Tag Archive | unselfish love

Back to Normal, Now It’s Catch Up Time

The nasty virus which attacked me on Friday has taken a step back. Thank goodness! I’m not up to full power, but 85% is pretty good, but I might need a nap on this ridiculous dark, dreary day.

Ken did his best to take care of me by fetching water and pills which might help. He scrounged his meals from leftovers he could microwave. But what is left in his wake are piles of messes. He can’t help it for two reasons — one he’s not able to keep things neat and clean because his disability doesn’t allow too much leeway, and two, he’s a man who doesn’t think of such things.

So today, the post is short again. After all there’s dishes and laundry to do.

But at least I can give all of you the next few chapters. I still haven’t heard if anybody is enjoying or hating them, so I’ll just stick to my original plan and keep publishing the chapters every day until we finish the story.



Chapter 14 

Paris – June—Marta and Emma always listened to their radio after dinner. In between a comedy and a selection by France’s Royal Symphony, they listened intently to a broadcast by a French tank general named Charles de Gaulle.

“The leaders who, for many years, led the French armies formed a new government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true; we got overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground, and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. The tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today.

“But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!  Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone!

De Gaulle repeated the line: “La France n’est pas seule!”

“She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. France can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.

“This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it.

“I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons. I invite the engineers and the specialized workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.

“Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished; and it will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London.”

The unknown French General’s appeal moved Marta and Emma to tears as he called upon the French people to rise up and resist the Germans. Since coming to Paris two years ago, the girls now thought of themselves as French citizens, so this message made a strong impression on them.

The first order of business of the Vichy puppet government decreed a death sentence for Charles de Gaulle.

Chapter 15

Budapest, Hungary – June—After dinner, Heidi packed the children into the car for what she hoped would be one last time. Baby Jacob, who she now called Jake, fell asleep immediately once the car rolled down the unfamiliar road.

David sat in the front seat with Heidi. “Mutter, where are we going?”

“In all honesty, David,” Heidi said, “I do not know. Fritz gave me the name and address of a person we must contact. I trust Fritz. He is a good man.”

“Ya, Fritiz ist ein guter mann.” David said in perfect German, and he then added, “Do you think Fritz is okay?”

“I pray he is.”

“Me too.” He paused. “Heidi, why do people hate us so much? Why do we need to run away?”

David surprised Heidi with his mature question. “Sometimes people are just so full of hatred they become stupid. Remember hate is very dangerous.”

“Oh.” David seemed satisfied with Heidi’s answer.

Heidi breathed a sigh of relief when David didn’t ask further questions. Sometimes his grown-up questions proved to be too tough to answer.

After stopping a couple of times for directions, Heidi found the address on the note Fritz had given her so many weeks ago. The unpainted wooden structure sat in the heart of downtown Budapest. Heidi turned off the car engine and instructed the children to wait while she went up to the front door and rang the bell.

A man with a long white beard came to the door. He wore the traditional dress of a rabbi with a black kippah resting on his bald head. “May I help you, miss?”

Heidi cleared her throat. “A friend of mine in Lviv gave me your address. He said we would be safe with you.” She handed him Fritz’s letter of introduction.

The man read the note; then he looked at the car parked at the street with three small blond children. “Please, pull your car around to the back of the house, and we will talk.”

“Thank you.” Heidi said.

Once Heidi got her brood into the safety of the house, the man welcomed the family. “I am Rabbi Weismann. Welcome to my home. This is my wife, Gavriella, and my children-Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and Hannah.”

Heidi replied, “I am Heidi Schiller from Berlin. I am the nanny for the Gessler children. They are from Warsaw. When Mrs. Gessler died in Lviv, and all of the Jews got sent to Siberia, Fritz told me to come here.”

The Rabbi’s eyes widened with surprise. “These are Jewish children?”

“Yes, Rabbi. Their last name is Gessler. I dyed their hair blond so no questions would be asked if we encountered trouble at the checkpoints. I wanted the Germans or Russians to think they belonged to me. I even taught them a few Catholic prayers and some basic German.”

“You are a very brave girl to come alone this far alone.” He said in amazement.

“I begged Fritz to come with us, but he thought he would put us in danger if he made the trip. I pray he is all right.”

“Where did he go?”

“When he wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the U. S. S. R., the Russians sent him to a place called Siberia.”

The rabbi’s face fell. “I understand.”

Gavriella asked, “You must all be hungry. Come, let us share some bread.”

Heidi smiled. “Thank you, but we just ate.”

The rabbi studied the young girl and the three children. Even with the blond hair, the Rabbi noted Jewish features in the children. Why should she take on such a burden if her story is not true?

The rabbi nodded to his wife. “Gavriella, would you please make a room ready for our newest guests? They appear very weary from their long journey.”

Gavriella nodded in agreement. Her husband thought he bore the responsibility to help Jews escape Nazi tyranny. Many strangers from other parts of Europe came to him for help, but these three children and their young nanny made an exceptional case. “I will prepare the room in the attic.”

The Rabbi smiled. “Thank you, my dear.”

Gavriella said. “Come with me, Miss Heidi and children. I will show you to your room.” The rabbi went ahead of them to pull down a hidden staircase from the ceiling.  He lit a candle and began to climb the stairs. Gavriella followed and motioned for Heidi to follow.

David pulled on Heidi’s skirt. “Mutter, is this the wizard we are looking to find?”

Heidi’s face turned red. “Shhh, David. We will talk later.” She nudged David to climb the stairs.

Ruthie sucked her thumb and refused to move.

“Ruthie, what is the matter with you?” The fatigue of holding a sleeping Jacob strained Heidi’s arms, and her patience waned. She didn’t want to deal with a tantrum from Ruthie.

Mutter I am scared. Monsters are up there.” She cried.

“David and I will keep you safe. I am sure the nice rabbi would not give us a room with monsters.”

The rabbi overheard Ruthie’s complaint and came to Heidi’s aid. “Ruthie, we save this special room for our most honored guests. I scared all the monsters away before you go here. Come. See the toys upstairs. Perhaps you will find one you like.” The rabbi offered his hand to the little girl.

Ruthie put her hand into the rabbi’s palm. Her short little legs strained to propel herself up the steep ladder while the rabbi followed her. Gavriella lit candles in the sconces on the outside walls of the large room; the attic revealed itself to be a beautiful dormitory. The spacious room offered several beds and a toy chest at the far end. “We can really stay here?” Ruthie asked in her four year old squeaky voice with her eyes wide open. “I can sleep in a bed by myself?”

“Yes of course.” The rabbi smiled as he led her to the toy box.

Heidi’s eyes widened with surprise. The white plastered walls made the attic appear cavernous. Colorful floral curtains covered the one large window in the room.  Paintings of country scenery decorated the wooden walls. on every wall. A wooden rocking chair stood beside a handmade crib. Heidi laid Jacob in the crib and covered him with a colorful handmade quilt. When she turned around, she realized beautiful quilts covered all of the beds.

Heidi glanced at Gavriella. “Did you sew these wonderful quilts?”

The short, stocky woman blushed. “Yes.”

The rabbi interjected. “Gavriella does many things to make our guests comfortable. I would never be able to help so many without her special help.” He and Gavriella shared a special look only couples understand.

“How do I thank you for opening your home to us?” Heidi smiled.

The rabbi put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and held her close. “We both hope you will be happy and safe here, You are very brave, Miss Heidi. If you need extra blankets, tell Gavriella. The night can get chilly -even in June.”

All at once the emotion of the past few days flooded into Heidi’s eyes. “God brought us here, Rabbi. We may practice different religions, but we share the same loving God.”

“You are right, my dear. All of the prophets say to love one another. I too believe He sent you here.” He smiled. “Sleep well, children. Tomorrow we will eat a nice breakfast.” He climbed down the ladder.

Gavriella stayed to help Heidi get the sleepy children into their bed clothes and tuck them in. Heidi kissed them all and hugged Gavriella.

“Goodnight, everyone. Sweet dreams.” Gavriella waved as she descended the ladder.

The soft candlelight in the large room put Heidi at peace. Her weariness allowed her to let go of any fears of what might come next. She extinguished the candles in the sconces with a soft breath and undressed by the light of a single candle beside her bed. She lay down on the soft straw mattress and studied the reflection of the flame dancing on the white ceiling. Gavriella’s warm quilt wrapped her in the warmth of a mother’s love. Heidi slipped into the twilight of sleep and her tension floated away; she blew out the last candle and quietly said her prayers. “Dear God, Thank you for bringing us here safely. Bless Fritz. Without his friendship with the Rabbi, I never would be here.  Thank you for introducing me to Rabbi Weismann and Gavriella. They are most kind. Amen.”



In With the New and Retire the Old

 I’ve been writing on a laptop since 2009. The operating system is Vista and the “Word” software is Office 2003. Dated? Yup. Besides having software from the stone age, my faithful computer is also broken in a couple of places. I’ve used this machine so much I’ve worn the paint off letters N, B, and E. That’s why I asked for a new laptop for my birthday. But I’m finding once again–be careful what you ask for.

Excitement filled me as I signed on the dotted line to take ownership of the package the FedEx guy delivered. I tore open the box and there she was. Bright, shining and virginal–the new little Dell was ready for action–well, not quite yet. There was a booklet of instructions included in the package and when I studied them, I decided I wouldn’t attempt initializing the machine right away because who wants to get frustrated on a perfect birthday. Right?

My birthday celebration and the aftermath have passed. The “Taj Garage” is halfway completed and poor new little Dell is still sitting untouched. I realize I must gear up and find some techie courage to begin making my new machine mine. I  must accept my first try loading software maybe a challenge. I also must accept I will need to transfer files and links to other websites I use all the time. I will bang my head against the wall trying to remember passwords and user names. See why I’m dragging my feet?

“Old Faithful” Dell has become a comfortable friend. She has produced eight novels, a blog with over 400 posts, over twenty short stories and too many emails to count. She’s entertained me with certain games and connected me with long lost friends. I haven’t the heart to replace her even though I know I must. Weaning myself away from my old friend a little bit at a time seems to be the only sensible way we will part. Perhaps if I set new Dell on the table and look at her for a while, I may gain some courage to make the replacement.



