“Forget Me Not” – A New Book is Born

Stories – Thoughts and Memories

3-D book coverAnd every single one of those stories, thoughts or memories carry some kind of subliminal message; a fact of life, parts of history, thoughts of previous and present political happenings, psychological insights. All those stories, even a few fairy tales, will entice conversations or discussions around the family table or with friends. Yes, go ahead and talk about it. It is not healthy to keep your thoughts or feelings ‘inside’, especially if they trouble you. I find it liberating to ‘talk about it’. It is surprising how often one just needs a sounding board. I am not always expecting my conversation partner to answer me, to give me advice or set me straight or even discuss my problems. When hearing yourself talking you often find or hear the answer.

Every story is standing on its own and is independent of the others. Some are short, some are longer. Quite a number are stories of unforgettable people, men or women I met along the journey of my life. Could it be that you find yourself in one of those stories? Where it was suitable I added a photograph as well. Many names have been changed to protect the privacy of the characters in the stories.

Somehow this book is a “bridge” between my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” and the sequel to it, planned to be published in fall 2016. Since the sequel will be dealing with the rollercoaster ride through five decades after my emigration to Canada I decided to tell some of the stories ahead of time. An author is usually restricted to a certain word count to keep a book “manageable”.

“Forget Me Not” comes at the right time of year – Christmas time. It makes a fantastic stocking stuffer. It will make YOU unforgettable to the happy recipient.


The book is not yet available to the wider public. To receive a pre-publication copy, a collector’s dream, waiting for the final edit and maybe with the odd extra or missing comma, you may contact me using the form below giving me your name and email address. The cost for the pre-publication copy is $ 20.00CAD plus $4.10 CAD in Canada and $7.00 CAD  postage to the USA..

The ‘Beheaded’ Rose

DSC02601Don’t think it is easy for me to tell you this story. It should be one of the chapters of the sequel to my book “We Don’t Talk About That”. It is a little love story but it really isn’t a love story. Read it and decide for yourself what you want to call it.

I met Hannes two months too late. Had we met two months earlier something might have become of it. Maybe. Maybe not. He had such an infectious laugh, such as I had never heard from a man and never did again. I knew he would never do or try something I would not want. He was ‘comfortable’ like an old pair of shoes, more like a brother and I felt at ease when I was with him. I still kept him at arm’s length. Why? There were several reasons. One, I was afraid I could fall in love with him. Two, he was in the middle of a divorce even it was a friendly one. Three, he was from the Rhineland and the Rhinelanders had a reputation for being ‘light weights’, people who didn’t take life too seriously. Fourth, he was Catholic and I was Lutheran, a match my parents would not approve of, even if neither of us were religious church goers. Fifth, I was in love with a little girl in Canada who needed a new mommy. Her father and I had been pen friends for two months and he wanted to marry me. But the main reason was I was afraid, simply afraid that a man who was obsessed with me, who had stalked me for years would be true to his promise to ruin any relationship I would ever have with another man. “If I can’t have you, nobody else will.” I had told Hannes all about it. Hannes listened, talked to me and made me see all sides, he pointed out the pros but mainly the cons about going to Canada. He sounded exactly like my father who thought I had gone totally bananas. “Canada! Marry a man you didn’t know, divorced and with a daughter? Nuts!” The problem was my compassion for that little girl, after seeing the photos with the sad eyes. I just couldn’t get her out of my mind. After I had met the grandparents in Wiesbaden I was lost. They didn’t even give me a chance to back out. I wasn’t strong enough. And I didn’t know I was being manipulated. The word did not exist in my vocabulary or my thinking.

Hannes became my best friend. He helped me plan my emigration. We went to the zoo in Hamburg, to a fabulous Indian Restaurant and sampled the “Indian Rice Table” with 23 little bowls containing different delectable types of food. We visited the “Pferdestall” a famous kind of pub/bar in an original horse barn. We attended “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on the stage under the stars in the Herrenhäuser Gardens in Hanover.  Until I started to get very involved with my Canadian penfriend and his parents and sadly, my friendship with Hannes somehow tapered out. It was the end of a time with lots of laughter for me but I didn’t realize it until much, much later. When I was living in Winnipeg in Canada I got terribly homesick. I wrote to Hannes telling him about my life. He was married to a lady he had seen in the theater. He wrote “I had noticed her legs and they reminded me of you.” He had approached her during intermission, they had a glass of champagne and the rest is history. Hannes and I remained in contact.

