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Two Christmas Gifts

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

(click to enlarge illustrations)

Tuesday brought an unexpected assignment: the kind that goes along with the general category of “honey, do….” Ellen, my spouse’s long-time friend, needed a ride to a doctors appointment, and there was a schedule conflict. I volunteered.

Ellen is a long-time U.S. citizen, of African descent, whose accent betrays her growing up in one of the islands of the British West Indies. Ellen’s appointment flowed out of a knee problem so serious that she had to be transported by ambulance recently from the city bus on which she was riding for medical care. The pain had been too excruciating.

Back and forth to her job requires 3 1/2 hours a day on the bus, part of which requires a two block walk to the bus stop closest to her home, and a transfer in downtown Minneapolis. It has been very cold recently, and one day was just too much. Ellen badly needs a knee replacement. She needs her job more. She has no car.

As I drove her to and from the appointment we chatted about this and that. Ellen is someone you’d enjoy visiting. Even on the worst of days, she is upbeat.

I noted the big difference between Christmas weather here and on her home island. She’s been here a long time, and she thinks the snow is an important part of the Twin Cities Christmas season.

We talked a bit about Christmas back home on the island, and it brought out her own nostalgia.

I didn’t take notes – I was driving, after all – but she talked about how at Christmas time people from the churches went around singing Christmas carols in the town in which she lived. There was visiting, small gifts exchanged, other rituals that go with important occasions.

An apparently important event was the seasonal changing of the window drapes in homes…I gathered it was not a competition, rather an opportunity to admire and compliment the work of the occupants of the homes.

It brought to mind simpler times, not filled with fashion, and day after exchanges at the malls, a quest for things for which we have no need, as we have here.

There are many more pieces to this story, of course.

But on a Tuesday afternoon in St. Paul MN I got a great Christmas gift, thanks to my spouse and her friend, Ellen.

(In the caption for this post, I talk of two Christmas Gifts.

The second gift came in the form of the Christmas card which included the two pictures you see above.

This came about the same time as my visit with Ellen, and came from Mohamed, who I have been honored to have as a friend for 63 years. Mohamed (his birth legal name) I knew by another name way back then in rural North Dakota. His faith, then and now, Mohammedan (Muslim).

There was a brief message with the card, but the card really says it all.

“Let there be peace on earth” goes a song oft-sung.

Let peace…and its necessary neighbor, justice…begin with each and every one of us.)

Frederic’s Gift: A Message for Christmas 2016

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

In November, 1985, over 30 years ago, a single page letter arrived at my office in Hibbing MN. It was from June Johnson, a teacher of English at Bigfork (MN) High School, who edited our Teacher union newsletter, Top of the Range. Her reminiscence is from the 1940s most likely in the general area of North Dakota’s Souris River (Minot area).

June’s message speaks for itself. The link is here: Frederic’s Gift001

The message is for sharing.

Peace and best wishes for this Christmas holiday, and a good New Year in 2017.

Dick Bernard

Dick Bernard: At Thanksgiving 2016.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Tuesday night came the first snowfall of the season here in Woodbury. Perhaps there will be a little left as we go “over the river and through the woods…” (not really, but across town for a family gathering Thanksgiving Day.)

Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are.

This year I’ve been thinking back to a small Thanksgiving ‘trilogy’ I included in a “kitchen table” newsletter, Chez Nous*, I edited in the 1980s and 1990s.

There was one photo included:

Preparing Wild Rice

Preparing Wild Rice

Three short articles accompanied the post, from Nov. 1993. You can read them here: thanksgiving001. Author Ernest Ebert was a retired North Dakota farmer, then in his late 80s, who wrote often and eloquently about rural life. Jim Northrup has since become a noted Native American author. He is Ojibway from the Duluth area. Sammi Whipple grew up on the Red Lake (MN) Indian reservation. Each tell brief stories from their own perspective.

