9

Birthday Remembrance for Dad

Today would have been my dad’s 100th birthday, so I thought I’d repost this piece from Veteran’s Day a year ago.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.  I miss you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here are some photos of my dad from an earlier post I did on my family history.

I find this photo particularly poignant.  I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading.  He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII.  He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn't do it.  He didn't feel he could face his children if he didn't "do his part."  My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother.  My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought.  To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

I find this photo particularly poignant. I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading. He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII. He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t feel he could face his children if he didn’t “do his part.” My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother. My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought. To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

 

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII.  His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700's.  (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.)  My Dad's relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that "patriotic assistance."  They say an army travels on its stomach....

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII. His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700’s. (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.) My Dad’s relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that “patriotic assistance.” They say an army travels on its stomach….

 

Jack Coast Guard

When I was a kid, my Dad would let us play with the semaphore flags he had brought back from the war. Sometimes he would demonstrate how to send certain messages and occasionally, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, he would spell out words that we knew had to be “naughty,” but we didn’t know what they were. My mother would just say, “Oh, Jack!” and laugh along with us.

 

My parents' union was "blessed" first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947.  Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

My parents’ union was “blessed” first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947. Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

Dad passed away in 1998 at the age of 82.  His generation had to deal with the Great Depression and WWII.  They had a job to do and they stepped up and did it.  Many never returned to their families.  We were among the lucky ones.  Thanks, Dad.

8

“It’s Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile” Revisited

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about receiving a sign from my deceased parents letting me know they were okay, entitled “It’s Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile.”

Today I found myself back in that same gift shop. I had decided to walk around in town and soak up the Christmas spirit before things got too crazy with tourists crowding the sidewalks. We’d had rain and colder temperatures earlier in the week but today was sunny and around 60 degrees. A perfect day for poking around in the stores.

I must confess that I was more than a little hopeful that I would have some kind of reprise of my last experience in that shop. I was already in a very nostalgic mood after gawking at a large collection of Shiny Brite ornaments in another store.  They reminded me of the ones I’d lost to the storage locker thief.

And here, again, were my old friends, the Christmas stockings with the 50’s Santa on them, propelling me back in time to when I was a kid, lying under our Christmas tree at night, gazing up at the lights and breathing in the wonderful scent.

I went over to the card rack just to see if they still had that same card with the Oldsmobile on it, but they didn’t. Of course not. It’s been a couple of years and they had put new cards in its place. Kind of silly, really, to expect the same experience, wasn’t it?

As I made my way around to the front of the store, I stopped at a table with some interesting small books on display. One set was called “The Little Book of Saints.” I’m not Catholic, nor were my parents, but the cover intrigued me. It looked like (and was) a copy of a vintage holy card. I love artwork like that, so I picked up one of the books out of several in the stack. It had a padded cover that felt smooth and soothing in my hand.

I noticed it had a pale blue satin bookmark attached at the top. It was marking one of the pages that was not quite in the middle of the book. I opened the book to see what saint it was and found that it was St. Jeanne of Valois.

The patron saint of those who lose their parents.

Oh…my.

I picked up a couple of the other books and found only one other one had a specific page marked with the satin ribbon. Most had the bookmark pulled down just inside the front cover.

Why did I pick that particular book and not the others?

Because I needed it, I guess.

 

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11

Egads! They’ve Exhumed Ann Miller!

I was scrolling through the photos of the glitterati at last night’s Met Gala, otherwise known as the Anna Wintour Takes Over the World Wingding (TM), when I came across a pic of Kris Jenner on the red carpet.  Holy crap on a cracker!

For one disorienting moment I truly thought that the actress/dancer/singer Ann Miller was still alive.  Or reanimated.

I know Ann had lied about her age when she first got into showbiz and was not as old as most folks thought, but she passed away in 2004 at the age of 82 (give or take.)

But no!  Here she was in the flesh, such as it is.  (Some lucky dermatologist is making a fortune off of cheek plumpers here, for sure.)

