Wisconsin War Bride Diary I, Chapter 10

Family Secrets

I awaken and have a few minutes to write some thoughts into my diary. Mom didn’t discover my diary. She is highly intuitive; and cannot avoid intruding on a young girl’s life. In fact, Mom is “so on top of” everything, it seems as she is reading my diary and my mind. I understand because she had probably many miserable circumstances for prolonged periods as a youth. There were some adoptions, foster child homes and a few nights under the stars. My dad has rescued her and she is a great woman. I love her to death; but I can no longer live here. There is just too much disruption and interference in my personal life. I’m no longer 14 years of age and being walked to the “one block away” outdoor ice rink.. Mary, my married, pregnant sister is apparently staying for a while because Rollie, her husband, is still needed in IndoChina. We hear very little in our news concerning other countries (Nationalist China) with ongoing skirmishes in the Viet Nam region. Rollie is Chiang Kai-Chek’s main interpreter with the military in the far east. He is a super guy and well spoken for his translating talents. I know he’s never completely safe in a war zone. I’m hearing a touch of commotion downstairs. Mary is crying; and Mom is frustrated regarding the plight of Rollie and Mary. A baby will be born in 3 months. Mom keeps reiterating that World War II is over; and why does Nationalist China need Rollie? There are others in our populated world that can translate French and English. This is the beginning of the strife that has built within Mary and Mom. I hear Mom reiterating her stance regarding marrying military guys. Many don’t return or are forever wounded emotionally and physically.

Mary is overheard by me saying that Mom is fortunate they are close-by in Aurora, Illinois. Rollie is very attached to his Canadian family (especially his brother). They had strongly considered moving to Canada near his family. However, Mom and Dad should feel happy they are only about 90 miles away from Mary and Rollie’s Illinois home. That may not last because General Electric moves people throughout the world if they show superb engineering skills. This frustrates Mom because Brother James (Jesuit) is nearby in Iowa. His mission is with elderly homes and the homeless. These people in our society have little; and James will conquer the world through God. He is easily the happiest person I know because he’s really found Jesus. Mary is another story with a strained marriage through Rollie’s plights with the wars. Mary didn’t want to divulge to Mom that they were an eyelash from moving to Canada. Mary prayed to stay near her family’s roots; and she won. Mom has virtually no right to complain about the family because we’re all alive after the war. Mary is winning with a great guy and a normal pregnancy thus far. James is holding up the family Jesuit legacy, and I’m struggling according to Mom (overheard) because of the zero guy situation.

It is normal for a Mom to ensure that her daughter is well taken care of through a man in life. Arranged marriages were proper 100 years ago. I’m certain my overbearing mother will approve my guy if he’s Catholic, great looking, quiet and going somewhere. I’m certain she has a list. I witnessed her evaluating my brother in law. It was similar to a criminal interrogation. That is just Mom looking out for her daughters. She wouldn’t want anyone in our family to get hurt if it could be prevented. I can discern Mom’s tenor downstairs; and it’s not for me to disrupt the activities. She is scolding Mary over peanuts. Mary is threatening to move back to Aurora, Illinois tonight. That wouldn’t surprise me. Mary has  been gone for four months; and the neighbors in Illinois are restless watching their house. The neighborhood is supposedly close with many young families. Perhaps, Mary should have just returned home for some time after Rollie left for Indochina. That’s water under the bridge. Mary must somehow move on with her life and not have to make decisions based on our parents wishes. I realize living here is easier said than done.

At present I’m almost heading downstairs. I overhear some more enlightening news regarding our family. Our family in Chicago with Jack (John) Zuercher has a brother named Larry. I’ve met him and he seems a pretty good guy. I remember him at the cabin. He drank plenty of beer for all of us. That is normal for a youth; however, Larry is now under alcohol treatment as an inpatient. This has thrown the entire Zuercher family into a tizzy. Mom is now against all alcohol. None of us has drank much our entire lives; but now Mom feels we’ve inherited a tendency to drink excessively. Thus, to Dad’s chagrin, the beer in the entire house is leaving. Dad is under reacting to Mom’s torture of no beer upon him. Dad enjoys an occasional Huber or Hamm’s beer. The Huber’s across the street have the oldest established brewery west of the Mississippi River and the second oldest in the United States. The Hubers along with Mom and Dad play bridge weekly. I’m certain while playing they drink a couple beers. Mom explains how close the Zuercher’s are within a family. It will remain that way despite my cousin Larry’s apparent alcoholism.

