Jean Lund's Blog


     When I turned eleven I felt a change in the air. John F. Kennedy was still in office and I lived in a family of conservative Republicans. I don’t recall seeing my Mom or brother being very emotional, but my Dad and I probably made up for it. I was very independent in my thinking, bursting full of emotions. I never saw my mother cry and the only time I saw my father cry was when he spoke of his mother, Rosella Collins Conklin who he always loved and missed. He never spoke of his father, Alfred because he was full of inner turmoil, rage and feelings of abandonment by him. He blamed his father for leaving the family which he believed caused his mother to have a nervous breakdown. She somehow got addicted to morphine and was sent to an asylum where she died in 1926 when he was 17 . Dad always raged on about his half sisters from his mother’s first marriage to Ernest Collins. He said they all hated him and put him in an orphanage after his mother’s break down where he escaped at age sixteen finding work on the trains to support himself. Sadly, he carried that bitterness and pain internally all of his life. But he was still a man capable of love. He just didn’t have the ability to love more than one person at a time and since I was his “pet,” Mom and Bobby didn’t get all from him that they should have. He often seemed gruff but he was kind and loving and always remembered special events. He also was very capable of using his arms to give good hugs to everyone. Mom on the other hand was more than reserved. Although she was cheerful, singing occasionally while she cooked or cleaned, she wasn’t much on human contact. I remember many times trying to get her attention, to spend some time with me, but she always seemed busy running the house. So I would improvise and ask if I could help with the dishes and was allowed to get up on the step stool beside her to dry the plates and silverware. Or while she was ironing I would ask if I could help and she would let me press her and Dad’s square white cloth handkerchiefs that didn’t need many creases. She was a great story teller and would sit on the couch between my brother and I and read to us. I felt so happy to be able to snuggle up next to her. Only now and then would she put her arm around me. Even though she wasn’t very demonstrative with her love, we felt loved all the same because she was always sweet and kind and happy. Now at eleven years old I was becoming more curious about life and coming to understand emotions and questioned her about something I found odd. I asked why she slept in the bedroom all the time and Dad slept on the fold out couch in the living room. She said he had a bad back and that the fold out was more comfortable for him. My young mind thought they should have bought a new bed but I didn’t say so. I also noticed that other than a peck on the cheek when he left for work I never saw them kiss on the lips like the movies on TV but decided not to ask her about that either. Every once in a blue moon I would wake up to find them both in Ma’s bed but at that age I just shrugged it off to Dad’s back feeling better.

     The truth was that Mom had turned off any real emotion years before. Like Dad, her folks had divorced and there were a lot of kids to be divvied up and she too had to spend time in an orphanage. Her father had re-married and eventually so did her mother and she went back to live with her family. After Mom left the orphanage she found work as a waitress and became quite the flirtatious young woman back in the twenties. She told me stories years later of how she would make a date with four boys for the same time and have each one meet her a particular street corner and then she would be a no show, but would be somewhere in the vicinity hiding, watching four guys at the same time waiting for her. She howled with laughter at the memory. But one time she must have met someone that she liked enough to meet alone because things went too far and the next thing you know she was pregnant. After she found out she was pregnant at age nineteen, she found out that he, a young Jewish man, was also married. Feeling betrayed, she faced life as a single mother. Her sister Katherine was dating Dad at the time and he was bold enough to lie about his age (he was really almost two years younger) and offer to break up with Katherine and marry Ma so the baby would have a legitimate father and that’s exactly what happened on August 2nd, 1926. My biological mother, Patty was born on January 26th, 1927 as Patricia Ann O’Brien. I was an adult before I found out that my Dad (grandfather) was not my biological grandfather.  Mom’s lack of ability to have human contact must have been driven further by having a husband who cheated on her while she raised their young family. The name Helen Bussey haunted her until well past her children’s adult lives and into our life being raised by them. Since she was one hundred miles away from him while he worked in the cities, I am sure she imagined another hundred Helen’s out there sleeping with her husband. And every once in a while she would take a dig at Dad and bring it up. Ma told me once that while he was seeing Helen she put ex-lax in his chocolate pudding so he would have diarrhea when he went out with her. She seemed to gloat when she told the story and then would throw back her head and laugh. Ma came across as a sweet angel but there really was a mischievous side to her. Once I hit puberty she told me about an uncle that tried to molest her and my Aunt June so I think over-all Ma held great disdain for men. That was probably the reason she wasn’t very affectionate.

