Tag Archive | care giving

Queen For a Day

Once a year the Aging and Disability Resource Center in our town invites care givers to a special luncheon. The theme this year was a “Virtual Cruise.” Having enjoyed at least ten cruises in my lifetime, I wondered how they would carry this off.

The theme was set at the front door when we all were greeted with “Aloha” and a colorful silk lei was put around our necks. Ken was greeted in much the same way, but he would spend his day being cared for by professionals in a different room from where I would spend the outing.

Care givers were ushered down a long hallway where Hawaiian music wafted through a grand ballroom. Large round tables covered in white linen each had a silk star lily centerpiece. We were invited to sip a drink from tall, tropical glasses with paper umbrellas; of course, the rum was left out of the fruity drinks. It was morning, after all; entirely too early for rum. 🙂

From ten until two o’clock about fifty care givers were able to relax and laugh. We also were encouraged to learn about some of the area services available once the care giving mantel gets too heavy. The organizers had a clever way to get us to visit all of the vendors present; we were given a “passport” that needed to be stamped by each vendor as we completed our “worldwide tour.” The passports were then collected for door prize drawings at the end of the day.

Unfortunately I didn’t win a thing, but I did have a nice day out of the house. Our group enjoyed entertainment including teenage dancers, a ventriloquist, and a massage therapist, who gave five-minute chair massages to anyone who wanted one. When it was my turn, I was flabbergasted he found very sore tight muscles on both sides in my shoulder area. I guess I carry more tension than I ever dreamed.

One of the best things about the day was the view. I sat and stared at the beautiful fall color outside the floor to ceiling windows. For some reason, colorful trees just do it for me, you know? The natural beauty reminded me I’m a small cog in a very big machine. When the same humdrum experiences go on day after day, I forget that.

During the ride home, Ken shared he had a good time, too. Two other people he knew from “Harmony Club” — the respite service he attends twice a month — were there. But I never worry about Ken in a social gathering; he’s so congenial he can make friends with anyone.

If you’re a care giver, I encourage you to seek out help from the local Aging and Disability Center in your area.  The hardest thing you’ll do is make phone call. People working in such an organization are caring, empathetic, and helpful. They also help keep things in perspective. They let you know your anger, frustration, and searching for answers are part of the package when you’re a caregiver. They know how to maneuver through the state obstacles and restriction. I’ve found answers to the problems Ken and I encounter as we travel through this MS journey.

Who knows, maybe you’ll have the pleasure of being “Queen for a day” like I did yesterday.

Making a Choice – Drama or Thankfulness?

Yesterday was about as perfect as it gets. For some people the simple events of taking a drive, doing a little shopping, having lunch with a good friend, and driving home would be taken for granted as an ordinary day. But when you face the daily rigors of care taking having a relaxing day with a friend becomes a terrific day. It’s all about perspective and living a thankful life.

So much is said about living a “thankful” life. Some therapists even suggest keeping a thankful diary. Why? It is a way to recognize how wonderful life can be. When you’re thankful, you don’t think about missing out on something.

Many people sleepwalk through their lives and slug their way through the day. They put unnecessary drama in their lives and whirl around to get attention. Little do they realize they are only wasting their energy on nonsense. I hate living in a world like that, so I work every day to avoid it.

I’ve shared some of the bad days Ken has experienced, and I admit his deteriorating condition does affect me. The bad days are hard, and that’s because I love him. And sometimes I love it. But most of the time we work through the stress together and go on. Through the twenty years we’ve been together we’ve become part of each other.  Every day I search for ways to make his life easier and happier. Other people look at us staying at home almost every day and they wonder why we aren’t nuts. After all, this 24/7 togetherness even for healthy people can be enough to make you go crazy.

We’ve had to accept our retirement dreams are dashed, but our story is much more prevalent than people realize.  Our friends are examples of couples who face this challenge every day. Cathy nurses Jim who has a rare blood disease. Linda watched Patrick lie in a hospital bed for a few months as he succumbed to the ravages of diabetes. Kay who has experienced seeing her husband Marc collapse with heart disease. We all muddle through the tough days and give thanks for days when our partner feels well. The only other choice is to run away, but that isn’t a true option. None of us could live with ourselves if we gave into that impulse.

Being thankful for the good things — like a day when we can get out just for a car ride — keeps the awful days in perspective. Discovering the peace that exists in all of us helps take the disappoints in strides. We live in a sea of patience and dismiss the small stuff. Before you realize it, everything is the small stuff.

Have a wonderful, thankful day everyone!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 19

Naples, Italy-October 1944—Ten months went by since Josie and Mario found each other at the Naples hospital. In the fall, Josie returned to the operating room, and once again, she experienced the satisfaction this work gave her. Mario remained in the army and found contentment in his new assignment as a hospital orderly, assisting medical personnel, cleaning bedpans, and removing other disgusting messes from the sick and injured. Mario rationalized his duty as payback because others performed such chores for him.

With Mario rejected for further combat, Josie relaxed around him and allowed a deeper relationship take hold. Every afternoon they met and strolled through the compound hand in hand. Mario showed her how laughter worked to ease a tension-filled day. Every night when they still possessed enough energy, the couple went to the USO club to dance. Mario glided around the dance floor holding Josie in his tight frame. As they floated to the music, the world drifted away for a few minutes.

When the music stopped, Mario led Josie to a small table at the periphery of the dance floor. He became uncharacteristically solemn.  “Josie, I need to say something.”

Josie breathed deep as she recovered from the exuberance of the dance. “OK, soldier; tell me what’s on your mind.”

Mario too a deep breath. “I gave up the chance to go home several months ago, did you realize that?”

She put on a mischievous grin because she knew the answer. “So, why didn’t you go home?”

“Because what I want is right here.” He moved closer to her.

“Oh.” She thought her heart skipped a beat.

“I recognize I’m a clown a lot of the time, but I need you to take me seriously right now.”

His eyes in the candlelight told her something very important was about to happen. “Sure, Mario. Just tell me.”

“I love you, Josie. That’s why I stayed.”

She gazed into his big brown eyes and whispered. “I know.”

He leaned back on his chair. “Then why did you bust my balls to tell you in so many words?”

“Every girl needs her guy to tell her he loves her, silly.” A grin crossed her face. “And besides, I get a kick out of seeing a big guy like you squirm.”

“You devil!” Mario pulled her to his chest and held her like a bear. He kissed her with passion leaving her breathless.

“Oh, Mario!” She melted. “I love you, too!” She returned his kiss.

