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Donnie

MY SOAPBOX TIME

Punta Gorda, USA

Margaret, loving called Donnie by friends and family began telling stories at the age of 5. By the time she was 8, her mom complained that she found it difficult to tell the difference between Donnie's truth and her fabrications. Her mom encouraged Donnie to start putting her imagination on paper, including poetry since she seemed to have a talent for it.

Donnie, finally had her first story published. The title is Max and Donnie wrote under the Donnie Harucki. She's had many poems published in various anthologies.

Now being in the senior category of her life, she want to write more and see how far it takes her. That's why she became a member of Biopage. She's hoping you'll read her stories and leave a message.

Thanks for reading about her. She appreciates your attention. Have a great day.

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The Last Parade

May 20, 2022 4 months ago

I always looked up to Frank, not just because he was taller than I was, but also because he was my big brother. We were born in an era where our parents taught us to look out for each other; big brothers were to be treated with the same respect as our parents, and they were taught to take care of their little sisters. Frank decided to attend a local college. He enjoyed college as much as he did high school. I always said if he had a choice, he'd be a permanent student. He was that kind of person. Frank was about to graduate from college and my husband, and I were living sixty miles away. Being newly pregnant at that time, it was too far a drive for us to attend. While Frank understood, I was truly upset. I was more upset two days after his graduation when we spoke on the phone. “Hey, Sis! You'll never guess what I got in the mail today.” “An invitation for grad school?” “How I wish! But no. What I received was a draft notice!” “What? Frankie, you only graduated two days ago. What'd they do, mail it a week beforehand?” “Don't know when they mailed it but I'm not going down as a draftee. I'm going to the draft board office tomorrow and ask them if they can change this to enlisted”. I knew many young men from our area in Brooklyn that, like my brother, came home “damaged.” Often, they'd sit and stare as if in a world of their own. Nightmares became their normal sleeping habits. They'd all lost significant weight. Some did drugs, others drank too much. Some never made it home at all. At least, I still had my hero, my brother. He'd grown a mustache. I asked why since he was always so clean shaven. His answer was, “Let's just say, I've changed.” One afternoon while visiting my mom, she asked him to fix the kitchen ceiling light. When Frank raised his arms, his shirt lifted, and I saw three round scars. He never had them when he was a kid. I asked him what happened. He replied, “Don't worry about it. It's over.” Time went by and though I didn't see my brother every week, I did see him occasionally and when I did, I noticed a slight limp. I asked him about it, and he told me it was nothing to worry about – just getting older, he'd say. Just getting older? He was only forty-eight years old. I knew not to push for answers he didn't want to give. I let it go but told him if he ever needed to talk, I was there to listen. Then it happened. A few months later, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. However, he made his doctor promise to keep his medical condition private. Frank wanted no sympathy. He'd fight this disease alone. He was determined not to have his family feel sorry for him. He'd rather die with dignity than pity. He joined the American Legion Post in Queens where he'd moved with a friend. My mom, now lived across the street. Two years later, on Memorial Day, in 1995, his Post in Maspeth was to be a part of the town's Memorial Day Parade. I don't know why, but Frank was chosen to carry the Post's American Flag – an honor given to only a select few. It made his day! He was so proud to wear his uniform and carry the Flag of the country he so loved. Little did we know, that would be the last time he'd ever carry the Flag he so cherished. Little did we know that Frank would wear his uniform only once more. September of 1995, when Frank was just fifty years old, he began coughing severely. Every time he coughed, or maybe I should say “hacked,” his mouth filled with blood. He grew weak and his roommate called 9-1-1 and our mom who called me immediately. We stood their numb. Mom's eyes filled with tears and while she began to shake and hyperventilate, she found no words. I looked at my brother's almost lifeless body and whispered. “How long does he have?” The doctor replied, “Probably only a few weeks – if he's lucky. This is the way he wanted to go. He wanted to no one to know, no one to suffer with him.” I leaned over and gave him a hug and kiss, then whispered in his ear, “Whenever you're ready, Frank, just let go. I hate this. I don't want to lose you, but you've already been through too much. Please don't suffer anymore.” Two hours later, he was gone. It's so hard for me to write this while I remember the boy I adored, the man who was my hero, and the brother that cancer had the audacity to take away from us. We honored the wish he'd written and buried him in the uniform he so proudly wore. The photo I've chosen for this story is the last Memorial Day where he was honored by his American Legion Post to carry the Flag of our great nation. This is the photo taken before he died just a few months later. This was Frank's Last Parade.

