This is a recording of my life, a list of my adventures. You need to know up front that I have rarely left my hometown area, but I still feel that I have traversed all the heights and depths of love and loss during my stay on earth. This life was worthwhile and full but it has gone so fast. Childhood and teen years and perhaps twenties seemed to pass slowly, with miles to go ahead of me. About the time I hit 35, then time seemed to speed up. I seem to be rushing toward the end of my life with great speed and no brakes—like a cliff edge that I know is there but I can’t quite see it yet. We all say that we should not get so caught up in this modern, fast-paced electronic world, but we all do it. By writing down my memories, I hope to record how I got here from where I began.
If you want the short version, I grew up on a farm, went to a country school, then to town school, graduated, worked in a bank in PR (CNB) for 20 years, during which time I was married for 14 years, built a house on part of the farm I grew up on, and had an affair for 6 years. Then I got a new boyfriend who lived with me for 13 years, during which time, I worked for a year at an accountant’s office and a few months at Social Services. Then I started working at the bank in Menahga (FNB)—I’ve been there for over 30 years (later the name was changed to Community First Bank), during which time Dad had a stroke and died after 5 years, I lost my boyfriend, lost Mother, I became involved with the local writers group and began editing the annual Talking Stick books and other books our group published. Somewhere in there, I also got into photography and sold large framed photographs and put out four books of my poetry. For further details, see below.
My earliest memories are of cats and their kittens, cows and their calves. I lived on a dairy farm with my parents, Arvid and Charlotte, and my younger sister Marilyn. We had lots of cows, mainly Jerseys. When I was very young, we also had pigs and I dimly remember them, quite cute when they are tiny. Otherwise, pigs are not my favorite animals, that is for sure. I remember a schoolbook that said that pigs were smarter than horses, dogs, or cats. I thought that was insulting to mankind’s favorite pets. I still question that. Is it smarter to just wallow in a cool, comfortable place and let someone bring you food and water? Wait a minute. Perhaps they do know something we don’t.
The kittens were wonderful and thus began my life-long love affair with cats, their pride, their haughtiness. Dogs are okay, and I have had some that I really loved, but I am one of those cat people. I too like to be dignified and above the baser parts of life. I admire their coolness, their dignity. Perhaps that is why I always strive to be dignified and in control. Of course, a cat can throw dignity to the winds and go galloping madly about the house as insanely as any dog, but that is the exception, not the rule. I guess that I too have thrown caution to the winds in my life and totally forgotten my pride and dignity, my plans, my needs and set off momentarily on a path of destruction. I guess I can recall that I did that at least twice in major disruptive ways. That makes me laugh inside when people accuse me of being too reserved, too cautious, too conservative. If they only knew . . . . Still waters run deep—that was what Al Cheney from CNB said about me once or twice. I think that is true about me. I am a careful little Virgo. They are often described as so precise and responsible, always taking care of details, etc. They too, though, can cast everything aside and run off with an outlaw lover. Later in life, I cast my careful life to the winds and had a wild love affair. Al was a co-worker at my first job; he died in a car accident. There was a closed casket and I never felt like I got to say goodbye and I still feel like he is just temporarily gone on a trip or something.
The calves on the farm were precious. My sister and I named them all. We both wanted to have horses from our earliest memories and decided that calves were the next best things. My parents raised Jersey dairy cattle and milked them. This was a very demanding life; you absolutely had to be there twice a day to milk them. There was no such thing as a day off, let alone a vacation. My parents did not ever let us learn how to milk; they said we would not need to do it as adults—we would not be farmers. We certainly got to learn how to feed the cattle and our main job seemed to be cleaning the barn. We got very good at shoveling shit. Did my parents feel that this was something we would need to know as adults later on? Perhaps they were right, when I think of tedious co-workers that I have to supervise and manage and try to make them get along. There is definitely a similarity there when you think about it. Shoveling shit, indeed.
Since we did not have horses, we attempted to ride the bigger heifers. The only ones big and strong enough were the Jersey/Shorthorn cross heifers that we had one year. There were five of them, Lucky, Vicki, Princess, Becky, and Sugar. I can see all their faces as plain as day. I even remember some of their calves. Princess, for example, had Rebel Chief. Becky had Bingo. We got more adventurous with their names as we grew up. Poor Dad, he never did learn the difference between Gini, Jenny, and Jeanie. I am sure he just thought they all had the same name.
We had mainly full-blooded Jersey cattle, but we would breed some of them to Black Angus, Red Angus, or Hereford (White Face) and sell them or occasionally raise one to butcher. (That was tough for us kids to handle.) Some of the cows we had were part Brown Swiss (they were born silver-grey and turned black later—my favorites), part Guernsey (golden-red and white spotted), and later on we had a couple that were part Holstein, the bigger black and white spotted breed. Jersey cattle are quite small compared to some of the other breeds. Our barn had very small stalls, just fine for the Jerseys, but too small for the big breeds.
I think when I was really little, we had a Jersey bull on the farm, but my Dad got rid of him later on. Jersey bulls can be quite mean and someone can easily get hurt around them. Then, when the cows came in heat, we had to have the artificial inseminator come out to do the breeding. My sister and I were so fascinated by this and always had to watch the whole process. Bob Pritchard is the main fellow that I remember. Years later, he was the sheriff or deputy in Park Rapids. He died quite young of a heart attack. His daughter later worked with my first husband at the dime store in Park Rapids. She had a fascinating out-of-body experience that she told me about that involved her father. She said she was in a bad car accident and thrown from the car. When her eyes were open, she saw the ambulance and the paramedics rushing about and working on her. When her eyes were closed, she was “up” and with her Dad, talking to him.
I remember a strange instance about one cow named Sandy that must have gotten her hormones mixed up. She really seemed to think that she was a bull. She would stand out in the cow pen, pawing occasionally with a front hoof. She would let out angry low bellows when anyone ventured near and she really bossed and herded the other cows around as if they were her harem. I think she even got so she would charge a person who went into the cow pen. She got shipped quite soon after that. (I seem to recall that we even had a hen that thought she was a rooster too. Amazing, the quirks of nature.)
Over the years, hundreds of calves were born on the farm. Most were normal births and normal calves. We had at least three sets of twins during those years. We had one calf that was born with a very short tail. It was only about a foot long and actually appeared to be bent and folded together instead of long and straight like it should have been. That was Chrysi. I remember a fair number of calves born dead and I remember one that seemed like it had no spine, but a long cord coming out of its forehead like its spinal cord had not formed in the right place.
I remember the old barn so fondly. It was huge, towering above me against the stars. It inspired several poems and at least one creative nonfiction piece. 1927 is etched in the stucco siding by the front door. The barn was built before that. The main floor of the barn is cement with many stanchions for the cows on each side. There was a milk room near the front door to the left and there was a silo and silage room on the other side, extending out from the barn to the east. In the back were two pens where cows had their calves and where we tied the calves later. There were also 5 small stalls for calves in the middle of the back area. I remember hours spent cleaning out the pens, hours spent feeding the calves. They were such demanding little rascals, bellowing and bunting at the pails of milk replacer. If they got hold of your hand, they would nearly suck it down their throat. I can’t imagine how painful that could be to a cow. The calves were taken away from their mothers when only a few hours old. My parents milked the cows twice a day, saved some of it for our use in the house, and sold the rest. The calves were fed with a powdered mixture of milk replacer mixed with water. They also were fed pellets and, later on, they graduated to hay.
Female Jersey calves were kept to be raised for future milking. Males were sold at the sales barn in Park Rapids. The Hereford and Angus crosses were sold at the sales barn or else kept for beef.
The older cows ate grain and silage and hay. I remember the big silage wagon that Dad filled at the silo and then pushed it all the way around inside the barn to the middle where he would use a huge fork to put it into the mangers.
The haymow of the barn was amazing. How anyone could ever build anything like that was beyond me. It was comparable to the building of the pyramids in my young mind. When it was empty of hay, you could stand in the center of it and look up at that impossibly high peak and down each side at the curved rafters and wonder how it was all put together. Along the very peak of the haymow ran a metal track.
In the old days, before we started baling hay, my Dad and my grandfather (Mother’s dad Rollin) would stack loose hay in a wagon out in the field. They had to lay rope slings under the hay. Using the tractor and the track and pulley system at the very top of the barn, they would lift the hay and it would be carried to the back of the barn on the track and dropped. Later on, the hay bales were much easier to handle and we used an elevator to move them from the wagon to the haymow.
The haymow would be sweltering with heat and dust when we would stack the hay bales as they came up the elevator. The heat was unbearable. The hay bales, if they were wet, would build up such a heat inside them that they could start a fire in the haymow.
I remember once, years ago, when the haymow was nearly empty, I stood in the center of it and looked up to the south end of the building. The sun was out and the sunbeams shone through every crack and crevice and tiny opening in the big door and the walls. Each sunbeam literally danced with dust motes, stretching from the high door and wall clear down to the floor of the haymow. It was fabulous. I can still picture it. I wish I had my good camera in those days; it would have been an excellent photograph.
When the haymow was filled with hay bales, they reached high up into the building. It was a fabulous place for cats and kittens to hide. I remember finding many batches of kittens up there, betrayed by their meows. Some of them we never tamed, but most were given names and carried around and loved by my sister and me.
I recall at least one summer where it was so terribly dry that the alfalfa did not grow and we had no hay. We went down by Hinds Lake out on the bog and cut and hauled home some of the wild hay that grew there. It was not great, but it helped to feed the cattle that winter. For many years, part of that wild hay remained on the haymow floor.
I remember watching Dad and my Mother’s Dad and some neighbors making silage. That was such a horrendously dangerous job. The corn was pulled down out of the back of a wagon into a chopper. The men leaned over this dangerous, loud, scary piece of machinery as they pulled the corn down into it. Many a farmer lost his life in one of these things. I was so glad when Dad quit farming and was far away from some of those awful pieces of machinery. Later on, I found out that he still went and helped the neighbors with this sometimes. Yikes.