It was a few years later when I visited Germany again. I had arranged a meeting with the last company I worked for since I wanted to import their skin care line to Canada. I had been instrumental in developing a number of the creams. Before flying home I planned to visit my sister in Hamburg and since Hannes lived there he picked me up at the train station. He handed me a beautiful long stemmed dark red ‘Baccara Rose’. We walked across the busy plaza in front of the station to his parked car. After he put my suitcase in the trunk he opened the door for me. We both were a bit shy, not yet at ease as we had been during the two months in the past when we had laughed a lot. I held the rose and my purse with one hand, trying to arrange my fancy coat which had a split in the back so the two sides could be lifted and you would not sit on it. I changed the flower from my left to me right hand and arranged the coat around me with the other. Finally I was seated with both coat tails on my lap. Hannes asked “is everything in now?” We looked at each other when I replied, “yes everything is in”. He closed the door and walked around the car to his side. As he was inserting the car key I noticed I had only the stem of the rose in my hand. I felt the shock right down into my tummy:

“Hannes, look” I whispered with a tiny voice. Hannes grabbed his steering wheel, put his head on his arms and slowly, quietly said “Just like us. It’s our story. A beheaded love story, a beheaded rose. I should have seen the rose wasn’t in when I closed the door. Should we stop by a flower shop and I buy you a new one?”

We decided against it. After a while driving along Hannes started to laugh. His Rhineland humour had taken over and he thought the whole episode was really very funny. I was sorry to have lost the beautiful flower head but I saw the weird humour in it as well. Actually, because of the accident, – I never forgot the rose.


A heart wrenching, sad love story:

Ingrid (2)

My sister Ingrid

Maybe it’s not my place to tell it. But who else can tell it? The two people involved cannot tell it and the others old enough to know the story have died and the younger ones don’t really remember the way it was. The story is about my third sister, Ingrid, who was such an easy going baby and child of whom people said: “Yes, later children are much easier.” I was six years old when Ingrid was born and had decided right then and there that I would only have “later children”. Our mother always admonished the others of us: “Look at Ingrid! She is never ever sick! And you come up with something all the time.”

We were four girls, each one born with our father’s hope to have a boy. It wasn’t meant to be. After the war he stated “I am so glad for my girls. At least they won’t be cannon fodder in the next war.” I, the oldest and the third, Ingrid, had Mother’s hazel greenish eyes and the second, Christel, and the fourth, Edith, were born with our father’s deep blue eyes. There also was a deep connection within the two pairs. That’s why I know Ingrid’s story. We were very much alike in our looks, our likes, our thinking and our love of books.

It was at my nineteenth birthday party with twenty of my canoe club friends plus our family. We were having fun, cooking pancakes on my new camping stove, flipping them over in the air, and a lot of laughter caused by some homemade wine. Late in the evening I started to “read palms”, telling fortunes and Ingrid was the last one who asked: “Can you read mine too?” Naturally I took a look and without thinking told her “For a start, you won’t have a long life. Your lifeline is very short…” She was only thirteen at the time. I shut up, shocked by my insensitivity. I could not shake a weird sense of premonition.

“Will I still marry before I die?” I knew what I saw but told her little white lies. At least I saw it that way. After all, this was just fun, I really didn’t know much about the “science” of telling fortunes. It wasn’t much later when the party broke up.

Ingrid was fifteen when my parents told me that she was seeing Benno, a boy of whom they did not approve. Benno was a year or two older than Ingrid but he was into drinking and always into fist fights with other boys. His parents could not handle him but he loved his grandma who lived next door to us. He often came to stay with her. I asked Ingrid “Why Benno, there are so many more nice boys around?” but she said “He needs me. With me he is nice and he talks and he wouldn’t drink. Nobody else understands him. I see no reason why I should not see him. We are good friends.”

Ingrid the swimmer

Ingrid the swimmer

In the summer next year she was sent to a children’s camp as a “sport teacher’s assistant.” Ingrid was an athlete; her fortè was swimming and diving. After about a week she was sent home because of terrible pain in her right shoulder. She could not even lift her arm to comb her hair. She was told by the family doctor not to train, not to swim, rest the arm and in general not to overdue anything. The pain did not go away, it got worse and at the end of August Dad took her to a private doctor. After a thorough examination his diagnosis was a shock: youth sarcoma. He told my father to immediately take her to the Charitè in Berlin, a special famous hospital. Within three days her whole arm was amputated. More tests revealed that the cancer had already gone into the shoulder blade and collarbone. She refused to have those amputated as well. Her statement was “I am already crippled enough; no boy will ever love me and I know I have to die anyway.” Six weeks later she returned home. Aunt Irene, a former army nurse came daily to renew the bandages and make sure she had enough painkiller pills. Ingrid refused morphine. “I want to die with my mind intact. I don’t want to be a vegetable.”

Ingrid post-op with family

Ingrid without her right arm.

Benno had given up drinking and my parents allowed him to make regular visits. In early December Ingrid’s cancer had grown out of the shoulder cavity as if a new arm was growing up to the elbow. The pain grew worse and she had to go into the local hospital. When Christmas was just a week away my parents asked her if she had a special wish. By this time I already lived in the west of Germany and kept sending items they could not get in East Germany: Chocolate, oranges, lemons; my parents would send a telegram with what Ingrid would like to have. I cried a lot during those weeks and once almost caused an accident with a bus and a car because I biked right into them. I couldn’t see for tears… Ingrid had only one Christmas wish: To come home, lie in her own bed to die. The doctors warned my parents, advised against it because it would be the hardest thing they ever did in their lives, they might not be able to stand it. They were adamant and wanted to grant Ingrid’s wish. They did.