In addition:

Earlier this week came a once-in-awhile mailing from a good friend, who occasionally selects a few poems for some of us on her list. With her permission, I’d like to share these with you: poems-at-thanksgiving-collected-by-a-friend

Finally, not everyone is comforted by the just completed U.S. election. Pastors everywhere get caught in the middle . Another friend sent along a message from Fr. Joe on Nov. 13, 2016; I asked Joe, who’s a friend, for permission to reprint, and later in the week he sent on another message, for Nov. 20. Both are printed here, and speak for themselves: fr-joe-nov-2016001. A book I’d highly recommend: The Impossible Will Take A Little While, by Paul Loeb. Note: This very well known book was most recently revised by Paul in 2014.

Happy Thanksgiving.

* – If interested in this and other articles from the old Chez Nous, go here , click library, click Chez Nous. All 1000 pages are available on line, fully indexed. These were “kitchen table” productions in the time pre-dating sophisticated word processing. A new compiled three volume set of these 1980-2002 newsletters can be purchased. More information here (scroll down).

Dick Bernard: Dec 22, 1987, and Nov. 7, 1997: Remembering Two Days in the Life of Dad.

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Today we were planning to be at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL, for the 50th anniversary of the Apartment Community, where my Dad, Henry Bernard, lived the last ten years of his life, 1987-97. A scheduling conflict caused a change in plans, so, rather than being on site today, I decided to do what Dad liked to do…look through pictures and reminisce. His travels “were by the National Geographic”, he liked to say.

I’ve picked one particular day in his life at Our Lady of the Snows: his 80th birthday, December 22, 1987.

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Henry Bernard at home, Apt. 96A, Our Lady of the Snows.

Henry Bernard at home, Apt. 96A, Our Lady of the Snows.

Dad moved north, from San Benito TX, in August, 1987. His San Benito friends, the Brasher’s, were “winter Texans” and lived in Belleville, and suggested he “try out” the Apartment Community for a trial period. He was 79. Mom had died in 1981. It was time.

Depending on one’s point of view, Dad either came and conquered, or was conquered by, this beautiful place with a great view of St. Louis Gateway Arch directly west. He took an efficiency apartment, which over time became his house (in almost a real sense). The beautiful grounds became his lawn, perfect for long walks; the chapel and the library were a short walk indoors, and there was a woodworking shop which he used, and exercise facilities as well. I would guess he was considered a “character” by the community at large. In assorted ways we kids saw him in action each time we visited. He was no recluse!

I choose one particular visit.

His 80th birthday was December 22, 1987, and he set himself a goal, per a national fitness program, to walk a 15 minute mile every day for 80 days, ending on his 80th birthday. His chosen route began at the ampitheater down the hill, and was timed to end at the Angelus bell.

My sister and I were there in the very early morning of day 80, to walk the route with him. He posed for a photo before he began.

The Walking Route, Dec. 22, 1987.  The goal was at the more or less directly behind Dad.

The Walking Route, Dec. 22, 1987. The goal was at the more or less directly behind Dad.

It was a rather icy day, I recall, but that was no deterrent for our Dad. He’d set his goal…period. Back and forth, row by row, he walked briskly. He was hard to keep up with. He was 6’3″, and he had been conditioning for this for 80 days! He arrived at his destination after 13 minutes. We were not far behind. I was pooped. The Angelus Bells rang.

His apartment, 96A, was a place to behold: a single bed, a homemade desk, a recliner, telephone, radio (to listen to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, etc.) There was never a dull moment in his life, right to the end. At his Memorial Mass at the Apartment Community Chapel a few weeks after his death we played an audio tape about family that he had recorded some years earlier at Our Lady of the Snows for St. Louis’ shutins on Radio Information Service (RIS) for the Blind. It was a nice testimony about him, for others.

I had especially hoped to be there this year because, not part of the communities planning of course, his death was on the evening of this day, early in the morning of November 7, 1997, when Dad died in the geriatric unit at Our Lady of the Snows. My sister and I were there at the end. He almost made 90.

Less than two weeks after his death I was back in Illinois, at a conference at the O’Hare Hilton, and picked up a copy of the Chicago Sunday Tribune. By chance, this day, I came across this column by Mary Schmich: My father died 1997001.

