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Christmas Memory Album

Only a week to go til Christmas morn and the weather here is about what you would expect for the time of the year.   The stockings are hung, the trees, yes plural, are decorated and the house sprouts Christmas trinkets and artifacts galore.  It is a lot of work and there of course is always the battle of trying to stay within some budget; even unlimited budgets can be busted I have learned over the years.   I, for one, do relish the nostalgia, the cloying sentimentality and the sights and sounds of the Season.  It is impossible at the end of a year to not have some reflection on not only the past year but some of the years from much farther back.   When you close your eyes you might remember the smells from the kitchen as your mom or wife prepared home-made double chocolate fudge with extra walnuts or pecans or recall the thrill of that special present under the tree when you were under 4 feet tall.   Rather than resist some of those memories I suggest your throw open the memory gate and let them flow in and surround you.  Satisfaction with life after all is but the memories we make and have.

We had trees when I was young but they varied from year to year.  The first I can actually recollect was a flocked tree with that white goo all over it.  My mom just loved those trees but the rest of us much preferred the real trees unadorned with the plastic.  They started doing those flocked trees way back because I go way back and w0uld know.  They were hard to decorate because all that goop constantly fell off when you added the lights and decorations.   For a few years when I was under 10 we did get regular green trees.  Once Dad brought home a cedar tree.  I really didn’t like that one.  Didn’t like the smell and it reminded me of hot summer days playing around them.  There are lots of them naturally in our area.  Maybe we were a little tight that year with money and Dad was able to just cut one down.  Kids never think about money they just assume you can get them what they want.  Then for several years Mom ruled the roost again and we had those blasted flocked trees.

She did give in one year  with a Frazier fir and she wanted to do the old-fashioned tree.  I was probably in my early teens about then.  She insisted that we do the popcorn garlands around the tree.  If you haven’t done than then I suggest you give it some real thought.  It ain’t as easy as the movies make it look like.  First of all you have to thread the needle and the thread needs to be really long which is a nuisance.  Then you best have a thimble for your finger.  Pushing that needle through the popcorn is tricky and the kernel can be tough and the back end of the needle will poke your finger quite hard and it doesn’t feel to good.  Lastly, class, I am here to tell you that those darn kernels break or crumble when  you run the needle through about half the time so cook up at least twice as much as you think you will need.   Each string of the popcorn garland will be at best three feet or so, trust me on that so it takes a lot of them to cover your tree.  But heck it you have nothing to do on a Saturday before Christmas go for it.  Oh, the kids might say they want to help but they won’t last more than about 10 minutes so you are on your own.

My mom was really big on Christmas and I enjoyed that.  She made lots of adornments and even made her own stockings for us.  My wife and I still hang a stocking my mom made when we were so young with both our names on it.   Merely looking at it brings those memories of my own children when they were babies or ankle biters and we had lots fo them.

When I had my own family and we were establishing our own traditions and habits for the Christmas season I always looked forward to the Sunday before Christmas at church.  Our choir was really good and they would have a special Christmas program will all the music of the season with an orchestra accompaniment.   We went to that program many years in a row and then would go have a great lunch at the club back when I was rich and famous.   During those years the wife and me would work so hard on Christmas Eve getting everything organized and typically would be up till 2 to 5 in the morning with aiding Santa’s miracle.   Morning came early and for about 10-12 years we would leave on Christmas day for our ski trip.  So the morning was a flurry of activity tearing into gifts and shouts of joy and smiles and laughs and photos for the memory box.  That was  ensued by the frantic effort to get everything loaded on the Suburban for the 13 hour drive to Raton N. M. on our way the next day to Colo and the slopes.  Absolutely exhausting.  The energy was totally drained and then of course a week of skiing ahead and getting all that gear organized.   The drive always produced screams, threats and fights between every combination you can imagination between six brothers and sisters with a 9 year spread among them.  As painful and draining as those Christmas weeks were and they really were, I can assure you I wish I could start all over again, doing it all over again.   To paraphrase someone famous–they might have seemed to worst of time but they indeed were the best of times.

As much as you may enjoy recalling your own Christmas memories it is even more important to bear in mind that life is always about tomorrow.  Enjoy those memories and miss them, that is ok.  But never forget that you have the chance this year and every year to make new memories that are as good or better.  You book isn’t finished yet and you ARE the writer of your tale.  Yes, with God as a guide you will be the master of your destiny.  Go out there and build those incredible memories.

