I speak, and hear
within my words the echo now of voices stilled by time.  Treat of
me gently for I am their container, the resting place of
insubstantial memories that let these voices live while yet I

Growing up, there were always five of us - mother, my grandparents, my brother and I. Father had been left behind by mother when I was six weeks old, and so I never counted him in that first, essential number that told me who I was by what I was part of. There were just the five of us.

When I was 9 years old, brother left home and, for the first time, the rock on which I rested moved. And suddenly there were four. Then, one by one, like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, grandfather and grandmother and mother died. When I tried to find my father, I discovered that he, too, was dead.

I've built a new family with Paul and a house full of four-footed, furry children. But sometimes when it's quiet, and I'm very tired, my mind jumps back to Sunday mornings when my first family was still together.

The sun angles through the room, creating a bright stage upon which dust motes dance above the new, moss-green carpet. Grandfather's pipe smoke fills the living room, interrupted only when his newspaper page turns and temporarily blows away the cloud that halos his grey, beloved head. Brother is on his way out to meet friends, while mother sits in the dining room writing in her diary. Grandmother is in the kitchen making our favorite family dish, a sweet bread pudding. She sings as she works, one of those old music hall songs that make you sweetly cry.

An outside noise catches my attention, and suddenly I notice that my eyes are damp. I blink rapidly to clear my vision. It must have been the song.

Mary S. Van Deusen

If reading were comfort, then mother was blessed
By the words of a thousand remembered events.
An old green cloth bag, Marshall Fields on its side,
Carried murderers foul and detectives quite thick
To the buses and trains and pillowed night rest and
the first morning coffee before the day hit.

Like many a habit a child learns from mom,
I carried my books with me, too, all the time.
I studied with Ghandi and watched with some dread
Graustarian villians and sad severed heads of a hero
Who thought that the times they were best.
Forgive me, but noble and dead? Take a rest!

As facts entered in, other facts entered out
Leaving knowledge as parched as a field in a drought.
It wasn't the same with my mother's dear head.
Her mind mirrored mirrors and mirrored again.

Imagine poor Holmes with his stuffed attic drawers
If his mind were a Tardis with everyone home
Saying, "I'll take that fact." and "No, put it here."
And mother conducting in ceaseless good cheer
A mad data dance never meant to refute
That the earth circles sun in unending pursuit.


The hikes that we took, when I was a child,
Wound through canyons and prairies and sweet sylvan nooks
Filled with wildflower storefronts and auto-clogged creeks.
I walked with my mother and saw with her eyes
Carrying all of her years with a ten year old's pride.
She didn't have money, we'd only have tea,
But she stuffed me with cupcakes of sweet memory.

She talked as we walked of her past college days,
Of dating young boys wrapped in old raccoon coats.
Of college professors, she knew each one's name.
Of ways that they spoke and of jokes that they made.
She remembered the girls in green chiffon gowns
Who danced on the Midway near Ida Noyes lawn.
She remembered the statue that stood in the park
Bearing centuries stone upon flat hair-crowned hat.

And each of these facts and small tales she would tell
As a gift to a daughter too young to know well
How the timeless progression of time in its day
Could forget in an instant a moment of play.
She tried to present me these gifts, but in vain,
For my attic-stuffed drawers had a hole that the names and the places were soon falling through till the drawer and the attic and cupboard
Was bare.


Museums were playgrounds when I was a child
Hanging my heart on jungle gym bars
Of Renoirs and Rodins and even Matisse
While mother explained the curve of the hip
Of the Buddahs and odalesques playing with me
As we swung from 12th century tapestry
Into the sky of Georgia O'Keefe
And back again laughing in such fine company.

It was here that she studied, my mother explained,
Your grandmother, long before grandpa appeared,
At the Institute's classes of art and design
Of the lion and the curve and the stroke of the pen.
She studied with Taft, mother said with some pride
Though the master was gone long before I arrived
In my turn, now it's yours, to take up the brush
For genetics will conquer in gentle ambush.

This wasn't at all what I wanted to hear
Because I was a scientist cool-eyed and clear
From the tips of my fingers that typed
At the keys of computers to firm-planted feet
That walked near eyes of heaven that gazed
At Albireo's eyes blinking back blue and gold in a canvas of black, crying "I am no artist and I know no verse."
Then I listened to silence that laughed in reverse.