To this day, when somebody’s father dies, I sent them a copy of the column.

The following Memorial Day, 1998, we family members gathered at the Apartment Community to dedicate a flag pole to the memory of our Dad, and his brother, our Uncle Frank Bernard, who died December 7, 1941 on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. We thought it a most appropriate memorial, and it is still there. Here is the program from that day: henry-bernard-flag-dedic008

Dedication of flagpole with Grandpa Bernards 48 star flag, Memorial Day, 1998, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL

Dedication of flagpole with Grandpa Bernards 48 star flag, Memorial Day, 1998, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL

We Dads are people like everyone else. We have our stories, our triumphs, tragedies, dilemmas…. This is a good day for me to remember my Dad. I hope this story has a similar effect for you, about someone in your own life.

On the grounds, Dec. 22, 1987

On the grounds, Dec. 22, 1987

At work in his "office" in Unit 96A

At work in his “office” in Unit 96A

Checking for a "postal" in the days before computers took over.  I doubt he ever actually touched a computer!

Checking for a “postal” in the days before computers took over. I doubt he ever actually touched a computer!

The Birthday Photo in Dad's unit Dec. 22, 1987.

The Birthday Photo in Dad’s unit Dec. 22, 1987.

The St. Louis Gateway Arch from the Apartment Community Grounds, Dec. 22, 1987

The St. Louis Gateway Arch from the Apartment Community Grounds, Dec. 22, 1987

Dick Bernard: Two encounters with the Chicago Cubs

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

This morning we were in Rochester MN, across the street from St. Mary’s Hospital. We were having breakfast and struck up a conversation with a couple whose daughter was having surgery across the street. They were from Austin TX, and they were giddy about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series a few hours earlier in Cleveland. Others around were giddy as well. Apparently the game was watched by tens of millions last night.

We hadn’t watched the game. Indeed we hadn’t followed the series. The last time I’d heard, the Cubs were down three games to one, almost an insurmountable obstacle. But they had come back, and in the 7th game prevailed.

Nonetheless, diehard fan or not, the Cubs first championship in 108 years was uplifting, and not just to fans in Chicago. And it caused me to think back to two personal encounters with the Cubs back in the 1950s when I was a teenager.

Those days we lived in the country near the tiny village of Mooreton ND (west of Wahpeton). Long trips were perhaps 100 miles and those were very few and far between. Our media was radio, and at the time my baseball hero was Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees. (North Dakota hero Roger Maris was to come later.)

I can fix the dates we went to Chicago quite easily: in 1955 my Uncle Art married Aunt Eileen and they moved to Chicago, where Art was a sales engineer for General Electric. In the summer, we drove over 600 miles to Chicago to meet the new bride.

(click to enlarge)

Dick, at right, and Frank, summer, 1955.

Dick, at right, and Frank, summer, 1955.

Then, in the summer of 1956 Art and Eileen had their first child, John, and I have a family photo of us visiting the family in suburban Chicago.

It was an adventure taking long trips in those days before the Interstate. You went through cities, not around them; four lanes were rare and not limited access, and usually just wider highways. There were 7 of us in our 1951 Plymouth Suburban on both trips. Air conditioning? You opened the car windows…. The second trip I had a drivers license and could help drive – an adventure in itself. It was a very long trip compared with today.

At Anoka MN, summer 1956, from left: Henry, Frank, John, Esther, Mary Ann and Florence Bernard.  Richard was apparently the photographer.

At Anoka MN, summer 1956, from left: Henry, Frank, John, Esther, Mary Ann and Florence Bernard. Richard was apparently the photographer.

The highlight of both trips to Chicago were, for me, a game at Wrigley Field, the first professional baseball games I had ever seen.

Likely my Uncle had access to tickets through General Electric, and both times, I remember, we sat in the stands above the first base line, looking towards the deep outfield in left.

Of course, the games were day games as Wrigley did not have lights. Both times, the weather was beautiful. On neither visit were the White Sox in town, so our only experience was to see the Cubs, twice. No photographic evidence exists that we were there, which is disappointing. We were.

