Tag: Memories

Do You Remember Your First?


It was the mid-eighties. I had a degree in Literature from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and I was determined to make my living as a freelance writer. And I adored my typewriter—the noises it made, the satisfying push on the keys, the occasional ink on my hands from changing ribbons. I’d heard personal computers were the next big thing, but not for me. No self-respecting writer would give up a beautiful typewriter for that.

Then, at a writer’s conference, I was introduced to this bad boy:

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My Mother gave me a piece of furniture that used to belong to my paternal grandfather.  I am like her in that I have trouble disassociating items with people and assign too much sentimental value to inanimate objects.   She kept it in her garage piled with junk until one weekend I took my two oldest […]

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Group Writing: Connecting the Years


My parents first met in Worcester, MA, after my father returned from World War II. He was a translator in the Army; he’d learned French in high school so “translator” must have seemed like a logical assignment. His first name was Carlton, but everyone called him Tex, after a baseball player named Tex Carlton. As a teenager, he was a skinny kid and his friends called him “Tweet.”

Mom was pretty much a loner named Shirley, but she and my dad made a connection after the war. When they decided to be married, they had a large wedding with lots of family and friends. But when the photographer went to develop the photographs, they were somehow lost or destroyed.* The only testament to their wedding was a movie that was taken on 16mm film. Years later, when my uncle who had the only copy offered to share it with them, they learned that the projector needed to play the film wasn’t readily available. So, the film sat in a drawer.

Finally, a friend was able to convert the film for them so that it could be played! (I have no information about the technical details; I only know that we were going to see a wedding film of my parents’ special occasion—finally!)

Ave Atque Vale: Frank Zbozny, Rest In Peace


My husband, Frank Zbozny (see–I always told you I could win a game of Scrabble in one go, if only proper names were allowed), has died. Many of you know of his decades-long struggle with dementia, and of the cardiac and other physical problems that began to sap his strength in 2012 or thereabouts. But he was himself almost to the end. The last intelligible word he spoke to me was two days ago, after I enabled what I believe was one of his last pleasant physical sensations on this earth (so I did it often), the deployment of a just-warmed-in-the-dryer comforter over the top of him. He smiled. I asked him how that felt. He thought. And over the course of about ten seconds, the courtly and rather old-fashioned gentleman I married, 39 years ago on July 24 of this year (I wrote about that marriage here), managed to get the word out: “Deee–li–cious.”

We started out our married life quite poor, at least in financial terms. I was a Teaching Assistant, and Frank was an Assistant Professor of English, at a time (early 1980s) when a liberal arts career path was beginning to be deprecated in favor of a business education, so he wasn’t terribly well paid. We lived at the very end of a dead-end street, in a run-down little house picturesquely situated just above the exhaust vents of Pittsburgh’s Liberty Tunnels. I was assaulted once, going home after work as I walked up the hill from the streetcar stop. I was fondled by the disgusting creep (kneed him in the crotch), and my purse was stolen. Our house was ransacked one evening when we were out, and the very few items of value, both real and sentimental, that we owned, were taken. (I remember, on both of those occasions, feeling utterly violated. It was three-and-a-half decades before I felt anything else as wrenching, or even remotely comparable in terms of being flayed alive in a public space.) One day, I drove home from work to find gangs of thugs in the middle of the street watching a couple of pit bulls fight in the back of a pickup truck. I had them arrested and carted off to jail. It required a bit more moxie than it might today, as this was well before the days when cell phones were in widespread use. So I parked my car in the middle of the street above them (so they couldn’t leave, because dead-end), walked through and past them, while they jeered and insulted me, walked up the steps of the house, and called the police. Frank’s comment? “You would have made a good United States Marine.” Made me proud then. Almost makes me proud now.

It was, to say the least, an interesting place to start off our married life. Still, we had a lovely garden (auto and diesel exhaust fumes must be an excellent fertilizer and growth stimulant), and with the exception of the wanna-be circus performer woman across the street (Kathy) who regularly threw knives at the bathroom door while her husband (Tom) cowered inside, and the fellow next door (Jimbo) who held raucous parties at all hours of the day and night before succumbing to a drug overdose at a very young age, most of the neighbors (elderly, long-term residents) were lovely.

