Friday, October 27, 2017

Sticks And Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. A beautiful sentiment that all parents teach their children. It is meant to show that words can roll off your back and you do not have to deal with them any more whereas a physical blow can leave an injury that needs to be cared for after the altercation is finished.

The truth is that we have all been deeply hurt by words. Maybe someone called you stupid or ugly when you were a child. If that was a person whose opinion of you mattered those words would cause great pain. Perhaps someone made fun of you and it seemed to catch on with other people until everyone was making fun of you. Torment. Often a misused word can bring a misgiving you have about yourself to light and exaggerate that into what you see as a serious flaw.

I have mentioned that my family did not have much money. My mother made a lot of our clothes. But there were families in town who spent a bit more on clothing than we did.

I can remember some of the women bringing huge boxes of clothes that their daughters could no longer use. They were expensive clothes and in practically new condition. I loved getting those clothes because they were so nice.

What did bother me was that when they delivered the boxes the women did not pay attention to what they were saying. Even at that age I knew they were trying to do a good deed; it was in fact a good deed. I not only liked the clothes they brought but I needed them too. They were nice people doing a nice thing.

The problem was that they almost invariably said, "I thought Emma could wear these. If they don't fit just throw them away." I always felt like they were saying that they were not good for anybody else but they were good enough for me.

I believe in hand-me-downs. There is no sense in throwing out perfectly good items because you cannot use them for whatever reason. But I make sure if I give something to someone else that I say, "If you cannot use them maybe you know someone who can."

Another example is tasteless jokes. I have to be honest and say that often they are funny. But they are funny at the expense of others.

I was at a conference. A bunch of us met at the hotel for drinks after the meetings had adjourned for the day. Several people were standing around telling jokes. Most of the jokes were tasteless. Of course I had to join them.

I told my favorite tasteless joke. They all laughed. But afterward a woman came to me and told me that one of the other women had left because of my joke. It touched a nerve with her and hurt her feelings. I felt terrible.

I went to her room and asked if I could speak to her. She did not want to talk but was gracious. I apologized to her and she was such a nice person that she accepted my apology. We hugged each other and I left. I have not told another tasteless joke since.
My mother was laughing one day. She had seen my niece arguing with a friend. They were little girls and Mom wanted to make sure the argument did not turn into blows. But it was an argument using words as weapons. Finally my niece screamed, "Well at least MY mother buys real gold jewelry!"

How much did it hurt the other girl? I do not know. I do know that the girls are still good friends 30 years later. If only that was the worst thing we could think of to hurl at someone when we are angry with them.

Mom also liked to tell about her days as a waitress when she was young. There was a young man who came in once a week like clockwork. In those days people were called retarded and she just assumed that was his affliction.

He always ordered allep pie meaning apple pie. Mom would serve him and speak to him for a few moments before moving on to her next customers.

One day a woman came in to thank everyone at the cafe for being so nice to him. The family had to institutionalize him and he would not be coming in any more.

Another time she saw customers sitting at the table who were being very animated while they talked. Their hands were going a mile a minute and they talked and talked.

When she went to the table to take their orders she decided to join in and waved her hands excitedly. To her chagrin she soon realized that there were people who could not hear at that table. They had been using sign language as well as spoken language to communicate.

I hope these examples demonstrate that things are not always as they seem. And especially that words have power. It is so easy to unintentionally hurt someone with a careless word. And all we need to do is think before we open our mouths. Think. Think.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

And So On

When I was a child there was a game we used to play. It shows how different minds consider a statement.

No it is not the one where each person whispers a sentence to a person who whispers it to the net person and so on. The final person says the sentence out loud. It is usually nothing like the first statement. It is supposed to demonstrate how the more gossip is repeated the more it is altered.

My game can be played either orally or on paper.

The first person states or writes the beginning of a story. The net person takes up where that person left off until either time is up or the story is at an end.

I am going to give you the first part of the story. If you wish to continue it add the next paragraph. Maybe we will have some fun. If not I had fun.

  One day Noni and Ivan were walking in the field. They were having a nice talk and enjoying all the things they saw in the field. Noni heard a songbird while Ivan kept having to push his hair from his eyes. Suddenly they saw a rippling in the grass.....

(Your turn.)

Friday, October 20, 2017


I received several comments about disciplining my son. None were bad but I thought perhaps I would give my views about discipline for children. Keep in mind that I am not an expert on the subject.

