Suzanne Comes Back

Suzanne’s Christmastime Visit.

I couldn’t believe it, but there she sat at the end of the butcher block table.

It was Suzanne, and she was as beautiful as ever. She was sitting there, with that long, dark cigar, smiling and looking at me, not saying a word.

I stood there, stunned. Bailey and Brandy were no less surprised as they sat on the floor by her chair, looking at her.

I hadn’t seen her since March 9th of 2012, when, after about two months of visiting me, she walked through the door and was gone. I never did figure out how those Greek muses could do that trick.

All I could think of to say was, “Hello.”

She smiled and said, “Hello, Bobby, it is good to see you.”

“My god, it is good to see you, it has been so long, I thought you’d forgotten me. What brings you back?” I said.

She took a puff on her cigar, and through the smoke I could see the light in her flashing, emerald green eyes, and she said, “Bobby, I could never forget you, and I came to wish you a Merry Christmas, and tell you I like what you have done since we last saw each other.”

For those of you reading this, who aren’t familiar, Suzanne was the muse that dropped in, unannounced to my humble dwelling back in January 2012, having been sent by her mother, Calliope, who was the Greek muse of epic poetry. Suzanne, who was Homer’s daughter and the niece of Socrates, came to help me find a voice for my words, and in the process she helped me rewrite Greek history.

I sat down at my end of the table, as I done for so many nights, and we began to talk. I asked her what she had been doing since she left to go to Butte, Montana to help some poor cowboy poet who was having trouble. Her mother had decided she had spent way to much time in Bismarck with me, and besides, the cowboy was having trouble finding a word that rhymed with saddle.

“Oh, Bobby,” she said, “I spent a few weeks in Butte, and then mother called us all back to Athens. Seems she thought that we needed to become more efficient, and she also thought that the internet was getting in the way of the real business of muses, which is to help inspire. It was her thought, that the internet was making people lazy, and stunting creativity, and we had to work harder to counteract that.”

I was beginning to relax now, and asked her if she was staying the night. She said she was here for a day or two and then would be off.

I said, “Well, then, this calls for some kind of celebration. I don’t have any strawberries, but I do have chocolates and wine, if that will do.” I was referring to some of our evenings together when champagne and strawberries, candle light and music was the order of the day, or night, as it were.

She said that would be fine, and as I got up to get candles for the table and retrieve the wine, I turned around, and on the table appeared a bottle of Cabernet along with a plate of truffles. How she did that I don’t know. I lit the candles got the glasses, and poured us each some and sat down, still amazed at what I was seeing.

In the meantime, Bailey and Brandy were both laying beside her chair, now both seemingly sleeping, but obviously at ease that there friend from long ago was paying a visit. I had watched them when Suzanne was here before, and she had seemed to cast a spell on them.

I raised my glass and reached across the length of the table to tap her glass and said, “Welcome back. It’s really good to see you again.”

She smiled again, and in the reflected light of the candles on the table, her eyes had this wonderful, soft glow, and she said, “It is good to see you, my friend.”

For a time, nothing else was said. There was just the two of us, looking at each other, and the moment, a moment I didn’t want to end.

I took a couple of sips of the wine, and then got up to put some Christmas music on the box. I started with “Tomorrow is My Dancing Day,” by the Paul Winter Consort, one of my perennial favorites.

When I sat down, she said, “I know this song, and it is a lovely rendition of an old English carol.” I said, “How the hell do you know that?” Then I realized what a stupid question that was. I forgot for a moment who I was in the company of.

One bottle led to another, and she was beginning to loosen up. We both were, for that matter.

As I looked across the table I was struck by how the candlelight softened the glow around her face, and there seemed to be this faint aura that made the scene even more unreal.

“Okay,” I said, “What brings you back after all this time?”

She sat for moment, picked up one of her long, dark cigars, which seemed to light by itself, and she took another sip of wine, and said in the softest of voices, “ I just wanted you to know that I didn’t forget you, and the time we spent together, and it seemed to me that Christmastime was the perfect time to tell you how much you meant to me.”

I almost melted. I told her I had never forgotten her, or what she meant to me either.

Then she told me she had been keeping tabs on me since she left, and she knew that I had finished the first draft of the story I was having so much trouble getting started on when she had first walked through the door. She said she also thought some of the poetry I had written since then was not bad either. I figured coming from the daughter of the muse of epic poetry that wasn’t a bad endorsement, even though no one would ever hear but me.

I asked her if there was anyone special in her life, and she gave me this inscrutable look that told me if there was it was none of my business. Then she told me that muses do have relationship problems, usually because there is a couple of thousand years difference in age, sort of like ours. I reluctantly had to agree, but then I winked and said, “We can always give it a try.” She said, “Bobby, you naughty boy, wine is fine, but we can leave it at that.”

I said, “Well, you got me there, my friend.”

We sat there until the truffles were gone, and the wine was at the bottom of the bottle, and I knew it was getting late. I asked this ethereal vision if she was staying the night, and she said she thought she should, if I didn’t mind. Well, there was no question about that, she could have stayed forever is she wanted to, but I also knew that muses have their limits. We had dealt with that issue before on our nights of champagne and strawberries back in 2012.

