Category Archives: Linda Claire Hess Groshans

The Queen Ant a fable by Linda Claire Groshans, December 1973

The queen ant leaned forward in her throne, balancing her head between her two upper legs. An idea was racing madly through her elegant brain, but it was the kind of an idea which one can never put a finger on, especially an ant. Disappointment spread over the face of the beautiful queen, as she crossly pushed away the blank sheet of paper in front of her. The pen, which she had picked up with her second leg set, dropped with a ping to the small tile floor. One of the many work ants, which surrounded the throne room, made a move toward the fallen pen. While, at the same time, two other handsomely dressed ants raced to re-fluff the cushions and dampen cloths for the forehead of the queen. The queen, who appeared to be quite out of sorts, looked sadly into the solemn eyes of the young ant who was holding the cloth on her forehead. The young ant, in return, moved his eyes toward the floor, as he had been conditioned to do in such a case. 

“Dear young ant,” spoke the queen in a very gentle voice, “I am very anxious to help you and your fellow ants. I realize how hard it must be to live as a common working ant.” 

The young ant, who was a little uncertain about how to handle such a touchy moment, reached back into his mind for some words he might have been taught at the Conditioning School for Young Male Ants, but he could not remember learning any such words. Frustrated with himself, the young ant boldly replied, “Dear queen, I am not fit for thy service.  Please may I be excused, so that I might be executed in a manner which befits such a stupid ant as I.” 

“No” the queen answered boldly, as a smile broke across her face. “No, I command you to remain in my service!” 

The poor young ant, whose antennae had already fallen, began to cry desperately, “Dear queen, I couldn’t…I am just a stupid, oh dear.” 

The other work ants had frozen in their places and were witnessing the whole scene with dumb-struck faces and tear-filled eyes. The queen jumped up boldly on her throne. She looked over her court with happy eyes, and screamed very loudly, “I love you all, and I want to give a present to each one of you to show my love!” 

The female ants swayed in their shoes, and several of the male ants began to develop symptoms of a nervous breakdown. This seemed to make no difference to the queen, for she only smiled wider, and giggled louder. 

“I will give you freedom. I will give you free will, free choice, free speech, free education…Oh my dear ants, all your years have been spent in serving me, now you shall be your own masters. You have freedom.”  

“But what is freedom?” one of the boldest ants in the group finally managed to blurt out. 

“Why my dear friends, it simply means that you are now as I am, and you can choose to do things, just as I always have done.” The queen answered patiently.  

There was a moment full of silence amount the ants, as they each gave themselves a pinch. There was another moment full of realization as the work ants began to understand what the queen had said. A few of the young ants began to giggle nervously, but the older ants began tearing at their clothes and shedding huge ant tears.  

Finally, an old ant stepped close to the queen and whispered in a cracked voice. “You have apparently experienced this ‘freedom’. Perhaps you could explain to us older ants, what we must do in order to appreciate freedom.” 

“But” blurted out the queen, who had been taken a little off guard, “Well, you see, um…. To experience well it is quite simple, you just, all you do is, oh dear…I don’t know.” The queen fell back down into her throne. 

“Your Highness, if I might suggest something?”  

The queen, who was really a bit upset cried out, “Well, yes, go right ahead.” 

The old ant leaned forward and began to speak in a thoughtful, determined way, “Well, freedom seems to be a state in which all ants would have the opportunity to decide what is best for themselves.” 

All the ants seemed to agree that this was a reasonable conclusion. And the queen motioned him to continue.  

“Aren’t we then implying that we all know what is best for ourselves?” 

“Well yes” cried the queen, “that is exactly the point.” 

“Well,” the old ant proceeded “What would happen if we all decided to would be best to stop working?” 

The queen who was a bit confused, answered truthfully, “we should all die.” 

“Exactly, and what would happen if each ant decided it would be best to tell all the other ants what they should do?” 

“There would be no order!” said the queen. 

“Quite right, you see dear queen, all ants do not want to be work ants. They would rather have the privilege of freedom.  But, if all ants had the privileges that you do, there would be no ‘common’ cause to do the work which must be done. For this reason, we have set up conditioning schools for your young ants. And even you, dear queen can never have freedom, because you are bound to be our ruler, and the mother of all new-born ants.” 

