When I was a little girl in the 1960's, I was far away from the hippies, anti-war demonstrators, the ecology/pollution protestors, riots, etc., but at the same time, I was riveted to them through television. Television was coming of age then, and I was a child of that age. If I had been a bit older, as I look back on it, I'm pretty sure I would have been like the older sister in THE WONDER YEARS - i.e., I would have packed up and went to join the revolution. As it was, I read, I watched, I'd have little philosophical self-talks; I'd discuss topics as they came up with my parents, discovering that while they had strong beliefs, they also surprised me with their intelligence and open-mindedness. It was a great example to me of how to exercise my mind, how to think, and not being afraid of standing up for what I believe yet allowing for flexibility and always desiring to understand more...


Family Skeletons

Mom has shared many, many stories of her family down through the years. Some are a bit rough around their edges since I didn't put them on paper right away. I do my best here to relate them, and in this case, to relate some that were buried from public knowledge for the most part...

Like the one about my Mom's sister Irene, who went to work for a couple in Canada, ended up getting treated like a real-life Cinderella, returning home worse for the wear and expecting a child. The baby ended up not only my Mom's nephew, but a playmate of hers as she was growing up. Irene ended up marrying a wonderful guy who loved her so much that he took the child under his name.

Like the one about my Mom's sister Alberta, who when attending nurse's training in the big city became entranced with a college football player, became pregnant and had to make the hard choice of placing that child for adoption. And yes, she did wonder at times whatever happened to that child...

What a difference time can make. I found myself in the same position, expecting a child without marriage many years after my Aunts, never even knowing they had faced the same situation. In my case, I didn't have to marry anyone, but chose to. As it ended up, it wasn't for the best. But in the end, I am still glad I had all the experiences that came out of those difficult times, as well as my two kids, Eva and Daniel. Whatever we do, whatever we choose, it is what makes us who we are...


Tonight I was cleaning out a closet of mine, and as often happens, I digress from one task to another. At one point, I'm at my desk rearranging and clearing out to make room for this and that (it's a long sad tale), and I come across a slip of paper taped to a cubbyhole in the desk. Document "Uncle Henry" and "Aunt Daisy" in family history it says. For a moment, I wondered what in the world, then a split second later I smiled, remembering Mom telling me last year, in the midst of her first flush of grief and confusion. "I want to tell you before I forget..."

"Uncle Henry" and "Aunt Daisy" were Mom and Dad's code phrases in their early love letters to each other, especially during the war when they were quite aware that many letters were read by the Army censors, for their genitalia. When they would write to one another that "Uncle Henry misses Aunt Daisy", they knew exactly what the other meant without being crude or letting anything slip to the censors.

Mom has kicked herself more than once for having Dad take out the bundle of their love letters and burn them. She can't for the life of her remember why they did it, either. What she does remember is Grandpa Fitzpatrick, her father, joking that "...that's the hottest fire ever seen around here..."

The evidence of our existences are fragile at best. All too easily it disappears and no one knows we were ever here...


I was raised drinking tea like fish swim in water. It was part of our daily lives. I came to adore it, the whole process, from preparing it to slurping it noisely by teaspoon from my teacup full of tea, milk, and 2-3 teaspoons of sugar! As time went by, my inquisitiveness discovered that the tea was Red Rose, a brand from Canada. It's a strong black/orange pekoe tea with a touch of bergamot oil in it.

We lived on the border, and I didn't think of the small town by us - Emerson, Manitoba - as anything other than, well...Emerson - another small town like my own. I was born there, we shopped there, I attended piano lessons there, etc., etc. Border guards waved us through both the US and Canadian ports of entry. People knew each other. We were rarely asked to declare anything or how much we had purchased. Those days are definitely gone...

My grandmother and mother owned ordinary everyday teapots, but they also had highly decorated china pots made in England, brought out for company. With these were beautiful porcelain china teacups and saucers, so beautiful they were works of art as well as items of service. It was a ritual that made the act of drinking the tea that much more special.

Later on I tried other teas, and have enjoyed many. But I still adore Red Rose the best - strong, sweet...the taste and smell brings back a flood of memories of a time, people, and something very, very comforting...


A Gentle, Fragile Soul

Years ago I was deeply touched by a film short I saw several times on a local public television station. It was entited "Appearances", in reference to the fact that certain characteres in the film were more concerned with how things looked to others, than in showing compassion to those they were responsible for...