I said, “Good night, and I hope to see you in the morning,” and before I could blow out the candle, she said, “You will, my friend, you will.”

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The Last Christmas Eve

There was a cloud that Christmas Eve in 2007.
One that hung over the house on North Mandan Street.
One that muted the colors and the sounds of the season.

The options, we knew, were gone.
The future was another unknown.
But, we sat that night and didn’t care.

Decorations, that year took a back seat.
The few lights on the tree and a few snow globes were enough.
And, that night, that was fine. We didn’t care.

Bailey and Brandy found their place on the couch with you.
The candles that you loved, were lit, and the music you treasured was playing.
I uncorked the wine you wanted, and brought out the cheese.

As we sat that there that night, the lights somehow became more brilliant,
The cloud seemed to lift, as the wine and the music took effect,
And, for a precious moment that night, we cared.

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Reflections, December 2014

1977 Letter To Santa Claus

In my life as a journalist and columnist, I have written tens of thousands of words, most, if not all, forgettable, but some have stuck with me over the years, and during this time of the year, I remember some of those words that have stuck. This TBT post deals with those words.

It’s Christmas time, and on a cold winter’s night, I sit here in my 1975 Rollohome, with some of my favorite Christmas music playing on the box, a good glass of Cabernet in hand, Bailey and Brandy, my two Siamese friends nearby, and I recall memories from other Christmas holidays. This is one of those memories for me. One, I will never forget.

The year was 1977. I was living in Grand Forks in a small apartment in the back of a house in the Riverside Park area, a house on Lewis that at the time was right next to the dike. At the time I was divorced, and working at The Center for Human Development, which later would become part of the mental health centers across the state. I was in the Training and Education Department, and Pete Porinsh was my boss. One of my jobs there was to write a column on mental health issues for weekly papers in the area served by the Center.

It was December, and nearing Christmas. I was sitting in my apartment one weekend day, I believe it was a Sunday, in front of the word processor of the day, my trusty Classic 12 Smith Corona portable typewriter, feeling the stress of the holiday season.

I was feeling blue, missing all of the magic of Christmas with my son and the family that once was. It didn’t make it any easier that I was the one who had made the bed I was in, but the sadness remained. It is my wont during times like that, I often write, if only just for myself. This was to be just such a time. I was wondering what I could write about that would make the Christmas season a little more bearable for me.

Then it struck me out of the blue. I said to myself, “I shall write a letter to Santa Claus.”
More precisely, a single parent’s letter to Santa Claus. So I did. I thought then, “This is really strange,” but it felt right, so I set to work on my typewriter, not knowing what was going to show up on the blank page in front of me.

I looked at it after I wrote it, and thought it might not be perfect, but was good enough to take to the editor of the Grand Forks Herald. After I read it over a few times, I felt good about it, and to treat myself, I went to Whitey’s for a beer and a burger.

A day or so later, I took myself to the Herald office, and asked to see the editorial page editor, thinking that this wasn’t exactly a news item. I was directed to Tom Shoemaker, who was then the Managing Editor and Editorial Page Editor.

Now, I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I have any realistic expectation that he would accept my offering for publication. As a writer you get used to rejection. It goes with the territory.

We chatted a bit and then he read it, and after a few minutes, he allowed as how he had never seen anything quite like this, and I allowed that I had never written anything quite like that. He asked me if they could publish it, and I told them that was fine with me, thinking it would be inside on what would become known in later years, as the Op-Ed page.

Later, to my surprise, it appeared on the front page of the Christmas Eve edition of the Herald, which was, at the time, still an afternoon paper. Not only was it on the front page, it was the only Christmas story on the front page that day. Surprised, and pleased, I stopped by Pete’s house, and we toasted it properly that Christmas Eve.

As I read it again today, less than two weeks before Christmas, it makes me smile, and I think of that son, who today, with his wife and son, are making their own Christmas memories. And, as it was 37 years ago, I will not see him.’

Who knows, maybe Santa will stop by and leave a message for them all.

Here it is, as it appeared that Christmas Eve so long ago.

Santa Claus Letter224

This is a better view of the letter.


Santa Claus Letter:2225


Bob, Bailey and Brandy.

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Where The Popsicles Are—A Christmas Wish

Where The Popsicles Are–A Christmas Wish Christmas is a happy time, but it is also a busy time, and I hope you will take moment to read what follows. It is a time for many that is bittersweet, but it can also be a magical time. A time when believing that better treatments and cures of cancer are possible. I, for one do.

The American Cancer Society has estimated the number of new gynecologic cancer cases in 2014 at almost 95,000, and of those cases, over 28,000 women will die. That includes deaths from cervical cancer, the number 4 leading cause, ovarian cancer, the number 5 killer, uterine cancer, the number 7 killer, vulva and vaginal cancers make up the rest. Those figures are for the U. S. only. There are tens of thousands more world wide who will be affected by these diseases.

Where The Popsicles Are is but one story of one woman’s battle with gynecologic cancer. You know her as Joanie Wigen, and her story is the reason for this Christmas Wish.

