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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.
It was 1977 and I was alone with my young sons. Eleven years earlier, when I looked into his beautiful blue eyes and said, “I do”, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think my sweet, handsome husband would change his mind. Now I was alone and bewildered – and broke! The alimony and child support weren’t enough to pay the mortgage and the meager salary I made covered the utility bills and a few groceries. I found pasta with sauce was and easy and cheap meal that we all liked. A few times each week wouldn’t hurt us. Meatloaf was a good meal stretcher. A bit of ground beef with some spices, a few potatoes and a vegetable usually made two meals. Casseroles always found a way into our weekly menus. I made the meals work. However, at times, when my sons needed new shoes or jeans, a bill would have to slide until the next payday. All too often, I found myself behind. The few times when I called my ex to ask for help, he always replied that I should take extra child support from the alimony. To which I always replied, if it were that simple, I wouldn’t be asking him for help. He never failed to remind me that I had custody and therefore the boys were my responsibility. Not wanting to keep borrowing from my parents, I felt there was no where left to turn. I found a second job which helped a bit more, not much more, but a little. Yet, no matter how desperate the situation, it never failed that I’d manage to find the 65 cents for a pack of cigarettes. A bad habit that started when I was sixteen and never considered stopping. I did, however, manage to cut my habit down to 20 cigarettes a-day, but I still smoked. It seemed that the predicament I was in, became easier to bear if I had a cigarette to rely on. Never once did I consider that the cost, as low as it was back then, took food away from my sons. That thought never crossed my mind, but it should have. Maybe I was selfish; maybe I was just so addicted to the nicotine that it clouded my thinking. Either way, I still smoked. My sons were 10 and 8 years old at the time. They knew things were tough since their father left and never asked for much. They were good kids, helping around the house as much as possible. Each had paper routes giving them the allowance that I couldn’t afford. Often, they’d pool their money together and offer a “pizza night” for all three of us. As I said, they were good kids. Christmas was fast approaching that gave me another dilemma. What can I possibly give my sons who deserved so much and had so little? Back then, Sears, Roebuck & Co. had a “wish book” catalog filled with pictures of the latest toys for all ages. Handing them the book, I said they could one have one major gift each. I would borrow the money from my parents, but they would have their Christmas. They took the book, walked to their shared bedroom and closed the door. Approximately 45-mintues later, they left the bedroom and handed me the book. What they said next, shocked me and brought tears to my eyes. My older son did the talking. “Mom, we decided. There’s just one thing we want.” “What’s that?” I asked as I scanned the book looking on every page for their “X” s. “We talked it over and decided the only thing we want is for you to stop smoking.” I was stunned. Of all the things they could have chosen, that’s was all they wanted. Without stopping to think, I retrieved the half-pack from the kitchen table and handed it to them. “Go in the bathroom and rip them to pieces. Flush them down the toilet and you have my word. I’ll never smoke again.” We hugged for several minutes that seemed like hours and then, taking my half pack of Camels, they walked toward the bathroom. I called my mom and told her what happened. That weekend, my parents visited us and although my parents weren’t wealthy, they still took my sons shopping. They did get one special gift from them along with a few smaller items but to this day, more than 40 years later, they both agree that the best gift was the promise I made and never once broke. It was also the best gift my children could have given me. Through the years, there were many words spoken, a few small promises made and eventually broken but I although I was tempted, I never once had another cigarette. Every time I was tempted, I thought of my sons. To have even one cigarette would be, in my mind, like taking back the only Christmas gift I could give them so many years ago, the only one they asked for, the one that meant so much to them. I just couldn’t do it. That thought was almost foremost on my mind: it was the one promise they wanted and the one I could afford to give. It was that one solid promise that meant so much to them and me: the one solid promise that to this day, I never broke.
