Tag Archive | imagination

Blue Skies Are Shining on Me

The title of this post might be a little confusing even though there’s not a cloud in the sky. The title does relate to what’s going on today. For the last three days, the landscaper has been turning our backyard into a park I’ve been striving to achieve since we moved in here thirteen years ago. I’m not posting pictures because, of course, the work is not done — but that’s half of the beauty. I have learned to be patient as we’ve moved through the different projects this year –the kitchen, the living room, the utility room, and who could forget the “Taj Garage.” As the old comes down and the new goes up, the process is fun to watch — although I admit the Taj Garage did push me to the limits.

I’ve seen the finished backyard in my mind’s eye for over a year. It started with the installation of the fence last year, and now continues with a retaining wall, new plants and cleaning out some of the weeds and old plants and replacing them with updates. The anticipation of the yard being finished is exhilarating.

I thank the weather for cooperating for the past three days — I bet you’ll probably never hear me say that again! But rain has been taking a path north and leaving our area dry. Perhaps it will rain when our landscape is finished for this year. Next year, I’ll tackle the front.

Like all the cliches predict — It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Sorry. Just had to say it.

Have a good day with blue skies shining on you!

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – (CONTINUED)

Chapter 19

Budapest, Hungary – December—The winds of war changed direction. With the Nazis on the borders of Hungary, fear mounted in the Jewish community. If Budapest Jews fate followed the Nazi treatment of Jews in other countries, time would be short before they would be deported.

Rabbi Weismann’s deal with Eichman would diminish once the Nazis overran the city; worst of all he couldn’t keep his promise to protect Heidi and the children any longer. He went to work on a plan to help them escape. If he moved fast enough, they might stand a chance.

Part of the preparation for their journey required the car to be in good working order. The Rabbi hid the Rolls in a neighboring barn for the past three years, and the vehicle needed work. Sitting dormant for so long might become troublesome on the road. The worn tires and cracked hoses needed replacing; and of course, they needed enough gasoline to get to Switzerland. Everything they required was in short supply, but as always, the Rabbi solved the problem. His connections with the black market got him anything for a price.

Heidi also needed a good traveling companion.  The man Rabbi Weismann chose was a trusted Hungarian friend.  Dominik was a perfect choice because he spoke fluent German. When he was small, his father worked in a Nuremberg factory and he learned the language then. His family moved back to Hungary after his grandfather died, and Dominik’s father took over the family grocery business. When the Rabbi told Heidi of his choice to accompany her, she agreed. Over the past three years she met Dominik on many occasions and she trusted him.

Dominik agreed to the plan and mapped out a route which would keep them off the main roads for much of the trip. The route added several hours to the journey, but Dominik believed they would be less likely to encounter German troops on the back roads. The most dangerous part of the trip required them to drive through the Alps. The changeable weather at high elevations provided more danger than any checkpoint. When Dominik shared his plan with the Rabbi, the two men agreed putting safety first  outweighed the extra time the journey would require.

Gavriella packed enough food and water to last for the duration of  the journey. Another friend of the Rabbi’s stole enough petro to drive all the way to Switzerland.  The Rabbi even arranged a false marriage certificate for the couple and a baptismal certificate for David. David could not be Heidi’s child because of his age, so he became her nephew according to the false documents.  The two younger children named Heidi and Dominik as their parents on birth certificates. To be on the safe side, Heidi once again dyed the children’s dark hair blond.

Before they left at dawn, the Rabbi prayed over them. “Almighty God, please go with Heidi, my adopted daughter on this perilous journey. With your protection, and Dominik’s keen intellect, I put them all in your hands as they make this journey to Switzerland. Please ride with them during their journey.” He paused after he finished the prayer and gazed at Heidi with wet eyes. “My dear girl, you will remain in my heart forever.”

“Oh Rabbi, perhaps I should stay with you.”

“No. You must keep the children safe. You promised their mother.”

Heidi nodded. She understood making this trip would save David, Ruthie, and Jacob’s lives, but saying goodbye to the Rabbi proved to be one more difficult task since she met the Gesslers.

The Rabbi said in a calm voice. “Now, Heidi, we’ve been over this. You must go. You are the best hope for the children. If you stay, even God cannot protect you.” He hugged all of them and backed away from the car.

“I will never forget you.” Heidi said.

The Rabbi waved farewell as Dominik started the car.  “Take good care of them, Dominik.”

“Do not worry, Rabbi, I will protect them like my own family.”

Heidi and the children waved until the Rabbi disappeared in the distance.  The silence that followed for the first few miles hung  like a thick fog. Once again they left a safe home for something unknown. Dominik headed west and everyone remained silent.

After a few miles, Ruthie spoke first. “Heidi, are you our Mutter again?”

“Yes, sweetheart. I am you Mutter forever and ever.”

“Good. I like you as my Mutter.” She leaned against David and closed her eyes.

Book 6 – 1944

Chapter 1

Anzio, Italy – January, 1944—Josie and the rest of the medical staff rang in the New Year in a tent. For the past three years she celebrated the first of January with the medical staff in the same way with a bottle of beer and a cigarette.  She had been transferred from Sicily to Anzio, Italy, but this time her move came with a promotion to First Lieutenant. She made the trip on a ship headed north for the 95th Evacuation Hospital. And like her other encounters with beach landings, as soon as she set foot on the sand, air raid sirens sounded. The nurses took cover near the trucks which would take them to their new location.

After the “all clear” whistle sounded, the driver and the nurses traveled to a field in the middle of nowhere. Josie yelled to the driver. “This can’t be right. Check your instructions private.”

The driver considered her comment insulting and condescending. He hated taking orders from some broad. “I put you where the brass wanted you. Get out of my truck!”

Josie scowled. “Who’s your commanding officer, private?”

“Captain James Smith.”

“He’ll be hearing from me.” Josie jumped from the truck’s passenger seat and motioned for everyone to get out of the truck. She decided reasoning with this hard-head who thought women should stay home and pop out babies would be an exercise in futility. But as soon as she could, she’d let Captain Smith know about his insubordinate driver.

After the driver left, Josie took charge and gave an order to the corpsman in their group. “Charlie, radio headquarters and confirm if we are in the correct location to set up our facility.”

Over an hour later, the corpsman made contact and confirmed Josie guessed correctly.  The knucklehead driver dropped them in the wrong place. “HQ is sending another truck. We are to wait here.”

Josie threw up her arms. “Great!”

One small building stood in the middle of their location. The nurses and corpsmen scattered and fell on their bellies inside the weathered building while shells flew overhead with a sickening whine.

Josie joked, “Nobody can deny the Krauts throw a hell of a welcome party.”

Her tongue-in-cheek comment broke the tension in the shelter and everyone laughed. By now, scattering for shelter due to air raids became routine for these field-tested nurses.

An hour later, another truck picked them up and took them to Nettuno to establish another field hospital. Nettuno was a small town south of Anzio and a short distance from the main road along the beach. The beautiful, park-like surroundings seemed too good to be true. The tents sat on lush grassy fields. The serene location offered a pleasant change from their last assignment which only offered cold, wet, dirty sand. The nurses didn’t even complain when they dug the necessary foxholes under the cots. Josie set up the operating tent to prepare for the wounded who would inevitably come.

As they worked, “Screaming Meenie” shells from the biggest German guns miles away, whistled a foreboding sound overhead on their way toward the coast. As the tents went up and the hospital got organized, combat sounds of machine gun fire, shells whistling, and grenades exploding-seemed all too close. Josie wondered if this peaceful location offered safety or a threat to her nurses and patients.

After their long day of setting up the new hospital, Josie and the others flopped down on their cot hoping for a good night’s sleep before the wounded would appear. The long day left them exhausted, but another air raid blast caused them to dive into the foxholes under their cots. They listened to the sounds of war for most of the night. Planes flew so low Josie swore they would fly through the tents. Dee Dee, a new nurse in the group whimpered. Josie thought, “Poor girl, this must be her first time near a combat zone.” But even as a seasoned veteran, Josie never experienced this kind of fire. Her fear stuck in her throat. She held her breath. The shelling went on for until midnight before they crawled out of their foxholes. The nurses laid in their cots muddy, cold, and scared. No one slept that first night.

The shelling at Nuttuno continued to be a nuisance, so a week after they arrived, headquarters made a prudent decision to relocate Josie’s unit closer to the beach near the other units. The location would be a half mile away from any military target, and clearly marked as a medical unit with big red crosses on the tents.

Any time a hospital needed to be moved, nurses usually grumbled. Tents went down. Instruments needed to be packed in sterilized bags. Corpsmen evacuated the wounded to the new location. Afterward they helped fold the cots and put all of the equipment onto the awaiting trucks. Even though moving a hospital was a tremendous undertaking, no one complained. Everyone agreed their  park-like Eden was hell disguised.

*****

Winter months in this part of Italy brought ugly, bone-chilling cold temperatures. Rain and a wind made a tough job even more difficult for the medical staff. Tent flaps whipped open and put patients in jeopardy of exposure. Even worse, the war-torn tents had become riddled with holes from German strafing and flak. Keeping patients warm until they could be evacuated became a losing battle.

Witnessing fear in the wounded when the sirens sounded devastated Josie and the nurses. Patients well enough to put on their steel helmets and crawl under their cots to avoid flying shrapnel did so. Nurses and corpsmen lifted others to the ground while other patients who couldn’t be moved stayed in their cots with a caring nurse holding his hand until the shelling stopped.

Chapter 2

Anzio, Italy – January—To speed up the slow pace northward through Italy, Allied commanders planned a landing behind the German line in an attempt to break the stalemate at the Gustav line–an imaginary line which ran across the Italian “boot” from sea to sea. The landing commenced on January 22—a cool but sunny day. The break in the weather came as a welcomed relief from the cold and rain, which had plagued the area since the Italian campaign ensued.

The beach landing at Anzio–some one hundred miles south of Rome–was a surprise to the Germans, and men and supplies came ashore with little resistance. The Allies intended to establish a foothold in Italy, fight their way north, and capture Rome. Mario’s unit practically strolled onto the beach. The situation proved to be eerie with so little resistance. The men breathed a sigh of relief, and by midnight, some thirty-six thousand men, thirty-two hundred vehicles, and a vast store of supplies reached the beachhead. Any soldier killed the first day fell victim from Stuka bombers which strafed the beaches and dropped bombs as they dove out of the sky.

During the American landing, the Germans pulled back from the beaches and regrouped to prepare a strategic response for the unexpected Allied offensive. In a week’s time, the Germans mustered enough troops to counterattack what Adolf Hitler called the “Anzio abscess,” and for the next four months, Americans encountered some of the most savage fighting of World War II.

Mario’s regiment got trapped on the beachhead.A strong German ground attack and brutal air attacks from the Luftwaffe kept the Americans in their foxholes. . One evening an incoming shell exploded near Mario. Shrapnel riddled his chest, neck and down his legs. Blood poured out of him like a leaky sieve. Medics treated him with bandages to stem the flow of blood before the stretcher bearers got to him to the evacuation hospital.

The nurse who met Mario at the hospital resuscitated him and started an IV with non-cross matched plasma. He required immediate surgery and a strong desire to live. The nurse shoved another needle in the opposite arm for fluids and the drugs he needed during surgery. If Mario lived through surgery, he would receive whole blood when time allowed to properly determine his blood type.  Like so many other wounded soldiers, Mario faced a race against the clock. Doctors stabilized him and spent hours removing the metal shards throughout his body. Mario slipped into a coma after surgery. The sooner he awoke the more likely he would fully recover. Mario faced the most important fight of his life.

It was two days later when Mario finally managed to open his eyes  He saw a pretty nurse standing beside his bed.

He looked up at her and whispered, “Where am I?”

The nurse said, “You’re in the hospital. We’ve been waiting for you to wake up, sleepy head.” She smiled.

He tried to smile but his face didn’t respond. He wanted to banter with her, but he didn’t possess enough strength.

She said, “You’ll be leaving us now that you are conscious.”

“What?” Mario’s parched throat made talking difficult.

The nurse said, “You’re scheduled to evac to Naples. Patients go there to get better care than we can provide here. Don’t worry. You’re going to be just fine.”

The pretty brunette nurse gave him a warm smile. She was kind, but Mario wished it was Josie standing beside him.

“Oh.” Mario wished another pretty nurse named Josie was taking care of him. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Say five words used most of his strength. He moaned from the pain.

The nurse gave him a shot of morphine. “This should help, sweetie.” She patted his hand. “Good luck, Mario.”

 

That afternoon Mario was transferred onto a hospital ship headed for Naples. At the hospital there, he would receive the intensive medical care he needed to make a full recovery.

 

When Two Brains Are Better Than One

When a person has a debilitating disease, he/she is always on the lookout for something to cure his/her curse or at least make a life a little bit better. Because we live in a “drug” culture, help often come in a pill or a syringe, and other alternatives seem to be ignored.This morning on CBS This Morning, they presented a story about some research going on at Duke University. They interviewed a researcher who is exploring how a damaged brain and a healthy brain of another person can be networked to overcome the disability.

Sounds a little like science fiction, huh?

Well, they have had success with primates, getting the monkey to do things monkeys are not supposed to be able to do. But the research is preliminary. The power of the mind involves 100 billion neurons in our brains and capturing their power is limitless. Just think of the implications this new approach could mean for brain injuries and diseases. If we can eliminate brain diseases — and there is a very long list — wouldn’t that be a miracle? If this research offers a cure for stroke patients, wouldn’t that be a blessing?

I don’t think people should live forever, but I do think those patients who slip away a little piece at a time or lay in a nursing home because the treatments have been exhausted is inhumane. Generally, our culture doesn’t condone assisted suicide, so people who are stricken with brain injuries or disease must wait for death to release them from their pain and disabilities. This situation is not fair to the patient or the family who cares for them. If brains can be networked with a small device, and a better life can be achieved I truly think we have advanced the entire human race.

What do you think?

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 16

Sicily, October—The winter rains in Sicily usually began in November, but in 1943 they came a month early. The medical staff struggled to maintain adequate sterile facilities under wet canvas tents. A severe storm in Salerno knocked down the tents of the evacuation hospital, and Josie and the other drenched nurses needed to move over a thousand patients to an abandoned tobacco warehouse. This enormous undertaking needed to be completed quickly to prevent patients from developing complications from exposure.

The weather continued to be dreadful into November, which caused problems on the ground as well as in the air. For the first three weeks of the month, Josie met Anna almost daily on evacuation runs. The few precious minutes together in this foreign place reminded them life offered more than mangled young men and the stench of bodily fluids.

Josie always looked forward to Anna’s arrival, but when she didn’t make an appearance during the first two weeks in November, Josie’s intuition told her Anna must be in trouble. At first Josie thought perhaps Anna was transferred, but Anna would have told her about such a change.  Josie’s concern deepened when Anna didn’t show up for the special Thanksgiving dinner.

Rumors filled the camp that a hospital transport plane lost radio contact during one of the recent bad storms. The crew never returned to base.  Josie didn’t want to believe Anna might be on that plane, but her intuition told her otherwise.

Chapter 17

Albania – November—The hospital transport plane took off in heavy weather, and once in the air, the compass of the plane failed. The pilot became disoriented, and his confusion caused him to head east when he believed he was flying south. After a couple of hours, the plane’s wings iced up and the plane ran out of fuel causing them to crash in the Albanian mountains behind German lines.

