Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Son Karl

The Jesuits say, “Give us a child until he is six years old, and he’ll be a Catholic for the rest of his life.” Or something like that. Maybe it was the Baptist who said, “Train up a child in the way he should go.” People argue about which is more important, heredity or environment.

All I know is that children are born with distinct personalities. Every mother – well, most mothers – do the best they can. Children grow up, and parents are surprised.

From the time he was a small child, my son Karl was fascinated by all things military. He was about nine years old when someone gave him a book of “Great Battles of History”. By the time he was eleven he knew all the great military campaigns from Alexander the Great through Napoleon and World Wars I and II.

He learned about warfare – weapons, armament, organization, tactics. He acquired armies of toy soldiers. As a teenager, when other boys were outside tossing baseballs or practicing football, I would find Karl in his room, either reading a book on military history or hunched over his table, painting blue and gray uniforms on tiny toy soldiers from the Civil War.

He joined the U.S. Army as an expert on the Russians: the weapons they used, where troops were deployed, numbers of soldiers in each unit. He taught himself Russian in order to read their military publications. That’s how he came to be stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, with Army Intelligence. .

I am a Pacifist. I oppose wars, not because I am an isolationist, but because they are a waste of precious lives and seldom have good results. Over 58,000 American boys died in Vietnam. What was the result? Bush sent thousands more to die and be maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. My Congressman claims we “liberated” those countries. Who is the fool? Me or those who believe the Congressman?

I won’t have a gun in my house. How did I produce a son who is obsessed with warfare and who owns a dozen rifles?

Mothers try to understand their kids. Even when they are puzzled by their children's choices, mothers do things to make their children happy. I knew Karl was interested in the Ancient Roman Empire. He knows as much about Roman legions as he does about Russian missiles. That’s a lot. That’s why, when David and I arrived in Frankfurt, the first place we took Karl was the “restored” Roman fort in the village of Bad Homburg, a few miles northwest of Frankfurt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


After leaving Karl at Fifth Corps Headquarters, I drove our tiny rental car all over Frankfurt, Germany, looking for signs that said, “bahnhof”. David and I saw lots of signs with arrows and incomprehensible long German words.

“David, I have to watch traffic,” I said. “Do you see the word ‘bahnhof’ on any of these signs?”
“No,” said David, a tired 13-year-old, who always spoke quietly to calm his excitable mother.
“Are you looking carefully on both sides of the street?”
“Yes,” he said firmly, “I don’t see anything that says ‘bahnhof”.

I drove for over an hour around busy downtown streets and wide avenues. I saw lots of cars, big and little; buses, always big, with two cars in tandem like a train on wheels. Many traffic lights, typical of cities everywhere. Few advertising signs but many signs marking one way streets and arrows indicating the way to places with long German names. No arrows to “bahnhof”.

As I drove down an avenue with little traffic, on the sidewalk I spotted coming towards us a young woman carrying a parcel. I pulled to the curb. I told David, “Roll down the window and ask that young woman if she speaks English.”

As the young woman came abreast of the car David stuck his head out the window and said, “Pardon me, miss, we need help. Do you speak English?”

The young woman laughed.
“Sure,” she said. Her voice was American. She was from New Jersey and, like Karl,was a member of the U.S. Army stationed in Frankfurt.

“What you want,” she said, “is the hauptbahnhof.”
“What’s that?”
“Hauptbahnhof. All one word: Hauptbahnhof or ‘high station’ – the main railroad station here in Frankfurt with a tourist office to help people who come here from all over the World.”

We thanked her. Sure enough, within a couple of minutes we found an arrow pointing to the hauptbahnhof. It was a simple. I followed the “hauptbahnhof” signs to the station, only to find the street in front of the station all torn up. Frankfurt was repaving the street for a couple of blocks. It took an hour to find a way around the construction by back streets and allies. Inside the terminal a gracious young lady, who spoke excellent English with a German accent, called a hotel and made a reservation for me and David. She gave me directions and a map. It still took another hour of driving up and down one of the main avenues before I found the little side street where the hotel was located.

In this small hotel hidden away on a quiet cul-de-sac David and I slept for several nights in a room which was clean, comfortable, and cheap. A real jewel, even if no one in that hotel spoke English.

