Tag Archive | friends

Shall we dance?

susans-sculpture

daughter Susan’s wood wall sculpture she claims was inspired by my love of dancing

Joseph Molnar was a charming and debonaire, well traveled continental, who had lived in and traveled to many countries — and loved many women. Born and raised in Hungary, he studied in France and, besides Hungarian, spoke English, French and Spanish fluently, and perhaps others. My husband, a Parisian, first met Joseph on a train in France.

Religion was extremely important to Joseph. He loved and enjoyed them all. As a Catholic, he attended Catholic, Protestant and Jewish services — and did so regularly. They could be in French, Spanish, English, or Hebrew — it didn’t matter. The first time I met him, by then in his mid-sixties, which I thought ancient, was at such a service.

He sat me between himself and my husband-to-be, and said: ‘A rose between two thorns’. A line, perhaps, but a young woman doesn’t forget something like that.

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Hungarian actress Ilona Massey.

Joseph called himself a bachelor, but had lived with a woman in Mexico for 20 years. I argued that anyone who had done so could no longer call himself a bachelor. He’d laugh, but never talked about her or any of the women in his past. I learned by chance about one special love.

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Silver candlesticks, unpolished

In helping him move from one apartment to another, (to across the street from our home so we’d be closer) I came upon a lovely, very old pair of ornate, silver candlesticks. They were tucked away in a drawer and hadn’t been used or polished for years.

‘They’re too lovely to hide,’ I said, ‘I’ll polish them for you. They should be on your dining table where you can see them every day.’

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A little more detail

That’s when he told me he had had an affair with the actress Ilona Massey’s mother in Hungary and she had given them to him. Ilona Massey was such a beauty, I can only imagine how beautiful her mother was in her youth.

The following Mother’s day, Joseph came across the street with a greasy, brown paper bag under his arm in which he carried those precious candlesticks as a gift for me. I still treasure them. (I’ve been advised not to polish them any more– that it rubs off the artistic details.)

Joseph was the sole male member of several Hungarian, French, or Spanish ladies’ church groups. He would be sure to ask every member to dance with him at their dinner-dances.  No wonder they loved him.

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Dancing with Joseph

My husband had two left feet, but Joseph could dance to anything. We did the Csardas at Hungarian dinner dances, and the rumba, tango, Viennese Waltzes, or what-have-you at other times. The two of us became a team, and even won two competitions!  I look back to those evenings with much pleasure.

My children adored Joseph and he returned

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Rafi with Joseph at Cinco De Mayo celebration

their love. He had been a furrier, and had scraps of animal furs he’d give to Susan when she’d run across the street to visit. She loved the fur and Joseph. Little Rafi enjoyed going out with Joseph by himself and would climb on his lap whenever the lap was available.

So, what happened to our dear friend? He was hit by a car as he ran to catch a bus across a busy Los Angeles Boulevard. It was holiday time and he was in a hurry to get to a church  party. He died before he could leave the hospital when he was about 71. We were devastated.

Shortly after his death, the children wanted to visit ‘Uncle Joseph’ at his grave site. We did so. If memory serves, I think Susan wondered where ‘Uncle Joseph’ was and what he was doing. Rafi, about four at the time, knew and with certainty stated: ‘Uncle Joseph is dancing in heaven.’

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Would you believe? A radar technician…

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Airwoman 1st Class

My children gently tease me about being technologically challenged. Well, I’ll have you know, you young whippersnappers, believe it or not, I was a radar technician during the 1950s. It was the height of technology at the time and I did it for the Air Force! So there!

The Air Force Auxiliary paid more per hour than I earned at my office job and I was always interested in earning extra money. They provided a free air-force uniform, winter coat and shoes, plus trips to the mountains on weekends, which, because I didn’t date much, were boring anyway.

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Arriving by bus — Mary, a devout Catholic, and I attended Church services every Sunday morning

It proved to be an adventure. They’d drive our ‘flight’ (class) to the Radar Station atop a mountain by bus. It was an interesting experience and I look back at it with pleasure.

I also had my very first marriage proposal (from a regular airman) whom, I believe, really meant it. I shall never, ever forget that! He was from Prince Edward Island and handsome in his uniform. I’ve never been to PEI, but have always wanted to visit there because of this memory. Perhaps he was attracted to me because I was the first virgin he ever dated. He told me I was, he respected me for it, and never attempted to change my status.