Mother met father in the shadow of time
Cast by permanent stones of cathedral and bells.
The building they met in was wood, thin and cheap.
I know this because I walked in that place
Thirty years from a soldier's chance meeting with fate.
So, I guess, in some sense, I'm a child of them all
Of mother, of father, of the Humanities hall.

She was a journalist trying to find
In the day's small events
Some explaining of why
She was her,
Who she was,
A girl in the prime
Of her green salad days
Seen through sea-green young eyes.

He was a poet explaining himself
In the words of a soldier
To any and all
Who could hear with deaf ears
What it was to be young
To be strong and alive
And in love with a lady
Who saw through your eyes.

little cowboy I've searched for his poetry through microfiche files
Till the print danced before me and tears filled my eyes.
Will I ever find remnants of the cowboy he played
To remember the child in his chaps and handmade little shirt
And big hat and even the boots?
Or did father ride off into sunset like that?
And leave his small daughter to mourn her sad loss
Of flesh and of blood and even of thoughts.


One Sunday, a poet's obit took mom back
To the days when the grease from his hair stained the back
Of the sofa or wall, it isn't too clear.
But she spelled out his name and I hear
John Rose Gildea from the single small tape
I recorded of mother that precious past day
When sea gulls flew over the burgers and mall
And mother still lived without Valhalla hall.

I always knew mother was smarter than I,
Though to say it would just have made arguments fly.
And then I heard stories of father's sharp wit,
And recognized genes have a mind of their own.
I fought for my physics till close to the end,
Then turned on my heel and took art for a spin.
I sat before paper, pastel in my hand,
Inhaling the smells of Lorado Taft's inn.

So now the pastel sits inside of a mouse,
And Painter is locked away in the house
Of the bits and the bytes while the painter's outside,
Drawing boxes and menus and buttons' highlights.
So now I can say to myself as I work,
I took up the art, but at least left the words.

Robert TenEyck Van Deusen

Bob is eight years older than I am, but left home when I was 9 years old. As a result, I can't remember when he actually lived at home. He's always enjoyed a wide friendship circle, so when he did still live at home, he was probably out a lot with his friends. And from the time he left home, we've almost never lived closer to one another than 2000 miles.

He's a brilliant man, and was proud as anything when the day came that he could put the title "Engineer" after his name, the same title that our grandfather had. Like all of our family, he's a reading fanatic, and has a surprisingly wide knowledge to spice up conversations. Bob is wonderfully creative with his hands, and has built some of the furniture in his home, but the most beautiful of his creations must be his four daughters.

Mary Van Deusen - grammar school graduation

I attended Joseph Warren grammar school on the south side of Chicago. It was an old three story brick building with a surrounding playground on which I swung and climbed and hung upside down. We lined up alongside the building in freezing winter days chanting together "bell, bell, please ring!" That was also the wall against which we tossed balls in elaborately patterned games.

If there's one memory I have above all others, it's of kneeling on the floor in front of the lost and found box hoping to find a stray mitten or scarf. There was a reason the family pinned things to my clothes. I can also remember the teachers. They were good women all, though some kept up more of a distance between themselves and their class. But it was an innocent time, when teachers could give you a hug and not worry about remembering to pat you down for firearms.

I broke down a sexism barrier at the Warren school, becoming the first female crossing guard. That mostly meant I got to stand in the rain, but it also meant I got to wear a wide wide canvas belt that picked up dirt like a magnet. Did you know you can put chalk dust on canvas to bring back that clean, white glow?

Jeanne Van Deusen - fresh from Germany

Jeanne came back from living in Germany with an interest in wines and joined my husband and I on the obligatory Napa tour. Since I'm a wine-collecting tea-totaler, she and Paul both appreciated having me along on winery tours since they got to divide up my samples between the two of them. She came back from Germany with wonderful photo books of places I've only read about. It's so great that she and her sisters have had an opportunity to travel, to experience so much, and to learn a new language. It makes a wonderful set of memories to look back on through her life.

Jeanne Van Deusen - at 2 1/2

We were very lucky to be able to have Jeanne come for extended visits with our family on a number of occasions. This was the first. She learned to drink through a straw while we sat on stools at Walgreen's drug store. Then she learned to blow bubbles.

Jeanne Van Deusen - an adult

Jeanne lived with us for one year of high school and for several years after college. It was such a joy to have her with us. I found such beauty in her eyes and such sweetness in her soul. She always talked of wanting to have a child. She has three of them now and I think they must be very lucky.