     I was eleven years old when I felt myself being overcome with all kinds of new feelings, mostly romantic ones. I looked at boys differently. I watched love scenes on TV with more interest. My heart swelled with desire for that “fall in love” feeling I saw portrayed on the screen. I wondered where my true love was. I also always had a strong connection with nature but suddenly I felt an even deeper connection with all the beauty that surrounded me. I was bursting at the seams to get my feelings out yet I felt too shy to share them with anyone. It almost hurt to hold all the visions inside my head and at times I thought I would go mad. Then one day I picked up a pencil and a tablet and started writing what I saw in my head, and what I felt inside my heart. Out poured poetry on paper about the trees and lake and critters. About the sky and the sun and the moonlit nights. The fireflies, and autumn leaves and snowflakes. It just wouldn’t stop. I felt a huge release when I wrote and I kept my writing pad tucked away in the top drawer under my socks and underwear. Then late one afternoon while laying on my bed daydreaming about my Prince Charming, I sat up and looked through my window towards the west as a blazing red sunset stretched across the sky. The sun was huge and streaked with passion as watching it filled my soul. I stared without blinking as if in a daze and imagined a man and woman walking on the beach on the Pacific Ocean two thousand miles away. They were holding hands and would stop and gaze into each others eyes and draw in a long passionate kiss and continue walking slowly barefoot along the water. I thought then that I would never in my life see the ocean but oh how romantic it must be. And that night I started writing poetry about love. It was also the night I fell in love with writing and I was so drawn to it that I couldn’t stop. That’s when my “almost” a writer career was born.

     Other changes started happening around then as well. I wanted to spend the night at a friends who lived by Krafe’s Corner but Dad wouldn’t allow it. No explanation was given other than he didn’t want me staying at someone else’s house. So I asked if my friend could spend the night with me instead and he said no. He didn’t want anyone staying at our house either. I was very disappointed and Ma went to bat for me and got him to agree to let me have her stay at our house. Dad seemed to become colder in general after that. I turned twelve that December and had started trying to spread my wings a bit and Dad seemed to gradually become grumpier than I’d ever known. Bobby was sixteen and big into sports in high school in the town of Onamia seventeen miles away. He was a team captain and excelled on the football, baseball and basketball team. The farm boys across the road all played too so he got rides to and from practice and games with them. One day out of the blue Dad told him that he couldn’t play three sports anymore. That he would have to give one up. And just like my spending the night with friends, there was no logical explanation for it and once again Mom tried to reason with Dad but this time it was to no avail. He gave up football and carried on but surely must have felt disappointed and bewildered. Dad rarely made it to the games because he worked forty miles the other direction and worked long hours selling cars. I’m sure that was a big disappoint for Bobby as well, not having a father rooting him on.

     The summer of 1963 found my brother in love with a girl named Meredith in his junior class and me being excited that I would be starting high school that fall and once again be in the same school as my big brother. We had both attended a one room school house with one teacher that taught first through sixth grade just down from Krafe’s Corner near home. It looked like a regular Little House on the Prairie school house and was pretty much run like one. I was a clown in elementary school, always wising off, sneaking and passing notes, and doing whatever I could to make the kids in school laugh. Our teacher used a wooden ruler to slap our hand ten times when we got in trouble. I was always getting the ruler but it was worth it as I lived to make people laugh. But I was also a good student and got good grades, excelling in spelling and writing which probably helped contribute to my desire to write later on. But Bobby was five years older than me so when I started first grade he was in sixth and we only had one year together at the elementary school. I was really looking forward to riding the bus with him and going to the “big” school in town.

     The summer of 1963 we took our last family vacation out west together. Bobby was kind of depressed about going as he was in love and didn’t want to be away from Meredith and Dad sensed that. And with my expanding wings I suppose Dad was having separation anxiety and didn’t know it but our camping trip felt more like a duty than our usual summer fun. We couldn’t wait to get back home and yet when we did I felt sad that it was over. I could feel something had changed but couldn’t put my finger on what it was. September came quickly and excitedly I started high school. We didn’t have a separate junior high back then. We all shared the same school so high school meant junior and senior high. It didn’t take me long to become the class clown in seventh grade and a semi-embarrassment to my brother. He was well known in the high school because of all the varsity sports he played and because he was so tall and thin he had been nicknamed Spider. I was a loud mouth, wise crackin’ joke makin’ girl, just looking for attention. I would yell at him when he was with his friends in the hall and I could just see him wither up but I thought it was funny to embarrass him. I was proud as could be that he was my big brother and so well known and liked. I wanted to be as popular as he was. I quickly became boy crazy in love with everyone I saw. The boys always made comments about my big eyes and finally nicknamed me Buffalo because they said my eyes were the size of a Buffalo’s. Not a very feminine nickname but I accepted it and soon used it as material in my jokes. I wasn’t the prettiest girl in the school so I didn’t have boys beating down the door to walk me to class but I did keep their interest by using humor. It became pretty obvious to me fairly quickly who the most popular girls were and they were all from town. They were in their own little clique and looked down on the rest of us as country bumpkins which really hurt my feelings inside. But I continued to use my humor to at least be a small part of their group while at school but the reality was that my friends were more the ones I rode the bus with who lived on farms.

