My Last Thanksgiving at Mom’s

“The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!” ~ Anne Frank

Even though I was in my own home, sitting in my own bedroom, I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t like the atmosphere that was in the air, the tone that was suddenly being set. It was dirty and I could hear it and it made me feel uneasy.

My bedroom didn’t have a door. It seemed like every bedroom I had in all the apartments growing up on Magnolia Avenue, it was always my bedroom that never had the door. The only privacy I ever had came from a makeshift sheet that was usually tacked up with a bunch of nails. This was always my bedroom door. There was never any way to block out the noise from the other rooms. There was never any knocking to announce that someone wanted to come in. Instead of twisting a doorknob to enter, it was always a sweep of the arm to push the curtain aside. There was never any privacy. My bedroom appeared to have been built as an afterthought, as drywall was slapped up into the main living room to try and create another room – my bedroom. However, the wall was never completed. At the end of the wall there was a small area of approximately four feet tall by one foot wide that wasn’t drywalled, as if they had plans to tuck something within the space. Not wanting to have a gaping hole looking into my room, I took a very large board and placed it up against the hole. I drew the “Love Is” characters on it so that it didn’t look unfinished. The board didn’t cover the hole completely, but it worked enough. Once again, my privacy as a young teenager was sacrificed.

Thanksgiving was upon us and my mother was at the grocery store buying food for Thanksgiving Day dinner. Mom had received her welfare check and she was buying groceries to fill the cabinets and fridge for the holiday. This usually meant we would have a treat of chocolate chip cookies or Neapolitan ice cream. We would also have a fat turkey for Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings, canned cranberry sauce, breaded stuffing that would be made from scratch and, eventually, shoved up the turkey’s tush to cook all day. Mom would make real mashed potatoes and not instant like we normally ate. Corn from the can that tasted more like tin than corn, salad, which consisted of only lettuce, drenched in Miracle Whip salad dressing. Dinner would end with a store-bought pumpkin pie with a dollop of cool whip. This menu was a yearly traditional meal that we all looked forward to having. Mom took her grocery list and food stamps and was off to the store to buy all the holiday fixings.

Mom asked me to stay home. She asked me to wash the dishes that were in the kitchen sink while she was at the store. I hated washing the dishes, mostly, because mom never bought normal dish washing soap. Trying to save her pennies, we washed our dishes with laundry detergent. The soap would never dissolve properly and I felt as if I was washing the dishes with pellets of sand. My brothers weren’t at home. Most likely, they were with their friends playing a game of tag football at Truman College, which we lived almost directly behind. I was left at home with Melvin and a man named Butch. Butch was a family friend, who we met and knew while living in another building years before on Sheridan Avenue. I remember Butch having two daughters, Maria and Sonia, both which seemed to have been slightly off not only in the looks department, but in the personality department as well. Maria and Sonia were mentally challenged to a degree and both lived in a home that offered assistance to their kind. On occasion, they would come to visit their father, spending the weekend with him. They were larger women and they always sat outside on the building’s front stoop. Maria, the redhead, was mean and feisty, while Sonia, the brunette, was more easy-going. Her personality was much softer. She would sit there and play barbies with me. Once, Maria picked me up and literally tossed me into the air and across the sidewalk. I fell into the dirt and landed on my knees. She said I was in her way, therefore, she decided to toss me like a ragdoll so she can get down the front steps. Their father, Butch was short and chubby himself, looked like he had no teeth when he talked and always wore his hair short, like a crew cut. He seemed to have a stuttering problem, where his words took forever to say. His wardrobe consisted of only white T-shirts and Dago T’s. I always found Butch to be on the feminine side, especially by the way he talked and presented himself. He was very flamboyant and liked to dance around the room to his radio. It was hard for me to picture him as a father. I would listen in on conversations between mom and Melvin, where they would comment that Butch was a queer and would suck a dick a mile long. I was old enough to understand what that meant. He liked men. However, it was obvious that he had a relationship with a woman at one point in time because he had two daughters. Butch also had a brother named John. He seemed to be the normal one of the family, that is until I woke up one morning when I was younger and saw him boinkin’ my mother on the side of the bed. Waking up from sleeping on the floor in our one-room apartment, I asked her what was she doing. She told me to lie down and go back to sleep, which is exactly what I did and I never mentioned it again. It seemed like this family, John, the girls and, in particular, Butch, had followed us from neighborhood to neighborhood and somehow was always in our lives from the time we lived on Sheridan throughout the time we lived on Magnolia. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I do now. Now that I was older, I knew exactly what was going on, especially between Butch and Melvin.

I had finished up washing the dishes. I wanted to get back to my room and not be around Melvin whatsoever. The utter sight of him made my skin crawl. Him sitting there in his recliner chair, smoking, polluting the air that I breathe, wearing his creepy little shorts. I even noticed that they were hiked up more than usual that day. Melvin and Butch were watching TV. They were eerily quiet and said little to me. Leaving the kitchen, I crossed their path, walking back into my room. Even though I had no bedroom door to shut me out of their existence, I felt relieved to know I was in my own space. Standing in my room, I was in front of my own TV, flipping channels and trying to pass the time until mom got home. She had just left for the store and I wished that she were back home already. Melvin and Butch were in the living room. The living room consisted of two twin beds, which was sort of set up as a bedroom, with the beds up against the walls. It seems like we never had a formal living room either. Most likely, because mom and Melvin could only afford a one-bedroom apartment and my brothers always got the bedroom… and the door! As Melvin sat in his recliner chair, Butch was sitting on the edge of one of the beds, the one closest to Melvin. I could hear both of them starting to talk, their voices low, almost whispering, as if they were trying to hide what they were saying. I started to get that uncomfortable feeling again, that same feeling as when I knew Melvin was about to touch me, my breasts and, eventually, my vagina. I felt like I was in the middle of something that was wrong, something that shouldn’t be happening. As I stood in front of my TV, I turned down the volume slightly so I could hear what was going on in the other room. I was hesitant with my thoughts. I was hoping I didn’t hear what I thought I did. In between the whispers, there were noises coming from their room. They were sexual. I started to make noise of my own in my room, moving things around my dresser, banging books, trying to remind them both that I was still in the house and only a few steps away. I was hoping that they would stop whatever they had started. Did it work, I thought? Unfortunately not. They both ignored me, as if I was the Wizard of Oz himself… “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Moments later, they continued with their groping one another. By this time, I was so uneasy with them being there that I yelled from my bedroom, “You two better stop because I can hear everything that you’re doing!” Silence filled the living room once again. When is mom getting home, I thought. For some reason I knew that they would stop once she got home, as I knew what they were doing was behind her back. They probably couldn’t wait for her to leave. On the other hand, did mom know what they were doing and, most likely have been doing, for years? Is this why she asked me to stay home with them, in hopes that they wouldn’t do anything with each other while I was in the apartment? I had a strong feeling that mom knew many of the inappropriate and crude things Melvin was doing, but just kept them all to herself.

I heard them start-up again. I could hear the wet noises coming from their privates, the slapping of skin back and forth. I could hear their whispers. By their conversation, I was under the impression that Butch couldn’t get it up, as Melvin kept asking him, “Are you sure you don’t have to go to the bathroom? Well, let me try again.” With that comment, I had heard enough. Swinging open my curtain, I stepped out into the living room. Melvin and Butch did some shuffling with a jacket that lay over Butch’s lap. I told them that they were both sick fucks and didn’t they realize that I was just in the other room? I also told them that I was going to find mom and tell her what was going on and what they were doing. With that, I stormed out of the apartment and headed to the grocery store up on Sheridan and Montrose, where I knew mom was shopping. Was Melvin nervous that his dirty little secret would be exposed? Did he even care?

As I ran to the grocery store in late November, I realized that I should have worn a jacket, as it was quite chilly outside. However, I left the apartment so quickly that I didn’t even think. I just knew that I needed to get out of there. As I was racing to reach the grocery store, my mind was having a race all its own, thinking of what I had just witnessed back at the apartment. Why can’t I have a normal life? Why do I have to live the way I do? Why do I have to run looking for my mother and report to her what I had just witnessed? Would she believe me? I never ever shared with mom the sexual abuse that Melvin did to me. Not only did Melvin like little girls, he also liked older men. Would this open up something that I knew was going to be just awful? I didn’t want her to know what Melvin had done to me. I didn’t want to disrupt our already dysfunctional life any more than it was. I didn’t want to be in trouble. I rehearsed in my mind how I was going to tell mom once I found her in the store, that Melvin was having sex with another man and while I was only in the other room.

I felt like I was running a marathon, as I ran down Montrose Avenue, past Racine, Clifton, then underneath the El tracks and then finally past Kenmore. Just up ahead there was the Jewel grocery store on Sheridan Avenue where mom was picking out a turkey for a family dinner. A dinner where we were all to sit down and be thankful that we were together, a family that doesn’t harm or fault one another, a family that doesn’t allow sexual abuse in their lives, even though I knew it was all lies.

As I walked around the store, I took a look down each of the aisles looking for mom. One after another, I knew she had to still be in the store somewhere. Finally, I found her. By the look on her face, I could tell that she was surprised to see me there, especially since she left me at home. She could tell from my own face that I was upset. I began to get angry, which made me start to cry. All my emotions were trying to spill out all at once. I tried to keep my voice down and explain to her what was happening back at home. The more I talked, the more upset I got. I told her that Melvin and Butch were doing things to each other in the living room and that they knew I was in the bedroom. She told me to stay with her, as we went to check out and buy the cart of groceries.

Mom hailed a yellow taxi, where we put all the groceries into his trunk. I remember sitting inside the cab, with its huge bench seat from window to window, looking out the window, trying to anticipate what was going to happen once we got home. Instructing the driver where to go, mom and I didn’t say a word all the way home. The palm of my hands were sweaty, as I rubbed them against my pants. My heart began to pound faster, as we pulled up in front of our building. We unloaded the groceries from the trunk and made our way up the stairs and into the apartment. Once inside, we both realized that Butch was gone. He left, leaving Melvin sleeping in one of the beds in the living room. Mom instructed me to put the groceries away, while she sat on the other bed, lighting up a cigarette. I could see her sitting there, puffing away madly, as she watched Melvin sleep and half-undressed, her head sagging low. I went into my room shortly after I was done putting all the groceries away. The silence was nerving, so I turned on my TV. I never heard another word again about the incident that happened that one holiday afternoon. I don’t know if mom ever confronted Melvin about the situation or if she kept everything to herself. Most likely, if she had brought it up to him, he would have denied it, calling me a lying whore. However, if I knew my mother, she didn’t open her mouth whatsoever. She didn’t like to confront Melvin, as he was abusive and violent. Surely, this was one of her own secret tortures within. Oh, how that asshole controlled her.

That year, Thanksgiving had come and gone, without a word being said of what had happened just days before. We continued on with our holiday meal as if we were the perfect family, smiling, laughing and joking. As we sat at the table pretending as if nothing was wrong, I would try to make my brothers giggle during grace. Grace consisted of just a few generic words. We never said grace at any other meal except for Thanksgiving. “God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” Done. As my brothers would recite the grace, I would extend my legs underneath the table, so my naked toes would reach their side of the table. As their heads were bowed low and praying, my toes would creep up from underneath the table, where they would be just inches away from their faces. Their eyes closed, my toes danced directly under their noses, wiggling them back and forth, slightly skimming the tip of their noses. We tried not to laugh out loud because the atheist in the room would have gotten pissed off because we were giggling during grace.

Melvin had sexually abused me when I was younger and it was a dirty little secret that only he and I knew. However, that day with Butch, I learned of Melvin’s other dirty little secret; that he liked to fuck men, too. Sadly, it appeared that mom had her own secrets of Melvin already scared deep within her mind that she kept there until one afternoon where she no longer could.

I found mom sitting on the back porch one summer afternoon. I came home and, as I always did, I asked my usual question… “Where is Melvin?” It was a pleasure when he wasn’t around. The atmosphere was more at ease, my brothers and I were more at ease, comfortable, as we didn’t have to whisper or walk on eggshells, tiptoe around an abusive drunk. We didn’t have to watch what we said, especially in front of Melvin, where it would trigger an argument or an ass beating. “Where is Melvin?” I asked again. “He’s sleeping in the garage.” My mother responded. I could tell mom was hiding more information than Melvin just sleeping in the garage. I questioned why he was in the garage sleeping when he had a bed in the house. “He’s in the garage sleeping and has locked the side door. I couldn’t get in, but I looked through the window. Melvin is sleeping with his pants half down, next to another man.” She quietly confessed. I thought to myself, was it Butch? But, it wasn’t. Then, she proceeded to half-ass show me a set of pictures that she found of Melvin, where he had taken at one of those photo booths in Woolworth’s. Melvin had pulled his pants down and took pictures of his genitals. I could tell that she was upset, but I wasn’t sure if it was more over the found photos or of Melvin being in the garage sexually with another man… again. Surely, it had to be both.

I wonder what mom would have thought if she knew I was on Melvin’s long list of weird sexual antics. Would that put her over the edge? Would she have cared? Did she already know? Did mom just accept Melvin’s sexual preferences? Would she finally kick him out, I thought? Being sexually abused was my own little secret and I had no intention of releasing it from my frightened mind. I was so afraid that the family we did have together, my brothers and I, would disappear, just like the little girl, Judith, who we knew growing up in our apartment building. The Department of Child Protective Services came and took her because her parents were unfit, or so they said. This had always been in the back of my mind that they would come and take my brothers and me away, never to see each other again. We were young enough to be tossed into the system, but not old enough to be on our own. Therefore, I always kept my mouth shut. My brothers and I lived at home until we were old enough to make our own decisions and move on.

It was years later when I finally had my own studio apartment, I announced that I would cook my first Thanksgiving Day dinner for everyone. I invited my brother, Jeff and my mother over to spend the day with me. Mom knew enough not to ask about Melvin’s invite. My brother, Steve, was living in Michigan at the time and unable to attend. I wanted to have all the trimmings to my dinner just like mom always made. I lived in a one-room studio apartment that consisted of a small kitchenette, bathroom and walk in closet. The appliances were small, particularly the stove. It was one of those small apartment stoves and was half the size of a normal one. It was difficult to cook a regular meal on, let alone a ten pound turkey in the oven! However, I still tried.

“On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.” ~William Jennings Bryan

Following my mother’s tradition, I set my alarm for 4:30 in the morning to prepare the turkey so that it can be popped into the oven by 5:00. Mom shared with me on how to make the stuffing and prepare the turkey, step-by-pain-in-the-ass-step! Getting up this early in the morning to prepare a turkey wasn’t exactly my ideal way of starting my day. I was so tired that I prepared the stuffing between yawns. The onions weren’t diced to perfection, they were more like chopped into chunks. The bread looked as if it was hacked by a hatchet than torn into bite size pieces. As for the celery… let’s just say that they would have looked better in a tall glass of Bloody Mary’s!

The stuffing was finally prepared, with its seasoning of sage that seemed to permeate my hands, along with the onions. Shoving the stuffing into the turkey’s cavity between slitted eyes, I packed it as much as I could. As I tied the legs up with twine, as to make sure the stuffing didn’t’ have a chance to escape, I maneuvered the pan into the small oven at 350 degrees. The turkey was in the oven to roast by 5:00 a.m. It was shortly thereafter, that I popped myself back into bed to continue my dreams!

Hours later, I woke to the smell of turkey wafting in the air. It seemed more pungent than ever, most likely due to my small apartment. Cracking open a window, I began to prepare the rest of the meal; potatoes, corn and, of course, that overly drench Miracle Whip salad. Jeff and Mom arrived a few hours later, where we sat, chatted and waited for the turkey to be done. I checked the turkey and basted several times throughout the morning. By 1:00 p.m., we were all getting hungry. Mom commented that the bird was in that oven for almost eight hours now and surely it would have to be done. She was the expert, I thought. Turning off the stove, I pulled the turkey out and oven to make its grand debut.

What an entertaining disaster, I thought! The turkey that had been bathing in its own juices for almost eight hours wasn’t even near done! It was so rubbery that it could have bounced its way back to the farmland from where it came! Mom and I came to the conclusion that it was due to my “Easy Bake Oven” of a stove. Because it was so small, the oven must have not been able to accommodate the size of the turkey. My first Thanksgiving dinner was a flippin’ flop! Laughing our way through the rest of the meal that we could eat, I had to make the best of the moment, so I took pictures of my first attempt at cooking Thanksgiving.

My attempt at cooking a turkey!

My first attempt at cooking a turkey! Circa – Early 80’s

It may not have been the traditional meal that we were use to having, but we made the best of what we had. In the end, it’s not about the meal and what you cooked or how much effort you put into it, nor is it about what went right or even what went wrong. It’s all about being thankful. My last Thanksgiving at my mom’s house with Melvin’s behavior is a memory that will always be in my mind, but I believe it’s an experience that made me stronger, not only in values, but in beliefs. My life growing up was full of challenges, but it showed me how important family is and to let nothing stand in the way of relationships. Family doesn’t hurt family, family is love and, when you have love, hurt should never exist. Simple.

Thanksgiving and the holidays are all about being together, together with family and friends and the ones you truly love. Sharing time with one another, laughing, joking and experiencing a joyful moment that will all too soon be a part of the past. We need to seize all the memories we can, holding each one of them close to our heart because as our years move on into the past, the making of memories become less and less.

Although my first turkey was a failure, I would like to think the moment of being together was a memorable success.

“As we pause to thank Him for the blessings of the past year, we must not forget to thank Him for the lessons we have learned through our difficult times. We are not to be thankful for just the pleasant, easy things, but ALL things.” ~ Millie Stamm

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Cashing Spirits in at the Casino

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!” ~ Henry Scott Holland (1847 – 1918)

Over the Labor Day weekend, Frank, Arla and I decided to test our luck. With money in hand, we drove one Sunday evening to the local casino, in hopes to walk out as millionaires! However, we would be satisfied if we left as dollarnaires!

