My husband graduated from Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary a year before I did. The consensus of faculty members to whom we turned for advice seemed unanimous. We should move so that my husband David could begin his graduate work. I could take some classes at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, and then return to Gettysburg periodically to meet with the faculty and take area exams.
David and I found a first-floor apartment at 39 Lyon Street, which seemed a great location. We were blocks from the beautiful Wooster Square and enjoyed taking walks there. At some point during our years in New Haven, we heard from Karl Peterson and extended an invitation for him to visit us. Try though I might, the date of that visit eludes me — but our time together was splendid.
Karl found a hotel, and then I showed him the sights that we could fit in, given the amount of time we had. We began by seeing sites on Yale’s campus, both the Divinity School and the University proper. We went into the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. He wanted to check out the New Haven Art Museum, and afterward, we saw a street vendor selling hot dogs — so we parked ourselves on a raised curb by the museum and chowed down on delicious chili dogs.
We visited Lighthouse Point Park, checked out the Carousel, and ate a picnic lunch while enjoying the view of the water. We were close enough that we drove out to see the Thimble Islands near Branford, CT, and the delightful houses that stand on them.
But only a visit to New Haven would be complete with a visit to Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. We concluded that this was an absolute gotta-do. David and I thoroughly enjoyed having Karl visit, and I loved all the sightseeing we did. Wonderful memories!
As I mentioned in my last blog post, Mr. Peterson, my teacher for Criminology, expected us to work. I remember various occasions when students would talk with him informally over meals. It was a win/win situation. We learned more about the subject matter of the class, criminology, while he learned why his students took that particular class. At the same time, he learned about our backgrounds and ambitions.
Mr. Peterson and I kept in touch during my last two college years. I graduated a year behind the rest of my class as I had taken a year away to work at the Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland. (Institut Œcuménique – Château de Bossey).
The picture at left is me after graduating from Witt, with my Mom and Dad.
Shortly after my college graduation, I headed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to attend seminary. I learned many things during my three academic years, a summer program called Clinical Pastoral Education, and my one-year internship.
I made many life-long friends during those years and, in time, accepted a marriage proposal from a brilliant student a year ahead of me at the seminary. We married in my hometown and had a pretty large wedding and reception. All sorts of people attended, probably about 300, and after the wedding, we had a reception, complete with a dance band, in the church fellowship hall.
You may ask how this has anything to do with the man who was my college professor. Well, let me tell you. Mr. Karl Peterson accepted our invitation to attend our wedding and reception. At some point that evening, he asked me to dance. As we danced, he gave his fatherly opinion, which echoed my mother’s and father’s opinions.
My choice of a husband was excellent.
Here we are — left to right. The Bride (aka the author); Mr. Peterson (aka Sociology Professor and good friend); and then my college friends Judy, and my bridesmaid Ellen.
The previous summer, I went on a double date with my eldest brother, sister-in-law, and a guy who worked with my brother named Gary. I had never met him before. The four of us went to a drive-in movie, and afterward, they dropped me at home. I assumed that would be the last time I’d hear from Gary, but I was wrong.
I would call it an understatement to say that Gary was an introvert. I was surprised when I received a few letters from him after returning to school. One evening the phone rang, and I was astonished to discover it was Gary. He asked me if I would like to go out to dinner. I asked him when he wanted to do that, and he confessed that he was calling from the lobby of my dorm. He wasn’t asking me out on a future date; he asked me to dinner that night.
My boyfriend, Brent, had just stopped by to see if I wanted to go out. I covered the phone while I explained what had just transpired. Brent probably rolled his eyes but added that he would call me the next day, which he did. So, Gary and I went out for an excellent dinner at a restaurant near my dorm. Afterward, he walked me back to my dormitory, we said goodnight, and I thanked him again for a nice dinner.
The following morning I was astonished to receive yet another call from Gary, asking if he could come and see me. I told him I didn’t know he was still in town but that I had a Criminology class in minutes. He asked if he could go with me, and then he would buy me some coffee or something and head home.
We made it to my class with very little time to spare and ended up in the back row, the only place with two available seats. After class, I introduced Gary to my teacher, who greeted him politely. Gary and I had just left the classroom when Mr. Peterson called my name and said he would like a word with me. I assured Gary I would be just a moment, and I returned to the classroom, where he spoke just one sentence. “He is not good enough for you.” I replied as I would have to my father, with the assurance there was no cause for alarm.
