12.17.2003

...and now, for something completely different...

ChiChai

There once was a gal named Trish
Who had a very strange fish
It could do Tai Chi
It could drink chai tea
And would only grant her one wish

8.05.2003

Aunt Pat's daughter emailed me about a tough weekend...
Had quite a day Sat. as Bill (Mom's boyfriend) took it upon himself to go & take Mom out of the nursing home & take her home. Had a bunch of people pretty shook up. My son Daryl got called & came & told me so all of us went to Mom's Daryl, Audrey, Lee & I.

Talk about a scene. Bill threatened all of us with guns if we tried to take Mom back. Police got called by the home staff. It was a mess. Finally got Mom into a police car & took her to ER at the hosp. APS got called. Once we got Mom away from Bill we could calm her down & reason with her. It went on from around 10 a.m. til 4:30. She was given the choice of being taken to a psych ward in Las Cruces or go back to the home. So she chose to go the home but thinks she will be there only a few days more.

Now I was told by the multiple of people that got involved that I have no choice but to get a lawyer & try get legal guardianship. After all those hours of trauma & gun threats & a ride to the hospital by police. Just before we took her back to the home she looked at Audrey & said what happened to me anyway how did I wind up here in the hosp. No memory at all what had gone on all day...

7.24.2003

An email conversation between my second cousin, Deanna, and myself:
From: "Deanna Anderson"

Talked to mom again today and she was told today that Grandma Pat may not go home at all. They said her memory is definitley a factor and her mind is so bad that she no longer controls her own rights, Mom does not have Power of Attorney because it was never officiated but she does have something they told her is "surrogate". Her name is also on the house, cars, and all accounts. Grandma has real lucid moments but then a few minutes later she will forget what was told her. Everything else is coming back slowly but she was given a memory test this morning and she did not do well at all. Mom has a meeting tomorrow regarding all this so she will let me know what happens with that. One year at Thanksgiving (about 3 years ago) my fmaily and I were in Las Cruces NM and we went to T or C for the day. Harriet, Gordon, Gram. Pat, my brother and his family and mom were all there. When I went home friends of ours asked what we did for Thanksgiving and I told them I sat around with my grandmother and great-aunt and told jokes. No one believed me! :)
___________________

My response:

Boy, that sure sounded good, that Thanksgiving you're talking about! I wish I could have been there. I brings smiles to my face and tears to my eyes all at the same time. I can just imagine that group all together! I'll tell you, my folks and your grandparents had some fun times together in their little house in Bemidji when I was growing up, playing cards and getting the giggles!

I think the leaning towards Pat staying in the home is safer for her. Did I tell you I worked there in 1985? It was a nice place then, and I know they were doing a lot of work to it improving it since then, according to Mom. In fact, she and Dad had once thought about moving into their assisted living but never did. Partly that was because we talked them into coming back here. I'm glad we did - We got to be with them for a few months before Dad passed away, and we could be there for Mom. If they had stayed there, it would have been harder on everyone.

Mom talks about her years in TorC very fondly. I often wondered why they didn't travel more before Dad got Parkinson's, but I guess my parents were rather conservative that way. They loved family and friends and a nice home more than rambling all over creation. They did talk years ago about retirement travel, that the good old US of A had plenty to see without going overseas, which is true enough! They did get to see a lot of the southwest, and continued doing train trips to Chicago to visit my sister Sharon. They even came out to California to see me in the 1980's a couple of times, which is saying something, since my Mom hated with a vengence California (it had something to do with bad memories from living there during WWII...) Even my old cat Dusty made the trip, and my daughter Eva, who knew Dusty, took him with her for 'show and tell' to her Kindergarten class in Long Beach, CA! That cat was one travelled kitty!! *smile*

Well, we'll talk more tonight. Betty hopes to get online. I hope Eva can be, too...
My cousin Deanna (my Aunt Pat's granddaughter) emailed me letting me know how she was. Aunt Pat recently had a stroke, losing her speech, etc. She's in a nursing home, but the doctors are giving optomistic prognoses. She has started speaking again, but has serious memory problems.