Once at the casino, each of us headed into a different direction and soon settled into our favorite slot machine, where we began the process of watching those reels roll before our eyes, one stopping after another in hopes of seeing ‘BIG WIN!” appear on our slot machine. A while later, I hear Frank say over my shoulder, “I suck! I’m getting my ass whipped!” This is Frank’s usual announcement that he’s not winning and the slots are taking all his money. Frank, as he always does, decided to walk around the casino to watch others at their lady luck. Frank finds himself in front of the Baccarat table and, although watching intently, he doesn’t understand how the game is played. He continues to watch the call man shuffle out the cards, studying intensely trying to figure out the concept, when a woman, who is standing very close to him asked, “Do you know how to play Baccarat?” Frank shared with her that he doesn’t understand the game. She begins going over the rules and narrates over the call man’s moves, explaining the game more in detail to Frank. Smiling, Frank shared that he still doesn’t understand the game.

Clipart - Baccarat Table

Not having any luck ourselves, Arla and I decided to move around the casino, looking for another slot machine to play on. The casino was starting to get rather crowded, so finding another machine and sitting there, was the best option. When it was crowded, slots were hard to find and play. Bumping and moving in and around people were becoming mandatory. Walking around, we noticed that Frank was speaking to a woman at the Baccarat table. We didn’t think much of it, as Frank will speak with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Frank has a magnetic personality that will draw anyone with a conversation toward him. I always teased that Frank would talk to a light pole if he knew he could get a response in return. I would always comment to Arla when I see Frank chatting with a stranger… “Awwww, Look. Dad’s making a new friend again!” Maneuvering our way around them, we continued with our quest to find the perfect slot machine while they continued talking.

The hours were passing by. I hit the machine one last time. Whack, clack, clack, clack. I watched the last reel come to a stop, signaling that the last remaining cash I had in the machine was now owned by the casino. I suck and I got my ass whipped! With Arla matching suit, we decided to call it a night. We called Frank to tell him to meet us by the front doors of the casino. We were ready to go home. He said he was on his way.

Arla and I stood by the front door. Watching the main aisle of the casino, we waited for Frank to come strolling by. Standing there for over ten minutes waiting for Frank, we decided to give him another call. “Where are you?!” Answering, he said, he would be right there; he’s on his way. Another five minutes had passed. Finally, Arla and I decided to head to the truck. Not being able to play anymore, we were tired of hearing over the loud speaker, “Another big win!”

Clipart - Slot Machine Big Win

As we settled into the truck, we continued to wait. Both Arla and I wondered what was taking Frank so long. Another five minutes go by and Frank finally came walking out of the casino heading our way. Once inside, we asked, “What in the hell took you so long?!” That’s when Frank proceeded to tell us, “You’ll never believe what just happened to me.”

Not seeing any money clenched in Frank’s fist, I quickly determined that he must be talking about something else. I could tell that he was excited about something and his words, along with his mind, didn’t know where to start. As I’m driving away from the casino parking lot, I can hear in Frank’s voice that he was shaken, almost on the verge of tears.

As I begin to drive home, Frank begins to share the reason that he was detained. He was having a conversation with a woman, the same woman that Arla and I saw him with earlier that evening. Little did Frank know that this conversation would forever change his life and beliefs.

As Frank continued to study the Baccarat table, he finally responded to the woman’s question. “Do you know how to play Baccarat?” The woman asked. As Frank confessed, he noticed that the woman was standing very close to him. “No, I just can’t seem to get the hang of the game and that’s why I stick to the slot machines,” Frank said. “You can win at Baccarat if you study the board,” she said. As she explained the rules, she proceeded to pull out a wad of money that she had stashed in her bra. Showing Frank, she shared that she had just won a thousand dollars playing the table. “How old do you think I am,” she asked next. Frank thought for a moment and assumed she was in her early sixties. Tucking the money back into her bra, the woman announced that she was in her mid eighties, as if she was proud of her looks and age. Frank complimenting her, he shared with her that she didn’t look her age whatsoever. They continued to make additional small talk.  She stood very close to Frank, touching his arm, becoming elbow-to-elbow with Frank. The Baccarat woman slowly turned to Frank, looked him in the eye and asked him one simple question. “Do you have a brother named Eugene?” Surprised by her question, Frank took a step back and said, “Why yes, I do, but he passed away two years ago in a motor cycle accident.” The Baccarat woman replied, “Yes, I know, he’s standing here next to me, to my right and he wanted to say hello.” Frank’s conversation with the Baccarat woman went from a casual one to now a spiritual one.

“If I put my mind to something, it happens. I do know that’s not necessarily psychic. But I always feel like there’s something around me protecting me.” ~ Amy Sedaris

As Frank is telling us what had happened, I heard Arla in the back seat of the truck asking, “Dad, what was her name?” “I didn’t get her name. I mean, I don’t remember, I don’t know, everything happened so fast!” Frank responded. “You mean she was telling you about Uncle Eugene and you didn’t even get her name?” Arla shouted out! As I’m listening to Frank’s story and concentrating on driving home in the darkness, even I piped in and asked why on earth didn’t he get her name? “Why didn’t you call me?” “Does she do this for a living?”

As Frank continued with his story, I can tell that he was wound up and he was very animated. The Baccarat woman’s question left Frank stunned. Of all the names he could have heard, it had to be his late brother Eugene’s, the brother he was the closest with, the brother that he had recently lost, the one he missed dearly. As the noise of the casino floor continued around them, Frank decided to ask his own question, “Do you have the gift?” “Yes, I do. I am a medium,” she replied, “but I don’t charge for it”. The woman, who was now in need of a cigarette, wanted to go to the smoking room, where she asked Frank to go with her. Frank shared that he doesn’t smoke, but she commented that she wouldn’t be long. Besides, it gave them a chance to be away from the noise of the casino floor. Frank followed her. Sitting in the smoker’s room, the Baccarat woman lit up a cigarette and continued her reading with Frank, not so much in a question format, but more as a matter of fact, as she was sure of herself and the messages that she was receiving from the other side.

The Baccarat woman proceeded to share with Frank that Eugene’s accident was of a bizarre nature and that Eugene was actually going very, very slow at the time that his motorcycle left the roadway, not speeding as people would have suspected, especially by his injuries she felt he had. Frank validated this. She went on to ask Frank if he smoked Pot. Frank said no and because of his job, he couldn’t. She confirmed that Eugene did, and a lot, when he was in Vietnam. Frank’s now trying to figure out how she knew he was in Vietnam. The Baccarat woman then told Frank that Eugene use to have a cat. However, this cat was different she said. It was a fat cat, an extremely over weight cat. A cat that was like 40 pounds fat. As Frank sat there, he validated that it was true. He told her that Eugene use to have a cat and the cat’s name was Sylvester and that yes the cat was huge. She confirmed with Frank that Eugene use to wear glasses, but not anymore. She said, “ Eugene no longer wears glasses because Heaven is perfect and there’s no need for glasses there.”

Arla and Sylvester 1

Sylvester the Fat Cat

Arla and Sylvester 2

The Baccarat woman asked Frank, “Who is Steve? Eugene is with someone named Steve.”

When Eugene had passed, Frank and I were looking up old friends of Eugene’s in hopes that we could connect with them to share of Eugene’s passing. However, while looking up online, we had discovered that his friend, Steve K. also passed, but years before Eugene did. Frank and I felt this was the Steve that she was referring to. Confirming with the Baccarat woman that Eugene use to ride with a friend named Steve, she, too, felt that this was the same person Eugene was with.

I heard Arla from the backseat of the truck, “Mom, turn around, you have to go back!” “Let’s see if we can find her.” Arla said this more than once. Looking into my side mirror, I checked my lane for traffic. I was contemplating to go back to the casino to find the Baccarat woman, to see what she was all about, to see if she was real, to meet her myself. In a split decision, I almost did, but I decided to move on, heading home while Frank continued telling us his unbelievable story.

“I look up to the sky and talk to you. What I wouldn’t give to hear you talk back. I miss your voice, I miss your laughter, I miss everything about you!” ~ Author Unknown

Frank couldn’t believe that what the Baccarat woman had said was all true. He verified that everything she was telling him was all facts. Frank wanted to send a message to Eugene. Frank had asked the Baccarat woman to give Eugene a message, that his family missed him and that we all loved him so very much. She shared the message and had one in return. “Tell everyone that I am fine. I am doing well and I am just fine,” Eugene said. The Baccarat woman also went onto tell Frank that Eugene said to keep doing what he’s doing, in his job, and in his life.

By now, Frank was in a complete spiritual shock. He was trying to figure out how she knew all of this information. He knew he never saw this woman before and even at one point thought, did she personally know Eugene herself? Perhaps, she thought he was Eugene, as all the Morin boys tend to look alike. Frank decided to accept her gift as a spiritual intervention and that Eugene was letting him know that he had made it to heaven and that he was doing well and just wanted to check in.

The Baccarat woman also shared other pieces of information that Frank wasn’t too sure about and didn’t have an immediate response to. She asked if he knew women by the names of Candace, as well as Sue, but these names didn’t sound familiar to Frank nor his family when asked. Nobody could make the connection. Sue was also saying hello to Frank and even commented the Baccarat woman that Sue really liked Frank.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the night before we went to the casino, Frank said that he had spoken to Eugene’s wife, Carol. Carol went to the bank to take some things from the security box. There, inside, she found Eugene’s watch. She felt that Frank would like to have it and this was the reason they had spoke that evening, the night before the casino.

Eugene may not have been there in Frank’s physical world that Sunday evening, but I do believe that Eugene was there, sharing facts, in spirit. The Baccarat woman could have shared any other name when asking Frank about a brother, but she didn’t. She mentioned the name Eugene. I believe this was a sign that Eugene was near and he wanted to make contact. Perhaps, Frank thinking of Eugene and encountering the medium at the casino was the most opportune time for Eugene to connect with Frank, to let him know he was near and always will be.

Even though Frank didn’t walk away with a “big win” and lots of cash that evening, I feel he did walk away as a millionaire in other ways, which was won through knowledge, validation and contentment.

I believe that our friends and family who have passed on are always with us, in our minds, our lives, our hearts. They share messages with us all the time, however, our eyes and mind must be open to receive. They may appear in the form of a fluttering butterfly, that special cologne they always wore or that special song that suddenly appeared on the radio.

We are never alone and we will never forget. They are our guardian angels, our protectors, our confidants. I know the reading wasn’t meant for me that evening nor was it meant for Arla. Therefore, it didn’t matter if we turned back or not. Simply, it was a message meant for Frank. Two souls who were meant to make a connection that evening. In some giant way, I hope that Frank’s message from his brother, Eugene, has shown Frank that life can be kind, joyous and full of love, regardless of the hardships that we may face in our daily lives or the loved ones that we may have lost. These learning lessons are what make us stronger; the people we are today, they are a part of life’s struggles and, if we have faith, hope and love, especially from others, then we can conquer the world regardless of what stepping stones are thrown in our path. I pray that Eugene’s message has enlightened Frank’s heart, opened it up where he can learn to love and be happy again. I’m hoping that this is the message that Frank needs in order to see beauty and peace, not only in the world, but all around him, to open his heart to kindness, to see all love that surrounds him.

“There is no death, only a change of worlds.” ~ Duwamish, Native American Indian Tribe

Eugene with Frank in Kitchen

My Spiritual Angels

My Spiritual Angels

My prayers begin with my Spiritual Angels who are Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Uncle Bub, Father Charles, Geno and Dedac, asking them to look over me and my family, keeping us happy, healthy and safe.

The English word “angel” is derived from the Greek word “angelos,” which means “messenger.” The faithful from the world’s major religions believe that angels are messengers from God, who carry out tasks that God assigns them to perform here on Earth.  I believe in angels, as well as their messages and am comforted to know that guardian angels are looking over me, as well as my family.

For me, messages have come to me in all forms, such as butterflies, the smell of roofing tar, perfume, body smells, flickering lights and even to the loud cracking of thunder and lightning. I remember when I was young living on my grandparents’ farm, I would lie down for the evening and study the darkness within the room. It was dark, still and the only thing I could hear was the ticking of my grandfather’s windup clock in the other room, with the “tick” always sounding slightly different from the “tock.”  I would gaze above me, staring out into the darkness toward the ceiling, Shortly later, I would begin to see stars within the darkness, red ones, blue ones and they would swirl around in front of me, all in uniform, almost as if they were dancing for me. At times, I felt like I could manipulate their movement. Although, I was not afraid of them, I never reached out to touch them, even though they were close enough for me to do so. I learned that these could have been Sparkle Angels.1   I wasn’t sure why I was seeing these stars, but they were comforting. This happened on many occasions and I would watch them perform before me until I fell off to sleep.

Sparkle Angel Stars

The Woman in Church…

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I sat there quietly in St. Pricilla’s Church, waiting for the services to begin. It was a special day, as it was the day that Arlaraye was accepting her sacrament of Holy Communion, in the very same church that I had received mine just several years before. Sitting by my side, Arlaraye was nervous, but excited, too. She looked beautiful in her white dress and veil, along with her white petite gloves to match.

The church is quiet. There was a sense of comfortableness, a serenity. I looked up onto the altar at the more than life-size statue of Jesus, as his palms and feet were pierced with nails that attached him to his wooden cross. As I have done so many times before, I began to get emotional, as I watched him suspend above me.  I began to thank him silently for all that he has done for me, his protection and loving grace. “Thank you… I am here because of you…”

My eyes began to scan the church.  Pew by pew. I see parents and family members come to rest in their seats, as they, too, wait for the ceremony to begin. Having occasional eye contact with another parishioner, I politely nod and extend a smile.  My eyes continued to drift a couple of rows ahead, to the front pew, where I see a woman sitting in front of me. Her back was to me, but I recognized her immediately.  She was a larger woman, who sat there wearing a weathered windbreaker. Her shoulders slumped forward toward the floor as she sat, as if her troubles weighed her down. Her hair was thin, gray and dressed in a ponytail that sat high on the back of her head. I immediately turned to Arlaraye and secretively announced, “The woman in the front pew looks just like Granny Lambert!” Arlaraye spotted her immediately and turned to me and said, “Oh my, you’re right, she does!”  Almost instinctively, as if this woman knew that we were watching her, she slowly turned her head toward us, glancing over her right shoulder at Arlaraye and me.  Staring at us both, it felt as if she was validating our suspicions that, yes, she was the person who we thought she was… my mother, who just happened to have passed away years earlier in 2001, just days after the 911 attacks. Her stare felt as if it lasted forever, but it was only for a couple of seconds, when she quietly turned her head back around to face the front of the church. This woman was somber and showed no emotion, carrying not one smile on her face whatsoever, almost robotic.  It was then that I shared with Arlaraye that Grandma Lambert didn’t want to miss her special day, and that she made a physical appearance to be there that day.  The church services began and the day’s events were soon underway.  Two hours later, everyone was filing their way out of the church to continue on with their Communion celebrations.  By now, I had totally forgotten about the women in the front pew. It wasn’t until we got home to continue on with our own celebration that I had asked Frank if he happened to have seen the woman himself.  He did and thought the same thing as I had, that it was the mirror image of my mother, who was coming to share in our day of blessings.

“There is no death. Only a change of worlds.” ~ Chief Seattle

Name that Tune…Music Notes - Peace Train

“When you wake up with a song stuck in your head, it means an angel sang you to sleep.” ~ Denise Baer

Frank and I were having a time in our marriage where arguing was a part of daily life.   The daily stresses in our lives, with our jobs, finances, as well as everyday frustrations, were taking a toll on our relationship, more so with Frank.  I have positivity that flows through my veins… Frank simply doesn’t.  Life can serve you a huge bowl of hot steamy turd soup sometimes, but it’s all up to you if you want to accept it. The littlest things were making him angry, which he usually expressed toward me. I hated living in this poisonous atmosphere and knew that it needed to change. Life, with its many challenges was definitely playing a hand in our lives.

I believe our loved ones, who have passed, are with us at all times, especially, if we welcome the idea and invite them into our lives to do so.  I am always asking for signs, anything that I can relate to, to know that it is really them and that they are trying to communicate with me. Laying my head down for the evening, it wasn’t long before I drifted off to sleep and started to dream…

… I am now in Stoughton, Wisconsin, the city in which I lived with my grandparents. I was standing outside the Woolworth’s store that we frequented whenever we went into town. There I stood by the doors and granny was standing with me. She looked wonderful, with her hair combed neatly, pushing it back from her face with one of her elastic headbands that, no doubt, she picked up from Woolworth’s on one of our many shopping trips. She looked exactly as how I remembered her when growing up. There was a song playing in the background, as if it was being pumped directly into the air from speakers that were connected to the Woolworth’s store. It was familiar to me, it sounded pleasant and I knew I heard the song before, but I was having trouble in my dream as I was trying to name that tune.

“Peace begins with a smile.” ~ Mother Teresa

Granny is now standing before me. She wears a genuine smile on her face, but her eyes were serious. Granny speaks to me mentally; I didn’t see her lips move at all.  She was letting me know that the arguing between Frank and me needed to stop. It wasn’t good and not healthy for our relationship. As I stood there in front of her, taking in all her thoughts, I acknowledged her words of wisdom, while at the same time, listening to the song that continued to play behind me.

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” ~Ludwig van Beethoven

It wasn’t long after seeing granny in my dream that I had woken up.  I could still hear the beat of the song from my dream in my ears, along with the message that granny was trying to extend. Lying in my bed, I repeated the melody, playing the sound over and over in my head.  It was moments later when I finally remembered the name of the song and was able to name the tune that was playing in my dream.  The song was by Cat Stevens titled, “Peace Train.”  It was now I who wore a smile across my face, just like granny had done in my dream. I believed that there was a purpose to granny’s visit, there was a message that she needed to share and it was a message of Peace. I took granny’s message to heart and found it very symbolic that not only was granny trying to send me a message through her own words, but through one of my favorite Cat Steven’s songs as well. I needed to find peace, whether it was with Frank or just through myself.