An odd thing happened in my life several years ago. Out of the blue came a strong memory that arrested my attention and interrupted my plans. It is a true story that began in the late 1970s when I returned for my third year of college after spending the better part of a year working overseas at the Ecumenical Institute, Chateau de Bossey, in Celigny, Switzerland.
This story is of a unique friendship that began that fall and continued until death interrupted in 1994. I hesitated to write this until I could speak with one of his daughters to gain approval for what will likely take quite a few blog posts and time. I finally located his eldest daughter on the other side of the country, and we had an excellent phone conversation spanning two and a half hours.
I was a twenty-one-year-old who had enrolled in a class at a college in Ohio. Although an English major, I signed up for a Criminology course in the Sociology department. I must confess that there were times during my college years when I skated through classes without exerting too much time or energy. But this particular course captured my imagination, partly because it was outside the mainstream of my academic study. But the professor ably taught it, and putting my nose to the grindstone was gratifying.
The first time I entered his office, I saw stacks of books everywhere. It was a phenomenon I understood. My parents kept building bookcases in our home; both were voracious readers. My mother had a Master’s degree in Literature; my father wanted to be a pastor and read widely in history, scripture, and theology. In time he became a Lawyer — but he always retained that earlier passion.
As the course went on, a question kept nagging at me. Finally, like the young upstart I was, I threw caution to the wind and asked my prof why he had a Master’s degree but not a Ph.D. He did not answer my question. He said perhaps he would tell me one day. One day he did. But it did not happen very soon.
My Dad’s birthday was March 5th. He died when his youngest grandchild, my daughter, was a year old. I am looking forward to celebrating her thirtieth birthday later this year. This is the second time that I have posted what follows. But thinking about both my dad and my daughter, made me what to share what follows, one more time.
The other day a friend from our former church in Arizona posted this on Facebook: “Name one thing that you learned from your father.” As I regularly don’t follow directions, I wrote two things, but they were woefully inadequate. Then Saturday’s mail brought a beautiful note, accompanied by a gift to help repair some more of our broken furniture. Since most of that furniture had belonged to my parents, I was not surprised that the note was in honor of Dad’s birthday. I cried when I read the card and saw the check – tears of thanksgiving for the help wrapped up in memories of the best father I could have had.
My Dad’s father and my Mom’s father died within six weeks each other the year before I was born. As they did most years, they had already rented a house for a week in July at Lakeside, Ohio, on Lake Erie. It was a Methodist community but every summer there was a Lutheran week. There were speakers and events, swimming nearby at East Harbor, and lots of fun for the kids. Our cousins would go as well, and it was always a wonderful time. That July was a healing time for my parents. Time to relax and get away and be with family. As my birth occurred the following spring, I happily surmise that I was part of that healing process.
My grandfathers never knew that a little one was forecast. I always wanted my Dad to live to see my children – as I was the baby after three boys, he knew all his other grandchildren – but I hoped and prayed he would live to see mine. My Dad lived a few months past his 78th birthday. As my parents lived in Ohio and I lived in South Carolina, I am forever grateful that God granted my Dad the gift of seeing my only daughter, not once but five times during the last year of his life. He loved seeing all of his grandchildren, and that included his littlest. My Dad’s doc wanted him to keep track of his blood pressure for a while, and my Mom always noted that it was better when little Katie was around. Dad wrote a letter to my husband and me urging us to keep up the good work! He humorously noted how well we had done producing our first child and urged us to continue to produce many more amazing children. Although we would have loved such a family, it was not to be.
Grief is weird – it changes over time but it doesn’t go away. When you love someone, they stay in your thoughts. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of my mom & dad and their incredible love for each other. I learned a gazillion things from my Dad – most importantly that his love for our mom came before his love for anyone else including his children. He taught me that you could be a better parent if you nurture your marriage and keep that love strong. He loved going on adventures with my mom, and they often took off for a weekend in the hills of Ohio — or perhaps to Amish country. Did I mention he had a weakness for pie?
Dad was a lover of critters and particularly birds and developed a daily routine of feeding them, eventually feeding the squirrels as well, so that they would leave the bird feed alone. I can remember the thousands of little bird footprints in the snow in our back yard around the bird feeder. He was an avid reader of books, a collector of antiques and particularly antique tools, he loved working in the basement workshop and routinely inciting our mom to riot when he forgot to change out of his business suit & tie before going to the basement to work on a little project.