“That was the best game we ever had!” my brother said as he draped his arm around my shoulders. He couldn’t have been any happier. I couldn’t have agreed more as I gave his cheek a quick kiss. With my blonde curls pulled back on a tight ponytail, I fit in with my brother’s friends more each day. Yet, he knew that someday, all that would change. Frank included me in everything. I was more than a sister - I was his friend. One Saturday afternoon, he asked to play baseball again. He knew this might be the last time I’d agree to play – with the boys. After all, I’d be turning twelve by the end of the month. Other girls moved into the neighborhood and we were quickly becoming friends. As he watched me cross the field, he realized that I walked differently. The Tom-Boy gait was gone and in its place was a more girlish stride. I took my position in Left Field. This time, things were different. Frank, as Captain of the team, asked me to move in a few feet putting the official Left Fielder behind me. Frank thought I was old enough to play without getting hurt and wanted to give me a chance to really play. The game progressed quickly. The final batter was at home plate. The Umpire called, “Strike One.” I held my breath while the batter swung again and breathed out another sigh of disappointment at the second called strike. I knew that one more strike and the inning would be over. One more missed chance to be a real team player. My pale blue eyes were glued on the boy standing at the plate. Ball One. The next swing, however, connected and sent the ball flying high – towards Left Field. Frank held his breath as he watched me take off running as if my life depended on catching that ball. I ran to meet it, feet pounding the ground, eyes trained on the hard rubber orb. As the ball began its descent, still running, I raised my glove and dove in the air to meet it. As I crashed to the ground, the dirt clouded up around me. Frank’s worried eyes never left the cloud of dust while his breath was caught in his throat. In a split second, he beamed with pride and breathed a huge sigh of relief as he saw I raise my glove to show the others that I still had possession of the ball. Although our team lost the game, to me, the score meant nothing. I played my heart out and that’s all the mattered. With pride at having the only girl on their team, one who could actually play, my teammates carried me to home plate on their shoulders. Frank found it difficult to wipe the toothy grin from his face and I laughed almost hysterically as the boys beneath me tried desperately not to drop me on the ground. Frank’s intuition, however, was right. That was my last game. The following weekend I attended a slumber party with my new friends. We giggled as we tried new hairstyles, dabbled with makeup and spoke of the possibility of getting old enough to date or better yet, go steady When I arrived home the next afternoon, I found Frank sitting at the kitchen table, glass of milk in hand and a plate of homemade biscuits in front of him. “Hi, Sis, want some?” I took a glass from the cupboard, filled it with milk and grabbed a biscuit. “So, how was the party?” he asked a bit solemnly. “It was great!” I bubbled. “Those girls are so much fun. We…,” I stopped and saw the look on my brother’s face. “Hey, what’s the matter? You look like you lost your best friend?” “I … you’re growing up. You don’t need me anymore. Yeah, I guess I do feel a little like I lost my best friend.” “Oh Frank!” Trying not to let Frank see my own sorrow, I lowered my eyes and squeezed his hand. When our eyes met again, my eyes were misted with held back tears. Quietly, with my mature, pre-teen wisdom, I told him how I felt. “Frank, you’ll always be my best friend. Just because we’re gonna grow up, doesn’t mean we’ll stop being close. I still expect you to be around to protect me against the bullies in the neighborhood, to make me laugh when I feel sad and listen to me when I have a problem. Who else would I turn to when I need a friend? I’ll need you to screen my boyfriends and make sure they’ll take good care of me and beat them up if they don’t.” “What? You want me to what?” His eyes were opened as wide as saucers in disbelief, but a smile began to creep along the sides of his mouth. “You want me to screen your boyfriends?” “Yeah, can you imagine that? I bring a guy home and he has to meet you instead of dad. You’ll scare the heck out of him.” Frank laughed at the thought. The more he thought about it, the harder he laughed - and so did I. I leaned down and kissed the top of his head. “I’m going to take a shower. Don’t eat all the biscuits.” As I turned to walk away, I looked back and said delightfully, “Hey, that really was some game last week, huh?” Frank looked back and I could see he was still smiling happily. “Yeah, that was the best game we’ve ever played!”
