This is what I get for cleaning out files. I showed it to Cliff and asked him if he thought I should post it. “Oh, yes!” he said enthusiastically. It is a bit long, but I often think of my late wife. I know that several of you were there when I delivered this nearly two and a half years ago.
A Celebration of Life
Amalie was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 28, 1928, and she occasionally complained to me that she was born too close to Christmas.
I don’t remember her saying much about growing up into her teen years, but you will hear something about that later. Amalie’s sisters, Harriet and Maje, sent remembrance notes in which they talk about Am’s early years.
I do remember Amalie telling me about working in a photo studio with Marge Drost, her boss, with whom she became good friends. Amalie learned a great deal about what made a good photograph, and she taught me what she knew. Subsequently she worked as a secretary for an ad agency that had the Puss 'n Boots cat food account. Am loved to tell of the time when someone said to her, "How can you spend the rest of your life selling cat food!" Apparently that was the line that sent her back to Queens College, where she earned her B.A. in Speech Pathology. Incidentally, I found her official transcript, which said she was on the Dean’s List, was Phi Beta Kappa, and earned Department Honors in Speech. I knew she was smart, but I never knew any of that. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in June, 1963.
Upon graduation, her Aunt Marge, who lived in Los Altos, suggested she come out to California and get her Masters Degree at Stanford University. When Amalie mentioned to someone that she was going to Stanford for her graduate work, the individual said, “Stamford; that’s in Connecticut, isn’t it?” Am responded, “Stanford -- it’s spelled with an “N”.
It so happened that when Amalie graduated from Stanford, an opening for a speech therapist occurred in a little town near San Jose called Los Gatos. She interviewed for it, and was hired. She spent the remainder of her working career teaching speech to youngsters in the Los Gatos Elementary School District.
She was an excellent speech therapist. I had occasion to see her in action a couple of times, and was astonished at how gentle she was with these youngsters. She would start a conversation with the student, and as the boy or girl would talk, Amalie, when she perceived something to be corrected, would quietly say something like, “Put your tongue here,” or “Round your lips like this”, demonstrating with her own mouth. She had an excellent ear for speech problems, and once commented to me that someone in my family, whom I will not name, had a slight lisp. I had never heard it until then.
Does anyone know what Sequencing and Memory is? It’s not surprising if none of you do. It’s a phrase that Amalie invented. She told me once that the speech therapists were not allowed to teach spelling to their students. But if Am decided that if helping with spelling would help solve the student’s speech problem, then she would teach spelling. Except that in the reports she turned in, she called it Sequencing and Memory. (Of course, to spell correctly, one must have the correct letters in the proper sequence, and naturally, remember that).
Speaking of lisps, Amalie was fond of telling of the time she had an eight year old boy with a lisp. She had him chatting away, and correcting him as I mentioned previously. Somehow they were talking about insects, and Amalie asked him if he knew the difference between an insect and a spider. He said that a spider has eight legs, but an insect has six. “How do you happen to know that?” she asked him. His response: “I uthed to be an entymologitht.”
In late 1968 I had a severe illness which the doctor initially misdiagnosed. As a result I was hospitalized for several weeks, and when I was finally released, I had lost considerable weight. Someone commented that I had to stand twice to cast a shadow. I had joined a local Jewish singles group, and the first event I went to was a party at a member’s house. I don’t remember much of what happened that evening, but apparently Amalie spotted me there.
Then in early June, 1969, Amalie invited me to her apartment for a birthday dinner for me. I don’t know how she knew it was my birthday, but apparently she found out. It was a very pleasant evening, and Am was an excellent cook, but I have a suspicion that she was disappointed that I didn’t make a pass at her.
When her school year ended for the summer, she went back to New York to stay with her sister Maje, as she had been doing for several years. Then in the early Fall, the treasurer of the singles group, Ruth Levinson, resigned her post, so I said I would take over. Ruth invited me to her place for dinner, and to turn the group’s books over to me. So on the appointed evening I drove to Ruth’s. We had dinner, and she started to show me the books when the phone rang. Ruth’s end of the conversation went something like this: “Oh, hi there. Good to hear from you. Have you had dinner? Okay, you want to drop by for dessert? Don Meyer is here, and we’re going over the books. Good. See you in a little while.” Ruth came back to the table and said, “That was Amalie Ansorge. She’s going to join us for dessert.” “That’s nice,” I thought to myself, and sure enough, a short while later, Amalie arrived. The three of us had a pleasant evening together.
