Bill was adopted when his biological mother died two days after he was born almost two months early. His suddenly single father had a 2-year-old to care for and couldn’t handle a premature infant, so John and Kay, who were friends of the family and childless, asked to adopt him. Bill always knew he was adopted and that he had an older brother but never knew where he was or even his name. And then along came Ancestry.
In 2017, I got him a DNA kit for his 68th birthday and eventually he agreed to spit into the vile and sent it off for analysis. Once it was processed, he learned he was not primarily Polish, as he’d always believed, but Slovakian. And then the fun really began.
Over the first half of 2018 he began discovering cousins and aunts and uncles and more cousins. Or so he thought. One inquiry from Tom, a first-cousin match, resulted in private emails going back and forth and, lo and behold, they weren’t cousins at all, but half-brothers! And in July, through this connection, Bill discovered his long-lost big brother, Jack.
After many emails between Jack and his wife Terry in Iowa and us here in Arizona, we set a date and a mid-point to get together and on May 13, 2019, Bill and Jack met for the first time in 70 years in Colorado.
They both admitted to being extremely nervous and neither knew what they would say or should say to each other or if they’d get along or even have anything in common. But once they met face-to-face it didn’t matter anymore.
As Terry and I held our breath and held back tears, Bill and Jack stood face-to-face in the parking lot of the VRBO condo we’d rented for the week. They stared at each other for a brief moment and Bill whispered, “Hi big brother,” and then they embraced. They both had tears in their eyes, they never stopped talking for four days, and they’re so much alike it’s scary.
The four of us became family instantly and we can’t wait to get together again. Maybe next Groundhog Day since Bill and Jack were both born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania!
Jack and Bill
We were babysitting our two granddaughters, Olivia, 8 and Morgan 5, for a couple of days before the 4th of July. Morgan had to make a bathroom trip while we were clearing the table after a successful dinner of Nana’s special meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and steamed broccoli. Yes, world, my granddaughters LOVE steamed broccoli!
Olivia was carefully stacking dishes into the dishwasher as Bill hovered next to her, and I got out the glass cleaner and paper towels for Morgan to use on the glass table top when she returned. A sudden eardrum shattering scream was followed by the sound of little bare feet running down the hall toward the kitchen.
“Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!” shrieked Morgan as she skidded to a stop in front of me, her shorts and undies at half-mast.
“Morgan, stop. Calm down and tell me what’s wrong,” I said in a soothing voice as I pulled up her clothes.
“Nana, Nana,” she panted, pointing back down the hall. “It’s bugs. In the bathroom. Bugs!”
Needless to say, Morgan has a ‘thing’ about insects. She is terrified of them. It could be a tarantula or an ant, her reaction would be the same. Scream, run, and scream some more.
“Okay, sweetie,” I replied, giving her a hug. “Show me where you saw the bugs.”
She took my hand and led me to the guest bathroom doorway and pointed across the small room toward the window. “Right there. By the window. And it moved!” she whispered.
I walked into the room and, sure enough, there was a dangerous, evil, grandchild eating beetle that was maybe twice as big as the head of a pin. As I leaned down to pick it up, Morgan cried out behind me. “No, Nana, don’t touch it. It could bite you.”
“Honey, I doubt that very much,” I said as I turned to show her the small black dot sitting in the palm of my hand. “Do you think it can swim?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she murmured through clenched fists.
“Should we throw it in the toilet to see?”
“Yes” she said, a glimmer of a grin spreading across her perfect little face as I tossed the little critter into the toilet. “Okay, Morgie, flush it down.”
She gleefully pushed the handle and watched the swirling water take the beetle into its vortex and disappear.
“You’re very brave Nana,” she said after the bug disappeared.
“Well honey, so are you. Not everyone would go back to a place where they knew there was something waiting that they were afraid of. But you did. Plus, you flushed it away.”
“I am brave,” she said with a smile as she took my hand and led me back toward the kitchen. “And brave gets ice cream, right?”
“Right,” I replied with a grin. “And brave little girls who wipe off the kitchen table get two scoops!”
It’s been two and a half years since Mom passed away. A couple of months after she was gone, we started on the interior remodeling projects that we’d been putting off so it wouldn’t upset her. They included scraping all the asbestos-laden popcorn-textured ceilings, replacing all the floor molding, and painting every wall and ceiling. And that was just the beginning. We gutted the master bath and the kitchen and did a total makeover in both rooms plus the guest bathroom. We had all new appliances installed and replace the old toilets with new low-flow, high seat models. We replaced all the old moldy carpeting with new mold-free short shag carpeting and peeled up lumpy linoleum and replaced it with tile in both bathrooms and the kitchen. We installed bullet lights and recessed cabinet lights and, finally, we installed all new interior doors and frames.
It took four months, but once it was done the fun really began as we hit the furniture stores. Living room, dining room, breakfast nook, master bedroom. It was a whirlwind of Memorial Day sales.
