Tag Archive | The MS Journey

Table For One?

When Ken has bad days with  his MS, I have a lot of conflicting emotions. How long will we be together? How long will we be able to enjoy each other’s company over a nice meal at home or at a restaurant? The thought of eating alone again is not pleasant.

When I got divorced over twenty years ago, eating diner alone was one of the hardest things I had to accept. Up until that time, the evening meal was the only time when everyone was present. We discussed the day’s events and talked about what would happen the next day. Contributing to the conversation was necessary. When I was quiet as a child, my parents assumed something was wrong in my world. Now a court decreed dining with my family was over. I hated it. In fact, I never really adjusted willingly.

Have you ever wondered why humans prefer eating together? Coming from an extended family of gregarious Italians sharing a big meal with a crowd is part of my DNA.

If I go back to my communication theory I learned in college, I can explain it this way:  We are born into a culture which teaches us its underlying truths and traditions. When we get old enough, we reinforce those traditions and beliefs and pass them on to our own children. Simple? I don’t think so. From our first meal to our last, we prefer to share the experience with another. Is it our social conditioning which makes it so? Or is it that we’ve never been taught to eat alone? All we’re doing is refueling, right?

There are probably more single people in our culture than ever before. I assume most of them eat alone most nights. I wander if they miss family meals or have willingly adjusted to their status. Have they adjusted to dining alone or do they  “text” friends while they devour calories? Do they sit in front of the television just to have other voices present as they nibble? Or do they have a pet standing by to talk to and share their meal? Do they go to restaurants and bring a book signally to other patrons they are intellectual not pathetic?

From what I’ve read on the subject, people in big cities like New York find it easier to eat alone in restaurants. Isn’t that curious? Why is  it when more people are packed together in a concentrated area like Manhattan they can shut out other people at meal time? Sound backwards to me. But then again, people living in big cities are more guarded for survival sake, so on some level it makes sense.

 

Perhaps I find eating alone so tough because I’ve been taught to do otherwise says I’m lacking something socially. My Italian American lineage has ingrained to believe meals are communal activities. Let’s face it. Solitary meals leave us exposed.  People perceive you as a poor soul who has no friends, while you’re trying to show you are confident and quite comfortable in your own company.

Most of us at one time in our lives must face the fact we will be alone at meal times — unless of course, you’re the lucky one who gets to die first. Even Jesus had a “Last Supper.”

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 15

Montpellier, France-August—After several months in the south of France, Emma regained most of her strength. Her clear emerald green eyes sparkled again which told Marta her spirit also healed. Emma walked to the town square every day and took on the household chores while Marta worked as a waitress at the corner cafe. Emma admitted the time they spent in the South of France gave her a chance to rest and find herself again, but her good health recaptured her innate desire to do something more meaningful than household chores. She wanted to work again. She needed excitement, and she yearned to go back to Paris.

Every evening after supper,  Marta and Emma listened to a small radio Marta bought from one of their workmates. The device received few channels, but one station they did receive originated from England. Radio Free Europe reported accurate information about the war, instead of biased German or Allied propaganda. As cool summer breeze floated through the window, an excited radio announcer proclaimed, “The Nazis are out of Paris! Allied soldiers overtook the city today. General de Gaulle, the leader of the Marquis, led the exiled troops back into the city. Everyone danced in the streets. Wine flowed freely while young girls kissed their liberators. ”

Emma jumped from her chair. Her eyes sparkled like they did when she first showed Paris to Marta.  “Do you realize what this means, Cherie?”

Marta smiled at Emma’s exuberance. “No, what does this mean?”

“We can go home! We can go home!”

“Back to Paris?” Marta paused and chose her words carefully. “Why would we leave here? I love this lovely town. The weather is moderate. We are close to the sea. Our apartment is comfortable. I thought you enjoyed being here. Why do you want to upset the peace we found?”

Emma’s face fell like Marta had let the air out of her balloon. “I agree this place has been wonderful. You nursed me back from oblivion and brought joy back into my life again. But do you not want to return to art, music, theater, movies and all the rest of the things this little town does not offer?”

“No. I’m sorry, Emma. The slower pace suits me. I like the people here. I made friends here. I got a chance to rediscover my love of painting here. I am not anxious to return to the bustle and rudeness of the city. And besides, to travel right now would be dangerous.”

Emma tried again with a note of pleading in her voice.  “Would you consider moving after the war is over?”

“I will think about it Emma.”

Emma’s voice soften like melting ice cream. “I love you, Cherie, You realize that, don’t you?”

“Of course. What a question.”

“I realize Pierre moved heaven and hell to free me from that German prison. I also am thankful he brought me here to you. Every day you proved your love for me in every touch and kindness. I do appreciate all you did for me. But this sleepy little town is,” she hesitated. “Too safe and too quiet. I need to be active again.  I need a purpose, so I can be your partner, not your burden.”

Marta raised one eyebrow as she stared at Emma. “First of all, you are not or ever were a burden. You can find work here.”

“Like what? Fishing?” Emma’s voice cut like a sharp knife. Instantly she wanted to take back her sarcastic words.

Marta replied. “Emma. I recognize you are a fighter, and I sense your restlessness. But the war made us both endure so many hardships. I rather like not thinking about terror every minute. This place freed me from the ugliness. Paris would bring all those horrid memories back.”

“Are you saying, ‘No’?”

Marta dropped her eyes and said in a soft tone. “I am saying I cannot endure another big change. Not now. I am happy here. Please try to understand.”

Emma sat down. She said nothing. It was clear Marta had traded her fire for adventure for complacency.

Chapter 16

Switzerland, July—Danny stayed with Heidi and her children for a couple of months. He didn’t want to go back to combat flying, but he also didn’t want to be labeled a deserter. His friendship with Heidi grew into flourishing love.

At the breakfast table Heidi confronted him. “Daniel, I am running out of projects for you. I appreciate all you do for me, but someday you need to leave and go back to the Americans.”

“I thought your “Honey Do” list would never be completed.” He said with a mischievous smile.

“Honey do? What is this?”

“At home husbands call a wife’s list of chores a “Honey Do List” . . . Like honey do this, and honey do that.”

Heidi laughed. “That is very funny, Daniel.”

He put his hand over Heidi’s hand which rested on the table. “Heidi, I don’t want to leave you.”

She searched his sincere eyes. “I do not want you to go either, Daniel. But it is selfish to keep you here. Everyone will miss you, but the Americans expect you to escape.”  Heidi’s eyes dropped to the floor.

Danny  stood and pulled her into his arms. “I realize I need to go back to my unit, but since coming here, I am torn. I want to stay and protect all of you.”

“You must realize I do not need protection.”

“I see you can take care of yourself, but I found something special here with you.”

“We are happy you are here, Danny.”

“Heidi, I am in love with you.”

Heidi’s eyes welled with tears. “I love you, too, Daniel.”

Danny said softly, “I want to kiss you.”

“So kiss me.” She raised her chin and he kissed her lips. Gently at first, but then his kisses grew with his passion.

She pulled away as her sense of self-preservation kicked in.  “Daniel,” she whispered. “We should not do this.”

“Why not?”

Her voice quivered. “Because you will go away, and I will be alone again. I cannot bear to lose you.

“Never. I want you to be my wife and go back to the states with me.”

“And the children?”

“Of course! I understand  you and the children are a package deal, right?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s get married and then I will go back to my unit.”

“It is too soon, Danny.”

“Too soon for what? Hasn’t this war proven life is too short to waste time? Say you’ll be my wife, Heidi.”

Heidi searched his honest face and pleading eyes. “Yes. I love you, Danny.” She kissed him long and deep.

He lifted her off the ground in his joy and squeezed her tightly. “Oh God, Heidi. I love you so!”

They laughed in each others arms.

He said, “Let’s get married tomorrow.”

“Yes.”

*****

Danny and Heidi married the next day in the local minister’s parlor. Heidi put on a white dress she wore when she graduated from secondary school. The dress didn’t fit well because she lost weight, but she didn’t possess anything else appropriate for the occasion. David picked a bouquet of wild flowers from the hills behind their house and presented them to his mother before they all walked to church.

Danny didn’t own a suit, so he wore the clothes he wore when he escaped from prison. He fashioned a ring from an old car part he hammered and polished. He vowed to buy Heidi a proper wedding ring as soon as he returned to the States.

The minister’s wife and a deacon served as witnesses. The children stood by as attendants, and Heidi thought her wedding to Danny was the most precious memory in her life. The ceremony was simple, but tender. As the couple stood in front of the minister and repeated their promises to each other, she thanked God for bringing him to her.

*****

Three days later, Danny said goodbye to Heidi and the children. The French resistance would help him return to the Americans, but leaving Heidi and the children felt like someone cut out his heart.

“I will write as often as I can.” He said with tears as he tried to say goodbye.

She whispered, “Please be careful.” She clung to him not wanting to let go. “Take care of yourself for me.” She forced a smile through her tears. Danny was the first boy she ever loved and now she needed to let him go.

Danny kissed her one last time. “We’ll be together soon. I promise.”

She gave him a brave smile. He opened the door and disappeared into the night.  Heidi closed the door and sobbed.

The sound of Heidi crying propelled David from his bed. He rushed downstairs and found her sitting on the floor. “Mutter, what is wrong?”

“Danny left to go back to the Americans.”

“He told me yesterday he would leave. I begged him not to go, but he said he must return because he stayed too long already; he did not want to go.”

She looked into his innocent face and nodded. “You are so wise for someone so young.” The two of them cried in each other’s arms fearing they might not see the man they loved again.

*****

Danny met the librarian at the edge of town. She drove him to the next leg of the journey where she introduced him to a man dressed as a pauper in the next town.  The man directed Danny to a house where two British soldiers waited. The Brits had escaped from a German work camp in Austria. They waited in darkness for a covered lorry which would take them to Geneva. They got off the truck and followed their guide to a wooded area. They walked about two miles before they got to a small stream.

The peasant guide said, “I must go now. Wait here quietly. I will bring the Marquis to take you back to the allied lines.”

The escapees waited in the darkness for hours before their guide returned. He searched for a shallow spot along the stream and motioned for the others to follow him across the icy water wearing their shoes. On the far shore, the guide turned them over to the Marquis—eight strong, grubby men, all armed with machine guns. Brief introductions were made before these tough looking men led Danny and the Brits to a ramshackle shack hidden in thick woods. Here they slept for a few hours waiting for daylight.

As soon as the sun rose, a Marquis member shook the escapees awake. In darkness Danny and the Brits couldn’t see these men who were to take them to the allies. Now, however, the rugged, battle-toughened men appeared more like grubby barbarians than saviors.

The group ate a light breakfast of fruit and hard cheese before the leader announced it was time to go. They walked for a couple of hours before getting to a steep hill. The Marquis flanked the escapees on both sides to protect them from any enemy soldiers who might still be in the area. Danny struggled to make the climb, breathing heavier as the altitude went higher. He prayed as he struggled to breathe. “Oh God, please keep Heidi and the children safe, and help me get up this damn mountain alive.”

The trek uphill brought them to an abandoned German barracks. After a supper of bread and thin potato soup, Danny sat outside on the porch with one of the rescuers. Danny offered him a cigarette. The man took it and smiled. “Merci.” He lit the cigarette and took a long drag relaxing his back against the building.

Danny smiled as he thought, “How surprising a cigarette is always an ice-breaker, even when the tobacco is so bad.”

