Tag Archives: history

“Lifting A Glass Today”

We, all, have those days that we mark on our calendars to reflect on something or someone. Whether we do so to honor or simply remember is usually up to each individual to decide upon. As a Nation, even Congress, for their lacking in getting most of what really needs to get done accomplished… they do manage to get a lot of endless resolutions passed like “National Take Your French Poodle To Lunch Day” (Ok, probably not a real resolution but I’ve seen the lists and this one is close.)

Today is a day that has always been a special one in my life and I wanted to share it with you. First by telling you a few interesting things that happened in 1930…

# The first literary character licensing agreement is signed by A.A. Milne, granting Stephen Slesinger U.S. and Canadian merchandising rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh works. ( over 80 years later he’s still a “Tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.” )

# The first frozen foods of Clarence Birdseye go on sale in Springfield, Massachusetts. ( A good raw steak was replaced by a frozen bag of peas for a black eye)

# Mahatma Gandi set off on his 200 mile protest “Salt March” to the sea.(Truth be known he did a lot more than march in 1930)

# Hostess Twinkies are invented. ( But it will take many years before the pot smoking craze in the 60’s will place them on the lists of harmful addictions)

#The first Soccer World Cup starts. ( Willing to bet that the spectators weren’t as over-zealous back than as they are now)

#Warner Bros. release their first cartoon series called ‘Looney Tunes’ ( They would survive into this century and than fall under the Right’s censorship eye.)

#The first night game in organized baseball history takes place in Independence, Kansas. (Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, carried portable lights around on their team bus.)

#The dedication of George Washington’s head is held at Mount Rushmore. ( The dedication of former President G.W. Bush’s head done in butter will have to wait due to global warming.)

#The radio drama ‘The Shadow’ airs for the first time. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” ( The nation could of used him in 2000)

#Judge Joseph Force Crater steps into a taxi in New York and disappears.( the taxi part turned out to be a myth probably brought on by disgruntled bus drivers or subway conductors trying to stifle the taxi industry)

#Betty Boop premiers in the animated film “Dizzy Dishes”. ( Today, I fear she would be banned by the social right as sexist)

#Cecil George Paine, a pathologist in England, achieves the first recorded cure using penicillin. ( Who would of thought how important moldy bread would become.)

#U.S. President Herbert Hoover goes before Congress and asks for a US $150 million public works program to help generate jobs and stimulate the economy. ( There are those who think only President Obama has asked Congress for job money)

#W9XAP in Chicago, Illinois, broadcasts the U.S. senatorial election returns, which is the first time a senatorial race, with non-stop vote tallies, is ever televised. ( And look at what it started)

#The chocolate chip cookie is invented by Ruth Wakefield. (Waistlines were never the same.)

Another less documented but in my eyes equally important event on a day in 1930, a child was born…a male child to a house painter and a church school teacher in Chicago,Illinios.

Right from the start he stood out with a head full of curly almost white hair which would bring him a fifteen minutes of fame moment early in his life. In the first week  of  April, 1932…this 18 month old boy and his mother were taken from a park and detained by the Chicago police for hours until the boy’s father could be found and produce proof of the child’s identity.

The month before in New Jersey, 20-month old Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., was abducted by an intruder from his crib and this child in Chicago very closely resembled the picture on the poster the officers kept waving in the poor woman’s face.

The woman….my grandmother.The young boy…my father. The story of that day would always eventually be told at every family reunion I attended but it was only at the top of a very long list as my father’s life was a fascinating mixture of this country’s history as well as the ups and downs of everyday life.

In a lot of ways he was a rebel…in as much transition as the nation surrounding him. Restless and wanting, he left school and home at 14. Hitch hiking and rail riding all over the states. He would later describe it to us as his “endless class trip”.

He enlisted in the Army (took him three tries as he was underage at the time). He began to grow there…getting his much needed schooling and rising in the ranks to drill sargent.

While on leave from Fort Benning,Georgia, He travelled to Atlantic City,NJ where he and a friend were almost run over by a 1951 chevy fleetline. He fell to the ground … pretended to be hurt when they noticed that the car was being driven by a young girl and her friend.

The courtship was whirlwind to say the least and juicy material for another sharing. For now I will tease you with the fact that they only knew each other for three weeks before they were married.