Benno gave her a beautifully wrapped present, a long fancy night gown. It made her happy and sad at the same time. He told her he would wait for her and marry her when she got well, it didn’t matter that she only had one arm, he still had two and they would manage. My parents were upset about the fancy night gown Benno had given her, thought it inappropriate but there was nothing they could do about it. Ingrid had several good days during which she read a book I had sent her. I don’t remember the title. I had read it as well; it was something about five lives we each have of which the last one was about the afterlife. I had been impressed by its sensual spirituality. Mother wrote “Ingrid told me it gave her hope and she is not afraid of dying anymore.”

During January her pain was so bad that Aunt Irene, when injecting her pain medication mixed in a little morphine without telling Ingrid. It helped to ease her plight a bit without clouding her mind; yet sadly, the cancer had taken over her whole body.

Ingrid's grave

Life – love – lost

On February 5th her fight with this horrible cancer, the same as one of the Kennedy boys had, was over. She died and was buried dressed in the night gown Benno had given her. He was totally devastated, started drinking heavily and three weeks after her funeral hanged himself.

August 4th is her birthday. She loved gladiolas. I always buy a bunch and think of her. There is no grave I can take them to – they are on my coffee table. She would be seventy-five this year but I cannot imagine her as an old woman. She is forever the young seventeen year old girl.

“A letter to Cindy:” #Dog #Poodle #Grief

CindyFor a long time you have been on my mind so I just have to write about my thoughts and maybe even feel a little closer. I won’t ask you the typical question: “How are you” because I know that you cannot answer it. But sharing my memories is another cup o’tea. Memories are the only way to connect and not let somebody you loved so much, die. I will not go into believes about an “after-live” and the hope to see everybody again: My granny, my parents, my sister Ingrid who had to die so young and several of my dearest friends. But I do have to admit: I have had moments when an almost wild joy flooded my veins that it might just be possible.

image0 (3)I will never forget how much you loved me. You were always there for me. I still wonder how you knew when I needed you most – but you always did. My tears were flowing copiously when I read the book about the two brothers sailing, their boat had keeled over and one held onto the hand of the other and finally the hand slipped away and only the younger one survived, sitting on top of the boat. The elder boy was the darling of his mother, she blamed the young lad and never forgave him, the marriage broke up, the boy needed counselling, – it was heartbreaking.

Cindy, my dear little Cindy, you sat close to my legs, kept cuddling closer and then you put your little head on my knees and when I did not stop crying you pushed it up between me and my book, looked at me and stopped me from reading. Another day, I came home from work, totally exhausted, made it up the stairs and lay down on the blue Tunisian carpet in the fetal position to ease my back. You lay down next to me and looked right into my eyes. When I turned around to ease my other side, you walked around me and again, lay down and looked at me. We did not need words.

Or all those mornings, when I would sit at my office desk, dealt with letters that my secretary had placed there, phone calls that came through, – and you were close to me, next to the radiator, sleeping or maybe pretending to sleep. Never failing, at 10.30 you put one of your little paws on my knee. I pretended not to notice, until after a while you put a second paw there, I still did not notice and then, with a deep sigh, you pushed your little head through under my arm and looked straight into my face. “It’s time to stop, – let’s go out for a bit.” This game became a daily occurrence and I still miss it.

Another thing I relive in my head seeing you sitting in my car at the steering wheel, your eyes fixed on the door into the bank where I had gone. One day there were about 10 people around the car and I almost had a heart attack seeing them all looking into it. I rushed across the street, expecting something terrible. But as soon as you saw me you jumped to your place on the old blanket on the back seat and assumed an air of innocence. You were not allowed in the front seats! I ask the people why they were standing there and they exclaimed:

“It was so damned cute seeing that little doggie with the paws on the steering wheel! But she never even looked at us, no matter what we did. Her eyes were fixed on that door across the street.”

Ohh yaah, Cindy, you were quite a character. When I came back from my annual trip to Europe after three weeks and my family was happy to see me, hugging me and I was looking at you, talking to you, and you would walk away several steps, sit down and put your nose into the air, not looking at me. I admit, the first time this happened I was really hurt. But then, after a few hours, when the excitement of the family had died down, you came to me and showed me sooo much love, you couldn’t even help yourself, wiggling, cuddling, making little noises- oh my God, it brought tears to my eyes and I felt bad to have left you for so long. I miss you to this day.

I was awful when I was called to the vet. My seven year old boy, Eric sat there crying, holding you on his lap. You lifted your head just a bit, looked at me, giving a big sigh to say: “I am so very sorry.” Then the doc came, carefully took you from Eric. You looked at me with very sad eyes and after not even another minute doc came back out and said: “She is gone. Do you want to take her body or should we look after it?”

