It’s Father’s Day and I am in northern Mississippi visiting with my stepmother. Last year on Father’s Day, I was on my way home from visiting her.
My father died 11 years ago this summer after a fall and a brief illness, and I began writing a year later.
My stepmother had been living independently in Mississippi since he died. Neither my father nor my stepmother is native to Mississippi, but they decided to relocate here after my father retired in 1998. It’s a beautiful town and they have a lovely home.
However, this past winter that independence came to an end after a fall and brief hospitalization. I am grateful that my brothers and I were successful in moving her into an assisted living facility before the COVID19 lockdown shutdown the country.
But life is full of next steps, our next step is convincing her that living in northern Mississippi 621 miles from me in Illinois, 621 miles from one of my Texas brothers, and 630 miles from my other Texas brother is no longer sustainable, especially in the time of COVID19.
Tough conversations. Much like the conversations my dad and I had years ago.
I was 7 years old when the photo above was taken. Every time I see it, I remember listening to the Apollo 8 astronauts reading the first ten verses of Genesis as their space capsule orbited the moon. I can remember sitting in front of the black and white television in my pajamas with my two brothers. I was in first grade and enamored with the American space program.
50 years later, I am still amazed by what lies beyond Earth. The past few weeks, I have awakened early in the morning to see Venus brightly illuminating the pre-dawn sky. The sun brightly illuminating the sky. This morning, it was a reminder of what lies beyond.
Each time I see the moon, I marvel at the achievements of
America’s space program – despite what a professional basketball player
recently denied, men did reach the moon and return safely.
But today, I marvel at the photo and the possibilities that exist for our world. As Bill Anders, one of the three Apollo 8 astronauts, remarked,
“We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth,”
My weekly challenge was to remember my favorite song from five years ago and listen to it. I have no idea what I was listening to five years ago but it certainly was not on the top 100 from July 2013. I had an idea, a better idea, and I went back 40 years to when I was 16; the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. That was the summer of all sorts of memories.
This past Sunday afternoon, we drove north. I had a driver for the first hour and the last hour. My daughter O is working on her driving hours and loves driving. It gave me time to go back in time – 40 years – to the summer of ’78. I checked the top 40 from July ’78. I recognized most of the top 10 but my memory took a jolt when I read #14 – Miss You by the Rolling Stones. That song took me back and brought back all sorts of memories and I found my song…. But first… how I got there.
I turned 16 in November ’77, but I couldn’t get my driver’s license I hadn’t completed the required behind the wheel driving training. Instead of taking driver’s ed during the summer, like all of my peers, I had been visiting by dad in England for five weeks. I took the driver’s training during winter break of my sophomore year and was ready to get my license in January of ‘78. January in Houston, Texas is cold, but not nearly as cold as January where I now live – there is no comparison.
I am the oldest in my family, so I was the first of the kids to get my license and the first child to teach my mom all sorts of lessons she and her sister probably did not teach their parents when they were growing up in the fifties.
When my parents divorced, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia and a year later he and my step-mom moved to London, England. Whatever he had, he took with him or put in storage except for the 1969 blue Volkswagen Beetle. It was stored in the garage. I had my name on it. Or rather, I had put my name on it.
For a 16-year-old boy in 1978, having your driver’s license is cool, having a car a car is even cooler. Once I got my license, I began to drive the ‘blue bug.’ I could drive to work and back and had to ask permission beyond that. The little blue bug had air conditioning, but it didn’t work and the radio had AM only. I had a job and made minimum wage as a busboy and dishwasher at my next-door neighbor’s Italian restaurant. By March, I had scrimped and saved enough money to purchase an in dash 8-track cassette player and FM\AM radio and a couple of speakers for the blue bug. I had barely enough money leftover to buy two 8-track tapes – I picked Van Halen’s debut album and Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. I listened to those constantly.
The blue bug was nothing brag about. Beside the AC not working, there was a hole in the passenger side floorboards caused by battery acid spillage. A friend of my mom’s helped with a fix and the radio and speakers were an improvement. To make up for the lack of AC the blue bug had side windows which could tilt inward and force air into the car. But driving it in the hot Texas spring and summer was pretty uncomfortable and perspiring was the norm. Continue reading Day 29 – Miss You→
It’s a snow day today. I am in my basement office chair listening to a new favorite band – the Avett Brothers. It’s peaceful and calm and using the morning to catch up on stuff that needs catching up on. I have a stack of papers in my school backpack that I plan to get to, but for now, at this moment, I can be present and reflect on the week behind and the week ahead.
The SNOW DAY Yesterday the buzz in the hallways and classrooms was all about the impending snow day. There was a lot of energy flowing- the kids, the teachers, everybody. I told my students that what we started Thursday was due Monday, regardless. So far, I have four ‘My Life as a Water Molecule’ stories handed in. Pretty good considering they’ve got three more days to do it.
I was on my way home when I got the call, or rather the tweet. First my daughter’s school district and a second later my school district tweeted – no school Friday.
I’d stopped at the grocery store on the way home for food and supplies my wife had asked me to get. She’d been shopping earlier and our fridge is full. She was working on a pot of chili when it began to snow. There is no good reason to leave the house today, except to clean the driveway or play in the snow.