The Korean war was in full throttle as he tried to do his best with his duties as a drill sargent but the responsibility of preparing young men for war is not an easy one and news of how many of his trainees were being wounded or killed overseas weighed heavy on him.

He tried to get deployed with one unit that he had become very attached to but a back injury could not be as  easily disguised as his early age was. Many years later I got to meet some of the men that my father had trained and they overwhelming said that it was the skills that he had taught them that pulled them through.

He was stationed in Panama for awhile but my mother wanted more than the Army was giving them and with many regrets he left the service.

Stock car racing…cross-country trucking…he came to settle on being an ace car mechanic, who could listen to an engine for less than a minute and tell you what was wrong with it. He would work many jobs at one time to keep his growing family taken care of.

Our home was an open door to any one who needed a place to go. My early memories start in Chicago. My father was a Scout leader. A member of more than one community help group.On occasion a police officer might drop by our house with a homeless or runaway teen who they didn’t want to take to jail but needed some guidence that they thought my father could provide and he usually did.

His life stories would be the foundation of his skills as a mentor and father. He was by many standards a quiet man. I was the most fortunate of all his children to be the closest to him.

Starting in grade school when I would be called to the office because my father was there to take me to a doctor’s appointment. There was no appointment. He would take me to the ball park for a Cubs game or other special places that would later shape me into the person I became. He had a great love of history and passing down family stories. I grew up watching him keep rooms full of people enthralled with his wisdom and charm.

He never called me his favorite instead telling me that he wanted some company and I was the only one that wouldn’t tell on him to mother.

My sons never got to meet their grandfather as my father died at the young age of 53. He had led an adventure filled life and I receive so much joy in making sure his grandsons know who he was. Sharing him here with you also give me pause to smile and reflect on how truly special this man was.

Today is his birthday and as it has been for the last 30 years since his passing…I keep a bottle of Crown Royal ( his favorite brand) on my desk. It is only opened once a year on this day…in honor and remembrance of a man who did so much for so many…

A man who taught me that life was seldom easy but always interesting…A man who taught me that giving a hand to help another was the greatest feeling on earth…I fear that it is also the most lost lesson in our nation right now.

But that too is for another time…for now, won’t you lift a glass ( with whatever beverage pleases you) and give a small wink skyward in celebration of a very special man…named Owen.   Happy Birthday, Dad.

“Time…Distance & Good-byes”

Please forgive me if this comes off as mindless ramble because at this moment I don’t feel as if I have any control over where my head is taking me right now…and yet here I sit in front of my keyboard …looking for answers and yet not even sure what the damn questions are…

Many, many moons ago….my family lived with my mother’s sister and her family…Both sisters were pregnant at the same time and in the icy month of December…I was born and a little over a week later my cousin, Kathy was born. We were together for awhile during those first years. Long enough to develop those character straits that off-set one another. She was tagged the difficult one…hard to handle…bad temper….while I got labeled the adventurous one…easy to deal with…always happy…Ha ! Comparing notes, years later, I had to come to the reality that I was an instigator and a con…getting my poor cousin into trouble and than being so much better at playing innocent.

When our families moved away from each other she and I seemed to be the only ones who kept in touch ….A half a country separated us but we always managed to stay a part of each others lives. We both had to deal with unspeakable horrors as children that we kept secret even from each other until we were well into our middle aged years but despite those buried memories we were as close in all other things as any two people could be. She was there for me when my Dad died…helped keep me sane through my very hard first year of my oldest son’s life. While my family couldn’t deal with my choosing to be a single mom….she was not only supportive but became Godmother to both my sons. We had started out together but took very different paths along the way but we still tried to help keep each other balanced.