I don’t remember much of the detail except for one single fact for each year: those years, the League was eight teams; and both years, the Cubs and their opponent, one the New York Giants, the other the Pittsburgh Pirates, were 7th and 8th in the standings. Why do I remember that? I don’t know.

It made little difference. The games were great to watch and a cut above the town team contests we were used to back home.

I’ve always wondered if we saw legendary Ernie Banks in those games. My guess is that we did, since he began his career with the Cubs in the early 1950s. But at that time, he was just a player, not yet a legend!

All I have of those couple of afternoons is pleasant memories of major league baseball in a unique baseball park, named for a chewing gum that was popular at the time!

Congratulations, Cubs.

The wait was worth it, and the ending last night was spectacular. If only the game had been in daylight at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Thanks for the memories.

#1159 – Dick Bernard: Ruby Fitzgerald. Farewell to a gentle lady.

Monday, August 29th, 2016

The note announcing the death of Ruby Fitzgerald, age 95, began with a photo (below) and ended with a brief note “The tiny plaque pictured on the front of this card graced Ruby’s kitchen wall for most of her life.”

(click on picture to enlarge)
Ruby Fitzgerald

Saturday, I was fortunate to be in a room filled with people who all were privileged to know Ruby over the years. I think Ruby would have been very pleased. Here is the written story of Ruby Fitzgerald as presented by her family: Ruby Fitzgerald002.

My mother and Ruby were first cousins; actually double cousins: their respective Mom and Dads were brother and sister, and they grew up on adjoining farms in rural Berlin, North Dakota.

As happens, family life paths diverged, and because of geography, they only rarely saw each other, and we didn’t get to know Ruby.

Ruby and my Aunt Edithe, born two months apart, graduated from the same high school in the Berlin High School class of 1938. Their families and many others had weathered the very worst of the Great Depression together. Probably from that experience came the significance of Ruby’s plaque pictured in the death announcement.

Ruby was an honor student, and had a scholarship to Jamestown College, but there was no money to go to college. That is how the Great Depression was.

In 1993, for a Busch-Berning family history, Ruby wrote a very vivid descriptive story of her years on the North Dakota farm . You can read it here: Ruby Fitzgerald 1993001. Anyone of a certain age, who grew up in rural North Dakota, will quickly identify with her description of rural life.

I only saw the Fitzgeralds a few times, but the visits are remembered fondly. For some reason, way back, I drove the then-country Jamaca Avenue west of Stillwater to visit them at their small farm. Most likely, then, I was starting my search for the family history of the Busch and Berning families. Their’s was a warm, hospitable place.

By good fortune, in going through my Busch family pictures this summer, I came across a photo of Ruby and her twin sister Ruth taken about 1921.

Ruby and Ruth Berning ca 1921 at home.

Ruby and Ruth Berning ca 1921 at home.

I took the photo to Ruby at the Ramsey County Nursing Home on Father’s day weekend, and she filled in the details of a fact I had known for years, without knowing the details. She was obviously moved by the photo.

She said that Ruth, her sister, had died at age 2 1/2 of whooping cough, most likely at the rural Cuba City WI farm home of her mother, Christina’s, parents, Wilhelm and Christina Busch. (After 13 years in North Dakota, the family went back home for the birth of the twins; thence they stayed in Wisconsin or Dubuque for another thirteen years before returning to the North Dakota farm, which they had rented out. The plant in which Ruth’s Dad worked had closed, and as I heard another family member say, at least on the farm they could have a garden, and eat. That is how it was.)

Three weeks after she saw the photo, Ruby died.

We all have our stories.

Ruby lives on through a wonderful family, and great memories.

I’m honored I could be present on Saturday. Ruby is at peace, and our world is the better for her having been with us.

Chritina Berning 1939

Chritina Berning 1939

August Berning 1941

August Berning 1941

The Berning girls 1977.  (There were two boys, August and Melvin, plus two young children, a boy and girl, who died very young.)