Lesson of the day: If directions are wrong, don’t keep following the false path. Go in a different direction. (I wish Congressmen would learn they are all going in the wrong direction to end this recession.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Finding Karl in Frankfurt

Only a fool or a madwoman would fly off to Germany, where she did not speak the language, get into a rental car with a stick shift, which she had not driven for 20 years, and drive on the autobahn, where Mercedes passed going 130 mph., and drive straight into a strange city, where she had only a vague idea where to find her son, whom she wrote the date and time of her arrival, and who failed to meet her and David at the airport.

I was crazy. Perhaps I was a fool. I am also a woman. I stop and ask for directions.

Karl was at the Army’s Fifth Corps Headquarters. Someone who spoke English (I don’t remember whom) told me how to get there. I drove up to the gate. I told the guard I wanted to find my son, and he waved me through. Later I saw many cars with German license plates going in and out of this major American Army base without even a pause at the gate for a security check. This was 1978. Al Qaeda would not attack for another 22 years. .

On a street bordered with rows of parked cars, I drove into a large facility resembling a college campus with many buildings scattered between parking lots and grassy lawns. The main building, built in the 1920's decorative style of New York “skyscrapers”, reminded me of the old GM headquarters in Detroit. I learned later that before World War II it was headquarters of a major German munitions manufacturer; I think it was I.G. Farben.

After passing all those cars without finding an empty space, I spotted spaces right in front of the headquarters building. David and I were getting out of the car when an M.P. marched briskly out of the front door and told me those spaces were reserved for generals. David and I immediately got back in the car. When finally I found a place to park the rented Opal, we had a long walk back to headquarters.

This time the M.P. politely told me Army Intelligence was on the 9th floor. We crossed the lobby to the strangest elevator I ever saw. I faced two elevators without doors. In one platforms went continuously up; in the other platforms were going continuously down. After watching uniformed service men nonchalantly stepping into the “up” elevator, I held my breath, grabbed David’s hand, and, following a sergeant, jumped onto the moving platform.

With David trailing behind, I boldly walked into the offices of Army intelligence without being challenged. Karl came out, the only one who looked surprised at this civilian woman and young kid showing up in this top secret facility. The major told him to take the afternoon off.

We drove out to Bad Homberg to see the restoration of an ancient Roman fort, then returned to the Army base for supper at the NCO Club. By this time I had been without sleep for more than 24 hours. I felt groggy. I said, “Karl, please take David and me to where we are going to sleep tonight.”

The Army has a hotel on the base to house dependents who were being transferred. Karl went inside and came back a few minutes later, saying, “Sorry. They don’t have any vacant rooms tonight. I have a class, and I’m going to be late if you don’t take me over there right away.”

I was annoyed but not surprised. He acted just as his father. How many times had I asked Wally to do something? He always failed to do it, then became angry if I reminded him. In front of the Army’s education building, as Karl picked up his books and got out of the car, I calmly said, “Where are David and I going to sleep tonight?”

Karl stuck his head in the car window and said, “Go to the railroad station. The tourist bureau there will find you a place.”
“Wait a minute,” I called as he walked away. “How do I find the railroad station?”
“There are signs all over town,” Karl called over his shoulder. “Just follow signs that say, ‘to the bahnhof’.”

I drove away confidently. Married to Wally for more than a quarter of a century, I was used to dealing with difficult situations. And I knew how to follow directions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Packing for Paris

I had not expected Wally to set the two airline tickets down beside my plate at the dinner table; I grabbed them and held them close to my heart. In just three weeks David, 13, and I would fly off to Germany. It was a frantic time.

I broke the news to my boss at the real estate office. She told me to go ahead, but I would get only a small part of any commissions on sales made to my clients while I was gone. I might lose several thousand dollars. But my job would wait until David and I returned.

For three weeks David and I would travel around Europe, visit my older son, Karl, stationed with the U.S. Army in Frankfurt, and tour Germany, Austria, and France. At last I was going to Paris! Romantic Paris with a thirteen-year-old kid. Not the way I’d dreamed about it. Married to Wally for more than 20 years, I learned to compromise and enjoy whatever I did.

I drove to the bank to take David’s birth certificate out of the safety deposit box. At the post office I applied for a passport for David Christian Gaarsoe. (I had mine from our trip to Iceland and Denmark two years before.) I wrote to Karl (in those days we didn’t phone overseas) telling him when we would arrive and asking him to reserve for a place for David and me to stay near where he was stationed.