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No, I didn’t get garbage detail, but already had a twisted sense of humor

Some other flight colleagues obtained jobs at Montreal’s Dorval airport. It was miles away from my home and I didn’t drive. The mere thought of bracing dark winters on public transit all the way out there didn’t appeal. I just didn’t have the courage. Thus, I was perhaps saved some health issues.

My friend Philip was a WWII pilot. Now, he chuckles when he tells me that on the way out on flying missions, he’d turn hot and cold, a cold hand would clutch his innards and oops, the poor guy would throw up — in the cockpit. It was embarrassing and humiliating for him, and unpleasant for others. Surprise, surprise — they didn’t want to fly with him. So Philip was grounded — and he believes probably survived the war as a result.

Recently, I heard on CBC Radio that Radar Technicians from the 50s are trying to get compensation from the government for health issues resulting from electromagnetic rays they experienced from those early radar screens. I could have been one of them. The only reason I’m not is — I was chicken.

Former radar technicians complain of ‘headaches, fatigue, weakness, sleep disturbance, irritability, dizziness, memory difficulties, sexual dysfunction and occasionally shortness of breath after exertion……

‘During the 1960s and 1970s, ophthalmologist Milton Zaret, under contract with the Army and Air Force, examined the eyes of thousands of military and civilian personnel working at radar installations in the US and Greenland. Large numbers of them, he found, were developing cataracts….caused by chronic exposure to radiation of the eye at power densities around one milliwatt per square centimeter — a level which is regularly exceeded by each of the two and a half billion cell phones in use today.’ (Birenbaum et al. 1969, Zaret 1973)

I did develop early cataracts, which my eye specialist called ‘juvenile cataracts’. But they were probably as a result of my juvenile brain rather than being caused by 1950s radar screens.

projectionist-certificate-mur

Okay, so I don’t know how to scan these and get them straight, but I’ll learn

I looked for some of the photos taken then with one of those Brownie cameras, (remember?) and also found my official R.C.A.F. Projectionist Certificate. Hey guys, look at me!!! This old gal was up on the newest technology of her time — the 1950s. Have some respect.

 

 

 

(For more information on older radar screens, microwaves, and televisions, try Google.)

The Most Beautiful Cat in the World

Naturally I was looking for something else this week and what did I find?  A picture of the real SHATZI, ‘the most beautiful cat in the world’. I could not resist showing him to you here. If you didn’t get to read about him in 2013, I know you will fall in love with Shatzi now, as my friend Hans did some years ago.

It’s holiday time and visitors are coming and I’m busy but still I want to wish everyone a fabulous Christmas and Hanukah — may 2017 be kind to us all.

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SHATZI, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CAT IN THE WORLD

 

Had lunch with my friend Judy yesterday. She’s a cat person. She offers me snippets about the mischief her growing kittens get into.

Judy's mischief-makers playing innocent.

Judy’s mischief-makers playing innocent.

I get a kick out of it, especially since I have none of the responsibility. When her two felines were very little, Judy says they were called “Blur” and “Smudge” because they moved so quickly, that was all you could see of them. Now, they enjoy getting into the recycling and shopping bags, but as cat lovers will, Judy smiles while relating their latest antics.

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“Are you SURE it says CAT FOOD?”

My friend Hans was a cat person too. According to him, his last cat was no ordinary cat, but “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”. Hans wrote and called me regularly, so I got to follow the adventures and misadventures of Hans and his cat, Schatzi, which means “darling” in Vienna.

The pretty puss, for some reason, was homeless and showed up at Hans’s son’s house. His son already had a cat, “Kiwi”, a wife, and two little children, so Hans, who resisted for a week or so, finally told me he had to give in because “Schatzi the Beautiful” was just too lovely to be turned away. He decided that having a cat again so late in life was not absolutely and totally insane.

Truth be told, Hans never met a cat he didn’t like. On his visits to Vancouver, we would walk most mornings. Each time, every kitten we met received special attention — it was a given. I grew accustomed to standing patiently by as Hans pulled out his pocket-chain to dangle before little whiskered feline faces. They found that chain irresistible, which was probably why Hans carried it.

Hans fell head-over-heels in love with Schatzi, “the most beautiful cat in the world”, and I can attest to Schatzi’s beauty. Hans sent me a photograph to keep on my desk. He had a sleek white body accented by varied shades of brown on his ears and face; a distinctive off-centered white triangle sat on his aristocratic nose; myriad tones of brown covered his tail and legs, while he sported definite white booties of different lengths.

