November 2016

After celebrating our 68th wedding anniversary on July 17 Charlie was admitted to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Gig Harbor where he was to have a procedure to promote the healing of a pressure sore on his toe. We waited anxiously after they took him into surgery, which we were told could take a couple of hours. It was only about an hour later the surgeon came out to deliver the devastating news.

He said it was serious, and the infection had spread, but we weren’t ready for the final words of the doctor. My husband who had suffered several strokes and had been bound to a wheelchair since 2008 was being taken from me because of what most people would consider a minor injury. But because he had other health issues, diabetes and a couple of recent heart attacks, the risks were much greater.

Charlie was admitted to Franciscan Hospice House in Tacoma the same day. He passed on August 10, 2016, peacefully and painlessly.

As some of you know if you have lost a loved one, I am going through some changes in my life. Those of you who know me best understand that I will get through this although how long it will take I don’t know. I am getting excellent care, emotionally and spiritually and our beloved children are close by.

Meanwhile, life goes on. The holiday season approaches with new meaning for me. I don’t need to point out to readers the importance of keeping loved ones close to you and to letting them know as often as you can that your love for them is paramount. Happy Holidays to all of you.

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Dorothy Schaeffer Williams: A Star is Born!

If you didn’t watch America’s Talent this week you missed a good one! The star of the evening, a woman named Dorothy Williams, age 90, from Hilo, Hawaii, who did a striptease in her audition, is the daughter of a woman who was one of my mother’s best friends in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s.

She is related to the family my aunt Emma Durand married into in Chicago. My cousin, Father Don Durand, Emma’s son, was the one who told me to be sure and watch. He just found out about the striptease Dorothy performed for her audition. He said, “Oh, no! And I told so many people to watch!”

Father Don doesn’t have a TV so will see his Aunt Dorothy’s audition for the first time at a family reunion this weekend. I don’t believe she embarrassed the family. I think she gave all of us a sorely needed kick in the kielbasa!

Go Dorothy!

Thanks for the memories

Last week I was honored by friends and family with a “launch party” for the publication of the second book of a memoir. This was a continuation of a story about my immigrant grandparents and their descendants and how the couple and their offspring survived those early and middle days of the 20h century in Chicago, Illinois.

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The first book, Albin’s Letters, includes courtship and the struggles my grandparents had in Finland during a time when Russia was trying to absorb their country into its borders. The second book, Hilda’s Secrets, is about their marriage and more struggles as they carved out a life as new arrivals to an already established community of immigrants from other lands.

Neither book fits the criteria for a romance novel. In fact they wouldn’t even qualify as non-fiction because everything I learned about my grandparents was told to me by my mother, Esther, Albin and Hilda’s firstborn. Both stories are enhanced versions of true events.

Theirs was not a fairy tale romance and some of the events are not pretty because they are real people who lived real lives.

I signed copies of my books and visited with guests in my apartment’s dining room at the event hosted by my children. A couple of my daughters made cookies for the party, including some Swedish and Finnish specialties from cookbooks passed on to me from Grandma Hilda through my mother.
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Esther was an artist and wore many hats throughout her life. She loved to party and danced her years away until she reached 100. She crocheted and knit throughout her life, learned to be a milliner, took up oil painting when she was in her 80s and was awarded a scholarship for a semester at the Chicago Art Institute.

A hard worker all her life, she also worked during WW2 sewing leather gloves on a power sewing machine in a factory, cleaned houses, worked as a waitress, and worked for a time as a proofreader at Playboy Magazine. She also walked every day of her life, to work, for exercise and taking black and white photos of Chicago landmarks that she published on postcards and sold at train stations and other outlets in the city.

Enough of this lengthy post! I could go on about my mother’s life but maybe it would be better to feature Esther in a separate story. For now I would just like to thank the 50-plus family, friends, residents and staff at Stafford Healthcare and Ridgemont Retirement Apartments who took the time to attend my second book celebration. I love you all. My neighbors are having a tough time wiping the grin off my face!

Albin’s Letters and Hilda’s Secrets by Rosie Atkinson are available at amazon.com/books. Some bookstores in the county carry the titles in their computers and may be ordered from them.

Happy Easter

The “Stafford Wives Club” at the health care facility on Pottery in Port Orchard, continues to flourish with Kris, our fearless leader, urging us into interesting diversions.

Five of us including Bev, our widowed member, went to lunch on the Tacoma Waterfront recently and enjoyed a pleasant get together over taco salads and beef dip sandwiches.

We learn a lot from each other when we feel relaxed enough to talk about our daily lives. Valuable insight with just casual conversation is worth the effort. These get-togethers relieve us of stress that naturally builds up over the days and weeks visiting our loved ones.

We do what we can to fill in the gaps between nursing home caregivers and nurses. A good relationship with the professional staff at the facility is vital. Many of them have becomes friends as well.

It isn’t easy for the guys to be confined, away from their garages, boats and beloved trucks and gadgets, and of course family and friends. We do what we can to fill in the gaps and smooth out the rough edges where and when needed. It sometimes really does take a village. That’s when some of us call in the “Big Guns” (family members) to assist.

Meanwhile our little group has each other to carry on and bolster each other’s spirits. It helps to have a shoulder to lean on when our own shoulders become weak with heavy burdens we feel we can no longer carry by ourselves.

Nursing Home Wives Club

There are four of us.

Before our husbands became ill or disabled we were wives and mothers, working at home raising kids, cooking meals, planting gardens, doing the shopping and laundry like other women in our neighborhoods. Some of us held outside jobs as well.

What we all have in common is we love our guys and we try to make their lives as meaningful and normal as they were before they had to be confined to round the clock care.

We all went through the nightmare of trying to explain to our life partners why they could no longer drive and why at this late stage in our marriages we were now in control of the checkbook and the car keys. It is never easy for any of us when we see the macho man of our dreams for the past 40, 50 or 60 years reduced to the guy in a wheelchair.

As they see it, they are desperately making an attempt to hold onto what little is left of a normal lifestyle. There’s a lot of humor involved in keeping the spirits up in both spouses, no matter which one of us is bedridden or wheelchair bound and living in a healthcare facility. We talk about the good times we had and we still worry about our kids and grandkids. We laugh as we compare the good old days with what’s going on today with all those candidates running for president in 2016.

There is also sadness. One of the wives lost her beloved mate of 50-plus years last week. We all mourn for our dear friend and the thought crosses our minds: “It could have been one of us.”

But it wasn’t.