I do have personal experience with being a mother and the oldest of seven children. Of course I did not discipline my brothers and sisters. They had parents for that. I watched my parents though and learned a lot. Usually we discipline our children in the same way our parents did us.

I was raised in the time that corporal punishment was considered to be the norm. Many believed that the way to make a child mind was to beat the tar out of them. Thank goodness my parents did not think that way.

I do remember being spanked three times but there may have been other times. Of the three I remember, the first time I was around 5 years old. My 3 year old brother and I snuck away from my mother planning to go to our grandparents' farm.

My mother had two other toddlers at home and no car. She managed to get word to my father at work. He drove from the town where he worked and went looking for us. He was scared out of his mind and so relieved to see us walking along the road less than a mile from where we lived. As he dragged us into the car he gave us each a couple of swats. I think they were more from fear than anything.

The second time was a misunderstanding. I had asked my parents if I could "go riding around" with some friends. I was 14 but one of the girls was 15 and her boyfriend was 16 and had a car.

Riding around meant just driving around town until we decided to go home. We all had curfews so it would not have been very late.

My parents thought it meant driving from our house at one end of town to the other end of town then turning around and coming back. Miscommunication.

The final time I disobeyed my parents and snuck out to hang out with friends. It was a stupid thing to do and I should not have been so foolish. When I returned home I was reminded how foolish.

Most of the time all my mother or father had to do was give us "that look" and we knew enough to behave ourselves.

I was also paddled in school once. A cousin of a cousin of mine lived across the street from the school. It was the middle of winter and we had a heavy snowfall the day before. We got to school well before time to go in so we wanted to play in the snow.

Snowball fights were not allowed on school grounds. Apparently someone had once put some rocks inside some of the snowballs and caused minor injuries.

Anyway we went across the street to my cousin's cousin's yard and had a proper snowball fight. We all had a good time and had expended a lot of energy. We all quietly went to our classroom when the time came.

Then someone from the principal's office came to take us to see him. It seems that a neighbor had seen the snowball fight and reported us.

We tried to explain that it was before school hours and that we were not on school property. It fell on deaf ears. We were all evil children who must be punished. Besides he had a brand new paddle he had been itching to try out.

The boys were paddled first. They each got 5 hard whacks. Some of them came out with tears in their eyes but they tried to look brave.

There were three of us girls. That fat little man was actually embarrassed at having to paddle us. But he did it anyway.

We each got 3 rather half-hearted whacks. We left his office trying really hard not to laugh out loud. The whole thing was ludicrous.

What I learned from that experience is that no one at any school was to spank my children. If you believe in corporal punishment it should be delivered with love. No one at any of the schools loved my children. I did.

That is not to say that discipline could not be administered. Children should be expected to behave. But there are methods of discipline that do not involve pain.

In the 5th grade my oldest son was in a class that was being punished because of misbehavior by several students. They were being made to stay after school and write some sentence a number of times.

My son took his blank paper to the teacher. He told her had done nothing wrong and he was not going to accept punishment. Then he left.

When he came home he told me what he had done. I had a few questions about what happened. When I was satisfied that he was not involved in the mischief I made plans to visit the teacher the next day.

When I told her why I was there she smiled. She told me that she had accepted my son's leaving with no further consequences because she knew him to be truthful. She said that if she gave him a punishment he deserved he always accepted it quietly.

Then she told me that he had caused her to re-think her policy of mass punishment. From that time forward she was going to punish only those involved and not the whole class.

My daughter had a teacher who had a strict rule about children speaking in class. If he asked a question no one was to answer unless he spoke their name. Until another student was called on that student would continue answering his questions.

One day he asked a question and called on my daughter to answer it. She did. He asked another question. My daughter waited a beat and then answered it. The teacher was furious. He had not called on her.

The teacher gave my daughter a topic and told her to write a paper of an assigned number of words to be turned in the following morning. She tried to explain that he had not called on anyone else and she thought she was supposed to answer his question. He was having none of it.

When my daughter came home she told me what happened. She was certain that he was not calling on another student when she answered the second question and she did not feel she should have to be punished. I agreed.

I sat down and wrote a note to the teacher explaining what my daughter told me. I told him I also felt the punishment was unjust and that I would not allow her to write the paper.