The crying persists and now Mary and Mom are arguing over everything from the wedding, who was or was not invited and other small stuff. Mary was friends with this girl but not that one. Mom is objecting to Mary’s entire life. Yet, Mary has achieved a solid marriage to a Catholic guy with a great career and future. Mary is now pregnant; and will deliver shortly. The baby will be named after James (Jesuit brother in training) if a boy. Mary is uncertain of the name if it is a girl (probably not Edith – Mom’s name). I feel Mom is getting a ton off her chest. The topic of me has not arrived as of yet. It’s only a matter of time before I’m the subject of the conversation. I plan on attending the bathroom and going downstairs for oatmeal. I flush the toilet and walk to the edge of the steps. Again, I overhear Mary and Mom discussing the new subject, me. I step back and listen to Mom explain to Mary that she wished I found the right guy, was settled in the area and would move on with her life. That’s reasonable. Mary suggests than Jean Suzanne, me, move out. Mom grumbles and says how would I ever keep a close eye on Jean. Jean tends to deviate from the norm. She could end up with a bad crowd, become an alcoholic or incur a lifelong disease.

That is enough. I’m close to breaking my mother’s brains. She has so disrespected myself as a young adult. I’m not worthy apparently of being my only self. I’m tired of dealing with parents who are babysitting me (or so it seems). I definitely need to move out over the next one month. I’ll find a place to move on the other side of town. I’ll purchase a used car and maybe have a roommate. That will upset my parents either way. They’ll be stressed and perhaps unhappy that I’m here; and unhappy or critical that I’m not within their immediate domain (family house). Everyone will just have to deal with me moving. It’s settled; I’m moving. The conversation moves on as Mary is supporting my cause. Mary is saying how respectful despite other RN job offerings that Jean has returned home. There are slim guy pickings in Monroe anyway for a young professional. After a war, there are essentially no normal guys left without stress trauma syndrome, serious injuries or acquired bad habits. Mary feels I need to move to Chicago. There are Zuercher family members nearby; and with Bess in obstetrics, I’d have a job within a week. The move must be a complete separation from my parents. Chicago, Illinois is a different nursing board, but well worth the trouble.

The Denver, Colorado move appeared in the Mom/Mary tussle. Mom feels that Denver is a dream for me. It’s far too much of a big jump. I’d love to have Mom in my shoes. Mom learned about Denver from a phone call from a dormie who is definitely moving to the Rockies.Thankfully, Mom has not found my diary. I’ve stored it within my purse in a secret side pocket. It would be very difficult to attempt to find my diary with my large Lizard Purse. I know Mom would find my diary if I left it within my room. If the diary was stored in the walls of my bedroom, Mom would somehow discover my memoirs. Mom is very sneaky; and will surprise herself regarding secret information coming her way. Mom always remarks that she isn’t interested in Monroe, Wisconsin gossip. Mom, however, thrives on information permeating the community. I’ve come home and had the entire neighborhood in the kitchen discussing matters that appear trivial. Everyone knows everything about all the citizens of our town. You cannot avoid everyone knowing everything because news travels much faster than the speed of light. Mom loves to discuss community matters and politics.

I finally arrange my day and totally get ready for work with a shower, makeup, hair wash and new nursing uniform and cap. I love the whiteness of being a nurse. It allows our medical specialty to astutely stand out amongst everything else in the hospital. Everyone else is in scrubs or colored uniforms. The positive white in our RN uniforms signifies purity, virginity, innocence, light, goodness, heaven, safety, brilliance, illumination, understanding, cleanliness, faith, beginnings, sterility, spirituality, possibility, humility, sincerity, protection, softness, and perfection. This is our Monroe, Wisconsin nursing corps at their very best. Nurses are highly respected, needed and provide a framework for patient care. It’s not all physicians. Nurses mend and nurture the patient back to good health. I think of these lofty ideals when dressing and attempting to appear clean when I enter the hospital. At the end of the day my nursing uniform is beset with amniotic fluid, blood and human secretions. I can daily anticipate a dirty uniform. A new RN uniform with brilliant white starched and ironed seams is required for me in the morning. I’m ready to go.

