Tuesday, December 31, 2013

See you on the flip side

As we approach the end of 2013, many of us look back on the most memorable events of the year.  Naturally, leading the list of notables would be the sadness of the  Boston Marathon bombings, followed later on by the improbable World Series victory by the Boston Red Sox, and the deaths of such dignitaries as Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela, to name a few.

However, I am certain there were many, many more significant occurrences that went largely unnoticed, except by those personally affected.  To that I say, we will miss you all, and you will be forever remembered in the silence of our hearts.

Happy New Year and may it be safe, full of good health, and happiness.  Peace and make every day count!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Taking off the layers may just tell you a story

When it comes to the weather, layering seems to be the operative word, especially when the mercury drops most of us begin to layer on the clothing to deal with the plummeting temperatures.  The forecast for the upcoming week certainly looks as though we will be glad to have on the extra clothing.  Interestingly, however, when it comes to wall paper, layering means one of 2 things, do you take off the old before putting on the new, or do you just cover it up?  Sometimes, the added trouble of removing those old layers may just reveal a hidden story worth all the effort, and let me explain.

My parents had the good fortune of living long and fruitful lives, and like so many people of their generation, they lived most their lives at the same address.  They moved into their home some 50+ years ago, and over the years, they papered and painted the walls along with the woodwork many times.  Usually, these activities were associated with some special event prompting my mom to "freshen" up the look, such as a graduation party or wedding.

However, as the years rolled by, the paint chipped and the wall paper looked dated, but they were able to live in their own home, nonetheless.  They made their home a home, with all the love, life and vigor they possessed, until their tired, aged bodies just ran out of gas.

Recently, I began to peel back some of the loose wall paper and underneath I found the memories of an age gone by.  The harvest gold and striped paper that was on my parent's bedroom wall hailed of a previous time, and in several places, there was evidence of yet an earlier time.  It's remarkable how such a simple discovery can trigger so many memories.  I am reminded of the phrase, "if only these walls could talk, what a story they would tell".  As in this case, you just have to peel away the layers, and it'll have you "glued" to the story!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Wish

What is so complicated?  Peace on Earth and good will toward all men.  Reflect on that and then let's just do it.  Now wouldn't that be a nice Christmas gift?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's Tradition

Traditions are special, but what are traditions anyway?  If you read the dictionary definition, you'll find:
a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time or : the stories, beliefs, etc., that have been part of the culture of a group of people for a long time

Likely, most of us are already quite familiar with the concept, especially as we approach the holiday season of Christmas.  However, as one reflects on this idea, a tradition is something that necessarily has to have an origin.  It many respects, a tradition is much like our very own genetic code, except that we have a greater degree of input into which activities or stories we want to continue perpetuating.

One Beautiful Couple
When my parents met years ago, they brought their own traditions into their relationship and instilled them into their children.  Over the years we have continued many of those traditions as a family and have passed them along to our own families.  The most beautiful element of traditions, however, may not be the tradition itself, but the memories they invoke.

Life certainly has its challenges, so we need to take the time to enjoy it once in awhile.  Sharing in a few traditions with family and friends usually gives us the chance to recharge our batteries.  In this holiday season, many of us will engage in something traditional, and that's what helps create and foster those memories.  Let's keep them going, after all, it's tradition!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's simple, just believe

Life is full of questions, and as we age, we begin to question things more and more.  Certainly, there are facts that can't be disputed, but some issues have no right or wrong answer, just different view points.  However, there are a host of beliefs that are not exactly factual, but there is evidence enough to convince us and the beliefs strong enough that they provide the foundation for our values.

My daughter and I recently attended the Boston Pops Christmas concert, and as part of the performance, they read the Polar Express.  Why not after all, for 'tis the season.  It was a wonderful rendition with the music in the background bringing the book to life.  When it came to the reason to believe in Christmas, what struck me the most was the simple line, "just believe".  How simple, yet how telling, as many of us have allowed the magic of Christmas to fade with time.