The following day my daughter had a note for me from the teacher. He tried to bully me into agreeing with him! And I had to agree that him maintaining discipline right? He was really forceful and overbearing.

But not so fast here. I do not bully well. I wrote him another very sweet letter. I agreed with him about discipline. It is necessary to maintain order. As long as it is fair. and his was not fair. And as far as teaching her a lesson was it not also a valuable lesson for her to be able to stand up for what she believes is right and just?

When my daughter delivered that note she said he heaved a heavy sigh and penned a quick note to me. He had asked other members of the class who also agreed that they were under the impression that my daughter was the correct person to answer his question. My daughter would not be required to write the paper.

Another son got into a fight at school. That is not a good thing. I was at work and received a call from the principal.

"I have your son in my office. He and another boy had a fight."

" Are they hurt?"

"No. I was going to spank each of them but your son told me I could not hit him? I said who said so? He said my mom."

"And he is right. You know that." I knew he knew because at the beginning of each school year I informed the principal of each school my children attended that I would back them up on any fair discipline but never was anyone to hit my children.

"Well the other boy took his whacks and is back in class. If you will not allow me to punish him I will have to exclude him  from school for three days."

"I will be right there to pick him up."  Now just to make it clear he was punished at home. I did not want any of my children to think that they were allowed to misbehave simply because I did not allow anyone to hit them.

So I had a few rules:
Never talk back.
When I ask you to do something do it. I would not ask a second time.
No fighting. I had trouble with that one.
Inside when the street lights come on. They still do that.
Do not steal, murder, hurt, or make someone feel bad about themselves.

My answer to why was because "I said so." I know some experts do not agree with me there. But if I said so that should be reason enough. We could discuss philosophy on it another time.

I tried to make any punishment appropriate for the age and the "crime". But usually a firm word would stop misbehavior before it began. At the same time they were kids. Kids have a knack for doing what they should not. That is why they have parents to help them learn to do what they should.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

In The Closet

My parents bought the house they were living in. It had been a three family home so they did a lot of remodeling to make it a home for one family. They knocked out walls between two small bedrooms on the first floor to make a gigantic living room. And there was a door that had been sort of between the bedrooms and the living room. It led to a large closet.

My parents used this closet to hang coats, jackets, and sweaters. Shoes and boots were kept on the floor. Christmas decorations and other things that were not used all the time were stored in the closet. It was an old house so there was no light in the closet.

My family and I spent a lot of time at my parents' house. My children liked being at Grandma's where the food always tastes better. And at Grandpa's because he always found something fun for them to do. My husband felt like he could relax which was not something he often did. I just enjoyed the feeling that comes with being around family.

It was a natural move that my children and I would stay there while I waited for my third baby. My husband had a new job out of state and I was too close to having the baby to be able to safely travel. My husband was able to join us every weekend.

On one side lived an older couple and the woman's brother. They were nice people who kept to themselves. On the other side was a young family with four little girls. The youngest girl was about the same age as my second son.

One day my boys were outside playing. The youngest was with the little girl playing in her yard. My mother was not home and I was enjoying some quiet time in the house.

My three year old son came rushing into the house and made a bee-line for the closet and shut the door!

I was sitting there wondering what on earth he was doing. It was amusing the way he rushed in. Then there was a firm knock on the front door. I answered it.

There stood the neighbor who lived on the other side of the little girl's family. He was holding a mudball that was about the size of a soccer ball. He looked like he was offering it to me. I did not want it.

"Is that little blonde kid yours?" I said that he was. "Well he and the little girl next door just threw this at my bathroom window!" Again offering me the mudball. I still did not want it.

I asked him if the window was broken. That was not the point but no it was not broken.

I looked over at his house and sure enough there was a big spot that had obviously been made by a big ball of mud. I assured him that I would talk to my son and make sure nothing like that ever happened again.

He became totally outraged. Sherry (the little girl next door) had been with my son. When the man confronted her parents, they grabbed her and spanked her. He wanted my son punished too. I told him firmly that I was not going to spank my child in front of him just to make him happy. I would take care of it but in my own way. He was still sputtering as I closed the door.

I then had my son come out of the closet. I explained that we do not throw mud at people's windows. Then we went together to the man's house. I had my son apologize and offer to clean the window. The man declined.