It took me a little bit to realize that I was mistaken and was looking at Kris Jenner, she of the Kardashian Klan of self-promoters extraordinare.

I guess I wasn’t alone in my miscalculation because I later read a tweet by Lady Gaga that said “Michael Jackson’s corpse is looking amazing tonight.”

Ouch.

See for yourself.  Then go rinse out your eyeballs.                               ann_miller_2001_06_04

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4

Kiss Me, I’m 18% Irish!

Several months ago, I popped for a DNA ethnicity test kit from Ancestry.com.  Because I’m basically a cheap person, not trashy cheap, but fiscally, I waited until the cost had gone below $100 to do it.  I think it was money well-spent.  I thought I knew where many of my ancestors had come from, but it still was a bit of a surprise when I got the results.

It turns out I’m quite the mish-mash of “European-ness.”

25% Western Europe—which mainly translates into France, a whole lotta Dutch, and Germany.

21% Finnish/Western Russia—this was a shock because my maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Norway.  I did some research and found that, ethnically anyway, they were related to Finns who had migrated across Sweden because of their “slash and burn” agricultural style, finally coming to rest in the Hedmark region of Norway near the Swedish border in the early 1600’s.  Could have knocked me over with a feather.

18% Irish—I’m still researching this one.  I’ve found a few ancestors from Ireland, but the jury is still out.

12% Great Britain—This includes ancestors from Wales and a few from Scotland.

12% Scandinavia—A lot of people who have British DNA also have some from Scandinavia.  It appears that the plundering Vikings also liked to settle down and start families after a long day of rampaging and pillaging.

10% Iberian Peninsula—This is the real head-scratcher.  This area could also incorporate parts of France, besides just Spain and Portugal, so that would make sense in my genealogical paper trail.  At any rate, I say “Olé!”

And then there are trace amounts (1%) each of Eastern Europe and Italy/Greece.

Whew!

This whole thing re-energized me in my ancestor research and resulted in finding out I had many Dutch ancestors who were the first settlers of New Amsterdam, which is now New York City.  There even was an on-going lawsuit for years by descendants of one of those families (of Anneke Jans) who claimed they were the true owners of Manhattan and wanted restitution for what was rightfully theirs.  The judges in the case said there were too many people involved (millions of descendants) to render any kind of do-able compensation and the matter was dropped.

Gee, I had my heart set on moving into The Plaza.

 

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8

It Bears Repeating: Richard’s Story

(I originally posted this in 2010, but with the recent outbreak of the measles virus and the continued resistance of many parents to vaccinating their children, I offer it once again.  It won’t change the minds of those who can’t look beyond the “science” of Jenny McCarthy, but it does bear repeating.)

Polio.  Perhaps to someone born after 1957, this word probably doesn’t evoke much more than hazy images remembered from a high school history book or health class.  But to people who were born prior to that year, it was a word that held an icy grip on the hearts of parents and families across the nation.

The polio epidemic of 1952 was one of the worst outbreaks in the U.S., with 58,000 reported cases that year alone.  The following year saw over 35,000 victims.  Nearly everyone either had a family member affected by the disease or knew someone who had been touched by it.  The cause and the transmission of polio weren’t widely understood.  Parents lived in fear of summer vacation because that time of year seemed to be the peak season for infection.  Mothers kept their children home and inside, away from any possible contact with others.  Public swimming pools were closed.  Some people even resorted to keeping their windows sealed tight, out of fear the disease was somehow borne on the summer breezes.

In 1953 I was about six years old and my older brother was ten.  Our neighbors across the street had four children, two of them grown and on their own.  The youngest, Richard, was thirteen and was often a playmate of my brother’s.  Richard was an active, happy-go-lucky kid of the 1950’s.  But that all changed forever.