Chapter 8

Lacrosse, April 1, 1940—Rosalie came home a week after Angelina’s birth. A nurse took her down to the exit the hospital in a wheelchair, and Angelo treated her like a fragile flower as he helped her in the car. The birth took so much of her strength and vitality; he wondered how she would ever be able to take care of the baby alone.

Mrs. Lombardo and his mother volunteered to care for both Rosalie and the child until the new mother regained her strength. They assured him Rosie just needed rest and a chance to bond with the new baby.

When Angelo brought Rosie home, her mother met the couple in the driveway with open arms. “Bambina! Welcome home!”

“Oh Mama,” Rosalie cried.

“Let me carry the bambina for you. You look so tired.” Mrs. Lombardo scowled when she saw the dark circles and pale complexion of her daughter.

Angelo carried the suitcase and helped Rosie get into the house. Mrs. Armani prepared a hot lunch for everyone, and Angelo’s father made sure a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses welcomed Rosalie home.

Rosalie sighed. “I’m so glad to be home.”

Mrs. Lombardo took charge. “Let’s get you out of that coat, sweetheart so you can eat lunch.” She handed Angelo the coat to hang in the closet. She continued with her orders, “Then you can nurse the baby before her nap.”

Simmering hot beef, roasted carrots, and potatoes made Angelo salivate. “Doesn’t the food smell good, Rosie?” Angelo lived on cold sandwiches while Rosalie recovered in the hospital, and now he planned to gorge himself on a hot, home-cooked meal.

Angelo pulled out a chair for Rosalie, and his mother put a filled plate in front of her. “Mangiare!”

As Angelo gobbled down a healthy portion of the meal, Rosalie picked at her food. “Mama, I’m sorry. I’m just not hungry.”

“But Rosalie, you must eat to make the baby’s milk.”

Rosalie threw her napkin on top of her food. “I’m sick of having to eat for the baby. The baby is out of me now, so why do I still need to eat for the baby?”

Her mother stared in disbelief. She tried to understand how Rosalie might be overwhelmed. “My sweet girl, the baby needs you as much now as she did before she came into the world, bambina. God planned it that way.”

“It’s not enough she tore me up inside and out? Now I am supposed to be a cow, too?” Rosalie screamed and stomped into the living room.

Angelo hung his head and stared at the good meal in front of him. He realized he didn’t possess the right words to calm her. He hoped Mrs. Lombardo and his mother might know the right things to say to bring Rosalie out of her funk.

Mrs. Lombardo followed Rosalie. She sat beside her daughter on the sofa.  “I understand this is hard right now. The first baby makes you learn so many new things. Being a mama is a big job, Rosie.”

Rosie cried. “I never wanted a baby! And now I must serve a life sentence taking care of her?”

Mrs. Lombardo’s mouth fell open and her hands went directly to her hips. Her voice took on a stern tone. “That is about enough, Rosalie. It is time to grow up. Stop acting like a spoil child. Maybe a nap might help.”

Rosalie pouted. She hated it when her mother made her feel small. She got up and dragged herself to her bedroom. She had been banished like a child who misbehaved in her own house! She pounded her pillow and cried.

Mrs. Lombardo returned to the kitchen and picked up the phone to call Eduardo at the restaurant. “Eduardo, you need to come. Rosie needs you. She is in such a state; I do not understand her. You always do.”

A couple of hours later Eduardo left the restaurant and drove to his daughter’s house. He conferred with his wife in the kitchen and then went to his daughter who sat in the rocking chair nursing his grandchild.

“What a beautiful sight, bambina!” He said.

“What’s beautiful about this, Papa? I’ve become a cow like Josie’s Betsy.”

Eduardo sat close to her on the floor. He spoke in a soft voice. “Oh Rosalie, no, you are a mama. You are not a cow. You are doing important work. You are feeding your little girl, my granddaughter. This is a great miracle.”

“Papa, would you think I’m a bad mother if I told you I didn’t want to feed my daughter? Or change her? Or rock her to sleep?” Rosalie spat the words like she bit into spoiled food.

Eduardo frowned. “How can you say such things?”

“Because. I hurt all over and now my breasts are cracked and bleeding from her pulling on me. I hate this! I want to quit being a mother.” Rosalie cried.

Eduardo knelt in front of her. “Rosalie, a mama makes many sacrifices for her babies. You are very young, but your mother was only sixteen when your brother Giovanni came, and her mama lived in the old country across an ocean; your mama is just around the corner. She will help you.”

“Mama thinks I’m hateful.” Tears welled in Rosalie’s eyes. “I am selfish. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but right now I wish somebody would take this baby away from me. I can’t do this.”

Eduardo held her hand while he stared at his sleeping granddaughter. “No, my bambina, you are just afraid. Deep in your heart you love your little Angelina as I love you. You and Angelo will experience a wonderful life together, and now with little Angelina here, the love between you will grow even more. You are not alone, bambina. I am here, Mama is here. Angelo is here. His parents are here. Your brothers and sisters are here. Donna and Josie will help. When you get stronger, you will be the best mama in the world.”

“Oh, Papa.” She stared into her father’s moist eyes. “I want to believe what you say.”

Mrs. Lombardo came into the room and sat on the sofa. Rosalie looked at her mother with different eyes. “Mama, how did you ever do this?”

“One day at a time, my sweet daughter. One day at a time.”

Chapter 9

Lviv, Ukraine – April 1940—Heidi slipped into the bed she shared with Ruthie. She closed her eyes in the darkness and dreamed of the days in Berlin when she led a selfish, carefree life with her only desire to become a ballerina. Then overnight her life changed. She left her homeland and went on the run with three small children and their sick mother. In the still of the night she second guessed her decision to accompany Dora. She worried about the welfare of Uncle Hans and her three cousins. His only advantage might be his German background; perhaps his chances with the Nazis in power might better for him than other people. She prayed this would be the case. Some of the neighbors told her some non-Jews had been forced to work as slaves in mines and factories. Everyone needed to carry papers to prove their identity.  If people didn’t carry papers stating where they lived and worked, the Nazis would put them in prison.

The children woke before their mother at eight o’clock. Their hunger made them cry. She used the last of the cornmeal to make the breakfast porridge, and Heidi wondered where she would find more cornmeal.

Dora slept and didn’t stir for breakfast.  Usually the children’s activity would wake her, but today she lay still under a thin blanket.

Heidi bent down and whispered in Dora’s ear. “Dora, breakfast is ready.”

Dora didn’t respond.

Heidi shook Dora. No response. Dora appeared grey. Heidi gently shook her again. “Dora, please wake up. The children are asking for you.” Still no response. Heidi touched Dora’s forehead. She expected Dora to be hot with fever but instead her forehead seemed cold. Heidi pulled the blanket down to Dora’s waist and found a bottle of pills in the bed. The label on the bottle read, “Cyanide.”

“Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Heidi screamed.

“What is wrong Heidi? Is Mama sick?” David held Ruthie’s hand, and she sucked the thumb of the opposite hand.

Heidi stared at the innocent faces of the two children. “I think your mother is very sick, David. You stay here. I will get some help.”

Heidi ran down the hallway and banged on a friend’s door. “Fritz! Fritz! Please open the door. It is Heidi!”

A thin young man with a gaunt face came to the door. “Heidi, whatever is wrong?”

“Dora won’t wake up! I think she is dead.”

“Oh no!”

Heidi cried. “Yes! Oh my God! What am I going to do now?”

Fritz pulled up his suspenders attached to his tattered trousers and followed Heidi to her room. He approached the figure in the bed and one glance told him Heidi had guessed right. With urgency in his voice, he said, “I will go down and get the landlord. You keep the children calm.”

David cried, “What is wrong with Mama, Heidi?”

Heidi bent down and hugged the six year old. “She is very sick, David. We must fetch a doctor to tell us what is wrong.”

David looked at her with frightened puppy eyes.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I will take care of you.”

The landlord came to the room and went to Dora’s bed. He wore a stone face as he looked at the body. He turned to Heidi. “I will call the coroner.”

Everyone in the apartment complex came out of their rooms. A horse-drawn wagon pulled up in front of the building, and two men dressed in white uniforms came to the third floor.  They gently placed Dora’s body onto the stretcher as Heidi and the children stayed out in the hallway. David held her hand while Ruthie clung to Heidi’s skirt still sucking her thumb. The men struggled down the staircase carrying their mother away. Only baby Jacob seemed oblivious to the situation.

David cried. “Where are they taking my Mama?”

His tender young voice broke Heidi’s heart. She decided she must tell him the truth. “I am so sorry, David. The man with the stretcher told me your mother died in the night and went to heaven.”

“Where is heaven?” David cried. “I want to go too!”

She stooped down and held David close. “I’m afraid we can’t go there, David. God will send us a special angel when it is our time. Without the angel’s help, we can’t find heaven.”

“That’s not fair!”

“I know, sweetheart. It is definitely not fair.”

Frantic thoughts rushed through her brain as she tried to soothe her young charges.


After she tucked the children in for their afternoon naps, Heidi found an envelope addressed to her in Dora’s handwriting.

My dearest Heidi,

You are right. God did send you to me because he realized I am not strong enough to care for the children alone.  I did not realize my own weakness when we departed from Warsaw. I cannot accept this situation.   We live like peasants in one dreary room. There is no food and little hope of ever going back home. But I am sure I made the correct choice to leave. 

I cannot go on like this any longer. Everything I loved is gone; the future holds nothing for me in this world. I am a burden to you. I must leave.

Please love and care for my children and forgive me for leaving you with such a heavy burden. I believe you are strong enough to protect yourself and the children. You are wise beyond your years. Perhaps you can make your way to Palestine or Switzerland.

 I leave you my car, money, and jewels. A large rare diamond is sewn in the hem of my coat; it may help you someday.

Be safe my child. I will wait for you in heaven.

Love, Dora

Heidi read the letter again and again in disbelief. Oh Dora? How could you? How could you trust someone so young with your three little ones?

During the past few months, Dora and Heidi grew close. But Heidi didn’t recognize Dora’s deep despair. Life had become more difficult than either of them imagined. And what would she do now? She may not be Jewish, but the new laws stated anyone who protected Jews would be punished by the Nazis too.

