valley. We lost touch.

Larry and Mona in 1949 (before I arrived)…

Marlys and I reconnected over 50 years later through a nostalgic site called, If you grew up in Rock Valley, Iowa. Comments on posts back and forth made us realize a lifetime ago we had been friends as kids. She was kind about my comments and said, “I hope you’re blogging Denise. You have a lot of words to get out there.” (I had never heard of a blog. I was pretty inept in the technical departments of cell phones, computers and iPads). Although I was slow to catch up with all the technology I was the proud owner of my first iPad and determined to realize its potential.

Larry, 2nd grade…

Miracles never cease. Marlys and I discovered we now lived only 45 miles from each other. She was computer savvy (like my son Joshua but he lived 180 miles away and was busy running his own company. Couldn’t really infringe on a lot of his time. However, Marlys graciously offered to show me the ropes (easy-peasy) of all things bloggy. After choosing a day, I drove over to renew our friendship in person and enjoy her hospitality, lunch and lovely home.

Larry by our playhouse, 1951…

After lunch, Marlys pulled up her recent account (blog) about a trip she and Jim had taken after they retired. My interest was piqued. But could I do this? One of her first suggestions was to use my PC for the blog. Ugh, disappointed. I had just spent a fortune on an iPad mini with the most memory available. Sadly I said, “sorry Mar, if I can’t do this on my mini, it’s not gonna happen.”

Larry, me and Spitzy, 1957…

Her fingers flew from her PC to my iPad looking at different blogging backgrounds, fonts, borders, which side I preferred for my archives to be on (what exactly was that anyway?). She encouraged me to use real names and to be truthful. I did reach out to my kids beforehand for permission, kinda promising I would do my best to not hurt their feelings or mortify them completely with my stories. Still, if my teenage angst, crushes, cliques blunders, petty crimes and misdemeanors were put out there for all to see, some of their outrageous antics would appear now and then too.

My favorite picture of Larry…

Since Marlys had made daily entries of their retirement trip (maybe a month long?) so that’s the length of commitment time I gave my blog. Logical, right? I knew I couldn’t write a story everyday though. My life is mundane, boring and often isolated. Who wants to hear about that? No one. I never imagined my blog in the long term. I had no agenda.

Mona, Larry, Mom & me, 1957…

My only real ‘blogging goal’ was Larry. I started blogging when I was 63, and he had been gone for almost 55 years. But the memories I held about him (and us) were vivid and needed to be written down before I couldn’t remember anymore. The black and white pictures of him that somehow managed to convey how snow white/blonde his hair was, (while mine was mousey brown). How could I not write about his endearing lisp and make folks smile about the way he talked? “Motha, can I have a quata?” (Small issue with his R’s) His love for baseball, (he was a lefty) shooting marbles on our pea gravel driveway, catching pigeons in the rafters of farmer’s barns with dad. Oh my gosh I had so much to say!

Mona 11, me 3-1/2, Larry 8, 1954…

I left that afternoon full of enthusiastic hope! By the time I had driven 45 miles, I was filled with misgivings. I can’t write, I’m not a writer. My 4-year-old great-granddaughter Jovi’s vocabulary is more extensive than mine. But my stories about Larry and our childhood were tumbling out of my head faster than I could type. If I proofread until there were no mistakes, typos, punctuation errors, and use better sentence/paragraph structure, I’d still be on my first story. No, these are my stories. I write for me. How my childhood, me-the-teen, marriage and motherhood has been perceived. By me. The good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes even mildly amusing. But they’re all mine. Ah-ah-ah.

A hug and a smooch from Larry…

Eight years and counting, I’m still here. Unbelievable. Whether I’ve exhumed some long-forgotten memory or a minor life event like grocery shopping last week, I’m just not done. Yet. After I whipped out the first 30 stories from mid-June through September of 2014, I called Joshua (my tech guru). “I need my stories published in a book. One book, just for me. Would if the Internet disappears? What happens when I’m in a nursing home and can’t remember shit? I need my stories next to me. They’ll be volunteers who can read me a couple stories at night, but I need them, literally, on my person. Really Josh, I’m serious.” He laughed, “Ma, you gotta write for awhile. Then I’ll get your stories in hardcover for your stint in the home.” (Maybe he thought I’d get better or get over it. Fat chance with either one buddy).