I come downstairs and act innocent. I walk over to the oatmeal and notice that it is cold. I warm it up while Mom and Mary stare at me. They ask if I overheard any of the conversation. Both Mom and Mary are crying intermittently. This was a potent argument. I mentioned that we should change the subject. The oatmeal is warm; and I place brown sugar on top with a small amount of whole milk. I grab a piece of Zuercher cheese and I’m quite satisfied. Mom mentions she wants to talk about things after work today. I said to proceed now. I have a few minutes prior to work. Mom remarks that our conversation is discussing my role in Monroe, Wisconsin. Our discourse is a lengthy analysis. I then stupidly say something like if you want me to leave the house I will immediately. Mom and Mary begin crying incessantly. Feelings and emotions are on a high wire waiting to fall to the ground. I said my job has been tremendous with immense experience. The hospital is superb with many good caregivers and providers (physicians). I’m just a touch lonely without a consistent boyfriend; but that will come with time. I’m in no hurry to attach to the wrong guy. Mary and Mom chime in that I’m not revealing socially myself to the community. They contend I’m far too tied to work, the obstetric ward and the work force under my belt. I need to faithfully and consistently obtain a social life. I’m desperately trying to be more sociable; however, it is tough when you are a professional and many of the guys in our rural county are uneducated.

I don’t mean to be demeaning or rude toward the local guys. The fact is that like educated adults generally tend to get along in a relationship. If a girl is educated, then the guy should also be educated. It stands to modern reason and thinking that most college educated adults should marry a like educated adult. I’ve seen far too much marital strain in relationships which have economic and educational disparity. The gal’s place is still within the home. Post World War II, however, the norms are changing. The large women work force during the war changed many attitudes regarding women. We are not just the silent majority. Mom and Mary beg to differ. They both feel my attitude has changed since I’ve attended and graduated from a reputable college. Living in a large city (Milwaukee), also changed my attitudes regarding many aspect of life with respect to the role of a woman in modern society. There is no turning back; and we are at a crossroads with women and their place in society.

I envision myself as a modern woman of the late 1940s. We have respect for men; yet, we are supposedly entering a phase of more autonomy for women. Mom and Mary argue that men pick up on that fact; and are scared or intimidated of me as a woman. I say this is a bum-rap upon me. Excuse me, however, my sister and Mom are busting my chops. I’ve done nothing wrong except work hard from the moment I returned home. Maybe I’m not the best with guys; however, I’m not interested in a life of misery by marrying the wrong guy. Bernie Sattler may have been the correct guy; but he’s gone to heaven. I’ll work it out; and, if I need to move to Chicago, Rockford, Dubuque or Denver, I’ll somehow have the strength to move forward. There just are not many guys in our community after the war. And now we have more wars. Wars upon wars. When will it ever end? If I move out of the home, it will be a place where family secrets won’t be disclosed or known.

By now, Mary and Mom are crying heavily. They feel I’ve failed at life substantially. I don’t feel I’ve failed at anything. I’d rather be a Dot Asper (old maid) than a close friend who has a husband with war stress trauma and alcoholism (Shirley and Halet Tompkins). I want the very best; and I’ll somehow find it amidst my obstetric RN practice and the little social life we have in Monroe, Wisconsin. I need space; and in our family home, I essentially have minimal wiggle room. I’d be more worried about Jean Suzanne Zuercher if I was an incompetent nurse. I have immense responsibilities; and I’ve learned that concentrating less at work leads to disaster. There are so many clinical judgement close calls that perhaps I shouldn’t marry. I need to know when to deliver a baby, the time to call an obstetrician and proper use of medications for the exact clinical indication. This doesn’t happen easily when I’m “in the moment.”. I want to succeed with my job and be respected. Within in the near future I’ll be having children, hanging wet wash on a clothesline and potentially having a coffee clutch in my very own kitchen.

I leave to work in our Oldsmobile. Dad is walking downtown to work today. The bank is performing tremendously with Dad as president. The entire United States economy is growing daily. Optimism abounds within America. It is a great time to be an American. I still have deep concerns over Korea and unsettled Europe. Russia is at our doorstep and we’ve begun a “Cold War” of sorts. This is probably as serious as World War II. The appetite for war in the United States is quite weak. We have so many casualties, general infantry that never came home (imprisoned, killed or lost), and endless physical and mental issues of survivors. Every soldier if closely questioned appears to have something not quite right with their body or mind. I see endless amounts of these GIs enter the ER with vague complaints that the physicians cannot decipher. It is clearly war shock trauma syndrome which waxes and wanes. It never completely goes away. It is now becoming more mainstream to at least talk about the mental injury from war. There is no cure; however, discussing the issues with a counselor appears to be clinically helpful.