Unto us a Savior is born.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Story Behind the Photo

Nostalgia often gets a bum rap.  There is nothing particularly wrong with looking back at our history with a tint of those rose colored glasses.  Sometimes the rose color isn’t even there we merely cherish the specific memory of another time and place that had brought us great happiness or contentment or maybe a sense of accomplishment.  Even the worse of us will usually have a moment or two where we got it right even if it was more accident than design.  As they say it is the results that count.  If were are really fortunate we have someone in our family clan that got it right most of the time not just occasionally and they laid down the marker for their progeny to follow.  Following the marker can be frustrating for that progeny that strays or doesn’t quite stay the true course.

That photo is almost 70 years old now.  It was clearly made with one of the good quality Brownie Kodaks of the day.  Professionally done but not something the neighborhood doctor would have gotten.  This was from the bargain basement at Sears more than likely.  Over the decades it has faded a bit from the sunlight.  It now has a sepia quality to it.  It is a formal photo of the family like was favored at that time.   Somehow they pulled it off by looking relaxed and even enjoying themselves.  It is not so stiff and stilted as many of that genre.  Even the toddler looks content and happy as though he was getting a brand new toy.

She is twenty and dressed in one of her snappiest dresses.  One of only a few other than the routine house dresses as they were called then.   Her round face is framed with her hair; her smile dazzles.  She has done her hair.  Not at a salon, that would have been way out of reach financially but she has it worked and it is full and vibrant.  Her smile tells it all though.  It is not forced.  It is not a camera smile.  She is happy at this moment.    She is with him and her son is there, life couldn’t be better than this.  As always there was not advance notice of his arrival other than a call on the road as he hitch hiked from New Orleans.   The letters were steady in dating but their delievry was sporadic and delayed by weeks or even longer on occasion.  

He is in his dress whites.  It is spring of ’44.  He has been in the Mediterranean, North Atlantic and the Gulf since the winter of ’42.  This is only his second trip home.   For the photo he wore the whites because they were the nicest things he had to wear.  At home was just jeans and work shirts and skivvy shirts.  He didn’t like wearing the uniform, he wore it enough, but she wanted them all to look their best for the photo.   He is smiling because he is with her, near her.  The Navy has even given hima new tooth so he can smile without being shy about it.  It is not a dream this time, he can feel the warmth of her next to him.  He feels incredibily lucky and happy to be right there but uncertain how he fits into the picture.   He has been aboard ship about 12 out of the last 18 months.  That little guy was only a few weeks old when he left for boot camp on Lake Michigan.  He wants to make her happy but he wants to get this photo done so they can have time together before he has to leave again in less than two days.  That hard and lean look did reflect the steel of his character and strength of his determination for the to finish this war and then the life to follow.   His later success came as no surprise to those that knew him then.

The little guy is about 18 months old and dressed ina play jumper outfit.  It might even be borrowed.  She only had the pay he sent home and the little she had earned at the Ford plant.  Even with combat pay and promotions he still was only getting about $78 a month at this time.   With the rationing and difficulty getting baby shoes someone had gone to a lot of trouble and expense  to have him looking his best.  He is not crying or looking off at the moon but seems to sense the happiness in the air and serenity of the moment.  He is smiling and looking straight up and out, making his momma proud.  The suit is pin-stripped with a built in belt around the middle.  Hair is combed and you would have thought he was a Rockefeller.

It was only one brief moment in time.  But it did happen and it was real.  Regardless of future dangers of the war and struggles with finances at home, they had this moment.  Then with the blessing of God and their devotion to decency and hard work they had many more such moments for another 42 years. 

That photo hangs on my hallway wall now.  Mom doesn’t appreciate it like I do.  She says it reminds her too much of the War and the bad times of it.  Dad has crossed the bridge to discuss it all with the Lord.   It doesn’t bother me in the least to say I can get lost in my own reverie when I pass it even if only for a few seconds.  But those seconds always lift me.