1957 a year before Larry died. Dad 40, Larry 11, Mona 14, me 6, mom 31…

It all started with stories about Larry, eight years ago. With lots of help from Marlys and Joshua. Many thanks to both of them. This is story number 361, June 2, 2021. Still missing my big brother. And waiting on my tech guru. That book’s gonna be mighty heavy for this old lady to haul around…

The Chute-ist…

When we moved 6 years ago, we downsized considerably. Current house is about 1,000 feet smaller than North Muskegon’s and all on one floor. The biggest plus is it’s substantially closer to our three kids. Consequently, several of our antique furniture pieces needed to find new homes. We (it was me) picked our dearest treasures and the ones without a lot of family history intertwined in their refinishing, grain and scratches moved to family members who had years to go before they need to downsize.

It’s smaller but sufficient…

The next few months were spent making this new, smaller space our own. New driveway, sidewalk, deck, central air unit, paint, flooring, appliances, landscaping, tree removal. The house was built in 1963. Part of a large housing development of reasonably priced, smaller homes destined to be either a starter home or a finishing one (the category we now find ourselves). Several years later, (but way before we came to call it home) the single attached garage was converted into a family room and a 2-1/2 stall garage was added a few feet in back of the house.

Duke…

The smallest room ended up needing the most work (and money so far, but we’ve yet to tackle painting the kitchen cupboards, new countertops and sink). The bathroom needed to be gutted to the studs. With closet space and storage at a premium, everything we own needed to find a permanent place in this home. As you stood in the bathroom doorway, just to the left was a clothes chute. Goodness, that’s just so 1963. My first thought was to ask Duke (contractor and super all around guy) to eliminate the chute in the wall. But unless I wanted to hang a clothes hamper/laundry basket from the ceiling, there was not a handy spot within 20 feet to toss your dirty socks and undies, so we decided to keep the laundry chute. Keeping a laundry basket in the basement, everything landed about 3 feet from the washer. Well how practical is that?

The squeaky clothes chute. Just so tempting…

Keeping the laundry chute was a good idea. Kind of reminiscent of a different era of family life. The chute door has its own little squeak, which originates from the springs to keep the chute door closed. It doesn’t snap shut, just slowly squeaks its way closed once the clothes have plopped in the basket. Once in a while a bath towel clogs the chute if it’s bunched up, only to have me discover days later half of a laundry basket filling the wooden trough. I can usually slink my arm deep enough to loosen the traffic jam of grungy duds.

Our granddaughter Ariana and 4-year-old great-granddaughter Jovi have come over for supper on Tuesday’s almost as long as Jovi’s been on this earth (thanks God, she’s just the best, ok, they’re both pretty great). Neither are fussy eaters and I’m all about comfort food. They’re both addicted to mashed potatoes, so often it’s stuffed chicken or a beef roast.

Sweet girls eating sweet treats…

Invariably, Jovi will have to use the rest room sometime during the meal. She no longer requires one of us to be nearby, usually leaving the table with her own set of instructions, “I need some privacy please.” We can hear her singing or talking while she gets the job done. If I’ve not put the small step stool by the sink, she might ask for help with washing her hands, otherwise she’s pretty independent and needs no assistance.

She had me at “the feet.”

About a month ago, on a Wednesday, I went downstairs to get some meat out of the freezer. Glanced at the laundry basket to determine if I needed to start a load and noticed a full roll of Northern toilet tissue perched on top of the soiled laundry. Jovi! The little stinker! Once upstairs I held the roll for Hubs to see. Raising his eyebrows he queried, “Where’d you get that?” “Umm, it was on top of the laundry basket downstairs.” “Jovi,” he asked with a laugh? “That would be my guess,” I said as we admired her ingenuity.

I wonder if she listened for the landing?

The following Tuesday during supper I said, “hey Jovi, did you throw anything down the clothes chute when you were bathroom last week?” Her eyes went from grandpa to mommy to me, wondering if or how much trouble she might be in. “Yeah, I throwed toilet paper down there,” she answered nonchalantly.

Jovi’s actually pretty accurate…

None of could disguise our smiles around the table and Jovi knew immediately she was not in trouble. I however, should have been given 30 lashes with a wet noodle for bringing it up in the first place. Because we have now created a laundry chute monster. I swear she thinks long and hard all through the week what can be tossed down the chute when she’s here on Tuesday.