*****

The group headed out in the early morning to a nearby town called Annecy due south of Geneva. On the south side of the town a crystal clear mountain lake and a large hotel appeared. In peace time the place served vacationers as a resort, but now the structure housed American military personnel who aided escaped prisoners get back to their units. Danny received new clothes and a new pair of boots. The Brits were transferred to another installation nearby. Danny was assigned a private room for the evening with the knowledge he would be debriefed in the morning after a good meal and a night’s sleep. Danny used the time to write to Heidi.

Heidi, my love–

I arrived safely at my destination. Now the danger we encounter are bedbug bites that itch like crazy.

I cannot predict when we will be together again, but I can’t wait to start our life in America. From the reports I am hearing, the war cannot last much longer. The Marquis told us the Russians are closing in from the east and the Allies keep pushing toward Berlin.

On our way here, we saw German prisoners harnessed to a heavy wagon. Earlier in the war SS troops confiscated all of the draft animals in the village, so the French thought hitching the POW’s up to the wagon was poetic justice.

From here, I’ll be transferred to England. I will keep you informed on what comes next. I miss you all so much already. We will be together soon. 

I’m sending all my love to you and the children,

Danny

 

 

Feedbac

Watered Down Dreams

 

I never was a person who had a clear plan for my life. As a child, I wanted to be a “Mouseketeer” or a pretty lady who rode on a 4th of July float in the parade. One of these dreams came true. Wanna guess which one? That’s right. At eighteen I wore a white flowing gown on a float filled with live petunias that attracted bees. There I was a Greek Goddess standing by a garden trellis swatting away the little buggers, but nobody said portraying a goddess would be easy.

In high school, I wanted to sing on Broadway. My other option was to write a best seller. Guess which one of these two came true. Well, the answer is none. I did sing in a local choral group and many times got the solos; and I did write seven novels, all of them published, but none of them has become a best seller. Yet.

When I got a little older, I decided I wanted to marry a good, kind man. The first one didn’t work out, but on the second try I’m happy to say I found one. Ken and I had four or five fun-filled years–two years of dating and another three before he got sick. I dreamed we’d sail into the sunset and travel in retirement, but that can’t happen because he’s too weak to even travel to Chicago these days.

People applaud me for my efforts, but I don’t feel worry of their praise. In my mind, reality has watered down my dreams and I feel like I missed the boat of what I really wanted to achieve. So like a harnessed plow horse, I keep plugging away. I realize most of my good years are in the rear view mirror, and as I gaze ahead I wonder what is next.

These thoughts haunt me because Ken had a terrible weekend. I had to call the fire department three times to have the men pick him up from the floor. He even toppled over in the garage, hitting his head on the pavement. A quick forming lump and a bit of blood freaked me out. The good news is — it was just a bump.

Such episodes make me feel inadequate in the caregiver department. Nobody signs up for this situation. It just happens, and I suppose when you find yourself in such a place, one does get to the point when life is too heavy. Love you have for the person for whom you are caring wanes even when it’s the last thing you want to do. When the person needing help is a spouse, the dynamics of the marriage change forever. And always being in the shadow of another brings darkness, doesn’t it?

I’ll search for the light, but seeing I don’t know what direction to search, it will take me some time. Eventually I’ll have enough information to make a good decision for him and for me, and it’s coming sooner than later.

Until then, I’m sending you a couple more chapters of the second edition of Apple Pie and Strudel Girls. We’re nearing the end, so stay with me.

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 9

Naples, Italy – March—Josie found working in the wards satisfying in a different way; instead of the excitement of the operating room, she found her nurturing side as she helped wounded soldiers make the journey back to health. By the end of March the weather turned pleasant enough to wheel her patients outside to enjoy the sunshine. Somehow the outdoors lifted their depressed spirits better than any medication in a syringe or a bottle. Mario especially looked forward to his time with Josie. He healed enough to get out of bed and walk short distances with a cane, but he would never be fit for combat again.

The more time he spent with Josie, he confirmed to himself he didn’t want to live without her in his life. She, on the other hand, didn’t show she might be ready to listen to his serious intentions. For the time being, he stayed satisfied to admit she prevailed as the checkers champ, while he taught her the finer points of poker.

As Josie finished her shift, she picked up her mail and discovered she received three letters. One from Anna, Johnny, and Rosalie. After months of not getting any mail at all. Josie almost skipped to her quarters to read the news from her friends.

Dear Josie,

Hope this letter finds you with your “head down.” A rumor circled around the camp a field evac center in Italy got bombed. Please, if you’re reading this letter, write to me as soon as you can so I can relax.

Since we last met, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma.  Our pilot got lost in a storm and crashed somewhere in Albania behind German lines. I got stranded with four wounded patients and only one corpsman. The pilot died in the crash. I thought about you during those first minutes, asking myself, “What would Josie do?” And I got my answer right away. Josie would pray. So I did. Yes–this kid finally believes.

In a couple of minutes, my prayer seemed to be fast-tracked. A band of Albanian resistance fighters came to our rescue, although at the time, I thought I might be a goner. The leader called himself Jack. I wish I could send you a picture. A colorful turban hid Jack’s long grimy hair. His face sported, a full scraggly beard, and he dressed like something straight out of an Allie-Baba movie. His body odor was ripe. I don’t think he bathed in a month, but he turned out to be our guardian angel. Through his knowledge of the area and his cleverness to solve problems along the way, we walked eight hundred miles through mountain wilderness back to our lines.

This is an adventure I never want to repeat. The good news is everyone lived. No fatalities. Everyone suffered frostbite. Mike, my corpsman lost a couple of toes, and he developed pneumonia. I kept trotting from a bad case of dysentery.  A month later I returned to the air. Most people think I’m crazy not to ask for a transfer.

For my efforts, I received a raise and a promotion to First Lieutenant. I suppose you’re a general by now, but pretend to be impressed, okay? (Ha,ha) I never acquired the knack of out-performing you, but I hope this experience at least ties with your escapades.

Write soon if you can, and I’ll look forward to meeting you again in peace time. Sending you my love and respect,

 Your friend, Anna

As Josie read Anna’s tale, she didn’t think she possessed the strength or fortitude to make such a horrendous journey. Walking eight hundred miles through the snowy mountains seemed impossible.  Josie considered herself a tomboy, but Anna proved she always had more gas in her tank than Josie ever did. What a story! She looked forward to sharing Anna’s letter with Mario who bragged about walking the length of Italy.

She opened Rosalie’s letter next.

Dear Josie,

 Here I am in the safety of my home with two beautiful babies. (I’m sending you a new picture to brag a little). If you came home for Christmas, I’d be as happy as a pig in slop. (Can you tell your Dad has rubbed off on me?)

My good mood got a boost when I found Angelo on my doorstep. He returned home just before Christmas with a medical discharge. He got severely burned and wounded on a Pacific Island. (I can’t tell you where because of the censors.) Angelo suffered so much. For awhile the doctors only gave him a thirty percent chance he would live because he stayed in a coma for weeks after surgery. He lay on a field hospital cot for weeks because the air strip needed to be completed before they could send him to a better hospital.

The most amazing thing happened to him while he lay asleep. Angelo told me he went to a quiet, peaceful place during those two weeks. He recalled he jumped on the wings of a butterfly and flew home to check on me and the babies. He also said he saw Tony again. They laughed together, but then Tony told Angelo his time with him expired because I needed him at home. After Tony walked away from him, Angelo woke up.  Isn’t that incredible?

When Angelo saw the Blue Star flag I hung in the front window, he cried. Then I showed him the scrapbook of stories I cut out of the newspaper about his unit.  We made up a silly ceremony and retired the banner laying it to rest in my war scrapbook. We put both in the attic, hoping never to go through such a long separation again.

Angelo’s walks with a cane, and he still suffers terrible pain in his leg, but he’s still my sweet Angelo. He’s so proud of our kids and spoils them rotten. Even though they are so small, I can tell they love having their Daddy home again.

Angelo’s boss gave him his job back, but instead of doing all the hard labor, he made Angelo a foreman. He got a big pay raise because the factory received a huge government contract. It’s such a relief to not worry about money. I really got scared I might lose our house, but Donna chipped in rent money, and we muddled through together. She’s such a doll. I really miss her.

 Besides bringing home a bum leg and a lot of scars, Angelo brought home his young friend Bobby. Honestly Josie, he’s just a kid. He enlisted in the Marines at sixteen years old! Can you imagine that? He’s living upstairs in Donna’s old room for the time being. He tells everybody he found his feminine side because he sleeps a pink bedroom. (ha, ha)

Bobby never experienced a loving family before and I think Angelo believes God sent him a little brother to help ease the loss of Tony. He’s a decent kid, and he loves little Angelo. He calls him “AJ,” and I think the new nickname will stick.

Things are almost back to normal, except for rationing, air raid practices, and blackouts, of course. (ha, ha)

I miss you and Donna so much. I hope you’ll come home REAL soon.

 Love you always,

Rosie

After Josie finished reading Rosalie’s letter, she thought about her role as a wife of a veteran and a mother of two babies. Sweet Rosie. She’s a veteran, but she’ll never get any credit for her contribution to the war effort. No one will give her a medal for the personal hardship and loneliness she endured. And no one will honor her for having a baby without her husband standing by. She sacrificed as much as any of us. Josie sighed and picked up the letter from Johnny. She hoped he completed his thirty-five missions and went home.

Dear Josie,

Hi, kid! Hope you’re up to no good for a change, but somehow I doubt it. You’re the type who makes up sins when you go to confession. 

Things here are stepping up. The new planes are a dream and our new Captain is crazier than my old friend Graham. I fly as Baker’s wing man and we’re a winning combination.

When Alistair and Graham died in combat, I never thought I would fly with anybody with the same talent, but the Captain gives Graham a run for his money. He challenges me every day.

We finally own the skies over Europe and are pounding the hell out of the Krauts. Turnabout is fair play, right? I believe this war is coming to a painful climax–like when you get a pimple and the damn thing needs to be squeezed. (ha, ha)

At least I hope so. I’m weary of flying mission after mission and wondering who will come back . . . the worst part is, not knowing the fate of the fliers –are they dead or POWs? Rumors of German prison conditions make me think the better choice of the two is death.

I want to tell you some good news and bad news. Mary and I broke off our engagement. Being separated for three years took its toll on both of us. I got close to Alistair’s widow, and Mary admitted she didn’t feel the same about me either.

The more Katie and I wrote and the few times we saw each other developed into something serious. I didn’t plan this. But Katie is beautiful and smart, and someday soon, we’ll marry before the war is over so I can take her home with me after the Krauts surrender.

You’ll never guess what I found in a pub last week. Peter! He’s part of a million other “yanks.” You can imagine how much fun we got out of sharing a couple of beers together, although, I can say one thing-I’ll be glad when I get home and drink a COLD beer-these crazy Brits drink their pints of “bitter” warm. As long as I live, I’ll never get used to that.

Well, that’s all the news. Hope you’re safe and well.

Love,

Johnny

Josie reread each letter before she put all the letters in the cigar box where she kept all her correspondence. She realized a common thread ran through all of the letters. The war changed everybody, but somehow life goes on. She heart broke for Mary because being Johnny’s fiancé meant something very special to her.  Josie realized even the best relationship gets tough when it must endure a long separation. Rosalie’s letter once again showed a lively spark which disappeared after Angelo left. Thank God he made it home. The two of them should enjoy a long happy life together; after all they loved each other since freshman year in high school.

