Karen Yvonne Persico

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My wife is an average looking elderly woman.  If you saw her walking down the street you would not think that there was anything special about her.  But to me, Karen is the most special person in the world.  Perhaps, special most to me but special even without me.  Let me tell you why.  However, a little history and  background might help.

Karen was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 5th, 1944, to Myrtle and Raymond Blomgren.  She was an only child.  Her dad wanted five children and her mother wanted zero.  They compromised with Karen.  From the start, she was the most special person in her dad’s eyes since he knew he would not have any more children.

karen at sculpture parkKaren grew up with two sets of grandparents.  On one side the Misselts were Norwegian and on her dad’s side the grandparents were Swedish.  Karen was baptized at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Frederic, Wisconsin where we now reside.  Karen went to public schools and was an average student.  She dreamed of becoming a nurse.  However, her guidance counselor had different ideas.  She advised Karen that she would never make it as a nurse because her math scores were too low.  Karen showed what I have since realized was a streak of determination or stubbornness (if you will) to get what she wants.  She ignored the counselor’s advice, went to nursing school at the University of Minnesota and a few years ago retired with fifty plus years of nursing experience.

20211002_163733Karen and I were married in 1989 but started dating in 1983.  Both of us were coming off of recent divorces.  We were on again and off again as I did not want to make any commitment.  After six years of dating, Karen finally said that she was tired of this off again and on-again business and either it was permanently on or permanently off.  I yielded to her logic, and we were married by my good friend Bill Cox at a Methodist Church in Taylor Falls, Minnesota.  The marriage of a good Lutheran and a quixotic Atheist.

IMG_4025 (2)From the start, we had a rather rocky relationship.  I was often temperamental.  Easy to anger and resort to verbal and emotional abuse.  I lost count of how many times I said that I was going to leave, and that divorce was the only answer.  Karen would ask me not to yell at her and I would say I was not yelling.  It seemed to me that any slight rise in my tone of voice was yelling to Karen.  Our discussions often made matters worse.  However, Karen never gave up on our relationship.  We went to counselling together to save it.  We have been to three Marriage Encounter weekends to improve various aspects of our lives.  Sometimes the improvements are more obvious than other times.  I still tend to be the pessimist and see the half-empty glass and Karen is the optimist who keeps assuring me that the glass is half-full and getting fuller.

You may have guessed by now why Karen is special to me.  People are always coming up to us and asking her how she manages to put up with me.  I am not an easy person to get along with.  Some might accuse her of enabling me, but Karen is not passive and is very proactive in standing her ground and expecting me to apologize or make things right when I am wrong.  But there is a great deal more to Karen than just putting up with me.

Karen and three childrenKaren was a single mom who raised four children after her first husband left.  She tried to be mom and dad to these kids.  She cooked, cleaned, sewed, and went to work each day and came home at night to help them with their homework or whatever they needed.  She took them on camping trips and vacations.  By the time we were married, three of her children had left the nest and we had one child left to raise.  Karen’s relationship with her children was never smooth.  Some of the kids seemed to blame her for their dad leaving.  I was the evil stepparent and I never fit in.  Her youngest daughter after many years of Karen and I together once asked me when their real father was coming back.

karen at concert

I saw Karen’s children as selfish and narcissistic.  Over the years together, I tried to stay out of the way of Karen’s relationship with her children.  Occasionally I would suggest some efforts to improve these relationships.  I often thought it was a waste of time, but Karen never gave up.  Karen continued to reach out to each of her children particularly when she thought they were in need.  She has treated her adopted daughter Susan with the same compassion as her biological children.

A few years ago, when we did a will together, she opted to divide any of our assets evenly between all four of her children.  I suggested that she pro-rate the assets based on how they have treated her over the years.  It was not always good.  She paid no attention to my suggestion as she said she loved them all equally.

Karen and Susan 3Peg, Karen and JeanineKaren is one of the most caring, honest, ethical, and thoughtful persons in the world.  She is patient, kind and compassionate with everyone that she deals with.  Not just me, and not just people she knows or people in our “tribe.”  Karen is always willing to go out of her way to help others in need. Karen has a wonderful talent for crafts and music and uses these to give back to the world.

20220317_152722Karen wanted to study music when she was younger.  Her parents had a piano in their house and Karen learned to play it.  However, she realized that she did not have the talent to be a professional musician and so she took it up as a hobby.  She started singing in a church choir when she was eight years old and still sings in a choir.  A piano is a rather cumbersome instrument to carry around, so Karen discovered the Mountain Dulcimer about fifteen years ago and learned to play it.  She takes it with us when we travel, and she plays with a group in Arizona called the Tucson Dulcimer Ensemble.  They practice weekly and play at nursing homes, churches, and special events.  About five years ago, she purchased a Ukulele and started learning to play it.  She now plays with a group in Centuria, Wisconsin and they also do free gigs for nursing homes, county fairs and churches.

