Tag Archives: Memoir

Favorite Outfits Never Really Leave You

I didn’t get much accomplished this week since I had to go to California for business and got caught in the floods there, delaying my return by one day. On the way to California, I saw an odd blimp out in the middle of the desert, just off the 10.

At the time, I found it confusing. Then I saw an article about Carnival Cruise Line starting a blimp campaign last year.  But the gardener saw a different article. That one said that the DEA is using blimps for border surveillance. Hmm. I guess it could be both. Truth is strange, as you know.

I’ve been working on my own version of Swedish Death Cleaning by trying to go through file drawers a little bit every day that I am home. I’m also finding objects and papery reminders which make me want to write more posts about the life of objects.

I found a couple of old photographs of one of my favorite outfits ever which led to a week-long meditation on “favorite outfits,” and the beginning of a possible poem. How many favorite outfits have you had in your life? I can count mine on both hands–maybe one hand.

I bought this one with my store discount from the fancy store in Kalamazoo where I worked when I first started college. It was called Jacobson’s, and they had an apparel store and a “store for the home,” but the prototype was probably Saks. This 3-piece jersey outfit was comfortable, and I loved the cream/vivid blue combination (although I’m not actually a blue person, probably half my favorite outfits have been blue or had blue in them). In these two photos you can see both the tank top and the jacket, but not the almost-palazzo pants. The beads were from work, too. I don’t know what ever happened to the outfit, but I suspect I literally wore it out. I never would have gotten rid of it otherwise. That’s how much I loved it. Best memory wearing it was in Jamaica, at our months-after-the-wedding honeymoon.

The man on the right is one of my uncles, and the other man was his FIL. I was serving punch at a family party. Isn’t it funny that seeing that outfit in the photos makes me as happy as wearing it used to? And why did I love that outfit so much more than anything else? I have always loved birds, and pheasants run loose on the fabric, but that’s only one aspect.

I can’t imagine feeling this way about what I wear today since I have it down to a uniform involving either yoga pants or Duluth Trading Company stretch pants along with a tunic, athletic shoes, and a ballcap.

Anybody else have those thoughts about favorite outfits of the past? Tell me about your favorites, please!

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Magical Music Box

I forgot about writing posts based on Dawn Raffel’s memoir, The Secret Life of Objects. Joey over at Joeyfully Stated reminded me, so I’m happy to be back at it. I’ve written about the magical bowls of my childhood snacking and the name sign from my grandmother’s mailbox, as well as some jewelry that holds meaning for me.

Maybe the object that I still have that carries my earliest memories is the music box I have had since I was a baby. I know it’s weird, but I am a person with very early memories. I apparently inherited this ability from my grandfather. If you wonder what toddler memories are like, they are exactly like memories from all the other times of your life: vivid and realistic.

When my mother put me down for a nap, she would wind up the music box and set it going. I still remember standing in my crib, looking over the white iron bars, willing the music box to start up again. It didn’t, of course, as it had to be wound by someone.

I think I must have been a hard kid to settle to sleep (undiagnosed ADHD or anxiety?), and I always felt I was missing something. But then again my parents wanted me to nap AND have an extremely early bedtime. As a child I used to play shadow games or read under the covers with my flashlight.

When I became a teen, it was the sixties and incense was very popular, so I used my music box as an incense burner.

Have you ever heard that music is one of the best triggers for memory? Well, my music box–after 60+ years–still works. (Take that you plastic parts in today’s merchandise!)

I did a quick search online for a vintage round metal music box, and there are quite a few that look very similar, even to the color. They are called “powder puff” style. It’s very possible that this music box is from the 1940s and predates me. It could have belonged to my mother or grandmother well before I was born.

Question of the day: what song does the music box play?

Anybody want to play along and write about the secret life of an object? If so, please post the link in the comments here!

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On another note, my uncle has been visiting for two weeks and the kids (daughter and BF) are still living here, so for an HSP like me it’s been Grand Central Station over here.

 

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The Bitch’s Tail

(Again, apologies to Chaucer. Third up in the series of Cat Tails is that of Tiger)

I’ll proudly claim my B-word title. I am the most petite cat in my queendom and rely on my claws for protection because almost all my teeth had to be removed. Other than my canines–isn’t that ironic?! I have a genetic tooth disease that comes to me from my god-ancestor origins in Egypt (note: the other cats are obviously not related to gods–this is proof). I am special, set aside from the other cats. My power intimidates them, so they don’t even try to get close to me. They have to respect and admire me from afar.