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A Witch's Walk

May 20, 2022 4 months ago

You never know what you might see on a beautiful summer day while walking through the woods: squirrel munching on an acorn, a rabbit foraging for on a grass, maybe you might see something completely different, out of the ordinary, something that sparks your imagination. Should you look up at the top of the trees? Or maybe look at the ground? You might see a beautiful bird spreading its wings. Or possibly see a small insect building a nest in the fallen leaves. Then again, looking down, you might catch sight of a large protruding tree root you might have tripped on if you hadn't been looking down. With my camera bag hanging on my shoulder and my camera strap around my neck, I began the long walk through the woods. I smiled at myself as I thought of Hansel and Gretel and wondered if I'd see anything resembling a small cottage. Maybe, I might see a tiny cottage what would remind me of the seven dwarfs, and I strained my ears as I waited to hear them sing, “Hi Ho, hi ho! It's off to work I go!” Laugh as loud as you'd like. Yes, I laughed at myself but remember, I was in the woods, alone and allowed my imagination to run wild. There was a warning sign at the park's entrance that said it was a two- mile hike. It also cautioned that there might be alligators in the area. As I made the way around the pond, I stopped daydreaming and became acutely aware. Somewhat disappointed, I saw no alligators. Disappointed and also relieved. While a photo this that magnificent creature would have been an awesome event, I also didn't want to take the change I might become lunch for the beast. I slowed my pace and walked a bit quieter until I was well clear of the pond. Oh, yeah, I did get a few photos of birds. In a way, they made up for the lack of “boot skin” material. While I trekked on, I saw a few things that sparked my curiosity. I took a photo of a few pinecones that had neatly fallen from a tree and formed a perfect circle. That made me wonder how pine trees grew. As far as I knew, every plant had a seed. So, what was the seed of the pine tree? I was eager to get home and find out. I never knew until that day that the pinecones were the seeds, and they were male and female. What an eye-opener! I saw many palm fronds that looked like fans. In my mind, I thought of the old movies I'd seen of Cleopatra being fanned by such leaves. However, in the movies, the fans weren't dried out and brown as the ones I'd seen on the park floor. Yes, I did see and photograph a squirrel munching on something I couldn't quite visualize. He was so engrossed in his food, he never noticed me taking his picture. Since the park's trail was a two-mile hike, the county placed a few benches throughout the park so a weary hiker could sit and capture an interesting photo or maybe their breath. Some of us in the older generation, loose wind easily while others need to rest their arthritic bones. These benches come in extremely handy. Approaching a bench, I saw a photo that not only stopped me in my tracks, but also had my imagination running in crazy directions. I wanted to change the lens on my camera but decided to capture the picture first. However, before I did, I didn't bother looking upward but I did look around. While there was not a soul around, I chuckled to myself hoping that should someone be approaching in my direction, they wouldn't hear a crazy old lady laughing aloud at something they might not have understood. I saw a bench with a palm frond leaning against the nearby tree. Okay, so that isn't unusual in a park in Florida. My imagination made it unusual. The first mental image I had was an old woman who had been busy sweeping her cottage and decided to take a break and leaving her broom against the tree, took a walk in the woods looking herbs for her cauldron. The second vision was that of a witch who decided it was too nice a day to be flying around above the trees. She wanted to wander through her woods. As I said, I have quite an imagination. Sitting on the bench, I changed the lens on my camera, had a few mouthfuls of the water I'd brought with me, then after resting about half an hour, stood, took one more look around, and headed down the path that would eventually lead me out of the park. As you guessed, I saw no cottage, no old woman, no witch. Yet, it was fun to imagine all three lurking in the woods where I chose to spend a glorious afternoon. On my next trek to that park, I'll invite my friend to go with me so I can show here the awesomeness of nature. Who knows? Maybe next time, we might even see an alligator or two. Whatever we see, the trip is definitely worth the thirty minutes it takes to drive there.