The letters did more for Josie’s spirits than any counseling session. She planned to share her news from home with Mario because he enjoyed hearing stories about her friends. Josie told him so much about about Rosalie, Angelo, and Donna he considered them an extended family.

Her assignment in the convalescent wards brought Josie and Mario close. He cajoled her and she bantered back. They laughed together, and once in a while shared a tender moment of silence. When he told her he never would face combat again, she rejoiced. Lately, she didn’t want to think of living without him in her life.

Chapter 10

Normandy, France-June—Peter and millions of other American boys realized the invasion of Europe couldn’t be far off. As they went through daily drills, a crusty sergeant made sure his men understood there were no rules in combat. As they crawled on their bellies under barbed wire, the sergeant yelled. “If you get a chance to kill a Kraut by shooting him in the back, you shoot. If you can blow him up with a grenade, throw the grenade. If you can kill him with a bayonet, you stab him. You kill the son-of-a-bitch the quickest and most effective way you can. If you don’t, I guarantee you won’t live to tell the story. Remember this: The enemy’s main desire is to kill YOU!”

Every day and every training session the drill sergeants yelled such words of wisdom to toughen up the troops. As the soldiers practiced climbing ropes, the sergeant drilled them. “Jerry will trick and cheat you. There are no ethics in war, boys. If you don’t beat Jerry at his own game, you won’t live to appreciate your own nobleness.”

As Peter drilled and practiced his role in the upcoming invasion, he wondered if he could really kill anyone. As a child, he learned in catechism class “Thou shall not kill.”  He understood killing was a sin. Killing puts you in prison. But now he found himself with a rifle in his hand surrounded by people who expected him to use it.

One day, he got enough nerve to ask his sergeant about his dilemma. The crusty drill sergeant recognized Peter struggled. “Kid. Listen. I won’t say this twice. You are not a killer. We are here to do a job. Our superiors expect success. We must give one hundred and ten percent all of the time. Nothing but your best effort is required. Any man who witnesses and sniffs the ugliness of war wants no more of it–GUARANTEED.  Don’t believe anyone who says war is glorious. The truth is exactly the opposite. War is grimy, dusty, noisy, and disgusting. Once you come under fire, you’ll witness unbelievable sights. Believe me, the only guys picking fights after this war, will be the cowards who want others to think they were tough combat men. When the truth is, they peed their pants the minute a bullet whizzed by ’em. Believe me, private, the surest way to become a pacifist is to join the infantry. You mark my words.”

After listening to the sergeant ‘s war philosophies day in and day out, Peter accepted his logic. Americans got permission to shoot the enemy because they didn’t start this fight. The Germans did. But by god, the allies planned to finish it.

Peter just wanted to get the invasion over, so he could enjoy his Mom’s good cooking and run the farm again with his dad. He never thought going home again would be so important to him.

*****

On June 4th orders came down the chain of command the invasion would commence at 0300 hours. Peter and his buddies dressed in their combat gear and waited on deck for the order to disembark. The ship rolled so much in the heavy surf; standing upright on the deck proved to be nearly impossible. The sky stayed black even after sun-up. Rain pelted down like a fire hose sprayed them at a close distance. But no one thought bad weather might prevent the biggest invasion in history.

The high swells in the English Channel bounced the Higgins boats like bathtub toys. GIs became so violently sick before getting to shore they didn’t stand a chance facing an enemy as savvy as the Germans. After the brass witnessed a few futile attempts to get the boats ashore, they called off the invasion.

The storm on June 4th turned out to be the worst storm in the area for over one hundred years, and Peter and his crew returned to port, cold, wet and even more anxious than when they woke that morning.

*****

Two days later, the weather cleared, and the seas calmed enough to go forward with the invasion. The soldiers climbed down the ropes to the waiting landing craft boats in the dark. The men crunched together while they kept their heads down to avoid the bullets whizzing by them. Small subs slithered through the seas to protect the landing craft. Large balloons shaped like blimps hovered over the LCVPs to protect the men from German Stuka bombers diving and strafing them.

As the boats got closer to the beach, the Germans knocked out the balloons with rapid fire. Peter cut the cable to the balloon with bullets skimming his head; he belly-flopped into the pile of men in the bottom of the boat. Lying on his back, Peter gazed at a flock of barrage balloons filling the sky. In a strange way, he felt like a kid at the country fair who just lost his helium balloon.

The battleships behind the landing crafts fired shells from their fifteen-inch guns over the heads of the men in the smaller boats. Every once in a while a huge explosion erupted, and the men in the landing boats realized an American battleship successfully hit one of the Kraut’s ammo dumps. Peter’s throat grew dry and constricted. He couldn’t  utter a sound. His heart pounded in his ears and  his pulse raised.

Everyone stared ahead too afraid this might be the end. No one spoke.

Peter silently prayed. “Please, Lord let me get to the beach. Help me live through this.”

The ramps dropped and Sergeant Castle let his team into the waist-high water. The fifty pound backpacks pulled many of the smaller guys down into the sea. Some sunk like rocks, as rip currents pulled them out into the ocean drowning many of them. Sharp iron anti-boat rails impaled others as they jumped into the water.

Disregarding his personal danger, Peter pulled man after man onto the beach. He returned to the surf again and again to help floundering comrades.

Pillboxes and concrete bunkers six-feet thick lined the coast above the beach. Machine guns rat-ta-tat accompanied the screams of dying men. Larger guns shot shell after shell at the landing crews. The concussion of the shells knocked floundering men off their field. Grenades fell on the Americans who made it to the beach and waited for the rest of their units at the base of the bluff. Herr Rommel had done his best to deter an Allied invasion. But the Americans pushed on. The mission was to take control of the beach and surrounding area.

Confusion and agony covered the men on Omaha beach. The ear-splitting barrage of bullets and shells exploding deafened the landing soldiers. The infantry quickly found out the earlier naval gunfire and pre-landing air bombardments did nothing to softened German defenses. If men didn’t fall dead from bombs or bullets, a mine buried on the beach might do the job.

Shells whined over each wave of troops attempting to land. Great splashes erupted as they exploded in the water. Peter ran to the beach pumping his legs on the wet sand. He fell on his belly on the cold gravel beach. With so many bullets, shrapnel fragments, and explosions all around him, he touched his leg and arm to assure he remained alive. Then he fought to get to his feet firing his weapon blindly as he advanced.

The nightmarish scene didn’t seem real. The sea turned redder as the battle went on. Dead men lay where they dropped, and because Peter saved three men from drowning, he got separated from his unit. Through the fire and smoke, he scanned the beach for his sergeant. He yelled his name again and again, but received no answer. Screams of wounded men and exploding shells drowned out his shouts. Mayhem prevailed. With every step, Peter prayed. “God be with me. God be with me. Please don’t let me die here! I want to go home. I want to go home. Please Lord, be with me.”

As he moved forward a searing pain ripped through Peter’s belly. Blood oozed out a wound which nearly cut him in half. He gasped from the pain and collapsed. He put pressure on his wound and crawled behind a corpse. He said one more prayer and passed out.

Peter lay unconscious while a medic packed his wounds with gauze dressings and gave him a shot of morphine. The eighteen year old opened his eyes for a second to stare at a grimy face with a wide handlebar mustached say, “You’ll be okay mate. The worst part will be when we move ya.”

Corpsmen lifted Peter onto a stretcher and ran to a waiting LCVP which ferried the wounded to the off-shore hospital ships. The wounded men needed to be transferred from the Higgins boats to the hospital ship by hand. The men lifting the wounded needed to keep the stretcher level hoisting their patient over their heads or the patient would slip off the stretcher into the icy waters of the Channel. Choppy seas and exploding shells made the transfers a monumental task.

Once aboard the hospital ship, medical personnel triaged the wounded men. Peter lost a tremendous amount of blood so his critical condition moved him to the head of the queue for surgery. Nurses worked furiously to keep him alive until the doctors brought him into surgery. Finding veins to start IV’s in both arms for the plasma and saline proved to be difficult, but after injections of penicillin and morphine, Peter lay semi-conscious as medical personnel buzzed around him.

He listened to a doctor say, “We’re going to put you to sleep, now son.”

Peter tried to nod but blinking his eyes turned out to be the only movement he could make. The doctor put a rubber mask over his face and the effect of the drug put him into a deep sleep. He drifted into a quiet zone. No more bombs exploding. No more bullets ripping through flesh. No more pain. No more screaming. He traveled to a very white and peaceful place. A sense of calm washed over him. He loved the silence. Then a familiar person walked toward him.  Tony Armani held out his arms to embrace Peter. “Hey old, buddy. Good to see you again.”

Peter stared at his brother’s old friend. “Where are we, Tony?”

“Some people call this place heaven. Come on. I want you to meet some other guys.” Tony put his arm around Peter’s shoulder, and they walked toward a bright light together. ”

 

 

 

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!”

 

 

 

A Respite Day

On the second and fourth Mondays, Ken enjoys a group called Harmony Club. This is a chance for him to be with other people, have a good lunch, and enjoy outside entertainment as well as a hot session of Bingo.

While he’s away, I usually do something with a friend. It’s not much. Perhaps a lunch together or a cup of coffee at a local cafe. If I’m too exhausted for that, I’ll just take a day alone and paint. At the very least, Ken’s group participation gives us a break from each other.

This is the sixth year we’ve been going through this MS Journey and we’ve both come to the conclusion that a day apart is a good thing. We both recharge our batteries doing something for ourselves. If you’re a caregiver for someone, please don’t neglect this important element. It’s not selfish to take time for yourself. And remember, the few hours spent apart is good for both parties.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 13

Sicily, Italy – September—Lately a short day in Josie’s life turned out to be twelve intensive hours, The staff of specialists in the Operating Room, including neurosurgeons, general surgeons, and orthopedic surgeons worked around the clock. The hospital at Salerno served over three hundred patients in a twenty-four hour period. Every day two hundred patients evacuated to North Africa for further treatment. Most patients went by train to the coast where they would be put on hospital ships for the trip to England. Only the most critical patients got evacuated by plane.

The battles produced patients with wounds of all kinds, but the latest disaster didn’t come from a bullet. The wet, tropical climate of Sicily promoted a high mosquito population, and the tiny enemy brought down soldiers almost as effectively as German artillery.

Before the war doctors prescribed quinine to treat malaria, but the Japanese controlled the quinine producing areas, so a new drug called atabrine became the substitute to treat the symptoms of high fevers, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and at the very worse, comas. Atabrine proved to be a good anti-malarial drug, and best of all, the drug showed no serious toxic effects. Like quinine, though, Atabrine didn’t cure malaria with one course of treatment, but if given in small doses, the clinical symptoms could be suppressed enough to keep soldiers on their feet. The only troublesome side effect was a yellowing of the skin while the patient took the drug. The skin color returned to normal after the completed course of treatment.

With the outbreak of malaria, the nurses hung mosquito netting over the cots  to combat the pesky carriers and to control the spread of the disease throughout the hospital. The netting looked like Spanish moss invaded the space, but this light weight fabric helped to keep patients safe from the infections. The unprotected doctors and nurses often succumbed to malaria which caused a larger problem. The over-worked medical staff stretched to the outer limits when even one nurse or doctor fell ill, and a busy hospital like the one in Salerno needed every available hand.

When she didn’t assist in surgery, Josie went from soldier to soldier and from tent to tent, making sure the  wounded men received the care they needed. As Josie made her rounds on a rainy, hot day, a soldier called out as she stood reviewing charts, “Josie? Am  I hallucinating?”