Working like crazy at home and at work, the only other advance preparation I did was to send for some pamphlets on Germany. I also went to the local AAA office and reserved a rental car to be picked up at the Frankfurt Airport.

A couple of days before we were to leave, David’s passport arrived with his name misspelled, “David Christina Gaarsoe.” He said with injured pride, “I am not Christina.” I said, “We don’t have time to get it changed.”

I was still showing houses to prospective clients. One night I stayed up until midnight doing laundry, taking clothes out of the drier and putting them directly into suitcases. Somehow I pulled it off. Wally took us to the airport, and we flew off over the Atlantic. I was so excited I could not sleep in the cramped seat on the long, overnight flight.

Groggy and fatigued, we got off the plane. It was 2:00 a.m. in Chicago, l0:00 a.m. in Frankfurt, Germany. David and I went to the rental car counter, where I filled out forms. We were shown to a tiny Opal. We stuffed the luggage into the back of the car and climbed in with barely enough room to wedge myself behind the steering wheel.

I had not driven a stick shift in 20 years. I put my right foot on the brake, my left foot on the clutch, and the key in the ignition. I let out the clutch. And killed the engine. I turned the key again, put in the clutch, moved the gear shift down into first gear, slowly let out the clutch, moved my right foot from brake to accelerator – and killed the engine again. Four more times I tried and killed the engine every time. I thought, “I’m going to spend the next three weeks in this parking lot!”

On the seventh try, I got the car going. I eased out of the parking lot and immediately drove onto the autobahn. Mercedes and BMW’s whizzed past going 130 miles per hour. I floor-boarded the Opal. It wouldn’t go over 80. David and I were on our way into downtown Frankfurt, Germany.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Change in the Weather

Bears hibernate in winter. I’ve hibernated this summer. I went out my back door a couple of times a week to water the plants on my patio. In spite of my venturing into nature’s oven, they all dried up and died in the intense heat of the afternoon sun. Now I look out my bedroom window at the brown stalks of what had been an “evergreen” bush I hoped would grow into a potted Christmas tree.

Texas baked for months. The hottest and driest summer ever. Temperatures hit 98 and 99 in May. In June began the 100 plus days. Last week the thermometer hit 107 again. Without any rain, wildfires swept over the dry grasslands, burning areas in Texas the size of the State of Connecticut. The worst was in the Austin suburb of Bastrop, where over 1,000 homes burned to the ground, leaving only brick fireplaces and chimneys standing.

Now the ordeal is ended.

Rain, blessed rain! Friday night high school football, so dear to the hearts of Texans, delayed because of rain. Parents cheered as they waited under dripping umbrellas.

This morning as I stepped out of my apartment on the way to breakfast, my face bathed delightful cool air with that just-after-rain freshness.

As I crossed the courtyard, I looked at the scrap of dead lawn. Where the grass had turned as brown as my dead chrysanthemum, the courtyard was dotted with clumps of green with the prettiest purple flowers I’ve ever seen. Flowers growing out of the desolation of summer thrilled me. .

Vista, a tiny old lady who a few weeks ago lost her husband, came out of the dining room, humped over her walker. I called to her, “Come out into the courtyard. I have something to show you.”

Vista, 90, can’t stand upright and moves with caution. She stopped, still hunched over her walker, and turned her head. When she saw the flowers, she beamed and said, “Aren’t they beautiful!.” As she moved on towards the elevator, she said, “Thank you for showing them to me. I love flowers.”

Vista was only 16 when she and G.C. were married 74 years ago. Besides the grief of losing her lifetime companion, she is learning to live alone and manage her finances for the first time in her life. All her friends are amazed at how this 90-year-old is adjusting to the changes. When she comes into the dining room, she brings love and hugs to each of us every day.

Saturday breakfasts are skimpy compared to weekdays when we get “cooked-to-order” eggs, blueberry muffins, homemade biscuits, and either bacon, sausage, or ham. Many residents don’t bother to come down for breakfast on weekends. When I walked into the dining room, only a few people were eating bagels and cream cheese.

I went from table to table, saying, “Did you see the flowers in the courtyard?” The constant oppression of those miserable days when the thermometer hit 107 is already fading. That’s good – except for us who worry about loss of short-term memory.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Remember Pearl Harbor

After lunch five of us lingered after finishing our tuna casseroles and apple pie. We talked of 9/11. We remembered watching on television as the towers collapsed.

