The Jug…

It all started when Shannon was very young. My Mom loved buying her fancy clothes. Mom finally had a granddaughter. Frilly dresses, little coats to be worn only on Sunday. My job, more or less was to keep Shannon in everyday clothes. When Mom bought something really fancy, I’d make an appointment at Olan Mills for a photo shoot to capture the moment forever. We had a lot of pictures taken. I’ve even saved some the of adorable outfits.


Shannon in pj’s looking silly. You can bet grandma Flo did NOT buy this. 1971…


It’s the early ’70’s. Dad was still mowing shoulders and ditches, plus plowing snow for the State of Iowa Hiway Commission. Mom had been in the hospital. I think it was a skin disorder that actually ended up being quite serious for a couple years. It was called Mycosis Fungoides. How do I even remember that? I surprise myself sometimes. Mom would get deep, debilitating cracks (called fishers) on her hands and feet. For awhile it was so bad she couldn’t walk. I think it’s a form of skin cancer. She went to Mayo Clinic several times for treatment. Used this black tar-like cream on the cracks. Twenty odd years later she would develop non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Wonder if Mycosis was a precursor? I digress. Anyway, after one of these hospital visits Mom brought home this plastic, styrofoam covered water jug. You remember the ones nurse’s aids brought a couple times during their shift to patients? It wasn’t a fancy or pretty jug. Harvest gold, chintzy plastic covered in foam to keep the water cold, and help eliminate sweating on the hospital tray tables. The spout has little plastic spaced tines. So the ice would stay in The Jug.


The Jug, now over 40 years old…


Mom decided not to toss out The Jug. She started throwing her change in it instead. Not all of her change mind you. She never put in quarters. She saved quarters in another one of her jerry-rigged banks. Mom and Dad both had dentures. They used Polident Tablets to clean them at night. I think they owned stock in the company. Polident Tablets came in tall green cylinder shaped tubes. With a screw lid. After the tube was empty, Mom would start filling it with quarters. The quarters fit in the tubes perfect. Each tube held $18.75 in quarters. This was Mom’s mad money. Meaning she usually spent it on Shannon. Buying those fancy dresses, coats and outfits. She had some funny priorities. Thought nothing of buying Shannon a dress that cost about as much as a dress for herself. Do you think she would spend $1.98 on a new paring knife? Nope. Or have a car with a radio or air-conditioning? Nope. So quarters were off limits in The Jug. She kept The Jug on the counter of her very neat kitchen at all times. Whenever she came home from shopping, she’d empty her billfold of all change. Separate the quarters and plunk them in the green Polident tubes. The rest she would slide between the tines of the pour spout. She soon had Dad talked into dumping his change into their unusual banking system. I don’t think he jumped on her quarter bandwagon though. Since there were never any quarters in The Jug, I don’t remember or know what he did with his.


One of Mom’s fancy dresses for Shannon when she was 2-1/2. The Olan Miils pic is packed away…


Whether it was a trip to Koster’s in Rock Valley, or Shriver’s in Sioux Falls Mom did the same thing every time. Didn’t matter how many stops she had made that day. If she bought something that totaled $4.01, she would hand them a 5 dollar bill. The change compartment of her billfold might be weighted down by then with 10 pounds of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. But she NEVER EVER took out a penny for the .01 part to get back a dollar. She’d rather have the 99 cents change. That would add up to 3 quarters for Polident, 24 cents for The Jug. She was an awesome saver. An even more awesome shopper. She could out-shop me by hours, miles and bucks when I was 34 and she was 57. By then I was usually invited along for 2 reasons. She would occasionally ask my opinion on an outfit. But usually it was clothes for her as opposed to something for Shannon. My opinion wasn’t asked or needed when it came to what she wanted to buy for Shannon. The other reason I was along was my eyes. Mom wasn’t vain, but she really needed reading glasses and hadn’t bought a pair. She couldn’t read the price tags on the clothing.That was my job. Traipsing after her in the Alfred Dunner, Sag Harbor or Koret of California aisles. Letting her add up the totals for a pantsuit and a new blouse. If something was on sale, she could figure out what 25%, 30% or 33% off was faster than I could say the prices. It always irritated Mom when she overheard a customer asking a clerk how much something was if there was a percentage off sale going on. She’d kind of roll her eyes in disgust if a jacket cost 50 bucks and was 20% off. Holy moly that didn’t require 3 seconds to figure out. Mom was very smart, and good with numbers. Read our entire World Book Encylopedia set.

Mom decided the money in The Jug was for Shannon. Just a little something extra Mom wanted to do for her. Mom chose high school graduation as the date when the money would be turned over to Shannon. Hopefully to be used for something at college. When The Jug got filled to the rim the first time, she hauled it off to the bank. Started a savings account in hers and Shannon’s name. The bank had one of those coins counters. Mom would bring the now light as a feather styrofoam jug back to the house, place it in the same place on the counter and start all over.


Shannon on Grandma’s back. Hopelessly devoted in early 1972…


I didn’t know what would happen when Joshua was born 4-1/2 years later. Mom loved her grandchildren, but it’s hard to deny that there was always something special about how she felt about Shannon. Her only granddaughter. Often when I was there for a visit, Mom would ask me to take The Jug to the bank for her. Not her favorite errand. But the first time it needed to be cashed in at the bank when Josh was a few months old, she said she’d take it instead. Came back with 2 maroon leatherette bank books. She informed Dad he’d better start drinking coffee out more often, and not to give change for tips anymore. Better to give dollar bill instead. The Jug was now split between Shannon and Joshua.


Shannon and Joshua. Good times, 1976..


When Adam surprised us with his unexpected addition to our family 4-1/2 years later, The Jug was split 3 ways between the maroon bank books. Since both Mom and Dad were still working they accumulated a lot of change. Especially if you always refused to use any change in paying for something. I’ve always been surprised how close the savings totals were for all three kids. I don’t think the amount was more than a few bucks different for any of the kids. At their high school graduation, each one totaled around $1,200 bucks. Without quarters. Amazing.


Shannon, Joshua and Adam with their hat collection. Early 1980…


After Shannon graduated and got her money, The Jug was split between Josh and Adam. That only lasted a couple years. I became a grandma to awesome, beautiful, smart Ariana one month after I turned 40! Who knew that rather difficult time in our lives would be one of the richest, biggest and best blessings for all of us!! Thanks God! Great grandma Florence felt the same way. The boys would now be splitting The Jug 3 ways again. This time with Ari. After Mom passed away in 2004 and 88 year old Dad moved to Michigan to be with us, I brought The Jug to our house. Dad still added his change now and then, but John and I accepted the huge responsibility of keeper/saver of the change for the grandkids. Besides Dad helped Shannon when she was in graduate school. John and I were both working and acquiring change everyday. Neither of us used Polident, so quarters were now being added to the stash.