“While we are sleeping, angels have conversations with our souls”. ~Author Unknown

A Call From Katie…

Phone

I have been assisting and working with some of the doctors in my office for over 23 years now. One develops a rapport after so many years of working together, where you learn about their personalities, lives, and even their families. When we had our own practice, it truly was a “work family” and it was an enjoyable time being with my co-workers on a daily basis. It was a rarity where I’d say, “I don’t want to go to work today.” I enjoyed going to work because they weren’t only my co-workers; they were my very good friends.

Several years ago, while at work, we received devastating news. It was a sad time in the office for everyone. We had found out that one of the physicians, who we worked closely with for so many years, lost his daughter, Katie. (For privacy issues, I will just call him Doctor, Sadly, Kathie passed away very unexpectedly and at a young age where death should be inconceivable.  My husband, Frank knew Katie, as he also worked with the same physician practice for many years himself.  Over the years, both Frank and I would see Katie around the office visiting.  We watched her mature from a little girl into a  beautiful young woman. I spoke with Katie many times over the years, as she called the office asking to speak with her father.  Either Doctor was in his office or in clinic seeing patients and we knew to connect her to him directly when she called.  Upon hearing the news of her passing, everyone’s heart was saddened, not only for Katie, but also for the Doctor, who we notably saw him carry his own sorrow deep within his broken heart.

A couple of years had passed on and it was such a busy time for the office, as our medical practice in which we worked was moving to another hospital. We were on a deadline and everyone was busy cleaning and packing up physicians’ offices, as well as their own cubicle and space. Items were being purged and furniture was being moved. Needless to say, busy was an understatement. Items were being wrapped and packed and desks were being moved directly under all our noses.  You sat at a desk and five minutes later, it was gone, packed, stacked on a dolly and headed for the truck ready to be moved.

You could see the nails and holes in the walls, where a scenic picture hung and was once displayed or nametags on doors that were ripped from their holders, leaving many marred and naked walls behind. I felt as if I was leaving a home that I had lived in for fifty years.

With every office key that was turned in, there was another avalanche of tears being shed for the friends and co-workers that you would no longer be working with. One after another, they were being escorted out of the building, with their own personal box of belongings underneath their arm, hitting the elevator button for the ground floor, as they left their work place forever behind.

There is one particular day that I will never forget. It was my turn to cover the front reception desk for breaks and lunches. I came up to relieve Anne so that she could go to lunch. It was a very busy day and movers were being escorted from office to office, elevator doors were on a constant open and close cycle and the phones were ringing non-stop, and all of this while still trying to conduct a normal day of business and meetings.  As I pointed where one visitor needed to go and while telling a mover what office needed to be moved next, I picked up the endless ringing phone to an incoming call that I will always remember, but at the time, I wouldn’t realize how important that phone call would be.   “Good afternoon, this is CINN, how can I help you?” The caller on the other end said, “Hi, this is Katie, I heard my father is looking for me.”  With that, I placed her on hold and told her that I’d look for him. I knew Katie as the Doctor’s daughter and, as I have always done in the past, I do my best to locate him and connect the call.  Calling into the Doctor’s office, there was no answer. I was going to call down to the clinic, but I was so busy with the front desk that I decided to call the Doctor’s assistant, Patty, instead, letting her know that I have Katie holding on the line for him and if she knew where he was at and, perhaps, she would be able to direct the call herself. Upon delivering my question, I found that Patty was stumbling for words. Patty shared with me that Doctor was in clinic and suddenly said that she would have to call me back. As I was about to forward Katie directly to clinic, so she could speak with her father, I picked up the line to let her know what I was doing.  “Katie, I was told that your father was in clinic, I can transfer you there…”  It was only a few seconds later that I realized that Katie was no longer on the line and all I heard was a dial tone.  I felt terrible that I had left her hold on for so long and that she was no longer there.

When Anne got back from her lunch break, I decided to go see Patty, to let her know that I was unsuccessful in trying to transfer Katie to the Doctor in case she decided to call back again.  Standing in front of Patty, it was at that point that Patty asked me, not once, but twice, “Who did you say was calling for the Doctor?”   I relayed… “It was Katie.”  It was only seconds later, after I said Katie’s name that I had realized what had just occurred.  My hands immediately reached for my mouth, covering, as to not allow another word to escape from my lips, in particular, the name Katie. I immediately realized what I had said and what I almost had done. I was so busy at the front desk, trying to take care of everyone and everything, that I didn’t make the connection that there was no way that the Doctor’s Katie could have called.  I was in such a hectic and robotic frame of mind that I didn’t even think twice about who was on the other end. I heard a young voice that I knew to be Katie’s and I responded accordingly.  I only heard the words, “I heard my father was looking for me” and, with that, I responded in the only manner I knew how, the only way that I have done for over fifteen years; I tried to find her father, the Doctor.  With my hands still over my mouth, I mumbled the words, “Oh my God, Patty! I almost transferred that call directly to the Doctor!” My mind started spinning at the insensitive thoughts of what could have happened if I had done so, if I had accomplished the connection.  What would have the Doctor thought if I had reached him, letting him know his daughter, Katie, was on the phone? I would have been mortified. I was so grateful for the fact that Katie, or whoever she was, had hung up the phone and the call went no further. I stood in Patty’s office completely shaken. Explaining the call to Patty, I was convinced that I heard the name Katie and that’s how the caller introduced herself to me. Also, like so many times before, for so many years, I knew it was the Doctor’s Katie who was calling. This young woman left the impression that she called the office routinely and that we knew who she was and what to do when she called.  There was a confidence about her and I didn’t think twice about the call.

It was then that I looked at Patty and asked… “Who else has a daughter named Katie in the office or the other hospital departments?” Could this Katie have been asking for another father?  I shared my call experience with Anne who took it upon herself to ask throughout the other floors if there was another person who had a daughter named Katie, but the results came back negative. The only Katie that all of us ever knew was the Doctor’s Katie. Could this young woman have had the wrong number?  Possibly.

“He took his time looking around for anything interesting to salvage, but found only broken bits of what once was.” ~ A.B. Shepherd

Patty shared with me that the morning of my mysterious phone call, the Doctor was in his office having a quiet moment before he went to clinic, looking at all the years of memories on his bookshelves. He was smiling at all the pictures, knickknacks and mementos, she said, as he reminisced, almost as if he was stealing one last glimpse of all the special memories that lie upon the shelves, before they were to be packed away into boxes. Surely, his heart and mind brought him to think about his sweet Katie and his mind was lost deep within a moment, a private moment of remembrances. Could these strong feelings conjure up a loved one’s spirits so much to the point that they had to make “contact” regardless of what form it’s in?  Possibly. I believe so.

Messages come to us in all forms. Our eyes and hearts have to be open, along with our minds, in order to see them before us. Whether or not this was to be a message for myself or for Katie’s father, I’m not sure. Perhaps, Katie knew that I am a believer in signs and she sent this one through me.

There are people who are receptive when it comes to spirits, the afterlife, or after death communication (ADC) 3 and then there are some that don’t believe in it at all. My fear was that I would come across as some sort of ghost whisperer or that I can talk to the dead, and the last thing I wanted to do was to offend.  I wanted to respect his mourning; is privacy, therefore, I kept quiet and said nothing at all. However, perhaps, I should have…

… “If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” ~ Elizabeth Edwards

I can’t believe that it’s been years since this phone call. I feel as if we all experienced the loss of Katie just yesterday.  Losing someone you love tremendously can do that, as the pain and memories paint the walls of your heart with permanency. This is why we are blessed with memories, so that we may never forget.

Recently, Frank and I were talking about prayers. How we pray. How we say them. Who we pray to.  Frank demonstrated and began his prayers.  I listened with care, as he listed off those who he prayed for. Among his list, he mentions the name Katie. I knew who the others were, but wasn’t sure who he meant by Katie. It was a heartwarming surprise to learn that Frank prays for Katie and her soul, not only after her passing, but until this very day. Katie’s in his prayers every morning, as Frank has his own private moment with God.

“The angels are always near to those who are grieving, to whisper to them that their loved ones are safe in the hand of God.” ~Quoted in The Angels’ Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman

Keep on Rolling… Please!…

I was having problems with my truck last summer.  I find it amazing that the moment you make that final payment to the bank, problems begin to set in.  I have a 2004 Dodge Durango and truly love it, but at one point, it kept dying on me. My poor truck is getting old and, like most things that get old, it was starting to shut down, things breaking down here and there.  If it wasn’t the breaks, it was the power steering. This time, my truck kept stalling in traffic whenever I came to a stop. One of my fears while driving is that I would stall in traffic, stuck directly in the middle of an intersection, where everyone is honking at me and giving me their official hand sign of our state bird!

That particular morning, I decided to pray to my grandfather, asking him to get me to where I needed to go and that my truck would keep moving and not die out in traffic; “keep my wheels a rollin’ grandpa… PLEASE!” This was my chant until I met my destination, as well as asking him to watch over me and keep me safe.  With every stop sign and stop light that I came upon, I worried.  As I got closer to home, I started to feel more confident that I was going to make it.  My prayers were answered because I did make it home safely that afternoon, without any extra unpleasant events added to my day. I was so relieved to be home, thankful that I was able to drive my truck one more day. Frank had an appointment to bring my truck into the mechanic, but not until that weekend.  Until then, my truck was being powered not only by gas, but by prayers, too. I needed my truck to get me to work and back home again.

I was feeling as if things were starting to pile up around me. I was worried how much my truck would cost me to repair. I was worried on whether or not it would get me to work the next day. It was just added worry that I didn’t need to have in my life at the moment.

After settling in at home with a glass of wine, I decided to hop onto Facebook, where I began to post my frustrations of the day regarding my truck.  Upon receiving a few responses, I received a message from my dear friend, Patty.  Patty told me about a news feed that she received on her Facebook home page after she had already commented on my post. She wanted to share it with me, as she knew that I would appreciate it as much as her. You see, Patty believes in a higher spirit as much as I do and we have shared some beautiful conversations together on this very same subject.

“There are many ways our spirit guides can give us signals. Our job is to quiet our minds, open our hearts, and listen.” ~ James VanPraagh

I opened up my message from Patty and she sent me a link to a Facebook page called, “The Things you Would Have Said.” 2  In part, the post read, “ Take Care Jackie and just keep on smiling.  Much Love, Grandpa.” 

I shared with Patty that I had been praying to my grandfather that afternoon, after having truck problems, asking him for his help and protection; to get me where I needed to go and to be safe. I took this message that Patty sent as a sign that he heard my prayers to him and that he was right by my side the whole time and this is the way he decided to let me know.

I truly believe that this message was meant for me and it’s exactly what I needed to read and see at that particular moment. Patty’s absolutely correct.  One never knows how your angels will send you messages.  However, that evening, Patty was my messenger.  Thank you for delivering it my sweet angel!

I shared with Patty that I had been praying to my grandfather that afternoon, after having truck problems, asking him for his help and protection; to get me where I needed to go and to be safe. I took this message that Patty sent as a sign that he heard my prayers to him and that he was right by my side the whole time and this is the way he decided to let me know.

I truly believe that this message was meant for me and it’s exactly what I needed to read and see at that particular moment. Patty’s absolutely correct.  One never knows how your angels will send you messages.  However, that evening, Patty was my messenger.  Thank you for delivering it my sweet angel!

FB Message 2

Love is such a strong bond that travels with us through life and, I believe, even extending through death. What a beautiful gift we have been given to experience the feeling of love for someone so deep that one can literally feel it beating in their hearts. Love doesn’t stop just because our loved ones have stepped from one world into another. I believe our family members are with us always and I find comfort in knowing that. We may not see them physically, but I know that spiritually, they are with us, our protectors, our guardian angels, our messengers and, I personally, cherish every message that I’m sent, just as if they were with us here, in the now.  My spiritual messengers remind me to hold onto my beliefs, faith, my love, as well as reminding me that they are always near.

“I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

 

References:

  1. http://thegobetween.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/the-truth-about-seeing-spirited-sparkles/
  2. https://www.facebook.com/wouldhavesaid
  3. http://www.after-death.com/

Remembering Moments of Falling in Love

Hearts“We all want to fall in love. Why? Because that experience makes us feel completely alive. Where every sense is heightened, every emotion is magnified, our everyday reality is shattered and we are flying into the heavens. It may only last a moment, an hour, an afternoon. But that doesn’t diminish its value. Because we are left with memories that we treasure for the rest of our lives.” ~ Anonymous

Falling in love is such a beautiful gift and experience. Who remembers when they first thought they were falling in love? Could this be the one? He makes me feel so special inside. I laugh so much when I’m with him. He gets me! Who doesn’t want to have a love in their life that is always there, to share life experiences with, to feel and share the sparks of passion with, and to make love with passionately and wishing the moment was endless? I ached to have someone in my life to make these memories with, to love someone unconditionally, to grow old with…

However, when in love, you not only have the privilege of the deepest love possible, you also have the responsibility of death.  Finding love scared me almost as much as death does. Because you know that one day, one of you will be left behind. From time to time, I think… who will go first… me or my husband? How will it happen? When will it happen?  How will I handle life if God takes him before me? How will my heart not break into a million pieces? Who will be there to catch the tears as they fall one by one into my endless diary of memories?  Who will be there to hold me, to guide me, to protect me, to give me strength and tell me that life will go on; that I will be okay?  Death is scary, as it can be handed to you in such an untimely and unexpected manner, no preparations and with no warnings whatsoever.  Unfortunately, when someone special in our lives comes our way and we make the commitment to love them, death, one day, will be one of the unpleasant prerequisites that we agree to deal with.

This is why we must live every day as if it could be our last; remembering to always love unconditionally and to hold those wonderful moments close to our hearts that made us fall in love to begin with and not only on Valentine’s Day, but every day.  Do you remember what made your heart take an extra beat? Do you remember when you fell in love, what made you fall in love? Was it their smile, was it their tender touch, was it their passion?

As I reminisce, I remember the moments that I first fell in love with my husband, Frank…

Frank and Jack

Frank and Jack in the 80’s

Pic - Frank and Jack Bikers 2

Riding Together…

His thick hair that had a hint of curl to it when it was long and his full bushy mustache, the kind that left a lasting tickle on your upper lip or the tip of your earlobe.

Frank and Jack on Bike

I would watch the brawly Harley biker melt with mushiness when he would remove his large framed glasses to show me that his eyes were actually tearing up at the moment he said he was thinking of me.

His spirit was carefree where he found joy within each moment that passed.

Frank with Ice

When he lived life on the edge and decided where he will take the day instead of where the day will take him.

I felt love when I found myself daydreaming about the new man in my life, catching myself sighing into the air, wishing I were near him.

Holding hands and noticing that mine fit comfortably into his, nestled, as if it was a custom fit.

Hearing the phone ring, hoping that it would be him or having the same warped sense of humor as me, laughing so hard until my cheeks hurt.

Realizing you never felt comfortable enough to fart in front of a boyfriend… until now.

Feeling the passion that’s between the both of us with just by a simple kiss.

Smelling the hint of cologne on his cheeks and knew he wore it for me.

The first time we slow danced and I felt his arms around me, his body tight against mine and feeling the warm of his breath on my neckline.

Frank and Jack Vacation

Vacationing in Sanibel Island, Florida

Feeling his gentle hand sweeping over my body, softly, as if he’s touching an artful masterpiece, caressing it slowly, commenting that I was so beautiful.

Hearing the words, “I love you” within a week of your first blind date and not thinking once he was moving too fast.

Sharing the words, “I do.”

Frank and Jack Wedding Day

May 5, 1990

Remembering the first time we heard the words, Congratulations! “It’s a girl… It’s a boy!”

Frank with Arla

April 6, 1992
Frank and Arlaraye

These thoughts of love help me think of the moment, the now, and not what will eventually be all of our destinies in the end.  These are the memories that keep me moving forward, that remind me that I am a very lucky woman and that I had an opportunity to love and to love grandly. It is worth loving someone and making the commitment until “death we do part?”  My answer is yes, I believe it is, even though I know that the end result will not escape me without heartache and pain. For this, my life has become richer and I would rather have taken the chance on love then never to experience love at all.

Until the end…

Old couple holding hands

Happy Valentine’s Day, Frank. I love you!

 “For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” ~ Judy Garland

Memories of Christmas Pasts

Christmas Sleigh“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”  ~Norman Vincent Peale

Sleigh Bells in the Night…

Sleigh BellsWhen I was a young girl, Christmas was an exciting, but somewhat bittersweet time. As it is with all children, Christmas meant presents! However, at times, for my brothers and me, it was sometimes a reminder of what we weren’t going to receive. I remember only a handful of Christmas memories; some good and some not. The youngest memory that I can recall was when I lived with my grandparents in Madison, Wisconsin on Ridgewood Street. I was about six years old. We were all in the basement, where I noticed Christmas stockings on the wall, which hung carefully over the faux cardboard fireplace that surely grandpa put together so that we kids knew how Santa got all the gifts under the tree.  Of course, we were told he arrived early just for our special gathering. The Christmas tree seemed to reach and touch the ceiling, with globs of tinsel on every branch and the lights shined oh so bright just like all the colors within a rainbow. Music was being piped out of the jukebox, one Christmas carol after another. Excitement was definitely in the air.  Christmas was being celebrated with my cousins that year, where we all waited patiently to see what Santa Claus had brought us.

Jack with Grandparents Christmas

The gifts that Santa brought were being passed out to all us kids… one for Stevey, as grandpa use to call him; one for Sissy, one for Randy… Gifts were being handed out one after another, so I waited patiently until the last gift was passed, hoping just one of them were or me. When the last gift was handed to Shawn, I began to wonder if I was on the “naughty or nice” list that year. Granny saw that I had started to cry to myself, as I had no gifts to open. Extending a hug, granny and grandpa asked me to go upstairs to the living room to get a tissue from the box that was on the Hi Fi so that I could wipe away the tears from my face.  They also asked me to look out for Santa, to see if I could see him flying around in his sleigh.