Honor thy father and thy mother.  

www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Ultimate Question

Sometimes you can glean a little wisdom from the most random of places.  Movies, especially the ones today that are mostly just popcorn entertainment rarely have anything to offer but that rule is violated on occasion.  Every now and then a line or two of dialogue becomes embedded in the public storehouse of adages worth remembering.  If you ever saw Gone With the Wind then you certainly remember well when Rhett Butler, in spite of his faults, was rightly finally totally exasperated with Scarlett.  Her selfishness knew no bounds or limits.  The world turned around her at least in her estimation.  They relationship closed with him telling her “Madam, frankly I don’t give a damn”.  Of course uttering those words was quite scandalous at the time and the expletive received more attention than the content of the message.  Even though Scarlett had endured hardships and pulled herself up her basic character never changed and the world was all about her.  It was time that someone finally told her they didn’t care anymore about her world.

On a lighter vein we recall the famous scene in Casablanca when the French policeman portrayed so well by Claude Rains when he is confronted by the German officer that illegal activities were taking place at Rick’s.  Rick’s was the nightclub owned by Bogart and had a “secret” but well-known gambling casino in the back.   The French officer was in the place all the time and knew Rick well and was quite aware of the gambling but he managed with great aplomb to respond to the German with feigned innocence that he was “shocked, shocked” to learn  of gambling at Rick’s.  Just like we guys are shocked to learn that women love to buy shoes for some arcane reason to us.   Equally memorable was Rick’s comment when asked by the Rains why he had come to Casablanca in the first place.  Rick quipped quickly that he came for the “waters”.  Of course it is on the desert of Morocco.   Rains said there are not waters here.  Bogart never missed a beat and replied that he was “misinformed”.

Saving Private Ryan is a great movie for many reasons.  I do wish they had all graduating seniors from High School watch it as their final class in American History.  It brings home the tremendous sacrifice and effort others made for them to enjoy the luxury of freedom.   It is also an example of how ordinary men can rise to extraordinary heights when motivated by a worthy goal.  That was a war not fought for treasure or territory but for ideas.   At the end when Hanks is shot and dying after all the terrors and pains of the battle he pulls Damon close to him and whispers in his ear “earn this”.  They do a wonderful job of then transitioning to the much older Damon coming back to visit Omaha beach and the grave of Hanks along with thousands of other buried there.  Damon kneels at the grave while his family waits in the background giving him space to be alone a moment.  He falters a bit in his step as he begins to walk away.  His wife comes to him with obvious concern.  She takes his arm and he looks at her with welling eyes and ask her “Have I been a good man?”  

He desperately wanted to know if he had earned that sacrifice made by Hanks and the thousands of others who never came home.  What a wonderful question.  It of course for those knowledgeable about the Bible recognize it.  It is a version of the famous–“where goest thou?”   Life gets so busy often that we can forget our true “mission” in life.   First there is growing up and school, then slam bam before you know it you are raising kiddos and worrying about them and trying to make your way in life and provide for the family and your prosperity and progeny.  Then you awake one day and you are in you mid fifties.  Young but suddenly it does dawn on you that you have crossed the point of no return, there are left years left than you have lived already.

Sooner or later you can be assured that you will go through a period of assessment.  It is normal and you should.  You will want to know your worth, not in gold but in esteem of those important to you.  Does your wife respect you?  She loves you but does she respect the man you are?   In your heart do you believe you set a good example for you kids?  Would you want them to be like you?  You will add up the bank account for sure but that won’t matter the way the answers to those questions will.  We all have to ultimately give an accounting and have that question asked and answered. 

As you live your life through your 20’s to your 50’s you would do well if on occasion you can ask that question rather than postponing it till all the events in your life have been played out; don’t postpone it while there is still a chance to alter matters if you believe that is best.  Rest assured you will ask that question of yourself and you will know the answer.  While younger allow yourself the opportunity to forge your life so that you won’t have to dread facing the answer to that question.   We all have within us to be good men; it does take effort and even heartache sometimes along the way to make the right decisions and take the correct course of action, but better then than to have the regrets for the right road not taken.