My story begins as a Cinderella tale. Remember that in Cinderella stories, the heroine seems to start from a lowly position, is elevated to a high station, and it is often revealed that her concealed origins were royal or aristocratic.

So when I tell you that my story here begins in a grocery store parking lot, remember that my story-of-origins begins earlier with my royal Egyptian forebears who now sleep forever in the vaults and tombs of pharaohs.

OK, the parking lot. I was young and tiny and hungry. I don’t know how I got to the parking lot because the first thing I can remember is standing there on the pavement, wondering how to avoid all the cars spinning in and out and all around. Before I was smashed to pieces, a young human snatched me up and took me away. She couldn’t keep me, so her friend took me home with him. He was a single college student, living in a one room apartment near campus. He meant well, but he couldn’t really take care of himself very well. I ate better than he did, but sometimes he couldn’t afford litter for my box. And one day he ran an errand, forgetting to put out the candle burning on the table.

He saved my life when he got home, but only after I got a little sick from the thick smoke. I became cautious of life after that, and especially of people, except for my young dad. I slept under the covers with him. He was my world.

One day, he went on vacation and left me with his parents. That was different. I didn’t like them at first and tried to snap at them (I still had teeth at that time). But the father was so good at playing “mousie” that I started to like him. And the mother wouldn’t give up petting me even when I was mean to her. And they bought me so much litter and gave me pieces of chicken. I have a thing for chicken. I asked to stay with them, and my young dad and his parents agreed that I had a better life with them. I didn’t realize until later that “them” came with a few other cats.

I didn’t have to worry about the other cats. My new father is besotted with me. I am his favorite cat, paws down. He won’t allow anyone to say anything negative about me. And when people talk about his love for me, he gets a silly grin on his face. I have claimed the title of bitch because I will smack any cat who intrudes on my territory–and since my father won’t allow anyone to call me a bitch, I will say it myself as it keeps everyone on their toes. [Mother intrudes: “But, Tiger, you are also afraid of other cats and sometimes your own shadow. How do you justify presenting yourself as brave?” Tiger replies: “Mother, this is my story to tell. And if I sometimes lie on my back and cry when someone comes close and stares at me, it’s because I have a sensitive nature. I guess Father understands that.”]

I am the only cat to sleep with Mother and Father every night. No matter how many new cats come to live here, it’s always me. That shows you how special I am. I am also a Tabico cat. That means that I have Calico Cat markings that are made up of Tabby Cat stripes. Tabicos (or, as some call us, Patched Tabbies–or even Torbies) are very rare cats indeed!

I’ve been with my mother and father for years now. I am fourteen years young. The funny thing is that although I know how much Father loves me, I love to curl up on Mother at night. She tries to push me away (careful, Mother, you know the power of my claws!), but I wait until I think she is asleep and climb back. Every morning she has to explain the scent of Tiger on her to Perry, Sloopy Anne, and the other cats.

Maybe you wonder if I still see my first dad. I do. He visits us sometimes with his new wife, and I let him pet me. He’s still one of my three favorite people. And I’ve heard that he’s become a really good cat dad and even a . . . I can’t believe I’m saying this . . . dog dad. Mother and Father think he’s one of the best. You can all thank me for that. I am the one who trained him, the one who had patience with him, and the one who put up with his childish mistakes.

Just remember my motto when you think of me: I AM TIGER, HEAR ME ROAR!

FOR THE OTHER CAT TAILS (SO FAR):

The Dowager’s Tail

The Baby’s Tail

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Luanne here. I was so lazy all year about sending out submissions that I decided to try for at least 15 publications in 2019. Arbitrary number, but who cares. It’s having a goal, not what the goal is, that matters. (If I reach that number with time to spare, I’ll have lied to myself because I’ll up it to 20).

Just as I decided on that goal, I heard from three journals that had had my stuff for a long time. One yes and two nos. That meant I had one publication coming up for 2019. Fourteen to go. So I sent poems out to four topnotch journals on Wednesday. On Thursday I was called by the editor of one, taking a poem for early 2019. Best timing yet. So now two down, thirteen to go!