“Stop” cried the queen. Her big eyes looked out at the court. “You don’t have to worry. I know now that I was only talking about a dream, but it was a very colorful dream and I’ve never had one quite like it before. “Now I order you back to work.” 

Some of the ants grumbled, but others knew the old ant had just saved their lives. 

And that is when she heard a noise…a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

Linda was 40 years old and had 2 children. The recent divorce meant that Linda was the only adult living in the household. This was a new situation for her to find herself in. Up until this time, she had lived with her parents or her husband. The adjustment to single parenting was going fairly well for Linda. But the evenings loomed with loneliness and her fears.

Every evening, as Linda climbed into her bed, she would hear sounds. Until she lived as the sole adult, she had simply given no thought to the simple noises a house could make. Her parents and then her husband had been charged with the responsibility to keep everyone safe. Now, as Linda lay in her bed alone, the radiators banged in such a way that one could easily interpret the noise as a person trying to pry open a door!  Creak, tap, tap. The tree that needed trimming sometimes banged against the windowpanes sounded like a villain pounding against the door demanding entry. Pound, thump, pound.

Linda supposed that her fears were normal for an adult who needed to secure the safety of herself and her 2 children. She was just not used to being at such a level of responsibility. She loved her children and prayed for their safety and she felt that she needed to stay vigilant here in these dark hours before slumber set in.

Her neighbor friend Bill was a Federal Marshall. Bill had given her a defense plan after her divorce. He advised her to keep a pair of large men’s boots near the front door. This would supposedly fake out a burglar who upon seeing the boots would believe that she was not single and vulnerable. The work boots would suggest a rugged, tough guy lived in this house. Linda had purchased the perfect boots at the local thrift store and placed them on the front doormat.  Bill also suggested that a can of wasp spray would be a good defense tool. In the event of an intruder, Linda could kneel beside her bed and spray a good distance and with great accuracy towards the eyes of the intruder.

So, Linda went to sleep with her cell phone handy and a can of wasp spray always nearby.

Over a period of months, Linda began to calm herself. The radiator and the tree taps were simply background noises. Linda also began to have confidence in her handling of life as a single Mom and even laughed at her early fears and trepidations of nighttime dangers.

It was a frosty February evening when she heard a noise that caused her adrenaline to spike. Linda reached for her wasp spray and her phone. The noise had definitely been the sound of breaking glass. Linda analyzed where the noise had originated. It had clearly been the room just below her bedroom. It had come from the family room. This was also the only room in the house with a large glass door wall.

It was odd that at this serious threat she never thought of calling 9-1-1. It was probably because every other noise had always been a false alert. This was different. Someone had broken the glass downstairs. As Linda crept down the upstairs hallway, she could see that the children were snug in their beds and sound asleep. Linda knew her floor well, she knew where to avoid the creaking boards. Her bare feet traveled noiselessly along the hallway to the staircase.

There, at the top of the stairs, she paused waiting to see if she could hear anyone walking around downstairs. Instead, she heard again the noise of breaking glass. She could hear it and could envision the tiny pieces of glass that surely now covered her family room floor.  Still, she heard no footsteps. Linda creeped with great stealth down the stairs with the wasp spray at the ready.

Ever so carefully Linda came closer to the scene of the crime. If only she had left some boots by that back entry to her home.

In one dramatic gesture Linda reached the light wall switch. She flipped it on with fearless determination. She would face down her aggressor. The wasp spray was uncapped, and her finger was ready to press down the aerosol spray button.

That is when she heard the noise again and saw the source. Pumpkin, the new orange kitten, was walking the treble cleft part of the piano keyboard.  Ping, ping, ting, ting, ping. The same sound as Linda had heard before. A piano song that sounded just like breaking glass.

Linda nearly collapsed with relief. She lowered her wasp spray weapon.

Birthday on the beach a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

Oscoda, MI on Lake Huron photo by Linda Claire

Gloria opened the photo album from last summer. Her birthday party had been on the beach front of her small cottage situated on Lake Huron. Right now, she was especially grateful for the photo book because there would not be a family gathering this year for her birthday during the Corona Virus pandemic. This year, she would have a quiet birthday by herself. It was considered too dangerous for her family to make the trip. She had assured them that she would be fine and would look forward to their phone calls. “Don’t send presents this year.” She said. “We will all have a big party when this is over.”