Even though the descent was terrifying, everyone except the pilot survived. The medic and nurse suffered a few lacerations and bruises, and the four patients on board lingered in a state of shock. Terror set in when armed men dressed in ragged clothes surrounded the plane. Anna studied the chiseled, dirty faces of the rag-tag bunch of grubby men out of one of the small plane windows. A flashing thought told her this might be the end of the line for her and the others.

The guerrilla group forced their way into the plane, and one of them spoke English.

“Americans?”

Mike, the medic on board, stepped in front of Anna and answered. “Yes.”

The scruffy man pointed to his chest. “I help.”

Mike continued as the spokesman for the Americans. “These men are wounded. We need to get to a hospital.”

“No hospital, but we take you to safety.” The man replied.

Mike and Anna realized they couldn’t stay in the plane, but should they trust this crusty bunch with their safety?  Anna and Mike stared at each other. The only good choice seemed to be to trust the hooligans. Mike made the decision. “Okay. We will go with you.”

“The journey is long.” the man said, “But we must go now before Germans find you.”

Mike nodded.

Anna whispered. “Are you sure about this?”

After a slight pause Mike turned to Anna and said, “You realize our options are severely curtailed, right?  We’ll freeze here. If the Krauts catch us, we’ll all be POWs. and then all bets are off.”

As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Mike was right. “I guess we need to take a chance, huh?”

“Right.”

Anna went to work. She bundled up the patients with the extra blankets on board and packed their meager supplies in a duffle bag.

The Albanian leader ordered, “Follow me. Go to farm. They help.”

The scruffy saviors carried the wounded on the stretchers. Anna and Mike stayed behind to set the plane ablaze to eliminate any evidence they might have survived the crash. As the flames licked through the fuselage, Anna clenched her teeth and wiped away tears. She feared the coming days and for several minutes she thought about cuddling with Tommy at home before a roaring fire. Would she live to see the day?

Mike and Anna walked away from the plane. They ran to catch up with the rest of the group. In the background a huge explosion nearly knocked them off their feet as the remaining fuel caught fire. The snowy landscape made the mile journey tough. Just about the time Anna was ready to fall down for good and go to sleep in the snow, the leader announced, “We are here.”

A farmer and his wife met them in the yard of a ramshackle house. They led the group to a large round barn which sat behind the house. The farmer opened the door to reveal a roaring fire in a pit in the middle of the circular barn. A hole in the roof let he smoke escape. Donna and Mike moved close to the flames and rubbed their hands together to get warm.  The Albanian men gently lowered the wounded near the fire too.

Anna dropped her guard. She turned to the leader. “Thank you for bringing us here.”

The man nodded.

The farmer’s wife served them thin potato soup and some crusty fresh bread. She offered each of them a bowl and spoon and motioned for them to eat. Anna let the warm soup defrost her inside. With hand motions and gestures, the Americans communicated their appreciation to their hosts.

After the patients ate and fell asleep, Anna went to the leader who rescued them. “Thank you again.” She said. “What is your name?”

The scruffy man smiled. “My real name too hard. Call me Jack.”

Anna smiled. “Okay, Jack. Call me Anna.”

“Anna, you are a very brave. Journey is dangerous. You sleep now. I stay awake. In morning we leave.”

“Where are we going, Jack?”

“Bari. Americans there.”

Anna nodded and moved to the other side of the barn where Mike slept. She lay in the straw and prayed. She wasn’t religious, but after living three years with Josie, she thought she would give praying a chance. “Thank you Lord for watching over us with these brave strangers. Please keep us safe on our long journey. Keep me strong. Please don’t let anything happen to my men. Amen.” It was a prayer she would repeat many times.

*****

The band of guerrilla fighters, Anna, Mike, and four wounded soldiers left the following morning before sunrise. The farmer gave them a cart and a small amount of food. Overnight, one of Jack’s men found a couple of donkeys to haul their gear, and he also brought some Albanian clothing he insisted Mike and Anna wear. The farmer’s wife offered Anna a boiled wool hat.  Anna tried to refuse the gift, but through Jack she learned the farmer’s wife insisted because Anna would need the extra warmth for the long journey.

Bari, Italy was eight hundred long miles away through mountainous terrain. The first morning of the journey began with the sun shining, but by evening the temperature dropped and snow fell from the dark clouds. The group sought refuge in a cave where Jack’s men built a fire.  Anna gave everyone a MRE pouch. She planned to save the small amount of food the farmer’s wife gave them after the “Meals Ready to Eat” ran out. After they ate and warmed themselves by the fire, the group minus one lookout fell asleep.

On average the group covered about thirteen miles each day; when the weather cooperated, they covered about fifteen miles. Storms in the mountains came with little warning, but somehow Jack found adequate shelter to wait them out. Once he found an abandoned building, which protected them from a blizzard. Another night they found a cave large enough to build a fire and shelter them from another snow storm.  Mike joked, “Hell must be frozen over, and we found it.”

When they exhausted the food they brought with them, Jack’s men proved they were excellent hunters. They hunted deer, elk, and rabbits which kept everyone from starving. Mike learned how to butcher the kill, and Anna learned how to cook the wild meat. Jack devised a method to melt snow, which gave them plenty of drinking water. With such a strenuous, long journey ahead of them, they took nothing for granted. Anna insisted they all say a blessing before every meal and even Jack’s men participated by bowing their heads.

About a month into their trek, a blinding snowstorm forced them to live in a cave for several days. When the storm cleared, Jack and the group needed to trudge through deep snow drifts which made the next few days drudgery. Tramping through knee deep snow slowed them to a crawl, but so far, they eluded any German.

They abandoned the cart the farmer gave them because lugging the thing through the deep snow wasted too much of their energy.  Fortunately Jack’s practical genius provided a solution.  He rigged sleds out of rough timbers and the canvas stretchers. Then he hitched them to the donkeys to pull the wounded men through the snow. Anna, Mike, and the other guerrilla fighters carried supplies on their backs. No matter what obstacle they encountered, Jack always came up with an idea to pull them through.

During the two-month trip, Mike feared one of the guerrillas might try to take advantage of Anna, so he protected her at all times. He kept no secret he slept with a pistol and made sure Anna slept next to him every night.

About the time Anna thought she couldn’t endure any more, Jack announced with great exuberance, “We are here!” He pointed to a bunch of tents in the distance. “We are here!”

Tears of joy rolled down Anna’s cheeks when she caught a glimpse of the American flag. The weary, filthy vagabonds made a nurse scream at the sight of them. Soldiers with machine guns encircled them.

Anna spoke first. “We are medi-vac personnel. Our plane went down in Albania behind the German lines and lucky for us, these men helped us get here.”

The colonel in charge met them at the gate, “You want us to believe you all walked eight hundred miles ?”

Anna removed her fur hat and shook out her blond curls. “Sir, I am not aware of the mileage, but I can tell you our journey’s been a damn long one.”

“Well I’ll be damned. This war always has its share of surprises. Come this way.” The colonel escorted Anna and the men to the hospital. Their Good Samaritan, Jack the Albanian, pulled them through alive, just like he promised.

After Anna, Mike, and their saviors took off their outer clothing, the medical staff found Mike contracted pneumonia, and Anna suffered from dysentery and jaundice. The wounded men, who made the eight hundred mile journey on gerry-rigged stretcher sleds, required treatment for bed sores and injuries due to exposure. The Albanian men and all the Americans suffered frostbite, fatigue, and hunger.

After recovering for a few days, Jack announced he needed to leave. He stopped by Anna’s bedside to say goodbye. “Anna, going to be okay?”

Anna smiled. “Thanks to you, Jack, I’m going to be just fine. Are you leaving?”

“Yes. But I say goodbye first. You brave as any man. Tough and never complain. A good woman.”

“Thank you, Jack.” She blushed. “Are your men well enough to travel so soon?”

“Yes. We must go back and continue the fight.”

“But how will you get back? You’re not going to walk, are you?”

Jack laughed. “No Miss Anna. the Colonel give us jeep. We travel alone. No Americans to slow us down.” He snickered. “If Germans catch us, we say we stole the vehicle.”

Anna laughed and started to cough. “I owe you my life, Jack. How can I thank you?”

“Win the war, Miss Anna. Help me kill Nazis. They are very bad. Killed my whole family.”

“I will do my best.” Anna smiled and her tone got serious. “Jack, bend down.”

He obliged. Anna kissed his cheek. “Go with God, Jack.”

Her show of affection moved him. He took her hand and kissed it. Then he walked away. Anna never saw him again.

Chapter 18

A small town in Italy, November 1943—Mario’s unit went into a mountainous village in northeastern Sicily near the coast. Their assignment required them and a second unit to scout the town and clear out any Germans before the Americans moved north.

The groups split and headed in opposite directions. When they lost sight of each other unit, a Tommy gun ripped off several rapid shots in the distance. The men jumped into nearby ditch.

Marco said, “I bet Porter’s trigger finger got itchy.”

“You wish,” his sergeant said. “Shut up and get down.”

The shots rung in Mario’s ears. An odor of burned ammo hung in the air.

The men lay still and listened intently. The village grew quiet. No gunfire. No voices. The sergeant slithered out of the ditch and knelt down on the cobblestone road. He turned his head in both directions then Sergeant Riley motioned for the men to follow him down the street. Their senses shifted into high alert with the possibility of  danger lurking  around the next bend in the road.

Mario whispered to the guy in front of him, “Doesn’t this remind you of the movies?”

Sergeant Riley turned around and scowled at Mario. “Shut up, soldier.”

When the patrol came to an intersection, Riley peered around the corner and pulled his head back with a quick jerk. He paused and took a longer look. He spied Porter and his men at the end of the street. They walked along the road strung out with a few feet between each man. The two patrols met in the middle of the block. “Did you fire?” Riley asked Porter.

“Yeah. A couple of Krauts ran up the street. We ran the Tommy on them, but I don’t think we hit anything.”

“Did they fire on you?” Riley asked

“No, they just turned tail and ran. Probably got separated from their unit.” Porter laughed. “I think they’re still runnin’!”

“How do you get so lucky? The Krauts we meet always want a fight.” Riley grunted.

“Keep your head down, Riley!” Porter waved as his patrol fell in behind him.

“Same to you, bucko. Keep a safety on those Tommy’s. You scared the shit out of me!”

“Will do, fraidy cat.” Porter saluted Riley and joined his men.

Riley lead his patrol in the opposite direction to search the rest of the area. As they walked toward the outskirts of the small village, fewer houses appeared, and those standing got farther apart. When the road curved, houses appeared on the left side of the road with the mountainside on the right. A series of plowed terraces with olive trees produced a scene of green stripes in black fertile earth.

Mario spied two civilians vanish into a nearby house. “Sarg,” He pointed to the house with two fingers raised. The patrol stopped. The couple had retreated into a two-story stone building with a large unpainted wooden door. The windows were boarded up. The patrol prepared to attack. Riley dropped to one knee with his rifle pointed at the door. Mario assumed the same position with his Tommy gun. No one spoke. The sergeant used hand motions to position the remainder of the unit. George reached over and tried the doorknob. Locked.

Everyone stared at the door. Riley nodded. A guy named George banged the door with the butt of his gun. Almost immediately a woman began to scream. He banged again. Her screams became hysterical. “Tedeschi!”

Mario understood. He whispered to Riley. “She thinks we’re Krauts, Sarg.”

The woman shrieked, “No!’ No! No!”

Riley said, “For godsakes, Mario, get her to shut up!”

Mario shouted something in Italian with a fierce voice. The woman immediately stopped screaming. The patrol waited. A petite middle-aged woman with long black and silver hair peaked out from behind the door. “Americanos?”

Riley answered, “Si.”  Yes happened to be the only Italian word he understood.

She opened the door fully and cried. She put her hands to her cheeks as she went from man to man, hugging and kissing them.

When she came to Mario’s, she said, “Lei parla Italiano?”

He answered, “A little. un po’.”

She kissed him on both cheeks before she scurried into the house and came out with an overflowing basket of grapes. She gave every man a handful.

“Hey Mario, you need to tell our new friend this isn’t a social call. We’ve got work to do.” Sergeant Riley said.

“Yes sir.” Mario faced the woman. “Mi dispiace. Dobbiamo lasciare.”

She blushed and smiled before she moved toward the house with the empty basket. “Grazie!, Grazie. Vai con Dio.” She smiled and waved goodbye.

Riley ordered. “The party’s over, gentlemen. Let’s get going.”  Everyone waved to the woman and turned down the road heading out of town.

“What did she say, Mario?” Riley said.

“She said thanks, go with God, sir.”

“Amen to that!”

 

 

 

Will Machines Make Us Obsolete?

I’ve been a fan of Science Fiction for a long time. As a writer, I admire people who can look into the far future and present a story that has the possibility of coming true. All good science fiction has this element. For all you Trekkies out there, you understand. Just look what has happened since William Schatner portrayed Captain Kirk.

“Communicators” have become cell phones. A stun gun is a close relative to the phaser. The crew used electronic tablets–guess what? We do too–ever heard of the I-pad or a Kindle? Remember the touch screen on the television series? Voila! Windows 10 to the rescue! A scientist in Japan has made a look-a-like robot he sends to locations to give speeches when he can’t attend. Remember “Data?” Then there’s there’s the whole matter/anti-matter thing that I really don’t understand.

Why on earth am I thinking of such things. I got inspired last night as the finale of “Extant” aired. If you’re not familiar with the plot, it spins a tale of aliens and machines taking over our world. Far-fetched? I don’t think so.

I’m not going to address the alien part of the story because so far we haven’t even determined whether there is another Earth some where in the galaxy. I will address the takeover machines are making.

Every time I see or read about a machine filling in for humans in the work place, I become leery and frankly, a little scared. So many devices are filling our world and most people welcome them with arms outstretched. They take our jobs. They fill our factories and businesses. They even live in our pockets and purses. Machines run our world already. Satellites connect us and then pull us apart. Other satellites run our computers and even our gas pumps. Wonder if all of the connected and went on strike? Where could that leave us? The growth of technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but do they?

I know the program “Extant” is just so much TV magic, but it makes one think. At least I hope so. I can tell you one thing, if a machine tries to take my job, I would pull its plug!

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 4

North Africa, May—Josie rose early and went about her routine. She worked harder than any nurse under her supervision holding herself as accountable as any nurse in her command.  She earned her title, “Nurse Ironsides” and smiled every time she overheard someone refer to her with her “title of distinction.”

A corpsman met her at the mess tent one morning and saluted her. “Ma’am, beggin’ your pardon, ma’am.”

She returned his salute. “Yes private?”

“The colonel wants you to stop by his tent ASAP, ma’am.”

“Thank you soldier.” Josie left her meal and went straight to the colonel’s tent.

Josie removed her helmet as she entered the colonel’s office and saluted him as she stood in front of his desk. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Yes, Lieutenant. Please sit down.”

Josie sat in the chair opposite the side of the desk of where the Colonel sat.

“Josie, you are one of the most integral members of our staff here. The nurses here are a fine team, and that’s on you. Every corpsman, officer, and doctor holds you in high regard.”

“Thank you sir; I’m just doing my job.”

“Well, the brass recognizes your accomplishments too and issued new orders for you.”

