Saturday, August 27, 2011

I love being an Aunt

Nieces and nephews are truly gifts.
These are kids we get to love, spoil, tease, torment, teach, torture, embarrass, enjoy, corrupt and console. 
I love the role of "Aunt Nancy".  
Come to my house, children of our siblings, and you get milkshakes for breakfast and stay up as late as you want. 
My job is to make you laugh, teach you to dance and break a few parental rules. I leave it to your parents to worry about your future prospects and potential while we play and plot mischief.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Book of Love

Kem is the stay at home, change the diapers, go for walks, learn to talk, learn to read, Tuesdays at the library, Thursdays at the Museum, every day at the zoo, ride a bike, walk to school, walk home, listen to the day, do the homework, bake for the class, kiss the hurts, go to Bullwinkles, sign the permission slips, supervise the friends, eat your vegetables, comb your hair, here's your allowance, go-talk-to-the-teacher, work on the science project, practice the piano, learn the multiplication tables, read Dear Mr Henshaw, clean the rabbit cage, sit up with the chicken-pox, practice the cello, make your bed, listen for the trumpets, make a movie, call your mother-after-school, drive to the city, listen to the dreams, sit-up with the injured hand, go to baseball games, drive around town looking for him, go to the movies, drive to boot camp, listen to the bass guitar, send money, listen to the broken-heart, drive to San Diego, listen to the broken-boy, drive to North Carolina, write the wedding music, loan money, drive to the hospital, listen to the proud new daddy, kiss the new baby, change the diapers, go for walks, learn to talk…….Father.
Happy Father’s Day to a man who has always understood it was never a part-time job.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Householders

The picture below is of my grandparents on my father, James Robert Householder's side of the family.

James Harold Householder (1882-1969) and Della Hodges Householder (1885-1918) are pictured with their oldest two children, Mayford (about 2) and Vera (under 1 year).  This photo was probably taken in 1911 or 1912.  One hundred years ago.

I know I am biased,  I think all of my grandparents were remarkably attractive people, but the Householders look so contemporary in their beauty.

James and Della were married on September 18, 1907 in Knox, TN.  They had been raised six miles from each other in that small, rural, religious community.

James' father, William Matthew Householder's family came to this continent in the early 1700's.  My grandson Drew is the 16th generation of Householder descendants since the family immigrated from Russheim, Germany.  It occurs to me that my cousin Karen's great-granddaughter is the 17th generation.  During his life William sometimes spelled his name Haushalter, Hausholder  or Householder. 

James' mother, Rebecca Whittle, was part of the famous Whittle family  Movers and shakers from the time they stepped off of the boat quite a few years before the Householders showed up.

Della was a Hodges, descended from one of the three Hodges brothers whose parents came to the colonies in the mid 1700's as privileged land owners, raised their children as good English subjects and them watched as their sons rejected the Crown and fought along side the Revolutionary forces.  The parents returned to England and the sons were subsequently disinherited by their father.  Her ancestors settled the "Cumberland Gap" area and were merchants and land owners.  The girls in this family were educated and according to my mother, Della married late for her generation, age 22, because she went to college for two years and then returned home when her mother Mary was ill.  But the college story has a few holes and in a later paragraph you will see why I have some doubts about what Della was doing when she was away during that time.

My grandfather was over 6'3" (very tall for his generation).  He stares at us in this picture, unsmiling, but with the same kind eyes I remember as a child.  He is 29 or 30 in this picture.  I can see all of my brothers and my son in his handsome face.

I understand that Della was quite short. She appears slim and is so beautiful with light blue eyes and her "Gibson Girl" hairstyle.  She too is unsmiling (not even the babies are smiling) but the shape of her face and mouth remind me of the women in my fathers family, especially my sister Joy.    Della will have two more children, Reba in 1913 and James (my father) in 1915 and then she will perish in the flu epidemic of 1918.