As in ancient times, Iran poses a grave danger to the people of Israel.  This is a hinge point in the middle east.  If Iran achieves great power the worry is how it will be used.  Sadly, they have told exactly how they intend to use it to destroy Israel.  Maybe we should take them at their word.  Hitler wrote exactly what his intentions were but the world chose to ignore it as mere bluster.   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Memories That Endure

We all experience much in life on a daily basis. So many things happen to us and we do a lot everyday if you think about it. As the decades roll by it is curious why some of those memories stick with us more than others. I have had lots of interesting things, joyous moments, scary times and exhilarating episodes but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of them have been lost in the mist of time and the memory. Others remain so clear I can conjure up the weather, smells, smiles and tears of specific events. Some of them are not really that important at all but they stick in the mind and won’t go away like that rattle in your car you have tried to find for months.

My earliest memory is of my da.d coming home for leave from the war. I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time but I have the distinct memory of being in my playpen and seeing my dad in a uniform (Navy). I cried because Mom was leaving with Dad. I am sure they weren’t gone more than 24 hours together but I had to stay with my grandmother and I can recall being very upset about that. I don’t remember the hugs my Dad gave me although I know he did. I don’t recall him coming home with Mom from San Francisco when he was discharged in late 1945 but I do remember the duplex we lived in for a while. We moved a lot those first few years after the War probably a function of money needs and the effort of Mom and Dad to “move up” in the world. I do remember the first house we bought when I was six. It was two bedrooms and one bath, a wood frame house. We had a big back yard and a detached garage. No trees in the neighborhood; it was a classic tract house built in that era for veterans. I can even remember the old Victorola player in the garage. I have no idea where it came from. It had one of those cranks on the side to wind it up to play a record. Don’t I wish I still had that now. It was just gone at some point.

I don’t remember my first grade teacher’s name but I can remember what she looked like. The school was brand new. One of the many built at that time to accommodate all the kids being born after the War. The principal was a man and he had a Phd. The same man ended up being the principal at my high school a few years later. Almost all the principals then were men and they had advanced degrees. I never heard of a female principal then. I can recall getting our polio vaccinations at school. We were all lined up and nurses came to administer the shots. It was a big deal. I remember my Mom making me come in to rest during the summer because she was afraid I would get polio in the heat. I have no idea where she got that idea but that was the common belief at that time. Then in the early ’50’s we got our dog tags at school. Just like the soldiers had. We guys thought that was really cool. It had our name and other info on it. That only lasted a year or two. We were supposed to wear them all the time in case of a nuclear attack by the Commies. I distinctly recall the drills we had to do in class and in the halls in the event of an attack. We were taught to dive under our desks if it was sudden, against the walls if there was a bit more time, and if there was an air raid warning we went to the halls and got on the floor with our heads against the lockers and our feet toward the middle of the hallway. I have no idea why it was that precise but it was.

I don’t really remember that many Christmases or birthdays. I remember them being fun but can’t really remember any particular gifts except a couple. I remember the Lionel train I got when I was about 5 for Christmas one year and I remember my tenth birthday when I got my 410 shotgun from Sear and Roebuck. I do remember all the store windows being decorated and having toys, Santas and reindeer in them. I loved going to just look at the windows of all the big stores. Then there were no strip centers or shopping malls, everything was essentially down town.

When I was small we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood and look for fruit trees in the late spring and early summer. We would use the fruit that fell over the fences as missiles to throw at each other. On occasions we would be very daring and actually hop over a fence to get some of the fruit and then right back as quick as we could so we won’t get caught. The figs and peaches made the best weapons. Even thought cars and trucks abounded there were still wagons with mules that would come to the neighborhood about twice a week with fruits and vegetables. I don’t know if that was peculiar to our neighborhood or not. I recall it seemed very old fashioned even to me at the time.

We kids liked to listen to the stories of the old man who lived in the neighborhood, next door to me in fact. He dressed very old style, string bow tie, white coat in summer and hat and cane. He even had one of those goatees. It and his hair was all white. He was at least 90 something then and would sit on the front porch in good weather for hours. He would tell us stories on the old west and we loved it. I don’t know if his stories were all true of course but I was fascinated by them. Indians, cowboys, and then WWI and what things were like then. He had lived in our town since right after the War Between the States.

Those are only a few memories of the zillion little memory bytes buzzing in my head but to think of all those that can’t be retrieved. Perhaps more another day.

You will have regrets in life, but nevertheless you should try each day to live in such a way to avoid the those rash comments that cause them. You know how to do that in your life better than me.