The photos from her birthday party last year showed her family in a circle of chairs outside on the sandy beach. Gloria’s chair was resplendent with ribbons and a birthday banner. Gloria was pictured with a funny cone shaped birthday hat and a big smile filling her face. The sound of the gentle water lapping against the shore and the laughter of her family gave a better music than any stereo system. They had all commented about what a perfect day it was. That August 19th, 2019. Later that day, they would have a bonfire, but first they would have birthday cake on the beach, and she would open her gifts.

Gloria laughed when she looked at the photos of her gifts. Her sons and her daughters-in-law had purchased her a large George Forman grill for her. What a hoot! Gloria had the tiniest cottage and absolutely no counter or pantry space at all. Still, they seemed so proud of themselves. Gloria clapped her hands in a feigned delight and told them, “It is perfect, I can’t wait to use it and I will have you all over for some b-b-q.”

The next photo showed Gloria holding up a pastel green polar fleece shirt in front of her body. Her daughter,who had given it to her, had remarked, “Mom, now you won’t have to keep your old flannel shirt. This should be lovely on you. I thought you would like the color.” In fact, green was Gloria’s favorite color but her favorite shirt would still be the over sized flannel shirt that had been her husband’s. She felt comforted when she was wrapped inside the soft cotton of that shirt now worn through in some spots. It was her memory shirt.

“I do love the color.” Gloria said as she touched the new polar fleece garment. “Thank you everyone for these beautiful gifts, I sure am lucky to have this wonderful family.”

The next 3 photos in the album were so precious to Gloria she smiled from the memory of having received a perfectly selected gift from her grandson Dennis.

She noticed that these three photos were in the right viewing order and almost made a video of the moment. In the first photo, Dennis faced his grandmother with his little hands held behind his back. His smile was broad and excited. In the second photo of this series, Gloria is reaching her hands out to Dennis to receive the gift from him and her smile was just as broad and her excitement just as much as his. In the third photo, Gloria is caught clutching her hands to her heart with tear rimmed eyes as she looked at this perfect gift she had just received from her grandson.

Gloria had taught Dennis a love of nature from rock talk. Gloria’s grandson had lived in Gloria’s cottage home with his parents when he was very little. “Rock talk,” Gloria had said was “from rocking Dennis every night whilst she told him story after story about the wonders to be found along the sandy shores. Treasures await us everywhere,” she had whispered to him every bedtime. “We will find a treasure tomorrow,” she would promise as his eyes closed in slumber.

As a toddler, Dennis had held his grandmother’s hand while they beach combed. Her garden had some of the spoils of these adventures. Among those were gnarled pieces of drift wood, a feather tied to a string and hanging from a tree branch, some old abandoned sand shovels stuck into sand piles, and even an old row boat dragged into the garden that had now rusted and became their special place to play that they were pirates.

Last summer, when Dennis had visited, Gloria simply had spent her time sitting in a beach chair watching his adventures as he ran into the waves, or along the shores by himself. He always promised to stay in her view.

She put the photo album to the side. She would look through the rest of the photos later. Right now, she wanted to hold that gift again. She walked to her kitchen windowsill and picked it up. Such a precious gift. It fit perfectly into the palm of her aged hand. It felt right there.

It was a small smooth rock. No one else would ever know or experience the joy of that stone. How lucky she was that she had received a gift so perfect for her.

Gloria clutched it against her old flannel shirt. “Happy Birthday to me.” Gloria said and she really meant it. And that was August 19th, 2020. It was the year Gloria turned 70 during a global pandemic. It was also the year that she learned there was more than one way to define “rock talk.” For certainly the rock was talking to her sense of love. Her spirits were rising. Her love was lifting her up. She was content. Tomorrow, she would walk on the sand and look for treasure.

A sunset date a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

photo by Linda Claire

Randy was on his 4th date with Carey. He really liked her, and he hoped she would like his choices for the evening he had planned for them. After all, he had listened carefully to Carey on their previous date and he had made mental notes about her preferences for dining choices and types of activities.

And so, it was, that on a Friday night Randy arrived at Carey’s apartment to pick her up and drive her to begin the date at a deli with vegan options. When they finished dining, he drove straight over to the County Park and the hiking trails there.

Randy was clever enough to make the date romantic by announcing that he would leave his cell phone in the car. He told her that he wanted to give her his full attention. Randy had never been at this park and was not generally known for his sense of direction. Still, he figured how hard could it be to hike around a park.