Cindy, I cried for six weeks. You were my best friend. The best I ever had. You gave me so much love, unconditional love, during a time when my life fell apart. Without you – I honestly don’t know how I would have managed.

One thing I learned: “TAKE MORE TIME” for what is most important…
image1 (2)Just sitting there.
With big brown eyes you looked at me
to tell me – you are mine.
And I – pretend not seeing you,
there was no time.

Because there was no time?

You loved the car. You want to come?
One step – you stopped, then ran,
you couldn’t resist to be with me;
One nod was all – oh man!

When I lay down – you did that too,
you were so close to me.
Oh little dog, where are you now –
I want you here, you see?

I want you here. Just sitting there.
I’ll tell you, you are mine.
I’ll love you unconditionally
as you did all the time.

It is too late..

The car hit hard,
your eyes, they closed forever.
I’ll never see your wagging tail
invite for play me, clever.

You were all mine..

It will be quiet in my house,
no welcome bark nor whine –
Oh Cindy, why, oh Cindy why
did I not take more time.

Did I not take more time…


Dog Days Or Other Miserable Days… #Depressed #DogLove

BuffiQuoting from Wikipedia:

The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the “Dog Star” because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog); this linkage first appeared in the Greek poem Phaenomena by Aratus (~310-260 BC) while Sirius’s association with summer heat is found in an earlier Greek poem, Works and Days by Hesiod in ~700 BC. Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. The term “Dog Days” was used earlier by the Greeks (see, e.g., Aristotle’s Physics, 199a2)

The Dog Days originally were the time of the year when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun (heliacal rising, in Conjunction (astronomy) with), which is no longer true, owing to precession of the equinoxes.

Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813.

Are those the days when I am not sure what is ailing me? I am sad, weak, down, tired, can’t get going and somehow it seems the whole world is ganging up on me. If someone says something nice I feel they just want to put honey around my mouth. A stubborn donkey is growing and bucking up within myself and wants to kick the kind person… If someone says “come on, cheer up…” or even worse, “you have no reason to feel that way” I know they don’t know what they are talking about. Can’t I just feel bad without a reasonable reason? Just let me be miserable. Leave me alone. Maybe that’s what I need, ‘lone-time’ to find my centre again, to balance my emotions.

Have you ever thought about how tough it is to always pretend everything is all right? We keep smiling, we do what we have to do or think what we have to do, give polite answers or the expected answers. In reality we would like to scream or throw even some of our best china against the wall. Before my back gave me trouble I would grab the vacuum cleaner and give it a real good workout. Just a couple of years ago I would spend hours in the garden, listen to the silence and let myself suffer through sometimes agonizing back pain without being able to stop before the job I had started was done. Mind over matter? What matter? The physical pain or the pain you can’t put a finger on? The pain accumulated during a lifetime without ever having had a chance to clear the air? Because there are things you just don’t talk about. You don’t want to trouble others with your troubles because they have their own troubles.

Okay. The really well-meaning people tell you to have counselling. I tried it. Pay for the pair of ears that will listen to you. Sometimes you get asked intelligent questions but mostly they wallow in your misery, stir it up like pea soup, push it around and explain it from this side and the other and, by acknowledging it, they multiply it. In the end you start to believe life has dealt you some bad cards. In your heart of hearts you know it is not true, that that wasn’t the problem in the first place. Run while you can! But if you keep going back and enjoy listening to these smart people, after all you want your money’s worth, – in the end you start believing it. You like the new truth? It makes you feel ‘poor me’ but it feels good? You don’t realize that by dwelling on it you get worse but the worse is that you start seeing it as the ‘true truth’. Some truth! Brain-washing! And by telling other people about your (new) truth you unwittingly hurt the people that may love you most and you push them away.

No, counselling wasn’t for me. And psycho pills were not either. Why would the first one make me feel so bad that I had to throw up? Oh no, – I never took another. There was no way that I would let anyone, or anything, alter my brain waves. I told myself to take the bull by the horns, face my demons and acknowledge them. Take stock. What was it that made me feel so miserable? Why the loss of energy and getting tired of not being able to defend myself against what, – other people’s truth? Things? Circumstances? Take charge of your life, I told myself.

You know what I just did? I broke a lot of china. I was venting. I talked about all the things that don’t work, did not work for me. I remember part of a joke: A zebra came to God and asked if it was black with white stripes or white with black stripes. God looked at it and said “That depends entirely on how you see yourself.”

Lovely TinaLet’s get back to the very beginning of this outburst. So how do I see myself? Some days are better than others and things seem clearer. But as there is dark and light, bright and dull, up and down, dry and wet, day and night, good and bad, happiness and sadness, so your outlook changes. My way was to keep busy. Did I ever realize that I might have exhausted my store of energy? No. I felt responsible to “keep going” like the rabbit on the battery. I forgot one important thing: Work and play, activity and rest, laughing and crying. There was nothing to laugh about? Too many of those “dog days”?