His huge dark eyes brightened. “Let’s get married.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It’s the best I got.”

“All righty then.” She smiled up at him.

“Is that a YES?” he said.

“It’s the best I got.”

The music started again. This time it was a waltz. Mario pulled Josie onto the dance floor. She cuddled into his body. She felt secure and happy in his arms. For the rest of the evening they never missed a beat dancing.

Chapter 20

Switzerland-October—Heidi missed Danny so much she found smiling difficult. She wanted to cry but she only allowed herself to shed any tears when the children went to sleep because they also suffered yet another loss in their young lives. They got too upset whenever Heidi showed her sadness.

When Heidi picked up the mail every day, she prayed she would receive a letter from Danny. To her delight, today she found an envelope addressed in his familiar handwriting and another letter with a Budapest return address. Why would Dominik write to her?

Dear Heidi,

 I am back at home and things are crazy with the Nazis in power. They restricted the Jews from interacting with other citizens. Worst yet, they deport train loads of people every day. 

I talked until I got hoarse to persuade the Rabbi to take his family away from here, but he refused to leave. As you know, he felt it was his God-directed responsibility to protect the Jews. I am sad to tell you he and his family got captured in August and placed on a train. I learned through the grapevine the train was bound for Auschwitz in Poland. I guess there’s a work camp there, but nobody knows for sure what is going on there.

I cried as I witness the Germans separating the men from the women and children before they got on the train. Gavrelia screamed when she was pulled away from the Rabbi. A Nazi hit her in the face with the butt of his gun as he pushed the Rabbi toward the men’s line. 

A rumor circles around town the Rabbi escaped the train by sawing open the lock on the train carriage. Supposedly he hid an emery wire in a loaf of bread, and jumped from the train.  As you might imagine I am not privy to his true fate or if Gavrelia and the children are safe. All we can do is pray.

When I learn more, I will write. I hope you and the children are still out of harm’s way.

 Your friend, Dominik

Heidi cried as she read about the Rabbi who protected her and the children for two years being sent away from his home. Her mind raced with tragic scenarios. If he did jump from the train, where is he? And to think any Nazi bully would harm a gentle person like Gavrelia was hard to swallow. Gavrelia and the children must be terrified to be separated from the Rabbi.

Heidi knew the Nazis hated every Jew—even the children she adopted. Her heart raced when she thought they might be taken away. Why did her countrymen have to be so cruel?  She brushed away her tears for the Weismann family and opened the second letter hoping Danny’s news was happier.

 

My sweet Heidi,

I am safe in England again. My original unit went home, but I will remain here doing desk duty for a few months.

 I must tell you some bad news. The U. S. Army Air Corps claims our marriage is not legal, and I will not be able to bring you to the States unless we go through proper military channels. As you might guess, I got heartsick hearing such a thing. I am married to you in my heart and somehow I will bring you home.

Major Jamison informed me American servicemen need the permission of their commanding officers to marry any European woman while he is serving in the military.

The good news is, Major Jamison is making arrangements to bring you and the children to England. I am searching for a flat for all of us, and in a few short weeks we can marry again. You will be contacted by the Resistance, and they will bring you to me.

I am so sorry we must go through this military nonsense, but I will never be sorry to repeat my promise to love and cherish you forever. We’ll be together soon, my sweet darling.

I love you so much, Danny 

P. S. This time I will give you a proper wedding ring.

Heidi fingered the homemade wedding ring Danny made for her out of an old car part off the Rolls Royce. The car provided safe passage for her and the children from Warsaw to Switzerland, so no matter how beautiful a “proper” ring might be, it would never be as dear to her as the one he made with his own hands.

Heidi drew a deep breath and ran her hand over Danny’s letter. She wondered how much time would pass before she would feel his embrace again.

Chapter 21

Zurich, Switzerland – October—The librarian knocked on Heidi’s door a week after Danny’s letter arrived. She handed Heidi a small envelope and left without a word. The clandestine correspondence held the instructions Heidi would follow to get to the Americans in England. Because the Allied forces achieved a confident foothold throughout France as the army pushed the Germans back to Berlin, Heidi’s instructions differed from the path Danny had followed. Her journey traveled through the mountains to Lyon by car. They would be shuttled to a train depot to then board a train destined Paris. Afterward, a plane would carry them to London.

Heidi wanted to be with Danny as soon as possible, but she feared what another perilous journey would do to the children.

When she told the children the plan, David spoke up. “Mutter, don’t worry. We will be fine. I will hold Ruthie’s hand, and I am sure Jacob will sleep the whole trip. I am not afraid to go.”

Heidi hugged David. “Thank you my dear son. I can always count on you.”

*****

When darkness enveloped the night, Heidi carried a sleepy Jacob to a car waiting for them in front of the house. As he promised, David held Ruthie’s hand and helped her get settled in the backseat. Heidi covered them with a blanket before the driver proceeded away from the residence which served them for almost a year.

“Mama, when will be with Papa Danny?” Ruthie asked.

“We must be patient, Ruthie. Our journey will be long, so you need to sleep. You do not want to be tired when we see Papa Danny, do you?”

“But Mama-

Heidi shot the child a “mother look” which told the child she wanted no argument.” We must follow instructions. I expect you to do as you are told. Understand?”

David and Ruthie nodded and remained silent until they climbed onto a train bound for Paris. At the station in the city of lights, an American sergeant put them in a jeep and drove to the airfield where the family boarded a cargo plane destined for London.

As the plane’s engines revved, Heidi held her breath. She couldn’t show her fear because she didn’t want the children to be afraid. David’s eyes widened as the powerful engines propelled the plane to the runway. Ruthie squealed with delight as the plane took flight. “Weeee! Mama, we are flying like birds!”

Heidi forced a smile and gritted her teeth as a peaceful Jacob slept in her arms. “Yes dear. We are.”

*****

The London flight passed quickly. A disappointed David whined, “Can’t we do go again, Mama?”

“No, not today David. Remember Danny is waiting for us.”

Heidi breathed a sigh of relief when the door opened, and she put her feet back on the ground again. Danny waited for them on the tarmac, and all of children ran toward his opened arms. He hugged and kissed everyone and then embraced Heidi. “I worried about you traveling all that way, darling.” He kissed Heidi tenderly. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“So am I.” Heidi melted into his embrace.

Me, too Papa Danny!” Ruthie hugged his leg. Danny patted her head.

Jacob put up his chubby arms. “Uppie Dada!”

He kissed the child.

David stood off to the side. Danny handed Jacob to Heidi and walked toward the boy. “Hey sport! Where’s my hug?”