Josie stared at a big man with black curly hair waving at her. She studied his face.  His dark cow-like eyes and long eye lashes looked familiar.  “How do you know my name, soldier?”

“Don’t you recognize me?” He paused and gave her a wide teasing smile. “I must look really bad.”

All of a sudden Josie realized the identity of the man who called to her. She scurried to his bedside. “Oh my God! Mario from Autolite?”

“In the flesh!” Mario smiled a toothy grin.

“Oh my God!” She paused. “Why are you here?”

“Well, when the skeeters bite, a person can get something called malaria. I just made my way back from coma-land.”

“I’m so sorry you got such a bad case. We’ll get you on your feet soon; I promise.” Josie said with a warm smile.

“Don’t work too hard to get rid of me.” Mario teased. “The brass will just throw me back into the field. Just the sight of your pretty face makes me feel better. All of a sudden I want to take you dancing.”

Josie remembered the one night she danced with Mario when she celebrated Donna’s promotion. “Mario, I think you’re more Irish than Italian! You certainly kissed the Blarney stone somewhere along the line!”

“I only tell the truth, Josie my girl.” He grinned because he loved bantering with her.

She laughed. “You’re one in a million, that’s for sure.”

“Yes, ma’am. And don’t you forget it.” He paused and stared at her uniform collar. “Hey, when did you get your stars?”

“In North Africa. But don’t worry; I won’t make you salute me, private.”

“Will you come back and visit me again, miss first lieutenant?”

“So you can give me malaria?” Josie teased. “Not a chance.”

Mario dropped his eyes to the floor. “Have a heart. If I promise not to share my malaria will you come back? Then I can tell you how pretty you are and maybe get you to play a game of cribbage with me.” He raised his eyes to search her smiling face.

“I promise to put you on my over-full itinerary for the day, Mario. Okay?” She patted him on the hand and left. Only a dozen more tents to go.

Chapter 14

Montpelier, France-October—Four months had passed since Marta went to Montpelier. Through love and care Emma grew stronger and healthier. She remained frail, but her sunken cheeks filled out and a pink hue replaced the sickly yellow tone of her skin. Emma gained a few pounds, even though eating a full meal still proved impossible. At least her shoulder blades didn’t poke out through her dresses any more and her eyes even twinkled once in a while.

Besides making sure Emma got fresh food and enough rest, Marta took Emma for a short walk in the sunshine once a day. After existing in darkness for so many months, Emma often complained her eyes hurt in the bright light. Marta remedied that problem with a pair of sunglasses she found at the local dry goods store.

Marta took a waitressing job in a cafe few blocks from their apartment. Even though the rent was free, their food was not.  Pierre’s Resistance friends allowed them to stay in the apartment for the duration of the war. Emma was a hero in their eyes because sacrificed so much to protect so many others in the movement.

In her spare time, Marta wrote to a trusted neighbor in Paris, and asked her to ship their things to a P. O. Box in Montpelier. She also contacted her Paris landlord by letter and gave up her apartment. She didn’t want to do either chore because doing these things put an end to her happy times in Paris. She loved her job at the Louvre and the city’s unique ambiance, but she vowed she wouldn’t go back until every Nazi vacated Paris and went back to Germany. The peacefulness of the sleepy coastal town gave Marta a sense of safety she needed.

On her days off, Marta took Emma to the Mediterranean where they would sit and enjoy the rhythm of the jewel blue waves rolling onto the shore. They strolled hand-in-hand down the soft sand and let the salt air fill their lungs. Their new home in Montpelier sat nestled between the sea, vineyards, and the mountains, so no matter what direction they gazed, the scenery was breathtaking. As they got more familiar with their new surroundings, Marta and Emma ventured farther into town. A large square surrounded by stores offered everything they required. Emma’s favorite thing to do was to enjoy a cool drink while sitting on a bench under an old olive tree. She eyed villagers negotiating with the farmers at the market. Children played games of tag and statue maker under the  shade trees lining the broad boulevards. Living here made allowed her to think perhaps the war was over.

Marta went to church every morning before going to work. She thanked God for Emma’s safe return. She thanked the Blessed Virgin for the people who risked their lives to rescue her, and she prayed to St. Christopher for Emma’s safe passage back to France. Their reunion brought her happiness.

Careful planning by the Resistance brought them to this beautiful place where the terror and ugliness of the war remained hundreds of miles away.Since coming to Montpelier she and Emma relaxed back into a comfortable life, even though their new identities were a bit of an adjustment. Calling each other Emily and Mary and never speaking of their life in Paris seemed a small price to pay for a clean slate of safety.

Chapter 15

Salerno, Italy – October—Mario’s discharge from the hospital occurred two weeks after his first visit with Josie. Doctors got his malaria under control and deemed him fit for combat. The yellow hue in his skin had  almost disappeared, and he regained his strength and vigor a bit more everyday. But before Mario left the hospital, he wanted to say goodbye to Josie. She highlighted his days with her visits and humor, and Mario wanted to tell her how much he appreciated her attention when she was so overworked. Not only did she keep him company, she always double checked he received the proper treatment. Since their first encounter at the Autolite factory, Mario realized how special she was to him. He hoped to kiss her goodbye just in case the worst happened.

When it was time for Mario to leave, Josie was in surgery and couldn’t be disturbed, so instead of giving her a kiss, he left a note with one of the other nurses.

Later that evening, Josie retreated from the hospital sweaty and hungry. Her ankles swelled from the heat and humidity, and her back ached from standing so many hours without a break. On nights like this, she wondered if she ever would feel rested again. But when she thought about the boys losing limbs or needing serious operations to remove shrapnel from his brain or other vital organs, she told herself her little aches and fatigue didn’t compare.

One of her nurses approached her in the mess tent. “Josie. Some guy left a note for you.” She handed Josie a folded piece of paper.

“Who?” Josie said.

“He didn’t give me his name.” The nurse answered. “He just asked me to give you the note.”

Josie put the note in her pocket and finished her meal. She dragged herself back to her tent and collapsed on her cot. She fell asleep fully dressed.

At 0600 Josie woke for another stressful day. She sat up on her cot and then remembered the note.

My sweet Josie,

 I tried to say goodbye before I left, but no soap. As usual, you were working too hard to save another GI. God’s got a special place in mind for you. I hope you realize how special you are.

 Thank you for taking such good care of me. I’ll miss beating you at cribbage, but most of all I’ll miss your pretty face everyday. (And that’s no malarkey.)

 We’re headed north for more fun. As usual I don’t know where I’m going, but when the Army says “MARCH,” you march. I’m sad I missed kissing you goodbye. I really wanted to tell you what you mean to me in person, but I guess I’ll wait until we meet again.  

 When you close your beautiful eyes tonight, I hope you’ll dream of me. When you think of me, please say a prayer we will dance again.  

Love, Mario

Josie smiled before she cried. She read the letter again before she put it in her locker with her other valuables. She missed Mario already. His hospital stay brought them close. She enjoyed his gift to gab and the ability to make her laugh.

Before heading back to duty, she said a prayer for his safety and vowed to repeat the process every night when she went to bed. She secretly wanted to dance with that man for the rest of her life.

 

 

 

A “Perfect” Day

When I woke this morning and saw the sun shining, I knew it was going to be a good day. Ken and I ate our favorite breakfast of banana and yogurt topped with granola while we watched “Lucky Dog” and “The Pet Vet” on the tube.

I got dressed and planted the perennials I purchase at half price yesterday. When I came into the house, and found Ken dressed and sitting on the bedroom floor. When he attempted to sit on the vanity bench, his butt missed the chair completely and he went down in a heap. Yes. It was time to call 911 and ask for the rescue squad to come over and lift him off of the floor and into his power wheel chair.

After the rescue help left, Ken drove out to the living room, talking with a “thick tongue.” He looked exhausted, and I knew we were in for a long day, especially when he didn’t argue with me to take a time out and rest on the sofa.

An hour later, he attempted to get up and couldn’t. He wedged his body between his chair and the sofa while attempting to make a trip to the bathroom. Needless to say, he didn’t make it and now we had another problem. As I tried to strip him down, wash him, and then put on clean disposable underwear and slacks, he was like a 180 lb. ball of jelly. He couldn’t move his body, but after a few attempts and deep breaths, I did manage to get him changed and comfortable again.

He said he was hungry, but it took him about a half an hour to eat half a sandwich. He returned to the sofa and remained in this stupor for several hours. He even thought I was his Mom. He kept asking for Barb — and there I was in the flesh. So not only was his body malfunctioning, his mind was playing tricks on him, too.

All I can say is, I hope we don’t have one of these days again for a long, long time.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 7

Sicily, Italy—June—Josie and the other nurses worked even longer hours than ever before. They treated men with missing limbs, and men so badly burned they didn’t look human any more. They witnessed enough brain matter and damaged intestines for a lifetime. Death surrounded them.

Josie held on to her sanity by keeping her hands busy, but she also found it necessary to steal a few small breaks to relax and think about something other than flesh and blood. She found a quiet nearby cave where she took long drags on cigarettes and a cold soda. Her only other diversion away from the broken and burned men came from an unlikely source. Every month the Army sent a movie to the troops to lighten their load for a couple of hours.  Usually comedies, the movies provided the best medicine for everyone–laughter. Being able to laugh in the midst of horror around brought a welcomed sense of relief. Josie always slept well after seeing a movie.

A few weeks after establishing the field hospital, one of Josie’s nurses walked through the camp talking nonsense. The young nurse wandered around with blank eyes.  Oblivious to her surroundings, she kept calling for her cat named “Buttons.”

Josie took control the instant she witnessed Judy’s strange behavior. “Do you remember who I am?”

“Sure Josie.” Her high pitched voice sounded like a little girl. “Everybody knows you.”

“I think we need to take you to the doctor.” Josie said softly.

“Why do you think I need a doctor, Josie? I’m not hurt.”

“No. But you don’t seem to be yourself. Let’s go. He’ll take a quick look at you to make sure everything is all right. I will not let one of my best nurses get sick now, can I?”

“Okay.” Judy’s childlike voice remained with her. “The doctor won’t hurt me, will he?  I’m not really sick and I don’t like shots.”

“No, sweetie,” Josie said in a soft voice. “I promise the doctor won’t hurt you.” She took Judy’s hand and led her to the doctor’s tent.

Combat training attempted to prepare people for the physical unpleasant, primitive conditions they would encounter, but no training prepared people for the psychological shock and the unimaginable sights of wounded and dying men they would encounter. The distinct stench of burned human flesh and the shaking of the earth as bombs landing too close never could be simulated.

The doctor’s diagnosed Judy with “shell shock.” He sedated her and then sent her to a rest center far away from the daily casualties of battle. The combination of rest, sedation, and psychotherapy would be required for her recovery. Josie hoped Judy recovered quickly from the severe physical and mental strain everyone endured since they landed in Sicily. Losing another nurse left Josie short-handed yet again.

Chapter 8

Chicago, Illinois – June—Donna and Marilyn got along well and decided to live together in Marilyn’s apartment. They didn’t argue once. Marilyn’s level head balanced Donna’s spur-of-the-moment exuberance. Living together cured the loneliness and danger of living alone in a big city, plus the arrangement cut living expenses in half for both of them.

Since coming to Chicago, Donna worked as a waitress during the day and a USO volunteer any other waking hour. She played chess, listened to homesick soldiers waiting to be shipped out, and danced until her feet formed bunions. She operated on little sleep. Her favorite part of the day was when she sang for an audience.

