Auld Lang Syne

“For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.”

Growing up, I spent every New Year’s Eve at a relative’s house party for family and friends. After the stroke of mid-night and hugs and kisses had been shared, everyone sang “Auld Lang Syne” . I had no understanding of the meaning, as this was a singing family anyway, but it was very comforting.
Seems that the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns first penned the words and attached them to a popular melody of the time and submitted it for publication. Later he would write a poem about it.
“We’ll take a cup of kindness yet” was the act of men and women drinking with each other to celebrate old memories and their friendships in general. Over the centuries the song evolved to be especially popular at New Year’s, funerals, graduations, and other social events.
“Auld Lang Syne” has lost some of its popularity in the 21st Century, but for me, today’s expanded version of the meaning just might very well be FaceBook, and Twitter, and my blog “Moving On”. These provide us all with an opportunity to see on a daily basis what we are doing, thinking, and sharing, especially anything pertaining to animals. ūüėĹ And it does so not only for the present, but for years past courtesy of F.B.’s “On This Day”. Our very own “cup of kindness yet” in digital glory.
I’m not embarrassed to say how important it is for me to see, learn, laugh, cry, and generally admire each of you and the ability to know what’s makes your world, in the words of the Chairman of the Board, go ring-a-ding-ding. It also provides me with daily opportunities to express to you all my imagination in assorted ways that make me happy, and as a bonus, hopefully add a smile or two to you all.
2016 had its fair share of glorious moments, but taken in totem, I’m very much willing to let it go in anticipation of new possibilities in 2017. Looking forward to continuing this magnificent life with you by my cyber-side. HAPPY NEW YEAR !! Love, Alan

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That Kind of Day

Why is it that different devices show different postings on social media platforms. I like what I see on Twitter using my cell phone more than the tweets I see on my iPad, but I prefer the iPad because the screen is bigger. It’s going to be THAT kind of day, is it? ¬†What to do? Aha! I go to my Mac Air but its not charged. And I don’t have an iWatch, or I would check that too. Never mind, I’ll watch TV. Wait, there’s a problem there because I took a solemn oath last night not to turn on commercial TV until further notice (my only exception will be CBS Sunday Morning, fast-forwarding past the headlines). ¬†Speaking of headlines, I read earlier that there is now a 51% chance of either Trump winning the presidency or the Cubs winning the world series. If either comes true, I’m guessing the end of days is nigh.
I forgot what was I thinking? Oh yes, the TV. I can get the TV on, but not the cable. Now the cable is on but the TV just went off. Either my dyslexia is getting worse or I have too many remotes. The sun is shining so a good walk is in order. But its not even 11 am, the temperature is 90 degrees and I don’t like to sweat. Unfortunately, the new color-coordinated exercise outfit will have to wait. I have an audible book to start but it is over 10 hours long about a girl on a train or something, and just listening is too sedentary. In a couple of hours I could go to the movies in an air-conditioned theater that serves buttered popcorn but the best movie showing right now is about an airplane crash in NYC. I’d rather take a shoe-less walk on a sizzling sidewalk in south Florida and look like one of those giant floppy armed blow-ups outside of car washes. That said, I might change my mind because I think the movie’s main character is Sully, the “best scarer” from the movie Monsters, Inc.. What to do…what to do?
I know…I’ll vacuum! I love to vacuum because it always both soothes my mind and allows me to sing at the top of my lungs without alarming the neighbors. Looking back, most of my most important decisions were made while either cleaning or simply putzing around. OK, times a wasting…gotta go and fire up the Electrolux…

“The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it down give the vacuum one more chance.”

 

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First Alan; Then POTUS

“To travel is to take a journey into oneself” ¬† Danny Kaye

 

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[This is a picture I took during early fall, 2011, in Hanoi, Viet Nam. Three years later, my wife had it enlarged and framed, and gave it to me as a birthday gift. It now hangs in the master bedroom at our second home, Hydrangea Hill in Massachusetts as a reminder of amazing travels.]

As I write, President Obama is currently in Viet Nam, the first President ever to visit Hanoi. His three day trip is opening my memory floodgates of the wonderful three weeks my wife, one of her sisters, and I spent traveling the entire length from Sapa, near the Chinese border in the north, to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta in the south; a distance approximately from Albany NY to Miami, FL.