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The Watch–Conclusion

They made the port of call a few days later at Liverpool.  He was still not used to the idea of those “ports” often being miles from the coast.  Many of them were upriver from the coast like this one.  The city was industrial to its core, grimy and gray.   In spite of that it had a bustle and liveliness to it from all the activity in the dock area and the constant flow of supplies off ship and on their way to other parts of England.  He didn’t know it but most of their cargo was destined for southern England and the build up for D-Day.  This trip he drew shore patrol duty.  It was the first time he had that.  He knew it was because he was a little bigger than most and he didn’t drink.  The Navy did have some regular shore patrol seaman but the bulk of them during the war were on temporary assignment from the ships in port.

He was teamed up with a Chief Petty Officer which he really liked because he was experienced and could show him the ropes.  They would work with the local Bobbies when needed but mostly they were there to keep drunk sailors from making trouble.   While on patrol they were approached and told of a brawl taking place a couple of blocks away and they were needed because it involved Navy personnel and Army troops.  He started to jog off to the location but the Chief grabbed him by the arm and told him to slow down and walk there.  Maybe it would be over when they got there he suggested.  So they walked.  But when they arrived it was still in progress, they could hear it from several buildings away.   It was a pub naturally and when he opened the door he was met by a soldier with his mouth bleeding profusely and one of his teeth missing.  Two Bobbies arrived at the same time and he was glad to see them.  They went inside as a group and it was a scene from hell with men fighting for no apparent reason and no particular distinction among combatants.  He followed the leads of the others as they began grabbing them one by one and taking them outside where they made them sit down.  One big Army fellow told a Bobbie he was going to beat his brains out.  But the Bobbie calmly took his  baton and used it to rap the man on his hands.  The first swipe broke fingers.  But he wouldn’t stop so he hit him again on the forearm, hard.  He didn’t know if that blow broke his bones but he crumpled to the floor whimpering.  No one else made a challenge to them after that.  They were all taken to the port stockade.  He was glad to get back on board ship.  He did learn that it is not how hard you hit but how effectively you do it.  That Bobbie sure knew how to control an opponent with only that baton. 

Months later on another ship he looked at a vast armada of other ships.  There had never been any convoy like this.  There were ships as far as he could see in every direction.  The  Normandy invasion had started the endless train of supplies was still making its way across the Channel.  The main cargo they were carrying was a train engine.  He wondered why they needed that.  Surely there were trains in France.  Anyway, that was their load and it was unloaded at Cherbourg after they spent a day waiting for clearance to the dock.  Everyone was afraid of buzz bombs since they had been unleashed by the Germans recently.  They rightly feared they would be used to attack the supply lines.  But that never happened.  They only saw a few German aircraft and they were reconnaissance flights.   He didn’t know it then but his fighting was over. 

There was one more voyage in the Atlantic then to the Pacific.  But there is was backwater islands already secured.  There were many alerts and alarms about enemy aircraft and subs but none ever attacked a convoy of his.  Heat, humidity and tedium beyond description.  The War for him just frittered away.  There was no magic moment, no beat of the drums.  He was stateside when the bomb was dropped on Japan.  He had no idea what a nuclear bomb was or how it worked but he understood it was big.  More importantly he meant that he would not have to be part of the force to invade Japan.  The word and rumors about the suicide planes and losses were already flowing throughout the ranks in spite of censorship and the Navy’s best effort to restrict knowledge of the losses at Iwo and Okinawa.  They knew that thousands of sailors had been killed in those invasion and that things would be worse off the coast of Japan.  No matter where they were they would be within range of the Jap planes and subs.  Relief was not the right word.  It was a rebirth.  He would live and at least have the chance to stumble or race to success.  He could be with his beloved Jenny.   They offered him a promotion to Chief but he didn’t want to sail the seas anymore.   She met him at San Francisco and they arranged a ride home with another couple by offering gas money.  They left the Bay into the rising sun and many more to follow.  The setting sun was not going to be the cold deep but one surrounded by family.  

Every day was his gift.  Gratitude was engrained, he remembered that many never had the chance to be grateful.   He had an ordinary experience for the “Duration”.  The remarkable thing was that he always considered it ordinary to do the right, the duty required.

http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Nostalgia and the Season

Nostalgia is one of those words that can conjure up a lot of different emotions and interpretations.   Some would make the case that it is nothing more than a bunch of old fuddy-duddies remembering the “old days” and viewing them through rose-colored glasses.  Others believe it is a waste of energy or worse an aversion to anything new or progressive.  One thing is for sure and that is most everyone allows themselves to indulge in a bit of it from time to time even if only secretly.

