Birthdays

IMG_2560.JPG

 

On the front page of today’s major newspaper here in Tennessee, The Tennessean, is a story about the remains of a WWII veteran being returned to Nashville and the National Cemetery after a 74 year wait. The news is covering the latest word war between arguably the most controversial president we’ve ever had a leaders of several countries with which we are either allies or friends.  Fellow military members are still immersed in an ongoing war in the Middle and Far East where there is neither a victory nor an end in sight.  In this same newspaper and on television the talk and dispute about statues of former confederate white men again heats up.

My dad entered WWII a young man along with his brothers and all of them returned deeply affected in ways I will never know; but I do know how I changed from my experience in the Vietnam War.  It’s so unfortunate that throughout my 69 years, human life on this planet has yet to find a lasting peace due mostly through diverging ideological  or religious beliefs.  The simple idea of living a full life inside one’s own borders is apparently something the leaders of the world cannot realize.

So we look for hope and victory with peace in our own families and in our own homes and that in itself is not often achievable.  While once a happy and vibrant family unit, my own children fight amongst themselves as adults because of petty issues.  Someday however, much like some nations come to realize, they will see the foolishness of their arguments and regret the loss of time as loving siblings they once were.

I have the same birthday wish I’ve had for as many years I can remember and that is for my own family to find a lasting peace with each other.  I know they individually love me and often tell me, but I miss them dearly as a unit.  I cannot put these words together without tears.  To reconcile and rekindle the love that they shared as a family unit when they were younger is my prayer.  Until families can learn to love one another, there is little hope for countries to achieve the same.

I have the love of my own siblings Pat and Mary Ellen to rely on and the anchor and love of my life Monica without whom I’m afraid I’d be lost.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Father’s Day

Every time Father’s day rolls around, I never think of myself as a father but rather always think about my own dad.  Scan 1He passed away almost 17 years ago but I can still hear him when I’m talking to my kids and see him in the mirror as I shave.  A few years back I decided to grow a mustache an idea quickly voted down by my family as “creepy”.  My Dad’s mustache, obviously grown after the picture above, I believe he grew it originally to hide the scar that ran across his cheek, a souvenir from WW II.

He worked what seemed to me to be all the time.  I remember when the food stores he worked for,  A&P, changed their hours and days of operation to meet the competition on Long Island.  I can remember closing the store with him at night, being at his store early and receiving bread deliveries that to this very day I can smell the fresh bread and feel the warmth from the packaging.  When the A&P decided to extend its operating hours and amount of days open, my dad’s presence in my daily life became almost non-existent.  When I was up he was at work, weekdays and weekends.Scan 35

I can remember many times him coming to my rescue in his Rambler station wagon as I trudged the streets of Mineola in the winter in the snow delivering the daily newspaper.  I’d pickup my papers every afternoon after school and despite the weather, we’d be out delivering the LI Press in rain, snow, sleet or hail.  Most of the main streets had been plowed and as a young teenager I was pretty good navigating my bike despite the giant basket filled with newspapers over the front fender on those icy roads, but the unplowed side streets were an issue.  My dad would often show up and we’d toss the bike in the open back of the station wagon along with the papers and he’d drive slowly with all the windows down and snow blowing into his car along the street while I’d run up to each door and place the paper inside the screen doors: there were no plastic bags for newspapers nor sidewalk boxes back then.scan-27.jpeg

He was a good man an honest man.  He served his country, was wounded several times, and worked for more than 40 years in an organization that he believed would take care of him and his family because of his loyal service.  It does not matter what the company did what’s more important is his belief in what they should do.  How people should behave toward each other.  If you borrow something return it cleaner, better than when you received it — everything in its place. I believe that my values, this moral code that I live by, has been formed by my father by his actions and deeds.

So on this Father’s Day, a day that I rarely had the chance to spend with my father because I was stationed in another state or country, my wish especially for the new fathers out there like my son-in-law Shane my nephew Ryan, is that it’s a good time to look back on the examples set many years ago by hardworking men and women.  Pride in work, devotion to family, always always set the example.  The concept of selflessness,  remember you eat last – you serve everyone before yourself, and that in the end no matter what decision has been made you are responsible for that decision.  You have a leadership responsibility; accept that role and lead your family to greater things giving your children a better opportunity at life than you had and in doing so you will have succeeded in becoming a good dad maybe even a great one.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mornings With Meena