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Telling the Truth

A few years ago Six Hens published my story, “Boundaries,” about my experience of sexual molestation by a minor. In light of the past week, and after reading the stories of so many women, I thought I would re-post the link here.

BOUNDARIES

If all women tell their stories, the world is bound to change for the better.

 

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.

Muriel Rukeyser

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What’s Past and The Promise of What Lies Ahead

Today begins the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new year. I’m wishing you a good (and sweet) year, whether you celebrate or not.

 

If you were reading my blog three years ago, you might remember that spring and summer were the seasons of the hummingbird mother and babies, my father’s illness and death, and the passing of my oldest cat Mac.* These events swirled together, as life’s events often do, and I ended up writing a lyrical essay called “Ordering in Four Movements.”

That fall the essay was published in Phoebe (45.1), a beautiful print journal. If I ever put together a collection of prose pieces, maybe this one will find a “book” home. In the meantime, though, I wanted to share it with more readers via an online journal, so I submitted it as a reprint to Ginosko Literary Journal where it was subsequently accepted. This weekend the journal went live. I hope you will enjoy this piece. It means a great deal to me since it covers emotional issues that preoccupied my mind at the time.

Ginosko Literary Journal — “thumb through” to page 33

* The links in the first paragraph are to the original posts I wrote about these events. The one about Mac tells his life story ;).

I’m still working on my gun essay, but I was challenged to try it from a different angle, which has taken me down a muddy and tangled garden path. Oh boy.

May you have a sweet week ahead. And a happy birthday to poet Mary Oliver!

 

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The Dowager’s Tail (more apologies to Chaucer)

Now that the baby has told his story and been put in a confined area for a brief time, I, the dowager duchess known as Pear Blossom, will tell you the history of this family.

Before I arrived at age six months, the household was ruled by a handsome male ginger and white with a magisterial presence. His name was Macavity (aka Mac-the-cat). He commanded an excitable blond terrier mix (dog, that is) and four humans–father, mother, son, and daughter.

One day, my litter mate Little Bear and I found ourselves at the end of a cul de sac. He was an adorable and rather stupid ball of fluff. We were hiding in a large rosemary bush at the end of the last driveway. He spotted a human and ran out to greet her! With my more cautious nature, I stayed in the bushes. That was the last I saw of Little Bear for three days.

At that point I had had enough, so I walked around the side of the house. Unbeknownst to me, the mother was on a treadmill that looked out upon the side yard and saw me. Within minutes I was captured and imprisoned in a corner room in the tower. Over the next few days, I met up with my brother; he was adopted by a single woman who lived in the desert and thought he was the cutest kitten ever born; and I was left with Macavity’s family. I was uncertain about him because he was very controlling, and the dog was annoying. I wasn’t yet focused on the humans. They said my tower room smelled very bad, but I don’t know why.

After some loud discussions about how many cats were appropriate for one family to own, I was released from my prison and forced to negotiate an entire house with six other inhabitants. I set up my boundaries, and to my surprise, Mac was not difficult to get along with. Neither was the dog. The humans granted all my requests until they made one mistake. They offered me Science Diet for dinner. I took the opportunity of a briefly opened door and marched down the driveway. I would show them! The mother ran after me and promised she would never make me eat that food again. I came back inside and ate a better meal. It’s now been almost eighteen years that I have been with this family, and they have never brought Science Diet into the house again.

The years while the children were growing up were good. Mac was a benign overlord (although dangerous to touch if he didn’t welcome it), and he had mastered the human language called English by calling our mother “Mom” on many occasions. The human children encouraged him to do so. Then first the boy and then the girl moved away to a faraway place called College. Felix decided to live with us when the girl left. Soon after, Sandy had many health problems and, with my intuitive gifts, I lay beside him when he suffered. Eventually he passed away, and Mac and I forged an even closer bond.

A couple of years later, we all moved to Arizona where Mac and Felix became good friends. Our mother placed three beds on the kitchen counter, and the three of us–Mac, Felix, and I–slept during the day and during the night on those beds, close as the three little kittens. Tiger came to live with us, but she was the odd cat out. We three were a team, and Tiger didn’t fit in. We were never mean to her, though.