One of my sharpest memories stems from touring Ho Chi Minh’s home site and a conversation I had with the young guide. I mentioned I was in the Army during our war, but never was stationed in Viet Nam. Although not alive during that period, I asked the young man his overall impression of that war and Americans in general. His response surprised me. He explained that the Vietnamese generally don’t think much about our approximate twenty year war. “The Chinese occupied my country for a thousand years; the French for almost a hundred. The U.S. involvement is just a blip in our long history”. He added the two biggest reminders of that time is 1) the lack of males of my generation in his country, and the physical disfigurement of so many people by “Agent Orange”. He added the opinion that “only those in power want war. The people want peace.” I will never forget that conversation, that young Vietnamese man, and that beautiful location.

Viet Nam today is a gorgeous ¬†country with friendly citizens everywhere. The various sights and sounds and smells, fills the senses in totally different and totally pleasant ways. From the tiered rice fields in the clouds of Sapa, and Halong Bay’s limestone islands in the North, the ancient towns of Hoi An, and the former imperial capital of Hue in the central region, to the city formally known as Saigon and the vibrantly thriving life of floating markets, pagodas and and villages on the Mekong Delta in the south, Vietnam offered a wonderful travel experience.

I hope the President feels the same way after his trip is completed. I feel luckier in a way that as a tourist, I had a chance to meet some lovely people, eat some delicious food, learn about a foreign culture that existed for thousands of years prior to mine, and most of all feel a thrill greater than any amusement park ride, by walking across any busy traffic intersection in Hanoi! Travel books mention it as unforgettable. It is. The secret…keep walking no matter what. Uniquely amazing experience. Unfortunately POTUS will never be allowed to have such fun, even when he is out of office, and that is a shame. On the plus side, I’m confident if he is introduced to Pho, the noodle soup mainstay of the country, he will be culinarily hooked forever. Enjoy your visit Mr. President.

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Sapa-Find the flag…

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Peg, Alan, and Ho in Hanoi

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Halong Bay

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Discovered if everything else failed, I could sell bananas in Hanoi

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You can get a driver’s permit at the age of four in Viet Nam

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Happy trekers

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When Mom Met The Hard-of-Hearing Dwarf, The Love of My Life

My Mom was one of those “unconditional love” types of mothers. Anything I did; anywhere I went; each and everything in my life was met with approval from the woman who birthed and raised me. In 1986, I was planning a trip from Albany NY to Philadelphia to introduce her to a beautiful woman I had recently met and had become infatuated with, and realized it was turning into a serious relationship.

To humor myself, I told my mother that she should know beforehand, that this woman she was about to meet for the first time, Peg, was short…very short. dwarf short. “I don’t want you to stare Mom, that’s why I’m telling you in advance. I really like her and once you get to know her, you’ll forget all about her being a little person.” Mom said she understood and thanked me for giving her the heads-up. “Oh, and there’s one more thing you need to know before you two meet.”, I added. “What’s that honey?” as I heard a slight hesitation in her voice. “Peg’s deaf in her left ear, so when talking to her, you should try to stand to Peg’s right side and towards her good ear.” “Really Alan?” “Yes Mom…Peg had a childhood ear infection and it caused permanent damage. If you just make sure to always stand to her right and speak up just a little, everything will be fine. Thanks Mom…love you and see you next weekend!”

On the drive down to Philadelphia the following weekend, I casually mentioned to Peg that I just remembered something she needed to know before meeting my mother. “Mom is deaf in her right ear as a result of a fireworks accident when she was a teenager. Just make sure when talking to her, you try always to be on her left side. Otherwise she won’t know what you’re saying.” “You’re kidding me right?” Peg asked. I was impressed she knew me more than I knew. “No, I’m not kidding. Why on earth would I kid about something like deafness. No big deal and I’ll be there to remind you if conversation becomes awkward.”

We arrived at my childhood home on a beautiful, sunshine-filled afternoon and Mom greeted us at the front door. She gave Peg a big hug, and looked my way saying”oh Alan, she’s not short at all! You devil you!” Peg looked at me quizically and I shrugged and rolled my eyes signaling the “oh, my crazy mother” look, and we all entered the house. For the next ten minutes or so I watched in silent glee the creation of my imagination as the two ladies kept moving in circles, jockeying for the right position in which to be speak and to be heard. And both talking much louder than normal, with the volume increasing as they were both thinking they might not be talking loud enough. It truly was a sight to behold before Peg realized the joke, and punched me so hard in my arm, my sister felt it four states away. My mother of course hugged me and told me what a great son I was, kidding his mother like that…unconditional forgiveness. It was one of everyone’s favorite stories to tell and re-tell over the years. I eventually married the faux hard-of-hearing dwarf and we lived happily ever after. Thinking and missing you Mom, and happy Mother’s Day to all the rest of the moms who gave and continue to give all their love to their children, no matter what.