I'm glad to know the doctors are being so positive for Aunt Pat. I know that time marches on, but it's so hard to think of her this way. She will always be in my memory as this fun, strong woman...

My Mom is doing well. She, too, has her moments with memory, but overall isn't too bad. For her, it's mostly missing my Dad. I always knew they loved each other a lot, but when he passed away, I found out a whole other level to that love on a more personal level. I have been the one that hangs out with Mom the most, and take her places. It's been a special time for me to get to know my Mom more as a woman and a peer rather than just 'Mom'!

She met Dad at age 16 and he was 19. He was her first and only love. It hit her very, very hard when he died. She's still mourning. She's gotten better, less crying jags, but she still gets very sad when she hears a train whistle. My Dad was always such a positive force in our family, teasing Mom and keeping things light. Mom had her moments, too, becoming a bit sentimental despite her tough exterior when she was around certain people.

Mom and Aunt Pat have always been very close. They get cranky with each other sometimes, but really, I have always known they loved one another a lot, and had been there for each other many times over the years. Currently, Mom has been cranky because Aunt Pat wouldn't come visit because of her dogs!! I just smile and let her talk; she says, "I could drive her to the bar every day!" Yeah, right! She hasn't driven in 2 years!! It makes me sad knowing that she dreams of doing just everyday things but can't. I try to dwell on the positive, but the knowledge that she's slowly drifting away from me makes the time I spend with her bittersweet. It also makes it more precious. Mortality brings (or should bring) perspective...

7.21.2003

Mom has been gone nearly a month now, visiting Sharon in Chicago. While it's wonderful having a break, it's a two-edged sword. I also miss her very much.

I wish I could find more ways to stimulate conversation with Mom when she's here. I've felt at times as though I'm missing precious opportunities to connect with her, either not knowing what to say, or being distracted during our times together. It's frustrating, not knowing how to talk to someone you love so much.

Mom's very quiet compared to the way she used to be. There are moments when she comes alive, but overall, definitely more quiet. It's like she's drawing within more, and we are being left behind. I imagine a whole world of memories inside her that she floats along day and night, whether in sleep or lost in thought. Train whistles immediately cause her pain, reminding her of Dad. Like Job, she continues to have a struggle with God about his wisdom in taking Dad but not her.

There's a side to Mom I've seen more of, though...it's her ability to have fun, to laugh...I saw some of it growing up, but I was a kid then, and she was busy being a mother and wife. Now, while still being mother and daughter, we are also women, hanging out together. The dynamics have changed. Time pushes us sometimes very reluctantly forward, into the mystery of the future. We laugh together at it...

6.22.2003

A Kurdish family living in tents among ruins, in Kurdistan, Iraq
I recently 'met' a fascinating individual named Margareta. I say 'met' because it was over the telephone. Margareta called me out of the blue one evening, and after a puzzling introduction of herself, I began to understand her connection to me when she mentioned Meran. I asked about how she knew Meran, and a long story poured out...

She first met Meran as a ten year-old boy in a Turkish refugee camp several years ago in the late 1980's, after his family fled Iraqi Kurdistan (due to Saddam's persecution of the Kurds...) She was there in her capacity as an aide worker, and to observe the conditions of the refugees in the camps. I haven't had the opportunity to ask Margareta why she became attached to Meran as opposed to the many children she must have seen. But for whatever reason, she did. She told me that he struck her as very intelligent, warm, loving...and open. I also learned it was thanks to her special interest in Meran and his family, that they found out about the resettlement program that eventually led them to my area. In a very real sense, without Margareta, my daughter Eva would never have met Meran, and I would not have him as a son-in-law, nor would there be a Salih, Bilal, or Mu'min (my grandsons). I am in her debt, also...