But now the house finally feels like ours. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mom’s very happy with the changes.
It started about a week after we’d took delivery of our new bedroom furniture and moved out of the guest room and into the master bedroom. I was just starting to go to sleep after fumbling for the remote on my nightstand and turning off the end of the 10 o’clock news when a very distinct “Patty” came from out of nowhere. My eyes popped open and I lay on the pillow quietly waiting. And I wasn’t disappointed. “Patty” echoed in the hallway outside our bedroom.
“Bill,” I hissed to the snoring lump lying next to me. When he didn’t answer I nudge him with my elbow. “Are you awake?” I asked softly.
“I am now,” he grumbled. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s mom,” I said quietly. “She’s calling me.”
“Well then just turn off your phone,” he muttered as he rolled over.
“She’s not calling me on my phone,” I whispered to his back. “She’s out in the hall.”
There was a momentary pause and I heard him inhale and exhale, drawing on husbandly reserves of patience. “Patt, your mother isn’t in the hall. She’s in a crematory box in the guest room closet.”
“I know that,” I groused as I struggled into a sitting position. “I’m just telling you that she’s also in the hall. I heard her calling my name. And no, before you say anything, I wasn’t dreaming because I wasn’t asleep.”
“Okay,” he replied, rolling back toward me. “What do you think she wants?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she wants her bedroom back. Maybe we should move back into the guest room. Maybe she doesn’t like the changes in the house. Maybe she’s mad because we got rid of the dining room table from Danish modern hell.”
“Well we can’t change things back, we’re not returning the furniture, the damn dining table’s been sold and we are NOT going to sleep in the guest room because your dead mother wants her bedroom back!”
“I know all that,” I sighed. “But I heard her and I don’t know what to do.”
“How about you try to go to sleep and see if it happens again. Then maybe you can have a mother-daughter talk with her and work it all out.”
“Alright, I’ll try,” I murmured as I snuggled back under the bed covers and lay my head on my pillow.
“Don’t worry hon,” he said as he kissed my forehead. “If she yells for you again, I’ll just tell her to knock it off.”
“Thanks, sweetie,” I whispered. “And if she asks, tell her the Red Menace went to the farm!”
Mom passed away peacefully in her sleep last night. Because the stories, and the journey they chronicled, were written lightheartedly, with humor and laughter being the end goal, Bill and I composed, this, Mom’s unofficial obituary to reflect the craziness that passed for our lives during the last 7 years. Thank you, all my loyal followers, for sharing this time with me and Bill and especially Mom.
Mrs. Elaine… passed quietly into the night on September 5, 2016. She was married to John the Nazi for 22 not-so-fun-filled years until she decided that he’d gone bad and sent him back to his daughter.
She is survived by her three children, Patty, Jimmy and the one who never calls; by four grandchildren, Patty’s son Ryan and her daughter – whose either Dana or Amber, and Jimmy’s two girls, whose names she can’t remember but they live in Michigan except one of them moved, maybe to Boston or Ohio or someplace where it gets cold and is dangerous so she should not go out alone at night. She was also a great-grandmother of four. She didn’t know which kids belong to who, but she knew who they were – the older girl, that other boy, the little wild girl and the new one who might be a girl but is probably a boy.
She spent her last few years happily perched on her beloved loveseat where she carried on long and fulfilling relationships with Drew Carey, Tom Bergeron and Alex Trebeck. She’ll miss them.
She will be remembered fondly and thought of often. Good night Mom.
“Would you like a half of a turkey sandwich?” I yell to Mom from the kitchen as I dragged out plates and sandwich ingredients from the frig.
“Sure,” she called back. “Are you cutting it?”
“Cutting what? The turkey?”
“No, the bread.”
I paused next to the kitchen counter, juggling a package of turkey slices, another of Smoked Gouda slices, a jar of mayonnaise, a head of lettuce and a loaf of 12-grain bread. “The bread?” I asked loudly.
“Yes, are you cutting it or getting it?”
I dumped the lunch makings onto the counter and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room. “What do you mean am I cutting it. It’s bread.”
“But the last time you made me a sandwich, you cut it too thick and I could hardly bite down on it,” she explained, opening her mouth wide, then loudly chomping her teeth together three or four times for emphasis.
“Mom,” I sighed, “it’s just a loaf from the store. It’s already sliced.”
“Oh, okay. Then it must have been a different loaf the last time. It was almost too fat to eat.”
“It’s the same bread we always get,” I said, turning to go back into the kitchen.
“Then you probably got a mistake.”
“A mistake?” I asked, pausing in the kitchen doorway. “What do you mean, a mistake?”
“You know, a mistake. Like the checker people didn’t check close enough and fat slices got put in the package.”
“Yup, that must be it,” I laughed. “Those damn checker people. And I’ll bet they probably want $15 an hour too, just like the McDonald’s people.”
“Well that’s not right. If they aren’t smart enough to know a fat slice of bread from a skinny one, then they don’t deserve a raise.”