Friday, June 23, 2017

Pat


Pat was my eldest sister-in-law. She was so pretty and very efficient about everything she did. She was a take charge type of person who liked things done her way even if she had to do it all to get it that way.

I first met Pat shortly before my husband and I married. She immediately took us into the kitchen. I felt at home.

Margaret was her real name. Where the Pat came in I have no idea but that is how she was known.

Pat was the mothering type. You felt safe and cared for when you were with her. Her home was usually being remodeled in some form or another. Yet it was always welcoming and comfortable.

One time we went to visit and she was re-doing all the woodwork in the house. She had an appliance that heated the paint on the wood so that it bubbled and was easier to scrape of to prepare it for refinishing.

Paint was her friend. Once she painted her kitchen in colors I had been taught were not to be used in a kitchen. It was all oranges, browns, and yellows. It is probably the most beautiful kitchen I have ever seen. The warm colors did not make me feel overly warm as I had been told they would.

Pat's husband was a short man who tended toward being overweight. Pat was a statuesque woman so sometimes they looked mismatched. From what I understand they had a turbulent marriage but I did not see it.

They had four children. The oldest was a girl who was older than three of her uncles. My husband was one of those uncles. She was only 9 months older than I was so we became good friends. She was married with a baby boy at the time.

Then there were three boys who were several years younger than their sister. They were in grade school and junior high then. They were fussy eaters as many of the family are. For instance when Pat made meatloaf she made three different loaves. One of the boys did not like onions so she made him one wit no onions. One liked cheese on top so she made one with cheese. I cannot remember the difference in the third one. I would have rotated the kind I made at any one time and whoever did not like it could make a peanut butter sandwich.

My husband and I moved to the big city. Sometime after that Pat and her husband divorced.

She decided to move to Washington state.All her children including my niece who was also divorced now moved with her.

My niece remarried and had a few more children. The boys grew up and had relationships of their own Washington was good for them. My niece recently died but my nephews are all doing well.

Pat also remarried. Her husband was a nice man who had children of his own from a previous relationship. He took good care of everyone.

When my mother-in-law became older Pat and her husband moved back here. Mom deeded Pat one acre of the farm. They put a nice house there. They were a great help by checking on Mom and keeping things in decent repair.

Pat was diagnosed with brain cancer. She and her husband had divorced. His other family needed him at home. They felt it was the easiest solution.

It was a hard time for my mother-in-law. Both of her daughters who lived on the farm died within a few months of each other. The husband of another of her daughters died in that time too.

Pat's children came to take their mother home after her death. They sold the house to someone else.

Pat lived a full life. There were glitches here and there but I believe that it was mostly the life she wanted to live.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Uncle Mickey


Mickey is the final uncle. His real name is Michael. I told you we managed to nickname all of them.

Mickey is barely 3 years older than me. As a matter of fact for four days each year he is only two years older. I was born four days before his third birthday.There are two cousins older than I am and one of them is actually older than our uncle.

We pretty much grew up together. Until I began having little lefties of my own Mickey and I were the only left-handed people in the family. In the 50's left-handed baseball gloves were hard to find and a bit more expensive. Mickey got one as a gift. If we were picked to opposite teams we each used his glove to play baseball.

Mickey was not as "into" all sports as Keith and Donnie. Baseball was what he played. He liked watching them all on television when he was older though.

So Mickey was often with us when we played. We went exploring together, played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can together, and caught snakes together.

I remember one Christmas when we went to the farm to visit after opening our presents from Santa Claus. I rushed in to ask Mickey what Santa gave him. He told me he was too old for that. I was really confused. How could he be too old? He was my age.

Mickey married a very nice young woman. They had two sons. Both were diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. So was his wife. The boys were poster children for the Jerry Lewis campaign in their state one year.

Then Mickey was in a terrible car accident. His legs were both severely injured and the doctors were not sure if he would be able to walk again. He does walk but it is not easy and he uses canes to help support himself.

