Sunday, November 30, 2008


The newspaper business has been the greatest part of my working life. So it is difficult for me to work without deadlines and the stress. When I tell people that "stress " is my friend---they look at me and think that I am a crazy woman. (That last part may be true.)

I am sure that I must have come from my mother's womb with a pencil, pad and a watch.

I received a phone call from my brother in Wisconsin. He loves to start on me about retiring. When I told him that I was managing a team of women starting a new magazine project for my publisher. He had a giant fit on the phone!!! It went like this:

"Sis, don't you know that more stress is bad for you?"

"Of course, if I don't have my required amount of stress I go into stress withdrawal. Now we can't have that can we?"
On and on we went for 30 minutes. For me it was such fun and I'm sure that when my brother got off the phone he probably had to take a tranquilizer. He doesn't handle stress too well.

That it is a one of the gifts of life for me ,Mondays and Fridays are so chaotic at the newspaper and they are my favorite days of the week.

I did a lot of writing at home, so my workweek was down to about 55 hours a week. No stress in that!!

The secret, folks, is doing what you absolutely love. That way you can never tell what is work and what is play. For me it was great to laugh and play everyday and get paid for doing it.

The lessons about doing what you love were taught to me by a paraplegic friend. His legs had been twisted by polio and as I watched him each day drag his lifeless legs through the door, I was constantly amazed at his joy and hearty laughter. It cheered us all.

One day I told him how much I admired him as I watched him come into work. His reply was this: "Oh, Jean, I love my work. This is play. I lived in an iron lung for 18 months.
Now, honey that's work! " Right on, John, right on.


(RABBIT! RABBIT !RABBIT was an old mid western radio station greeting my brother Bob and I used to have for each other when we would all or write on the first of the month. It meant that if you told someone" rabbit, rabbit,rabbit" on the first of the month---you would not have a fight with them the rest of the month. We always joked about saying it,but we both always said it. Of course, this tongue in cheek greeting did not work this time!)

When they found a lump on my breast and I needed a biopsy,my knee-jerk reaction was that if I had cancer I was not going though chemotherapy and all that stuff! And when I called my brother in Wisconsin the week before I said that just before I hung up. I told them I would call when I found out anything.

I called brother Bob and Jo this a.m. to tell them that my breast biopsy was benign.

Only after I spoke with him did I realize how worried he was. I said I had no idea how worried he had been---he called me a "presumptuous bitch!" For not thinking how upset he would be.

" God Damn it! Next time you got something wrong don't tell me if you are not going to do any thing about it. Did I tell you about my heart surgery before I had it?"

I replied laughingly," No damn it but, I wanted to know and that pissed me off! I want to know when something is wrong with you whether you are going to do something about it or not. I still want to know." I was laughing so hard by this time I had disarmed his anger.

He tried hard to be angry and continued on with his very serious scolding. He couldn't quite make it and when he realized he had been over taken by my laughter he said," Well, moving right along, how are you, otherwise?" and we chatted on until and I apologized for not thinking he would be concerned.
Later that evening I wrote him this note:
February 1,1997
Dear Brother,
"Presumptuous Bitch” really. Mother always said I would be the one to have
the "potty mouth "!!!!

I really like my new moniker so much I'm thinking of having a desk nameplate made. Of course it would have to read PB J and we would all know that it would not stand for peanut butter and jelly but rather "Presumptuous Bitch Jean"!

Gee, Brother and Sister, did I ever tell you how great it is to have you love me? Love you, too.
As ever,
PBJ P.S. My Darling, Brother , I shall always thumb my nose at life and it problems. It is my built-in survival kit. Too old to change, Sweetie.

(A few months later I came out of the closet and my dear Brother whom I adored never spoke to me again! I never thought it could happen. He died in June 2002 and I still remember him fondly everyday.)

Friday, November 21, 2008


It was June 29,1996 the first time I saw my Hawk. I then continued to refer to as"my" hawk. He was huge. I first saw him with three birds flying about his head in some kind of a bird war. I looked up thru my windshield and said "Hello Hawk, you are beautiful."