The antidote: Get a dog. It ties you down? You have to walk it, get up earlier, lose your freedom? You don’t even realize what you would gain: unconditional love and lots of it, an incredibly understanding of your troubles. It looks at you and transmits feelings without words. By owning and being responsible for a dog you may even extend your life.

doggie mediicineSecond best? Go visit a friend who has dogs. These creatures just know how to lift your mood, get your mind off anything that may ail you. They love you, they want you and they play with you and before you know it they have delivered the medicine you didn’t even know existed: “Doggie Medicine”.

An ‘Otherwordly’ Experience #Dreams #Tears #Spiritual

It was totally dark when I woke up and I had the incredible feeling of floating over my bed. I had heard someone calling “No, don’t go, please no, no, no…” I felt for something solid and was grateful when finally touching my pillow. But it was wet, very wet next to my head. I was flat on my back. I kept lying still and tried to shake the cob webs off my mind. Who had been calling? Why would my pillow be wet? I noticed that my hair on both sides of my face was wet as well and there was moisture in my ears too. I touched my eyes. Yes, – I was crying, the tears just kept running out of my eyes, down my cheeks and it seemed that some flood gate had opened. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t properly wake up, either. Weirdly, I knew I wasn’t really awake and I also knew I wasn’t really asleep. The dark room around me felt cold and empty. Very empty. Almost hollow. I could touch the hollow in the air above me.

The next I heard was my alarm clock going off. It was 6.30 AM. A bit of grey light shone through the curtains. It took me a while to gather my thoughts. The wet pillow was a puzzle. I figured I must have had a bad dream and therefore cried. Walking to the bathroom I felt lightheaded and in a weird way very somber. Not singing or humming as I sometimes did. I had my shower, dried myself, put my house coat on and padded back to the bedroom. I dressed without thinking, choose everything black. Black pantyhose, black dress with a high collar, buttoned half way down the front with small round shiny black buttons, black pumps. When I was back in the bathroom I stared into the mirror: Why did I dress in black? I opened a drawer and pulled out my opera length large white baroque pearls and hung them around my neck. I shook my head to the image I saw in front of me and took them off again. I noticed that I was very pale and had large dark circles under my eyes.

Eventually I set off to drive to my office. For no reason at all I felt thankful that nobody had taken my parking spot. For a while I sat in my car and prayed that my secretary would not notice my eyes, still red from crying. I still had that somber feeling but as I entered through the backdoor I pasted a smile on my face when I called out “Good Morning” and hoped it sounded cheerful enough. June, my secretary was at her desk, gave me a rather serious look and said somewhat timidly “Good Morning, Giselle”. What’s with her, I thought as I walked past her and into my office. I placed my coat on the hook behind my door which was always open. I wanted to be available and approachable for all my “girls”, – I had twelve estheticians working for me. Behind my chair was a one-way window which allowed me to look out into the shop but nobody could look in. I sat down at my Jacobean desk in my Jacobean chair, folded my hands in my lap and did absolutely nothing. I didn’t see anything either. I was numb.

After maybe ten minutes June called “Giselle, telephone for you.” I picked it up and said my name.

“Hi, Giselle, it’s Chris. I am afraid I have bad news for you.”

“Yes, I know, my father died.”

“Oh, you know already”.

“Chris, – no I don’t, – what did you just say? How do you know?”

“We received a telegram this morning before the shop opened since we were the only Roeders in the telephone book close to your shop.”

My two most favorite men

Grandpa Erich and Eric

I was stunned. I hung up the phone and just sat there, my heart racing and my mind reeling. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t make them stop. Now I slowly started to understand my tears during the night, my somber mood, my disconnection with reality. My father had written a letter on February16, complaining that he didn’t feel good, that not even the cigars tasted good anymore. Since then I had not heard from home. Neither my mother nor my youngest sister had written to let me know that he was in a bad way. And today was April 7, 1983, time enough to let me know, to give me a chance to fly home and see him again before it was too late. How good is a funeral of one you love so much when you cannot be there? Oceans were between us. They lived in East Germany, had tried to escape but father had a kidney attack on the way to the train station and ended up in hospital. That was on the 13th of August 1961. Two days later the Berlin Wall was up.

“June, my father died, Chris just told me.” I had left my office and stood in front of her desk.

“I am so very sorry, Giselle, I thought you knew.”

“No, June, I did not know. It just hit me the moment Chris said it.”

“But then, Giselle why did you dress like that?”

“I have no idea, June. I wasn’t really aware of it. I just felt kind of somber this morning. It was as if I was in a trance. I thought I must have had a bad nightmare because I had cried so much my pillow was wet…”

I walked away from her towards the open part of the shop, the elegant waiting room with the manicure tables all around the huge glass windows. I stopped at every table to greet my customers and stood a bit longer at my daughter Ingrid’s table. She lived with Chris. Her head was bent way down – she clearly did not want to face me.