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Procrastinating Pope (A Fantasy)

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(my phone rings late yesterday morning)
Hello

Hello Big Al, my friend, this is Francis.

Hi Papa, Merry Christmas!

Not so merry I’m afraid.

Oh no, what’s the problem?

I can’t find my manger set.

You’re the Pope, ask for another set.

No, you don’t understand; I’ve had this set since I was a boy. Won it with coupons from playing Skee-ball. I know I packed it when I left Buenos Aires.

Can you remember putting it away last year?

I didn’t set it up last year. My room is not that large and one of the Cardinals gave me a miniature version of Radio City Music Hall with a 36 piece Rockettes ensemble complete with two dance outfits each.

Wow…so why not just set that up again?

Can’t.

Why not?

I broke it.

Oh…too bad.

You’re telling me.

Have you looked in your garage?

Of course I looked in the garage. It’s where I keep all my decorations.

Ok, sorry. Everywhere in the Apostolic Palace?

Yes.

Room of Tears?

Yes.

Sistine Chapel?

Of course.

Wait a minute, how about the Sobieski Room?

I thought of that too, but no luck.

Sorry Francis, I think it will show up but not this season.

Do you have a manger set?

No, but I visited one many years ago in St. Petersburg.

You were in Russia?

No Sir, Florida.

Ah, Florida…If I ever resign, I want to retire there. Oh well, I should go. I have two masses tomorrow and I need to prepare.

Merry Christmas Francis

Merry Christmas Big Al

(click)

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“The End of Labor is to Gain Leisure.” Aristotle

A friend commented the other day that it seemed that I had a large number of assorted ¬†jobs over the years and after thinking about it, decided to begin writting something on Labor Day to pay homage to assorted experiences that work afforded me. When finished I’ll count them up and compare my number with that of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which states the average number of jobs over a lifetime is 11.4 different jobs for men and 10.7 jobs for women. So lets start at the beginning and work through relatively chronoligically as I remember them.

FILE CLERK

My very first job was obtained for me against my will by my father. He thought I needed some experience in the work force, so while in high school I went to work in my uncle’s ¬†CPA firm in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Paperwork was the name of the game and I remember thinking the last thing I EVER wanted to do was be an accountant.

NEWSPAPER DELIVERY

How hard could this be? I will ride my bike to a pick-up center, fold my allotment in a canvas bag, ride my bike back to my neighborhood and throw them on patron’s lawns or porches. Trouble was the papers were more likely to break a window, or a piece of porch lighting, or land high up in a tree, or in a big puddle if it was raining. The Philadelphia Inquirer and I both agreed it would be better if we parted ways. My father was not pleased.

ROLLAR-SKATING WAITER

Once upon a time there was an A&W drive-in restaurant where you gave your order over a speaker and the food was delivered to the cars by servers on roller-skates. I was always good on skates going straight on flat surfaces. The A&W parking lot was not level. The restaurant was higher that the cars, so you were skateing down to the cars with food trays, and skateing up hill returning with trash filled trays. I would always have to thrust one arm out to stop me from crashing into the trunk, or side doors of the cars, and amazingly I spilled very little of the food. My body was bruised, but I got the job done. They also had the best onion-rings and root beer floats than any other in-town eatery.

LIFEGUARD

When I was a senior in high school, my sister was a restaurant manager for the Marriott Corporation and she pulled some strings to get her little brother a job as a lifeguard at a suburban Philadelphia location. The position was conditional that I take and pass the lifeguard’s examination. I was hired and expected to produce a certificate of completion. I was a very strong swimmer at the time and this was a pool at a luxury hotel. So how hard could this job be? I never bothered to take the course. If you remember the old Henry Fonda movie, “Mr Roberts”, there was an Ensign Pulver in charge of the laundry on a WWII supply ship, ¬†who was terrified of the Captain and spent the entire war avoiding meeting the commanding officer. That role was played by Jack Lemmon. Well, I was the Ensign Pulver of hotel employees trying continuously to avoid the Marriott Corporation executives who were checking to see if all the lifeguard certificates were current. I managed to make it through the summer and I also had the opportunity to meet and eventually have dinner, along with the other guards, with the Duke himself, John Wayne. He stayed at the hotel and was on a promotion tour for a new movie. He came to the pool everyday and we all fawned over his every wish.

