A Room and a Chair


Oh the memories that come and sweetly rest in my heart, when I see a rocking chair in a room.  My great-grandfather sat in that chair, oh so long ago. This chair belonged in my fraternal grandparents’ house, sitting in a corner of a brightly lit, neatly ordered living room. I loved all the windows; they let in so much sunshine.  As a child I’d sit and play in the golden rays that splayed across the floor.

Being at my grandparents’ house was a special time. I can still see in my mind’s eye their faces and hear their voices. My grandmother would always have KFC chicken for us. It was a grand meal for us kids. We would eat this out on the porch while the grownups chattered in the background.

My favorite memories are of the chair. For in this chair sat my great-grandfather. I was 6, he was 101. Very old in my young eyes yet somehow I didn’t see the frailty. He had seen better days, but make no mistake, his tattered condition was no reflection on him, but a sign of true grace and wisdom. For he had seen the four seasons of life’s years. Through the years he had changed from the magnificent man, to the grizzled form I saw before me, the physical ailments, if you will, brought on by age. I believe this can affect our perception of what we see, or want to see, in a person.

I would sit and listen to the stories he told, of the yesteryears of his life on the railroad and of being an Indian agent.  The great Indians he knew in Montana and Wyoming roamed the plains and hunted buffalo. As a young girl these stories captured my heart and imagination, a thrill to my young mind. I was enraptured by them; they took me far away from the life I knew. They encouraged a spirit I didn’t yet know I had.

Little did I know how much my great grandfather impacted my life, my spirit, changing the perceptions of a small girl’s world and imparting a wisdom that I still carry in my heart. While I sat there at his feet, he shared his wisdom of seasons past and present, of life’s storms and glorious days.  He shared his life’s experience, so later in my life I could reflect on what was done during difficult times, or decisions made that did not feel good, but were the right ones to make. The chair reminds me of how my great-grandfather impacted my life. This great man has been gone from my life for a great number of years, but not from my heart. For in my mind’s eye I can still see that chair in a room.

Beyond the World – An Excerpt

By M. F. Erler

There was nothing but darkness before his eyes as he moved slowly through the trees.  Somehow, he could sense them and avoid walking into their rough-barked trunks.  Perhaps it was the way the ground level changed as his hooves neared their roots.

          He tossed his head, shaking out his tangled mane and nickered softly.  Then he pushed air from his nostrils in a loud whoosh.

          Lowering his head, he chomped off a few blades of grass.  It was still too early in the spring for very many of the new fresh blades, so he had to settle for the dried remains of last year’s crop.  It wasn’t too bad, though—it tasted like the straw his master had fed him—back when he still had a home.

          That was now a hazy faded memory, though.  He couldn’t really measure the time, but there had been numerous periods of light and darkness.  The weather had gone through its full sequence—from the chill of the snowy time through the greening up and the hot days of sunlight—and then back to the long darkness and the fading of fresh and green things—into the cold, and back out again.

          These cycles had always been a part of his life, but before there was some shelter provided for him from the wet rain and the cold snow.  Now he had to find his own shelter—sometimes in a rocky overhang or under some of the taller, thicker trees.  The cycles passed over him, and he just took what each day brought.  Numbering the passage of seasons was not part of his nature.  His only awarenesses were the immediate needs—food, water, and shelter.

          This night, there were no lights—he didn’t know to call them stars or moon.  Neither did he know to call the dark concealing these things clouds.  All he knew was his sense of sight had little use at the moment.  He was using his keen hearing and sense of smell, along with the touch of his hooves on the ground, and occasionally the brush of his flanks or legs against some low vegetation.

             Suddenly his eyes did see something—two yellow lights glowing between the trees ahead of him.  Stepping closer, he saw the eyes of some animal.  It was lower to the ground than he, and emitted a low growl.  At first, he snorted in fear, but when the eyes didn’t move any closer, he sniffed more deeply.  There was no smell of threat.  In fact, there was a smell he hadn’t known for a very long time. 

          Moving closer still, he could see this was not a wolf but a big black dog with pointed ears.  It gave a whining sound and stepped closer to him.  Now he knew this scent—it came from humans.

          The dog brushed gently against his foreleg and gave a short bark.  Then it started off through the trees to his right.  Without any hesitation, he followed.


By Catherine Browning

Let me tell you about Max. Max was one of the engineers that worked with Mary Jackson at NASA on the command modules for all the Apollo missions. He also worked at Rockwell International on the B1 bomber and jet engines. This man was no dummy. He was brilliant and won an award for an invention he made for the Polaris missile. They sent him on a trip to Germany. He retired at age fifty-five.  All his nieces and nephews loved Uncle Max. He was fun and funny, had an easy-going personality and a silly sense of humor.

Max and his wife moved in with his son and daughter-in-law four-and-a-half years ago because he had too many incidents where he couldn’t find his way home and his wife had to sell their house.  It was immediately obvious that his wife couldn’t take care of him. She was ill and died five months after they moved in.

Max was hard of hearing, so at first, his son and daughter-in-law thought his behavior was because he couldn’t hear. But noooo . . . Daughter-in-law Amy became his primary caregiver during the day when he was diagnosed with dementia.

“You really have to be willing to just drop everything and go if he thinks he has to go somewhere. Or try to distract him. Sometimes it’s easier just to go.”

Amy and her husband David watched as his dad deteriorated, forgetting how to use the bathroom, how to eat, what words or actions are inappropriate, confusing day and night.

What did they learn? In a moment of lucidity toward the end, Max told his son, “I love you.” It was a difficult four-and-a-half years, but they were able to give one old man a quality of life he wouldn’t have had in an institution. It was worth it.

July Book News

Mary Frances Erler (mferler@peaksandbeyond.com) recently did a speaking tour of four Stonecroft Women’s Connections in North Dakota, including Minot and Bismarck. Her speech highlighted how she has battled and began to overcome depression in her life. She was able to display her books, including the 7-part Peaks at the Edge of the World Saga and her newest book, a historical fiction called Voices in the Past. Sales were brisk.

Book display at Bismarck brunch in June.