Almost everyday since then I have seen him sitting high on the same telephone pole vantage point waiting with anticipation for some creature to become his entree. Of course , I was sure he was waiting for me to say "Good morning ,Hawk" or "Good evening ,Hawk."

As I traveled back and forth on road 52 I have had occasion to see him as many as 5 times in a day. Always sure that he was making his presence known only to me. My Hawk.
On Friday July 26,1996, my brother Bob,his wife Jo , my niece Sally and her daughter, Natalie were coming for a much anticipated visit.

The Thursday before they were to arrive I was driving home, totally preoccupied with the happenings of the day and not looking for my Hawk when he flew across my windshield so closely that I could see the feathers of his underbelly. I ducked inside my car startled by his huge wingspan covering my windshield. Whew ! That was a close one! "What are you trying to do Hawk? Ok,Ok , I promise I will look for you everyday and tell you ,Hello. Next time let's not be so dramatic. You could have gotten us both killed!" I often think out loud as I drive.

I relayed the incident to my friend. He quipped,"The Hawk probably has a "thing" for little red cars." Yeah ,right." I "m sure Dodge Chargers are high on the seduction list of a hawk.

Friday,my brother and the merry group of travelers arrived.We hugged , kissed and giggled like we always do when we are together. During dinner I began to talk about "my Hawk". I told them it was the biggest ,most beautiful bird and that I encountered him daily.

My Grandniece,Natalie was thrilled at the sight of the mountains and like the rest of us is a nature lover. I was looking forward to again see the mountains thru the eyes of someone that does not take them for granted. I told her I would take her out to where I see my Hawk and see if I could show him to her. Then we would turn around and drive right into the foothills. After dinner, we "girls" went for a ride.
My little red car is just that. Sally and Natty were in the back seat. Sally 's head was touching the roof of the car. Sally is a nervous passenger under the best of conditions---these were not the best of conditions. She chided me jokingly about my driving while commenting that with her head touching the roof , she would serve as a roll bar and save us all! Our Mother was perhaps the most nervous passenger I have ever seen; Sally is the second. However ,I was sure Mother was sitting on Sally's lap. The three of us laughed the entire time at Sally's mother- like backseat driving. Jo and I exchanged knowing grins and glances ---- we had heard this somewhere before!

I drove to the place where I saw my Hawk daily and of course, he was no where to be seen. It was a mild disappointment--another day perhaps. I made a "U" turn in the middle of the highway -- Sally screamed much to all our delight.( It was another comment on my driving!) We headed toward the foothills. Natalie saw the mountains, I pointed out Twin Sister Peaks and she recognized them each day after that.
On Tuesday, July 30th my story on the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Center was to appear on the front page of the Brighton Standard Blade with a full color picture of Pat and Shelley Craig and their Bengal Tiger, "Tygger". This was a very exciting day for me. I wanted my Brother to come to my office, meet my "newspaper" family that mean so much to me, God has blessed me so much by putting me in the center of these grins, giggles, and love.

We left early. I was hoping we would see my Hawk. As we drove down road 52 in my little red car, (my Brother is a very calm passenger,Sally) I was about to express my dismay at not seeing him,when Bob said, "There he is! He is a big fella." Bob had seen him first.The Hawk turn his head as we went by. It gave me pleasure to share my Hawk, my newspaper family, and my front page story in full color, with my brother. This was a special day.

Following their visit I wrote this letter:

Dear Family,

There is more to my Hawk story and I shall continue to write about it. I had another encounter where the Hawk flew across the hood of my car as I was driving down old route 85. This was on Friday the 13th. My mouth flew open.I again said out loud--"What in Hell are you trying to tell me?"
Robin insists it is a message that I should continue writing. Perhaps,but it sure is eerie..
Well, dears, thank you for your wonderful visit.
Sister Jo,for your gentleness,your soft heart,but your strength of steel
that holds your family tightly together. And for listening to me.
Dear Sally,for humor beyond compare! Never let go of it!
Sweet "Natty", it was so much fun looking through your eyes to see the wonders of the mountains. You'll be back-- I know it.
Brother Dear, for being here. It meant a great deal to me. I told someone one time as she spoke of her heritage including something of fifth generations, "Oh that is nothing ,we are from six generations of clowns." She didn't laugh . I'm so grateful that our family was given the ability to laugh. Love, Sis

Monday, November 17, 2008


One day an elderly woman came into the gift shop to buy a music box. She was very particular about what she had in mind. We had over a hundred music boxes in a price range from $20 to $450 dollars. Some were animated,some were in water globes,some had sweet tinkly voices and other of the German and Swiss made were beautifully finished with perfectly tuned voices.