Fast Forward about a decade or so. I'm reminded of it somehow, and decide to finally track down the person or persons who put it all together. I finally identify and locate him, writing him a letter....
You ask for a bit more about why it touched me...Many reasons, I guess. I was brought up in a small village in the 1960's and 1970's with a lot of supportive people in my life. I was exposed early to people of all ages, but especially older people. My own grandmother lived down the road, then later with us. I helped play piano and serve communion at nursing homes with my church. I saw on the one hand how people said you should respect your elders but on the other hand many didn't - they were discounted or ignored. My experience was that they were interesting people. In college I visited nursing homes and talked with older people coming away fascinated by their life experiences, realizing once again that the body is simply a shell, but that many cannot get beyond it to see the person.

My father had a younger brother who was mentally fragile, mostly due to environmental reasons (meaning home environment in this instance). My Uncle Grant eventually became unstable enough that he no longer could live on his own. From the stories I heard, from the denigration of his spirit and self-esteem he experienced from his father, he definitely came to mind when I saw your film. I saw it for a wider context, yes, but we all tend to personalize. Some people react to such emotional abuse by getting angry, while other quiet souls retreat as he did.

I think your choice of hard transition, no faces, anchoring the feelings of freedom with the artistic expression of the child with the music refrains, was powerful. It's funny how some things burn into your mind, but "Appearances" definitely did for me...

I try to remember to be compassionate to people, but I admit there are times when thoughtless words come out of my mouth. I am reminded by certain things that cross my life - Christ's words, your film - and I am reminded again, rebuked, and humbled. That is a good thing...
"I have a heart for the physically/mentally disadvantaged...my film pays homage to 'The Elephant Man' and also tries to bring about a new way of looking at persons with disabilities."

- Torry Nordling, producer/director of Appearances


When I was growing up, there were only a few years that I remember my sisters being around. I was the baby of the family, and my two sisters were much older than I was. Betty was nine years older, and Sharon eleven. I remember fragmented memories of them at home - Sharon's high school science project of breeding hamsters getting a bit out of control in the old barn. Taking Sharon to the depot to take the train to Illinois where she'd be attending college, Mom and I very sad, crying as she stepped onto the train. Betty dating, and being picked up by her boyfriends. One boy took her to the fair and won her some stuffed animals which I eventually inherited. Another became fairly serious - Charlie was his name - and I was very sad when Betty broke his heart by breaking off with him after meeting Bill (now her husband of over 30 years!) Betty taking out the first new car my parents ever owned, my parents later finding out she had driven it in a farmer's field.

After Betty graduated in 1968, I was all alone with Mom and Dad. I was only 9 years old, and just starting to be more social, coming out of a shell where I mostly played alone. Part of that was due to my physical problems when I was younger. Part of it was due to the geographical isolation of where we lived. So, as you might imagine, quite a bit of my growing up was as an 'only child'...

My parents didn't take vacations like many people would, where you'd go on a road trip across America, or to a Lake Cabin, or to Disneyland, etc. When we did go somewhere, it was usually short trips on the weekend, to relatives living in the county - a 'Sunday drive'. You'd enjoy the drive, the country air and nature on the way, and drop in on cousins to visit, have a meal. A clear memory of these journeys were being in the back seat sleeping, awakening to sun strobing through the trees...

On the rare occasions my father had some time built up - and a bit of money saved up - we'd go on trips to visit other relatives near and far. One relative we visited more often than others was my Mom's sister and her husband, Aunt Pat and Uncle John Beaudette. Uncle John was a small, wiry fellow, French ancestry, who ran a body shop fixing cars. Aunt Pat was a working woman, always seemed a bit mysterious and glamourous to me. Uncle John smoked pipes, and both he and Aunt Pat were drinkers. My parents had drank alcohol once upon a time, too, but quit it more or less before I showed up. They felt it was the right thing to do when they got serious about their religion. However, when they visited my Uncle and Aunt, inevitably they would end up playing cards, having a drink or two, and laughing the night away in Aunt Pat's small kitchen. I would be left to myself to explore their house, which always fascinated me. I would always find the licorice in the candy dish, or marvel at the beautiful bedroom set in a hallway side-bedroom.* Sometimes I would sneak down into the basement and snoop around the old trunks and boxes to see what I might find. In the end, Aunt Pat would usually make me a malted milk, which I would eat slowly, then go into the side bedroom to fall asleep listening to the grown-ups talk...