I have told you before that my mother was a resourceful woman. Well she decided to collect returnable pop bottles. She would turn them in once a week to collect the deposit on them and put the money in a special bank account. It kept the neighborhood cleaner and she was getting an extra bit of cash. She was going to buy a car with it.

And buy a car she did. It was a used model that needed a paint job but it ran good. She painted it herself with some spray paint she had. It was fluorescent blue paint and the car glowed in the dark.

One night a police helicopter noticed the glow and came down to investigate. They were astounded and amused.

So Mom had her car. After a few months she began to complain that it was making a "chirping" noise. Daddy drove it around the block and heard nothing. As time went on Mom said the noise was getting worse.

On a Saturday Mom was going to the grocery store. I was sitting in a chair feeling huge and bloated awaiting the imminent birth of my third child. Mom said the chirping noise was getting worse and worse so Daddy told her that when she came back from the store she should honk the horn. Then he would go to the front door and she could move the car back and forth so he could listen.

After about an hour and a half we heard the horn. Daddy sat there. I told him that Mom was honking for him so he heaved that put-upon sigh that he had and went to the door.

Mom was driving forward, then backing up so he could hear the noise. A look of horror came over Daddy's face. He turned from the door. On his way to the closet he said, "I just can't stand watching your mother try to park the car." Into the closet he went and closed the door.

I was still laughing uncontrollably when Mom came in to see where he went.

Eventually they knocked out the wall in the closet to make an entrance to the rooms that my parents were going to use as their room. I miss the closet.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Hardest Thing

While I was talking to my sister the other day we were talking about how all the nieces and nephews are grown. In some cases even their children are grown and have children. The family keeps expanding. It is a wonderful fact of life.

My nephew and his wife recently watched their only child marry. Then because her husband is in the military the newlyweds moved far away.

The parents miss them so much. My niece is wondering how they will fill their empty nest. Personally I think their dog will be happy to fill the spaces.

All my children are grown. My oldest is 50 and the youngest will be 44 in a few days. I watched them grow into people that I would have as friends even if they weren't my children.

During the time they were busy growing I enjoyed them. I never dreamed they would one day want to have homes of their own. They were just babies after all.

When a child was ill I often took them to bed with me. It made it easier to know when they needed something. I was comforted by that.

One of my son's had the flu. When it was time for us to all go to bed I told him to crawl into my bed. He looked at me and said, "Don't you think I'm a little too old for that?" I felt like I had been caught stealing cookies from the jar.

One at the grocery store with my oldest son I looked over to say something to him and screamed. He was embarrassed and yet trying to understand what was wrong with me.

I knew he was growing up. But it really disconcerting to look at your little boy and see that his eyes are at the same level as yours.

My youngest son was living with the young woman who became his wife. They had two children together. They started very young.

My son was working and had his own health insurance. He had a bad virus. He had been vomiting and his wife decided he needed to see a doctor.

The doctor refused to treat him because he would not be 18 until the following month. He needed his mother to authorize treatment.

They came to get me and we went right back to the doctor's office. By that time my son was so dehydrated that his legs would not work. We carry/dragged him inside. He was put into a wheelchair and I signed papers.

When my son's name was called his wife got up and accompanied him and the nurse who pushed his wheelchair back to see the doctor. I never had such a strange feeling before or since.

She was the right person to go with him. I knew that. It had always been my job before.

I have said for years the hardest thing about being a parent is letting go.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


My oldest son was easily scared when he was little. A lot of the things people thought would scare him did not but then the strangest things would make him cringe with fright.

For instance there were horror movies on late night television when the boys were small. We stayed up and watched them with glee. My son still likes them. The old Hammer films are his favorites.

His uncle drove a delivery truck for a beer distributor. Often the company had promotional displays for retail stores. One such display was the famous delivery wagon along with the team of horses that pulls it. It was impressive with the barrels of beer on the wagon.  It was probably 3 feet long in total. His uncle took one home with him and placed it so it could be seen by everyone.

For some reason my son was afraid of it. It was on display so it could be seen as you entered the house. My son would grab my leg and clutch it until we were inside the house and past the horses and wagon. Then he was fine.

My brother-in-law bedeviled my son at almost every turn. It was done as a loving thing and he meant no harm. It was what he did with all the kids including his own. My son just reacted differently. So at his uncle's house he never knew what to expect. He was appropriately scared all the time.

It was one of my son's favorite places to visit. I think he liked being frightened. Now that he is grown he tries his best to scare his nieces and nephews in the same way.