I got a phone call over two months ago at 4 o‘clock in the morning, my cousin whose life has been so close entwined with mine was calling me from a hospital….she had been taken to the emergency room and was scared. She was diagnosed with Lupus several years ago and it seemed that every time it was thought to be under control something bad came up…now there was a problem with her throat and she could barely breathe. I had been talking to her regularly and knew that she had been battling colds for the last few weeks but had been going to a doctor for treatment. She had been estranged from her family for a long while and felt like I was the only family she had…there had been many times in the past when I had been the one making the call to her for the same reason. Though many miles were between us, I could feel her pain on the phone that morning …I calmed her as best I could ….took down the information she could give me and she promised to call when there was more to be known from the test they were running…

I felt like a robot going through the motions as I went about that long drawn out day…It was early evening when we connected again…It was hard for her to talk and I’m sure any one of you know how it feels to be on the end of a phone with a loved one who is in pain…..you want so much to be there to put your arms around them and hold them tight but you can’t….you can only listen….It was not good news….the doctor at the hospital had told her that they had found a lump in her throat and that there was a shadow on her lung x-rays that they needed further tests for. They were going to biopsy the lump and take more x-rays of her lungs. She was so very scared and I tried to get her to call her family that lived so much closer than I did but she wanted to wait until she got the results of the tests.

It took several days but we talked every day and the conversation got heated as I could hear her desire to fight whatever was attacking her body this time start to drift away. I found myself yelling into the phone…arguing with her that if the roles were reversed she would not let me give up so easily…she hadn’t even gotten the results yet and she was already talking about checking herself out of the hospital and going home to die…Here I was thousands of miles away …not being able to look into her eyes….not being able to take her hand in mine and assure her that she was not alone and that everything would be ok because an overwhelming panic was beginning to surge inside me…I was telling her hold on….begging her to be strong…but in my heart, I knew that this was not like the other times when she bounced right back.

I got home from work and waited for the boys to get home from school so we could make our call to her that day. Her voice was very horse and barely audible….she wanted me to have the boys leave the room…she wanted to talk to me and didn’t want to upset them but I have always been honest with them and neither were children anymore….they loved this woman as much as they loved me…they let her know it too as I left the speaker phone opened. They had found cancer not only in the lump in her throat but in her lungs as well…they told her it was stage 4 and that there wasn’t very much they could do for her…Again she talked of going home to die…the boys and I once more begged her to fight and accept the doctors plan of treatment. She was quieter through this conversation as it hurt to talk but she did listen and promised she would try.

 Over the course of just a few weeks, she got worse…the Lupus had accelerated everything…the pain was unbearable and our conversations were more and more one-sided…as it got even harder for her to talk. We kept encouraging her to not give up…telling her how much we loved her and how we were trying to make arrangements to come and see her in a few months. This excited her….she loved my boys so much and had not been able to see them in several years. She had difficulties in talking but I swear I could hear more hope in her voice. She finally got in touch with her family and they were now with her. I spoke with my Aunt as much as I could. As dark as it had gotten, in my heart I thought she could pull through.

Then one afternoon the phone rang, it was Kathy, I could barely make out her words but she wanted to tell me that she had tried and that she didn’t want me to be mad at her for not being able to fight it anymore. ME MAD ??? What had I done ??? She was in so much pain…The chemo….the radiation….nothing helped…it only got worse and here she was asking me not to be mad at her for stopping the treatments…What kind of selfish ass had I been ??? There were no words to describe how truly low I felt to be on a phone thousands of miles away from the reality of suffering she was enduring and listen to her ask me if it would be ok if she let go now. I got a chance to tell her how sorry I was for pushing so hard for her to stay with it…Her voice….her words….strangely easy to understand for me during this conversation…The boys were home….so it was just her and me…we talked for over an hour…They were going to move her to a hospice so I couldn’t call her back until they did…She would call me when she had a number. I told her how much I loved her…I reminded her how much her godsons loved her…Right before I hung up I started to cry…Kathy could tell…”I’m ready to go…I’m not afraid anymore…” She whispered to me. Still in denial, I fought back my tears long enough to tell her once more how much I loved her and that I would talk to her soon…. It was our last conversation….they moved her into the hospice but the pain had become so bad that they kept her sedated and within just three days her suffering was over…Her family was with her.