It's never too late to recapture that innocence, however, and it's never too late to believe in things that can not be explained.  When my parents passed away this year, I witnessed a beauty in death that I never thought possible, and one I know was directly related to their faith.  Their faith was passed along to them; one they nurtured and deepened by their own convictions.  That was the great gift  they planted in me and cultivated, until it became part of my being.

Christmas is a wonderful holiday, one steeped in tradition, but one that magnifies the innocence of a child.  Indeed, it is simple, have faith and just believe.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Moments are very small segments of time which pass without notice, except to those who have been moved by a thought or emotion.  As we go about our daily business, moments pass because of the distraction of life's happenings.  Who knows when these fleeting thoughts will jump into our stream of thought, but when they do, they take us by surprise.  Many times, we are not prepared to experience the  emotion of the moment either.

As the holidays approach, many of us will experience moments that will remind us of any number of things or persons.  Some moments may trigger a smile while others bring a tear to a dry eye.  Life is full of moments, and with it, come both the good memories and the bad.  There is nothing we can do but to experience them and reflect!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gone, but not forgotten

 "A date that will live in infamy", December 7th, were words delivered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor on that fateful Sunday morning in 1941.  Those actions plunged the US headlong in to WWII, something that forever helped influence the course of modern history.

There have been a number of survivor stories detailing those horrific events, but there was one story my father shared which gave us the personal element that oftentimes gets lost after the passage of time.  It was about Father Aloysius Schmitt.

After serving as a parish priest, Father Aloysius Schmitt joined the US Navy and was assigned to serve as chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma.  On the morning of December 7th, rather than saving lives with his words of wisdom, he was saving lives with his actions.  Evidently, the Oklahoma had sustained heavy damage and was listing in the harbor, but before she sank, Father Schmitt assisted a number of sailors to safety.  He was quoted as saying, “Please let go of me, and may God bless you all.”

On a day when we should remember those lost on December 7th, I will remember, too, the other men and women who fought so bravely for their country in the wake of those attacks.  Honoring their fallen comrades and serving their country was the supreme sacrifice.  My father's cousin would have been honored knowing that others survived and that his life hadn't been lost in vain.  Peace!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Have you checked...?

For years, airline pilots have gone down their checklists readying the aircraft for take off.  There are several famous scenes in "Apollo 13" when mission control or the members of the flight refer to the checklist to insure that all the appropriate steps have been taken to complete a given procedure.  As most of us do before heading to bed, we go down a comparable checklist to be sure that everything is safe and in order before shutting off the lights.  

Well, my father was the master of checking things out before turning in for the night.     First, he'd turn down the heat and make sure the doors were locked.  He would then make a sweep through the kitchen to check that the stove was off and grab a tall glass of water for the night.  After completing his security check of the first floor, it was off to bed knowing that "the house" had been tucked in too.

It's funny, but even though my father isn't here to do this himself, I find that the ritual he created is a necessary part of my nightly routine.  As I check to make sure the doors are secure and turn down the thermostat, I am reminded of his attention to those bedtime rituals.  Lastly, I stroll by the stove to check it and then fill my glass with water before turning out the lights.  Thanks dad for such a simple but fond memory that will forever end my day!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

To whom do we give thanks?

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday, what with all the fellowship and good eating.  Naturally then, one would think we should be thanking the people who were responsible for the idea of Thanksgiving and later establishing it as a holiday.

The Pilgrims are credited with the concept of Thanksgiving, as they gave thanks for the bountiful harvest which they yielded after enduring the early hardships here in the New World.  However, many have felt that the first Thanksgiving feasts were likely to have been celebrated shortly after the harvest, as opposed to the well recognized holiday of late November.  Equally, there wasn't a nationally celebrated day of Thanksgiving, but perhaps multiple days throughout the year for which the citizens were asked to give thanks for what had been given to them.

