How do you keep a family alive, even when its members have died?

Why I write

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I descend from a long line of prolific writers: grandparents, uncles and aunts. They wrote articles for their local newspapers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some of them had stories published in magazines. They were a busy bunch.

“They were savers, too. I have scanned to CD’s the fragile papers and sorted and inserted the originals in (so far) about two dozen loose-leaf binders. Boxes and boxes to go.

“They wrote long, interesting letters. I have one treasure from a Great Uncle Johnny written to my grandmother in 1876. He teases her about riding ponies with the neighbor boys. I have a letter from my brother Johnny, written during World War II, in which, with almost the same wording, he teases me about riding bicycles with the neighbor boys.

“My dad worked out of town a lot, and they saved all those letters. They wrote like they talked, so it is like listening to them speak, to read their letters. In one letter, Mother mentions to my Dad that ‘Hooray, they lifted the rationing on coke!’ She wasn’t referring to the drink. She was elated that coke, the fire starter they used in our big old coal furnace, was no longer rationed. They wrote to my older sister when she was on the road during her show-business years. She saved them all and made photocopies for me.

“My four sisters and I have all written our memories, and I even lucked out when my brother’s daughter gave me a copy of the autobiography Johnny wrote in junior high. My brother died in a construction accident at the young age of 34, so that was a treasure I never expected to read. He wrote about how much he liked working on the farm in Iowa in the summer. The line that really made me laugh is when he said he had a pet calf that followed him all over the place. He said he named it after our middle sister because they were both pests. (She was.)

“My dad saved ideas for complicated gags and scripts from plays he acted in, and he saved imaginary scripts for plays he would like to act in. He left these tidbits around the house, so my sister and I had many moments of hilarity while cleaning out that big house.

“So why do I write? I write because it is soul-satisfying. I write because I want to keep alive all these memories of the dear people I knew and loved. I write so their memory won’t die when this Old Ancestor does.”

In memoriam

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “David Letterman and his siblings wrote a beautiful obituary about the death of their mother, Dorothy. It ends with this lovely line: ‘As Dorothy breathed her last, a brilliant red cardinal landed on a branch outside her window, singing his song.'”

See world (responsorial)

The most recently Saturday’s Bulletin Board included a dispatch from Booklady: “Life in the woods this time of year is full of action.

“Just as our goldfinches were returning to the feeders, Mr. Bear took down the back-yard feeder, pole and all. We will miss gatherings of colorful birds, since we don’t feed them until the bears are no longer a threat.

“Something new has been added, however. We now seem to have a ‘guard grouse’ under our front steps. We had been gone for a weekend, and when we returned we found that a ruffed grouse had staked out her territory in that unlikely area. She (because I suspect she is preparing to nest) seems unafraid of us. When she is at home, she seems content to remain under the stairs even when we traverse them.

“Yesterday brought a new behavior. When the Lighthouse Nut left for an early breakfast with some church friends, Ms. Grouse met him at the foot of the stairs near the garage and ran alongside his car the length of the driveway and, turning the corner, paced him to the edge of our lot. She then returned to her ‘lair.’ I left later for my breakfast with friends. When I returned, she met me at the edge of our property and escorted me to the garage. When I sped up, she did, too, and she slowed down when I did as well. As soon as I opened the garage door, she made a sharp turn and marched up through the garden to the steps.

“We hope that the fox that passed through the yard this afternoon doesn’t eat her, so that if we’re lucky, we may discover the Partridge Family when we return from a two-week vacation.”

We presently heard from Mad Dog of Sand Lake:Booklady‘s story about the grouse was a familiar story to me, because we had a grouse that acted similarly . . . but was even more drawn to people. It would show up at our pole shed when we were there and follow us around so closely that we were afraid we might step on it.

“One morning, my grandson and I were going duck hunting, so we got to the shed to get our hunting equipment while it was still very dark. The grouse was supposed to be out only when it was daylight, or so we thought. Wrong! The grouse showed up in the dark and followed us around while we were getting packed up.

“Another time, I was sitting in a lawn chair with my legs stretched out. The bird, which my wife named Chick-a-Boom, walked up my leg and sat on my thigh. It then pecked at my arm, giving me a tiny black-and-blue spot.