David’s face lit up and he hugged Danny around the waist.

Danny heard the boy whimper. “What’s going on, son? Don’t be sad.”

“I thought you left us forever . . . like my real Mama and Papa.” David cried.

Danny hugged him. “I promise I will never leave you, and I keep my promises. You’re my boy, and I’m very proud of you. When we get home, we’re going to live in a nice house, and you can even get a puppy if you want one. But that will be our secret, okay? I need to clear adding a puppy to our family with your mother.”

David wiped his tears with the back of his hand. Danny put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and they both walked toward Heidi and the other two children. Heidi’s heart swelled as she witnessed Danny’s gentleness.

“How did you kids like the airplane ride?”

David spoke first. “I pretended you flew us here and you let me sit in the front.  When we lifted up from the ground my tummy jumped. The only other time I felt like that was when Heidi drove the car fast up and down the hills!”

Danny laughed. “And what about you, Ruthie?”

“I shivered on the airplane, Papa. The train was funner.”

Danny laughed. Heidi wrote she taught the children some English, but he recognized they needed a lot more practice.”

“Let’s get going.” Danny hugged Heidi again, picked up their small duffle bag and couldn’t wait to begin their future.

Even though Heidi flew to a different country, she felt at home in Danny’s arms. Marrying him would never be a mistake, and the time they spent apart only intensified her love for him.

Danny led them to a jeep and drove his family to a small flat he rented. They climbed up three flights of stairs, and Danny opened the door which revealed a clean, safe apartment. With all the devastation in London, finding a place on the far west side of the city with a bomb shelter across the street took weeks to find.

Beside a small kitchen, two beds folded up into the walls during the day and served as a living space. Danny hoped Heidi wouldn’t be too disappointed with his choice.

“It is lovely, sweetheart.” She kissed his cheek.

“It’s the best I could do. Flats are scarce. I hope the place isn’t too small.”

Heidi didn’t care about the size of the apartment. For the first time since she left Germany, she felt at home. “We’ll make due.”

 

 

Knock, Knock, Knock

Many nights I sleep on the sofa. This is becoming more of a normal occurrence because many nights my arthritic hip seems to need a softer surface than our bed can provide. I really don’t mind resting on the sofa because I watch television to fall asleep to the “white noise” of a monotone narrator. I actually chose what I watch with that criteria in mind. But Ken finds the television keeps him awake, so this is the compromise I made on those sleepless nights that come often.

At 1 a.m. – just a short time after I fell asleep, someone pounded on the door. I sat up and shook the cobwebs from my mind. Flashing red and white lights slipped through the vertical blind and I quickly realized Ken must have fallen and pressed his life alert button to get some help. Yes, the fire department was once again on our doorstep. I opened the door to four burly men who had Ken in his wheelchair in a couple of minutes and saved the day once again.

I was so shaken by the situation I’m afraid I was not kind. I think my crabbiness with Ken was due to the fact I had just fallen asleep and now I had to clean him up from a failed trip to the bathroom. I hated myself for yelling at him. It wasn’t fair to him. He didn’t ask for M. S., but then again, neither did I.

In thirty minutes, Ken was clean and safely tucked into the bed, and I was alert and wide awake. I had to start the whole process of getting back to sleep on the sofa. Ernie jumped up into one of the recliners and the house quieted down. After six or so sound hours of slumber, I woke to another thud. I dragged myself up and trudged down to the bathroom to find Ken laying on the floor. Only this time, I was calm and patient.

I’m telling you this as a kind of confession for my bad behavior. I’m also sharing with those of you who might beat yourself up for being cranky with the person you might be taking care of. We all have our limits and last night for me was just too hard. I’m comforted by the fact Ken doesn’t hurt himself when he falls because as he says, he tries to ease into the effects of gravity. Little does he understand watching him struggle to command his body to stand is torture on both sides.

All we can do is roll with the situation. Pray for a better day and enjoy the good times when they present themselves.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 29

Budapest, Hungary–December 1940—Heidi fell into a comfortable space with the Rabbi and his family. The past six months sped by, and Heidi finally got used to the huge number of people who came and went as they made their future plans to save their lives from Nazi tyranny. Heidi was the only gentile ever in the house for any length of time.

David, Ruthie, and Jacob adjusted well. They enjoyed playing with the Weismann children. They stopped asking questions about their parents and called Heidi “mutter” most of the time.

“Heidi, will we ever be with Father again?” David asked one night as she tucked him into bed.

“I hope so, sweetie.” Heidi said.

“But I want to know for sure.”

“I cannot tell you for sure. The world is a very dangerous place right now, and your father does not realize where we  are. He would be happy we are safe.”

“That is why we came to the Rabbi’s house?”

“Yes. We are very lucky Fritz encouraged us to come here.”

“I wonder how Fritz is.”

“Me, too.” Heidi said as she looked away. “But now is the time to sleep, my sweet boy. Do not worry about things you cannot change.  As long as we are together, we will be safe and happy.”

Heidi blew out the candle and descended down the stairs to her room. The Rabbi freed up another room in the house, so Heidi could enjoy some privacy in a room of her own. She stuck her head into the library where the Rabbi always studied after the activity of the house simmered down. “Pardon the intrusion, Rabbi. I just wanted to say goodnight.”

The Rabbi looked up from his book and witnessed a troubled look on Heidi’s young face. “Something is wrong, Heidi?”

“Sometimes life is so difficult-,” she couldn’t finish before she choked on her emotions.

The Rabbi waved her into the room. “What is bothering you, child?”

Heidi took a seat next to him on the sofa. “Sometimes David’s questions are hard to answer. He is such a smart boy.”

“Yes, the smart ones are the challenging ones.” The Rabbi smiled. “Is that all that is troubling you, Heidi?”

Heidi confessed, “I guess I am a little homesick Rabbi.”

The Rabbi looked at her through his rimless glasses. “Of course you are, dear Heidi. You are too young for all the responsibility you assumed. I want you to know I think you are one of the bravest people I ever met. To protect three orphaned Jews at this time in history is amazing. You inspire me everyday.”

Heidi smiled. “I did what God asked me to do, Rabbi. The children need me.”

He raised his index finger. “Yes. But do not forget about yourself as you take care of them. Now, how can I help you?”

“This may sound crazy to you, Rabbi. But I miss the festivities of Christmas. I miss the Christmas tree most of all.”

He stroked his long white beard. “I understand.” He paused. “We will celebrate Hanukkah in another week.”