EMPLOYMENT AGENCY OWNER

Before heading off to college I was hired as an employment agency counselor for “Sales Consultants” in Philadelphia. A year later two other counselors and I formed a new employment company in Newark, N.J. A year later we were the largest employment agency in the State. and this time frame was to eventually become known as “The Vietnam Era”. I was drafted and decided to enlist instead. The Newark riots completely destroyed our business. Our insurance company informed us that riots were considered “Acts of God” and therefore, not covered. The partners lost everything.

During my college years I had four jobs that included both full and part-time positions.

BUBBLE GUM MAKER

Every night I left the factory covered in pink sugar dust. As soon as I went outside, the sugar dust turned into a sticky pink goo that completely covered me as I drove home in search of a shower. I think I always looked like a pink Gumby when I got home and said hi to my Mom.

MR. CHEER

Dressed as a walking, breathing, Cheer Laundry Detergent box, I would drive to designated neighborhoods and stop at designated addresses, and if the little lady of the house had any Proctor & Gamble product, I would give her a mail-in coupon that could be redeemed for cash. If not, I gave them a plastic soap measuring cup. A few times women who had Cheer in their home, but whose addresses were not on the list, yelled suggestive ideas to lure me across their lawns and up the porch stairs. Me, being ignorant and a virgin, stuck to the exact list in hand, and did not falter from my appointed rounds. And stupid. Did I mention stupid? On another day, after becoming lost, I was robbed in a South Philadelphia neighborhood of over three hundred measuring cups, and was warned that “Soap Boy” should never come back to their neighborhood. If you were there that day, reading this, and remember the incident (robbing a giant soap box), please know that I have always honored your command.

TELEPHONE BOOK PROOF-READER

This job was so boring, a number of us would stretch thick rubber bands over a ruler and fire them at each other to help pass the time. One night I was zeroing in on an arch proofer-enemy and just as I let it fly, my peripharal vision saw the supervisor walking ¬†towards my planned trajectory. WHAP‚Ķa red welt immediately swelled on the supervisor’s forhead. I knew immediately my fate and collected all personal belongings.

SHORT-ORDER COOK

Telling a small fib to an interviewer that I had experience as a short-order cook, I was hired for the graveyard shift at the Louisville Municipal Airport. My very first customer’s order was two “eggs in the hole” and a cup of coffee. At that moment, whatever the equivilent to today’s WTF was in 1964, that’s what I thought. After that job ended, I never worried again that I might someday either starve to death or have a steady diet of sandwiches. I could cook and this would prove to be an advantage many times over in the future.

INFANTRYMAN

After flunking out of Officers Training School, I was sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina (a.k.a Hell on Earth) to armored infantry training. Overseas I managed to fanagle a fuel supply sargeant slot and stayed behind the lines where it was much harder to get shot. While stationed in Korea, I took a thirty day leave to get married to the mother of my children. (That is an entire bizarely wonderful story previously retold on this blog.) At the end of my three-year tour in 1969, I was stationed at the Pentagon and was offered a double promotion to re-up and become Army Liason to Nixon’s White House. What possibly could have gone wrong with that scenario? I respectfully declined, and became a civilian.

TELEPHONE OPERATOR

Imagine Ernestine from the show “Laugh-In”, and you have a visual of the switchboard in an E.J. Korvettes Department Store. Things were going along swimmingly until the night I had to page our store manager, Mr. Deutch. I pressed the storewide intercom and spoke very professionally into the microphone‚Ķ”paging Mr. Douche, Mr. Douche, please call 55. A few minutes later I collected my personal belongs and left the premisies. An honest mistake made into a mountain.