The exquisite Ariana with her Mommy at our house. Early 1992…


Now that we’re retired, there are a lot less plunking change going through the tines of the water spout in The Jug. We don’t go as many places or eat out very often. Takes us a lot longer to get The Jug filled up. Our bank doesn’t have a change counter, so John has to roll all the coins. Every time I bring the loose change to the bank I’m mortified. Seems these savings accounts go into some kind of dormant state if you don’t make a deposit after several months. The manager has to come over, always giving me a stern look. Geez it feels like grade school. He emphasizes yet again, “Denise if you could just stop in and deposit a penny in each account, we wouldn’t have go through this.” (No really I like being embarrassed and humiliated when I try and bring money INTO your bank. This works just fine for me. Dude, chill).


Finally, out of The Jug and ready for deposit-3-ways…


We now have 4 fantastic grandchildren. But Ari has her money already, so The Jug is now being split 3 ways again. We’re going to have to do some hustling to get the total up past a grand for Landon. He’s nearing $700. and has 4 years to go. Maybe if John and I each got part time jobs. Requiring us to eat out, or at least grab a coffee with some regularity…


Mother’s Day gift 2014. 2 sided throw, goofy pose on this side. My fave…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23rd Street…

Our first home. We were working on year 3 of wedded bliss. The rental house in Hinton, Iowa had been sold right from under us. Our landlord of 2 years, Louie, really should have been named Dick. We had 30 days to find somewhere to live. We were a little panicky. Much more pressure to find decent housing when you have a child. Shannon, our first-born was now the smartest, cutest, most adorable toddler on the planet.

 

Hamming it up. Shannon, 2, 1972…

Called a realtor. We knew a house payment was gonna be higher than our $60 a month rent. But we found a big old house on a land contract. Located on a postage sized city lot. This neighborhood was on the cusp of several things. I don’t know how we got in or out of the area during the winter. About a block east on 23rd street was a hill with a drop so steep, I didn’t dare walk down it with the stroller. Roller coaster engineers routinely came to that hill to set the standard in the angles, heights for new construction at theme parks. Enthusiasts with a death wish drove down it faster than 3 mph. Going west was a slow incline to get to some of the main streets running through Sioux City. The houses were just starting to look a little run down. But this was a biggie for us. Our first house. We were ecstatic.

The rooms were all huge. Oak trim throughout. The doors, mop boards and staircase. Only a half bath downstairs. But the upstairs bathroom could have easily held the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Plus the pipe organ. Shannon’s bedroom ran almost the length of the whole house. Plus a closet that was nursery sized and had a window. But her room was quite narrow. Something like 20 x 11. I thought salmon and white stripes along the 20 foot wall would make the room look wider, but John didn’t want me to wallpaper. So I painted the stripes. John marked off 4″ and 8″ stripes for me with masking tape. We painted the wall white first, then the stripes. The rest of the walls were salmon. Her room looked great with her 5 dollar Goodwill crib, covered with yellow asbestos based paint. The crib also boasted a whopping 3-slats per side. We hung a cute curtain on her closet window and turned it into a playroom for her.

 

Shannon, the avid reader. 1972…

 

The downstairs had a huge living room, dining room, den, half bath, kitchen and enclosed back porch. Lot of house for 3 people. One who weighed less than 30 pounds. The dining room had a humongous window seat. That place had so many possibilities. We painted every room a different bold color. Oak floors throughout. We could not afford to carpet them, but had a couple area rugs. That was OK. The floors were worn but beautiful. The entry and foyer were stunning.

 

Shannon 3 in our fabulous foyer. With our first huge Christmas tree…

 

John had just gotten a job at Zenith as an industrial engineer. No more nights or holidays at KTIV. That was good because he had much to do after work now. The lawn and landscaping was a mess. No grass to speak of because of gigantic trees hanging over and covering most of the tiny front yard. John, a handy and brave guy took down all the low hanging branches himself with a hand saw. I kid you not. Branch by stinking branch. After the trees were trimmed he tackled the yard. Rented a rototiller, seeded, and fertilized. Didn’t seem postage stamp sized to him. The back yard was pretty decent.

 

John before leaving KTIV about 1971…

 

We were attending a Reformed Church in Morningside. Our precocious toddler enjoyed running up front for the children’s sermon. On this occasion as she made her way back to us, she plunked a few keys on the nearby piano as she passed by. Someone laughed. She whipped her gorgeous head of hair around to smile and acknowledge her new friend who laughed. And then she hit a couple more keys. Someone else giggled. That’s all it took. She started pounding on ALL of the keys with the fervor and grace of Liberace. By now my face was hugging the carpet under our pew. John was awarded the honor of daughter retrieval. But I was to have my own turn soon. Not too many weeks later, Shannon didn’t come back to us after their sermonette. This was a young church packed with little kids. Hard to keep track when 30 or 40 tykes start running back to their seats. Heaven forbid, no Shannon. I bit a hole in my lip, and wanted to head for the now familiar carpet beneath the pew. John poked me in the ribs hard, meaning (your turn, you go find our kid). I didn’t even have to search. Minister backs up, bends over, stands back up with Shannon in his arms. She was hiding under his pulpit, drinking his water. My turn for retrieving. People are snickering. So friendly, beautiful Shannon waves to her admiring fan club all the way back to our seat.

 

Shannon looking angelic until she got to church…

 

John was an avid hunter. Mostly pheasants. Decided he wanted a hunting dog. Found a kennel in Cherokee and bought German Shorthair Pointer. He read the books, got advice on how to train your hunting dog. Big stick and a rope attached to a dummy bag with pheasant feathers stuck on it. He’d place it in the tall grass of the empty lot on the hill from hell. The pup was supposed to stalk, stop, point at the bag (fake pheasant). But this pup was not learning anything or cooperating. Would not listen or follow simple commands. Turned her head away when John was talking. He finally brought her to a vet to have her checked out. She was in good health. “But she doesn’t listen to a thing I say! She’s not afraid of the starter pistol, but shows no excitement. Runs away when we practice any of the hunting exercises” John moaned. The vet suggested setting an alarm clock near her when she was sleeping. Huh? Well the sonic boom alarm went off and the pup never moved. Completely deaf. With a heavy heart he took her back to the very irate breeder. Couldn’t hunt with a deaf dog, unless both of them were going to learn sign language.