“Ingrid, Grandpa has died.”

She never looked up from her work. “Yes I know. You did too, didn’t you?”

“I had no idea. Chris just phoned me a few minutes ago.”

“But then, why did you dress like that?”

My back prickled, the hair at my neck was standing up as the full force of what happened last night hit me. My father had come to say “Good Bye” and the voice calling “No, don’t go, please, no, no, no…” must have been my own.

Internet love – It was the wrong date… #love #companion #dog

Helen was close to tears all the time. She knew that her beloved companion did not have many more days to live and she just couldn’t imagine her life without him. She worked at the library, only ten minutes away from her home and at lunchtime she would run back to see how he was doing and try to get some food into him. The last few weeks had been hard; he was now totally blind, eating very little, dizzy and unsteady, she had to put diapers on him and almost wished it would be over soon. She did not have the heart to bring him to the vet and have him put out of his misery.

Cindy“Oh, Giselle,” she breathed, “I love Pepper so much, how can I be the one to kill him? I just can’t see myself making that decision.”

I tried to make her feel a little better by telling her about my memories about pets.

“I understand. I lost a dog once, but it was different. Cindy was run over and I cried for six weeks until my seven year old boy insisted on getting another dog. I remember my father shooting his beloved cat Peter; he had him for an amazing twenty-one years, and Dad cried after he did it. He explained to me that he was being kind to Peter who was suffering and dying anyway. And, Helen, – you would be kind to Pepper. What kind of life is this for him? He suffers, Helen, and you don’t have to shoot him, the vet will give him a needle and he will gently fall asleep.”

It took a few more days before Helen did what had to be done.

It was about two months later that I ran into her in a Coffee Bar. She looked fine to me, – almost happy. Giving her a big hug I couldn’t help asking:

“Heh, you, – how are you doing? Did you get another dog? You seem like a new person to me!”

Pointing to the chair next to hers she offered me some Newton fig cookies but said:

“Here, have some date squares, – you want a coffee?”

Then she gave me the biggest smile:

“I am happy, Giselle, I really am! – You wouldn’t believe what I did! I’m embarrassed to talk about it… and I don’t want to ‘jinx’ it…”

“Oh, come on, – we have known each other long enough. What did you do? And, by the way, you are eating Newton fig cookies and not date squares…”

“Whatever. Okay, I’ll spill my beans but you must promise to keep my secret for now. I couldn’t stand living alone after Pepper was gone. One night I went online and checked out the dating sites. I figured it would be nice to have a human companion I could travel with instead of another dog who keeps me at home. You know, – I lived ten years with Pepper after my lousy divorce, convinced that ‘a dog is a woman’s best friend’ but I’m getting older and I want a bit more out of life now before it’s too late. Believe it or not, – I have about three dates a week! I found a dating site for seniors, with men looking for the same thing – companionship.”

Wow! I was dumb founded. I looked at her, I was incredulous, and by now she was very excited to tell me about it.

“I always meet them at this Coffee Bar, I want to be safe. They don’t need to know where I live. So far I have met most of them only once, I liked a few of the guys but none has even asked for a second date. But there is one, – Giselle, – I am going to see him again on Saturday. But I have another date this afternoon. I feel like a teenager again, – it’s cool, maybe you should try it!”

When I met her a couple of weeks later she couldn’t wait to tell me more about it.

Grinning, she confided:

“Remember that afternoon date I told you about over coffee? I was waiting for the new guy and lo and behold, all of a sudden the one I had a date with for Saturday stood in front of me. You can’t imagine my embarrassment! I felt the blood rushing to my face I wasn’t sure what to say, but he just sat down, smiled and complimented me on my healthy colouring…“

“Oh my God, Helen, what a situation! What did you do when the other guy turned up?”

“That’s the doozy, Giselle, he never did! It was this one I had the date with. I kept looking at the door until he asked me why I was so nervous. I took heart and told him about my mistake and we had a good laugh. That laugh settled it! We have been seeing each other quite a bit and even plan to go on a trip to the UK in August. So what do you say now?”

It was almost a year later when I worked alongside her at a volunteer function. When there was a bit of a lull she held her left hand in front of my face and looked at me expectantly. “My goodness”, I exclaimed, -“you got married?”

“Giselle, he is incredible. I had a broken shoulder and he cared for me while I lived with him for several months. He really proved himself. When he asked me to marry him I agreed wholeheartedly. My home is for sale and I will live with him. When I sold my car, he immediately had his transferred into both our names. I was so lucky for having met him and he thinks all the luck is on his side. We are so happy. Can you believe it? To have a new start like this in our ripe old age?”

“Helen, my congratulations! I remember the day when you introduced him to me. I told him you are a keeper! He seems to have taken it to heart. Please tell him that I am glad you are together for the rest of your life.”