One time, when the silo was full of silage, Dad let us climb up the scary steps inside the metal tube that went from the silage room clear up all the way up the side of the silo to the peak. We were able to look out the opening near the top. How amazing to see how the house looked from that height and the yard and the road. Dad said that years ago, before all the trees got so tall, we could even see Bass Lake or Hinds Lake from up there. I was never a fan of heights, so we didn’t stay up there long. I respected the danger of heights and was very careful.
The house we lived in was perhaps a normal farmhouse, beginning life as a small square building. Originally, it had a huge screened in porch around two sides of the square. Over the years, my parents remodeled it. Part of the porch was enclosed to make an entryway where the washer and dryer and wood box and spare refrigerator later sat. The new stairway to the basement was also built then. There was a bedroom that was remodeled to make a bathroom and to enlarge the kitchen. Later they enclosed more of the porch to make another bedroom. (Later still, Marilyn’s daughter Tarah completely remodeled the old house, doing most of the work herself, down to the plumbing and electrical. www.grandmashousediy.com)
In earlier years, my parents slept in one of the two upstairs bedrooms and my sister and I shared the other one. Later on, my parents moved down to the new one they built from part of the porch and my sister and I each had a room upstairs. In the winter, we slept upstairs, but the summers we spent sleeping out on the screened-in porch. It was heaven out there in the air. We slept out there as early in the spring as we could, covered with a heavy mountain of blankets, covering up all but our noses. Summer storms were awesome on the porch, with lightning and thunder flashing right beside us. Only when the wind and rain got really wild did we give up and go inside. Another thing that could drive us in was a bat. My sister and I would sometimes just hide under the covers while Mother went after the bat with a badminton racket or a broom. She usually got him, too. She would put the dead bat in the small wood stove in the kitchen. One time, it wasn’t dead. The next day she could hear him flying around in there. I think she started a fire and that took care of the bat.
At night on the porch, it was better than camping out. We heard all the crickets and the night sounds. I remember the eerie cry of a lynx nearly lifting me straight up out of bed. In the spring, I loved the sound of the chorus of frogs from the lake near us (Bass Lake) and also from any small pothole on our land. That sound always meant spring to me. Another awesome sound was the loon calls. That sound is something I will always love and it always catches my attention—I have to stop whatever I am doing and let the sound make my spine shiver. It is an incredible sound and there is nothing else like it.
Another thing about the porch—nearly every summer we had an invasion of flying ants. Those things were really creepy. They had a spot up near the ceiling on the wall of the house where they would all come out and drop down on us. I suppose they were termites of some kind and we never could get rid of them, no matter how much we sprayed them. Termites—that can’t be good.
The old basement was quite neat and I remember a lot of time spent down there in the wintertime before they put the huge furnace in. At first, they had an old coal stove down there that we burned wood in. (Later that old coal stove was moved to the basement of my house.) There was also a huge freezer in the cold room and we kept potatoes and onions in that room. There were also shelves of canned vegetables. My sister and I spent a lot of time down there in the winter with paper dolls, I remember. We each had a little table and chair of our own to work on.
The summers I remember so fondly. We worked hard on the farm. I remember getting up early with my sister and helping Dad get the cows home and into the barn for milking. I remember scary wet mornings where it had rained and stormed during the night. We still had to go get the cows if they weren’t home. We would get absolutely drenched walking through the woods; it was like walking through liquid. The leaves of the hazel brush were heavy with rain and were happy to wipe themselves on us. I don’t think we did much else in the mornings in the barn. We could go back to bed for a while if we wanted to. I remember reading constantly, nearly a book a day from the library in town. In the evenings, we would again help get the cows home from pasture and into the barn and that is when we would help feed the calves and clean the calf pens.
Sometimes after chores, on those long summer evenings, the four of us would go fishing. We would go to Bass Lake, the small lake to the south of us. I remember I always let my hook go down too deep and I would invariably catch a bullhead, which my Dad hated. I, of course, would not take it off the hook and he always had to help me.
We sometimes went fishing during the day too and I remember being so amazed by that little lake. The lake originally was dry land and you could look down into the water on a sunny day and see the hills and hollows and the old fence that used to keep in the pigs that someone used to keep there. There was a place on the little lake where there was a sunken fish house, and another place there was an old fallen-down dock. Both of these were good fishing spots. There was a big beaver house on the west side of the lake, but the beavers appeared to be long gone. At the south end of the lake, there seemed to be a small inlet and we understood that at some time in the past, a lot of water from Hinds Lake flowed into this area and created this lake. Bass lake was always special to me. It was great to be able to look down at your hook and see all the fish examining your bait. I remember seeing a great big snapping turtle heading straight for my hook once.
I remember that a gigantic snapping turtle walked all the way to our farm from some wet spot. It was next to the barn in the cow pen on the west side. I remember that Marilyn and I gathered up all our cats and kittens, making sure they did not get near the turtle. We watched Dad shoot it with his .22 and then he tossed it in the manure pile on the east side of the barn.
Hinds Lake was much larger and many people lived around it. Some of them lived there year around, but many of them only came for the summer. These people sometimes bought vegetables or eggs from my parents. In later years, after my parents sold the cows and went into woodworking, these people stopped and bought some of the Carlson Creations. I remember in particular the Porters. This was a wealthy family that we grew very fond of. Neal and Margaret were the parents with their three children, Marnella, Marneal, and Margo. The girls gave us some of their clothes; this was always a great treat. Margo graduated in 1964 and the other two were older. For many years, Marnie (Marneal) still stopped to visit Mother sometimes in the summer when they come up to the lake. She loved his hugs.
One of the best experiences of my life was going to country school. The old Potter School house still stands at the corner of County Highway 111 and Highway 87. It was named that because it was built on the corner of Frank Potter’s land. Now it has been remodeled into a home with a garage built next to it.
I have such fond memories of that school. First of all, you got so much individual attention from the teacher because there were only 8 grades in the school and there were only 8 or 10 students in the whole school. I was the only one in my grade and they let me go at my own pace. I did the first and second grade in one year. I started when I was 5, so I eventually graduated from high school when I was only 16. I remember so many things from Potter School. We had to bring in pails for water from the pump out front. We had two outhouses behind the school. I remember playing softball in the summer and many other games such as hide and seek. I was so little that I could hide behind this tiny lilac bush by the fence quite near to the person who was “it” counting to 100, and when they ran behind the building to look for people, I was able to easily get home. “Pom pom pull away” was another game, though I do not remember how that one was played.
I remember many favorite places in that schoolyard. In the NE corner, the trees and lilac bushes sheltered you in a cozy private nook. I remember a batch of wild irises, dark purple and velvety, growing up on both sides of the woven wire fence that surrounded the yard. The school and that big yard played a big part in my growing up years. Many years later, when I would read a book, I would picture the house in the book as the big schoolhouse. Particularly, the Lad A Dog books I always pictured as taking place there.
In the winter, when it was warm enough to play outside, we played fox and geese. Someone would tramp a huge circle in the snow and then make paths to the center so that we had many pie-shaped sections. You could only run on the paths and try to keep away from the person who was “it.” When it was too cold to go outside, we played in the basement and I remember many hours spent down there, some kids trying to get into the basement and some kids holding the door shut and keeping them out. There was a small room like a kitchenette and a large open area, a coal stove, several huge tables and two rooms at the far end. One of them was a coal room, the other probably storage. I think sometimes we had get-togethers down there with parents and neighbors.
Upstairs, there was a small library, just a room with shelves and a few school books in it. The main big room had all the desks with all the grades in one room. A large furnace sat off to one side. There were three small rooms on the north side. They consisted of two cloak rooms and a room where we had the water cooler. In the big main room, the teacher had a desk in the front and also a table where she sat with each student when they reviewed their school work. It seems like I remember Mother cleaning the school once in a while and I imagine the various mothers took turns doing that.
There were many good farm families that lived near us and their kids went to school at Potter School. There were the Hocketts and the Johnsons near us. To the north of the school, there was the Peet family and to the east the Shavers. There was a Mason family. Then there were others that we knew but that did not go to the school. There were the Boyers and the Paulsons and the Enneys. Mother and Dad went dancing with many of them later in life. Mrs. Ripley lived on the corner. Our Uncle Roger, Dad’s brother, eventually bought her place. It was strange how when they all got older, all the men died first and the women lived to be much older. I sometimes said the roads out there should be called Merry Widows’ Trail or something. Not funny.
I remember times in Potter School when we moved the desks aside and danced. I remember special occasions where we hung a blanket in front of one of the cloak rooms and “fished” for gifts. The older kids sat behind the blanket and would attach a small wrapped gift to our fishing pole. I also remember bobbing for apples and I remember some game where we shoved a balloon across the room with our nose.
The first teacher there was Mrs. Rugroden. She later became Mrs. Avenson. I remember that she sometimes brought her grandson Marty along with her. I adored Marty. I considered him my first boyfriend. If I knew he would be there, I would dress up. I never really knew what he thought of me. When Mrs. Rugroden/Avenson retired, we had Mrs. Grace Ottarson.
In particular, I remember the Christmas plays we would put on there. We would hang big sheets across the front of the room and pull the curtain as if we were in a real theater. Some of us would sing. Santa Claus always came to visit. Sometimes it was my Dad. I remember often Bill Scheerer (married to one of the Potter girls) would play Santa and he had a way of teasing me and embarrassing me terribly. Years later, in town school, where he taught, he would still tease me mercilessly whenever he saw me. In fact, years later when we had a Potter School reunion over in Hubbard, he played Santa and they called me up in front just so he could embarrass me again! I loved it, though.