He started researching Shorthair kennel owners and found out one of the best ones in the country was just outside of Sioux City. This time John was not in a hurry. Found and fell in love with the best hunting dog ever. Anja. She was half trained at 4 months when we got her. She was so good and quiet at stalking pheasants, she often brought them back to John. But he hadn’t shot the birds. She just snatched them up in her soft mouth, bringing them back to her master. If she saw John with his gun case, she was beside herself with anticipation. He would literally let Anja run the last couple blocks out in the country before he stopped the car. Getting rid of her piss and vinegar or she’d be too excited to listen to commands. He built her a huge kennel behind the garage with a warm house. All on cement so she could run around. Anja would live to hunt with John for 13 years.

 

Anja eyeballing the cat Max…

 

Now I had to go to work for awhile. We had borrowed half the money for the down payment. (At Beneficial-beep-beep-you’re good for more). Ugh, anyone remember those loan companies? Awful. I had to get rid of that extra whopper of a bill. So I applied for a job at Zenith. The factory was huge. 3,500 employees, about 200 were men. The minimum wage back then was $1.60 an hour. Working 40 hours I made $64 bucks a week. Minus taxes and paying a full time babysitter. So I probably took home about 20 dollars a week. To be gone from Shannon from 6 am until about 4. Didn’t like it, but had to be done for awhile.

I worked on a line that produced boards for color TV’s. These boards were the size of an iPad mini. Tiny diodes, transistors and capacitors being placed in itsy-bitsy holes. My job was to turn the board over. Using what looked like a hair cutting shears, (it was called a swedger) clip all the ends off at an angle. Our line probably consisted of about 180 women. Sitting shoulder to shoulder. But Zenith offered an incentive. Once the engineer set the standard of what we should be able to produce in an hour, we could make a lot more money if we cranked up production a notch. You could get paid up to 130%. Money wise this was the difference between the 64 bucks and a whopping $87.60 a week. A huge increase. Didn’t leave a lot of room for goofing around, but the job was easy enough. We sat on stools, shooting the shit with neighbors or gals right across from us. (The other half of our line)

There were daily fights with that many women. Admission was always free. I remember John was walking down the aisle and 2 young gals were fighting in the middle of 2 lines. Pulling hair, screaming, just knocking each other senseless. Like cage fighting, but without the cage. John came running and caught one just as her opponent shoved her hard enough to send her flying into a wave solder machine. Think of it. A bath tub sized vat full of melted, leaded tin. The other incident I recall 3 gals were arguing over the use of a fan. Zenith got very hot in the summer. Only the offices, and management’s cafeteria were air-conditioned. One chick wanted a fan blowing on her. The girls on either side did not. After a 20 minute yelling match between them, the middle gal takes off her shirt and bra to cool down. Holy moly. I was missing being with Shannon for this? I lasted about a year.

One of our neighbors was a gorgeous gal married to an older guy. OK so I was 22, meaning this guy was in his mid-30’s, his wife Randi about 28. They had a little girl named Katie who was Shannon’s age. Randi had just gotten a job at a western clothing store down by the Stockyards. She needed a babysitter. I decided to quit the rat race at Zenith, stay home with Shannon and watch Katie. Money wasn’t that much less. And I was home again. But I didn’t understand how Randi could afford to pay me on a clerk’s wage. My hours watching Katie got longer and longer. Randi never came home on time. She was drop dead beautiful, and wore the newest, fanciest cowboy outfits. Leather jackets with fringe, fabulous cowboy boots. Pretty sure she was messing with the owner. A lot of nights she just never came home. Katie would spend the night, and next day before one of her parents would show up. Sad. She was an adorable little girl. Had kind of a lisp and called herself Tee-tee instead of Katie. Wonder what happened to her? Her parents divorced before we moved to eastern Iowa.

 

Katie, dolly and Shannon, 1973..

 

This was a house made for parties. And we were having our first big one. New Year’s Eve, 1972. Barry and Jeanene Kuiper, Bob and Arlene Smith, Dale and Beth Duits, Doug and Helen Reinke, Elton Hammock. Plus the kids. No one hired a babysitter. Think there were about 5 kids, all under 3. We bought a blender to make a new concoction called a frozen Daiquiri. Yum. We had a great time ringing in 1973, but nobody could leave. A blizzard of epic proportions. Howling winds and the wind-chill was minus 30 something. Our friends all bunked where they could. We had lots of room. Next morning John tried to make a grocery run for eggs and bacon. I had not yet acquired the quantity stage of keeping extra groceries. You needed money for that. Our 1972 Vega was sitting in the driveway. Sucker wouldn’t start. John opened the hood to attach jumper cables. The battery had literally cracked in half.

 

 

About 18 months later, a dude came to town to recruit some engineers for his crazy family owned toy factory. (We did not yet know he and his brothers were really insane). This was on the eastern side of Iowa, about 350 miles away. We were floundering in Sioux City. Mom, 60 miles away had her nose and influence in everything we did. We saw this as a great opportunity to put some distance between them and us. Or our fledging marriage might be in trouble…

 

 

 

Plaid Pants…

None of us wanted to leave the Quad-Cities in 1987. However, when we moved to Michigan, at least for me, it was with open arms and an open heart. We all loved living in Davenport, but Iowa’s economy had tanked. Michigan’s economy was booming. Staying in Iowa just wasn’t in the cards for us. We did want to stay in the Midwest and Big 10 country. What were we thinking? Crazy. I must not have despised winters nearly as much as I hate them now. I was pumped and ready for a new adventure. Months after our move, the boys were adjusting fine. Shannon, who had just turned 16, not so much. She had a chip on her shoulder the size her hair, circa 1988. She let us know how unhappy she was. Often. In her defense, it was a tough time to move a sophomore. Beautiful. Hormonal. Smart. Snotty. Girl. She missed her friends, school, cheerleading and boyfriend. But that’s a few blogs for another time.