Christmas TreeAs I stood there wiping away my tears, I glanced outside the big picture window that faced the front yard. Grandpa had decorated the outside tree with beautiful rainbow lights, too.  The snowfall had covered each bulb with perfection and just enough snow to make each bulb illuminate, making the colors glow intensely within the tree. It was beautiful, peaceful. As I stood there alone in the living room darkness, staring at the vibrant tree that glowed back at me, I suddenly heard a familiar sound ringing out… bells, Christmas bells, Santa Claus’ bells! My eyes shot above me, trying to find a glimpse of Santa in the skies. I looked everywhere above, but couldn’t see him anywhere. Before I left, I stole another look outside and immediately ran back downstairs to my grandparents, where I shared with them that I heard Santa’s sleigh bells!  They saw the excitement in my eyes and heard it in my voice. I was absolutely convinced that I heard Santa’s bells ringing outside that living room window. It was then that grandpa told me that there were extra gifts under the Christmas tree and they were for me. Taking a picture with Santa Claus that evening, I remember being so happy, excited that he didn’t forget about me after all.

Jack with SantaIt was many years later that I had learned that granny forgot to bring my gifts out of her bedroom closet and put them under the tree with everyone else’s.  I often think of this time when I went to the living room looking for Santa in the skies, especially when I view my own Christmas tree today, as it sits there in the darkness, where each and every colorful light burns with such brightness as if they are all smiling back at me.

Did I really hear Santa’s sleigh bells ringing through the air that evening when I was a little girl or was it my beloved grandfather standing outside the picture window, with perfect timing, shaking sleigh bells as I looked out the window toward the skies waiting for Santa to fly by?

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”  ~Author Unknown

Oh Christmas Branch, Oh Christmas Branch…

Christmas BranchChildren look forward to seeing the Christmas tree go up, with its many lights and decorations. It’s a sure sign that Christmas day will soon arrive. I remember when my family and I didn’t have a Christmas tree… real or fake. We just couldn’t afford to have one. My brothers and I were aching for some sort of holiday spirit and decorations; something to make our home look festive, to be a part of, as if we did hold Christmas in the Lambert home.  We lived in an apartment building on Sheffield and us kids were trying to come up with an idea on how we could decorate for Christmas.  Looking out the back porch window, we saw in the back alley that one of the tenants from the above apartments trimmed their Christmas tree, as a huge branch was lying in the trash. My brother, Steve, went outside and retrieved the branch from the garbage can and brought it in with such enthusiasm that one would have thought he hiked all the way into the forest to chop it down himself!  We found an old peanut butter jar in the cupboard, which my mom always used for drinking glasses. We filled the jar to the top rim with water and placed our perfectly trimmed Christmas tree branch inside and placed it on the dresser in the living room, right next to the television set.  Looking a tad bare, my brothers and I decided to make some paper decorations to place on our tree. Coloring and making decorations, along with some green garland we had, we now had a Christmas tree to call our own.  In our eyes, the tree that sat in the peanut butter jar was just as beautiful as the one at Rockefeller Center.  Unfortunately, we had many Christmas’ like this, either no tree or no gifts from Santa.

We moved to Magnolia Avenue in the mid seventies.  Being on welfare and not having many luxuries, we were excited to see chocolate chip cookies on the counter or an occasional carton of ice cream in the freezer.  We never had expensive clothes or shoes and some winters barely a warm coat.  We would get our clothes at second hand stores or from the free goodwill that use to be on Broadway. We kids would dream of wearing Converse All-Stars, just like the other kids in the neighborhood. But, instead, we would get the shoes that slip and slide that came from Goldblatt’s.  As the old saying goes, “Don’t get the shoes that slip and slide, get the shoes with the star on the side!”  One Christmas, my mother must have come across some extra money, as she gave my brothers and me money to run up on Broadway to the Army Navy Surplus store so that we could each buy a pair of our own Converse.  We were ecstatic and run we did!  I bought a pair of red high tops and I thought I was the luckiest kid on the block! Of course, we were only allowed to wear them on school days, while going to school.  On occasion, I would sneak them on and go play ball with my brothers, only to have my mother yell from the window to come in and take them off and change into my slip and slides.

The years went on and we kids had gotten older. Christmas gifts felt more of like a necessity than wishing you had the hottest toy under the tree.  One Christmas in particular my brothers had no winter coats to wear.  They would always double up on their sweatshirts to keep themselves warm. They had nothing to protect their heads or keep their hands warm.  Mom couldn’t afford to buy them new coats either, but I was still working at Jupiter, which was a five and dime store, and made enough money, along with my employee discount, that I could buy both of my brothers an inexpensive coat for Christmas.

Knowing that my brothers needed to stay warm, I bought each of them new winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves to match, with Steve in blue tones and Jeff in the color green.  I wanted to make sure that that winter they wouldn’t be cold while walking to school or playing outside.

Christmas morning came and we all gathered into the living room, where the tree was still lit and left on from the night before.  We were always told that if you leave the Christmas tree lights on during Christmas Eve, then Santa Claus would be able to see where he was going.

I couldn’t wait for my brothers to open up their gifts.  It was a tradition that one person opened their gifts at a time, with Steve usually being first, then Jeff, me and then mom to follow last. Steve tears opens his gifts first and soon Jeff was to follow. I could see the smiles on their faces that showed such gratitude and appreciation. However because Steve was so tall and his arms were so long, the sleeves on his coat were a tad short, but he said that he didn’t mind and he was excited about receiving a new winter coat.  I was very happy to help my brothers and it made me feel so good to know that they were able to open up a few Christmas gifts but, most importantly, they were going to be warm.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”  ~Bob Hope

Gifts from the Heart…

Christmas GiftOne particular Christmas will stand out in my mind forever and that my heart will never forget. My brothers and I were very young and we found ourselves once again without a Christmas tree.  We had just moved to a new building on Kenmore, just off Montrose Avenue and, surely, we wouldn’t have the luxury of finding a Christmas tree branch in the garbage, as we did once before. We decided to make our Christmas tree that year. Searching through some boxes in the closet, we did find some Christmas tree garland that was from the year before.  Although it wasn’t much, it was enough for my brothers and me to make a small Christmas tree.  Looking for the perfect wall in the living room, we began taping the garland to the wall. We created a triangle to symbolize a Christmas tree.  As Steve, Jeff and I took a step back, we took pride in our newly displayed Christmas tree, which had a hint of glimmer from the light of the lamp that was resting on the end table.

Christmas tree with bow“The perfect Christmas tree?  All Christmas trees are perfect!”  ~Charles N. Barnard

Reality had set in and it was at that moment that we realized that we had a tree, but no Christmas gifts to place beneath it. Our mother hardly had enough money to buy us food to eat, let alone money to buy us Christmas gifts.

Wanting to continue on with our Christmas spirit, my brothers and I wanted to have Christmas gifts under our tree.  We each had agreed to take one of our own personal and special toys that were our own and give it to the other for Christmas.  I decided that my gift was for Steve, Steve’s gift was for Jeff and Jeff’s gift was to me. While each of us looked through our toy boxes to see what the other would like to have, the three of us made our final decisions.  My special gift for Steve was a miniature toy egg beater that you would cook make believe pancake breakfast and play in a dollhouse with.  Of course, not having any wrapping paper to make my gift look beautiful, the only thing I could think of at the time to wrap my gift was the bathroom toilet paper. Pulling it off from the roll, sheet after sheet, I gently wrapped the egg beater in the toilet paper and tying it up with the only ribbon I could find, which was one of my laces from my shoes.  Once done, I then carried and placed Steve’s gift underneath our beautiful makeshift Christmas tree that was hanging on the wall in the living room. In turn, my brothers did the same thing.  Slowly unraveling the toilet paper from the roll, they, too, wrapped up their special gifts and placed them underneath the Christmas tree. Once again, we all stood staring at our tree that now housed three small gifts underneath.

The next morning had arrived and it was Christmas Day!  My brothers and I woke up and rushed to the Christmas tree with anticipation. Lying there before us were three perfectly wrapped gifts. I couldn’t wait to see what I had receive and what my brother, Jeff, had picked out especially for me. Sitting on the floor in front of the tree, I picked up the perfectly wrapped toilet papered gift and slowly unwrapped it.  I received a Corvette Matchbox car and it was the coolest car that I had ever seen! It was royal blue; my favorite color!

hot wheels redline blue corvetteIt was Jeff’s turn next. Slowly peeling away the toilet paper, Jeff finds a Matchbox truck that thrilled him as much as mind did.  Spinning the wheels, Jeff had a smile on his face that seemed to last forever.

Matchbox TruckLastly, it was Steve’s turn to open his gift.  Steve picked up his gift and placed it in his hands. He carefully unties the shoestring that I had taken from my tennie shoe the night before and begins to unwrap the many layers of toilet paper.  Steve sees the eggbeater sliding out of the wrap and his eyes light up with excitement. He begins to twirl the handles with vigor, as he watches with anticipation as the beaters simultaneously mesh together as one, rotating over and over and over.

eggbeaterSteve enjoyed his special gift, as well and Jeff and I did.

My brothers and I may not have received a shiny new bike for Christmas, or a pair of roller skates or even a talking dolly, but what we did receive was a sense of closeness that we were only able to share with one another.  Selfishness was set aside that day and we were shared with others what we had. We took from little and created a special moment that only the three of us were able to share and experience.

“Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” ~ Brian Tracy

We may not have had much during these Christmas’ back in the 1970’s, but that seemed to be just fine with us. Because that Christmas, my brothers and I didn’t think of ourselves. Instead, we thought of each other. We experienced a more precious gift that Christmas day and that was no matter what you have in your life, whether riches or coal, you can always find that one special something to make the person next to you happy. Gifts from your heart make the most precious gift of all.

“Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today’s Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday.” ~ Gladys Tabor 

Christmas Sign

Sign

Remembering Halloween

Kids trick or treating

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” ~ Dr. Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon

It was the early 1970’s and my family and I grew up poor, but I didn’t realize how poor we were until the holidays approached us. We weren’t a family that had stacks of gifts lined up underneath the tree at Christmas time or a table full of delicious delicacies at Thanksgiving, with different entrees or desserts ready to be eaten, nor did we celebrate birthday parties with our friends, acknowledging another year older.  But, like most kids, Halloween was one of our favorite holidays.  It was our chance to get a treat, free candy, and all we had to do was knock on a few doors, say a few words, and candy would be tossed into our bags like riches.  However, this particular Halloween would be different than the others and it will be a part of my past that will always be embedded into my memory forever.

My brothers, Steve and Jeff, and I didn’t have Halloween costumes that year, which meant no trick or treating for us.  We knew there were no plans for us to go from block to block, building to building, door to door, shouting those three infamous words that would give us lots of candy, filling our bags to heaviness.   I was about ten years old and my younger brothers and I were waiting for my mother and Melvin to come home, with Halloween candy, we hopped, so that we could at least pass it out to the kids who did have plans to haunt that night.

It was becoming darker and darker and mom and Melvin were still not home.  I knew what it meant when it became dark outside on Halloween night; the trick-or-treaters would soon be knocking on our door.  Unfortunately, we had no candy to hand out to them and I was starting to feel bad.

Prop 2

We lived in an apartment building on Sheffield Avenue, just off Montrose in Chicago. Our building had had three floors, with several apartments on each side of the building. I shared with Steve and Jeff that we had no candy to give to the trick or treaters, but if I dressed them up they could go gather enough treats within our own building so we would then have at least few treats to hand out until mom came home.  I knew we would never be allowed to leave our building, traveling the neighborhood, so I told my brothers that they could only trick-or-treat, collecting candy, within our own building.

“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.” ~ George Elliot

Scary Shadow

I decided to dress Steve up first, but as what…  Not having any Halloween costumes of our own, we suddenly had to be creative as to what Steve could be.   Looking around our apartment, I asked Steve to put some of Melvin’s clothes on which, obviously, were too big.  Disheveling Steve’s hair from left to right, he started to look like something out of a cartoon. With mom and Melvin being smokers, I took ashes from the ashtray and spread them all over Steve’s cheeks, around his chin and under his nose, making him look as if he had a three-day beard.  Taking a cigarette butt from the ashtray and placing it into his mouth, Steve’s costume was suddenly born!  Steve was transformed into a bum!  Not bad, I thought.

Steve hobbled to the front door, wearing Melvin’s oversized shoes, holding onto his pants with one hand and his pillow case for a candy bag with the other. I felt that we created a pretty good costume, convincible, as he went to ask for Candy, not for himself, but for the kids who would soon be knocking on our door.

Prop 1

Steve went to all three floors, from apartment to apartment, collecting as many Halloween goodies as he could. Once Steve returned home and looking into his pillowcase, I knew that he didn’t have enough candy that would last the evening.  Looking at my brother, Jeff, it was becoming apparent that I would have to dress him up as well.  Once again, looking around our apartment for ideas, we soon came up with a costume for Jeff to wear.  Taking some of mom’s make up; a little lipstick to paint his nose red, some eye makeup, along with some of mom’s mixed matched clothes, Jeff was transformed into a silly looking clown.

It was now Jeff’s turn to enter the hallway of goodies.  Going from door to door, I was hoping that he would collect enough candy for the evening.  Moments later, Jeff returned, but still not having enough candy to hand out. Any moment, I knew kids would be knocking on our door yelling, “Trick or Treat!”

Steve excitingly volunteers to go one more time.  Surely, he felt as if it was more like a game instead of a dire mission to collect Halloween candy for other children.

Taking another glance around, we came up with the idea of making him look like a hobo.  To be completely honest, there wasn’t much of a difference between Steve’s first costume, which was a bum, to his second costume, which was now a hobo. They both looked the same, no matter how much we tried to change!  However, being young kids, with very few resources, ideas were limited, and we were really hoping that nobody noticed.

Bats

Opening the front door, Steve is quick on his way as he ventures out for his second journey through the building in search of candy. It was almost as if he was on a race, trying to beat the clock before the buzzer went off.  Steve hurried, knocking on all the doors once more, making his way up to the third floor and winding back down to the first.

Steve finally returns home, where he said that one of the tenants in the building commented that he looked awfully familiar, asking if he had already been there before trick or treating.  Shaking his head no and saying thank you, Steve scurries back home to our apartment to share his bag of Halloween goodies.

Dolls - Negative View

With finally more than enough candy to hand out, we placed all the goodies that Steve and Jeff collected into a kitchen bowl. We all stood over the bowl, as we eyeballed each and every piece of candy.  There were Mary Jane’s, Pixie Sticks and Root Beer Barrels. There were Smarties, too.  Then, there was my favorite, the orange and black peanut butter kisses that everyone seemed to hate. Someone in the building even tossed in a large walnut! What are we going to do with that, I thought.  We decided to keep that treat out of the bowl.

Our trance that we held over the Halloween candy was soon interrupted, as my brothers and I heard a knock at the door.  It was our first trick or treater for the evening!  With smiles on our faces, we grabbed the bowl of treats from the table and ran to the front door.  As if on cue, the little boy in front of us yells, “Trick or Treat!” as we opened the door to greet our Halloween goblin.  As Steve grabbed a piece of candy, tossing it into the treater’s bag, we couldn’t help but to be excited handing out the Halloween candy with delight!

I don’t believe my brothers and I showed any selfishness that particular Halloween afternoon. Not once, did we think of ourselves or why we couldn’t go out and participate in the holiday ritual that so many other children around us were.  It was within the innocence of ourselves that we wanted to share with others. That day, it was all about how we could help and give to others; to a child who was soon to knock at our door, a child who we didn’t want to leave without a piece of candy. We may not have had the opportunity to walk from street to street trick or treating ourselves, but we still had fun creating costumes and collecting and giving candy to others. Perhaps, this is why Halloween today is my favorite holiday of the year and, anyone who knows me, would agree.  It’s a chance where I can create and be expressive and hand out candy to all the goblins that knock on my door.

That Halloween day, we may have been poor in candy, poor in money, poor in life but, I believe overall, we were very rich in spirit.

 

Have a Happy and Bootiful Halloween!

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A Soul’s Connection: A Special Friendship

Jack and Donatta in 8th Grade - 1977.

Jack and Donatta in 8th Grade – 1977.

“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.”  ~Lois Wyse

It was the seventh grade. It was a brand new school. It was a time that would change my life forever.

I went to a grade school called, Stockton, on Montrose and Beacon in Chicago; the same school where my teacher would let me out early to run home so that I wouldn’t get my ass kicked after school.  I was happy that I wouldn’t be going to that school any longer. I made not one friend there. At the time, Stockton School only went up to grade six, therefore, I was being transferred to a brand new school, Joan F. Arai Middle School, which was down on Wilson Avenue and Hazel Street. Here is where I met my best friend, my kindred spirit, my soul’s infinite connection, Donatta Erzic.

We both had an immediate connection with one another, sitting together in class, laughing, joking, creating a friendship. I remember when Donatta would go into one of her laughing spurts, she would laugh so hard that she would fall off her chair, sliding herself down the wall and onto the floor, while her legs continued to rest on her chair. Giggling with her, I would try and help her up off the floor, as the teacher, Ms. Gold, would instruct us to get back into our seats.

The hot show at the time was a cop show, Starsky and Hutch.  Donatta and I would pretend to be these television characters, passing notes in class and solving crimes, with her being Starsky and me being Hutch. Donatta would wear the big sweaters like Starsky use to wear, too. What a great time we used to have in class.

Starsky & Hutch

Starsky & Hutch

Our seventh grade school year was soon to be over and summer vacation was on its way.  Every summer, my brother and I would go to Wisconsin to stay the summer with my grandparents on their farm and I knew that I was going to miss my new found friend.  Before the school year ended, Donatta wrote me a sweet note, letting me know how much fun she had, committing to a friendship between us.