Quote of the Day: Rainy Day Memory


“There are many things I do for amusement, but for happiness I like to gather up my memories and go for a walk in the rain.” – Robert Brault

I have four older sisters. One summer in the mid-’80s, they were working for The Daily Herald, Utah County’s newspaper. They had to deliver the paper to people who hadn’t received theirs. One day, they decided to take me with them. We were riding in a Volkswagen Rabbit, I believe.

We had just begun when the rain started coming down heavily. We were just about to descend on a hill when we saw a large puddle spreading through the intersection. It was a one way stop and no one was there. All of us stripped off our shoes and socks and played in the rain. We were drenched!

Elderly Scottish Woman Suffering from Dementia Climbs UK Music Charts (Video)


OK, well, this made me cry. An 83-year-old Scottish woman who suffers from dementia is climbing the UK music download charts, singing a duet with her caregiver of Frank Sinatra’s 1969 hit, “My Way.”

Margaret Mackie and Jamie Lee Morley first performed the song at her nursing home, during last year’s Christmas karaoke party, and subsequently recorded it at Studio Sound, an Ingleton-based music studio. All proceeds from song downloads go to Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK. (Video below.)

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Beams of searing light flashed across the landscape, leaving white-hot scars on the mountainside. The Specter stood undeterred. A mind-bending torrent of unlight roared forth from its outstretched hands, while several cyber-knights frantically evaded the attack.  Alex felt his legs scream in protest as he leapt to another vantage point.  They needed the appropriate banishing […]

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Memories of 2019


I’ve gone through a little exercise, the past several New Year’s Eves, to try to sum up the year that’s passing in twelve words, one for each month. Herewith, my roundup for 2019: Softness, Family, Broken, Celebration, Construction, Sickness, Renovation, Compromise, Stabilization, Justice, Insurance, Acceptance.

In no particular order: Item: Two dear friends with life-threatening illnesses, both diagnosed in the same month. Both my age. Scary. Item–A lovely new sunroom on the Southside of the house (some days, when it’s in the 20s outside, it’s in the 80s in the sunroom. There’s a stand of trees in front of it, and when they’re in full leaf, rather than bare as they are now, it’s shaded in the summer. Item: Some beautiful soft and fluffy snows in January, but other than that, not much of a winter. Item: A bit too much involvement with the criminal justice system, across a couple of months, but ultimately the best outcome we could have hoped for in the trial of my stepson’s murderers. Item: Family celebrations, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and love. Another year older, and signed up for Medicare. At least my monthly health insurance premium went down.

Item: A few relationship difficulties, and the eventual resolution and coming to terms with them. Item–A gradual settling and stabilizing of the house, following the undermining, and after a year, the feeling that it might be “safe” to start to remediate some of the problems. So far, so good, and I have an opening front door again! Item–A monumental, weeks-long, blow-up with Mr. She’s Medicare Advantage insurer, who canceled his coverage because they said we hadn’t paid the bill. (Big mistake. Huge.) The week after I got a letter from the office of the Highmark CEO, acknowledging their error, and making all sorts of prayerful amends, I switched Mr. She’s insurance over to UPMC and canceled Highmark. A petty, but sweet, revenge. Item: the completion of bits of drywalling and painting that I’ve been waiting for, for 34 years, upstairs; and the finishing of the stairwell, including the framing in and “prettifying” of the electrical panel. Unfortunately, at the same time, the guy who was putting a new deck on the back of the house (see “remediation of subsidence problems,” above) ruptured a tendon in his finger, so that project is on indefinite hiatus. Still, I am beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, and starting to conceive of the possibility that the house may be finished before I am carried out of it feet first. This is a new feeling, and I like it.

