Libby Baker Sweiger

Weaver of Everyday Tales

Archive for the category “friendship”

Cooley

Cooley: My Best Friend!

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

We always called my best friend Lynn by her last name: Cooley. It just stuck. People sometimes called me Baker, but usually Libby. Cooley was so cool, we just naturally called her Cooley. She was the best friend anyone could have because she was honest, true blue, that’s the kind of cool she was. She wasn’t too cool for other people, she was down to earth and as funny as the day is long. I loved her and her whole family. We were friends from the age of 13 on and still are best friends to this day. Her mom Rita and I were great friends. I called her Mrs. Cooley, but for some reason we called her Rita otherwise. Her car had the license plate: Reets, which was her nickname. Her Dad’s name is Frank and he is nice and kind. A real gentlemen and always happy to have her friends stop by.

Mrs. Cooley and I were pals. I’d stop over there after school and shoot the breeze. Mrs Cooley usually had a roast in the oven and was watching her programs. She was a lot different from my mom. She was known to have a can of beer in the afternoon with a cigarette. People didn’t sweat that stuff quite so much back then. It was starting to be known the dangers of it but they were still shrugging them off. Mrs. Cooley was even funnier than Cooley — if that could be possible. She got me laughing and she laughed at my tales. I still miss her. Mr Cooley is still with us, but I don’t know for how long.

I am sad for her. It’s very hard to lose your parents. Even harder when you’re an only child. I try to be a sister to Cooley as best I can, but I know it’s not quite the same for her.

She has always been like a sister to me. She was like the one or two friends who visited me years ago when I was hospitalized for my first bout with bi-polar disorder and was so very sick. She drove herself downtown in her Valiant. We were talking about it the other day. She felt bad she couldn’t do more. She was like a beautiful ray of sunshine in that place. I’ll never forget it — or the incident we had when she came. She loves to tell it. She walked in and this pipsqueek Michael, a pot burnout case, told her he was Jesus Christ. She kept her cool. I did not. He had stolen another pack of my cigarettes, an unfortunate habit I had picked up with a vengance during my mental collapse! I was mad when I saw them. I gave him a swift kick and grabbed back my pack! Cooley burst into peels of laughter — the first laughter I’d heard in that frightening place. I laughed too, hard and it did me some good! I loved our visit and actually felt better after she left. Michael also quit stealing my stuff, red licorice included! What a friend.

Cooley is still the same great friend today. I called her yesterday to tell her some great news about how well the blogging was going or some such thing and notice she was quiet. I quickly got quiet to find out her dad is dying. I said I wanted to come sit with her. She said it was okay, that her husband was there and her youngest son was flying in from college. I thought how wonderful it was that because of her, her father’s name was continuing. All of her children have double last names!

She’s a wonderful friend. True to herself. Always honest and good to her friends and family. A credit to the whole human race. A dear daughter too. I’m so honored to call her my best friend!

Hardball with the Boys

“Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple. Within the baselines anything can happen. Tides can reverse; oceans can open. That’s why they say, “the game is never over until the last man is out.” Colors can change, lives can alter, anything is possible in this gentle, flawless, loving game.”
― W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe

Choke up on the bat, step into it and swing!

In our big house we had on the west side of the suburb we lived in, the new side, the boys played baseball in the street all summer long. The streets were new and made of cement, so I asked my dad and mom to get me a really thick pair of jeans, because I was going to play. They didn’t question me. I had played with the boys in our last neighborhood too, because I was very active and athletic — a tomboy as they called us in those days. So I informed the boys on the block that I was going to play baseball. “Shoot they said. “You gotta beat up every guy on this team to play with us.” They were pretty confident and laughed a little, because I was small and didn’t appear to have much meat on my bones. What they didn’t know was that I was determined, tough and wiry. So I fought each one of them, wrestled them to the ground and held them down until they said I could play. From then on we were teammates. We played every day of that hot summer in t-shirts and long jeans to protect at least our legs from the cement when sliding into home plate. I played first base because I had a good arm and I was fast — mentally and physically. One thing I wasn’t was a power hitter. I just couldn’t get a could crack at that hard little ball.

Bob Allison from the Minnesota Twins lived on our street and he had two really young boys. We idolized him, but never saw him. Once in a while we saw his pretty wife and their two young boys outside, but never him. Then one day, I was up for bat and pretty as you please he strolled over to the middle of the street, home plate. He asked me how my hitting was going and trying not to drop my jaw, I told him it wasn’t going very well. He said, well that bat is to big for you, you’ve got to choke up on it a bit. And then he showed me how! I was just about to scream I was so excited, but I did just exactly what he said.