Mornings with Meena

IMG_1034My life as a dad is  completely different from my life as a grandfather – Opa – to my grandchildren. I’ve been a dad several times and similarly an Opa and even a Great-Grandfather! What an honor! I have been blessed. But as a dad I had very different responsibilities. Today’s dads of course have things different than my dad had it and then myself and other boomer dads, but I saw being a dad as a responsibility for supervisory care, family directional leadership, manager of resources. In other words I was the father to my children but my most important mission was the direction and safety of the family I was entrusted with. IMG_1033Not to say I didn’t have my moments with my children as a loving and caring parent I did; but there was this element of supervision and leadership that always was at the back of my mind. I would venture a guess that most dads my age would agree that our relationship with our children was not as intimate as the relationship our wives have/had with the children.

Then Meena happened.

I have several grandchildren but I have not had the opportunity to spend as much time with them as I have Meena. A couple of the grandkids stayed for many months while Monica took care of them and our oldest daughter worked, but I was working too at the time and rarely saw them. Besides as the grandfather my role is usually that of the typical grandfather, holding the child for a short time while being supervised and laughed at and with, as my apparent ineptitude with small children is on display.

IMG_1032

Meena gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my capacity to care for a small human and to relive the small opportunities of life with a baby that I’d experienced as a dad with my own children. And it all happened as a fluke.

 

As full-timers we spend all our time in our RV traveling or visiting our home-base in and around Nashville TN. Until a few months ago we would generally either stay at local state parks or a KOA in Nashville while in town. But we were able to add a 50amp connection for our camper next to Jessica and Shane’s house in Mt Juliet, the same type connection we added to my sister Pat’s place in upstate NY, so we could connect and stay right next to their homes. On our last trip earlier this year we were out west for a few months and needed some repairs done to the RV. We took it in and a series of problems occurred at the dealership causing us to stay with Jessica, Shane, and Meena for more than three weeks while our RV was in for repairs.

IMG_1031

I’m and early riser. Meena is as well. I like to have a cup of coffee and watch the morning news as I check my email, read the NY Times, and generally enjoy the peace that the early morning brings. Meena sleeps in a rocker like gizmo for babies and as I sat on the couch in their living room the first few mornings I let Shane or Jessica care for Meena when she awoke. But after a few days I walked over to where she was sleeping and watched in awe as her small clear blue eyes soaked into my soul. I was entranced as I watched and she cooed and “talked” to me so I started getting her out of bed each day.

 

I’d change her nighttime diaper and get her out of this amazing sleep suit they call a “fat suit” that cocoons her in softness and warmth. Her slow morning movements matched my early morning speed perfectly and I’d hold her to my chest and talk to her about the new day. She of course, would wisper talk and tell me about her night and her hopes and dreams and her plans for the day as well, along with glomming my reading glasses and hamming it up for the camera on my cell phone.

Sometimes I’d lay next to her on the couch and allow her to explore what hair I have left on my head, and pull and tug at my face as her brain processed all the information storing it in places she will soon forget. I do the same as I soak in her beauty and store it in places I will never forget.

IMG_1024

Sometimes I’d break out the cornucopia bowl of baby toys and watch her dig through them, every time discovering a new toy or sound and watching her light up with delight. But every time I’d sit and hold her, I’d find myself reliving the same feelings of pure love I had when my children we young.

IMG_1038

One morning I took her outside to sit in the grass, listen to the wind, feel the sun. I had forgotten a baby’s need for visual stimulus, their brains growing so fast as mine slowly goes away. With those soft perfect fingers she would ever so delicately pick at a single blade of grass. In wonder she would let the grass slip between her fingers always studying it with an intense focus. She would push those strong legs into the dirt and rest herself against me, a reassuring feeling for her and a warm peaceful feeling for me. The wind would stir the new leaves in the trees that surrounded us and she would look at them with eyes so bright and would smile at the simple pleasure it gave her.

I’m sure all of my grandchildren are as wonderful as Meena, but she’s the one I have had this chance to experience this new life and growth with as never before. Many years ago on a very cold day in Missouri while camping with our son James, he could not have been 6 months old, the night got very cold and Monica and I cocooned him with our bodies to keep him warm. He spent most of the night in a deep sleep and in the morning we awoke to his soft sounds of a baby warm as toast, all wrapped up and protected by his parents, gazing out through the door of our small tent at the trees swaying in the wind. It was a wonderful feeling, as wonderful as my mornings have been with Meena. These mornings have allowed me to feel and experience some of the emotions that I know mothers must feel with their children. That maternal visceral feeling of a love that is almost tangible.