Although I don't know Margareta like Meran does (he has kept in touch with her through all of these years, even asking her advice on whether or not to go to Iraq for the job he's doing there right now - she said, by the way, that she thought he should, that he could have a very positive and important impact...), her caring came across very obviously in her voice as she talked about him. She is an older lady, a native of Sweden, that divides her time between Vermont (where one of her children lives) and Sweden. She said she has had an avid interest in human rights, particularly the Kurds, for many years. The Kurds, she said, are a kind and generous people...a people that the other ethnic groups in the region, could take a lesson from in how to cooperate and live together. She has never been affiliated with a particular NGO or aide group, but freelances where and when she sees fit.

A person like Margareta is someone I greatly admire. I often contemplated doing work like she has actually done. All of us can do what we can whereever we are, so there is no real excuse, is there?

The poem below was written by Margareta about Meran. It is all true, based on recollections and memories shared with her by Meran. It was published in a boook called "Kurdistan Times", a biannual publication of the Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Copyright 1997...
__________________________

MY HOME IN KURDISTAN
By Margareta Hanson (Human Rights Activist)

My home, so
my father told me
was in a valley
in the mountains,
with a river
clear and cold,
its water running
from the snowfields.

In the garden
fruit trees grew.
We had cucumbers,
grapes and melons.
In the barn
there were, of course,
cows and sheep and
my father's horse.

In our home,
heated by
the baking oven
were handmade carpets
of all colors.
It was my home
until 1980 when
I was two years old.

Then came Saddam's soldiers.
Iraqi troops
bulldozed our house
and the barn,
destroyed the garden
and drove us out
from our valley
in the mountains.

Hunted, homeless,
frightened,
we had to flee.
My father's horse
carrying some
blankets, pots and pans
and my older brother
carrying me.

For years we walked
at night
lighted by the stars.
We were hungry,
cold and ill,
sleeping in a tent
as from place
to place we went.

Like that
we lived
until 1988
when I was
ten years old.
Then planes flew by
and chemical bombs
exploded in the sky.

I had run, was
hiding in the mountains.
When I returned I found
that my mother,
my father, and my brother
were laying dead.
Peshmergas helped me
bury them, and then I fled.

Four years went by.
I stayed with
thousands of other Kurds
in a Turkish camp.
We lived in tents.
For heat the sun,
for light at night
the shining stars.

Now I am in another world
of neon lights and cars.
Here in the United States
I go to school and work at night.
I call myself a man and say
"Forgotten in the pain,
I am on my way."

But when I sleep
I am a child at home
in the valley
in the mountains
with the river
cold and clear,
its water running
from the snowfields.

In the garden fruit trees grow.
We have cucmbers,
grapes and melons.
In the barn
there are, of course,
cows and sheep
and my father's horse.

In my dream
I clearly see them,
my father, my mothers
and my older brother,
in our home
in the valley
in the mountains
in my country, Kurdistan.

I am asking you, my friend,
is there a Kurdistan,
a land that is mine,
that will welcome me?
Is there a land of peace and democracy
where all people are free
and living in harmony?

Where hate and murder
does not exist
and every man and
woman is a friend?
If so, Kurdistan, I am
your long-lost son
who wants to go home
and never leave again!

5.17.2003

I recently read an essay by a guy who grew up in the same area I did. He was recalling memories of the people he knew in his hometown, Humboldt, MN. His memories made me both laugh and cry. I remembered a lot of those things from my own acquaintance with Humboldt through people my family knew through school and church, as well as distant relatives or family friends.

For example, I identified with his loving memories of Alfred and Clara Loer. They were, indeed, two of the nicest people I've ever known. They were compassionate, loving, had great senses of humour, and were very positive people in their outlook on life. Alfred was supportive to me as a young girl when I had a horse and had problems figuring out where to find hay for my horse, or transport it, offering his farm truck. I remember a golden lab dog they had later on that had belonged to one of their girls originally, but they took him on. Alfred taught him tricks that he would show off to guests like us over for a Sunday afternoon dinner. Toyvo, yes, I think that was the dog's name...