This family has secrets as well.  I was always told that James and Della lived in Tennessee until James sought work with one of his brothers in Pennsylvania.  He was in PA when Della, bringing their 4 children to meet him, became ill with the flu and died aboard the train on which they were traveling.   My father told me that the only memory he had of his mother was her body lying under a sheet on a bench in a train station, waiting for his father to come to them.  After Della's funeral the kids returned to PA with their father but soon moved to central Illinois where another of James' brothers was thriving as a farmer.  This would have put the Householder clan in Illinois in 1919 or so.

But I have my doubts about that story.  First, the 1910 census puts James, Della and baby Mayford (10months) living in Sagamon County, IL.  I had never heard that Della lived in Il.  Second, I visited Sevier County, TN a couple of years ago and searched through 9 or 10 cemeteries searching for Della's grave.  I finally found it, in Boyd's Creek, TN where she is buried as Della E Hodges in a grave she shares with her sister Laura.  No mention of her married name on the headstone.  The grave of an infant is right next to her.  "Infant Hodges, 1905" says the marker.

Why my grandmother, who had been married 11 years and had 4 children is buried under her maiden name I cannot imagine.

It is a mystery I intend to solve though.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

James Robert Householder July 1, 1915 - May 17, 1964 Rest in Peace?

Rest in Peace? 
No, Daddy, rest in fun. 
Rest in laughter. 
Rest in math puzzles. 
Rest with sleeping babies on your chest. 
Rest with Christmas trees.
Rest teasing your in-laws.
Rest in a water fight with Joycie. 
Rest drawing boats with Sammy. 
Rest in the arms of my mother. 
Rest in the presence of God. 
Rest in love. 
Rest in Peace.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keeper of the Secrets

My mother's family, the Coleman's and the Naddy's were (and are) a vibrant set of personalities set behind beautiful Irish faces.

I got to know them through stories I heard over a ten year period from May of 1964 until January of 1974.  These stories were told by my mother, Rita, her mother, Clara and all of the relatives that came to "coffee" every late summer when Clara spent 4-6 weeks with us in Chicago Heights, escaping the dry-but-oppressive-heat of Scottsdale, AZ.

Most of the stories came from Clara.  When my grandmother came to visit us in the suburbs of Chicago every year she shared my room. The room was small (10 X 12) and usually contained my single bed, a nightstand, and a dresser with a large mirror (plus the mess and clutter of a teenage girl), but for Clara's visits I tidied up and we squeezed in two single beds with the nightstand between them.

I looked forward to Clara's arrival with as much anticipation as I would any girlfriend.  The truth is we were girlfriends. We were grandmother and granddaughter in the rest of the house, but when we were in my room we gossiped and teased like we were contemporaries.  We watched each other set our hair every night (hers in in exactly 23 pin curls, me teasing that she used one pin for every two hairs; and mine, seeking the perfect body for my straight hair, sometimes in enormous tomato cans, with Clara staring in wonder at how I was going to sleep with my Judy Jetson hairdo).

I had a large bulletin board above my bed that over the years collected all the things girls collect, nosegays, birthday cards, ticket stubs, dance favors, theatrical programs, etc.etc.  Clara was fascinated and delighted by this growing collage of my life and asked me for the story behind every new addition.  When the bulletin board ran out of space, I started arranging these mementos around the frame of the mirror much to the delight of Clara. She behaved as if the stories of my life were important and entertaining. 

I picked out Clara's jewelry every morning she visited.  My grandmother never left the bedroom in the morning without her hair styled; face powder, perfume and lipstick on; her earrings clipped in place and a brooch pinned to her shoulder.  She would pat her thinning hair while looking in the mirror and say, "There we are.  Now I won't scare the dog."

She taught me so much.