* Ironically, years later, Aunt Pat gave me that set knowing I always admired it...


I'll be leaving Thursday for a long-anticipated holiday with my daughter and her family. I'll be seeing her graduate from college. Hard to believe. I remember the day I came home, tired and bedraggled, VERY unsure of myself as a new mother, with this little lump with blue eyes and golden downy hair on her little head, wiggling and looking at me...As if I knew what to do! But she trusted me, so I pulled myself together and stumbled along as best as I could, learning as I went by the seat of my pants. Making mistakes, I also tried to be open and honest about them.

So much has happened since then. One thing for sure, there's never been a dull moment with Eva. She's been the most fascinating person to watch grow into herself. So many wonderful things to come yet.

Mom has often said similiar things. Remembering me and my sisters when we were young, when her and Dad were young parents. It's said with a mixture of happiness and sadness. Happiness because of the blessing of those experiences, sadness because they are long in the past, and so bittersweet when reality of her present forces itself in front of those memories.


Death of My Father

From my journal, nine months ago...

"How quickly things change...On June 30th, Mom and Dad called. Mom scared. Took Dad to ER. Had heart attack. Released after testing July 4th. On July 13th, second bad attack. This time, the Cardiologist, Dr. Evans, did an angiogram, angioplasty, and echocardiogram. Dad is in ICU with breathing tube, IV feeding him, catheterized, with a blood pump. Also had to have dialysis for awhile. By July 16th, breathing tube removed. Two days now he has slept, moving around and trying to turn this way and that. Who knows what dreams he dreams?

"Mom cried when we drove to the hospital. 'No more Hawkeye and Chingascook...' was all she could say, over and over. In ER, Dad motioned us over to his bedside, saying if he doesn't come out of this, he knows he'll see us on the other side. I'm so glad I took their photos on Saturday, July 7th, as I did. Images of them kidding with each other, smiling at each other, goofing off, holding hands, kissing, or just gazing into the camera naturally.

"As I write this, I am alone in the ICU waiting room except for one solitary woman, and Mom. Mom plays solitaire quietly, across the room on the coffee table. She keeps asking me, when I go over to her, why she's paying two months' rent for the old apartment. I explain we're late this month and we need to give notice. Where are we moving to, she asks. I tell her, but a few moments later, she has forgotten and asks again. 'Oh yes,...where Dad needs to go...' I smile inwardly as the solitary woman leaves us alone.

"Mom remembers enough of a conversation a few days before when we told her and Dad they had to move to a nursing home. Then, I could see Dad's face become relaxed and visibly relieved, knowing finally that someone could be there to help them.

"My ears notice that Mom is whistling as she plays cards. Cards and whistling - how appropriate. Two things burned into my mind from my earliest memories that I associate with Mom.

"I hear Mom moan...she says she has eaten too much, and decides to quit playing cards, and lay down for awhile.

"Sharon and Bill, arriving in the afternoon, are with Bill and Betty running errands.

"The hours as this goes by seem surreal. Time passes differently. You don't acknowledge it. Instead, you ignore it, withdrawing into a safe, emotional cocoon. At one and the same time, you reflect superficially on memories that surface unbidden but don't surprise you, but you never let them manipulate you into giving way to any emotional release. This is your way, you say. Maybe so. Maybe it's just your defense against facing mortality head on instead of intellectually, the way most of us most of the time deal with it, if we deal with it at all..."

Dad passed away on August 8, 2001...