I had shown her just about every music box in the store. She said ,"No,not that one,No, not,that one is too expensive,that one doesn't sound right."

Finally, she narrowed it down to three music boxes all in the $25 price range. One played ,"What the World needs Now", the second played "You are the wind beneath my wings", the third played "Whatever will be, will be".

In trying to make her decision the woman seemed to be listen intently to each one. She said,
"I just can't hear it, I can't recognize that tune. Can you sing it for me?" I looked around to see if this was a apparently wasn't. So I began singing with the music box with it being a soprano and me being a alto.

The other clerks seeing or listening to my plight came over and they joined in the singing as we played the different music boxes or they hummed a little bit. We sounded like a group of wounded bumble bees.

People are coming and going,the cash register is making its noise. We were still humming and singing. Other clerks were leaving to help customers. I was now left alone humming from one tune to another.

The woman said,"I think I want to move to the front of the store, I will choose one of those over there." We moved to the front of the store and she Still can't make up her mind.

A good customer was in the store shopping and she was smiling broadly and was about to leave and the woman touched her on the sleeve and said,"Can you sing, I can't seem to hear these tunes to well, I think her voice is too low."

The customer being the good sport that she is said,"Well my husband doesn't think I can sing at all and if she buys it because of my singing I'm going right home and tell him!"

She sang, "What the world needs now is love sweet love,la,de, da,hum,hum,and then "You are the wind Beneath Wings. I thanked the customer and she left the store still smiling.

After an hour and a half in our store she settled on the sweet little tinkly voice that played "You are the Wind Beneath My Wings." End of story? Not quite!

The next morning the same woman returned and said: "Well, I could lie to you but I won't. I went to the Mall and I found a music box I like better and I bought it."

I playfully said, to her,"You mean after all of us sang and hummed to for an hour, you bought one with a different song and you bought it at the Mall?"

"Well,yes,yes, I did--it plays Amazing Grace" and I recognized the tune the first time because
I think it is the only song I really know!!!"

My boss negotiated the woman refund. I was with my back to the music box customer. I could feel her presence behind me and I heard a monotone: "Hum,hum,hum,hum,la, de, da, da," I turned around. She was responding to my playfulness with her. She smiled and said, "I didn't want you to think I didn't appreciate your humming, and singing to me." And she walked out of the store humming that monotone hum, that was only recognizable to her.

I guess if you are tone deaf---maybe "Amazing Grace" is a good song to know.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A TRIBUTE TO ALICE September 21,2001

First my son, Jeff and then my daughter, Robin called me in Michigan to tell that their Gramma Alice died. As I worked through the day I thought about her continuously. The fact that she would have been 93 on her next birthday was mind boggling to me. She was such an amazing woman. I loved and admired her very much.

Her grandchildren would be the first to tell you she was the epitome of a Gramma! She had an enormous capacity for love. All of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren knew about her love. She taught them how to cook,crochet,do laundry but even more, how one should live.

Alice told her grandchildren wonderful Irish superstitions. I sometime thought she must know them all; they were wonderfully wild and entertaining. She had such a sweet humor about her.
Alice talked to children not down to them.

She shared wonderful things with Jeff and Robin. For Jeff , she knew that he had a sweet tooth that adored chocolate chip cookies(when he took a handful out of the freezer on his way to his bedroom at night--she would just smile and see that the cookie cache was replenished.)