His wife suffered terribly and eventually died from her disease. The boys were teenagers and had been living in a facility that helped them learn to function on their own. They both did well even though they were not on the same level developmentally.

His younger son died many years ago. Complications of his disease. The older one died about two years ago. Again complications of that horrible disease.

My uncle remarried about 15 years ago. His wife is really sweet. She cares so much about him.

For a while Mickey worked in the stands at the Cornhusker football games. It gave him a chance to be among people and sort of watch the games.

For the past few years he has been battling cancer. It is a rough fight. So far he is ahead.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Uncle Donnie


Again since I never called my mother's brothers "Uncle" I will just refer to him as Donnie. His given name was Donald. My grandmother hated nicknames. "Why give a child a name and call them something else?" We managed nicknames for most of her children.

Donnie was born on Christmas Eve. He had two teeth at birth. They fell out at the normal time so they were real teeth.

He was active even as a baby. Before he was old enough to be able to roll over (supposedly) he managed to roll himself out of bed and broke his arm.

When Donnie learned to walk he also learned to run. He was a fast runner and liked to race his brothers and sisters. He always won. They stopped racing him because they always lost. Finally he agreed to run on his hands and feet instead of upright. He still won.

Donnie was a trial to Grandma. They were farmers and the boys were needed to help with the farming. Donnie did not like to get up in the morning. This was especially true when he had been out the night before and had too many beers. He was not old enough to drink but he did it anyway.

Grandma would be so frustrated at trying to get him out of bed.

They had no electricity or running water on the farm. If we stayed up past dark we used light given off by kerosene lamps. Water came from the pump outside. Grandma kept warm water in the well of the wood cooking stove. And there was always a cold pail of water with a dipper for drinking.

As a last resort when Donnie would refuse to get out of bed Grandma would take a dipper full of cold water and dump it on his head. He got up.

Donnie was good looking too. He always had his pick of the girls. Of course it helped that he excelled in sports. He played football and basketball as well as track.

In track he participated in all the running events. Relay, hurdles and all the different meter classifications. Remember he was fast.

We liked to go to the track meets he was in. He would run like crazy, win, and then lay down on the grass. Often he was hungover but he won anyway. Then off to the next race. He was fast.

He set many records for speed in the state. This was in the 1950's. The last of his records was finally broken around 1990.

After all the cows were milked all the buckets of milk were taken to the kitchen. They were poured into the separator to sparate most of the cream from the milk. Cream was worth more than just milk. Sometimes we would catch a bit on a slice of bread and sprinkle sugar on it. Yum.

One day I had been aggravating Donnie. Something I did made him really mad. I ran into the kitchen for the safety of Grandma's watchful eye.

Donnie slammed into the kitchen with murder in his eyes. I knew Grandma would not be able to stop him. I backed away from him with my hands in a gesture to hold him back. My legs bumped into something and I suddenly sat down... right into a full pail of milk.

Of course the milk had to be given to the hogs because it was contaminated. It is the only time I can remember seeing Grandpa mad and he was mad at me. And just as mad at Donnie.

I do not think Donnie shared Grandpa's love for horses. If he could get out of going to bring in the cows for milking he would. If it was raining or if he could get someone to agree he would take the Model A Ford Grandpa had. Then we could ride with him to get the cattle.

As with everything else he went fast. When he would go around the corners of the dogleg leading to the pasture he went fast. Often coming back when he would take those corners he did it on two wheels. We loved it. I would hurt him now if he was doing that with my children in the car..

When my Uncle Raymond was married Donnie was his best man. He had more than enough to drink at the reception. He danced and drank the night away. Finally Grandma made Grandpa gather him up and take him home.

Donnie married a very pretty girl with the same name as Raymond's wife. So we called them Ray's JoAnne and Donnie's JoAnne.

Donnie died last year after a battle with cancer. He had a full life and lived it to the fullest.