Beauty tips:
  • "A lady never carries her hands below her waist, always hold them up like this, or you develop big blue veins in the backs of your hands  Very unattractive."  (I followed this one and my hands are quite youthful looking for my age.)
  • "Do a final rinse with white vinegar and your hair will hang like silk down your back."
  • "Moisturize.  A girl should begin to care for her skin by the time she is 13." 
  • "Not too much perfume!  You want people to remember you were there, not regret that they sat next to you."
  • "Do not wear real pearls until after you are 30 years old.  It is in poor taste for younger women to wear pearls. It leads to gossip.   Everyone will assume you either inherited them or did something immoral to get them." 
  • "Always have a fresh cake or baked goods on hand in case someone drops by for coffee and a chat."  (We baked at least one cake every day Clara was visiting, there was a non-stop stream of folks dropping in for "coffee and a chat" when she was in town.)
  • "NEVER wear an Opal.  If you lose it from it's setting, someone close to you will die.   Nancy, I do not believe this, but why take chances?" 
  • "Never crack eggs on the side of the bowl, crack eggs against a flat surface so you do not get shell in the eggs."  
  • "Peel the potatoes for your supper just before lunch and store them in cold water.  Potatoes are time-consuming and it makes for a more pleasant afternoon to know they are out of the way."  
  • "Beat the butter and sugar together until it looks like whipped cream.  Baking is ruined by insufficient beating of the butter and sugar." 

During my teenage years Clara went to bed earlier than I, but was always awake when I entered the bedroom.  There we would sit, chatting, sometimes for hours.  We could get silly.   Sometimes my mother would come to the door of the room with a smirk on her face and say, "Do I have to separate you two?" And Clara and I would stifle our laughter and settle down, me to whatever book I was reading and she to her book or more often, her Rosary.

Clara had taken vows as a Lay Carmelite.

THE LAY CARMELITES is an association of lay people who, in response to a call from God, freely and willingly, promise to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its guidance. The Lay Carmelite is connected to the Carmelite Order by means of the promise which he or she makes. It is possible, following a very ancient custom, to make private vows of chastity and obedience according to one's state in life in order to be consecrated more closely to God. Lay Carmelites, filled with the spirit of the Order, seek to live their own vocation by silently listening to the Word of God (Lectio Divina). According to the constant tradition of Carmel, they will especially cultivate prayer in all its forms. The members of the Lay Carmelites follow the charism of the Order which takes its inspiration from the figures of Our Lady and the Prophet Elijah. In the midst of their normal family lives, in the work place, in their social commitments and relationships with other people, Lay Carmelite members seek out the hidden image of God. They try to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes, humbly and consistently exercising the virtues of honesty,justice, sincerity, courtesy and fortitude, without which no Christian or human life is possible. 

Clara embodied the last sentence of the previous paragraph. The promise Clara made as a Carmelite defined her life.  She had committed to say the entire Rosary everyday and she did so.  She kept a Rosary under her pillow so she could pray the Joyful Mysteries when she awoke and the Glorious Mysteries when she went to bed at night.  I remember 320 mornings of helping her make the bed and having her Rosary hit the floor as we shook out a pillow or sheet.  That Rosary was made of stainless steel with silver chains and silver cross.  It was a 10 decade Rosary.  She also had two small glass Rosaries, one which she kept in her pocket (Clara insisted on pockets in her dresses for her Rosary and handkerchief, without a pocket she had to hide them under her belt) and one which she used as a book mark.  She used these five-decade Rosaries to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries during the day.   She told me that she never wanted to focus on the Sorrowful in the morning or at bedtime, but during the day she could balance the Sorrowful with life.

Balancing sorrow with life was what Clara had done every single day since Thanksgiving day, 1926.

 I was a nosy kid and I asked questions about everything.  We had a lot of time together during those summers.  In the late afternoon, after whatever company had stopped in for cake and coffee, I would ask for the lowdown, "Who are they and how do they fit in the family?"  And Clara would paint a picture for me of a relative of hers or Ted's, maybe an old friend from her working days at the Telephone Company and once in a while a relative of Dick Naddy's.  When a Naddy relative had been over, Clara could be pensive and it was while she was in this mood that I came to learn most of the stories I know about Dick and Clara.