“Hanukkah? I never celebrated Hanukkah–only Christmas.”

“Let me tell you the old story which has been carried down generation to generation. Hanukkah dates back to more than twenty-one centuries ago when the Syrian-Greeks ruled the Holy Land. These people insisted the people of Israel assimilate into their culture and leave their religion behind. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth and drove the Greeks from the land. They reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God. When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah, they found only one cruse of olive oil the Greeks didn’t contaminate. Miraculously, that one-day supply of holy oil burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.”

The rabbi studied Heidi’s face as she searched for something in her religion which was similar to the Jewish holy day. “It’s a preparation time? We celebrate Advent to get ready for the birth of Christ. Is that why eight candles are lit on the menorah?”

The Rabbi smiled. “Yes. We light one candle on the first night, two on the second and so on until all eight are lit on the night of Hanukkah. Our daily prayers offer praise and thanksgiving to God for delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of few, and the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”

Heidi nodded.

The Rabbi continued to explain. “And like Advent and your Christmas, we prepare special foods during this time. We eat latkes.” He searched for the right description. “Latkes are potato pancakes and sufganiot, is like a donut. The children will receive dreidels as small gifts and maybe a little gelt too, if they are good children during the past year.”

Heidi’s wrinkled forehead showed her confusion.

As if reading her mind, the Rabbi said, “Dreidels are spinning tops, which are inscribed with Hebrew letters standing for “a great miracle happened there.” We also give Hanukkah gelt, which are gifts of money or small presents to the children.”

“So you give presents like we do?”

“Yes, my child.”

Heidi rose to her feet. “Thank you, Rabbi. I’m sure I will enjoy my first Hanukkah celebration.” She left and quietly shut the study door.

The rabbi whispered. “Pleasant dreams my dear Heidi. May God bless and keep you.”

*****

            Heidi enjoyed her first Hanukkah with the children, the Rabbi, and his family. At the time no strangers shared the house, so the celebration became a family affair.  David received the honor of lighting the last candles of the menorah on Hanukkah night. After the prayers, everyone enjoyed the traditional foods the Rabbi spoke of and the children received the gelt the Rabbi’s wife prepared for them. Joy filled Heidi’s heart as the children enjoyed the holiday. For a short time, their young lives got to enjoy something normal.

The Rabbi said. “Heidi. We hope you will like the special gift Gavriella and I got you.” He rose from the table and went outside.

“I wonder what it is, Heidi.” David said.

“And why would he need to go outside to get it?” Ruthie said.

A cold blast of nighttime air filled the kitchen as the Rabbi returned. He came into the room with a blue spruce fir tree with two wooden planks nailed to its bottom so the tree would stand. Rabbi Weismann said with a grand smile, “Happy Christmas, dear Heidi!”

Heidi gasped. “A Christmas tree! How wonderful. Oh Rabbi, you did this for me?”

“Well, yes of course.”

A tear fell from her left eye. She ran to him and hugged him. “You are so good to me, Rabbi. Thank you.”

“You are very welcome, my dear. Now, I understand we need some decorations to hang on your tree.”

Heidi brushed tears of happiness from her cheeks. “At home, my family always strings popcorn or cranberries to make garland. Mama bakes decorated gingerbread cookies to hang on the tree, too.”

Gavriella said, “Well, we do not possess either one of those, but how would these do?” She handed Heidi a velvet box full of hand-painted antique glass ornaments.

Heidi gasped. “They are exquisite!” She lifted one out of the box. “I never saw such beautiful ornaments.  Where did you ever get them?”

“Some Christian friends who lived with us for a while gave them to me. They intended to immigrate to the United States and needed to leave many of their belongings behind. I accepted their gift, and put them away. I figured God gave them to us for a reason. You are the reason, my dear Heidi!”

Heidi’s joy danced in her eyes. “Thank you! Thank you, both so much. I will never forget this Hanukkah ever!” She hugged both of them.

“Nor will we, dear child. It is your first Hanukkah and our first Christmas!” The Rabbi kissed his wife and smiled at Heidi.

Chapter 30

Lacrosse, Wisconsin–December 1940—Rosalie and Angelo looked forward to their baby girl’s first Christmas. Angelina was too young to understand about Santa Claus, but she pointed and smiled at the Christmas tree, shouting “Pretty, pretty,” when Angelo plugged in the colorful tree lights. Rosalie couldn’t wait until the child opened her first present–a Raggedy Ann doll she sewed for her daughter.

About a week before Christmas, Rosalie helped her mother-in-law decorate the Armani Christmas tree, while Angelo assisted his father to set up the outdoor nativity scene. When Angelo’s father unpacked the statues, Angelo drifted back to his boyhood when his Pa surprised the family with the figures of the holy family he secretly ordered through the Sears’ Catalog.  That first year they put out three statues—the baby Jesus in the manager, St. Joseph, and the Blessed Mother. At night the statues were lit with a bright flood light.  For the next several years, Mr. Armani surprised the family every Christmas with another piece of the nativity scene–an angel, a donkey, a cow, a lamp, a sheep, a shepherd, three wise men, and of course, the Bethlehem star. In later years, Angelo constructed a lean-to stable out of scrap lumber to house the Holy Family. Arranging the nativity set in the front yard with his father was Angelo’s favorite part of their traditional Christmas celebration. He looked forward to the day he could tell little Gina the Christmas story.

Right now, his baby daughter kept her mother on her toes because recently she learned how to crawl. Gina got into everything, learning the world through touching different objects, which most of the time brought the phrase, “No, No!” from an adult. Keeping the child safe from herself proved to be a full time job for the adults around her. Her grandparents never complained about Gina because in their hearts their granddaughter was the most gifted and beautiful baby God ever made.

This year, the Armani and Lombardo families decided to celebrate Christmas Eve together. In the Catholic tradition, everyone fasted until midnight and after mass, they enjoyed a great feast.

Everyone congregated at the church where Angelo and Rosalie got married the year before. Together they made a congregation within a congregation filling up a half dozen pews on the left side of the aisle. The scent of fresh pine wafted through the sanctuary and red, gold, and white ornaments decorated the trees beside the altar.  Flood lights placed on the floor shone a warm light on the trees while a beautiful nativity scene imported from Italy sat to the right of the altar. Gina found everything around her extraordinary and pointed to the decorations, shouting “Pretty, pretty!” Eventually, Rosalie took her out of church.