 

There’s something about Shannon…

When you grow up in Iowa, there’s just not a lot of sports teams close by to love and support. I’m not going to name a bunch of teensy-weensy colleges that 1% of the folks adore. Basically the state had the Hawkeyes and Cyclones. Iowa’s answer to the pros. Iowans are a devoted bunch to our college teams. If you wanted a pro team of baseball or football, you were just kind of out of luck. Your closest choices were St. Louis, Chicago or Minneapolis. All still pretty far away for a Saturday or Sunday jaunt. And not one in the state of Iowa. We did have a farm club of the Chicago Cubs in Davenport. I went to several games every summer. Saw the aging right-hand pitcher Rick Reuschel rehabilitate from an arm injury. Also watched rookie Shawon Dunston as a young punk. He got called up to the Cubs and duked it out for a while with Larry Bowa before winning the starting shortstop position.

 

Go Cubs go. Go Cubs go…

 

In comparison, Michigan was like hitting the professional team’s lottery. Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh my! Oops, sorry, not the stinking Bears. It’s Red Wings and Pistons. And we went to watch them all. John would keep his loyalty tightly tied to the Minnesota Vikings. Me to my hapless, hopeless Cubbies. But the kids were young, impressionable, and so easily swayed. Both boys did the unthinkable after a few years. They became American League fans. Oh the pain. I don’t dislike the Tigers. Like my Frosted Flakes, they’re great! But switch to the American League? Come on. Poor little pitchers only make a piddly half a million dollars per start every 5 days. Why that’s just not a good reason to hold that heavy bat a couple times a night. Might hurt your widdle arm. Spare me please. Just not right. You’re professional athletes. Pick up the dang bat. End of baseball rant.

It was our first game to watch the Hawkeyes play football other than Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. They were playing the University of Michigan’s Wolverines in Ann Arbor which was about 40 miles east of Jackson. We’d been living in Michigan less than a year. Proudly sporting our black and gold duds. Well the Hawks got the snot kicked out of them. Duds indeed. We were harassed in the stands through the whole game. Not a friendly or civil face to be found. I don’t remember the score, but it was something like 38-10.

 

Granddaughter Ariana in her Hawkeye clothes, about 1994…

 

When the shellacking was over, we were making our way to the car. We were stopped by some “gentlemen.” Except they weren’t gentle. Or men. At the time I was 36. These were old guys to me. Meaning they were about my age now. All sporting maize and blue plaid pants. My eyes, my eyes! Everyone of them so stinking drunk they could barely walk. But luckily for us, they had not lost their ability to converse. Looked at us and shouted, “what the f/*¥ you think you’re doing in our stadium?” Honest these were 60 year old men. I snapped back, “geez guys, you clobbered us. Can’t you be gracious in your win?” For being alumni from such a snippity school, their vocabulary was really quite limited. They followed us for a little ways. Vulgar, taunting and swearing. Pleasant. But they were lumbering along in such a drunken stupor, we were soon out of their range. On the way home I stated emphatically, “don’t ever ask me to set foot in that stadium again, cause it won’t happen. And I never have. John’s gone back for a few games over the years. He actually should go every time the Hawks play. They’ve won like the last 3 times he’s gone.

A couple years later, Shannon’s in her freshman year at Michigan State. Lansing’s about 30 miles north of Jackson. We took the boys, picked up Shannon, and went out for supper. Then headed to the old Breslin Center for MSU-Iowa basketball game. Again, all of us in Hawkeye clothes. Maybe not Shannon. A few minutes after we sat down, the gal sitting next to the boys taps me on the shoulder and asks, “did you drive all the way from Iowa to watch your little Hawkeyes play us here?” Yeah, that’s the difference between U of M and MSU.

Since that unfortunate incident at U of M over 25 years ago, I’ve found it hard to feel bad when unpleasant things happen in their mighty “institution.” When I get a sniff of a scandal, I’m rather happy. Ok, the billboards, infomercials, TV spots advertising their indiscretions might be a little over the top. During the mid-90’s a terrible scandal hit. (I might have worn a smirk for a couple months) A wealthy U of M booster was caught handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to basketball players. At least one of the players (then in the NBA) lied to the grand jury about it. Because of this, their basketball coach at the time, Steve Fisher got canned. The basketball team withdrew from post season play. They removed all or part of 5 seasons, players names, and achievements from the record books. (Good times Denise) Plus they were put on probation by the NCAA.

 

My favorite Michigan shirt. Worn for all painting and dye jobs…

 

There’s been several other rumored or reported “indiscretions” at Michigan over the years. A professor who routinely offered independent studies in his class to athletes. Their grades averaged over 3.5 when they were lugging around 2.5 in the rest of their classes. Keeping their eligibility. Recently a quarterback suffered a concussion, but was left in the game to play. Not one staff member bothered to watched that play. Last straw for coach Brady Hoke’s tenure as the Wolverine’s coach. He took the biggest hit, got fired. Besides he was a lousy coach. I wanted him to stay for like another 10 years.

But this is 2015. I’ve been hauling around my own set of baggage for years. Each suitcase filled with regrets, guilt and resentment. I’m embracing the overwhelming need to rid myself of the personal stash of poison being held inside. Letting go of my animosity towards U of M should be an easy “to do.” The harder stuff about Mom, Dad, my sister, and my 4-in-a-row-not-so-hot-bosses-who-all-happened-to-be-preachers will be tougher. But I’ve started. Making some headway. Once I get my Red Fish, Blue Fish typed for a blog post, my soul will be considerably lighter. I hope.

We went to many Iowa football and basketball games when we lived in Davenport. The best one ever was a football game in 1985. Iowa was ranked #1, Michigan #2. The Hawkeye’s won it in the last few seconds, 12-10. The only game I’ve ever attended where NOBODY WANTED TO LEAVE. Honestly the fans were delirious. We just stood there cheering in the freezing drizzle. Watching Hawkeye players on the field who didn’t want to leave either. Amazing, electric feeling. Chuck Long was our quarterback and Jim Harbaugh played for Michigan. Now Harbaugh has been hired as Michigan’s coach for their beleaguered football team. (Isn’t beleaguered the coolest adjective when describing any and all of U of M’s teams?) I might still have some unfinished business in the “I’m loving those stinking Wolverine’s to pieces department.”


Jim Harbaugh now U of M’s head coach. Wonder if he wears plaid pants???