It was some months later, after we were married, that I was told that Am’s phone call to Ruth was pre-planned. When Ruth found out that I was taking over as treasurer, she phoned Amalie to tell her that I would be at Ruth’s place on a particular date. “Now you call me about seven o’clock that evening, and I’ll pretend to be surprised, and invite you for dessert.” Ruthie, the Matchmaker!
Then in November of that year, I came down with a case of pneumonia. Since the doctor had misdiagnosed me the year before, this time he ordered me into the hospital RIGHT NOW! Amalie found out about it, and came to visit one evening. She brought me a fruit cake she’d made, and was all apologies -- she hadn’t had any nuts to put in it. “Oh, good!” I said, I’m allergic to nuts!” (Maybe that’s when I first fell in love --” a way to a man’s heart”, you know.) But what I remember most about that visit was that we did not talk superficialities. I don’t remember the topics, but we had quite a serious discussion, long past visiting hours, and the nurses didn’t bother us. We really connected.
Well, the holiday season was upon us, and we didn’t see one another for the rest of the year. But on January 21, 1970, I asked her out on our first date. On February 21, 1970, I said, “Amalie, I have a question. Will you marry me?yes”. She really answered that fast!
Of course she had to call home to tell the news, and I called my mother and sister. And then I called my best buddy, Dalton, who lived in San Francisco. “Dalton,” I said, “will you be best man at my wedding?” There was a moment of silence, and then a thud. More silence. Finally, “Excuse me,” he said, “I fell out of bed! Yes, of course,” he answered.
We were married on March 21, a beautiful sunny day in Los Altos, California, at the home of Joe and Marge Rubenson.
We were on top of the world! Initially we had an apartment in Belmont where I worked, and she commuted down to Los Gatos. Then in the evenings I drove up to San Francisco State to finish the last semester of my senior year, and earn my B.A. in business. It wasn’t all a bed of roses ( or maybe it was -- roses do have thorns). I remember one evening we had a disagreement about something. I stormed out of the apartment, and went for a walk around the block, and when I came back, she had a puzzled look on her face, as if to say “Who is this guy I married?”
One Saturday in January, 1971, I had some business up in Marin County and Am decided to come with me. When I had finished, we went to visit my best man’s parents who lived in a big mobile home in Santa Rosa. Mabel and Russell Powell greeted us with open arms, insisted we stay for dinner, and as it was starting to get dark, suggested we stay overnight. We agreed. Am and I were most impressed with this home. As we drove back to our apartment in Belmont the following day, we talked about how nice it would be to own our own coach.
So one Saturday in February we drove down this way and discovered many mobile home dealers on El Camino. We stopped at several, looked at various coaches, and picked up a lot of literature. We weren’t exactly wild about what we saw.
Now let me digress a bit. Amalie’s father was a builder. She told me that on Sundays she and her dad would look at the real estate section of the paper and discuss what was good, or not so good about various floor plans. As a result, Amalie really knew what a good floor plan should look like.
When we got back to our apartment, we spread all this literature on the living room carpet. And from that pile of literature, we drew a floor plan that we felt met our needs. Then the next Saturday we again drove down highway 101, and as I swung into highway 85, I glanced to my left and saw a mobile home park. So I exited the freeway down to El Camino, and turned into Sylvan Avenue looking for that park. The first one we came to was this one, so we stopped, and talked to the manager. He explained that there were only two spaces left -- number 48, where I now live, and the one next door. He further explained that the two spaces were being rented by a particular dealer so that when they made a sale, there would be a place to put the coach.
When we reached the dealership, we showed the salesman the plan we had drawn. “Let me show you this,” he said, and led us to a particular model. It was almost identical to the plan we’d drawn. And that’s the coach we bought.