Donatta's Letter

Donatta’s Letter

I wrote to Donatta every week and, as promised, she replied back. We had a ritual with our letters however. Because my granny was nosy and wanted to know what I wrote about, I wrote one general very vague letter, which was the one that granny always read. But, on the side, I wrote my “real” letter, sharing with Donatta more personal writings and things I wanted to share with Donatta only, not my grandmother. Walking to the end of the driveway to mail my letter to Donatta, I would quickly place my secret letter inside the envelope so that granny wouldn’t see. Sealing and tucking my letter inside, I closed the lid to the mailbox.  Raising the red flag, signifying that there’s a letter to be picked up, I waited for the mailman to take my letter that was soon to be on a journey to Chicago. Days would pass, as I watched for the mailman.  I couldn’t wait to get a return letter from Donatta.

Day after day, I would wait for the mailman to bring the mail.  Once he drove off, I would grab the mail, looking to see if I received a letter and, soon enough, there within the other envelopes, was a letter for me! Upon receiving my mail from Donatta, I would immediately open the envelope, sneaking one of the letters into my pocket.  I shared with Donatta that my granny read all our letters back and forth to each other, so I asked her to write two… one for granny’s eyes and another for me.  We continued this correspondence throughout the summer until we could see each other again when school started.

Eighth grade had arrived, where Donatta and I shared, once again, the same classes and homeroom, where we became closer as friends and sharing secrets, as young girls would often do. This was the year that I met her family and she met mine, accepting where and the way I lived, the way I was being raised, accepting the horrors that I lived every single day of my life.  I was able to share anything with Donatta.  She was a person that I knew I could trust and she was the only one in my life who knew my deepest and darkest secret… that I was being sexually abused by the man who was labeled as my step father. I have always felt that Donatta was meant to come into my life for a reason, to be there with me, for me, to protect me. Her arrival couldn’t have been any more precise.

“Friends are kisses blown to us by angels.”  ~Author Unknown

 Donatta was true to her words, “Once I meet a friend I like staying pals for a long time.” The year was 1976 and, 38 years later, we are still friends, best friends and even more.

Donatta wasn’t only my friend, she was my teacher. She taught me many things that my own mother could not.  She took me to the next steps of feminine hygiene, where she showed me how to use a tampon. “Girls don’t wear pads anymore, they wear tampons,” she said.  Buying my first box, she demonstrated with a tampon and her fingers, showing me how to insert and use them.  Later that evening, Donatta gave me a call, asking how I was coming along wearing tampons, making sure that I had no questions and that everything was working out okay.  Proudly, I told her that it was going great and how much easier it was to use tampons… except for one thing.  “What’s that, she asked?”  I shared with her that it’s nice using tampons, but I have gone through a whole box already and that I’m almost out. “How can that be?” There’s like 24 of them in the box?” Donatta said.  I told her that I pee a lot and that whenever I went to the bathroom, I’d pull the tampon out so I could pee. “Oh my God! You don’t have to pull the tampon out every time you go to the bathroom. Don’t you know you have two holes down there?!” Embarrassed, I told her no, I didn’t know that and every time I went to the bathroom, I’m pull it out. I thought the tampon was like a plug… how can the pee come out if I’m all plugged up? Once again, Donatta was my teacher. This has been our little joke between us for the past 38 years.

I remember the time when Donatta said she would take me to go and see my grandmother.  My grandfather had recently passed away and Donatta was gracious enough to drive up to Madison, Wisconsin so that I can spend the weekend with granny.  It was also the day that Donatta found out she was going to have a baby, her first. Here we are both sitting in the car, driving the highway, while my best friend had morning sickness – a severe case of morning sickness.  Between dry heaves and several cans of Sprite, we finally made it to granny’s place. There, Donatta sat recovering from her three hour ordeal in the car. We decided to get comfortable for the evening and snapped a few pictures while granny sat watching her television shows.

Granny had bunny knick knacks and behind her back, we tied a lace around the bunnies neck.  This was Donatta’s way of telling the world that the “rabbit had died!”

The Rabbit Died!

The Rabbit Died!

The next morning, I decided to make breakfast for us all.  While Donatta was in the bathroom, dealing with her morning sickness no doubt, I started cooking.  The moment that Donatta walked out of the bathroom, she said, “You made bacon?!” Surely, it was the last thing she wanted to smell as she tried to settle her queasy pregnant belly, but always a memory for me whenever I cook bacon today.  She did all of this for me so that I could be with my grandmother.

Donatta and I had decided to take another trip to granny’s after Emily was born. Emily was just a couple months old at the time.  Granny was excited to meet baby Emily and we thought granny would get a kick out of meeting the little one who was inside Donatta’s belly, making her nauseous just several months before.

Donatta knew how eccentric my grandmother was and that she was in a world all her own at times.  I’m not sure if granny didn’t think about her actions or she just didn’t care what others thought. Such as, whenever granny would go to the bathroom at home, she would always pee with the bathroom door open, holding a conversation with you every tinkle of the way; something that I even catch myself doing to this day.  I don’t know why she never closed the door for privacy.  Perhaps, it’s the same reason why I leave the door open myself; comfortableness with the person you’re with.

As we settled in for the evening, Donatta prepared Emily for bedtime, hushing and lying her down in the portable crib that we brought with us. As if on cue, granny strolls to the bathroom to do her business, while leaving the door open the whole time.  Granny lived in a small apartment that consisted of only a living room, bedroom and a small kitchenette.  The bathroom was in direct contact with all three of these rooms, so no matter what room you were in, you were able to see and hold a conversation on with granny while she sat on the “pot” as she called it.  Sitting in the living room with a direct eyeshot of granny in the bathroom, Donatta listened to every squirt, plop, and splashdown that granny was creating, as well as every sound effect that granny chimed.  It was at this precise moment that Donatta spun her head around and looked at me, whispering underneath her breath, “Your grandmother is taking a major shit with the bathroom door open!” Giggling to myself, I shared with Donatta that granny must have felt very comfortable with her if she didn’t close the bathroom door, making it sound as if it was some sort of honor or privilege!  Once granny was done with her chat on the pot, she strolled back into the living room, into her chair, where she restfully took a nap.  I immediately went to the bathroom and tried to mask the smell, looking for the bathroom deodorizer.  Unfortunately for us, there wasn’t any.  The only thing I could find to spray down the bathroom with was granny’s FDS spray, which stood for Feminine Deodorant Spray. Now, we were sitting in a room that smelled like someone who took a crap in a baby power factory! To say the least, between granny’s dumps and chronic cough throughout the night that kept waking up baby Emily, it was an unforgettable visit!  Memories in the making.

Jack and Donatta Young

A couple years later, I went with Donatta and her parents to Cancun, Mexico, along with that precious little baby girl Emily.  To sit on the darkened beach by moonlight, drinking Tequila Spritzer shots with my best friend, who was constantly asking for “another” was a memorable vacation of a lifetime! We shared bread, we drank and we talked about our past, our present and our future.

Emily in Cancun

Emily in Cancun

Jack and Donatta in Cancun

Jack and Donatta in Cancun

Beachin' It!

Beachin’ It!

Donatta has not only been my best friend and angel, but she has been my nurturer. When being in the hospital from my motorcycle accident and unable to walk, she made sure that I was comfortable and content. While visiting me in the hospital, Donatta shaved my legs, which always makes a woman feel her best. She also made sure that my body was clean, helping me wash myself, when I hardly could not. In my eyes, this is a definition of love.

 “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”  ~John Leonard

Throughout the years, Donatta and I have shared many celebrations and experiences together, birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings, births of our children and, sadly enough, many deaths. Donatta has always been there for me through the good times, as well as the bad, as I have her. She laughs, I laugh and when she cries, I cry. We have always had this underlying connection between us, that without trust and respect, a friendship would not be there. My wish for all is to experience a friendship like I have with Donatta.

There are times when I think of Donatta and I can’t help but to cry, not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and blessings. I think of Donatta through hearing a song, through a movie, and even through special thoughts. I’m blessed to have such a wonderful person in my life, someone who accepts me for who I am, even though I can be a little eccentric myself at times, with tattoos, piercings or even with my candid openness.  I love her to death because she accepts me for who I am.

“A true friend is one who thinks you are a good egg even if you are half-cracked.” ~Author Unknown

Donatta and I may not share the same opinions or agree on a certain subject matter, but we love and respect each other enough to accept each other’s beliefs, without shedding insult or disapproval.  Donatta is an honest, faithful and devoted friend and this is why she has been a part of my life for almost forty years.  We have experienced and shared a life time together and I am honored to be a part of her life.

“The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with, never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you’ve had.”  ~Author Unknown

Jack and Donatta

When we met back in grade school in 1976, we always said we wanted to have our own commune together, living off the land, while our babies ran around naked. What a dream that would have been, huh? Although a vision of the past, it doesn’t stop me from dreaming about the future, where we would live side by side on the same block, sharing food from our gardens in which we had planted just the spring before.  As for having our babies run around naked… well, they have gotten too big for that now, however, it is my hope and sincere dream that we are able to sit in the yard as the sun sets low, sharing a bottle of wine together, while we watch not our children, but our beautiful grandchildren run around naked instead…

I love you my dear friend. Although, I am fourteen days older than you, I will always look up to you.  I wish you a wonderful birthday and look forward to the many more we share together.

Always,

Jack

 “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”  ~Henri Nouwen

Spirits that Surround Me

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.” ~ Brené Brown

I have always believed in spirits, ghosts, the afterlife, whatever you would like to call them, especially since I got older and had the opportunity to learn more about the subject. I believe in After Death Communication (ADC).  I have had many encounters, on what I like to believe, were the spirits of my deceased loved ones.   Whether it was a white mist, a talking doll or softly spoken words… these are just a few of the signs that I have experienced within the last twenty years and, most of them, within my own home, where I live today.

I have found myself to be a spiritual person, more so than a religious one, although I do believe in both wholeheartedly – the afterlife with God in his kingdom, as well as my own personal spiritual one that surround me and fills my world today. I believe it was important for me to accept the rights of baptism and confirmation. These two sacraments not only opened my eyes to how much I love God and how much He loves me, but it has also made me aware of what His world truly has to offer and all the spiritual beauty that He has created. Religiously, as a Catholic, I believe that there are certain rules and restrictions that are expected of me, requests that are asked of me, requirements that are set before me that I should live by and I hope that in every sense of the word I do.   Although, I respect the church and what my religion has to give, I believe that my spiritual side is stronger; it is more of personal one. My feelings as a spiritualist go deeper within my heart and soul and the connection that I have with my God. It is a strong one, a relationship that I truly respect and am blessed to have in my life. As I have expressed in the past, this relationship with God was not one that was taught through the education of a parent but, instead, one that was self taught and through personal discovery. Not only do I find a spiritual connection with God, Himself, but I also find a spiritual connection in the things he has created that surround me, such as the deepest magenta flower that blooms to perfection with beauty and grace. A tree that soars its branches toward the sky as it sways gently with the breeze as if it is waving hello. Or the swollen clouds that dance before me in the sky that embraces and reflects the perfect shades of crimson and payne’s gray, as the sun rests for the evening. These are just a few things that I connect with spiritually and, I do believe, that they were all at the expense of God’s hands.

Because of these spiritual feelings, I don’t believe in the thought that once we die our lives just end, hushing us into a complete darkness and a forever silence, where the life we once knew, the life we once lived and was so familiar with, is simply no more. No more thinking, communicating, no more touching, loving, feeling, no more existing, completely lights out.  There just has to be more once we pass on and I believe that there is, whether it is in God’s kingdom in the Heavens or spiritually through the wings of a butterfly.

As I lay in bed at the end of my day, I have a ritual where I go over my day’s events, things that went right… things that, perhaps, didn’t. As I lay there, I tick off in my head the tasks that I had completed and tick off what yet still needs to be done, trying to create a “pocket list” for the following day. This is my time to reflect on life in general and to assess everything. I then begin to think about who I have in my life, as well as those who I have lost and how much I am missing them.

My mind starts to wander to a dubious thought that I have had so many times before. I, once again, question how can we talk and walk, think and breathe without needing the aid of being plugged into an electrical current or connected to some sort of machine, where wires and cords give us the energy to work and perform, like when a television set is plugged in or a stove, computer, or even an electrical car!  All of these need some sort of energy source to perform.

I lay there and wonder in amazement… how am I capable of breathing on my own using a set of lungs that simply ask for clean, fresh air, but yet no requirement of wires?  How amazing it is to do my own thinking with an organ that does not need any “plug ins” to dream, to remember, to hold special thoughts and memories in my mind. My heart will beat a thousand times a day without the assistance of any electrical power. My heart loves and forgives, as well as learns about compassion. My heart is not only able to beat on its own, but is actually able to love and feel without an energy source spewing high voltage power directly into me, making all these vital organs work. I vision we should be like marionettes, where strings are connected to every part of our bodies, where a Master is now our energy source, instructing and pulling at our mind, heart and body strings, giving us the power, like electricity, to move, dance, talk and make our body’s operate.

electric

How can a heart, mind and soul function without the aid of cords zapping us with an electrical force, which seems to make everything work and function? How is it that we’re free to get up and move whenever we want, without unplugging ourselves from a pod of electrical current first?  I know that a person has to feed their body with traditional air, water and food in order to obtain that “power” of energy to keep moving forward, giving their body strength to do so, however, I still find it to be a miracle in itself. Think about it… my mind is thinking and writing its own thoughts and my heart is beating to every keystroke that my fingers type out and, all of this for “free of charge,”  no pun intended, of course.  I find it such a phenomenon that I’m able to accomplish all of this “wire free.” We are our own “energy.”  My body is one circuit of energy within itself. Each circuit of  energy within my body helps the other. These are just some of my odd thoughts that I have as I lay in my bed examining my day.

It’s these thoughts that now take me to a higher plane. Although I believe that our bodies need valued nutrition in order to be energized and function properly, I also believe that there’s a higher power that allows us to walk, talk, and move around so freely.  This power, I believe, is no other than God.  I believe that God is the one who supplies our “power” and that it’s a miracle in which my brain thinks, my lungs breathe and my heart beats and loves unconditionally all on their own. If God can do all of this while I’m alive here in my physical world, then I believe that he can create the same miracle of power, keeping our spirit and soul alive after we die.

 “I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living sprint from the dead, that the souls of the dead are in existence.” ~ Socrates

I don’t believe that once our physical bodies die that our spirits and souls die as well and that all of these miracles abruptly come to an end. I believe that our spirits and souls are set free, to continue on with our journey but now only in another measurement of time. Just because my loved ones have moved on to a different dimension, or because their physical body is no more, it doesn’t mean that their spirits don’t exist or that they don’t surround me. Their energy and wisdom will move forward to continue on with their path, where they will now share their life lessons that they have learned here on earth, with others in the next dimension so that they may teach others what they have learned and possibly what we have not. As I believe in the same power that God gives us in our physical lives, I believe that He continues to give us this same power for our spiritual world as well.  Our spirits, souls and knowledge, I believe, will continue on, whether it’s to be shared spiritually here on earth or high within the heavens.

As I often do, I extend an invitation to my deceased loved ones, letting them know they can come to me in my dreams to visit and to talk. I have only one rule with all my spiritual family and that is NOT to appear to me in their physical form. They are more than welcome to leave me a sign, move things, send me special memories or communicate with me through my dreams. Although I believe that they can appear to me, I simply request them not to. Seeing them in this form will surely scare the living turds right out of me! They know the rules, therefore, they communicate with me in the ways I have mentioned above. Reading many books on ADC, I have learned that there are twelve forms of after death communication from a deceased loved one and I have received about nine of these:

Sensing A Presence: This is the most common form of contact. But many people discount these experiences, thinking, “Oh, I’m just imagining this.” It’s a distinct feeling that your loved one is nearby, even though he or she can’t be seen or heard. Though most often felt during the days and weeks immediately after the death, you may sense his or her presence months and even years later.

Hearing A Voice: Some people state they hear an external voice, the same as when a living person is speaking to them. However, the majority of communications are by telepathy – you hear the voice of your relative or friend in your mind. When you have two-way communication, it is usually by telepathy. In fact, it’s possible to have an entire conversation this way.

Feeling A Touch: You may feel your loved one touch you with his or her hand, or place an arm around your shoulders or back, for comfort and reassurance. You may feel a tap, a pat, a caress, a stroke, a kiss, or even a hug. These are all forms of affection, nurturing, and love.

Smelling A Fragrance: You may smell your relative’s or friend’s favorite cologne, after-shave lotion, or perfume. Other common aromas are: flowers (especially roses), bath powders, tobacco products, favorite foods, and his or her personal scent.

Visual Experiences: There are a wide variety of visual experiences, which we have divided into two broad categories: partial visual and full visual ADCs. Appearances range from “a transparent mist” to “absolutely solid” with many gradations in between. You may see only the head and shoulders of your relative or friend, or someone you love may make a full appearance to you, and you will see the entire body as well, which will appear completely solid. Some visual ADCs occur in the bedroom, next to or at the foot of the bed. Others may happen anywhere – indoors or outdoors – even in a car or aboard a plane. Typically he or she will be expressing love and well-being with a radiant smile. Loved ones virtually always appear healed and whole regardless of their cause of death. Verbal communication may take place, but not always.

Visions: You may see an image of a deceased loved one in a “picture” that is either two-dimensional and flat or three-dimensional like a hologram. It’s like seeing a 35 mm slide or a movie suspended in the air. Visions are usually in radiant colors and may be seen externally with your eyes open or internally in your mind. Communication may occur, especially during meditation.

Twilight Experiences: These occur in the alpha state – as you’re falling asleep, waking up, meditating, or praying. You may have any or all of the above types of experiences while you are in this state of consciousness.

ADC Experiences While Asleep: Sleep-state ADCs are much more vivid, intense, colorful, and real than dreams. They are very common. Both one-way and two-way communications are typical. You usually feel your loved one is with you in person – that you’re having an actual visit together. These experiences are not jumbled, filled with symbols, or fragmented the way dreams are.  Sleep-state ADCs are similar to those that occur when you are wide awake. Your relative or friend can come to you more easily, however, when you are relaxed, open, and receptive, such as while you are in the alpha state or asleep.

