Long Ago

Even though we are (sort of) diligently packing our belongings so we can sell the home and move, I’m still scanning photographic negatives.

I recently found some photographs that were made in the late 1980s when I and my (not yet) wife traveled to her parents’ home so we could “ask” about getting married. We were both nearly 30 years old, so “ask” is in quotes.

I remember us asking her father if he would like to come to a wedding. He looked down at his feet, smiled, laughed and said, “Of Course”.

We look young in those old images.

I think my wife still looks young.

I won’t comment about how I look. 🙂

Feb 13, 2012 at 4:11pm

It’s funny how certain dates and times get imprinted into one’s memory.

February 13, 2012, at 4:11pm was when my wife’s doctor called on the telephone to tell my wife the results of my wife’s breast biopsy.

Cancer. In both breasts.

A flurry of tests, followed by surgery, after which the doctors staged her cancer at “stage 3C”–bad but still curable.

Fifteen months of tests, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and then breast “reconstruction”. The quotes are there because reconstruction doesn’t do anything except allow her clothes to fit okay. A similarity would be a person and a statue of that same person.

Except for my wife needing to take a pill each forming for the past 10 years, we have gone back to almost normal. It is almost normal because each year she has to visit an oncologist. That visit reminds us of 10 years ago. There is also the waiting for the oncologist to call my wife to tell us the results of all the yearly tests. So far, the calls have told us that all is still well. The nickname for this time period is “scanxiety”.

The need for the pills will be ending soon, so all that will be left will be the scars and the scanxiety. I’m not sure if the worry will ever go completely away.


I continue to scan the images and, so far, I’m well over 17TB (that’s 17,000 gigabytes) of images. I have duplicated each disk and keep one set at my mother in law’s home.

The images I’m seeing are grouped into two sets. The first set are the images made before I was born, and the second set were those images made after I was born. I can further divide the second set into two categories. Category one is the ones where I was not there when the images were captured, and category two are the ones where I am part of the image.

The first set provides questions that I can often answer by consulting my grandmother’s extensive diary collection. However, this breaks down for the pictures before my grandparents were married in 1915. All is not lost for these images. Sometimes I get lucky with the pre 1915 images. Often my grandparents visited the same places and visited with the same people. If I can recognize the landmarks and/or faces in the old and new images, I can use her diaries to deduce information about the older images. It’s quite a bit of detective work.

The second set of images, especially those in category two, bring back memories. The memories are not always clear though and the clarity of the memory seems to have nothing to do with the importance of the event that was captured on film.

Pictures of my future wife asleep on the couch at her home, “ET” (evil twin) and Pest (my cat) napping on a couch at my home, or one of my fiancĂ©e (so far, I have found only two pictures of her) helping a young kid don a life jacket at a lake. I remember these things with what I think is astonishing clarity, yet they were hardly important events.

Pictures of my master’s degree hooding ceremony, a picture me standing in front of a jet after its successful test flight with the new avionics equipment I helped design, a picture of me at my first day at work for the phone company, my wife and I at our wedding rehearsal dinner. These events are probably (or should be) far more important than those in the first list, yet the memories of these events are faded and indistinct….like ghosts…and it takes me a few minutes of looking at the images to clear up the memory.

Sometimes my remembering insignificant events, while not remembering important events, makes me wonder about myself, but, I guess, as they say, “It is what it is”.


Earp is a town in the California desert that is tucked tight against the Colorado River. Across the Colorado River is Parker, Arizona.

When driving home from college, I would pass through the twin cities of Parker and Earp. I would need to fill my car’s gas tank in Parker, but I had to set my travel schedule so that I arrived in Parker before the gas stations closed at 9pm. In the summer, it took some careful planning to leave late enough to not be too uncomfortable in my unairconditioned car, yet still arrive in time to “gas up”.

One time I knew I wasn’t going to make it to Parker by 9pm, so I took along a 2-1/2 gallon can of gasoline and used that to make it home. When I got home and went to the gas station in the morning, the gas pump shut off at 7.8 gallons. So, it took about 10.3 gallons of gas to make the trip. My car had a 10 gallon gas tank. There were no gas stations far enough from home but before Parker to make a difference in the gasoline situation and between Parker-Earp and home there was wonderfully empty desert. So, I MAYBE could have made it home, but….