One night after the girls played their last set, Jeanie, the band leader, corralled the girls before they left to go home. “Come here, everybody. Wait until you hear this!”

When Jeanie spoke, the other girls always listened. Donna said, “What’s up chief?”

Jeanie wore a broad smile. “We’ve gotten a request to join up with a USO camp show. If we agree, we’ll be part of the overseas group nicknamed as the Foxhole Circuit.”

Donna’s eyes widened. “Really? How exciting! When do we leave?”

Jeanie answered, “I’m not sure. The talent scout was in the audience tonight and he talk about a specific departure date.” Jeanie squealed. “Girls — he represents Bob Hope! The guy said he loved our show.” She turned to Donna. “He especially liked you, kid. He told me your arrangement of “Sentimental Journey” knocked him out!

Donna’s face lit up. “Wow! Bob Hope? How swell is that?”

“Yup,” Jeannie said. “Bob Hope.” She paused so the news set in for everyone. “I’ll get more details tomorrow night when the agent brings the contract. Girls, we’re going overseas! This is our big break! Not only will we get a chance to play for the boys, we’ll be part of a very popular professional troupe. This is a chance of a life time!”

Candy, the quietest girl of the group said, “Isn’t this the group that gets close to the front lines? In combat zones? Where shooting goes on?’

Jeanie nodded. “Who needs our entertainment more than the soldiers who face the enemy every day?”

Candy shook her head. “I don’t think I want to do this.”

Marilyn said, “We’ll be okay, Candy. They won’t let anything happen to the star performers. Soldiers will protect us. They wouldn’t send an icon like Bob Hope into the line of fire.”

Donna added. “And think of all those men who haven’t seen a woman in months. We’ll be a hit, even if we bomb!”

All the other girls laughed except Candy.

“I need to think about this.” Candy said.

Jeanie said, “I need your answer by tomorrow. If you don’t want to go, I’ll need to find a new base player.” Jeanie walked away disgusted. Why would Candy even think of bugging out of the group?

Donna put her arm around Candy. “What scares you the most, kid?”

“I don’t like airplanes. Just thinking of being so high scares me half to death, and I get sick.” Candy admitted.

“You’re not scared of bombs falling and thousands of hungry men leering at you?”

“No. Just the airplane.” Candy admitted with a small smirk.

“Hell, there’s medicine for that.” Donna said and then hollered after Jeanie,

“Hey Jeanie, Candy’s in!”

Chapter 9

England, July 1943—When the Germans bombed London, the war became personal for the Brits. The East End of London took the worst of the devastation. Warehouses, flats, and any building near the port suffered the worse destruction leaving thousands of people homeless with many family members lost to Hitler’s bombs. Londoners passionately hated the German dictator. They wanted revenge. It pleased them when the newspapers reported stories about the allies bombing German cities.

After Germany declared war on America in 1941, Johnny flew with the U. S. Army Air Corps. In fact, he got a promotion to Captain, and his new assignment kept his feet on ground or at least out of combat as a training instructor. The newest American pilots still thought war in the cockpit was glorious; you dropped your bombs; you killed enough Germans and claimed victory. Their combat training made them pent-up for action. Johnny learned over his years flying combat missions changed every pilot. The green American pilots would come back from their first bombing run realizing they killed innocent people as well as the enemy, and the only way they’d escape the killing required pilots to successfully endure thirty-five missions.

But today, the newest recruits exhibited elation; the Allied Blitz Week put German targets in the bullseye. The intended to bomb airplane manufacturing facilities and other military targets to attempt to take some of the punch of the Luftwaffe.

As the pilots climbed into their cockpits, shouts of “good luck” and “I’ll meet you at the bar after we kick some Kraut butts.” Johnny climbed into the cockpit with no bravado. He focused on the mission and didn’t think about the kids who wouldn’t make it back to England. Flying became all business for Johnny.

The four-hour, one thousand mile trip would take every ounce of physical and emotional strength pilots could muster. Fighter planes would escort the B-16 bombers into Hitler’s front yard, but then needed to turn back to refuel because the P-47 didn’t carry enough fuel to stay with the bombers for the entire mission. The bomber boys faced the most important part of the mission alone.

Today’s plan required pilots to take off in waves and climb to twenty-five thousand feet where temperatures dropped to fifty below zero. At that altitude, saliva turned to ice. A pilot needed to be careful because he might freeze his oxygen mask resulting in suffocation. Johnny emphasized this hazard in his training, but pilots had to experience the high altitude environment before they believed it.

When the pilots reported to the field, a thick cloud cover, brisk winds, and interment rain met them. The bad weather force the flight squads to change course. The secondary target, Kiel Germany, became the designated target. To be successful, this mission needed an element of surprise.

British Intelligence did not confirm if the Germans were using “RADAR.”  They found out they did when the squadrons were met by German flak, which exploded at the exact altitude of the bombers. The planes stayed in tight formation and everyone stayed on their leader–Jimmy-the same kid who Johnny consoled after the boy’s first mission months ago. Eight minutes to target, and the flak became more intense. B-17’s locked onto their target and dropped their bombs on Jimmy’s cue. If Jimmy missed, they all would miss.

“God, the flak is getting thicker, sir!” The navigator said.

“Yeah, but we need to take what the Krauts throw at us.” Jimmy replied.

The radio came alive with distress calls from other bombers. “We’re hit, we’re hit!”

A couple of hours ago crews wondered what the Krauts would do – now they understood the Germans intended to kill them. The bomb doors opened and payloads dropped on the target, Crews held on tight when their planes shook violently from enemy fire. Silence prevailed as they prayed the plane would hold together for the trip back to England.

Flying three stressful hours brought on another enemy. Fatigue. When their wheels touched down on the runway a rush of relief ran through every man. Their euphoria lasted until they realized some planes didn’t make it back. For the next few hours everyone held their breath. It became a known fact that if a plane didn’t  come back to base in two hours, they wouldn’t return at all.

Blitz Week was a failure. Ninety-seven B-17’s failed to return to base and over a thousand men died. Even worse, in a week’s time the Germans recovered from the bombings. German factories went on producing planes at the same rate.

 

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.

 

Knock, Knock, Knock

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

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

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

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

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

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

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 29

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

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

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

“I hope so, sweetie.” Heidi said.

“But I want to know for sure.”

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

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

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

“I wonder how Fritz is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heidi nodded.

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

Heidi’s wrinkled forehead showed her confusion.

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

“So you give presents like we do?”

“Yes, my child.”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, yes of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

A Rude Awakening

I would imagine that some of you who haven’t experienced what its like to live with a disabled person might find my blog uninteresting. After a year’s hiatus from writing this blog, I decided to write about the day-to-day struggles of a care taking. Not to make you all feel sorry for me. That is not my intent at all. I just want to provide a relief value for all the other men and women who are in a similar boat. I want them to know they are not alone. Some people find help in support groups, but I don’t. I’m not comfortable with them. I do find some comfort in knowing if I tell my story, maybe some of you will share yours. At the very least, maybe I’ll help someone else.

I think of all the soldiers returning home from the Middle Eastern war with missing legs and arms and traumatic brain injuries. All of them will need help from their wives and parents who overnight got thrown into the role of caregiver. When you love someone more than yourself, caregiving isn’t a duty, it’s a choice.

I find myself walking a fine line. Sometimes I do too much. Sometimes I feel I don’t do enough. The last thing I want to do is take away Ken’s power. We talk about this and came to the decision I must stand back and allow Ken to try to take care of himself as much as he can. This is tough because I’m a fixer. I’m also impatient. What takes him an hour I can do in a few minutes.

This morning Ken struggled to get out of bed and crashed on the floor. I was jolted from a sound asleep until I heard his 170 pounds hit the hardwood floor. I asked if he was hurt; he replied “no” but he wanted to rest on the floor before trying to get up. Watching him lie there was hell.

I let the dog out, made coffee, and fed the cat his morning treat of wet food. Then I went back into the bedroom to aid Ken. I witnessed him trying to get back on his feet. He turned and twisted without much progress. I asked him if I should call for help, and he said no; he wanted to keep trying.

During the next ten minutes I watched him eventually get into his wheelchair. Now all we had to do was change his disposable underwear. Yeah. That’s part of his care too  — to change him when he has accidents. Most people cringe when I talk about such things, but cleaning up messes of all kinds fall into my job description.

The good news is Ken didn’t hurt himself. He may have a bruised butt, but his acceptance of such indignities with bravery is heroism in my book.

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 27

Berlin, German-October, 1940—Leisel told herself she loved Franz, but for some odd reason accepting the fact they shared a baby scared her. Well into her second trimester, she still suffered extreme morning sickness, depression, and lack of energy.

Her mother grew concerned as she witnessed Leisel’s steady decline. She thought by now her daughter’s body would be adjusted to its pregnant state, but in Leisel’s case it seemed that as the baby grew stronger Leisel grew weaker. Mrs. Fuchs wanted Leisel to write to Franz and ask him to request a leave of absence, but Leisel resisted. She told her mother she didn’t want to be a burden to him because he needed to be on duty in order to build a successful military career. After all, she anticipated Franz would be away from home a great deal when she married him.  All military wives suffer the same way.

As the weeks went by, Leisel’s weariness became fatigue, and she often experienced pain she kept to herself. She admitted she didn’t miss Franz because of his behavior the last time she saw him at Christmas. When she told him about the baby, he glared at her and said, “Well, isn’t that just dandy. I hope you’re happy. I certainly am not!”

He dismissed this change in their married lives and went on for hours about the beautiful sights in Paris. He even mentioned an encounter with Marta, and boldly announced Paris seemed to make her more beautiful than before she left Germany.

He ignored Leisel’s health, even though her appearance clearly revealed her sickness.  Her hair thinned. She lost weight. Dark circles stayed beneath her eyes. Even her skin got dry and flaky. Instead Franz announced she looked fat and ugly before he went to carouse with his crass comrades. When he returned home drunk from his night out with the boys, he slept all day and woke yelling orders for his breakfast. He found fault with everything Leisel did and screamed he wished he never married her. Life with Franz Reinhart did not turn out to be the fairytale Leisel dreamed about.

When Franz returned to Paris, Leisel relaxed. She spent most of her time alone now because the other Nazi officer’s wives left her behind. Patience and empathy for Leisel proved to be two qualities the other women did not possess. They believed a good SS wife should take pregnancy in stride. Even her new friend Gretchen stopped coming around everyday. The women in this group centered their interests on attending parties and social functions to advance their husbands’ reputations. A few months ago Leisel enjoyed such frivolity too, but now parties didn’t seem important and there was no way she wanted help Franz with his career. She thought herself to be a failure as an SS officer’s wife. She wanted to tell her father the husband he picked out for her turned out to be an abusive bully but of course, he was off fighting the war too.

Leisel accepted her lonesomeness and centered on preparing for the baby’s arrival. She and her mother knit baby sweaters and booties. They sewed buntings and quilts. Leisel even painted a mural on the nursery wall of puppies and kittens romping happily in a meadow. As she painted, the life inside of her moved.

Time grew short before the baby would be with her, and Leisel looked forward to having someone love her. When the baby moved, she cooed to her child and professed her love. She prayed the baby would be a girl so she would never see the face of Franz in her child.

