When I arrived in Nebraska in early June, I was returning primarily for my 53rd high school reunion – delayed 3 years because of the pandemic, and a reunion of students from my one-room school house. Both of which I wrote about in my memoir, In Search of Pink Flamingos. But along with reuniting with school friends, I wanted to say “Thank You” to three special people who made a difference in my life. One of whom I had been in touch with by phone and had mailed her my memoir. But there were two others I couldn’t find in my earlier research. I had already dedicated one of my blogs to another influential person in my life, Mrs. Bartley, my one-room school teacher. Here is the blog in which I wrote about her.

I stepped off the plane in Omaha and with Google maps and my rental car I found Mrs. Holmberg asleep in her recliner in her retirement home apartment. At 91 she remembered me as the president of the charter class of practical nurses at Platte Community College. She had read my memoir and I refreshed her memory of some of the chapters. One in particular was the indigenous midwifery class that I taught at age 20 in my remote village of Zorgowee. I explained how I taught the women (12 midwives in 3 languages) the five most common delivery and postpartum complications. I told her I had no textbook, no visual aids, no notes; only what she had taught me a year earlier. I explained my cardboard cutouts depicting a 3D woman’s vulva and a baby with a placenta and a rope umbilical cord…all of which I narrated in my book.

She laughed with amazement. My voice cracked as I choked back the tears when I told her that I never could have done this without the knowledge she had taught me. I told her I even saved one woman from postpartum hemorrhage because of what I learned from her, a scene I wrote about in my memoir.
Last year I had mailed this photo to Mrs. Holmberg placing my nursing pin on my uniform. We both fondly remembered that moment in 1970. Mrs. Holmberg said, “We taught you everything we knew because we wanted you to succeed. In fact everyone in the charter class passed their state boards the first time.” At that moment we knew we had both succeeded in our mission to be the best we could be. Here is the blog I wrote about finding her two years earlier.

But I wasn’t done yet, I wanted to find Mrs. Margaret Baker, my clinical instructor. With the help of my nursing classmate, Norma, we found her in the good old phone book, a relic in my neck of the woods, but common place in Nebraska because so many people still have landlines. Within seconds we were talking on the phone. Now, 90 and not venturing far from home, she remembered me and Norma. Again I thanked her for all she had taught me and how she was one of the pivotal people who made me the nurse I am today.

One final person on my Thanksgiving Tour was to find and thank my first boss, Kenneth Johnson. I have been searching for him for over three years to no avail. Ken was the first Physical Therapist in Kanton, NE and he hired me on as his physical therapy assistant until I joined the Peace Corps 6 months later. Here is a photo when I worked for him in 1971. Again, Norma went to the trusty phone book. There was his name… the only Johnson in the book. We spoke for over 30 minutes. Now 88, he plays golf nearly every day. He also remembered me and I thanked him for all he taught me. Today I still know how to teach the use of crutches, walkers and wheelchairs.
My heart was full. I had been able to share my gratitude with those who gave me a firm foundation on which to stand.

I will soon write about my high school and grade school reunions.

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2 thoughts on “A Thanksgiving Tour

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