Randy enjoyed Carey’s brilliant conversations and found it easy to be relaxed and be himself with her. His normal shyness was simply gone, and he felt an easy joy and comfort in her presence. Carey pointed out mushrooms, birds, and warned him of low branches. Randy had never had much outdoor nature experience, but it was quickly becoming his favorite activity and he wanted to learn everything from this attractive date.

And so, the time passed. And so more time passed. Randy simply paid no attention to the dimming light until Carey brought it to mind when she said, “Randy, this should be fun, we should be able to see the sunset together.”

Good grief, Randy was startled. He had no idea where they would see the sunset as he had no idea as to where they were and no idea which direction was west. In fact, he started to realize that he was lost. He was hopelessly lost in the County Park, but he did not want to alarm Carey.

Randy realized that this lost persons emergency might cause them to have to end up in the park in the complete dark of night. He began to worry about how a person spent a night in the outdoors. If only he had gone to Boy Scouts. Was there wildlife in this wooded park? He wondered. Perhaps there were coyotes. And Randy then began to think about any knowledge he might have on coyotes and how to fend them off. “Bears!” he thought to himself. “Oh my God, there could be bears!”

If only he knew where his Jeep was!

“Randy?” Carey asked, “Are you o.k.? You look worried.”

Randy had to punt. He quickly replied with a false bravado, “I’m fine, just wondering if you know the best place to watch the sunset.”

Carey pointed to the ridge ahead and then spoke, “Yes, I know this area. There is a good spot just up this path. We can sit right there and enjoy the whole view.” And as she said this the sky began to change to a beautiful shade of pink. Carey looked so happy. Was it his imagination or was she glowing?

Randy was grateful that they had spent some quality time together but, he was also aware that this would surely be the very last date invitation she would accept from a loser like him. If only he had just taken her out bowling.

The ridge appeared and it was complete with a fallen tree limb to lean against. Randy sat next to Carey hoping to make the next of the few precious moments that were left before he had to admit their plight. He promised himself not to cause her fear by telling her about lurking wild creatures that might stalk them soon.

Randy finally lifted his eyes off his hands clenched in his lap to the sky unfolding just over the ridge. Then, the miracle appeared. For Randy, the sky was parting, the angels were singing, the world was explosive with joy because just at the bottom of the ridge was the parking lot and Randy’s Jeep was parked right there! “Hallelujah,” Randy thought and held up a quite prayer of joy. By agreeing to watch a sunset, he had redeemed himself. Now, there was a possibility of getting that 5th date with Carey and next time he would take her bowling.

Randy put his arm around Carey and settled into watching his first sunset. Well, he had seen hundreds of sunsets, but he had never really seen one. This sunset was absurdly beautiful. He had no camera, but he took to memory the quickly changing shades of illumination being drawn across the sky. It was glorious. He glanced back at Carey and much to his amazement, she was looking right at him and then she planted a kiss on his lips.

“Wow,” Randy said. “I really like you Carey, and that amazing kiss!”

Carey smiled at him and said, “I have never been with any man so excited about a sunset. When you looked over the ridge, your expression was so joyous. Your magnificent reaction was contagious.”  

Randy decided right then that some secrets are worth keeping. He never would reveal that his glory moment was at discovering the parking lot and seeing his Jeep. Randy also decided right then and there to always bring his phone and to make sure it was loaded with a compass app and an app for hiking trails. It was all going to be o.k. After all, bowling should be a safe bet for that next date with his splendid new friend Carey.

The Argument a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

Their small argument started on a Tuesday morning. Mary Lou and Hank had been married for 38 years and they loved each other dearly. They rarely had a cross word. But during their seclusion in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic, they recently had found themselves snapping at each other over the slightest provocation. Annoyance was mounting.

Mary Lou asked him, “Do you want more coffee?”  It was her way to make up.

“Nope.” He said gruffly and then crossed his arms over this chest to indicate he was not ready for the argument to be over quite yet. He had a right to feel upset. After all, this was at least the 10th time that Mary Lou had made a rude comment about his habit of watching old game show reruns.

Hank got up to grab the coffee pot himself in a rather dramatic way aiming to show her that he was the martyred one who had to make all the sacrifices.