Jacqueline Lae

Jackie was married to my brother for almost 20 years, and I still think of her as my sister. It was Jackie who took a 13 year old bratty sister-in-law and taught me how to dance. You can't leave someone in your past who's taught you that. Jackie's now a registered nurse, volunteering occasionally for busman's holidays in third world countries. She has a large heart, and an adventurous soul. I usually see her on her way to exotic places I just read about.

Mary Van Deusen - graduating high school

I attended Aquinas Dominican High School on Chicago's south side. My dreams of being a librarian changed gradually into a dream of being a classical Astronomer. I won awards in science fairs every year, which just reinforced the idea. And falling in love with my optics instructor at the Adler Planetarium didn't hurt it much either. Fondest memory: lying on the floor of the main chamber listening to medieval music box music while watching the stars being set by for the Star of Bethlehem show.

James Homer Butridge

Grandfather was a consulting field signal engineer for railroads and subways. He traveled the world doing this and would bring back exotic dolls and toys on his return. He invented the flashing yellow signal for the railroad He was a man of great dignity, intelligence and love. There was always a reason for him to take a grocery bag from me as we would walk home from the store - it balanced his other bag and made it easier to walk. We spent hours in his 1952 dark blue Packard talking while we waited for mother to get off the bus so that we could drive her the block and a half home. We were more than grandfather and granddaughter - we were deep friends.

There was always singing in the house when I was a child. Daddy would sing "Camptown Races" and "Turkey in the straw." Grandmother would sing "Bill Bailey" and cry while she ironed. Daddy never could understand why nana loved so to sing and cry. I can.

James Homer Butridge - Daddy

Because I never knew my father, grandfather became Daddy. We were bound together with the deepest ties. Every Sunday, when I was small, I would curl up in his lap and have him read the funnies to me. For hours, he would listen to my multiplication tables and spelling assignments. Irrational as it may be, I still emotionally believe that he loved to listen to all those numbers.

Daddy was the stability and balance in our family. Grandmother was emotion and mother had a bit of the wildness of a bird, but grandfather was the solid center that let our family function. His family came from Sherman, Texas and he loved them deeply. Almost every week a letter would arrive addressed to Dear Brother and signed Sis.

He taught me to garden, though I don't remember anything very significant coming up. I think I was too impatient to let the garden grow. Luckily, love grows very quickly. And the more you pick it, the more there is. When we lost Daddy, we lost something irreplaceable. Everything was always slightly out of kilter without him. Somehow, it seems right. The world shouldn't have been the same without him in it.

Bradley TenEyck (Bell) Van Deusen

The Boy and the Man Bios Poems Letters

My father was Army, and brother and I were born Army brats. Since Mother left father when I was 6 1/2 weeks old, I never got the chance to enjoy the distinction. Tiger, as my father was called, was born in Canon City Colorado in 1905. His mother, Catharine, came from a wealthy New York family and married first the son of a manufacturer from Buffalo. At some unknown point, she suddenly ended up married to Jack Bell, my father's father, and living in Canon City. Together she and grandfather published a local newspaper, the Canon City Cannon, which "went off" once a week. Grandfather was a mining engineer and a miner, and had won and lost fortunes from Alaska to South America. Apparently gambling was in his blood, because he took one too many gambles with grandmother's affections and she found out. The result was a divorce and grandmother's move to Denver with five year father and his half sister Catharine, from grandmother's first marriage. Eventually grandmother married Robert Van Deusen, who raised my father. The Van Deusen ranch must have been a wonderful place to grow up, but father's stepfather had a heavy hand. At a very young age, father lied about his age and joined the army.

It was while he was posted as an ROTC instructor at University of Chicago that he met mother in a scheduling conflict over a typewriter. She was a student there. Sometime after she graduated college, and while she was visiting in New York, they were secretly married. That was on August 27th, 1934. That Christmas Mother finally told her parents she was married. They were shocked, but believed that a wife's place was with her husband, and sent her off to New York with an allowance to help her survive on the salary of an Army private.

Father worked mostly as a rifle instructor with ROTC classes, though he was in intelligence for awhile during World War II. Most of their marriage they lived in the Greenwich Village area of New York City and later moved to Manasquan, New Jersey, a coast town where I was conceived. Mother used to describe standing on the beach during the day and watching U-boats rising and at night watching ships burning. She said you always knew there were bodies washing up when they closed off the beaches. When my brother would play in the ocean, they'd have to take him home and wash him down in gasoline to get off the oil from the downed tankers.