“Sir?”

“You’re being transferred to the tenth field hospital in Sicily. They need a nurse like you to head up operations. For accepting this combat assignment, you will receive a pay increase, but unfortunately, no bump in rank. I wanted to promote as well, but the brass seems to think you’re a little too young and not seasoned enough to merit a promotion.”

“Yes sir.” Josie remained stone face serious, but inside she dreaded this move. “When am I to go, sir?”

“You’ll leave tomorrow.”

“Yes sir.”

The colonel rose and saluted her. “Josie, I’m very sorry to lose you. You’re as tough as any man and yet you possess the gentleness of a good woman. Keep your head down lieutenant. And God Speed.”

“Thank you sir.” Josie returned his salute, turned on her heel, and left the colonel’s office replaying his words. I need to leave tomorrow? Why so quickly?

Immediately she made plans to inform her staff and appoint an interim replacement until the Army officially appointed someone. She remained with her thoughts about the move. I guess I always wanted to go to Italy because Rosalie’s father got a faraway look in his eye every time he spoke about “the old country.” And now I’ll see for myself, but I know it will be anything but a vacation.

*****

The next morning a driver picked up Josie at 0600 to bring her to the dock where the ship for Sicily would disembark. Josie readied herself to enter another active combat zone and worked to mentally prepare for her new assignment.

At the edge of the base hospital, all fifty-nine nurses, the corpsmen, and the doctors lined up at the edge of the road and saluted Josie. The driver stopped as the nurses sang the “Army Nurse Corps” song as their goodbye and tribute to Josie. Their gesture spoke loudly to what extent the medical personnel loved her. Tears of joy and sorrow covered Josie’s face. She jumped off the jeep and hugged everyone thanking them for their hard work. She got back and the jeep, waved and shouted, “I’ll miss you guys!”

Josie remained silent the rest of the way to the dock. When the jeep finally stopped, the corpsman got out of the vehicle and hugged her. “Keep your head down, Josie. I’ll miss you.”

“I will, Jack. Thanks for the lift.” She wiped away a pesky tear that escaped from her left eye. She marched with confidence and her equipment on her back toward the ship which would take her into battle once again.

*****

U.S. and British troops invaded Sicily on July 9, 1943. The medical staff needed to arrive three days later, but even with the slight delay, the nurses found themselves in the thick of combat.

As they landed on the island, German Stuka dive bombers sprayed machine gunfire on the troops below. Doctors and nurses dove into slit trenches and foxholes. As Josie crouched in the trench, she thought of the large number of wounded soldiers having to wait for treatment while the enemy kept her pinned down.

When the sergeant in charge told his troops to move out, Josie followed. They made their way into a small town the allies held. The church served as the hospital and Josie was right. Many new casualties waited for help. A nurse triaged the wounded; when she saw Josie she smiled. “Are you Josephine Schneider?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“They need you in the back. Dr. Bachman has his handful without a surgical nurse assisting.”

Josie knew all medical units came equipped with at least one surgical nurse. “What happened to the nurse I’m replacing?”

“She died from shrapnel wounds after a bomb went off in the center of town. Store your gear in the room to the left and then report to surgery – stat!”

“Yes ma’am.” Josie gulped and went to work.

Chapter 4

Paris, France-June 1943—A whole year had passed and there was still no information about Emma.  Marta wrote letters every day hoping a kind prison matron at Anrath prison might deliver her correspondence. It was therapeutic for Martha to keep writing about daily events because discussing them in a letter in the same words she might speak at supper helped her believe Emma still lived. In the back of her mind, she also realized Emma might never be given her letters.

On a hot day in June, Pierre passed Marta on her way to work. He fell in step beside her and greeted her with daily pleasantries. “Marta! How wonderful to see you again.”

“Likewise, Pierre. How are you getting along?”

“As well as to be expected.” Pierre answered as he tipped his hat to a Nazi standing on the corner of the street.

After they got out of ear-shot of the German soldier, Pierre said, “A surprise for you, mademoiselle.” He handed her a newspaper.

“A surprise?”

“Inside, a train ticket to Vichy is for you. I am sending you on a little vacation to the South of France.” Pierre winked at Marta.

“Really?” Marta wondered why Pierre said such an odd thing.  “Why?”

“Someone wants to meet you.”  Pierre said in hushed tones. “Get on the train today. Take little with you and stay at the train station until you are contacted by one of my people.”

Marta’s body stiffened and her eyes widened. “What’s going on Pierre?”

“Just do as I tell you, Marta. You will be very happy if you follow my instructions.” Pierre raised one eyebrow as he puffed out his chest. He slipped her a newspaper which held her train ticket. “Take this with you, mademoiselle. The story on page six is most stimulating.” He smiled at her and walked away with a swift gait.

Chapter 5

Montpellier, France – June—After her encounter with Pierre, Marta turned to go back to her apartment. She packed an overnight bag and called her superior at the Louvre to say she had been called away for a family emergency and would miss the next few days at work. The train would leave the Paris station at noon.

Marta wondered why Pierre wanted her to make this trip, but because Emma trusted Pierre with her life, she would too. She took the bus to the Paris train station, boarded the train to Montpellier, and chose a seat next to well-dressed young woman. The woman appeared to be about her age, She wore a stylish white suit with matching shoes, a large hat, and a large diamond ring on her left ring finger which proclaimed her wealth.  Marta recognized no ordinary citizen wore such beautiful clothes, and she instantly put up her guard. It was likely this woman was a German sympathizer.

The woman greeted her. “Bonjour!”

Marta smiled. “Good morning, to you too.”She folded her hands across her handbag resting her lap.

“Are you going to Montpellier?”

Marta asked in a soft voice. “Why do you ask?”

The woman’s spoke nonchalantly. “No reason. Just curious. I like to visit with my seat mate when I travel. The trip does not seem to drag on so when I talk with the person sitting beside me.”

Marta really didn’t really want to engage in conversation with this stranger. She didn’t want to take a chance because a bit of her German accent lingered in her voice, and she didn’t want to raise any suspicion.  Plus, instinct told Marta not to trust the beauty who sat on the adjacent seat. Marta wanted to be sure she didn’t divulge anything about her mysterious trip. “I am very tired. I do not want to be rude, but I do not wish to visit. I would rather sleep.” Marta smiled and closed her eyes.

The French countryside whiz by the window as Marta wondered why she Pierre insisted she make this trip. In six long hours, she would understand.

*****

Marta allowed herself to fall asleep which served two purposes. She would be rested when she arrived at her undetermined destination, and the silence fended off any further conversation attempts by the woman beside her.

The train pulled into the station, and after it came to a stop, Marta filed off behind the well-dressed woman. As they left the train, the conductor offered his hand to female passengers aiding them as they made the large step down off the train to the platform.

The well-dressed woman said in a too pleasant voice, “Bonne journ!”

“You enjoy your day, too.” Marta smiled and strolled in the opposite direction.

Now at the train station Marta didn’t understand the plan Pierre set in place for her. She studied the train departure and arrival board as she anticipated her contact. Then she strolled from one of end to the station to the other. A tall man dressed in casual white slacks and sear-sucker blazer approached her.

“Hello, Marta.” He tipped his straw hat.

“Hello.” She said shyly.

“I am your driver. Please follow me.”

Marta hesitated. “You’re a friend of Pierre’s?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.

The mysterious man escorted her to a small car. He pulled away from the station and drove through the unfamiliar countryside to a sleepy Mediterranean coastal town. Marta breathed in the fresh salt air as the coolness of the breeze coming off the sea brushed across her body. A fishy odor permeated the beach area, but in a strange way, she found the scent pleasant. She never saw seaside scenery, and Marta enjoyed the picturesque view. The sapphire colored water, the gentle waves lapping the shore, boats bobbing at the pier transported her to a foreign land she loved at first sight.

The driver stopped in a quiet residential area about three city blocks from the coast. He turned off the engine and smiled. “We are here.” He jumped out of the car, opened Marta’s door, and offered her his arm.

Marta received his gesture, carrying her overnight bag and purse in the other hand. They walked on a cobblestone walkway flanked by beautiful red roses on both sides. Marta’s heart pounded harder against her ribs with every step. She wished the man would tell her why he chose this place. He led her up a flight of stairs to the door labeled Apt. 212.  He unlocked the door to reveal a sunlit cozy flat where a bony old woman rocked in a chair near the window. Marta’s brow wrinkled as she stared at the frail woman struggling to stand up to greet her. Without a word, the tall man put the key to the apartment on the table next to the door and left without a word.

The old woman spoke first. “You do not recognize me, Marta?”

The sound of her voice, told Marta the identity of this stranger. She gasped and put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God! Emma?”

“Yes.” Emma nodded as her eyes moistened.

Marta moved closer. “My Emma? How? When?”

“I am free at last. Let me feast my eyes on you. You are so beautiful!” Her voice quavered. Emma welcomed Marta into her bony arms.

Marta didn’t move. How could this woman be Emma?  She stared at this stranger.

Emma consoled her. “I understand my appearance is wretched, but I will recover now that I am with you again.” Her eyes told the truth.

“Oh, Emma. What did they do to you?” Marta moved closer as tears collected at the rim of her eyes.

“Someday I may tell you.  But for right now, I just want to be happy we are together again.”

Marta blinked again and again to ward off the tears wanting to escape as she stared at this poor, bone-thin woman struggling to move. Seeing Emma in such bad condition broke her heart. Her healthy, athletic, beautiful Emma now appeared as a battered, broken woman. Emma put her skeleton arms around Marta and hugged her. Marta didn’t expect her to be so strong.

After standing close for several minutes, Emma kissed Marta’s cheek while her eyes glistened. “I thought we would never be together again.”

Marta caressed her gently. “Welcome home, Emma. I missed you so much.”

 

 

 

No Words for Today

I wrote a couple of lines this morning which are nothing to cherish. My brain is as dull as the gray skies and pelting rain. So, I deleted my lamenting over my unfinished household projects, and am going to just give you the next three chapters of the second edition of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS. I promise tomorrow will bring some inspiration for your inquisitive minds. I’ll keep my mind and eyes open today to recognize a new topic. Promise.

#####

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 28

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin – December—The weather suddenly turned cold, and Rosalie worked to find new ways to keep the house warm for the children. Like everything else heating oil became rationed. She dressed the babies in several layers of clothing and piled blankets several inches thick to keep them warm at night. While the other parts of the house remained chilly, the kitchen stayed warm with the radiant heat from the oven.

By now Rosalie internalized the time the postman dropped letters in her mailbox. A good day brought letters from her brothers, Angelo, and Josie. A bad day brought bills and no letters. She saved any letter for the quiet two hours in the afternoon when both babies took naps. In November, Mrs. Schneider told Rosalie and Donna Josie got on a ship headed for somewhere in Africa, and today she found a letter from her brave nursing friend.

October 28, 1942

 Dear Rosie,

 Hi pal! So good to get your letter. Your words brightened my day, and I love the pictures of baby Angelo Jr.! He looks so much like his Daddy. Incredible! Angelo certainly sure can’t deny that boy!

 I’m somewhere in Africa, but even I don’t understand where. One thing is for certain, this nursing experience is something I never expected. In my worst dreams, I couldn’t have conjured up such conditions. Our “hospital” is a war-torn building; honestly, it’s a shack so bad, the rats don’t want to live here.

 I’m glad I made the decision to join the nursing corps because so many wounded men need our help. We do what we can, but so many lay in pain while we assessed their injuries, At least now we have adequate supplies to treat them. When we first landed, the fighting on the beach held up the morphine, either, and other drugs that we really needed. The wounds of war are horrific–burns, missing limbs, and so much more. For the first time in my life I felt inadequate. But I tell you this. Everyone should be proud of our boys because we found no cowards among our ranks. They writhed in pain but no one complained. These boys are the bravest souls in the world.

 All of us are learning to cope with the challenges of combat nursing on the fly. We wear steel helmets and combat boots in surgery; corpsmen hold flashlights while doctors operate at night; the windows are covered with blankets because snipers are all around us. (If you talk to my mom, don’t mention the snipers, okay?)

 Our commanding officer require us to be feminine looking, but as tough as nails. That means we need to appear neat and clean, with curled hair and a bit of make-up. He believes not doing so would deflate the boys’ morale. We improvise all of the time . . . like using our helmets for sinks and a glass jug for a mirror. The boys have enough challenges so we don’t want them to put up with an ugly nurse! (ha, ha) Every time I wash up, I think of Donna putting up with these conditions. This environment would make her go AWOL for sure!

 Life is tough here, and I’ realize everyone has a breaking point when the stresses of this life become too much.  Last week Sally got so upset when the snipers fired at our “hospital;” a sergeant needed to forcibly restrain her from going outside to give the GD sniper a piece of her mind. Needless to say, she transferred to receive treatment for shell shock. 

We work long, hard hours. Most nights the sixty nurses and handful of doctors collapse on the floors from exhaustion under scratchy woolen army blankets. But our sacrifice is no comparison to what so many boys give for our country. Our boys are brave, so we girls need to be brave too.

 Please say “Hi” to Donna and tell her I will write to her next time, but it might be a while depending upon what the Krauts dump on us.

 Give Gina and baby Angelo a kiss. When I think of home (which is much of the time) you, Donna and my family are on the top of the list.

Sending you my love, Josie

 Rosalie slipped Josie’s letter back into the envelope as a wave of guilt washed over her. How could she complain about oil shortages or having to cook around rationing when her best friend looked war directly in the face every minute of every day? Josie put everything in perspective for Rosalie.  Daily inconveniences didn’t matter when people she loved struggled with the horrors of combat. She bent her head, folded her hands, and whispered a prayer to the Blessed Mary to bring everyone she loved home safe and sound.

Chapter 29

Hawaii, December—After a few weeks at the Pearl Harbor hospital, Bobby and Angelo both got up on their feet and began learning to walk again between parallel bars. Each step proved to be challenging and tiring.

“This is the damnest thing! I learned how to walk as a baby, and here I am struggling how to move my feet one after another all over again.” Angelo said. “If I don’t get better, little Angelo will pass me up!”

“No worries, pal. You get stronger every day. Look at your arms! You look like Popeye in the comic books.” Bobby said.

“Is that the only stuff you read?” Angelo teased.

“Hey, the stories are great! Don’t think you’re superior, my friend. I bet you picked up the new “Wonder Woman” comic in the day room.”

“No. Who in the hell is Wonder Woman?” Angelo thought Bobby might be pulling his leg about a female super hero.

“Of course I’m serious. Wonder Woman is a hot chick who fights Nazis.”

Angelo laughed. “Too bad she doesn’t fight Japs. Then maybe we wouldn’t be here.”

Bobby said. “Better here than some damn jungle.”

“Amen to that, brother!”

“Hey Ang?” Bobby said.

“Yeah?”

“Is it really only been a year since the war started?”

“Huh?”  Through their months together Angelo got use to Bobby’s constant chatter, and like a seasoned parent, he tuned him out a lot of the time.

“You’re not listening to me, are you?” Bobby said.

“Of course, I’m listening, little brother. For the Americans.  Yeah, it’s only been a year. But it seems like I’ve spent a lifetime in hospitals. Doc wants to operate on me again to remove a piece of shrapnel near my spine. He says I might walk better if I have the surgery. There’s also a possibility I might never walk again if I have the surgery. What do you think I should do? ”

“Geez, Ang. I had no idea. You’ve had so many surgeries already. It’s a gamble one way or another. What will happen if the shrapnel moves?”