Alice taught Robin how to peel an apple by starting at the stem and peeling to the bottom while the skin in one piece. I remember hearing the laughter when Robin succeed in doing it by herself the first time. Robin will never peel an apple without thinking of her gramma

Alice had great lessons to teach us all. It the mid 60's she was pulled from a car accident.
The only bone in her body that was not broken was her right leg (but those tendons were
nearly all ripped apart.) The Dr.'s prognosis: "she will never live." (she was 62 at the time.)
Alice did. The next prognosis "she will never walk." Alice did.

Alice was in a coma for 21 days. Her children,grandchildren, brothers and sisters, whispered words of encouragement and love and she survived.

She spent 4 months in the hospital. She had to heal first but she also had to grieve for Roy,(her husband of 40 years) who had been killed in the accident. The tears would flow from her eyes in great streams and she could not wipe them away. Both arms were broken. She never gave up.

I spoon fed her lunch each day for two months and she was like a baby bird, hungry and eager for the next bite. She was going to get better; she fought with amazing tenacity for things that were going to make her well.

Alice had to have eye surgery to straighten her eyes because they were so injured. She had to learn to walk all over again and she did. She lived with a scar that ran from her nose to the middle of her cheek(she never had it repaired because it never bothered her.) Alice was a beautiful woman but she was not vain.

So it was for Alice,she not only brought her broken body back to life--she walked,she danced, she even fell in love again. She shared a wonderful 10 years of happiness with her "Jimmy."
He made her laugh like she had never laughed before.

Not long after his 80th birthday ,Jimmy died. Alice alone again struck out on her "new life" in a senior complex. During this time Alice fought colon cancer and she survived again to live to this wonderful age of "almost 93".

Goodbye,My Dear Alice, how very grateful I am that I had the opportunity to know you and love you. You have touched many lives and were living proof that if life hands you a lemon--not only do you make lemonade but you make it the sweetest and the best you have ever had!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I love music and I'm glad I do. Over the years I have passed that love of all sorts of music on to son,Jeff and daughter,Robin. They both were musicians and had fine singing voices and now my granddaughters,Elizabeth and Kayt are following the music road.

My own passion for jazz drove my co-workers a little crazy since they were all country and western fans.

But I also love opera, some rock,folk etc. Truly most all music speaks to me.
Encouragement to listen to all music seemed to be very important to me. I believe it is a true reflection of history and culture and brings beauty to us. And though we have had music in the last years that has frankly disgusted me with the lyrics and the performers. Sadly,it is still a reflection of the turn in our history and our bent toward a more violent society.

I always tried to make it to Greeley to take in Elizabeth and Kayt concerts because it was important to them but it was important to me to be there,too.
Elizabeth and Kayt are now young women but this was a memorable night.
I wrote in my journal:
Last Tuesday night I had the pleasure of listening to (the fifth and sixth grade) "The Star Choir" from Scott School in Greeley my eldest grand-daughter, Elizabeth, sang and had a speaking part in the program. Pretty exciting stuff!!

The teacher did a great job preparing the kids.The selection of music was so much fun that a few of us were swaying with music and obviously having a great time. I thought, "This is the way it should be." No guns , no knives, no hate, no predjudice. A group of children of all colors unified in organized fun.

I found that I was moving with the kids and I couldn't stop smiling because of their joy. I looked around and saw only a few people caught up in this music and I felt sorry for the others that weren't. For this brief 30 minutes they could not participate with the same joy as the children?? How sad.

As I was moving with the music, my grand daughter saw me and continued to make eye contact and smile. We were on one of those precious wave lengths that occur when you love music. She knew that I was appreciating the job they were doing.

The last four songs they sang were from "The Lion King." The music is so beautiful and poignant it is imperative that you let the child in you become free.
So parents and grand parents the next time you go to one of those kids concerts--show 'em you love it. Act your shoe size instead of your waist size and you'll have real fun!!
Kuma ma ta ta!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Dad's need to be remembered for all of the wonderful things they do in our lives. In most all cases,Dad,the other half of Mom gives us "gifts" in a different way. It was so in our home.
My mother sweet studious, quiet and our Dad ,sweet, rowdy and so full of laughter that he would drive our Mother wild with his nonsense. Yet, this was probably what she loved most about him.
This is my favorite Dad story.
It was May and my mother was anxious for Dad to help her with spring cleaning. Spring cleaning in those days was an event. Mother went through the house like a woman on a mission. The windows were washed the curtains cleaned and re-hung and the house was cleaned from top to bottom. No corner was sacred or could possibly escape a broom,vacuum, or dust cloth. There was odor of soap,wax and vinegar everywhere.