Few letters remain of father's and, up until a year ago, no poetry or writing remained either. Mother destroyed or mailed back everything she had. As a journalism student, mother was able to go to dinner with Robert Frost and Frank Lloyd Wright, and did give them both a small book of father's poems. I've often wondered if it ended up in a hotel trash can or was thrown into a library somewhere. But, regardless, no copies of his books have ever emerged. It took learning how to search for poetry while investigating father's 4th great grandfather, Major Henry Livingston, Jr., to prove his authorship of Night Before Christmas, that my husband and I were able to find what poetry was published in the University of Chicago Daily Maroon. I knew that he had published there from mother, but I learned that he had actually written a column for the paper called the Whistler. He used the name, the Blind Tiger, but he wrote under various and sundry pseudonyms. I cried when my husband's microfilm roll turned up father's column, and I was shaken when reading it to discover that it was in that column that he courted my 17 year old mother. And she answered him back!

Mother said that I wouldn't have enjoyed father if I had known him. He was wide open and emotional, traits she didn't share. While they were married, he would come home from work and stop off in the building super's apartment for tea with the super's wife who would tell her about the party going on upstairs. Mother said that if she was tired, she would throw out the weakest one there and then work her way up until the apartment was empty. If strong, she'd start with the strongest and empty it out faster.

Father enjoyed literary types. Mother found their conversations self-indulgent. On one occasion, the discussion turned to prostitutes. It turned out that mother had never met one. She didn't notice one of the gentlemen leaving but she did notice when he returned with a young girl, looking very nervous and out of place. Mother served her milk and cookies, sent her on her way, and reamed out the gentleman for embarrassing the girl.

Mother didn't see her stories as wonderful, but I thought they were that and more. Once, when father had to leave town, he worried about mother and asked some Italian friends to keep an eye on her. They did, following her everywhere. Unfortunately, he forgot to tell her he had done it. Their upstairs neighbor was a stripper. In her apartment were spotlights so that she could pose. Her mother spent the day sewing hook and eyes on her daughter's costume saying in her only English, "My Rose is a good girl."

I can't tell if mother was right or wrong about how I'd feel about meeting father. I am sorry that I never had the chance to make that decision for myself. When I was in high school, I tried to find him. I never did. Later I learned that he had died soon after my ninth birthday. In one of his letters to mother, father said that he didn't know anything about little girls, but if I was anything like my mother, he trusted me to help him learn. I'm so sorry I never had the chance to do so.

Jennie Butridge - Nana

I remember sitting on the front porch while nana showed me toys to make by tearing up newspapers. While she did this, she would talk to me about the values that a child and an adult must have. This is where I learned that "two wrongs don't make a right" and "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar." She walked me to school until the school asked her to let me walk alone. And I'm sure she missed me very much. I came home for soup and sandwich every day until finally it was decided I was big enough to eat lunch at school. I know that separation was hard on nana. If she could have kept me home from school and with her every moment, she would have done it with joy.

I graduated in the top 2 of my grammar school class for grades and was tops for absenteeism. Whenever I wanted to stay home, grandmother would support me. I would sneak out early in the morning to stand barefoot in the snow until I would start to shiver, then hurry in to sit in front of the hot air vent until I began to sweat. It was usually good enough to get grandmother to support my staying home.

Sick days were wonderful days. Nana would enscounce me on the sofa so that I could be part of the family life and bring me Seven-up, potato chips and vanilla ice cream. I'm sure there were theories about why these three things would make me well, but I probably didn't ask too many questions.

Grandmother was very grateful to live in the modern days of TV dinners. When she died, we found the bottom drawer of the refrigerator filled with empty TV dinner pans. That I could understand, being a packrat, because they might come in handy someday. What I never understood was why we found all the lids as well.

The family was very grateful that she loved TV dinners. Grandmother was a really bad cook. I remember a cake she cooked from scratch that she lifted from the pan and bent back and forth. If it had been round, it would have bounced. The one good receipe she had was for bread pudding. I never thought to ask her for that receipe because she was always the one who made it. One of her sisters wrote it down for me at grandmother's funeral. I am so very grateful.

Grandmother was a fighter. She believed that you dug in and did whatever it was necessary to do. Excuses could make you more virtuous while you did whatever it was, but excuses weren't what you used to avoid it. I never doubted for an instant that she loved me with all that strength and all that energy. I loved her, too.