So, without further talking, a picture of Earp.

The film strip has just this one image, so I can’t date it precisely, but it was with the images showing the progress of the construction of my childhood home. I know the construction images were made in late 1963, so I’m somewhat certain that these images were made around that same time.

A Surreal Feeling

Each May 26, I stop to remember my fiancee. Had death not broken our engagement, we would have been married May 26, 1984. At that time, she would have been 22 years old.

I was nearly 30 when I did get married and was 37 when my wife and I became parents. Our daughter is now 23, which is the same age I was in 1984. It is a surreal feeling.

Something Unusual

I had a dream that I remembered when I woke up. I don’t seem to remember dreams very often, so this is something unusual. In the dream, I was in “the double wide”, holding my fiancee and humming the song, Die Gedanken Sind Frei.

Die Gedanken Sind Frei is the title of a German folk song that became a protest song. In English it means, “Thoughts are free”. With free meaning “not imprisoned” instead of “no cost”. The idea of the song is that, despite being imprisoned, one can still think (and dream) as they please.

When my fiancee went into hospice, the hospice staff did not know we were engaged, so the room was equipped in the normal way; a hospital bed, a tray table and a chair that would recline flat and turn into something resembling a bed. When the staff realized we were engaged, they discretely asked about bringing the “double wide” into the room. They explained that the double wide was a hospital bed that was wide enough to be used by couples but added that the chair/bed wouldn’t fit in the room at the same time. She (my fiancee) said yes to the big bed, so the regular hospital bed, and the recliner chair/bed, were removed…and the double wide was brought into her room.

I would lay on the bed with her and we would talk, and talk, and talk, and then talk some more. We talked about everything from dreams missed to funeral plans to my promising that I would continue on living.

When it got to where, even with assistance, she couldn’t get out of bed, I would climb into the bed, gently hug her and hum Die Gedanken Sind Frei. It was a reminder that even though her body had become a prison, she could still dream of better times. My humming that song would always bought a smile to her face.

Even after she became unresponsive, I would hold her and hum the song. I’d like to think that she could hear it and was smiling.

….Suitcases full of memories…..that are normally kept closed and locked up tight…but sometimes “sneak out”.

The 1980s

Pat Willard’s blog, at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/109621129/posts/3158858832, talked about what I thought was a funny cooking adventure and it reminded me of some “make me smile” cooking memories from 40 years ago.

In the early 1980s, while attending university, I lived in a small house by myself and my girlfriend would come over to study. She shared her apartment with three other girls and sometimes they did not want to study, so my place was a nice and quiet “study hall”. (I guess at age 60, I can call 18 year old women “girls”…..)

One night while we were studying, pre-med for her and engineering for me, I offered to cook some dinner for the two of us. My cooking was limited to hamburgers, french fries in the oven, “nuked” baked potatoes in the microwave oven, eggs and bacon. Chicken was a *huge* “leap of faith”.

These college kid meals worked until she noticed the Betty Crocker Cookbook that my mom and grandmother had left for me. When they had given it to me, I did the “guy thing”; look at it, thank them and put it on the shelf “for later”. She saw the cookbook and started looking through it, much like my wife just did with the Ball Blue Book. After a few minutes, she commented that a particular recipe didn’t seem that difficult and the next thing I know, we were walking to the grocery store to buy the stuff we needed for the meal.

The food we cooked actually tasted good and neither of us got sick, so it obviously turned out OK.

When we would find terms in the cookbook that we couldn’t figure out, we would ask my neighbors. They had sold their “mom and pop” restaurant and retired, so they had no problem answering even the most complicated questions, like “What is Sautee?”

After finding a recipe that we liked, we would practice making it until we felt confident that we could duplicate it without messing it up. Then we would invite the retired neighbors or some friends to my house for a nice meal. It was a lot of fun being the host and hostess.

Later, as our skills improved, we watched the cooking shows on the local public broadcasting television station and made notes on the recipes that were presented on the shows. Sometimes the recipes worked and sometimes it was obvious we had missed “something”. If the food was edible, but was just missing “something”, we’d make notes about what to try next time and then try it again. Most of the time we could figure it out and make a presentable meal, even if it wasn’t exactly what was presented on the television show.