Going to this school will always be some of my best memories. You got so much individual attention from the teacher that learning was so much easier. Later, in town school, lost in a crowd of 30+ noisy, rowdy kids, I had a really hard time adjusting. I learned to enjoy learning and thought of it as an adventure and a pleasure and a privilege, not a chore. I still feel that way today.
I went through fifth grade in that country school. It was one of the very last ones left in the area. When it was time to go into sixth grade, the school had closed. It only went through eighth grade, anyway, so sooner or later I would have had to move on to town school. That would have been even more difficult to adjust, probably. So, we started getting picked up by the bus and taken to Park Rapids to the town school. Marilyn was in third grade and I was in sixth grade, though only 1 ½ years separated us. She went to Frank White and I went to the other school in Park Rapids. Right then it was also the high school. In later years, there was another school added on to Frank White. That was the new high school that I never got to go to. Marilyn did get to go her senior year at that new school.
There were sixth grade classes in two rooms when I started in town school. I got Mrs. Crowell. I was terrified of her. Now the fact that I was one or two years younger than everyone else started to matter. I did okay in most classes, but I was to find out that I had to struggle in Phy Ed once I got to high school. I simply could not do the tumbling and other things that the kids slightly older could do easily. I got “Cs” in that class and I was horrified.
Those long bus rides—who on earth made up those schedules? They picked us up as one of the first ones and then we had to ride an hour or more to get to school. Now, if they had done the same thing on the way home, we would have been the first ones off. For some reason, they reversed the route then. So we were the last ones off. We lost two hours out of the day that way. Foolish.
I remember being teased mercilessly by Paul Hoefs. I used to carry a satchel or briefcase to hold my papers and books. I am sure that is part of what he teased me about. I think he got in fights too and eventually he was banned from the bus. We started out with Forrest Spindler as our driver. The kids were afraid of him and respected him. Later, there was another driver, Bob H. He had no control whatsoever over the kids. He used to carry a paint-stirring-stick and go hit them with it if they fought or caused trouble.
The good thing about riding the bus is that I got to meet Connie Weekley. She became my best friend all through high school. Marilyn already had a good friend in Marsha Hockett. The Hocketts lived quite close to us. I guess I didn’t have a close friend until Connie. We were kind of friends with Karen Johnson, also a neighbor beyond the Hocketts. Connie and I would occasionally stay overnight at each other’s homes. We became best friends. Later in high school, we were also friends with Suzanne Kruft and Carol Safratowich. Connie liked horses and had some Shetland ponies. Marilyn and I would often go ride with her. They were such little brats and loved to dump us off. We rode bareback. They were Star and Flicka, both mares, and Lucky, a stallion.
Marilyn and I always wanted horses. I don’t know if this came from Mother’s Dad who was probably always talking about horses or if it was something just deeply ingrained in us that would have always come out sometime. (Mother’s dad Rollin lived in a little house east of our house. That house had been originally built for our Dad’s father to live in.) I believe that my love of horses mostly came from my past life memories. In my adult years, I would have dreams of that life. I smoked cigarettes in that life (never touched the horrid things in this life). I figured I probably herded cattle, but I really felt that I broke horses. I didn’t just ride them till they quit bucking, like most cowpokes did. I gentled them. In this life, no one had to tell me how to act around a horse, that they were silly and spooky creatures. I knew that already, I knew how to talk to them and teach them things, train them by doing things gradually till they adjusted to them. In that life, I feel like I either accidentally killed someone or caused them to be killed and got blamed for it. I believe I was in jail and could see them building a gallows for me, a tall wooden structure. I managed to escape, but they shot and wounded my horse. As he reared, I fell from the saddle and caught my foot in the stirrup and was dragged to death. It took me many years of dreams and remembering, but I believe this explains lots of things in this life. My love of horses, my later fear of falling and being dragged, my careful and precise life, my absolute abhorrence of ever getting into trouble, of ever doing anything against the law. Once I got to 30 or 35, I was done riding horses. I still loved them, but because of my bad knees and my memories of being dragged, I decided I did not need to ride horses any longer. Perhaps that was the age that I died in that life.
When we were still in school, Mother and Dad bought us a horse at the sales barn in Park Rapids. This was a Welsh pony who turned out to really not be broken to ride at all. I think we named him Sparky or something like that. He didn’t mind if you sat on this back, but someone needed to lead him around. He bucked off Johnny Hockett who tried to ride him for us with a saddle. We kept him exactly one year. We didn’t get horses again until I was 16 and graduated. Then we bought horses that were sisters, Peppi and Annette, from Ericksons. They were mostly quarter horses. We had them later bred by an Arabian stallion at Isaacsons. They each had a filly. Annette had Shiloh and Peppi had Holly. We did break these two ourselves, but we never had a decent corral to work them in. We both had bad experiences with hackamores with them running away from us. Shiloh was terrified of highways. She could see the cars moving far away on the highway and the sounds they made. She would prance and snort and go crazy. One time she got away from me and it was a mile or more before I was able to slow her down. Scary. Right near our yard one time, Holly got away from Marilyn and took her through trees as she took a fast shortcut to the stable. We loved them all and rode them for miles on various dirt roads or on the farm land. We also rode around Hinds Lake. In those days, hardly anyone lived around the lake and it was the best place to ride. We explored many paths and logging trails. No matter how far we were from home, the horses always knew which direction home was and they always seemed to lean that way or would turn that way if we let them.
Connie was a good friend and she still is. We hardly ever see each other or talk, but when we do, we just start up again like we had been together yesterday. In school, we competed for grades. I don’t think I did very well in sixth grade; it was very hard to adjust from the country school with the individual attention. But once Connie and I became friends, we really competed for grades. If we didn’t get an A, we were failing. I did do poorly in Phy Ed, because I was one or two years younger than everyone. But I did great in all other classes. I did not like regular math too much but I loved algebra and geometry and others like that. I wanted to be a secretary, so I took typing and later shorthand and business classes. I loved accounting but did not take business law, though Connie did. Later on, we were both inducted into the National Honor Society at school. A lot of kids got in because they were involved in band or choir or speech or something. We, being country kids, were not able to partake in those things but we eventually got in just because of good grades. Connie finished 4th in our class and I finished 5th. Pretty good for a country school kid who was one or two years younger.
Connie dabbled in writing some poetry or short stories in school, so of course, I did too. Carlton Anderson, the English teacher, encouraged me. I had to read my poems one evening at some event—don’t recall the name of it now—I think the NSAL. That was scary, but I could only see the huge spotlight. I could not see the people in the audience at all. I remember that at first, I tried to make my poems rhyme, but I always had to change the meaning in order to make it rhyme. Not a good thing to do. I recall that I had a break-through once. I was sitting up in my room at home, with loud rock music playing on the record player or the radio and the window open. It was dark. I started writing about riding a horse down a deserted road at night and riding right up into the sky with the stars, entering an enchanted world. That was my first free verse poem and it changed me forever. That is one of the ones I had to read at that event. I have not stopped writing since, though I have a hard time finding much time. Nowadays, I even dabble in a bit of creative nonfiction. I love to write now unfettered by rhymes. I usually also write unfettered by punctuation. In school, we read e. e. cummings’ poems in Carlton Anderson’s English class. That had a great influence on me.
I have put out four poetry books. Timeless Tracks in 1984, Life Savors in 2000, Unspoken in 2011, Twice Broken in 2019. I have been told that I should write for women. I have thought that I could do that and review my two terrible heartbreaks and how I survived them. I am amazed that I did. Throw in the loss of Dad and later Mother during that time, and I did have a lot to deal with.
In 11th grade, my junior year, I had Harold Collins for World History. I did not particularly like history and I was terrible at remembering dates. But one huge thing came from this. We were assigned to make a big poster about something, our choice. For some reason, I chose the world religions. I don’t know why. I think I was looking for ideas in the little old set of encyclopedias that we had at home and I must have found it there. As I made up the poster and filled things in and colored it and wrote descriptions, I made some important discoveries. I knew that I had always despised Sunday School or sitting in church, which Dad sometimes made us do. Mother never cared about church and never went—hooray for her. I tried so hard for that crap in Sunday School to make some sense to me, but it simply was not sensible or logical. I could not make it make sense. I hated having to sit in Sunday School. I recall once when it was held at someone’s house—Dad took me there and dropped me off. I screamed and cried till he came back. After that, he had to stay there during the whole class. I remember him falling asleep in a chair in the back of the room.
Now, as a junior, as I read about all the world’s religions, I felt a world opening up. The majority of the world did not believe what I was told to believe. Not at all. Now I could see that most religions had a son of god, just different names. I could see so many different versions of ideas and beliefs. And here was the best thing: I read about reincarnation for the first time, how a person lived a life and then, because of what happened in that life, certain things would then happen to them in their next life. There would be certain opportunities, certain lessons to learn, perhaps debts to be repaid. Wow. I was absolutely speechless. How much sense that made! Wouldn’t it be nice if that was true? Wait a minute. Who says it’s not true? Why can’t it be true? And then I realized that, of course, it could be true and it probably was. Wow again. I started reading everything I could find on the subject of reincarnation. I probably started with Edgar Cayce and books like Many Mansions. I just devoured books and really began to open my mind. How enlightening this was! How much sense this made!
I firmly believe that every young person should be assigned the task of reading about all the world religions. They should never just blindly and obediently follow like sheep whatever religion and beliefs their family or country happens to follow and believe. They need to make up their own minds and, more importantly, just see that there are so many different ideas out there. They need to see all the hypocrisy, all the similarities, all the differences. They need to open their eyes and their minds. This was a huge, freeing step in my life. I felt like the whole world had opened up. The only thing that matters is just to treat other people like you would like to be treated. To heck with all the religions and their silly beliefs and dogmas. None of that matters. They all are trying to explain something that is just so simple—treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Think for yourself!