Lately this is impossible to leave alone…

The next week, 2 mega rolls were downstairs. I keep extra rolls of TP in a small antique wooden box. Again, because there’s not an inch of extra space to be wasted this box sets right next to the heat register in our narrow bathroom. The following week, I decided to just leave the wooden box empty and put the extra rolls in the linen closet until after Tuesday’s supper. Wednesday morning we found 2 long strips of loose tissue (which appeared unused-at least I hoped so) and my new TV guide (which is kept in the family room, not the bathroom).

Wonder if Jovi disagreed with an article in the TV guide?

Two weeks ago my nighttime sweats (I hang them on the outside shower door railing) were no where to be found (haha, I knew where they were-all crumpled). Last week Tuesday, as I was changing from my (now clean night sweatpants) to my pj shorts, I discovered they had somehow disappeared during her new supper ritual would be my guess.

Jovi, my flour girl…

I know sooner or later Jovi’s going to tire or forget her Tuesday bathroom antics. Until she does I’m not sure how far I wanna take trying to eliminate the closest items she can grab to toss down the chute. If I get rid of everything within her reach, will she continue to search for something/anything to pitch into the squeaky door of darkness? Probably. So far, my toothbrush has remained unscathed and in its designated holder every week. A bit of a stretch for her near the back of the vanity, yet it’s remained in place (and dry) after she and Ari have headed home…

Tripping with Dale…

In 1969 we discreetly decided to elope. No one needed to know beforehand. (My folks, well my mom, had done her darnedest to break us up. Multiple times). There were a couple glitches we needed to figure out first. One was the dang newspaper in Sioux City. The Journal published all marriage licenses, making it impossible for us to get hitched at the Woodbury County courthouse because half of our home town 60 miles due south subscribed to that daily publication. Everyone would know by 7 am, after one person read our names. (Small town living). Luckily Sioux City bordered 2 other states, Nebraska and South Dakota so we could just get married in either one. But we needed to have 2 witnesses to sign our marriage license after the ceremony. We both had friends in Sioux City but really didn’t want anyone in on our little caper.

Dale at our party in Sioux City 1973…

A few months prior, John (Hubs to be) was working at the television station KTIV. Most of his coworkers worked the night shift so they were not available. A friend from Rock Valley had just graduated from college and landed his first teaching job in South Sioux City. Since he’d hadn’t gotten paid yet he was planning on living in his car for the first month because he was broke. John rented a larger apartment and offered to share it with Dale, and pay all the bills until his big paychecks started rolling in. Dale paid him back immediately which took about every penny he had just gotten for a month of teaching. Many days after I got out of work and meandered to their apartment to find Dale sitting on the front porch railing, barefoot, wearing cutoffs, strumming his guitar.

Beth his pixie bride…

We decided Dale was the most logical person to bring into the fold about our diabolical plan to wed under the cloak of secrecy before our parents found out. He said he’d be honored to stand up for us. Nothing fancy, 10 minutes, start to finish. Ok, one down, one to go. But who could we trust to not spill the beans until it was legal? Dale actually came up with a good idea. He knew another rookie teacher who would be happy to sign his John Henry on our legal document for a burger and a beer. Funny how those 2 guys came through as witnesses for our wedding ceremony (which is now working on anniversary number 52).

Dreams of great hunting dogs…

Hubs was instrumental into the way life turned out for Dale. They were having a beer together one night when John tapped a gal. Insulted she turned around and slugged Dale, thinking it had been him. One flirtatious thing led to another and not too long afterwards Dale and Beth got married.

It was the summer of 1971 and our new baby girl was 8 months old. We dropped Shannon off at my parents house and headed to Minnesota. Hubs and I had discovered a vacation hideaway that we were sharing with 2 other couples for the long weekend. It was Lake Shoakatan, a small lake and not many vacationers. We were joined John’s brother Arly and his new bride, Vicky and Dale and his new bride, Beth. It was kinda weird because I knew the guys much better than either of the girls. John’s brother Jimmy loaned us his boat which proved to be the fodder for jokes for years to come.

Shannon got spoiled at Mimi and Poppa’s house while we were at Lake Shoakatan…

First Arly (a Navy man) was in the boat but the rest of us were not. Hubs threw him a rope which Arly promptly let go of and started drifting away. (To his credit, he thought he could just start the motor and back up for us). But Hubs had not put gas in the tank yet, so he slogged out to retrieve his brother and the boat. Then plopped down in the shallow water with his legs wrapped around the bow while he filled the tank, spilling about half of it on his crotch. He yelped like a junior high school girl and sprung outta that water like a Jack-in-the-box, trying in vain to soothe his nether-regions, while the rest of us howled on the shore.