Out-Of-Body ADCs: These may occur while you are asleep or in a meditative state. They are dramatic experiences during which you leave your body and often visit your loved one at the place or level where he or she exists. These are extremely vivid, intense, and real – some say, “more real than physical life.” The environments usually contain beautiful flowers and butterflies, colorful bushes and trees, radiant lighting, and other lovely aspects of nature – and are filled with happiness, love, and joy.

Telephone Calls: These ADCs may occur during sleep or when you are wide awake. You will hear a phone ringing, and if you answer it, your loved one will give you a short message. Two-way conversations are possible. His or her voice will usually be clear but may seem far away. If you are awake, you will probably not hear a disconnect sound or a dial tone when the call is completed.

Physical Phenomena: People who are bereaved often report receiving a wide variety of physical signs from their deceased relative or friend, such as: lights or lamps blinking on and off; lights, radios, televisions, stereos, and mechanical objects being turned on; photographs, pictures, and various other items being turned over or moved; and a long list of “things that go bump in the night.”

Symbolic ADCs: People frequently ask a Higher Power, the universe, or their deceased loved one for a sign that he or she still exists. Many receive such a sign, though it may take some time to arrive. Occasionally these signs are so subtle they may be missed, or they may be discounted as mere “coincidences.” Common signs include: butterflies, rainbows, many species of birds and animals, flowers, and a variety of inanimate objects such as coins and pictures. (1)

Just as I believe spiritually, I strongly believe in the spirit world as well. I believe that my loved one’s spirits come to visit me, surrounding me with their guidance, protection and love. I’ve had deceased loved ones offer me advice through a dream, thank me or just extending a hug.  I don’t call what has happened to me as coincidences, I believe that they all happened for a reason and that there’s a meaning and message behind each and every one of them.  I have always welcomed my family to communicate with me, via ADC, and with the stories I mention below, I believe, they have.

The Sweet Smell of Tar

One of my first encounters of spirits was by smell.  My grandfather, Raymond, was a roofer and he often would bring home his big red roofing truck, which smelled like tar and, of course, himself, too. It was one of those pleasant memories that when I smell tar today, I think fondly of my grandfather.  However, what’s strange is that whenever I smell tar, there would be no tar truck around nor were any buildings being worked on.

The smell literally appeared out of nowhere. Such as, when I was planning to go into the hospital to have Arla by cesarean, I smelled tar inside the car on the way to the hospital.  This same smell repeated itself when I was on my way to the hospital the second time to give birth by cesarean to Tanner. Again, there were no tar trucks or buildings around me that indicated work was being done.  When having Tanner, the anesthesiologist was having trouble inserting the needle into my back for my epidural. I was told that if they couldn’t get it by the third attempt, they would have to put me under. I have a fear of going under anesthesia, so I had prayed to my grandfather, “Grandpa, please guide the physician’s hands to help her insert the needle into my back so that I don’t have to go under. You know how much I fear going under…” No sooner when my prayer ended, the anesthesiologist, Dr. Childers, was able to complete the procedure and the needle slid directly into my spine with ease. “Thank you grandpa!”  Frank commented that when I was in the hospital to have Arla, that there was an elderly man working on the sink just outside the operating room.  Of course, Frank didn’t give it a second thought… until the next time when I went to the hospital to have Tanner.  Once again, I was the same operating room as the first time and there Frank said was the same elderly man, underneath the sink, working on it.  I personally didn’t recall this man, but Frank insisted that he was there both times of delivery, working on the same sink. I do know that I smelled roofing tar for no apparent reason on both of these occasions and, along with this elderly man, I believe that this could have been grandpa stopping by to make sure that I was okay and it was his way of saying that he was there with me, protecting and watching over me.  To this day, I still continue to smell roofing tar and, when I do, I peacefully say, “Hello grandpa, how are you?”

Coming to Say Hello

As I have shared in the past, my grandfather and I were very close, especially in the latter years when he was battling his final fight with cancer.

While visiting with him and my grandmother in Madison in the early 1980’s, I realized that his condition was deteriorating, making me realize that he may not be with us too much longer.  As I sat on the couch with grandpa, we started talking about this and that, catching up on lost time. It was moments later that grandpa stood up and, with the help of his cane, he walked slowly to his bedroom to collect something from his drawer.

Sitting back down beside me, he handed me a man’s gold diamond ring, sharing with me that he had found it in a car wash decades ago.  He asked me if I would like to keep it, so that when I held it, I would think of him.  Knowing that it was a part of him, I said, “Yes, I would love to have it as a keepsake.”  Grandpa commented that he had the ring for many years and that I should never give it away and to keep it always.  I distinctly remember the moment when sitting close beside him on the couch that warm summer afternoon, playing with the ring that he gave me, twirling it around my finger. There was reminiscence in the air, along with our conversation, as we started to talk about the farm in Stoughton and all the fun time we had while living there. I could tell that this was a fond memory in grandpa’s heart. It wasn’t long when he shared with me that he wished my mother would have named me Arlaraye, like he asked her to. But, he told me that she absolutely refused. I told him that I was sorry, as I knew how important this was to him. It was then that I made a vow to him and said, “Grandpa, if I ever have a daughter in the future, I promise that I will name her after you, for you, and call her Arlaraye.”  With that, he put his arms around me and gave me the strongest hug. The strength in his arms told me that I had just made him a very happy grandfather.

Grandpa’s death came just a couple years later and it saddened me to know that he would never be around to see my promise to him become a reality, naming my first daughter for him. Almost ten years later, when I realized that I was pregnant, I was ecstatic!   I was expecting to have my first child in April 1992.  From the moment that I found out I was going to have a baby, all I wished for that it was going to be a girl.  One evening during the night, I prayed my wishes to God, expressing how much I wanted to have a daughter so that I could honor my grandfather in the way that my mother would not.  After pleading my reasons, I felt something in my belly, twisting and turning, almost as if the baby did a complete 360 flip inside me.  The feeling that I experienced that night was different, almost bizarre, as if God was answering my prayers the moment they left my lips.

My daughter, Arlaraye Niccole, was born on Monday, April 6, 1992.

It wasn’t long before Frank and I got in the routine of nightly feedings, changing poopy diapers, with a side order of not enough sleep!  At the time, we always lived in the back room.  It was our main family room, where we watched TV and entertained guests and simply hung out.  Today, this room is considered the art room. But, when Arla was a baby, this was the room we utilized the most when first moving into the house.  This family room was an addition that was built onto the house decades prior to us moving in. It’s a nice size room and it overlooks the backyard, with many windows wrapping around. The main bedrooms were on the first floor, with Arla’s room being directly across from ours.  Because the back room was an add on, Arla’s bedroom had two doors; one that originally would have led outside to the backyard if the addition wasn’t there and the main bedroom door, which leads into the hallway by the bathroom and our bedroom.

One evening, Frank and I were sitting in the back family room, enjoying some quite time, as we had just laid Arla down in her crib for the night. As young parents often do, we made sure that the noise level was at a minimum so as to not wake up our new baby girl. We made sure that both doors were tightly closed so that our cats wouldn’t disturb Arla while she slept.  Settling in for an evening of TV, it wasn’t long before we heard the unexpected. I was sitting right outside Arla’s door and Frank was lounging on the couch. It was moments later that Arla’s main door to her room, the one that faced the hallway, opened and within a few seconds it closed again, slamming shut. Suddenly, Frank and I both looked at each other simultaneously, as we spun our heads toward Arla’s bedroom.  We both knew that we were the only ones in the house. As if on cue, both Frank and I said in harmony, “Grandpa Johnson!”  Frank went to Arla’s room and, there as it was, just the way we left it, her door was completely shut. We knew that Arla didn’t open the door, as she was just a newborn, not even able to roll over yet, let open a bedroom door.  Frank and I absolutely believed that grandpa had stopped by for a visit to say hello to his new great granddaughter, his namesake, the one I promised to name for him, in honor of him.

It was a couple years later, once we had our Golden Retriever, Kassy, that this room attracted additional attention. One evening, as Kassy laid quietly on the floor next to my feet in the family room, she suddenly poked her head up, looked toward Arla’s room, and started a low toned growl. She immediately got my attention as I, too, looked toward Arla’s room.  The lights were off and Arla’s back door was slightly opened. At the time, Arla was not in her room, but in her basinet beside me. Kassy is now standing on all fours and is directing her complete attention to the open door of Arla’s room, growling making her presence known. I began to ask Kassy what was the matter and asked her to go and investigate, with a quick “who’s there girl, watch ‘em!” command. Kassy slowly walked to the open door, as if she was on a cautious hunt, but she moved no further nor did she walk inside the room.  It was if she got spooked.  Immediately turning around, she shared a small whimper and came back to my side, hugging close to my legs, which is where she remained for the remainder of the evening.  It was apparent that there was something going on in Arla’s room and that Kassy was scared.  Animals can be such intuitive animals and I believe that there was something in the room that grabbed her attention.  Although I never did learn what stirred Kassy into such a frenzy, I can only believe that it was simply another visit from grandpa, looking to say hello to his Arlaraye.

The Light in the Window

One evening, I was home by myself and Frank was out with the Arla, who was a toddler at the time. It was a rarity that I was alone, not to mention with my own thoughts. I decided to call my friend Donatta to catch up on life. I was in our back family room at the time. Doing things between both rooms, running back and forth from the kitchen and family room, and instead of resting within the chair, I decided to sit and prop myself on the arm of the recliner chair. I faced the windows toward the backyard, with my back resting toward the kitchen. It was evening out and I could see the room’s reflection in the darken window. Midway through my conversation with Donatta, while starring toward the window, I saw a large white light that suddenly took over my attention. Like a mirror, this light was being reflected in the darkened window. My reaction was somewhat puzzling, but yet uneasy, as I couldn’t grasp at the moment where the light was coming from.   The light was noticeable and prominent for at least a good ten seconds. It appeared as if something was being opened and closed, as I saw the light slowly disappear.

I immediately went to the window to investigate, thinking it was the weather, perhaps lightening, but I soon realized it wasn’t. Turning back toward the kitchen, I stood there thinking maybe Frank and the kids were home, but they weren’t. The house was quiet. There were no other lights on in the kitchen except for the accent light underneath the stove, which wasn’t in the path of the window.  Still standing in the back room, my eyes then drifted through the kitchen to the fridge. As I expected it to be, the fridge door was closed. Walking only a few feet into the kitchen from where I was standing, I went directly to the fridge. Holding the phone in my left hand, I was still on the phone talking with Donatta, explaining to her what was happening. Placing my right hand onto the fridge door handle, I turn my head to the left, where I look directly toward the back family room, to the same window where I was just at moments before. The distance between the fridge and the back room window is approximately twenty feet.  Studying the layout and the path between both rooms, the fridge was in direct alignment with the darkened window. Clutching the handle, I slowly open the fridge door, as I watched what played out in the window.  Moments later, I gradually brought the fridge door to a close.

Opening and closing the fridge door several more times, it was then that I had the evidence I needed. I was convinced that this was the exact same light that I had witnessed just minutes before while sitting on the arm of the chair starring at the back room window.  This is when Donatta asked me if I was sure I was alone. Walking through the house, I made sure that nobody else was there with me. I was completely alone… or so I thought. The only explanation that came to mind was that, perhaps, it was my grandfather’s sprit, who was coming to visit me once again, just like the time when he came to visit Arla in her bedroom. But, this time, looking into the fridge for a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Everywhere a Sign

My grandfather’s favorite beer was Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and whenever I see a PBR beer sign, I think of him. On the way home from the hospital, after taking my mother off of life support that one September afternoon, we parked on a side street so that Frank could run an errand into the corner convenient store. I decided to stay in the car with the kids. Looking out the window, my mind started drifting off and I was back in the hospital, where I was at only moments before.  Looking up to the sky, there I saw high above my head on the top side of the building was a PBR advertisement sign. It was then that I felt my grandfather was with me at the time of my mother’s death and going through the emotions with me.

Not only do I receive signs like the above, I also receive signs by smell, such as the tar smell I spoke of earlier.  One afternoon, while walking into my bedroom, I immediately smelled my grandfather’s aftershave, as if it was just freshly slapped onto his face. I knew it was him right away and I spent the next few minutes taking in the smell of his aftershave. Moments later, it dissipated.

A Word of Comfort

As my grandfather’s scent had permeated my bedroom, believing that he was there for a visit, there was another time recently that he stopped by again. I was upset and crying very hard to myself. Someone I knew hurt me very deeply. As I walked into the bedroom, I closed the door behind me. I wanted to be alone. Sitting on the edge of the bed on my side of the room with my back to the bedroom door, I sat there sobbing, where my emotions were simply uncontrollable. My deepest emotions were coming out and I was practically drowning in my own emotions. Through my tears, I heard a soft voice behind me, a voice that uttered a reassuring “Ssssshhhhh…” My eyes looked up and I hushed myself from crying. I quickly turned around toward the door and to the other side of the room. The door was still closed. I felt like I was no longer alone.  It was then that I knew my grandfather was there with me, asking me to shush my tears, consoling me.  I will never forget this spiritual contact. I heard this Ssssshhhhh as clear as could be. My spiritual family is with me always and hearing grandpa hush me to silence made me stop crying and wipe my tears. There is no doubt in my mind that my grandfather was there helping me get through this rough time.

I have received other signs, as well, such as when doing an online search or needing to complete an online form. On several occasions, there was already a name populated within the search field or the name field before I even began typing.  The name Johnson would automatically be within these fields prior to be starting the form.  Coincidently enough, Johnson was my grandparents’ last name.

I have also encountered flickering lights while sitting next to a lamp or the light bulb would suddenly blow out while touching to turn on a light switch or turn the knob of a lamp. There was a time when the bulbs were constantly being changed because every time I reached for them, they would blow out.   These times were during when I lost a loved one, where my feelings and emotions were at their highest level. Was it my own energy source that tapped these lights dry or was it someone else, my spiritual family, letting me know that they were with me?

When I began to write my memoirs, I knew that I wanted to share and express not only the hardships I have had in my life, but also the tremendous amount of love I have experienced as well.  The day that I finished writing about my Uncle Bob and expressing how much he meant to me in my life, that evening, he came to me in a dream. Uncle Bob stood there before me, just as I remembered him, with his face full of beard wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. He had a look that seemed to come right out of the 1970’s. Standing before me he said to me, “Thank you for individually thinking of me.”  I remember telling him that he was welcome and that I loved him. Uncle Bob started to cry and I started to cry even hard. Shortly after, I woke up and knew that Uncle Bob came to visit me.

I continue to ask for signs and welcome my spiritual family to visit me at any time during my dreams. I enjoy when they visit, except for the time when granny took her hug a bit too far or the time when she offered me words of “Peace” that she shared with me in my dream. I will share these moments with you next time, as well as when my mother who made an appearance but this time it wasn’t in my dreams, it was a physical manifestation right there in front of me while I was sitting in church…

 “Perhaps they are not stars but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pour through and shine down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

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Today, as I sat in my yard writing my blog, I had the company of two yellow butterflies playing with each other throughout the day. Bouncing from one flower to the next, they did so in unison, not once parting from each other’s side. I can’t help but to wonder… Could these two butterflies be my grandparents as they glided from one pollen pod to the other? Was it my mother and Uncle Bob, chasing each another around as they once did when they were little kids? Perhaps, it was Geno and his father, as they journeyed together catching up on life’s distant past.  Regardless of who these two butterflies may have been as they shared my whole day, I was happy to know that I was able to have this spiritual connection. I watched them both dance to the fragrance that my garden had to offer, as I listened to the birds sing in the breeze, the beautiful clouds that painted the sky and the air that carried a calmness. These are the moments that make me aware of how my body is energized; not through electrical energy, but by the power of God and my spiritual connections…

… Yes, I truly enjoyed my Spiritual Sunday.

References:

1. http://www.after-death.com/

http://www.adcrf.org/

Riding Free

 Everyone copes differently; some cry for the loss of a loved one, others smile because they know they’ll see them again.” ~ Author Unknown

“He was behind us at one point when I checked my side mirror and, when I looked again only moments later, he was gone. As I kept looking into my mirror, I realized that he wasn’t catching up with the rest of us, so we decided to turn around and head back to see if he was okay. This is when we saw the ambulance blocking the road, with its lights flashing and the EMT’s working on Geno.”

Geno and the other riders were on their way back home to Chicago from having a day of riding in Waukesha, Wisconsin. There were several of them riding in tandem and Geno was towing behind the others, surely enjoying the beautiful scenery that surrounded him.

A witness from a passing car saw the entire accident. “I saw him riding and then watched him just drive off the side of the road, as if he was making a simple turn, as if that turn and road was a part of his journey, as if he was meant to continue on in that direction… he calmly drove off the road.”

One Samaritan who saw the accident stopped and immediately called 911, while others pulled Geno’s motorcycle off his chest where, once they did, his color came back to his face.

Official reports said that Geno took a turn, didn’t negotiate it properly, and slid off the side of the road. As Geno was thrown from his bike, he hit a metal telephone box and then a road sign before landing on the ground, where is motorcycle landed on top of him and when the ambulance arrived at the scene, the EMT’s found Geno unresponsive. He was taken to the nearest trauma center, Waukesha Memorial Hospital. The medical staff worked on Geno for hours in the E.R., but they couldn’t save him. Geno had severe body trauma… a fractured spine, broken leg, cracked ribs, a torn aorta, and bleeding in the brain. His injuries were so extensive that if he did survive… what quality of life would he have been left with?

Geno's Memorial Marker Waukesha, Wisconsin

Geno’s Memorial Marker
Waukesha, Wisconsin

Because of all these massive injuries, one would believe that Geno was traveling at excessive speeds of 60, 70 or even 80 mph when he came upon hitting that phone box and road sign. The reality is that Geno was going less than 20 mph when he went off the side of the road, when he hit those obstructions, he was traveling under 20 mph when he met his fate. He was going a snail’s pace, barely moving, and not even enough speed to start up a gentle breeze through his hair. It left many of us questioning… how such a speed could leave so much damage.