Sometimes, however, the outcome was so bad that there was no hope. I can still remember my girlfriend’s scrunched up facial expression and her tone of voice when she would say, “Ahh…..if we have friends over for dinner…..let’s not make this…” That ALWAYS made me smile.

For some reason I could imagine her using the same facial expression and tone of voice when calling the professor to come over to look at an unexpected discovery in a human cadaver. My apologies for creating that image, but that’s what I envisioned when she would make “the announcement”. I guess that is what made it so funny for me.

Pat’s blog entry, with the sheep’s head, complete with teeth, while it probably would make a good meal, would have likely elicited the same scrunched up face and tone of voice that always made me smile.

Things Did Work Out

Today, I was out running along the city parks’ running-walking-biking-riding trails. It felt good to be breathing hard and sweating a bit.

Around quarter after 9 am, I stopped for a few moments and thought about how much my life has changed, how far I’ve come in 37 years and how thankful I was that things did “work out”.

Halloween, 37 years ago, around 9am, my fiancĂ©e and I were brought into her doctor’s office. It wasn’t the exam room, but the doctor’s actual office. Around 9:15 in the morning, the doctor walks in, sits down and begins with, “I’m afraid I have only bad news.”

He was right. It was bad news. He told us that none of the available treatments had slowed her ovarian cancer and there was nothing left to try. He knew that my fiancĂ©e had completed her pre-med program and had been accepted to medical school, so they “talked technical” for a few minutes. He then went on to tell us that he felt it was time to consider hospice.

I remember her slowly nodding her head and me holding my breath until I felt like I was going to explode.

When my fiancée was in hospice, she kept making me promise that I would keep on living and also insisting that things would work out.

After thinking about “that day”, my thoughts returned to today and I thought about my wife of 31 years, our 22 year old daughter, our careers, our retirement and “life in general”.

My fiancée was right. Things did work out.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories

Today I scanned an Ektachrome image of me that was made on the occasion of my 11th birthday.

Wow. I sure was a skinny kid.

What was more interesting to me than my physical stature was the kitchen in the background of the photograph.

Looking at the kitchen, the appliances, and their arrangement on the kitchen countertops brought back a huge number of memories.

Almost 50 years after that picture was made, I still remember where stuff was located in the kitchen cabinets, the quirks of the appliances, where stuff was located in the refrigerator, the knobs I had to turn to use the oven, and the buttons I had to push to make the stove work. I even remember the sound of the refrigerator–a hum with a slight buzz and the peculiar click that it made when it was cold enough for it to stop its motors. I remember that if only one piece of bread was put into the toaster, it had to go into the slot surrounded by the fancy scrollwork and that “10 o’clock” on the toast knob made perfect toast. I remember that the electric roasting skillet would get too hot for mom to use if the temperature control was set above “medium”. I remember the dishwasher was a top loading one with shelves that folded down from the side and if one used liquid detergent, the dishes didn’t get very clean.

I zoomed in to the spice racks to see if I could find the powdered cinnamon (I liked cinnamon-sugar toast) and found it exactly where my memory said it would be…right hand rack, 2nd shelf from the bottom, left side of the shelf..

If that kitchen still existed–it doesn’t–I could walk in and feel like I was coming back into it after a day of classes at elementary school.

May 26

Technically it’s now May 27, but this post is about May 26.

Two times a year, May 26 and October 31, I stop and make an effort to remember my fiancée. May 26, when were going to be married, and October 31, when her doctor recommended hospice. May 26, 1984 was a Saturday, the start of the USA Memorial Day Holiday weekend. October 31, 1983, Halloween, a Monday.

It’s been 36 years, but I still do it. I still stop and commerate her on those two days.

Today, my wife and I were helping our “graduated from college 3 weeks ago” daughter into her new apartment. At sunset, I was on the apartment balcony, watching the sunset. In the distance, I could see the sun reflect off of a body of water and the sparkles on the water reminded me what my fiancĂ©e liked about the beach at sunset.

A minute or two later, I went back to moving the bed and night stand into position.