Not Schatzi, but  a Himalayan too

Not Schatzi, but a Himalayan too

So it happened that after some years of being cat-less, Hans became cat-more. His life changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. His calls and letters were a record of the ups-and-downs of what was obviously a tumultuous love affair. One early morning phone call from a distraught Hans advised me he was sure someone had kidnapped his beautiful cat.

“Why else,” he asked, “Would Schatzi not have come home last night?”

This was followed by a second frantic call the next morning. Hans was convinced someone had taken Schatzi. For the three days the felonious feline was on the loose, Hans was beside himself with concern. Finally, after Schatzi had apparently tired of meandering through the Hollywood Hills, the cat came back.

That was not the end of it. Schatzi was disciplined. He was placed under “house-arrest” for three whole days, which Hans felt was fitting in order to teach him a lesson. Schatzi must have learned which side his tuna was buttered on, because this daring escapade did not reoccur.

Letters reported more royal imprisonments, multiple visits to the hospital emergency ward, plus many pleasant hours with Schatzi happily ensconced on Hans’ lap as they watched soccer games together. The first emergency occurred when Hans, who had suffered several strokes and no longer had the manual dexterity he used to, opened his hand while opening a can of cat food. That bloody episode necessitated the first visit to the hospital. The hand was sewn up. This event was later repeated, but was reported to me somewhat sheepishly with an addendum of “Never-mind, it’s worth it!”

These mishaps didn’t make Hans regret his decision to adopt “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”. On the contrary, he seemed even more smitten than ever. He letters became glowing reports of adjustments made on both sides, of growing affection, intimacy and satisfaction with the relationship.

Now that both Hans and Schatzi are gone, they both remain tucked away in a corner of my heart and I remember them with pleasure — oh, and yes, I agree that Schatzi was indeed “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”.

The Smartest Dog in the Whole Wide World

Mom, thinking 2

photo by Susan Kauffmann

I didn’t have a dog as a kid. I settled for an aquarium of fish, and some feral kittens which were not allowed in the house. Now that I’ve been a mother, I understand my mom’s reluctance — she raised five of us. I had no idea how to take care of or train a dog, so I didn’t add one to my own busy household.

However, daughter Susan never met a creature she didn’t adore.

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I settled for tropical fish

After rain, she’d pick up worms from the sidewalk and gently place them on the parkway,  concerned the cement would hurt their little pink bellies.

I have Susan to thank for many pleasures, but especially for having had the privilege of living with Buttons, the smartest dog in the whole wide world. I suspect Susan went to school each day with some cheese squirreled away in her pocket. The dog Buttons wandered freely about our neighborhood.

The love affair between Susan and Buttons blossomed quickly. I began finding Buttons at home when I got in from work. Sometimes, I’d meet her at our front door. She’d give me a polite little hello, the door would open, and in she’d march as if she owned the place. Still, she wasn’t our dog.

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Old photo of Susan showing Buttons another little friend

One morning I found Buttons happily asleep with Susan. It was time for a family conference. We discussed the situation and decided we were willing to buy the dog for no more than $100 — if her owners would sell. A leash turned up from I know not where, we attached it to Buttons’ collar and off we went. Susan knew where Buttons lived, but we had to drag the poor thing up the walkway.

The mother of two boys invited us in. She said she was going through a divorce and was aware her sons were not being kind to Buttons. When she opened her front door, she knew exactly where Buttons ran to. She didn’t want any money. She was relieved Buttons would be well loved and cared for. We were a happy troupe going home, including Buttons.

Buttons, realizing I needed to be trained to take care of her, embarked on educating

feral-kittens

I’d had feral kittens, but I knew nothing about dogs

me. She was meticulous, taught me where she wanted to conduct her toilette (never on our property), what and when (always) she wanted to eat and how much she enjoyed a little peanut butter.

My Parisian in-laws insisted Buttons understood French. On visits, while I was at work, they delighted in her. They’d ask her (in French — they spoke no English) if she wanted a walk. She’d respond by going to the door, tail wagging. They’d ask her, again in French, to speak, which she did, just as she would in English. We made tapes to send them in Paris, so they could listen as often as they liked. Of course, Buttons always said hello. They’d play the tapes for their neighbors — Buttons was the star of the show.