In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday, to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November;  no doubt he had more pressing concerns on his mind, but in his words: “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

However, the concept of a national day of thanksgiving was first proposed by Sarah Josepha Hale of Newport, NH who petitioned 5 presidents before Mr. Lincoln signed the proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday.

So, here we are celebrating Thanksgiving in large part because of the aspirations of a group of pioneers who left the shores of Europe for a better life, but above all, to the perseverance of one Sarah Josepha Hale whose commitment to making this the holiday that it has become.  Thank you for reminding us that it is always a good idea to give thanks, something that hopefully will never be lost in this world full of distractions.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The "Chasmo" Effect

Through the years, trend changes have been referred to by the term "effects" which, because of their influence, cause some measure of change to take place.  Certainly, positive effects generally translate into beneficial responses, and conversely, negative effects typically produce responses that few would like to repeat.  Well, in the case of one welcomed addition to the morning group, we got to experience the "Chasmo Effect".

Some people believe Saturdays are made for sleeping in and getting up for a relaxing cup o' joe, but for others, Saturdays are  meant for running first and then enjoying the cup of coffee.  This week was different though.  With the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trots coming, that means it's time to train with Chasmo.

Unlike the majority of individuals, training takes on a slightly different meaning for the Chasmo.  In other words, getting overly excited about the race preparation may not be all it's cracked up to be, an occasional run, walk combo, quite conceivably, is all that is needed to ready oneself for race day.  And if you are training with someone who runs a bit slower than your usual pace, well, that sure is the "positive effect" that more hard core athletes find refreshing some days.

However, as we age, the objective necessarily has to change, regardless of our personal hopes to delay the inevitable physical challenges we face.  So, perhaps the real story behind the "Chasmo Effect" is just getting out there.  If it takes you longer than you'd expect, then you get the opportunity to spend that much more time with good friends, and isn't that the real objective anyway?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

May I have your address, please?

Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address on this date in 1863 which marked the dedication of a portion of the historic battlefield as a national cemetery honoring the more than 50,000 men whose lives were lost there.  "Four score and seven years ago our fathers..." is perhaps one of the most readily recognizable opening lines to a speech in American history, and in its 272 words, it is arguably one of the most powerful messages ever delivered by an American president, especially given the gravity of the circumstances.

LISTEN: For Its 150th, A Reading Of The Gettysburg Address

Certainly, few could have said it more eloquently; thank you Mr. Lincoln for your words of such profound wisdom, even to this day!

Friday, November 15, 2013

She's Here

The circle of life has been used to describe the progression of life through the generations, therefore, there is no beginning and no end, just a continuum.  Well, the stork has just made another revolution with the arrival of Evangeline Rita in the desert of Arizona.

May your life be as rich and full of joy as your namesake, Rita Marie, who would have cradled you in her arms, if she was with us today.  You are a gift from heaven and know you are loved!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Lunge" Lizards

The slang term "lounge lizard" typically depicts a well-dressed man who frequents establishments in which the rich gather with the intention of meeting wealthy woman and wooing them with deception and charm.  Clearly, there doesn't appear to be anything too flattering about this title, now does there?  However, if one was motivated enough to participate in something, shall we say, more healthy, then you might want to consider yourself a "lunge lizard", and that may not be all bad.

After years of regular cross training exercise, I finally came to the harsh realization that aerobic exercise, by itself, wasn't going to be comprehensive enough to carry me through the second half of life.  Therefore, it was time to "pump it up" with the addition of a weekly weight training program, so with some encouragement from previous converts, I took the "lift" of faith and joined them.

Admittedly, lifting a few weights could add some tone to an aging physique, but this is a behavior that needs cultivating.  Regulars at our morning gathering warned that, although the activity may not seem challenging, aches and pains are guaranteed.  Not exactly an activity you'd want to commit to with overwhelming enthusiasm.  However, if any of us are going to endure the second half of life with some modicum of physical well being, then weight training, most assuredly, will have to be part of the exercise routine, and the converts will support this position.