Some were secrets.  The circumstances of my Uncle Jack's conception was a secret told to me when Clara was overcome with grief and melancholy as she tried to imagine life on earth without Rita.  She fairly blurted it out one Sunday evening after running into Uncle Jack and his daughter Jackie Ruth at the hospital visiting my mother, "Dick was in the cancer ward at Mayo Clinic when I became pregnant with Jack."  I just looked at her, speechless and she must have read my thoughts, because she quickly added, "I visited Dick every day and as his wife, they let me give him his bed baths."  And then my 74 year old grandmother blushed.

I have a few more secrets of Clara's that need to be told.  She entrusted me with some of these private stories and I have waited a long time to tell them wondering if the telling might hurt anyone.  On Mother's day I wrote about how one of my mother's step-brothers was in love with her his whole life.  My husband thinks this might have hurt his daughters.  I have to admit, I had not considered it.  And I am sorry if it does, but I still think telling stories is the right thing to do.  And I hope Harvey's girls appreciate that their father had a private tragedy, that stayed with him, even as he went through life as a good husband, father, uncle, friend and step-brother.

During the course of my mother's illness she gave some of her most cherished possessions to her children, stuff made by my dad or very sentimental items.  She gave my sister, Joy the engagement and wedding rings my father gave her the weekend they eloped.

This led to Clara telling me the story of her wedding ring.

Clara wore a small gold band with some engraving on the top.  When I asked her about it, she put her book down and asked me to sit next to her on the couch so I could see the ring under the light on the side table.  My grandmother was always chubby.  Even on her thinnest day Clara was round.  And the ring was on her finger very tightly.  But she started to work it off of her finger as she told me the following:

"I did not take the ring Dick gave off of my finger until Ted asked me to marry him."  she said, twisting the ring. 

"After we agreed to get married, Ted suggested we go to Hirsh Jewelry Store and pick out engagement and wedding rings for me.  So we made a date to go on Thursday evening, they were open until 7:00pm on Thursdays."  She licked her finger to ease the ring from it's position.

"I went home and took off my wedding ring from Dick.  In the morning, without telling Ted,  I went to see Mr. Hirsh at his jewelry store."  The ring was starting to move over her knuckle.

"On Thursday night, Mr. Hirsh greeted me and Ted as if he had not just seen me two days earlier.  He showed us a tray of rings and I chose the one with the pretty engraving on the top.  I slipped it on my finger and it fit!  I told Ted that we were not kids and I would just wear this ring as my engagement and wedding ring and wore it out of the store."  The ring was now sliding up her finger.

"I have never had it off since that day.  But look, is it still engraved inside?"  And she handed me the little gold band.  Inside it was engraved, Love Eternal, RFN.  I was confused until I realized what Clara had done.  She had taken Dick's ring to Mr Hirsh.  She had Dick's ring engraved on top, picked it from the tray, slipped it on her finger and never told her new husband, Ted, that she was wearing Dick's ring.

And then she said, "Oh, look honey!"  And on her finger where the ring had been was the impression of the engraving in white skin, Love Eternal, RFN.

"Please do not ever let Ted or Skippy know," she said as she worked the ring back on her finger.  I was going to tell your mother before I died.  I have to be buried with this ring on.  But your mother is going to go to heaven before me and I think you should know.  I have only had this ring off of my finger for two days in over 56 years."

My mother's family history is filled with stories of religion, love, cooking and beauty tips, and tragedy.  And, it seems, more than our fair share of tragic love stories.

Dick and Clara at Rainbow Beach in 1917

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Call him Jack"

My husband Kem was at our home in North Carolina last week and returned to our apartment in the DC area with two boxes of memorabilia.