POTS & PANS SALESMAN

In Arlington, VA in the late sixties, the Federal government owned city blocks of apartment buildings to house young single women who were primarily secretaries in the Pentagon and Department of State, etc. I sold waterless cooking pots and pans, and would   use them before ten-fifteen women in a single apartment demonstration. I stacked the pans one on top of the other and cooked an entire meal. If anyone bought an entire set, they would receive a free cedar hope chest. I was top salesman for that company for fourteen straight months, and my wife was the proud owner of a new cedar hope chest. (Yes, she rolled her eyes but used it for many years)

TIRE CHANGER & CREDIT MANAGER

I started as a tire changer at a Firestone retail outlet and was eventually found to be  generally incompetent at manuel labor, so I was promoted to credit manger. At that time, tire stores also carried other products; refrigerators, vacuums, and hair dryers to name a few. One Christmas I bought my wife one of those bubble top hair-dryers with the long handle to the motor, that she would sit under. I thought it was very cool and she would love it. She took one look at it, and warned me if she ever got another similar Christmas present, I would collect my personal belongings and leave the premises. Message received. It was always jewelry after that.

CHINESE RESTAURANT COOK & OWNER

In the early days before the term “chinese take-out” became part of our normal lexicon, my chinese brother-in-law, textile engineer by trade, decided he wanted to own and operate a chinese restaurant whose main business volume would be take-out. He asked me to be his partner. We both took a six-month training exercise in his relatives’s Philadelphia restaurant and eventually opened our own in Albany, N.Y. It opened to much fanfare and people seemed to like being able to order and take the food home with them. Eventually we had two storefront operations and two roving food trucks that serviced summer parks and “China Tom” was the very first food vendor permitted to operate outside Albany’s capitol building. Today, weather permitting, they are packed one next to the other on two separate streets. It was tough work with very long hours and I had a young family that I hardly ever saw, so when I got a request to interview for a state job, I took it and left the restaurant business after eighteen months. I must have made ten thousand wontons over that period.

NYS LABOR EMPLOYMENT COUNSELOR

Based on my previous private sector experience, I was hired by New York State to assist others in finding employment, however this job lasted less than a year because it was federally funded and the program eventually ran out of money and I was laid-off from the state…laid off from the state! Whoever thought that was possible?

NYS LEGISLATIVE STAFF

A social friend of mine was chief of staff for the Assembly Ways & Means Minority and one night at a social gathering my wife told him I had just been laid off from the State (he couldn’t believe it) and could he help me find a job? I was hired as a summer intern and liked it so much, was sucessful in staying with the Assembly committee for twenty-three years, mostly in the majority party. I began as a tax and fiscal anaylst until I couldn’t take it anymore and begged to switch to being a budget analyst. I stayed until I couldn’t take it anymore and asked to switch to local government finance. Under my tenure in that position both the city of New York and the city of Yonkers almost went financially belly-up and financial control boards were established for both. I’m sure the timing was just coincidence, and no one can prove otherwise. Also coincidentally, shortly thereafter I took over the administrative oversight of state funded local government grants, commonly referred to in legislative slang as “pork barrel projects”. I ask you, is a “cheese museum” pork barrel? Is it pork barrel for the construction of a handicapped ramp for a building owned and operated by lesbian witches? I rest my case.

RADIO & TELEVISION TALK SHOW HOST

I had always dreamed of being a radio morning drive talk show host, and after completing  a three hundred hour training course and receiving my FCC license, I quit my job in the legislature, my second wife quit her job working for NYS Division of Housing and we took off for Florida to find, in her case a new job; in mine, I was looking for fame and fortune. Over the next five years I eventually hosted two different radio morning drive talk shows, and additionally, hosted a similar format on a local cable network TV station. Money was far from abundant and fame was elusive but I was living my dream and having fun every single day.

DISC JOCKEY

On weekends I would be a party disc jockey, and because of my age, specialized in weddings. My strangest wedding was held in an Alabama school gym and I was told to set up next to an open doorway where twenty feet away, two whole pigs were slow-roasting over coals. I don”t know which one of us had it worse, the pigs or me. Meanwhile the music was playing while the bride stood at half-court awaiting two lines of men who individually would take a shot of vodka from bottles on stools, then walk up to the bride and scotch-tape money to her. The men loved doing this because they would get in line again and again as the more evocative placements were still to come. Very classy. ¬†As a rule, I found brides to be extremely wound up prior to the ceremony and almost always drank too much too soon after the ceremony. My advice to “eat something” went mostly unheeded, which was too bad because in Alabama the pork parts that weren’t staring at me were absolutely delicious.