Heidi stared out into space as the children took their afternoon naps. Dora taught her more about art, music, and literature than she ever learned in formal schooling; she enhanced Heidi’s life so much in the little time they shared together. She and Dora planned exciting things in Warsaw, but now all those dreams disappeared. Heidi never would dance on the biggest stages in Europe with Dora looking on in the audience. Instead, she now bore the sole responsibility of caring for Dora’s three little children.

A few pills changed everything for Heidi and the children, and she couldn’t hide her fear and anger. Why couldn’t Dora be stronger? Why couldn’t she accept the harsh treatment the world dished out to her as so many others? As Heidi gazed at the orphans asleep, she promised someday she might forgive their mother; in the meantime, she would do her best to keep them safe and promised never to abandon them.




Best Birthday Ever!

About a month ago, my youngest daughter called and said, “Mom, I’m booking you for August 1st to celebrate your birthday.” I said okey-dokey and wondered what she had up her sleeve. I guessed Sarah might take me out to lunch and possibly bless me with a much needed pedicure because the last time we were together she told me I could climb trees with my long toenails. I love surprises, so I didn’t even try to guess what she had up her sleeve.

My “real” birthday was on Friday, and I have to tell you, I am really blessed with a stable of friends who understand I’m a big kid at heart and I love being special one day a year–a precedent set by my parents a LONG time ago. As children we got to choose the meal and type of cake we wanted, as well as picking something we wanted to do on our birthday. For one day, my brothers and sister became the big cheese for the day. My wants were simple: brats, going to Brown’s Lake, and poppy seed cake.

This year, my day started with a call from my brother Mark singing the traditional “Happy Birthday to You.” Then I got a call from my contractor saying he would be starting the construction of the garage on Monday! I thought that was the best news of the day, until I got a call from my long-lost friend Debbie Collins. Our friendship started in junior high school and lasted until we got too busy with husbands and kids. Birthday RosesNext, my daughter Sarah brought me a beautiful bouquet of a dozen roses before the FedEx guy brought me my new computer. I figured the festivities would wind up after my dear friend Jackie brought over my birthday supper, flowers, and cheesecake. But the beat rolled on. Linda walked down and shared some birthday cheesecake with us, and of course, she gave me a gift too. What a day, huh?

Sarah arrived on time on Saturday–her booked August 1st. She found me in the back bedroom I call my “studio” putting the finishing touches on my latest painting. I wanted to finish a couple of strokes before we took off so I had my back to her as she came into the studio.

2015 Birthday 005When she asked for a hug, I turned around and couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing beside Sarah was my other daughter Amy.

2015 Birthday 001She had flown in from Seattle for the weekend — just for my birthday. (Daughter on the right.)  This was the surprise of a life time. We had been separated for over four years, and it was sheer joy to see her again. Sarah (daughter on the left) and Amy had been working on this surprise for over a month.  Like some crazy person on the “Price is Right,” I put my hands to my face and yelled, “Oh, my God!” about eighty times as I gave each of them hugs and kisses. They got the reaction they had hoped to get. Their plans for me included lunch and a pedicure. Afterward we spent a little time on our new patio with a cool drink. Unbelievable! Two best days ever in a row!

I think experiencing bad days like I’ve been writing about lately, intensifies the great days. I’m still smiling that my two daughters love me so much that they wanted to give me such generous gifts. Spending time with them as beautiful adult women now is as much fun as when I was a twenty-something enjoying them grow up.



Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—March 22, 1940 – Angelo’s old pickup headed straight for the hospital emergency entrance. He ran around the front of the car and opened the passenger door as a shooting pain grabbed Rosalie’s back. He helped her to her feet in the gravel parking lot and walked her to the entrance as another pain hit which nearly broke her in half. This time she screamed. Angelo picked her up and ran to the Emergency Room door. He flagged down a Dominican nun dressed in the traditional black and white garments. “My wife’s having a baby,” he shouted.

She mumbled to herself. “Shhhh – this is a hospital, young man. Sick people are resting.”

“My wife’s having a baby,” he said louder.

“I heard you the first time. Don’t be fresh.” The nun answered and pointed to a sign that read Admitting. “Go.” The nun said and abruptly walked away mumbling to herself, “Honestly, girls having babies are getting younger and younger.”

Angelo swallowed his anger rumbling inside him. As a good Catholic man he realized he needed to respect this nun; otherwise, he would call her a bitch.  He found a vacant wheelchair in the hallway and lowered his wife like a fragile piece of his mother’s good china. “I guess we go this way, honey.”

Rosalie nodded and gazed at him with scared puppy eyes as another back spasm gripped her so hard she arched her back and cried. After the pain subsided, he continued to the Admitting Department. He stood in line where a tired-looking, gray-haired woman sat behind a window with a small opening that looked like a porthole. The woman wore a navy blue smock with, “Saint Mary’s Hospital” embroidered over the left breast pocket. Her yellow-stained finger tips rested on the typewriter keyboard.  Lingering cigarette smoke surrounded her head like a misplaced halo. Her bright red lipstick served as the only color on her grey wrinkled face.

Angelo cleared his throat. “Excuse me, ma’am. My wife’s having a baby and she’s–

The woman interrupted him.

“Bring her to that door.” She pointed to the door to her right.

“Thanks.” Angelo pushed Rosalie to the door as the clerk unlocked the door and escorted them to a ward of beds separated by long white drapes.

A nurse dressed in white from head to toe met them with a clipboard. The white outfit made her mahogany curly hair and brown eyes appear even darker. Angelo wondered how she stayed so clean when she worked in a place with lots of blood. Her husky voice sounded like one of the guys Angelo worked with on the assembly line. “How far apart are the contractions?”

Rosalie looked up to Angelo as another pain raced across her back.

Angelo answered with authority in his voice. “About five minutes-if that’s what these pains in her back are all about. Her water broke at noon.”

“Very well.” The nurse looked at her wristwatch and noted his response on the clipboard she held.

“What’s your name, sweetie?”


The nurse scowled. “Not you, sir.”

She guided Rosalie to one of the beds, “What’s your name, dear?”

“Rosalie.” She let out a howl as a white hot arrow of pain shot up her back once again. “Please don’t be mad at him, ma’am, he’s just so excited.”

“They all are, sweetie, but having a baby is women’s work.  We can manage without men.” She winked at Rosalie and whispered, “Now, let’s get started.” The nurse took a gown and a sheet from the cabinet in the room and handed them to Rosalie. “Take off all of your clothes including underwear and put this on–ties go in the back. Push this little button when you’re done.”

The nurse turned to Angelo, “And you, young man, need to go back to the admitting clerk and register your wife. I hope you brought your insurance card.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then get to it, boy.” She waved him to the exit.

Stifled protest stuck in his throat as he obeyed another bossy woman. Angelo hung his head and went back to where he first started. By now three people waited in front of him. Angelo paced up and down the dull gray hallway like a caged tiger.

“Next,” the woman behind the glass said.

One by one the clerk processed the people in front of Angelo.

“Next!” She yelled.

“My turn?” he mouthed as he pointed to his chest.

“That’s what I said, didn’t I?” She snapped.

Angelo’s temper reached the boiling point. He glared at the clerk with fire in his eyes; if a pane of glass didn’t separate them, he might have slugged her.

She slipped a blank form into the Smith Corona and looked down at the keys. “Name,” she said.

“Ah, Angelo-

She scowled. “Not you, sir, your wife’s name.”

He bit his tongue. “I’m sorry,” he took a big breath. “I didn’t understand what you wanted. This is our first and I–

She repeated. “Name.”

When the insurance interrogation ceased, Angelo scurried back to the area where he left Rosalie. Her bed was empty. Panic rose in his throat.  He spied the nun he met in the hallway earlier and with a shaky voice he asked, “Sister? Where’s my wife? I left her here while I did all that insurance crap and now she’s gone.”

“Your language, young man!” She scolded as she looked down her sharp nose at him. “No need for that tone. Your wife is on the Fourth Floor. Labor Room 426. Follow me.” She escorted Angelo to the elevator, pushed button number four, and left him standing in front of the gray metal door.

“Thanks,” he growled as she walked away.

Angelo found Rosalie laying in one of the two beds in Room 426. An empty bed tightly wrapped in white sheets with square corners awaited the next patient. Angelo hoped no one else would be put in that bed because he wanted to be alone with his wife as they went through Rosalie’s labor.

“Did they tell you anything?” He asked.

“They say I’m three centimeters, whatever that means. The nurse said when I get to ten, the baby is ready to come out. She said it might take all day.”

“Okay. How can I help?”

She reached for his hand. “Just be with me. Nobody told me what will hap–

Before she finished her sentence, she let out a cry that reminded Angelo of a tortured animal.

“Oh, God, “She panted. “That was a sharp one!” She said.

Angelo never thought of the pain his wife would experience to bring their baby into the world. “Oh honey, what can I do?” As soon as his words left his lips, he thought he might be useless all day.

“Just hold my hand.”

When Rosalie endured each contraction, she squeezed his hand like a football middle linebacker. After the pain subsided, she didn’t want to talk because she needed to get ready for the next pain to stab her in the back.

Ten hours passed and still no baby. The nurse said first babies usually took their time and be assured Rosalie was progressing nicely.  Angelo wondered how much more pain Rosalie could take. She appeared like she worked all day in a sweaty factory. On top of her weariness, she lost her will to go on. Angelo encouraged her to fight. She screamed while she dug her fingernails into his arm as the contractions came and went. They both needed this baby to make its arrival soon.

Angelo said a silent prayer.  “Oh, God, please let this be over. She’s so tired and growing more fragile as time goes on. Please, Lord. I don’t want her to suffer any more. Let the baby come soon.”

The starched nurse who attended Rosalie since the beginning of her labor announced her shift had ended and she left. A petite woman wearing the same starched white uniform took her place. Unlike her prune-faced predecessor, Debbie O’Malley smiled at the couple and spoke to them with gentleness in her voice. “We need to check you, Rosalie, to see how much longer this little babe of yours will make us wait to meet his or her acquaintance. The doctor is here now, and he wants a report on how you’re progressing.” She turned to Angelo, “I’m sorry, Dad, please leave us alone for a minute.”

“I know. I know. I’ll be out in the hallway.” Angelo rose and stretched his legs before dragged himself from the room.  As he paced in the hallway, Rosalie screamed again. “Oh God,” he prayed out loud. “Please end this.”

