Archive for October, 2011

Cleo despises the newcomer, a cat.

October 27th, 2011 // No Comments

Who would’ve thought that a loving, totally accepting dog could be so vicious when it comes to having a new creature invade her territory? It happened not long ago that my neighbor, Kathy, who rescued an abandoned Cleo as a puppy from death by starvation, would bring in a kitten she’d found.

Like the kitten, I’d taken in the puppy, starved and hydrated when I held her in my arms.  A thoroughbred pit bull as I soon discovered. No, I didn’t go for the bad rap the breed has. She was a valuable dog who had come to me, delivered straight from heaven.

Within a couple of days the message was clear, sombody up there could see that my husband  and I had to be relieved from our boredom and return to the real world. With the puppy running all over the place and the neighborhood, our yard had no fence, I  rediscovered my youth as I chased after her. Our dinner-table conversation now had a definite topic. Cleo entertained us with her antics. Her obedience training taught us more about ourselves than the puppy. With her  demands our relationship took an immediate upturn. We had a baby in the house.

Fast forward. Eight years later. Cleo is the center of our lives. We have a fenced in yard and a routine that takes Cleo on her twice daily walks that obliged Edwin to leave his computer and smell the roses. Better yet, meet his neighbors who love Cleo.

In comes a new addition to the family. Kathy spotted a white kitten with black spots in the neighborhood underbrush. Naturally, I couldn’t resist and took her in. The black spots on her white fur resembled perfect hearts.

Cleo was outraged even before I attempted to bring the kitten inside. She was a handful of loveliness in black and white. Cleo fumed and snorted, threw fits of pain and despair. Just having the kitten near was unbearable to her. The insult.

The kitten got the message and stayed in the trees. She could get up there in a flash and then look down on Cleo mocking.  Cleo’s anger and frustration had her turn to eliminating the intruder by  staelthily sneaking up on the kitten. Once she actually caught the kitten. I saw it in a gruesome flash, chased after Cleo, hit her hard, screaming until Cleo let go of the kitten. I took the drops of blood on her nose as coming from the kitten who had escaped to the basement. After some agonizing minutes I decided to save the kitten, should that be possible.

Entering the basement I saw no traces of blood! Was the beast hiding somewhere? And then, to my surprise, the kitten looked at me from one of the shelves as if nothing had happened. No blood, no wound, nothing. Cleo had not harmed her, just taken the cat by the scruff to show her who was master in the home. For that she’d received a couple of nasty scratched.

From then on the kitten stayed in the front yard and Cleo in the back.  They never became friends, but Cleo settled down and accepts the inevitable.


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I Lost My Brother

October 26th, 2011 // No Comments

I lost My Brother !

Yesterday he was still here, talking about bicycling and skiing – now I’ll be heading for his funeral. Just one of those things called life or the end of it. Another family member was plucked away. Will I be next? The doctor assures me of perfect health and the life insurance people are willing to bet on it –  they quoted a very reasonable price for long-term care. They predict twenty years – not bad when you’re 77.

How will I react when I get there? What will it be like to depend on the care by others?

I’d like to leave in style rather than an emaciated wreck. But doesn’t everybody?

Hans did too. He could not believe that he was losing weight though he ate as much as ever. Nor could he understand why he was getting weaker when he felt quite well. The weight he had tried to lose for years now just melted away. Like that. How was it that he had no craving for his beloved German beer or Jaegermeister? What was going on, he wondered. Why that low blood count, the strain on his breathing?  The pacemaker did not do the trick.

The image in the mirror did not resemble the face he was accustomed to. What about the skin sagging all over the place? Now that everything was just right, the body deteriorated. The organs refused to do their function like living plants under the frost.

His wife, Susan, admitted him to the hospital – just for observation, of course. What did they expect to find? As long as the nurses were cute, he didn’t mind. Lots of visitors came, bringing him tons of advice. They also brought his favorite tit-bits and occasionally a joke. A blood transfusion perked him up. He could go home and forget about the leukemia and lymphoma that invaded his body.

“You can eat and drink whatever you like,” Susan said. She knew – so did everybody else. But Hans refused to acknowledge the reality. Instead, he enjoyed the attention, the company, the care.  For a carefree spirit and passionate singer the world was filled with music and the beautiful surroundings of Santa Barbara. From the hill he could see  the ocean below and the mountains in back. He enjoyed them through the multitude of windows. How many parties had he and his friends enjoyed on mellow evenings? Susan loved to cook and never grew tired of feeding whoever came to their home. They still came, but instead of playing ping-pong they brought food to make life easier for her. But he would soon get better, he was sure of that. If he only —

Then his siblings came. His brother took two weeks off to spend quality time together. He had never bothered before, except that one time, when they had enjoyed a bicycle trip in Virginia. The casual atmosphere helped Hans forget the growing weakness and dependence on help when he needed to go to the bathroom. He could do it alone, of course, but there was always somebody who insisted on standing by in case he fell. So he had fallen once or twice. But he was fine now and could do it on his own. Another blood transfusion and he would be on top of the world.