AUTOMOBILE VALET

I spent the better part of one year valeting cars for a hospital corporation. I took the bus to and from work. If you really want to know what people are thinking, ride the bus with the same people twice a day; you get an earful ¬†of opinion. The outdoor valet service was positioned next to a cancer treatment office to one side, and a mamography office on the other. I found it astounding how many people would come from receiving a cancer regimen and immediately light a cigarette. and the ladies would drive up frowning and fretting, and then an hour later come out all jovial and joking. To help ease their anxiety when they arrived, I sometimes would tell them I was in doctor training and I could do the same procedure with my portable machine in the parking lot and would only charge them half of what the hospital would. It was only a matter of time before someone complained and I was told to report to the head of valet parking (ouuu, I wasn’t scared) where I was properly admonished and ordered to stop being funny on the job. Being funny had no place in the art of parking cars, I was emphatically informed. I promised the gentleman I would ¬†not be funny ever again and returned to my duties head held high.

MORTGAGE LENDER

After limited training, I opened a local office for a mortgage lending company headquartered in a different part of the state. I lasted a year dealing with the public and realtors, and appraisers. I think I was the only mortgage lender in the country that did not make a lot of money during the early years at the turn of the century. I didn’t have the fire in the belly needed to make a successful career in anything dealing with real estate. I really like easy things‚Ķeasy things given to me‚Ķthat’s ideal. Time to move on.

CHILD ADVOCATE

The most important, amazing, satisfying and rewarding job I ever held was becoming a court-appointed child advocate in which a charge of abuse, neglect or abandonment were alleged. Over the span of ten years, both as a volunteer and as a staff person, I advocated for over three hundred children, children whose names I keep as a reminder of what went before. The last few years, I specialized in the most difficult of cases alleging sexual abuse. ¬†The lack of passion I displayed being a mortgage lender was reversed a hundred times over in the attempt to ensure a child was safe, thriving and receiving needed services. I didn’t make a lot of friends with the various cast of characters involved n the process, and I pushed people’s buttons to the extreme if I thought the process was not being well served, but on the other hand, all the frustrations quickly evaporated when children were retuned to their original homes, or if that was not possible, to witness a child being adopted by a loving family. For me, there is no greater reward than seeing a child happy and laughing.

RETIREE

It’s been five years this month since I last received a paycheck. I don’t miss working at all; what I do miss is the social interaction with people that jobs often provide.

So there it is, twenty-two different money-generating situations so far over my lifetime. Twice the national average. I suppose the difference is not surprising to me when I realize I never had a plan or goal, simply a desire to go with the flow and discover what awaits me around the next corner. I’m still discovering.

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February 23rd – A Remembrance

“We do not remember days, we remember moments”

“Hi Sis, I’m getting married and I want the ceremony to be in Albany.” My sister Carole asked “What do you a need, a priest, minister or rabbi, and how soon?”. “A priest, and as soon as I can.” I responded. “I’m on it, see you soon.” I left my girlfriend’s car in my parent’s garage and we drove my father’s car from Philadelphia to Albany, New York because I was afraid my girlfriend’s sister, when she heard her sister was missing would call the police. And that’s exactly what she did.

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At the beginning of my twenties, I was engaged to be married for a couple of years to a very nice woman named Vanna with no wedding date ever really discussed. We were very content in the relationship, but the passion level had diminished considerably. I was living in an apartment in suburban Philadelphia with a roommate from college when one night there was a knock on the door by a new neighbor who had no phone service and asked if she could use our phone. Her name was Margaret, but she requested I call her Margi (pronounced “Mar-gee”). I of course showed her where the phone was located and kept a discreet distance away but I could see her short-styled blonde hair, her eyes as blue as a clear summer sky, and a smile that could and did mesmerize. We chatted for a while as Margi explained that both she and her mother had just moved from upstate Pennsylvania and she was looking for an x-ray technician position locally. ¬†For weeks I asked her for a date, until finally she relented and accepted to join me at a favorite bar located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, on the New Jersey side. I never mentioned the fact that I was technically engaged because I saw no benefit of unnecessarily complicating our first date. She ordered a Manhattan; I ordered a beer. A little while later she convinced me that I should try a Manhattan as I might like it. I did and I did. I enjoyed them so much Margi drove home later when I could no longer communicate intelligently. I recovered enough to stay up all night walking around and talking about everything ¬†except alcoholic beverages and when we arrived at her apartment to finally say goodnight, I asked her to marry me (I know, I know, but complications were no longer on my mind). She looked at me seriously with those blue eyes, and then laughed out loud at my proposal. “The last thing I need or want is a serious relationship, so get any ideas you have out of your mind…goodnight”. The door closed, end of discussion. My two-woman engagement lasted about a month when I finally broke off the engagement by honestly telling Vanna ¬†I had met another woman and fell in love and wanted to marry her instead. That was rough but telling Vanna ¬†WHEN I proposed was definitely a mistake; the thought of honesty is always the best policy quickly evaporated under the barrage of expletives spewed in my direction. The next morning I found all my belongings and personal items out in the street exactly where she said they would be, and as I was loading my car, Vanna ¬†came out under the influence of possibly the very potent Manahattans and picked up where she had left off, using very unladylike language for what felt like a long time. I took it like the weasel I was and left, never to see Vanna again.

