April 9, 2016

Today marks the eighth anniversary of the night Joanie died. All of us have dates in our lives that we can’t ignore, nor wish to. The poem that follows was written April 9, 2014, and I posted it on my blog. Some of you may have seen it before, others may not have. Anyway, as I mark this day, I decided to repost it.

She Danced.

She danced with death

All of those clouded years.

Never asking, never knowing,

Why.

She danced, and when the music changed,

She never asked the orchestra for a different tune.

The longer she danced,

Her feet gave rhythm to the music of her soul

And,

In the end she danced into the light

Never asking, never knowing,

Why.

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Joanie

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She Was a Friend

“Neecer”

 

Bernice-5

She wasn’t a famous person, so those of you reading this won’t recognize her name.

You won’t recognize her from these photos either.

But Bernice Stensgaard was a friend of mine, and she died the other day.

She was a gentle woman, who lived a long and full life, raising two sons, who she was proud of, and had every right to be. She was 90 when the curtain rang down on her life in Moorhead, Minnesota.

I first came to know here when my wife, at the time, Mary Ann, went to work at Moorhead North Junior. Bernice worked with her at the library.

It was 1969, and it seems like yesterday.

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It’s cold tonight, in Bismarck. The temperature is sinking, and the days ahead don’t give much hope for relief, and so as I sit here in my little tin shack, with my two friends, Bailey and Brandy, the memories of time spent with her come rushing back as if I’m watching some long ago family film because, for all of those years, she was part of our family.

It’s cold tonight, but thinking of Neecer seems to warm the evening chill.

The years between 1969 and late 1976, were years when we enjoyed her company, the company of her two sons, Dale and Daryl, and where laughter was the order of the day. We got to know her family, and they in turn got to know many members of our families.

We did some traveling together as well. A trip with Bernice and Daryl to Winnipeg, and a long road trip to the East coast with Bernice, where we hit Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York, Connecticut, Boston and back again. It was a wonderful experience for the three of us, and I still have all of the photos I took during that trip.

In 1974, Bernice agreed to be a Godparent to our son Ryan. The other Godparent was a young Priest from Nativity Church in Fargo, Jack Davis. I always thought it was an interesting situation. First of all, Mary Ann was Catholic, and I was Lutheran. Now you have Bernice, a Lutheran, and Father Davis, a Catholic, as Godparents for our son, and I thought it was perfect.

I changed things in late 1976, when I initiated a separation from Mary Ann, and as anyone who has ever gone through a divorce knows, that act upsets the dynamics of many relationships with our mutual friends. With Bernice, that didn’t happen.
I knew she was a major support for Mary Ann during those late October days, but she was never judgemental, and over time, my relationship with Bernice, never changed, and that was something that I’ve never forgotten.

Those were some difficult years for me, but whenever I stopped by to see Bernice, I felt better. In 1980, I worked for Al Olson, a Republican who was running for governor, and when he won, he appointed me press secretary. Bernice gave me one of those nice portfolios, the kind that holds a legal pad, and room for a few other papers. I still have it today, and I still use it today, and every time I do, it reminds me of “Neecer”

Whenever I would come through Fargo after those years, I would stop for coffee, or meet her for lunch, and for several Christmases, as I was coming back from Minneapolis, I would bring her a small present from Nieman Marcus.

Bernice was a lovely woman, who was a part of my life, and the memories of her help warm this winter’s night. I am sad that she has left us, but I know that she had a full life, and to her two sons, I can only say to them they were really lucky to have had such a woman in their life. I think they know that.

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It’s been a lot of years, and while we didn’t see each other as often as we did in the 1970’s, time and distance mitigated against it, we did keep in touch, and did find time, on ocassion, to have coffee and a visit in the house where she had lived for so many years.

So, as I said at the beginning, she wasn’t a famous person, or someone you would recognize from her photos, but to us she was famous, and to the world, she could be used as a model on how to conduct a long and fruitful life.

I am proud to have called her a friend, and will cherish the memories we created during those years.

Hail and Farewell

“Neecer,” we called her.
And Bernice didn’t mind.

She worked with Mary Ann,
At another time in our lives,
And we became lifelong friends.

Time with her was full of life and laughter,
With travels together, and memories made, 
That remain today.

Her smile was as big as her heart.

Her gentle soul
Could melt a winter’s frost,
And her light could illuminate
The corners of the darkest nights.

“Neecer,” we called her,
And she was a friend.

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Musings

Night Scenes

Night comes,
Bringing scenes
Of plays,
Real or imagined.

Comedies and tragedies,
Play out on a stage,
Directed by our demons,
In a setting we designed.

The sun comes up
As the curtain comes down,
And actors take their bows
In a dark and empty theater.

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Musing

Wonder

The wonder of days
Sunlit and warm.
The miracle of nights with
Candlelight and wine.
Of fireplace shadows,
Making memories
For a lifetime.

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Just Another Christmas Story

My brother, Jerry, who lives in North Carolina, sent me a present this year, which included some chocolate covered cherries, the importance of which I didn’t understand, and dispatched them quickly, which means I ate everyone. After all, they were Godiva.

When I talked to him Christmas Eve, he told me he forgot to send along the story that goes with the chocolate covered cherries which would explain their significance..
He sent it to me, and I post it here.

“This is just another Christmas story but a true one that has never been told before.

“Every Christmas my Mother always included a box of chocolate covered cherries in her gifts to my Grandmother. Now my Grandmother had two prevalent sayings, “make do”and “save it for good”. And most everything on my Grandparents table was home grown or made from scratch so you would find little of what my Grandmother called “store bought” in her cupboard or pantry. So the chocolate covered cherries were a real treasure to her and I could imagine that she savored every bite when she sat down and experienced one of her moments of “good”.

“And those moments of “good” must have been rare because her Christmas box of chocolate covered cherries would last sometimes until Spring. And how did I know? Because on occasion our folks “farmed” us out to my Grandparents place in the country for the weekend so they could spend some alone time together. And on one those weekends in the early Spring to my surprise my Grandmother offered me one of her treasured chocolates. And even at my young and tender age I recognized the true value of the gift she was giving me.”

Jerry

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