Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Dear Dan,

One day after mom had moved to New Jersey and you were still living at the house, I was ironing some of my laundry. You were going somewhere in a nice suit and tie. You asked if you could use the iron for a moment. I went on about my business on my side of the ironing board while you were ironing on the other.

We were chatting about stuff in general while you finished up. When you told me you were done, I put my hand around to start ironing again but, like an idiot, I didn't look at the iron. Both of us being right handed it was natural for you to put the iron down the opposite way that I needed it.

I burned my wrist. You were so upset when it blistered. I ran cold water on it and you got me some ice. I wasn't upset at all. Yes, it hurt but it was my own stupid fault.

And of course, you finally agreed with me on that point.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Joe on rye

Dear Dan,

I've been thinking of the time when you worked for Joe Ammerman. You had worked for him through his first term in Congress and were starting to gear up for re-election.

That fall I went through a period of baking bread and cookies. I had made a batch of biscotti that received less than rave reviews from you. I quite liked it but you -- not so much!

Later that week I baked some rye bread. You came in and had a bite. A few minutes later you came back in and asked if it was OK to take a loaf and give it to Joe. I was busy and not paying much attention. Out you went again for a few minutes and came back. At that point I asked "Joe who?

"Joe Ammerman, of course."

I just looked at you for a moment then said, "You MUST have thought that was good. You aren't about to poison you boss!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

Dear Dan,

You should have been here. You would have loved this one: the history of it, the pageantry, the camaraderie. I think you would have liked Lowery's benediction too. Say Amen!

I now you would have liked the music and Obama looks mighty fine in white tie, in a suit or in casual duds. Michelle is amazing and the kids are adorable.

You would have love the feeling of the day. There's a sense of hope but an understanding there is hard work to be done and it won't happen overnight.

It was a very good day.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Schlow Library

Dear Dan,

Every morning as I come to work I pass Schlow Library. Every morning as I pass Schlow mom tells me that she thinks of us when we were kids and used to go to the library when it was on College Avenue.

Schlow started in a wonderful house owned by the Schlows (ergo the name.) There were back stairs and cozy corners to sit and read. It was a magical place. I remember one room in particular. Down one set of back stairs there was a small room with built-ins. The "Wizard of Oz" books were on a low shelf. I used to sit on the floor and read. When it was time to leave, you would find me in there and we would go down the next flight of stairs to the check-out desk.

Mom always gave us enough money for a soda and a phone call.

One day Dan and I had spent the afternoon in the library, got our sodas and Dan made the call. Unfortunately he called the wrong number with our last dime.

My mom got a call from some woman who was laughing. Mom was ready to hang up but the woman apologized and asked her not to. When she was finally able to speak, she told my mom that Dan had called her.

The woman told Dan she wasn't his mother Dan asked, "Does this mean you aren't going to pick us up?"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Parking garages

Dear Dan,

Such a simple thing: pull into the parking garage, find a space and park. Well, not any more.

I wonder if there will ever come a day when I can park in a garage and not think of what happened one evening in July in Kansas City.

On occasion I drive to work and have to park in a parking garage of some sort. McAllister's lot only has 2 floors; one metered and one permit. Since it's on the side of a hill it almost doesn't count as 2 levels. Pugh Street has 5 floors. I don't like to drive higher than the second floor if I can help it.

Mom doesn't like going into garages at all. Sometimes she has to sit and wait in the car while I run in some place for a few minutes. I try not to park in a garage when she's with me but there are times it's unavoidable.

Scott won't go near a parking garage at all. I was going to take Scott to lunch one day and said something about meeting him downtown. Scott said "not in the parking garage!" I asked if it was because of you. He said yes.

I told Scott that particular garage doesn't have 7 floors. I can tell him every building in town that has 7 floors and that garage is not one of them.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cleaning stalls

Dear Dan,

The summer we spent at Flynn's working in the bard while they were away was one pretty cool summer for me. You were driving on a complete license - not a Cinderella - and mom was spending time in NJ.

In the morning we would decide if I would go along with you to the farm or stay home. My choice. In the evening the same was true if you were going to Stern's farm for a swim.

That was the summer of the Eastwood Farms "ghost" - poor ghost, I can't remember his name now. It started as a piece of mail sent to the farm for a name that no one knew. Somehow that turned into a ghost. Then the tricks began.

One day Dave dressed in a goofy shower cap and a long rain slicker to scare someone stacking hay. We could hear the screams all over the farm.

Then one day you decided to scare me while I was mucking stalls and grooming the aisle. I had finished raking the aisle and hooked up the hose to water it down. I couldn't hear you sneaking up behind me until you got almost to me. I didn't let on I knew you were there. You grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. I still had the trigger of the sprinkler pulled.

As you walked out soaking wet from the the barn to your partners in crime, you told them "I forgot she had a hose in her hand." You laughed so hard about that.

You had such a good sense of humor when it came to laughing at yourself.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Almost smoked

Dear Dan,

I've been thinking about our summer at Flynn's farm. I've especially been thinking about a span of a couple of weeks during that summer.

Mom was back and forth to Media while Dad was working in that area. You and I occasionally went with her. The rest of the time we spent home and at the farm.

Jane and Dave went to a show one week. You and I were two who stayed behind to take care of the horses both there and at the neighbor's.

The day they were coming home we went down to feed the neighbor's horses for the last time. As we were pulling apart bales of hay I saw smoke coming from one and said something to you. At first we thought it might just be dust. As I pulled another bale apart I realized those bales were HOT! You came over and felt it. It was at that point we realized that the hay was baled wet and we had the possibility of spontaneous combustion on our hands.

Having seen that happen once before, neither of us had a great desire to see it again any time soon. We dashed around, grabbing bales, sticking our hands between the flakes and ripping apart the bales that were hot. We also ripped apart the hot flakes. Tthen we went around the stalls and took the flakes away from the horses. We didn't want any colicky horses on our hands!

The Flynns and their neighbors came home not long afterwards. The neighbors came up to bitch us out for making a mess of the barn. You told them what happened and said "If the barn had caught fire I would not have run back in to get the horses." That echoed exactly how I felt because I am deathly afraid of fire. Mr. Neighborman realized his error and thanked you.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kill the pickle!

Dear Dan,

You loved all living creatures - which is but one reason your suicide came as such a nasty shock. While the first words out of my mouth as a child were "kill it; kill it; kill it!" you would protect that innocent, disgusting bug from becoming an itty bitty spot on the sole of someone's shoe.

If you were asked to kill a fly, you'd trap it and release it to the Great Outdoors. Same with a spider or other critters too awful to contemplate. When mom would put us down for naps, she'd do a load of our clothes. As she checked your pockets she found the critters to whom you had given refuge. From what I understand, you told mom it was too hot out for the poor beasties.

One evening we had gotten hoagies for dinner. As usual mom went back to the TV room afterward to watch Walter Cronkite. Did you know I take after mom and don't usually turn lights on while walking around at night? I know where everything is so if I'm not looking for some specific item, why bother?

Anyway, mom walked through the hallway and saw something wet and slimey looking laying on the floor. Apparently a slug got in - a hitchhiker on the dog perhaps? - and got as far as the back hall. Mom yelled for you to "killitkillitkillit!" You walked over and picked the damned thing up in your bare hands! EW!! You walked toward mom, holding the slug in front of you as you closed in on her. She backed into the wall, throwing her hands protectively in front of her, all the while yelling "killitkillitkillit!" That's when you asked "How do you kill a pickle?"