Mac was two years older than me, and he began to experience health problems. He was a big boy with a heart defect, and he developed kidney disease and diabetes. Our mother took excellent care of him. She kept his blood sugar down with a special food diet of Weruva chicken. When he eventually died, my grief took me by surprise. I could not eat. The vet told Mother that I would die if she didn’t find a way for me to eat. She cried so hard she saturated the fur on my back with saltwater. I realized that Mother loves me very very much and couldn’t bear to lose me, especially after losing Mac and her human father in the same summer. So I began eating a little Gerber’s chicken and Temptations treats. Those treats have 2 calories a piece, so I was able to get enough nutrition to keep me alive. I rallied and began to want to live. But I was left with a permanent condition of high blood pressure and had to go on medication.

Do you think Mother could wait to get another cat? NO. She brought home Kana. Kana has a similar personality to Mac, so I understand why Mother did that especially because Kana was extremely depressed at the shelter. Nobody wanted an 8 year old big black cat rumored to nibble on people occasionally. So that’s fine, but she needs to leave me alone. Then Sloopy Anne came home, all because she had been at the shelter for two full years and nobody wanted her. Everything was fine until Perry came bouncing into our backyard and one thing led to another. We ended up with a baby living amongst us oldsters.

My life is satisfactory. Mother is very good to me, and I trust her implicitly. Father has an ideal lap when he’s in his chair watching TV. My only complaint is that I have a medical issue that causes some trouble. [Whispering] I get UTIs. They are very painful.

Three years ago, when I was dying from not eating, Mother told me a secret as she slobbered all over me. I will share it with you, but please do not disillusion the other cats by letting them know. She told me that I am her favorite child. She tells everyone who will listen that I have never put my teeth on her in eighteen years.

I suppose that my age and because I was Mac’s companion imbues me with a dignity that commands respect from the others. I accept that respect, although I never abuse it. I am a good roommate. I am also the cat Grandma likes because I curl up in her lap and stay quiet.

Thank you for reading about my family and my life.

Forgive me for using photos you might consider old–I consider them timeless

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The Baby’s Tail (apologies to Chaucer)

I get to go first because my mom says I’m her BABY. The other cats want to tell their stories, but I’m first first first!

My name is Perry.

I love love love my mom. She says we’re best friends! I show her I love her by wrapping my front legs around her neck and licking her ear and neck. She pretends she doesn’t like it, but I know she DOES!

My dad is cool, too, and sometimes I lie next to him on the couch, but only for a minute because it’s hard to lie still for so long!

Before I came to Mom and Dad’s house my life was really hard and my tummy often empty, but I try not to remember those days out on the street.

I was so scared when I was at the shelter. They tried to stick needles in me and grab at me. It was loud with bright lights so I hid in a little cave Mom bought for my cage. I didn’t know yet that she would be my mom, but I knew that I was only happy when Mom came every day to read to me about Curious George. The people at the shelter thought I was the opposite of George—boring and uncivilized and uninterested.

So my mom brought me home and held my food bowl while I ate. She read to me several times a day and sang me songs. She recited poems to me. Toys and stuffed babies surrounded me, too, and Mom taught me how to play games. Pretty soon Dad started to play games with me. He talked to me a lot when Mom wasn’t around.

One day, I realized that I would be with Mom and Dad forever, and I was so happy.

Then I found out five other cats live in the house. Weeeeee. I love other cats! More friends friends friends!

I try to make friends with Felix because he’s the only other boy, so I grab him in a “bear hug” wrestling hold, but he lies there like he’s dead. BORING!!!! Boring boring boring. So instead of playing with him, I have to chase him out of his bed a few times a day just so he knows I’m here.

Kana is the other cat I try to make friends with because she’s the dominant cat. Hahaha. Until I got here, I mean. If you know what I mean! She’s a big sleek black panther girl, and we could be best friends if she wasn’t such a you-know-what. It’s what you would call her if she were a dog. Get it?! Kana has a short temper, and when I try to lie in her bed with her sometimes she gets mad. Or if I “share” her kibble one time too many. Then we sit on our butts and slo-mo throw our punches. Mom says sometimes I bug Kana too much, and she puts Kana in the laundry room with kibble. She says it’s so Kana can get some private time away from me. I try not to let it hurt my feelings, but I don’t really get it.