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” ~ John Lennon

  Geno's Mass Card

 

It was Geno’s request not to have a traditional funeral service and his family honored his wishes. Carol, his wife, had him quietly cremated at a funeral home in Mundelein near their home. About a month later, the family had a memorial mass for Geno so that we could all have some sort of closure, to say our final goodbyes, to make peace in our hearts in our own individual ways. Carol brought Geno’s ashes to St. Michael’s church in Chicago, where Geno’s brother, Joey, who is a Catholic Priest, carried out a beautiful mass that Saturday afternoon last August honoring Geno, as so did the Army’s honor guard, acknowledging that he was a veteran soldier who fought for his country. Playing taps for the congregation and while the honor guard spoke to Carol on the behalf of the President of the United States, you could hear some mourners weeping openly while others chose to cry to themselves, as their tears left their eyes, quietly rolling down the their cheeks.

After the mass, we continued to celebrate and remember Geno’s life. We all cried together, we all laughed together, while everyone shared their own personal “Geno Stories” to the point where we were laughing from the deepness of our bellies, only to follow up by shedding more tears. The stories that others shared were truly entertaining and one of a kind, a story only fitting for Geno and always at his expense.

Eugene, Geno, Bro, Ponch… no matter what we called him, he was known more importantly as husband, son, brother… friend! Geno was a very outspoken man, his personality infectious! Geno brought to the family what a butterfly brings to a garden… beauty, smiles and, at times, one hell of a free spirit! Below is one of my own favorite Geno Stories.

“Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.” ~ The God Father

The Red Hat

One day, when her children were young, Bubby was making her homemade spaghetti sauce. Bubby, made everything from scratch when cooking for her big family. One of her specialties that everyone enjoyed was her homemade spaghetti sauce, where the pot of tomatoes and spices would simmer on top of the stove all day, cooking for hours, with an occasional twirl of the spoon around the bottom of the pot, making sure it wasn’t burning. Surely, one could smell the sauce wafting all through the house, while at the same time the kids’ bellies filled with anticipation, just waiting for the spaghetti and sauce to be served up for dinner.

As Bubby’s sauce continues cooking to perfection, she tends to other things around the house. Geno decided to take a stroll through the kitchen, with his red knit hat in hand, twirling his hat high into the air with one hand only to catch it with the other, like pizza dough, not once, but several times, over and over, as he watched it spin back down. Geno continued his game, challenging his red hat to twirl even higher into the air with every toss he gave it, catching it every time as if on cue. Geno’s game finally ended when he spins his red hat into the air one last time. Watching it make its descent from the ceiling, he soon realizes that his red hat would not be landing in his hands as it did so many times before. Geno watched his red hat spin uncontrollably away from him, only for him to see it land directly into the large pot of homemade spaghetti sauce that Bubby had been simmering on the stove for hours!

Standing before the pot and, of course, not wanting to “fess up” to his wrongdoing, Geno decided to tuck his red hat deeper into the sauce. Taking the spoon, he pushed the red had underneath the sauce, completely submerging and covering it up, hoping that everything would go unnoticed. Geno quietly walked away and out of the room, not mentioning anything about the extra added ingredient to his mother’s spaghetti sauce.

As dinnertime arrived and, with all the kids that bordered the table, they all waited patiently as Bubby began to serve up her infamous spaghetti sauce that everyone had been waiting for since the moment Bubby tossed that first tomato into the pot. Surely, it was at this moment that Geno was praying his red hat had somehow mysteriously dissolved into the pot of spaghetti sauce. Spoon in hand; Bubby takes a stir of her sauce only to discover that the added ingredient was not a part of her original recipe. She soon realized that it was Geno’s red knit hat, which laid perfectly camouflaged, as it stared back at her from the pot. It was Bubby that was now simmering on a low flame. Bubby realized that she couldn’t serve up the sauce because her sauce was not the only thing that was cooking in that pot all day. Tossing out the homemade spaghetti sauce, along with the hat, Bubby ended up walking to the local Certified Super Market on Clybourn Avenue, where she was forced to purchase canned spaghetti sauce to serve with her spaghetti. It was at this point that Geno was never allowed to twirl anything in the kitchen again while Bubby was cooking.

It was many years later, when Geno was out on his own, living in his own apartment, when he decided to cook the same spaghetti dinner for his date. Cooking the sauce the way Bubby did, he cooked it to perfection… except for one minor change. Instead of boiling the water for the pasta, Geno figured he’d save a few steps and cook the pasta within the sauce. It was only a few minutes later that he realized he didn’t have a wonderful spaghetti dinner, but a pot of concrete instead. Not only did he toss the sauce into the trash, but the pot itself went into the trash as well.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ~ Julia Child

Frank shared one of his favorite stories with us as well.

The Widower

One late evening in the early 80’s, Geno decided to grab the telephone book, after having a few beers, where he would start rummaging through the M’s for all the Morin’s within the city of Chicago. He was curious to know exactly how many Morin’s there were. Surprisingly, there were only two… his family and one other person by the name of Morin was listed. Geno decided to call the phone number only to discover that it was registered to a little old woman who lived on the northwest side of Chicago. It was then that he shared that his last name was Morin, too, and thought perhaps they were related. Being the charismatic person he is, Geno carried a conversation on with this woman and chatted with her for the longest time, where he discovered that she wasn’t a relative after all, she had been a widower for many years, and that she liked to talk just as much as Geno did. After a lengthy conversation, Geno decided to end their conversation, while wishing the widower his best. With that, they hung up.

Approximately another year had gone by when Geno took the phone book once again, looking for all the Morin’s in the city of the Chicago. Tracing his finger under the M’s, there it was for a second time, the same number that he had called just the year before. Picking up the phone, he dialed the number only for the same widower to answer the phone. Geno shared that his last name was Morin, too, the same as hers, commenting that there aren’t very many Morin’s in the phone book. The widower went on to tell Geno that her husband had died, never once remembering their previous phone conversation from just the year before. She would share that her husband used to do this and that for her, and how she missed him. However, Geno let her talk on, repeating almost everything that she had said the year before. So, here, a tradition was born, where every several months, Geno would call his widower friend to have a simple chat, making sure she was okay, only for her to repeat the same stories over and over again to Geno. Surely, it gave one old woman time to express herself about the past, reminiscing about the love she once shared with her husband, only for her to be left thinking of fond memories of what use to be, memories of what was once hers.

As we all continued to share our stories one after another, we couldn’t help but to feel numb inside. Of all the years the Morin boys were riding, this was the first horrible tragedy that the Morin family had ever encountered and, from my own heart, why Geno? It just didn’t make sense to me, especially by the means of his demise. I can only believe that Geno’s life lessons here on earth were complete and it was now time for him to begin his life with God. I admit that I am selfish and I wished Geno was still here with us, living and being a part of our everyday lives. But, I realize that God had called and must have needed him more.

It was comforting to know that just a couple days before Geno’s accident that he had a visit with Bubby and his brother, Joey, where Joey did the anointing of the sick with Bubby, as well as the three of them having communion together. Although my heart was heavy with pain and sorrow, I found peace in knowing that he shared these two sacred sacraments with his mother and older brother. It seemed like the timing of everything was meant to me, meant to fall in place.

Geno passed away exactly 10 days before the anniversary of the motorcycle accident that Frank and I had over 20 years ago, where our lives were spared. My thoughts take me back to that day when Geno came to visit me in Columbus Hospital when I was in there recovering from my own motorcycle accident, where I was learning how to walk again. With a huge box of candy in his hands for the nurses, Geno walked so proudly into the therapy department, just like Forest Gump, holding his box of chocolates, as he handed them over to the staff. My therapy for that day was to cook for a guest and myself. I made hamburgers… one for me and one for Geno. He spent hours sitting there with me, lifting my spirits. That day, it was Geno’s heart consoling mine, telling me that I was going to be just fine. Today, it’s my heart that consoles Geno’s spirit. I still can’t believe we lost him… But, he passed doing what he loved – riding, riding free with his face and knees in the wind.

Geno Goes To Sturgis…

“Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Author Unknown

Sunday evening, the day after Geno’s passing; I was on my way upstairs to bed. As I was passing through the dining room, I noticed a stuffed doggy toy on the floor. Believing in signs, this is when I asked Geno for a sign. I said, “Geno, if you are here with us, can you please move the doggy toy from the floor and place it onto the dining room table?” With that, I left the toy where it was at and went on up to bed. Monday morning came rolling around quite fast and I was up rather early. As I headed downstairs, I saw that my request from the evening before went unnoticed. The stuffed doggy toy lay quietly on the floor exactly where I had left it just hours before. I thought to myself… okay, next time. I walked into the kitchen to get my day started and made a pot of coffee. I made my way back to my art room, where I opened up the curtains and windows, inviting the day’s sunshine into the room. As I turned around to put things away into my art cabinet, I noticed on top of the cabinet was the bag of rice crispy treats that Donatta had made for her visit that fateful Saturday. They had been on the kitchen table for the last few days, exactly where Donatta had left them when she arrived that Saturday afternoon. Picking up the bag and returning it to the kitchen, I was rather irritated because they didn’t belong there. I blamed either Tanner or Frank for eating them directly out of the bag and just plopping the bag wherever they pleased once they were done eating them, which was on top of the art cabinet in my back art room. Once they woke up, I brought it to their attention and asked them why they tossed the rice crispy treats on top of the art cabinet and couldn’t put them back into the kitchen. Both Tanner and Frank denied that they had done it. Turning to Arla, I asked her if she had done it and she confessed a big no, as well. Standing there in front of them, I asked, “Neither of you placed these treats on top of the cabinet; so they just appeared there themselves?” Nobody confessed to moving the treats to the back art room, they even swore that they didn’t touch the bag. It didn’t seem to be a big deal; that was until I remembered that I asked Geno for a sign the night before; that if he was with us to move the stuffed doggy toy to the table. Did he decide to move the rice crispy treats instead? To this day, I never found out who moved them from the kitchen table to on top of the art cabinet, a complete room away.

Even from a distance, Geno was remembered so fondly. I can’t even express into words how many people had come to share our grief with us. Friends and family have all expressed a deep sense of loss in hearing about Geno’s passing, which goes to show all of us how much Geno was loved, how much he touched each and every one of our lives, even if it was for just a brief moment or through a lifetime. In honor of Geno and for the family, I created the below presentation as a remembrance of the man that will always live forever within our hearts. Geno is with us in spirit, whether it’s within the butterfly that dances gracefully across our path or within the rays from the setting sun that beam down upon us from the heavens above. This Sunday, June 16, my family and I will repose the soul of Eugene Pacelli Morin, where he may enter into heaven and eternally be with God in his home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering a Life on Memorial Day

It was last summer, 2012, 16th of June and the weather that day was threatening rain or at least that’s what the weatherman was predicting anyway. I always loved meteorologist, Tom Skilling’s weather reports, as he was always so optimistic and generous with his forecasts, almost as if he was the one who controlled the day’s weather himself.  It could be a blizzard outside, with three feet of snow already on the ground, and he would report that a beautiful day would soon be ahead of us. I always got a kick out of his positive outlook.

Even though the skies above me were blue as could be and full of continuous sunshine, Tom was still predicting rain for this Saturday afternoon, but I was hoping that it would hold off until much later in the evening, as we had a very special day planned.  We were having guests over for a BBQ and a swim, as well as surprising them with a special gift. This day was not only going to bring a day of excitement and happiness to all, but, by day’s end, it would also leave every one of us filled with devastation and in complete disbelief.

My family and I have been making yearly trips for the past several years to Shannon, Illinois to a place we absolutely fell in love with the first time we saw it called, Hickory Hideaway.  Hickory Hideaway is a cabin resort that is planted within 10 acres of peaceful bliss and is just minutes away from Lake Carroll, cornfields, fresh air and hospitality that surpasses any place we’ve ever stayed at before.    We decided to stay at Hickory Hideaway for sky darkness so that we could watch the annual Perseids Meteor Shower and, being in the country, away from city lights, this was the perfect place.  We had made this a vacation tradition, where once it got dark, my family and I would hike to the field behind the cabins and cozy ourselves deep within our chairs, covering ourselves up to our necks in blankets and bug spray, looking up toward the northern sky for a breathtaking evening of “oohs and aahs.”

Knowing how beautiful an experience it is to watch a meteor shower, especially one that can shoot up to 60 or more meteors an hour directly over your head, so close that you feel you could touch them, I wanted my best friend, Donatta, and her family, to also experience such beauty. I not only wanted to share this with Donatta, but I also wanted her to share in the serenity of the cabins, the peacefulness, not to mention the breathtaking countryside that surrounded us. I knew Donatta would benefit from such a paradise, therefore, I spoke with her daughter, Emily, where we both decided to surprise her mom and dad with a one-night stay, where all they had to bring were their jammies and toothbrushes.

The Perseids Meteor Shower is always in August, usually peaking between the 9th and the 14th of the month and, with it only being two months away, Emily and I had to prepare weeks before so that when they came over that Saturday afternoon for a BBQ, we could surprise them with their gift. To make it exciting, I decided to prepare several gifts that were clues to this one night cabin getaway. Of course, none of them really gave too much of a hint about what was going on, until the end of the surprise when the gifts were more telling. One gift consisted of a map, which had an arrow pointing south. Another gift was a huge basket of marshmallows with a lighter and a handmade fire pit. But my favorite hint was a balloon that was filled with confetti, hundreds of silver stars that we managed to pop and sprinkle over Donatta’s head as she read the quote inside, “The stars are the street light of eternity.”  With every clue we gave Donatta, she became more skeptical, wondering what we both were up to. In the end, she was pleasantly surprised with a one-night stay at Hickory Hideaway, where it left her in complete tears. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and planning for a trip that we knew would be a memory maker.

Donatta's HH Cabin

As the evening became darker, we could see that Tom’s prediction of rain was just off in the horizon, where we saw lightening strikes brightening up the skies toward the west. It was turning 9:00 p.m. and I felt pleased knowing that the rain didn’t come sooner and we had a chance to play all afternoon outside and in the pool.  The wind was picking up and the streaks of lightening were getting closer, but we sat and had another cocktail and decided to wait until the storm got closer before heading inside.  We wanted to take advantage of every moment this wonderful evening was offering.

In the meantime, Frank went inside the house to check the weather on the TV, when he noticed the red flickering light on the answering machine, indicating that someone had called leaving a message.  Being outside the majority of the day and evening, we didn’t realize that someone had called.  Pressing the button, Frank heard that it was a message from Carol, our sister-in-law, who is married to Frank’s brother, Geno.  A few short moments later, Frank came back outside looking a tad perplexed, telling us that Carol had left a strange message saying, “Frank, this is Carol. I need you to call me back as soon as you can.”  Frank shared with us that Geno’s plans for that day was to go on a motorcycle run to Wisconsin, but now Frank had a feeling that he was in an accident.  Frank wanted me to go inside to listen to the message myself but, with Frank being the over exaggerated person he is, I thought he was taking the phone call out of content; therefore, I asked Arla to go inside and listen to the message for me, as I knew she would be able to make sense out of it.

It was only minutes later when I realized that the lightening was just about overhead, therefore; we all decided to finally move the party into the house.  One after another, we went inside, where I found Frank on the phone, speaking with Carol’s friend.  The tone of the atmosphere was enough to stop everyone in their tracks, as if our feet were suddenly fastened to the floor.  It became eerily notable that the conversation that Frank was having with Carol’s friend was not one of good news.  She was calling on the behalf of Carol to tell us that Geno was in a motorcycle accident.  As we all continued to listen, it was noted that Carol and her friend were on their way up to the hospital in Wisconsin, where the ER physicians were working on Geno.  Getting off the phone, Frank confirmed that Geno was in a motorcycle accident, which took place in Waukesha, Wisconsin and, by the way it sounded, things didn’t look good.

Listening to Carol’s voicemail message myself, she sounded extremely shook up, almost as if she was lost between reality and a surreal world.  It was becoming apparent to us all that this wasn’t just a motorcycle tumble and a “road rash” kind of accident, but something much more serious, a situation that we soon realized we all needed to prepare ourselves for.

Frank told Carol that he would begin making phone calls to the family, informing everyone of what had happened.  Because our family is so large, whenever there is an emergent situation, there are certain point people who, once receiving the news, will begin to call other siblings and report what’s going on.  These family members will then make phone calls, extending the news on down the family chain line.    With this form of communication, it doesn’t leave just one person making hundreds of phone calls to others.  Frank called his brother, Mike, and shared the desolate news. Frank told Mike that he would keep in touch with him regarding any news he learns.  So, now it beings, where Mike makes his phone calls, making sure that the rest of the family learns about the severity of Geno’s accident.  Not only does this method get the news out to everyone in a timely manner, but it also begins something just as important, the prayer circle.  Never underestimate the power of prayer.

“Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.” ~ Charles Finney

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~ Matthew 18:20

The afternoon buzz of fun and alcohol that I had caught from being with friends had since been slapped out of me. I felt as if I had been standing there for hours, observing from the outside, as if I was watching a movie drama about someone else’s family tragedy.  As we all stood in the back art room motionless, we were all listening to the conversations that Frank was having, only to realize that with every word spoken, we were all comprehending the severity of what was really happening.

We realized that Carol had left us this message at 7:00 o’clock that evening. She even tried calling Frank on his cell phone but, because we were swimming all day, Frank decided to leave his cell phone in the house.  We realized that two hours had already passed since Geno’s accident and Carol had been trying to reach us this whole time.

It was then that everyone realized the severity of what was taking place.  An unexpected rush of grief came over me and I found myself standing there, crying hysterically, only to be joined in by the others.  Donatta had asked Emily and Arla to take me into the front room, where I could sit down.  While there, Frank had asked me to find the number to the Waukesha Hospital online, so that he could call the nurses’ station in the Emergency Room to see if he could find out the details and extent of Geno’s condition. Once again, Frank’s experience of working in a hospital for 26 years has taken him directly to the source of information. Dialing the number, he had asked to be connected to the head nurse in the Emergency Room Department.  By now, both Donatta and my family have gathered in the front room, where they each claimed a seat, patiently waiting to learn about the state that Geno was in.