Uncle Keith


Keith is one of a set of twins. His sister Carol is my aunt who recently died. Twins were expected for two of Grandma's cousins but Grandma was the one who had them. Just like Carol Keith was 5 years older than me.

I told you of Grandma's dislike of nicknames. How could you make a nickname of Keith. We did it. One of the kids could not pronounced Keith. It became Deke. After that Deke was what we called him.

Keith had a hard childhood. Or maybe it was just bad luck.

He had to have his appendix removed in emergency surgery. Back then that operation was a major one. He was in the hospital for several weeks because like most families they tried to treat the pain at home until it was too late.

He missed a lot of school while he was in the hospital. He fell behind.

Keith had not been out of the hospital long when he heard the whistle of a train of in the distance. He quickly climbed a tall tree to see if he could watch it. At the top of the tree he lost his grip and slid all the way down to the ground.

He was severely burned all down the front of his body. His arms and hands as well as his legs were also burned.

It was another trip to the hospital. He was there for months. I cannot remember if they did any skin grafting. I am sure he needed it. He still has scars where his skin has puckered while healing.

Keith was also active in sports at school. He played basketball because he was tall. Football is a sport most young men play in this area. He also was a track star. He did some running but he was usually used for pole vault, long jump, and shot put.

He married a seemingly nice girl. They had two children together. Their marriage ended in divorce.

Keith loved his children and made sure he visited and kept them as much as possible. Suddenly he was not allowed to see them.

Someone had found cigarette burns and bruises on the children.  When questioned the children said Daddy did it. The mother's boyfriend was also called Daddy. To make sure the children were safe they were removed from their mother's home and only supervised visits were allowed while the case was investigated.

Finally it was determined that the boyfriend was the culprit. The mother did not like the ruling. She stayed with the boyfriend. After some legal wrangling Keith was awarded custody and raised them.

He is now married to a very nice woman. She came to the marriage with children and they have one together. It is a nice big blended family.

Keith and his wife only live about 100 miles from me so we are able to visit. It has been hard for him to lose his twin sister. Other than that he leads a good life.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Re-Tale



Here are some stories from my time working at a retail store. And I still cannot believe the first one myself.

I worked the midnight shift. Our store was open 24 hours. I was Authorized Cashier this particular night.

An Authorized Cashier or AC is the cashier who assigns which cashiers will work which lanes to check out customers. The AC also assigns cleaning duties and schedules breaks and lunches so there is some sort of order and the work is evenly distributed.

We had a busy evening but things slowed down after midnight as they usually do. Even so there was suddenly a bit of a rush as several customers were ready to pay and leave. I was helping one of the cashiers by bagging the purchases for her in order to move things faster. Her final two customers were two nice looking young men.

They were buying a vacuum cleaner and trash bags. They said they had a party and there was a lot of clean-up needed. They seemed to be in a jovial mood.

A few days later we saw on the news that a young woman's dead body was found in trash bags dumped somewhere. There were other trash bags there with her and in one of them they found the receipt showing where the vacuum cleaner and trash bags had been purchased. Guess where that was.

A cashier's receipt has so many identifiers on it. There is the time, date, store number, as well as lane number and cashier number. Those things told the police that the items were purchased at our store and which cashier checked them out.

The young men had indeed hosted a party. They slipped a drug into the young woman's drink so that they could rape her. Unfortunately she died.  They decided to try to clear all evidence of her being there but it did not work.

The cashier was called to testify at their trial. They were found guilty and sent to prison.

One of the cashiers did not feel well. I was working in the cash office that night. The AC called me to tell me that he was vomiting into his waste basket and continuing to wait on customers. I told her to send him home. He did not want to leave.

I went out to talk to him. He was violently ill but refused to go home. I had to get the store manager to go out and send him home. Can you believe that one? But it is true.