When I was a little girl, he and mom sometimes took turns packing me off to bed, and when he was in charge, he always used the time to talk with me about my day and teach me the ten commandments and pray with me before I went off to sleep. He also taught me how to tie and fly a kite, how to use a wood lathe, how to pick appropriate hardware for a repair job or to hang a picture, and the joy of having theological or political discussions. He loved to read and would regularly demonstrate how to read a book or the evening paper stretched out on the living room couch with our cat Otto on his chest. He was also willing to have cat company while eating his breakfast. He loved to work in the garden and fostered in me a love of roses, of the first flower of each year – the crocus that would come up through the snow, of wildflowers like bleeding heart, jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, trillium, and of how to pick lily-of-the-valley to take to my Mom. I still love the smell of the lily-of-the-valley and adore the sight of big bunches of roses in vases in the house. I am so glad that my husband Ron loves to garden and is working on clearing beds to plant in our new back yard.
Dad was a lawyer, and occasionally he would have to take papers to someone’s house to sign. When that someone was a widow or single woman, my mom would usually go with him. On a couple of occasions, when my mom was otherwise occupied, he would ask me to ride along with him. I did this a few times over the years – a little person whose quiet little presence was a help to put others at ease.
A staunch Lutheran, Dad had back surgery at one point for excruciating pain which was caused by a pinched nerve. One of his clients told him that her whole African Methodist Episcopal Zion congregation was praying for his recovery. At the mortuary, after he died, a black lady introduced herself to us and said that her common-law husband had left her years before and she was without means to keep her house. She told us that our Dad, who was her lawyer, had paid her mortgage for some months until she could find a better job allowing her to keep her home. We were blown away – we had no idea that had happened.
Not everyone is blessed with a man of character as a father. I was blessed doubly because my Dad was also something of a character. I had such fun with my Dad who was the best Dad this girl could have had. He left me with thousands of good memories including his love of picnics; childhood bike rides often followed by a visit to the local Root Beer stand; a vacation (just the two of us) in Europe following a job I had in Switzerland interrupting my college years.
While traveling in Switzerland and Germany, my Dad and I had time to talk about issues of truth telling, sin, and unburdening yourself by burdening someone else. Heavy stuff. I wrote about that here:
When I was just a little girl, a neighbor down the street found a stray mama cat who gave birth to four kittens. I had never had a pet before, so I asked my parents if they might let me have one of these. I hoped against hope that perhaps they would let me. I didn’t get an answer for a while.
Then one day, my mother had to go to the A & P grocery store. [If you want to read something interesting, check out what Wikipedia says about The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company]. After my mom had gotten her groceries, she pulled up in front of the library, gave me her library card, and told me to ask at the desk for the book they were holding for her.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was all about CATS!
I knew I had the best Mommy & Daddy on the planet! Thus began my life with cats. Not only would they let me have a cat. They said that perhaps the kitten would be happier with a sibling. So I didn’t just get one; I got two cats, and I got to name them. I called them Rainbow and Smokey.
I thought they were the best cats on the planet. I loved them both very much. After some years, Smokey was in an accident and went home to meet his Maker.
But our much loved Rainbow lived many more years with us. Here is a picture of him lolling about in our backyard. He was such a wonderful cat.
Some years later, one of my three big brothers received a cat who he named Phredric Phredricson. He seemed to be especially enthralled watching my goldfish swim around. I must confess to being slightly nervous, but he was a good boy.
In 1972, we got a cat that we named Otto von Bismarck. Otto particularly liked keeping our dad company when eating breakfast or reading the newspaper.
When walking home from school, I often found Otto waiting for me next to the mailbox at the NE corner of Wellesley Drive and Upton Avenue. When I arrived, we would walk home together.
My parents had one car, so Dad often came home from work on the bus. Otto would walk with me to the bus stop on the SE corner of Wellesley Drive and Upton Avenue and calmly wait until my Dad would get off the bus, and then the three of us would walk home together. Otto was a remarkable cat.
Decades later, our daughter wanted to get a cat. Her Dad and I agreed that she could get one, and she did. She also got the chance to name her cat. She called him Radcliffe Jellylorum. Radcliffe after Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter Fame, and Jellylorum from the inspiration provided by T. S. Elliot’s poem “The Naming of Cats.”
Radcliffe was primarily an indoor cat but eventually had to move across the country from South Carolina to Arizona. He proved he was an excellent traveler. He had never had to wear a harness before, but as we made the trip over several days, he had to learn.
Radcliffe bore the travel well and enjoyed exploring our new house. He was only allowed outside our Arizona home if we had to take him somewhere. We had heard stories of birds of prey snatching pets from their yards.