In July of 1953 Richard and his family had just returned from a camping trip.  My brother had gone over to Richard’s house and the two of them were having fun playing in the family’s travel trailer.  A day or two later, Richard woke up with a stiff neck and back, which worsened over the course of the day.  A visit to the doctor resulted in his being taken to L.A. County General Hospital to the communicable diseases ward, filled with many child patients just like him.  As his condition deteriorated, he underwent a painful spinal tap, a tracheotomy and was put on a respirator.  All this without ever being told exactly what it was he had or what he could expect.  He was later transferred to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California, which was located in our hometown.  (“Rancho,” as it has come to be known, became the hub of polio treatment and continues to this day to be an important center for rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions.)

Richard spent many months in an iron lung, the tank-like device that breathed for him because he couldn’t do that for himself.  Eventually, he regained that ability and was finally allowed to return home.  He wore a full set of leg braces on each leg, enabling him to walk, but with difficulty.  He graduated from high school in 1959.  Because of his disability, he was prevented from working full-time but made up for that by becoming a writer for publications on medical disability issues and by working with medical students who needed to know more about polio and its effects. He is also president of The Amigos Fund which raises money for patient care at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.

Despite all that polio took away from him, he still remained a positive and optimistic person.  However, in the 1980’s Richard encountered something that had begun to affect many polio survivors:  post-polio syndrome, or the onset of deterioration of the muscles and nerves that had been affected in the initial disease.  There are several theories about the cause of this, from the over-use of muscles compensating for the effects of polio to a possible reawakening of the virus responsible for the disease.  Whatever the reason, currently there are over 1.1 million polio survivors living in the U.S. and many are facing the same situation.  Richard subsquently required an electric wheelchair in order to be able to get around.  He also had to have another tracheotomy so he could use a portable respirator.

In one of those strange flukes that are so common now with the advent of the internet and “Googling,” I connected with Richard after all these years and found that he is president of a non-profit organization called The Polio Survivors Association.  His website is www.polioassociation.org.  It provides much needed information about post-polio syndrome to anyone who is interested.  There is also a forum for survivors run by the Salk Institute called Polio Today at www.poliotoday.org.

The average age of polio survivors is about 64.  The doctors who initially treated these patients are gone now, leaving a void in the understanding about the vagaries of this disease and its aftermath.  Richard will be celebrating his 70th birthday in June and remains an upbeat person, even while facing the loss of all the triumphs over polio he fought so hard for in the past.

Here is a brief video slide show set to music which he created for YouTube about his experience with polio.  Please take a moment to watch it and then give thanks for your health and for those determined people who pioneered the polio vaccine. Unfortunately, many parents today take this for granted and are against vaccinating their children for any childhood illnesses.

They need to watch Richard’s story and reflect on the lessons it holds for us all.

3

For My Dad, On Veteran’s Day

Here are some photos of my dad from an earlier post I did on my family history.

I find this photo particularly poignant.  I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading.  He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII.  He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn't do it.  He didn't feel he could face his children if he didn't "do his part."  My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother.  My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought.  To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

I find this photo particularly poignant. I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading. He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII. He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t feel he could face his children if he didn’t “do his part.” My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother. My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought. To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

 

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII.  His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700's.  (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.)  My Dad's relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that "patriotic assistance."  They say an army travels on its stomach....

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII. His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700’s. (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.) My Dad’s relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that “patriotic assistance.” They say an army travels on its stomach….

 

Jack Coast Guard

When I was a kid, my Dad would let us play with the semaphore flags he had brought back from the war. Sometimes he would demonstrate how to send certain messages and occasionally, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, he would spell out words that we knew had to be “naughty,” but we didn’t know what they were. My mother would just say, “Oh, Jack!” and laugh along with us.

 

My parents' union was "blessed" first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947.  Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

My parents’ union was “blessed” first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947. Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

Dad passed away in 1998 at the age of 82.  His generation had to deal with the Great Depression and WWII.  They had a job to do and they stepped up and did it.  Many never returned to their families.  We were among the lucky ones.  Thanks, Dad.