Who has not reminisced about some past sporting event whether as a participant or fan.  If you played football, basketball or any other sport you have memories of particular games and your actions.  Hopefully they are the pleasant ones about making a touchdown or a crucial first down at a tense moment in the game.  Maybe it is about that cheerleader you were dating then and that special feeling when she would praise you prowess.  You can literally feel the way the ball cradled against your body as your carried in through the line, you can hear that roar from the stands, or smell the dust from the turf as you were pounded down by the opposing team.  Those memories are strong and it is amazing that they endure so long with such intensity.

Everyone can recall songs and tunes from long ago.  They evoke some of our strongest reactions.  They recall for us a different time and place where society was different.  Society does change ever generation for good or ill.  We all like to think that our youth was the best and the brightest don’t we?   Some of those old big band tunes for Glenn Miller don’t remind of my personal life so much as they remind me of my mon and dad.  Those were their songs, their time.  Those old songs remind me of waiting for dad to come home from work and mom in the kitchen preparing dinner while me and my brother were hounding her about going out to play for just a few more minutes.  She would relent usually even if it was close to dinner time.  The radio would have those great tunes playing all the while.  When dad got home he would come out on the front porch and whistle for us.  He could really whistle loud.  That was the deal, we had to stay close enough to the house to hear the whistle.  It was not an acceptable excuse to say we didn’t hear it.

Christmas Day always brings up memories of some bygone special mornings rushing to the Christmas tree.   I recall one in particular when I got a Lionel train.  I was only about 5 and we lived in a rental duplex.  Dad had only been home from a the War a couple of years and was working two jobs to make ends meet.  It was important then that the man be the sole breadwinner and mom stayed home.  It was one of those old very heavy types they made then.  It was quite exact in its detail of an old steam engine.  They had it all set up Christmas morning for me.  I bet that sucker costs ten bucks!  A real sum then.  I kept up with that old train for years even into my teens.  Then one day it was just gone.  I guess it got lost in one of our moves.  That train brings back such great memories for the joy of being a child and of my mom and dad.  I suppose what it does is remind me of the sacrifices they made for me. 

Watching the current leaders of our nation certainly reminds me of our past leaders.  It was true that most everyone liked Ike.  What was not to like?   Those were good times for the most part.  Our economy was growing and expanding and opportunity was beckoning for those willing to venture out and try their luck or skill.  He kept in check the worst ideas of the progressives of the day and he made us feel safer having him there in the White House with the Commies barking at every door around the world.  It is hard now for many to recall just how menacing those threats from the Kremlin were.  Often they were not only threats but hostile actions.  They did have an active spy network within our own government.  Hiss, the Rosenbergs and McClean, Burgess et al were real people out to do our nation and way of life harm.  Ike had defeated the Nazis and was a warrior, that was important.  Don’t believe me?  Then I would remind you that even his Democratic succesor ran as a hawk and touted the “missle gap” and was actively promoted by is party as a warrior.

Why do we have all these thoughts?  That must be pretty important to most of us.  We all go back to them over and over.  The nostalgia connects us to our cultural heritage.  Whatever our heritage might be it is important to us.  It reminds us of family because family is important to us.  No one likes being alone and the tightest bonds are those of blood.  Admit it, those day dreams of your days of yore make you feel good.  Nothing wrong with that.  Rather than fighting nostalgia or denigrating it I recommend you rejoice in it.  Savor it like some family relic that it handed down from  generation to generation.

Most vital of all is to make sure you are doing what you should to build those future nostalgic day dreams for you own children.  It is my prayer for you that your progeny will one day recall their days and years with you as the best of times, not the worst of times.