From my earliest memories, I had this loud voice in my head: live right, love everyone, don’t lie or cheat or steal. Don’t do anything wrong, don’t get in trouble. This guided me from the beginning. It is not something Mother and Dad said—otherwise Marilyn would have had it too. But she did not. It was me and it fit right in with my little Virgo self. I liked everything to come out even, to balance, to make sense, to be logical. I also always felt that any little thing I did (or anyone else) that it was recorded somewhere. Like if a button dropped on the floor and rolled out of sight and you had no idea what happened to it, it was still recorded somewhere. Later, as I got older, I decided that was silly. Still later, I read about the Akashic records and realized I had been right all along. Once I discovered reincarnation and started to read, all things became logical and fell into place.
All of a sudden, so many things made sense. Why did some people have phobias and fears? Probably because they died or were badly hurt in a past life. Why do you sometimes feel like you have known a person forever? Probably because you knew them in a past life. How do you explain child prodigies? Because they are remembering things from a previous life. How come when you see a place, you feel like you have seen it before? You probably did, in a previous life. See how it all fits? These things that made no sense before, these things I always wondered about, they now make perfect sense! This explained my love of horses, my feeling that I knew how to talk to them and handle them from day one.
I graduated from high school when I was only 16, due to my going at my own speed in the country school. It was always kind of hard to fit in and I was very shy. I did not have a clue about what kids did after school or parties or anything. I was so unbelievably innocent. I was horrified if I ever had to give a speech. One class had impromptu speeches—I got subjects like what happened after homecoming or what happened at a kegger. I have no clue—I had no idea and just had to get an F on that. I went out on one blind date when I was 16. Ann Hensel was in the same grade as I was. She had an older brother Fred. He later on trimmed our horses’ hooves. For this date, Fred drove and picked me up. Ann and a boyfriend were kissing and snuggling in the back seat and I was so embarrassed. I think we went to a dance. I was just so horrified and appalled at the whole thing. This was painful for me, being so shy. I was just a little country girl and younger than all the rest. I had such a crush on Darrel L. and he, of course, did not know I was alive. He seemed to have such perfect skin. He was a little taller than I was with dark hair and dark eyes. I think at first, being cousin to the popular Nancy Broadbent, I was around some of the more popular kids for a while. But I just never fit in. Nancy was a cheerleader. She lived close to town and was able to be in band and choir, etc. I never was able to do that.
I got a job at age 16, January 1968, 5 months before I graduated. I am not sure how I got that job—possibly because of Charlie Lord, one of my teachers. He always loved to tease me too. He always singled me out and kind of flirted with me. He always gave me an A and Connie, who probably did slightly better than I did on tests and assignments, was pretty irritated. He taught shorthand and business law. Or possibly I got the job because Leon (the owner of the bank) knew Mother’s sister Mildred and her husband Jake.
I graduated in May of 1968 at age 16. We went to graduation and then went home. I remember feeling so odd and let down. I wished I had stayed around longer to talk to my classmates but, in truth, there were only a few of them that I talked to much anyway.
So, I started working at the bank, enjoying it but not having a clue. Lanita P. did most of my training. She made comments about other people not being very fast, so I made it a point to get very fast at what I was doing. I started out filing checks, later moved to second post and then first post and eventually to the proof machine. To post meant to use the big bookkeeping machine and subtract the checks and add the deposits to the sheet that was each customer’s checking account. When you ran the proof machine, you were making sure that the debits equaled the credits in each transaction from the tellers. I loved the posting and the proofing. Filing was tedious. In those days, most people used counter checks. And there were no account numbers in those days. You had to just know the handwriting. You got so you knew everyone’s middle name, which wife went with which husband, etc. And oh, those Smiths, Schmitts, Schmids, Schmidts, Schmitzes, etc. Wow.
I think they just really meant to hire me for the summer since I was scheduled to go to Wadena in the fall for secretarial classes. Later on, I just cancelled those classes because I felt like I was better off staying with the job. I don’t think they planned for that but they did keep me on.
Later on, I bought my first car. $2500. A Big Bad Blue Javelin. Connie also bought a Javelin—I think hers was bright green. I think I recall that hers was stolen from American Motors before she got it. I did like my bright blue car though it rusted out terribly each spring behind each wheel.
I did not go out on another date till I was 19. I said it was because I did not enjoy my first one, but truthfully, no one asked me. Marilyn was going out with Vernie B. I ended up going out with his friend, Mike C., who was in their class, though a year older. He was two years younger than I was. That is the only reason I got to go to prom was with him. I think we went his junior and senior years. That was a funny little relationship. I don’t recall much of it—just a lot of fumbling in darkened rooms or dark cars. The four of us went to movies, drove around a lot. I don’t think we drank—if we did, it wasn’t much. I remember Mike had a motorcycle. Foolishly, I rode behind him wearing shorts. He let me attempt to drive it—for some reason, he didn’t start me on a nice straightaway. He started me in the woods and I had to try to turn it around as I was starting out. Very foolish. I burned my leg very badly on the motorcycle and consequently hated them after that.
We went out for several years, I think. When I broke up with him, I somehow ran into Eddie D. He took me out drinking and I did get drunk for the first time. That was an experience. It was beer, which I don’t really like. I can’t quite remember the name of the person who was throwing the party we went to. I think they owned a resort with a small golf course. Something like Bradford.
I only went out with him for a little while before he moved off to Faribault. That had been planned for a while. Eddie worked as a sports reporter for the Park Rapids Enterprise. After he moved, I did drive down there once to visit him. I needed to see if I could fit in with his life down there. There was a horrible blizzard that I drove down in—I could hardly see a thing and I was terrified in my Javelin. I went clear around the Cities. It was nice to see Eddie, but I just did not feel comfortable there or like I belonged or anything. When I came home, Dad asked me if I was engaged. Eddie did come back once in a while, but I needed someone to be with all the time.
Somewhere during this time, I occasionally saw Matt H. Marilyn was now going out with Lee K. and Matt was his friend. Did I get all my boyfriends because they were friends of Marilyn’s current boyfriend? I guess not, but there did seem to be a trend there. Lee’s mother was often out and we spent lots of quite drunken evenings there. I seem to recall a broken bed, eating sardines, throwing each other into snowbanks in the yard, etc.
One time, I went on a date with Mike H. When he picked me up, a friend of his, Tony H., was in the back seat, just along for the ride. He had just gotten out of the Navy. He did not go on the date with us. But later, he did ask me out on a date, kind of through another friend of his Steve K. and my coworker, Joanne’s husband, Maurice. It ended up being New Year’s Eve, which is kind of an odd time for a first date. But, I ended up going out with him a lot. He was fun. I had to write Eddie and tell him goodbye. Tony played softball. We spent evenings with Steve and Mary, Joanne and Maurice, Tom and Marilyn. Lots of drinking in those early days.
Tony had been in the navy for 6 years, I believe. His folks lived in Ponsford and he had stayed there when he first got out of the service. I met his mom only once. She ended up committing suicide by hanging herself in their basement, not while Tony was home. That was a horrible thing. She had had problems and shock treatments and various things for years. They later found lots of suicide notes she had partially written.
At some point, Tony and his dad moved to PR on north Main Street to the second story of a large three story house. Also at some point, Marilyn and I moved to a trailer house north on 71 a few miles out of PR. It had gotten a little difficult with Mother and Dad and our boyfriends and staying out late. Well, we could have them over as much as we wanted to at the trailer house.
Tony took business courses in Bemidji. He stayed up there during the week for two years while I lived back home with Mother and Dad. Tony and I lived up above Ben Franklin after we got married. I knew I wanted to stay in PR and I knew that Tony would always let me have what I wanted. It was quite a large apartment, for only $100 a month, electric included. Quite amazing price. The wedding was fun to plan. Marilyn and Mother and I went to Shotwell’s in Fargo and found a dress for me. I think it cost around $60 and the whole wedding wasn’t even $1000. Now I watch programs on TV where the dress alone is $1000 to $20,000. Marilyn actually got married later that same year, in October. I planned my wedding with the help of a lady at Calvary Lutheran Church. She said I was so organized that she would have liked me to help her plan weddings. I probably would have enjoyed it, but it was another thing in life that I didn’t find the time for.
During that time, I had a bad car accident. I think it was in 1972. I was going to turn into the driveway where the trailer house was. I had three fractured toes on my left foot. Both my arms were banged up. My left one was at an angle across the steering wheel as I prepared to turn to the left. That arm cushioned some of the blow to my face as it bent over the steering wheel. It seems like the upper right jaw where my upper teeth are must have hit the steering wheel. I had facial pain ever after that, especially when trying to lie down on a chiropractor’s table. And later, I lost a tooth up there. It broke off and I tried two root canals, neither one of which worked. I had severe hammering pain from it both times and finally gave up and had it pulled. Another dentist told me later that I had exceptionally long roots. So, either the two dentists didn’t consider how long the roots were, or they never got all the infection out of there or all the root or whatever. Or perhaps when I had it pulled, that dentist didn’t get all the infection out. The tooth next to it (behind) gave me much grief in later years with aching and an infection. I refused to even discuss another root canal and I didn’t want to pull another tooth right next to the one I’d already lost. So I put up with it, sometimes fine, sometimes aching so I could not chew over there. Eventually, I had to have that tooth pulled also.
Also during the accident, my engagement ring went into my cheek at the jaw line on the right side of my face. I had a big hematoma there for days. My right arm hit the gear shit (on the floor) and bent it up out of place. To this day, both arms can be kind of weak and painful. Lifting a heavy basket of clothes can make them tend to lock up in the lower arms so I can’t bend them again to set it down.
Once we were both married, Mother and Dad started going out dancing. They just loved it and had a few very good years there. At some point, they sold the cows and started doing a lot of woodworking. They made furniture and sold it at craft shops or made things that the neighbors requested. Many things in their house are things that they made.