Stream of Consciousness IV

Interior of The Spot, during it's heyday...
McCall's (Henniman's). Skogmo's. The Spot. Dick's Corner. The Hartz Store. The Tastee Freez. Coast-to-Coast hardware. Ice rink on the banks of the river, lights strung overhead. The dam. South Pembina. The airport. The museum. Crossing the Red, then the Pembina. Ukranian church dome. Old 81. Old Pembina with the vines growing up the side of the old Methodist Church. Ancestors' rocking chairs in the museum...the old museum that seemed like a treasure chest of old area artifacts. Many a summer was spent touring the row upon row of exhibits, taking in as much as possible. Imagination working overtime wondering who the people were that once owned that dress, that gun, that book. So MUCH stuff that each display area was a mini Fibber McGee open closet. Even the walls were covered with treasures all the way up the the ceiling. The Park nearby had a monument towards the back, almost hidden by the now older trees. The white pyramid-like steps led up in the center to a pillar. Names and a dedication, barely legible, told of a war to end all wars, and the local boys that wouldn't be coming home again. I would climb that monument thinking it was magical, touch the white stone, rough and hot in the summer sun. Who were these people who were just names now, I wondered as a child. I was in awe of someone who would sacrifice so much. Bike home over the bridges, daring to stop and look down to the river below. Such a long way it felt, and sometimes there would be a pull in the back of my mind to jump...jump! A little thrill would run up my spine at the thought mixed with incredible fear. I almost drowned once. I was with my mother and her friend Glennis Friebohle at the Emerson pool on a sunny summer afternoon. I wandered away from the wading pool area. I was little, but could see more people were having more fun in the big pool. I wasn't afraid to try it. I tentatively lowered myself over the edge into the pool, intending to hang onto the side. But the pool was very busy that day, many jumps, splashes, and waves. A wave caught me and lifted my body, and I panicked. My hand slipped, and before I knew it, I was floating away from the edge, I couldn't grasp it, and I was sinking...I was scared, but at the same time, as I went below the surface, I kept my eyes open...I was facing up, looking up, seeing the light above me grow smaller as I sank...The next thing I knew, I was laying on warm cement, coughing up water...Glennis was there. She had seen me as I began to sink and dived in and rescued me. Years later, despite still not knowing how to swim, I love water, and remember that day, and how peaceful it seemed. A few moments of panic, then quiet...


I've suffered from urinary tract/system problems all my life. Since early childhood, I've had unusual amounts of bladder and kidney infections. I suffered from bed wetting until I was nearly 12 years old. I can't remember how many times my mother would be awakened by either me timidly calling to her, or hearing me rustling around after waking up in a cold, wet bed. She would either silently, mechanically change the sheets with hardly a word, or (more likely), scold me as she worked for wetting the bed, telling me not to drink before bed, and later saying I could stop if I 'really tried'. I was very confused when she'd say that, because I knew if there was any way, I would stop. No one was more motivated than I was. But I didn't stop. Not for years. In the meantime, I had such severe infections, I was tested, prodded, catheterized, pumped full of dye and x-rayed so many times, that if anyone should be phobic of hospitals and doctors, I should have been. I wasn't, and still am not. I just remember coping with it all, and sometimes learning interesting things from it. I was fascinated with the instruments, how my body reacted. Overall, I met some very caring people. I had interesting experiences! I guess, looking back, I'm rather glad to have went through it all...

In my adult life, things settled down a bit, but I've had my moments...several (but not nearly as often or as severe) urinary tract infections, plus I had to have a kidney stone removed. After that, I had to have a couple of treatments where dye was injected via the urethra; it contained medicine for treatment of a condition I have developed in recent years called interstitial cystitis. These treatments were some of the most painful I've ever had. After the second one, I vowed NEVER AGAIN. I went in search of a second opinion from another urologist. He told me about a new drug called Elmiron. Thankfully, it has worked for me. It helps the body develop a thickened lining in the bladder, which in turns helps prevent inflammation of the urethra (my condition) which can be painful in various ways. It's rather hard to describe to someone that hasn't experienced it, and it varies from person to person in the way the pain manifests itself.


Dreams of Home: Eaves in the Trees

An email to my mother in July 2000, 8 months before my parents' health worsened and they came home to Minnesota from New Mexico, for good:
I just had a dream last night with Dad in it...I was out in the pasture by the barn, Sunny's barn, that is, and looked up into the branches of those trees that were in and around the corral area, and up in the branches, Dad had installed eave troughs to drain rain water from the trees like on a house. They were painted a rusty red, barn color, beautifully painted, as Dad always painted everything...I have NO idea why he put them up there, but I thought, don't they look beautiful? Don't even the trees look beautiful?

When I think of home, I think a lot about the trees. I love the big canopy of trees that surrounded the house, like big arms hugging us. They kept us cool in the summer, provided a 'jungle gym' for the squirrels to run across and hop down from then scamper over the roof, for the birds to build little villages in each with their own nests and families. Walking over tons of acorns in the fall, crunching under my feet, and raking leaves in the fall, working like mad to make the biggest possible pile, just to run like crazy a few times and JUMP in them for all I was worth, laughing madly.. .then the smell of them burning (when you could still burn them!) Drives down the road with Dad with my hands out the window, letting the long grass on the side of the road whip against my hand, stinging but in a strange way feeling good, at the same time feeling the wind rush against my face and drive down my nostrils straight into my lungs.