A woman who worked in another department was called into her manager's office one morning as she was ready to punch out to go home. Apparently she had been coming to work every night and punching in. Then she would leave with one of the men who worked in another department who was going home for the day. She would stay with him all night until it was time for her to punch out for the day.

As was the practice of the store at a time like this she was given a drug test and tested positive for cannaboids (marijuana). She claimed it was because she was in a car with people who were smoking and must have breathed some of it.

She contacted me in my position as union steward to try to keep her employment. I did my best but of course she was out of a job.

Most of the year there would be two people working in the cash office on the midnight shift. Only during the holidays did we have more.

I was working one night with the absolutely sweetest person who worked in the store. She never wants to be unkind to anyone.

We were experiencing some mild allergy-type symptoms. Our eyes were irritated a bit. As the night went on it got worse. I finally called the night store manager to see if there was something in the air of the store that could be causing it.

He sent security in to see if they could find a problem. Nothing. But it kept getting worse.

I called again because by this time our eyes were red and itching. We were both on the verge of allergic tears. They went up on top of the store to see if there was anything wrong with the air conditioning. Nothing. They checked the air ducts. Nothing.

The other woman and I were taking turns leaving for fresh air every so often just to get some relief from whatever was causing the problems. Finally the night store manager came in and said they could not find any cause for the irritation.

When I asked him what we were supposed to do he got testy with me. He said, "I don't know what you want from me! What do you think I can do?"

So I calmly replied, "As a union steward I could ask you if you were willing to leave your employees in a dangerous situation." The other woman looked at the manager with red teary eyes and said sweetly, "Well I think maybe Emma is more uncomfortable than I am." Grrrrrr.

He finally decided to put us in a more comfortable environment even though it was potentially more dangerous. We propped the doors of the office open and used fans to circulate the air. Now we were vulnerable to robbery.

We never did find the problem and it was not like that the next night.

There were few people who were able to work in the cash office. It was a specialized job. So we were a closely knit group. And we delighted on playing pranks on each other.

For Halloween we were decorating the cash office. The woman working with me and I planned all sorts of fun. We took those plastic worm fishing lures from sporting goods and planted them in drawers all over the office.

We had some ghosts from the holiday department. Some of them would make haunting noises when movement activated. Some were rigged to swoop down towards the person opening the door. There were all sorts of fun surprises for the unwary.

As we were gathering supplies the AC came to see what we were doing. He got into the spirit of Halloween and offered to help. Because he occasionally worked in the office we could allow him in.

He went and got a long black robe and a mask with that "Scream" face. Shortly before the day shift came in he would put on his disguise and sit in the walk-in safe to catch the person who counted down the safe in the morning.

The first person in that day was the head of the office. She began her counting of the safe drawer and we all chatted a bit. The AC was sitting silently in the safe. The she began to compliment us on the decorations.

She proceeded then to tell us what a chicken she is. She cannot even go to a haunted house because she is too afraid. I began to frantically find a way to call this whole thing off.

I needed to confer with my co-conspirators and there was no way I could do that. My mind was still racing as she made her way into the safe.

She went in. Nothing happened. No screams, no shrieks, no giggles, nothing. I moved over that way to find out what had happened.

There was an ear-splitting scream as she came running out of the safe. Her clipboard went one way and her pencil went another. She was racing toward me so I braced myself to stop her and calm her down. At the last second she veered to the side and grabbed the coin counting machine for balance.

Once she caught her breath she went on and on about what a good prank it was. Then she threatened to get me good one day. I called the AC and told him he could come out of the safe. He said he would as soon as his legs woke up enough so he could stand. (By the way she never was able to return the favor.)

My least favorite place to work in the store was the service desk. At the service desk we sold stamps, sent faxes, sold money orders, and in the beginning we accepted utility payments. We sorted items that were left throughout the store to be returned to the proper departments. We also processed the dreaded returns.

Most people are good when returning items for a refund. They bring the item in the original packaging with the receipt of purchase. Their identification is ready so we can take care of them quickly.