After we got married, Tony drove to Bemidji every day for two more years. He was taking business courses. After graduating from college, he started work at Ben Franklin. Later on, he also worked at Al’s Paint and Glass and a hardware store.
I don’t recall when we met Georgia and Vern, before or after Tony and I got married. Georgia started working at the bank in the loan department. Vern worked at Red Owl across the street from the bank. We spent so much time with Georgia and Vern. We went on bike rides together. We would drive to Bemidji or Fargo for breakfast together. We spent time at each other’s homes. Georgia and I both bought nice cameras and loved taking photos. I used to draw quite a bit or use chalk pastels. After I got the camera, I pretty much stopped drawing. You could take 20 or 30 photos in a snap—a much faster way of creating a piece of art.
Two years after the wedding, we built a house. I had loved looking at Home Design magazines for a long time. I knew what I wanted in each room, but I couldn’t find the exact house, so I drew my own. Darwin Shaver ended up being the contractor who built my house. He and his family used to live north of us on Highway 34 when he was a little shaver. We got a loan at Citizens. That was a rough summer. Marilyn and I belonged to Tall Pine Riders Saddle Club. We were very busy planning the horse show that year, I was building my house, and I was helping to plan my 10 year class reunion. It was way too busy. After that, I vowed to never have that many things do at one time again. I got out of the saddle club and vowed not to get involved again. For many years, I remembered that.
After we had the house for several years, we added a deck and a stable in the back. We had to do so much fencing, building a corral by the stable as well as wire fencing around part of the woods and part of the field in the back. We moved the 4 horses over from Mother and Dad’s farm. At some point, Marilyn sold Peppi and bought Babby.
So, I was married. I had my dream house. Things were pretty easy. Seven years passed. And what happened? I got bored. Is this all there is to life?
I was reading all these romance novels. I had never experienced love and passion and sex like they described in books. I wanted to feel it. I was ripe and ready for trouble. I had gained a little weight, not particularly happy with myself. So far, if anyone wanted to flirt with me, I would ignore them. I was determined to be the best little wife there ever was. But forever began to seem like a hell of a long time.
Then I actually opened my eyes. I actually looked and listened when someone flirted with me. I was so turned on, first time ever. How exciting it was thinking of this other man, P. I was really thrown for a loop. I wrote poem after poem, over 300 of them, trying to understand what was happening to me. They could be labeled Before, During, and After. Nothing happened for quite a while, at the beginning. His wife was away. We spoke occasionally on the phone. He came in the bank now and then. I am sure I would light up. I am sure people noticed. I was so upset. I did not know what was happening to my neat little life. I had things all planned out. This wasn’t in the script. I lost 10 or 15 pounds practically overnight. I bought dresses. I bought color-matched sexy underwear.
So I had the affair with him for six years. My life was constantly in turmoil. I was upset every day, not knowing how to fit this into my life. I finally decided that okay, maybe I could convince myself to just enjoy when I could see him and otherwise just be calm. I had my house, the marriage, my horses, my job I loved. And I had a special secret that made my heart beat faster and my eyes shine. During this time, I began to realize the heights and depths of what a person can be carrying around inside themselves—an unbelievable other life—while outwardly looking normal, working, eating, just leading a life.
We were so foolish and so daring, so desperate to see each other. There is no sex so good as when you are afraid of being caught at any moment. We met at his house and his place of business. We met at my house and in the woods near my house. I even invited along a girlfriend and we had a three-some a couple of different times. (K.B.) His wife even found out at one point and we still kept on seeing each other. It is unbelievable that she didn’t catch us. One time, I saw her drive by my house, though that was not a day we were seeing each other. Eventually, they divorced. Then the problems started. I was married, he wasn’t. He wanted to date. I wanted him to wait for me. I know he was terrified of jumping into something with me. So he dated; I was absolutely horrified and heartbroken. I asked Tony to leave, that I was not happy. I tried to make myself available. But it did no good. P. kept on dating, going through several relationships. He was afraid, I know it. Because I would have been right there, ready for a committed relationship with him.
So I had a horrible year on my own. I really drank a lot during this time. I was desperate to talk to P. now and then and he was kind enough to call and make it easier. I dated several different guys, drunken sex and black holes in my nights. Steve K. and Tom H.
LOVE OF MY LIFE
A large part of this journal of my life so far will be about Rick. He was the biggest best part of my entire life, the time when I grew and learned the most. And this was the first time I just gave of myself, completely to another person, putting his needs ahead of mine. He sincerely was the reason I existed, the reason I came into this life, the purpose for this life. Before he came along, I now know that I had led a very shallow existence.
Finally, I met Rick, my reason for being here. The day we actually first met was 02-07-87. He called and came out to see me with a bottle of peach schnapps on the 10th. I somehow resisted him that night. 02-12-87 was the date we first made love, after our second date. Those numbers 0212 are still parts of some of my computer passwords to this day.
It was fishing derby weekend when we first met and all kinds of men were in town. I remember seeing him at the bowling alley, with his big black coat with the red plaid inside the hood. (Later, I would sew a beautiful beaver hide over that red plaid. Sadly, it did get stolen from a house he lived in over by Hubbard much later.) After seeing him in the bowling alley, I later saw him at Chateau and we danced. He knew Talaine from the bank and she sent him to dance with me. Then he sent me flowers at the bank for Valentine’s Day. I was absolutely thrilled. He stole my heart right then and there.
I think it was in May of 1987 that I had my second car accident. I was still working at CNB at that time. I was driving to work, driving north past the Potato Plant. I recall seeing ahead of me that a car was facing south, sitting wheels cramped, ready to turn into the Potato Plant driveway, ready to go across my lane. The car ahead of me went past them. I recall seeing a pickup coming from the north behind that guy who was sitting still. It looked like there was smoke coming out from under their tires. They had slammed on the brakes but could not stop in time. I often think that if they had just swerved, they would have gone around the sitting vehicle and everything would have been okay.
I had nowhere to go. Nowadays, if I see anybody sitting at that turn or any place like it, I will slow down, pull over to the right lane and stop. But I really didn’t have time to do anything. I could see the pickup so close and it hit that sitting car. The car with its wheels cramped was pushed right into the side of me as I went by. I leaned way to the right in my car. I recall my arms flailing way over my head to the right. As that car hit me, I was spun around in a circle. Good heavy, low-weighted Toronado. I did not roll it. I kept spinning around in circles and ended up in the ditch on the north side of the driveway. I got out of the car and got my stuff out. I immediately felt pain in my neck. Damn it. Not what I needed.
Rick was the love of my life, totally. Rick actually gave meaning to my life. All my life before Rick, I would occasionally have silly little times (especially Sunday afternoons when I wasn’t busy enough) that I would wonder what in hell it was all for? Was this all there was to life? Why wasn’t there just nothing but black emptiness everywhere? After I met Rick, I never wondered that. Making his life better seemed to have become my goal. And I know that I did.
Rick had been so abused as a child. I had never known anyone who had gone through that. I had such a good childhood, with my parents always there to encourage and support me. I had to work hard, but that was good. I had a good solid foundation. It was quite an eye-opener to me to realize that not all kids had that. Things came easy to me; it was easy to succeed in school and at work because of this good foundation. Now I could see that it was really hard for people who started out with such a shaky childhood. They didn’t know how to stay in one place, one job, one relationship. They were sad and lonely and they drank. Then the drinking led to arguments with their significant other so they broke up. Then they were more sad and lonely and lost and broke. The cycle just goes on and on for so many people. I had always looked down on these sad people in bars and on assistance. Now at least I could comprehend why their lives were not so smooth and easy. I could see why they struggled with so many things. But I could also see that they needed to get a grip. Stop drinking and doing drugs. You will have so much more money then to get caught up on bills, make your lives better. And quit changing jobs. Stick with one and rise to the top. Stick with one person and not have to pay child support, etc.
So, Rick really opened my eyes. He was so good for me in that way. And from the very first, I wrote poetry about him and it was all about him leaving me! All of them. For thirteen years, we were together and I wrote poems about him leaving me. Because I wrote it, is that why it finally came true? I’m not sure, but when it happened, it nearly killed me. I was with him pretty much every single day for 13 years and when he left, I felt like a part of me had been cut out.
I cannot say enough good things about Rick. My fantasy always was a dark-haired, good-looking guy with a mustache. He had that and a trim beard too. Wow. And he was seven years younger. Nothing wrong with that. And actually, women usually live about seven years longer, so it is really the very best thing for a relationship, I think. My heart was so full for him. I felt so much for him. Anyone who could get through a bad childhood like that and still end up an honest hard-working person—he deserved a lot of credit for that. Many people either end up as child-abusers themselves or as criminals. He was a lost little soul and could not stay in one place. He left home in 10th grade and quit school, traveling all over, working all over. He could not stick with anything or anyone. I helped him to see that things could be different. He told me later that I had helped to make him a better person. I know that I gave him the first really strong solid love that he had ever had. I was probably as much his mother as I was his lover and friend. And since I never had kids, that was okay too. I felt and still feel an overpowering protective love for him. He had enough bad stuff happen to him—he didn’t need any more. I would absolutely never have cheated on him or left him. He had had enough bad stuff in his life. He was with me for 13 years, by far the longest he had ever lived in one place. He started working at the post office and worked there till he retired in 2018, by far the longest he had ever worked in one place. He now knows you can stay in one place and it is okay. You don’t need to always be running from something. You don’t need to be always looking for something.