I don’t know much about Jim Harbaugh besides he’s an incredibly intense person who’s coached both college and pros. I liked him in the ’80’s as long as he was losing to our Long and the Hawks. I read a neat article on him recently. As a 9 yr old kid living in Ann Arbor, he was just starting to play football. His first opponent was “Ralph.” And Jim was supposed to tackle him. According to Jim, (ha-some old TV trivia, Belushi) “Ralph outweighed him by 50 pounds, was sporting a 5 o’clock shadow and had a unibrow at age 9.” Jim closed his eyes, prayed to God that when he opened them, Ralph would at least be playing in a different position. Well Ralph was in the same spot, which put Jim in a tight spot. He had promised his dad he wouldn’t quit because he just had gotten new $13. football cleats. So he stayed and played. First play, Ralph’s knee slams into Jim’s chest-hard. Jim’s head hits the ground. Ralph’s running, dragging Jim along. Jim’s hanging onto a chubby Ralph thigh for dear life. Plowing a deep row with his shoulder in the football field that would make an Iowa farmer and his John Deere envious as he’s pulled through by Ralphy. Finally Ralph poops out and falls down. Jim checks all his little body parts, making sure nothing’s broke and smiles. He’s just recorded his first ever tackle.

I really admire someone who can tell a good story. And Jim’s was hilarious and touching. It’s just hard to hate a guy who can relate to a story like that. Yup, I kinda admire Jim. Except when his team’s playing the Hawkeye’s. All bets are off. If I find myself fawning over (not counting on it) the nasty Wolverines too much, I’ve got an easy plan in place to yank me back to my senses. Two words. I only need to conjure up these 2 words and any fondness for U of M flies right out the window. Tom Brady…

 

 

Opinions…

To be clear, these are my own lowly layman’s observations and opinions. I’m not skilled, trained or educated. Just someone who’s done a lot of listening and observing. Not always an easy task when you’re going deaf. Often when my head needs clearing to think and write, I drive to Lake Michigan. My eyes are filled with the majestic wonder and vastness of it. Great place to marvel at your own insignificance. And thank God for all your blessings, big and small. And type what’s in my head.


A tanker out on beautiful Lake Michigan…


It’s been well over 20 years since my friend and neighbor Mike passed away from liver cancer. As an adult, he was the first “young” person my age who I knew and witnessed going through a terminal illness. Since I had nothing to compare it to, I assumed this was the way people fought through this type of battle. Mike was always doing research for another treatment option to consider. Didn’t matter if it was an accepted or legal practice here in the states. If he was convinced a treatment could help keep his cancer at bay, or put him in remission, more likely than not, he was willing to try it. Mike packed 15 years in his last 2 on earth. Traveled, volunteered, oversaw a huge addition to his house. He could not sit still unless he felt so bad it was impossible for him to go on.

Fast-forward about 15 years, and I’m in the midst of my Parish Visiting gig. One of my close and much younger friends, Rosemary just learned that her breast cancer has returned for a second time. When she first got the news, she immediately stated, “I’m getting the hell out of here.” Understandable. Faced with something so horrible, I think I would try and run away too. Our instinct is to flee. But that trip never got off the drawing board. After talking to her oncologist, brother, and boyfriend, she chose a plan of attack, and the trip was never mentioned again. But how she viewed, and the steps she took were very different than Mike’s. And both were going through this about the same age. Whenever my Dad wasn’t feeling well, one of his go-to quips was, “I gotta lay low for a few days.” Probably made famous by Bonnie and Clyde when he was a kid. Well this was the course Rosemary would take. She stayed home, ate healthy foods, took naps. Didn’t really shun life or friends, but kind of went inside herself too. Hard to find the right words to explain. More of an “gotta conserve my strength, get through the treatment plan and take care of myself” attitude.


Rosemary before cancer and Keen’s.


Every few weeks though, she would pipe up with an idea. It was almost like convincing herself if she kept striving towards a normal life, everything would still be OK. Rosemary was absolutely smitten with my Keen sandals. One day she asked me if I would take her shopping to buy a pair of Keen’s. Road trip! We went to our local (but cool) mall. She picked out a black pair identical to my navy pair. For a couple hours, she was once again a normal 40-something, ready for a fabulous summer. We ate at her favorite Mexican restaurant. It was very warm that day. Once we were seated, she complained she was cold. She asked if we could move outdoors, under an umbrella on the patio. I about melted out there but she was finally comfortable. I think the majority of people on chemo treatments are always cold. Plus she had lost quite a bit of weight. She was tickled to be out, and pleased with her new shoes. It was a very good day. After I took her home, she jumped on the computer, and ordered another 3 pair of Keen’s. Different styles, but she was hooked. It felt good to shop. Normal stuff. That’s what she wanted. Doing mundane stuff healthy people did every day.


Rosemary’s Keen’s, now adorn my summer feet…


She also wanted to start cooking again. Wanted more control over what she was putting in. Eating pine nuts, and ground her own wheat flour! Asked me to take her to the mall to buy a couple of those expensive gel mats chefs use. That would make it easier to stand on her slate floors in the kitchen. But not long after, her chemo treatments would start taking a terrible toll on her. A nasty side effect called neuropathy. She was losing the feeling in her feet. Didn’t always pick up her feet, especially one. She fell a couple times tripping over the gel rug, or hooked a sandal on something. Had to start wearing a specialized brace from her knee to the heel of her foot. Inserted in a shoe a couple sizes bigger than she normally wore. Cooking stopped, rugs were removed, and Keen’s were on a shelf in her awesome closet.

A mutual friend of ours was also struggling with her own cancer battle. Her name was Pat and she was a little older than me. She and Rosemary went to a support group together called Healing Touch at Hackley hospital. But Pat’s attitude towards her (terminal) illness was much different that Rosemary’s. At the time I thought it was because she was 20 years older than Rosemary. Pat wanted and needed to squeeze every bit of life she had left by doing stuff. She planned a wonderful trip with her 2 adult children, Lisa and Mark. They took an awesome hiking trip in Yellowstone Park, a few months before she passed away. Then Pat and her husband visited relatives, even did some canoeing, and reunited with some of her old college friends out east. Many times Pat was very sick. Often ended up in the ER for a bit during these vacations. There was still so much she needed to do. Another fierce fighter. But also the kindest and most soft spoken woman I’ve ever known and loved.


Pat and her beautiful daughter Lisa in Yellowstone, 2010.