Well, after participating in this weekly ritual for more than 2 years now, I can honestly say that the aching isn't as bad after the workouts any longer.  Fortunately, the benefits have "strengthened" my commitment to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle, and there are a few other "lunge lizards" out there who have taken the "leap of weight" too!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Peace and Thank You

Many people had the day off today to celebrate Veterans Day, so I'd like to thank all the veterans who have made the sacrifice to defend and preserve our freedoms as Americans.  We live in a great country, and hopefully, the freedom that we so treasure will allow "US" to help those here and around the world who are less fortunate.  Thank you!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Expressions for life and we loved her expressions

Have you ever noticed how some individuals develop a personal style when it comes to expressing themselves?  It may involve greetings, goodbyes, or simply may be part of an ordinary conversation, but these expressions can be rather colorful.  In fact, I personally enjoy listening to the English because of their unique way of describing some things. It's quite refreshing to hear, and certainly exploits a very descriptive language.  Over the years, my mother enchanted us with her charming way of expressing her sentiments, so permit me to share just a few of those with you.

The Royal Wave
When I'd arrive home after a day of work my mother would greet me with, "Hello, my darling dear.";  When asked if she wanted a cup of tea, she'd say, "I'd love a cup of tea.";  How she'd have described a good weather day, "It was glorious or marvelous.";  If you were having a bad day or were faced with a challenge, she'd say, "We'll say a prayer."; If something tasted particularly good, "It was delicioso.";  After saying good night, I'd say I'll see you in the morning, and her response was, "God willing";  When she was asked how she was feeling, she'd say, "Surviving"; and if you greeted her with a nice big smile, "You have such beautiful teeth".

Expressions such as these were common place for my mother and have left us with a trail of memories that remind us of the person she was.  After entering a room full of people, she'd break the ice with her signature tag line, "Is everybody happy?"  Unfortunately, the answer these days isn't what she'd generally have had in mind, but it does bring a joyful tear to those of us who knew and loved her.  Mom, may God watch over you and keep you well!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The World Series that Almost Was

Life is made up of a series of opportunities, both missed or taken, and of course, it typically requires just the right timing to take advantage of those chances.  In the words of Louis Pasteur, "chance favors the prepared mind".  However, nothing is guaranteed in life, except of course, death and taxes.  But if you believe in divine providence, then most of life's occurrences events are, shall we say, predetermined.  It is for this reason that this is the World Series that almost was for at least one long time Red Sox fan.

My father loved baseball, initially playing it as young man and then watching his beloved White Sox, but later adopting the Boston Red Sox as his team.  When the Red Sox won the Series in 1918, my father wasn't even born.  However, he got to witness the 1946 Series with the great Ted Williams, the "Impossible Dream" team of 1967, the heart break teams of '75 and '86, the breakthrough championship in '04, and the repeat in 2007.  Although he had traded in his allegiance to the White Sox, he even got to celebrate their World Series win in 2006.  I'd have to say, at least his teams would occasionally indulge him with their post season appearances in the October classic.

But like any self respecting Red Sox fan, there was always next year, and after the collapse of 2011 and the last place 2012 team,  the 2013 team was most assuredly going to be different.  After all, how could it get worse?  So, when spring training hit, with the pitchers and catchers reporting, my father was preparing himself too; he was practicing for the season to come and a chance to watch exciting baseball again.

As the snow began to melt and the Sun warmed the Northern hemisphere, the long winter with the blizzard was soon to become a distant memory.   Baseball was back for another season in Boston with the hope that the off season changes would make the difference between success and disappointment. The Sox had a terrific April to start their season, winning 18 games, and with that, they were off.  This rekindled the fan's enthusiasm for a team that had lost its "mojo".

Amongst all the excitement for a team on the mend, were the tragedies of Marathon Monday.  Those events galvanized a city, and reminded us that there is far more to life than baseball; and although my father loved baseball, he was moved to tears after those events unfolded, recognizing its senselessness.