In these boxes is the flotsam and jetsam of several generations.  Precious tidbits from my maternal ancestry: Jeannette, Clara and Rita.  Pictures, letters, documents, receipts, notes, report cards, post cards, mass cards, love-letters, obituaries, birth announcements and cancelled checks which give me just a glimpse into the dramatic lives of these remarkable women.  Sometimes the item itself tells me very little and I have to wonder why this piece of paper was worth saving or why that letter was special.  There are more mysteries in these boxes than there are real answers, so when you come across something that tells a story you spend some time with it.

One envelope is addressed to Miss Rita Naddy, 7224 So. Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL.  The return address is The Colonial Hospital, Rochester Minn.  The post date is September 28, 1926.

 The letter encourages Dick Naddy's children Rita, Dick (Bud) and Tommy to be good for their grandmother (Jeannette Coleman), do their homework and not to go out of their yard.  He tells them he is better but not well and that he and their mother miss them.  He signs it with dozens of kisses for them.  He had turned 30 on July 10th of that year and he and Clara arrived at the clinic in Rochester the same week.  They had been in Minnesota for almost three months.  He wrote this sweet note about every day things on the day after he was informed that he would not survive his illness.  His wife was newly pregnant with their fourth child.

There are many documents relating to Dick's illness, death and burial and I will scan them all and post them for all of my Naddy relatives.  But there is one letter among the others that sticks out.

Dick Naddy had several brothers.  Mike, Bill, Tom.  During Dick's illness his brothers Bill and Tom were not connected to him.  I do not know why.  But Dick mentions that Mike, Bill and Tom have not returned his letters in a couple of pieces of correspondence with Clara's brother Frank.  He thanks Frank over and over again for being such a supportive and generous brother-in-law and is chagrined by his own family's lack of involvement.  Except for his brother-in-law (his sister Loretta's husband) Jack.  He mentions that Jack, who lived in San Francisco in the 1920's was soliciting Loretta and Dick's brothers for help via a letter campaign. 

Uncle Jack.  My mother's mysterious, bigger-than-life Uncle Jack.  He was  an executive with the Fireman's Fund Insurance of Newark, NJ.  He was promoted to the head of the Pacific Department in the mid-1920's.   When Clara's sister Anne and her husband needed to move west for health reasons, Jack  offered them both employment in his office and eased their ability to make the move.  Clara's sister Anne and Dick's sister Loretta were both in San Francisco during Dick's illness.  Neither of them could get back to Chicago for his funeral.  Their families mourned the loss together.

Clara gave birth to her fourth child and third son on April 14th 1927, five months after Dick's death.  Among the tidbits in these boxes is a letter on letterhead from Fireman's Fund Insurance, San Francisco, CA.

In this letter he does two remarkable things, one, he suggests that if she wants her son to grow up to be "a real big man" she should name him Jack.  And he "remembers" that he owes Dick $50.00.  It is doubtful if Dick was ever in a position to loan his big brother-in-law any money.  But Jack sends the "repayment" check directly to Clara in the hospital with his apologies for his oversight.

Clara named her baby John and called him Jack.  And he did turn out to be a "really big man" in many ways.

Jack Naddy, wearing his letterman sweater from Mt. Carmel, and holding Jimmy Householder in 1944.

My Uncle Jack was a big-hearted, sentimental, melancholy, hysterically funny, Irishman.  He inherited many things from his namesake.  The fall of 1953, four months before I was born, my father and my Uncle Bud were in a serious car accident.  My dad was hospitalized for quite a while and out of work for several months. Christmas was going to be a grim affair for the Householder kids.  My mother had made a few things for the kids and she knew that my grandmother would put a few presents under the tree for my older siblings, but is was a sad Christmas Eve morning when some ladies from their local parish showed up with a basket of groceries.  My proud mother was shocked that the family was perceived to be in such straights (not just perceived, they were in dire straights) and was humiliated when the women would not take no for an answer and insisted on leaving a canned ham and other holiday meal components behind them.  An hour or so later the doorbell rang again and as my mother told it, "there was Jack, with his grinning, Irish face."  My mother, nine months pregnant, stressed, humiliated and crying her eyes out, admitted that she did not greet her younger brother with any seasonal cheer, but snarled at him, "What do you want, Jack?" when she opened the door.