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Margi & Me 1967

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Eventually my love won over Margi and we decided to elope and get married when I was home on emergency leave from my duty station in Korea to take care of assorted details as a result of my father having a serious accident. She wrote her mother a note explaining our intentions and letting her know we would call after we were safely married and we drove her car to my parent’s house to inform them of the elopement. My father was immobile because of a lower body cast resulting from falling down a set of stairs, so there was no way they could see us get married in Albany. I asked permission to take their car because I was worried about Margi’s family and how they would react to the news. My premonition paid off as I learned later that Margi’s sister did indeed call the State Police and reported a stolen vehicle. Her older sister was well-educated, very smart, and a little eccentric. And she did not like me. I was not a college graduate; my position was a lowly private in the United States Army with no discernible future plans. On that score I couldn’t fault her logic as it seemed every waking moment of mine was spent calculating how to avoid getting sent to Vietnam. My survivor skills were nil and I’m sure sister-dearest felt I would be an early casualty. Not that she would mind that, but not if it happened as her sister’s husband. And she was probably right on that score also as the Army tried to teach me to be a 50-caliber machine gunner on an Armored Personnel Carrier (miniature tank). I was such a woos, I couldn’t even cock that machine gun. But all this worrying concerned the future. All Margi and I knew was that we were young, in love and wanted to be married. The wedding date was set…February 23rd.

A few days after the wedding we drove back to Philadelphia to face Margi’s sister and mother. Her mother was not happy and refused to talk to us. Her sister was semi-hysterical having no problem yelling at us about how Margi had brought disgrace upon them by marrying “this…this…excuse for a man.” Excuse me? After our son Sean was born, we visited Margi’s family for the first time in upstate Pennsylvania. At our first sit-down dinner, the food was passed around the table until it got to the person sitting next to me, who then passed it back in the direction it had just been, thereby skipping me. My wife stood up, chastised her family and told them we were leaving. I explained that I really could not care how they treated me, but to treat their own family member with such disregard was unimaginable. Until their attitudes changed, we would not be coming back. And we didn’t. And a few years passed.

Army

 Final Days at the Pentagon 1970

A second child was born, a girl, Heather and we lived happily in Arlington VA, Margi working part-time as an x-ray tech and I as a sergeant at the Pentagon, until I was discharged from the Army, and then in the Albany region of upstate New York. Margi’s family finally accepted me, found out that I was indeed likable and we all got along splendidly in the future years with the sole holdout of ¬†the older sister. She never changed her opinion. Twelve happy years passed until on an April’s Fool’s day, Margi was diagnosed with chronic, progressive Multiple Sclerosis. She physically and mentally went down hill slowly for the next twelve years taking a terrible toll on everyone until she passed away in 1992 at the age of 43. ¬†The children and I were slow to recover and it left emotional scars that never will fully heal for us.

BD

Margi, Sean, Heather 1972

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Margi proved for me that “love at first sight” was and is a real possibility. She took a chance on a man with no secure future and someone her family told her was a giant mistake. But as it has happened so many times over the years, it all worked out. We became young adults together, learned to be parents together, looked at the future together and smiled. It’s a tragedy her life could not have taken a more healthy turn and spared her from the ravages of a progressive disease. I fortunately found love again and learned how fulfilling a new life could be. My son today is healthy and happy and we talk long-distance multiple times a week We both look forward to visits. My daughter, for all I know could be best friends with my ex-sister-in-law due to the fact Heather and I ¬†have spoken only sporadically over the last ten years. I can only silently wish her happiness and all good things. However, today on what might have been Margi’s and my 47th wedding anniversary I look back and remember her with love and affection and thanks as I try to tell one abbreviated story of this wonderful woman. Happy Anniversary Margi.

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