“They don’t know. I just want to go home.”

“I think you have your answer then, huh?”

Angelo nodded. Bobby affirmed what Angelo thought. Sometimes the kid was really smart.

 

*****

Bobby and Angelo received Purple Hearts for the wounds they sustained on Guadalcanal, but more importantly, they received orders to continue their therapy in the states. Angelo told the doctor he would take his chances by not having more surgery, and the doctor said he needed to contact the medical facility on the mainland before Angelo could be released.

The doctor believed Angelo would struggle the rest of his life with a bum leg without the surgery, but he also understood the marine had gone through so much already it was impossible to face another surgery and the recovery it required. He approved Angelo’s release from Hawaii.

Angelo read his orders with a big grin. “I’ll be home for Christmas!”

“Yeah, Christmas. I suppose you’ll want to play Santa for little Gina and little Angelo, huh?”

“Good thought. I wonder where I can get a Santa suit.” Angelo grinned as he thought about hugging his kids and kissing Rosalie for the first time in almost a year. “And you can be my number one elf!”

Bobby laughed and threw a comic book at Angelo.

*****

            A week after Angelo and Bobby received their medals their next stop on the road to recovery turned out to be at Camp Pendleton in California. They would finish their physical and occupational therapy at the base hospital. Every day they challenged each other to dig deep, work through the pain, and succeed at the exercises which would free them to go home. Their military careers neared the finish line. The only remnants of their time in the South Pacific were occasional nightmares for Bobby, and a piece of shrapnel near Angelo’s spine.

Chapter 30

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-December 1942—Donna and Rosalie spent the week before Christmas decorating the house in festive colors of red, gold, and silver. At two years old, Gina found the pretty tree in the house a curiosity and learned quickly not to touch the delicate glass ornaments or the hot glass light bulbs.

Two nights before Christmas, Donna and Rosalie sat by a warm fire sipping eggnog.

“This is such a treat, Rosie. How did you ever make eggnog?”

“Mrs. Schneider helped me out. I remember the first time I drank eggnog at Josie’s house. We were about eight years old. We came in from sledding for most of the day with red cheeks. We took off our rubber boots, wet snowsuits and ice-coated mittens in the back entrance, while we jumped around to get warm again. Just thinking about that day gives me shivers. We hung our snowy mittens and hats on that little wooden clothes rack in the mud room and our coats on hooks. Remember?” Donna took a sip as she drifted back to a happy memory. “Mrs. Schneider sat the three of us in front of the fire with a hot cup of eggnog and a plate full of warm chocolate chip cookies. Just thinking of it makes me warm inside.”

“Mrs. Schneider always loved all of us. Remember at their Christmas party they always put two bowls full of eggnog on the table –one for kids and one for grown-ups. I guess the grown-up version contained some brandy.”

“Not to disappoint, Donna, but I made the kid’s version.”

Donna laughed. “Between you and me, I like this version better, but if you tell anybody I don’t like brandy, you’ll pay with your life. A girl’s got to maintain an image.” Donna fluffed her hair and threw her head back.

A knock on the front door interrupted their conversation. Rosalie got up from the chair and walked to the door. “Who in the world is out on such a dark and cold night?”

“You better check. I’ll get the baseball bat in case they turn out to be perverts.”

“You’re in rare form tonight.” Rosalie laughed. She opened the door to find two soldiers on her doorstep. “Can I help you boys?”

Angelo said, “I dreamed you missed me and hoped you might let me in with a big kiss.”

The moment he spoke, Rosalie realized the skinny soldier with the cane was Angelo. “Oh my God! You’re home!” She fell into his arms and didn’t let go. They kissed until Bobby cleared his throat after several minutes.

“Can we take this inside, you two? I’m freezing.”

Angelo laughed. “Sweetheart, this is Bobby. He’s the kid who insisted on being my friend.”

Rosalie blushed. “How rude of us, Bobby. Of course. Come on in. Donna and I are enjoying some eggnog. Would you two like a cup?”

Bobby smiled. “Eggnog?”

Angelo said. “You’ll love it. My Rosie is the best cook in the kitchen.” Rosalie laughed because her inexperienced cooking seemed to be a source of jokes in the family.

The boys dragged their duffle bags into the living room where Donna waited. Angelo went to her and hugged her. “Donna! It’s so good to see you again!”

“Likewise, Angelo.”

“How can I ever thank you for taking care of my girls?”

“You can’t. No thanks are necessary.” Donna smiled. “Auntie Doe Doe is on the job!”

Angelo dropped his embrace and turned toward Bobby. “Donna, this is my friend, Bobby.”

Donna smiled at the boy. “Not the famous Bobby!”

Bobby blushed. “The one and only, but don’t hold the rumors against me ma’am.”

“Only if you call me ma’am again!” She laughed.

Rosalie took control much like her mother would. “You boys make yourself comfortable, and I’ll get the eggnog and cookies.”

“Cookies?” Bobby said. “This Christmas is the best ever!

Angelo laughed. “Out of the mouths of babes.”

 

Heat and MS

As the summer gives us its last hurrah and temperatures climb into the high 80s and a couple of 90s, Ken has had to stay in the house in the air conditioning. For some MS patients heat is lethal. It brings on fatigue that can be almost paralyzing. And Ken succumbs to such weather.

I was elated when hia sister called on Saturday and said she and her family, along with Ken’s parents wanted to visit on Sunday.  We both were excited for their visit. Sue suggested we go out for lunch, but I knew Ken’s reaction to the summer temperatures wouldn’t be favorable, so I suggested I make lunch and they bring dessert.

Unfortunately I was right about Ken’s reaction to the heat. He woke suffering from a bought of fatigue. It wasn’t the worst case he ever had, but from the time he woke to the time he went to bed, he fought to keep his eyes open. I made him lie down after breakfast with the hope he might fall asleep for a little while, but he couldn’t sleep. You see “fatigue” is very different than being tired. Fatigue doesn’t mean you’re sleepy; it means everything becomes difficult–even keeping your eyes open. Movements are slowed. Even forming words and speaking can be difficult. In a word fatigue SUCKS.

By the time the family arrived, Ken mustered enough strength to enjoy the visit. Like always, he found happiness just being with his family. When they left around five in the afternoon, Ken relaxed and retired to his chair. As we watched numbing reruns on television, he didn’t fight the battle of fatigue any longer. We went to bed at eight o’clock, and as soon as his head hit the pillow, Ken fell asleep. I stayed awake and held his hand. I love these quiet moments.

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 25

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-Winter—As the war dragged on, shortages of everything started to appear at home. Gasoline was rationed. Rubber was almost impossible to come by–even baby rubber pants disappeared. Grocery shelves held fewer choices.  By now sugar completely disappeared so Rosie experimented with other sweeteners like sweetened condensed milk, honey, molasses, corn and maple syrup. Tips to use the sweet substitutions appeared in “Good Housekeeping” magazine. Coffee, tea, and cocoa grew scarce too. Even butter was rationed in the “dairy state” of Wisconsin. The shortages occurred because people used butter for frying food when other cooking oils grew in short supply. Because the military required tin for many uses, any food previously sold in a can were now packaged differently. Dry soup mixes and other dry foods appeared in paper packages as food manufacturers searched for other ways to preserve food.

Even though rationing proved to be a challenge, publications like “Ladies Home Journal” reminded Americans they received more food than most people around the world. One article reported: “We get ten times as much beef as the people in England, twenty times as much as Russians and fifty times as much as the lucky ones in China.”

After a year at war, even clothing needed to be rationed. Rosalie saved her stamps to buy fabric to make new clothes for the children. She saved everything Gina outgrew for baby Angelo. She hated dressing the baby boy in pink, but she told herself the child didn’t realize his clothes used to be his sister’s. Even safety pins to fasten his cloth diapers became scarce.

*****

Rosie stayed busy with two babies in the house, but time still passed slowly without Angelo. Days grew into weeks and weeks grew into months. But the day a telegram arrived with four black stars on the envelope, the world stopped for Rosalie. She gasped when the Western Union man handed her the official-looking correspondence. Her hands shook. Her breathing became labored as she staggered lightheaded into the kitchen. By now Americans understood four black stars on a telegram envelope meant a loved one perished. Tears blurred her vision as she read the words, “Your husband sustained wounds in battle.” The message didn’t state Angelo was missing or had been killed, so why the black stars on the envelope?

Rosalie packed up the children and ran to her parent’s house. She handed the telegram to mother without a word. Mrs. Lombardo recognized the four black stars and read her daughter’s distraught expression before she opened the envelope.

“What does this mean, Mama?” Rosalie cried. “Is he dead? The telegram doesn’t say that; but the black stars . . .” Rosalie choked on her tears.

Her mother held Rosalie close and let daughter sob before her take-charge personality emerged. Mama Lombardo sat Rosalie down in an overstuffed living room chair with a clean handkerchief. “You sit, sweetheart. I am calling The War Department in Washington D. C.  I will get answers for you. I promise I will keep calling until they tell us what happened to your sweet Angelo.” Mama Lombardo marched into the kitchen like a general and picked up the phone which hung on the wall.

“Thank you, Mama.” With Mama in charge, Rosalie allowed herself to collapse in a chair.

Mrs. Lombardo finished her call and returned to Rosalie.

Rosalie searched her mother’s expression. “What did they say?”

“Nothing. They will call back with an answer.”

“They don’t know? How can that be?”

“I do not know, Rosalie. The woman I spoke had no information. We must be patient.”

“How can I be patient? Angelo might be dead.” She screamed.

Her mother shook her. “Screaming at me will do no good.” Her mother softened her tone. “You must be strong for the children.”

Rosalie slumped into a chair and looked up to her mother. “I’m sorry, Mama. I’m just so scared.”

“It’s okay, Rosalie. I will get answers. I promise.”

*****

Days went by and no news came from the War Department. Rosalie wandered around in a state of mourning. In a dream she saw her beloved husband cut down by enemy fire. She woke when he hit the ground with her nightgown wet with sweat. Was Angelo dead or did he lay in some godforsaken jungle hospital? Existing in limbo was hell. Having to accept his death would drive her to the brink of madness. Her head was filled with terrible scenarios, and no matter how hard she tried to direct her thoughts to something else, she found herself thinking or praying for her husband. Did Angelo suffer injuries that would damage him for the rest of his life? Was he in pain? Was he getting adequate treatment? Will he come home or will they send him back into action? Is he with you, God? Is he dead? Oh God, why don’t they tell me what happened to him?

A week after the telegram arrived, Rosalie’s phone rang. A male voice asked, “Is this Mrs. Angelo Armani?”

“Yes.” Rosalie held her breath.

“I understand the telegram you received is confusing.”

“Yes.”

“I’m calling to tell you your husband received serious injuries on the island of Guadalcanal. The medical staff airlifted him to a hospital in Sydney, Australia. He will recuperate there until he can be moved to the hospital at Pearl Harbor.”

“What kind of injuries did he get?  Will he be sent home?” Rosalie asked.

“I am sorry, ma’am. I gave you all the information I have. I am sorry I can’t tell you more.”

“Thank you, sir.” Rosalie hung up the phone and a sense of joy replaced her mourning. He’s alive! Dear God, thank you for hearing my prayers. My Angelo’s safe. Rosalie took a long deep breath.

Chapter 26

Sydney, Australia – October—Bobby and Angelo left Guadalcanal by plane from the airfield they helped confiscate from the Japanese. Almost a month passed since they received their devastating wounds, but now the Americans controlled the island, and they could get better medical treatment in Sydney.

Angelo requested Bobby be assigned to e-vac with him, and the doctors agreed because both men seemed to be recovering faster than anticipated since they were together. After a two hour flight, they boarded an ambulance, which transferred them to the base hospital. The ambulance took them to a “real” hospital with brick walls, soft beds, clean white sheets, and pretty nurses. No longer did they lay and listen to the sounds of battle in the background. This location was quiet and safe.

Angelo allowed himself to think he might have a future with his family waiting at home. Bobby was unsure what he might do, but for now not having to sleep on a flimsy cot was good enough for him. The first night at the Sydney hospital brought them both a good night’s sleep, a luxury neither of them experienced on Guadalcanal. They learned their hospital stay would last at least a month before they would be strong enough to be transported to Pearl Harbor for rehabilitation.

The boys found the temperate climate of Sydney a pleasant change from the island “paradise” they just left. Ocean breezes floated through open windows. Seeing tropical flowers from the room raised a sense of calm in Angelo. He realized Guadalcanal taught him he never would minimize the small indulgences life offered . . . like clean air, good food, and conversations with his best friend. It took some time for Angelo to deal with the guilt they carried for leaving so many of his buddies behind where they faced bugs, dirt, grime and death until the war was over for them one way or another. Angelo already decided he would go AWOL if his future orders put him back into combat.

Like Angelo, Bobby stopped feeling guilty for getting wounded so quickly. He no longer believed himself to be a failure as a soldier thanks to something his sergeant told him the night before he got wounded. “Son, war is not glorious. I can’t think of any thing as inhumane as war. But we didn’t start this fight. If you get wounded, you fight back to live another day. I guarantee you; Americans will win this ugly bastard of a war even if it means we have to kill every Jap on the planet.” Bobby killed and nearly got killed; he volunteered to serve his country; he put his life in jeopardy; he should have died on that godforsaken rock, but instead he would live with the consequences of battle for the rest of his life. He did his part. Now he wished to go home, and the sooner the better.

After being at Sydney hospital for a week, Angelo’s letters finally caught up with him. He always shared his news from home with Bobby because mail call rarely blessed him with a letter. Rosalie usually included pictures of the children which Angelo taped to the wall behind his bed, and today he got a letter from his wife.  He opened a letter from Rosalie first.

September, 1942

 My dear, sweet Angelo,

I hope this letter gets to you when you are well enough to read it. I got a telegram this week with four black stars on the envelope, and I went crazy thinking I lost you forever. Perhaps I shouldn’t write this, but I mourned from the depths of my soul because you didn’t get a chance to raise your darling son.

I ran to Mama’s house, and she took charge like I expected and needed. I know I complain about Mama being bossy, but when she goes into action she is a force of nature! She picked up the phone like some kind of general and called the War Department in Washington to get answers. A week later I received a call and learned you sustained serious injuries, but they didn’t tell me anything else. The news you are still alive lifted such a heavy weight I wanted to dance.

I pray every day you will be home soon. If you’re thinking my love will diminish because you are not the same man who left me a year ago, you just put those silly thoughts in the garbage. We will deal with the aftermath of your injuries together. I love you until eternity. My arms long to hold you, sweetheart; my lips yearn to touch yours, and our love will only grow deeper than it is already.

Rest and get well so you can come home soon. I love you more than my own life, Angelo. Remember that as you heal.

 Your Rosie

Chapter 27

Sydney, Australia – November—As Angelo and Bobby recuperated in the quiet atmosphere of the hospital, their wounds as well as their souls healed. Doctors removed Bobby’s body cast and put him in traction, but soon afterward the doctors grew concerned his inactivity made him a prime candidate for developing pneumonia. Unfortunately, an outbreak of the potentially fatal disease broke out in another wing of the hospital, so medical personnel took extra precaution to keep the problem contained.

