For Father’s Day: Chester Felix Garstki, Dad

by Carol A. Westbrook

We think about our fathers during the month of June. Father’s Day is a time to remember these beloved men, especially those who have passed. We reflect on how remarkable their live were, and of so many questions we’d ask them if they were still alive. I’ ask my Dad what he would have done if we were living together at home during the Covid-19 epidemic.

The author, age 6, washing her hands thoroughly

Actually, I don’t need to ask him; I know exactly what he’d do. He’d have followed the guidelines to the letter. He would set the family rules: 1. Masks and gloves when we go out — and no more family drives for hot dogs, Italian beef, or ice cream cones. 2. Wash hands a lot. 3. (That’s me in 1956, doing the right thing!) Play only in our yard, and not with other kids–so no more wiffleball games in the alley, or running under the sprinkler on the front lawn. 4. Meals together, as usual. 5 Pray together as a family every night. For supplies, he’d take advantage of our well-stocked basement “bomb shelter” storage, pantry and deep freezer.

Dad would have obtained supplies for the lockdown using connections at his workplace, the Chicago Board of Education. In true Chicago style, he would call in favors or promise favors of his own, like a good word to a Department head for a city job. Or he could offer professional family portraits, or wedding photos. He also had gossip and information to share. Read more »

What Remains

By Jenny White


My grandmother’s kitchen had a single window that flung open in one great wing of glass. It looked out over the tiled roof of the apartment building in which she lived, down onto the slices of soil allotted to each resident, then into the valley beyond where a church steeple rose from the heart of the district. Over by the river, vineyards clambered up steep hillsides, their flinty soil the source of Franconia’s famously dry wines. Unlike her neighbor who let his allotment run to grass, my grandmother’s garden was neatly divided into beds that alternated flowers and vegetables. A rabbit hutch, much used during the war, now housed tools. A metal drum acted as a well, filled by a tap rising up mysteriously from the soil. When I submerged the tin watering can, it gulped the water, becoming heavier and heavier as it filled. Hauling the full can at last from beneath the surface of the water was both difficult and satisfying. Above the garden fence, you could see the back of the grade school I attended and through the big mullioned windows watch the children on the climbing bars in the gymnasium. The view in spring was partially blocked by a radiantly blooming cherry tree that my grandmother had planted when her youngest daughter was born fifty years earlier — after the war, when joy might have seemed appropriate again. Pigeons gathered on the tiles before my grandmother’s window to eat the crumbs of stale bread she spread for them. They murmured and cooed, their toes skittering on the clay.

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