I was in Albuquerque. Mariam, Sara, and Becky were in their homes in the Dallas area. In the ten years since the attack, all of us sold our houses and came to live in this retirement community. Richard, a retired Naval officer, said he was in Norfolk, Virginia, “working on the Wisconsin Project.”

I wondered, “How come he was involved in Wisconsin when he was in Virginia?”
Richard said, “The admiral came in and told us, ‘Turn on the television.’”
I made the connection. I said, “Your project was with the Battleship Wisconsin, not the state.”
“Yes,” said Richard, “We were restoring it. It is still in the museum in Norfolk.”

I said, “Four of us here remember where we were the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.” (Becky, the youngest of our group, was not born until after World War II).

Sara turned to Richard and said, “Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?”
“I don’t remember,” Richard said.
“You were eleven years old,” Sara reminded him. (We keep track of each other’s birthdays.)
“Was it Sunday afternoon?” Richard said. “We didn’t have the radio on. I didn’t know anything about it until I went to school the next day.”

I remember vividly December 7, 1941, sitting in the back seat of the Daddy’s Hudson as on the car’s radio H. V. Kaltenborn told us Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor. I never had heard of Pearl Harbor, but even as a twelve-year-old kid, I knew something terrible had happened.

This trivial conversation reminded me that our reaction to events depends on the information we receive, whether we see it “live” on television or hear it third hand or read some nonsense published on the internet. Also, how much do we understand of what we see and hear? I confused the state of Wisconsin with a battleship.

During World War II we hated “Japs”. In the years since, most of us changed our attitude. In New Mexico I knew men who survived the Bataan Death March and four years in brutal Japanese prisons. Without exception they held no bitterness against the Japanese people. A man from Taos Pueblo told me, “It was their culture.”

Yet Curtis, a World War II veteran who fought in the Pacific, says angrily,. “I will never buy a Japanese car.” Curtis is angry about many things. Toyota is the best-selling car in the U.S.

I hope those who publish vitriolic diatribes against Muslims will realize that the small group of fanatics who spread terror throughout the World distort their religion. Thousands of U.S. Muslims are better citizens than the fanatical fundamentalists who would force their religious beliefs on the rest of us.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Towers

My friend Gertrude Bergen lives in a 19th floor apartment on West 24th Street in New York City, about ten blocks north of the World Trade Center. She has a terrace from which she could see the towers.

While the towers were being constructed, I lived in Texas. I never heard of these extra-tall buildings. After we moved to Pennsylvania,I went on an all day bus trip to New York with the League of Women Voters. Starting home after dark, our bus went through the Hudson Tunnel. As we came up on the New Jersey side, I looked across at Manhattan and was surprised to see those two giant rectangles rising high above all the other skyscrapers, thousands of lights shining against the black sky.

In the following years we moved back to Chicago. I was divorced, took a six-month trip to Europe, spent a year in Texas with my mother, moved to Albuquerque, bought a house, married John, mourned his death. (I’ve had an eventful life.)

On 9/11/01 I ate breakfast, made a second cup of tea, and carried it into my living room. I sat down on the couch and sipped my tea, anticipating a leisurely morning watching television. The plane flew into the North Tower.

I forgot to drink my tea as I watched the horror before my eyes. I saw the South Tower collapse. Like everyone else, my thought was, “This can’t be happening.” Nothing was left but a huge avalanche of black dust and debris chasing people down the tunnels of surviving buildings.

That night I called Gertrude. She assured me she was all right. Then she told me that when the planes hit the towers, she was in the basement of the building washing a rug her cat threw up on. She had no idea what was happening until she got on the elevator to go back upstairs. A woman on the elevator was crying. Between sobs, the woman told Gertrude about the planes hitting the towers and their collapse killing thousands.

Ten years later it still impresses me that I saw instantly the collapse of the towers thousands of miles from New Mexico, while in New York, Gertrude, only a few blocks away and in sight of the towers, knew nothing about it.

We have become blase about seeing things happen on the other side of the World. In Tripoli rebels wander through Omar Gaddafi’s ruined palaces. Do we fully understand what is before our eyes? Do we know what is happening in our own neighborhood?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


On Elderhostels my traveling companions were Americans. I traveled with doctors, college professors, scientists, wealthy engineers, etc.