Getting patients out of bed and getting them to move proved to be a good tactic to battle pneumonia. The resident doctor assigned to Bobby’s case constructed a back brace so the young soldier could get out of bed.  The uncomfortable contraption enabled corpsmen to get the boy upright, but the first time Bobby wore the brace, he collapsed from the pain. The next time he wore the brace, the nurse gave him a shot of morphine to counteract the pain before the corpsmen attempted to lift him up on his feet. They repeated the procedure every day, and every day Bobby grew stronger standing longer each time. Eventually he took a few steps with assistance.

While Bobby went through this daily agony, Angelo left the room in his wheel chair. He couldn’t watch Bobby suffer the excruciating therapy with the brace; witnessing Bobby’s pain in full bloom was too hard to take.

Bobby proved his bravery by never complaining or quitting. Every day he endured the pain and weakness when the corpsmen put him on his feet. He figured if President Roosevelt lived with polio and needed assistance to stand behind a podium to deliver bad news about the war, he certainly could endure a brace.

Angelo dealt with a different king of pain. Doctors removed most of the shrapnel from his leg and belly, but a few metal fragments remained in his body. The doctors told him after he regained his strength, they would need to operate again. In the meantime, his pain was managed with drugs. Doctors assured him his progress was good, but they worried about him needing so many drugs.  Most thought Angelo should be strong enough to be walk, but like Bobby, he could only stand for a few minutes on his own. Angelo feared he might never walk again.

After spending a month in Sydney, A hospital ship named the USS Comfort took Bobby and Angelo to Pearl Harbor. The voyage from Sydney to Oahu took two long weeks. This voyage offered a very different experience than their first cruise on a ship. They enjoyed the peacefulness of the ship rocking them to sleep at night. During the day they spent time sitting on deck, drinking in the fresh sea air and warm sun. When the ship docked at Pearl Harbor, lines of ambulances waited to transfer the new patients to the naval hospital on Oahu. This hospital concentrated on physical and occupation rehabilitation along with strenuous weight lifting to rebuild dormant muscles.

After the first day, Bobby and Angelo considered the therapies to be a new type of torture.

 

A Milestone

I’ve been blogging since 2011. This is my 450th post. (I did take a whole year off to produce a novel, so I’m not a slacker.)  I haven’t repeated any “words of wisdom” during that time, so you might imagine writing something interesting can be a challenge.When I’m really dry, you might have figured out I talk about the weather. Sometimes I even enlist Ken to help with an idea. I hoped I could reel in more than 1500 folks during this four-year endeavor, but I refuse to pay to attract more readers. On average, I only get two or three folks who will take the time to write a comment on the post of the day. That’s a bit disappointing too because I spend at least a good hour putting “the thoughts of the day” down in writing. Oh well. People are busy. I understand. I’m not complaining, nor am I bragging.

This morning I wasted almost two hours playing my computer games that are all basically the same as Candy Crush. If I was efficient and savvy I would delete these time stealers from my Kindle and just use the tablet to read novels. But I guess I’m not as proficient as I like to believe. For some reason I can’t pull the plug on the games. It’s digital crack.

I started playing these games during commercials. I think I’m right when I say there are more commercials on television today than ever. When I fill the time designated to hawk products and services, I turn my attention to these challenging games. (Believe me, after you to get level 150 on all of them, it’s a challenge to win.) Of course, there’s always the option to spend money to by tools or extra moves, if you so want to invest. And I confess. I resort to such foolishness when I get really stuck on a level I’ve grown tired of.

Well, will you look at that! I actually came up with a topic for discussion this morning just by writing — I only  hope I haven’t wasted your time.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 18

 Paris, France – September—Emma’s whereabouts continued to be a secret. After exhausting her attempts to find her, Marta visited city hall to speak to Pierre, Emma’s former boss.  She entered the office where Emma used to work and spied another woman sitting at her desk. Seeing a replacement for her dear Emma brought tears to Marta’s eyes. She walked up to the woman and requested to speak with Pierre.

The stranger asked, “May I tell him who you are?”

“My name is Marta Schiller. I am a cousin of Emma who used to work here.”

“Wait here, please.” The woman got up and opened a door down the hallway. In a couple of minutes the stranger reappeared.  “You may go in. Third door on the left.”

Marta smiled. “Merci.” She walked down the hallway and knocked on the door. She heard a man say, “Come in.”

Pierre stood up behind his desk to greet his visitor. “How can I help you mademoiselle?”

Marta moved toward him and in a low voice said, “Pierre, I need to find Emma. Do you know where she is?”

Pierre’s forehead wrinkled and he scratched his head. “Why do you think I would posses such information?” He turned on the radio and classical music filled the office. Then he put his finger up to his lips.

Marta moved closer and whispered, “I thought perhaps you might know where she is serving her sentence in Germany.”

“Marta, when Emma went to prison the authorities did not tell me where they took her.”

Marta studied his eyes and realized he held something back. “I wish you possessed more information. I am going crazy.”

Pierre discovered the Gestapo had bugged his office so sharing information with Marta at the office was impossible. In a normal tone he said, “I am sorry to disappoint you.” He paused. “The Germans do not inform employers if their employees get in to trouble.” He led Marta to the door and whispered. “Meet me at Moulin Rouge tonight at eight o’clock. I will tell you what I know.”

Marta nodded. “Thank you for your time.” She turned on her heel and left.

After meeting Pierre, Marta went back to her apartment with a glimmer of hope. A letter from her mother lay on the floor. Her landlord always thrust her mail under the door. She ripped open the envelop anticipating good news. She said a short prayer hoping her mother found Emma. Or even better, she got Emma released.

August 15, 1942

 My Dear Marta,

 How wonderful to get your letter, dear. I miss you so much, especially now.

 Yesterday I received a telegram informing me your father died at Stalingrad.  and I can’t stop weeping. We spent over  twenty-five years together, and I can’t think of living without him. This terrible news is too hard to bear. I realize you questioned his political choices, but I hope you understand how much he loved you under his false bravado.

 About the other matter. I spoke with my friends and can only tell you your cousin is at Anrath. I will try to get more news, but all of us must be careful. I wish I could tell you more, but I cannot. With your father gone, I am only one more woman living alone in Berlin.

 Love, Mutter

Marta fell into her favorite chair and wept. She wondered whether her father’s body would be returned to Germany or whether he lay rotting on a battlefield somewhere in Russia. What a dissapointing fate for such a proud, stoic soldier.

*****

Promptly at eight o’clock, Marta strutted into the Moulin Rouge in her best dress. She scanned the theatre and found Pierre sitting at a small table in a dark corner. He greeted her with a smile and a kiss on each cheek before he led her to his table.

“I am so glad you accepted my invitation,  mademoiselle.” Pierre smiled.

Marta played along as Pierre pulled out a chair for her to sit. She smiled up at him. “I would not miss an opportunity to see this show, Pierre. I do not get to come here often.” She flirted with him understanding German officers sat at a nearby table drinking heavily.

Pierre bent close to her. “I learned through our channels Emma is imprisoned at Anrath. Do you know about the city?”

“No.” Marta snuggled closer to Pierre still promoting their clandestine rendezvous.

He smiled at her, then whispered in her ear. “Anrath is a moderate sized city near Dusseldorf in the Northern Rhine area.”

“I understand.” She sipped her cognac. “Can the Resistance rescue her?”

“Perhaps.”

“That is encouraging.” Marta brightened.

“I cannot tell you more for your own safety.” Pierre hesitated then added, “I must not endanger my family.” He kissed her, ordered two more drinks, and they both settled into watch the show.

Chapter 19

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – September—Ordinarily, a soldier in Angelo’s dire condition would be airlifted to a base hospital after the doctors stabilized him in the field hospital, but the marines on Guadalcanal didn’t enjoy the luxury of a close enough base to evacuate severely wounded soldiers. The Japanese fleet overwhelmed the American navy, and to be able to fight another day, the battleships fled to regroup.

When the Japanese finally emerged from the jungle, they fought to the death. The Marines on the beach, fought hand-to-hand and casualties quickly mounted. Medical personnel did their best to provide adequate treatment for the wounded in a tent hospital, but without better facilities and the ability to airlift critical patients to a better facility, large numbers of men died. Worst of all, the situation wouldn’t get better until the navy came back and secured the island.

While the fighting went on the beach, Angelo lay in a coma spending his twenty-first birthday in a state of unconsciousness. His weak body battled fever and pain. Nurses tried to keep him comfortable with cold compresses and heavy doses of pain medication.

In the distance bomb blasts sounded like kettle drums. Cots rocked and IV bottles swayed on steel poles with every strike. Close by the rat-tit-tit-tat of automatic rifles caused medical personnel to wear steel helmets as they treated their patients. Screaming wounded men who lay waiting for help sent shivers through everyone in the hospital.

Two weeks after surgery Angelo opened his eyes. His return to consciousness elated the medical personnel because doctors originally gave him less than a fifty percent chance of survival. His recovery lifted the spirits of the nurses who attended so many young lives who died too soon. Angelo’s spark of life renewed their purpose to provide the best medical care with the meager tools and facilities they had.

After Angelo woke, his first thought was about the Rosalie and the children. His second thought centered on Bobby. He remembered he had been assigned to Red beach. He listened to conversations of medical personnel and learned Red Beach was the place the heaviest fighting took place.

In his waking moments, Angelo prayed Bobby would be one of the lucky ones. No sixteen year old should face battle. But Bobby wanted to fight bad enough to lie about his age. Angelo realized Bobby believed nobody cared if he lived or died, but Angelo did. If he should die on that beach, it would be unfair because the boy never got a chance to go on a date, or make love, or be loved.  Instead his father sent him off to military school with no tenderness where Bobby endured loneliness and harsh discipline. Angelo hoped God listened when he prayed, but then thought God must be very busy listening to requests like his coming from around the world.

Once the fierce fighting started, the battle went on around the clock for days. A constant stream of wounded men filled the hospital at all hours. Medical staff slept little.  Angelo lay sweating as the nurses scurried around him. They buzzed with caffeinated energy doing their best to make the wounded comfortable.  When darkness fell, they took on the appearance of the walking dead, instead of pretty twenty-one year old girls.

A week after Angelo regained consciousness, a man in a body cast lay in the bed next to him. The poor guy had IVs in both arms and cuts and bruises on his face. His sun-bleached blond hair made Angelo want to vomit because he realized the limp body in the next bed belonged to Bobby.

When a nurse came to check on Angelo, he asked “Nurse, what happened to him?”

The distracted nurse said, “He’ll tell you later, soldier.”

Angelo persisted. “Please, tell me. He’s my little brother.”

She appeared incredulous as she compared Bobby’s fair complexion and white blond hair to Angelo’s deep eyes and dark brown curls. “Your brother, huh?”

Angelo gave her his winning grin. “Aren’t we all brothers and sisters, nurse?”

“Your “brother” got injured on the beach. A Jap bayoneted him through the kidney and a bomb blast broke his back. He’s in pretty rough shape.”

Angelo swallowed hard. “Oh, my God.”

The nurse turned away. “Indeed.”

*****

Bobby woke a few hours later screaming and thrashing with pain. A nurse rushed to his bedside with a syringe,  swabbed his arm with alcohol on a piece of gauze, and injected him with morphine.   “This will help.”

Bobby whispered, “Thank you, nurse” before his body went limp.

Bobby’s dreams brought memories of the pain which pierced his ears-like ice picks plunging into both ear canals. He experienced the shaking earth knocking him down. He breathed in hot white smoke and smelled the sickening odor of rotten eggs. When he took a breath, instantly he got a headache worse than a hangover from drinking cheap booze. When a shell landed too close, his bones felt like metal being struck with a sledgehammer. He crawled through sand where body parts of his buddies lay around him. The guys he went with on night patrols lay dead with blank stares into nothingness.

Nightmares like these plagued Bobby every time he drifted off to sleep. He lived again and again the horrific battle ending with a scene of his friend Tommy taking a shot to the face, His headed exploded. A headless Tommy fell forward into the sand.  Bobby froze. The sight paralyzed him. Before he realized a Jap with a bayonet loomed before him. He struggled with the boy about his own age before white lightning streaked up his backside and everything went black. Smudgy, dirty faces of two medics appeared above him. This was the part of the dream when he woke screaming.

*****

Bobby drifted in and out of consciousness as the days went by. Angelo did his best to make his stretches of consciousness longer.  “Hey soldier! What brought you in here?”

Bobby recognized Angelo’s voice and opened his eyes. “Now I’m sure I’m definitely not in heaven. Angelo’s here!” It took all of his energy to make a joke, and he fell asleep smiling.

Later in the afternoon, Bobby woke again. “How’d I get here?”

Angelo smiled when he heard Bobby’s voice.  ” You got here the usual way.” He answered. “By stretcher and ambulance.”

“I don’t remember anything about getting here.”

“That’s good.” Angelo said. “I don’t remember anything either. All I know is some damn Jap bomb bore my name.”

“A Jap bayonet got me.” Bobby said. “What do I look like, Ang?”

“Like hell.”

“That good, huh?” Bobby tried to laugh and put his hand on the cast. “What the hell did they do to me?” He knocked on the plaster body cast.

“I guess they thought plaster would put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

“How long was I out?” Bobby asked.

“A couple of days. They tell me I took two weeks to wake up.”

“Sure, you always need to one-up me, don’t you?”

“What are big brothers for?” Angelo smiled. “Did you enjoy sweet dreams when you traveled to coma-land?”

“No. Just the same damn nightmare playing again and again like a bad movie. What about you?”

“Actually, my brother Tony visited me. We went home together to help Rosie plant a garden in our backyard. We grew whopper tomatoes and cucumbers. And I even got a peak at my new baby boy.”

“No kidding?”

“Honestly, Bobby, I went home. My beautiful Rosie brought me my son, and she told me she named him Angelo. The little tiger even looked like me with my dark eyes and curly hair. My sweet little girl, Gina, put her arms up wanting me to hold her. Do you suppose Rosie’s spirit visited me?”

“Sure Ang, and Santa Claus is a real guy living at the north pole.” Bobby chuckled and then cringed. “I need to stop doing that to myself.” He took a shallow breath. “No wonder you didn’t wake up for weeks, especially if you rendezvoused with your wife.” He smiled. “I wish I didn’t get wounded, but I’m glad we’re together again.”

“Just getting a look at your ugly mug made my day kid.” Angelo said, “I guess God just doesn’t want us yet.”

“He definitely doesn’t want me. He’ll probably never want me.” Bobby closed his eyes.

“Don’t be stupid. He’ll want you someday. But not now. You’re too young to die; you’re whole life is ahead of you.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Like having a home, a girl, and a family.” Angelo’s thoughts went to Rosie.

“What girl would want me? I’m a wreck.” Bobby knocked on the cast which encased him.

“You’re young. You’ll heal. And I think my little sister would think you’re a catch.” Angelo said.

“So, you’ll introduce me when we get stateside?”

“Of course. I’ll introduce you to my entire family and all of my friends.”

“Thanks, Ang. You must really love me, bro.” Bobby teased.

“Probably–” Angelo chuckled.

Bobby changed the subject. “Do you think they’ll send us home?”

