Monthly Archives: December 2009

Who Was the Real Minnie Poppe?

 Many years ago, during President Bush’s (senior) presidency, there was a program called the Points of Light Foundation.  You could call a 1-800 number and the operator would put you in touch with a volunteer organization that might need your help.  As I work with young people every day I thought I might like to try to work with the elderly.  The Foundation operator put me in touch with a retirement home and I was able to contact them directly. Upon talking with the director of the retirement home I learned of a lady named Minnie Poppe that would really appreciate visitors as she had been abandoned by family and had no regular visitors.  

 I went to the retirement home and was struck by the smell in the air.  It smelled of sickness and sadness.  The nurse on duty walked me over to Minnie’s room and introduced me.  “Mrs. Poppie (she pronounced it like Poppy- the flower), there is a young lady here to meet you. “  

Minnie was legally blind and bed ridden.  Her hair and nails were all a mess from neglect.  But then Minnie spoke to me. Her voice had that particular southern drawl that one might find in Charleston, South Carolina.  Very gentile and lady like.  She said, “My name is pronounced Pop not Poppy.”  “Really?, I said.  “Oh well how do you do Mrs. Poppe.  I’m Kathleen. “  

And from this our visits began.  Minnie would tell me about her life growing up and I would listen to her stories about her husband (who was younger than she by five years-cheeky monkey she was) and how much they loved each other. I never did hear about her children so I don’t know if she had any.  I just remember how sweet and gentle her voice sounded and one time she said to me, “Come closer to the bed darling so I can get a better view of your countenance.” And with that I stepped up to the side of the bed and Minnie took my face in both of her hands and we practically touched noses so she could see me.  I couldn’t help but giggle and then she did too.  

 I tried to think of things I could do for Minnie so one time I brought my nail kit and make up and I did her nails and put make up on her and we laughed and had a ball.  Another time I brought her the biggest balloons I could find and tied them to the side of her bed so she could see them.    

And one time when I went to visit her I found her bed had been wheeled out into the hallway and she was basically left there like a piece of furniture under the bright florescent lights.  I was so mad I asked the rounding nurse about this and was told it was because they had painted her room and were waiting for the paint to dry.   I didn’t know what to do so I decided to go out to my car and get my umbrella and open it up and placed it over Minnie so she wouldn’t have to suffer the glare of the lights anymore.  We giggled together like school girls when the orderlies walked by and stared at us like we were nuts.  We were having fun so who cared?

I remember the last time I spoke to Minnie she was saying that she was afraid to die and I tried my best to cheer her up and to not be afraid because she will be with her husband again and won’t that be wonderful?  

 Life became crazy busy for me and I didn’t see Minnie for a month.  I dutifully marched into the retirement home and froze at the door when I saw another name outside Minnie’s door.  I asked the head nurse and she said that Minnie had passed about a month ago.  I was devastated but then realized that she had passed away shortly after our last visit.  So now she is with her husband.

 At that time I vowed that someday, somehow, I would write a story about Minnie.  Not the Minnie who was bedridden and abandoned by family.  But the Minnie I got to know through our talks and her sweet and wonderfully ladylike voice.  Minnie never complained about her lot in life.  She never uttered one bitter word ever to me.  And I never forgot that.

When I set out to write her (fictionalized) story I had thought it would be sad.  About a lady who walks through life alone and nobody sees her anymore because she is old.  But Minnie’s spirit just “took me” and out she came in my writing.  

You see, when there is another person standing next to you, there is a whole world inside them.  A world you can’t see but exists deeply and profoundly inside them.  And as Minnie walked through her day she would see things that brought back memories.  Like all of us.

So now, at this time of year (and the rest as well), when you see someone who is alone and maybe doesn’t look like they have much to offer: stop and say hello.  

Look into that person’s eyes and see the wonder and joy and laughter they have inside them.  

To all who have been reading my stories I thank you humbly.  I look forward to sharing my next story with you in 2010.  




Categories: God is in the Trees, Minnie Poppe, Thoughts | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Part 5 of God is in the Trees, Minnie Poppe

Down the main road through town and turn left onto the quiet street where Minnie and Frank and the boys built a life together.  Minnie parked the car next to the orange grove near the side of the house and went round the car to let Charlie out.  It was getting cooler now that the late afternoon was approaching.  Looks like it’s going to be another chilly willy night Charlie.  

 Let’s go inside and see what’s for supper.  Minnie picked up the mail in the box next to the front door, looked through it briefly and saw a note from her granddaughter Lilly.  Such a sweet and thoughtful little child; just like her father Frank Jr.  Charlie charged into the house as soon as Minnie opened the door and ran to his favorite chewy toy to play and run around the house awhile.  For some strange reason Charlie had to repeat this little ritual every time he came home from an adventure with Minnie.  Minnie giggled as she took off her coat to hang it in the closet by the front door and looked at the walls in the foyer as she walked to the back kitchen. 

 They are all beautiful.  All of them.  The boys all grew as boys have to do; each of them became incredible men.  Any mother would be proud.  There is the portrait of Frank Jr. and his family. Betty was his high school sweetheart and together they had three children: Lilly, Brian, and Ryan.  Next was Arthur; married to a lovely English girl named Porsche.  Naturally, there would be no end in sight when it came to the boys ribbing her about her name but how we all love her.  And their children Elena and Allie’s photos from all the family vacations hung artfully on the wall as Arthur loved to create visual memories for Minnie.  