As the season unfolded, the fans rallied behind its team and supported the victims of that horrific day.
My father just loved well played baseball, and he was watching the emergence of a team who simply liked to play this grand old game.  One night in June, my father watched as Big Papi hit a walk off home run, but what I really remember was the youthful excitement he displayed cheering on a team that, for over 65 years, had captured his loyalty.

Not even a month later, however, that youthful spirit came to an end, and those games became but a distant concern.  My father passed away peacefully knowing the Red Sox wouldn't disappoint, not this year anyway.  This story book season ended the way only a team of destiny would have it end, with a victory at home in front of the Fenway faithful, 95 years after their last World Series clinching game at home.

Yes, the story on the 2013 Red Sox is complete, and the ending was one for the ages.  However, there will always be next year.  For my father on the other hand, his season ended a bit prematurely, and consequently, there was no World Series for him.  The Red Sox embodied team work, perseverance and showed emotion, both on and off the field.  It's the stuff legends are made of, and having had a box seat to witness the actions of a legend, I can assure you that he would have been proud of this bearded bunch.  I am sure he would have described this as "heavenly"!                                                          

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Obstruction of Justice

The World Series game 3 ended on the most bizarre call I have ever witnessed to end a baseball game.  It started with a remarkable play to get the runner at the plate, but an errant throw to third caused the runner and third basemen to get tangled up.  When the runner tried to advance to home, he tripped and that delay caused him to be apparently thrown out at home.  The umpire reversed his initial call and awarded the runner home plate, thus ending the game.

I don't know that I agree with the call given the factors involved, but we all have to play by the same rules, so I have no choice but accept the decision that was made on the field.  The entire play caught me off guard, and evidently, it "blind sided" the umpires too!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's a Game of Inches

Life is full of measurements.  Golf courses are thousands of yards long, we run marathons of 26.2 miles, our odometers trip after the thousands of miles we drive, and Fenway Park has a wall 37 feet tall called the "Green Monster".  Ironically, although most of these are larger units of measure, sometimes it comes down to the smallest units to make a difference.

The World Series began last night in Boston surrounded by the mountain of media hype and coverage. In the bottom of the first, Big Papi connected on another long drive with the sacks jammed.  When Carlos Beltran reached over the fence to rob him of yet another grand slam in this post season, the crowd reacted accordingly.  If it had been just few inches further, the Red Sox would have enjoyed a greater lead than they had anyway.  Unfortunately for the Cardinals, one of their leading hitters had to leave the game because of an injury he suffered when he hit the wall making the catch.

A little shallower and that fly ball would have been caught on the warning track; or just a little farther and it would have had the Fenway faithful erupting.  Fortunately for Red Sox fans, those few inches didn't have the negative consequences we have experienced in the past.  But just remember, if you give us an inch, we'll take it.  Go Sox!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We're Dancing

Often times, before toddlers even take their first steps, parents may hold their children pretending like their dancing.  There are occasions when this activity simply helps to soothe a restless child.  There might be some singing while carrying out this little rite of passage, but before you know it, the kids are off and running.  Behaviors like these morph so quickly however, that it's hard to even remember sharing some of those tender moments.  It's interesting, but as we age and become more dependent again on those who provide us care, we seemingly revert back to those cherished times, although the roles are typically become reversed. In the case of my mother, she was no exception.

For the last several years, my mother had become accustomed to sitting in her automated lift chair.  However, she later acquiesced to the other recliner that my father had occupied for years.  Why the change?  I think my father just decided he needed the lift chair, so that was that.  Unfortunately, my mother required some help from her  comfy chair; so when it was time for her to make her way to the kitchen, I would help her up by having her cradle her arms around my neck and then have her stand with my help.  Once we were up, that was my chance to relive those tender moments as a parent.  I'd pretend that my mother and I were dancing, just like those early days with my daughter.  It allowed us to hug and be "young" again, although, I don't know who was the parent in this situation.  However, the whole experience was, well beautiful.