We need to know the reason for the return. If the item is damaged we will make certain it is not returned to the floor.

Without a receipt, a certificate for store merchandise can be issued under the right circumstances. If we are unsure or if the cash amount is too large we must have approval from a manager.

A woman came in one night and wanted to return a lotion gift set. It contained a bottle of lotion and a bottle of perfume. Each was only half full. I refused the return.

The woman became irate, insisting that I call a manager. I did. Then she began to call me vile names and trying to insult me in any way she could think of. I tried to stay calm because I knew she wanted me to return her anger. When the manager arrived I was still speaking calmly but I was shaking from anger.

The manager noticed and quietly asked me if I was okay. After I said I was she turned to the customer who told her how very rude I was about refusing her return.

The manager handled the whole thing so well. She told the customer that I was doing my job and that I had done the right thing. Then she turned to me and said, "I am going to allow the return but thank you for following the rules." Managers always approved the returns but at least she acknowledged in front of the customer that I was correct. After that I would have done anything for that manager.

You would not believe some of the returns approved by managers. Once we refunded money for a Christmas tree that was obviously from the previous year. The needles were all completely brown. We refunded money for a bicycle that "was a gift" and not needed. Inside the box was a very old bike, the kind that had those little balance springs under the seat. It was completely rusty.

My daughter-in-law refused the return of a vacuum cleaner. It was an older model than was supposed to be in the box not to mention that it was a brand that was no longer being made. Her store manager refunded the money. Then he told her that he was just trying to keep the goodwill of the customer.

At a later meeting the store manager was telling employees that they needed to watch costs. My daughter-in-law, bless her little heart, stood up and said, "One of the ways the costs are so high is the managers giving refunds on merchandise that is either not ours or is no good. As soon as that is stopped then you can talk to us about cutting back on our expenses." Meeting adjourned.

The manager in our toy department was liked by everyone. She was so friendly and had a really nice personality. She treated her employees well. She even made life a little easier for them when she could. For instance, turning in the cash drawer at the end of a shift is time consuming. She often took that task herself.

Imagine our shock when she was fired. It seems that she would help herself to a few dollars from the drawer before it got to the cash office.

Often the security force on duty was all male. If they apprehended a female shoplifter they liked to have a female present to try to prevent any accusations of impropriety. So there were a few of us who they trusted enough to take care of that task.

The suspected shoplifter needed to be searched. Weapons might be concealed and could be a danger to the security people.

Before searching the person we would ask if they had any weapons they wished us to know about. Then we would ask if they had any sharp objects such as needles on their person. Only after negative replies would we then pat them down.

Then we would have to wait until the police arrived. All we had to do was report that we had searched them and found nothing of danger or incriminating on the person. Then we were excused while they readied a trip to jail.

Most of the security personnel were former police officers or officers in training. They knew the laws for surveillance and apprehension. They also had the take down moves if the suspect did not want to be stopped.

Many times there were some very large people who gave a good fight before being subdued. A security person might even end up with a few bruises.

One night there were two huge men who decided to fight. From what I understand there was a lot of rolling around on the sidewalk and a few punches were thrown. I was in the cash office and saw none of it but even employees went out to watch. By the way non-security employees are never allowed to interfere.

Finally one of the men was cuffed. The other was still fighting to get away. Then he bit the security person. And drew blood.

The man was caught. The police took both of them to jail and shoplifting charges as well as various assault charges were filed. The security person went to the hospital. He would have to undergo testing for AIDS for a period of time.

The man who bit him did apologize in court. The security person said, "Apology not accepted."

We often saw the sweet little old lady who came in regularly on our shift to buy food for her cat. She might have been five feet tall and she was of slight build. Her hair was that fly-away gray that so many of us have as we get older.

Most of us felt that she was probably buying the cat food for herself to eat. We felt so protective of her. When security took her into their office we hoped that she had just passed out from hunger and that she had not had a heart attack.

Imagine our shock to learn that she was the front for a large shoplifting ring! She was the brains of the whole thing.

In large stores like the one I worked in there are more emergency situations than a person might think. And the store has codes and procedures for all of them.

For instance in case of a fire you will hear "Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department," over the store speakers. It is repeated exactly three times. That sets things in motion.

All department heads and security personnel grab fire extinguishers and go directly to the deli department. Authorized cashiers go directly to the front doors of the store to facilitate traffic if necessary.

The store manager, the head of security, and the cash office each call the fire department. We report that there is a Code 100 in the deli department. After the third call the fire department dispatches fire trucks and personnel. It is all orderly and calmly done.

So one night I was in the cash office when I heard a frightened voice announce a Code 100 for the grocery backroom. He only said it twice but I recognized the voice of the grocery manager and I head the fear in his voice. I called the fire department and explained what had happened. They sent someone out.

The other woman in the office left to use the bathroom. I knew she just wanted to see what was going on. She asked the greeter why he was not headed to the back room with a fire extinguisher. He was certain there had been no emergency call.

Security had gone to the back to see what was happening before calling the fire department. The night store manager was somewhere...

The fire chief came to the front of the store to ask someone to let them into the back of the store. The greeter was still arguing that there was no fire. The store manager was called. She went into high hysterical mode. She took her keys and fumbled her way to the back of the store.

Once there she could not figure out which key opened the doors. She was screaming at everyone to fix it.

Finally one of the security members took the keys and opened the doors.

The Hi-Lo that the grocery manager was operating had caught fire in the motor directly under where he was sitting. He panicked a bit when he issued the emergency call. He was not hurt. The fire sort of put itself out. The fire department made sure everything was safe before leaving.

The fire chief did come up to the front of the store to thank me for making the call. No one else called but they felt that I explained the situation so well that they needed to check it out.

So here is taste of life in retail.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Gone

It was a busy holiday weekend for me. My age tends to show when there is so much going on. I was tired and needed to rest a couple of days when it was over.

Of course you have read about my sister-in-law taking a fall. We did check on her and her children made sure she was taken care of.

My son was busy getting his things more organized than he usually has them. And he is very organized. He was getting ready to move on.

He has had a monitoring device since he left the halfway house to come stay here. It was removed Friday. He was happy to be able to move around freely. With the tether on he had to have permission to go anywhere. Usually he had a time limit of 4 hours and then he had to be home.

And of course he had to report periodically for drug testing. It is standard procedure for all prisoners. Technically he was a prisoner allowed to stay in another place. I was surprised they did not send out the person who makes unannounced home visits for one last check. He did not come.

The counselor at the halfway house made sure my son had a refill on his medication. He called the pastor of the church my son helped with work while he was in town. The counselor asked her if she could help my son get a pair of dress pants and dress shoes to go with his suit jacket that she had previously given him.

She was happy to help. She made sure to arrive while my son was having the monitor removed. She wanted to personally say goodbye. She is a nice lady.

Then we had some furniture to move around. We only have two bedrooms. Because he had to have a room of his own I was glad to give him my room for the duration. We set an extra bed in the living room for me. That is now gone and a sofa is back in its place.

My daughter and her husband came down from the big city. Both of their children had to work. I wish they could have come too.

We spent a day visiting cemeteries again. We also went sightseeing a bit too. Then there was a day we spent visiting with my sister-in-law. My daughter had not seen her aunt for a long time. My nieces were visiting their mother so we spent a pleasant afternoon together.

Then came the day I dreaded and knew was coming. My daughter and her husband went home. My son went with them.

I knew from the beginning that he would not be here forever. His children are where he is going. Oddly enough children beat out moms every time.

So now it is just my oldest son and me again. With the dog of course. I will miss the kids and hope that they will be able to visit again sooner rather than later.