Cupids heart“Bet ya, Giselle, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep him and myself healthy so that we still have many years together.”

Hope. There is always hope! The Internet, – canoodling while Googling?

Cupid’s Arrow #Valentine #Honeymoon

“Would you like to marry me?”

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

We met Ed and Lucy on a Panama Cruise. We shared a dining table with another couple. It’s funny but I cannot even remember their names or faces. They never stayed after dinner, they came and went and seemed to be busy, busy, busy. When they were there we did not talk very much. Ed and Lucy were elderly darlings. It was incredible to see how tenderly Ed helped Lucy, pulled out her chair, put a scarf around her shoulders, held her elbow when walking in and out of the dining room and always had his warm, shining eyes on her.

Panama 2

First view of Panama Canal

A historian was telling the story of the building of the Panama Canal over a loudspeaker while we sailed through it and everybody crowded around the railing at the bow. People were jostling to take photographs and pushing their way through masses of people. I remember that I needed to go to the restroom but didn’t dare to leave and lose my spot. We stood out there for hours while the voice over the speaker was droning on. Ed had found a place in a corner with a kind of exhaust funnel that was big enough for Lucy to sit on. He had to lift her up there like a child and then was standing behind with his arms around her, to keep her safe. Lucy was glowing, was smiling at everyone and especially at Ed. Whenever we met them on land during stops and outings they always held hands or he had his arm around her waist. He would buy her a single rose which she would pin on her dress or jacket when coming to dinner. During my teenage years I thought this kind of tenderness a bit silly. In later years I was touched almost to tears when I saw older people holding hands. Did I feel jealous because I never had that kind of attention? No, I felt sad and I wished…. Once I asked a trusted male friend why this never happened to me. He told me “You seem too confident, you don’t need a man to take care of you and men instinctively know that. No man would dare to just do it. It would have to come from you.” Hmmm… Once, at a convention in New Orleans coming from breakfast, a gentleman in our group grabbed my hand when we crossed the street. I pulled it free as soon as we were on the other side. He looked at me and said “You don’t like holding hands, do you?”

Back to Ed and Lucy. Once dinner was ordered they would hold hands under the table, sometimes even on top of the table until the other couple arrived. I noticed that their legs under the table always touched each other. After a few days and feeling more comfortable with them I mentioned my admiration for the display of their apparent love. They looked at each other, she nodded and Ed told us their story.

They were both widowed. Together they had been married hundred-and-two years, albeit to different partners. She came from a large family and still had six living siblings, the oldest 82, the youngest 71. She was 78, her next younger brother was 77 and not well. Ed was 79 and alone since he had lost his wife. They lived in the same city in Florida but had never met. A good friend of Ed’s who felt sorry for him invited him to come to his church in another part of the city to join a group of people who met once a month for coffee and cake. Ed happened to be placed next to Lucy. He mentioned “I was very shy and quiet. Lucy was an extrovert. She soon helped me to feel relaxed. We had a lovely time. When the social broke up I was afraid I would never see her again and dared to ask her:

“Would you like to meet me for coffee tomorrow?”

She looked at him for a few seconds and he started to lose heart. But finally she said:

“Yes I would.”

Again they had a good time. He told her that he was able to cook a real good spaghetti dinner. When she looked at him expectantly he asked:

“Would you like to come to dinner to my house on Saturday?”

Again she let him wait for a few seconds and then just told him:

“Yes, I would.”

The dinner, three days later, was a success. He showed her the house, photographs of his wife, they laughed a lot and before she left he asked her:

“Would you….would you like to marry me?”

She looked at him for a long time. He was afraid he had been too hasty. But then, a big smile spreading across her face, she said:

“Yes, I would”.

The old gentleman looked lovingly at Lucy, held her hand across the table and Lucy continued the story. She told us “we were married three weeks later, are married for a week now and we are on our honeymoon.”

At the next stop in Curacao, on the coast of South America when we came back to the ship a bellhop with luggage followed by Ed and Lucy came down the gangway. Lucy was crying. I couldn’t help asking why they left and was very sad to hear why their honeymoon had been cut short. Her younger brother had died and they wanted to be at his funeral. I hugged both of them and said Good Bye and Ed whispered to me:

“Don’t be sad for us, I’ll take her on another honeymoon.”

This is my true Valentine story for 2015. Now in my “golden years” myself, I understand their kind of love. Cupid’s arrow hits independent of age. Isn’t that comforting to know? Make each day count, because none of us knows how much time we have left.

Rose with a heavenly scent

Granny’s Hands #WeDon’tTalkAboutThat

Durer handsMy treat for you today is reading a chapter from my memoir. It’s one of the many memories of my childhood.

Granny went to church every Sunday and her praying hands left an indelible imprint in my soul. She had grown up speaking mainly Low German and often had trouble pronouncing some words in High German. My parents wanted us to grow up with High German, preparing us for a better education. Granny tried hard to please her son, my father. I once listened to one exchange between her and Dad:

“Mother, – it is not ‘Gesus’, – it is ‘Jesus’.”