Pacing back and forth from the living room to the dining room, Frank was connected to the nursing station in the ER, where he introduces himself, letting the nurse know that he is calling regarding his brother, Eugene Morin, where he was just informed that he was in a motorcycle accident and was brought to Waukesha Hospital.  Taking Frank’s cell phone number, the nurse said that she would call us back, once she had some information about Geno and his condition. I think we were all hoping in the back of our minds that Geno’s condition was trivial, with only a few bangs and bruises to report.

As Frank waited for the return phone call from the hospital, Frank decided to call Patrick and Bubby, letting them know that Geno was in a motorcycle accident. Bubby was already in bed sleeping. Danny, another brother, happened to have been in town for a visit and was staying at Patrick’s house for a few weeks.  Frank delivered the news to Patrick and Danny and told them both to wake Bubby up and relay the news.  But, they both had decided to wait until they heard more information as to what was going on.  As Frank is ending his conversation with them both, letting them know that he will call back once he has some more information, we all see on the TV screen, the caller I.D. flash on the screen, “Incoming Call from Waukesha Hospital.”  I yell to Frank that the hospital is calling and he hangs up from Patrick and takes the call from the hospital.  It was the nurse from the ER, who was calling us to give us an update on Geno’s condition.

We all stop talking, practically stop breathing, as we listened intently to the one sided conversation, hoping, praying that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded but, by the words that Frank were speaking, it didn’t sound hopeful whatsoever. Once Frank absorbed all the information that the nurse had given him, he relayed to us that the ER physicians were working on Geno feverishly, giving him CPR, a statement that worried me even more, placing images into my head that made me cry even harder. The nurse shared that Geno’s heart had stopped and there were 30 doctors, nurses and medical staff trying to revive him.  His brain was also not functioning, meaning he had no brain activity. Remembering my mother and her lack of brain activity from when she was in the hospital, I knew the outcome was unpromising.  The nurse was very honest and straightforward with Frank, saying it didn’t look good and asked Frank to prepare himself. The nurse promised to call us back again shortly, once she had additional information. Hanging up the phone, Frank relayed the latest information to us all who were now sitting together and praying, where only moments before, we were laughing and planning for a wonderful vacation.

Walking back to my art room, I had gathered up all the Saint Prayer cards that I always had displayed on my art shelf, bringing them back to the living room where everyone had gathered. I was hoping that by holding them close to me, praying to them, that my prayers would become stronger, making a direct connection with each, as they helped my prayers get delivered directly to God’s ears…

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

Saint Therese The Little Flower, (My Patron Saint)

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina Saint Michael the Archangel

Saint Dymphna

Mother Teresa

Saint Thomas Moore

Saint Francis of Assisi

Being the spiritual person I am I was starting to picture Geno floating above high above us, above me, above all his loved ones, as he prepared himself to say good-bye, leaving his physical body to go home spiritually to be with God. It was then that I looked above me, pointing toward the heavens and said, practically demanding, “Geno, you cannot leave us. You get back into that body of yours right now, damn it!”  Regrettably, my commands were ignored.

Pacing back and forth from room to room, Frank begins to chant, “Fuckin Geno! Fuck Geno! Geno, what the fuck?!” almost as if asking Geno what did he get himself into this time.  It seemed that when the Morin boys were younger, especially Geno and Patrick, Geno would find himself in all sorts of quirky predicaments.  Like the time when Geno was a young boy. Taking a hatchet, he decided to chop away at a beam in the basement. Hitting the wooden beam over and over and with every swing getting louder and louder, Geno didn’t realize that he was making all this noise directly underneath a bedroom, the same bedroom where his father was trying to sleep.  Geno hacked away until his father went down to the basement to discover that he wasn’t only practicing his hatchet technique on a wooden pole, but it was the main support beam of the house!  Yelling at Geno, the father asked, “What in the hell was he thinking of?” Telling the story once himself, Geno confessed, “There was a wooden pole, there was a hatchet, and I was one bored kid. I was determined!” Of course, listening to Geno tell the story, animating as he did, made you laugh so hard, your side would hurt.

One of my favorite “Geno Stories” as we call them was the time when Geno decided to wash his Harley at 2:00 a.m., after getting home from being out riding.  What else do you do at 2:00 in the morning from being out all night… sleep?  Not Geno.  Splashing and wiping away at his bike, Geno noticed that he had company, a visitor who was sitting on his fence just outside the garage watching every motion he made. Of course, not only was it early in the morning, it’s was also dark outside. Geno continues drying off his bike, as he begins a one-way conversation with what he thought was the neighbor’s cat.  He continues to call out his invitation, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Hearing it hiss and growl, it was only then that Geno realized he was extending his hand to tickle and scratch behind the ears of a mother possum most likely protecting her young. It was only weeks later that Geno encountered the mommy raccoon again, as he and his brothers were chasing the raccoon back outside with a broom, as somehow it made its way into their basement.

My thoughts bring me back to real time as, once again, Frank cries out another “Fuck Geno!,” as he paces back and forth, surely Frank, in some way, was hoping that Geno was just in another one of his many self made predicaments.

Frank starts another round of phone calls to Mike, Patrick and Danny, giving them updates on what the nurse had told him. Frank also added, “Say your prayers, it doesn’t look good.”

Through the many phone calls that were exchanged within the family, Frank found out that his sister, Debbie, had plans to drive up to the hospital to be with Carol. Frank agreed to be in contact with Debbie, while she was on the road, so that she would learn updates, too.

As we were all talking, each of us speculating on Geno’s accident, we see again that evening the caller I.D., Waukesha Hospital, popping up on the TV screen.  As we all come to a sudden hush, Frank answered the phone to hear the nurse giving the same report that the doctors are still working on Geno. Frank went onto ask the nurse what Geno’s injuries were, knowing that they must have been quite severe to have such an elaborate team of medical professionals working on him.  Frank’s response in return was, “Oh shit!”  It was obvious that Geno’s injuries were extensive.  Frank shared with us that he had multiple traumas, with massive injuries to his chest and head, multiple leg fractures and he had already lost a massive amount of blood.  I felt as if I was on the set of my own Grey’s Anatomy show, watching the play-by-play of this terrifying event.    I continued to pray, asking God, Mother Mary and all my Saints that I held tightly within the palm of my hand to give Geno back to us, to make him survive this horrific ordeal.

Through the many phone calls that were exchanged within the hour of us finding out about Geno, we gathered enough information to learn that he was on a motorcycle run with some friends in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  They were on their way back from an afternoon of riding when there appeared to have been some geese in the middle of the road, as well as a lot of geese excrement’s, therefore, we understood it that Geno probably swerved off the road to avoid the geese, resulting in this dreadful accident. No, Geno never wore a helmet. It was his choice not to.

With the house phone on standby for when the hospital calls, Frank used his cell phone to call his brothers, reporting Geno’s condition. We all wait patiently, praying that the next phone call we received would bring good news; that the men and women with the medical knowledge has miraculously, somehow, saved our dear loved one from death.

I begin to pray:

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain.  Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit and relieve they sick servant, Eugene Morin, for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon him with the eyes of the mercy; comfort him with a sense of thy goodness; preserve him from the temptations of the enemy; and give him patience under his affliction.  In thy good time, restore him to health, and enable him to lead the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

My living room consisted of many broken hearts, all of us grieving in our own individual way. Tanner sat on the couch, silent. Arla’s tears were keeping in tune with my own, shedding more and more with every piece of information we received. Donatta and her family were our Rock of Gibraltar, the strength that kept us all together, without falling apart into millions of little pieces like the rest of us were doing. I would never want to put any family members in a situation that I did them that evening, but my heart was so thankful that they were all there, that Donatta, my own wall of strength was there, for us, for me, keeping our mind sound and in the right focus. If they weren’t there, surely, we would have begun to make our own trip to Waukesha, Wisconsin, but with the storms that were hitting us, as well as our state of mind, it wouldn’t have been a good combination for traveling.

All of us sat there, watching the TV, waiting patiently for the hospital’s number to appear on the screen, calling giving us an update. It was only moments later that we had finally received that phone call. Soon, we all realized that it would be the final phone call that we would receive from Waukesha Hospital.

As if on cue, Frank switched phones immediately, picking up the house phone to answer the hospital’s call that was coming through.  As Frank walked back into the dining room from the kitchen, almost as if he was materializing out from beneath the shadows of the darkened room, I will never forget the way Frank announced to all of us the latest news about Geno. I felt as if I was watching Frank in slow motion, coming toward us from the other room.  He held the phone up to his left ear with his hand while still talking with the ER nurse. Frank’s right hand motioned a signal for a throat slash, as he moved his index finger horizontally back and forth across his throat.  His head sorrowfully shifted from side to side, gesturing to us all that it was all over, done, as if our heart and minds were being held captive in a three-day hostage crisis and were now suddenly set free.  Our evening’s ordeal had at last come to an end, telling us the final fate of Geno’s demise.

The final call came from the nurse, where she reported that the doctors worked effortlessly, to the best that their skills would allow them, working on Geno for hours trying to save him, but the damages were just too severe and Geno passed away at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, June 16, 2012.  The day that started out to be a memory maker, ended in tragedy. This will be an evening that my family and I will never forget.

I immediately went to Frank, wrapping my arms around him, sharing between the sobs how sorry I was. Donatta soon followed with hugs, as well Keith, Emily and Audrey.  Arla wept on my shoulder, while Tanner sat silently by himself.  Tanner was melancholy, as earlier that afternoon, he was playing the guitar that his Uncle Geno had given him.  We all grieve and experience death in our own way. Tanner was hurting in silence and this memory of playing the guitar earlier that day was now striking a painful chord within his heart.

As Frank was the main mediator throughout the evening, he now had the responsibility to make the devastating calls and share with everyone that Geno was no longer with us. First, Frank calls Patrick and Danny, where Frank tells them that it’s now time to wake up Bubby and relay that Geno had died. How do you tell an almost 95-year-old mother that she had lost a child that night and to a motorcycle accident? Practically all the Morin boys rode motorcycles growing up, as well as into their adult lives. Riding was a part of them. It was in their blood.  Did Bubby always fear that this day would come, that it would eventually become a reality?

Frank spoke with Carol after the hospital pronounced Geno dead, but Carol was in a state of shock all her own. Our hearts ached for her, my heart ached for her, as I tried to imagine what she must be going through.  I’ve experienced a lot of loved one’s deaths, who were close to my heart and, as they all left me one after another, there was one thing that I have come to realize… just because I have seen many deaths, it does not make the experience any easier. One does not become an expert at mourning.  It does not teach you how to be strong and nor does it prepare you for the next death that secretly awaits.  All it does is remind me that I am human, with infinite feelings, where my heart literally shatters to pieces, as if it has never experienced such sorrow before.  Geno’s death was strongly affecting me, sadly, more so than my own mother’s.

My mind drifted back to that morning, when I came down from my bedroom to prepare for the day’s events, only to find Frank on the phone again. He was always on the phone chatting with someone. If it wasn’t with family members then it was with friends.  Stepping into the art room where Frank was standing, I asked him, “Now who are you on the phone with?!”  My thoughts were that we had just gotten up; how can he be on the phone already?  As Frank reached for the keys to my truck, he announced that it was Geno. Geno had called that particular morning because he was concerned about me driving my truck, as he heard that it wasn’t running properly. He didn’t like the thought of me driving around in an unsafe truck, therefore, he called, asking Frank to go out to the garage so that they could troubleshoot things over the phone and try to figure out what the problem was.  Instructing Frank to do so, they both shared a morning laugh as Frank proceeded to the garage.  This was the last time that Frank ever spoke to his brother.  I was suddenly grateful for the fact that Frank did have some form of communication with Geno that day, some exchange of words and camaraderie, even if they didn’t realize that it would be their last.

Debbie, who was on her way up to the hospital to be with Carol, found out that Geno didn’t make it, therefore, turning around and coming back home. The news traveled quickly throughout the family, as well as it did with friends. I had sent a prayer request out earlier to my Facebook friends and family. The responses for prayers that we received were absolutely overwhelming and the outpouring of love and concern that was extended was absolutely beyond words. All the prayers that were set in motion for Geno could have lit up the skies.  Perhaps, this was Geno’s guiding light as he made his way to the heaves above.

 

Police Briefs

Posted: June 19, 2012

Motorcycle Crash Claims Life of 61-year-old Man

A 61-year-old man from Mundelein, Ill., was killed after he failed to negotiate a curve on his motorcycle on westbound Highway LO at about 4:07 p.m. June 16. The motorcycle left the roadway, struck a telephone box and a road sign before coming to rest on top of the man, police said. He was taken to Waukesha Memorial Hospital with extensive injuries. He died at about 10:25 p.m.  There were no passengers on the motorcycle, and the driver was not wearing a helmet. The police are continuing their investigation.

After Geno’s passing, while driving home from work, I had put on a Willy Porter CD. The Song, Unconditional, came on and, as Willy sang his song, it didn’t take me long to reflect on Geno. As I listened to the words, I started to cry uncontrollably, as every word he spoke, every emotion of the song, reminded me of the special someone we had lost.

Unconditional by Willy Porter

There’s a woman with a baby sitting next to me
As we ride the crooked train into New York City
She holds that child on her bended knee
Whispers something that only he could hear
She says I will always love you no matter what may come
I carried you inside myself the two of us are one
No matter how you fall down or how it comes undone
To me you will always be shining
And he stares into her brown eyes above
Into the face of unconditional love
I see a man laying in the street
Left his motorcycle at a high rate of speed
In his eyes there’s a vacancy
But he seems, he seems to be smiling
Oh maybe he was a Muslim a Christian or a Jew
I hope that he was laughing when off that bike he flew
Maybe he struggled to believe just like me and you
As the ambulance is too late arriving
And he stares into the sky above
Into the face of unconditional love
Unconditional love
Sometimes I’m impossible sometimes a rage and roar
Sometimes all the dreams are spent, strewn across the floor
And I see myself reflected in your eyes
All the tragedy, the hope and the fear
So in my hour of dying when the light is clear and clean
If it helps read from the bible don’t hook me up to those machines
Just stay by my side as I slide
Into some peace
Give me strength over what I’m afraid of
In the face of unconditional love
Unconditional Love

Donatta and her family had left later that evening.  Extending sympathies once more, they told us that if there was anything they could do for us that we should not hesitate to ask.  Closing the door behind them, I once again felt very thankful that they were there.  As I sat back down, I realized how exhausted that I was, that everyone was, not only physically, but mentally.  The day had brought events that nobody was prepared for.  Locking up the house for the evening, we all went to bed, where we hoped to get some sleep, even if it was for a little while.  Frank immediately drifted off to sleep, as it was only moments later that I heard him snoring the evening’s aftermath away.  As I laid in bed, starring up at the darkness, my mind wouldn’t give into the rest that I needed.  I kept reliving the evening in my mind, fighting with those infamous words that we all may have confronted from time-to-time known as the “what ifs.”  What if… he didn’t go on that run to Wisconsin?  What if… the geese weren’t in the middle of the road?  What if… it was just 20 minutes earlier, would the accident still have happened? What if… God just needed him more?  I ended my thoughts by praying to God and my family in the heavens above, asking them to please accept Geno into their caring and open arms as he crossed over, making him feel content, loved and not afraid.  The night’s sleep was sporadic, but I did manage to doze for a while, only to wake up to be reminded that Geno had left us, that he died, and no longer with us. Once again, reality had set in and all the events from the night before came rushing back to me.  I tried to calm myself back to sleep, where I could dream of Geno standing at the Pearly Gates before St. Peter, where he strikes up a conversation, saying, “Don’t wait up for me, St. Pete. I have my own set of keys to the Pearly Gates. I found them on a bus!”  Clipping the keys securely to his belt, Geno walked through the gates, where his heels clicked against the clouds beneath him as his keys bounced and jingled ever so lightly outside his pant pocket, letting the others know who passed before him that he had made it safely to heaven; that he has arrived.

As I decided to dedicate my next blog to my brother-in-law, Geno, I started pondering how I was going to write this story. A part of me was concerned, as I didn’t want to raise old wounds. I didn’t want to bring back a hurtful memory for some or offend anyone by sharing what had happened that evening.  One morning, while waiting for one of the two elevators that takes me up to my office floor, I took mental notes of what I wanted to write about.  Stepping into one of the elevator at work last week, I looked down onto the elevator floor and there resting before me was one single silver confetti star, the same kind of star that I had placed in Donatta’s surprise and popped over her head almost a year ago. The next morning while waiting to go up to my office, it was the other elevator that brought me up to my department floor.  Again, looking toward the floor, there laid another silver star, the same kind of star that I just saw the day before in the other elevator, but this time it was a bigger one.   I had the urge to pick it up, but I didn’t.  A soft smile spread across my lips, as my thoughts brought me back to exactly what I had planned to write about… Geno.   Perhaps, this was his sign to me, letting me know not to worry, that it would be okay to write my story, in remembrance of him.

This piece is my dedication, a tribute to Eugene Morin, who most likely not only fought for his life on that emergency room table almost a year ago, but who also fought for the many men and women of our country.  Geno was a Vietnam Veteran, where he was a medaled soldier in the 1970’s.  Every year, on the last Monday in May, Frank would call up his brother not only to wish him a Happy Memorial Day but, most importantly, to thank him for his services as well, for honoring, protecting and fighting for our country, for our freedom, for us.   Thank you Geno… we love you and miss you dearly!

Geno while in the service, Vietnam.

Geno while in the service, Vietnam.

 

References:

http://www.hickoryhideaway.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HickoryHideaway?ref=ts&fref=ts

http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-current.html

http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors

http://www.willyporter.com/

http://www.nvam.org/