Nothing prepared me for the death of my dog.

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

The first time I held her, I rubbed her small, wet nose and new soft fur as black as my onyx ring against my cheek, puffed out into a smile. We named her Ashes for her glossy, black coat, the color of the ashes in our wood-stove. Under the outdoor sun in 67- degree weather, I whispered sing-songy, hello, welcome to the family, we will love you forever. She was the newest member of the family, a Shih Tzu and poodle combination, her face more that of a poodle’s.

The last time I held her, nineteen years later, under a…


We send greetings to friends who are suffering.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The yellow star atop the Christmas tree emits silver snowballs as white as powdered sugar , sparkling like jewels in a Tiffany’s store window, leaving a trail of marshmallow exhaust behind. Red bulbs hang off boughs as snowflakes delicately push each one as they fall on green branches. “Wishing you a joyful Christmas celebration” written in red ink greets the intended as she opens the card. The merry wishes are a dichotomy to the receiver whose life is anything but merry. For the intended will spend the last Christmas with her ailing…


How to pull yourself out from under them.

Photo by Dex Ezekiel on Unsplash

I wake up under four layers of sadness, like a weighted blanket so popular these days, blankets made to comfort, to calm a restless body, reduce feelings of anxiety. But mine does anything but. I kick off the somber layers: alloy gray, carbon navy, dark mulch, and smoky mauve, each mournful color representing a generation gone, to old age, to cancer, to college, to a new job. Two-hundred thirty- two combined years of life spans lay on me, and as each layer is lifted, as each of the four women leave me…


Sometimes we need to physically sit in a clothes closet to figure things out.

Photo by BBH Singapore on Unsplash

No! No! No! It’s over,” screamed Moira, a main character from the award-winning show Schitts Creek, as she crawled (wearing her black sequined dress, fishnet stockings, and white boots), into her bedroom closet, closed the accordion door, and cried. She had just gotten the news that the movie she starred in, Crows, scheduled to open in the fall, had been canceled. Season 5 ended with Moira hiding in a closet, something she often does when she is upset.

I can relate to this scene because I…


Every October my sister trades in her nursing scrubs for a witch’s cape.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Some merry, friendly, countra-folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks,
An’
haud their Halloween
Fu’ blythe that night
(from Halloween by Robert Burns)

Halloween is a time of year that has been celebrated by many for centuries. Pumpkins, wreaths made of sunflowers, and hay bales typically adorn front porches as the fall season descends upon our quiet hamlet. …


They taught me a few lessons about being a better person.

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

I spent a lovely morning with Roscoe, the slightly overweight Jack Russel Terrier, and Shadow, the blind cat. Both are stewards at Darrell’s, a local auto service center located just yards from the Buffalo Pittsburgh Railroad and adjacent to the Future’s Rehabilitation Center. Once I parked my car in the lot and opened my door, Roscoe, the owner’s pet, escorted me into the garage, waddling ahead with his mouth open and tongue hanging over his teeth; inside the building, he rolled onto his back, waiting for his belly rub…


How people take advantage of others.

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

You absorb what individuals leave behind. People place you in uncomfortable elements without a second thought. They wipe and scuff and continue with their lives, but you are steadfast, thick-skinned, and there, when needed, to handle what is unpleasant for them.

You recognize the ones who stomp the hardest and those who are a bit more delicate, nicer than others. There are those who leave thick grimes of oil, mud, wood chips, and mulch smeared on your surface. Others leave a layer of water barely touching your coating. The young ones are innocent, but the older ones should know better…


Even in death, she found comfort in his presence

Photo by Lachlan on Unsplash

My dad lived with my mom eight years after he died.

His ashes that is.

The day the funeral director delivered Dad’s ashes, Forrest Gump was released in the theaters, Bill Clinton was president, and actress Loni Anderson celebrated her 49th birthday. That morning, my town newspaper was delivered right on time, the local supermarket opened its doors at 7 am, and the droll hum of the neighbor’s lawnmower festered in the distance. It was an ordinary day for many, but for my family, a pall of desaturated blue-gray hung over the house.

We placed Dad’s black, granite urn on…


He helped to frame the skyline in downtown Pittsburgh.

Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash

It’s not unusual for people to pull their cars over onto the side of a berm or into a parking lot to watch a crane pick up a bar of steel as it’s set on the next level, high in the air, layer upon layer of open framework resembling a metal Erector building set for children. The casual observer is fascinated by these gigantic, majestic machines, really simple levers, which build complicated structures. The boom (usually 150 feet long) on a crane at times resembles a leg, red and skinny, on…


I learned that size doesn’t matter.

Photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash

The six of us were squeezed into a nine- windowed, one-story home with 800 square feet of living space. My house was a theater, library, greenhouse where family members created and imagined and sacrificed.

My sister and I shared one bedroom, my two brothers the other. We kids slept on bunk beds — brown, metal, and durable — cast off from the local college dorms. All of our clothes, much of my lot given to me by an older cousin, were jammed into the sole closet, which was in my bedroom. Dad’s suits, Mom’s dresses, my jeans, my sister’s play…

Ann Hajdu Hultberg

Ann is a retired high school English teacher and college comp instructor. She writes stories about her family, especially about her dad’s escape from Hungary.

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