Pat developed a crippling illness to join her tough cancer fight. It wasn’t really a side effect. It was more the result of surgery because of her cancer. It’s called lymphedema. Happens sometimes when some lymph nodes are removed. Lymph nodes are the little dudes that move fluids through your body. Missing a few can cause fluid retention in your tissue. When the fluids in your body have trouble moving up and down, it puddles in spots. Which can lead to infections. And terrible swelling. And unbearable pain. Pat’s lymphedema settled in her leg and foot. This horrible new by-product, plus her cancer were miserable and debilitating. But instead of it controlling Pat, she turned her own experience and knowledge to her advantage by helping others. She became the local resident expert and advocate to anyone recently diagnosed with lymphedema. Calling them on the phone, sending them the latest literature on how to deal with lymphedema. One amazing faith-filled woman. And I was lucky enough to call her my friend.

Pat passed away one month after Rosemary died. Two of my biggest losses. So close together, it took me a couple years to come to terms and move past. Both close friends. Closure can be very elusive. Tough losses. And during my tenure as parish visitor, the total lives lost of folks I routinely visited added up to about 100. But these were 2 of the hardest.

Another set of vastly different ways of coping with illness that I encountered, were with older couples. It seems quite often health wise, one of them was frail physically but mentally sharp, while their spouse was healthy as a horse physically, but losing it mentally. They sometimes kind of played off each other or complimented each other’s shortcomings. While parish visiting over a decade I’ve seen 2 very different ways of acceptance or denial when one of the spouses is failing. Not so much if the health issues were physical, but if one was in a decline mentally. Sometimes they would cover for their spouse. Even to their kids. I’ve had adult children call me and say, “holy-moly, I had no idea Dad was this bad. Mom always said he was downstairs, in the shower, or out in the yard when I called. She’s been covering for him!” These couples didn’t want their kids to worry. Or worse, start making or forcing them to make decisions they were not ready to make, or even face yet.

Two couples, and friends with each other a few years ago. Both the wives were doing well physically and mentally. But both husbands were in a steep decline mentally. One of the wives was very open about it. “Boy he’s losing it Denise. Honestly he says at least 30 times a day, what should we do now? Enough to drive me crazy. And I love him with all my heart.” The other wife was very private about her husband’s illness of memory loss. If I’d call, she was cordial and polite. We had a nice visit–over the phone. She just wasn’t ready to let me in. Not into the house physically, or into her world and confidence yet. Just not ready to face the issue with me, still pretty much a stranger. Funny, after I’d been visiting with them for a couple years, she actually apologized. “We needed you. I needed you. I’m so sorry it took me years to admit it and let you in. Your visits are wonderful and your support has helped me so much.” Nice to hear. Wish I had gotten in sooner. Both husbands are gone now, but the gals are still doing well.

Wonder what it is that determines how we react to something? John and I have had small health issues. Nothing big, thanks God. And yes, we often keep it just between us. Don’t want to worry the kids needlessly. They’re busy and have their own lives. I vividly remember when I was in my mid and late 40’s. Hard to admit, but I was really kind of angry when Mom and Dad started calling me about their failing health issues. Then feeling guilty about those negative feelings. I wasn’t ready or willing to see, face, or deal with those issues yet. Denial. I didn’t want things to change or go wrong. But nothing stays the same, and we can’t stop time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man on a Mission…

Dad became involved with prison ministries in the 1970’s. About the same time when his hand-painted signs started popping up on roadways. Designed to make you think as you were cruising along on hi-way 18 or 75 in northwest Iowa. I don’t have a clue why he was drawn to inmates anymore than why I’ve always gravitated to the elderly since I was 5.

 

Dad early 1980’s. He’s on the outside-I think…

After 25 years of preaching, teaching and the M2 program with inmates, Mom’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma and the long term side effects of her stroke would force Dad to give up these activities. He just couldn’t leave Mom for that many hours at a time anymore. Plus put in the needed time writing sermons, and studying lessons for his bible study. After Mom passed away, I convinced my 88 year old father to move 750 miles east of the only place he’d ever called home. Rock Valley, Iowa. In my heart I knew this was the right thing to do, but deep down I thought this might be one big disaster. We’d never been close. He was either an absent or a too strict father after Larry was killed. I couldn’t wait to get out of the house.

So Dad moved lock, stock and barrel to Muskegon. I had done a lot of prep work ahead of time though. Wanted his move and life here to be filled with purpose again. Got him a probationary (ha-ha, some light prison humor) job volunteering at one of the prisons in town. The Chaplain, Brian Burrel was quite taken with Dad. He can have that kind of affect on people. Brian gave him a time slot every Wednesday afternoon for a bible study. I never asked if these were “good behavior” guys or the more dangerous pick of the crop. Didn’t seem to make a difference with Dad. The prison did have steps in place to help insure Dad’s safety. Some kind of gizmo Dad carried with him and just needed to push a button if he felt ill at ease, sending in the guards.

After a few weeks of bible study, Chaplain Burrel asked if Dad wanted to preach sometime on a Sunday? I think Dad said yes before Brian finished the question. Thereafter “Pastor Gerritson” would have a service once a month on Sunday afternoon. He LOVED doing this. Dad whole heartedly believed in altar calls. This probably stems from when Dad was a counselor at the Billy Graham Crusades 40 years ago. Billy would beseech those who felt Jesus was calling them to come forward after his message. There was never an instance during any of Dad’s services at the Rescue Mission or prison when he didn’t end it by standing before them, and fervently asking, “is God speaking to you? Please come forward and give your life to Christ. You won’t be sorry.” Dad would get on his knees, lay his hands on the shoulders or head and have a prayer with every single guy who had come forward.

About a year after Dad moved here, someone from the Muskegon Chronicle contacted him. Wanted to talk to him about his prison ministry. I think it was Brian Burrel who called Clayton Hardiman, a writer at the paper. Dad asked me if I wanted to be there when he was interviewed. Ah, no thanks Dad. I made sure the apartment and Dad were both spiffy. Had an apple pie and his little 4-cup coffee pot ready so Dad could be a good host. Dad assured me they had a great visit. He had talked about Larry, his love for the Lord and his fulfilling work at the prison.

 

Muskegon Chronicle reporter Clayton Hardiman who interviewed Dad in 2006…

 

I guess Dad assumed his “big interview” would be in the paper the next day, but it actually was a couple weeks before it was published. (Never asked Dad, but sure hope he didn’t call the Chronicle or Clayton Hardiman every day, or every hour) Back then, it was Saturday’s paper that had some human interest-faith based articles each week. Dad didn’t get the paper. A newcomer to town, he really had no history here. I usually brought him ours the day after it came out. He was reading it a day late, but he didn’t care and usually just skimmed it anyway.