Once he felt I had mastered that — by now our whole team was surrounding us at home plate — he had another tip for me. And for some more power, he said, you’ve got to step into it when you swing. He showed me how to take a step forward as I took a swing with my hands raised higher on the bat. Then he had a couple of balls pitched to me. Those guys weren’t going to do me any favors. We were teammates, not friends yet. The pitcher fired in a pitch, STRIKE! The catcher threw it back and he fired in another one. I took a deep breath and blew it out, to a step and swung… CRACK! Impact! That ball soared. Everyone around us jumped back and I ran like lightening. I wanted Mr. Bob Allison to see I was going to take advantage of his handiwork. First base whooosh…. second base whoooosh….third base…whoooosh…and I was on my way home! I slid into home SAFE! All but my jeans, shredded them, but man, the grin on my face! Mr. Bob Allison was looking over his shoulder and nodding from his driveway. It was time for him to go home.

What a great summer day. A legend appeared out of the shadows and taught me how to swing a bat. My teammates and I were suddenly friends. I had earned their respect. I’ll never forget it!

Young Love

Dear First Boyfriend Mike at High School Reunion This Summer

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
― Dr. Seuss

Young love is so exciting. You kind of tingle all over. It is hard to sleep, at least it was for me. Sleeping has never been my best thing anyway. I was in 6th grade and the cutest boy on the block, well frankly, the whole school had declared his undying love. We kinda liked each other the end of 5th grade too, but there was another boy, Gordy, I also liked. Finally, in 6th grade Mike had enough. The rumor I heard — and you know how dramatic grade schoolers can be — was that he was on the window ledge of the 3rd floor and threatening to jump if I didn’t pick him. Well I told the message bearer of course, Mike was IT for me! I liked him better anyway. There was certainly no reason for anyone to scrape a knee or break a leg over!

I was hooked. He was so sweet. Kind of quiet. I always liked the quiet ones. Probably a safety net provided by God to keep me from having too many boyfriends! Most quiet boys were a bit intimidated by me. Not Mike. He had tons of self-confidence. He was older than I was too. I was a June birthday and small for my age. What I did have that he really liked was long brown hair almost to my waist, very straight.

This continued into 7th grade. It was nice going into Junior High with a really sweet, cute boyfriend. We went to some parties together. Boy/girl parties. At first opportunity, Mike kissed me at one of those parties. Very sweetly. Short. Nice. He was good to me. Only thing was, he loved my hair. He told me if I ever cut it he would break up with me. I didn’t believe him. He couldn’t mean it. It was just his way of complimenting my hair.

Naturally, I told my next door “best” girlfriend Barbie what he said. I didn’t notice the correlation back then. I never wanted to think ill of my friends. But, from the moment I disclosed that tidbit of news to Barbie, my without a boyfriend “best” friend, she started in on me to cut my hair.

The funny thing about girls and women in general is that they seem to care more about what fashion dictates and their girl friends think than what the men who care about them say about their appearance. And while long straight hair was in style in my High School years, I was bucking the trend then. The celebrity model who was big then was Twiggy with hardly any hair on her head at all.

Well you guessed it. My mom and Barbie and I took my beautiful long hair to the department store stylist and got a little trim: to my shoulders. Mike was horrified. And did what any guy with his character would do, was true to his word and dropped me.

I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned. What happened I thought to my self, and said to my girlfriend Barbie. She said boys are fickle, you can’t trust them. It didn’t seem right. I had always been able to trust Mike. I thought, much later, gee maybe he really meant it about the long hair.

He was a sweet boy. I missed him for a long time. You’re too young to articulate things at that age and we never discussed our falling out. I saw him last summer. He came back from California for our 40th High School Reunion. He hadn’t been back since the 10th. We had a great time talking and hanging out a bit on Friday night. We talked about the tree fort he had in his back yard and the fun times we had as kids. Nothing about kissing or hair. He was is the midst of a happy 26 year marriage, me a happy 32 year one! He was still a great guy. I had turned out okay. You can see by our smiles we had shared something pretty special once and we really didn’t need to talk about it. It just was.

Saturdays at Dad’s

LtoR: Scott, Suzy, Pop, Dad, Sara, Me and Bill

“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Every Saturday, many Sundays after Church, every Christmas Eve and Father’s day were my dad’s and nobody questioned it! My dad had many qualities that made him a great dad, he loved his children, he loved to be outside and play with us and was the best story-teller. I could listen to my dad’s stories by the hour. I still can!

He loved us so much, my mother told me later, that the night they realized that a separation was going to happen he cried about not living with us kids. It breaks my heart to think of it. My poor parents, both loved us so much. My dad in tears, I could hardly bear it when she told me.

But on to the fun stuff. We lived in Minnesota. My dad was from Mitchell, South Dakota. Two cold places. He never let that stop him from being outside, or from taking us on hikes as he called walking up and down whatever hill or mini-mountain we could find.

On a Dad Hike! Me Bill and Scott!


He played football for the University and taught all for of us to go out for passes. Suzy first, she was the fastest, then me, then Bill and then Scott. He had us running, catching the football, throwing a nice spiral back to him so he could fire one off to the next kid in line. It was a blast. We went as fast as we could. Suzy set a pretty fast pace. She’s the beautiful blond girl in the pigtails in the picture. The baby is my sister Sara. She’d watch at first. Eventually she joined us for basketball. I don’t remember her playing football.