According to Rita, Jack stood there grinning for a minute or two and then said, "Dee, give me a hand with something in the hallway, will you?"  "Give you a hand?" my mother replied, "I am in no condition to help you with anything, Jack!"  but, Jack just kept grinning, annoyingly, at her.  She was frankly surprised by his persistence (Rita's temper was legend and her brothers usually gave her a very wide berth if she was cranky) so finally followed him to the hallway of the apartment and on the landing she found a pile of presents for her kids.  Jack, the father of two and not a guy with a lot of money, had received a Christmas bonus the night before and spent it all on his sister's kids.

"Dolly and I finished our shopping for the girls last week.  So I thought I would do some for your kids." he said.   My mother was astonished and grateful.  She had always thought Jack had gotten the short stick in life in many ways.  He was the baby that ended the tragedy of their father's death.  He was not his step-father, Ted's, favorite person.  When Clara married Ted, her father, Jim Coleman, insisted 4-year-old Jack, "the baby," remain in his house with him and not move with the rest of the family, and my grandmother allowed it.  So, Jack lived a couple of blocks away from his mother, sister and brothers for several years, until his grandfather came to live with Clara and Ted.

But, he was, according to my mom, the happiest little guy she ever met and he never lost his ability to bring sunshine into her life.  On that Christmas Eve he was Santa Claus.  

It appears my Uncle Jack inherited a generosity of spirit along with his name.

My mother's Uncle Jack remained a constant but mysterious figure in the family.  When my mother fell in love with my father, Clara was not initially pleased.  She wrote to her former brother-in-law, who was now a very wealthy man living in New Jersey, and he wrote to my mother offering to pay her college tuition to one of the "Seven Sisters Schools."    The letter arrived a couple of days after my mother eloped with my father.

Generous Uncle Jack did not end his life as a wealthy executive.  He was convicted of embezzlement after WW2 and spent some time in a federal prison.  He never wrote to the family during those years.  But, there is a little sympathy card, addressed to my mother in June of 1964, signed, Love, Uncle Jack.  There is no return address.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rita Clara Naddy Householder

Rita is my mother.  Not a great-grandmother as I promised for the next story.  But Sunday is Mother's Day and I feel a need to share a bit about my mitrochondrial DNA.

There is a book to write about Rita.  She was a remarkable person with a plethora of remarkable experiences.  But for tonight, let me tell just one story of how compelling my mother could be.

At every family event, from the time I was 10 until my mother died in 1974, the family waited for and then reveled in the moment my mother and her step-brother Harvey danced together.  They were amazing on the dance floor.  Fred and Ginger were OK, but Rita and Harvey were magic.

For four minutes at a time, while the band or record played, Rita and Harvey mesmerized us with their perfect ability to appear to be defying gravity and float above the earth.  Never a mis-step in their impeccably choreographed routines.  Harvey the perfect lead and Rita the perfect partner.  Four minutes of beauty and drama and pure joy as they spun and turned and raced diagonally across whatever dance floor was available to them. 

Rita Clara Naddy was the second child of Richard Francis Naddy and Clara Rita Coleman Naddy.  Their first child, (named Rita Anne) died at 24 hours old, one year before my mother was born on September 12, 1918.  The first Rita Naddy was born 8 weeks early in September of 1917.  The doctor warmed bricks in the oven, covered them in blankets and tried to keep the premature baby alive, but she was too small and too frail and died within a day.  According to my grandmother, her first child, the first Rita, had blond hair.