Even in those final days before she died, when we'd roll her over to bathe and change her, I'd break into the same little dance routine.  I knew she felt the exchange of emotion, even though she could no longer respond.  Here she was giving me yet another gift, as we were trying to care for her.

Mom, I'd ask you to dance, but I believe dad already beat me to it for this one!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

IM a Red Sox Fan and It's Grand

Sox fans are on Top
The Red Sox have a long and storied history.  They were World Series Champions in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916 , and 1918.  But after this impressive start for the franchise, the trade of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees began what was known as the "the Curse of the Bambino", a World Series title drought for the next 86 years.  Most of those near misses, too, were historic in nature.  However, the breakthrough came in 2004 with a sweep of the Cardinals.  After all those years, even that seemed like an impossible dream year, until the championship trophy was hoisted signifying the achievement.

Recalling many of those disappointments, it's difficult to overcome the anxiety that those previous experiences fostered.  In the recent series with the Detroit Tigers, several of the situations that the home town team found themselves in had a deja vu feeling that was hard suppress.  But, unlike those teams of my youth, this group outperformed the opponents, much like the World Champions of 2004 and 2007.
Go Sox

Starting with Johnny Damon's grand slam in 2004, and then the two that were hit during this recent ALCS propelling the Red Sox into the World Series again, I'd have to say that being a Red Sox fan of late, sure has been grand!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dad, do you have a pen I can borrow?

Here you go
Who doesn't need a writing instrument from time to time?  Certainly, those of us who have to sign our name multiple times a day ought to carry one, and if you are a "rock star", it would make sense to be armed with a pen.  In the 70's, if you had several pens in your pocket, you were considered a nerd.  I know one person who you could always count on to have a pen in his pocket, because without it, he wouldn't have been dad.

My father was a crossword aficionado.  Often times, he'd do two or three a day, and if he didn't complete it one day, you'd find him working on it the following day.  I recall how excited he'd get when he solved a particularly clever answer in the Sunday crossword.  Additionally, if he seemed somewhat stumped, he welcomed the input of those around him.  This activity offered another opportunity to share what became a much beloved ritual.

Now that my father has passed away, it's the little things that surface during the course of a day that remind us of the loss.  It's a three word phrase that begins with "W" and ends with "U".  I got it; we miss you!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Birthday Wish

Who doesn't want to have their birthday acknowledged, even those of us who have celebrated that 29th birthday for the umpteenth time?

Well, birthdays are meant to be celebrated, even after there are no more birthday cakes with candles to be blown out or gifts to be opened.  Yes, some birthdays are just meant to be days to remember those we loved who are no longer with us.  

Happy Birthday mom, and not to worry, we're happy.   May God watch over you and keep you well!

Bing Crosby: Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (Thats An Irish Lullaby ...


Monday, October 14, 2013

One if by TD, and Two if by Single?

If you are a Revolutionary War buff or just happen to have grown up in New England, perhaps you are familiar with the heroics of Paul Revere.  History was forever immortalized that night in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

             One if by land, and two if by sea, taken from his famous poem,  "Paul Revere's Ride"
I thought we were fighting the British

Well, history has a way of repeating itself, and on this holiday weekend in Boston, history was made again by two of its sports teams, first the New England Patriots and then the Boston Red Sox.

The Patriots were playing at home against the New Orleans Saints in a clash of titans.  Trailing late in the game, in spite of playing some of their best football of the season, the Patriots displayed some of the magic that we here in New England have come to expect.  With just 10 seconds left, a vintage TD pass from Tom Brady completed the first leg of this improbable day in Boston sports history.