He loved being with his human family and sometimes added his paw to our joined hands when watching a movie.
Radcliffe enjoyed a quiet life but perked right up when he could watch the rabbits outside the windows of our home. We occasionally referred to this as Bunny TV.
Unfortunately, old age caught up with our much-loved Radcliffe Jellylorum. He died and is buried in Arizona.
Sometime later, my dear husband suggested it might be time for us to move to my home state, where I have family, friends, and familiar turf.
In the intervening years, I have missed the company of a cat. Is adopting a senior cat in my future? We shall see. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject! Please like, subscribe, and leave your comment below!
Since my husband’s death, I have found that I try to keep busy, work on projects, and get together with family and friends. The task of writing blog posts had me stymied because I needed to figure out where to focus.
But then, my calendar exploded. The last time I could travel substantially was in 2019, when my husband and I took two major road trips. We made one trip out to Arizona, where we had lived before moving to my home state of Ohio.
Here is Ron at our former home in Arizona
We also took a road trip down south — visiting family & friends in southern Ohio and then in Georgia and North and South Carolina. I am so thankful that we were able to make those trips.
This was taken when we were visiting with dear friends in South Carolina.
My husband died early in 2020, and after his death, I went back to work part-time and could pay off his credit card debt and most of mine, working from the smallest to the largest. There are two left, and I will keep working on those, but it will take some time.
I am thankful for my extended family: my daughter and son-in-law and their family, my brothers and their wives, my cousins and nieces and nephews, and my dear Ronnie’s daughters and their families. I love getting and receiving snail mail, phone calls, and the occasional video chat with some family and friends.
The excitement just began. Last Wednesday, February 22, a friend from Arizona flew out for a visit. Last night we had a scrumptious dinner in my favorite local restaurant, which I’ve written about before, Don Tomasso’s Italian Kitchen.
In March, my daughter, son-in-law, and their little ones, including one son whom I have not yet met are visiting for the better part of a week. Come April, I have a delicious invitation to attend a significant birthday party in Missouri — which I wouldn’t miss for anything in the world.
But it doesn’t stop there. Two college chums are coming to visit in May. Friends who live in the state of Washington are coming for a visit sometime in the early summer. Then, “God willing, and the creek don’t rise,” I will take a road trip to visit friends and family in southern Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Recently I learned that it might be possible for me to see dear friends of Ron’s and mine from Arizona who now live in a state I have never been to — Alabama!
I was publishing weekly blog posts on Tuesdays and Fridays at approximately 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. Of late, I have hardly written much at all. This spring and summer, I have a calendar overflowing with visitors, trips, and other events, which may cause gaps in my ability to write a new blog post. I mean to rectify that, but I ask you to bear with me.
I fell in love with Arizona. We enjoyed our years there. It was where my husband grew up & lived most of his life. I am so thankful that he & I moved there so that I could share the things that he loved so well. We had some fantastic adventures and some breathtaking trips.
After about six years, he thought moving us back to my home state might be wise. There was a significant age difference between us, and he thought such a move was prudent.
So, in September 2018, we moved across the country to my home state. The move itself was rough. Truth be told, although we mostly recovered from the movers’ disaster, there are still things that have never been put right.
But for me, that is spilled milk. We moved into a house built in 1855. There are still portions of it that have yet to be tamed. There are also portions of it that need to be rebuilt. But it is a good house, and thank you, Jesus, it is my husband’s and my last house.
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Our mom, Kathryn, was born on Friday the 13th, a day which never proved unlucky for her, and was called home to the Kingdom of Heaven on 7/7/7 — a perfect number and a perfect day.
Her father was one of 13 children, eight of whom were boys and of those eight, four became Lutheran pastors. Her dad was one of those. Her parents met when her father had to fill in as preacher at one of his brothers’ churches and noticed the young musician playing for worship. They courted, married, and Mom was born in a little town called Sherrodsville, Ohio, which was one of a three congregational parish that her father served. Our mom had a younger sister. She also had an older brother who died in childbirth. Her father believed that one day he would meet his grown son in the Kingdom. Mom seemed to agree.
She graduated from Wittenberg College (now University) a Lutheran church school in Springfield, Ohio. While in school she had so many marriage proposals that she opined to me that she often used to think that when young men didn’t know what else to say they proposed marriage. She thankfully turned them all down.
Upon graduation, she began teaching in a small town in Ohio. She was just twenty years old and was teaching high schoolers. She stayed in that job for three years — which proved to be pivotal years in her life. She had accepted an invitation to a Fraternity formal dance in Toledo, and those next three years proved to be the courting years of our parents.