In our old farm home there was a more than ample stairwell closet that had a way of accumulating more items than it really needed. It was a giant "catch-all." Our Mother insisted that everything be pulled out and those things not needed were to be thrown out and burned. This was always my Dad and brother Bob's job. They both hated cleaning that closet.

Specific instructions from mother, " Take everything out of the closet ,check every bag and box and if hasn't been used since last year, take it out and throw it in the burn barrel."

Well, there was one metal bread box in the closet, it was a treasure box as far as my brother,Bob and uncle Pogue were concerned. They used to hoard fire crackers in it.
Money and fireworks were not easy to come by so if they thought we had shot off enough fireworks on the Fourth of July they would carefully wrap the balance in brown paper bags and put them in the metal box to save some for the following year. Probably a very dangerous practice,but they didn't think too much about it, except they always wanted to make sure we had plenty of fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Dad didn't know about. At least, he said he didn't.
He called my brother and they began cleaning. My Dad was supposedly looking in each bag and box and putting the throwaway stuff in another box for my brother to run to the burn barrel.

On one of his trips back to the closet he told Dad that he needed to go to the bathroom. He pitched the box in the door with , "I'll be right back."

This must have been when Dad dumped the contents from the metal bread box into the waiting trash box.
When my brother returned he took a now loaded trash box out to the burn barrel. He dumped the contents and ran toward the house when all of a sudden snap!,pop! boom!---rockets,firecrackers, paper caps were going off in every direction.
My dad and mother and the entire neighborhood ran from their houses all wondering what was going on. It was a great display.

My brother asked ,"Dad, did you dump that stuff out of the old green bread box?"
Our Dad grinned his best "rascal"grin
."Yes, there was nothing in there but a bunch of crumpled old brown bags."
"Dad, Poge and I were saving those for the Fourth of July! Those were all our fireworks. My brother was heartbroken.
Our Dad put his arm around my brothers shoulder and said, "Aw, don't feel bad. I'll buy you and Poge some new fireworks for The Fourth. You know they shouldn't be kept in that closet anyway. He winked, "Wasn't it fun to have fire works in May?"

As the ladies of the neighborhood "oohed and aahhed" about the dangerous way those fireworks shot out of the barrel, my dad walked quietly toward the house talking about taking a nap. Today's closet cleaning was at an end.

We will never know whether or not he knew about the "boys" hiding those fireworks but they never did it again.
Our dad always taught lessons with laughter and that "gift "has always been carried in our hearts.

Monday, November 10, 2008


What do you remember or like best about your Mother? Think about it and enjoy it.
I have a favorite story about our mother and a woman called "Ma" Troop .

My brother and I grew up in a small mid western village . Our home was the original farm house from the farm land that made up the village. We accumulated some characters there and a lot of the time we didn't know where they came from.

A woman , we only ever knew as "Ma" Troop and her two sons came to our village and moved into a vacant house. She brought with her a lot of chickens and a poor old cow. They supposedly came from Tennessee and all did have a deep southern drawl. The boys enrolled in school and they became an eccentric part of our little community.

"Ma"" Troop was a giant of a woman. Over six feet tall and a very easy 250 pounds!! It was quite a sight to see her walking down the street leading that cow by a piece of rope around its neck. No one ever bothered her until she met up with our diminutive,auburn haired Mother ,who though slow to anger,got pushed just a little to far by this woman.

It had become a common practice for "Ma" Troop to take the cow to various vacant lots and stake it there to graze. She had also been know to stake it in folks yards while they would be gone and always remove it before they returned. Of course the cow was not careful---it always left a little evidence that it had been there.