Sometimes I wish I was a psychiatric nurse. The new treatments on the horizon for depression are exciting. We’ve used amphetamines, chloral hydrate, opioids and barbiturates with limited success. Medicine has also dealt with addiction issues with many of these drugs. The nursing journals discuss the monoamine oxidase inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants medications on the frontier. Many depressed and bipolar patients will be helped (including our shock trauma patients). I feel sad for many of these patients. I want to help; but our limited resources with one overwhelmed psychiatrist in the county is sad. Counselors can only provide so much treatment. Psychoanalysis requires an MD and in depth training. ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) is considered beneficial for many; but has attendant risks of anesthesia and worsening of symptoms. We are on the horizon of potentially helping millions of patients through modern chemistry advancements. The present has myself a successful head obstetric nurse with many patients who are generally doing well. I counsel many that have emotional issues (such as single parents). We have limited resources in a rural county; however, the medical care that is delivered is excellent. I’m excited to play a major role in the Green County, Wisconsin health care system.

I’m involved in some complicated deliveries today. One breech baby had quite a time being delivered. The obstetrician mentioned that in a few years all breech babies will receive a Caesarean Section (surgical delivery). That seems extreme; however, I’ve witnessed more than a few difficult deliveries with breech presentations. I’ve seen neck strains, nerve injuries to extremities and an assortment of blue babies upon delivery requiring resuscitation. Thus, I understand the reasoning behind a surgical, safer delivery. It is a big shock to most women if they are required to undergo surgery. This is a safe alternative to a distressed baby who may die or be injured. I’m dealing with these issues daily. As a nurse who can deliver children, I commonly myself have difficult deliveries. I always seem to escape near disaster; but it concerns me and I cannot sleep some evenings because of the stress when the obstetrician is not within the delivery room. I love my job; but realize there are inherent risks with labor and delivery. We perform the best clinical job under the circumstances. I love being in the middle of clinical medicine when major decisions and treatments are administered.

I receive a phone call in the middle of the day from my sister Mary. Apparently, after I traveled to work, Mary and Mom had a further battle. Mary doesn’t like Mom brooding over her affairs. It is far too stressful for Mary. This situation is far worse than I perceived. It is a family secret that Rollie and Mary’s marriage was not actually adorned by Mom and Dad. There were major concerns of never seeing Mary again, Rollie’s Canadian citizenship and the apparent “letting go” of Mary into the adult world. Mom had control over all issues while in college over Mary, James and Jean Suzanne Zuercher (me). I was having so much fun while in college meeting new dormies, friends and instructors. I didn’t care that Mom had control over our lives. Mom was 100 miles away. If she knew that Mary and I snuck out of the Marquette dorm in the evening, she would have intervened. Nothing major happened with the late evening excursions. Mom never discovered the rendezvous evening breaks away from the dorm to meet with boyfriends. If she knew, Mom would have intervened. Mary somehow snuck out of our house in high school. I did sneak out of our house in Monroe, Wisconsin a couple times; but was reluctant to risk my neck with Mom’s light sleep.

Mary was quite upset on the phone and I mentioned that we should talk tonight. We both have concerns regarding Mom. I would only imagine that most gals have a brooding Mom; but that may only indicate that she actually cares immensely. Mom doesn’t take anything for granted. She wants the best for her family; and if she can stop bad things, she’ll intercept. I finished my shift and didn’t have to stay late. On the way home to our house, I’m greeted by the first winter storm in November. It is a snowstorm with high winds. This isn’t good weather for Mary to leave tonight. We will need to talk well into the evening. I hope she is amenable to the very thought of a lengthy discussion tonight. I plan on recommending until her husband returns from Indochina, that she should “gut it out” at our home. She has no person in her home in Aurora, Illinois. Her Wisconsin home would be a safer place to continue her pregnancy. I don’t know if this will work; but it is worth a try.

