Happy Tequila Friday Rob Day

Saluting Rob

Rob the Birthday Boy, May 29, 2020

I just wanted to start today off with a Happy Tequila Friday Birthday wish to our daughter’s boyfriend, Rob. They’ve been together for a couple of years now and seem to be handling the working from home together during the COVID Home Alone period well. That shows a lot about their relationship doesn’t it?

So, in the loving Riley spirit, let’s all give him a big “Hooray for Rob!!” Happy birthday and Cheers!

And, as you wash your hands today, sing your Happy Birthday song to Rob.

What’s that line on my window pane?

“I’ve had a heck of a morning!” Mom told me when I called to check in on her.

So, at 96, every day is a day for optimism, but imagine you wake up and roll over to look at the day outside your window. You see something that seems odd. It’s a thick black line going up your window pane. Your brain tries to match what you’re seeing with some plausible explanation of what you’re looking at. You rub your eyes to improve your focus. You look again at the black line and follow the line down to the window sill. There you see more black and squiggly. You roll over in bed a little closer while before you figure it out.

SNAKE!!!! Holy SH*T!

This is not Mother’s snake. Just an image to stir your imagination

Now, remember, you’re 96 and can’t afford to fall, but you don’t feel like you can afford to make a slow retreat either. Carefully you move to the other side of bed and dismount, locate your walker and make a beeline for the door, closing it behind you. You breathe a sigh of relief and say out loud to yourself, “Damn! Why does all the crazy stuff happen to me!”

You pick up the phone and call the main line at The Home. You excitedly tell the operator that there’s a snake IN YOUR BEDROOM! And you need help now.

The operator handles this frightening call calmly as she was trained. She wisely urges you to stuff a towel under the door to keep the snake IN YOUR BEDROOM! And, she will send security immediately. Don’t worry. 

Right. You’re 96. What’s to worry about? It’s just a two and a half foot or so snake. IN YOUR BEDROOM!

The doorbell rings and the man dispatched from security is standing there. You’re thrilled. He is a big towering man, just what you need when there’s a snake IN YOUR BEDROOM!

He inches open your door to the bedroom and the snake is still on the window. Sunning maybe. Who knows. As the security guard slowly enters, you realize that he seems nervous. He’s sweating. And breathing heavily. It’s not like he works for the DNR and trained in capturing animals. He’s a security guard at a senior citizen community. And this snake is in a 96 year old woman’s BEDROOM.

Mom told me that she didn’t watch. He had closed the door behind him. But she heard a scuffle. A couple of huffs and puffs. Then, calm. The snake lost. And there was blood. On the carpet. IN HER BEDROOM. Just to help her remember the day’s events.

My tale of voting by mail

One of the upsides to voting by mail is how much better voters we became because we got to spend time with the ballots. We actually studied the candidates, going through each race including down to our state and county races for judges and commissioners. It was easy to go online and review each candidate, their resume and their vision for the job they are running to hold, made us better voters. Yes, in the past we would review the ballot, usually on the League of Women Voters website, but never to this extent. 

Now, to mail it in. Hmmmm. That’s an entirely different story. The three steps to voting end with a bullet point that specifically instructs you to make sure that you use “Sufficient Postage” to mail in the ballot. And therein lies the quandary. What is “sufficient”? Why doesn’t it just say, use one (or two, whatever is necessary) first class Forever stamps? I mean, the State designed the ballot, the envelope. Could not the state weigh and determine the necessary postage based on federal postage rates for size and weight? 

I searched online at the official Georgia.gov website and found more non-specific information, just the reiteration of “Make sure that you use sufficient postage.” 

Now, how do I do that without going to the post office. What if I didn’t have a car? It surely seems like adding one more bump in the road to voting…on purpose? Or through ignorance?

Anyway, we decided to drop it off at the County Center three miles from home. It’s located, ironically, across the street from the post office.