Memories: The Workbench


Had a couple of dreams last night. They were the first dreams of or about my father that I’ve had since he died in June. One of them was about his workbench. In the dream, the workbench was different than it was in real life, and of course, there were strange bits of non-history in the dream. That’s just how dreams flow.

When my parents were young and struggling, before I was even born, my father built a couch. It was much cheaper than buying one, and it served their needs for several years. It was a fairly simple affair. It had an L-shaped base made from something that looked like a couple of old solid-wood doors joined together with legs that were perhaps eight inches to a foot high placed around it. That made a flat base. Then there were two large, flat cushions with a sort of plastic cover on the base and two longer wedge-profile cushions that made up the back of the couch. That was it. I wish I could describe the cushion covers better. On the exposed sides, they were a sort of mottled red. On the other sides, it was similarly mottled gray trying to be white or silver. It was the early 1960s and, for a young couple with little boys, it was serviceable.

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White Elephants welcome. Ugly teapots and clay objects of uncertain type encouraged! Really, you want to get in on the December theme, Memories, before your frazzled host does another one of his posts about bears, outhouses, or disco. Hey, wait a minute…I’m sure there is an entire catalog of disco “holiday” albums and worse! Maybe […]

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Memories: The Engagement Christmas Dinner


In the fall of 1976, Janet finally accepted my proposal of marriage. (It was definitely proof of the power of persistence. She simply did not understand why anyone would marry her.) We set a date for the May of the following year, by which time I would have gotten my engineering degree, and we could live happily ever after.

We were the first children in either family to decide to marry. (Her brother has avoided it completely. Mine married in the following decade.) Which meant Christmas was Family Inspection Time. By both families, as both sets of parents lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Not the local relatives. We had been going together for several years already and both of us were known to the other’s family even before we were dating as Janet was the kid sister of one of my close high school friends. Rather, it was the opportunity for out-of-town relatives to inspect the potential new addition to the family.

Memories of Christmas 1956: Pictures of Perfection


The film is dark and grainy, and the room is poorly lit. None of the cast is wearing the proper sort of clothes or makeup. And all of them, particularly the father of the little moppet with the starring role, are bursting with their pride in the first member of a new generation in the family. It’s the iconic Christmas of my childhood, my first real memory, one I have been able to call up at a moment’s notice all my life, but which lived only in my heart and in my mind for almost 50 years. Until, that is, a most unexpected gift from Dad gave it back to me “for realz,” as the children say.

Granny and Grandpa’s. 104 Church Lane, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham 20, England, UK. Northern 4749, if you wanted to phone and have a conversation. (This entailed going under the stairs where the telephone was located, and hiding yourself away for the duration, almost as if there was something a bit untoward–nay, rude even–about standing there talking into the air, as if to someone who was actually in the room with you, but, really, wasn’t.)

The old air-raid shelter under the living-room floor, where my mother and Uncle John used to lie awake at night and listen to the bombs raining down around them. The kitchen, with its tiny gas stove and old stone sink, and its attached pantry, which usually had a cake of some sort front and center in it. The cereal box (All-Bran), emptied of its original contents, and kept on the old teak draining board, where Granny used to stuff the tinfoil lids from the milk bottles, and then, when it was full, send them off “to the seeing-eye dogs.” (I never could understand how covering up the eyes of “seeing-eye dogs” with gold and silver tinfoil disks [for that was how I imagined them being used], was at all helpful. It was decades before I “twigged” and realized that it was actually a recycling project.)

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Unlike most unsolicited, intrusive online messages that pop up or appear in e-mail to remind me of some tepid offer when I simply want to be left alone to use a service, I enjoy the Facebook memory feature. It will say something like “7 years ago today,” and then bring up an old post or picture. […]

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The Dead Will Be Remembered


He woke up wondering whose dream he had dreamed of. Whose memory was the dream based on? And as he wondered every morning, who was he who dreamed the dreams of others?

In the last dream of the night, he had lived in India in a small town, larger than a village, but not one of the great cities. The details came back to him: his name in the dream, where he had lived, what he had done. He had been an educated man and knew geography, being able to point to his town on a map.