My own children, Eva (age 24) and Daniel (age 21) lived in St. Vincent with my parents from March 1985 to August 1986, almost 18 months, while we were transitioning from California to Fargo. During that time, they attended church and school there, and got a small taste, especially Eva, of what I, and others of the older generation, grew up with. Eva has never forgotten walking down Grandpa and Grandma Short's road to catch the bus, or the town dogs, or the playhouse, or the barn...or Grandpa and Grandma's workshop...Eva remembers the open fields and sky, and the security of small town life, and treasures those memories. I am thankful that out of a sad situation (the eventual breakup of my marriage) came a very positive experience, living with my parents. My Dad and Mom both told me later that it was a very very special time for them, having us living with them. People asked them how they could handle it, after being alone so long and being retired, but Mom surprised me later by relating to me how she felt at the time - i.e., she considered that time period as one of the happiest for her and Dad. Later, after I moved down to the Fargo area, they took the kids and I on two family trips to Medora and Mount Rushmore in the late 1980's. Those have become great memories for all us, too.

St. Vincent is a ghost town now, little of what it once was is evident except to those who know its history. Families still live and grow there, but it's more like a settlement, a cluster of homes, for those who farm in the nearby fields, than a town. Community is still in the hearts of the people there, no doubt, but it's changed.

One thing that I've always felt about the river towns, as I call towns like Pembina/St. Vincent, Grand Forks/East Grand Forks, and Fargo/Moorhead, is that they are less separate than together. You can't really separate them from one another. Today, the most northern twin cities on the Red River of the North have shrunken greatly, but they are still very important to the people that live there, and to those that don't - we depend on them to grow the food we eat, and caretake the land that provides it...

4.28.2003

I attended Humboldt-St. Vincent High School, class of 1977. The last time I was there was in 1992 when there was an all-class reunion. I took the time to walk around the school. It was very strange for me to see it all again with the distance of time and experience. I could literally hear the ghosts of the past as I went from area to area.

I could remember sitting in the hall at that spot on a stool after being sent out of Mrs. Younggren's first grade class in disgrace for talking during class; I could remember having a bloody nose all alone in the girls' lavatory; I could remember the strange smell of the milk that came from the white tubes at the cafeteria; I went downstairs and could almost hear Mr. Martin or Mrs. Docken telling us to sing a song during music class...

Walking in the gym, the old bleachers seems so much smaller than they once appeared. While all the past students milled around, I recalled ham suppers that took place there, with green peas and mashed potatoes that my mother always derided ("...they are INSTANT!" she would say) but we never missed a supper because it was a social event where you saw people from around the county you never saw the rest of the year.

I thought of the people no longer with us, who had died during the intervening years, from students to teachers; of the sadness that began during their school years that eventually consumed some of them to point of taking their own lives. I smiled when I thought of how once, it was thought almost scandalous to leave the school grounds to go up to Iten's to grab a hamburger. How innocent the time was...or was it just us?

2.27.2003

During Prohibition (1920-1933), when my mother was about 8 or 9 (1930 or 31), one day she and my grandmother went uptown to visit friends.

Grandpa was making home-brewed beer back then. Grandma wasn't thrilled about the idea, since it was illegal at the time, but she put up with it...He was even known to sell a bottle now and then to someone. Grandma herself, after a hard day's work, would drink a bottle against the heat. However, that day, Grandpa crossed a line...

Walking up the road to the house, we came upon an unbelievable scene: Men, women, sitting around, having a good time...drinking Grandpa's beer! It was a regular outdoor honkytonk. Well, if you only knew my Grandma, you could imagine what happened next: She was not amused. People knew my Grandma well enough that just her arrival meant they had better clear off. As they did, she proceeded to grab the remaining bottles of beer within her reach and smash them against the side of the shed.*

[NOTE: My Mom told me this story a few other times in my life when circumstances brought it up. On evening last June, she brought it up again when talking about her sister, my Aunt Pat. How Aunt Pat is scared about her health, and very lonely. She talks about coming up here to be near Mom. We hope she does. Mom said Aunt Pat likes her bottle or two of beer every day...and it went from there...]