He started to talk. “There is nothing else to do now. NOTHING! Besides, I’m not the one who opened the front door!” he said in a voice that was loud enough to surprise even him.

“Oh, here we go again.” Mary Lou retorted and then went back to sipping her coffee in a way designed to look peaceful and unruffled. Her composure made Hank even more upset. He knew this was a ridiculous argument, but he could not help himself. The truth was it just felt better for him to be arguing than their routine of nothingness.

“I can’t golf, I can’t go to the swim club, there are no sports games to attend, I am done with this!” He was of course referring to the fact that they were very much sheltered in their home during the corona virus.

“Uh-huh,” Mary Lou said without looking up from her cell phone screen.

“What do you want to do today…nothing?” He demanded.

“I’m just going to enjoy my coffee. It looks like it will be nice outside today.” Mary Lou said while she purposefully tried to stay even keeled and calm. You might think this made her an angel, but her motives were not so pure. She knew that Hank could not stand her staying calm during a tiff. She knew that she was getting the best of this argument.

“Well, what about the door?” He snapped.

Mary Lou knew exactly what he was talking about. Hank was a good man. Hank was a loving husband, but Hank was also very obsessed with the front door that Mary Lou had rushed to open on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight. She said she was inviting the new year in. She could not wait for 2020 to launch she had said. Good riddance to 2019 and another year of political divides and an impeachment of the President. On that New Year’s evening as they celebrated together, they had toasted with their glasses and laughed as Hank then proceeded to open the back door to give the boot to 2019. The old year out the back door and the new year in the front door.

But the gloom of 2020 was unbearable. The world felt like it was falling apart and here they were in July 2020 spending a lovely summer day inside having a ridiculous argument over New Year’s Eve and old TV game shows. 129 days of isolation and it was wearing on him.

Hank pouted for nearly 2 hours. He paced, he looked miserable and when he finally made his way over to the reclining chair, he sat and put his face in his hands and sighed loudly.

Mary Lou felt herself softening. After all, this was just a man who always knew what to do and how to take care of everything and now he was lost in the despair that was surrounding them and filling the world stage.

“Do you want to watch an old game show?” Mary Lou asked as she refilled his coffee cup and brought him a muffin. Mary Lou normally would not concede to watching TV game shows, but she knew that is how the fight started and she could easily end it by putting up with one silly old show.

“OK” he said and then he said, “Thanks for the muffin.”

They had been together long enough to know the fight was over.

“What show did you find?” Mary Lou asked him.

“Oh, it is called Let’s Make a Deal.” He was smiling.

When the TV emcee came on the screen, he looked at the contestant and confirmed that they would open door #2 to see if the grand prize was waiting.

Mary Lou was going to give Hank a bit of her mind about picking a show about doors. But when she saw Hank’s face light up with that crooked little half smile, she just felt happy. He was delighted with this inane form of entertainment.

“Hank, I’m sorry I opened the door to 2020.” She said softly. “I should have kept the dead bolt locked that night.”

“I’m sorry for how I just behaved. This is hard for me.” When he said this, he did not even look at her. It was a struggle when he asked, “Are we going to be o.k.?” He turned and waited for her answer.

She just smiled and gave a little nod of her head because he had already turned back to the game show and was laughing loudly at the bad choice the contestant had made.  “I feel your pain buddy.” Hank shouted to the TV guest.

Later that night, Mary Lou and Hank got a text message that their niece had just given birth to a healthy baby girl. 2020 might be a year of a world pandemic, but it was also the year of birth and love. Covid was not going to get the last word on everything. And because hope springs eternal, Hank went to bed dreaming about watching more game shows soon.

The Moon. A short story by Linda Claire Groshans

The summer night sky was sparkled with stars and a bright full moon. The little girl was seated in the backseat of her grandfather’s Chevy station wagon as they traveled the dirt roads towards his home. It was special for her to be out this late and it made her feel almost like an 8-year-old instead of the mere 7-year-old she was.

“Grandpa, I think the moon is following our car.” She made the declaration with great and serious consideration.

“Hmm,” he replied and then continued, “What makes you think that the moon is following us?”

She became more animated. “So, every time you make a turn in the road, I can still see the moon right there. It has to be following us otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see it when we turned those corners.” And when she explained this to her grandfather, she felt even a wee bit older still.