LATE BREAKING NEWS

We drove over to the County Center. I masked up and walked into the building. There were signs about the upcoming early voting on the doors, but nothing about where to drop off a ballot. All of the offices inside were COVID CLOSED. I walked the length of the main hallway. Still no sign of a dropbox for ballots. Disappointed, I walked back to the car, got in, hand sanitized and told Julie we needed Plan B. Cranked her up and drove by the front of the building to get to the street. That’s when I saw what looked like a mail box wrapped in a flag decal. I backed up, drove back around the circle and there it was, the signage I’d been looking for.

After I deposited our ballots as I walked back to my car I saw a young woman walk inside with a ballot in her hand. I went back to the entrance to the center and she was walking back down the long hall confused like I was. “Excuse me, are you looking for the absentee ballot drop off?” I asked. “Yes I am.” It’s right around the corner in that stars and striped mail box.”

“Thank you so much. I don’t think I would ever have seen that.”

My point exactly. They made it take diligence, whether by accident or on purpose.

Proof that I deposited our ballots in the very hidden absentee drop box.

And finally,

Another Mac has moved on

My nine year old iMac has gone potentially kaput. It will no longer complete its boot up after making its way tantalizingly close to finishing its path to opening up. There it sits. Grey screen. Apple logo. Progression bar all filled in.

Sadly, as far as it gets.

Apparently, it can’t find the hard drive. After working with Apple support chat and using the utilities program, my Apple Tech determined that it was in need of a hands on exam. She set up an appointment at a nearby Simply Mac for the next day. I bagged the iMac in a black plastic bag to protect it from the heavy rain that had popped up and lugged it to the store. When I got to the store it was raining even harder. I picked the computer up, the plastic making it quite slippery and unwieldy, dashed over to the store, one arm clutching the computer, the other opening the door. Once inside, only two customers were ahead of me. I waited 15 minutes more than socially distant from the counter and customer during which I removed it from the bag. The customer finally learned what he needed to know and it was my turn. I place the computer on the countertop and explained the situation. He then explained more of my situation. They, Simply Mac, do not work on “vintage” machines. They don’t stock the parts. And, he said, Apple should know that and yet, they still send folks like me there who are trying to keep their investment working. Arggggg. As I rewrapped the machine in the garbage bag, he gave me a compliment. “Smart move protecting it from the rain. No need to ruin the processor.”

It continues to amaze me the short life of a highly designed, well crafted machine which is “vintage” in the vernacular of the industry at the young age of nine. I mean, a Mac is not a throwaway creation. It runs counter intuitive to my nature of taking care of expensive quality products and getting maximum use.

I also lost the operability of my HP flatbed scanner, which I bought about five years ago, to scan slides and negatives. One day last year, the software stopped working, specifically for negatives and slides. It would still scan a photo or document. What caused this? After a lot of online searching and a call to HP support chat, I found out HP no longer supported the scanner with software updates. That meant that as the Apple OS moved forward, it left behind the HP scanner driver. I could revert back to the older version of the OS just to use that scanner. That seemed dumb. So, I had to buy a new scanner. ARGH. This time, Epson. We’ll see how long that works out.

Quote of the week from my sister-in-law, “I’ve washed my hands so much I’ve uncovered crib notes from a 7th grade exam!”

So, one more tip of the hat to Rob on his day. And to you, remember…

Stay home. Put off that tattoo one more month. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Have a great weekend.

My Uncle Grover

It’s Memorial Day 2020. Certainly, the coronavirus will mark this as one of the more unusual celebrations of the fallen soldiers who gave their lives in battle fighting for our country’s very survival. The history of this holiday dates back to the end of the Civil War and incorporated those soldiers lost in the two World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan as time and conflicts moved on.

The large gatherings associated with this holiday will be changed as we all, civilians and soldiers alike, wage our silent war against a deadly enemy we cannot see, cannot yet kill, and can only try to protect ourselves and others by cleanliness and social distancing to minimize risk.