Once when my mother-in-law was visiting we were sitting on the front porch swing talking. My son was in the house where his uncle must have been aggravating him. My son burst out of the house and went to his grandmother. "Grandma will you please make your kid leave me alone?"

Naturally Grandma yelled at her son to "leave this kid alone!"

My son has always been interested in gadgets. We had some of the very first home computers and my son was the one who used them the most. Of course there were video game systems too. His brother and sister thought they were okay but he loved them.

My son researched what made them work and studied about what new technologies were coming soon. He learned to troubleshoot which is so handy when you are dealing with this kind of thing. He even began building his own computers using what he judged to be the best components. For little money he could have a top-of-the-line computer.

My son is the first to try a new electronic gadget. Cell phones, tablets, readers; all are things he researches intensely and then buys what he has decided to be the best. It works out well for me because I get his old one of whatever it is.

He even bought a Roomba. Roomba is a flat little robot type of thing. He has programmed it to vacuum the carpets while we sleep. We wake to clean floors. It works well and I highly recommend it.

When I think of him owning a robot it brings a smile to my face. When he was almost two years old Santa gave him a robot for Christmas.

It was a marvel. It was battery operated. It stood about 18 inches tall.

When you turned it on it would walk across the floor in a menacing manner because it was a warrior. At intervals it would stop, its chest would open, and a gun would pop out and noisily fire. Then the chest would close and the robot would advance some more.

My son was terrified. I tried to have him become more familiar with it by handling it while it was turned off. Nope. He wanted nothing whatsoever to do with that robot.

Even my little brother who was only 6 years old tried to cajole him into not being afraid. Nothing worked.

I am not sure what ever happened to that poor robot. Not much scares my son any more. He might even like the robot now.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Experience Wtth A Vampire

I know I have mentioned that I am afraid of vampires. They are the one thing I am sure does not exist (I have to be sure) but they terrify me.

I also have to admit I am fascinated by vampires. When I was younger I watched the movies. I read Dracula by Bram Stoker. I recommend this book. I also highly recommend the Wamphyri series by Brian Lumley. Actually it is the Necroscope series if you want to go to the library and look for them. But I digress.

I no longer watch vampire movies. For one thing I am afraid. For another most "scary" movies today are more aptly just "icky" movies. They show blood and gore just for the sake of making a mess. I am not a fan of all that. I can enjoy a movie that frightens me but I do not want to be made sick.

Back in the 1970's there was a movie that was made for television about vampires. It was named Dracula and starred Jack Palance. After the children were in bed my husband and I decided to watch it.

I had a nice rocking chair that I sat in. It is where I sat when I was feeding the babies or just to relax them before bed. While I rocked them I always wore a knitted brown shawl. It seemed so cozy to drape around the baby and me. It created a cocoon that separated us from everything else.

But the kids were in bed. I sat with my shawl around my shoulders in my comfy rocker and watched this vampire movie. I was never a big fan of Jack Palance. This movie was okay but I felt no big feeling about it one way or the other. But it was about a vampire. It did spook me a little.

Before going to bed myself I suddenly realized I had no milk for the children in the morning. We lived next door to my parents at that time. One of the things that I hated the most about living in the city was that the houses are so close together. For instance the house on the other side of us was so close that there was barely room for a little walkway between the two houses.

But in this case I was lucky to have my parents so close. I decided to run next door to see if Mom had a little extra milk until I could get to the store the next day.

As I was going out I turned to my husband and joked, "If I'm not back right away, it will mean a vampire got me." Then I hurried next door in the dark of night.

Was I afraid? I was a little. I knew there are no vampires but ... well you know how it is.

I was lucky Mom had an extra gallon of milk. She told me to take the whole thing so I did! I wished them good night and went back home.

Now I have to tell you that I knew my idiot husband was going to do something to try to scare me when I got home. I knew it. And I was prepared.

What I was not prepared for was the figure that came flapping at me from the dark between the two houses. It was the size of a man but it had what appeared to be wings of some sort that were flapping crazily. I screamed as loud as it is possible to scream.

Then the figure came out from between the houses into the relative light of the night. It was my husband! He had my shawl over his head and arms and was still flapping like a vampire. He was laughing.

He went into the house with me hot on his trail. I threw the gallon of milk at him. He knew how scared I would be. Well maybe not because he told me that if he had known that I would throw the milk at him he would not have done it. Yeah, right!