I finally arrive home and Mary and Mom have come together. I don’t need to have a sister to sister talk. Mary will stay until her husband returns from the Far East. The favorite roast beef meal is in the stove. It will be a good night when Dad returns from an early meeting. Dad arrives and we enter the dining room to say prayers. The food is astounding. The terrific tasting meal will always be a true favorite of our family. Mom is such a great chef. Everything Mom cooks is superb. I missed her cooking while in college. I know I’ll never match the food preparation that Mom completed daily. It appears that Rollie will be home in a couple weeks. It takes time for Rollie to be briefed by the state department of the United States. He’ll receive another physical (routine). I hope to be able to greet him and provide him with a greeting kiss. He’s been gone for months. It seems Mary became pregnant, and then he left for another war.

I’m very tired this evening and retire early. I receive a wake up call from a guy I met after a delivery. He asked me to attend the Goetz theater movies this weekend. I accepted despite not knowing anything about him. I inform Mom; and now I know she’ll perform the background check automatically. This is reassuring to myself; because having a Mom that checks out guys is tremendous. I wish I could never require this scrutiny of men; but Mom warns me that gals are blindsided by guys constantly. Once a marriage occurs, it is far too late to bail. I guess I’ll live with Mom and her ways. I still need to move out somewhere so I can be a young single adult woman.

We received a call from my brother James. He will be shortly receiving his final vows as to becoming a Jesuit brother. This is not a half-baked priest duty. It is a continuing devotion to God through merciful acts. It appears he’ll be assigned permanently to adult disabled homes in Iowa. He loves what he is doing. James has two sets of clothes, 2 pairs of shoes, a winter coat and essentially nothing else of value. He’s the true Jesuit; and warms everyone in his presence. Fortunately, he has a knack for getting along and befriending everyone. People that don’t believe or have faith in a supreme being are changed after they meet James. His love of life and exuberance in everything he does are heartfelt. He assists people in need by bathing, clothing, and obtaining essentials (toothpaste)/medical care/family relationships). Many of his clients will never have cognition to know he’s helping him. James exemplifies what a Jesuit is more than anyone I’ve known. He wants to come home for a few days prior to permanently staying in Iowa. He’ll recite his vows in St. Victor’s Catholic Church in Monroe, Wisconsin. Many church members within the community ask repeatedly about him, his whereabouts and Jesuit progress. Many in training Jesuits leave the church prior to their vows because of celibacy, faith and vows of poverty issues.

James Zuercher, however, thrives on the life of a Jesuit. He’s in mass daily, ensures that his duties are completed 100% and carries the life of Christ with him in everything he does. James isn’t a quitter; and goes to bat for sinners amongst his clients. He brings communion to outreach areas and supports the church in all its activities. The world is a much better place with James than without him. Unfortunately, he’s such a good person that he left behind a great girlfriend at Marquette University. He was so overtaken by the Jesuit brotherhood that it was considerable effort to leave a great girlfriend behind. She apparently understood, but left a good man who placed religion above all else. I was not aware of many of the details of which I’m finding out. These family secrets were kept from me; and now that the vows are upcoming, the yet married girlfriend is losing a good man. Many Jesuits in training become great husbands if they leave the ministry because they are the very best people in the world. Jesuits in training have feelings, morals and are not materialistic. These are great traits for a married guy. If the celibacy issues become forefront, they generally upon leaving become the greatest marital partners in all ways.

I don’t know the status of James’s girlfriend; though apparently she’s out there. I’ve heard Chicago; and you just never know. The girlfriend may show prior to the permanent Jesuit vows. The former girlfriend may show to provide support for James. I’ve heard stories from our Jesuit family that last minute romances and breaks from the Jesuit brotherhood can occur. The Jesuits in training such as James are constantly briefed on the pleasures of non Jesuit or secular life. The temptations are real; and are overcome by most. A few Jesuits in training slip through the cracks and fold prior to the final vows. I don’t envision this as a probability; but it is a possibility. My parents are mum on this issue. We are planning a celebration at home and at the church after the vows occur through a Sunday High Mass. I’ll be playing the organ and also singing. This will be a lengthy Sunday. Our Jesuit relatives from afar will be joining us. Jack from Jesuit training in Chicago, Illinois, the South Dakota Indian Reservation Jesuits (Joseph and Albert), and many colleagues throughout the Wisconsin province of Jesuits will be at the church and actually within our house. Mom is a touch concerned that everything with food and spirits is proper. The Hubers across the street will provide the very best fresh beer and also be within the celebrating crowd. Many in Monroe who didn’t belong to the Catholic Church will be in attendance. Additionally through the connections of Albert and Joseph, many Creighton University Jesuits will be in attendance. James wanted to work in a Catholic University; and I suspect he may serve at Creighton or St. Louis University. Finally, because of the connections with the Zuercher family, the Lakota and Sioux tribes in the Rosebud Reservation (St. Francis Mission) will send representatives to Monroe, Wisconsin for the celebration. The ties between the Indian culture and Jesuits are quite strong. The Zuercher family has been integral to the establishment of religion on the South Dakota Reservation.