It’s supposed to snow all day today and snow more tomorrow and Sunday. Then, next week rain is forecast for Thursday. February in the Midwest. Spring will be here before we know it.
SPRING is on the way…. My students and I have been tracking weather and sunshine data for 37 locations across the globe ranging from Tromso, Norway to Stanley, Falkland Islands since December and 35 more locations in between. Last week, we crossed the ten hours of sunlight threshold and we are headed for equal daylight and night on the equinox March 21st. Today we have 10 Hours and 23 Minutes, even though it’s cloudy and snowing. After the snow storm, the sun will shine brightly and the sky will be clear blue. Continue reading Snow day – three things for Friday→
I was thinking the other day. It was a random thought that passed quickly through my brain.
I realize that the statement sounds awful, but it’s true. What I really mean is that I don’t remember her phone number. I do have it and I call her often, but I have to look it up in my address book. Simply, press the name – mom cell – in my favorites on my cell phone and the number rings.
It’s a sad consequence of the digital age.
My mom’s phone number was 713-494-2240, it was mine, too until I moved away in the mid-1980s. My mom had the phone number until a few years back when she dropped it in favor of an internet phone and a cell phone to save money, but she has since dropped the internet phone. Now, she only a cell phone number and it’s in my cell phone’s address book along with a picture I took in October 2016 when we were visiting. The picture shows up on the screen when she calls. It makes me smile.
My mom still lives in the house where my brothers and I grew up. This past August she celebrated 50 years in the same house and the same address. We moved into the house in the summer before I started kindergarten and I lived there until I moved away in college. My brothers moved away to start their lives on their own after I did, but they still live in the area.
We grew up in the era of rotary dial phones. The kind of phones you couldn’t speed dial and had to place your finger in number slot and turn it all the way and let it return, then repeat the process until all of the numbers had been dialed.
When we first moved in, all we had to do was dial four numbers for local phone numbers, just the last four.
As a kid, I knew all sorts of numbers and I still do. Robert and Jimmy were 3351, Jimmy and Jeff were 3355, and Jimmy and Chris are backdoor neighbors were 2267. With exception of Jimmy and Jeff, whose parents still live in the neighborhood, all of those kids and their families have long since moved away. Scattered like seeds in the wind. Continue reading numbers→
This morning when I opened the Five Minute Journal, I was met with the week’s weekly challenge.
July 2017 – outside the North Carolina Museum of History – yes, that’s a smile….
July 2017 – outside the North Carolina Museum of History – we’re both smiling….
September 2017 – at school – and I am smiling, it’s in the eyes
this week’s challenge…
Yes, I am challenged to smile at myself in the mirror for ten seconds. I smiled when I read the challenge and took a screen shot. Not a difficult challenge at all, nothing like the weekly challenge from a few week’s back when the Five Minute Journal challenged me to start a conversation with a stranger.
It made me think of a time when I did have to smile in the mirror.
It also made me think of this week’s photo challenge – layers. It made me think of the following conversation from the movie Shrek.
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think. Donkey: Example? Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs] Donkey: They stink? Shrek: Yes… No! Donkey: Oh, they make you cry? Shrek: No! Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs… Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
[Shrek walks off] Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.
It’s is a wonderful world, indeed. When I first heard Sam Cooke croon,
Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
I was watching Animal House with John Belushi and laughing as only a teenager can. I’ve grown up, it’s been almost 40 years since I watched Animal House. I was in high school and dreaming of college, and I didn’t know much about history, or the French I took. I knew everything, or thought I did.
It was the start of my junior year in high school and it was the year which changed my life. Seriously, no kidding.
Fast forward and I am much older, more experienced, and I still don’t know much about history and every day I am reminded of how much I still don’t know, and yet I still yearn to learn more and grow each day – to make every day count.
Being a father is not easy, becoming a father is…. well, not the point of this post.
Today is my twentieth Father’s Day as a dad, my fifty-fifth as a son, and eighth Father’s Day without my dad. My dad passed away July 20, 2009 after a brief illness and my brothers and I took his cremains to France in June 2010 and he remains at rest and peace with the world.
7:41 AM Somewhere in the middle of the paragraph above my brother, David, called and we talked… when were finished talking, I got back to writing – 8:11 AM.
I don’t believe there has been a day since, when I haven’t thought of my dad; just think of him, no judgement one way or another. There are days, like today, when he is constantly on my mind. On these days, I call my brothers and check in, or they call me and check in, either way we talk. Sometimes, we talk about dad, or we talk about our kids, or we talk about growing up; mostly we talk about the thread that holds us together – mom and dad and being brothers.
The interesting thing about our heritage is that we don’t get to choose it, it’s been selected for us and we have to wear and share it forward, or it ends.
Today, May 20 would’ve been my dad’s 84th birthday. I was looking for a photo to post on Facebook and I found a flash drive loaded with photos I had scanned on a visit home in August ‘11. I found family photos ranging from before I was born until my early twenties. It brought back memories. I remember that trip home as if it was the other day. Where have I been? – August ‘11.