A STAR IS BORN
by Buck Brkich, San Antonio, Texas
Christmas, 1962: I was at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe watching Liberace and a then-unknown Barbra Streisand. She sang and was fantastic. Later, at the craps table, I saw a girl with her hair in curlers wearing a scarf. I played by her, saying, “Ms. Streisand, I saw the show and think you have a great talent.” She said, “Yeah, sure, sure.” Later, she picked up her chips, touched my arm, and said, “Thank you very much.” I think she was so new to fame that she was embarrassed. I have been in love with her ever since, but that’s another story.
PASSING DOWN PRIDE
by Nancy Duderstadt, Woodridge, Illinois
After my father passed away, my brother was cleaning out Dad’s wallet and found a small American flag. As a young boy in Alice, Texas, my dad found the flag on the street after a parade. Even then, he loved this country and felt our flag should be honored, so he folded it and put it in his wallet. He carried it everywhere he was stationed, through Europe and Vietnam. My brother is retired military, but my other brother’s son, also an army officer, carries the flag now. I’m proud to be the daughter, aunt, and sister of Americans.
by Joyce Worley, Mauldin, South Carolina
I wear a skeleton key on a silver chain around my neck. It is from an antique desk my mother gave me, which I never locked. My son Josh collected such keys, and I gave him this one. He loved it, especially since it had once belonged to his beloved grandmother.
Josh wore the key around his neck after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 33. He was wearing it when he died at 35. People often admire my necklace and ask, “Is that the key to your heart?” I say yes.
CALL OF DESTINY
by Louis Corio, Mount Airy, Maryland
For most couples, it’s love at first sight. For me and my wife, it was love at first sound.
She called my apartment in a huff at 1:00 a.m., looking to tell off my roommate, whom she had just started dating. My roommate wasn’t home, and I happened to be standing by the phone, so she vented to me, the faceless stranger. We ended up talking for two hours, learning a lot about each other, and falling in love. Twenty-seven wonderful years later, her voice is still music to my ears!
CONFESSIONS OF A DOUGHNUT THIEF
by Hal Denton, Cookeville, Tennessee
When I was in second grade living in Indiana, my mother would frequently send me to the little neighborhood store. One day I went with a list, and when the storekeeper’s back was turned, I couldn’t resist reaching into his doughnut box on the counter and pocketing one. On the way home, I enjoyed it immensely. But over the years, my sin bothered me—so much so that when I spotted the old storekeeper at a football game during my high school years, I confessed. He smiled, held out his hand, and said, “You owe me a dime.”
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PLAYING WITH FIRE
by Denise Marra, Antioch, Illinois
Mom was in the basement, washing clothes through the wringer washing machine. Darryl, my brother, was four years old, playing with matches in my mom’s bedroom on the first floor. He accidentally set the large dresser drawers on fire! Smelling the smoke, Mom rushed upstairs to find the dresser in flames. Then, before my mother’s unbelieving eyes, the fire extinguished itself in a puff of black smoke. As the burnt dresser cooled, she opened the half-charred drawer to find a small, blessed crucifix slightly burnt on the tip of the arm.
ONE LAST TIME
by Steven Fehr, North Las Vegas, Nevada
One afternoon Mom and I took a walk around her neighborhood. She had dementia and no longer recognized her surroundings. It was like taking a child for a walk. The day was perfect, quiet and calm. I reveled in it. Mom’s care had become suffocating, but today I felt peaceful and enjoyed our leisurely stroll as I held her hand. A feeling came over me: Make this count. It won’t always be like this.
That was the last walk we ever took together in her neighborhood before Mom moved to assisted living. Less than a year later, she was gone.
WAR IS OVER
by Paula Hassler, Tempe, Arizona
My first job out of high school was in an office in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa. On August 14, 1945, Japan announced its surrender and WWII was over. We heard the news and we all ran outside to join the cheering and singing crowds of people. Traffic was stopped in the middle of the street as drivers honked their horns and blared loud music from their car radios. Perfect strangers hugged and kissed. Now, almost 70 years later, I still remember that day as an exciting time in my young life.
THEY FOUND THEIR WAY HOME
by Martha Goehner, Port Orange, Florida
While I was getting ready to move from New York to Florida, I decided to take some of my things to an antique dealer. It was hard, because a few things really did have memories attached—but it seemed senseless to have them boxed up. Today, I received a package in the mail from my girlfriend, Abby. It contained three old beaded bags I had sold. She had tracked them down, bought them back, and sent them to me. It is one of the most wonderful things anyone has ever done for me. Thank you, Abby—it means a lot.
MY SON COMES FIRST
by Allison Lee, Orlando, Florida
Homeschooling my children is the bravest thing I’ve ever done. Daily, I forge ahead with math, reading, spelling, and handwriting, wondering if I’m adequate. I battle impatience and discouragement. I fight against the lies that I’ll never be good enough to set my children up for success, for a lifetime of learning. I fail and then set my face toward the goal, committing myself to courage. And when my little boy asks me to hold him for the rest of his life as we dance around the kitchen during a break, I know I must be doing something right.
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by Krista Swan, Columbus, Ohio
Our romance began with sparks. But over the years, our passion shape-shifted into smoldering resentment, periodically erupting into fiery altercations. Our two sons were in middle school when I moved us away from the inferno. We settled in my old hometown. My husband wrote me a letter filled with animosity for leaving. Then one day, everything changed. My husband called. “I realize now that nothing in life is more important than family, and I will do everything I can to keep ours together,” he said. “Please come home.”
So we did. That day was September 11, 2001.
A HARD CALL
by Erin Pope, Riverside, California
The phone was ringing. My palms were sweaty, and my heart was pounding. I was fearful that the recipient of my call would be angry. A pleasant-sounding woman picked up: “Hello?” “Can I speak with the parents of Sergeant Jones?” I asked. The woman paused and then replied, “I’m sorry. He was killed in Iraq a year ago.” I took a deep breath and said, “I know. I was the nurse who took care of him. I wanted to let you know that he wasn’t alone. I held his hand.” She wasn’t angry. I was relieved.
MY FATHER’S TEARS
by Nancy Abeshaus, Wakefield, Rhode Island
Three times in my life I saw my father cry. The first was when his mother died. I was seven. The second was at the airport when my brother departed for Vietnam. The third was when my father was in his 80s. My mother, in late-stage Alzheimer’s, resided in a nursing home. He had visited her daily for ten years, except for three months when he broke his foot. Finally he could walk again. “I thought Mother forgot me,” he said, “but when she saw me, she smiled and said, ‘I love you.’ ” Then my father sobbed.
by Kathy Cornell, Haddam, Connecticut
Sometimes I tend to think about what I don’t have: a house on the ocean, a big career I could use to impress people at my high school reunion. Then I hear his car in the driveway. I think we’ll grill tonight. Later we’ll watch some reruns of sitcoms from a long time ago that remind me of when we were young. He’ll doze off, and it’ll be time for the day to end. We’ll say good night to the cats. We’re all still here, a miracle. When I’m very old, I will wish for a day like this.
by Tresa Matulewicz, Altamont, New York
“We’re having raccoon stew. I scraped it off the road.”
He’d laugh. As a little girl, I’d run screaming from him. As the years passed, roadkill jokes became paramount. I began to join in. We would gross each other out, a game that yielded two winners, me and my grandfather.
As illness slowly began to take him from me, we’d say, “Watch out for those raccoons,” even when his voice became a whisper. My beloved grandfather passed away on January 17, 2011. We had never said “I love you.” We always let the raccoons do the talking.