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The Christmas season is very much a season of joy and a celebration of the advent of Jesus the Messiah here in von Aue household, even more so in my generation of the family than it was when I was a child. My father’s atheism put a damper back then on the reminders of the […]

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During the 1980s and 90s I worked as an environmental lawyer in a large company. While occasionally participating in prepping witnesses for trial or deposition testimony it was my own experience as a witness that has made me more hesitant to accuse someone of lying, particularly when it comes to remembering past events, even those […]

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Taking Memories to the Streets


This year marked the 100th anniversary of observing what became Veterans’ Day in America. It was also the 75th anniversary of a series of critical battles and campaigns that sealed the Third Reich’s fate. In June, the western Allies gathered to remember the Normandy invasion. On December 16, there was another major commemoration, although not with all national leaders, remembering the battle that finally broke the Germans, the Battle of the Bulge.

On December 16, 1944, Hitler hurled his last, best troops, those who had survived the Russian meat grinder and the battering, fighting retreat from Normandy since June 1944, back through a weak point in the Allied front. Taking advantage of bad weather, suppressing American air superiority, and employing superior knowledge of local terrain, armored columns thrust deep through the Allies’ lines. Yet, the Allies were not going to break catastrophically and the Wehrmacht lacked the operational and strategic supply support needed to fully exploit any tactical or operational success. Nevertheless, the tactical situation became so desperate that the white Army leaders who had lied through their teeth, after World War I, about black men’s ability to be their peers in the infantry now called forward volunteers out of the support troops, filling in gaping holes with platoons of African American soldiers assigned to formerly all-white companies. Four years later, President Truman rejected “expert” opinion and ordered the complete racial desegregation of the armed forces with Executive Order 9981.

Remembering the Murder of a Convenience Store Clerk


One year ago, around midnight, as Saturday turned into Sunday the 16th of December, 2018, a gunman entered a small independent convenience store. The space inside is tight, very close quarters, and the clerk decided to fight for his life and his co-workers, instead of accepting whatever fate the thug decided. The clerk, Jose Alcaraz-Hernandez, lost his life, and a co-worker was seriously wounded. The crime has not been solved in the year since that night.

The large group of prayer candles and flowers gave way in fairly short order to a permanent wooden cross. The hand-painted cross outside the store tells us that Jose Hernandez was born November 18, 1964, and was killed on December 16, 2018. From a photograph put up in the first days, we know him to have been a grandfather. We know nothing of the killer. If the police know more, they are not saying so to the public.

Visiting the site on the anniversary evening of this crime, the memorial was little changed. A few flat stones, for candles, and rounded stones to keep the cross upright in the dirt, were added. Two candles had been blown out by the wind. Perhaps someday the killer will be found in this world. Of a certainty, there is one Judge who saw, who sees, and who will give justice in the end.

A Memorable Interview


In the days following Christmas in 2000, I traveled from Montana to California to visit my older sister, who was dying from cancer.

Carol was no longer eating solid food; she had a bag that fed mocha-colored goo into her stomach. Oh, every once in awhile her longing to taste something would overcome her, and she’d eat something, all the while knowing that the consequences would be unpleasant. But her life was circumscribed to a recliner; her life closed in; her passing, imminent. Yet she was still her cheerful, almost ebullient self. We ran through some chitchat, catching up on our families and their activities. That took about an hour.

100 Years, 3 Wars, 409 Combat Missions: Living Memory


On Friday, 6 December, Col. Charles McGee went flying for his 100th birthday. He actually flew the aircraft, with a copilot, and walked on and off the aircraft firm of voice and stride. Colonel McGee started flying in World War II, then stayed in the cockpit for the next thirty years, seeing combat in both Korea and Vietnam. He holds the US Air Force record, to this day, of 409 combat missions. As we commemorate the 75th anniversaries of D-Day at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge this year, we note the number of World War II veterans rapidly falling to the far end of the actuarial tables. Accordingly, each one who remains with us, still of firm mind and voice, becomes more of a treasure.