My mother had dark hair, was full term, and weighed a full 15 pounds at birth.  My grandmother described my mother, as an infant, to me one time, "When you laid her on her side, her cheeks were so fat they fell to the side she was laying on!  She had dark hair and dark eyes and was the most serious baby I have ever seen!"

I have a picture of my mother at 3-years-old holding the hand of my 18-month-old Uncle Bud (Richard Francis Naddy, Jr) hanging in the hallway outside my bedroom.  My Uncle  Bud is the most blond, angelic and beautiful child.  My mother looks like a sad, female "Buster Brown" with her dark eyes and page-boy haircut.  Her countenance fore-telling the sadness to rapidly come to her. 

Rita's father died of bladder cancer when she was  8 years old.  Richard ("Dick") was 30 years old. He died on Thanksgiving Day of 1926.

Dick was waked in the parlor of Clara's parents home (Why he was not waked at his parents home on the north-side of Chicago is another story).  On the Saturday night after his death, during the second night of his wake, as was the custom, my grandmother remained in her room upstairs and allowed his friends to honor and remember him in a raucous fashion.  They did so by sitting his corpse up in his coffin and putting a beer in his hand.  They were young men, afraid of death, overcome by grief.  And it was a true Irish wake.

After everyone had left, and my great-grandfather, "Gentleman Jim Coleman" had returned my grandfather to his appropriate position in his coffin, he allowed my grandmother to return to the parlor to sit with the body of her dead husband.  She had three children and unbeknownst to her father was pregnant with her fourth child (her visit to Mayo Clinic a few months earlier had resulted in the conception of my darling Uncle Jack.  When I was 19 and Clara told me she conceived Jack while Dick was confined to his bed in a cancer ward, I suddenly saw my grandmother as a young woman in love and have never been able to picture her as anything else).

Clara sat beside the coffin saying The Rosary.

Rita had had a sore throat all week, but due to the end stage illness and death of her father, she had not told anyone.  As the house became quiet on this Saturday evening, Rita realized she was very sick and crept down to the parlor to tell her mother.  From this point the story becomes confused.  My 8-year-old mother apparently frightened my grief-sick grandmother...they both became hysterical...the doctor had to be called for both of them...Clara had to admit her pregnancy...Rita was seriously ill and was confined to bed, only allowed to get up for her father's funeral on Monday.    I have pictures of Dick's young, pregnant wife and three small children, Rita, Buddy (Richard Jr) and Tommy kneeling next to his flower covered grave site, bundled up against the bitter-Chicago-November chill.

My mother entered Children's Memorial Hospital on the following Tuesday to be treated for Rheumatic Fever (a complication of strep throat)...she was hospitalized for the next 10 months.

Three years later, my grandmother ran into an old friend, Ted Youwer, waiting for a street car.  Clara and Dick and Ted and his wife, Caroline had been friends during the '20's...they played bridge every Thursday night.  Ted's wife had died a year after Dick.  Caroline had also left children behind...3 boys (Art, Harvey and one who's name I do not remember, and one girl, Francis) all older than Rita.

Clara and Ted courted and married a year later.  Was it a marriage of convenience?  Partly, yes.  But Ted was very in love with Clara (apparently every man who ever met her fell in love with Clara) and they had a child, Kenneth Youwer, my darling Uncle Skippy.  Clara and Ted moved in to a big house on the south side of Chicago to raise their 7 boys and 2 girls.

Harvey Youwer was three years older than Rita Naddy.  When their parents married he was 16 and Rita was 13.