I still am having problems dealing with it. Having lost a father and a younger brother suddenly without warning, I had walked through my days… angry over not being given any time to tell them how much I loved them…not being able to tell them good-bye…With my sweet Kathy, I got to tell her how much she had truly meant to me and how my life would not of been complete with her…You know, it hurts just as much either way…

As I will always think of her…(Kathy’s favorite picture of us)

“It’s A Boy…x2”

I know that I have described my childhood home as a small place filled with a lot of people and love…so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I grew up wanting a houseful of my own. My early beginnings were mixed with the “Norman Rockwell” family that was open and warm to all who knew us and my own secret hell of hidden molestation that went unknown to my family for over twenty years. I know now that many bad memories were buried deep when at nine years old I got sick …I spent a couple dangerous weeks with high temperatures that had me in a coma (which, while I have your attention…if you ever wanted to know if coma patients know if you are there…I am living proof that makes me  truly believe they do.) The aftermath of my illness has been with me all my life but it was an appointment in my late teens that shattered my initial maternal dreams.

My doctor was the same one who had saved my life when I was younger. I had been one of his first patients as he had just started his practice a week before I had gotten so sick. When you see someone almost every day for a year and than once a week for six more you tend to develop a special rapport with them.

This visit was different than any of the others though because it was my first grown-up woman one. You have to remember way back then it was assumed not to be necessary until you were older and anticipating becoming sexually active because of my illness, I had been late to most of my physical development stages and it had becoming a running chuckle between us when he would ask each time…”So, are you ready to talk about sex ?”…to which I would turn very red and always giggle when I replied “No”. I had also gotten to the point where I usually went alone to my appointments so when the doctor had made some discoveries and had concerns, he wanted to contact my parents which I quickly talked him out of. They were dealing with so much at the time because my little sister was sick & my Mom had just been diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was almost 18 and convinced him that I could deal with my problems on my own.

His concerns involved deep scarring and several other disturbing things. He cancelled the rest of his appointments that day…He and I spent hours talking… for the first time I described to someone the horrors of the  molestations….I remember crying a lot especially about how much I wanted him to keep my secret…(he did agree though years later he told me that he regretted that choice.) Many tests later he had the sad task of telling me that it would highly unlikely that I would ever be able to have children. Another secret that I kept from my parents.

I waited until I was 21 to have my first lover….He was 15 years my senior…(which is another very interesting tale I will someday share with you) It was also still that “sex-is-safe” attitude time and because I knew I couldn’t get pregnant we didn’t use any precautions. We were together for almost five years when it ended…he had even moved away to another state but when news of my father’s sudden death reached him almost a half of year later, he came and spent a very touching weekend with me. Three months went by… After feeling a bit run down and no longer living close to my family doctor anymore, I went to a clinic…When they told me what they thought was my problem, I laughed and explained they were wrong and to do more tests…end results had me picking up the phone and telling a certain  sweet MD that he had been slightly wrong in his predictions. I was going to have a baby after all.

It was a very difficult pregnancy filled with complications and constant fears of miscarriage…to add to the dilemma this child (whose conception date I knew) decided not to make an appearance for 9 & ½ months instead of the tradition 9. Then prolonged it with more intensity with the 48 hours of labor it took to finally be told…”It’s a Boy !” I had prior knowledge of this but it was really cool to hear it confirmed that way.

That first time they placed him in my arms, I cried not only because I felt so very blessed at that moment but also totally terrified…His father couldn’t deal with the situation which for the most part I had already understood and accepted but my family had seemingly decided to not want to be a part of this as well which I couldn’t understand or accept. I knew my mother had issues with me not being married as well as her, still hurting, pain that I had  not told her about my abuse until after my father’s death but I had always been there supporting and helping each of my siblings through all of their life dramas and events…now there I was in a hospital room… alone… with a new young life in my arms…Who the hell did I think I was ? I had thought I was so screwed up inside when the only one I had to take care of was me plus I didn’t think I was doing it very well…How could I possibly be able to care for this beautiful baby boy ?