It was Bob’s senior year and prom night was coming up. He and Meredith had been going together for a year and it was obvious that they were serious about each other. Dad had bought him an old used Ford to get around in and he brought her to our house to meet the family. She was cute as a button and so tiny next to my brother. She was all of four foot eleven next to his six foot frame but she was well mannered and kind and if there were any reservations from Mom it might have been that she was Lutheran and we were Catholic. She too was involved in things at school singing in the choir and playing drums in the band and a cheerleader just to name a few. I don’t think Dad was too impressed at all but it seemed as though nothing much impressed him anymore. I don’t really think it was Meredith. I think it was just him and whatever he was going through on his own. It didn’t matter because wild horses weren’t going to keep them apart. Bob had invited us to come see the school play as he and Meredith had parts in it. Ma and I went but of course Dad didn’t. He never seemed to make time for any extra curricular actives that his son was involved in. They graduated high school in 1964 and Bob went off to college at St. Cloud State. He was drafted right after finishing so he joined the Navy in April of 1967, married Meredith in August and took his bride with to his post in Italy. Their exciting life together was just about to begin. So was mine but mine was a far cry different than theirs.

Dad started coming home later at night and often with the smell of beer on his breath. He had long days waiting for customers to come in to buy a car, and sales were slow so he decided to start going out to the people. He hit the bars to have a couple of beer and schmooze with the locals and by golly if it didn’t work!  He was given a new Ford every fall when they arrived on Theilen’s lot so he would always have a demo with him to give a test drive to anyone interested. He was quite the salesman and by yukking it up with the folks in the taverns he could take them for a spin right there on the spot and get a down payment. He’d pass out his business card and make appointments for the buyer to come into Little Falls the next day and do the paperwork. He really hustled and made good money and provided well for his family. Ma never knew when to expect him for supper but Dad was always good about calling and letting her know about how long he’d be. So she’d just keep his in the oven on low so it would be warm when he got home which was usually by 10 pm. I missed my brother but Dad and Ma and I still did family things on weekends. We’d take a drive to another lake and set up a BBQ and just hang out for a picnic, and we still took our camping trip out west after Bobby was gone but it felt like a puzzle piece was missing. There wasn’t much joy in it, almost as if we were going through the motions trying to relive earlier years that had been so much fun. Things had changed. Time had flown. There was almost the feeling of grief like when someone died, but we did our best to enjoy the trip anyway. My mother Patty was still in Miami Beach after getting out of burlesque and took up breeding cocker spaniels, and either selling then or entering them in shows. She would still ask if  on occasion if I wanted to come live with her painting a really wonderful picture of the beach and Palm Trees and no cold or snow, but  I had my Mom and Dad and our house and this was where I wanted to stay. She came to visit us while she was still living there and brought her latest beau with her. I really liked Sidney. He was sweet and kind and he brought me a small musical jewelryy box that had a ballerina twirling in front of three mirrors when you opened it. I never forgot him for being so nice to me and I kept that box well into my adult life. But their relationship ended in the early sixties when she caught him with another woman. After she nearly killed him by pinning him with her car against a brick wall, she packed her bags and headed west landing in Reno, Nevada. There she worked in the casinos and out of the blue married some guy named Frank Plummer that she barely knew. She divorced him four months later and then stayed with an older man named Chris who became a good friend and father figure to her.  Tired of the fast pace of a gambling town, a year later she headed for Los Angeles landing in Inglewood in 1963. She was hired at the post office and met and fell in love with a man named Al (aka Buzzy) Bailey who was the manager of a local Safeway supermarket. They got married and she also helped him manage real estate properties he owned. That’s where Ma, Dad and I headed in the summer of 1964 without Bobby. We visited Patty and Buzzy in Inglewood California and that was my first time seeing the same Pacific Ocean I had written about when I was eleven years old. I couldn’t believe I was standing two thousand miles from home on the same beach of a place I had only daydreamed about! I loved California and the palm trees and the weather. I hoped we would get to visit again someday.