If truth be told, he was kind of thoughtless to me in some ways. I know he really did care for me and I know he really did try. But he was so used to all his relatives with all the drinking and the running around and cheating and getting divorced. He talked against marriage all the time, though he later admitted that he certainly felt married to me. He was thoughtless in that he never gave me much money, even after the post office job. I bought everything—groceries, all household supplies. So what does he do? Buys a new pickup. There was always something he had to buy instead of helping me out. Soon I was financially destitute. He never even took the garbage out. He would mow part of the lawn, in spots here and there and leave the rest long. He had trouble finishing things. He was great with imagination and ideas, but not always there with the follow-through. And he had trouble focusing on things, like his college class homework. I worked right with him on all of them, devising ways that the bookkeeping or math courses would make sense to him. He got a lot better about concentrating on things as time went on. I knew that this difficulty came from that awful child abuse. He had to be able to send his mind away to survive that.
He was also bad about needing to always go out. He didn’t have a good childhood so he didn’t think of home as safe and good and the best place to be. He grew up always thinking he had to escape from home. Those years in the bars just killed us. I hated being around drunks and smokers. I hated the loss of the money, the pulltabs, the trips to the casinos. Well, yes, I liked casinos. I came by it naturally. Mother and Dad liked the lottery and the casinos too. But I learned later that I should only let myself go to a casino perhaps once a year. The constant going to bars was so awful. I just wanted to stay home and save money! Home was so precious and so important. I was thrilled when he would invite over a friend to play pool and we could stay home. Those were great evenings. He was so thoughtless and cruel about this. If he was totally done with bars and drinking and would share his money willingly, then he would be a great person to be with. He is generally very pleasant and kind to be with and I loved the years with him, even the hard work of the leeches—because we were together.
During my time with Rick, I did not drink for about 9 or 10 years. It was just easier to always be the designated driver and it saved money too. I drank water wherever we went. The worst thing about him was his drinking. He drank much, much less while he was with me. He drank a lot when we first met, mainly so he could forget the nasty images from his childhood. I know that chased him all his whole life before we met. And he told me later that it hardly bothered him at all anymore, after we had been together for a while. I know he still did have bad dreams about it and would snuggle up to me in the night when he woke up from one of those nightmares.
Another good thing about him was his pool playing. What a shame it had to be done in bars where there was always drinking and smoking. But he was fabulous. We went places where he took a few courses on pool playing, but mainly he was just good at it. I certainly loved to watch him play. I cannot bear to watch people just slamming the balls around. He knew how to make the cue ball and the object ball go wherever he wanted them to. The first thing to learn is to make the object ball go where you want it to go, into the pocket. The next thing is to learn to make that cueball either back up or roll to wherever you need it to be for the next shot. You have to plan way ahead. And the third thing is to know how to play a safe so that if you don’t make your shot, then your opponent has no shot because of where you placed the cueball. It was a fascinating game, really. Every single table is different, the way the balls end up laid out after the break. We went to big tournaments all over MN and into Wisconsin and North Dakota too. We even went down to Illinois once, I believe, and Iowa too. And almost every year we went to Las Vegas for a while there. Mostly those were for team tournaments. He generally played on a team in Bemidji. He played singles out there once in Las Vegas in the Nationals and got fourth place for around $1500. Fabulous playing. But oh, the expense of all those trips.
BLACK GOLD BAIT
After he had been with me for a year or so, he started trapping leeches. His cousin Tim had a bait business and he sold them to him. That helped a bit financially. Then he came up with the idea of his own bait business where we would ship the leeches to bait shops all over the state. We shipped to quite a few states, though we had to be careful. Leeches could live two days in an ice-filled cooler, but not much longer. That was a hard life. I helped in the evening or on weekends by going along to the ponds and paddling while Rick checked the traps. We drove all over creation, finding ponds way back on untraveled trails. Often, Rick had to cut his own trails. We had DNR maps that we pored over, seeking new ponds. Strangely, there was a string of good ones right near us, stretching from Lorelei’s pond west of us to over past Hubbard in the other direction. I wrote up the orders and I spent many times sorting leeches till 11 PM at night, trying to be ready for the orders the next day. We only shipped on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Rick would package the leeches and pack them in the coolers with ice. UPS came to our house every day, returning coolers that we put call tags on. Rick was very proud of himself that he was able to make cold calls and find customers. We went to the library in Bemidji and took copies of pages from phone books from many states. We had many, many customers by the time we quit in 2000 or so. I still feel bad that I never let the customers know except by leaving a message on our answering machine that said that we were out of business. It was a horrid time, after Dad had his stroke in February of 1999. We may have limped through the 1999 leeching season, but then quit in 2000. I had to help Mother and Dad so much, every day with supper, etc. I was just not able to help enough with the leeches.
That was another of the cases where Rick was less than nice to me. I still cannot believe that he was not more understanding about my dad and my need to help my folks. He was really quite awful about it. I know that if his mom had been sick, I would have been helping him every spare minute that I had, helping her and helping him to help her. I think that he was so used to being the center of my world, that he simply could not handle it when I had to put my time and attention elsewhere. He never would have realized that, but I sincerely believe it. And it is strange too, because he would have been the first to say that he didn’t like my constant attention and constantly being with him. But he really did need it and he couldn’t handle being without it.
How odd that I lost him because I wasn’t there enough. I always figured I would lose him because I was too present in his life, too much of a pest, too insistent on being right next to him.
In 2000, I had to suggest that we quit the leeches. It had been very difficult since Rick started at the post office anyway, and we had to cut way back. Now, with me needing to help Mother and Dad every day, it seemed impossible to keep on trapping, sorting, shipping. I realize now that if I hadn’t done that, things might not have ended when they did. Now with no leech trapping, he just had too much spare time on his hands. Way too much.
During all this, I ended up leaving CNB in December of 1987. I was there one month short of 20 years. There was one guy there who was so insanely mean to everyone. He was, unfortunately, related to Tony. When I got divorced (and he probably heard rumors of my affair), he just got unbearable. I finally left. But I did not have a job. So, we really had financial difficulties. I did not work for 3 months. Then I worked for one year at Pederson’s, approximately March of 1988 to March of 1989. I really enjoyed the work—taking care of sales tax and payroll tax and the checkbook registers for many local businesses. It was great. But, during tax season from Jan 1 through Apr 15, they just absolutely killed you with work. They expected you to work 7 days a week and very long days. It was just too hard. I left there to work at Social Services for a few months till I got the job at FNB Menahga on October 31, 1989. It is amazing how things work out. There were so many, many things that I learned at Pederson’s and at Social Services that I later needed for the job at FNB. These were things like payroll taxes and sales tax and much more on general ledger and also word processing than I had ever had before. These all helped me so much later on. Things always happen the way they are meant to. (Later, FNB changed its name to Community First Bank.)
Those were hard years. We had absolutely no money. My stomach hurt all the time, just the stress and fretting over money. The only thing that helped at all was to eat. So of course, I gained weight and started looking just awful. What a shame that was. I was with this beautiful young man and I was looking worse and worse and gaining weight. Finally, when Rick got the job at the post office and things were at least possible to manage, then my stomach quit hurting. I lost a lot of weight and looked good for a while. But, after getting that huge stomach, I never did look really good again. That really changed my body. I lost weight in places I didn’t need to lose and kept the big stomach and big legs, just lost pounds on top.
Now, in 2012, looking back, it has been 12 years since Rick moved out. I cannot believe it. Sure, I have dated here and there, but nothing stuck. No one could touch my heart like Rick did. P. still calls now and then to chat and flirt for a while. That is always fun.
Somehow, Rick and I have always kept in touch. He has gone through one relationship after another and moved around quite a bit. For a while, he lived in a huge house in Hubbard. I thought it was quite amusing that when he was with his thirty-year-olds, he would still come and see me at age fifty. He had trouble making the huge house payment and did not get any help from that current live-in girlfriend. That was actually instant karma since he never had helped me enough financially and I struggled so. I was almost starting to think life was okay again as long as I could see him once in a while. Later, he finally managed to sell that house and I helped him clean the house and get moved to a small apartment in PR.
For years, my life was Mother and two jobs (besides working at the bank in Menahga, I also work for my sister Marilyn at HCAC and do her payroll and pay her expenses) and my writing group. I still live alone in the same house. I owe more on the house now than we had it built back in 1974.
Right now, I have two cats and one dog. I have buried many pets in the woods near my house in my little pet cemetery. Rick got Gypsy, a black lab, while he was here. We raised a litter of pups from her, selling all but one. We kept a yellow lab, Missy. Later on, Gypsy had trouble with one eye and had to have it removed. Later, she had a brain tumor which may have been her problem all along. It was a sad, long, lingering death and we finally had her put to sleep. Then we got a black lab puppy, Mandy, from over in Moorhead. That helped our grieving. Rick wanted to take her when he left here, but he had no spot for her at that time and I really did not want to be without a watch dog. Much later, as Mandy grew old, I got a miniature Australian Shepherd, Shelby. Mandy had to be put to sleep in 2010 or so. She just could not get up and down any longer. I hate this! Pets just do not live long enough. Pets are better than most people and just always love you—even if you are in a bad mood and you yelled at them yesterday. I lost a lot of pets to tumors so I quit letting them drink water at the house—I had not wanted to drink the water either. I always brought home bottled spring water for myself and later I brought it for all the pets too. Since then, I have not lost any pets to tumors. However, it is no fun watching them die of old age either.
For many years after leaving the farm, I did not want pets at all. I had lost so many favorite kittens and had to bury them. It was so hard for a little kid as well as a teenager. I tried to resist getting pets again. I remember in particular Boots and Bootblack. Boots was a howling, starving little kitten that we rescued. That began my love of Tuxedo cats, the ones that are coal black with white on their feet and chests and chins. Beautiful. The dogs we had on the farm were Border Collies or Miniature Collies—Dixie and Kelly. Before that, we had Red, a Chow mix.