In Sicily I met a federal judge and his wife, Italian-Americans from Pennsylvania. One day they skipped the scheduled outing to rent a car and drive to a remote Sicilian village to see his father’s old uncle. That night at dinner I remarked that the ethnic Americans I knew (Greek-Americans, German-Americans, Norwegian-Americans, Italian-Americans) seemed to have more in common with each other than they had with relatives in the “Old Country”, whether it was Greece, Germany, Norway, or Italy. The judge said, “How true! How very true!”

In Sicily I also met Gertrude. With only a high school education, she told me she felt intimidated by all those doctors and Ph.D.’s. She had no need to feel that way. She is highly intelligent. Gertrude is also the kindest, most generous, and most tolerant person I know.

We hit it off immediately. We talked about books and theater. We laughed at the same things. As my roommate in Palermo, she didn’t complain about my noisy CPAP machine. One night I pulled the plug in my sleep. Gertrude woke and said, “What happened?” She laughed as I got me to plug it in again, saying, “The noise didn’t keep me from sleeping; the silence woke me up right away.” .

Our backgrounds could not be more different. I was raised as a Southern Baptist with ancestors who came to Texas in covered wagons. Gertrude lives in New York, where her Jewish grandparents fled from Russia a hundred years ago to escape the pogroms.

Gertrude has a friend in Albuquerque. When she came to visit Mary, she always took me to lunch and brought me gifts of tea and other goodies. When I went to New York, she arranged theater tickets. She never let me take her to lunch. Although she has a limited income, she always wants to entertain me. She says I am one of the two people she invites to stay in her tiny studio apartment.

Now that I am on dialysis and can not travel, I doubt we will see each other again. She sends me books. Gertrude is the only one, friend or relative, who calls every week to ask about my health. She has a serious heart condition. When I ask what her doctor says, Gertrude says, “I don’t want to talk about it.” She tells me about the off-Broadway plays she has seen – very few since tickets are now prohibitively expensive. We talk about politics. That, too, is an area where we totally agree.

Gertrude and I love cats. You know my Charlie. Gertrude had a cat which hid under her sofa. Who but Gertrude would feed and care for a cat for ten years and the beast never allowed her to touch him? As I said, the kindest, most generous, and most tolerant person I know.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travel Tips

Before Wally and I left on the trip to Denmark and Iceland, I did a lot of advance preparation, going to the library for books about the two countries and writing ahead for reservations in the places we would visit. (International phone calls were expensive, and the internet had not been invented.)

The next year I left on the spur of the moment to go camping with David. I had no plan except to return to Pennsylvania where I had been happy. It worked out just fine.

When Wally brought home tickets to Frankfurt, Germany, the only advance preparations I made were to reserve a rental car and to write Karl that we were coming.. David and I bounced around Europe for three weeks finding places to eat and sleep as we drove from town to town.

After Wally and I divorced, a friend persuaded me to take to Europe with us a third party, a woman I had never met. The two were not interested in anything I wanted to see. We went to Switzerland just because the other woman wanted to buy a watch. I learned: Rather than letting uncongenial people dictate the itinerary, I enjoyed my trips more traveling alone

Then came my “big trip”: six months in Britain and on the Continent. I bought a new car, which I picked up in Germany and drove alone all around Western Europe. In some places I went, no one spoke English. With smiles and gestures, I managed.

The only place where I had trouble was in France. With two years of French in college, I thought I understood the lingo. At a restaurant “Alsace” in Chartres, the menu was utterly confusing. The waitress did not speak English. I ordered the “specialty”, expecting a delicious French meal. I was served a big platter of sausages and sauerkraut, a dish I hate. I forgot that for centuries Alsace-Lorraine was disputed between France and Germany. Now a part of France, the people are predominately German-speaking. Lovers of sausage and sauerkraut.

I married John. Every day I spent with John was a joy. He kept me laughing during the six months I was on chemo after cancer surgery. We didn’t let cancer keep us from traveling. From our home in New Mexico we drove all over the U.S., from San Diego to Vancouver, Canada, and from Florida to New York, plus annual trips to Chicago.

John took me to Europe twice. One summer we exchanged our little house in Albuquerque for one in Ipswich, England. Better than traveling alone is going with a perfect companion.