“I hope so.” The conversation tired Angelo. My two year hitch is only half over, so I don’t know what’ll happen.”  Angelo’s pain began to escalate. “The doctor told me yesterday as soon as our planes can land here, we’ll be airlifted to Sydney.”

“Do you think they’ll send us back to the field?’ Bobby’s voice quivered.

“Like I said, I don’t know what will happen.” Angelo hesitated and then asked, “We’re damaged goods. Are you disappointed?”

“Nah,” Bobby said. “I broke my back and lost a kidney on this damn rock, so I think my country is satisfied they got my pound of flesh.”

“Amen to that, little brother.” Angelo said.

“Ang?”

“Yeah, Bobby.”

“I like you calling me your brother.”  The boy drifted off to sleep.

*****

Bobby and Angelo turned out to be two of the first Marines on Guadalcanal to be airlifted to a hospital in Sydney, Australia in September 1942. After their rehabilitation, they would be sent to Pearl Harbor where this whole ugly war began.

 

Computer Woes

I’m going to keep this post very short because I am struggling with two computers which are not behaving. I telll them one thing and they do another. It’s like coping with disobeying children. My old computer is locked saying its “Logging Off.” It’s been logging off for three hours now. I wish I could give it a pep pill, and order it to work.

My new little baby is also being stubborn. I’ve been trying to load my HP software for my printer/scanner/copier,  and I can’t get it to accept the software. Perhaps it’s too old? It works on my husband’s computer so I don’t know why I can’t bring it up on mine. Then I tried to set up an email address and got more frustration. Both chores should have been easy, but today its not. So, I’ve found the best course of action is to wait for another wave of patience and try again later.

If this strategy doesn’t work, I’ll be forced to contact the Geek Squad and pay them to straighten out these two bad boys.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 16

Lacrosse, Wisconsin — August 7th—Exhaustion ruled Rosalie’s day. The heat stayed oppressive, and her due date sped by without stopping. She thanked God Gina still took an afternoon nap, so she could put her swollen ankles up on the ottoman while she listened to the afternoon soap operas on the radio. Rosalie also .planned their meals around the foods which would be available in the grocery store for that week. Rationing made meal preparation a science, but the government’s monthly meal-planning guides offered menus using the available food, and Rosalie found them helpful.  Rosalie made sure dinner was ready when Donna got home. Dining together was good for both of them. Rosalie didn’t need to face the hardest part of the day alone. And Donna’s first two weeks on the assembly line made for interesting conversation. Her keen ability to relate a story in a humorous ways kept Rosalie’s laughing. The other source of joy came from little Gina who gave both of them a constant source of entertainment as she learned how to talk.

As it turned out, Rosalie’s parents got so involved in the war effort they didn’t have time to help her. Eduardo volunteered to head up the scrap drive at their church and worked tirelessly hauling scrap metal, paper, and rubber to the recycling center. He also volunteered to be the block captain for air raid drills. Mama Lombardo ran the restaurant. Rationing deeply affected their menus, but Mama made an arrangement with Mrs. Schneider to get extra eggs from their farm to make pasta. So far, flour didn’t disappear from the grocery shelves.  When Mama wasn’t making pasta, she canned spaghetti sauce with the fresh tomatoes, peppers, and garlic they grew in their garden. Eduardo planted twice as many plants this year, anticipating shortages.  At night, she “rested” winding bandages for the soldiers with the Red Cross.

******

The first Saturday in August Donna planned a picnic at the riverfront to help Rosie cool off. Both girls needed a break from the stifling August heat wave. Donna drove Angelo’s truck because Rosalie’s pregnant body no longer fit behind the steering wheel. They parked at their favorite spot along the riverside park and all of a sudden Rosalie held her breath.

“Rosie, what’s going on?  Donna’s voice grew concern.

“Nothing. Just little twinge.” Rosie said.

“What kind of twinge?”

“It feels like a little tug across my belly.  I’m fine, let’s enjoy our picnic.” Rosalie grabbed the picnic basket and drew in a deep breath as she bent over. “Ow!”

“Tell me when the next one comes, okay? Promise me, even if the twinge is a little one, you’ll tell me.” Donna ordered.

“Why?”

Donna answered. “Because I want to time them. I think your twinges are the beginning of labor.”

“But, I don’t feel anything in my back like last time.”

“Of course, not silly. Labor isn’t in your back.”

“Gina’s labor was.”

Donna reminded her. “Every baby is different. Maybe this one wants to come into the world face down.”

Rosalie grabbed her belly. “Oh–Wow!”

Donna stood up on the blanket and picked up the picnic basket. “Come on!  We’re going. I’ll drop Gina off at the restaurant with your Mom, and then you and I are going to the hospital.”

Rosalie protested. She wanted to be at the beach all week. “But–”

“No buts, I’m not arguing with you.” Donna piled everything back into the truck, picked up Gina with a kiss, and got behind the wheel. “Get in the car, Rosie.”

Gina kicked and screamed, “No, Auntie Doe-Doe. Go Swim!”

Donna smiled at the sweet child. “I’m sorry, sweetie. Mommy needs to go to the hospital to bring your new sister or brother into the world..”

“No! Go swim!” Gina stomped her feet and cried until Auntie Doe-Doe gave her a gentle swat on her butt and wedged her between herself and Rosie. Gina cried all the way to the restaurant.

Donna took the wailing child into Lombardo’s restaurant and found Rosalie’s mother in the kitchen. When Mrs. Lombardo saw Donna with the distraught Gina, she wiped her hands on a towel and motioned to Donna to hand over the child. “Donna, what are you doing here? Come here, bambina. Nana will fix. Do you want a cookie?”

Donna gasped for a breath. “Rosie’s in labor. I’m taking her to the hospital.”

“Oh, my God!” Mrs. Lombardo said. “I must call Eduardo. You go. He will come to the hospital and meet you.”

“Okay.” Donna ran to the truck, patted Rosalie’s hand, and squealed the tires as she left the parking lot.

A nurse shortage required Rosie to be put in a labor ward with a dozen other women. Moans and screams echoed through the halls as mothers and sisters stood by trying to coach the woman in the bed through her agony. Only one man held his wife’s hand.

Rosie promised herself she wouldn’t scream this time; instead she planned to offer up her pain up God so He might protect Angelo.

Donna wiped the sweat off of Rosalie’s forehead and shared every labor pain as they ripped through Rosie’s body. She wondered if Angelo experienced the same helplessness she felt now. Donna held Rosalie’s hand and told her to squeeze hard when the pains came. After two hours, Rosalie appeared surprised.

“What’s wrong, Rosie?” Donna asked.

Rosalie whispered. “I feel like I need to poop!”

Donna said, “Do you mean you want to push?”

Rosie nodded yes.

“I’m going to get the doctor.” Donna ran from the ward and flagged down the only nurse in the hallway.

The nurse gave Rosalie a quick check. “Mrs. Armani, you’re ready to delivery your baby.” She helped Rosalie into a wheelchair and headed for the delivery room.

Like all good husbands, Donna got banished to the father’s waiting room.

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse came back with good news. Rosalie had a boy.

Donna stared at her. “A boy? What the hell are we going to do with a boy?”

The nurse gave her a strange look and took Donna back to Rosalie’s bedside.

“I hear Angelo put the stem on the apple!” Donna said.

“What?” Rosalie said with weariness.

“The baby’s a boy!” Donna exclaimed. “And everything is all right?”

“Everything is perfect.” Rosie whispered as a single tear rolled down her face. “I want Angelo, Donna. He needs to hold his son.”

“Oh, Rosie. What can I do?” Donna said as Rosalie cried and held her son close.

Donna bent down and peaked at the baby. In a soothing voice she spoke to the new mother. “Holy Cow! He’s about as big as a loaf of Wonder Bread! Can I hold the little tiger for a minute? You look so tired.” Donna consoled.

“Sure.” Rosalie handed the baby to Donna with a smile. “You’re his Auntie Doe-Doe after all.”

Donna cradled the new born with a surge of love she never experienced before. She peeled back the blanket to reveal a perfect baby. The nurses arranged his dark curly hair in a kewpie-doll twist on the top of his head. She counted his fingers and toes and noted he came with the right number of digits. “He looks just like his Daddy, Rosie.”

“I know. I see Angelo’s eyes when I gaze at him, so he’ll get his Daddy’s name, too.”

Donna whispered. “Welcome to the world, little Angelo.” She kissed the baby’s forehead. His newborn scent settled in her nose. Donna wondered at that moment whether she might want a baby of her own someday.

*****

Eduardo entered the room as Rosie slept, and Donna rocked the baby boy at the side of her bed.

Donna whispered, “Mr. Lombardo, come in.”

Eduardo crept into the quiet scene.

Donna pulled back the blanket to reveal the baby’s chubby face. “Meet your Grandson Angelo.”

Eduardo’s chest seemed to expand two sizes. “He looks just like his Papa.”

Donna smiled. “Yes he does.”

Eduardo faced Donna and said, “Thank you for taking care of my Rosie. I will always be indebted to you for your kindness.”

“No thanks is necessary, Mr. Lombardo. I love Rosie, too.”

Eduardo hugged Donna and finally understood why Rosalie considered her such a dear friend.

Chapter 17

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – South Pacific—On August 7, 1942 at 0600 hours the American Navy started shelling Guadalcanal Island. Intelligence told the Americans the Japanese intended to finish an airfield, so their planes didn’t need to rely on their aircraft carriers. The Americans needed Guadalcanal airfield to begin bombing Tokyo and other major cities in Japan. Angelo and his unit ate a hardy breakfast of Spam and powered eggs before the first marine division landed at 0730. Securing Red Beach seemed simple enough during the briefing, but most men on the ship never faced combat before. Most hid their fear in bravado or silence. Their unknown future proved to be more of a threat than the enemy.

Angelo fidgeted and paced the deck. After weeks of sea sickness, tedious work, night watches, plus drilling every waking hour, the time finally came to put his killing skills to work.

The only Marine who didn’t appear anxious was Angelo’s young friend Bobby.  He sat alone taking deep drags on a cigarette. His youth and inexperience blinded him from the realities of battle. Angelo guessed Bobby viewed their assignment as a game. Or, maybe Bobby didn’t give a damn if he died because he thought nobody loved him.

The Marines descended the net ladder to the Higgins boats which bobbed in the surf. When the unit filled the boat, the driver headed for shore. This time the ramp would lower. This time they all would run for the beach. This time they would encounter the enemy. Everyone stared ahead with their private thoughts.

After the ramp dropped close to the beach, the marines jumped into the waist-high water with guns held high. They expected bullets to impede them, but no shells or bullets greeted them.  Angelo breathed a sigh of relief. His first landing proved to be a cinch. No enemy. No casualties. No death. He looked up to the sky and said under his breath, “Rosie must be doing some hardcore praying.”

Bobby scowled with disappointed after the quiet landing. The sergeant in charge yelled, “Hey kid. Put your rifle down and get busy unloading supplies.” Bobby saluted and walked back into the water to accept supplies coming ashore.

The beach became cluttered with too many men and too much equipment. Chaos ensued because inexperienced steersmen in the landing boats didn’t get specific instructions as to where the supplies should be located, and men on the beach stood together with their hands in their pockets clueless what to do first.

A couple landing parties advanced inland toward their target—the Japanese airfield. Angelo served in one of the units selected to enter the jungle. The marines knew the Japanese were still on the island. But where? As the men advanced into the jungle thicket every sound seemed threatening. Angelo and his unit felt like they were stalking a ghost.

Once in the jungle, the men met an enemy they didn’t expect. The climate. The oppressive tropical heat and steamy humidity defeated the unprepared soldiers in many ways. Men who carried rocket launchers and other heavy supplies stumbled and collapsed from heat exhaustion in the first hour. The officers discovered the dampness and humidity raised havoc with the radios. Messages from the jungle to the beach didn’t get through. Worst of all, everyone suffered from dehydration which produced weakness, headaches and a powerful thirst none of them experienced before.

*****

While Angelo’s unit moved closer toward the airfield, Bobby and his unit continued to haul ammunition from the battery to the ammo dump near the beach. The first action the boys on the beach encountered happened at noon. An air raid siren warned the men to take cover when a few Japanese planes were sighted. Three planes strafed the Americans working on the beach, while a few more Japanese zeros dropped a payload of bombs near the ammo dump. On sea, the transport ship named the USS Elliot took the fire of a suicide bomber who flew his plane into the ship killing its crew and sinking the ship.

When darkness fell, a pesky sniper fired from the foreboding perimeter of the jungle. These small skirmishes sent a message to the American boys the Japanese still occupied the island, and they intended to fight to stay there. These tedious pesky attacks put fear into everyone on the beach. The boys got jumpy at the slight sound or movement. They wildly fired into the jungle even when they couldn’t see the enemy. The Japanese held a psychological edge over the untested Marines. Not being able to pinpointing the enemy’s location got to be unnerving causing the Americans to keep alert at all times. Bobby remembered the officer’s warning on the ship about being thankful for a clean rack and a good night’s sleep. He realized it might be a long time before he’d ever sleep in a real bed again.

The marines had to cut through the jungle in order to make a road to get to the airfield. The first day of swinging machetes cutting down the thicket of tropical plants took the sap out of the young soldiers. They fell into foxholes at sundown and slept until the morning sun poured the heat on them. The second day brought more of the same tedious work, but the second night, brought them the ugliness of a tropical storm.  A downpour went on for hours, making sleeping in foxholes impossible. Once the rain stopped, the marines emerged muddy, wet, and sticky. Even thought the Japanese hadn’t attacked, throngs of mosquitoes and ants did. Soldiers were peppered with irritating bites that burned and itched. Angelo never remembered a miserable time in his life.

Cutting through the thick jungle with sharp machetes proved to be slower than estimate;. it took three days to cover six miles. In some places, the dense tree canopy prohibited the sun from shining through, making the jungle even more foreboding. The deeper into the jungle they went, new animal sounds and different musty scents made every man wonder what was really in this place. A peculiar sweet, musty odor surfaced after the rain. As the unit slugged through the jungle, they discovered the source of the peculiar odor; it came from rotting coconuts which fell beneath unattended coconut groves.

With all of the challenges the jungle provided, the unquenchable thirst proved to be the worst. The small amount of water in their canteens needed to last until a water purification system could be installed on the banks of the Lunga River. Angelo’s dry lips cracked and his parched throat nearly choked him as he longed for a tall, cold glass of Rosie’s lemonade.

*****

Angelo’s unit arrived at the airfield on the third day of their trek through the jungle. The marines thought for sure they would encounter the Japanese as they secured the half-finished air strip, but the enemy still remained a ghost. The truth was the Japanese didn’t expect the American landing on Guadalcanal and they didn’t possess enough weapons or manpower to overcome a large landing party. The few soldiers that occupied the island retreated deep into the jungle. In their hasty retreat, they left behind several useful pieces of heavy equipment.  The Americans confiscated bulldozers, wheel loaders, and excavators and went to work to repair the runway. Completing this strategic airfield needed to be accomplished as quickly as possible so American planes could launch air attacks on other Japanese-controlled islands.

When Washington D. C. and Canberra in Australia learned the Marines captured the Guadalcanal airfield in such a short time, the brass celebrated. Little did they realize the Japanese possessed no intention of giving up the island without a fight.