Or in the back of the nuisance ground trailer, on our way to the nuisance ground, going up the 'new' dike, pausing at the top, looking SO steep and SO far to the bottom where we would dump our stuff, and then going down with a scared but fun feeling in my stomach, jumping off to look around for 'treasures', but usually only finding burdocks. Or begging to be let to go in the '52 Chevy while Dad dragged the road, always fascinated and looking out the back window as the teeth raked the stones back onto the road from the shoulder.. .Well, I could go on and on. These memories have been with me for a very long time, but tend to rush out of my mind at times like these.. .Love you, Mom and Dad.. .Be sure and read this to Dad, Mom.. .I want him to know I think of these things.. .Trish


Stream of Consciousness III

silver threads among the gold rope swings I dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair Grandpa napping on the porch Grandma making pound cake with that broiled coconut brown sugar butter topping in the kitchen bike riding down the center of main street look no hands discovering hidden paths back alleys abandoned house begging to be explored the river always the river bridges looking down wondering what it would be like to jump scared yet excited floods dikes sandbags moving away until the water goes down taking the army 'duck' through the waters to the parked cars marooned at the junction Sunday afternoon drives to nowhere cousins dropping in food laughter catching up part of something bigger roots family history cobbler aprons long hair in buns large hands in bread dough warm arms wrapping themselves around you feeling like you are SO special because you are loved so loved those capable arms and legs that love you sucumb and it's your turn to be strong for them wheelchair cat-in-the-cradle those last years together end too soon and you're weeping at the coffin bending over kissing cold lips not caring what anyone thinks feeling for the first time real loss Grandma I will miss you so much you are my best friend remembering sleeping with her, breakfasts of cocoa and brown sugar toast only she makes that special smell of her body as you snuggle with her at night after Grandpa is gone and she's alone Grandpa who gave you pink peppermints whisker rubs and called you his little girl Grandpa who napped on the porch age made no difference they were love


Stream of Consciousness II

overalls wide paintbrushes kerosene cleaning tree swish swosh swish swosh bark stained with years of paint leading down a path to a pet cemetery and Hawkeye and Chingascook can I be Chingascook today Popeye shared bathwater Iten's water service cisterns graindoor sidewalks hand-me-downs Outer Limits ceiling grate peek nightmares slanted ceilings that certain smell as I press my nose against the window screen noon 6pm 10pm town whistles county fair quansit hut blue ribbon jam Egg Pants Tonto George's general store from another time Friehboldt's Garage dime fridge pop swinging from the gas sign Dad filling up Old Man Friehboldt checking the oil exploring behind discovering old jail bars ghost firehouse horse-pulled truck curling rinks town pumps Bordnick's farm equipment cacophony vs. Hughes' livestock menagerie potato bugs canning wringer washer hanging reaching pinning squinting gathering folding the smell oh the smell crisp stiff alive tarp paper garages anti-anti-I-over scared running laughing screaming late Sunday night meetings jumping off church steps hide 'n seek around the church in the fall cold running until we see steam rising off our skins in the moonlight breathing so deep sore throats in the morning no regrets alive so alive so young was it all a dream


Stream of Consciousness I

it's still there the memories are strong tins cans crisco cans raspberries gardens straw hats belts chokecherries bread canning cowboy cookies and teaspoons tea Sunday dinners with Grandpa and Grandma leaf piles nuisance grounds hands out of car windows whipped by long blades of sharp grass Canadian geese honking won't be long now fires burning pastures mowing gardens plowing bed making hospital corners dumping the pot porches and slop pails screen doors slamming on the way to Toot's house PK gum and rolled chins tall imposing steps old persian rugs pianos and women talking playing alone imagination running wild looking up through tree branches wind kissing cheeks tasting milkweeds playing house mud pies bugs barn spiders haylofts Dusty Smoky prairie roses peonies in water veined hands crocheting Dad's hands on Mom's legs cattails in kerosene floods trains trips cousins driftwood hospitals piano lessons dreams horses bicycles freedom washing dishes and Star Trek books on shelves discovering new worlds wallpaper transister radios late in the night Macabre Theatre door creaking no borders everything possible no worries love always love changes but it's still there the memories are strong