I was truly blessed though because there were people who stepped into my life and into my heart. I had a support system and a frame of mind that saw us through a lot of the pitfalls being a single parent can have. I didn’t date for ten years. I was social but work and my son were always 1st priority. I chose to take the responsibility of being a mom very seriously and before any of you think how sad that might have been to go so long without you-know-what, trust me it wasn’t. Again maybe it was because of what had happen when I was young or maybe because I was taught to believe that you had to be in love ( my friends found it both strange and wonderful) …either way, I didn’t really think that much about it or miss it and considering how truly awesome a kid he was…I’m thinking I did quite a few things right…

There came a time though when even my son started to question my lack of a dating life and so I accepted a few now and then until I met an extremely wonderful young man who made me feel like a really complete person for the first time in my life.(Yet another facsinating bit of prose for me to share with you later) But alas…not everything in life works out like we want it to…I was sad but a part of me couldn’t help but be happy that I had gotten to feel such intensity….such love…so many don’t ever get to know that kind of feeling and I did…so being sorry for myself just wasn’t high on that priority list of mine. And apparently there was yet another surprise from who ever it is in the cosmos that guides these paths of ours… because after what I thought was maybe a bit too much “drowning of my sorrows” after the loss of that one-true-love….I, once again, was telling a doctor to do the tests over….Almost twelve years after my first miracle, I heard those sweet words echoing around me “It’s a Boy!”

This time old and wiser had a whole new set of reality mixed with it but I had the best of people around me and a even a few re-kindled family ties. The greatest of all was my oldest son’s reaction and input…He confessed shortly after his brother’s arrival that he had been praying for a little brother for a long time and that he was glad that God had heard him. It was another difficult pregnancy but I had accepted that struggles are a part of life that we can’t always avoid or change but we can always accept and deal with. The intriguing twist in this was that a somewhat new ultra-sound tech missed the mark so to speak in telling me that she could see that I was going to have a girl at the begining of my second trimester… causing me to spend the rest of my term planning for such an event. Not wanting the same problems I had the first time, they knocked me out for this one and upon coming out of the anesthetic, I heard “It’s healthy baby boy”… to which the nurses told me I replied “But it’s suppose to be a girl”….the anesthesiologist than asked me if I wanted them to put him back ? Everyone laughed including me.

I hadn’t picked out a boy’s name so I asked my oldest son for his assistance and as I had done for him, he picked one name out of the bible and one from our family tree. Our lives have been as blessed as anyone could hope for. There have been battles and struggles but when used as life-affirming lessons that teach and nurture…they have not been anything we couldn’t endure. We are close but I have strived for them each to also be fiercely independent. They have become very caring young men who do not hesitate to do what they can to help others. I didn’t have fathers for them but I did make sure they had the best of male role models in their lives. My youngest turned 16 last month…His brother and I never cease to be amazed as how wonderfully he has managed his challenges so far. My oldest son is turning 28 this week and despite what the economy has done to shatter and alter his career goals he still works hard to re-assess and move forward…

Am I mad that I wasn’t a more active player of the sexual freedom explosion ?

Did I miss out never marrying ?? ( I was asked several times)

 Did my sons miss out not knowing their fathers ?

Should I have used the law to make their fathers participate ? 

I have friends that dwell on such things but I don’t….why ? These are things that can’t be changed…I chose to have my children and I chose not to force their fathers to be something that they couldn’t be…It was my responsiblity that I accepted full control over… I’ve watched others use their children for revenge, monetary gain or simply as pawns in a game of unyielding bullsh*t…I can never understand why people can be hurtful and so spiteful about something as special as being a parent… Regrets are a dime a dozen in most people’s lives but what point is there in spending any amount of brain power on them when I’d rather think about how I can surprise my oldest on his birthday with something I can’t spend any money on…lol….family tradition with us….birthdays have to be from the head and the heart not from the wallet…more fun….more meaningful that way…

I was asked what it was like being a single mom… I just realized that I never think of  myself as anything other than just a mom. All good parents worry about their kids…about whether we’ve made the right choices…taught the right things….been there for them when they needed us…or even just if we showed them that we loved them enough…I don’t think these worries ever stop. I still can remember when they put that little bundle in my arms for the first time ….counting ten little fingers and ten little toes….totally facsinated by the tiniest of things as little kisses followed by little tears and so much amazing wonderment as you experience life all over again through their eyes…There is no greater reward on earth than to help a child…grow and learn…whether you have created this life within or reached out and connected with one in need of you….it doesn’t matter….what does matter is how you open your heart and mind to the responsibly you take on not only to that child but to the world in which that child will become a part of…

I feel very blessed to have been allowed to be a part of such a process and equally glad to be able to share these moments and thoughts with you 🙂