And of course Johnny.  My sweet Johnny.  He took the longest to settle his wandering heart but finally one day after a long travel business day he called to tell Minnie he’d met the love of his life in Seattle.  That she was wonderful and that he was just given a promotion to move there and work there as an in house accountant for a very important architectural firm. She worked in the same company. 

No children yet from Johnny.  He was not yet ready he explained.  But they did have the most perfect boat house and English Bulldog named Clyde.  Minnie flew out to meet Julia last summer and found her to be quiet and very serious.  It did take Minnie a few days to better understand that Julia was actually intimidated by her and she was not sure she could measure up.  Once Johnny had explained in private Minnie understood and went straight away to see Julia and suggest that they have a girls’ day together and get to know one another.  How funny to see my boy through another woman’s eyes.  Johnny is a romantic?  Really?  He writes you beautiful love letters?  Minnie smiled and remembered the orange grove fights and the days spent jumping in the lake and a mud covered boy running through the house to get to the bathroom. 

Mrs. Poppe he is so good to me.  I really love Johnny and I want you to know how much I take care of him but more than that; how much he cares for me. 

Julia was an only child and was learning to share her love with a man whose family had such a hold on his heart.  At first, it was difficult for her but through the months of meeting Frank and the boys’ families she became more relaxed with the Poppe clan. 

The light on the answering machine in the kitchen was blinking.  A message from Lilly:

 Hi Nana!  Did you get my letter?  I can’t wait to see you at Christmas. Please call me when you get this message.  This is Lilly by the way. 

Minnie laughed and picked up the phone to call Lilly in Atlanta. 

Hello Lilly.  How are you darling?

Hi Nana! I’m fine.  It’s snowing here.  We still had to go to school but they did let us leave an hour early since it’s Wednesday.  That’s an early day for us.  Nana, what cookies do you want me to make you for Christmas?

Oh my you are talkie talkie today aren’t you?  Well, I think snowflakes would be perfect don’t you?

Oh yes.  And can I make some snowmen cookies too?

Yes of course.

Can I make some cookies for Charlie because Mommy found a dog cookie recipe online and said we could make them but we had to ask you first because Charlie is epiletic I mean epileptic well you know what I mean and could we please make them for him please?

Lilly I can’t think straight, said Minnie laughing into the phone as Lilly was too excited to breathe while she spoke.  Well, I think Charlie would love to have doggie Christmas cookies.  Thank you. 

Ok I have to go now Nana because I have a Christmas around the world project that I have to finish for tomorrow and Mommy has to go with me to buy the glitter and fluffy stuff for my poster board because Mrs. Winterburger doesn’t like it when we bring in plain boards.  She likes everything to sparkle.  Mrs. Winterburger says sparkle makes everything look so much nicer but I don’t think so but I want to get a good grade.

Alright darling.  I love you.  Say hello to Mommy and Daddy for me dear and tell them I will call them later.

 Ok.  I love you Nana. Bye.

 Bye darling.

Minnie put down the phone and went to the kitchen to begin to think about tonight’s dinner.  Salmon I think.  Maybe a little rice with lemon and pine nuts and a small salad.  Perfect.  Oh yes, and a little warm apple cider.

Minnie would you like something warm to drink?  I brought some warm apple cider to drink if you would like some?

Thank you Frank.  I would. 

Frank leaned back and pulled out a thermos from behind his seat in the truck.  Pouring a little cider into the plastic cup; Frank gave it first to Minnie so she could warm herself. Sitting in the truck on cool evenings by the lake became a ritual for Frank and Minnie.  Together they would cuddle and look at the lake and talk and not talk and kiss and cuddle some more.  Courting was an innocent time back then.  So sweet and nervous and real. 

Minnie can I tell you something if you promise not to laugh?

No Frank I can’t promise you anything but I will happily listen if you kiss me one more time.

Frank dutifully kissed his Minnie and started,  See that clearing over there by the orange groves?

Yes, you mean that empty space to left of the grove?

Exactly.   I mean to build a house on it someday. 

Do you now?  That is something.  And who will live there with you?

You Minnie.  I love you.  I cannot see my life with any other woman.

Frank what are you saying?, Minnie pulled away from Frank to look fully into his eyes.

Minnie, I love you.  I cannot see my life with any other woman.  Please will you marry me?

Frank…..yes…of.. of course!  Minnie jumped forward to kiss Frank and squeeze him as hard as she could.

They sat there the two of them quietly staring out at the quiet night that rested it’s stars on the smooth sheet of dark water. 


Yes, Minnie.

What kind of life will we have?

Oh Minnie, we will have a two story white house with black shutters.  And many babies and a dock over there behind the house and the orange grove will stay so you can make freshly squeezed orange juice and the kids can play in the trees outside. 

I like our life.

So do I Minnie.  So do I.

Minnie seared the salmon and fluffed up the rice to place the salmon on top.  The salad was a simple dark greens thrown together with grape tomatoes and some balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles on top.  And warm apple cider.

 Minnie gave Charlie his evening meds filled chewy treat and his dinner and then sat down to eat.  After dinner she bathed again and put on her warmest pjs to cuddle up in her bed under the fluffy down comforter.  Minnie was very sleepy tonight.  Good night Charlie darling.  Minnie turned to look at Frank’s picture on the nightstand and smiled.

Good night Minnie.  I love you.

I love you too Frank.   Good night.

And with that Minnie turned out the light and slept deeply.  What a life we had.  Thank you my darling.  





Categories: God is in the Trees, Minnie Poppe | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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