“Our granddaughter tried to feed it a flowering crab apple, but it missed the fruit and pecked her hand. She said it had poor eye/beak coordination.

“The grouse would also follow our cars around, and we were very worried about running over it. We often would have our grandson distract the bird while we got the car turned around and into the driveway, and then the grandson would run, jump into the car, and we would get out before the bird could catch up!

“It rarely flew, but once, I had pulled up to the shed when the bird must have been out in the woods, because soon it came flying into the yard and landed right next to me. I wish that we had made video clips of it. Sadly, it flew into a window and was killed.

“In the included photos, there is a close-up of the grouse, another pic where the grouse seems to be trying to help our son as he works on his truck, and a selfie of our son, daughter-in-law, and the grouse sitting on our son’s head.”




Life as we know it

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “I have a hearing impairment. It’s severe tinnitus.

“Some sufferers can lessen the incessant ringing and hissing with therapy or technology— but not me. Over the last 30 years, I’ve been told by hearing-aid specialists with thousands of dollars to gain that they can’t help me.

“It’s the black sheep of the disability family. We don’t get a parking place, we irritate everyone around us, and well-meaning folks constantly ask us if we’ve ever considered hearing aids or that new vitamin that cures it. People who would never dream of asking a limping person to ‘HURRY UP!’ feel free to sigh and roll their eyes as we struggle in conversations.

“Tinnitus is becoming quite common in our noisy world, and is often self-inflicted by not taking steps to protect yourself from loud noise levels.

“I have only one thing to say to you unsympathetic, impatient hearing folks: I beg your pardon?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: You’re not a bad listener (so far as we know).

By your testimony, you are a bad hearer.

Big difference.

Clowning around

The Subject line was the only line in this email from Tim Torkildson: “Attack of the Pool Noodles!”


Everyone’s a copy editor!

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: It just don’t add up.

“The first item in the ‘Basketball’ category in the ‘Sports briefing’ section on Page 7B in Thursday’s Pioneer Press has this headline: ‘Hill leaves Badgers, might transfer.’ The third paragraph begins: ‘Hill averaged 9.9 minutes and 1.5 minutes this season …’

“I’m confused: Did he do ‘double duty’? Was he a ‘two-way player’?

“With 11.4 minutes of playing time per game, he’s in double figures and could be a valuable addition to a team short on numbers.”


Miss Kitty of the Midway: “The first thing I read every morning in the Pioneer Press is the back page of the Sports section, about the weather.

“I have noticed under the ‘Weatherguide Facts’ that a couple of times in the past, the facts end in the middle of the sentence, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’re trying to say.

“Wednesday’s Facts had me questioning them again. It states: ‘Ice carvers are leaving central Minnesota lakes….’

“I have never heard of these ice carvers. Here are some thoughts that Cat Dillon has: Are they a formal organization, or just a group of friends? Do they award prizes or ribbons? Is there a public exhibition of the ice carvings? If so, what lakes are they on? As the weather gets warmer and the ice starts to melt, do they progressively move north? Do they start down south? If so, when do they get to St. Paul? We’d like to go. Does KARE-11 have that information? If so, why don’t they share it?

“He could go on, but I won’t let him. Just some thoughts to keep the brain active and amused.”

Mixed messages

Jim Fitzsimons of St. Paul: “Subject: This space is left blank?

“It was recently that time of year for my wife and me — that joyous time when our mortgage company lets us know that we don’t have enough set aside to cover the property tax and insurance, so our monthly payment will have to go up. Now, if we pay X amount, the payments will go up by only 20 bucks a month. However, if we don’t pay X amount (which is an option), our monthly payments will go up 50. Oh, such a joyous time.

“Well, we decided to pay X amount. I removed the remittance slip from the invoice to return with the payment. I glanced at the back. This is where it gets weird. Printed on the back of the remittance slip, in somewhat bold type, was: ‘This space has been intentionally left blank.’

“Um. No, it hasn’t.’

Band Name of the Day: Intentionally Blank

Website of the Day, from Poet X of PDX:My 366th puzzle posted to Jigidi. I kept it simple.”

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