After a couple of minutes, the nurse pushed a wheel chair through the door with Rosalie seated. She hung her head and appeared as white as the sheet covering her.

“We’re off to delivery!” The nurse announced. “Follow me, Dad.”

Another pain assaulted Rosalie; she arched her back almost propelling herself out of the chair. The nurse waited for Rosalie’s pain to subside before she continued to the delivery room. They passed a door that read, “Father’s Room,” and the nurse said, “You can wait here, Mr. Armani. Your baby should arrive shortly. Your wife is fully dilated, and I’ll come and tell you as soon as the baby’s born.”

Angelo kissed the top of Rosalie’s head. He whispered. “It’s almost over sweetheart. I’ll be here waiting.”

Rosalie didn’t say a word; her eyes expressed exhaustion and defeat. The nurse pushed Rosalie through another set of doors marked “Hospital Personnel Only.”

Chapter 5

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – March 22, 1940–The Father’s Room didn’t offer any more attractive or comfortable space than any other place in the hospital. Dated “Time” and “Life” magazines littered the only table in the corner of the room. A couple of tin ash trays sat on the table and the stink of stale smoke reminded Angelo he needed a cigarette. He took a Lucky Strike from his shirt pocket and lit up with the lighter Rosalie had given him for Christmas. He took a long drag and exhaled a billow of lazy smoke rings.

Even after a half pack of cigarettes, Angelo couldn’t erase Rosalie’s fearful, childlike expression. He wanted to be with her. Waiting in this dreary room seemed cruel to both of them, but at least here he found a little freedom from her gut-wrenching screams.

He thought nothing would ever scare Rosalie, but having this baby scared her plenty. He looked down at his scratched and bloody arm. He chuckled when glanced at his scratched arm thinking at least he gave some skin in the game. Angelo removed another cigarette from his pocket and held it between his lips.  He leaned back so his head rested on the wall, lit the fag, and took another long drag allowing the nicotine to work its magic. He tried to reassure himself the doctor would take care of Rosalie.

When the red-headed nurse returned, she shook a sleeping Angelo.  “Dad,” she said quietly. “Your wife is having a bit of trouble and things are taking longer than they usually do.”

Angelo got to his feet and stared at the nurse. His stomach flipped. “What’s wrong? I want to see her.”

The nurse calmed him. “Simmer down. She’s in good hands. The baby presented face up, and Rosie can’t push it out. The doctor gave your wife an anesthetic to remove the baby with forceps.” After relaying this information, the nurse returned to the delivery room.

Angelo sat and cried.

Thirty minutes later the nurse returned to the Father’s Room. Angelo sat in the corner with his head down.

The nurse touched his shoulder. “Mr. Armani?”

Angelo looked up to her freckled face. “Is my wife all right? Is the baby here?”

She laughed, “Your wife is resting, and your little girl is an eight pound, eighteen inch long ball of fire! She’s perfect.”

“A girl! Really?” He found the news surprising. Everyone prophesied the baby would be a boy. “And my wife?”

“Like I told you, she needed to be sedated because of the posterior birth, so she’s asleep. I guess your little one wanted to get a good look at the doctor who delivered” She chuckled at her joke.

Angelo appreciated the nurse’s attempt at levity.

“You’re saying she’s a nosy little one?” Angelo let out a laugh of relief.

“You might say that. As she grows up, you can decide.”

“When can I see her?”

“You can go to the nursery now. Come on. I’ll introduce you to your daughter.”

Behind a thick glass window Angelo read a card above a stainless steel bassinet reading, “Baby Armani.” A plump pink baby swaddled in a white receiving blanket slept. A thick crop of red hair made her stand out from the other infants. She tried desperately to put one of her clenched fists into her mouth. A surge of love rushed through him like electricity. He put his face up against the glass and whispered, “Thank you, God.”

He turned to the nurse with tears in his eyes. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she? We talked about naming her Mary, but she looks like a little angel. I think Angelina suits her better.”

“A pretty name for a pretty baby.” Debbie the nurse said, “Babies delivered by forceps usually get nasty marks on their heads, but not your daughter. I think she just needed a little coaxing to make her appearance.”

“Can I hold her?”

The nurse smiled. “Well, not right now. She and your wife need to get some rest.”

He said, “Where is Rosalie?”

The nurse said, “She’s in recovery and will probably sleep until tomorrow morning. The anesthesia takes hours to wear off.  I think the best thing you can do is to go home, get something to eat, call all your friends and family in the morning, and then come back tomorrow.”

“I want to hold both of them; I thought after the baby came, I could give both of them a kiss.”

The nurse said, “I’m sure they both will enjoy your kisses tomorrow. Go home and get some rest.”

Angelo looked down at his bloodied arm. “Maybe going home isn’t such a bad idea after all.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Armani. Your girls are safe and you did great.” She patted his shoulder and left.

Angelo turned toward the glass. “Pleasant dreams, my little girl. Daddy will be back tomorrow.” Daddy, wow!  Daddy. I’m really a Daddy!” He blew her a kiss and whispered, “I promise you sweetheart, I will be the best Daddy ever.” He left the hospital dog tired, but strangely energized. Wait ’til I tell my Pa!


Angelo went home, cleaned up his wounds, and went to bed. The clock told him it was four o’clock in the morning and seeing the correct time splashed a wave of fatigue over him. He woke around eight and called his parents and Eduardo to tell them about his baby girl, Angelina. Both new grandpas wanted to rush to the hospital to visit the newest member of the family, but Angelo told them about Rosalie’s ordeal and said it would be better to hold off their visits until the next day.




A Day at a Time

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

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

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

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

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



Chapter 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In March next year.”

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

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

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

“Yes, sweetheart, he’s sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Where should we go?”

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

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


The Weather is a Good Excuse

Today is a bad day. It began with Ken falling and not being able to get up. Again. Yesterday our morning started the same way. Feeling utterly useless, I dialed 911 and asked for help.

In a few minutes four firemen arrived on a ladder truck, then came to our door. They were a different shift from yesterday, but they had been here before. One of the guys said, “I see you have cement this time.” (The old driveway had been removed on their previous visit.)

They picked Ken up from the floor in a couple of seconds and deposited him comfortably in his chair. Catastrophe over. For today.

My worst fear is Ken might fall and really damage himself. I can’t wrap him in bubble wrap, and I can’t prevent him losing his balance. I’ve tried to remodel our house to better meet his wheelchair needs, but even that doesn’t seem to be enough. I hate being stuck. Worse than that, I hate defeat.

We both want him to stay at home as long as possible, but this load is getting heavier. Thank God we can use a hot, humid day as an excuse for not going out like we planned. The truth is just too darn hard to speak.



Chapter 20

 Warsaw, Poland — September 1, 1939—Dora Gessler’s college friends who remained in Berlin after graduation wrote letters about how the city changed since Hitler came to power. For the past six years, Hitler instilled a sense of national pride in the people of Germany. He put men to work and raised up the population in a way no one else could. During college, Dora attended one rally when Hitler spoke. He didn’t impress her because she thought he told people what they wanted to hear, not necessarily the truth. The crowds screamed and cheered him; worst yet, they seemed to be hypnotized by his performance.  Hysterical crowds worshiped him like a god.

But lately his political aspirations changed. Now Hitler wanted to expand German’s borders. The Nazis walked into Austria and people voted to be annexed by its larger neighbor. The next step was Czechoslovakia in Hitler’s quest to unite all German-speaking people. His second goal was to rid the world of Jews.

When Dora read the local newspaper, she learned Germany attacked Poland’s northern border. In a few days the superior German military machine rolled over the Polish outdated weapons and lack of modern training. The report also stated the army was pushing toward Warsaw.

Edward Gessler was away on a business trip in France at the time of the invasion, and Dora tried to reach her husband by phone and telegrams, but both services failed. Dora knew she had to take the children as far away as she could to avoid being enslaved by the Nazis. But how? Numbness spread through Dora’s body as she realized the survival of her children as well as her own life sat solely on her shoulders. Her fears paralyzed her.

Heidi sensed Dora’s angst the morning after the attack. She studied Dora’s tormented expression. Heidi sipped her tea in silence and waited for Dora to say something.

After several minutes of crushing silence, Dora spoke. “Oh, Heidi, what am I going to do? I must make a major decision without Edward, and I am troubled.”

Heidi answered. “How can I help you?”

“Oh dear, Heidi.” Dora said with tears teetering on the ledge of her eyelids. “I am afraid our lives are in jeopardy. Hitler’s army invaded Poland, and it is marching toward Warsaw. The Polish army is no match for professional soldiers. I witnessed the evil of the Nazis while I studied at the university in Berlin, and I must do something. I need to get the children as far away as possible.”

Heidi remained silent with her own fears. She decided to get the underlying tension out in the open. “I hate the Nazis too, Dora. They are vicious brutes. Even though I went to school with students in Hitler’s Youth Movement, I didn’t become one of the blind followers. I am here because I wanted to get away from Berlin. I do not believe what they profess–believing in a non-existent Aryan race which is superior to all others is ridiculous. Do you know the Nazis closed the churches and burned synagogues? They bow to Hitler’s made up religion. I hate–”

Dora cut her off. “Oh Heidi. I am not upset with you. You are German by heritage, not by ideology. I realize that. Set your mind at ease, child. You are wonderful with my children, and I am so grateful you are here. ”

Heidi took a deep breath. “Thank you, Mrs. Gessler.” She took a sip of tea and looked her employer in the eyes. “We need an escape plan.”

“Perhaps you should not help me, Heidi. Maybe you should return to Berlin and be safe with your family. The future does not look good for Poland and worse for Jewish citizens. I will call your uncle today.”

“No.” Heidi responded with strength. “I am your nanny, and I will not abandon you. With Edward gone, you need my help. Please do not send me away.”

Dora smiled. “Heidi. I cannot put you in harm’s way. Such a thing is not right.”

Heidi whispered, “I believe God sent me here, Mrs. Gessler. He wants me to help you.”

“Then, you are right. We must work on a plan.” Dora hugged Heidi. “You are so brave for your young age. Thank you.” Dora took a sip of tea while she thought about the steps she must take. “We must leave Warsaw tomorrow. The best destination appears to be Lviv.”