Finally, once we got the house, I did give in and got some pets. Actually, P. ended up finding my first three cats for me, one at a time. I got a beautiful plush gray cat that we called Gray or Grape. His real name was Dickens. Then there was a white cat named Jasper but he was just called Whitey. He was deaf and had ice-blue eyes. Then my buddy Scamper came along. A tuxedo cat—surely Boots from a previous life. He was a sweetie. It was so hard eventually losing them. Later on, they were replaced by Ladybug, Snickers, and Monte. Rick got me all of these, one at a time.
Ladybug was a female cat, the only female that I had. All of the dogs were female, but the cats were all male except for this one. Rick brought her home for me—I had been so sad from losing Scamper. I only had her for a little while and she died mysteriously. I came home and found her dead on the living room floor one day. I had just been having a good time with Rick at his house in Hubbard and I called him, crying. He came to help me with her and later buried her for me.
Dickens had gotten a nasty tumor in his lower jaw. It got all bloody and nasty. I knew I was going to lose him and just kept him as long as I could, often holding him on my lap. He was a cat who had funny habits of trying to hide in the bedroom at night so we wouldn’t see him and shut him out of that room. He had all kinds of funny hidey-holes in the house. He would often jump from the floor up into my arms. When I got Ladybug, she had all of these habits and the same little hidey-holes! She was the same little cat soul coming back to me! And here is the most amazing thing. After I had had her for a few weeks, she developed an odd little sore on her lower jaw, all bloody. It was in the exact same spot as Dickens’ tumor. It was only there a week or so and then completely disappeared. It was like she was saying, In case you didn’t get it, I am Dickens. Her death was very sad. I know that I had been cleaning the bathtub that morning with those awful fumes from the cleanser filling the bathroom. She was sitting in there like a little statue and I think those fumes killed her. The vet said her lungs had filled up with fluid.
Later on, Rick found Snickers for me, a mostly white cat. He is so afraid of loud noises and often runs and hides. He is especially terrified of loud noises like aluminum foil or garbage bags crinkling. Very strange. I often wondered if he was the deaf cat, now returning to life as this hearing cat—and very afraid of noises. I was never close to the other white cat or this one. They both had the most annoying meows you could imagine. The deaf cat never made any noise until Tony worked with him and sat with their faces together and kept saying Meow, Meow until the cat finally did start meowing. Not that we liked it. When Tony left, he took Jasper with him.
And then, my Monte. Rick found a house where they had a litter of black and white kittens, some of them
Tuxedo cats like I wanted. I picked out my Monte. He had white feet but a couple of the toes are black so they look like little checkerboards. Adorable. And with the same habits as my Scamper. Scamper had died a sad death. He was hardly able to poop at all. We were never sure if he had a tumor or what. I did realize later that I had left a styrofoam carton in the sink. It had had some bloody meat on it and I found that one of the cats had eaten big pieces out of the soft wet styrofoam. I think now that he ate some of that and it later killed him, completely clogging up his insides. I will never forgive myself for that. He ended up looking like a basketball with legs. It was hard losing him but so good that he came back to me in Monte. My Monte has the same annoying but adorable habit of sitting next to a lamp and looking at me. If I am not paying him enough attention, he will reach off to the side with one paw and pat the shade. I tell him to stop it. He looks at me innocently as he keeps doing it. What? Quit doing what?
Writing this in 2012, I am 60 years old. I am at the age now when I really wonder what is left for me. I feel like I am running out of time. I have made a bucket list that I will keep adding to. Here is what I have so far:
1. travel somewhere by train or at least a dinner train
2. go to Madeline Island again by ferry
3. go to Lake Tahoe again
4. go to Las Vegas again, this time with sister Marilyn and niece Tarah, visit restaurant next to Riviera
5. go to Elephant Walk in Stillwater, a bed and breakfast
6. visit Sedona, AZ
7. take a Mississippi River Cruise
8. write for women, about how to get through losses
9. finish My Life So Far for the website
10. another poetry book or creative nonfiction book, this time with my photographs in it
11. have my funeral plans all written up along with song choices
By the looks of that list, I guess I’d better get busy. I’m also fascinated by Venice, Italy as well as the Camino Trail in Spain. I’ll never get there, though, and that’s fine. I have too many aches and pains to do a lot of these things.
I want to work as long as I can. I would like less stress. I have always had the idea that I would only live till 82 or 83 years of age. That is really not much time. But lingering till 95 or 100 isn’t a cup of tea.
It was hard losing Dad. I survived it (and the loss of Rick) by journaling. I did that for quite a while, going over and over things, talking to myself until finally some of the pain eased. Rick and Dad had the same birthday and were alike in many ways. They got along very well together. They both loved bars and pull-tabs. They both could be the life of the party.
I did quit journaling after a few months. I know that I would do it again when I lose Mother. It will have to save me again. It helps to talk with people or to write things down, get them out into the air. Get them out of your heart and mind so you can move on to other things eventually.
Losing Dad was so hard. He lived five years after his stroke. My life changed so much. He had the stroke in February, on Tarah’s birthday. I helped them with supper every night. I arranged for night nurses to be with him and help him get up to the commode over and over again. Sometimes it was every 15 minutes. It was awful. And he would not try to use that left hand and arm, though we knew that he could have. Ernest would work on it and get it so flexible and nice but he would just get mad if we tried to get him to use it. He really liked to have people take care of him. He went to Adult Day Care five days a week and that gave Mother a break. Her vision just got worse and worse. He had a lot of therapy in Fargo after his stroke and got so he could walk and get in and out of a car. And he was able to eat again, though we had to be careful of his choking. That first summer in 1999, I walked with him every day. We would go up and down the dirt road from their place over toward Marilyn’s house. He got so he could walk without the cane, even swinging his arms a little. Then he seemed to have a fall that October and was never as good again. He had a good time at their 50th anniversary party in 2001. We invited all the neighbors and relatives and had cake. He had his 88th birthday on July 26, 2004, and died one month after that on August 26, 2008. He seemed to be getting pneumonia and was having an exceptionally bad night. We finally took him to the emergency room and he stayed in the hospital in PR for a couple of days. We got that nasty call early one morning and we all rushed to town. He never regained consciousness. He had had some kind of a bad spell—we don’t know if it was a heart attack or a really bad stroke. We hate the PR hospital and figured it was all their fault. We insisted he be taken to Fargo. Then we had the nastiest week of our lives. Marilyn and I drove back and forth to Fargo, one of us trying to be with Mother and take care of work while the other was with Dad. It was awful. He never woke up and eventually, when I was over there staying overnight, he breathed his last.
The funeral was so hard, seeing his still form, knowing things would never be the same without Dad. Then came the horrors of planning the funeral, choosing the burial plot, choosing his suit to be buried in, choosing songs for the funeral, the flowers, etc. We put together a collage of photos of their married life and took all their photo albums to the wake the night before. I had always thought that a funeral and wake were so awful and stupid, but now I could see that there was a measure of comfort there. Most of Dad’s relatives came from Duluth and so many of the old neighbors. Tony came to give me a hug. Rick came to give me a hug. It was just grand to see him. He had thought so much of Dad.
And then life began without Dad. That house seemed so empty without his broad smile. Even after his stroke, he rarely lost that big smile and cheerful attitude. For weeks, one of us stayed overnight with Mother. None of us wanted to be alone. At first, Mother slept in the reclining chair and I slept on her bed. Later on, we switched. We eventually got her a single adjustable bed. She was having some troubles with her esophagus and needed to keep her head raised. She hated it, but it helped to have more room in the bedroom.
These years since Dad left us have seemed long in some ways but they passed quickly. I feel like we are just in a holding pattern. Marilyn goes to Mother’s every morning to do her eyedrops. I spend every evening with her from 6:30 to 8 PM. I do her eyedrops and have supper with her. We still try to play a game of Upwords. She is so smart with words, with spelling and meanings. It is getting harder and harder for her. She is 95 now. Her memory is now the worst thing, though she would say it is her eyes. She also has such bad knees and has a hard time getting around. She uses her walker all the time. If we go out into the yard, she uses her cane. Having macular degeneration would be bad enough, but she also has cataracts. They have made everything seem so dark to her. We have taken her to Fargo and to Bemidji at various times. They could not recommend laser surgery for the cataracts because of her age and heart. I know that it probably would have helped, though. And she has the drops for the pressure in her eyes so she doesn’t get that other bad eye disease, glaucoma. Why does one poor little woman have to have three things wrong with her eyes? Isn’t one enough? And she is so bitter about it all. I wish she would attempt to be a little bit more cheerful and try to be thankful for what she still has. At least she has two daughters that live practically next door and we are with her every day. We also try to have someone with her every afternoon for some more company. We have one lady from Senior Companions and one from Living at Home and one lady who is a friend. They come and read to her or read clues for crossword puzzles. One of them sweeps and vacuums for her and does her hair.
Mother’s sister is 98 and now in Diamond Willow. She lived home alone till just recently. Mother cannot see in that place—the lighting is very poor and the walls are dark. The Memory Care unit has much better lighting and light walls and Mother could actually see in there. We are talking about it. We think we will need to move her in somewhere by winter.
Mother had been having these awful spells. We think they are little TIAs or whatever they call those little strokes. She does not believe us when we tell her that she has these. Marilyn says she just goes away for a while, for a minute or two and then she is extremely confused after that for a long time. She usually has them in the earlier part of the day. She is better in the evening when I am there. She has forgotten her whole married life, most of the neighbors, etc. She forgets things that happened a few weeks or months ago.
She bruises so easily, probably because of the medication for her heart and also the aspirin we give her at night. She has had some really odd bruises on her shoulder or arm. I really believe that she is having these odd spells and falling down or against something. Of course, she insists she has never fallen. It is just getting very scary to have her alone as much as she is, though we are doing our darndest to have people there as much as possible.