The old man adjusted the rear-view mirror a bit to glimpse his lovely granddaughter. He felt again the joy of grand parenting. He loved being let into her innocent childish thoughts, so he replied to her comment with a challenge. “Should we take the long way home and make a lot of turns and really check out your theory?”

“Oh yes Grandpa” she was thrilled.

The old man veered about and made many turns so his beloved granddaughter could continue to test her moon theory.

“Grandpa, it’s working. It is still following our car.” She exclaimed and then asked, “Do you think there is a man in the moon, Grandpa?”

“Well, I don’t know about that. What I can tell you is that the moon has always been a good friend to me. I call this friend Luna. And, I think Luna can be your friend too.”

“Luna” she said the word with some reverence, and she was delighted to know that the moon could be her friend. “Grandpa, does Luna ever talk to you?”

He gave a serious reply, “Oh, not in the usual way. But Luna does listen, and she sends a light out for our path. In fact, when I was in the great war, I talked to Luna right above the decks of our Navy cruiser right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Oh Wow!” she exclaimed and again thought to herself what a super grandfather she had. She had seen the pictures of him in his sailor’s uniform and remembered the impressive photos with the big machine gun ports. She would have to remember to ask him to show her the photos again.

The Chevy station wagon neared the old man’s home.

“Grandpa look your house is right here and Luna followed us the whole way. She even got here a little ahead of us.”

Once they were in the driveway, he waited for her to get out of the car and then he took her small hand in his. The moon was indeed bright this evening. The breezes were warm.

“Grandpa, can we just look at Luna for a while?” she implored.

“Pumpkin let us do something else. OK?” he replied.

“What, what else should we do Grandpa? Should we talk to Luna?” she wanted to know.

“Nope, turn around and let Luna be at your back.” He answered.

“Grandpa, that is funny. You are the one who told me we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads.” And again, she felt quite mature.

“Look.” he said. “Look at the tops of the pines. Do you see it? The moon beams fall right along the tops of each pine. Look all around you and carefully. Can you see Luna shining on any other objects that we usually do not pay much attention to in the light of day? This is what it means to see things in a different light. It really is one of the best lessons Luna taught me.”

“I do see it, I do!” she replied. And then she told her grandfather the words he loved the most. “I love you so big.” When she said it, she held out her little arms wide to each side.

“I love you to the Moon and back” he told her.

“Grandpa, did you mean you love me to the Luna and back?” Then she smiled broadly, and the old man could barely hold all the love he had in his heart.

A train ride and a life lesson. A short story by Linda Claire Groshans

View from the Wolverine Line- Linda Claire

I wiggled around in my seat and got ready for the train ride that would take me on a visit to my grandchild. I certainly did not need a mirror to know that I was smiling and filled with an abundance of joy and anticipation. As the train departed the Ann Arbor station, I grabbed my camera so I could photo document the trip and the views. Life was good. The train raced past meadows, along Main Streets, through wooded acres, past homes, and through factory yards. I kept busy with my camera. After taking several photos, I pushed the camera buttons that were necessary to review my photographs. “Drat,” I thought to myself as I looked at this recent series of photos they were all blurred by the motion and speed of the train. “It’s all a smear.” I disparaged. “Yep,” I thought, “my own life is going by so quickly that my memories are like these streaked photos.” A train in motion and my life in motion too. Then the lull of the train sounds caused me to think, “I am a grandmother, I am a grandmother,” and I kept repeating this to myself in perfect rhythm to the wheels. I tried to think where all that time had gone since I was holding my own babies. Where?

The gentleman across the aisle took me away from my thoughts when he started to address me, “Good Day, are you on vacation?” he asked.

“Something much better.” I replied and then I explained, “I am going to see my grandchild. I am really happy.”

“I could tell you looked pretty excited.” He said. I decided right then that I liked him. His company and conversation would be fun. “My name is Dave.” He stood up and reached over to shake my hand.

“My name is Claire.” I shook his hand and looked at his kind eyes.

The next half hour was filled with him showing me a train app on his phone. He showed me exactly where we were on the tracks and our current rate of speed.

Eventually, our conversation became more personal. “I am 59 years old and I am so happy to be a grandmother.” I told him. “I guess I am an old woman now.”

Dave said, “Well, I am 79. I am so old that you could ask me anything and I would know the answer.” He finished that zinger by giving me a genuine smile.