“Lviv? Where is Lviv?”

“In the Ukraine. The Soviets are in power in the city, and Jewish people are treated like normal citizens. We will be safe in Lviv.” Dora’s tears spilled down her face and in a short time she sobbed so hard her body shook.

“Oh, Mrs. Gessler. Do not worry. I will not leave you.” Heidi got up and hugged her.

Dora looked up at the young girl with a tear-stained face. She wiped the tears away with the napkin which sat on the table. “I do not want to leave my home, Heidi.  I need Edward to make a decision.”

“Well, Edward is not here, so we must work together to keep the children safe. I am here and I will help, but we cannot waste any time.”

Dora nodded.

Chapter 21

Berlin, German—Since the Hitler youth dance and their experience at the tavern afterward, Franz decided Leisel might be worth his effort. He asked her out several times during August before he entered the military academy. She pledged her love to him with a romp in the backseat of his father’s Volkswagen the night before he went off to training camp. He bragged to his comrades about her perfect body and her voluptuous bosom. Franz loved sex with Leisel because she never turned him down whenever he had the urge. He wondered if Marta would be so sexually accommodating. Being with Leisel provided two advantages–she liked sex and wanted to please him, plus marrying her would advance his career because her father held the office of colonel in the Germany army, and he promised to help Franz climb the ranks.

Leisel found happiness in her romance with Franz. His attention lessened the painful sting of being denied an education at the university. She convinced herself she loved him when in fact, she considered herself obligated to marry him because they enjoyed sex together. Her curiosity about sex led her to believe if the man went away satisfied, she should be too. Franz never cared about her in that way, so she wondered why romantic novels made such a fuss about making loving.  Half of her excitement with Franz centered on the events leading up to their clandestine meetings because he always rushed through undressing her, spreading her legs, and relieving himself. He grunted a few times and groaned with pleasure, leaving her sticky and smelly. Worse yet, Leisel feared if she told him what she needed, he would berrate her, so she buried her true feelings and put on a face of a girl in love.

Colonel Fuchs approved of Franz. Finally his daughter won the attention of an up-and-coming young SS soldier which would surely reflect positively on him. And when Franz went to Colonel Fuchs to ask for Leisel’s hand in marriage, the colonel said after she completed the course at the bride school and secured her certificate, he would arrange a wedding fitting for a beautiful Aryan couple in the Nazi chapel.




Building and Rebuilding

Since March I’ve been spending money. After my father’s estate was settled, I tried to imagine how he would want me to spend his hard-earned money. I decided he would be happy if I invested in something that would make me happy. Something tangible. Something that would make my life better. With this in mind, I decided to make our home more wheelchair accessible.

We began making changes two summers ago when Ken’s relatives pooled their money and had a wheelchair ramp built. A few months later, an van with a wheelchair lift came into our life. Our transformation continued the following January by moving our washing and drying machines upstairs. So, I continued the process with my windfall.

First we remodeled the kitchen, opening the doorway by twelve inches and building in a table with no legs at a higher height so Ken can easily sit at the table. For me, I got a sink as big and deep as a pig trough, more cupboard space, easy-to-keep clean flooring, and new lighting. Needless to say, I LOVE my new kitchen.

In the living room, I had the contractor eliminate the 1950’s half wall and spindles so when Ken blasts through the front door he has a clear shot into the living room. I also had him widen and extend the flooring so Ken can park his wheelchair off the carpeting. Oh yeah, and we replaced the carpeting throughout the house too with a short pile that’s soft on  my feet, but tight enough to take the wear of his motorized chair.

To finish off our home improvement project, we had the contractor paint the kitchen, living room, and hallway. I gotta tell you, it’s like we moved but didn’t have to pack.

I’m sure my Dad is happy we used his money to improve our home because he and my mother always kept their place in tip-top condition.

What’s next? The garage. Yup. But we already discussed that project and it’s lack of progress.


APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2 Continued

Chapter 12

Warsaw, Poland — July 1939—Uncle Hans drove Heidi to the Gessler mansion the next morning. As his tiny niece ascended the front steps and ran the bell he wished he had the means to hire her himself. A woman with dark curly hair answered the door, and Heidi disappeared into the house.

Hans relaxed into the upholstered car seat and reflected on how happy Heidi made his children. Since she came to visit, her joyful disposition breathed life back into them. She filled the void their mother left; something he could never do.

Hans also saw changes in Heidi. Her initial shyness disappeared in just a few short days. She gained a great deal of confidence as she ran the household while he worked,  Hans dreaded the thought of not having her around.

Heidi stayed in the large house for almost an hour before she returned to the car with a brilliant smile.

“Uncle Hans, I’m hired!” She bubbled as she embraced him.

Hans wanted to be happy for her, but his voice couldn’t mask his disappointment. “That’s wonderful, Heidi.” He turned on the ignition and stared ahead.

Heidi jabbered on. “Mrs. Gessler wants me to start on Wednesday.”

“That’s only two days from now!” Hans frowned.

“Yes. She said she would prefer for me start today, but she wanted to make sure my room is ready. You should see it, Uncle Hans. A huge window looks out to the backyard which is filled with wild flowers. The bed is big enough for four people! In my wildest dreams I never thought I would sleep in such a wonderful room.”

Hans raised his eyebrows. “You will live with them?”

“Yes, Uncle. The position is for a live-in nanny.” Heidi’s face brightened. “The children are adorable, and the rest of the house is as beautiful as any king’s castle. A grand piano sits in the living room!”

Hans remained silent realizing he couldn’t counter an offer the Gessler’s made to Heidi.

Heidi bubbled over. “Best of all, Mrs. Gessler is an artist. Her wonderful paintings are displayed throughout the house. When I admired a painting of a ballerina, I told her I dreamed to become a dancer. She offered to introduce me to the national ballet troupe. She serves on the Warsaw orchestra and dance company. so she promised to get me an audition! Isn’t that wonderful?”

Hans forced a smile and nodded. He didn’t want to burst Heidi’s bubble. “Yes, Heidi. It is wonderful for you. But won’t you be lonely without your family around?”

“I suppose. But three children under the age of six will keep me very busy.” Her laugh sounded like musical notes traipsing up the scale.

Hans remained silent.

“Uncle, do you not want me to take this position?”

Hans cleared his throat. “Of course not; you should take the position–” His voice trailed off. “I am being selfish. I am sad your visit proved to be so short. ” He took a breath. ” I apologize.” She reached over and touched his hand on the steering wheel. “Please do not be sad. My weekends are free when Mr. Gessler is at home. He travels during the week, so that is when Mrs. Gessler needs my help. Uncle. I can visit you and the children then.”

“I wanted to suggest you stay with us whenever you are not working.” A slice of a genuine smile formed on his face. “I love this job makes you so happy. Tell me one thing, though. Are the Gesslers Jewish people?”

“Yes, Uncle. Does that make a difference?”

“No,” he said. “I just wondered.”

Chapter 13

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August, 1939—Rosalie Lombardo’s August wedding turned out to be the biggest event of the summer. Donna Jean stayed at Josie’s house the night before the wedding, so she could help Josie with her hair and make-up.  Donna prided herself on the art of primping and preening, so she took over the challenge of enhancing Josie’s best features.

The simple floor-length butter yellow bridesmaid dresses looked beautiful on all the girls. A small slit in the back of the dress allowed for easy walking in the sheath design. The bodice rose up modestly to the neck and a demur capped sleeve covered the top of their slim arms. The girls slipped the light yellow crepe creations up over their hips and zipped the dressed closed, As they wiggled into the tight-fitting dresses, Donna Jean wondered how Rosalie’s plump sisters would look in such a fitted gown. She thought these dresses must be Rosalie’s way of getting back at her older sisters for all the grief she endured as the youngest in the family.

Holy Trinity Church opened the doors at nine thirty for the ten o’clock wedding. Angelo and Rosalie’s baptisms, first communions, and confirmation ceremonies took place in this church. The congregation watched the pair grow up in the faith. Angelo’s parents owned a flower shop and decorated the church with yellow roses on the ends of all the pews. A matching large bouquet sat on the altar.

The girls arrived at the church around half past nine. Rosalie’s Aunt Melina ushered them to the church basement and helped them pin on crowns of yellow roses and baby’s breath with silk white with yellow ribbons falling down to their waists. The attendants carried white baskets filled with yellow roses and white carnations.

Rosalie and her mother entered through the back door to the church, and Donna Jean gasped when Rosalie entered into the church in her wedding dress. Petite Rosalie wore a fitted silk and antique lace dress with a dropped waistline. An organza skirt flowed down to the floor, and when she walked, it appeared like she floated.

“Rosalie, you’re so beautiful!” Donna ran to her and gave her a hug. “You look like a bride on top of a wedding cake!”

Rosalie’s thick red hair was pulled into a pony tale at the top of her head, and thick curls cascaded down to her shoulders. A sheer white veil trimmed in antique lace fell from a tiara.

Josie stood frozen. How could this beautiful bride be the same girl who used to get stuck in apple trees and wore bandages on each knee until her twelfth birthday?

“Josie, you okay?” Rosalie asked.

The question jarred Josie into the present. “I’m fine, but you’re just so darn beautiful you take my breath away. You look like one of God’s angels.”

Rosalie blushed. “I wonder what Angelo will think when he sees me.”

Her mother gestured with her hands as she spoke in her broken English. “If that boy does not appreciate the way you look, he’s stupido and does not deserve you. I will take you home!” All five bridesmaids howled at the joke. A few seconds later a deacon rushed into the basement shushing them.

In another few minutes, the girls lined up for their entrance. The five bridesmaids walked down the long aisle on a white cloth the ushers rolled out for them. After they all reached the front of the church, the organ paused and then played  Eduardo waited in the back of the church and stared at his daughter with glistening eyes. He took her tiny gloved hand and threaded her arm through the crook of his arm. He whispered, “Sei cosbella mia figlia.” Eduardo Told Rosalie she never looked more beautiful.

“Graci, Papa.” Rosalie smiled and appeared as calm as a warm summer’s night. The congregation stood and waited for her to pass by. The first notes of “The Trumpet March,” acted as Rosalie’s cue to begin her journey down the aisle to transform from a single girl to a married woman.