The Berning girls 1977. (There were two boys, August and Melvin, plus two young children, a boy and girl, who died very young.)

Ruby is 4th from left in the photo.

#1156 – Changing the Political Conversation: Two Remarkable Events.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Voter Registration Rules by State: here. Very useful handy guide. Share.

An appeal for a more civil political conversation from the Benedictines in Duluth MN: here. Special thanks to Molly.

Three generations at a political picnic, August 15, 2016

Three generations at a political picnic, August 15, 2016

Monday’s celebration of Minnesota former Gov. Wendy Anderson‘s life was both uplifting and emotional – I attended…and I’m a person who met him only twice, and then briefly, well into the late autumn of his life. (My personal comments on the Memorial are here.)

His greatest days in the Minnesota legislature were in the early 1970s, when “people disagreed and worked together anyway” in the words of one of the speakers. This was a time when the adversaries staked out their positions, but often actually liked and respected each other, and figured out a way to negotiate to resolution of issues, even if, as Governor Mark Dayton marvelled, it took a near half year Special Session, back then, to get to “yes”.

Todays epidemic of the politics of personal destruction of the enemy other existed, I’m sure, but the combat then was child’s play compared to now.


But I noticed something else, Monday, since immediately after the Memorial Service, I left to go to a DFL Senate District 53 event (my home District).

By and large the crowd in the Church was of my demographic, “old white guys”, who had been through the political wars together. You probably couldn’t tell friend from adversary there: lots of handshaking, reminiscing…. Most well-dressed for the occasion, some UofM or Hillcrest neighborhood hockey alums, wearing the jersey for one of their own.

The pews were filled with the face of 1970s Minnesota, when politics was largely for successful white men who had the time and the resources to do public service. One of these, long deceased, was my best political friend: Gov. Elmer L. Andersen, a lifelong conservative, a wealthy businessman, but one who was an amazingly progressive man, largely due to having been orphaned at an early age.

He understood hardship from the ground up, and the need for civilly working together.

But my guess is that it was the rare female or ethnic minority face making government policy those long ago years. As Governor Dayton said in his remarks, among his other assets, Wendell Anderson, very proud of his Swedish ancestry, had “son” as the last three letters of his name – very, very helpful in a state like ours.


Back in Woodbury, there was a new “face” I saw at the DFL Senate District 53 picnic.

I took snapshots as I usually do, and two of these catch the general lay of the land better than the others (below, and leading this post).

(click to enlarge)

August 15, 2016 Mn Senate District 53 picnic.

August 15, 2016 Mn Senate District 53 picnic.

At left is U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, (squinting into a very bright sun); next to her, State Rep. JoAnn Ward, completing her second term, with a passion for returning civil discourse to the practice of politics; talking to her, State Senator Susan Kent, completing her first four year term, taking a leadership role on some tough issues at the legislature. Finally, walking in from the right, U.S. Congressperson Betty McCollum, in her 8th term in Congress representing the St. Paul and east suburban area.

At the same event, but not in the photo, was Alberder Gillespie, long time resident and an impressive leader who’s far more than paid her dues, now running for her first time State Representative in the east side of the Senate District.

Some of these candidates have women opponents; some men.


There is a very different look to politics these days, in my suburban district, and I’m very glad for that.

There are the young people who attended; and those representing other ethnic groups and religions, leaders among them, who were there. All of these are welcome players in our political conversation.


One might understand that some of my cohort (older white men) take exception to the change we are seeing; some struggle against it. Commanders like to stay in command.

But this is a new reality. We won’t be going back to how it was in the “good old days”, where “good old boys” ran the club. Those days have ended. We’re all more and more equally part of the group.

Personally, I am delighted at the true benefit/gift/grace of a more diverse representation in our government at all levels.

We are far from perfection, granted, but as dysfunctional as the process of seeking leaders seems to be at this moment in our history, what is happening now is normal when deep change is genuinely occurring.

We are making significant progress, which I will do everything I can to help continue.

We all need to get deeply involved.

Now. (Early voting begins in some places within the next month.)