The next 15 years were a time of learning about each other. We discovered that our respective philosophies of life were almost identical. We thought in similar fashion so that at times we could finish each others sentences. There was one instance that was almost comical. By the year 2000 we were both using lightweight scooters. One day, a few years later, one of the scooters needed repair, so we drove to the scooter store. As I pulled up, I saw Jay, the repairman, along with two gentlemen in suits, out on the sidewalk, surrounded by several new scooters. “Hey, Don,” Jay called to me, “come try the new lightweights.” So I climbed out of the car, and drove a new scooter down the sidewalk and back. “Hey, Am,” I called, “come try this.” So she did. While she was scootering down the sidewalk and back, one of the “suits”, a salesman for the manufacturer, was giving me a sales pitch. He was still talking when Am pulled up. She looked at me; I looked at her and gave a little nod; she gave a little nod back. The salesman was still yammering away when I said, “We’ll take two.”
Of course we learned how we differed, but we became a team. Since we both worked, we divided the housework. I remember that when I suggested I do the laundry if she would do the folding, she accepted with alacrity.
We traveled -- mainly in the summer when she was off school. I remember one time in 1974 when we were sitting on a plane at San Francisco Airport waiting to take off for Washington, D.C. The pilot had the cabin radio on, and we listened as Richard Nixon prepared to leave D.C. for California. One year we took a long auto trip. We went to Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and then south to visit friends in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From there we took route 66 west toward the Grand Canyon, but first stopped at Canyon de Chelly, which is absolutely remarkable in its own right. And there were many other trips.
At home at dinner we would recount our day’s activities, good and bad. (That was where I learned about the young entymologitht.) We rearranged the furniture, and made improvements to our coach. We added earthquake bracing, had new siding put on, as well as an insulated roof, and made a major investment by enlarging and enclosing the front porch, and having the den wall pushed out five feet to make room for the computer center. It was a good time.
Then in March, 1986, Amalie had a major stroke. It was a left brain stroke, so it affected the right side of her body. She was right-handed, so, stubborn, determined Amalie, taught herself to write with her left. Eventually she regained the use of her right hand, but her handwriting remained cramped and hard to read.
Four months later, in early July, I was struck with a brain abscess that disabled the left side of my body. I was lucky -- I’m right handed. Despite her disability, she was right there for me.
Subsequently a most interesting positive event occurred. A friend and I were talking on the phone one day. She was telling me about this wonderful book she was reading. She mentioned it again and again, over several phone calls, but I wasn’t paying much attention. A few weeks later the doorbell rang. When I answered it, there she was. “Here! Read it!,” she commanded, handing me a thick volume. That was only the first of six volumes in this long, long historical novel. I read that first book, and was so impressed, I suggested Amalie read it, too. Well, she started, but didn’t get very far. She liked it, but her concentration wasn’t good enough, she told me. I said, “I’ll read it to you.” And I did. It was so good, that we bought the entire series up to that point. And I read to her. Every evening after dinner I would read a chapter or two. Then one evening, Am said to me “Let me read.” And from then on we read to one another almost every evening. When we finished that historical novel, we found all sorts of other books to read -- both fiction and non-fiction.
We also continued going to plays and concerts, and because we tended to buy whole series, we occasionally had to give tickets away because there were two events on the same day at the same time. We continued to enjoy ourselves as best we could.
We actually did most of our traveling following our respective injuries. Lots of cruises. We were on a Princess Cruise ship through the Panama Canal. We went to Europe and took the Norwegian Coastal Steamer from Bergen on the west coast sailing north above the arctic circle around to Kirkenes near the Russian border, where the ship turned around to return to Bergen to complete the 12 day trip.
We went with a tour group in New Zealand, and then flew to Australia to pick up another tour. We spent one Thanksgiving in Hong Kong, which included one day in mainland China. We went with a tour to Copper Canyon in Mexico, took a cruise up the Columbia River into Idaho, visited a friend on Vancouver Island whom we had met on the Norwegian Coastal Steamer, took another cruise one time around Puget Sound, flew another time to Alaska and joined a bus tour of that state, and then returned back to Seattle via a small cruise ship. There was the time we drove to San Diego to pick up a cruise ship to Hawaii, and then the following year flew to Puerto Rico to board a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The last of our travels together was to Washington, D.C. for the specific purpose of going to several of the Smithsonian museums, and visit relatives in the area.
Now she has taken a journey without me. Some day I will join her.
See you on Monday