Sara was a delight as was her mom. Pop is my dad’s dad, also known to tell a good story. My dad loved words and chose his well. I loved to hear my dad talk about anything, but most especially his childhood. His childhood friends had amazing names, like “Liver Lips” Johnson! My dad could really made us laugh as you might well imagine! He told the stories of how he and his brother fought that are the stuff of family legend. He has golf stories that would make you laugh ’til you cried. You’re probably wondering why I’m not telling you any, well my dad is an author, currently working on his memoirs! I don’t want to steal any of his thunder!

I will say this, my dad taught me to love words and books and writing and speaking. When I was in high school he had a regular column in the Minneapolis Athletic Club magazine the Gopher for local business. It was funny, witty and I read it every month. His book, “The Guide Shoots First” about his hunting adventures is selling well on Amazon.com

There was one thing I envied my brothers. Well two, I guess. 1) every year they went hunting with dad and 2) they went down to the Athletic Club every Saturday morning with dad to workout, play basketball, etc. Dad would pick us up after. It was a men’s club back then with just certain hours that they allowed women’s swimming, which we did! But I wasn’t to envious. One big drawback, they couldn’t be a daughter of dad’s which is a precious thing!

All sports at my dad’s house were strictly co-ed. Other places, it was another era. There weren’t many sports for women back then, and my gym teachers were amazed at my basketball prowess when they began to “teach” us the game. Too bad they didn’t teach football too! Dad would have loved that story!

Girlfriend Power!

“A hug is worth a thousand words. A friend is worth more.”
True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.”
― Charles Caleb Colton

I have three best girlfriends, well one is hanging by a thread, but is still dear to me in my heart. The first one, Lynn, I have written about many times. We have been friends since we were thirteen. I would have known her sooner because she lived in my neighborhood, but she went to the Catholic school through 7th grade. I met her when she started at my Junior High in 8th grade. She is beautiful and funny and so great to talk to — I have loved her like a sister for many, many years! I just had coffee with her Friday. Lynn and I will always be the very best of friends.

The second is Laura. She went to my church when I was it my late teens but I didn’t know her well. She dated my brother Bill for a short while. I thought she was beautiful and sweet. Later when I was in the hospital with the life-shattering first bout of Bi-Polar disorder that knocked me down when my son was 9 months old, she visited me. I remember her coming after Davey had died.

Yes, my little Davey died while I was in the hospital. It broke me and nearly finished me to lose him and not get to say good-bye. I went to his reviewal and funeral, that was all. I was accompanied by a loving, strong psychiatric nurse to help me. My family was wonderful, I remember my dad and my brothers the most for some reason. Possibly, they were holding me up. They’re all big guys. My dad is 6 feet and my little brothers are 6’4 (Scott) and 6’2″ (Bill). Somehow I got through. I don’t remember much of it, so I must have been pretty medicated, but I do remember my dad and my brothers. I remember the minister and some of the soothing things he said. He was my favorite pastor is still my dear friend and Facebook buddy, Arthur. We go for coffee together. What a dear man he’s always been to me. All this is probably why I remained in the hospital another month trying to kick back the depression that had followed the severe mania. It took many years for my heart to heal.

I know Laura wanted to help me. She and my mom were good friends, so she knew I was in a depression. She stopped by one day with a ball of yarn and some knitting needles saying she was there to teach me to knit. I wasn’t much interested in learning to knit, but I was very interested in getting to know Laura better. We became fast and forever friends. Laura and I share the same birthday and are only a year apart in age, me being the oldest.

Jessie is my third best friend. We got to know each other at age 18 and were fast friends. We met through our moms who were in a bible study together. Jessie is fun and funny, beautiful, full of faith and yet slightly irreverent, loves her family and is a great gal. Somehow though we have managed to grow apart.

For over 30 years Lynn, Laura, Jessie and I celebrated our birthdays together, every year, around mine and Laura’s day. Lynn and Jessie were born in July, Laura and I in June. It was a fun summer luncheon at a restaurant of our choice each year. Hours of conversation packed with love and friendship, laughter, hysterical birthday cards, party favors and general merriment ruled the day. And from the very first lunch, even though they are my best friends and had never met each other before! Here are some pictures:

Laura Lynn and I in June of 2010

Jessie and Lynn

But Jessie didn’t make it to all of them. She started missing more. Last year we talked about not inviting her. I was hurting our feelings a bit. But now I don’t know. Jessie is a great friend to me. My first Valentine’s day without my ex and my son, she and her husband Don stopped over with a Valentine for me that evening in the middle of their date. I was pretty moved. It made the night wonderful, not unbearable in fact. I’m calling Jessie tomorrow to see how she is. Her grandchildren keep her pretty busy. None of the rest of us have that dimension in our lives. I want to see how she is and tell her I love her. It’s pretty hard to top the powerful bond of girlfriends who have been with you going through what I went through. It’s just not right to ever let them go!

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