On a warm, beautiful September morning, Leisel woke feeling better than she had in months. She stretched and glanced out the window to a cloud-free blue sky and bright sunshine. The pain which plagued her for months was gone! She jumped out of bed and happily faced the new day until she saw the blood-stained sheets and a bloody mass. She checked her nightgown to find the same dark red stains. Terror flashed through her as she realized what happened.  “Oh my God!” she screamed. “No! Please God! Not the baby!” She wailed. “I can’t lose the baby! This must be a bad dream! I can’t even carry a baby!” A mournful moan rose from deep inside of her. Her dreams of a happy home with a little cherub disappeared in one night of fitful sleep.

Leisel stripped off her nightgown and dragged herself into the bathroom. Sobs shook her body as she filled the tub with hot water. She moved her hand over her now barren abdomen. Even her baby left her. Her husband didn’t love her, and her friends left to live far away. Her abandonment overwhelmed her as she slipped into the warm water. She sank into the deep tub and let the hot water take her away.

Later that afternoon, her mother found her dead body floating in a bloody tub. She screamed like a mad woman, but no neighbor came to her rescue. Her only child lay dead in a tub full of crimson water. Worst of all, she would never be a Groutter.

Chapter 28

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – November 1940—Josie and Anna took their midterms three weeks before the Thanksgiving break. Mrs. Schneider invited Anna to join the Schneider clan for the traditional holiday. Donna Jean would also share the family dinner. During the time she lived on the farm, Donna carved out a special place for herself in the Schneider family,

Peter picked up Anna and Josie at the train station. The girls threw their bags in the bed of the old Schneider truck, while he waited behind the steering wheel in the warm cab. Josie thought if Johnny picked them up, he would get out of the car, hug and kiss her, before he hoisted the heavy bags. At that moment Josie missed Johnny so much.

The ride home through the snow-covered landscape brought Josie back to her roots. Since she went away to school, this ride home never got dull. The girls settled back into the worn upholstered seat and enjoyed a sense of freedom. No more tests, classes or papers for the next week.

Josie turned to Anna. “I can’t wait for you to meet my friends Rosalie and Donna Jean. I think Mary, Johnny’s girlfriend, is joining us for dinner, too. We’ll all have a blast together.”

Anna smiled. “If your friends are like you, Josie, I’m in for a grand time.”

After Peter pulled into the Schneider backyard, the two girls lugged their suitcases filled with dirty laundry into the back hall. A warm, savory aroma of pot roast with potatoes and carrots wafted from the kitchen. Josie dropped her suitcase and rushed to hug her mother. “I am so happy to be home, Mom. Dinner smells wonderful!”

Mrs. Schneider returned Josie’s hug and welcomed Anna with the same welcoming gesture.

Josie asked, “Where’s Dad?”

“He’s out in the barn milking.”

“I’m going to tell him we’re home.” Josie ran out of the house and down to the barn. Anna followed in her wake.

On the way down the hill Josie yelled, “Dad! I’m home!”

She entered the barn, and her father glanced away from the cow he milked to give his daughter a wide smile. “Josie! So good to have you home again, pumpkin. Pardon me if I don’t get up.” He laughed. “Jenny here needs to be wooed before I milk her. I just got her into a cooperative mood.”

Mr. Schneider spied Anna peeking into the barn. “Don’t be shy, Anna. Come in.”

Anna covered her nose with her mitten. “Thanks Mr. Schneider, but I think I’ll save our reunion for in the house.”

Josie said, “Oh my God, Anna. I’m so sorry. I’m so used to barn aroma, I forgot you aren’t.”

“I’m fine, Josie but I’ll say hello to your Dad at the house.”

Josie and her father laughed. “City slickers!”

Josie searched the barn for Betsy but didn’t find her. “Dad, where’s Betsy?”

Her father hesitated. “We needed to put her down a couple of days ago, Josie.”

Josie leaned up against the stall like someone punched her in the stomach.  Her throat tightened. “What happened?”

“Josie, Betsy finally celebrated too many birthdays.”

Tears rose up in Josie’s eyes. “No.”

He stopped milking Jenny and faced Josie. “She got cancer, Josie. We needed to put her down. We tried to wait, but her pain got intense.”

Mr. Schneider wrapped Josie in a tight embrace and held her while Josie let her emotions spill out on his chest. “I raised her from the time she was a baby, Dad. I showed her at the fair, and she took the blue ribbon. Remember?  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“We tried to wait until you came home, Josie, but Betsy got too sick. You didn’t want us to make her suffer, did you?” Her father said softly. “I thought you would want the best for her.”

Josie looked up at her father with tear-stained cheeks. “Where is she?”

“We buried her at her favorite place-out by the big oak.”

Josie ran through ankle-deep snow to the old oak tree behind the barn. Under the tree a simple wooden cross read, “Betsy.”

Josie got down on her knees and traced the letters of her old friend. “Farmers should never get attached to their animals, but Betsy you were so different from the rest. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be here when you needed me. Please forgive me, girl. I will miss you so much.” Josie let her tears fall on the grave. She sniffled. “Maybe we’ll meet  in heaven someday.” Josie stood, stared at the marker for one last time, and then shuffled back to the house with her head down.

*****

Josie’s parents made up a roll-a-way bed in Josie’s room with cotton sheets, a boiled wool blanket, and one of Mrs. Schneider’s handmade patchwork quilts for Anna. The girls giggled when Josie’s folks commented the room looked as though they moved their dorm room to the farm.

On Thanksgiving Day, everyone pitched in to prepare for the annual feast. Anna peeled potatoes and carrots, Josie peeled the apples for the pies, and her mother stuffed and basted a twenty-five pound turkey. Mary, her father, and two brothers would bring the pumpkin pies.

In between the stages of preparing the food, the girls set the large oak table with a special family tablecloth which her great-grandmother had embroidered as a young girl. The family saved it for this one special day each year.

Anna set the table with the “Sunday dishes” and silver-plated silverware Josie’s mother inherited from her mother. Anna added her special touch by folding the napkins into swans and placing them on the white china dishes trimmed in gold.

Donna Jean arrived about three o’clock in afternoon looking like a model straight from the pages of Modern Woman magazine. She wore a skullcap hat with colorful pheasant tail feathers falling from the left side of the hat. Her simple black wool coat complimented such a wild headdress. When she removed her coat, she wore a form-fitting red wool dress that accentuated her curves. Her perfect oval-shaped face lit up with a shade of lipstick which matched her dress, while her long blond hair fell down to her shoulders in a soft pageboy.

Josie opened the front door. “Donna! Happy Thanksgiving! Come in!”

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.” She stamped the snow off of her boots before coming through the door.

“Come on in! Wow, look at you Miss Debutante! How did you grow up so much since September?”

“Oh, this old thing?” Donna playfully brushed off the comment. “Come here, you!” She hugged Josie. “Oh I missed you so much!”

Donna kicked off her boots and slipped her feet into tall three inch heels she carried in a brown paper bag. The shoes gave her already shapely legs a slim silhouette.

At that moment, Peter entered the room. “Well, looked what the cat drug in! Did you shoot the peasant yourself?” He laughed and gave Donna a big hug. “We sure miss you around here, Donna. How’s that new apartment?”

“The place is working out well, Peter.” Donna smiled. “Thanks again for all your help. I couldn’t endure moving without you and your folks.”

“And Danny.”

“Right.” Donna blushed. “And Danny.”

“Say, what’s he got to say these days now that he’s a drafted veteran?”

 

“He’s still really peeved he didn’t score a higher lottery number. He whined about the drill sergeant getting on his case and the horrible slop they serve for food. He says the good news is he doesn’t need to leave the lower forty-eight states, plus he only needs to serve twelve months. So, I guess things are as good as they can be.”

“I sure miss having him around. Danny’s a great guy.” Peter shook his head.

“Yeah.” Donna Jean didn’t say anything more about Danny.

 

 

 

Hunkerin’ Down in the Heat

This summer didn’t show up until a few weeks ago. our temperatures were in the high 60s and low 70s–PERFECT.  But since Thursday, things have changed. Wisconsinites are not used to temperatures in the 90s, and the temperatures soared into the 90s with little “warm up.”

Usually when temperatures get this hot, we have a big thunderstorm and it cools off. Not this time. Oh, we did get a thunderstorm bad enough to haul out Ernie’s “thunder jacket,”  but instead of cooling off, the temperature returned to its intensity. As MS patients don’t do well in the heat, Ken and I are marooned until the weather gets more like Wisconsin instead of Florida. Luckily, we don’t have a problem keeping busy because we both have our own distractions. Even so, we do much better when we can get out and enjoy our friends. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed the temperature will drop and we will be able to escape our four lovely walls.

I hope all of you are surviving this goofy weather that seems to be happening all over the country. Have a wonderful weekend, and if you’re indoors like we are here’s the next two chapters of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3.

Chapter 25

Paris, France-October 1940—By autumn, the French people stood in line for food rations. Gasoline for cars and coal for heating required specific stamps to purchase any quantity. Electricity service became sporadic. Parisians even suffered a shortage of fabric and leather which caused department stores’ racks to be empty. The German occupation provided a lack of everything but fear.

The outside world never realized the reality Parisians suffered. Other countries never read stories about French citizens standing in long lines to receive weekly ration tickets for potatoes, carrots, and any seasonal fruit every month; they never realized the rations allotted amounted to a third of what they received before the Germans took control.  The rest of the world thought the French were soft because the Germans rolled over them so easily.

Marta wondered how much time would pass before Jewish property would be confiscated, and the owners would be deported on trains.

Marta carried her fear with her; she wanted to leave Paris and go somewhere else. But where? All of Europe fell under German control. And why should she leave?

The morning after Marta’s confession she might be pregnant, Emma felt compelled to avenge her.  She intended to join the French Resistance. Her German background would be a great help to the movement, and her fluency in French would pass for any native.

For some time she surmised her boss Pierre to be a leader in the movement, so when she got back to work after Marta recovered, she walked into his office. “Pierre, I must talk to you.”

“Yes, mademoiselle?”

“I need to speak to you in private.” Emma’s voice dropped.

Pierre turned on the radio. “What do you need?”

Emma said in hushed tones. “I want to get involved. I need to get involved. How do I start?”

Pierre smiled. Emma worked in the office making identity cards, passports, and other official papers, so her help would be essential to the cause. If a German officer requested to look at a citizen’s identification papers, he or she needed to produce them on the spot. Emma would now produce false papers for people needing to escape Paris. “You start from where you are already.”

Emma nodded.

“You possess numerous invaluable skills, Emma. Your penmanship is exemplary. Your ability to write with your right and left hands will also come in very handy. Above that, you speak German. Someday we may even need your translating skills. I am pleased you want to help.”

Emma agreed she would be very good at forgery.

Pierre rubbed his goatee as if deep in thought. “You are quite convinced you want to be involved in this dangerous work?”

Emma nodded. “I am most serious, monsieur.”

Pierre smiled. He hoped someday Emma would come to him and volunteer her exemplary her skills. “Beside forging identity cards when they are needed, you will also deliver documents and communiques in the confines your bicycle. Can you do that?”

Emma shook her head. “Yes, Pierre. I will do whatever you need me to do.”

“Good.” He handed her an identity card he received from another operative. “I need you to deliver this. Where is your bicycle?”

“Out behind the building.”

“Good. Show me.”

Emma went down two flights of stairs with Pierre in tow. She opened the ground floor door and pointed out her bicycle. “There it is.”