Because I was eight years old, my ten-year old brother always let me tag along with him and his friends. When the boys played baseball, my brother would say to me, “Hey Sis, you’re so good in the field, go over to that spot and wait for a fly.” That spot was not just in “out” field, it was in “left-out” field. But, at the time, I was too young to realize what was happening and way too enthralled with the idea of being part of my brother’s team. At the same time, my brother, Frank, although making sure I didn’t get in harm’s way or the way of the game, every now and then, asked his friends to hit a ball in my direction so I could “field” it. Naturally, that play never counted but it sure made me feel important and like I was someone really special. Despite being only 27-months older than I was, Frank always found a way to do just that – make me feel special. However, there was one day in particular that, to this day, brings a warm feeling to my heart. It was the day we climbed the Iron Man. In a section of the park near our house, was a statue. I didn’t know it at the time, but the statue was a memorial commemorating the battle between the U.S.S. Monitor and the Merrimack, which was fought in 1862. The Monitor was only six months old at the time of its sinking and the street on which we lived was named after the massive and historic ship. The statue was huge and made of iron. It depicted a man in a semi-sitting position holding desperately onto a rope that stiffly hung just below the ship’s deck on which he sat. This was a favorite place for the boys as they would climb the statue and sit for hours looking at everyone in the park who walked through the park. From that height, a child felt you could for miles. On one of my “tag along” days, Frank and the other boys decided to climb the statue. I stood at base looking up helplessly. I, too, wanted to climb the big iron man, but was too small to reach. Finally, my brother stretched his hand down. “Come on, Sis, grab hold. I’ll help you up.” As I took his hand, he explained where I should place my little feet and what part of the statue I should grab to hoist myself up. Within seconds I was sitting in the lap of this great iron man. I was on top of the world. I looked around and as my heart fluttered with excitement, saw the wonders around me that the others had seen from such a great height for so much longer than I had. As the boys laughed and joked among themselves, I was quite content to sit in silent awe. Eventually, it was time for dinner. One by one, the boys climbed down. I was the last to begin the descent, trying carefully to place my feet around the iron man’s wide arm. My legs were just a bit too short. I couldn’t get down. My brother realized my plight and ran to help. “Hey, Sis, turn around and kneel on the spool. Wrap yours legs around the rope. Then hold on to his arm and let yourself slide down. Once you get low enough, let your feet drop and then let go. I’ll catch you,” he said. While I trusted my brother with my life, I didn’t trust my life with my little hands and legs. Frank assured me I’d be okay. He stood directly beneath the stiff iron arm. I knelt at the edge and did what my brother suggested, but with one added thing. I closed my eyes. If I was going to fall and kill myself, I didn’t want to watch. Suddenly, I felt Frank’s gentle hands grab me. “You’re down, Sis. Safe and sound. Let’s go home.” I opened my eyes, gratefully and happily, as Frank gently put me on the ground. He grabbed my hand to walk the short distance from the center of the park, across the street to home. It didn’t matter to him that his friends stayed and watched. After all, he was the big brother taking care of his little sister. As we approached the parks exit, I turned to give the big iron man one last look for the night. As I did, I realized I’d learned some very important things from my experience. Although for a while I felt like I was on top of the world, I didn’t need a statue to keep me there. My brother’s love and protection did that better than artificial things I could ever have or do. I didn’t need to climb a statue to see the beauty and the wonders of the world. They were right before me – at my own eye level, in my mind and heart. As we grew, I married and moved away, my brother enlisted in the Army and was sent to Viet Nam. Although he returned after his Tour of Duty, he did not return whole. There was something lacking in his spirit. Years later, we would find out that he contracted the cancer that would consume him before his 51st birthday. Many years have passed since then, and although Frank is no longer a physical part of my life, every time I recall the Iron Man, I think of my brother. He was my Iron Man.
