Saturday, January 28, 2017


I am interrupting my journey with my dad through his letters in order to share my thoughts. Maybe I am too apolitical or not culturally refined enough or not socially aware enough. I don’t know. But I just don’t get these Marches for Women that have overtaken the country. Women fighting for “women’s rights.” Color me perplexed. When did they LOSE their rights? As far as I know, women in the US still have all their rights intact. Where was I when the female population lost their constitutional rights?

I still have the freedom of speech. I can say anything, write anything, at any time, without reprisal. I can worship in the church of my choice. I could easily pass a background check and buy myself a pistol and start packin’ heat if I wanted to. Nobody prevented me from voting a couple months ago. If I am arrested for any reason, I have the right to an attorney and a trial jury.

I have the right to get in my car and go wherever I want. I can accept or reject any job I am offered. I have the right to assemble any group I so choose. I have the right to due process of law. I have the right to own a home and property. I can associate with anyone I choose. Oh, the innumerable blessings of my rights!

What do women think they have lost? If they are irked because their pay is not equal to their male counterpart’s pay, is marching down a street with a sign magically going to incite their boss to increase their pay by 10%? Have some chutzpa, ladies! Go HAVE A CONVERSATION with your superior. Face to face negotiation probably goes a whole lot better than marching down a street hoping your boss will be moved to promote you.

There IS one right that women currently don’t have. We don’t have the right to PREVENT the slaughter of our unborn.

To women considering abortion: In exercising YOUR legal right to abort your baby (it’s not a choice, it’s a child), you forever and always silence the rights of another. Another human being who will never know the rights you have.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017



My father is obsessed with cameras and camera accessories. He regales Mom with details about what he is currently purchasing to go with his fancy new Roloflex.  

He wants Mom to bring with her Cooke’s Tour of Europe book so they can travel a lot (which they did). Dad takes a trip to see his buddy Bob in Nuremberg, Germany. He takes a bus to Bordeaux and declares, “the French drive like hell” and “just manage to miss every other oncoming car.” I know this disturbs him as he is always a conscientious and safe driver. I assume he buses the next leg of the journey too. Nuremberg, an “ancient city with Roman walls” was heavily bombed during WWII. I am intrigued when he says that it was one Hitler’s favorite cities. In 1952 it was the location of the War Crimes Building. He and Bob enjoy being together again.

Dad feels as if the residents of Bazas are getting to know who he is. He is surprised when many of them acknowledge him on the streets in the town square with a “doktor” and a nod of the head.

He now is telling Mom that he thinks they should buy a Hillman Minx convertible since one of their dreams is to own a convertible someday. WHAT? With a baby? WHAT? My pragmatic parents? Of course, car safety was not of prime importance back then. It wasn’t until 1968 that seat belts were mandated in all cars. Obviously they thought (for a moment) that breezing across a dozen countries with the top down was romantic. Reason apparently usurped their romanticism and they ended up buying a Chevy.

The house at 43 Rue de la Taillade in Bazas
where I was conceived

My dad has scruples, he does. A lifelong trait. The major wants to lower the venereal disease rates in the camp. Now, one would think that some serious classes about sexual behavior and sexual safety would help. Oh no, this major wants to change some of the diagnoses of VD to “non-specific urinary infections.” Ethical issues even in the 1952 army. Seriously? Dad laments, “Getting mad at him is like hitting your head against a wall.”

Dad tells the major he is against lying about the statistics, but “has to cooperate” because he is outranked. What I love is when Dad says he has every intention of reporting the fraud and deceit to the Colonel when he comes! Good for you, Dad!

Dad is wistful about his baby boy. “I only hope he won’t be afraid of his daddy as he is probably going to be strictly a mama’s boy until he gets to know me again.” That thought must have been hard. (Apparently it only took a couple days and Mike and Dad were reconnected.)

Apparently Mom brings up pregnancy and Dad puts it quickly on the back burner. "The OB care and hospital are both too far and I would rather wait so we had one when we get home." Mom agreed with the wisdom and they waited another year to get pregnant.

I’ve always been a little miffed at them for not staying long enough to give me French citizenship. But their duty was over and Mom could not fly after 7 months so in my watery womb, I had to bid adieu to the City of Lights and come into the world in a good old Midwestern hospital. Not born in France, but being conceived there holds a special place in my heart.

25 more days…

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


(For you who read my last blog, this is a continuation of that post. A journey with my dad through his letters to my mom during the Korean War.)

                                              INSTALLMENT 2

The news is unsettling: One 2-star general and one 1-star general are coming to Captieux to inspect the camp. Not music to Dad’s ears. Nor mine, as I know my Dad’s unease with any sort of confrontation.

That happy news is accompanied by the acquisition of five new ambulances, a dentist and several more troops coming to join his outpost. He is happy about the ambulances, not so much about the increase in enlisted men to supervise.

Because of the increase however, the army sends over a new major, who outranks dad (a captain), and assumes authority. The major is “hopping mad” because they made him leave a very soft assignment in Boston and sent him to what he thinks is the worst assignment in the world. Dad says the major feels he has been “banished to Captieux.”

Dad is neither upset nor threatened. He is relieved about now not having to be camp spokesman when the generals come to inspect. Dad is let off the hook! The first day, the major asks Dad if he will get up for the early sick call, and if he will, he can leave at noon. I am pumped along with him for an afternoon off!!

A few letters later, it is clear that the "job-sharing" arrangement with the major is more permanent than one day. Dad is very content with this.