After John died, I went on tours with Elderhostel and Grand Circle. I let someone else arrange for places to eat and sleep. Most important for me, someone else handled my luggage. I was tired of lugging my big suitcase in and out of the car. Let someone else put it on the bus.

Most of the time I let the tour find me a roommate. Some I never saw again. I also made true friends. My dearest friend, whom I met in Sicily, is Gertrude Bergen from New York City.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ticket to Europe

The night David and I returned from our camping trip, Wally sat down at the dinner table and said, “Did you have a good time?”

“We sure did,” I said, “Didn’t we, David?”

David said, “I saw a bear in the campground in Pennsylvania.”

(We didn’t tell how the ranger called out, “Get away from there, kid. That’s a wild animal.”)

David said,. “We visited Betty Rahn. I saw where I was born.”.

“You remember, Wally, how much fun Betty and I had when we lived in Birmingham.”

Wally grunted an assent.

I couldn’t resist. I said, “Of course I would rather have gone to Paris.”

The next night as Wally came to dinner, he put down on the table in front of me two tickets on Lufthansa Airlines to Frankfurt, Germany. (Our older son Karl was stationed there with the Army.) Wally said, “It will cost you $100 a piece to cancel these.”

I grabbed up the tickets. “Cancel them? I’m going.”

Wally:“You’ll lose your job if you take another vacation so soon.”

Me: “I don’t care.”

Wally: “I can’t go with you. I have important business here. I can’t just take off and go to Europe.”

Me: “I’ll take David.”

Wally: “You’d take him out of school?”

Me: “To go to Europe? Of course I will.”

That’s how I came to make my first trip on my own to Europe with a 13-year-old kid.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricane Betty

While Hurricane Irene drenched Hatteras Island, I wrote about David and me visiting Betty Rahn in Michigan.

In 1962 Wally was transferred from Chicago to Detroit. My family moved to Michigan just before school started. On the first day of school, waiting in the hallway outside the classrooms, I struck up a conversation with another young mother. We discovered we both lived in Graefield Apartments. After enrolling the children, we all walked home together.

In the next four years Betty and I saw each other almost every day. We bought a house on Derby Road, and the Rahns bought an old house about a mile away. We became typical suburban housewives. We had coffee and tea every morning, did things with the children after school and during vacations.

Her children and mine were stairsteps: My Karl, 7; her Susan, 6; Martha, 5; her Richard, 4. We made art projects at Betty’s house and put on plays in my basement. We loaded all four kids in a car and went exploring: picnicking on Belle Island, climbing the ramparts on Old Fort Wayne, trying gadgets at the Cranbrook Museum of Science, and seeing puppet shows at the Art Institute of Detroit.

Betty held my hand through my pregnancy with David. She stood as godmother at David's christening in St. James Church.

My family left Michigan, following Wally to Dallas, to Philadelphia, and back to Chicago. We were in Woodridge, Illinois, when Betty divorced Loren. She came to see us while on a year’s tour around the U.S. While on the beach in San Diego, she met a couple staying at the Four Seasons Hotel. She said, “I told them, ‘I’m staying there, too.’ They had a room in the hotel. I didn’t tell them I was sleeping in my van in the parking lot.”

Betty was a resourceful traveler. She was my inspiration when I traveled around Europe driving a new BMW but without any money.

After her big trip, Betty settled in Hatteras. When I returned from Europe and didn’t know where to live, I drove from Norfolk, Virginia, down the length of the Outer Banks along the narrow highway where I saw waves roiling in the ocean like the ones this week during the hurricane. Betty lived in a little red house near the ferry to Okracoke. As the rain poured down outside, Betty painted doll house furniture, and I read paperback books. When I drove back north, encouraged and refreshed by Betty’s company, the ocean was as calm as I was.

I fled to Betty several times during the three terrible years when I was suing Wally for support. I always came away admiring how she made a successful life for herself with only $300 a month from Loren, a vice president of B. F. Goodrich.

Betty stayed in her house during Hurricane Hugo, which destroyed 90% of the homes on Hatteras Island. Betty looked out her front window as water swept over the road in front of her house and up her front steps. As water bubbled up through the floor boards, Betty jumped on her bed with her vacuum cleaner. Betty and her house survived.

Yes, Betty was a survivor. She showed me how to survive, and to have fun doing it.