A small tear teetered on the edge of Eduardo’s eyelid. He took his first step to give his daughter to another man who waited for her at the front of the church.  He smiled at friends and family who stood to witness his little Rosie change her name from Lombardo to Armani.

Angelo’s eyes stayed fixated on Rosie. He stood tall and proud in a new navy blue suit perfectly tailored to his muscular frame. He also wore a special red bow tie his mother gave him that morning. As Rosalie and Eduardo got closer, his large brown eyes widened, and he held his breath.

Eduardo stopped at the step leading to the altar. He lifted Rosalie’s veil, placed a gentle kiss on her cheek and put her hand into Angelo’s calloused hand. Eduardo turned and took his place beside his wife in the front pew. He removed his handkerchief from his inside breast pocked and dabbed his eyes. Eduardo cried through his smile. Maria’s eyes leaked too.

Angelo helped Rosalie up three more steps to stand in front of the priest. At that moment his nervousness disappeared. He waited for this day since his thirteenth birthday, and he thanked God for his beautiful bride.


Pet Therapy

The title of this blog is probably misleading, but it’s the best I’ve got this morning. I’ve had my first cup of coffee as the television keeps me company. About every third commercial had a dog or cat in it, and these ads made me think of my friends and their pets.

March 30 038Most every day I tell Ernie he is the cutest pug in the world. He’s so lovable. As you can see, he really hams it up once we put on a silly hat or other apparatus on his head. His happiest time is when he’s sitting on my lap or Ken’s lap. He is content to just be near us. At eight years old, he could care less if he plays. He doesn’t even want to chew on rawhide bones any more.

poeYesterday I visited with Jackie who took in a boy Maine Coon cat who has quite a personality. She is the process of moving and “Poe” is totally confused because she keeps eliminating his hiding places. She said he looked at her when he went to one of his favorite spots and it had vanished. He let out a loud “meow” as if to say, “What the heck?”

Then there’s my friend Kay who recently took in three stray cats to go with her one house cat. Yes, she has four cats, and no, she’s not nuts. She moved to Florida last year and has found the move more difficult than she ever imagined. I believe the universe sent her these three little boys to keep her laughing and happy. If you have cats, you know you don’t need any other entertainment when a kitten is in the house.

I think we all have these little creatures in our lives because none of us has any grandchildren. Our pets fill a deep seated need to spread our love onto some little being. We always talk about our four-legged children, catching each other up on the latest antics of our pets. A little crazy? I suppose. But that’s okay. When our animals follow us from room to room, none of us feel alone. These little souls give us unconditional love just what we all need.



Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June, 1939—A few weeks into her summer vacation, Donna Jean became bored with hanging out at the beach, listening to the radio soap opera, “Ma Perkins,” and writing in her diary. Since graduation, her father nagged her every day to go out and find a job, but Donna Jean refused. In retaliation for disobeying him, Donna’s father got physical with her. Any saucy comment resulted in a hard slap to the face.

After the Fourth of July celebration, Josie and Donna met at Joe’s Diner for a Coke and french fries.

Donna sipped her Coke. “The fireworks knocked me out! God, I think every year they get better.”

“Yeah, I love fireworks. So many colors against the dark sky. I only wish I had a boyfriend to keep me warm in the damp summer night.” Josie teased Donna.

“Just because I came with a date and you didn’t doesn’t mean you get to give me the raspberries.” Donna grinned.

Josie said in a dreamy tone. “I can’t believe in six weeks I’ll be off to college.”

“At least you got to enjoy a little bit this summer. Rumors at Joe’s tell you and Bobby did some sparking in the cornfield.”

“You bad girl. I did nothing of the sort.” Josie blushed.

“Josie, you aren’t as pure as you pretend to be. ‘Fess up.”

“I won’t ‘fess up.  Bobby just helped me get the tractor started when the old thing stalled in the middle of the field. That’s all. Nothing happened.”

“Oh, really.” Donna didn’t believe a word.

“Yes. Really. Besides, he’s too old for me. Good looking, I’ll admit. But too old.” Josie got a dreamy look on her face.

“You realized with that dreamy look you just confessed the rumors are true, don’t you?”  Donna said with confidence.

“You and your gossip. One of these days you’re really going to hurt someone by spreading stories that aren’t true.”

“I’ll never hurt you, Josie.” Donna said seriously. “You’re my best friend.”

“Then as your best friend, I’m telling you the truth. Nothing is going on with Bobby.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll drop the subject.” Donna Jean said. “After graduation I vowed I would enjoy my summer and not look for work until you left for school.” Donna never talked about her father’s abuse.


“Well, right now I’m bored. I can’t be with you because you’re working on the farm. So, how would you feel if I got a job?  I’m going stir crazy with all this alone time.”

“I think you should go for it. I’m surprised you think you need my permission to go to work, especially with the way you like new clothes and shoes. I’m surprised your Dad hasn’t kicked you out of the house by now.”

“Gee. Thanks.” Donna pouted.

“Go get the best job you can, Donna, and I’ll be very proud of you.” Josie said.

Donna said, “First thing Monday morning I’ll be out pounding the pavement, but right now, let’s go down by your pond and skinny dip for a while.”

Josie jumped out of the booth and headed for the door. “Last one to the pond is a dumb blond!”


Donna Jean started her job search early Monday morning. She dressed in her navy blue “career girl” dress, a pair of sensible high heels, and a smart hat to make a good impression. She submitted applications with the city’s biggest employers including Autolite, Allis Chalmers, Northern Engraving, and G. Heileman Brewing. Several of the personnel managers gave her a typing and shorthand test. All day she filled out applications and other paperwork as she walked from one company to the next. By evening the soles of her feet burned, and she acquired a couple of blisters on her heels.

Three days after visiting G. Heileman Brewing, Donna received a phone call from the personnel manager. He told her she scored high on both the typing and the shorthand tests, and he wanted to meet with her for a more informative interview. Donna maintained a calm voice as she spoke with the manager, but the second she hung up the phone, she jumped and screamed, “Mom! G. Heileman wants to interview me!” She grabbed her mother and whirled her around the kitchen. ”

Her mother frowned and broke Donna’s hold. “Don’t get your hopes up. You’re  not as good as you think you are, young lady. At least now I your father might stop screaming at you.” She walked into the living room.

“Gee, thanks, Mom.” Donna’s eyes moistened. Why did her mother enjoy bursting her bubble?

Chapter 9

Berlin, Germany — July 1939—Heidi sat in the kitchen with a glass of milk and piece of strudel as she dreamed about escaping Germany and getting on with her life in a different country. The nanny position might be a good experience. She loved children. She enjoyed teaching and caring for them, and she even didn’t mind doing some light housework, if required by her employer. A job in Poland would also give her a chance to meet some boys who didn’t fall under the spell of the Nazis.

Since she spoke with her mother about working in Poland, Heidi got more excited about leaving home. She went to the library and read about their neighboring country and wrote a letter to her Warsaw cousins. The day she received a reply from her Uncle Hans inviting her for a visit, she and her mother went straight to the train station to buy a ticket.

Heidi’s father didn’t think his daughter should be influenced by  the inferior Poles. He never understood why his brother didn’t return to Germany after his Polish wife died, but Heidi’s enthusiasm to see her uncle and cousins made denying her difficult. But at least she didn’t talk about dancing so much any more.

Heidi kept her eyes on her parents through the train window as the train pulled away from the station. Her father put his arms around her mother as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. For a second, Heidi wondered if she shouldn’t take the trip.

When her parents faded away, Heidi pulled out a book from her bag and began to read in Polish. At an early age her father insisted she speak two languages, so she learned Polish. Learning a new language was fun, so Heidi learned French and English too.

Between children screaming and the jostling of the train, Heidi didn’t sleep the entire ten hours of the trip. She thanked God the train trip ended as she stepped onto the Warsaw train station platform. All around her other languages bombarded her; and her fear of speaking Polish and making a mistake when asking for directions scared her. All of a sudden crippling shyness took over. How strange to hear foreign words. Before she could understand the conversations around her, she needed to translate each word into German. And because the native speakers talked fast, she fell behind and got lost.

Out of the din, a man shouted in German, “Heidi-hier dren!”

She turned around to see a man waving. When she studied his face, she realized he must be her Uncle Hans. His image matched the photograph her father kept on the mantel at home.

“Uncle Hans!” Heidi shouted and ran toward him.

The tall man with bushy eyebrows took her bag. “Did you enjoy your trip?”

“No.  I am so tired. Between the train noise, passengers talking, and children screaming, the journey proved difficult to sleep.”

“Perhaps you are just a little bit nosy to block them out?” Her uncle teased and chuckled.

She laughed with him. “Perhaps a little.”

He escorted her to a waiting car with three children in the backseat. “Heidi, these are your Warsaw cousins – Gertruda, Michal, and Anka.”

Heidi said with a broad smile, “Hello everyone.”

Anka spoke first in German. “We are very glad you are here, Heidi. Father told us about where you live.”

Then Michal said, “Yes. Papa told us that you live in Berlin. What is the city like?”

Gertruda, the youngest said. “Papa said you are a dancer. Will you teach me?”

Heidi appeared a bit flustered at the bombardment of questions.

Her uncle came to her rescue. “Heidi is very tired. How about we let her rest and after dinner she can answer all of your questions.”

“All right, Papa.” They said in unison and settled into the backseat.

Heidi sat forward in the passenger seat to avoid their disappointed faces.

Hans smiled as he drove home.



Love Keeps Me Going

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Very good mademoiselle.”

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

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

“That sounds lovely. And tomorrow?”

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

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

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

Marta nodded.

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

“Yes, Mutter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I understand.” Her mother nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Another Goodbye

Yesterday I blogged about saying goodbye to Betty my surrogate mother. Attending her wake was so important to me because her daughter was one of my best friends ever.

Today I have to say another goodbye, This time I needed to admit my favorite pair of sandals finally needed to be retired.

I bought the red Ecco sandals fifteen years ago in Chicago. I found myself in a high-end store when the little vixens called to me from across the room. When I slipped my right foot into the shoe, my foot sent messages to my brain not to leave the store without these bright red cuties. The only thing holding me back from buying them was the price: $85.