IMG_1035 (1)

I know I can’t ask for more time or longer mornings just as I know that her wish is to grow as fast as she can so she can play and do things that big girls do; but I don’t want her to. In a very selfish way I’d like to spend the rest of my mornings in the sun and under the trees with Meena. She feels more like a daughter to me than a granddaughter, although both are more precious than anything on earth.

I love you Meena. Opa

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Promises

I watch as we all do, the infinite amount of promises advertised on television. Medicine guaranteeing to improve your life completely. Diets that run the gamut of eating everything to almost nothing. New cooking items that will make your life easier. Cleaners that will remove any stain. Cars that will transform your life into a more virile man or beautiful woman. The problem with all of these of course is that there’s little recourse to the consumer when, after making the purchase, problems arise with the item.

Take a new car for example. There’s a marked difference between all the attention you receive during the initial purchase of a vehicle and when something is wrong with the vehicle. You go from stardom to just another clog in the wheel. Worse is when the problem is a recurring item that the dealership is unable to repair.

We purchased a new Jayco Pinnacle just a year ago and so far we are out about 20 days of use of the 5th wheel due to a combination of factory installed issues and dealership inability to repair an item. For instance, there are usually two to three slides on these RVs and for the most part with proper maintenance, they last a long time. We however, started out with problems. The main slide would not retract or extend without several stops. The dealership, Dunlap RV, told us it was the circuit breaker resetting each time. OK, so how do you fix it? That was the first reason for them to keep it several days while they cut through the bottom of the RV, worked the wiring, adjusted the slide several times, reset circuit breakers, etc., all in an effort to uncover the “why” it was happening. Giving up, having reached the limit of their expertise, I was referred to the factory. To make a longer story shorter, twice we’ve been to the factory to find out they could not get to the repair “that week” (what do you think I’m in Indiana every month)? And this last time after numerous emails and calls back and forth were told they would definitely repair it in March. They never called me back.

Now I understand the brand they sold to us, Jayco, had been in business “forever” was “family owned” that they “they really care”; that company was sold about two months after we purchased our RV. Now, they are part of an even bigger RV empire of Thor RV products. Fine. I’ve still a warranty; I’m still a customer. Well, this is where things start to slow down no matter if it’s your bricks and sticks mansion on the hill with a leaky faucet or the Fiat you purchased last week, the longer the problem takes to diagnose and repair the less likely it will ever be fixed. You start getting sideways glances from other dealership employees. People talk in hushed tones around you. The order for your parts takes longer or it’s no longer available. The service department parts girl goes on maternity leave, come back when the kid graduates.

I was at a Ford dealer in Louisiana not too long ago and in the service waiting area was a young family that had purchased a new vehicle just weeks before and they stated they’ve spent more time in the waiting room than driving the car. They felt ignored despite the service department manager keeping them updated, it never seemed like their repair was getting priority. They discovered through a friend of theirs who worked there, that the setup, cleanup, and delivery of new vehicles was the number one priority and often times people working on other vehicles were taken from those jobs to insure the new product was delivered on time. It’s just business.

We changed from a motorized large RV called a Class A to this 5th wheel last year, simply for the room. The difference is remarkable and the creature comforts are excellent. This is not an indictment on RVs at all, because there does not seem to be an industry out there where taking care of the customer is truly a core concern of most large businesses. Don’t even start me on cell phone companies. Now many people knock Camping World and it is the big box store of RVs granted. My experience with them however has been better than most I’d say, perhaps because I never went in there expecting to be treated like the king, I just wanted quality work completed for a fair price in a reasonable amount of time. And for the most part, that’s what I’ve received.

It’s different when you purchase new and buy into the hype about how great their business is and they’ll always stand behind what they sell: well maybe they do but they failed to say how far behind they stand. So today is day 7 without the camper this time. It seems Lippert systems, the manufacturer of the leveling system, the axles, the slides, did not have a leveling jack in stock. According to the parts department at Dunlap RV, nobody anywhere had one in stock. Do I believe them? To be honest I don’t anymore. I don’t believe them because the caring the pride the concern for the consumer, is just not there anymore. I’m sure there are plenty of caring service technicians and parts people out there who care but are hamstrung by the system they work for.