Once I stopped shaking I thought I should call my parents to let them know I was okay. I peeked out the window and their house was dark. They were already in bed.

The next day I was talking to my mother and told her what had happened. She said, "We heard you scream. I looked out the window and didn't see anything so I figured you were okay and we went to bed."

What!?!? I think that perhaps, just perhaps, I was under-protected in my experience with the vampire.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


A blogger friend expressed some interest in my brother who was killed in Viet Nam. In order to try to clarify my family's reaction to it all I am reprinting a previous post. Questions and comments are welcome
* * * * * * * *

.My brother was two years younger than me. Our whole family was close. He and I were not necessarily closer than the rest but we did have a knack for getting into mischief together

The 1960's were a time of extreme change. Many people were demanding changes to the way they were treated. Peaceful demonstrations sometimes turned violent. We were learning to challenge authority not meekly follow what we were told. And of course there was the war in Viet Nam.

My brother who was one year younger had been drafted into the Army. He seemed to get a lot of breaks as far as time at home and assignments. His overseas assignment was to Korea.

The brother two years younger knew he would also be drafted when the time came. He always said that if he was drafted he would be sent to Viet Nam and if he was sent to Viet Nam he would come home in a "baggie". That was his term not mine.

So he was in fact drafted. He did not get any time at home between Basic Training and the second round of training. After that he was home for about a week and a half and he went to Viet Nam.

Before he left he made arrangements for the distribution of his things. And his insurance money was to go to our mother with the exception of a brand new car for our father. The car was to be a red Ford with black interior.

My brother was a person who lived his life to the absolute fullest. Everybody loved him. At the same time he could be so infuriating. He had a circle of friends who saw him as a leader. They occasionally got into a bit of mischief but nothing major.

One of those friends was a boy who had never really had any friends before. He was extremely overweight with an extremely possessive mother. Another boy also had a possessive mother but she had allowed him to have friends so she could entertain her gentleman friends. Another boy came from a large family too. There were others but those three stand out in my mind.

All the boys were drafted except for the one who was so overweight. The boy from the large family ended up in Germany. The boy with the popular mother was sent to Viet Nam as were the others. Members of my family and I wrote to them all regularly.

The overweight boy knew of my brother's prediction for what would become of him. He went on a rigorous diet to lose enough weight so the Army would take him. If he could just get in he reasoned that he could volunteer to be sent to Viet Nam. Once in Viet Nam he felt he could somehow find my brother and protect him. He finally fit into the weight restrictions and joined the Army.

In the meantime my brother was in Viet Nam. We received letters from him. We wrote to him. We sent him "care packages" from home. My mother, my sister, and I tried to take turns so he would receive at least one each week. We included personal items like socks, underwear, and grooming supplies. And they were full of homemade goodies.

He wrote to tell us how much his buddies enjoyed the cookies and candy we made and sent. He told me one time that there was a particular type of cookie that I sent that always arrived in crumbs. I apologized and said I would not send them anymore. He wrote back and said to send them because they were one of the most popular items in the box. He suggested I send them in coffee cans so they could just eat the crumbs so that is what I did.

My brother was a tank driver. One time he was driving and his tank hit a land mine. Luckily no one was hurt but it did blow one of the tracks off his tank so he was idle for a few days until they fixed it. He sent my oldest son pictures of himself standing in the hole that was left after the explosion. It was as deep as he was tall.

He missed everyone so much. He sent silk jackets for my oldest son and my youngest brother. He sent silk pajamas to my second son who was my youngest at the time. They wore them until they were completely worn out.

One letter I received was tragic. They had been out on a mission and several of his buddies were killed. It was the first time he had ever seen anyone die. And to die so violently only made it worse. He was drunk when he wrote the letter and there are teardrops on the pages. It broke my heart for him to have to go through that.

My husband, children, and I were preparing for vacation. I had the dreaded feeling that we would be called home from that vacation because my brother had died. I had some last minute shopping to do before we left so I drove to my parents' house to pick up both my sisters to help me. They would spend the night and we would shop the next day.

It was fairly late when we got home. As I did every night I sat in my rocking chair to rock my children before I put them to bed. Suddenly I looked at my sisters and said, "Did you hear that?" Both of them asked what they should have heard. I remember telling them that it must have been the rocker creaking. They remember me telling them what I heard.

It was a young woman's voice. It clearly said, " Emma, Randy's dead." I was a little frightened but I pushed it aside and we all went to bed.

The next day we finished our shopping. I had to finish packing for our trip because we were leaving the next day. As I drove my sisters home we heard one of our favorite songs on the radio. It was Creedence Clearwater Revival singing "Looking Out My Back Door". When it was over we switched stations and there was the same song.  Once again at the end of it we switched and the same song played again.

As the song was ending we pulled up in front of my parent's house. We were laughing and carrying on. Daddy came out and came right to the car. He worked in a chemical factory and his eyes were all red. I assumed it was from something at work. He told me to turn off the car.

The girls went into the house immediately. I asked him what was wrong, hoping to find out what had happened to his eyes. He told me my brother had been killed.

My first thought was for my mother. How was she? Did she need a doctor? I took my boys into the house to see her but she was not there. I assumed she had gone to her room to try to relax. My youngest brother and sister were sitting on the couch looking totally lost.

My husband who was very close to my brother had gone to see his own brother after work. I called and talked to my sister-in-law. I told her to tell my husband where I was and that he should meet me there instead of at our house.

She could tell from my voice that something was wrong. After she insisted on knowing I told her and asked that she not tell my husband because I wanted to be the one. Then I took my boys outside. They were so small and I did not want them to upset anyone.

The boys and I were sitting on the front porch steps when my husband arrived. I told him what had happened. He didn't believe it. He was certain it was a mistake.

With my husband to support me I went back inside. My mother was sitting on the couch between the two little kids. I asked her if she was okay and told her that I had been in before but I thought she needed to be alone so I had not bothered her. I did ask if she had been lying down. She had seen me when I was in before. She was sitting on the couch with my brother and sister and wondered why I had not said anything to her!

The soldiers who came to notify my mother had stayed with her until my father could get home. They were actually so kind and so helpful. My parents decided to have a military funeral.

The soldiers told my parents that my brother's tank had been in for repairs. Some of his buddies had been caught in an ambush and he volunteered to be part of the rescue team. The vehicle he was riding in hit a land mine and he was killed instantly. They would not tell us if there were other casualties.

We found out many years later that what we were told was not the truth. What actually happened was that they were out on maneuvers. He was driving his tank and there were other tanks there too. They stopped to decide what to do next. My brother was thirsty and knew there was Kool-Aid in one of the other tanks.

That tank driver knew the area and that it was heavily planted with land mines so he told my brother to stay where he was. My brother assured him he would be fine and proceeded to get a drink. He stepped on one of the land mines. It killed him and another man instantly. Either way, he was dead.

For the military funeral there was to be a military honor guard  The Army tries to grant as many of the family's wishes as possible in circumstances like ours. We had only one wish. Remember the overweight boy who finally made it into the Army? He was in Basic Training. We asked if he could be part of the honor guard. We were told that Basic Training was rarely interrupted but they would inquire. We got our wish.

My parents were devastated at losing their child. The rest of us were devastated at losing someone who loved living as much as my brother did. The service itself was heartbreaking. But at the cemetery the military took over.

A military funeral is beautiful with all the pomp and majesty involved. They have been trained to do things exactly. There was no milling about wondering what to do next. But for the people who loved the deceased the closing can be heart-wrenching. The playing of taps and the gun salute are something that I wish for no one.

After my brother died my mother, my sister, and I continued to send the "care packages" to his unit. It was the least we could do and I think we knew my brother would have appreciated it. Some of the guys wrote and thanked us. It was comforting.

As we all know life moves forward. We still miss my brother. He was not much more than a baby when he died. It is not right. We have tried to keep his memory alive by introducing his life to our children and grandchildren.

Two years after he died I had another son. I named him after my brother. The strange part of that is that if I had waited until my sons were a bit older to name one of them after him, it would have been this one. He has a lot of the same traits, especially his love for life.

Before my brother was killed I never gave much thought to war. It was something in history books or so far removed from me that it was not real. I wish that a day will come when war is a thing of the past. No families will have to mourn sons and daughters lost so senselessly for what always seem to be petty reasons. I understand there needs to be a balance but there must be a better way to solve disagreements.

My brother died just a couple of months before his 21st birthday. He has been gone almost fifty years. Too young. All of them were too young.