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THE LOST BATTALION

Mar 13, 2022 6 months ago

Thomas Brennan's family grew and as teens became young adults, they accepted many jobs to help support the family. Yet, Thomas gave his sons one requirement, “Serve your country.” James served in the Civil War, Harold, WWI. There were many other sons in the Brennan Family who served but this is about Harold, my father-in-law. As I said previously, Harold served in World War 1 as a Private in the 308th Infantry. Yes, like his siblings and relatives before him, enlisted. He was proud to serve. His nightmare was about to begin. He and his battalion fought bravely following the orders given to their leader, Major Charles Whittlesey. They carried two forms of communication: radio and pigeons. They were headed to the Argonne Forest to push the German army back and regain control for France. They were flanked by the French soldiers on one side and the English on the other – or so they thought. The Argonne battle ensued on October 2, 1918. The Germans thought the Americans would never fight for something that didn't belong to them and pushed on. They fought hard; our American troops fought harder. The Germans sent their best snipers. They weren't good enough. Then they were gassed. While hundreds of American troops died, others forged on. The Germans sent in their “storm troopers” with flame throwers to either discourage or kill the American soldiers. The Americans persisted. The American troops suffered horrific confrontation with the enemy. They were also hungry, thirsty, and were running out of ammunition. They radioed their command post but received no answer. They tried again. Same result. A scout went send out only to find the radioman KIA, the lines cut, and the radio box destroyed. They soon realized – they were alone – alone in a foreign land with the enemy surrounding them. They had one hope left. Cher Ami! A baby pigeon with truly little experience in “home travel,” but they had to try. After attaching a brief message to her leg, they kissed her beak and let her fly. They watched as the bullets from the German rifles soared in the air strategically aiming at the little bird. Finally, they lost sight of her. Some of the solders prayed while other began to lose hope. Major Whittlesey took a headcount. About 194 soldiers were still standing. The others were either killed, captured, or missing. He took inventory of the remaining weapons. Approximately fourteen rifles were in working order, but they only had about six bullets left. As Major Whittlesey was about the sit down with his men and report his findings, he realized everything was quiet. Too quiet. Suddenly, the major heard what sounded like vehicles. Vehicles? The Germans wouldn't approach with trucks and or tanks, would they? Then he heard his name. “Major! Major Whittlesey!” The voice was American. Then Major stood and saw his commanding officer, General Alexander heading towards them with other men, jeeps, and a transport truck. The battle for the forest was over. The Germans, underestimating the Americans, retreated. Harold married his fiancé in 1819 and soon welcomed their first child, Harold Jr. Not long after, his health began to wane. He coughed, wheezed, and often struggled for breath. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was sent to a facility for six months to treat him. Home again, he was ordered not to dine or interact with his wife and son. Close contact was forbidden for another six months. Once the doctors felt he was regaining his health, his normal activities resume but so did the nightmares. For six days, he had no idea if he would live or die in the heavily vegetated forest in France. He sat, slept, ate, and breathed in the damp cold atmosphere with dead bodies strewn around him. And yet, he still insisted that his sons serve the country that he loved. While I never met Harold, he passed away due to a massive heart attack before I met my husband, I will always admire the bravery he and his fellow soldiers demonstrated in France. Truly, they are all heroes.