I just hope that when the part is finally available, installation will follow in a timely manner. But I’ll not hold my breath.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Easter Family

IMG_0728_Fotor2

We had a beautiful Easter Sunday.  Mass with the girls and family, great meal, kickball, and beautiful weather.

IMG_0708_Fotor

We had an excellent time just taking pictures and being together, a rare time we’re all together any more.

IMG_0694 (1)_Fotor

IMG_0745 (1)_Fotor3

IMG_0780_Fotor4

IMG_0858_Fotor6

Collage_Fotor

Collage_Fotor2

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home Sweet (lookin’for a) Home

As a military family we’ve had many houses/homes over the years, and since retiring and then my second career, we owned a house we lived in for several years.  Of all the types and styles of homes we’ve lived in there were only a few we would return to; some based on the house and location itself, others just on memories of good times.

Perhaps our favorite home was our Colorado house, a split level, we lived in and fixed up, over an almost four year assignment there.  It was perfect for raising kids and by the time I go the backyard converted from a desert to a tree, vegetable garden, pool and deck, it turned into a sort of paradise.  It even had solar water heating which was wonderful.

One of our goals traveling around the country, is to decide where we want to live next.  Do we want a home close to the kids?  Or one in the southern part of the country and one in the northern part for the different seasons?  Perhaps just some land somewhere we can park our 5th wheel when we’re in town that has utilities.  Monica has this picture, or rather a newspaper clipping from many years ago, that had her dream home illustrated.

Photo on 4-15-17 at 11_Fotor

Taped inside our pantry in many homes for many years

There are so many beautiful places to choose from and some to easily discard.  Everyone has their idea of beauty and to some the sandy rocky soil of the Southwest draws them.  Some have to see or live in the mountains and others the ocean.  While others are content on their little piece of land they can putz on every weekend of their life.  I think ours is more of a small chalet, with a wrap around porch.  Now about the places we do not want to live, it’s just not for us and besides we really cannot take the heat anymore.  So the Southwest is pretty much out of contention with the exception of San Diego.  Idillic weather, beautiful ocean, and a mixture of mountains and plains.  Southeaster US has much to offer.  It almost has mountains, well they call them that but the Adirondacks. are really old and have eroded so much over time that while beautiful, cannot compare to the Rockies.

Moraine_Lake_17092005

But the Southeastern part of the country is really too hot for our liking.  As I pen this it is mid-April and yesterday it was 91 degrees.  I mean come on, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life inside trying to stay cool more than 3/4 of the year round.

Anyway this summer we’ll make the Maine trip; the Northeast and then later along the Northwestern part of the country.  I’ve a feeling we’ll really love Maine and also places like Oregon and Washington states.  We’ll see and you’ll just have to follow along to see where we end up!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

White Beans and Biscuits

Traveling this season reminded me of a time my parents visited me at Eglin AFB Florida.  When they arrived got out of the car, my father and mother were covered in sweat.  They had driven from Long Island to Florida in my Dad’s giant dark blue Plymouth station wagon with no A/C (a/c was not offered as standard equipment then) and the windows were up.  When I asked my dad why, he said my mother was worried about some of the small southern towns they had to drive through (before many interstates existed) and made him close the windows!  That evening while watching TV my mother could not understand why Walter Cronkite was on channel 9 instead of  channel 2 like it was in NY.  It baffled and irritated her just like even today some of the television stations across the country with their relatively small broadcast footprint using some of the technology common to major marketplaces (like all digital broadcasting) but announcing it as a new development.  Even the commercials and jingles used are not what you expect.  There’s a law firm in Nashville that uses a jingle that’s the same, with some lyrics changed of course, to a plumber’s ad in Tucson.

IMG_0840

Just outside of Nashville we stopped in Loretta Lynn’s Buffet for dinner the other evening and I could not help but be a little shocked at the number shape and size of confederate flags and rebel hats being sold in this store.  The buffet was the traditional southern spread: chicken, pulled pork, catfish, white beans, collard greens, hush puppies, gravy and biscuits.  The white beans and gravy were delicious; the rest, well it was cooked at least.

IMG_0839

Not sure if I’m supposed to be offended or confused?

Down one section of the store was, besides a thousand different portraits of Elvis, this art work below with a definite religious tone.

IMG_0841

Spare the Rod!

I don’t know who, where, or why someone would buy this particular one (although there were a total of three variations of this) but there were many with punishment as the main theme and if not that, snakes that would heal you.  And that’s one ugly looking woman.

IMG_0837

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment