Don’t Go Home Yet

Sparks and flames were shooting from the wheels of that train as caught on drone video, as it  drove through West Salem, Ohio, where my cousins who have been life long residents were likely winding down an ordinary day on Friday, February 3, 2023 just before 9:00 p.m.  

Then thirty-eighty of 147 cars on that track, ten carrying toxic chemicals derailed, sending plumes of black poison into the air. The authorities were quick to say no one was injured. Well, not yet at least.  Nearby residents were evacuated.  

According to local news coverage about 3,500 small fish in nearby streams as well as salamanders and frogs died, reported by Taylor Holzer, a local resident who rescues animals.  About ten miles away, a backyard flock of chickens died and people reported animals getting sick or dying.  

The Ohio governor, Mike De Wine,  was told that the train was not considered a  highly hazardous train, therefore the railroad was not required to notify  anyone in Ohio what was coming through. To which Mr. DeWine responded, “…this is absurd…”  He has since called on Congress to take action and spoken to people at the White House requesting on the ground assistance for East Palestine.

The representative of the EPA found no contaminants in the water after the derailment and have since assured people that it is safe to return home and to drink the water.  The people aren’t buying it and some are filing law suits. One young couple interviewed for the evening news said that when they returned to their home, they felt burning in their noses and throats.  

Up here, closer to Cleveland a day or two later, the winds were gusting at forty to fifty miles per hour, which led to concern for friends who are ardent walkers. Once the chemicals are spewed into the air, the wind carries them wherever it  goes dropping particulate along the way.   


Guess Who Found Me

After a stop at the post office to drop a couple of bill payments and the last few Christmas cards,   more like Epiphany cards, into the mail collection drawer inside the building, I drove back to the little strip mall on the corner and went inside the store.  

The main purpose of that stop was to get a prescribed bottle of mouth wash I am required to use the night before and morning of my up coming knee replacement. During the pre admission testing last week, I was also issued small bottles of shampoo and body wash. Oh brother!  As a person who went through two C-sections and a hysterectomy, with no such prerequisites, the multitude of demands and requirements for this procedure sounds very much like overkill.  

In the last several stops at this store  there were no packages of rotisserie chicken or chicken parts, so when I saw some, I got one into my cart along with some of their potato salad, and picked up a package of their “flavor bomb” tiny tomatoes, which are almost like home grown.  This is not the traditional New Year’s dinner, of pork and sauerkraut, but my cousin, Ray, who usually hosts New Year’s dinner said his wife did not want company.  When the cart was about half full, I went to stand in a cashier line, they were all long, so I went back to the pharmacy and parked myself on the bench to rest for a few minutes before trying again.  

On the second try and finally getting through the line, a lady from another line said, “Excuse me, but are you…” and saying my name she dropped her mask and said hers.  I was so surprised and tickled to see her.  We worked together at the insurance company downtown, along with a third friend, Winsome.  She has lived here for over four years and this was the first time we bumped into each other.  She helped load the filled bags back into the cart and unloaded the bags into the trunk when we walked back to my car.

Over the decades of my life, I have met many people and while we were friends at work,  that seemed to end when employment changed, which always disappointed me. Somehow the three of us stayed in touch as the years went by, when Winsome’s family moved to North Carolina, then back to southern Ohio and now they are going up to Perry to be more supportive of their elder daughter, the veterinarian.  Happily, a few of those friends are still in touch, one from California, one from the theatre here and one from Ameriprise.  They are gems.  

Coming from a fairly large family, I do have a lot of cousins, but they are all busy with their own families, so if we see each other once a year, we are lucky.  Since we are all aging, I wish we could see each other more often.  Maybe in the next life. 

Christmas Joy

Christmas alone is never a joyous time for me, but this year my cousin invited me to spend the day with her family, so I was looking forward to that, when she called to cancel our plans after her daughter, a nurse at a local drug store, came down with the Covid.  Backup plan, my neighbor, friend of all the years I have lived here, twenty-two, Marilyn, said I was welcome to join her family’s celebration. It wouldn’t be the first time I numbered among the family at her table. 

We knew that an arctic blast was headed our way, as the weather crews were warning for days in advance. I worried that there are no rails along the three steep steps to their front door and she pointed out that through the garage there is just one and both her husband and son would be there to help me up.  We agreed to see just how bad the weather got.  

On the last decent weather evening, Marilyn’s young neighbors behind her, had organized their church friends and their children to gather at various homes to carry on the ancient tradition of singing Christmas carols.  Marilyn called to let me know when they moved on from her house. With my front door open, I sat on a folding chair and sang along and even requested another before  they reconvened at Donna’s house. 

The same evening my cousin, Theresa called to advise that her younger brother, my cousin, Anthony, has passed on, after a terrible battle with cancer, and the consequences of alcohol and drugs on his body.  

Much later the same night while searching the Internet for my son, as I periodically do, I found a long article with more information about him than I have found in many years, ending with a nice, current photo of him.  I was so tickled I forwarded it to his sister and my cousin Theresa to verify my find.  As soon as they both concurred, it was him, I forwarded to many friends and family.  This was my Christmas joy. 

The Weather did take a dive, with gusts said to be up to 75 mph in some areas while the mercury quickly fell from 42 degrees F to 10 and then down to minus 4 degrees F on Christmas Day.  The news reported assorted mishaps including a 50 car pile up on the Ohio Turnpike.  The power outages began to climb, but I was most fortunate and did remain comfortable, and able to watch tv and keep lights on.

My daughter was the first to call and as always, it was a pleasure hearing her voice. She said Christian brought home a nice ham for their dinner and all is well. (Thank You, Lord!) The next call was from Pat, a neighbor down the cul de sac  who said their power went out and right back on again several times (requiring as many resets of clocks and such.) 

At this point I, still donned in flannels and a cap, made breakfast coffee when Marilyn called. Her son was on his way over with a plate for me from their Christmas dinner.  What a blessing for me, and all others who are lucky enough to have her in their lives. 

Christmas Festa

On the first Saturday of each month is a meeting of The St. Padre Pio Prayer Group of Cleveland and is always a source of both spiritual strength, but a source of social enjoyment for me. 

It is difficult for me to haul myself out of bed at least by six a.m. to be ready to roll out the door by seven-thirty a.m. for the thirty minute drive through wild turkey and meandering deer areas safely.  Thankfully there is very little traffic, which makes the drive easier. 

I wore a red shirt since this was to be our Christmas gathering. For all the years that my cousin, Maryann has joined me, I did the driving. She drove to my house and I drove from there.  Now that she lives much farther away, she stepped coming, so I was pleasantly surprised when she called to say she was coming and that she would drive. To her surprise, she made it in only a half hour since the traffic was so light.  

We arrived shortly after the prayer service started and found Diane already seated there, so we joined her. The wind had been very strong for the last couple of days, so I was not surprised when all of the lights went out during the service.  

The group director invited us all to file into the meal room for a grand festa, which included sauerkraut and kielbasa, in honor of her late father.   

Everything was delicious and, as usual, I wandered around taking pictures to remember the event by.  This gives me a chance to say hello to many people and this time there was a lovely lady who reminded me she had been to Poland with us and then I recognized her smiling face, but asked, didn’t she have long hair then and she said yes, but then she had chemo therapy and lost all her hair and this is what grew back.  She asked if I remembered a little man she brought along, a vitamin specialist, and I said, happily yes, I remember him from our one week trip to Italy in 2015.  I remember that in the family style restaurant where we took most of our meals, she and I were the only ones at our table who ate the mussels.  The festa went on until we were ready to take our leave and step out into the blustery day. Looking at the pictures on my computer was almost as much fun as being there.

Thanksgiving Feasting

Like every other calendar day, Thanksgiving passed all too quickly, but for the pictures, the  memoires slip silently into the background.  

My cousin Maryann’s daughter and beau arrived shortly after noon, to pick me up so I would not have to drive home in the dark, for which I was really grateful.  

The other guests were all from Maryann’s ex-husband’s second family, because they have all remained very close in spite of that long ago divorce.  

The healthy, happy two year old kept everyone on their toes as he tore around the main floor of the house, wriggling out of each pair of arms that attempted to restrain him.  

The meal was sumptuous, the aromas enticing and the flavors pleasing all. Shortly after pie and coffee, the hugs and farewells began and when we were down to the small core group of Maryann, Becky, Kevin and I, Becky set up the movie for the evening, which was the new version of “Christmas Story”, originally filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. When that ended Maryann and Becky drove me back home and helped me into the house. The leftovers became two dinners for me.

On the day after Thanksgiving I drove to Columbia Station to join Ray and Elaine and her family for their day 2 of Thanksgiving.  

I haven’t been to their gathering since the onset of Covid19, so it was really good to be with them again. The weather was mild and pleasant all week. 

Best Birthday Ever

A few days after my cousin returned to Colorado I flew there to celebrate my actual birthday a couple of days later. She said we would have chocolate cake, my favorite. I anticipated a cozy evening in front of the television with her and her husband after a nice meal and a slice of chocolate cake.  

On the second evening of my visit she said we would go to a Polish restaurant she wanted to try. I was game for it and we headed out at about five thirty.  

As the drive took us in the direction of the airport, she said she had to fess up and I suggested, “That you don’t know where we are going?” She said something and stayed on track. 

 We got closer to the airport and I said “It looks like we are eating at the airport.” To which she said that she and her girls have done that before. I am thinking we could’ve moved out of the arrivals lane, but not only does she not, she pulls up to the curb and announces that Mika, my daughter, would be joining us for dinner.  Still not getting it, I said, Oh, wouldn’t that be nice?”  In a last ditch effort to make it clear to me she said, “Her flight is due at 6:30 and it is 6:33!” Alas it dawns on me that this could happen and I ask, “You mean she is really coming?”  A few minutes later she came through the doors waving at us. At the restaurant, we got some drinks before an excellent dinner with much chatter and laughter.  

Back at the house we settled in and Mika and I retired with our glasses of wine to sit and catch up on her news since our last visit.  When our eyes were closing we said goodnight and she went to the guest room across the hall from mine.  Sleep came to me soon.  

On Friday, my actual 80th birthday, in the early afternoon we went to the Eldorado Canyon State Park and absorbed the amazing beauty of gigantic slabs of upturned hillsides, the locals call “Flat Irons” formed during mountain building  the last time the Rocky Mountains rose up from the ground.

Theresa’s daughters and the elder one’s fiancé arrived early in the evening.  Jesse and Zack lugged in a giant pot for the homemade spaghetti sauce which they promptly set about preparing.  Zack was stationed at the sink cutting up 52 tomatoes while Jesse cut, and then diced a jumbo onion.  I lost track of the process as Annie presented me with a gift bag containing dark chocolate morsels – always a good gift, and everyone was talking and laughing and visiting.  In time we sat to enjoy the wonderful dinner and just that quickly it was over and with their giant pot now full of the savory sauce, the youngsters bid us all a good evening as they left and we waved them off.  Another day well spent.  

Saturday after  leisurely breakfast we set off for the airport again.  My daughter returned to her life further west and we turned back into local traffic to stop at a store before getting home.  The girls stopped by for another visit before going on with their agenda for the weekend. 

Theresa and I went to the Cathedral of Denver for Mass, arriving early since she was due for Choir rehearsal before services began.  At communion time, I stood up to get into the line, but I had not taken a step before the vigilant Sacristin arrived in front of me and served me the Holy Eucharist.  

Going into and out of doorways had become a difficulty for me and worried my cousin. I was also thinking about how I would get up the steps into my house.  I called my friend-neighbor, Marilyn, to ask if she would help me when I got there , she said yes without hesitation.  When I pulled into the garage and called her, she let me know she had gotten injections in her eyes earlier that day, but thought she could drive her car, and that her husband forbade her to walk.  Somehow it all worked out and she made it safely home.  

For awhile I was thinking I would not be able to go anywhere if I could not get back into the house without help.  Then I realized that sitting onto the small bench I keep at that doorway and swinging my legs into the house, like getting into a car that is too high for me would work.  I had done that before the trip to Colorado, but now I needed that kind of device for the first step as well and then the ah ha moment occurred when I remembered my two step aluminum ladder, that I have had for decades.   Putting it in front of the first step, sitting and bringing my legs onto that step was the key.   

A day of rest, and then I committed myself to the business of replacement of my left knee, the worse of the two.  The Orthopedic Surgeon I had seen last spring advised me that I was “…driving on two bald tires.”  The deed will be done mid January and I am advised that with a new knee, I will be in for four to six months of pain.  Sigh.

Let The Celebrations Begin

During the third week of October, my cousin from Colorado came to town to guide her niece in the business of selecting a college. They made visits to the campuses of several within driving distance; they filled out reams of paperwork and filled in financial aid applications for each institution. 

In the middle of all of that footwork and papers and drives, she managed to round up a group of family members and organized a birthday luncheon in my honor, was I available to attend? Uh, YES!  

At the appointed hour I  went outside and waited for her and niece to spirit me away.  The next door neighbor happened to be outside as well and after chatting about photography for a minute, they arrived and he took a photo of the three of us with my camera. 

We piled into the car and headed off to the big mall on the west side and found the restaurant.  The others had arrived, including the Wooster contingent.  It was great seeing them all.  

The covid business has prevented us from any in person visits for three years, even though we are all immunized and boosted, we are also all or most all of a vulnerable age, so we do what we can to protect ourselves.  It’s such a shame to keep us apart, because we have so much fun together, sharing stories, in a minute there is giggling and repeating what was funny and the laughing starts again. Well This birthday is the big 8-0, one of those big markers so my cousin  was determined to make it memorable for me, which she did.   They even brought cards and gifts, which was really not necessary, but I guess it added to the fun of it and we all oooooed and ahhhhed for each item.  

We ate good meals, I had seafood stuffed raviolis with asparagus tips, which I found to be delicious. The time slipped away and too soon we gathered our stuff and meandered out to the cars, bidding each other farewell.

Someone From Samoa

Scrambling around to get the last of the errands done on this second good weather day before Thanksgiving, and the onset of rain, I stepped into a drug store that I stop at once in about three months, preferably on my past it, to buy about three things my regular stores don’t carry. 

Having browsed around and gathered two of those items, I went to the cashier. It was a young man, perhaps twenty, whom I’ve see and been helped by on a previous visit. As I handed him my payment he asked if I knew what my name is in Spanish. Without hesitation I responded, “Rosita”, explaining that a friend I once worked with called me Rosita because her son was studying Spanish.  It stuck.   

“Rosa” said the smiling young man at the counter  and I asked if he was studying Spanish, or if he is Spanish. He said no, his father was from Samoa and I think he said his mother had some Hawaiian background..  By this time my mind was spinning, SAMOA!!!? I asked to be sure I heard that right.  His smile grew while I tried to digest that.  My eyes scanned his face  cell by cell trying to read the information there – in all my life I never met a person from Samoa. Not in all the years or places I have lived nor places I have travelled to.  I would NEVER have guessed that I admitted.  He said he never met his dad and his mom said he was probably dead or in jail.  I told him that the father of my children was from Japan and they knew him and he sent our daughter there when she was about twenty. 

The young man wished he could go to absorb his father’s culture, and I had to step aside for another customer, but I felt like we could have talked for hours.  For the remainder of the day  I was overwhelmed by that experience.  People, their cultures and their languages are infinitely interesting to me.  

On Thanksgiving morning a call came from my friend, Linda, who nicknamed me Rosita!

A Late Autumn Bus Ride

At 4:30 a.m. in the morning of the tenth  of October 2022 I sat alone in the parking lot at the church where the prayer group was departing from for a short trip to the EWTN headquarters in Alabama.  We were scheduled to leave at 5:30, but I never expected to be there even before the bus. 

The next person to arrive was Karen who was in charge of directing everyone, including the bus, when it came, where to park. Slowly, people  arrived and I got on board and claimed seats for Diane and another Karen, as others filtered in.  It was actually six am when we got onto the highway.  In the e-mails back and forth I noticed that Karen asked if anyone had a wheelchair – but at that time I did not realize it was for my use.  

We were barely underway when Cindy announced that Fr. Brown had brought the Holy Eucharist and would be distributing it to us, though there would not be a Mass on the bus.  I don’t know why I thought the topography would look different in Alabama, but as the bus rolled along I noticed that it was all the same.  

Signs for Bowling Green went by and in Cincinnati we changed drivers and picked up two ladies.  The mother, Diane, had been the person giving out the bulletin and song sheet every month as people entered the church. I wondered why I had not seen her for a long time. She moved back to Cincinnati to be closer to her daughters. We arrived at our hotel as darkness set in.  Karen mentioned that we gained an hour, which was good so we didn’t miss dinner at the hotel.  There was the usual milling around, settling luggage into rooms, and alas, dinner.  Karen manned the wheel chair and I gladly rode as she found the right way everywhere.  It was good to call it a day and Diane and I fell into our usual routines as we are accustomed to traveling together.  

The hotel served breakfast before we climbed back aboard the bus. The first event of the day was a guided tour that took us from the lobby of one building and through an assortment of rooms and ended when we filed into a lecture hall where a Capuchin  Monk talked to us about Saint John Paul, II.  After his talk he offered a relic of St. Pio for us to form a line to and venerate individually.  Karen was on her feet in a heartbeat and we were first in line.  

While I had heard of Mother Angelica, around whom EWTN was evolved, I had never watched her, as the program was on cable, which I have never subscribed to.  Each spiritual event seemed extra special and really lovely.  Perhaps it was the atmosphere.  Being anywhere with this group of people is always a treat for me.  

We went to a healing service that was like none  I’ve been to before, in which each person wishing a healing knelt at the Communion rail and was approached by the priest in the mantel and presenting the monstrance to each  person. That is the closest I have ever been to a monstrance and it felt like a direct communication with God.  

There was a Mass in Latin, which I have not heard for years, so it was lovely and brought back memories of Masses from my childhood.  They even celebrated it the old way, not facing the congregation.  Of course there were other Masses, including one in a tiny chapel which was televised.  Due to the wheel chair I was in the front seat and the camera did not pan around the chapel, so I was the only one on the televised version and while others were disappointed not to be included, while I thought it was too bad not to have spread the view, since no one in my family or among my friends might likely be watching.  As it happened, my cousin, Butch and his wife were on the trip and his sister called him to say she saw the televised Mass and me.  So, someone I knew saw it after all.  

There were two main buildings where most of the functions took place as well as a grand gift store to browse in between events, so we were pretty busy walking back and forth over the pink stone walk between buildings.  For me it was, hang on, here we go as Karen rolled me back and forth over the cobblestone like surface.  I was counting my blessings that she did not seem to get tired or winded.  

One day the Monks treated us to lunch in the school cafeteria – the main course consisted of some kind of tacos that would have appealed to the kids and we were thankful to have.  One time lunch was a chicken salad from Chick a Filet and that was superb.  

We were busy from before sunup to sundown and although we eked every ounce of what we came there for, we were ready to climb back onto the bus and head back home when time for goodbyes came with promises for visits and a return trip, we were on the road again.

The Pretty Polish Plate


Polish Pottery

Four odd fragments,

My pretty plate slipped from my hand,

Crashed to the floor in front of the fridge

Before the door even closed.

It was too pretty, with berries of  blue

and poppies of orange.  I used it often

To enjoy its prettiness as I lifted food 

From the plate to my mouth.

Carefully I washed it and set it to dry for the next use. 

Now it lies there until I decide whether to wash and

save the pieces to use in a collage of sorts, or shall

I just sigh and throw it all away?