#1147 – Wendell R. Anderson, Minnesota Governor, World Citizen, Feb. 1, 1933 – July 17, 2016

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Today’s local news will be full of news about Wendell R. Anderson, Governor of Minnesota, 1971-78; Minnesota legislator from 1959 forward.

I will be hoping for mention of the Governors key role in Minnesota’s Declaration of World Citizenship, signed March 26, 1971, by Governor Anderson and the entire range of Minnesota’s political and civil leadership; followed in early 1972 by a 30 minute film, Man’s Next Giant Leap, which featured a great many prominent political and civic leaders of the day, including Governor Anderson, speaking publicly of achieving World Peace through World Law and Justice to the citizens of the state of Minnesota.

The film and Declaration feature a literal “Who’s Who” of Republican and DFL (Democrat) leaders of the time, as well as civic, education and religion leadership. Gov. Anderson was doubtless a key person in moving the bi-partisan initiative. Singer John Denver, who donated his time, is prominently featured in the film.

You can view the Minnesota Declaration of World Citizenship, and the 1972 film, Man’s Next Giant Leap, here.

If you’ve not heard of the film or the Declaration, you will be amazed at how a state’s political and civil celebrities could publicly come together around a common theme of World Peace through World Law during the most heated and polarized national time of the Vietnam War.

Gov. Anderson is at peace.

He made a big and very positive difference.

My thanks to him for his service to the people of Minnesota, particularly to the children, and to our future.

#1136 – Dick Bernard: The Man in the Background: Father’s Day 2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I continue to go through hundreds of photos left as part of the legacy of the North Dakota farm. Recently I was looking at this one:

(click to enlarge)

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

The initial focus was the women in the group photo. I didn’t know any of them, and I’ve sent them to a ND friend lifelong in that area to perhaps identify one or two or more of them.

But my interest turned to the guy in the background, who seems to be holding a stick, doing something.

On initial glance it looks like a stick, maybe a baseball bat. On the other hand, it may well be a croquet mallet for a lawn game popular back then. The stick may look a little fatter than in should because it is a bit blurred. If you click a second time over the man, you can almost see the croquet ball to the right, to his front….

Almost certainly the camera had caught a Sunday outing at the Memorial Park – the folks were all dressed up, as if after Church. Also, almost certainly, the women and men were farmers or engaged in agriculture in some way. Most were likely Moms or Dads, and Sunday was a day of rest.

If I’m right – that it is croquet I’m seeing. Not far away some more men were throwing “horseshoes” – real ones. And off to the left was the baseball diamond, where the town team was playing some out of town bunch, and there were kids, and people fishing, and visiting, and picnics and this and that.

As was (and is) most often the case, the old photos is not labeled as to year or people. It didn’t occur to anybody that somebody, 60 or more years later, would care who or what….

As I say, this was a farm photo, and there were hundreds of them, and I’m still going through them, and they won’t be thrown away.

Most were taken by a couple of versions of old box cameras, thence as time goes on, assorted new fangled cameras replaced them. Everytime we came to visit, Grandpa would gather us on the lawn for the traditional picture before we left for home. This was a Grandma deal as well, and their children followed suit.

The picture exists because somebody felt it important to not only record the moment, but to keep it for posterity.

The picture itself is just another moment in the life of some people out in North Dakota, among many moments in many days in many lives, filled with good times and not-so-good, crops, relationships, tragedies, children, whatever.

As we all know, some days are better than others….

Today at Basilica of St. Mary, Fr. Bauer asked all the men to stand up, and recognized every male there for whatever role they play in others lives. It was a nice touch, typical.

While this is a specific Father’s Day, yet another tradition in our society, all of us, regardless of gender, play a part in making our world a better place.

We are all fathers and mothers.

Have a great day.

#1134 – Dick Bernard: Grandpa Bernard’s Can of Pebbles

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Now and again in our growing up years we made it up to Grafton ND to visit Grandma and Grandpa* Bernard, who lived in a tiny house at 738 Cooper Avenue.