There is considerable phone chatter and letter writing amongst the family with James upcoming celebration. I’m certain he’ll take it in stride and be the perfect Jesuit. The only issue is the Zuercher cheese family from Chicago (Charles). I’m certain they will all be here for the celebration. The only issue is young Larry, Jack and Eleanor’s brother. This is a wonderful family; however, Larry’s drinking habit is out of control. Mom is concerned that should he come, there could be immense trouble. He’s been at our cabin a couple times and has been drunk beyond repair. Mom doesn’t want a scene; and has considered no alcohol at the church or at the house. Dad grumbles because he enjoys a local Huber beer periodically; as do the Jesuits. Mom doesn’t know how to not invite Larry. Maybe, she’ll send a note to the family and instruct not to come if Larry attends. Mom can be forceful regarding certain situations; and as here, it will be necessary to avoid family tussles but ensure the orderly celebration of James’s vows. I don’t have the answer; but, my mother probably has the issue resolved by now.

Everyone from Chicago loves to come to the great Northwoods of Wisconsin. Mom has considered having the celebration at the cottage. Guests love coming to Decatur Lake in the fall. The leaves are turning, the water is crisp and the fishing is fabulous. Jesuits love to fish; and within the confines of the Jesuit ministry are many great fishermen. Dad says perhaps a small next day celebration at the cottage would be in order. Mom envisions Larry Zuercher getting drunk at the lake. This would destroy the celebration; and James’s Jesuit vows would be about Larry’s drinking instead of the Christ celebration. I feel that my role will be a supporting sister, organist and a send off family member. We’ll still see James on a periodic basis; but much of the time he’ll spend will be on his mission. He’ll have no money to return home; so we’ll need to retrieve him from the ministry every few months. I know I’ll cry when my brother enters such a lifelong pursuit of his dreams. It seems most adults never acquire the ability to do exactly what they want in life. The jobs they assume are difficult and dreary for most. In our industrialized world, many place the same lugnut on a car 16 hours/day. They never pursue a goal of teaching, accounting, business, banking, private small business, engineering or a medical career, etc.. Most adults accept what is convenient for what they can accomplish with the economic reality of having to make a living. James achieved with no income the perfect life for himself as a Jesuit brother. I couldn’t be happier for my brother James.

I’m out jogging at daybreak and run into Dot Asper (also jogging). She has a worried look on her face. I have a hard time coercing her to tell me what is wrong. She finally breaks down and says that her Mother is ill and they took her to the hospital last evening. She is suffering from metastatic breast cancer. She most likely will die at a young age since there is no real successful treatment. Her Mom has been to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. They have treated her with experimental IV drugs and radiation therapy; as well as surgery. The cancer was far advanced by the time the physicians performed a double mastectomy. Dot has dropped a college degree career because of family obligations. She’s been with her Mom daily. And now, it appears the end is near. After receiving some home visits by the general practitioner, Dot could no longer handle the situation at home. Her brother has a war injury; and the all day and night care for her Mom was overwhelming. Thus, Dot’s mom needed an RN to assist with her care. We don’t know how long she’ll live; but Dot sounded as if the end of her Mom’s life was near. We both hug one another and carry on with our jogs. Life can be brutal.