When the family got home around 1 a.m., everyone brought a hearty appetite to devour a feast which covered two long banquet tables. Mrs. Armani, Mrs. Lombardo, Eduardo, and Angelo’s grandmother worked all week to prepare the food. Shrimp scampi, lobster tails in garlic butter, fried calamari, broiled eel, meat balls, and spaghetti in marina. Large bowls of lettuce, canned tomatoes, banana peppers, and black tossed with homemade Italian dressing filled the largest bowl in the house. Cakes, pies, and dozens of different Italian cookies stood by after dinner for dessert. Rosalie wished Donna Jean and Josie could join them to experience a real Italian Christmas Eve because no words could express the abundance.

Rosalie and Angelo took a sleeping Gina home around 3 a.m. They gently placed the child in her crib and covered her with her favorite blanket. Rosalie smiled as her baby comforted herself by sucking her thumb to go back to sleep. Angelo put his arm around Rosalie and whispered, “I never dreamed I could ever love anyone the way I love the two of you.”

Rosalie smiled up at her husband and cuddled into his chest. Her heart swelled with love for him.

Angelo gently closed the door to Gina’s room and led her mother to their bedroom. The young couple celebrated their first Christmas by making gentle love before they fell to sleep in each other’s arms.

 

 

 

A Better Day

The statistics of my blog are pretty dismal, especially after my unveiling of the crappy things that have happened this week. I think that statistic means people don’t relish reading stuff about ordinary tough times. But color me confused. Why does the news media focus on the worst things that can happen to humans every night? Why do they focus on building fear–even with the weather? They lead story every night is about a shotting, a fire, a flood, an earthquake, a mudslide–you get the picture. Even worse, if nothing of the sort happened in the local area, they’ll dig up stories from other communities across the country to fill their quota of daily horror.

However, if I am going to use this medium as a possible vehicle to help other caregivers, I must relate. If I only talked about all the wonderful things in my life and my relationship with Ken, that would sugar-coat reality. Other caretakers might think they must be doing something wrong because they experience bad days. Their times are anything but good everyday. Understand?

But I also get the point that others don’t want to be slapped in the face with sad stories all the time. So today, I will refrain from any more terrifying stories.

Enough is enough already.

Yesterday I went to “Sam’s Club” with my dear friend Jackie to pick up three months of paper products, a few groceries, and a couple of other things we “needed.” After spending too much money, Jackie and I sat down for lunch. We love Sam’s hot dogs, and of course, we always have chips for a “side,” and soda as our preferred beverage. To top off our indulgent lunch we ordered a decadent frozen yogurt. After sharing a few laughs, we headed home. Our trip lasted about two hours.

When I got home, Ken was sitting in his chair. I put away all the purchases and then made him lunch. The problem was, he was too fatigued to eat. Then I also heard he needed to use his “life line” button to call for help. Yup. He fell again.

First I felt guilty about not being there when he had trouble, and then when I thought about the situation more rationally, I realized what I had put in place to keep him safe had worked. The guilt flew away.

Today he seems fine. Hopefully it will stay that way and we’ll go outside to our patio and enjoy a hot game of Scrabble. Life can be so good in between the crap. Have a good day, everyone!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 24

Warsaw, Poland – September 1939—Heidi and Dora packed the car during the morning and in the afternoon they sewed money and valuables in hems of coats and dresses. They woke the children after midnight and carried them into the garage at the back of the house. When the children settled down, Dora put the key in the ignition of the Rolls Royce Edward bought the year before. She offered a prayer for a safe journey and backed the car out of the driveway. She choked down her fear of what might come. Would she be able to escape? Would she ever be able to come back to her home someday?  She gave birth to their children in their bedroom. She decorated the place with her art work and made delicious meals in their kitchen. She and Edward would never eat by candlelight in their dining room again, while their children slept safely in their feather beds. She would never play her grand piano again. She would never make love again with Edward in their bedroom. She and Edward built a wonderful life together. But would they ever find each other again? Dora drove away with her memories and fears as she clenched the steering wheel with white knuckles.

Refugees crowded the roads leading away from Warsaw. People of all ages carried suitcases. Horse-drawn wagons and pushcarts of all sizes cluttered the road. When Heidi witnessed so many down trodden people fleeing, she thanked God Dora owned a car. Heidi couldn’t image this journey with three pre-school children on foot.

After they left the city limits, the roads became very dark and unfamiliar. She concentrated on heading south and commanded herself to get to Lviv as fast as possible. Dora tried to focus on the future, not what she left behind. She focused on keeping her children safe.

At the same time Heidi did her best to mask her fear and sadness. They cut the darkness in silence, alone with their private thoughts. Heidi prayed for her Uncle Hans and the children. The invasion would certainly make their lives difficult. For a few seconds she second guessed herself. Perhaps she should have stayed with Uncle Hans and help him with the children. But no. He and the children would be safe. Dora probably wouldn’t be. I’m doing the right thing. God wants me to help Dora. She is a gentle woman. She never experienced a harsh life and the ugliness of the world. She’s privileged and well-schooled, so she needs help with household chores, and I can do those for her. Mutter would do the same if she found herself in this situation. Uncle Hans will understand. Only Vater will be angry.

In the distance heavy artillery shells exploded lighting up the sky with thunderous blasts. The road rumbled. Dora squeezed the steering wheel harder. Her instinct demanded she drive faster, but with the stream of refugees, she maneuvered the car slowly. The moonless night engulfed the travelers in uncharted darkness. Dora prayed. Two women traveling alone with three children provided an easy target.

After an hour, the crowd of refugees thinned as Warsaw faded miles behind them. The starless night seemed to be an omen of dread; nobody desired an uncertain future, but that’s exactly what everyone in Poland inherited from a blood thirsty neighbor.

As Dora’s fear escalated, she drove faster. Her thoughts kept repeating: I’m doing the right thing. I must save the children. I must get out of Poland.

The high speed frightened Heidi. “Mrs. Gessler, I think we should slow down; we don’t want to attract attention with your fancy car.”

After listening to Heidi’s comment, Dora laughed. “I will slow down, Heidi, but I think we can drive as fast as we want with no other vehicles on the road.”

Heidi laughed with her. Some how the ridiculous comment broke the tension each of them felt. Heidi took a deep breath and settled back into the soft leather seat. The two women retreated back into their own thoughts as the miles passed. Heidi read the map with a flashlight and instructed Dora to make the proper turns to reach their destination. With every mile behind them, Dora thought, “What will I do if we’re stopped?”

*****

After driving nearly three hours, Dora found enough gas to get them the rest of the way to Lviv. Heidi gave herself private pep talks to assure this adventure would be positive. She hedged her bets by praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary for a safe journey into a foreign land.