Jennie Audrey Dribben Butridge

Grandmother was a rough and ready soul. The stories are confused, but what I learned from mother was that grandmother had been an illegitimate child of a well to do family that had gone West with the Roosevelts. She had been born in Butte, Montana on a ranch. I remember stories about her pony and cart and an Indian she would drive out to visit. Her friends were the cowhands and her language, as a result, somewhat salty. I didn't know this until I became an adult because she completely moderated her language while I was growing up.

There were stories of boarding schools and some quieter stories of her being thrown out of more than one. I wasn't the only one to think Nana was beautiful. Anyone who knew her when she was younger always talked of her beauty. On grandmother's way to work in St. Louis, she passed a firehouse. Nana loved to tell how the firemen would line up at the time she was due to pass and just stand there, politely, as she walked by. I loved that story.

Nana had been a practical nurse and she was always the one they called when someone hurt themselves or there was an illness on the block. She was the one who organized people to collect money for children when the Polio epidemic hit. She was the one to call City Hall when there was a neighborhood problem. Grandmother wouldn't have known how to step back from someone who needed help.

If I am, indeed, made up of qualities from all of my family, I am very glad that nana was there to add to the mix.

Jean Audrey Butridge Van Deusen

The mother of my childhood was laughter and anger and brilliance of a tragic waste. She was serpentine in logic and frightened me, a child, by momentary surfacing of thoughts as unexplained as passing views of Nessie's humps above a Scottish Loch.

"That's the good witch," she explained as we descended from a bus in the foreign country on the North side of Chicago, we being from the South. Seeing me begin to cry from fear of this nonsequitor, she began, the one and only time, to take me through the logic that led to this result. It was simple, really. In the North side of a city, a woman dressed in blue resembling an illustration and wearing such a gentle smile had brought to mind the book of Oz and the good witch who ruled the quadrant there. She tried to explain that she had found the comparison funny and so had thought to share with me. But, then, mother found much of life to be amusing.

Knowing that there was a logic there made all the difference from then on. I could take her statements and put them in a perspective that let them be ignored. And when I, an adult, was stopped for some such misunderstood remark, it was easy to believe that the source of the confusion was in my own obtuseness and not the faulty logic of inattentive friends.

It is still my besetting sin when writing, though so many other errors correct themselves naturally now as I watch their patterns reemerge. It's only in this difficulty of recognizing when the right amount of words have been laid down to lead to that result that I hear again the distant echo of my mother's voice. "That's the good witch."

Mother became a bureaucrat, a social worker with a book that she brought home to fill with different pages every night as long ago I once filed tax code for the state of Illinois. She knew that book and every detail it contained. She was the source to whom all went for information on whether this one could get food stamps or that one extra meals. At least this exercise made use of that great memory far better than the license plates she memorized for fun when we'd go walking in the park, or dollar bills whose serial numbers stayed with her long after limp bodies found rest in cash register drawers and poor boxes and hands of children waiting for a bus.

I took that mind for granted until the day I sat beside her waiting for her body to give up its final strength. She asked me how could everything that she knew just disappear. I had no answer then and I still have none today. I wish I knew.

Jean Van Deusen

There was never a man in my life that mother completely approved of until Paul. She adored Paul and he adored her. This statement is so simple in the saying but so significant in our family -- on occasion, when Paul and I would argue, mother would take Paul's side. I'm still flummoxed at the concept, her attachment to me was so overwhelming and her prejudice against anyone who could possibly hurt me so intense. But mother found a very deep trust in Paul's love for me and so she could afford to love him back with that special love she reserved for her children.

Education was central in our family. The year before mother died at 72, I was finally able to convince her to drop her master's course load from two classes down to one. I know she was disappointed not to be able to complete the master's program within her lifetime. Whenever we would travel, mother would carry her course books with her. She was fragile in the last years of her life and would tire easily. We would walk from bench to bench. It was a leisurely way to walk through life. As soon as she would settle down, out would come the accounting book or the statistics book. For her last birthday, we traveled through Washington to Williamsberg, Virginia. I wanted to get her a gift that she would love and I found the perfect one -- a large selection of pamphlets from the International Monetary Fund. If you could have seen her eyes!

Jocelyn Lee Mary Van Deusen

Jo was a fairy princess of a baby. I never knew they came that beautiful. She is my brother's second child and first daughter. She has lived in Germany so long that she now speaks English with the most delicate of accents. Her children are as beautiful as she was, and is. Watching her with them gives one faith in the continuity of nature.

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