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AJ the beautiful and Rafi

I’d hold Buttons close, tell her she wasn’t gorgeous but I loved her and she’d happily lick my face in return for the non-compliment. Although when she was groomed and had pretty ribbons in her hair, she pranced around and was, indeed, a beauty. She was the cleverest dog I ever had. Yes, there were others. AJ was prettier, but Buttons at half his size, was the boss. She’d jump up and nip him on the nose if he was out of line.

Buttons WAS definitely brilliant. She CHOSE her family. She DECIDED to move in. She TRAINED us. She also gave us loads of love which we returned with pleasure.

The Kindness of Strangers

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Stranger in a red coat

A stranger in a bright red raincoat came up from behind me as I plodded across the busy intersection as fast as I could, but not fast enough — the light had already changed to red. ‘I’ll walk beside you’ she said, ‘They won’t want to hit both of us.’

My knee is mad at me so I use a walker. It helps, not only with my angry old-lady-with-walkerknee, but also with my old balance disorder, which has caused many falls through the years. (That’s why my knee is so upset.) The woman realized I was having a difficult time and decided to help a stranger. Why?

In my neighborhood, many shops have handicapped door operators which you push to open the door. Still, passersby who don’t realize that often stop on their way to pull a door open for me. My favorite morning breakfast stop has one, which occasionally isn’t operative yet if I arrive early. (The activator is above the door — I think the staff can’t reach it.) A favorite, tall fellow patron, Greg, will get up and switch it on if he sees me coming. Nice….but why?

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Handicapped Door operator

The other morning, Greg noticed my walker wheels were caked with what he thought was dog poop. He warned me about it, but I continued reading. I’m such a passionate reader, I didn’t even notice when he and his pal Garth wheeled my walker out the door, cleaned it so I wouldn’t have to deal with it later, and brought it back in. (I’m hoping they were wrong, that what they cleaned was actually ground up wet brown leaves which gather at the sidewalk cuts I have to use.) Why did they bother?

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Bus drivers deal with some abusive riders

I regularly attend exercise classes at a community centre. I no longer drive. I use transit. How do bus drivers in this busy city who deal with mentally ill and abusive riders plus crazy traffic manage to stay so considerate? They wait until I’m seated before starting the bus. They patiently wait again for me to painfully rise and slowly back off the vehicle with my walker. (It was a bus driver who taught me that it’s the safest way to leave.)

This week I told a driver I wish I could sit on my walker on the bus. It’s higher and less painful to rise from. At my stop, she urged me to take the time to place it in a particular spot, set the brakes, and see if it would work. Not wanting to make her late, (they are on schedules) I told her I’d try it next time I rode a bus. Hey, it works. I hope I see her again so I can thank her. I’ve since used her idea twice. Why did an absolute stranger do this?

Then, the volunteer who sells coffee once a week at the center carries my coffee to a nearby table for me. It’s difficult for me to manage that and the walker — multitasking was never my thing. He says he’s not allowed to accept tips, I never ask him to do it, but he does it anyway. Why?

What makes so many strangers so kind? For one, I believe most people are inherently good. I also know that when I am kind to others, it gives ME a warm fuzzy. So it goes…..we give, we get. I am ever grateful to my wonderful caring family, to my friends, and especially those many strangers who are there for me. Warm hugs to you all!

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My son’s beautiful wife Chandra who worked so very hard to plan a special 80th birthday party for me. She succeeded.

Facebook?

mom-pic-to-cropI’m a tough old broad. I don’t give up easily and I’ve always wanted to be more technologically knowledgeable. (I dare you say those two words in a row quickly.) I thought I wanted to know how to use Facebook like a lot of other people do. After all, anyone who IS anyone is on Facebook, right? So, once when my son visited, I cornered him to help me and he set me up.

However, all good things come to an end and that was all Rafi had time for on that visit. After he went home, I took advantage of a very patient young friend to become more computer literate and asked him to teach me how to actually use Facebook. He tried. He knew what he was doing. I learned a little. Whatever was I thinking?

At first it was thrilling. I suddenly heard from a few wonderful people out of my

funny worried lady again

How do they know???

distant past whom I hadn’t heard from in years. That was pleasurable, but also a little scary. How did they know so quickly I was on Facebook? I would feel better if I understood more about how these things really work.

