My Past Life

Just like you Fathers Day brings back memories of my Dad.  He was the one we raced to get to at the end of the day.  The one that told us what the”little birdie” told him about what was happening at home while he was at work…and it wasn’t always good.  That darn birdie, when we found out which one it was…boy, it was going to get it from us!

 If Dad was going someplace, we had to go too. “Where you going Dad, where you going?” we would ask.  He would always say, “Crazy” and we responded, “Can we come too? We want to go crazy too!”   That always made him laugh.  We knew we would get a Nut Goodie for keeping him company. To this day when I see a Nut Goodie it warms my heart and they aren’t even my favorite.  Dad’s favorite candy bar was a Baby Ruth.  He didn’t eat a lot of sweets but when he did it had to be a Baby Ruth.  That is a satisfying treat! 

He was the one that taught us how to fish, bait our hook, cast and catch.  He would have baited our hooks for us if we had been too squeamish but we never wanted him to think we were wimps and I think that in itself made him a little more proud.  Mom didn’t always come with us.  She would stay home and when it was time for us to go home she would go out and beep the car horn.  The lake was a little less than a mile down the road so it was close.  We would bring along a small cooler with soda pop [and a beer for Dad] to quench our thirst while we fished. Sometimes we would pile in the car and head down to Stones Bridge to fish the Brule River. On one fishing outing my Dad and brother took; they were catching dinner and just as they decided they had enough to feed the family, they pulled up the stringer and all that was left were the heads…a turtle had followed them and ate every fish they had caught!

As we grew older he became more protective of his daughters.  I don’t think he liked any of the boys I brought home.  Especially that first one!  To be honest I think the only reason he didn’t like him was because I did!  I liked him a lot.  Plus being he was the first boy I dated he had to break the ice and was it thick!  He came from a very good family.  He had great work ethics and was a man of the earth, much like my father, but Dad didn’t want to like him.  He was taking his little girl away!  “Why does he have to drive by beeping his horn all the time!” Dad would say.  Mom thought it was funny.  He only did it on the days the FFA did their tree planting.  They drove by and I guess he wanted me to know he was in the neighborhood.  It irritated Dad, so when I asked if I could go out with him [after a lot of negotiating] Dad said “Ok, but he better come to the door.  If he thinks he’s going to drive up and beep his horn for my daughter to come running, he is wrong!”

At weddings Dad always asked me to dance with him – at least one waltz.  When my cousin Carol married Bill,  he made sure he danced with me more than once because there were some guys there that he knew from work.  He wanted to make sure they knew I was with him, even though I had a date with me.  In fact if I remember right my date was that same guy he didn’t like from high school.  He started to warm up to him about the time we ended our relationship…go figure.  Dad was sad when we broke up.  I told him maybe if he hadn’t been trying so hard to show me all the reasons why I shouldn’t be with him, I still would be.  Just as well, he found someone else shortly afterward and remarried. So as they say, it wasn’t meant to be.

Speaking of weddings.  When Diane [another cousin] got married, Dad volunteered to take pictures because Mom never centered them good enough.  He got  pictures of all the bridesmaid walking up the aisle.  The bride.  The altar.  He took every shot that was important.  They were going to be great.  We had to laugh when we got the pictures back from being developed, not one person had a head!  Needless to say his ability to center the pictures wasn’t any better than Moms. Beautiful shot of the dresses though.

If he was still around we would be celebrating Fathers Day at Dragonowski’s Enchanted Inn.  He would have either a porterhouse steak or a t-bone [done medium – rare] with a baked potato and a cold beer.  I miss you Dad.  Happy Fathers Day.

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Mom and Her Pin-curls

My brother and sister recently dug out some old school pictures of me that brought on some laughter.  I guess they felt a need to get even with me for sharing stories about them.  Any way I have to admit there are some pictures that even you take away the toothless smiles, some of are still goofy looking.  Why? partly because of the pin-curls Mom insisted on putting in my hair the night before.  They always sent my bangs in odd directions, never turning out the way she [or I] had hoped.  I remember many times, walking to school holding my bangs down against my forehead hoping they would straighten out by the time I got to school.  That never worked out though.  One year she taped my bangs down so they laid flat and even, but the pin-curls went everywhere else.  I had hair standing high with curls like a big crown on top of my head. 