Grandpa, 68 when I was born, and 85 when he died, was a most interesting character, starting life in Quebec on a farm, then an asbestos miner at Thetford Mines QC, thence a lumberjack, a carpenter, and finally chief engineer of the Flour Mill in Grafton (he came from a line of probably hundreds of years of millers in France and thence in Quebec. His brother, Joe, was chief miller in Grafton.)

This particular day, Grandpa was sitting on his accustomed perch on the front stoop, basically exactly as shown in the old photo:

(click to enlarge photos)

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

Henry and Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton ND, ca early 1950s.

I don’t recall Grandma being there, but we kids were, and at some point Grandpa looked over his shoulder and saw a dog trotting down the sidewalk.

“See that dog?”, he said. Then he picked up his homemade slingshot, and fished a pebble out of the nearby can and made sure the dog saw it.

No word (nor bark) was spoken.

The dog kept coming till some invisible “do not cross” line; at that point, making a hard right, trotting across the street; hard left past Grandpa; and on about whatever business the dog was about that sunny day.

Grandpa loved dogs, best I know, but there was a time and a place for everything, and apparently this neighbor had to be reminded, now and again, of the rules of the road at Grandpa’s house.

The parties understood the rules….

There are endless Grandpa (and Grandma) lessons conveyed to us, as we all know, once past a certain age. Things we just soak up, without realizing it at the time.

Not all the stories were conveyed directly, or even intentionally. For instance, across the alley from the tiny house was the Walsh county yard where things like snowplows and other public machines were kept. And down the street was the Courthouse, and the local Jail….

And there was the annual event at the Courthouse where the last remaining veterans of the Spanish-American War had an annual remembrance of their fallen comrades. It was always impressive and Grandpa was always in it.

There was something else about Grandpa, which you can see in the picture.

He had one leg.

The other he had lost to diabetes in 1946. Since he was a veteran, that leg was amputated at the VA Hospital, in Fargo; as was the second, at the time he died in 1957.

He used to entertain we kids with the stub of the missing leg.

Over time, I’ve come to learn that he lived to entertain us because a government agency, the VA, had saved his life; and Social Security, enacted about the time he turned 65, was what they had for retirement. His source of livelihood, the Flour Mill, had gone out of business on short notice right before the stock market crash in 1929; and at almost exactly the same time, the bank with nearly all their savings, went under due to fraud.

Overnite they went from regular middle class to dependent on others. It was the year Dad graduated from high school, and, of course, his plans on going to the University of North Dakota were dashed.

Of course, if there’s a grandpa, there’s a grandma.

Just yesterday I came across an old photo of my other grandmother, Rosa (Berning) Busch, with the Ladies Aid of Berlin North Dakota in September, 1946 (See below). Grandma is the lady kneeling in the front row at the center of the photo.

There are lots and lots of Grandma stories, as well as Mrs. Busch stories, even to this day.

No extra stories to be conveyed here, but an encouragement to remember your own, about those who came before you.

And to emphasize what is no longer often seen as obvious: we like to think we are, as individuals, in charge of our own universe.

What our ancestors knew, imperfectly, was that we all do better when we all do better.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946.  Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

Berlin ND Ladies Club September 1946. Rosa Berning Busch kneeling, second from right.

* There exists, to my knowledge, a single film clip recording Grandpa Bernard and others “sidewalk superintending” in Grafton ND in 1949, when a crew was paving the Main Street. His moment of fame come at four minutes 15 second mark. You can view it here.

Of course, we all have two sets of grandparents, whether we got to know them or not. And there are all manner of other relationships which would take a long writing to describe in any detail…for each of us in our own lives.

In my own case, Grandpa Bernard died almost exactly on my 17th birthday, in 1957; Grandma Bernard died near my 23rd birthday, in 1963; Grandpa Busch died in 1967, less than two weeks after their 62nd wedding anniversary, coming up the stairs from the basement with some eggs for breakfast; Grandma Busch died in early August, 1972, at 88. Lore has it that she lingered on long enough so that her youngest son, my uncle Art, could make it from Chicago. He did, and she died very soon thereafter.