Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Sixty-five years ago today, I married John Phillips Burnell, Jr. We met in the Spring  of 1948 in a lunch line at Lowry Hall at Kent State University. He was with my friend Jean Beckmann, who had met him in a journalism class. At the time I was dating my Holden Caulfield boy friend Dick, who had just bought a brand new, bright red 1948 Plymouth convertible that winter. I liked Johm's looks, tall and thin and very well dressed. I was impressed with his dark rimmed glasses, too, and there were very few people wearing that style in those days. I would see him around campus occasionally, and we would have coffee once in a while with others at the student union. I enjoyed his sense of humor and I made him laugh, too. But I was still going with my mixed up cynical boy friend.
When I came back in the fall, absence had not made my heart grow fonder for Dick, and I asked John to the dorm dance, and that was it. I must admit that I had kind of stalked him, in that I knew where he usually hung out for a smoke on a wall I walked past on my way to Spamish class. Or maybe he hung out on that wall because he knew I would walk by on my way to Spanish class. Sometimes I never made it  to the classroom, actually. The student union was close by and a person needed a snack or a cup of coffee, after all.
That was the beginning of our relationship. On our first real date we double dated with my friend Colleen and BF Chuck. Colleen was one of the few girls at school who had her own car.. We ended up that night at the Big House, which had a dance floor and a fireplace.  ( Many years later it became the hangout for the Chosen Few, a rough biker gang.) We danced and then John and I sat by the fire and talked and talked. I remember our mutual love for cats was a major subject.  Because I had to be in by 11 o'clock, the evening ended fairly early,but we fad a very fine time.
We went together at Kent State until John graduated a year earlier than I.he started grad school at Ohio State. He had switched from journalism to sociology. I had picked up  unsociology, too, along with continuing art. We both found that area fascinating, since we were interested in social issues, which at that period were creating tension by the proponents of McCarthyism and the rising civil rights movement.
Johm was a graduate assistant at Ohio State, teaching and loving it. He had an opportunity to get a research job for a year, at which point, dear reader, I married hum.
I don't intend to make this a story of our marriage, which was cut short by his death in a car accident when he was only thirty-eight. He was teaching at Kent State by that time and working on his doctoral dissertation We had three girls and a boy on the way when that happened. It was a terrible loss, of course. I had never thought that one could survive such a thing, but we did. He had given me that strength.
The portrait is one I did in 1948. I don't remember when, but it must have been the fall after we first met. I had forgotten it, but Emily found it when she was recently home. She had it framed for me. I am so glad she did.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


I wrote some time ago that I like to read obituaries, stories of ordinary people who have led rich, meaningful lives. There were two this past week which were especially of that sort. One of the people I knew, the other I wish I had known.
I was drawn to a picture of a sweet looking, round faced woman. She was born in 1917' dying at the beginning and f her hundredth year. Her name was Sadie. She was born in Ireland, lost her mother when she was eight, and helped with her younger siblings until her father remarried. Her stepmother was a kind and loving person, and the family grew. When WWII broke out, Sadie volunteered with the ambulance service and became a trained first aid provider. She met an American G.I., and they married, staying on in Ireland for a couple of years. Then she sailed across the Atlantic with him and their first child.
The writer of the obituary tells of the effects of the trauma of war, and the marital struggle that resulted in divorce. Sadie by then had two little girls, and was living in barracks that had been converted into apartments, in a town in the northern, rather isolated part of the county. She got a job at a small rubber factory, and, until she was able to afford a car, she walked to work. She eventually bought a house, and when the rubber company closed, she took a job at Hiram College as a housekeeper, working there until she was eighty. Apparently she never remarried, raising her two daughters on her own.
When she died last week, she left many descendants, down to great-great grandchildren. The writer tells how Sadie would hold and kiss the infants, giving them an Irish blessing. An extraordinary woman. One thing was not in the obituary, perhaps because the writer may not have been aware of it: Had Sadie come to American sixty years earlier, she would have found on most places of employment this sign " NO IRISH NEED APPLY." Immigrant bias is not new, only being revived.
The other obit was for T. N.  Bhargava, who came to America  from India for graduate school.. He came to Kent State University, a newly minted Ph.D in mathematics. I met him and his then wife Rama at a Thanksgiving dinner, the week after the JFK. assassination. I remember that he was shocked that the usual college football games were going to go on as usual after such a national tragedy.  T.N. was  larger than life even then. He always carried himself like a soldier, straight posture,  chin up. He had a good sense of humor and  natural dignity.
He literally dived into both the town and academic communities. He brought international scholars to the university. He became involved in social and charitable institutions, serving on boards for the library and mental leather institutions. Over the years he contributed his time, his money and his expertise to a wide variety of f projects. We traveled in the same group that f friends and acquaintances, and I always enjoyed seeing him. He enriched the lives of so many people I'm the city
as well as the lucky students he nurtured. He has left quite a legacy.
These two immigrants led different lives, but both left their homes far away and made lives here that have enhanced their new country, and honored us with their presence.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How's It Hangin'.