I wasn’t the only one she liked to pin-curl.  One night after working a long day Dad showered after dinner and laid-down on the couch to take a nap.  Mom sat with his head on her lap rubbing his head so he could relax.  As soon as he fell asleep she decided to put pin-curls in his hair.  Not because he needed curl, as he had thick wavy hair already.  She did this just to entertain herself.  She had his hair full of pin-curls and let him rest. 

When he woke he remembered he had to go to the store for cigarettes and beer.  He put his shoes on, got his keys and wallet…just before walking out the door he went to run his hand through his hair.  “What the…” he shot a look toward Mom who was standing there talking to him as if everything was normal.  “Were you really going to let me go to the liquor store with pins in my hair?!” he asked half laughing now, because she was smirking.  “Of course not, I would have stopped you before you backed out of the driveway.”

Dream Whip Up Do

My sister has beautiful thick hair.  She always did.  When we were younger I would look at her with her shiny blonde hair and wonder why mine had to be so dull and frizzy.  As a teen she worn it long.  In the summer it would lighten up to a pretty sun-kissed blonde.

One afternoon Sue decided to make a desert for dinner.  She got out a package of Dream Whip  for the topping and began to mix it.  I was sitting at the table on the far side of the room facing her .  She was standing at the kitchen counter.   All the ingredients were in the mixing bowl and the mixer was going when she leaned forward to read the instructions one more time.  That was when her beautiful long locks dipped into the mixing bowl getting wrapped up in the beaters.  There she was yelling “Help!” with the beater bouncing playfully off her head, whipping cream flying in every direction….It was a site I had never seen before and it looked…well, comical! 

I couldn’t move for laughing so hard.   Have you ever laughed so hard that you couldn’t talk?  That is what happened to me.  Couldn’t talk, walk, why – I couldn’t lift myself from the chair I was sitting in to go to her, but finally I was able to squeeze out “pull the plug!”.  The whole thing happened so fast she forgot her thumb was on the off switch.  I was finally able to get my composure and help unwind her beautiful hair from the beater.  She asked why I didn’t help her faster.  I told her I just couldn’t get my breath long enough to even say anything much less go to her and asked why she didn’t just shut it off?  “Your thumb was on the switch after all.”  She said, “How was I suppose to remember that?  I was beating my brains out!” This memory brings back the giggles.

It also reminds me of the time she twirled Mom’s comb/brush combo up in her hair.  It was a rat-tail style comb with a skinny brush on the other side of the comb.  She was reading something and absent-mindedly twirling it up in her hair.  Before she knew it, it was thoroughly tangled all the way to the root!  She tried to get it out by herself but to no avail.  She went to Mom for help.  Mom [with all her patience] tried for about a half second and went to get the scissors.  “What?!  No! Don’t cut it!”  The tears where about to pop when Dad said he would try.  He didn’t want her to have to walk around with a big stub of hair sticking up in the front of her head.  He was so patient carefully unwinding the mess, all the while telling her not to try this again.  It’s a wonder that girl has any hair left!

My mom loved spending time with her grandchildren.  They always had something to share that made her day.  My son, Scott loved to be with her too.  They watched old movies together.  One time they were watching a movie starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe called River of No Return.  Marilyn played a dance hall girl and when she came out in her costume Scott [who was all of maybe 3 years old] gently pushed his little elbow into Grandmas side, without taking his eyes off her asked, “Grandma, who is that?”.  She said, “That’s Marilyn Monroe” and he told her, “Well, I’d like to hug her!”.  She could hardly wait for me to come back so she could tell me.  When I come through the door she quickly let me know I would never need to questions his sexuality and then filled me in.

Another time Grandma asked him if he thought the little girl on the commercial was pretty.  He was very matter of fact when he said, “No Grandma…I like girls with skinny faces.”  Knowing she would get something good in response, she asked, “Scott, does Grandma have a skinny face?”  Looking at her sympathetically and with complete honesty, bringing his little hand up to her cheek he said, “No Grandma, your face is melting.”  She laughed and again could hardly wait for me to come back so she could tell me the latest Scott-ism..

One beautiful sunday we had a visiting priest at our church.  During mass he told us how as a new priest he did not have his own parish, but traveled around filling in here or there.  Although he was grateful for the opportunity he had wished he could have a parish of his own. 