Remembering a Sailor

I dedicate today’s blog to all of the soldiers and sailors taken in the line of duty. And I ask your leeway in speaking about one special sailor who served but thankfully, did not die in service. I have found myself thinking of him with the coming of this military holiday and wanted to write about and share him with you.

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That sailor was Grover Cleveland Glymph, Jr. Born in 1925, he lived for 89 years before dying just two days before Thanksgiving in 2014. 

That sailor was my Uncle Grover. I cannot claim him all to myself as I was but one of his many nephews and nieces, so he really was “our” Uncle Grover. But to me, he was my “only” Uncle Grover.

I have recollections of Uncle Grover from almost since my time began. He was kind of cuddly sweet. He had a warm smile, a strong hug and handshake, a soft voice and a frequent laugh that accompanied his teasing remarks. Like he tickled himself. For years I thought of it as a Glymph characteristic trait, as my aunts and uncles on my mother’s side all had that laugh. I’ve come to learn it is more of a Kelly trait than Glymph. The humor and good nature came from my grandmother’s side of the family.

Growing up Grover

Grover, like his older brothers, was not a tall man and had balded early in his life. He wasn’t a commanding presence. He didn’t just walk in and capture a room’s attention, nor did he demand it. He kind of wove his way in and around it. At our many family gatherings, he spent time with almost everyone, young and old, although he always found his way to be with and near his sister, my mother. Mom was the “knee baby,” the baby before the youngest baby, still sitting on her mother’s knee when Grover was born. He was the last born into this Depression era family whose parents had moved up north to Durham from that other Carolina just south of Charlotte. 

Grover Cleveland Glymph, Sr., their dad, known to many as “GC,” was a stern father typical of the era. Their many children were to be seen and not heard, and if they were heard during dinner, they were excused quickly from the table to finish their dinners on the back porch. 

I just learned this story from my cousin, Denise, Uncle Grover’s only child. According to Denise and verified by my mother, Mr. Glymph ran a strict household in which his children feared him while adoring and protecting their mother from his unbending nature. “Daddy wasn’t a lovable man,” Mom told me. 

G.C. sold all kinds of insurance and he often made the kids ride along for hours with him as he went calling on his customers to pick up their insurance premiums or to convince them of the need to have a safety net to protect their family from the unknown that lay ahead.

Growing up on Englewood Avenue, the Glymphs were early settlers on what was then a new street cut parallel to the gracious tree-lined mainline of Club Boulevard in West Durham. The small tobacco and mill town was expanding when the house was built in 1920. (Today, their home still sits on the corner of Englewood and Carolina and is in the national registry of historic homes.) These children found their joy in each other and the kids on their street and in school. Only sixteen months apart, Mom and Grover were their own best playmates, once apparently burning down the chicken coop while playing with matches together in the backyard. Whether it was, in fact, a chicken coop or just a storage shed has always been in dispute in the family lore, but burn it down they did, partners in crime, a brush with tragedy that turned out with no injuries so everyone was glad, except Granddaddy.   

Grover worshipped the ground Ed walked on.

Mom has said many times that Uncle Grover worshipped the ground his oldest brother, Ed, walked on. Whatever Ed did, Grover wanted to follow. In talking with Denise recently I learned that there was, of course, much more to that story. That, yes, it was true that her father admired his older brother but the why became even more understandable. You see, Uncle Ed despised his father. He hated the way his father treated his mother and family. Although Mr. Glymph was never physically violent, he had a streak of mean no woman as warm, caring and hardworking as his mother should ever endure. Ed felt belittled by his father, never good enough, never what his dad wanted him to be. When Ed lost his hair in high school, Mr. Glymph found moments to ridicule and make fun of his son making the embarrassment even more unbearable. 

Ed determined early on that he was getting out of that house as soon as he could. But, while he was home, he took Grover under his wing and became his protector, his mentor and instructor. He filled the role of dad for his baby brother. He taught him how to ride a bike, how to swim, catch and throw a ball and how to drive a car. Before he was done, Ed also taught his brother how to leave home.