With Dad, I never felt like I did enough. And now I feel the same with Mother. No matter how much I am there, I do not feel like I do enough. And I know I get impatient. I cannot seem to accept the fact that she is not the person she used to be. I am so used to her being so quick and so smart. I simply can’t seem to get my head around it that she is so different now. I keep thinking I can teach her something, keep reminding her of things and she will actually “get it” after a few repetitions. Nothing doing. I must be more patient. I must be more accepting and more understanding.
I have had several marvelous dreams about Dad after he died. I sincerely do believe that they can communicate with us through dreams. The first dream I had about him after he died: I was standing in my folks’ yard between the house and the barn but much closer to the house. I was facing south so the house was to my left and the garage to my right. Around the corner of the garage came a bunch of old men, walking. They were in short sleeve shirts, mostly hatless, their sparse hair blowing in the wind. They were smiling and talking and laughing, swinging their arms as they walked. They were very clearly busy and happy and doing something. They did not see me or speak to me. Dad and another guy (Herb Hoefs) were walking together in the front of the group. Lovely dream, seeing him like that.
Another dream I had about Dad was: We were at my house. This was after his stroke—evidently the whole family was at my house and Dad was resting. He was laying on top of the covers on my bed. He was smiling at me and happy, all covered up and warm and content. That told me that I had done okay taking care of him after his stroke. I felt like it was a thank you and a confirmation that I had taken good care of him.
I think there have been others, but I do not recall them clearly.
I had a dream several years ago about Mother. This was after Dad had died. I had a dream where we were in the airport with Mother. She was determined that she was going to get on a plane and go on a journey. I was horrified. I could not bear to have her go and I absolutely begged her not to go. I am convinced that this was a communication between her soul and mine and she was preparing to die and leave us. Because of my desperation, she agreed and she stayed with us.
More recently, Marilyn had a dream about Mother. We were at a swimming pool and Mother was swimming. She was happy and excited! Her hair was all slicked back and dripping wet and she was happy! I would like to know the message behind this one.
I have been told that I am an empath, that I take on other people’s feelings and emotions. I do always feel it at work, if one person is mad at another. I just feel it and it hangs heavy over me. I need to learn to shield myself.
Added in 2020:
Mother died in May 2013. We had moved her to the Memory Care unit at the nursing home in Park Rapids in fall of 2012. It was a hard few months but we felt she was safer there. Marilyn and I did our best to have one of us with her every day for a while. I often spent the night there with her, sleeping in the reclining chair. She started having more and more of those little spells and then falling. For her last couple of days, she was almost in a coma. We sat with her for hours and hours. On that last night, as Marilyn and Tarah and I sat in the room talking and laughing, we realized that she was hanging on because she didn’t want to leave us. We had told her it was okay to let go and to leave us, that we would be okay. So Marilyn and Tarah decided to make a run to some store. I took a walk through the Memory Care unit and then came rushing back. I was there when Mother breathed her last couple of breaths.
Tony came to her funeral. So did old friends Georgia and Vern. Rick also came by—that was so nice. Marilyn’s ex, Phil, came to the funeral. Her previous ex, Ron, came out to the house after the funeral. My friend Cheryl fixed Mother’s hair at the funeral home.
It was so hard to lose Mother but she was not enjoying life any more and she could not stay in her house and take care of herself. I was so afraid that after all the time I spent with her, I would feel like I had absolutely nothing left and nothing to do. But I was surprised that life just fills in. I kept busy and was okay. Rick invited me to his house several times and fixed meals for me. We spent some time together now and then over the next year and it really helped me. He had recently bought a house north of PR, close to where he grew up. I had helped him move in there, actually.
Mother’s sister Mildred had lived till she was 103 and died in 2018. I went to visit her as often as I could, especially after Mother died. We had good visits and I asked her lots of questions about their growing-up years in Hubbard. I got a lot of good fodder for poems and learned things about Mother that I never knew. I know they had lost their mother when they were really young. Mother was 4 and Mildred 8. They also had a brother Bob. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease quite a few years earlier. It seems like their dad, Rollin, drank a lot but at least he stayed with them.
In 2019, we lost Avis, Bob’s wife. She had a bad fall and no one found her for a little while. We also lost our cousin Rocky. He and his two brothers, Dennis and Donald, and their folks spent some time every summer at the farm. Their mom was Dad’s sister. Nearly all of Dad’s relatives lived in Duluth. These were the only cousins we were close to. Dennis died many years ago from Aids. Donald, the youngest, died of two brain tumors quite a while ago. He was married and had two kids. Rocky kept close to those two kids. Both their folks were gone—Lester and Elaine. Elaine had died of a brain tumor. In 2019, we found out that Rocky had three brain tumors and that he also had cancer in his lungs and kidneys. He died the day after Xmas in 2019 from a fall down the stairs. He had been stumbling a lot and he was told not to go up and down the stairs. It looked like he was trying to take some laundry downstairs. At least he had a good Xmas day with Donald’s wife and new husband.
I never realized it, but there is a lot of cancer in the Carlson family. Both Dad’s mother and dad died of cancer. He had at least two sisters who died of cancer. Donald and Rocky also.
I have so much pain in my knees and hips and feet. I get up at 3:30 every morning to eat a little bit and take two Extra-Strength Excedrin. Then I go back to bed and sleep for another hour or so. Then up at 5 and off to work by 6:30. I much prefer to get up early. I ache more if I lay in bed. I now have one of those SafeStep tubs. I had gotten so terrified that I was going to fall in my regular tub. I do some special lymph-drainage massage and then have a hot bath. I use CBD oil on my knees and my back. After all that, and wearing ace bandages on my lower legs and two back braces, then I feel okay for at least the first part of the day. I have to absolutely avoid stairs. All this pain probably came from my two car accidents and various bad falls I have had.
I sprained my back really badly once. I have fallen on cement several times. Once I stepped on the edge of the sidewalk in front of my house and spun around and sat down really hard on the cement. I was all alone. I was able to get up and carry on, but I think that did a lot of damage to my back. Then I was walking around in the garage a couple of years ago. I did not know I was falling until I landed. At the last moment, I did lift my head so that did not hit hard. I still do not know what made me fall. Perhaps I just twisted my ankle as it did hurt for a while afterward. I landed on my right side and hurt my shoulder and scrunched my back. I have felt shorter ever since and have a hard time reaching up for things. Mainly my right knee and the outside of my lower right leg took the brunt of the fall. I was afraid to look at it. I could not get up by myself. The garage door was open and I was now sitting behind my car. I called Marilyn and she drove home from PR to help me. It has been over two years and I still have so much pain in my right leg. A gal who does myofascial work did really help it but just touching it against the edge of a chair or something is still horribly painful. It’s like the layers of skin there got really smushed together. A few months later, I had horrible problems with my right shoulder and had to wear a sling for a few days and could not lift it.
In 2019, I did do some physical therapy at the hospital for my knees. It did help and I felt stronger. I now do some very simple and delicate exercises for my knees in bed every morning before I get up. I also learned the lymph-drainage massage there. I wish I could afford to buy one of those Nu-Step machines I used during the therapy. I think that helped a great deal. It is kind of like a bicycle but bicycles are extremely uncomfortable for me. You sit in this and kind of lean back. You move your arms and they can do most of the work. Your feet are on pedals and they kind of ride back and forth, just keeping them flexible. But they are so big and so expensive and since I had to get a different vehicle, recently, I don’t think I can afford one. I really did feel better during the therapy and I have to see if I can find a way to get one of those machines.
I am still in touch with Rick and P, though not as often. I still work my two jobs. I have been at the bank in Menahga for over 30 years now. I am on full social security and full salary so as long as I can keep on, I need to do that. This is the only time that I have felt like I have money and I am working furiously to get all my bills paid. I keep saying I might retire in 5 or 6 years, but I keep on saying that same thing every few years. The longer I can work, the better. I could not bear to stay home. I would at least have to work part-time. I feel better if I get up and get going and go off to work. I need to have something to go and do.
I love being part of the writers’ group. I do not know what I would do without Tarah. I attend the monthly meetings and write up the minutes. She has designed the group’s website and keeps it updated. We also do the Talking Stick books every year. Many of the group’s members help with the Editorial Board or with proofing. They help with the annual book party and with selling books. Tarah and I have published over 40 books together, mainly the Talking Stick books but also other books for other members of the group and even for some outside writers. This is so rewarding. It is wonderful to encourage others and to see what they submit for the books each year. The monthly meetings are fun when we critique each other’s work and just plain enjoy each other’s company.
I am so happy when I am taking an online poetry class from the Loft. That seems to be the only time that I have time to write. It is a wonderful feeling to get a good prompt and to work on the lines, to feel the words flowing in from somewhere, to see a new poem taking shape, to get in the zone where writing is easy.
Where does life go? How does the time, which sometimes crawls by, flit by so fast? I whine every Monday morning but if I just blink my eyes, it is Friday again and then the weekend. Each week can look so long on Monday but then, looking back, it seems so short. Every winter looks so long but by January 15, you are halfway through. And then if you just think of how few weeks are left, and of how fast each week really goes, then pretty soon you are nearly to spring and you are wondering why you didn’t get more done in those weeks you were shut in the house.
If I really stop and think about parts of my childhood, they seem so far away and long ago. I remember when I was in my twenties and thirties, it seemed like I would never grow old. There was plenty of drinking and partying in my younger years, time which now seems silly and wasted. Once I hit forty, time really seemed to speed up.
I have learned, as many have, that family is the best thing. I treasure the fact that I got to grow up on a farm, that I learned from Mother and Dad how to work hard, how to get the work done first and play afterward, that I learned to love animals, that I spent most of my time outdoors in fresh air. I am so glad that niece Tarah has remodeled and kept the old place and it is still there for me and for my sister to enjoy. The best times in life now are with Marilyn and Tarah, playing games, laughing ourselves silly, in the old farmhouse where we got to grow up.