Pierre went right to work, schooling her on how to conceal documents in the handlebars of her bicycle. He removed the rubber grips, rolled up the documents, and slid them into the hollow tubing. As soon as Pierre secured the identity papers, he handed Emma an address. “Meet Edward Gessler at that address. He is a German national on our side. He got stranded in Paris after the Nazis attacked Warsaw. He realized he would be a dead man should he return to his homeland, so he wants to flee to England.”

“I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.” Emma rode her bike down a back street in the red light district. She went around the back of the building to meet the contact. A very tall man with blond curly hair appeared. He spoke fluent French. “Please miss, might you spare some bread for a hungry man?”

He used the correct password. “Of course.” She pulled a baguette from her basket and removed the handlebar grips to remove the documents. The man stood close to her as she transferred the documents in a slice made on the baguette.

“You are so kind.” He smiled.

“I am happy to help.” She smiled at the stranger and wondered would become of him.

He disappeared into the darkness and Emma pointed her bicycle in the opposite direction. After her encounter with Mr. Gessler, she experienced a moment of clarity. She vowed the resistance movement would be part of her life as long as the Nazis remained in France.

*****

Her next assignment came the following week. She met the mayor and police chief to procure their signatures. Her heart bounced inside her chest as she looked each man in the eye, but she remained cool and under complete control leaving them both with a smile. They just gave her what she needed to forge important documents.

Emma always kept to herself at work. As a lesbian, other French people didn’t wish to interact with her, which worked to her advantage. Even if someone ever suspected her as a spy, they wouldn’t tell for fear the Gestapo might associate them with her.

Emma thought it best not to burden Marta with her new role in the Resistance. This way, if Emma ever got arrested for her activities, Marta would be protected. The Nazis would learn nothing because she didn’t know anything about the operation. The strategy might save her life.

Chapter 26

Paris, France-October, 1940—Marta didn’t want to think about being pregnant. But every morning when she vomited, and every afternoon when she needed a nap in a closet at the Louvre, she realized denying her situation would not be an answer. She couldn’t let herself think about the mass growing inside of her as a baby; soon her body would give her secret away.

Emma stayed patient with her and did small favors to make Marta comfortable. She took the burden of preparing meals, cleaning the apartment, and other small chores off of Marta’s shoulders to allow her enough time to come to terms with herself. Marta appreciated Emma’s efforts to let her decide how to proceed without voicing her opinion.

Under the pressure from the Germans, the puppet government in Vichy passed a law making abortion a capital crime in France. Marta never thought she would break any law, but now she faced the realization if she terminated her pregnancy, she would do just that. But how could she in good conscience carry Franz’s Reinhart’s bastard child?

When she told Emma she had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, Emma hugged her and rejoiced. “You did not disappoint me. I believed given enough time you would not want to carry this child of rape. I understand how hard this decision is for you. For what it is worth, I believe you chose wisely.”

Marta’s eyes filled with tears. “If the situation happened differently–

“But it did not, Cherie.” Emma embraced her and said in an understanding soft voice, “You are very brave.”

Marta cried. “But how do I get rid of it? How do I do this? Everything I tried failed. I lifted heavy weights; I douched; I punched myself in the abdomen, but I am still pregnant.”

“Some of those methods are old wives’ tales, Cherie, and they are not reliable.”

Marta replied. “I cannot think about shoving a coat-hanger or a knitting needle up myself, either.”

“You should never think about hurting yourself; there are other means.”

The two women stared at each other as if searching for answers from each other.  Emma spoke first. “I do not want you to be angry with me, but I learned about a housewife in Cherbourg by the name of Marie-Louise Giraud who performs abortions in her home. I understand she is quite expensive but very effective.”

“We can barely get by now. Where will we get the money?” Marta said.

“Money is a problem.” Emma agreed. “But if we need to, my friends will help.”

“Before we borrow any money, what do you think of this?” Marta handed Emma a recipe.

Ingredients:

  •  Fresh parsley
  •  500 mg pills of Vitamin C
  • Treatment should last three days only: DO NOT EXCEED 3 DAYS!!
  1. Insert a fresh sprig of parsley as far as possible into the vagina. Parsley induces contractions. Change every twelve hours. The parsley will become soft and may be difficult to remove, but this is not dangerous.
  1. At the same time, drink parsley infusions. Two to six tablespoons four times daily.

To make the infusion: Boil 2 1/2 cups of water for every ounce of parsley. Add parsley to boiling water, remove from heat and cover. Do not boil parsley in the water because the infusion will be less effective. Steep for at least twenty minutes to two hours. (The longer the parsley steeps, the more potent it will be.)

3. During the three days (or until your period starts) take high doses of Vitamin C orally–500 mg every hour up to 6000 mg a day. You can continue using the Vitamin C for up to six days. Vitamin C can bring on menstruation even three weeks after a “late” period.

 

If successful you should start to bleed in two to three days. You may experience severe cramps.

High amounts of Vitamin C can cause loose stools. You may also experience “hot flashes” – A side effect of Vitamin C.

Watch for signs of toxicity specific to parsley: Nausea, hallucinations, vomiting, vertigo, hives, paralysis, swollen liver, scanty and darkly colored urine, and tremors. Contact a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.

After Emma read the instructions, she said, “The hardest thing about this will be to find the Vitamin C, and you are more than three weeks late.”

“A pharmacist comes to the Louvre often. I will ask him where to get it.” Marta said.

“This is worth a try.” Emma said. “If the treatment does not induce a miscarriage, then we will pursue Marie-Louise Giraud.

Marta sighed. “All right.”

Emma said something totally unlike her. “Amen!”

*****

The Friday after their conversation, Marta came home from work with a bottle of Vitamin C her pharmacist friend gave her along with a bunch of parsley Brigetta brought from her home garden.

Emma boiled the water on the hot plate and waited. Marta thought the water took an unusually long time before Emma removed the boiling pot from the heat. Marta tossed in the big bunch of parsley.

Emma looked at her wristwatch. “Six o’clock. We’ll begin in two hours. Are you ready?”

Marta looked at her with determination. “Yes. I want my body to be my own again.”

Emma nodded. “You are very brave, Cherie.”

Marta stuffed her vagina with the fresh green herb, and took six vitamin pills. She poured herself the required amount of the hot parsley water and kept up the procedure every four hours through the night. She slept periodically between doses, but when she woke, she prayed God would forgive her for ridding herself of this child.

The cramping started the next morning. Marta cried with pain and rocked on the floor holding her stomach. Emma shared every spasm. In any other circumstance, she would fill a hot water bottle to relieve Marta’s cramps, but in this situation, they wanted Marta’s uterus to contract and expel the fetus.

Marta continued the process all weekend. The pain grew in its intensity. Marta cried in pain. “He still is hurting me, Marta.”

Emma held her. “I know, darling. But the treatment appears to be working. Perhaps you will not suffer much longer. Hang on. Let’s put you to bed.”

Marta rolled back and forth unable to find a comfortable position to fall asleep. When she did sleep, nightmares of the rape haunted her. She cried out, sending Emma to Marta’s side.

The third morning, Marta cried from the bathroom. “Emma, come here!”

Emma raced to the bathroom and found Marta pale and breathless. “What is it, Marta?”

“Look.” She pointed to the water in the toilet where a bloody mass floated.

“Oh my god, the treatment worked!” The two of them cried in each other’s arms.

Marta flushed the toilet and put the most horrendous chapter of her life right where it needed to be.

Some Times Ordinary is Extraordinary

The sun is shining, the oppressive humidity turned to rain, and voila — I have a perfect day to go grocery shopping. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Just an ordinary chore I do each week. The forecasters warn the weather will resume its “Miami-ness” on Thursday, so seeing I’m a frozen tundra kind of girl, I must get out there and do my duty.

Have you ever thought of how much of our lives we spend just doing ordinary chores? When I was a stay-at-home mom, my entire day was filled with them. Once in a while I’d take a day and do something fun away from home, but I usually had two little girls in tow.

When they went to school and I decided to go to college, the ordinary became anything but. As a full-time student with a part-time job, the ordinary chores had to be distributed among family members — and believe me, everybody got mad at me for that!

After graduation, a divorce, and now a full-time job, the ordinary chores I did for my family for over twenty years fell on the shoulders of my “ex” and my daughters. After all, I was exiled by them and little did they realize how much ordinary stuff I really did. Now I only would do these things for me.

The only time we even think about these normal ordinary chores is when we can’t do them. Ken used to always do the laundry and cut the grass. He still putters at the laundry, but often becomes too tired before he’s finished. I pick up whatever he has left and add a couple of loads to my usual cooking, vacuuming, and cat litter duty. And of course, the grass cutting chore has fallen onto my ordinary plate.

I’ll never win the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” by any means because I really hate housework. I dream someday my novels will propel me into the arena where I might get some help in that department. I love a clean house, but I have no propensity or desire to work at it everyday. And that’s okay. I have to save some time open for extraordinary stuff. Like writing. Like painting. Like going out to lunch with girlfriends. Yeah. Those things are much more fun.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 16

Flushing Meadows, New York – June—Donna Jean and Danny left Lacrosse on a train just after sunrise on the first Saturday in June. They looked forward to what they would experience at the New York World’s Fair. Donna had never traveled on a train before, and she marveled at the experience like a little girl. She gave her ticket to the conductor and then settled back into her seat.

Donna’s parents stayed furious with her from the time she told them of her intentions to enjoy the fair with Danny until the day he picked her up to get to the train station.

Her father yelled out the window as she put her suitcase in the trunk. “Don’t come back here! I’ll have no whore living under my roof.”

Donna shouted back. “Why don’t you sober up for a minute and think like a normal human being!”

Danny slipped behind the wheel as Donna got in the passenger’s seat; he glanced at her and witnessed she was fighting tears. “Don’t worry, babe.  He’ll cool off after the booze leaves his system.”

Donna tried to smile. “The booze never leaves his system. Let’s get out of here and enjoy our trip.”

“Anything you say, sweetheart.”

“My old man is hateful. This display is only a warm up for some of the stuff he pulls. Can we please leave?”

Sure thing, sweetheart.” Danny pulled his old Packard away from the curb. “Let’s paint the town red.”

Donna stared ahead. She wiped a tear away with an embroidered handkerchief and promised she wouldn’t let her drunken father spoil this trip like he had so many other times.

*****

Once settled in their berth, Donna took a fat book out of her bag and started reading. Her father’s words still stung and she wanted to escape to another time. Since seeing the movie “Gone with the Wind” she always wanted to read the book but she never seemed to find the time. As she turned the pages, she transported herself to a southern plantation where life was luxurious for a feisty southern girl named Scarlet O’Hara.

Danny rested his head on her shoulder and tried to sleep as she read, but his tall six foot frame didn’t fit well in the seat. Every few minutes he fidgeted to get comfortable. Donna smacked him with the book. “Will you please sit still? I’m trying to read here.”

“Ow! That hurt!” Danny sat up straight.

After thirty minutes of silence between them, he made a couple attempts at conversation. Donna ignored him.

He complained. “Are you going to read that damn book all the way to New York?”

“Yeah. That’s why I brought such a fat book.” She gave him a smirk.

“Am I that boring?” He said.

“You really don’t want me to answer that, do you?” she teased.

“Come on, Donna. Be nice to me. Let’s talk.” He pleaded.

She slammed the cover shut. “Okay Jabberjaws. What do you want to talk about?”

“I don’t care. Just stuff.”

“Stuff, huh. What stuff?”

“Tell me what’s going on with Rosalie and Angelo. How’s the baby?”