In life, you do not always come up with a quick retort, but this time I certainly did. “Ok Dave. So, I can ask you anything, but how much do you remember about everything?”

His belly laugh startled some of the other passengers. I started laughing too.

Then,I got a bit more serious. “Ok, if I can ask you anything, then how about this one? What is the meaning of life?” I said it with a smile, but his answer was profound.

“Oh, I’m honored to be the one to tell you that the entire meaning of life is to love. I suggest loving as many people as you can. I suggest that you spend time with your grandson and love him. I suggest you spend time with your elderly widowed father and let him know your feelings. Keep falling in love with life.” He looked over at me. “Just love.” He concluded.

I was filled with emotions. I understood. I met a stranger on a train and I finally understood. It was not my job, not my house, not my appearance, not my intellect or humor. None of those was what we refer to as the meaning of life. It was so obvious and simple now. Just love.” I smiled and smiled.

And then, just like that, Dave stood up and told me that we had reached Battle Creek and it was his stop. He wished me a pleasant visit with my grandson, and he was gone.

“It’s like that with the people in our lives who we like, cherish or love. They have different journeys. But we had shared a moment.

I learned a lesson about life on a train and I wanted to share it with you. I wanted to tell you to Just love. Oh, and “Go ahead, ask me anything!”

I can travel in time… a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

My superpower is time travel. For several hours every day, I travel back in time. I might spend an hour in the 1990’and then go back to the 1890’s an hour later!  While I am traveling in the past, I stay busy collecting information there and insight to bring back to the present and to share with others. I might spend my time travel in Europe, Colonial America, an Amish farm in PA, Salem, MA during the witch trials in the 1600’s, or even on the Mayflower. 

I build pathways for others to travel back in time too. 

There is a name for the superpower that is used for the many people like me who travel backwards in time. We form a group called genealogists. Ta da…Super Granny Genealogist! That’s me! 

It is a bit odd to come up with a superhero name for myself. I did come up with a name for my website and I was a bit surprised that it was an available choice. It is called Telling Life Stories. Org. The website becomes a door for others to hear the stories of their ancestors. Like a river, we flow from the experiences and stories of our ancestors. It is a gift to know their stories.  

Some people have a hard time finding their ancestors and I try to help those people. My story is humanity’s story and so it is important for me to use my superpower to help others connect to their direct roots.  I am pretty good at my superpower. I have a lot of tools and memberships in ancestral websites that help me. But, my superpower is far from perfect. I often try to find information from the past, but it is elusive. I could not find the birth parents of my friend Beth. I could not find out who Jennie’s grandparents were. I did find records of Jennie’s Japanese mother who had arrived in America as a wartime bride from Japan, but was unable to trace the family further back.

Because there are many people who have my same superpower, there are others who have helped me find my direct ancestors and even photographs of them. Just think how it feels to see a photo for the first time of your 2nd great grandparents. Or, imagine seeing the photo of the farm in France where my children’s great grandparents had lived. 

In January of this year, I traveled to France with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We went to the village of Sundhousen to meet a gentleman there who is also a genealogist. We had found out about each other through my website. He found my website while researching his grandparent’s story and it turns out that his great grandmother and my children’s great great grandmother were sisters. Think how it felt to arrive at Gerard and Josette’s French home to spend a weekend delving through the past together. Imagine how it felt to see photos of my children’s ancestors on the wall of the guest room provided to me during my stay. Imagine coming home from that trip with copies of dozens of photos of the Groshans family from France. And best, we met and dined with family we did not even know we had. My 7-year-old grandson was delighted to find out that his family now included this extended family in France. 

I love my superpower. I love sharing my power and helping others gain the power of time travel too. Finding ancestors, hearing their stories, knowing the history and events that faced them are all part of something that we call a tree. A family tree.  

John Andrew Bravin 1922-2011by Linda Claire Groshans

When John Andrew Bravin “Uncle John” was born on March 1, 1922, in Meduno, Udine, Italy, his father, Anibale, was 31 and his mother, Lousa “Louise” Melosso, was 22.

In the 1930 US Census, Uncle John was only 8 years old. He was living with his family then at 924 E. 10th Street, Altoona, PA. The census indicates that both of his parents were born in Italy and that the family language in their home was Italian. In this same year, his younger brother Louis was 5 years old and his sister Madeline was 3 years old. Both Louis and Madeline were born Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Uncle John was a US veteran. He was in the US Marine Corp during WWII and served as a Sergeant.

