Party Games

April 14, 2018: Family and friends gathered at my place for a belated birthday/welcome spring party. My friend Betty and I, who turned 70 the same year, had made a pact that we’d have a party every year from now on since each birthday is a milestone. I’m now seventy-three! Not sure if I had what it would take to put it together, when Betty offered to help, that sealed the deal. I couldn’t have done it without her!

Two years ago, the first time I invited both family and friends, mixing was at a minimum. So, Betty decided she would remedy the situation with an activity. She passed out paper and pencil, asking everyone to write down a memory of Karin. Be specific she said and she would read them and I had to guess who wrote each one. Here are the memories followed by comments that tell the rest of/the whole story.

“I remember the cute and clever poem you wrote years ago critiquing our little breakfast restaurant. The place where we were judged by the number of muffins we ate. You shared your funny side that day.”
Pat F, a poetry friend, recalls the coffee shop we went to for Poetry Breakfast. The poem I wrote was The Ask-Away Café, telling the tale of the poor service and how we had to ask and ask for the simplest things like silverware and napkins. We kept going there only because the place was quiet with so few customers and that made it perfect for reading and critiquing our poetry. The deal breaker occurred when Pat was scolded by the owner because we didn’t purchase enough muffins which the owner said she had stocked up on just for us. Hey, aren’t we the customers here! And therefore always right. We found another place and the Ask Away Café is no longer in business.

“Karin prevented Cleo from “cold cocking” Fran Ruzika. (I think this is the story,)”
Julie Schuppie is recalling when I was working in a research project at St. Mary’s Family Practice Center. I supervised social work students (Julie was one) and the clinic was a residency program for family practice doctors. I was not supposed to provide social work services until the research project was completed. A resident, Fran Ruzika, appeared at my door looking pale and worried. He had a fourteen-year old girl in one exam room and her mother in the room next door. The mother and daughter had just found out that the girl was pregnant. A month away from delivery, actually. The mother, Cleo, was enraged and threatening to “cold cock” someone. Dr. Ruzika was unsure what to do, if he could even release the girl to her mother, should police or child protection be called, or how/if to get the mother and daughter back together so planning for the new baby could begin. I took Julie down to the clinic with me saying this was a good learning experience. She talked to the pregnant girl and I talked to the mother and Dr. Ruzika. Turns out, Cleo wanted to “cold cock” the man who got her daughter pregnant but calmed down once we talked. Mother and daughter were reunited and all went well. I had to turn away other residents who showed up at my door looking for assistance. The next semester I expanded the social work field placement and social work became part of regular care.

“Drinking at the Crystal Corner Bar and writing our names on the wall of the bathroom.”
After dinner out with my siblings, brother Kent and sister-in-law Tami stopped for a night cap (we had several) at the Crystal Corner Bar in the Williamson neighborhood of Madison. I felt like I’d walked back into the 1960’s. Old bar filled with aging hippies Tami went to the ladies’ room and came back with a sheepish look. She told me to go into the bathroom and look at the wall. There was the usual graffiti but someone had drawn a penis on the wall. We got a marker and put our names there too.

“Eight shots of tequila equal alcohol poisoning at the C & C in Door County.”
“I saw you drink many shots the night Bobby the Butcher was at the C & C.”
Betty and Diane are remembering different parts of the same night. We went to the C & C for taco night. Why I don’t know, but I had a shot of tequila. Then when the next round came along, I just said sure. But the end of the evening I’d had eight shots. Just for the record, I walked home unassisted (just two blocks) and I didn’t have a hangover the next day. That same night we struck up a conversation with a lone person at the bar. At first, we weren’t sure if it was a she or a he. Very large person with big boots. We played darts and talked. But at some point, he/she said something bothering and we changed our mind about being friends. When we got home, we worried that she’d show up since she knew where we lived. Someone joked that maybe she was a serial killer. Hence the name Bobby the Butcher. The Louisivilla didn’t have very strong locks so we piled up empty beer bottles against the door and the window to Bettys bedroom. Clanking beer bottles would be a warning. All was well the next day and we never saw Bobby the Butcher again.

“What could be better than Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, a glass of wine and a good friend”
My poetry friend, Pat the Hat and I are obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch. The scheduling of new episodes of Sherlock Holmes are spaced so far out that I have it set to tape. When a new episode finally comes on we plan the night for viewing and have glasses of wine while watching.

“Walking on Cottage Row in Door County”
Tricia commented that when we took this walk it was the first time we got to spend time with just each other. This is true since in Door County we are always in a large group and it was nice to get to know each other.

“Karin was initiated into the giant guild via a bean bag victory. Then I asked her to write about it.”
Patti P is recalling how every year in Door County had to include a trip to the A C Tap outside of Bailey’s Harbor for a bean bag tournament. We had teams, the Giants and the Munchkins (height related criteria). Loyalty was tested when there weren’t enough of one team and someone had to switch. I recall one trip to the bar for refills when Harley, the elderly bartender said: I’ve never seen people your age have so much fun. We took that as a compliment.

“Sometimes Karin verbalizes frustration…..I can’t take it anymore… she never stops talking……there must be something wrong with her.”
Jane is recalling my disappointment when I moved to Wauwatosa and the book group we’d belonged to before I moved to Eagle River, had invited me to re-join. At first, I was happy but then disappointed that this group had become a visiting, socializing, wine drinking, hardly talking about the book group. There were often three conversations going at the same time and none of them on the book. Jane had to endure my ranting and raving. Until I quit.