“The baby is a little girl named Angelina. She sleeps, eats, poops and sleeps some more. She is cute like all Italian baby girls. Anything else?”

“Why are you being so mean?  What’s buggin’ you?”

“Beside that fiasco with my father? Well, when I want to read I want to read. It’s simple.”

“I just wondered how Rosalie and Angelo are doing. Since they got married, I don’t get to see him very much.”

“The baby’s birth turned out to be really rough for Rosie, and it is taking her a long time to want company.  She looked awful in the hospital, and I only saw the little rose bud for a couple of seconds through the nursery window. When I called Rosie after she got home, she said they had the baby’s ears pierced. There that’s all I know.”

“No kidding? That seems mean.”

“Rosalie said the babies don’t feel a thing.”

“I wonder how Angelo is handling being a Daddy. I can’t imagine being a dad at nineteen.”

“Parenthood is not for me, either.” Donna Jean said.

“Ever?” Danny’s face showed his surprise. He loved Donna and wanted to build a family with her. He didn’t ask her to marry him yet because Donna often talked about having a singing career. Danny thought her desire was a teenage pipe dream.

“The whole scene just doesn’t interest me. I want a life of my own before I get tied down. My dream is to sing. I want to perform.”

“I’d be your biggest fan.” Danny kissed her cheek. “I want a family some day.” He continued in a low voice. “Just not now. I’m having too much fun with you.” He reached over and put his hand on her thigh.”

She pushed his hand away. “Watch the hands, buddy.”

*****

The train trip took about twenty hours, and both Donna and Danny left Penn Station exhausted as they lugged their suitcases to a bus which would drop them at the hotel. “At least we’re on the last leg of the journey.” He tried to sound cheery.

Donna smirked. “You always look on the bright side; I’ll give you that.”

“Come on crabby. We’ll get to the hotel in a couple of minutes if you put a wiggle on.”

They chose a new Holiday Inn for their stay in New York. The front door opened to a lobby with a long mahogany registration desk. To the left four leather chairs sat around a round oak table covered with magazines. Donna grabbed a brochure sitting on the desk which pictured the hotel’s amenities–a typical double room, the indoor pool, and a dining room. Danny and Donna’s room turned out to be on the fourth floor, and the only elevator was out of order.

Danny trekked up four flights of stairs carrying all of the luggage, He waited for Donna who trailed behind him to open the door. “Come on, sweetie, these bags are heavy!”

“Keep your pants on, sweet cheeks.” She slipped the key into the lock and the door clicked open. Danny dumped the bags in the corner and flopped onto the bed. Donna dropped down beside him, and both fell asleep in a few minutes.

When she woke, Donna turned on the light on the night table to glance at the clock. Midnight. She looked at Danny who lay on his back with his mouth wide open. He snored as loud as a steam engine, and she shook him awake.

He sat up abruptly. “What?”

“Cut it out!” She said.

“Huh?” He said drowsily.

“You’re snoring. Stop.”

“Is that all?” He fell back on his pillow and flipped on his side.

She snuggled next to him and went back to sleep too.

*****

Donna woke at eight o’clock and patted the space beside her. Danny was gone. She heard water running and realized Danny was in the shower. She threw the blanket and sheet back and crawled out of bed. She looked in the mirror and made a face. She appeared a mess–hair ratted and knotted, make-up smudged, and old mascara providing her with two black eyes. Her dry mouth made her yearn for water and a date with her toothbrush.  She needed a complete overhaul.

Donna knocked on the bathroom door, “Hey good-looking, you just about done? I gotta pee!”

A towel clad Danny opened the door. “Sure-wooo, look at you!”

“Shut-up!” She rushed past him and waved him away.

He laughed and let her take over the bathroom.

The toilet flushed and then the shower started. He hoped Donna wouldn’t be too long because his hunger made the wax fruit sitting in a bowl on the dresser look good enough to eat.  In a few minutes, Donna screamed. Danny jumped up and rushed into the bathroom.

“What’s the matter?” He said.

With the shower curtain wrapped around her she screamed. “You jerk! You used all the hot water!”

“Sorry.” He backed out of the bathroom. “Really, babe, I’m sorry.”

“Get out!” She screamed at him.

“Jeez, I said sorry.” Danny chuckled under his breath, grabbed his clothes, and dressed for the day.

*****

Donna emerged from the bathroom at ten o’clock. Danny never understood why women took so long to get ready, but when Donna emerged from the bathroom looking like a model straight out of “Vogue,” he got it. She wore a soft pale peach dress and hat to match. She pulled her blond hair into an “up do,” and her perfect make-up used a soft peach blush on her cheeks to match her outfit. Danny thought he never saw such a pretty girl.

“There’s my beautiful doll!” Danny said.

“I’m not your doll.” She pouted. “I’m not anybody’s doll!”

Donna bruised his feelings. After dating for almost two years, Danny believed Donna to be his girl, but her behavior lately told him otherwise. “I’ll tell you what. Tomorrow, you can shower first, and I’ll take the cold one. We’ll be even then.” He kissed her on the cheek.

She smiled. “Okay.” She never stayed mad at him for too long.

“Let’s get something to eat. I’m starving.”

Chapter 17

Flushing Meadows, New York-June, 1940—Donna and Danny arrived at the fairgrounds at noon having to change buses twice before stopping at the front entrance of the World’s Fair. The theme of “The World of Tomorrow” presented an idyllic picture of the future.  Donna prepared for their trip by reading magazines and newspapers ahead of time to plan an itinerary of which exhibits they would visit on which day.

Excitement swelled in Donna as she spied a glimpse of the white orb and tower in the center of the fairgrounds. They bought tickets and entered the fair grounds gawking. A huge white globe called the “Perisphere” could be seen from a long outdoor escalator which brought them into the park. The Perisphere covered a whole city block, and once inside visitors could see a model of a future city. Pleasant, quiet, one-family homes surrounded a large centralized city. The planned city provided painted a picture of easy living. After Donna and Danny took in the sights of the future, they exited on a broad sweeping ramp called the “Helicline.”

“Wow! What a gas!” Donna said to a smiling Danny.

Danny said. “I’m so glad you talked me into this trip. Can you imagine living in a city like that?” He laughed. “We’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy!”

She playfully slapped his chest. “What is your first clue, Toto?”

Donna wanted to experience everything, especially a new invention called “television.” Almost a year ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the opening day speech talking about the virtues of America’s ingenuity, but few saw the broadcast because nobody possessed a television; Donna wished she could buy a TRK-12  after seeing one, but its price was in the stratosphere.

Beside the Perisphere, a seven hundred foot, three-sided tower called the “Trylon” shot up into the sky. Donna stared up at the icon. “Wow, Danny! I can’t see the top of that tower. Can you imagine a city so big where all the buildings are so tall?”

Danny looked up at the Trylon with Donna. “No, sweetheart. I can’t imagine a place like that. Let’s see what else the fair offers.” He took her hand and led her to a serious of buildings constructed by the biggest U. S. companies.

The National Cash Register presented a building that resembled a cash register. A giant igloo served as the Carrier Air Conditioning building. The Glass Incorporated Pavilion taught them about the history of glass making with models encased in glass bubbles. In every direction the fair exhibited unbelievable things. Donna loved the walk-through waterfall by the Electric Utilities. Danny’s favorite exhibit was the huge bronze-colored smoking robot that talked and turned. As they walked through a new Douglas DC-3 airplane, Donna dreamed someday this big silver bird would take her away from Lacrosse and her father.

After a light supper of hot dogs and Coca Cola, Donna and Danny held hands as they stood in line for two hours to enter the General Motors Pavilion and get on a ride called the “Futurama.” Once inside, the ushers strapped them into chairs which moved like cable cars over an exhibit below.

A narrator began the presentation in a deep radio-type voice. “Ladies and gentlemen. I give you the future.”

The lights dimmed and a futuristic model of an ideal United States came alive. Donna said with excitement in her voice, “This must be how a person feels in an airplane, huh?” Magically they flew from coast to coast over cities of the future. Cars motored on spacious roads and pedestrians walked on elevated walkways.

Donna said, “So this is what 1960 will look like. I hope I’ll still be alive then.”

Danny looked at her curiously. “Where do you think you’ll be in twenty years?”

“I have no idea. When I get home, my father will probably kill me. ” A tinge of nervousness filter through her laughter. She pointed below to a red sports car. “But before I go I want a car like that one!

Chapter 18

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-June—After Danny brought Donna home from their trip, Donna Jean waved to him as he drove away. She tried her key at the backdoor and it didn’t fit and mumbled under her breath. “Oh, come on. Really? They changed the locks?” She banged on the door. “Oh, come on! Let me in.”

Her father yelled, “I warned you not to go off with that boy. Your clothes are in the garage. Take them and get the hell away from here. No whore will live under this roof.”

Donna yelled back. “Mom, open the door.”

“I can’t Donna. You made your sinful bed. Now lay in it.” Donna realized her mother wimped out again to protect her own hide. She wouldn’t challenge her husband because she refused to take a beating over Donna’s foolishness. Donna’s mother suffered a fist to her face way too often. The beatings usually came after a night of drinking, and today he began the day with whiskey instead of coffee.

“You’re damned to hell, Miss Donna Jean. Damned to hell. Now GIT!”  Donna stood in shock. She never expected her father would make good on his promise to kick her out of the house. She left her suitcase in the driveway and walked to Joe’s Diner to use the payphone.

“Hi, Jos. What’s new?” Josie immediately guessed something serious happened. Donna’s voice produced a tone of forced frivolity.

“I’m putting the finishing touches on my paper for English class. What’s up with you?”

Donna dodged the question. “I know you don’t like to write.”

“Yeah, but this too shall pass.” Josie laughed. “This is really a surprise call. Is something wrong, Donna?”

Donna cleared her throat to stifle her tears. “I’m kind of in a jam, Jos.”

Josie thought, again, but said softly, “What happened?”

“Danny and I took a wonderful vacation together to the World’s Fair.”

“And. . .

“Well, my parents locked me out because my father says he won’t allow a whore to live under his roof.” She mocked her father’s voice. “Jos, I can’t think. Tell me what to do.”

“Oh boy. You are in a jam.”

Donna cried. “I’ll think of something. I guess. I just needed to talk to a friend. That’s all really.”

Some of Donna’s choices bordered on poor, but she was a good person deep down. Nobody would find a more generous, helpful and fun friend. Josie loved her. She realized Donna’s wild rebellious streak usually got her in trouble. Going on vacation with her boyfriend turned out to be one of those times. Donna didn’t commit a crime. If anybody committed a crime her father did. Everybody in town understood he was a hopeless drunk.

“Call my Mom, Donna. I’m sure she’ll let you stay in my room until you can find a place.”

“That’s an awful big imposition.”

“Stop being ridiculous. My mother loves you. I’m sure she’ll help. Call her.”

“What should I say?”

“Tell her the truth.”

“Yeah, but she’ll probably think I’m a whore like my parents.”

“Donna Jean! My mother doesn’t judge. She’s loved you since you turned ten. She understands your spirited soul, and she would never turn you away.”

“All right.” Donna sniffled. “If you think she’ll understand, then I’ll call.”

Donna’s sniffles upset Josie. “Oh, sweetie. Don’t cry. Things will work out.”

“I hope you’re right.”  Donna said through her tears. “I sure got lucky when I got you for a friend. Thanks, Josie.” Donna hung up and dialed the Schneider’s number.