He died on February 10, 2011, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, at the age of 88, and was buried there.

Here are a few photos from the Groshans family photo collection:

Uncle John Bravin holding his nephew Jack

Bunny Paw Prints – a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

photo by Linda Claire

Years ago, on a summer morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my mother. She loved doughnuts and I had brought along a box of Tim Horton’s pastries for the visit.  I also had brought cups of black coffee that were aromatic and steaming hot. I felt so grateful for this fine morning and the company of my sweet mother. Afterall, I was sitting in the company of my mother who was also my best friend. 

Mom and I sat together. We didn’t talk much. We spent quite a bit of our time just looking out the large front kitchen window.  She didn’t get outside as much now, but she loved the nature views out her windows.  

“What kind of doughnut do you want?” I asked her as I opened the box to display our choices. 

She gave me her sweet cute coy smile and said, “Oh, you pick one out for me. I like them all. In fact, I might fancy a taste of each one!” 

I was happy. I got up to go over to the cupboards to collect plates, silverware and napkins. I looked over my shoulder and saw her peeking at the doughnuts just like a little girl excited for a special treat. This simple moment, a cup of coffee and a collection of doughnuts to share with my mother. This was a good day.  I clattered the plates a bit on purpose so that she would look over at me. No matter what I did, no matter how old I got, her gazes towards me were always admiring. I knew that I was very loved. 

“I just hope you don’t want a piece of the long john because that is the one, I picked out for myself” I kidded her. Oh, how we both loved to tease. 

“No, I don’t like that type,” she said while looking a dramatically disappointed. 

“Liar!” I said and then I cut her a big bite of the long john along with some other samples. We are both smiling because our little joke had amused us. 

As we began to eat our treat, we looked out her window. 

“Mom, look…look now.” I urged. 

Right there in the middle of the driveway was a bunny. The morning light was misty, the grass beside the drive was full of dew and a bunny had arrived for our entertainment. The bunny who was obliviously content to sit on the cement driveway of all places! 

“Mom, do you see that bunny?” 

“Yes,” she replied. “It comes here quite often about this time of day.” 

We both sipped our coffees and continued to watch the bunny who now appeared to be frozen in place at one spot in the very center of the driveway. Then, just like that, it hopped away. Gone. 

“Mom, look! It left little wet pawprints on the driveway. He must have been on the wet grass before hopping here.” I was so taken by the visual image of those little dew prints that the bunny had left behind. 

And then in just seconds, I said: “Mom, the pawprints are disappearing!” I felt disappointment for the end of that fleeting scene. 

“The doughnuts are disappearing too.” she coyly stated and smiled at our plates. 

“No Mom, not the doughnuts, the pawprints. They are almost gone they are disappearing so quickly!” I wanted to express how things can disappear, how special moments shared can end too quickly.

The sun was getting brighter and filtering light across the grass and the drive. The sun was erasing the little bunny pawprints. It had also started to dry the dew drops on the grass.  

“The sun erased the prints.” My mother said gently. She reached out to touch my arm and continued talking, “Prints don’t last long, the sun erases them.”  

I continued sipping my coffee as her words played in my mind. My mother was a wise woman. “The prints don’t last long; they are erased by the sun.” 

She is right. Prints don’t last long.

Even the prints in our lives that are our sad mishaps don’t last long. In fact, in the scheme of life, all the prints or moments are fleeting.  

I got up and squinted out the window looking again at the concrete which was now dry and full of dappled sun patterns. The day was turning out to be fine. The birds were starting a morning concert. Our coffee was gone.  

“I love you.” I said as I hugged her before leaving. “Want to have a picnic soon, we could ask everyone over?” I asked her, but I already knew that she would be thrilled.

I got into my Jeep to leave, and as I drove past her front door, I could see her standing there and waving at me. She always tried to make each moment together last.

On my drive home, I thought about how the sun had illuminated the day. I thought about how delicate those little paw prints looked and mostly I thought about how precious my aging mother was to me. 

Years have gone by since she passed away. Every day, she is in my heart and mind. Her gentle nature and joy for the little things and her unwavering love for family. She was and will always be my hero.