I jog past the St. Victor school near the church and notice the pastor out walking early also. He asks if I’m preparing for my brother’s Jesuit vows. I said it is full steam ahead at our house. The pastor/priest looks at me with inquisitive eyes and inquires as to the overall health of our family. I said I didn’t understand the context of his question. He then mentioned that he was concerned over one of our confessionals; and wanted to ensure that everything was in order at home. He was bound by priest secrecy to maintain privacy from confessions. Parish members spill their beans in a small cubicle with a priest listening on the opposing curtain. Neither party sees one another. Once you instruct the priest of your sins, you are absolved through prayer (Hail Mary’s Our Father’s and Rosaries). I felt the half truth he was exposing regarding our family was more deleterious than helpful. Why did the priest say anything? Who is having issues? Why would they bring in family stuff into a confessional? I generally don’t bring in deep issues because I’m concerned the priest will look at me in a different manner henceforth. Technically, they don’t know who you are; however Monroe, Wisconsin is a small town. Voices are supposed to be whispered in the confessionals. That doesn’t take away the cover. The community priest knows all. I’m certain this deep confessional session was with Mom. Catholic Doctrine is one confessional session per week. Mom was at the church a couple days prior; and now I’ve calculated it had to be her confessing deep family stuff.

The confessions are designed to remove sin. The venial sins are light with easy punishment. The deeper/heavier sins are mortal. The black stains on your soul are not easily scrubbed away. My mother must have said a bunch of stuff in that confessional about Mary, James and myself. She may have incurred difficult thoughts. Since you are to tell all to scrub the black paint off your soul, Mom probably told every family secret to our local priest, Father McCollow. He shouldn’t discuss family secrets; but apparently it is cordial to intervene if he feels there is family crisis. I can only guess at what my Mom said in that little box this week. She probably incurred bad thoughts; and we are instructed that these are also sins. It does seem weird, however, that bad thoughts which we don’t have control within the mind are sins. If a cute guy walks by myself and I incur lust, that is a sin according to Catholic Doctrine. Scrubbing my soul through the confessional erases forever the harmful thought. Wow, once I readily think about these facts as adults, I’m bewildered. I’ve concluded that Mom has bad thoughts about some or all of our family. She exposed the inner secrets of our family; and now has the local priest concerned about the Zuercher family stability. I’ve never been away from Catholic Doctrine since birth; and carried this Baltimore Catechism philosophy through the end of my education. I’m now as a young adult walking into the local confessional and spilling my beans on every harmful thought and deed to a local priest. There is nothing that is sacred. Our family secrets are 100% exposed.

I eventually arrive home and the hospital is calling wanting me to come in early. There are many women in labor, a couple Caesarean Sections planned today and some nurses are ill with influenza. I readily dress and finish a couple excerpts within my diary. My hiding place of my book within the large alligator purse is secure. Nobody will ever find this book; and if they did while I was awake, I’d die. It isn’t easy to write a diary in your own home; but it allows one to be careful regarding what is placed within the diary book and what is not. It’s not a diary if I don’t write my inner thoughts. Some of these thoughts per my Catholic upbringing are sins. This is shameful. Maybe, in time, these thought sins will leave the church. At present I’m probably sinning by hiding these bad thoughts from Father McCollow. I’m Jean Suzanne Zuercher. I’m a good person and if a bad thought enters my mind, I have no control. I’m not getting how this can be a sin (venial). I should not have to tell the local priest inner bad thoughts (like my Mom). I’m protesting from within. If I revealed myself to the diocese to protest family secrets and bad thoughts to be withheld within confessionals, my parents would disown myself. There is apparently no answer for these difficult questions. Modern times are changing many things; and our weekly confessionals are far too embarrassing. Walking into this cubicle with dark curtains and secrecy with someone you know and they “probably” know from the other side is too much for me. I’m revolting and no longer entering the confessional because at the last encounter I was directly asked if I have bad thoughts. I said yes; and then the priest (Father McCollum) asked if I would disclose all these bad thought sins.

The only answer to remain within Catholic Doctrine and not mount more sins into my chest (it’s already Blackened because of bad thoughts) is to I go elsewhere in Green County, Wisconsin for confession. There is a Catholic Church in Brodhead, Monticello, New Glarus, Albany, Juda, Brooklyn and Belleville – all within the county. I don’t want to stay and place my sins within the confines of St. Victor’s Parish in my hometown, Monroe, Wisconsin. If I just inform Mom and Dad that it is easier for me to obtain my confessions in another county Catholic Church where the priest doesn’t know me, they’ll have to understand. Why can’t we confess our sins when we are in prayer. I don’t like spilling the beans to a mortal priest. We need to change this church doctrinal law. I’m thinking of no bad thoughts forever; and maybe I’ll have a clean confessional. That’s the ultimate answer is zero bad thoughts. I’m off to work with an answer to the dreaded weekly confessional obligation.