Early in February, 2006 there it was: MAN ON A MISSION. Front page of the third section. He couldn’t stop looking at it, reading it over and over. And no, I didn’t make him wait until the next day. I was actually surprised the article was so long. Plus there were several pictures included. Dad was beyond thrilled. Had me go to the Chronicle office and buy every single copy they had. Then go around town to all the portable outside metal newspaper box thingy’s and buy all of those copies too. Holy-moly Dad. I would be mailing copies for the next month. He sent a copy and wrote everyone he knew. Honest. Everyone he knew. When the copies started running low he started to panic. There were still scads of people who (he thought) needed a copy. I brought one of the newspapers to Office Max. They placed the complete article, with pictures on a folded sheet of paper. Like a brochure. The pictures weren’t in color, but we used a nice cream colored paper. Turned out really nice. I think I had to get permission from either or both the paper and Clayton Hardiman to have this re-printed. But Dad was back in business. More mailings. Yes, he was very proud.

 

February 6, 2006. He was so proud of this.

 

Dad had always tried to convince me to be part of his ministry team. Even as far back as the 70’s he thought I should tag along. Search myself until I found some gifts to use. But this whole prison ministry gig scared me from day one. I always said, “don’t tell them my last name, where I live or that we have kids. Please Dad, I don’t want them to know anything about me.” I imagine I was mentioned a few times. I hope with a little gratitude for helping him move here, and setting him up with Chaplain Burrel. Or at least about some good suppers he enjoyed at our house. Never got any collect calls, so I think he probably abided by my wishes.

 

The printed brochure when he ran out of newspapers.

 

Dad lived in Michigan just over 3 years. I think his prison ministry here lasted a little over 2 years. A couple of hospital stays with pneumonia and a minor stroke caused small hiccups for a couple weeks at a time. I believe those 2 years were the most meaningful in Dad’s life. He felt called, was useful, needed and fulfilled. Living his purpose driven life.

 

The back page…

 

A couple months after Dad passed away something extraordinary happened. To me. I received a big manila envelope in the mail. Accompanied by a letter from Chaplain Burrel. How proud he was to have known and worked with my Dad. How much he appreciated this kind, elderly man giving his time to the men in his prison. Then out tumbled 50 cards. Some in their own envelopes, but many not enclosed at all. And many with multiple snippets written by several guys. For me. Scores of inmates moved by Dad’s extraordinary life. They were grieving his loss too. They wanted and needed to express their grief. To me. About their love and appreciation for my Dad. They all called him “Brother Rich.” How touched they were when he had an altar call, but couldn’t get back up off his knees. How he smiled and joked about it when they helped him up the last several months he was out there. They did this for someone they didn’t know who didn’t care about them. Me. Out of love and respect for my Dad. But they took the time and effort to do it. For me. I still can’t believe they would do this for a stranger. I can’t think of many instances in my life that have touched me more. I was completely overwhelmed. Just a mess of tears. But it felt wonderful. And when I think about that ordinary day and the cards tumbling out of the manila envelope, it still does my heart a world of good…

 

The sympathy cards from inmates who loved my Dad.

 

 

The Burbs…

 

It wasn’t long after we moved to Michigan (1987) before I started meeting the neighbors. These gals were a really friendly bunch. The houses in our neighborhood were not close together like in Davenport. Each property had an acre. It was Pat Olsen, just south of me who had a luncheon to introduce me to a couple of them. First was Mildred. She was exactly double my age. I had recently turned 36. She had just lost her husband and lived next to Pat.

 

A watercolor given to me. Hung in the guest bathroom at Mildred’s

Mildred’s husband Ed had been the president of a large company called Commonwealth. She would keep me enthralled for 20 years with stories of their world travel. In the 40’s and 50’s Ed had worked in Africa putting up nuclear power plants. Back then it was still legal for people to go into diamond mines. When Ed worked there he would buy loose, precious stones, then have them designed into elaborate pieces for Mildred. The first time Mildred got her jewelry out, I thought it was costume jewelry. The stones were so big, they bordered on gaudy. Not the diamonds. The diamonds were gorgeous. Every piece Mildred owned was set in platinum, and not one was a solitare of anything. And they were all matched sets. Never just a ring. It was a brooch, earrings, necklace, often a bracelet to boot. The 2 most exquisite sets I remember were an aquamarine brooch. The main stone was the size of a quarter. Surrounded by diamonds. Matching earrings which I would have made into 2 separate rings. The stones were size of my ring fingernail. The other stunning set were some kind of amber/gold stones, maybe citrine. The color of light honey. There was a tennis style bracelet with rectangular shaped stones, the size of my pinkie nail, and diamonds in between. Beautiful but a little flamboyant for my taste.

 

I got Mildred’s 60 yr. old Christmas Cactus from which I’ve started a dozen new plants…

 

Seven years later, after I moved to North Muskegon, I often stayed with Mildred when I went back to visit. Shannon and her crew were out the door by 7 a.m. most mornings. When I’d visit, I’d go to Shannon’s in the afternoon, make supper and be there when they were getting home from school, daycare and work. Stay until the little ones were in bed, and Shannon and I were done yakking for the night. Then drive over to Mildred’s 5 miles away, visit with her for a comple hours before heading to bed. She loved the company and I really enjoyed staying with her. In the morning we’d have breakfast together. Whole strawberries dusted with powdered sugar. Toasted English muffins accompanied with fancy jars filled with exotic jams. Coddled eggs. Never heard of that before. You butter the inside of the egg coddler, crack and drop in a raw egg. Screw the lid tight, and plop the whole thing in simmering water for a few minutes. Another way for a fancy English soft boiled egg. Told you she was elegant. Then we’d go shopping downtown Jackson at Jacobson’s. A fabulous department store a step up from Macy’s. I never bought much there, too fancy and expensive. The clerks were always eager to wait on Mildred.

 

Egg Coddler from Mildred.