The Army has finally given Mom a departure date on the Queen Mary ocean liner for Feb. 9, a month away! I wonder how long she and Mike have to sail. Dad is ecstatic and now counting down days. She is bringing with her a washer, a car, and a refrigerator for starters. Dad is adding to the list daily! He says they are so expensive in France that shipping them over and selling them when they leave will make them money.

He has secured his lease of the old house but still living at the inn with the officers. Fleas are still a problem. He has bites everywhere and I wish I could give him some 2016 remedies. Right now, I cringe as he sprays his room with DDT...all the officers are using it. He wears long johns to bed to keep the bites at a minimum. Madame Salm continues to make extraordinary meals for the men staying in her hotel, Lion D'Or. Good thing Mom was an excellent cook or she would be feeling slightly threatened with the meal standards that Madame Salm is setting feeding her husband!

The men still sit around after dinner and "share their Kodakchromes." Pictures and slides being mailed back and forth from families stateside is something he writes about almost daily. The Kodachromes are lifelines.  As are all these letters filled with such love: ”I will have enough staples bought at the commissary for us because we’re not going to want to leave the house for 2-3 days when you get here" and "You are due for beaucoup loving; come prepared!” I am warmed by their love as I read.

I wince mockingly as he writes to mom that he wonders if he could ever love another child as much as he loves Mike. I wanted to whisper in his ear that he could. And did. Lavishly. Never was a daughter more loved.

I love this daily accounting of Dad's army career, thoughts, decisions, feelings and tasks. He sometimes writes twice a day and then sends both at one time. Mom writes daily to him. In our digital culture,we have lost the treasure of a letter written on paper, in long-hand and found in our be read over and over. I feel so blessed to have these. the last leg of the wait for Mom and Mike....

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


I am on a delightful journey these days. With my dad. For about an hour every night, I am with him.  I have thrust myself into the movie of his life, for about 4 months in 1951-52, reading all of the letters he wrote to my mom while stationed in France during the Korean War. I feel as if I am walking with him daily as he goes about his business and longs for the arrival of his wife and 2 year old son.

The letters begin when he leaves his medical practice in North Dakota and puts himself under Army command for the next few years. He hangs out in New York City at a hotel, checking in daily at Ft. Kilmer, until his troop transport ship is ready, seeing some Broadway shows and eating well at restaurants with his best friends from med school who happened to be in the same contingent.

When the ship leaves port is when I really engage with him. I stand next to him on the deck of the ship while he barfs his seasick guts out. I sit beside his rocking bed while he tries to get down some tea. I put my arm around him to steady his wobbly sea legs when he gets off the boat.

When he arrives in Germany, I wait with him, sharing his angst as he waits to find out where the Army is sending him on assignment. I had to smile behind his back at his description of being sent to “the worst assignment ever” in Captieux, France (only because I knew it ended up being a blessing in disguise). He was made Commanding Medical Officer of a dispensary (clinic) at an ammunition storage site, “full of dirty, vulgar, VD-ridden enlisted men.” He tells Mom how let-down he is and how miserable this is going to be.

The letters are fraught with love and longing. Every single one, without exception, has at least 2 paragraphs of him expressing his deep love for her and how intensely he misses her and my brother Mike. He is so lonesome. After 2 months of letters, he has yet to use my mom’s given name….just “darling” or “honey”…..if I was a teenager, I would say, “Gross.”

The letters have been both mundane and highly entertaining. I raise my eyebrows when he decides to buy a gray sweater to go with his PINK “trousers.” (must have been the trendy color in the early 50’s!) I avert my eyes when he takes his baths in his small metal bathtub. I laugh at his very graphic descriptions of the other officer’s wives (just a few follow) after a Christmas party: “The colonel’s wife is nice and looks like a boxer, has a nose like Buddy Baer. The major’s wife is nice-looking, neurotic, 35, and drinks like a fish. The captain’s wife is a very buxom type, former Army nurse, pregnant and very hard.”

Together we saunter down to the open air markets and see all the fresh bread and veggies and meats. He tells mom that she will have lots of fresh food. I am relieved with him when he moves into an inn/boarding house with other officers awaiting their families. His landlady, Madame Salm, becomes a dear friend and pseudo-grandmother to my brother.

Before Mom’s arrival, Madame Salm rents him one of her old houses in the town of Bazas. For now, she cooks 5 course dinners for the guys every night and it isn’t unusual for them to spend 4 hours to eat and drink wine (The French like their wine!). She makes things like oysters on the half-shell, filet mignon, fresh salmon, and very elaborate desserts. Where I am in the letters, Dad tells mom he has put on many pounds!

His obsession with cameras and photography: begun here. His utter commitment to keeping his family close to him: begun here. His preference for writing instead of talking: begun here. His disgust with rude, dishonest, unkind people: begun here. His obsession with financial details: begun here. He reports to mom every purchase he makes and details the cost. He managed their home accounts with precision from France. It is interesting to see the genesis of some of my dad’s traits through these passionate letters to mom.

Mom has just received her approval from the Army to go, so dad is now instructing her about what and what not to bring and reassures her that even though conditions in France are very antiquated and dirty, together they will create a clean, cozy home for themselves.

I will get to live through his excitement as the day comes closer to her arrival….he is near beside himself! Thanks, Dad, for this gift of a journey I could never have taken with you if you had not put it all down. I wish you were here so I could tell you what a total delight these letters are.