Susan hired a nurse for the night. She needed some sleep. He didn’t mind, if it made her happy. He really didn’t need one. If he could only sleep, then he wouldn’t have to bother anybody. TV shows and movies were irrelevant now. He’d rather reminisce, think of his youth. It was good to have his siblings around so he could talk about it. The years of growing up in Germany during the war, being a refugee in a strange town. Kids teasing him for his accent. The teachers and their harsh discipline that had plunged him into episodes of fear and apprehension. He couldn’t help his studdering. It got worse as time went on. Mother understood and managed to get him into the Waldorf School – that had been Heaven on earth. He had loved the gentle people, the caring schoolmates, and the familiar world in wich he had grown up  before his family had become refugees.

His son, daughter and grandchildren came by. They held him. Why? There was nothing wrong with him. Everybody was so exceptionally kind and solicitous. As much as he enjoyed the help and attention he wished it were like old times. Even the teasing was too gentle, unnatural, more like an expression of love.

Hospice? Why would he need that? He was getting better. He could stand up and take a few steps. So it was the result of his last blood transfusion. It felt good to go out again and have a glass of milk at the ocean, watching the waves splash against the sand. Milk? Why had he asked for milk when he had always enjoyed beer? Next time he wold ask for beer. Next time.

More people came for a visit. He loved the party atmosphere though he didn’t care for his favorite Jaegermeister anymore. Tea would do. He had always hated tea. Sissy stuff. Besides, he really wasn’t hungry or thirsty, but he didn’t want anybody to notice that he really wasn’t feeling well at all. He’d rather not take that medication. Who needed tranquilizers? That was where those funny dreams came from. Where was he anyway? Out there with his father and mother? But they had passed away a long, long time ago. He could hardly remember his father, but now he could see him quite clearly.

It was difficult to distinguish dreams from reality. Those faces around him. Familiar voices – so distant. Was he answering them? He could not remember what they had asked. What were they saying?

He left his loved ones late that evening not waking up from his dreams. Dream on, my dear brother. Some day we’ll all be together again and live in our dreams.

The memorial is coming up. I’ll tell your friends of the life we had shared, back in Latvia, Poland and Germany. How California became our home.

The home on the hill will not be the same without you. Other people will enjoy the view and play ping-pong, drink beer and tell each other funny stories – ABOUT YOU.



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Sejour, Moving on

October 2nd, 2011 // No Comments

I am on Chapter 4. Writing a book is exhilerating. The stories gush out so fast that I can barely keep up typing them. Incidents and events pop up I had not thought of in years. They appear on my screen like magic. Here I am back in 1959. The world of  that time comes back with such reality like time travel.  In my mind’s eye I am in Pasadena, California and then in Paris as if I’m watching a movie with me as main character. My life in France surrounds me  in black and white. There was little color in those days. The soot covered buildings, narrow streets and ancient clothes people wore blended without distinction.

At the time we worried about a Soviet invasion that would unleash WW III. We were convinced they would drop nuclear bombs on major American cities and take West Germany in a Blitz. Mao and his millions might seek expansion. Communist doctrine demanded that they control the world in order to wipe out their enemies. They didn’t believe in peaceful co-existence. Had he not killed 100 mil. of his own people to eliminate  potential dissidents. How do madmen get such power, I keep asking myself. First Stalin, then Hitler, Mao and so many others who terrorized their people and still do. Probably always will.

Though I felt safer in California than in France, my love for Alain made everything else irrelevant. I wanted to be with him in the worst way. But how? He had been drafted to serve in the French Army and would be gone for thirty months. For a woman in love – an eternity. He would be sent to Algeria where the Algerians staged an uprising to win their independence. The French could not understand what the Algerians had against France when they had the same rights as French citizens, all the amenities and protection. But the era of independence had erupted in  African nations who were tired of having foreigners dictate and exploit their lives. Alain would have to fight them in order to keep order in the land. And I would be alone, waiting for him, like women had done from time immemorial. As a child my mother had waited for my father, who had been killed. We shed tears for years and years. I still miss him so and envy all the children who can grow up under the protection and love of their father.

After our tearful good-bye at the barracks, I couldn’t go to his parents just yet and saw the movie “The Alamo,” not a good choice under the circumstances. I cried some more. Life looked hopeless unless I returned to California. But life without Alain made no sense at all. I had to stay in France, or at least in Europe so that I could see him when he returned on leave. But how? His parents lacked the means to feed me. Besides I needed a carte de sejour, or residence permit, to stay in France legally and to work there.  Of course, there was no way I would get one. How could I find a job when I didn’t speak any French?  The personnel people at the American Embassy could not help. “We recruit our people through the State Department. But you could try one of the military bases. Talk to the personnel office there. The Air Force has one right here in Paris,” the lady said and gave me the address.

Hope gave me wings. There was a chance – remote, but so what?  With the few words I knew in Russian and the mimicry of a Marcel Marceau I explained to Alain’s parents that I would find a job. They were as excited as I – they had taken me in like a daughter and obviously approved of my relationship with their only son.

Now I have to figure out how I will write  this chapter in connection with my present day relationship, looking back to our lives then and now.  Would Alain help me fill in the missing details of his experience in Algeria?








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