The Navy is the only way to go

World War II provided Ed with the opportunity and motivation to leave Englewood Avenue and he enlisted in the Navy. America was under attack and needed men. He advised Grover that if he ever thought about enlisting, the Navy was the only way to go. “You’ll always have a bed to lay down in at night, never in a fox hole. And, you’ll get three squares a day.”

At 17, Grover stepped up, dropped out of high school and took his brother’s advice. With his parents’ approval and necessary signatures, he enlisted in the Navy during the heart of the war in the Pacific. No one knows the perils that lie in wait going into service, and few can imagine the terror, violence and carnage that men sling at one another in battle. In the Navy, war was waged on the high seas. And for Grover, it all came down to April 6th, 1945, just four slight months before the Japanese surrendered to the Allied Forces on August 15, 1945. He was a sailor on the new Fletcher Class Destroyer, the USS Colhoun. The ship was launched on April 10, 1944, commissioned on July 8 and sunk by Japanese aircraft off of Okinawa on April 6, 1945, almost one year later to the day of launch. 

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USS Colhoun DD 801 class Destroyer

Grover’s ship provided assistance in the invasion of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. During its off-shore support it was damaged by a salvo of heavy enemy batteries ashore on March 1, which killed one man and injured 16. After repairs at Saipan, Colhoun sailed for Okinawa

With a fleet of other destroyers positioned to provide support for the invasion of Okinawa, they came under heavy air attack from Japanese fighter planes, each armed with a bomb. One destroyer, the USS Bush, after an intense air attack was dead in the water. The Colhoun steamed to support, aid and rescue when it came under attack as well. The following is the Wiki depiction of the battle.

At 1530 on 6 April 1945, during the first heavy kamikaze raid of the battle of Okinawa, Colhoun received a request for help from Bush and sped to her aid. Interposing her guns between Bush and the attacking suicide planes, Colhoun downed three planes before a kamikaze crashed into the 40 mm (1.6 in) mount scattering flaming wreckage across the ship and dropping a bomb into the after fireroom where it exploded. Retaining power and using emergency steering, Colhoun awaited the next attacking trio, shooting down the first two while the third struck her on the starboard side.

The bomb from the second kamikaze exploded, breaking Colhoun‘s keel, piercing both boilers, ripping a 20 by 4 ft (6.1 by 1.2 m) hole below the waterline, and starting oil and electrical fires. Operating the remaining guns manually, the crew gamely faced yet another wave of three attackers shooting down one and damaging another, while the third kamikaze struck her aft section. This airplane’s bomb bounced overboard and exploded, adding another 3 ft (0.91 m) hole to allow more flooding. Colhoun valiantly struggled to stay afloat, but a final kamikaze crashed into the bridge in a mass of flames. At 1800, LCS-48 took off all but a skeleton crew, which remained onboard while a tug attempted to tow Colhoun to Okinawa. Heavy listing, uncontrolled flooding, and fires made it impossible to save her, and she was sunk by gunfire from USS Cassin Young (DD-793) at 27°16′N 127°48′E. Her casualties were: 34 killed and 21 wounded.

On this fateful day, Grover was assigned to man one of the guns on deck instead of his normal deployment in the engine room. When they came under attack he and his gunnery assistant fired on the incoming aircraft. His assistant was feeding the ammo rounds as Grover fired upon the kamikaze planes until he ran out of ammo. After the first kamikaze hit the ship, he saw the hatch from the engine room pop open, and men climbed out one after the other. They were all on fire and they all died. He knew them all. But for the twist of fate of assignment, we would have lost Grover that day. 

Grover and the other survivors were plucked from the sinking ship by smaller craft in the fleet. He was then sent back to California on an Army Supply ship. It took 30 days to sail home. 

