Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Penny for My Thoughts

Molly looking for love or a
hiding place!
We have returned!  Thanksgiving is OVER!  I am stuffed with food, wine, good times, good memories, the occasional cross-eyed look or the "yes dear" at dad.  I am almost positive he has thoughts that his eldest son is a few more degrees off plumb this year.  The constant ma-n-pa verbal jabs at each other, which makes me often wonder how poor Molly, their dog, manages to stay cool, calm, and collected under fire.  The insistence of a few family that my Harley would look MUCH better rolling down some Michigan country road.  Well, the views are probably a bit better anyways.  We have much to be thankful for this year, much to celebrate.  Unfortunately, we were missing one, but all in all we had a good time, good food, and a little prodding never hurt!  Even if dad's bald spot is getting bigger amidst all that grey hair - we still love him.

Mary and I. 
Our November started a bit earlier with Mary's successful surgical implant of a neurostimulator device designed to curb pain impulses from her lower back to the brain.  The surgery went very well, and the stimulator is doing its job.  Her pain has been reduced to a fraction of what it was, but she will still be on some pain controlling meds for a bit longer.  Surgery is always hard to recover from, but this has been probably harder than we anticipated.  Next up for her is knee replacement on her left knee.  We also celebrated a birthday, as our oldest daughter Jess celebrated 24 years. We decided to take her out for dinner that night, and I discovered why I do not drink much.  She ordered a rose margarita which was deliriously sour and sweet at the same time.  Made my face nearly implode! Cheyenne our youngest is working on scholarship opportunities for college.  She is working well, and I believe she will be very driven, although she does have the occasional slip.  We all have them, but I do believe I had way more than my fair share.  Just ask my my parents!

Tara, left, and Rhonda, right. 
The "rough draft" in the middle.
Our trip over went well, although I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't take my Harley over the river and thru the woods this time around.  We awoke to rain from Des Moines to Detroit, and knowing I really didn't have the proper gear to make such a trip, and that riding thru Chicago would be more dangerous in the driving rain, I decided against taking the bike.  I spent the day before Thanksgiving helping dad, and relaxing.  I have worked almost 7 days a week non stop for so long, any break is welcome, but being at my parents house, you just never know what will happen.  I took particular note of a picture in dad's office of him and his brothers and sisters.  Its been a long time since I have seen them, and most have changed so much I hardly recognized many of them.  Perhaps next year I can visit them and the rest of my family more often!

Thanksgiving Day is always a bustle of activity.  A morning breakfast turned out very welcome and delish.  Something simple but enough to to satisfy.  Home made jams always hit a high note, and mom's fridge was not devoid of such delicacies.  Then there is the table.  You know the one.  Its only needed during a high feast such as this, but its always in the basement or garage disassembled.  Still need a union break for set up! Then there is the 30 minute regale of which way the table should sit, why it needs pushed away, or forward, or how much the table cloth covers it.  Then family begins to arrive, and its obvious you haven't seen some in awhile.  I still maintain that I am just a "rough draft" so to speak, and my sisters are the ones who got the looks and the brains.  And then there is the pies.  Pies.  Pies are God's way of showing just how much he loves you.  Yea, even something we all do for those we love.  This day was certainly no different, although I am quite sure my younger sister is still wondering exactly where we did get the main course. 

Mom and Pop
Still in love after ??
One of our most recent traditions is the placing of a penny at each plate, and each making some small statement of what we are thankful for during the past year.  There are variations to this custom, but its origin appears to be traced to an English custom of Oblations, or an offering, dating back before the year 1212 where a pence, or penny is offered at a burial, for marriage, for "churching" a woman, thence two pence at Easter, threepence at Christmas, and two other feasts from parishioners to the parish priest as a way of offering thanks to the Church for some service or feast prepared by the Church.  Our adaptation takes a unique twist in that the penny is picked up thanks given, and each penny added to the collection.  However it may be, each of us gave thanks in our own way, and then began the feasting.  And feast we did.  And laugh, sometimes cry, and even hold each other.  It felt good to sit down and feel loved and welcomed to the table, to dine, and to share in the love represented by our presence there.  After dinner we slowly made our way to the back porch, some for picture taking, some for AIR, and some just for the conversation and the view.  As each made their way to their car and home, I felt a thankful twinge as I realized for those that were there, I was also reminded of those not at their tables or their families, of those who stand watch, and secure those freedoms we hold so precious.  There's also family who could not be there.  My grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles, some who have passed on from this world, others who celebrate in their own way.  I give thanks for each of them, for the lessons they have given me in my life and for their love that I feel from them every day.

Mom and Aunt Barb
Curious color!!
Uncle Ron
In deep thought
The next day we left for home.  Our bellies still a bit full, our minds tired, but perhaps more mindful of those that had shared their love and fortunes.  We always stop at the South Bend Chocolatier Shop in South Haven for those special mochas that keep me stoked and caffeine medicated for our trip home.  Chicago was fairly devoid of traffic, although one knucklehead in a blue Corvette was in a big hurry to get around traffic.  Those 'Vette people - always hogging the road!  The rest of the trip fairly uneventful, I pulled into the driveway, unloaded the truck, and geared up for a quick ride on the bike for a couple of errands.  Unfortunately, my errand running became a bit of a nightmare as I tore a hole in the back seat of the Harley , a lace cleat ripping open a dime sized hole in the upholstered back pad.  Then finding my new cell phone had none of my contacts in it, which assuredly drove my eyes to cross.  Ahh then there was the trip to the grocery store, and by that time, my urge to use the bathroom was becoming more urgent, only to find the darn restroom closed!  After I arrived at home, settled in with a movie on the bed, only to drift in and out of sleep as my body slowed from the pace of the day. Eventually I succumbed to my need for sleep, drifting off to my thoughts of the week and memories made. 