After filling the gas tank, the rest of the trip proved to be uneventful until they entered Lviv. The streets overflowed with tired, hungry refugees. The sight of their dirty faces and blank stares alarmed Dora as she realized professionals and peasants existed on an equal plain. In a few short days, Lviv turned into a ghetto of people with no where else to go.

Chapter 25

 Lviv, Ukraine – September, 1939—Dora and Heidi were luckier than most people who came to Lviv for Soviet protection. Along with their clothes, they packed enough food for a couple of weeks. Shortages of food and water drove people to fight in the streets.

Heidi suggested they stay in the car on the outskirts of the town until Dora found a place to live. While Dora searched, Heidi attended to the children and distracted them with games and stories. David cried to go home; Ruthie wanted her toys; even baby Jacob seemed to understand things had changed.

After two days, Dora still searched for suitable housing. Every place offered rundown, crowded, conditions. Very few clean rooms existed. On the third day of her search, Dora settled on renting one room in a newer apartment building. The windowless room only offered two beds. They needed to share a bathroom at the end of the hall with four other families.

Dora returned to Heidi and the children before lunch. The petite, beautiful woman appeared much older than she was the day before. Tears formed in her eyes as she told Heidi about their new residence. “I found a place for us to sleep. The room is clean, but Spartan. We should be safe living there.”

“I am sure it will be fine, Mrs. Gessler.” Heidi said in a calm voice.

“My dear, Heidi. From now on, please call me Dora. We are partners in this adventure, not employer and employee. Our roles changed overnight, do you not agree?”

“Of course.” Heidi paused. “Dora.”

Dora’s voice went higher as she spoke to the children. “Time to go. Mama found a place for us to sleep. We do not want the landlord to rent our room to someone else. We must hurry.”

David asked, “Why are you crying, Mama?”

“They are happy tears, my darling. Do not worry. They are happy tears.” Dora lied.

Dora drove into the bulging city while people stared at the car. If they drove through the center of town in a red fire truck with sirens blaring, their appearance wouldn’t have caused as much attention as the brand new Rolls did.

Heidi whispered. “I think we need to hide the car.”

“Yes, but let us first get the children settled into the apartment.”

Heidi nodded.

Dora parked behind the apartment building and instructed David and Ruth to grab a bag and follow her. Heidi brought up the rear with the baby and whatever else she could carry. Dora led them to the third floor and put a key in the lock. When the door opened, six year old David cried. “Mama, this is our new house? I want to go home!”

“Now David, don’t be fresh. We must stay here until I can find something better. I need you to be a big little man.”

Ruth stomped her foot. “I want to go home too!”

Dora hugged her daughter and whispered, “Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”

 

A Day at a Time

For those of you who read this blog yesterday, you might have left feeling down. That is not my intention. Most often I write about good times, but to be realistic, no life is always good. There are times of indecision, confusion, frustration, and the list goes on. If I didn’t write about the bad experiences MS gives a spousal care-giving the reader might think their bad times were unique.

What’s so challenging about MS is you never know what kind of day your going to get. Yesterday Ken woke feeling well, but as the morning went on, a crushing wave of fatigue washed over him and his day changed drastically. It happens.

Unless you see this transformation up close and personal, you might not believe it truly happens. You might think I use his bad days to punk out on things I really don’t want to do. Perhaps I use his bad days to take on the martyr mantel. Nope. Far from it. During the bad times, we pull together. He stays safe in his wheelchair, and I do everything I can to keep him comfortable.

So for all you caretakers out there in the universe, deal with the disappointments as best as you can. Surround yourself with other people who can raise you up. Eliminate negativity from your life in all the ways you can imagine. You need to do this step otherwise the bad will get worse. Be good to yourself. Take time for yourself.

Remember a union takes two. Equal parts make a whole. Find peace. Find happiness in small things.Tell caring friends and family the truth. They will help. I know it. And above all else, take one day at a time. The phrase is not a clique; it is a survival tactic.

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APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 22

Paris, France – September 1939—The original plan of Marta’s Paris trip required her to return to Germany during the first week in September. The summer sped by entirely too fast. Emma and Marta found themselves in a comfortable routine, and with the approaching autumn months Paris grew even more beautiful. Colors of gold, orange, and red, cast the magical city with a whole new appearance. Returning to Germany proved to be unthinkable, especially for Emma.

As they drank their morning espresso, Emma said, “I need to tell you something, and you will probably be disappointed.”

Her tone commanded Marta’s undivided attention. “What is bothering you so deeply, Emma?”

“I made a decision not to return home. I am staying in Paris, my dear Marta. I secured a job at the city hall, and I plan to make Paris my new home.”

Instead of being distressed, a broad smile crossed Marta’s face. “That is very curious!” This afternoon I wrote to father and told him I am staying in Paris for the next year. I also secured a job. I will be a docent at the Louvre–a job I would do for free! I learned I can take art lessons at no cost because I am an employee now.”

Emma became elated on one hand, but fearful on the other.  “Do you really think your father will allow you to stay? He might goose-step from Berlin to Paris and drag you back to Germany by your hair.” Part of Emma really believed Marta’s father would do such a thing, but imaging it made her laugh.

“Emma, our time in Paris showed me a world I can never leave.” Marta put her hand on Emma’s and searched her eyes. “Let us make a beautiful life together here in Paris. We fit here. People do not stare when we walk together hand in hand. People accept us for who we are. I do not need to hide my desires for you, and I can be true to myself.”

A week ago Emma and Marta grew closer than either of them ever dreamed they would. Their friendship deepened into romantic love for each other. Making a home in Paris together seemed a good choice. After all, if they went home and wanted to live together they might find themselves in prison.

Chapter 23

Lacrosse, September, 1939—Rosalie thought she suffered a terrible bout of flu, but when the nausea, vomiting and overwhelming fatigue lasted more than a week, she made an appointment to see the doctor.

When the doctor announced his diagnosis, Rosalie fainted. She woke to smelling salts which a nurse waved under her nostrils.

The doctor stood above her on the examining table. “Mrs. Armani, Congratulations! You’re pregnant. The baby will be born around March 22 next spring.”

Rosalie left the doctor’s office in a daze.  She wanted Angelo’s babies, but she hoped she wouldn’t get pregnant for at least a year. She just celebrated her eighteenth birthday at the end of August and becoming a wife proved to be harder than she expected.