 

The other gal I met that day was Diane. She was my age and had 2 kids about the ages of Shannon and Josh. Diane’s still one of my dearest friends. She’s the second oldest kid in a family of 12! We certainly didn’t seem to have much in common in the beginning. The reason. She’s everything I’m not. She can sew men’s suits and make lined draperies. Me, maybe sew a button back on after it fell off a shirt 6 months ago. That John’s reminded me of 10 times and needed for work. And poke myself a dozen times in the process. She can cross-stitch, embroider, needle-point, knit, crochet, make artistic ribboned bows as big as a table. Design and create spectacular silk floral arrangements and wreaths. It kind of makes you feel inept when you’re around her a lot. You tend to be green with envy, plus feel hapless and hopeless cause you have none of these gifts or skills. Plus she worked full time and kept her house immaculate. Then there’s her yard. She does not embrace the same outdoor philosophy as me. Mine, “when I’m outdoors, I’m reading, not weeding.” And usually in a swimsuit on a chaise in the 2 square feet of moving sunshine in our shade filled yard. No, Diane has a yard that makes even John envious. And she enjoys working in it and keeping it so. Who knew there are women like that alive? (I think I might be a better baker. Not sure. Wouldn’t stake my life on it).

But it would be Diane who would introduce me to the variety of Michigan’s fabulous and different fruit seasons. Within months she had me crawling along sand filled rows, picking strawberries. Really nothing compares to eating a fresh picked strawberry, warm from the sun, even with a couple of grains of sand stuck on it. Our pants would be stained from squashed strawberries when we were done. Then follow the short seasons of cucumbers, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, (the nastiest of the bunch to pick. The bushes will grab your clothes, rip your skin and are about 10 feet tall) finally beets and apples. All within of few miles of where we lived. It was Diane who taught me how to can. Don’t think she realized what an obsession it would become for me. She first convinced me to can my own pickled beets that my Mom and I loved. Then she got me hooked on Bread and Butter pickles. I helped her can Bread and Butter pickles for a few years. When I moved 150 miles west, she happily sent along the recipe and convinced me I could do it on my own. For the past 20 years I’ve accepted praise and kudos for my awesome Bread and Butter pickles. The glory really belongs to my dear friend Diane.

 

The best Bread and Butter pickles in the world. Yeah, I’m bragging…

 

Diane convinced me all her super human abilities were not gifts that she was given from God. She truly thought I could learn some of these skills. (Such a wonderful friend, she did not see or realize the magnitude of all my hopeless shortcomings) She had run into a gal who was holding art fabric painting classes. (This was a popular fad in the early ’90’s) Diane cajoled me into taking some classes with her. I know. I’m shaking my head too. Nothing about me has ever been artsy-fartsy. (If you follow me on Facebook, you know that when my 5 year old grandson Graham and I do art projects, his usually turn out better than mine).

 

Yup, they’re supposed to be iris’s.

 

Anyway we signed up for the classes. We’d look through the pattern books. I’d pick out something that appealed to me, but was way above my level of coloring (painting) inside the lines. We’d each buy a sweatshirt or a tote bag to paint. Hazel, the art teacher would supervise. Not Diane, who was a better painter than Hazel, but me, so Diane could clip along at her own pace. Ugh, I was hopeless. I did sort of learn to follow, (copy) the pattern, but I just didn’t SEE the same stuff as these artists. For instance, if I was painting a bent arm, I truly did not notice the shadows in the crook of the arm. (And I had a picture showing me these shadows). Where the part of the bent arm should be darker. Diane or Hazel would kindly point out the 3-D-ish stuff my eyes did not pick up on. But it was fun. And I still have some of the rather cute things I did finish. But for me it wasn’t a fun gift but a real and often frustrating challenge, and something I would never be very good at.

 

My one attempt at a portrait. John a month after he quit smoking…

 

One other neighbor would have an huge impact on my life while I lived in Jackson. Her name was Elissa and she was several houses south of us. We did not know them well. They had one son in college. BJ was Joshua’s age and Elizabeth was in Adam’s class. We’d see them at school’s open house, and parent-teacher conferences, but knew them just to say hi. Elissa taught high school in a district 20 miles away and Mike owned a successful business. They did not travel in the same social circles as us. Well, we had no circles yet, but they were a couple notches above us however long we would have lived there. Josh and BJ were becoming good friends. Adam and Elizabeth would never see eye to eye on anything.

One morning about 10 there was a knock on my door. It was a weekday, kids were in school. We’d probably been living there almost 2 years by then. To my surprise it was Elissa at the door. I invited her in and asked if she wanted a cup of coffee. She was visibly upset about something. I sat across from her at the kitchen table and waited. It was like she didn’t know how to start talking. Geez, she taught English and was the advisor/director of their high school class plays. Couldn’t imagine anything bad enough that she couldn’t just spit it out. Doubted it had anything to do with Josh or BJ. Both good kids and not troublemakers. Hope Adam hadn’t decked Elizabeth. She was kind of a diva, even back then. So I waited. All of a sudden words just start spilling out. Her 39 year old hubby, Mike had just been diagnosed with liver cancer that morning. Through sobs she’s asking advice on how she’s going break this news to their kids after school? Devastating, but how in the world could I be of help? Actually, I didn’t need to do much. Elissa was working these issues out in front of me. I guess kind of like a sounding board. We had no history together, and no baggage. I think it was easier practicing on me, virtually a stranger that morning. If there had been any kind of social caste system before this day, it was gone now. I had seen her in a way not many ever would.

Mike and Elissa would embark on a 2-1/2 year ferocious fight. Journey from chemo, to colonics, to Mayo Clinic, to a specialized cancer treatment center in Houston, to some radical, not legal here in the states stuff down in Mexico. Mike NEVER accepted he was dying. Much like my dear friend Rosemary, he fought so hard, and tried everything he could to stay alive. He had an addition put on the house, doubling the size of it. He went to the Masters Golf tournament in Georgia which had been on his bucket list. Sometimes if Elissa was teaching, I’d drive him to Ann Arbor for appointments. He signed up with John to be co-leader of Adam and Elizabeth’s class of Odessy of the Mind competition. Had to stay busy, doing, doing, doing. If they were gone for a few days, BJ would stay with us, and we’d keep watch over their menagerie of animals from destroying their beautiful home.

But Mike continued to get sicker and lose ground. He passed away in September of 1991, a couple years before we moved to North Muskegon. He had just made an appointment for another cancer treatment option in Mexico to try something else. The hardest fighter next to Rosemary I’ve ever witnessed. Don’t know if I agree with their thinking, logic or methods. But I’ve never been in their shoes either. From where I was watching, Rosemary should have been in Hospice Care months earlier. Mike never even considered it, and should have. I admire that kind of fierce fighting spirit. I wonder if I have that kind of fight in me. Hope I never have to find out…

 
I got Mildred’s 60 yr. old Christmas Cactus. I’ve started a dozen new plants in 8 years…