Aunt Ty and Cheyenne
I was reminded recently of a unique custom by the Sioux Indian tribe, that says there is no word in their language for "Good-Bye".  As in their beliefs, it is said that such a word would break the circle of love and happiness, and therefore no word was ever developed.  Rather than good-bye, perhaps a simple "Look after yourself", or perhaps "See you again" might work. For whatever reason, and in the spirit of the season upon us, I simply ask each of you to take care of yourselves, your family, and Peace be with you all!

Peace & Love!

Steve striking a pose!

Thanksgiving Pictures

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Memories of Edinburgh

My ghoulish ride on Halloween
Its November 12th - the day after Veterans Day.  Quiet fills my house as Mary is off to a funeral for a friend.  The girls are doing, well, whatever it is girls do at 17 and 24.  Having the day off yesterday was a welcome respite from the dregs of the office.  Lately my motivation is, well, on other things.  Call it bad attitude, lack of drive, maybe just dog assed tired.  Between hospitals, daughters, the occasional tooth ache, work stress, and all the other nightmarish ghouls that invade my dreams, lately I just haven't been myself.  We all go through times like this.  Don't tell me we don't.  Even the most savvy of personalities has a down week or two, but eventually things turn up, and you pull out of the doldrums.  Maybe its the season, too, as colder weather is coming, and what a cranky S.O.B. I can be when I am not on the Harley motorbike!  Whatever it is, its nothing I can just take some happy pill for, and its sure nothing that a little wind in my hair won't cure, but those days are coming to a grinding halt.  Whatever it is, I just wish it would take a flying leap out of my life and hit the road.

Mary as we left Mercy Hospital
after her back surgery
Mary's surgery has done well.  Doctors implanted the nerve stimulator in her back last week, and it has done wonders for her pain.  Her back is more stiff from the surgery itself, but the central portion of the pain she had is almost gone, masked by a small device that is not much bigger than a flash drive.  She is still recovering, but has been able to get out of the house on her own a couple times for short trips.  It will take some time for her incisions to fully heal, but it sure is great to see her able to move around better and be in a little better frame of mind.  Next up will be the total knee replacement of her left knee.  That will most likely take place after the holidays.  Doctors expect her recovery from back surgery to take about 8 weeks, which puts knee replacement right around Christmas, so we'll wait on that till after the holidays to give her more time to recover fully.  In the mean time, we're all just thankful to see her moving around a bit better!

From Left: Jim Franklin, Walter Illes,
and John Maldonado of the QM
Division aboard the USS Sam Rayburn
Veterans Day is a day we all give thanks to the veterans of our nations military, and even the local law enforcement and firefighters are to be thanked for their service as well.  Since Mary was feeling a bit better I decided to take her to a local eatery that offered free lunch to any veteran who walked in.  As you can imagine, it was a little crowded.  I was struck by two things, however, that seemed to stick with me.  The first was a class of elementary students who offered a little handwritten card to each vet as he walked in.  The second, more importantly, was that most of the people in this place were not my age, but mostly Vietnam vets.  You can tell a lot of them any more, the long hair, the handlebar mustaches, the look in their eyes when handed a Thank You card.  I make no boasts about my naval "career" as it were.  I served in peacetime.  I served when the USSR was our enemy. I never saw what most could construe as real combat, although the things I did do are still highly classified to this day. After all, it was submarine duty.  Nobody is supposed to know.  No one died on my watch.  No one was blown to pieces by a mortar round, and no one was executed.  I never saw a soldier lose an arm, a leg, or have the back of his head taken off by a grenade.  Those who have deserve my gratitude, my respect, and should always be held in high esteem by our fellow countrymen.  It shames me to no end, however, when people in my community still flip their noses at veterans such as these men.  If you see a veteran, ANY veteran, just say "Thank you!".  Thank you for your service, thank you for your devotion to country, thank you for your dedication, and thank you for my freedoms.  Many of these men were never thanked. Many never were even greeted warmly when they came home.  Some were protested, belittled, embarrassed, humiliated for doing their jobs. The next time you see a veteran, just say "Thank You" and it will make a huge difference in their lives.

From Right: LCDR Wayne Gambin,
Chief Dave Harper, and me in the
foreground on the USS Sam Rayburn
The holidays are fast approaching.  The pagan winter festivals, as some refer to them, are always painful at times.  The traffic, the hoarding masses, the endless lines, the constant chiming of cash registers, all the noise noise noise! I, for one, have chosen to hide in my house and not come out until January 10th! Yes I know - I sound like an old Scrooge, but I give my thanks to my friends and family each day.  I also give thanks for the doctors who are working to give Mary a new lease on life.  The New Year will bring hope and promise, but to be sure, its to those I love most that have brought some measure of understanding.  It has been a difficult year in my house, but thank you to each of my friends and family for sticking with me and having some understanding!  Patience is being rewarded, although at this point I am not sure if its patience or just dogged determination but we have high hopes for the coming year.  I want to wish each of you a great Thanksgiving Holiday!  Make sure you give thanks to each other, and let us all pray for peace and prosperity!

Peace & Love!

A nice little fire to warm the coggles and toes!

Edinburgh Castle