*****

While Angelo labored in the jungle, Bobby experienced the war he dreamed about on “Red Beach.” A bomb fell from a Japanese plane, landing near his position. The island shook hard enough to make men fall, and the deafening explosion pierced his eardrums. Bobby escaped the bombing unhurt, but he now realized war was no game. His fertile imagination gained an inkling of what future attacks might hold in store for him.  Strikes like these put the Marines to work digging four-foot deep foxholes for protection. As days went by, it was not usual for men to lay in their foxholes thirteen or fourteen hours per day waiting for the enemy to appear again. Daylight bombings and night time skirmishes got to be tedious as they all wondered when the big fight would come.

Bobby hated night patrols, comparing this duty to fighting the boogie man in a bad dream. He wished he and Angelo hadn’t been separated because Bobby conceded he was stronger with Angelo at his side. When Bobby went off on an imaginary tangent, Angelo always brought him back to reality. Now he was alone. He stayed alert, cataloging his surroundings.  He learned to let flies, birds, and insects alert him to head for cover. Every time the air raid sirens sounded, he ran to his foxhole where small animals and insects already occupied were there. He called them his advanced warning system.

******

Because the Japanese Navy controlled the sea around Guadalcanal, the Marines on the island were trapped with no other American support. Japanese “zeros” took off from carriers and impeded progress the marines had made the day before.  Again, the Japanese held the psychological advantage. Marines working on the landing strip got frustrated and discouraged when one pass of a Japanese plane undid their hard work.

Like Bobby, Angelo made mental notes of his surroundings. He recognized the tat-tat-tat of sniper fire at night, and the high-pitch whine of the Japanese Zeros in the distance. Instead of watching the animals and insects like Bobby, Angelo believed if he stayed attentive to the sounds around him, he could anticipate the enemy’s attack and stay alive by heading for cover with time to spare.

Angelo operated an excavator or bulldozer, leveling the sandy, rocky land to complete the runway. As a little boy he dreamed about using such equipment, and this duty looked a lot easier than a host of other jobs on the island. Unfortunately, the loud grunts of the heavy equipment drowned out the very sounds he wanted to hear. Air raid sirens cut through the equipment noise, but they limited his time to head for cover.

On August 10th, the air raid sirens blasted and Angelo looked up. Three Japanese zeros appeared out of nowhere. He shouted and waved to his workmates “They’re coming! Run!”

All three men ran for the ditch beside the runway, but they couldn’t out run the bomb the plane dropped. The force of the blast threw all three of them into the air, leaving Angelo writhing in pain from shrapnel and burns. Body parts of the two other men littered the airfield. Angelo felt his life drifting away as he lay in his own blood.

After the bombing ceased, a small patrol of corpsmen accompanied by a medical officer jumped in a jeep ambulance to survey the airstrip for any wounded men. By the time they reached Angelo, the medic moved quickly to keep him alive. Blood poured from the shrapnel wounds all over his body. In an instant, the medic removed the sulfathiazole tablets in the medical kit, lifted Angelo’s head and forced him to swallow the pills. Then the medic sprinkled sulfathiazole crystals into the multiple wounds to help prevent infection. Two corpsmen stuffed sterile gauze into Angelo’s abdominal wound to stop the bleeding, and after a shot of morphine to ease the pain, the corpsmen lifted Angelo onto a canvas stretcher and secured him onto the ambulance.

The driver raced to the northeast end of the airfield where a make-shift wooden building served as a field hospital. They sprinted into the building with their unconscious patient. A doctor immediately started an IV and plasma flowed into Angelo’s right arm. Then he started another IV in his left arm to administer saline and other drugs necessary for surgery.

Angelo’s survival now depended upon whether the surgical team could win the race against the clock. If Angelo got through surgery, his will to live needed to take charge.

 

 

Happy Saturday?

One thing I struggle with since I “retired,” is realizing what day it is. With every day presenting itself primarily the same without a work schedule, Ken and I ask each other “What day is it?”

Years ago I would have thought such a question was ridiculous. But unscheduled time is something a person must absorb a little at a time. If a person doesn’t watch out, they will become lazy and never accomplish anything. Working outside the home provides a ready-made schedule. When you’re at home, the schedule is up to you. I’ve never been a buttoned-up scheduler, so I struggle with the concept. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact my time is my own. I can be as productive or as laid-back as I want. But that doesn’t say I’ll accomplish the goal on the right day of the week.

My computer and phone keep me on the correct date, but neither tell me what day of the week it is. I guess that’s why we have calendars–huh? Just match up the date to an old fashioned paper calendar and a retired person will stay on the right day.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – April—Angelo always handled the family finances, but now the responsibility of paying bills and keeping a checkbook balanced fell on Rosalie. She also assumed the sole responsibility for Gina and would face giving birth to another baby without her husband.

In April 1942, the government set up a program so no American would go hungry during the course of the war. The rationing program provided a booklet of stamps which gave the bearer the right to purchase certain foods. Rosalie quickly realized being in a war meant daily sacrifice for everyone. People living “in the lower 48 states” couldn’t escape the fact the United States was at war. In the post office posters released by the Office of War Information said, “Do with less, so they’ll get enough.” Another pleaded, “Be patriotic, sign your country’s pledge to save the food. Rosalie’s pregnant body and empty bed was her personal reminder of her personal sacrifice.

Almost overnight basic stables disappeared from the grocer store shelves. Sugar and coffee were the first items to go. Rosalie’s favorite Coca-Cola also vanished. Rosalie wondered how she could face another nauseating pregnancy without an ice-cold Coke to settle her stomach.

One afternoon Rosalie heard a knock at the back door while Gina was napping. She couldn’t imagine who would be calling her at this time of day. When she opened the door, Donna Jean stood smiling. “Donna, what on earth are you doing here? Aren’t you working today?”

“I took the day off to go to the school to sign up for the rationing program. I thought you might like to go with me. Are you well enough to go today?”

“Actually, I’m doing fine. You must be a mind reader.  I didn’t want to go alone.”

“Let’s go together. We’ll make the excursion fun.” Donna smiled.

“Right after Gina wakes up. She’s a holy terror if she doesn’t get her beauty sleep.” Rosalie laughed. “Come on in and share a cup of tea with me.”

“Sure.” Donna slipped into the kitchen and sat down. For the next thirty minutes the girls enjoyed each other’s company.

Gina woke up in a happy mood. When Rosalie brought her into the kitchen on her hip, the little girl reached for Donna.

Donna’s heart swelled. “Come here to your Auntie Donna.”

The baby cooed and giggled.

Rosalie looked at the two of them with a smile. “You know, you are the only one beside her Papa she goes to.”

“She probably knows I’d let her get away with murder.”

“Probably.” Rosalie laughed. “We’d better get going. I think the school is only open until three o’clock.”

Donna rose with the baby and followed Rosalie out to the garage. She pulled the baby stroller and Donna put the baby in the seat. The two girls jabbered on as they walked the four city blocks to the school to sign up for the program. When they arrived, they waited in line over an hour to register. Forms needed to be completed which required their name and family size, so people would receive the proper war ration coupon book.

Donna studied her coupon book as she left the school. “Boy, this really makes everything real, doesn’t it?”

Rosalie answered quietly. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry, Rosie. Sometimes my mouth and brain don’t work together. With Angelo gone, you already realize how real the war is. I’m so sorry sweetie.”

“Oh, Donna. Don’t worry.  Angelo is coming home after boot camp in a few weeks and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m going to think positive from now on. No more nervous Nellie.”

“That’s the spirit.” Donna said. “I need to tell you something?”

“What?”

“I think you’re the bravest person in the world, Rosie. I would be scared to death to give birth without my husband standing beside me.”

Rosalie smiled. “I think the bravest person we both love is Josie.”

Donna put her hand on Rosie’s as they pushed the stroller together. “Yeah, you’re right. But your tops in my book. Lots of people don’t really approve of my choices, but you can always depend on me. You just ask, and I’ll do whatever you need.”

“You’re so sweet, Donna. Thank you.” Rosie said with a warm smile.

Rosie offered Donna a cool glass of ice water when they got back to the house. They examined their coupon books at the kitchen table. Different colored stamps stood for different types of food. Each stamp specified a certain number of points and an expiration date. A “Red Stamp” coupon allowed the purchase of all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some exceptions, cheese. A “Blue Stamp” covered canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices, dried beans, and processed foods like soups, baby food, and ketchup.”

“This will take some getting used to.” Donna said.

“Yeah, but the program makes sense. Food rationing will make sure people don’t go hungry. No one can hoard food.” She sipped her water. “Now that spring is here, I want to plant a victory garden to supplement the rationing stamps.”

“That’s brave of you. My experience with farming is very limited.”

“Oh Donna, you’re so funny. A victory garden is not farming, silly, it’s gardening.” Rosalie said. “You want to help me? We can grow all kinds of fresh vegetables and then can them in the fall.”

“Are you trying to domestic me, sweetie?” Donna said with a grin.

Rosie grinned back. “One can try.”

“I’ll help, but you might not want my brown thumb around.” Donna took a sip of her water and changed the subject. “When we stood in line at the school, I spied a flyer on the bulletin board advertising a training session to learn how to shop wiser, conserve food, and plan nutritious meals. Would you like to go?”

“Sure. I can always learn new things.” Rosie said absentmindedly. Then she turned to Donna and said, “I want you to think about something.”

“What’s that?” Donna said.

“Would you consider moving in with me after Angelo ships out?”

Donna never expected a question like that. “Are you serious?”

“The whole upstairs could serve as an apartment. There’s a bedroom with a huge closet and another room you can use as your private living room.”

“Why would you want me around?”

“I can’t think of any other person I would like to live with. We’d both be safer together, and to be totally honest, I’m afraid I might lose the house because Angelo’s marine wages are nowhere near what he made at the factory. I can’t work because of this new baby coming–at least not for the foreseeable future. And–,”

Donna interrupted. “I’m honored you want me to live with you. My lease is up in July, so I can come then.”

Rosalie got up and hugged Donna. “You are the best friend, ever.”

Donna hugged her back. “That goes both way, Rosie.”

Chapter 10

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June—Angelo came home unannounced before he needed to ship out for two years. He dressed in the Marine service uniform of green trousers with khaki web belt, short-sleeve button-up shirt, garrison and black shoes.  The marines shaved off his beautiful black curls along with his mustache. He peered through the back window to catch a glimpse of Rosalie before he knocked on the door. He saw her feeding Gina in her high chair, Angelo smiled and knocked for a second time.

She got up, wiped her hands on a dishrag, and opened the door. “Can I help you?”

The soldier smiled.

Rosalie stared at the stranger’s eyes before her face lit up.  “Angelo! You’re home!” She flew into his waiting arms.

“I’m home. I’m home.” He whispered as he held her baby-swollen body and kissed her. “Oh, Rosie. I missed you so much. Look at you!”

“Look at me-Look at YOU! They turned you into a grunt!” She laughed.

“You said it!”

She kissed him again and again. “Are you hungry?”

“You are such a good Italian girl.” He laughed.

The couple went into the kitchen hand in hand. Angelo moved toward Gina and tried to pick her up, but she screamed and kicked at him.

“What’s wrong?”

“She doesn’t remember you, Angelo. You look so different from when you left. Just give her a little time.” Rosalie said.

“She doesn’t remember me? I don’t believe it.”

“Babies sense of time is very different than ours.”

Rosalie thought ‘that’s what you get for leaving us.’ Instead she said, “Don’t worry. She’ll warm up to you.”

Angelo sat at the kitchen table disheartened. He waited six months to be with his family again and now his little girl, the apple of his soul, didn’t want to sit on his lap.

Rosalie picked up the baby. “Come here, sweet girl. This is Daddy. He loves you very much. You remember Daddy.” Rosie tried to put Gina in Angelo’s lap and again Gina screamed and clung to her mother. “I’m so sorry, Angelo.”

“I can’t believe she doesn’t remember me.” Angelo wanted to cry.

“A lot changed since you left us.” Rosie tried to change the subject. “Why don’t you call your parents and invite them over for tea and cannoli?”

“Sure.” Angelo picked up the phone and called his parents.

*****

Three days after Angelo’s return, Gina ran into the living room and eyed him from across the room. She stood on the fringe of the carpet. Gina appeared to be wondering where this stranger fit into her life.

Angelo put his arms out and kept his voice soft.  “Come to Daddy, sweetie.” Much to his surprise, Gina moved toward him. “Da-da?”

Angelo cried, “Yes. Da-da.” He picked her up and hugged her gently.

She put her chubby little arms around his hard body and cuddled into him.

Angelo held her close. “My sweet little Angelina. I love you so much.”

Gina gently slapped his face and smiled. “Da-da.”

Angelo’s heart soared. He kissed the top of her head as he prayed, “God please, no matter what happens, please let her remember me.”

He went to find Rosalie.  “Rosie! She finally remembers me!”

A slice of a smile crossed Rosalie’s face. “I’m happy for you, Angelo. I knew she would.”

*****

The week with Angelo being at home went way too fast. The day before he left, Rosalie approached him holding a large yellow envelope. Her stern face matched her determined eyes. Angelo never witnessed such seriousness in her before.

She handed him the envelope.” Angelo, I need you to sign some papers.”

“What papers?”

“Some legal papers. I learned wives with husbands in the service, especially a husband going off to war need to take legal steps before he leaves.” Rosie cleared her throat as her eyes filled with tears.

Angelo stared at her. “I’ll sign whatever you need, sweetheart.” He released the metal closure and pulled out the legal documents. The envelope contained a last will and testament, a power of attorney, and a deed to the house. “Geez, Rosie, is this really necessary?”

“Yes.” Her voice quivered. “Please sign the dang papers, Angelo. I must do this because of your choice to avenge Tony.” Rosalie’s true feelings rolled over her like a snowball going down a steep hill. “I don’t want to be alone, but I must. I don’t want to give birth alone, but I must. Just sign the GD papers, Angelo!” She took a deep breath pushing down the hidden implication of the documents.

Angelo signed the papers while Rosalie stood like a sentry next to him. Then he handed them back to her.

She said in a flat voice. “Thank you.” Without looking at the death documents, she slipped them into the envelope.

Angelo stood up and embraced her. “I realize my decision has made our lives harder, but I want you to realize I’m proud you’re taking steps to prepare for what might come.” He tipped her chin and placed a tender kiss on her lips. “I also want you to understand I will crawl on my belly for a thousand miles to come back home to you.  If you need these documents someday, well–” His voice cracked. “I love you Rosie. You’re the only girl for me.” He avoided her eyes, dropped his embrace, and headed for the backyard. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. He took a long drag before his eyes moistened. Rosie thinks I’m not coming home. Oh my God, what did I do?

*****

After the document encounter, Rosalie relaxed and cherished the little time left with Angelo. She attempted to remember his scent, his touch, and his kisses. They made love every night and fell asleep entwined. She woke during the night and listened to him breath. She stared at him sleeping peacefully and wondered what he would endure for the next two years. She prayed for his safe return home and put her head on his chest to listen to his heartbeat.  She went to sleep and dreamed the Marines didn’t want him after all.

Angelo’s mother came over way too often during Angelo’s one short week of leave. Rosalie understood her wanting to spend a lot of time with Angelo before he left, especially after losing Tony at Pearl Harbor. Angelo’s father vowed to protect Rosie. Gina, and the new baby; no one said goodbye. The word “goodbye” meant a finality nobody could face.