Of course, if that wasn't enough, Boston fans were ready for the encore, a Red Sox victory against a Detroit team that had man handled them the night before.  However, Detroit had their own ideas about history making, and that involved extending their prolific dominance of Red Sox hitters with the "K" parade.  Admittedly, it was hard to watch the over matched Boston lineup against the dominant Detroit pitching staff.  But then came the signals Boston fans were hoping for, first a hit, then a run.  The uprising had begun.   In spite of ridiculous odds, much like our Revolutionary war militia, the Red Sox mounted an almost more improbable comeback than the Pats--a Papi grand slam to tie and then a walk off single by Salty.  

This all made for a remarkable night of sports stories here in New England.  Comparisons were being made this morning to other legendary moments in Boston history, like the Fisk home run, the Flutie "Hail Mary pass", the Bobby Orr goal, but I prefer to think of it perhaps from a modern day Paul Revere's perspective, "one if by touchdown pass and two if by walk off single".  Do I hang one lamp or two in the Olde North Church tonight?  For Boston fans, the victory lamp was lit up, not just once, but twice!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

From Here to Eternity

The summer of 2013 has been one for the ages, but for my parents, it has been one for the "aged".  The years had taken a toll on both of them, but their love for each other and their family, kept them going.  However, even though their minds were willing, their bodies simply became weakened by the years, and for two nonagenarians, their love story awaited the inevitable change.

For years, my mother's health seemed somewhat more fragile than my father's, but the story behind the scenes was that my father was medically more fragile.  His failing adrenal glands couldn't rise to the stress of every day life any more, and with it, he simply awoke on a Sunday morning in July and knew that the end was near.  Often times, he'd remark at the dinner table that my mother would live forever because she had such a robust appetite.  Meanwhile, I think he was warning us that his was waning, so when he announced he had no appetite, we knew what that meant.  He died two days later with his family at his side, but not before making sure his conscience was clear of any unfinished business.  He spoke with his remaining brother and several grandchildren who weren't able to make the trip in time, but when he passed away, he had the reassurance that his work was done.  It's remarkable how, even under such duress, a person's resolve can mount the energy necessary to complete those tasks.  There is no explanation, except thy will be done.

Although surrounded by her loving family, my mother had enjoyed such a fulfilling and happy married life that to overcome the emptiness that was created by this kind of loss, at her age, likely wasn't going to happen.  We enjoyed the remaining weeks of summer caring for and supporting mom, but without her "daddy", we knew mom wasn't going to be far behind.  Just weeks before she died, my sisters escorted her into her favorite room, the sun parlor, for an afternoon nap.  She insisted on sitting in one of the other chairs in the room rather than her comfy recliner, so they made adjustments for her to plop down in this other chair.  Shortly after getting settled, she spied the wedding picture that graced the table across the room, and she  proclaimed, "that was the love of my life".  You knew with those few words, that she had processed the loss.

Now that both of my parents have passed away, the void that exists is for those they left behind.  Death is a natural part of life, and we all knew that the family would be faced with this inevitability some day. However, to have had both parents go so closely in time, only magnifies the absence.  More accurately however,  we recognize there is no cure for a broken heart, and my mom confirmed that yet again.  Time will help us through this process, but saying good bye hasn't been easy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

No, IM not "Bach"

What makes a Renaissance man?  If you look at the dictionary definition, you'll see it defined as:
A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.
Well, knowing that my mother loved to sing and play the piano, I decided it was time to become a Renaissance man, so I began taking piano lessons.  As people age, even though some talents may fade, music seems to be a common thread that carries on, and for my mother, her love of music never seemed to be affected by time.  I'd often hear her singing along with the radio or humming to the music she'd listen to on the TV.  But what I loved most was her accompaniment when I played a piano piece that she recognized.  Hearing her critique my playing from a distant room only made me more aware of her presence.  It was a delight.

Even though she is gone, I have continued with my lessons, but still struggle to play well.  However, knowing that she inspired me to play, regardless of my present or future abilities, she will be with me always.  How can you "B flat" knowing that?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

This Old House

PBS has a wonderful show that has been on the air now for many years showcasing homes that are in the process of being remodeled or updated.  It has been a favorite of mine for many reasons, the least of which is that these old homes just have so much character that one doesn't feel in the newer homes of today.