Long story short, I walked out of the store with the new sandals cradling my feet. And yes, I did pay for them, sort of. I put the expense on a charge card.

Every summer I look forward to exposing my toes in these favorite pair of sandals. I’ve received more compliments on them than any other purchase I’ve ever made. Through the years these shoes have accumulated dirty, sweat, and hundreds of walking miles, but I didn’t care. These sandals became old friends, and I accepted them with the flaws I inflicted upon them.

Yesterday I found pieces of black rubber on the new carpet. At first I thought Ken’s wheelchair blew a tire, but no, the rubber came from the soles of my worn pals. Time took its toll. I could no longer wear these shoes because quite literally they were falling apart. I felt like holding a wake for my dear soles, but no, that would be ridiculous. Instead I slipped them off; carried them to the kitchen, and dropped them into the trash with a heavy heart.

Parting with these shoes left my feet bare and alone. I doubt whether I’ll ever find another pair to take their place. None of my six remaining pairs of sandals have been able to provide the comfort of my old Eccos. The remainder of the summer might be tough.



Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June—Angelo presented Rosie a sweet little bungalow on Main Street as her graduation present.  He reclaimed a run down dwelling and renovated it into a sweet little home for newlyweds. The living room faced south, so during any season the sun would stream into the room giving  the house a sense of coziness. The two small bedrooms sat at the back of the house, and an unfinished bedroom located on the second floor might be completed after children came along.  Angelo and a group of his friends put a new roof on the house and painted the outside white. He made red shutters for each window and Rosalie thought the house mirrored a dollhouse she loved as a little girl.

Angelo wanted the best for his girl, so he equipped the kitchen with the latest gas kitchen range and a small Philco refrigerator. He refinished oak cupboards which lined two of the four walls and installed a white Formica countertop that sat over the lower cupboards. Angelo hoped the modern appliances and bright space might encourage Rosalie to start taking cooking serious.

Angelo left the inside decorating to Rosalie. When she saw the blank canvas of white walls, Rosalie saw the home’s potential. She envisioned how she would wallpaper the master bedroom, paint the living room and dining room shades of warm beige and cover the hardwood floor with a colorful area rug. For now, the white kitchen would be perfect with bright red cafe curtains.

The month after graduation and before their wedding, the couple spent every waking hour putting finishing touches on their love nest. The closer the house came to completion Angelo and Rosalie itched to move in and begin their life together.

At the same time the couple worked on their house, Eduardo spruced up the restaurant for the upcoming wedding reception with a coat of fresh paint. He showed Rosalie how he would arrange the tables around the periphery of the room to provide enough dancing room. Eduardo could let his little girl marry so young because Angelo proved to be a good, hard-working man who loved his daughter more than himself.

Rosalie’s mother Maria and her two sisters spent their time sewing the bridesmaid dresses and baking dozens of special Italian treats for the reception. Mary Ann, Rosalie’s closest sister insisted on making her a three-tiered wedding cake decorated with yellow roses and white icing to match Rosalie’s wedding colors. Angelo only insisted the cake be chocolate.

Most people in town made Rosalie’s acquaintance when she greeted people at the door of her father’s restaurant. Her smile warmed the crustiest of customers. Along with Angelo’s reputation of a good, helpful boy who achieved the Eagle Scout Award in Boy Scouts made him favorable with the townspeople too.  Everyone got caught up in their young love story and wanted to come to the wedding.

Josie, Donna Jean, and two other bridesmaids, hosted a bridal shower for Rosalie at the Schneider farm. The girls thought of everything to make the event delightful. They decorated the Schneider’s living room with white and yellow crepe paper streamers. White balloons hung from the ceiling by invisible fishing line.

They planned silly games to warm up the guests. Before lunch the guests played “Take-away Bingo” and “Pin the ring on Angelo” blindfold game. Winning guests walked away with beautifully embroidered pillowcases and knitted slippers.

The food included tantalizing finger sandwiches, fruit and potato salads, and relishes. The cupcakes decorated like little wedding cakes made a big hit with the guests. Lunch came between the game and the opening of the gifts.

Rosalie radiated beauty in a pale green dress. She tied her long, lush red hair in a thick pony tail with a green ribbon which matched the ribbon tied around her eighteen-inch waist. She used a soft touch of pale pink lipstick to highlight her small lips. Everyone thought she would make a beautiful bride, even though she still appeared too young to be married.

Rosalie fussed over every gift she opened–even the rolls of toilet tissue and Kleenex some of her classmates brought. Her mother gave her the new cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer as a kind of gag gift because people understood Rosalie couldn’t boil water. Josie’s brother Peter brought in a side table he found in the attic and refinished the furniture to a beautiful new luster. Other gifts for the kitchen and bathroom included sheets, pillow cases, wash cloths, and towels. She also received cast iron skillets, dishes, and glasses to equip her kitchen.

Rosalie saved Josie and Donna Jean’s gift for last. After she untied the yellow ribbon on the shirt box, she never dreamed of what could be inside. She lifted a sexy white silk and lace honeymoon negligee. Rosalie turned bright pink as Donna Jean said, “Admire it now, Rosalie, because once Angelo sees you wearing it, the negligee will be off in a second.”

The married women laughed loudly, while the high school friends blushed.

When the party came to an end, Rosalie gave her friends a big hug. “You two are wonderful! How can I ever thank you?”

Donna Jean teased. “Introduce me to Angelo’s brother Tony and we’ll call it even!”

Rosalie laughed. “Tony is not the boy for you, Donna. He’s a playboy. Not serious.”

“Who wants serious? I want to dance and enjoy a good time. Tony’s perfect! Did you ever look at his eyes? Having a gorgeous Italian hunk on my arm complements any outfit.” Donna giggled.

“I will talk to Angelo.” Rosalie promised.

“What good will that do? All he wants to do is marry you and make babies.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, sweetie. He’s perfect for you.” Donna smiled and hugged her friend.

Chapter 5

Berlin to Paris 1939—Marta and her cousin Emma woke before dawn to board the train to Paris. Marta’s parents drove the girls to the train station and stood on the platform waving until the train disappeared from sight. Only then Marta relaxed back into her seat and took a deep breath. Free at last she thought. Between the party events and excitement of her trip to France, made getting to sleep impossible for Marta.

Emma looked at the bloodshot eyes of her younger cousin and suggested they go back to their berth and get some sleep. Marta nodded and followed Emma down a down a long, skinny hallway. The train rocked like a ship on small squalls causing the girls to bump into the wall a couple of times. When they arrived at their berth,  Marta hung their coats in the closet, slipped off her shoes, and crawled into the upper slim bed hanging off the wall. Marta lay down, closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. The soothing motion of the train let her reflect on last night’s encounter with Franz.

He cleverly cornered her in the backyard as the sun dipped into the horizon. “Marta-please, I waited all day to get you alone for a few minutes.”

“Franz,” she teased, “Father doesn’t approve of us being alone together.” She wagged her finger at him. “He doesn’t trust you, you bad boy.”

Franz’s patience waned. “Oh yeah? Miss smarty pants. Then why would he permit me to give you this?” The tall blonde boy extended his hand and dropped a small red velvet box in her hand.

“What is this?” She said surprised.

“My graduation gift.” He paused. “But before you open my gift, you must answer one question.” Franz got down on one knee.

Marta gasped when she realized his intention.  “Oh Franz–”

“Marta, I love you now and I will always love you. I will be a good provider for you and our children. Marry me, Marta.”

She searched his pleading blue eyes and wanted to run. She didn’t want to break his heart, but she wanted no part of his proposal. “Franz.” She gulped as she opened the box. Her jaw dropped as she viewed a beautiful emerald cut diamond set in eighteen-carat gold. A large diamond sat in the center of the ring surrounded by blue sapphire stones. “Oh, Franz–it is so beautiful. The ring is too much. I cannot accept this now.”

“Of course you can. I guarantee the ring will be more beautiful on your hand than in the box. Let me slip it on.”  He grinned.

She said, “You are probably right.” And then she closed the box with a snap. “But I cannot accept such a gift or proposal right now. Perhaps when I get back from France, we can talk more about an engagement.” She thought such a comment would smooth things over between them.

Franz couldn’t believe Marta would turn him down. His voice took on a tone of authority. “Put the ring on, Marta.”

“What? You are commanding me?” Her voice ended on a shrill note.” Listen, Franz, I am going to France in the morning for the entire summer. In the fall you will enter the army academy. We should really consider this later.”

His stubbornness showed as he clenched his jaw and his eyes grew icy blue. He promised himself he would get a “yes” out of her one way or another. “Your parents blessed our union when I spoke to your father a month ago. We can be wed in September before I leave for the academy. Your mother will plan the wedding during your time in Paris. We will be the talk of Berlin!”

“You spoke about this with my parents before me?”

He didn’t want an argument and his face took on the hardness of granite. “Yes. I understand your father makes the decision in such matters.”

Marta’s rage rose in her chest. “That is what you think! How dare you! You think you can marry me and then hop off to school with your Nazi pals? Never!”

His anger bubbled up in his throat. “Your father assured me you can live at home while I am gone.”

“Oh, is that so?” Her anger burned, but she needed to be cautious. “I will not say yes, Franz. We both will change a great deal before autumn comes. You probably won’t want me when I return.”

“How do you think we will change in only three months?”

“Being exposed to more of the world can do that to a person. I realize I will be a different person after living in Paris. Surely you understand.”

“How can you be so cruel? You go away for the entire summer, leaving me alone with my comrades and now you will not make a promise of marriage to me?”

“I cannot Franz. No.” She tried to give him the ring back, but he waved her away.

“I will make you a good husband, Marta. You must have some feelings for me.” His voice quavered, but a German man would not cry.

“No, Franz. I do not. Since you joined “the party” you changed. You used to be a good friend. Now you are bossy and all you talk about is politics, soldiering, and the ‘New Germania.’ I find the talk boring.”

“Be careful of what you say, Marta. People have landed in jail for less. Don’t you realize Germany will rule the world?”

Marta mustered all of her resolve to keep her voice soft. “Franz, clearly we do not belong together. We look at life differently. How can you even think of marriage when we never courted? We never even kissed.”

“What?  A kiss? I did my best to respect you all of this time and now you tell me you want a kiss!” He shouted the last word with a hiss.