My mother took great pride in her home and her yard. The particular morning that "Ma" Troop entered her life or vice versa,was one of those sunny, dewy mornings in June. My brother and uncle had gone fishing . My cousin Kenny and I were seated on the back porch putting on our roller skates. A very pleasant day.

It was about 9 am.; time for my mother to take her laundry off of the clothesline. She was going cheerfully about her task when she looked up and saw "Ma" Troop staking her cow in my mother 's beautiful back yard.
The noise coming from my mother's throat was between a scream and a growl. Was this woman the dear, quiet,smiling lady I had always known?
"Get that cow out of my yard!"she screamed." Right now. I mean it. Now!!! "
"Ma" Troop made no effort to move.
"But,Ma'm" , she said.
My mother drew herself up to her full five feet four(this brought her to about just below "Ma" Troops breasts) She was still screaming and shaking her fists. The neighbors were beginning to come into their back yards.

"Now ! Get that cow out of my yard and don"t you ever, ever,try that again!!"

"Ma" Troop grumbled something. She unstaked her cow and walked off shaking her head. My mother stood there in a defiant stance with her arms folded until "Ma" and her cow were out of sight.

Neighbors came walking over from their yards,laughing and talking about my mother and the picture she made standing up to this giant!

My Aunt Evie came running from her house saying,"My Gosh, you know she could have squashed you like bug. Weren't you scared?'

My mother collapsed with laughter on to the wet grass saying,"Yes, I was, but I couldn't let that cow walk all over my new begonias."

From that time on "Ma" Troop had great respect for my mother and they spoke in a friendly manner. My mother always referred to her as Mrs. Troop (though we never saw a Mr. Troop) "Ma" Troop smiled when my mother greeted her. She never tried to stake her cow in our yard again. End of story?? Not quite.
WW ll came a long. My brother and other young men from the community went to war,including Mrs. Troops oldest son. When her son was shot down and the government came with the dreaded telegram my mother was one of the first women there to comfort her.
Two mothers,one educated with a mind like a library and one who could not read or write, but they had a common ground, they were both mothers.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Is it wonder that I grew up loving women?

I had so many fine examples of women, my mother ,aunts,cousins and great aunts that were women before their time. They were saviors in my life in more ways than one saving life and limb by protecting me from the “wild bunch” ,my brother and cousins. I was the only girl in my generation. Although on some level I always fit in probably not recognizing for a long time that in spite of my age and small size that they made room for me to fit in. Our families were close and we saw each other often.

My mother was a beautiful women. She was a women that loved the city. She fell in love with Chicago when she was taking her nurses training at Cook County hospital. And it was always her wish to remain in the city. As a high school girl living in Wisconsin she had dreamed of having a nursing career.

She set out with plenty of difficulty to do this. Her mother had died when her brother , Marlyn was born. Her father so grief stricken over his wife’s death went into a mental,emotional and drunken decline. He proceeded go through family money which was substantial and ended up marrying a women 25 years younger than him.

At age 12 she and her baby brother went to live with their grandmother and grandfather. These grand parents did well by the two children and my mother and uncle loved them dearly. Grandfather passed away fairly young. Grannie raised the two children Times were hard but they managed.

My mother never lost sight of her dream. To finish her nursing career and then to bring her brother to Chicago and enroll him in school. She would do these things but fate was about step in; It was a 4th of July week-end and she had girl friend that had parents that had a summer home at Lake Geneva,Wis. and they invited my mother to go to with them. She was eager to see the famous Lake Geneva! That week-end she met my father,a country boy and both of their lives changed forever.

Oh, Where do those catlogs come from?

I moved. I had my mailed forwarded--------a natural progression. For two weeks I didn't get much mail. Pretty good, I had escaped the dreaded "mail catalog rush. Wrong. They found me and the onslaught began and it hasn't stopped. How did they find me so fast?

Is there a catalog detective that finds new addresses of new movers and turns them over to a catalog computer?

In 40 years I have never ordered anything from any of them and yet I am held in high esteem and always referred to as a "good customer". Is there a total lack of understanding in the catalog world?