* This scene evokes a connection in my mind to the story of Jesus clearing the moneylenders from the temple, for some reason!

2.18.2003

In the northern-most section of Iraq are where the Kurds live. My son-in-law Meran and his family came from from this area. They lived in a small village named Bigdowdi. Several of Meran's uncles were Peshmergas, or guerilla resistance soldiers against Saddam's regime.

In March 1988 Saddam began campaigns against Iraqi citizens specifically the Anfal campain targeting the Kurds; it began with Halabja...later in August, they gassed Bigdowi.

Meran's mother and father were with his family when they first left for the mountains for safety. However, they realized that in the rush to escape, they had left important papers. Despite the risk, they felt they needed to go back and retrieve them. A relative went with them to assist. They never made it back.

Later, after the family felt it would be safe, they went back to try and find them. They eventually did, but it was sad news. The gas had overcome them; they had safely retrieved the documents, and were on their way back, but couldn't quite make it. The family had to bury them there, and continue on their way.

During the next 4 years, they lived as refugees in Turkey. My daughter told me their camp was near Mardin, Turkey. They were fortunate enough to be sponsored by Lutheran Social Services to come to the United States in 1992. It was here in Fargo, ND that my daughter met Meran...

1.21.2003

Awhile back, I was in contact with Kevin Slator, the grandson of the man who killed my cousins in a drunk driving accident. It was rather surreal at first to be contacted by him out of the blue. He had seen some of my family history I had posted online somewhere, and was hoping to collaborate with me to find out more about the story. In the end, I could only give him some oral history about how it affected our family, which he greatly appreciated. However, I received in return a rich background on who Jack Slator, his grandfather, was. By all accounts he was a decent man, hardworking, liked by all, who did a very foolish thing of drinking and then getting behind a wheel. But for the grace of God could go all of us...

...and, ironically, he was a native-born Irishman...

Family history tells the story like this: One day my cousin was walking home from church with some other kids just having attended Catechism. A drunk driver coming from Pembina came down main street St. Vincent and ran into one group, then crossed the road and hit another group. The driver kept going.

In the end, two children were dead, including my cousin.

The deaths hit the community hard. My Uncle John and Aunt Lena were devastated. Later the same year, he and my other two cousins - the remaining children of the family - all died in a freak drowning at the family farm. There were no witnesses, and only assumptions and speculations to this day as to what really happened. Some said that John in his deep grief either purposely took his own life and his daughters, or took an opportunity that presented itself to do so. Others were more charitable and assumed he was attempting a rescue of the girls and it went horribly wrong. Either way, my Aunt Lena was overwhelmed, and ended up having a nervous breakdown in her attempts to cope with her grief.

For years, the man who did this to my family was just a faceless monster. Now I know he was much more than that, and that life is never that simple...


1.18.2003

My grandfather, Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick, was an extraordinary man. He kept bees and made his own honey. He ran a farm, and did the family's cobbling. Much to my grandmother's chagrin, he made homemade beer. A man of letters, he loved literature, passing that love down to my mother and thus to me. He cared about his community, and was Treasurer, Mayor, and keeper of the cemetery books and grounds at various times for our little village. Most of all, he was remembered as a warm man with a wonderful sense of humour, well-loved by all who knew him. I was only 5 years old when he died, so my memories of him are limited. I remember an old tall man who wore a hat, took naps on the porch, let me sit on his lap where I would give him sloppy kisses and in retaliation he would give me whisker rubs (I would squeal with laughter and love every minute of it)...and oh yes, the pink peppermints, the peppermints he would share with me that he loved so much...

I sat with my grandfather sometimes during his last days on this earth, when he was laying in his bed at home. When I would come to him and talk to him, he would call me his little girl, and my mother would weep saying I was the only one now that he seemed to recognize. I didn't fully understand that then, but cherish that memory now. It reminds me of when my own father said his last words to Mom and I, Mom saying "No more Hawkeye and Chingascook"...an allusion to other memories of a time when I shared special moments with my father as a little girl...