“Yes. A boy shows his girl affection with a kiss. A boy’s kiss unveils how a girl feels about him. I’ve never had that chance with you.” She spoke in a hushed voice.

“Okay then.” Franz grabbed her shoulders with both hands, thrust his face into hers, and pulled her thin body to him with a punishing grip. He pressed his lips to hers with the force of a bulldozer.

She pushed him away with all of her strength and slapped his face. “You are nothing but a bully, Franz. Take your damn ring and get out of here. I never want to lay eyes on you again.” She heaved the ring box across the yard and ran toward the house with tears streaming down her face. Why would he think I would every marry him? I want tenderness. He possesses none. I want someone to care for me. He won’t. He is just a brute dressed in a uniform. I hate him!           

Franz stood stunned by Marta’s behavior. He didn’t chase after her as she ran away. Instead he stood paralyzed. He hated himself for letting his temper get the best of him. He assured himself no one else could see him crossing the yard to retrieve the small red box. Why would she do this to me? Does she not realize how she drives me crazy? Does she not understand one day I will be a decorated soldier and make her proud? I want to give her the world and she turns me down. Any woman would kill to be with me.


Klaus sat in the parlor of the house when Marta burst through the door crying. He expected her to be ecstatic with Franz’s proposal.

He rose from his chair and met her before she went up to her room. “Things did not go well with Franz?”

She screamed. “He is a brute, Vater!”

“What? What did he do?”

She sobbed. “He kissed me–hard!”

“Well engaged couples usually seal the deal with a kiss. Your Mutter and I did.” Klaus said with a soft voice.

“Did you force yourself on Mutter?”


“Well Franz did. I never want to lay eyes on him again. You keep me away from me!”

“You misinterpreted his actions, Marta. Franz loves you. He comes from a fine family, and he will be an important part of the party. He is accepted for the SS. He will make you proud.”

“No, father. Franz Reinhart is not the man for me.”

“But this is your chance to become someone important, Marta. You cannot pass up this opportunity, Leibster. Be sensible.”

“No! I will not marry such a man!” She ran up stairs to her bedroom.

Klaus Schmidt appeared dumbfounded as he muttered, “As long as I live I will never understand girls.”



It’s Always Too Soon to Say Goodbye

Yesterday I attended the wake for my surrogate mother. Her daughter Debbie and I got acquainted during the summer of 1965, and soon we were together most every waking hour. We usually met at Debbie’s house because of my mother’s constant warning, “SHHHH, get out of here; your father doesn’t feel good.” On top of that in so many words she proclaimed Debbie was a girl not up to my standards. Needless to say, my mother made many bad decisions and I just went on being friends with Debbie.

Deb helped me scale the fears of going to a BIG junior high school. For eight years I sat in one room at a parochial school and studied everything from art to math. Just thinking of changing rooms between classes brought on a cold sweat. At the new public school there were no uniforms, so I also spent my summer sewing new dresses wondering if I would fit in with the rest of the girls. On the first day of school, I got panicky when I went to find my ride home in a sea of twenty or more buses lined up at the school curbs.  But Deb found me and saved the day. She got me on the right bus so I didn’t have to drop a dime to call my mother and admit failure.

Four months later, I broke my tibia in a tobogganing accident at Girl Scout Camp and my world fell apart. I had the lead to the school musical, and lost my fame in a split second when we hit a tree on a snowy hill. My childhood dream included singing on Broadway someday, so this accident was devastating. I spent four and a half months in a toe to hip cast and needed to recuperate at home. But once again, Debbie came to the rescue. She visited me everyday bringing stories about school activities and friends to keep me in touch. She was my lifeline.

We carried our close friendship through high school and afterwards, and her parents treated me like one of their own. Her father called me, “Miss Barbie” and soon the whole family chimed in christening me with that special name. With the death of Debbie’s mother, her father, and both of my parents, I truly feel like an orphan.

I realize we are not built to live forever, but when the people we love leave the earth, it’s always too soon. I’m lucky Debbie is still here and after many years of separation, we’ve vowed to close the gap. We still need each other.


BOOK TWO – 1939

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Lacrosse, Wisconsin — June — Josie, Donna, and Rosalie entered their school proudly wearing robes and mortarboards. Rosalie wore a beautiful rose on the lapel.

“Did Angelo give you that?” Donna Jean purred.

“No. Papa did.”

Josie and Donna Jean said, “Awww–he’s so sweet.” Both wished their fathers showed affection like Eduardo always did toward Rosalie.

“I wish Papa wouldn’t,” Rosalie said, “I’m a freak; nobody else is wearing a corsage.”

“Shame on you, Rosie. Your father loves you so much; he’s just showing you how proud he is of you. Remember, he never got a chance to go to high school.” Josie said.

Rosalie nodded. “I guess you’re right.”

The principal Mr. Cameron blew a whistle to get the attention of the fifty graduates. “Class, line up like we practiced yesterday!” Boys and girls assumed their position in a long line. The school band played Pomp and Circumstance announcing the procession should begin.

As class valedictorian, Josie led her class into the gymnasium. With every step she told herself not to be nervous, but a flock of butterflies suddenly woke up in her stomach. Her heart pounded against her ribs, and her hands sweated. Her feet grew heavy, like she waded through thick, wet, mud.

Josie took her place on the stage and gazed out at her friends. She sat when the last student took his seat.

The program began with Donna singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” After the audience sat, the principal greeted everyone. When he introduced Josie, she rose on rubbery legs and walked the few steps to the podium. She grabbed the sides of the lectern to steady herself, cleared her throat, and began her final words to her classmates.

“Fellow students, esteemed faculty, family, friends and guests. Today we leave this safe, comfortable school as changed people. We will travel different roads during the next few years. A few of us already understand where those roads will take us. Others will go on a journey of discovery. The most important thing about today is from this day forward, we will start to live our OWN lives.

Our childhood is over. Our parents are no longer responsible for us. We are now responsible for the world we will live in. But none of us came this far without help. In  my case, and through the love and support of my father and mother, I will attend the University of Minnesota in the fall. Others of you will enter the workforce which makes our country strong. And still others will get married and add new citizens to our lovely community.

 What I’m trying to say is this: To be here today, we all walked on the shoulders of many caring people. Our parents provided for us and encouraged us; our teachers taught us skills and gave us tools we’ll need as we make our mark in the world, and our friends supported us in their own special ways.

 School days will be remembered fondly. We worked, yes, but we also enjoyed bond fires, the pep rallies before football games, the special dances, school plays, and other events throughout the year. I hope your days at Lacrosse High School provided sweet memories for all of you. My memories are burned into my heart.

Remember this: we will never be sheltered like we are here. No place will ever nurture us like high school has. We will never be at home like we are in this place.  The world will be exciting, but it also can be cruel. I sincerely hope you will experience more of the former than of the latter.

 So graduates of 1939 go forward and show the world what you are made of. You all possess something unique to contribute. We are fervent in our endeavors and our country will remain strong because of you. May God walk with you as you explore your future!”

Students shouted and rose to their feet. Josie descended from the stage and took her place with her classmates. Busting pride replaced her earlier fear.  Her high school graduation proved to be the greatest day of her life.


Even though Josie enjoyed her high school graduation, as the hot summer wore on she became antsy to begin her new career as a college student. Since receiving her acceptance letter from the University of Minneapolis, she walked on air. A new life waited for her one hundred miles from home. Attending college would be her first experience of being so far from her family and friends for any length of time. Her excitement and fear of the future seemed equally balanced.

Josie and Donna Jean vowed to spend as much time together as they could before Josie left. With her wedding only a month away, Rosalie couldn’t promise because so many last minute details filled her days. Eduardo dropped his animosity toward Angelo when the boy asked for his permission to marry Rosalie. When Eduardo witnessed the love Angelo gave to his precious daughter, her realized the boy would walk through fire to protect his daughter.

On one hand, Donna and Josie envied Rosalie because she had chosen the pathway for her life. She loved Angelo more than her own life and they would someday raise a family.  Josie and Donna wanted to explore professional careers before settling down with anyone but they both wished their future could be more nailed down. Exploring the unknown comes with corresponding uncertainty.


Donna Jean dated Danny Peterson throughout the summer. They danced to the big bands that came to town; they went to the movies most every weekend and afterward went to Lookout Point to “watch the submarine races.” Donna never dreamed about marrying Danny, even though her parents made it clear she would be on her own after graduation.

Donna graduated at the head of her class in business skills of typing and shorthand. Her father nagged her to go out and find a job the night of graduation. But Donna had no intention of wasting her summer in a stuffy office. She learned at an early age she possessed strong powers of verbal persuasion, so she cleverly argued finding work in September would be easier because every month that passed, the depressed U. S. economy improved. Her father couldn’t argue with statistic; after years of part time work, he once again found himself working a forty hour week. President Roosevelt’s New Deal seemed to be working.

Chapter 3

Berlin, Germany-June—When Marta received her Abitur certificate – the designation for the successful completion of her secondary education–she wondered what she would do next. Her mother encouraged her to sit for the final exam to receive the official document Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife-which included a graduation certificate and a university entrance exam. Any girl who went beyond secondary education proved to be a rare gem, so Marta promised her parents she would pass the exam and enter Berlin University after she spent her summer in Paris.


Marta masked her feelings with a broad smile as she endured the kisses and well wishes of family and hordes of Nazi officials at her graduation celebration. To her the graduation party seemed to be more of an instrument for her father to exploit his importance in the Nazi party than a graduation celebration for Marta. Leisel’s party proved to be the same in this regard.  Like Marta’s father, Leisel’s father also rose in the ranks quickly.

Marta’s excused her father’s pandering to the ranks because he approved her up-coming trip to France. Of course he did so with a great flourish during the party. On top of that, Klaus presented Marta with an eighteen carat gold “Love Knot” lapel pin. Accompanying the gift, he wrote a short note: “When you wear this pin, remember my love for you.” Both gifts were bestowed on her in front of the horde of Nazi strangers. Marta wondered if her father cherished the feeling of being a big shot more than celebrating her accomplishments. As a dutiful daughter, she stood on her tiptoes and thanked Klaus with a hug. He stiffened as his daughter showed emotion in front of his cronies.