And what about the 24 hour service---are those people asleep on cots somewhere? How many times have you called and ordered one of those cute little feather dusters at 3 a. m.? Did the person sound sleepy?

And what about the 6--8 weeks delivery? Do those people only work 6--8 weeks to fill the orders? In 6-8 weeks my dress size and my shoe size could change? What are they doing all that time?

There are a lot of strange things on the order forms. If you order one bra--shipping and handling is only $3.95---if you order 35 bras it is still $3.95. How much shipping and handling is really going on in the first place!?

The lines on the order forms are so small and by the time I figure out how much tax I owe on that little bitty chart I rip up the order form and go to Mall.

But then there is that great thrill when we get home from a day's work and there in the door is a package ---oh boy what's in that box? Oh, good grief! Is it? Could it be? Another catalog. You can move but you can't hide from mail order catalogs. They will hunt you down like bounty hunters!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Preface: Lady Love has been chiding me about writing down some of my family histories for my children and grandchildren. "It's important", she says---and I know she is right.

Great-Grannie Rosenbalm
Her garden was huge. I played in her garden; promising to walk carefully thru the rows as she told me about what she had planted. She showed me around her house: she had a root cellar; she would keep carrots there so she could have them fresh all winter; there was two pickle barrels with sweet pickles in one and dill in the other. There was shelves with jelly and jams. She told me she didn't need to keep all this food now 'cause she didn't eat much any more. She grew it to give it away to friends, neighbors, poor people, for church suppers.

She was a woman used to giving.

She had given my Mother and her brother a home. She had given them direction and purpose in life when their father, Andrew seemed to have failed them. (It took years before my mother and my uncle ever forgave him for his indiscretions.) She encouraged my mother to go into nursing which gave her a lifetime career. My Uncle Marlyn was a career soldier and he too was in the Medical Corp. Grannie had taught them caring for others was very important. Her son, Andrew had let those children down in a way that was grieivious to her and she tried to make it up to them and she did.

The two years that followed : we were unable to get up to see Grannie but she and Mother wrote to each other on a weekly basis and I was always so happy to read her letters--imagining I could see blue eyes shining out of that tanned leathery face that I knew smelled of pipe tobacco.

In October of 1940 we received a phone call from Great Aunt I was six years old the first time I remembered meeting Great Grannie Rosenbalm. I always thought that she was going to be a great big grannie. I was in for a surprise!!

Our car pulled into this neat,flowering yard; it was abundant with flowers, bushes,vines,vegetables and there in middle of all these things stood a little woman. Her face was wrinkly and tanned as brown shoe leather and she was dressed in a long flowered dress which was covered by an equally long, rough apron. A scarf was tied around her brow to catch the perspiration. It was July. A hot job for an 84 year old.

The tiny woman had an expansive smile--while still holding a clay pipe in the corner of her mouth. She held her hoe in her left hand but she extended her right arm out into an opening embrace. My mother ran into her arms. As she and my mother hugged, tears ran down both of their faces. (My mother was only 5' 4" but she seem to tower over this wisp of a woman.)

She hugged us all and what I shall always remember from that hug was her smell. She smelled like vanilla cookies and pipe tobacco. (Grannies pipe smoking came from Ireland. It seems in those days it was a rite of passage for the old crones to take up pipe smoking. She ordered her little clay pipes from Ireland.) I have never smelled anything like it since but I would recognize it in an instant--it was so unique.

As my mother released Grannie from her second hug,Grannie addressed her firmly, "Josie, (No one ever called mother that!!) go in the house,there is tea water on low and cookies in the brown tin. I need to finish hoeing this row of onions and then I'll be right in."
"But, Grannie, I came all this way to see you, can't you give up a row of onions and come in now, " my mother pleaded.

"Now,you know the answer to that,Josie!" My mother was scolded by this little tiny woman.

"Mother,why did Grannie call you 'Josie' ? "

"I'll tell you when we get inside," she said.