Harvey was a bit shy.  When he was 17 and Rita was 14 she started to teach him to dance in preparation for his senior prom.  It was the start of a lifelong obsession for both of them.  By the time Harvey was 18 he was teaching ballroom dancing part time at the newly formed Arthur Murray Studios.  And Rita was considered one of the finest dancers in Chicago...garnering the attention of many young men, including a few celebrities (she dated a big-band-singer named Perry Como after he noticed her dancing at the Trianon Ballroom)

When Harvey was 19 years old he followed his step-mother, Clara, down to the basement of their home where she was hanging up clothes to dry and confessed that he was in love with Rita Naddy.  Clara was shocked and saddened and told him that it was not appropriate for him to suggest such feelings for his step-sister.  When my grandmother told me this story, 40 years later, she had tears running down her cheeks.  "Why did I tell him it was wrong?" she asked me from the other twin bed in the room we shared when she came to visit.

Harvey approached Rita with his feelings, in spite of his step-mother's misgivings, and found that Rita could not think of him as anything other than a brother.  Harvey was devastated.

Rita met and married Bob Householder in 1937.  Bob got along with all of her brothers and step-brothers very well, except Harvey.  Bob and Harvey did not like each other.  Bob sensed the rivalry and never warmed to Harvey.

When WWII broke out, Harvey was among the first young men to enter the service.  On a visit home, before being shipped to Europe where he would fight in the Battle of the Bulge, Harvey and Bob got into a fist-fight at at Sunday dinner at Clara's house, over some remark made about who was stepping up for duty and who was not.  My father might have landed the best punch, but Harvey struck the harsher blow and within a few weeks my father had enlisted and my mother was seeking a divorce (

I have no memory of my Uncle Harvey, his wife Phylis or their daughters Carol and Mary, until after my father's death in 1964.  After the drama of the late '30's and the war years, my mother did not socialize with them.  I assume they were at family functions, but they never came to our home...and I do not remember ever seeing them at my Grandparents home.  In 1974 my grandmother said, "Bob and Harvey did not like each other.  They were both in love with your mother and everyone could see it...especially Bob."

After my father's death we became closer to Harvey, Phylis and their daughters.  They were part of our life.  They were family.  Harvey frequently dropped in for a cocktail on his way home at the end of the day and my mother and I would laugh with him, tell him about our days and tease him.

In December of 1973 my mother was in the last stages of pancreatic cancer.  She wanted to be at home, but on the 23rd she was clearly slipping.  She called me to her bedside and said, "I cannot die Christmas week, and I cannot die with grandma in the are going to have to put me back in the hospital so they can keep me alive until after the holidays."  So, we had to return her to St Luke's hospital.

Clara had come to stay with us from Scottsdale during  Rita's illness and we had to figure out a way to get her into the city every day to see Rita.  My brother Don's friends were a God-send and I think Bob Savage and Mike Ellis earned many stars in their crowns in heaven schlepping my grandmother up and down the Dan Ryan Expressway that dark winter.  And Harvey made sure he was  available as a taxi service as well.

My Grandmother told me of the following, the night before she left Chicago to return to Arizona, two weeks prior to my mother's death:  Harvey drove Clara home from visiting Rita at 9:30 pm the first week in January, 1974.  My mom was failing fast and it was a particularly hard day for my grandmother.  Harvey pulled into our driveway on Fitch Rd. in Chicago Heights and turned off the engine of his car.  My grandmother we weeping.  "Mom,"  he said, "I don't think I can take you up there again."  My grandmother was shocked, "Why not?" she asked.  "Ma, you know why" he said.  And my grandmother flashed back to hanging laundry in the basement in the 1930's.  "I still love her," said Harvey, "I always have and I always will, and I cannot bear to see her in pain."  And then he put his head on Clara's shoulder and cried like a lovelorn teenage boy.

Clara went back to Arizona a couple of days later, unable to watch her child leave this world.  Harvey did not go back to the hospital.  My brother Don and I shared the shifts at Mom's bedside until the 25th of January when she slipped from this world and back into my father's arms in heaven.

But, two nights later at her wake, I watched my Uncle Harvey stand over her coffin, crying and smiling when someone suggested how much he would miss dancing with her and I thought about how much of his life he had tried to live, in 4 minute increments on the dance floor, with my beautiful, compelling mother.