There are the many emails I now receive telling me I have 28 or 35 new notifications, or this person and that person want to be my ‘friend’. I don’t know most of them. Why would they want to be my friend? If I didn’t know me would I want to be my friend? And are they even aware that they do? I wonder…. Then, how much time does it take to view 28 or 35 new notifications? And, can I spare all that time?

Girl-dizzy

All those colours and pop ups can make me dizzy.

I also get emails telling me someone or other has posted a new photo. If i know them, I do try to go see them. Sometimes I manage and sometimes I don’t. What I too often find are numerous advertisements, many of which pop up in boxes, and so much dizzy-making colour busyness and confusion that I find myself rapidly withdrawing. It’s a matter of self-preservation. I have a Vestibular Disorder. This kind of moving visual thing can be a trigger for dizziness.

Over all, I’ve discovered, after the initial joy in finding and touching base with treasured old friends again, Facebook can mercilessly gobble up your time as well. Yes, I am retired. Yes, I don’t work anymore. Still, there are things I need to do, or want to do, or find more interesting to do with my free time.

Have you seen my scarf?

This old body of mine demands more attention than it used to.

As an ancient personage, I have discovered everything takes longer than it used to and this old body of mine demands a lot more attention than it used to. So, the question is: Do I really have time for all this?

What is your experience with Facebook? I want to know if you use it and what you think.

C’mon, give an old lady a break

muriel-6Look I’m 80. I didn’t grow up with computers or most of today’s  technologies. Surely I’m not the only one who would be grateful to be able to buy a phone, or radio, or whatever, which will just do what I want it to do. Is this too much to ask?

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I wanted to buy a pedometer

Besides, trying to make my way through poorly organized, very long instruction booklets with small print is not easy. Often the product is made in China, and I fear the instructions are too. They have a long way to go before they can be described as helpful. My son, who knows so much more than I do about these things, I note, doesn’t bother reading them. He just seems to know what to do. No fair.

Just bought a new pedometer. That’s all I wanted. Something to replace the one I lost a few years ago which used to count my steps. They apparently don’t sell those anymore, so I asked the salesclerk if he would please set up this new one for me. He kindly obliged.

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USB Cable, whatever that is

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CD Rom which I’ll never use

He opened the package, withdrew a CD Rom (Health management software) some USB Cable, whatever that is, plastic clip-on holder, actual pedometer (Yeah!), and the instruction manual in English and French. The English portion alone is 40 pages long! Under ‘Important Safety Information’ you are warned to read ALL the information in the instruction book before using the unit. (I won’t.)

I can’t resist telling you the hard plastic outer package measures 7 3/4” x 6 1/2”. (If you need that in metrics, you’re on your own.) Then, there’s a second inner hard plastic package which is approximately 6 1/2” x 5”. The actual pedometer is about 1 1/2” x 2”.

When all I want is a pedometer, is all this extra stuff and packaging necessary? I have children and a grandson. I want them to have a decent environment left to live in after I’m gone. How will that be possible with all this waste?

Okay, now back to setting the gizmo up. The first thing the clerk asked was how much I weigh. I’ve never lied about my age, but to tell the truth, I’ve always lied about my weight. Few people have been told that. It’s privileged information. The only ones who do know are my daughter, whom I trust with my life; Trudy, one of my closest friends; and my doctor.

‘What do they need that for?’

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Is he telling everyone how much I weigh?

‘That’s the next step in setting it up.’

Goodness me. Now the fellow knows how much I weigh — I don’t even know his name. Doesn’t seem fair to me. Well, on to the next step.

‘How long is your stride — in metrics?’

My stride??? In metrics? They didn’t teach metrics when I went to school. I also spent years in the U.S. where they flatly refuse to deal with such nonsense and I don’t blame them. Besides, when was the last time you walked around with a measuring tape to figure out how long your stride is, in metrics or otherwise? Are they nuts?

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How long is my stride???? Are you kidding?

By now the poor guy was probably regretting being kind to this cranky old lady. I decided to plop down on my walker — this was obviously going to be a very long, complicated process. He patiently explained that the instructions suggest you measure your stride before setting the darn thing and read me the options they list. I hadn’t a clue.

‘I’m short. Choose the lowest option or whatever.’

This pocket pedometer seems to be able to do many things like count your calories, check your heart rate, tell you how much fat you’ve burned, see if your steps are aerobic, etc., etc. I wonder — will it take the dog out and cut my toe nails?