The short answer is "Not so good." It started with a sore throat shortly after I sat getting my teeth cleaned for about an hour. Two days later, naturally on a Saturday, my throat was really hurting. We have these neat little things called Minute Clinics at the local CVS pharmacies, so that's where John drove me. You can even sign in ahead of time online so you don't have to wait in line. I wanted to make sure that I didn't have strep. The NP did a swab, and it wasn't strep. Told me if it didn't get better to come back in a couple of days to make sure that the lab came up with the same result.
Two days later it still hurt like crazy, so I went back to CVS. The lab had also found no strep. The NP, however, told me that my uvula was very swollen and that I should go to an Urgent Care place, the clisest of which is in a city about 6 miles north of here. We weren't even sure it would be open on account of MLK Day, but it was. And I signed in and joined the queue.
When I finally got to see a doctor he looked into my throat and informed me that I had uvulitis. Never heard the term. Sounds like some kind of female STD. IT's that dangly thing in your throat. It's one of those words like "aiglet" that show up in crossword puzzles. He prescribed a steroid and gave me a breathing  treatment because I was getting wheezy, which sometimes happens when I have any kind of upper respiratory infection.
There was another medical visit and I am on antibiotics and more steroids, but the old uvula is back to its normal size. It's the usual sinus drainage aggravating my lung and all, but at least I picked up a nifty new word:"uvulitis." No sex is involved.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Farewell to the Pufferbelly

I first saw this building almost seventy years ago, when I arrived by train in Kent, Ohio, to attend Kent State University. I came here because of the reputation of the art department. At the time I lived in Springfield, Ohio, and no one down there had heard of Kent State, and I had never set foot in the town until I got off the train.  That trip was to become quite familiar over the next four years, years when the superhighways were non-existent, and railroads were standard settings for travel.
The building dates from the late 19th century and served the Erie Railroad system for many decades. My children and I traveled to Corning, N.Y.on that line to visit my sister, and on the trip back to Kent   on the very last trip of the Phoebe Snow, one of its finest Erie  trains. Kent was a railroad town employing many workers at the roundhouse and freight yards, and the car shops. All that ended by the 1970s, and the train station sat empty for many years, until the late 70s, when a group of railroad and history buffs decided to save it from the wrecking ball. They raised funds, volunteered their labor and gradually restored the building to its original beautiful red brick self. At some point the Kent Historical Society, which has spearheaded the restoration purchased it.
The ground floor waiting room and office. area was remodeled and turned into the Pufferbelly restaurant which opened in 1981 in time for the Christmas holidays. My children and I ate lunch there the first week it was open. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Suspended from the ceiling are an Amish buggy and a canoe, and during the holidays they are filled with brightly wrapped boxes, and there is a very tall Chtistmas tree with silver garlands and lights. One night there is a brass band playing carols, which while festive , makes conversation impossible.
I have had dinner there once a week for years with friends. I have had lunch there frequently with my lady friends. We celebrated my 80 th birthday there and when family members come to Kent, that's where we take them. It's not fancy, but the food is varied and good. We had our annual Christmas lunch there last week, and I had my last dinner there with friends last night. Tomorrow is the last day that the Pufferbelly will exist.
The Historical Society decided that they need more money, so they have tripled the rent, making it beyond the ability of the current tenant to continue. The new management will completely remake the interior, tearing out the different levels of seating. It will become an upscale Italian restaurant with white table cloths and valet parking. Shave many Italian eateries around here, mostly for Casual dining, so I assume this one will focus on different Italian regional cuisine to be unique.
I shall miss my Pufferbelly, with its charming host, experienced servers, antiques ( all of which are up for auction) old photos of 19th century Kent and special steam locomotives, the canoe and the buggy.
We are all sad about this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trying to be Jolly