We went inside and Dad told us the story about Mother's name: 'When your mother was a baby her name is and was to be given at her baptismal as Josephine Vera. Her Grandfather was very nervous holding her and when the pastor ask, " What name do you give this child?" He answered, "Billie Vera"--He had just told someone that if he ever had a grandson he would like him to be called "Billie". So on her birth certificate it says Josephine Vera and on her baptismal certificate it says Billie Vera and her Grandfather from that time on called her Billie. Grannie is the only one that calls her Josie."
We had never heard her called anything but Billie.

While Dad told us this story, mother fussed around doing as she was told and fuming that Grannie wouldn't give up her "row of onions."My Dad was grinning one of those charming grins that totally disarmed my mother into smiling. She knew she had just been "bossed" around by Grannie--who was so obviously in charge of her home.(Mother was a nurse and she was usually the one giving orders.) She succumbed, leaned back in one of the many rockers; she and Dad chatted about this amazing woman.

My brother and I listened as they talked about how she raised her family, Andrew( her son,our grandfather),Jack and her daughters Eunice and Rosette. When my Grandmother, Elizabeth died in child birth, Andrew became at first despondent and proceeded to become a drunk. He drank and gambled until all the family money, and their home was gone.

Grannie Rosenbalm stepped in. She and Great Grampa Rosenbalm took my mother and her brother,Marlyn and gave them a home. My mother was twelve and her brother was an infant. Grampa Rosenbalm died a few years later and this tiny,tough middle-aged woman was left to fend for herself with a young family.

Both the Rosenbalms had grown up in Ireland and were married there. When they came to Wisconsin, Great Grampa built the house in which we were sitting. He knew the winters would be dreadfully cold. He built their home so the backside of the house (north) fit into a very substantial hill. There were no windows on that side. The front of the house faced south and had a generous amount of windows. The house was long and low and looked like it had been plucked from Ireland and planted properly in the Wisconsin landscape.

I fell so much in love with Grannie and this house, they seemed to be burned in my brain.
There were 3 bedrooms downstairs and "the loft" as Grannie called it had 4 beds setting dormitory style with an ample aisle down the center. My brother had one bed at one end of the room and I at the other. The roof sloped down quickly and I loved to lie on the bed and let my feet touch the ceiling. There were down mattresses to sleep on and down comforters to cover us. Most of the Wisconsin summers we didn't need them but when you did--how lovely they were! Whenever I hear John Denvers song, "Gramma's Featherbed" I know why they are called comforters--they comforted one little girl to sleep during a summer thunderstorm.

The next 5 days with Grannie I followed her about like a puppy,loving to sit near her to smell her pipe and her fresh washed skin. I liked to watch her sleep in her chair,her head back and her glasses setting in her hair on top of her head. I found her fun to be with and she seemed to like me. I knew because of the way she always patted my hair. I never told her I loved her and I wished I had because my thoughts of her have remained so indelible. Instead I always asked her a lot of questions and she answered with great patience.

The following late October, AuntRosette called--Great Grannie had fallen in her beloved garden and had remained there for hours before anyone found her. She had pneumonia and was gravely ill. Our family made plans to go to Great Grannies bedside.

My mother prepared us for what probably would occur. I remember my mother weeping most of the six hour trip. We went into the hospital. It was night time and it was quiet, dark and dreary. The lights on the wall were dim and the smell of alcohol seemed everywhere.
Mother told me I did not have to go into her room if I did not want to. She told me I could sit in the waiting room. I assured her that I wanted to go with her.

As we walked toward her my mother began to cry quietly. She knew that death was near. Great Grannies breaths were shallow and raspy. I was so sad and yet I did not cry. I walked closer and touched the weathered hand and was shocked by its coldness. Mother and I stayed there for sometime and then other members of the family moved in and out.

We returned and then stayed until she drew her last breath. Mother kissed her on the cheek and went down the hall sobbing with me tagging along quite not knowing what I felt.
My mother said,"Oh ,no, I forgot my purse."

"I'll go get it," I said, not knowing where that voice came from.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." I turned and walked back down to Grannies room.
I found mother's purse. I looked again at that tanned leathery face that I knew so little about and yet loved so much.
I walked toward my mother and tears were streaming down my face."Mother, I told her I loved her and Goodbye."
We held each other in that dark and dreary hallway.