My dad stood in the kitchen as he watched Mom concentrating on the refrigerator door. “Mary,” he said quietly, “If you put one more magnet on that refrigerator, the door will be so heavy, it’ll fall off!” My said, “Guess I do have quite a collection, don’t I?” “Frank”. Do you remember when I bought this one?” As he stepped forward to have a better look, Mom pulled it small magnet off the refrigerator and handed it to him. It looked like a miniature egg beater. “I bought this right after Margaret was married. Remember?” She took it from him and sighing deeply continued, “We visited her new home and stopped for gasoline on the way. I saw this and decided it would make the perfect piece of memorabilia. We were so proud of her. Young, pretty, smart, a good husband and a new home!” Dad stood mesmerized as he recalled that trip. “Maryland” came from the first time they visited my younger sister after she moved down south with her new husband. “Montauk” brought back the memories of their first vacation alone after their children married and moved away. She never removed the next one, just pointed to it. In a voice that almost sounded like a whisper, Mom said, “I’m sure this will break if I try to remove it but look. It reminds me of the day, Margaret visited and announced she was pregnant.” “Our first grandchild! What a memory! I can’t begin to explain how thrilled I was. Remember, Frank?” She looked at him through misty eyes. “After Margaret and her husband left, you drove me to the store so I could buy some wool. I was so excited to begin knitting a hat with the matching sweater and carriage blanket. When I approached the cashier, I saw this cute little plastic baby bottle and knew it needed a new home – on my refrigerator!” Dad remembered and he, too sighed. “So long ago, Mary and yet, it seems like yesterday. How old is Ken now anyway? 19?” “Oh my, Frank, no!” she said as she smiled and gently and affectionately stroked his arm. “He’s all grown up now, He’s almost 24 and our little girl will be 45 in a few months.” Dad, in a bit of shock, grabbed the back of the nearest chair and wanted very much to sit down – yet the magnets pulled at him as if he were a piece of metal. “Go on,” he encouraged Mom while trying to pull himself together remembering that he was 45 years old when his first grandson was born. Mom remembered the reason she bought each one. For instance, the tiny telephone. It was about 2-inches high and one inch wide. It was hard molded plastic, but if you picked up the handpiece and pressed its, the device emitted a sound replicating the ringing of an old-fashioned telephone. Mom said she got that from the 5 & 10 cent store during its last days of business. The magnet held her eyes as she looked back in time. “Remember how we would walk down the avenue and I’d stop in for some material to make the clothes for the children?” He remembered. He also remembered, that it was in that store, that old five and dime, where they bought their first full set of dishes – one piece at a time! That store closed their doors for the last time back in 1968, but Mom still has her magnet. “Do you remember this one?” she asked in a brighter tone of voice as she took it off the refrigerator. It looked like a small snail shell – no marking and faded with time. Taking it from her for a stronger and closer look while trying to peek inside, Dad saw what looked like dried grass. Then he remembered. “Yes, I sure do!” he said triumphantly. It was indeed a small snail shell which brought back a flood of memories. Mom was sure his smile spread from ear to ear. “You bought it during our first family vacation at Virginia Beach. We rented a large beachfront house for a week and invited Margaret and MJ and their families. We had such fun and the grandkids loved being so close to the water.” It took a while, but one by one they recalled each memory. Years past and with each one, dad became more observant with the arrival of a new magnet - sometimes more than one. Secretly, he wrote down the occasion associated with each one so that when the memories began to fail, he’d be able to relate the reasoning mind them all. Mom and Dad are gone now but the memories linger on more than just pictures in some old photo album that eventually gets stuck up in an attic. Through her declining years, her visits to shops for magnets slowed considerably but every now and then, while out with a friend or relative, she’d find one and insist it needed a new home -hers! And no, the door never felt off mom’s refrigerator, but through the years, Mom had had to rearrange the magnets to make room for more. In fact, during the course of her lifetime, she even had to begin placing some on the side of the refrigerator. While these many magnets may never carry a business logo or an easy to find phone number, they sure do tell a story- a great story that will never change with time - the story of Mom’s life.