After Joanie died in 2008, I established an endowed research fund at the University of Minnesota Foundation in her memory. The fund, known as “The Joan Wigen Endowed Fund For Women’s Cancer Research has grown a little since then, but the time has come to beef it up in the effort to find new treatments and work towards cures for these diseases.

I never meant for the fund to just be a memorial to her, but a tool to be used to help the battle against these diseases.

I have an intense personal interest in this campaign. In 1984, one of my younger sisters, Judy died after a battle with cervical cancer. Three years later, my mother, Marie, died from uterine cancer, our dear friend Karen Tanous, died in 2006 just six months after she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and in 2008, Joanie died after her 12 year battle. So it’s not like this is some kind of intellectual exercise for me. I’ve seen first hand what the onset of these diseases bring, and the toll they take on women and their families.

20 Days–$20.00 There are 20 days left before Christmas, and what I’m asking you all to do is make a donation of $20.00 to the Joanie Research Fund. Of course you can always donate more if you want, but all I’m asking for is $20.00. You will learn why shortly. You can do it a couple of ways.

You can send a check to this address:

University of Minnesota Foundation

P.O. Box 860266

Minneapolis, MN 55486-0266

Make checks payable to the U of M Foundation/Joan Wigen Fund Or, you can click on the link below, and make a donation directly to the fund on the Foundation site.

The reason I’m only asking for $20.00 is this. I figure, if all of you will share this post with your friends, on your Timeline, and encourage them to share it with their friends, we can reach many more people than I could personally. You can also share the crowd funding page from the link above with your friends.

This is asking a lot, I know, but I feel strongly that $20.00 from a small percentage of donors can go a long way towards raising funding to a level where the amount used every year for research projects can have some impact. This is important to know also, and that is 100% of the funds raised for the Joanie Research Fund goes for that purpose alone.

So, if you agree that the scourge of gynecologic cancers should be stopped, please take a minute today and either send in a check, or go to the link on the page and make your donation. Twenty dollars, a dollar a day for the 20 days before Christmas, can help make a difference in the fight against the diseases that rob so many women, world wide, of a long and fruitful life, so, please, share this with all of your FB friends and ask them to share it with their friends, and make this Christmas Wish a reality.

Who knows, perhaps on one brief moment on Christmas Eve you’ll be sitting there in the afterglow of an evening with family and friends, and you will think to yourself, “I believe it can be done.” So please believe and share this with your FB friends or any of your other friends.

If your friends aren’t familiar with Joanie Wigen, have them check this site,, and go to the archives and click on February 14, 2013 for the start of Where The Popsicles Are.

“If you want to arrange it, this world you can change it if we somehow can make this Christmas thing last.”-Trans-Siberian Orchestra,“Old City Bar.”

Let us change it. Please share this with your friends today so we can spread the word about the need for better treatments and more research to find cures for these ugly diseases. You can, as the song says, change this world.

Merry Christmas.

Bob Kallberg

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Rage, Hope and Sadness

Reflections on the human condition from guy sitting out here on the prairie on a cold night.

60 Minutes tonight presented stories that both enraged me, gave me hope and saddened me, all in the space of, well, about 60 minutes.

The first was the story about the Syrian dictator Assad starving his own people. Apparently just killing them was not enough for him, and so he had decided on starving men, women and children and forcing them on long journeys to Jordan to find help. A journey that many do not survive.

My outrage came as I realized, sitting here in the relative comfort of my 1975 Rollohome on this cold November night watching Scott Pelley’s story on the issue of hunger and refugees from Syria, that our country, the so called leader of the free world, and our so called allies are all sitting on their collective ass while Assad continues to kill, and starve his own people.

Where is the leadership from our President against the atrocities, and don’t tell me ,”It’s more complicated than that,” that is bullshit. Here we have a man who we know is killing his own people, and we are doing nothing. Where are our allies? They too are doing nothing to stem the carnage in Syria. What the hell is wrong with these people? What the hell is wrong with us?

Okay, take a deep breath. Phew, that’s better.

Then, came the story about the “lion whisperer” in South Africa. This story warmed my heart and gave me hope.I really love those big cats and would love to be able to interact with them like the subject of the story does. It gave me hope that not all humans are insensitive animals themselves.

I was saddened when the rest of the story also told of what they call “canned hunting camps” where rich guys with a spare $100 thousand or so to spare, come and shoot these beautiful animals whose life at the petting zoo they had been bred into was over. The lions are basically brought to a camp, hunters get their high powered rifles and go out and shoot a beautiful big cat for a trophy, something to show the guys back home.

To his credit, the “lion whisperer” had taken 26 of his cats to a sanctuary of his own making where they are safe and can live and play with their human.

So, there you have it. In the short span of 60 minutes my emotions ranged from rage to warmth and joy and to sadness, all of it having to do with man’s inhumanity to man and man’s inhumanity to animals.

As I sit here writing this, I look around at my own two cats, one, Bailey, who is laying on the table, and wonder what they think. Bailey just looks at me with a look that says, “You guys are really messed up, but as long as you keep the treats coming, I’ll not say any more.”

I think she’s onto something. “Just keep the treats coming.”

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