They were an amazing match for each other. Although he was about to enter law school, he had fallen under the sway of a college philosophy professor and had become an agnostic. They argued about theology. She was looking for the right man for her and she had no intention of marrying some non-believer! You can read more about that here My Father’s Daughter
They were best friends, lifetime lovers, sparring partners, hopelessly besotted with each other. There was nothing they didn’t talk about including some of the things I remember: theology, politics, literature, history, church life, family life, music, law, antiques, pigs, cats, birds, and paradise.
After Dad’s graduation from law school, he and mom were married in the summer of 1941. They had six months of married life together before he was drafted for WWII. The war years are a story for another time.
Let me get back to telling you about our mom. She was a lover of words in all their many forms. She loved lofty literature as well as pithy doggerel. After being a stay at home mom for four children, dad suggested she go back to school because he thought it was something she would love to do. When I was in Kindergarten, she started a master’s program in English Literature and graduated when I was in second grade. My dad was always bringing mom roses from the garden, but on that occasion, he bought her a dozen long-stemmed Red Roses that wowed this 2nd grader.
She encouraged my youngest brother, and later me, to invite friends over to the house to read Shakespeare’s plays — a fun and rather counter-cultural activity for high school kids back then. She penned some beautiful poems — but is best remembered in our family for the rhyming doggerel she composed for family occasions chiefly the birthdays of her children.
Although she loved her three sons and one daughter to the moon and back — we were never the center of our family. Our parents were. Their relationship was the primary one. Whether they talked about this or not — I have no idea — but it always seemed to me that they believed that if their relationship wasn’t the primary one in the family — none of the children would be secure. They were rock solid in their belief in God, and their marriage was founded on that belief. Their marriage was always at the center of our family life.
Their love and devotion to each other was life long. It was rock solid, but never dull! Their playful interactions with each other were great fun along with occasional lapses into public displays of affection. I always remember the time I was visiting with them and accompanied them to the grocery store. They were in the check out line, probably in their late sixties or seventies by this time, and my father totally forgot himself and kissed her on the lips. Then realizing where they were exclaimed — “Zounds!” My mother laughed and said the kiss would have been nicer without the addition of the word “Zounds!”
She was a hard worker and a smart cookie. She knew that there was more than one way to skin a cat. When she taught eighth-grade kids remedial reading, she stocked her classroom with things the kids wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen with — Hot Rod magazines for example — and got them all reading at or above grade level in a semester.
She painted every room in our house. She sewed tons of my clothes including a wedding gown. She was a member of the American Association of University Women and belonged to a book reviewing group. It turned out that she became much in demand by social and civic organizations as a book reviewer.
She taught me many hard lessons in fun ways — chiefly by her example. She was kind to others but never a doormat. She was proud of her children, but not blindly so. She was not unwilling to jerk us up when we needed it.
So on this 09 22, I give thanks for her life, I joyously remember her witty reproofs, I delight in the treasure of being her daughter, and I raise my morning coffee cup in honor of the best Mother this girl could have had.
“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” -Winston Churchill
I pondered that wisdom. This time, I had the foresight to put the tarp in the trunk first while bringing a load of nasty four-foot high weeds and invasive vines to it. Then I could pull the top of the tarp toward me while pushing the contents back. This new strategy worked enormously well.
By the time I had cut down and loaded the vine, I headed to the landfill to dump the mound of the garden invaders. I had to wrestle a bit to get the contents out of the trunk but succeeded. Then came the catastrophe.
I discovered that I was locked out of my car. Looking through the windows, I could see no keys. Not on the floor. Not in the ignition. My purse was out of sight, with a spare set of keys in it, but, short of breaking a window, I couldn’t see how that would help.
I was seriously pondering total despair when it occurred to me, thank you, Jesus, that I should look through the tarp full of weeds newly dumped. Thankfully I still had my work gloves, so sorting through the prickly vines, some of which had nearly inch-long thorns, was better than it could have been. But the keys did not seem to be there.
Hunting for my car keys sorely tested my willingness to persevere. I finally found them. They were lying in the dirt with all the contents of the tarp on top of them. By this time, soaking from head to foot, I drove to the local grocery store and brought home ice cream. After my shower, I started to feel a wee bit better. But the ice cream and an evening filled with mindless online video games and accompanied by the music videos of my favorite late and great performers saved the day.
One more thing helped, taking some pictures after this week’s taming of the wild kingdom.