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Pelican Island

Mar 13, 2022 6 months ago

Using our trolling motor, we motor through the shallows of Charlotte Harbor, FL looking for the perfect spot to fish. Saddened by what I see, or rather do not see, I say to my husband, “What shame. That was such a gorgeous view to see; a great place to take a photo of the sunset. I really miss it.” He smiles and asks, “Do you finally after all this time remember it's official name?” I laugh and say, “Yeah but I still don't understand the reasoning behind it.” He explains again and I just shrug my shoulders and say, “I like Pelican Island better than Two Tits. Makes more sense to me.” My husband laughs and shakes his head. The original name was given to the small patch of land many years ago by anglers who fished the water of Charlotte Harbor and decided it resembled exactly what they called it. You'd be surprised at the weird names several of these little islands have. We start fishing. Pelican Island made sense to me since there were approximately over one hundred pelicans who used that island as home or just a place to stop and rest. More often than not, when we were out fishing, we'd be on the east side of island making picture taking phenomenal. The sunset behind the island was truly awesome and extremely photogenic. As I said, it was a cute island, too small for anything but birds to land on but it was there and everyone who fished the harbor knew what you were talking about when you mentioned its original name. At one time, it was a very popular area that drew in several varieties of fish. The only problem was that with so many pelicans using it as their resting place, their defecation made the odor horrendous for any angler to hang around it too long– and yet, we like so many other anglers fished its perimeter! Yes, Pelican Island had many anglers casting their lures hoping to catch a fish that swam nearby, but no one ventured too close because of the stench. We always considered ourselves lucky that casting artificial lures was easy enough at a long distance. Then the unthinkable happened. On Friday, August 13, 2004, hurricane Charley blew through Charlotte Harbor. It was a horrendous category 4 storm with winds gusting approximately 175 mph. Just about everything in the harbor was decimated. I have often wondered where the birds flew to hunker down to avoid the approaching storm, but, of course, I never found out. All I know is that they were gone. Pelican Island was now a barren piece of dirt and sand that sat in the harbor. The magnificent mangroves were now stripped of their leaves. Many branches broken. The lonely little tree that lived there had many branches torn off and tree was split nearly in two. The bark was gone completely. The smell was gone but so were the birds. Each year as we fished the harbor that once held a plentiful abundance of fish seemed now almost as empty as Pelican Island was of birds. Fishing, like the scenic beauty had changed. I thought back to the days of the early 1900s, when fishing for your dinner was mandatory. What would those people do now? The waterway had changed. Many fish were dead. The marine population had been drastically reduced. Southwest Florida had changed. The mangroves that protected us as much as they did, were no longer as grand and thick as they once were. There was a community and Federal effort to restore the mangroves by reseeding. As hard as we tried, it didn't work. The only thing we could do was wait for mother nature to restore itself. We knew it would take years, but we had no idea how many. In several areas through the years, the mangroves started to grow. Yes, there was still much evidence that Charley had visited but at least we started to see a small difference. Unfortunately, we also noticed that the Pelican Island appeared to be smaller than it had been. As the years passed, it became obvious to everyone who fished Charlotte Harbor that it kept shrinking in size. The island was slowly sinking into the harbor. It didn't happen overnight. It was a very slow progression of nature taking what it wanted. In this case, it wanted Pelican Island. Here we are, now, eighteen years later and the harbor has staked its claim and Pelican Island is no more. Normally, when something sinks in water, there is some evidence that something was at one time there. Often a reef is formed leaving some trace behind. In this case, the Island just vanished! Poof! Gone without a trace – except for the photos I'd taken before Charley destroyed its beauty making it possible for Charlotte Harbor to slowly swallow it. Charley left much destruction in its wake but for the most part, we were able to rebuild. Even, many of the birds are now back and their populations are growing – and that's a good thing. Those birds have taken residence in other islands or the surrounding trees and mangroves of Charlotte Harbor. Unfortunately, the one thing we lost that we'll never get back is Pelican Island.