When we returned home, there was still enough time left before school started that I could call my friends and be a typical teen. It was easier to spend time with them now that Dad was working longer and not around the house. I would have friends come over or go hang out with them and we’d listen to the kind of rock and roll that was popular then, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee, Elvis and a lot of groups that came out of Detroit also known as Motown. We’d giggle about boys and just be typical girls swooning over our music idols that we were going to marry one day. When the Beatles arrived on the scene in 1963 all us girls lost our minds! I remember sitting on the floor as close to the TV as I could get when they came on the Ed Sullivan show. I let out screams all by myself driving my folks crazy. I cried just like every other young girl and swore I was going to marry Paul McCartney one day. And then the most incredible thing happened. My little rich, spoiled cousin Kathi who lived in Minneapolis got tickets to go see the Beatles when they came to play in the Twins stadium in the spring of 1964. And guess who was just spoiled enough to get to go with her? My Dad rocked!  He paid the cash so I could go to a once in a lifetime event and that is something I will always treasure. What was even sweeter was that our seats sat right over the dugout the Fab Four entered and exited from. What a moment in time! Life was still pretty innocent and sweet, but that was about to change.

Our family had always been an all American apple pie family. Family togetherness with aunts, uncles and cousins visiting from time to time from far away. I have wonderful childhood memories of life in the country. Dad smoked a pipe with a wonderful cherry blend aroma. He also smoked cigarettes. Ma didn’t. No one drank except for the rare occasions when Ma and Dad would go up the road to Krafe’s for supper. Bill Krafe and Dad would belly up to the small bar he had at the back of the store and chug down a Hamm’s or Grain Belt beer or two while shootin’ the breeze. Or from the other end of the lake, Florence and John Henderson who owned a small resort with rental cabins would come over once in a while to play Canasta and drink a few beers. Dad was always great at getting on some rampage over something, working himself up until he was pounding his fists on the table, but everyone else was laughing and enjoying it so it must have just been the way he told stories. The more he ranted, the harder everyone laughed. The only time I ever heard Dad really get mad and rant and rave was after Ma’s sister Katherine Cox (and his former girlfriend that he dumped to marry Ma) came to visit. Katherine was a very strong willed woman, had a very curt mouth and a tendency to make Dad feel inadequate somehow. She also was a very bossy woman and in his eyes she took charge of his house while visiting. He buttoned his lip while she was there; most likely intimidated by her, but poor Ma had to suffer the wrath of his rage against the woman after her and Uncle Rex left. Aunt Katherine was always very good to me. I never found her to be the way Dad said. She tried to help me learn manners, to stand up straight and would always let me look at her lovely jewelry. She was a successful business woman and way ahead of her time as far as women’s rights. Many years later I found a newspaper clipping praising her for her work and keeping up with men. I also found a letter from her to Ma laughing and saying “I’vealways had rights!” I admired Aunt Katherine and Uncle Rex who came across as rather timid but was very intelligent. No wonder seeing that he was a professor at the University of Fargo/Moorhead and had won many awards. I felt bad when in her later years, Aunt Katherine had a breast removed and was bed ridden with rheumatoid arthritis and lived in an assisted living home where she died ten years later. It must have felt terrible to be all alone, yet she somehow had driven her family away including her only child, my mother Patty’s cousin Dawn.

I don’t recall any fighting in our house. It was a very peaceful, loving childhood and even at a tender age, I appreciated my life. But I was lonesome a lot when I was younger. Bobby was five years older and had more friends then I did because the local farmers seemed to have more sons than daughters. And he really didn’t want to play with a girl anymore once he hit his teen years so it was just me playing with my Barbie and Ken dolls by myself. I wanted a sister so bad but it was more than that. I had this over-whelming sense of a missing part. Like a piece of me was missing and was out there somewhere. I had an internal longing and yearning for that piece to come back and it just never got filled. It was a feeling I kept to myself but I thought perhaps I was confusing a sister with my biological father. Bob Lund’s parents, John and Pearl Lund lived in Jasper Minnesota. I had no idea where that was and had never met my paternal grandparents. I guess Dad hated the whole family ever since Bob Lund  hit him on the head with the hammer. The doctors told Ma that Dad might never be quite the same or that he may change later in life. But Bobby and I were allowed to write our grandparent’s letters. They always wrote back and sent birthday and Christmas presents and we would send them a copy of our school picture. I loved my Dad with all my heart but carried a curiosity with me about my natural father. I always asked about him in my letters and although Grandma Lund always answered my letters, I was disappointed when time after time there would be no response to the questions I had asked about my father. Still it wasn’t Bob Lund that made me feel this empty space in my soul. It was the sister that I longed for and it made me feel incomplete. I soon felt even lonelier as Bobby graduated high school in 1964 and left in the fall for college at St. Cloud State. I don’t know if that was the thing that put an increasingly changing Dad over the edge or if the things about to happen had already been in the works. Either way, my brother was damn lucky to not be living at home anymore and for me it was the end of life as I had ever known it.


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