the resilience of memory, part 1

I just heard that phrase — “the resilience of memory” — on a podcast I was listening to, and it resonated with what I’ve been experiencing since I last posted (six weeks ago!). I’ll elaborate on that below and in my next post, but first, a little update on the quotidian:

downward-facing dog
sketch by Katie Plattner

Adding a new wrinkle to my pandemic existence is the additional weight of an orthopedic walking boot. I first injured my right Achilles tendon about 15 years ago when I was in a yoga class led by a drill sergeant of an instructor, who insisted that we “get those heels down!” while performing downward-facing dog. I’m not always obedient, but she frightened me, so I did what I was told, and felt and heard a little popping sound from that tendon. It’s been swollen since, but not usually painful, until three weeks ago, when it flared up. I went to see a foot-and-ankle doc (not sure what you call that kind of specialist), the one who did my most recent ankle surgery. I burst out laughing when he said, “That area is particularly vulnerable to injury.” Somehow the Greek mythologists knew that, too. At any rate, I’ve been clomping around in the boot for three weeks. Fortunately, I have a pair of shoes with the same height heel, so I’m not wrenching my back at the same time.

Speaking of wrenches, this has thrown one into my walking routine. I was finding a better emotional balance by starting each day with a brisk two-mile walk and ending it with a slower walk in the evening, accommodating our dog Mac’s need to sniff nearly every upright object and many level areas as well. No morning walks now, and Duke has had to take on the evening dog walks. He doesn’t enjoy them as much as I do, but he’s being a very good boy (just like Mac) and giving me a break from them. I’m trying to go without the boot today and wearing normal shoes, just walking slowly and carefully. I may be ready for a stand-around-and-wait-for-Mac-to-quit-sniffing walk soon, but not a brisk one.

I’m still jigsaw-puzzling quite a bit, making quick progress on some, but the one of the fancy cabin in the woods almost did me in, and somehow I ended up with three missing pieces and one extra piece that didn’t fit in any of the spaces. (So sorry, Ginny — it was one I borrowed from you, and I don’t know why you would want it back now.) On the other hand, the ones with multiple panels with distinct images are easy, and get put together almost too quickly. The one with the hot-air balloons was great fun: colors blending into other colors, only a few distinct images. (All pieces present and accounted for, Ginny — ready to return!)

ancestral memories

I am so grateful for the one remaining member of my mother’s generation, her first and second cousin, Jim Rasmussen. He is my second and third cousin. Let me attempt to explain, if only to make this clearer to myself. Trust me, there was no inbreeding involved.

I just joined Ancestry.com, so have only a rudimentary understanding of all the available features, but here are two family trees I constructed, one starting with Jim Rasmussen, one with my mother, Dorothy Schechter. I just learned how to draw on photos in a crude, childlike way, and have marked the ancestors that Jim and Dorothy have in common. The first cousin connection is that each had a Lupfer mother from the same set of siblings (blue). Florence Lupfer Schechter was Dorothy’s mom and Eula Lupfer Rasmussen was Jim’s. The second cousin connection is that each had a Rasmussen grandparent from the same set of siblings (yellow): Mary Rasmussen Schechter was Dorothy’s grandmother and her brother, Nels Peter Rasmussen was Jim’s grandfather. Whew. It doesn’t really matter if YOU get it, but I think this little exercise made it clearer to me.

The remaining mystery is how Ancestry.com came up with two different Hans Juergen Rasmussens, one born in 1833 and one in 1849, both married to Karen Latiche Petersen. The correct date of birth is, by other accounts, 1849. Although I’d love to dive in and try to figure this out, I’d rather finish this long overdue post. I have passed all the info I have gotten from Jim R to my sister, Debbie. She has more time on her hands and is much less daunted by computer software, having even devised programs to assist in solving cryptograms and Sudoku.

O.G. and Ida Jane Lupfer family. Eula is first of sisters at left; Florence is third.

Jim promises to pass along more information and photos eventually. I owe my continued connection with Jim to his German war bride, Ilse. Richard and I took Sam and Katie, along with my parents, on a “pilgrimage” through Kansas in 2000, stopping by and seeing Mom’s relatives along the way, including Jim and Ilse in Wichita. At that time, and I believe for years before and after, they adopted retired greyhounds. I learned by meeting theirs that, despite greyhounds’ reputation as speedy animals, they are real couch potatoes at home — at least in retirement. Ilse and I have kept up an email correspondence since then, more in the past couple of years. Ilse wrote a wonderful memoir of her life in Germany before and during World War II, which she illustrated with water-color paintings. She writes beautifully, far better in English than many Americans I could name, and is a great correspondent. She has delved deeply into genealogy as well — that of greyhounds! She still spends many hours on the computer researching bloodlines, I believe to make sure that the lineage of very expensive dogs is legitimate. (Ilse, you can correct me if I have the details wrong!)

In addition to all the family knowledge Jim has researched, he holds a great many memories of my grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles, etc. in his head. He doesn’t really want to sit and write it all down, but I think I may have convinced him today to have a series of recorded phone calls with me, centering on various people, so I can get those memories on paper. The stories are the driving force behind my energy for this. The past few months, I have (as regular readers know) spent time with my mother’s memories and plan to post about my father soon. Their stories live on in me, seemingly in my blood and bones. Ancestral (or genetic) memory is “for real,” as kids say.

Enough for now. Part 2 of this post will center around the memories evoked when I went through all the photos and papers I have from my public school teaching years, 1976-85. As a preview, here’s a photo of Felix, who was in my class at John F. Kennedy Elementary, Roosevelt School District in 1982-83. Make what you can of his list of favorite foods!

Felix, 3rd grade

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