Although I get along fine with some of the other cats, these are my two favorites. They are the only ones I lie next to in the same bed. We three are the ones mom calls THE BIG CATS.

Tiger, one of THE LITTLE CATS,  likes to parallel play with me sometimes. We bat at the same mobiles. She’s a nice little calico girl, but she’s not really in my category, ya know? OK, I admit it: if I get too close, she hits me with her claws out. I kind of avoid getting too close. But we’re cool.

Sloopy Anne looks just like Tiger, except she has a black face instead of a tabby face. If I see one of these girls slinking around a corner, I don’t always know which one it is. Sloopy Anne waits for me to come out of my bedroom every morning so she can chase me or show me her claws. But after breakfast, I chase her under the chest in the living room. Sloopy Anne is a LONER, but she’s ok.

That leaves the old lady. Not Mom. That other old lady, Pear Blossom. She lies on the back of the couch ALL. DAY. LONG. She won’t tolerate me trying to play with her. She gets crabby, but doesn’t stay mad long. She just loves Mom and likes to sit on Dad’s lap. To the rest of us she is always saying: don’t annoy me. She’s not that much fun.

This last  month, though, there’s been some excitement in our house. My human sister is here with her cat Izzie! Izzie is SO much NICER to me than the other girls. She kisses me and lets me eat her kibble. She doesn’t act annoyed by me either. I wish my sisters were as nice as Izzie!

Life is so wonderful! I don’t have to worry about the heat and snakes and coyotes and storms. Or the big bobcat. I get smelly food twice a day—and treats at bedtime! And pets and hugs all day long. Not too many strangers either. I don’t like strange humans. My Mom says I am just like Curious George. I get into her purse and the kitchen drawers and climb between her arms when she’s cooking. I eat her mail, even the checks! I always want to be in the middle of what’s going on in this place! And my Mom and Dad LOVE me, and I LOVE them!!!!!!

THIS IS ME HIDING FROM MOM AND DAD TO TEASE THEM!

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Multicolored ~ nonfiction by Luanne Castle


A big thank you to The Disappointed Housewife for publishing my piece, “Multicolored.”

The Disappointed Housewife

GREEN surrounds me as I enter the butterfly pavilion. The leaves of the trees and flowers create an oasis in the Sonoran desert. All seems still inside, protected from the dry winds, until I notice the undulant motion of butterflies winging above me, swooping down to sip at the nectar of the blossoms. The guide warns visitors to watch where we step, what we touch. Fragile life whirls around us. After all these years, I think I understand how they feel. One has to go through so many changes to get to full flower. Now is not yet the time to die.

BROWN fur nestles under the leaf. I’m here anew, peeling the caterpillar off the green veins and stem which define the underside. I curl up my fingers, cupping the bug in my palm. It tickles me and then plays dead inside the tent of my hand, as I…

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Nothing Says Grandma Like Club Aluminum

My maternal grandmother was a good baker and a good cook of meats (usually beef) and vegetables. Her use of Grandpa’s garden vegetables in stews and ratatouilles came from being raised on a farm by a mother who was a good cook. She loved her Club Aluminum pans, and the one I most remember was the Dutch Oven. Since my grandmother’s father and my grandfather (her husband) were Dutch, as a kid, I thought it was a pot that was original to the Netherlands, not realizing that is its official name. Her pots were “silver,” the color of aluminum. My mom had Club Aluminum, too, and as I got a little older I realized that she had probably gotten the pans from her mother. She also thought they were the best type to cook in, but her pans didn’t seem to work as well as Grandma’s ;). Or, at least, more anxiety made its way into those dishes.

When I became engaged at nineteen, I had never thought about a wedding or wedding gifts. The only thing I ever imagined was a white velvet dress with a red hooded coat like Mary wore for her wedding in Babes in Toyland. Instead, to save my parents money, I wore my mother’s wedding dress that my other grandmother had made, but that’s another story. I know it sounds blasphemous to American wedding tradition, but I didn’t even register for gifts.