Dutch bombshell SIL Vicky and BIL Arly, 1973…

Once we were all safely aboard and seated our goal for the afternoon was for all 3 girls to ‘get up’ on skis. Beth got up immediately. When they swung the boat around to pick her up Dale was full of praise on how well she did. Then he said, “now I’m gonna teach you how to swim.” (Holy shit). Vicky had a bit more trouble getting her long, slim body up but after a couple of tries she did well too. I was up next. It took me several attempts but I was finally sailing through the water-upright. I screamed at John, “don’t turn the boat, don’t turn,” but he eventually ran out of lake and I swung out doing about a hundred, flipping head over heels and lowering the lake by a foot after swallowing half of it.

Card games ruled! Hubs, Doug, Bob, Dale and Helen’s head…

What a great afternoon. We were all bushed but proud of ourselves. I remember looking at Vic and Beth. Beth was dark and petite, Vicky, an all American Dutch girl, blonde, lithe and leggy. Then there’s me. Brown hair, pouchy tummy from my 8 month old, yet thinking, you know for having a kid, I don’t look too bad. My tummy wasn’t any bigger than either of the newlyweds. So there. (Found out a couple weeks later, both were in their second trimester. My fragile high self esteem promptly deflated). Hubs turned off the motor and tossed the anchor overboard so we could just enjoy the lake and sun. Unfortunately the anchor rope was not tied to the boat. Hubs stood up with this shocked look on his face and immediately dove in the water after the anchor. Haha, another reason for peals of laughter at poor Hubs expense. (We knew we had to replace the anchor before we brought the boat back. An expense we absolutely could not afford but had to be done).

Joshua covered with Minnesota chicken pox, 1980…

A couple years later Dale and Beth moved to Minnesota and Arly and Vic moved to Montana. Things always gotta keep changing. The weekend get togethers, card parties were a thing of the past. We tried so hard to move to Minnesota and came ever so close in 1980. Hubs applied for the engineering manager’s position at Artic Cat in Thief River Falls. We spent time at Dale and Beth’s before heading further north for the interview. Beth was kind enough to watch our kids for a couple days (by then we had 3, Shannon, Joshua and Adam, plus they had 2, Sarah and Beau). The interview went great and Hubs got the job with all sorts of great perks.

At 10, Shannon had the pox the worst…

By the time we stopped to pick up our brood, their 2 had full blown cases of chicken pox so we knew what awaited us after we got back to Spencer. They all got the pox during Christmas break, Shannon and Josh much worse that 1 year old Adam. The job however was not to be. The economy was the pits and Artic Cat was on the verge of bankruptcy. They stood by their job offer and moving us but we thought it would be harder job hunting from the near Winnipeg than from Spencer, Iowa, so we turned the job down.

Bets got easier with a drink or 2…

A few years ago we were invited to Dale and Beth’s home again. They were still living on the farm but had recently bought a cabin on Otter Tail Lake, not very far away, so we spent most of our visit at the lake. Pontoon boat rides, eating out and one of the fanciest homemade meals I’ve ever had. Fried walleye. For breakfast. I kid you not. One of the cutest details I remember about the cabin was Beth’s window coverings made out of birch branches.

Winter of 2017, having margaritas with Dale and Beth, Les and Mary Jane taking our pic…

While we were there we convinced them they needed to come to Michigan because we were 8 hours from Niagara Falls. (Neither had ever been there). A couple years later they drove to our house, rested up for a spell and off we went. We drove on the American side because Dale had never been to Cleveland. He wasn’t that impressed although driving around the city, we went right past the Indian’s baseball stadium at night while they were playing a game which looked kinda cool. They were awestruck (who isn’t) with Niagara and we enjoyed the biggest bucket of Buffalo wings the Anchor Bar offered.

Dale…

During our lifelong friendships, this is a sample of the good times we shared with these amazing friends of ours. Last week, after opening the cabin for the season Dale was enjoying another sunset over Otter Tail when he suffered a fatal heart attack. From that laughable weekend in 1971 as 3 fairly newlywed couples just trying to figure out marriage and parenthood, three of our 6 are gone. My whole life I’ve heard older people complain that all their friends are dying. I can’t tell you how hard these constant deaths of my friends have hit me lately. Arly, Vicky and Dale. You are loved and missed more than you know…