Back home, his wife, Vera, was living and working in California awaiting the end of the war. She’d heard the news of the battle and the sinking of the Colhoun. But no word came on the crew. Communications were tight as the Allies were moving into the final throes of defeating the Japanese. She had no idea whether her Grover was alive and well, injured or dead. There is no way to describe what that wait for news was like for her.

One night there was a knock

One night there was a knock on the door. She opened it and there stood her Grover. He’d lost 20 pounds on the trip home. He said the Army ship was filthy. There were roaches in the rice and they got sick. They ate C-rations the rest of the way home.

Once Uncle Grover and Aunt Vera returned to Durham from California, they were constants with my family. Grover had grown up knowing my dad, playing stick hockey in the streets and tagging along with my parents who were sweethearts starting at 14. They were all like family. They all had two things in common. A healthy respect for Mr. Glymph with a good dash of fear, and an abiding and enduring love for my grandmother. 

Denise said that we never knew of Grover’s war stories growing up because her dad never talked about them, not even to her mother. After one of many harrowing nightmares in the early years, she finally coaxed him to talk some, to confront the nightmares. 

He never really opened up until many years later when Denise joined her dad and Fran, Grover’s second wife, at a Navy reunion. There was a Fletcher class destroyer docked at the reunion that was an exact duplicate of the USS Colhoun. Grover was able to take them below deck, down the hatch, down the vertical ladder into the heart of the ship. There he pointed out, “There’s my bed. That’s my locker. Here’s the engine room where I spent most of my time and where I would have died.”        

Later in Life

Every Sunday when we attended Asbury Methodist Church, there was Uncle Grover, a frequent usher waiting in the vestibule to take us to our pew. As he walked us down the aisle to the center second row pew, the worshippers were almost always standing, the organ playing big and loud, and the choir singing. For years I believed they were standing because Uncle Grover was our usher and they were standing for us. It felt like we were royalty. Turns out, as I later realized, they were standing because it was the singing the opening hymn, we were late as usual, and it was one of the allotted moments for the ushers to seat people. Still, it was a grand entry and Grover always seemed so proud. 

A card every birthday until…

Grover and my older brother, Lin, shared the same birthday, March 14th. For years, he sent us each a birthday card on our birthday. It always made me feel special as I’m sure that it did my brothers and sisters. Then, one day I was talking with Mom on the phone and she asked me if I ever sent Grover a birthday card. I replied, no, it had never crossed my mind. I was in my forties at the time. “Well,” she said, “That’s what I thought. Grover said as much the other day. After all of these years that he sent you kids a card every birthday, you and your brothers and sisters had never returned the favor. ‘I don’t know why I keep doing it,’ he said to me. And, I don’t know why he did either.” 

I felt so guilty for having taken his love and kindness for granted. It was the only time that I heard of him wanting attention, acknowledgement. 

From the March 14th forward until he died, I sent him a birthday card. He had stopped sending one to me. And, that was okay. He’d done his part for far too long. 

And, to this day, I send my nieces and nephews a card on their birthday. It is one way to  honor of Grover and remember and pass along his feeling of family, of staying connected and paying tribute to the courage he summoned to fire away at the enemy bearing down on you from the sky, doing its best to kill you, and, by killing you, kill the country, one life at a time.  

Thank you Grover. 

A couple of things…

Here’s a link to the story of Hutch Hutchinson, Dad’s buddy in the Marines who “got it” on Iwo. You won’t believe this story of men, war and 65 years later.

Here’s the Official Deck “Watch Log” dated April 6, 1945 from the USS Colhoun. It is the report from the ship’s watch on the attack in which Uncle Grover fought and survived. Straightforward and harrowing military description.