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS For thirteen years, my husband and myself asked my widowed mom to move in with us. We knew she’d love our cozy Florida home. Mom always declined mentioning her many reasons. One reason always exasperated me. “You father is in every room of this house. He built the kitchen cabinets; he rewired most of the rooms; he put in the half bath in the basement. He’s done so much. How can I leave it all behind?” I always replied, “Mom, if your house was destroyed by fire, would you forget dad?” “Never!” she’d reply adamantly, “He’s in my heart.” However, she would still obstinately, refuse our offer adding, “I’ll leave my house when they take me out feet first!” We visited her as often as our pensions allowed which came down to twice a year. Mom would fly down to see us once a year, that is until her health began to fail. In 2005, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. It would be matter of time until her sight was gone completely. Walking was now an issue. Mom had a wonderful neighbor who would take her to church every week and together, they’d go to dinner following the religious service. Dianne would talk mom grocery shopping and help her pay her bills. Yet, despite needing this help, mom wouldn’t move. Her reasons began to change. “I won’t be a burden to my children.” To which I’d add, “So, it’s ok to be a burden to your neighbor?” Then the unthinkable happened. It was 2011 and we were visiting mom for Christmas. My husband was fishing up a few repairs in the basement and I was tidying up the dining room. Mom said she needed to use the bathroom but decided since my husband was working on the one in the basement, she climbed the stairs to the second floor. As she approached the stairs to descend, she missed a step and in a small ball, bounced on every step on her way down where she hit her head on the newel post. There was blood everywhere and she couldn’t move without severe pain. I dialed 9-1-1. The EMTs loaded mom in the ambulance and allowed me to ride with them. My husband followed in our car. Mom was not just lucky that day, she was blessed. Her only injuries were a laceration in the back of her head that required 7 staples, a broken foot, and a few other bruises. It could have been worse, much worse. My husband and I discussed the latest situation and agreed that now was the time to bring mom home. She no longer could live alone and with or without her consent, she was coming home with us. The problem we now faced was that she could not be able to tolerate a two-day drive to Florida. We decided that my husband would leave within two days for Florida and I would stay with mom until she was stable enough for a plane ride. Ten days later, we received the confirmation from her doctor that, yes, she was now stable enough for the trip. I called the airline and made our one-way reservations. Then I called my husband and gave him our flight information. My son and his wife spent every day with mom and me helping me take care of mom and beginning the task of clearing out her personal possessions. We packed her necessities and my son agreed to have them shipped to Florida. My son and his wife bought a transport-wheelchair which would make things easier for both of us. When the time came, we helped mom into the wheelchair. My son and a few of mom’s neighbors carried her and her new wheelchair out of her house – feet first! I told her she got her wish. It wasn’t until mom began living with us that I noticed her memory wasn’t the same as it had been. I took her to the doctor and had her tested. The diagnosis was the onset of dementia. Mom lived with us for just over five years, losing her memory with each passing day. Another thing I found was a lump on mom’s back. Should I have had it scanned? Mom was 90-years old. My doctor and I discussed the issue and decided we’d leave it alone. Mom’s memory grew increasingly worse and by 2016, her communication was gone. She could hear us but couldn’t respond. We read magazines, books, the newspaper. We’d turn on the TV to a science channel. She loved science and thought she’d enjoy it. I still gave her a pedicure each week and bathed her every other day. I often wonder if she every really knew. I hope so. Then, in October of 2016, the lump ruptured internally causing sepsis to ravage her body. Mom died 2 days later. While it’s been very hard emotionally on me, I try to find comfort in believing that she’s no longer in pain, her memory is back and somewhere in Heaven she’s once again, dancing with my dad. At least I know that the last five years of her life, she wasn’t alone. She had company every day. For a while, she laughed and enjoyed life in Florida. She even once said, “Why did I wait so long?” While it still saddens me to not have her with me, I will always cherish the time we had together. In my heart, I know she did too.