Just before I was born some years ago now, my parents moved into the "stately" mansion they have lived in ever since.  My mother's brothers thought my parents were crazy for buying such an overpriced home when they bought it, but my parents would soon be expecting a sixth child, and the previous residence just wasn't big enough or on a safe enough street for their young kids.

Well, this grand old home has and continues to serve the family well.  My parents saw their family expand to a total of eight kids, nineteen grandchildren, and soon a second great grand child from this home.  The old homestead has seen its share of activity over the years too, what with birthday parties, Christmas and Easter celebrations, weddings and wedding showers, baby showers and a whole host of other social gatherings.  The memories are endless.

However, in all that time, there have been only a few sad occasions that have "graced" the hallowed halls we call home.  My grandfather died here in his later years and recently my parents passed away in the very rooms where we all used to gather and listen to bedtime stories.

A house may be an inanimate object but it's remarkable, even a house has a personality.  However, what makes a house a home is the family that lives within, and that's how it gets its life blood.  If only the walls could talk, what a story they would tell.

Even with the stress of the circumstances, this old house stood up to the challenge.  We had 25-30 people in residence, eating, sleeping, and bathing for that week, and it survived.  Granted, it had been tested on a number occasions beforehand, but she endured the test yet again.

When one of my friends said to me after entering for the first time, "now this is a house that has been lived in", I knew exactly what he meant.  There is no place like home, but you have to breathe life into it first!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The "eyes" have it

When an assembly gathers to discuss various issues, often times the moderator questions the group for further discussion before asking for approval or disapproval on the issues.  Our democratic system was founded on this very principle.  If you have ever been to Independence Hall, you can almost hear the echoes of the founding fathers hashing out the details of the Declaration of Independence followed by their yeas or nays to decide its fate.  Over time, those yeas or nays became, "all in favor, say I", and that's what most of us are familiar with today.  However, there are some "eyes" that simply let you see into a person's soul and that's where this story begins.

My father was a man of great faith, and I truly believe that it was his faith that brought him home.  He was 93 and had had a very good life, but the years had taken their toll.  For a man of his advanced age however, he was extremely sharp until the very end, and it was his keen insight that allowed him to give us  the warning of his rather precipitous decline.  Retrospectively however, his decline began long before he informed us, but true to his personality, he never complained.  That's the way he wanted it.

When he awoke just 2 days before his death, he reported that he had no appetite, and that was the sign that the end was near.  He rested comfortably during that time, and he was so weak, he could only muster the energy to say his goodbyes to those who weren't present.  He spoke to his brother and the grandchildren who could not get there in time.  One of his grandchildren, who he hadn't seen for awhile wanted to speak to him, as much as he wanted to speak to her.  When the two spoke, the exchange was as you'd expect, emotional, but he managed to rally enough to say that she should know that she had a wonderful dad while raising his arm to hug his son.  You could sense that this took just about every last ounce of energy available.  After that, he listened while we prayed and sang to a dying man who had lived a very full life.

Over the next several hours, we held vigil, reading to him, reminiscing, crying, praying and singing.  As this beautiful man lay helpless in his bed, we all were witnessing this transformation of life to death that was miraculous.  As he gave up his spirit, several of us witnessed different things.  I saw his face being transformed, while others saw his eyes open and reveal this radiant blue color.  Meanwhile, in spite of the fear that death oftentimes creates, no one, including the youngest of the grandchildren, was afraid.  It was beautiful, magnificent, and sad all at the same time but completely peaceful.  It was a gift to us, even in death.

As the days following his death have passed, I have experienced an emptiness over the loss of my father, but I am reassured through further discussions, that he left this world for a better place.  He left us, but I know, too, that he left his mark by teaching us his gentle ways, to love life, seek to learn new things, but most importantly, he gave us faith.  If I ask my siblings what they think, I am absolutely sure that they will unananimously agree; and "the eyes have it"!