As the youngest girl in the family, she never did laundry or ironing. At home her responsibilities included setting the table for dinner and keeping her bedroom neat. She never cooked. Her mother taught her how to dust and make her bed, but she never learned how to vacuum. Her older sisters absorbed all of the other household responsibilities. Rosalie still worked in her father’s restaurant during the day, so her true skills included how to hostess in a restaurant.

Angelo proved to be a patient husband and he never complained as Rosalie learned how to be a wife. He realized she tried her best to please him, even though he ate a lot of inedible meals.

Rosalie loved her life with Angelo. While he worked at the factory, she worked at her father’s restaurant. They made dinner together, and after their meal they curled up with each other to listen to the radio. Rosalie loved to end her day in his arms. Saturday they shared household chores and on Sunday they went to church and spent the afternoon at the county park enjoying an ice cream cone before returning home. Now all of their wonderful routine would end because of the doctor’s news. In six short months Rosalie would be forced to share her husband with another person.

Rosalie made herself a cup of tea to absorb the doctor’s news. She laid her hand on her abdomen. “Oh little one, how will I ever be able to be your Mama?” She felt so alone. Her best girlfriends wouldn’t understand her conflicted feelings because both of them seemed to be years away from motherhood.

Rosalie decided to keep the pregnancy a secret until her body would tell the story. But she had to tell Angelo right away.  Perhaps she should make his favorite dinner, and over a bottle of wine, drop the bomb he would soon be a father. But no, she hated wine. Maybe she should tell him in the privacy of their bedroom right before they went to sleep. But no, he usually fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow; telling him then wouldn’t be fair. As she sipped her tea, she daydreamed dozens of scenarios to break the news, but none of them seemed right. She sighed and vowed to think about her dilemma tomorrow.

At four o’clock Angelo’s truck pulled into the driveway. He opened the back door and yelled. “Sweetheart, I’m home.”

Rosalie met him in the kitchen, stared at him. She burst into tears.

Angelo dropped his metal lunch pail on the counter and scooped her into his arms. “What’s wrong, baby?”

She sniffed a couple of times and brushed the tears away. She tried to speak, but words refused to come out. “It’s-it’s-

“What? Come on honey, just tell me. What’s wrong? You can tell me anything.” He held her close.

Rosalie took a deep breath and blurted, “I’m pregnant. Oh Angelo, I’m pregnant.” She sobbed.

The news hit him like someone slapped in the head with a two-by-four. A baby? Holy Cow! He lifted her tearful face and kissed her. “Really? We’re having a baby? When?”

“In March next year.”

“Oh, my sweet Rosie. You just made me the happiest guy on earth. Please don’t be upset. Having a baby so soon is a surprise, but a wonderful one!”

Rosalie smiled through her tears. “But Angelo, I’m not even a good wife yet, how in the world am I going to be a good mother?”

“Your mother is a good mother, so you will be one too.” He kissed her again. “Rosie, you are the most loving girl in the world. Love is all a baby needs. I’m so lucky to be blessed with a child with you.” He rubbed her back to comfort her. “The doctor’s sure?”

“Yes, sweetheart, he’s sure.”

Angelo loosened his embrace and stared at her middle. “How do you know for sure? I don’t see a lump in your belly.”

“Wait two or three more months. I’ll probably get as big as your pickup.”

He laughed with her. “I’m so darn happy; I want to shout the good news to the whole town.” He paused for a moment as he grinned at Rosalie. “Let’s go out and celebrate!”

“Why? I don’t want to celebrate just yet.”

“This is the best news. I’m going to be a papa!  Of course, we’re going out to celebrate.”

“Where should we go?”

“Lombardo’s Restaurante, of course. Your father will feed us for free, and I can’t wait to see your Pa’s face when we tell him he’s going to be a Grandpapa!” Angelo kissed her again and went to the bathroom to wash and shave.

Angelo’s genuine happy reaction couldn’t be demolished even though Rosalie preferred to keep the baby a secret. She needed time to believe she really would be a mother in six months.

 

Love Keeps Me Going

I don’t often like to talk about my caretaking responsibilities for Ken, but a person told me yesterday I should write about these things because there are so many people out there who find themselves in the same position.

Most of the time I go from day to day without thinking about all the things I need to do for him that I didn’t have to do a year ago. I find this fact hard to swallow because I realize he will continue to fail until I can’t be the person who cares for him any longer.

Death of a loved one is difficult to accept in any situation, but I think watching the degenerative progression of someone you love is worse. It’s like I lose him a bit each day. Because of this one fact, the disease has changed the dynamic in our marriage. I have to coach him to remember things. Sometimes I have to coach him on how to move his body in order to sit straight, or to get up after a fall.

Ken always loved doing little things for me–like buying a corsage for me the first time he heard me sing a solo. Like buying me a dress I loved but didn’t need and running around with it in the trunk of his car until he could give it to me on my birthday. He bothered to know me well enough to ALWAYS give me something that was just right. Whether it be a hug, a smile, or a little remembrance. I miss his thoughtfulness. I miss my husband.

I know as time goes on everyone will experience caretaking on some level–either as the recipient or the one giving the care. Not being independent enough to do simple things like cutting your own meat at dinner, or putting on your own shoes everyday is humiliating. Falling and having to call 911 for help to get up is frustrating, but necessary. I can’t imagine how he truly feels because he never complains.

If Ken were a different person, I don’t think I could do all that is required. But he is the sweetest most loving man I’ve ever met. I loved him when we married almost twenty years ago, and through the years that love has grown exponentially. It’s that love that keeps me steady. I’m no hero. I’m no saint. I just love the man I married. That’s enough.

#####

Here’s the next installment to APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 6

Paris, France — June 1939—Emma traveled from Germany to Paris several times since she graduated from secondary school. She loved the city with its beautiful walkways and parks, museums, and art galleries. She loved to linger in the outdoor cafes while enjoying a conversation with a Parisian. She spoke fluent French and even acquired a Parisian accent. Emma loved Paris because French people worked to live instead of living to work like typical Germans. Life in the city of lights went on at an easy pace. The French found joy in simple things like good wine, beautifully presented food, fresh-baked baguettes and croissants. Every meal turned out to be a special event, even if the meal only consisted of bread and cheese.

When Uncle Klaus requested Emma to accompany Marta to Paris for the summer, she looked forward to spending time with her favorite cousin. Emma recognized Marta possessed the same spark she held for art, history, and culture. Emma looked forward to witnessing Marta’s first impressions of the beautiful city. Expressing a love for culture proved to be something a German woman never spoke about, especially now with the Nazis in power. Women in their eyes could do only one thing–to serve their husbands, even when they showed great intelligence and achieved high grades in school. In France, Emma escaped the ugly whispers of others because she didn’t marry. Rumors circled Emma preferred women to men.