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It's Mom's Fault

Jan 23, 2022 8 months ago

Through the years, my sons teased me about my good posture and how, while they were growing, I wouldn't tolerate slouching. “Mom's fault,” I'd say with a smile. Although no genius, as my sons often point out, they are also just as quick to comment on how much I do know. They call me a walking encyclopedia of nonsensical trivia. Once again, I shrug and say, Mom's fault.” While my mom was never what was considered a strict disciplinarian, when it came to schoolwork, she was tough. I remember as soon as I could talk, she'd drill me every me every Saturday morning. Using two pages at a time of the dictionary, she would read each word, emphasizing on its pronunciation, encouraging me to try and spell it correctly. Back then, luckily, the dictionaries were small. Mom kept track of the words I misspelled in order for me to study them for the following Saturday. By the time I reached Kindergarten, I found it easy to read whole sentences. Soon, my “home education” expanded adding Math to my list of things to learn. After my spelling and reading lessons, Mom gave me wo sheets of paper with arithmetic problems to solve. Mom never confined her idea of teaching to just schoolwork. She believed in a healthy mind and healthy body. While I'd be pouring over homework, if Mom saw me slouching, she'd quietly walk behind me and gently t ouch my back. With one finger. Without one word spoken, I would immediately straighten to a more proper position. For about five minutes a day, three times each week, I would have to stand with my back against the wall. “Touch your heels to the wall. Now, your butt! Head up and back; shoulders back! Stomach in!” I know, I know. She sounded like a drill sergeant, but it kept my posture intact and my spine straight. Most of my friends learned to cook while their moms stood at their sides verbally instructing their every move. Mom's method differed completely. Handing me a recipe, she'd back away. Her reason was simple. Anyone can mimic; anyone can follow step-by-step instructions as each is given. It's more important to read and comprehend. As she often said, “Following a receipt teaches you to learn to follow any instructions.” However, she remained in the kitchen with me – just in case. Mom believed in teaching by example, not by using a bunch of words. Too often, my friends heard their moms say. “Do as I say, not as I do.” Never once did I hear that phrase from my mom. I also never heard the more familiar, “Because I said so.” Mom would often take me for long walks in the park, weather permitting. At times, we'd go for a train ride to the local zoo or museum. Once a month from June to September, mom and dad would pack a lunch and we would head to the nearby lake for a picnic. In addition to schoolwork, mom taught me to appreciate the beauty of a flower, the wonder of a rainbow, and the compassion needed for those less fortunate (like the WWII Veteran who sat legless on the street corner begging for a few cents to help him get by. Even tough money was tight, we never passed him by without Mom dropping a few cents in his little tin cup. She also taught me that although life is not perfect, we must strive for that goal and not be disappointed if we fail. Mom taught me the appreciation of demanding work. “After all,” she said, “the harder you work the more you appreciate the end result. If things came too easily, we would take those things for granted.” Yes, mom taught me many things: reading, spelling, love, and life. Now, here I am in my seventies. Mom passed away a number of years ago but even at my age, I am in good health. I still sit properly, and my back is straight. While I never went to college (as I said money was tight), my knowledge and education about what matters is exemplary. I am not afraid to tackle new projects and while I strive to succeed, I don't sulk if I fail. I just change my attitude and try again. My sons now, are grown with families of their own and emulate Mom's parenting as much as possible. I insisted on rearing my children the way Mom reared me, with compassion, understanding right from wrong, a thirst of knowledge, and fun in doing everything. I have been a good mother and teacher to my sons (they told me to say that), and I can see what wonderful husbands and fathers they are in every way (their wives tole me to say that!). Mom would be so proud of them. The reason for our successes in maintaining such happy homes, I feel is simple. It's Mom's Fault.

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