Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Last Hurrah

Elizabeth Mitchell Kuntz, 96 (Aunt Betty) was laid to rest. Though she appeared cold and still, I see and hear her moving from table to table, working the room, hugging, laughing, and promising to catch up while never loosening her grasp on daughter Kathy’s hand.  Husband Joe watched with amusement and pride from his favorite chair as the heavens and saints welcomed her.

She enjoyed her last years as family matriarch having outlived all the others of Mitchell/Kuntz elders.  The celestial festivities will continue for weeks because she had lots of friends. She liked people and social activities, cards, get-togethers, entertaining, church and women’s groups, and bowling, even into her late eighties. Oh my, Aunt Betty loved to gamble, a lot. I once saw her wrestle the last quarter from a eight year old playing Left, Right, Center.  Honest, she took her gambling very seriously.

As a kid, playing at their house we were nearly always encouraged, NO- hustled outside, “Go on now, you kids play outside!”  She wanted us out of her hair while she talked on the phone, immersed in baking or fixing dinner.  Eating there was always a good, second only to my mom’s cooking.  They, Betty and Hank, were a bit competitive about sewing and baking prowess. Betty was generous in hospitality. I can’t remember a time as an adult she didn’t extend “come for a visit.”

One of the most appealing things about Aunt Betty was her willingness to love easily. She let people into her heart.  Perhaps it was the losses of loved ones in early life and harshness in her upbringing. She craved acceptance and I think as a result was willing to extend the same. She welcomed in- laws and step children quickly as one of her brood almost immediately.  Granted it may not have been felt by each of them as attachment but that is how it appeared looking in. So much so, I’ve heard her own children claim Betty cared more for their spouse than she did for them- in only half kidding tones.

Betty loved being on the go and involved. She wore out many a younger friend or family with her zest and enthusiasm, as long as it was almost noon or after.  All those years on a farm did not make her a morning gal. She will be missed, but heaven will be livelier with Betty in attendance tonight and for all time.

Erma Bombeck and Me

Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop 2016, a.k.a. # EBWW2016 or #2016EBWW for the tweet-worthy, was more than a treat for this twit! It was a dream, albeit a dream of only three year’s duration.  I learned about the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop from a new friend while in Fargo, North Dakota where I was exploring and learning about the Business of Public Speaking from the amazing Renee Rongen.  Participant Lanelle Vasichek mentioned her plan to sign up to attend in 2014 EBWW. When I heard Erma’s name uttered my head whipped round cranking back the clock 3 decades.

There in the kitchen of my childhood home my mother was reading the Erma column to me. Her favorite past articles were meticulously cut and stacked in my mom’s steno notebook Occasionally Erma’s wit and wisdom were taped on the refrigerator door as semi-jovial reminders for offending children or a clueless spouse to reiterate Mom’s position concerning household chores, laundry, or god forbid, why driving a hole into a wall to hang ANYTHING should not be a capital offense.  Erma Bombeck columns, books and appearances on Phil Donohue or elsewhere were highlights to her.  Mother was fun in those times. Erma brought out the laughter and connection of spirit in her and began a shift in the mother daughter relation when I could see my mother in those stories.  I heard my mom again in thinking about the Erma columns.   My avid interest about the workshop within driving distance from home quickly became wistful, melancholy and within days forgotten.

Not so for my capable, get her done friend Lanelle. She went. She LOVED it. Learned loads and made wonderful connections and vowed to attend again sometime.  She encouraged me to check it out. Erma and my mom, Florence, a.k.a. Hank, spoke to me out loud. Seriously! The 2016 event was posted as March 31st– April 4- at least that’s how it appeared to me. My mom birthday and wedding anniversary was March 31st.  She died on April 4th.  I knew then that she would approve of this expenditure and journey toward personal improvement.  Though not much of a long term planner, I put the dates on my electronic calendar. Every couple of months I would check for updates. Limited size, popularity, and all the amazing writers who had attended added to my anxiety. Maybe the only think I pursued with more vigor was childbearing /adopting to become parents.

It was a kind of sacred journey filled with many unknowns and all the unnecessary fears and doubts about being out of my league, misguided, my shameful wanting of MORE.  A Sacred Journey- ABSOLUTELY true for me.  Doubts and fears escalated markedly upon arrival when the first question was, “Is this your first time? Oh, you’re and Erma virgin!”  I cringed, started to sweat, thinking CRAP, It’s a CULT .  The cheerful, loving and excited banter, seeped through my crusty cynicism. The passion was infectious. Every good cruise begins with the mustering. Might as well don the lifejacket and get it done.

What a journey. So many others have shared themselves and their experiences at the EBWW demonstrated their writing proficiency and storytelling ability.  I shared daily reactions daily with my lovely cousin and her husband, my Dayton hosts of  5 Star quality lodging and hospitality. I visited my aunt, mom’s only sister, soon to be ninety. I could string a three strand necklace of the pearls gathered at this treasured experience.  It seems though I need to do this a pearl at a time, taking many dives.

I’ve come up for air several days now since the workshop, thinking, processing, spewing parts of the story, testing a listener of two’s interest. Tonight I put down my scepter, straightened my crown and perched upon this chair having basked in the Erma Bombeck experience to assume  duty to tell my stories.  Because everyone has a story and they are worth being told.   More about cruises, crowns and on becoming a queen are topics to be addressed sometime soon.   Thanks for reading. It’s great to get your reactions and feedback because I spend way too much time as a party on one.   Michele