Emma booked a room in a small hotel in Montparnasse, the highest point in Paris. The hotel didn’t offer luxury, but the immaculate rooms provided safety for women traveling without men. The rickety elevator chugged and snorted on the way up as Marta rode with her heavy trunk to the fifth floor. The clanks and clunks of the elevator unnerved Marta so she rode with her eyes shut.

When Emma opened the door to their home for the summer, Marta’s mouth dropped. The sitting room was painted a soft peach with stencils of spring bouquets dancing on the walls. In the adjoining bedroom was the same shade of peach and white lace duvets covered the two beds. A small table with a stained-glass lamp shade sat between the beds. A desk painted blue sat in front of a large window with lace curtains.

Emma stayed at this hotel on another trip, and she requested this room because she wanted to relive the tranquility of looking out over the city every evening, even though much of the scene included views of roofs and chimneys.

Hunger set in for both Emma and Marta after the long train trip, so they agreed to unpack after lunch. Once again they road the rickety gilded birdcage elevator down to the lobby. They traveled through the revolving glass door to step onto the sidewalk. “Do you sense the pulse, Marta?” Emma asked.

“What?”

“The pulse. The soul of the city. The easiness of this place.”

“Give me time, my dear cousin. My eyes are overwhelmed with so many beautiful sights.” Marta laughed.

Emma smiled at the exuberance of her cousin. “This way. We will go to my favorite sidewalk cafe where we will enjoy a light lunch.” Emma grabbed Marta’s hand and pointed her to a group of colorful table umbrellas in the next city block.

As they strolled down the streets filled with flowers and bright colors, Marta thought up until now she lived her life in black and white. Here life and rich color cried out from every shop window. People dressed in bright summer clothing and wore warm smiles as they strolled down the avenue. The city kept Marta’s eyes stimulated. Her ears listened to the musical French language and let it wash over her like sweet honey.  The words gracefully flowed into one another unlike the guttural nature of her German tongue.

As they neared the cafe, a handsome young artist sat at the corner painting a nearby landscape. Above a young woman feed her little pet canary in a second floor window, while the bird entertained the neighborhood with its lovely song. If Marta didn’t experience the colorful sights herself, she would believe she lived in a child’s fairy tale.

Marta said. “Will the whole summer be like this?”

“Of course. We will enjoy everyday! This is only the beginning, my sweet cousin.”

Marta nodded. “How will I ever return to Germany after living in Paris? I think I am destined to live here forever.”

Emma laughed at her cousin because she remembered feeling the exact same way on her first trip to the city.

They sat down on padded floral seat on metal chairs under a bright umbrella. The waiter came as soon as they got situated. “And what do you ladies desire today?”

Emma looked at him and said, “We’ll both have baguettes and brie.”

“Very good mademoiselle.”

After the waiter disappeared into the building, Marta spoke. “Where shall we go first?”

Emma studied Marta’s delicate fawn-like face. “Tonight I thought we would take a taxi into the heart of the city and view the Eiffel Tower lighted against the dark sky.”

“That sounds lovely. And tomorrow?”

“Each day will unfold, darling. We will not plan and rush. But if you would be more comfortable with a strict itinerary, we can sit down and plan one for the days ahead.” Emma teased.

Marta giggled, “Stop. Please do not make me feel like a child.”

Emma laughed.  “I am sorry, Cheri, but I want you to learn the whole world does not want to be German, even though the Nazis seem to prefer everyone to be the same. People are quite different in every country. Here you can fill your soul with culture and astonishing beauty, Marta. No place is like Paris.”

Marta nodded.

Emma placed her hand over her cousin’s fine-bonded fingers. “The summer will whisk by, Marta because good times always seem to disappear faster than the day to day activities. But we will cherish each day like it is our last together.”

They lingered in silence and sipped strong coffee as the sun dipped toward down to the horizon and the sky changed into rich shades of pink, blue, and purple. Both girls stayed silent knowing the summer would be magical.

Chapter 7

Berlin, Germany – June 1939 — Heidi Schiller stayed home over the summer helping her mother with the younger children and never-ending housework. She loved her mother and enjoyed their time together, but Heidi grew bored and restless.

“Heidi, you cannot stay home forever.” Mrs. Schiller told her. “With no serious suitors, you must make a life for yourself.”

“Yes, Mutter.”

“You should sit for the entrance exam for the university and become a teacher. You are such a smart girl.”

“Mother, I really do not want to teach. I want to be a dancer.”

“Dancing-all the time, dancing!” Her mother threw up her arms. “Yes, you are a beautiful dancer, but the world does not need a dancer in these times.”

Heidi hung her head to hide her tears. “I think the world would be better with more music and dancing.”

Her mother raised Heidi’s chin and met her eyes. “I sang like a canary at your age, but am I starring in operas?”

“No Mutter.” Heidi’s eyes dropped to her feet.

“Life presents many disappointments, my dear girl. As German women we are limited to a few choices, especially when someone does not want to marry after finishing secondary school.”

Heidi protested. “Mutter, the only boys who come around are brainwashed by the Youth Movement. I do not think like them, and I would never marry anyone who is so rigid.”

“I understand.” Her mother nodded.

Marta continued. “The Nazis closed my church and now the school. They smashed shopkeeper’s windows and beat defenseless men in the streets. How can Vater belong to such a violent group? I do not want to live here any longer, Mutter, but I am trapped.”

“Heidi,” Her mother said in a low voice. “You must be careful what you say. The wrong person might be listening.”

Heidi confessed in a whisper. “You are right. I forgot myself. But do you think neighbors should turn on neighbors?”

Her mother put her hand on her daughter’s hand. “Liebling, do not despair. We will find an answer for you.” Her mother handed her an ad for a nanny position in Poland. “What do you think about this?”

“A nanny?” Heidi said with surprise. “I never considered such a position.”

“My cousin who lives in Warsaw, and she wrote many wealthy people are looking for good nannies.” Her mother continued. “As much as I want you to be near me, Liebling, I too want you to live away from Germany right now.”

Heidi looked at her mother with bright eyes. “This is a good plan, Mutter. Vater asked me about my future plans yesterday. I cannot image him approving of me leaving Germany?”

“You leave your Vater to me.” Her mother said. “By the time I am done with him, he will be convinced he thought to send you to Poland.”