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Karen is very active at her church in Casa Grande, Arizona with the choir and other events and is also very active with her church in Frederic.  It is the same church that she was baptized at.  Karen helps make beautiful quilts and shawls which are donated to various groups and individuals.  She pays for most of the materials herself.  You can see the glow on her face when she finishes a piece and is able to donate it to the church.  Helping others this way is a labor of love for Karen.

As you have probably realized by now, particularly if you have read some of my blogs, I have a tendency for vindictiveness.  I don’t like 20211010_190249fools, greedy people, and bullies.  I find it hard to turn the other cheek.  I lack compassion, kindness and patience for racists, white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and many other groups.  Through it all, Karen stands by me.  I complain that she is too nice.  Minnesota Nice bothers me because I see it as wimpy and avoidance behavior.  Karen says it is caring and compassion.  I wonder what Jesus would say.  Regardless, I know I live a better happier life because I have one very special person that I admire, and love more than I can ever say.  She may look like an average old lady, but she is not average to me.  No average person could live with me for more than a week.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cherune Clewley
    Jul 24, 2022 @ 17:10:20

    You, sir, are most fortunate to have found an earth-bound angel. She has halo and wings and you are so lucky that she has never flown away. My admiration goes out to her. To you though, you have recognized your good fortune, you have placed it formally in writing, so you have told the world that you understand, love, and cherish your partner who is your own personal angel. Many humans are less fortunate than you. Some have found and lost their angels. While other have never found them at all. Each day you have is a gift, it is so wonderful to see that you are fully aware of that. But truth be told, in reading your blogs over time I have not noticed those traits you designated. Perhaps, that is why I enjoy your blogs. 🙂

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    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Jul 25, 2022 @ 06:57:01

      Thank you Cherune. You have a beautiful way of putting it. I think sometimes all we see are shadows of other people. I have tried to be honest. John

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  2. Wayne Woodman
    Jul 24, 2022 @ 17:13:22

    Wow, hope you got this approved by Karen first! Seriously though this is a very good piece about an amazing woman that you were lucky to find, try being nice just because. Cheers.

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    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Jul 25, 2022 @ 07:01:23

      Wayne, Actually, I did not check with Karen. I wanted to be able to say what I felt and thought as honestly as I could. Someone said when you write a memoir you should or must be honest even if not truthful. Karen may see things very differently than I do and have. When it comes to her children, we often see just the opposite. She is amazing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. John

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  3. Gretchen Misselt
    Jul 24, 2022 @ 17:39:05

    Karen is a lovely, gentle and very strong woman. You wrote a beautiful description and I applaud your honesty.

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  4. Jane Fritz
    Jul 24, 2022 @ 22:07:20

    What a lovely tribute, John. There is no better gift than loving and being loved in return. Through all the ups and downs, twists and turns.

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  5. allyswan
    Jul 24, 2022 @ 22:46:10

    This is very nice, John. You’ve always said her steadfast kindness is a powerful thing.

    I married a dukes up, middle brother guy back when we were both kids. He had to learn too that in fight or flight? Fighting isn’t always worth it, and while flight may work in a lot of situations, in serious commitments, threatening flight is unfair and just another form of fighting—intimidating the other with the threat of abandonment, the magnitude of dismantling a life just because you’re mad? Puh-leeze. Just stop. We can talk later. Everything we say is making this worse.

    But in mundane anger provoking situations? It’s fine to just take your ball and leave. No need to engage with people like this.

    Anger is complicated, and you touched on all of that. Plus young adults are incredibly unappreciative. So bad, and how infuriating/ enraging for you, seeing her hurt. Nothing counts until 25. For some not until the 30s.

    Thank you for this lovely writing. Karen is a wonder and I am glad you wrote this down.

    It reminded me of an old Rod Stewart song, You’re In My Heart, from 1978. After rhapsodizing on the attributes of his loved one he pauses and says, “But, honey, wat do you see in me?” It’s very sweet.

    Good night, Johann. All the best, Val

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    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Jul 25, 2022 @ 07:07:30

      Thanks Val, Your metaphor of fight or flight is very appropriate. It helps to look at things that way. One of the things I learned in one of my support groups was the value of taking a time out. We used to do that before we had our family meetings or sometimes in the middle of a meeting it became necessary for me to leave for awhile. I did not always “fight” fair. I made many apologies and promises only to find myself doing the same dirty fighting again. I think I slip less now or at least I hope so. I remember the Rod Steward song very well. I appreciate your thoughts very much. John

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  6. Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.
    Jul 27, 2022 @ 11:40:39

    What a beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman. She sounds like someone I would like to know, although I don’t think I could keep up with her. I think she will cherish this piece forever. Thank you for sharing her with us.

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