He prayed on this over and over.  Then one day he received word that he was being assigned to not only one parish but a few.  They were all smaller communities but they needed him and he would have to travel to each of them .  He was very happy to have his own parish but the traveling was taking a toll on him.  His message to us was that we should be careful what we wish for.

As we were exiting church, Mom stopped to tell him she enjoyed his sermon and that she understood what he was saying.  She said, “I use to wish for dimples.  I always thought dimples were so cute and wanted them so bad…Then God answered my prayer.”   He stood smiling as she talked. Motioning with all ten of her fingers punching the air, she said ” Now I have dimples… all over my butt. Yes!” she said pointing skyward, “Be careful what you wish for!”

Sue and I stood, eyes wide open in disbelief, holding our breath….Thank you Lord, the priest laughed.

Grandmas Lickin Stick

Grandma had a sweet face.  She had big, soft blue eyes, fair skin and fine, wavy, white hair. I used to stand looking at her thinking that must be what angels hair was like.  It was so beautiful to me.  I wished mine would turn pure white like hers when I got older. 

Grandma had a unique way of making her grandchildren behave.  She threatened us with seemingly make-believe or magical weapons.  One of them was a lickin stick that would get us if we misbehaved.  The lickin stick was a phantom weapon that would come out of nowhere and smack us…She didn’t even have to be there or witness the naughty behavior, it would still get us!

She also told us there was a red fox that lived under the stairs in the basement and it would come out if we misbehaved down there.  We loved playing down there because it had a kitchen, bar, bathroom and big open floor plan with highly polished tile floors that you could easily slide across in your stocking feet.  There were also support pillars that we loved to twirl around until we were crazy dizzy.  We never saw the fox.  We never heard the fox either.  We never misbehaved in the basement!

One day we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa, along with our cousins.  All the adults were in the kitchen talking while we laughed and played.  We were having so much fun.  Apparently we were getting loud, so  Grandma reminded us that we should be careful because the lickin stick didn’t like that much commotion. “Hahaha Has anyone ever seen the lickin stick?” someone said  “Do you believe there is one?  I think she just made it up to ruin our fun!” we said as we took off running down the hall.  Then suddenly POP! “What happened?” Grandma wanted to know what all the excitement was about. “The lickin stick got Timmy!” we yelled out.  “We were running down the hall and the lickin stick came out of the hall closet and got him!”

Grandma stood looking very pleased when she said, “I told you it would get you if you didn’t behave.”

Celebrate My Life

Like many nights, I have a hard time sleeping.  When this happens I toss and turn until I realize that isn’t working for me and I turn on the tv to see what is on to lull me off to sleep.  There isn’t much on in the wee hours of the night except for infomercials and crime shows.  I tend to flip through the stations until I see something of interest. 

That is how I came across a program about a murder that took place several years ago.  The sister of the murdered man was saying that she knew something was amiss when she saw her sister-in-law celebrating after the funeral.  “Who drinks champaign after they bury their husband?” she asked.  Huh?  You mean it’s wrong? I thought.  Well, it turned out there were other things that pointed to the wifes involvement in her husband’s death, but toasting [in my eyes] was not reason to get a subpoena.

Maybe it is my Irish-American heritage, but we have celebrated the lives of our loved ones at every funeral.  So when she asked that question, I said “Who doesn’t?”  Why, when my dear aunt passed away her celebration was held at the same venue that we celebrated her 50th anniversary with her husband.  Every person of legal age was served a high ball [her favorite drink], my uncle said a few words on her behalf and we drank in celebration of her life.  There were some tears of sadness but there was laughter too.  Lots of laughter remembering the many great times.

When I go…that is what I want.  A big party! I figure I didn’t have the big, fancy wedding when I got married [and it was a good thing, since it didn’t last] so I think I would really like a great send off when I die.  Go ahead, you can cry a little for me – just enough to let me know you love me and will miss me.  After a few tears, let the music play and the celebration begin!  I love a good party!  Keep it lively, because you know I just love to dance.

I am not saying I am going soon. Not at all.  I have a few things to do yet.  Now that I have said all of this I need to start giving you all reason to miss me.  The things you laugh about will come naturally as I am not a perfect person, but know that I plan to be there in spirit, so if you are mean… Oh, I will haunt you!

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