“Erich, you told me to speak High German to the children, and then the ‘j’ is pronounced ‘g’ like in ‘go’ and not as it would be in Low German ‘jo’.”

“In that case you are right, Mother. But ‘Jesus” is a name and it needs to be pronounced ‘Jesus’ and not ‘Gesus’. Would you say ‘Gohanna’ to Johanna, would you?”

“Oh, now I understand. I’ll remember not to speak to the children of ‘Gesus’ anymore.”

Many children had the measles and I got them too. My eyes hurt and I was very sick. I felt lousy, alone and sad, forgotten by everyone. The room was dark with the shutters closed. As the sunlight came through the slanted openings, I imagined it as long, silent fingers playing with the bits of silver and specks of brown in the dark blue wallpaper. I could even imagine faces in the shadows caused by the lilac trees outside – here and there a ship, and there was the good Lord himself on a cloud with some angels around Him. He had friendly, old eyes but He wiggled a finger at me attached to a long, sinewy hand. I was not afraid but just kept on looking at the imagery. The hand was white with a touch of pink and I could almost see through it. It was a beautiful hand.

The hand was cool and soft. I felt it on my forehead. It helped my eyes not to hurt so much but I did not want to open them, I wanted to feel those cool fingers. Was I an angel now, like those behind Him? It did not matter. I felt suspended between being and not being, I was floating. Please God, just a little longer….

Was it this plea or was it the voice coming from a distance, “She has quite a high temperature and she is delirious….”

All of a sudden, I was back in my bed, the perspiration trickling into my ears, which hurt, too. The long fingers and the streaks of sunlight were gone. There were no faces, no ships, no God, no angels on the wall, just that dark blue wallpaper with bits of silver and specks of brown. This used to be my father’s room. My bed was a black ebony sleigh bed. My father had told me proudly that it was his before he got married.

I opened my eyes just a bit and looked right into Granny’s wrinkled face. Her one hand was on my forehead and she took my hand in her other one.

“Did you have a nice dream, my girl? You smiled and you looked so happy.”

I just nodded – thinking she would laugh at me if I told her of the things I had seen. I felt that she belonged to Christel. She always hugged her, cuddled her, held her on her lap, stroked her wavy hair, and comforted her when she was crying. I was only allowed to just sit beside her, close enough, but never on her lap. She never stroked my hair.

Tears were stinging my eyes. I closed them again. Granny’s hand felt so good on my forehead and I wished she would not take it away. I thought of how beautiful her hands were, even though they were wrinkly or maybe because they were wrinkly. Her face was beautiful and wrinkly too. Often I had looked at her, wanting her to hug me so badly that it hurt. My mother did not hug me either, nor did my father. There was just a handshake and a light formal, “Good Night” kiss – nothing else. But I could not let anybody know or show how much I wanted to hug or be hugged – only babies did that. I was a big kid now, a kid ready to go to school. Maybe it was good to be sick. I could feel the hand on my head and it felt so good. I did not want it to stop.

“I want to look like Granny when I am a grandmother,” I decided.

My ears got worse and Dad had to go to pick up the doctor from the city. It was a good thing that he still had the motorbike. Granny had to put special drops into my ears at frequent intervals. The drops felt cool and tickled as they ran down into my ear canals. I asked where Mom was. Granny explained that she was not allowed to come close to me because I was contagious. Mom had never had the measles and when grownups get them, they could die. She also explained that the measles were dangerous for a new baby. Which new baby I thought but was too tired to ask.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “your mother often stands at the door and looks at you. She hopes you will get well soon.”

During my whole childhood, I had recurring ear infections and my ears are still very sensitive. Noise hurts, even drives me to tears, and I cannot stand windy days without a cover.

Summer Reading #Ann_V_Roberts

For those of you interested in historical novels you may want to seek out two re-published books by Ann Victoria RobertsLouisa Elliott and Liam’s Story for your summer reading pleasure.

  • Louisa ElliottLouisa ElliottThis classic romance, exquisitely told, is the sweeping chronicle of the life and loves of a remarkable woman-Louisa Elliott. Proud and determined, she battles to overcome the stigma of her illegitimate birth in the pitiless sums of York during the reign of Queen Victoria. An indomitable heroine, she is adored by her gentle, poetic cousin Edward, yet is irresistibly drawn into the passionate arms of Robert Duncannon-a handsome and dashing dragoon officer whose love could destroy forever Louisa’s cherished dream of respectability. Breathtakingly sensual, sparkling and alive with sumptuous period detail, LOUISA ELLIOTT is a magnificent work-a moving and unforgettable reading experience that touches the heart and enriches the soul.
  • Liam's StoryLiam’s Story – Continuing the story of the historical novel “Louisa Elliot”, this is a tale of lost innocence, family conflict and an overwhelming but impossible love.