The tree is not up, nor is the manger. We do have bayberry candles scenting the house, a wonderful aroma for the winter solstice. We are having a laid back holiday with a minimum f gift giving, for thre main reason that none of us has anything we particularly want or need. We are not gloomy. Polly is here from Provncetown, creating great meals and good company.
Last Friday a group of friends gathered here for an evening of carol singing, which is sways a joy, since these are people with good voices and good ears for four part harmony. We covered several centuries of old favorites. In the interest of saving ourselves from reperive boredom we only sang the last verse of The Twelve Days of Christmas. We didn't use any instruments this time, relying on the very best, the human voice. It was a lovely evening. John made delicious pumpkin pie
 Which he served with Beckwith's superb cider. Paulette brought a box of chocolates to enjoy.
I have several friends younger than I who have become grandparents this past year. They range in age from sixtyish, mid seventies and early aighties. The older ones have waited for years to achieve this status and are so filled with joy that it's fun  to see the pictures and hear the stories. This might be boring to some, but I find their happiness mitigates some of the prevalent gloom of the time. My granddaughters are now lovely young  women, so I know how quickly the time flies past, and how soon those grand babies will be grown. Fast away the old year passes.
Enjoy the now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fly-by Fall

So I suddenly realized that November is ending today and I have not written one post. The same thing happened in October. I had spent a lot of time dealing with itch mites from my pin oak tree and a broken foot. As a result I had nothing much to write about., not that my life is usually rife with exciting adventures.
The recent election has left me stunned and confused. I have, in past tears been greatly disappointed in the past with presidential election outcomes, but not feeling horrified, a much mote profound emotion. I read the opinion pieces in the newspapers every day. Rarely watch TV News, except for Friday night's Wahington Week. I have no "friends" on Facebook  or in real life who are Trump people. Many Conservative pundits in print seem as horrified as I am. I do live in a bubble here in this university community.
I hear about the many hard working  mostly white, mostly male blue collar folks who feel left out of the mainstream, but that doesn't seem to me to account for the outcome. It won't be the first time that people have voted against their own self interest.
Oldest daughter Polly was home for Thanksgiving which brightened up our lives here. She, too, lives in a bubble, in a New England town noted for its artists, poets, writers, actors and playwrights, and others who make their livings in the creative community. We had a lit of discussions about the election and one conclusion is that as a nation, we are a people with a serious lack of critical thinking skills. We claim to care about education, but we don't really. We call educated people the 'elite," a word formerly used to describe the wealthy and aristocratic. I'm not sure what the opposite label is - knuckle-drag gears? - but somehow "elite" doesn't have the right ring to it. I remember when the word "intellectual" was used to describe educated people, usually used by pres

Monday, October 31, 2016

Free At Last

The last time I posted, I had just broken my foot and had to wear an orthopedic shoe thing and keep my weight off it by using a walker. My house is not built for that appliance, but I managed to  clomp around.
On top of the break I also had been dealing with a Job-like affliction of itchy bumps from a plague of
itch mites from the large pin oak tree in my front yard. For some reason this year has been  a big  year
for these microscopic insects which can blow through screens. There is nothing you can do about them, and it is recommended that you shower frequently, wash your clothing every day and use anti- itch cream, pop Benadryl and NOT SCRATCH.
When the broken foot happened I could not do the shower and clothes because I was not able to manage the maneuvers necessary to accomplish those tasks. At about the same time as the foot injury, that same foot developed a nasty looking scratching induced wound on the instep.
So then I started a sojourn at the Wound Care Center in Streetsboro, up the road.  I was not supposed to get that foot wet, and told to insert it into a plastic bag if I could take a shower somehow.  Well, I found out that I was eligible, through your tax dollars at work, to have a home health care worker AND physical AND occupational therapiss come to my home and do some helpful things, like give me a shower and other needed things.
So I had to get nekkid in front of strangers, but I was clean, finally. ( Until that happened I had been showerless  for over two weeks.) The physical therapy was similar to stuff I had learned at the fall prevention program I went through last year. (So why did I fall? No idea.) I didn't need the OT.
Today I had my last visit with the orthopedic doc and was pronounced  healed, bone wise. In the afternoon, at the wound care place, I was pronounced healed of the wound on my instep, and got to ring this bell they have when you are whole again. No more walker. I can now take my own shower. I can sleep without having to wear the orthopedic Birkenstock which has all this Velcro on it so that you end up with your sheets twisted around you if you move your foot.
I can now fix my own coffee and carry it into the living room. I do not have to clump around the house with the walker, sounding like someone in a horror movie.
John does not have to fix my breakfast, leave a sandwich in the refrigerator and come home and fix dinner after a day's hard work. Sally does not have to haul me to various docs.
Life is better for now.
I also had better watch my step, dammit.