“Five of us had a drink and a smoke when we were where and doing what?”
Bonnie is trying hard to recall why we did this. I have a picture but have no idea what it was all about. Perhaps we were being supportive of Betty who was, I think, the only smoker among us. We were at the Bayside in Fish Creek possibly killing time until check in at the Louisivilla. It was me, Betty, Bonnie, Patti P and Diane. We all lit up and got the waitress to take our picture. Who knows when but smoking in the bar was still allowed.

“I spent a week end with Karin while she was attending UW Oshkosh. She took me to her favorite bars. I ended up sleeping on a cot in her apartment and was really feeling the beer. I had to put my foot on the floor to stop the spinning.”
My sister, Karleen recalls this. I don’t. But I’ll bet I was living at the House of SAW. I also bet I took her to the Rail, the B & B and the Loft. “Feeling the beer” and “spinning” sounds about right.

“Every time I got an operation you sent me a get-well card.”
My sister-in-law, Kimie recalls cards I sent to her when she was in the middle of a serious health crisis. This was quite a while ago and I said I don’t remember. She came through it fine.

“Eating a big sandwich in Pittsburgh”
Traveling to Pittsburgh for Jeung Hwa’s wedding in 2014, Kent and Tami wanted to check out recommended tourist spots. Following Tami’s famous folder, we visited a city market and had lunch at the Primanti Brother’s, famous for their huge sandwich, developed in the 1930’s for the miners to take along as they went to work. I had a four-inch high pastrami that comes with French fries stuffed inside. I have a picture of the sandwich.

“Explaining football jargon while watching a Packer game in an expensive bar”
Same trip. Pittsburgh in 2014. Kent had searched for someplace to watch the Packer game. We arrived to a near empty bar. After paying $12.00 for a Manhattan I knew why it was empty. We worried that we’d get kicked out when we hooted at each score. Brother-in-law Paul did his best to explain football to me. I still don’t get it.

“I always remember Karin’s essay on men and women”
Jeri, in writing group, critiqued an essay I am sending to Sun Magazine. One of my biggest goals is to be published in Sun. They have a feature called Readers Write and I’m sending it there.

“Bonfire in Eagle River. Storytelling about the olden days”
Karla recalls how our family got together at my house in Eagle River to scatter Dad’s ashes at his hunting camp outside of Rhinelander. We had the best time camping in the yard, visited by deer, laughing and talking, fire in the fire pit, having the best time my family has ever had together.

“Two ‘drowned rats’ walking, giggling, enjoying life in Peninsula State Park”
Ginny recalls how she and I set out from the Louievilla for a walk in Peninsula State Park. We were walking along and suddenly it began to pour. We quickly turned  back for home. But we both at the same time and without a word, stopped and looked at each other. It was pouring. We were already soaked. We turned back and continued our walk into the park. When we arrived back at the Louievilla we were soaked through and through I have the picture someone took.

“I remember going to Karin’s house in Cedarburg and her showing us her lovely gardens and her treasured hollyhocks. I associate hollyhocks with Karin”
Little Patti came to my house with the girls and saw my hollyhocks. How I loved them. I told how Bud thought he was doing a good thing and took a weed wacker to trim brush and weeds all around the house. Unfortunately, he cut the hollyhocks just coming up along the back wall.  I put rocks around them and he was never allowed near them again. I especially liked the old fashioned single hollyhocks.

“Donating to charities/causes under my sisters, my cousins and my name as a Christmas gift. Thanks Karin the nice lady.”
“Books from Auntie Karin the nice lady”
“Always getting the best gits from Auntie Karin the nice lady”
“The best aunt ever”
Me Jeung was the only niece or nephew in attendance but brother and sisters added a comment for some who were not present. I didn’t remember donating to charity but am assured that I did. I was very touched by these comments. Someone said I’d introduced them to philanthropy. Until they got out of high school each of my nieces and nephews got a book gift card for their birthday. I recall the nice thank you letters I received. Since I never had children, by choice, I always considered my nieces and nephews to be sort of my kids.

This event was so special. To have so many of my friends and family in the same room and I don’t think I ever had so much attention directed at me at one time. It was wonderful. And we are planning next years party. Because as I recall, I did make a pact that I’d have a party every year from now on. This one will be hard to top.




The Unraveling of the Well-Planned Day

It begins the evening before, when energy is high, ambition peaked.
The to-do list is a mainstay from working years.
Now, no deadlines, agendas or schedules
but the habit persists.

It’s invigorating to write it all down;
but checking things off is the real reward.
When morning comes, drive has disappeared.
it takes forever to pull things together.

Just one more cup of chai tea before the start.
A half-hour of computer solitaire;
must ponder, what do I really want to do.
That library book comes due soon but I feel like a nap.

Then refreshed, let’s get started;
finish that essay, start that poem.
Sidelined by a phone call; time and energy sucked away.
Writing can wait until later.

A random episode of Friends or Big Bang; a few laughs is a luxury.
Break for lunch relaxation; slide off-track by common chores.
Maybe a short walk will aid focus;
after just a quick check of the news.

One domino leads to another.
Disorder dominates; list is lethargic.
With a mix of dread and relief;
like Scarlet O’Hara, there’s always tomorrow.


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