Gold is at 1200 plus.  Some one doesn’t think the current policies in DC are in the best long-term interest of our economy.  That is more than an opinion, it is a fact demonstrating by the hundreds of thousands or millions of folks investing in gold.  They are voting with their checkbooks.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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First Trip To the Hospital for Baby’s Birth

Some events in our lives are more embedded in our memories than others.  Most of us can recall the birth of our first child and the excitement that surrounded that event.   I can sure remember mine.  We were in the last semester of my law school days.  It was the fall and I was due to graduate in December.  We had moved out of our apartment and were home shopping.  We stored our belongings in my dad’s warehouse and moved in with the in-laws for a couple of months then with my folks for a couple of months to finish that semester and get organized.  We did find the house we wanted and could afford.  It was in the suburbs and a typical 3-2 with an attached garage.  It was modest but nice enough and all we could afford.

I recall that being a very hectic and trying time.  I needed a permenant job for sure with the baby due in November and us living like gypsies.  We had picked the house only a couple of weeks before the baby was due.  I was both relieved and scared to death.  I only had a clerk position at that time and was not sure it would be permenant.  Hard to believe now but we had the money for a down payment from a small investment I had made in Delta Airlines in the early ’60’s from our savings.  Our house payment was going to be more than the car payments for our VW bug–the monthly payment for the house was $118.00 it cost ab0ut $17,000.00.   It was a God awful Japanese or Chinese style with swooping eaves.  Quite grotesque.   Hey, but it was home sweet home. 

In the dark ages we didn’t know the sex of the baby.  No one did in those days.  You got what you got and all those baby showers brought in clothes in lots of neutral colors.   We had a great Ob-gyn.  We were at my folks those last few weeks and it was an area where I was raised so I was very familar with the neighborhood and the entire city.  We had both grown up there.    I recall vividly that night when we had gone to bed in my old bedroom and my wife told me that she was having really strong contractions and this was the real deal.   We had naturally packed beforehand and were prepared.  So I quickly dressed and we were ready to depart.  Of course my mom heard the commotion and was all over us like a chicken on a June bug.  Questions, questions, questions and advice, advice, advice.  But we knew the drill and were on our way and told the folks they could come along when they liked.  I insisted that we take our own car over their repeated offers to drive us.  Perhaps I should have taken them up on the offer.

I knew that part of town like the back of my hand.  For reasons only explained by excitement and euphoria I decided at the last minute to take a short cut to the hospital.   It was only a 10 minute or so drive especially late at night like that if we had taken the conventional route.  But hero here was going to get her there really fast and smoothly so I take the back streets.  Darn, if we weren’t soon on streets with construction and potholes as big as icebergs.  Every time we hit one of those the jolt made me gringe and my child bride was beginning to moan and express her displeasure with my choice of routes.  I’ll be damned if I didn’t get turned around in my own backyard as it were.  We weren’t lost of course but I was so bamfoosled that I kept taking the wrong turns and driving us over the bumpiest roads in that neck of the woods.  I thought for sure I was going to make my baby birth right there in the car with my inadequate navigating and driving skills.  Finally we got on the main thoroughfare that went straight to the hospital.   I felt like Columbus seeing Hispanola for the first time. 

Of course as it turned out all that rush was futile.  The labor was a long one.  My poor trooper of a wife was in labor over 24 hours before that baby finally decided to join the fun outside the womb.  In those days it was different and dads weren’t allowed in the delivery room but we were allowed in the labor room.  I was with her until the very end.  I got to see my baby crown before they took her away.  After delivery she was in the recovery room and the anesthesia was really having an effect on her.  She was babbling and making no sense at all.  Me and her mom and the nurse were in stitches listening to her.  She kept talking about the elephant in the street and how she had to guide it somewhere.  What that elephant had to do with my daughter’s birth only she and the anesthesiologist would know.

Fellows, figure out how you are going to get your little lady to the hospital when the time comes and then stick with it.  Don’t change things at the last minute.  Believe me it will not be an improvement.

We did move into our house only a  couple of weeks after our daughter was born.  Then I was promptly fired because I had asked for a raise from 75 cents an hour to $1.00 and hour as a clerk.  There went the permenant job.  So I had a new baby, new house and no job.  What a great start.  But a little work and the good Lord taking care of fools helped out and we did manage.  I have never been so frightened and elated in my life as I was that winter.  I guess that is when I learned that Woody Allen was right about 90% of success is just showing up.  I kept showing up and now it is 6 children and 12 grandchildren and a lifetime later.  I got better than I deserved.   Blessings often come in adversity  and we don’t see them at the time.

If you think health care is expensive now just wait until you get it free from the government.

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