*****

 Rosie insisted she accompany Angelo to Chicago on a bus. She wanted to be with her husband as long as time would permit. Only God knew when he would be home again. She concentrated on saying “when” instead of “if.”

Angelo welcomed Rosalie’s company for the long bus ride to Chicago.  He needed to hold her as long as possible. He cradled her as she laid her head on his strong shoulder. Sitting so close together reminded him of their high school dating days when they sat in the car for hours watching the “submarine races” on the river. How did two years pass so quickly? High school seemed a lifetime ago.

As the bus roamed through one small town after another, Rosie and Angelo talked about everyday things– what she planned to do to keep busy, about names for the new baby, and how they imagined Gina might behave once the baby came. Rosie told him Donna would be moving into the house in July to help with the expenses and the new baby. Even though Angelo didn’t approve of Donna’s party girl reputation, he relaxed because she offered to stay with Rosie.

Rosie jabbered on about how she planned to can the vegetables growing in her victory garden and how her father helped her keep the plants healthy to make sure of a good harvest. Angelo recalled funny stories about different guys in his basic training group, and what life was like in a barracks full of guys from around the country. They avoided speaking about the war.

Rosalie walked Angelo to the gate where he boarded the airplane to fly to San Francisco. She kept her eyes fixed on him as Angelo walked to the plane across the tarmac. She held her breath as he walked up the ladder and disappeared into the belly of the plane. Rosie lost the battle of keeping her tears away. She waved until the plane taxied away and then let her tears of their unknown future roll down her cheeks. She boarded the bus which would take her back to Lacrosse and stared out the window for much of the trip. Her Angelo was headed for war against a ferocious enemy.

As Rosalie headed home, Angelo fastened his seat belt waiting for the plane to lift off for San Francisco. Through the small plane porthole, he prayed. “Oh God, please take care of her while I’m gone. Please give her an easy time when the baby comes. Please be with her always. I love her so much.”

 

 

Standing on a Soapbox

Does it bother anyone else that presidential hopefuls begin their rhetoric two years before the election in November 2016? 

This morning I got up early when the house was quiet. I fed the pets and made the coffee for the day, and then I turned on the television and voila–Donald Trump and the other Republican boys were the lead story. The local station reported Scott Walker was in Iowa. Why is he in Iowa instead of Wisconsin? Did he quit his day job? But perhaps it’s a good thing he’s out of the state. At least he won’t be destroying education, health care for the disabled, and breaking more unions.

I think this early campaign stuff is disgusting. It’ll be a year before they will impart their plans for our future. In the meantime they will put other candidates down as they dig up dirt on each other.

And what’s this “The American People” phrase? Every time I hear those three words it sounds like the speaker is separating his/her self from the rest of us. Are they ashamed to be part of The American People? Have they elevated themselves above us poor slobs who elect them? Perhaps they are. Once in Congress, they are set for life with self-legislated pensions and healthcare benefits. On top of that, they legislate their own raises. Who in the private sector can do that?

When our forefathers put this government together, they never imagined it would be a full time job for the rest of their lives. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the rest of the Revolution boys must be pulling their hair out if they are observing the ridiculous campaign and election process which has evolved.

And another thing, once a person makes it to Washington, he/she is sworn in, given an office, and expected to work for “The American People” they love so much. Right? Well, it ain’t necessarily so–once elected they immediately start planning for their re-election. Then they plan their time away from Washington. It’s a miracle if anything gets done. Right?

I could go on, but I won’t because then I’d sound like a politician

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5

Chapter 3

Paris, France–January 1942—Emma suffered beatings and torture which broke most men. Day after day she protested she did nothing wrong. Six weeks since her arrest passed slowly. She sat in darkness most of the day, and shivered from the cold most of the night. Emma remained strong. Her only fear involved Marta. Did she do enough to protect her?. The Nazis already proved a young woman like Marta made an easy target.

On January 15th Emma’s trial commenced. Her captors led her into the courtroom and stood her in front of a Gestapo officer pretending to be a judge. The charges against her were subversion and espionage, but after months of looking for evidence to prove she provided false identification papers for people fleeing France, the Gestapo investigators could not substantiate the charge. However, the subversion charge stayed because the Gestapo found the French resistance newspaper in her apartment.

Emma stood straight in her chains before the judge. He spoke in a monotone voice. “Young woman do you wish to say anything in your defense?”

In a clear strong voice, Emma answered. “Yes, your honor. Since my arrest, I never uttered a word of truth to your interrogators. I concocted a web of deceit to protect my friends, not to exonerate myself.”

The judge shook his head in disgust. “You will be confined for the maximum period of three years in a Gestapo prison to be named later.” He slammed his gavel on a wooden block, and a bailiff dragged Emma away.

Marta witnessed the sham of a trial from the gallery in utter dismay. Emma appeared so thin and gaunt Marta barely recognized her. Her long hair had been cropped with a dull scissors, and her face appeared battered and bruised. But even though she appeared beaten, her strong voice showed her spirit had not been broken. The German thugs achieved no success in breaking her. At that moment, Marta’s love for Emma grew exponentially.

*****

After the trial, the Nazis immediately transported Emma to a prison in Anrath, Germany–a city near Dusseldorf. The train arrived in Germany after midnight. A bus awaited the prisoners for their final leg of their journey. After a twenty mile bus ride, the vehicle stopped at a building surrounded with barbed wire and bright search lights.

The bus driver turned off the ignition and stood to face the downtrodden women. “Stand and file off one-by-one.”

The clanking of dozens of chains was the only sound as the women shuffled off the bus. Everyone kept her head down.

A female warden received them. She wore a stern expression like someone woke her from a sound sleep. She yelled at the prisoners to form a queue and led the women into the prison to another matron who stood behind a desk.  This stout woman with a square face and hateful eyes glared at Emma. “Name?”

“Emma Schiller.” Emma said in a strong voice.

“You are not Emma Schiller any longer, frauline. You are now prisoner number 3103. From now on you will answer to this number.”

Emma stared straight ahead as another guard dragged her to a six-by-six cement cell in another dark, dank basement. The guard unlocked her shackles and pushed Emma inside the cell. A small cot with bare iron springs would serve as her bed. A bucket sat in the corner, which would serve as her toilet. She thought surely the guard would drop by with a mattress and blanket later, but he never did.

When morning arrived, the cell remained dark.  Emma realized no natural light would ever penetrate the dungeon she would call home for the next three years.

Emma slept little her first night in prison. A harsh male voice jarred her from her thoughts. “3103, get up. It is time for your examination.” The guard unlocked the cell door with a large iron key. He shackled Emma and dragged her to the prison doctor.

Emma waited alone in a small white room. After being in the dark for so long, the brightness of the overhead light made her shield her eyes.

After she waited twenty minutes on the examining table, an old man in a white coat came into the room and asked, “Are you sick?”

Emma said. “No.”

“Do you have any diseases?”

“No.”

“Then you are fit to work.”

He made his diagnosis without ever touching her.

 

*****

Emma’s months of incarceration taught her how to cope with the cruelty and loneliness of being treated like a caged animal. She commanded her thoughts to focus on a routine. She needed to shelve the good times in her life because when she drifted into the past, her depression grew unbearable. Memories of falling in love with Marta in Paris or recalling Marta’s delight when they decided to live together in the city of lights brought thoughts of how much she lost. If she pictured Marta’s smile, Emma broke down.

Her experience in the Paris prison showed her the best defense against her captors was never showing the guards see her soft spot. She needed to stay detached, cold, uncaring, and strong enough to endure her sentence. Emma realized she had to live in the moment to get through the next three years.

Everyday the police paraded Emma and other prisoners down the middle of the street on their way to the factory. On-lookers glared at them with disdain. Their stares puzzled Emma, but when she passed a window of a dress shop and caught a glimpse of her reflection she understood. She had become a wretched creature like everyone else in her group. Emma choked down the tears and marched forward with a blank expression on her face.

The work the prisoners did was dividing large skeins of rayon thread and then wrapping it by hand onto smaller spools. Rayon dust hung in the air like poison gas. Workers swallowed the fumes with every breath, and the toxic air made their throats so dry swallowing became difficult. Civilian workers, who sat beside Emma, sipped from bottles of fresh water during the course of the day to soothe their thirst, while prisoners needed to endure their work hours with dry tongues. A water fountain hung on a nearby wall, but prisoners were forbidden to take a drink. One day a woman prisoner attempted to drink from the fountain, and she received a beating which left her bloody and unconscious lying on the floor. All of these hardships were intentional to get the women to breakdown and die.

Even with the many rules and hardships, which destroyed prisoners everyday, Emma’s tunnel-vision determination and strong spirit helped her get up and report to work. After studying the operation of her work for a few days, she discovered how she could continue her Resistance work while in prison.

Her job required her to tie flat weaver’s knots when rayon skeins were joined together. Any other knot would jam the looms and cause costly downtime for the weavers at the parachute factory. Emma made sure her spools included lumpy knots to cause a fine mess for the German weavers, but she hid her sabotage by making sure the outside of her spools appeared smooth, neat, and correctly tied.  Every time she turned in one of her spools she imaged the frustration of the weavers when her sabotage jammed the looms and set production back. This self-satisfaction served as Emma’s purpose to stay alive.

Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-January—After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Josie joined the Army Nurse Corps. War meant her surgical nursing skills were needed overseas a lot more than her tedious clerical work the Allis Chalmers factory. She thought any LPN could do the work she did, keeping charts, taking out slivers, washing debris out of eyes, and bandaging small cuts. The most exciting event every week occurred when Mario came in with his weekly phantom ailment. After a month, he finally invited Josie to a movie, but she had already made plans with Donna for Saturday evening. He went away dejected but he was not a person easily discouraged.

Josie received her letter of acceptance to the Army Nurse Corps in January. In a month she’d be sworn as an officer. But now she faced the hardest part–telling her parents she had enlisted.

The perfect time to tell her mother presented itself in the kitchen one snowy afternoon.

“Mom, I need to tell you something important.”

“What’s that Josie?” She said absentmindedly as she stirred a pot of soup.

Josie took a deep breath and blurted, “I joined the Army.”

Mrs. Schneider laughed. “You’re such a kidder, Josie. They don’t let girls into the Army.” Her mother turned away from stirring her soup and stared at her daughter. She recognized Josie’s stone-like expression which told her daughter wasn’t kidding.

“Mom, I’m serious. I joined the Army Nurse Corps. I’ll be training in Arizona in a couple of weeks.”

Her mother’s face dropped. “No!”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Oh my God! You can’t do this, Josie. Isn’t bad enough that Johnny is gone?”

“Now that we’re at war, Mom, the Army needs medical personnel to serve the needs of our soldiers. I possess the training they need. I need to go.”

“I thought you liked your factory job.”

“Mom, any monkey can do that job. My surgical skills will be in high demand. Thousands of soldiers are wounded every day. What if one of them turns out to be Peter or Johnny? Wouldn’t you want a nurse like me to take care of them?”

Her mother shouted.  “Don’t say such things! I can’t think about my sons being wounded.” She sucked in a deep breath and plopped down in the nearest chair. She held her head with both hands choking down tears. Josie stood beside her mother and rubbed her shoulder. “Oh Mom.” She said quietly. “Please don’t cry.”

In a few minutes Mrs. Schneider composed herself.  “I’m sorry, Josie. When I think about my children going to war, the thoughts are too vivid.” She stood and faced Josie. “I guess I can only blame myself. I always encouraged you to follow your heart. If this is what you must do, you be the best damn nurse in this man’s Army.”

“You mean this ‘woman’s’ Army, don’t you, Mom?”

Her mother hugged her. “Yes. I guess I do.”

 

 

 

How to Have a Good Day

Good morning everyone! It’s going to be a good day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and temperatures are in the low 70s. But that’s not why I know it will be a good day– but it certainly helps.

How do I know that? Because I think it will be a good day. It’s as simple as that. Believing it will be a good day is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

No matter your circumstance, healthy or ill, rich or poor, young or old–we all create our own world. Isn’t that great?

I know. I know. You’re thinking I’m putting on my Pollyanna cloak, but I’m not. I’ve learned if I think positively and believe I’m going to have a wonderful day, I will, It doesn’t matter if I’m going outside my home or just staying in. I will find happiness because I demand it.

Conversely, if I’m tired and crabby and negative, I may as well go back to bed because I certainly will have a bad day. I confess every once in a very long while, I want to be cranky and have a pity party. I’m human after all. But thank god, I never dwell on negative thoughts for too long.

I think we all have a responsibility to live a life that is full of wonderful days. So drink your coffee, go through your morning routine, and then face the world with a smile. It works. Believe me.

#####

I’ll  APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

 

 

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-December 1041—A two o’clock on a sunny, cold December 8th afternoon Angelo and Rosalie listened to their radio to hear President Roosevelt’s address to Congress. The newspaper reports about the Japanese Empire bombing Pearl Harbor the day before were sketchy and they wanted to hear how the President would handle the attack. Everyone was sure he intended to ask congress for a declaration of war.

Gina played with her building blocks as her parents listened and held their breath.

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – A date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons commenced bombing Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands caused severe damage to our American naval and military forces. Many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships reported they got torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan, therefore, undertook a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States already formed their opinions and understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always we will remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war exists between the United States and the Japanese empire.”

After the speech, “The Star Spangled Banner,” played. Angelo and Rosalie stood at attention with their hands over their hearts. Angelo’s eyes filled with tears and his chest grew tight because he knew his brother Tony was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  Instead of crying, Rosalie prayed. She understood Angelo’s fear. Tony’s ship the USS California might be in the harbor where the attack occurred.

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—December—The Armani family went about preparing for Christmas like they did every other year, until two naval officers knocked on their front door.  When Mrs. Armani saw their sad eyes, she broke down in sobs and fell to her knees. “No, not my Tony. Please God, not my son Tony!”

The officers stood stone faced and one of them took her hand. In a soft voice he said, “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, Anthony Armani is missing in action at Pearl Harbor.”  Then they handed her a banner with a Gold Star appliqued on a white background.

Mama Armani rubbed her hand over the gold star and wept. Tomorrow she would hang the flag in her living room window to show the world her son gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. But now she would weep as a piece of herself perished.

Mr. Armani called Angelo and Rosalie to come to the house immediately. “We got news about Tony.”

Rosalie grabbed Gina, and Angelo backed the truck out of the driveway throwing gravel in all directions.

He parked in front of his parent’s home and ran to the front door leaving Rosalie and Gina behind. He opened the door and found his mother sitting in an upholstered wing back chair sobbing. In an instant, Angelo realized Tony died in the Japanese attack. He fell to his knees and put his head in his mother’s lap. “Oh Ma, it can’t be true.”

She ran her hand through Angelo’s curly hair. “Itsa true, my son. Itsa true. Tony is gone.”

Rosalie and Mr. Armani witnessed the pain of a mother and brother realizing there was nothing they could do to ease their loss.

“How is he ever going to get over this?” Rosalie thought. “I can never fill such a big void in his life.”

Mr. Armani looked away with tears in his eyes. He walked out of the house and sat on a swing on the back porch. He did his grieving for his oldest son in private. He asked God why he needed Tony so much. He stared at the statue of the St. Francis in his flower garden and prayed for all the other families who lost a son at Pearl Harbor.