My bridal shower was a family affair, to which I wore my favorite outfit, a teal corduroy pantsuit. Everyone had a very similar pantsuit, but mine was special because of the color. When I arrived at my aunt’s house, I discovered that the person I most wanted at the shower, Grandma, was home sick. The whole event paled after that news, but I do remember that her gift was the biggest and splashiest–an entire set of Club Aluminum pans in yellow. Instead of a metal handle like my mother and grandmother’s Dutch Ovens had, mine had a plastic knob.

I still have my Dutch Oven and a couple of the other pans with lids.

You can see the yellow exterior is pretty banged up after all these years, but the inside is still pristine. My pot has seen some really yummy dishes, but it also was what I used to make Kraft mac and cheese in (for the kids), too, I’m sorry to admit.

This link has a little history of Club Alumimum. It explains that it is cast, not spun. So it is cast aluminum, kind of like cast iron.

Eventually, a report came out that aluminum is dangerous for cooking. If I remember correctly, it was supposed to cause some sort of brain trouble. I guess that has been mainly proven wrong at this point. But it was asserted so strongly that the gardener bought me a set of Calphalon pans. Gosh, I hate those things. Everything sticks to them. Grandma knew what was a good pot! I’ve since added some All-Clads to the mix, and those are ok. But nothing is as good as Club Aluminum.

Or a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan. Funny how much less expensive ($14.88 at Walmart) those are than all the fancy frying pan brands sold today!

By my current kitchen standards, Grandma’s kitchen was a little too small, with not enough counter space, a small persnickety stove/oven, and a ridiculously crammed smallish fridge. She didn’t have granite counters, hardwood cabinets, or stainless appliances. But to me it was a wonderland of magic commanded by my gentle, smart, warm, and loving grandmother.

More about Grandma in “Grandma and the Purple People Eaters.”

 

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My Practical Father (Not Always) Repost for Memorial Day Memories

Since my father was a Korean War veteran, I thought I would repost an old blog post I wrote about him five years ago. When you get to the part about him being in the hospital, remember that this first went up in March 2013. He passed away in May 2015.

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My father was born in 1928, and the memory of the Depression is imprinted on his decision-making.

When he has a color choice, he goes with “brindle brown” because it’s practical and doesn’t call attention to itself.  Until I actually looked up this color, I thought it was a term unique to Dad.  And I figured it meant something like “shit brown.”  Now I see that it really means spotted or streaked like an animal’s coat or like the word piebald.  I suspect that my father’s meaning is closer to what I had originally thought, rather than a dog’s sleek brown fur.

I’ll go a step further and assume Dad probably picked up that term in the Army.  Since he was raised by a single mother, Dad’s true “finishing” came from his fellow soldiers in the Korean War.

Dad’s always hated the color black.  It’s impractical–shows dust and lint.  He doesn’t like lavender either.  His mother wore the widow’s weeds of black and lavender, so maybe there is an emotional terrain underneath the practicality.

When I was younger, men owned small leather grooming kits for travel.  They were sometimes called Dopp kits, although Dopp was a name like Kleenex, an actual brand name.  My father’s was brown, and if somebody gave him a black one as a gift, he wouldn’t use it.

His brief case was brown, not black.  So was his squeeze-type coin purse, back in the days when men carried those.

For the past thirty years he’s carried a brown leather magnetic money clip.

images (2)His belts are brown and not black.  And certainly not khaki canvas or burgundy leather and they don’t have a big turquoise-studded buckle.

My father looks practical and shops with a practicality born out of that Depression upbringing.

But don’t be fooled by how he looks.  When a friend or an acquaintance would show up with something to sell, Dad would buy it, no matter how impractical.  He bought things like:

  • An old non-working violin he was told was a Stradivarius (it was not)
  • A silk Oriental rug (beautiful, but impractical)
  • An old motorboat much too heavy for the motor that fit the boat (it never worked right, but I was still light enough that I could water-ski slowly off the back of the boat)
  • An abacus when I started 4th grade (so I could do division on it)

You get the idea.

Do any of your characters (or real life relatives) contain contradictions?

My dad is sick in the hospital right now, and the doctor isn’t quite sure what’s wrong.

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It’s been three years and 14 days now since my father died. I can hardly believe it. He’s buried at a veterans’ cemetery in Michigan, so I can’t be there today. But I’m still thinking about him.

 

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