Monthly Archives: May 2014

* A FATHER’S DAY GIFT – An Inspiring Story by Jenna Ludwig

finalist  Ultimately, this story is about a gift I received from my father, posthumously, the year after he died. First, I’d like to tell you something about the man he was and why the gift was so important to me. Dad was my best friend growing up. We were alike in many ways. I have a strawberry birthmark on my right arm identical to and in the same location as the one that was on his right arm. We had the same droll sense of humor. When I was young, we ate sardines and crackers together in the kitchen, laughing when my other siblings would shy away from the smelly treat. I was the daughter who enjoyed snuggling up with Dad on the couch to watch his favorite cowboy and detective TV serials and was the first to try out the walking stilts he enjoyed making for us kids.

 I know Dad found our similarities endearing when I was a child. But as I grew older, certain other characteristics we shared, like fierce independence and a long stubborn streak, made us ‘butt heads’ more often than not. This was compounded by the fact that my mother died suddenly in automobile accident when I was 16, and my father remarried a woman with whom I did not get along.

 In 1965 I graduated from high school and went off to college.

Jenna’s High School graduation picture with her dad

As I recall, visits home were not always pleasant. I still loved my father very much, and knew he loved me, but when we talked, it often ended in a confrontation that was fueled by our differing points of view about everything from the war in Vietnam to how long my male friends should wear their hair. It seemed to me at the time that everyone was down with the news that The Times They Are A Changin’ except Dad and his whole pigheaded generation.

The year I met and fell in love with the person who was to become my husband was a particularly trying one for my father and me. Gene had long blond hair that hung to the middle of his back and enjoyed a freewheeling life on a sailboat that he and his father had built. Dad wasn’t impressed. He insisted that I reconsider my plans to leave school and marry Gene and come home instead. When I refused, he ceased speaking to me for over a year.

Under the circumstances, Gene and I decided to elope and were married quietly at a local Justice of the Peace. We celebrated after the ceremony by getting ice cream sundaes. We spent our first year together on our boat, docked close to where Gene was hired to help build a new marina in Englewood, Florida. When we became pregnant with our first child together, we moved off the boat and bought property in central Michigan where Gene’s parents lived at the time. By then, Dad and I were on speaking terms, but we were not as close as we once had been.

Married life was busy for Gene and me. We eventually had four children, designed our own house that we built to stand nestled in the woods on our property, and created a thriving wholesale fishing bait business in the resort area of Michigan where we lived. But no matter how busy we were, we always took time during the Christmas holidays to travel to Florida to visit my father and Jeanne— stepmother number two since my mother had died and the woman whom I grew to love over the 23 years they were married.

Jenna’s step mother Jeanne, with her Dad







* THE HEART OF HOME IS HOT CHOCOLATE – An Inspiring Story by Mary Romero

finalist  To the outside world we were the ‘All American Family’; mom, dad, five well behaved children who went to church every Sunday, well groomed and dressed to perfection.We even had the array of pets. But, for my family the saying, “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors” rang all too true.

Sunday mornings seemed to be the favored time for my parents to have disagreements.These were not typical arguments that couples have about things like being late or who forgot to pay which bill, these ‘arguments’ usually turned into out and out physical altercations. During one in particular I recall being more afraid than usual after seeing my mother being held up by her throat. My father came to me and asked what was wrong. I asked through tears, Are you and mommy getting a divorce?” He pulled me close, and looked me straight in the eyes telling me they would never get divorced. I believed my dad. I needed to believe him.

I have very few positive memories of my childhood but one that has touched my life in different ways still stands out so vividly in my mind that I can still smell and feel the cold crisp air and how it burns your lungs as you take in that first deep breath as I reminisce about one of those cold winter weekends.

My father loved the outdoors and in the winter, he would take us ice-skating. This was not the ice-skating where kids go to an indoor rink and skate around in circles to music. This was real ice-skating! You had to wait until it was well into the winter months so that the ice in any given large body of water had a chance to freeze all the way through. Not only did you have to dress like you were going to climb Mount Everest but, when you talked you weren’t sure your lips were moving because your face was so numb from the biting cold and ice would actually form on your eyelashes!

Once in a great while my father would spring the question, Anyone want to go ice-skating?



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