USS COLHOUN (DD-801)

1610 – Sighted Bush dead ahead. 1635 – Closed Bush who was dead in the water smoking badly and down by the stern. She still had remains of what appeared to be a Betty plastered on her starboard side amidships. She was being circled by a group of enemy planes …. At about 1710, the leading top Zeke peeled off and started a run on Colhoun …. Opened fire at 9000 yards …. motor started smoking at about 1000 yards off. Plane released bomb at about this point, but continued his strafing and glide. He passed over the ship …. no damage to ship …. Plane apparently headed for Bush …. Bush was in line distant about 4000 yards, 40mm and 20mm continued to register hits …. plane hit water about midway between Colhoun and Bush …. another attack started about 1714 …. received report that plane on port bow was about to crash us, ordered full left rudder but too late …. Plane hit in flames on main deck at #44 40mm mount, part of flaming fuselage swept across ship, engine and bomb penetrated main deck exploding in after fireroom …. also setting fire to handy billys which had been placed in readiness for going alongside Bush …. Gun crews of 40mm mounts 3 and 4 were either killed or badly burned, mounts destroyed by crash and fire and ready ammunition on fire. Gun crews of 20mm guns 1 and 3 were all severely burned but guns not badly damaged …. 1717 …. high Zeke started in …. this time the two leading Vals came along …. The Zeke came in on starboard bow, one Val on port and one on port quarter. Again all three came in at about at 45o dive very slow …. All guns opened fire when attack started on port bow targets …. hit Val square with first 5″ salvo thereby splashing him off port quarter about 200 yards. Guns 1 and 2 obtained hits early on (estimated 6000 yards) Val on port bow and he appeared out of control. (This plane missed us attempted to suicide Bush and was splashed by automatic weapons of Bush and LCS64) …. Shifted to plane on starboard bow. Here our lucked failed …. and plane crashed through starboard motor whaleboat and into forward fireroom, where bomb exploded, breaking keel, piercing both boilers, putting hole about 20 feet long and 4 feet wide in starboard side below water line …. All communications lost with after part of ship …. were soon dead in the water …. We still had 120 cans of foam extinguisher on board …. In about eleven minutes all fires were under control by use of foam or CO2. …. 1725 another attack commenced ….. the Val on starboard bow caught his port wing on the after stack bounced off gun 3 knocking off his gas tank which flamed to the main deck by gun 4, flaming and taking 45 director bath tub along, bounced off main deck into water where bomb exploded putting a hole below the water line about three feet square in compartment C-205, but so deluging the after part of ship with water that all fires started were extinguished. The water however washed most of after 20mm crews and a few of the torpedomen over the fantail. They were in most instances able to swim back, one was rescued by Enyon, Coxswain and four by ship’s port motor whaleboat …. This attack was followed by the remaining two Vals who came in off starboard quarter in loose echelon about 4000 yards apart, strafing as they came. Each let go one bomb when about 300 yards off the quarter at about 500 feet. They were fired on by gun 4 but undamaged. One pulled out and headed for Tokyo the other hit Bush starting fires and explosions. The Bush sank about 1 hour later. The area now appeared clear of all aircraft, so attention was devoted to getting some assistance. (The LCS 64 had cleared Bush sometime in the melee and was apparently damaged herself, but she certainly had done a brave bit of work in going alongside …. In fact her conduct throughout was that of complete fearlessness coupled with good gunnery and good seamanship.) …. The ship was down about 3 feet by the stern but on almost an even keel at this time (About 1800) when out of nowhere appeared a Hamp smoking badly and diving on the starboard bow, guns 1, 2 and 41 scored direct hits, but at very close range. His left wing hooked the pilot house but the gasoline spilled on the bridge did not catch fire, and all personnel had taken shelter so no great damage …. this completed the enemy action for the day as far as we were concerned.

… G. R. Wilson, Commander, USN, Action Report dated April 27, 1945

Coronavirus Diary Wednesday, 5/20/20

May 20, 2020. Now that’s a lot of 20’s in a row. Silly that I like to see the repetition or pattern of dates. It puts some irrelevant significance on a day and that gives me joy. 

Let me just say from the top, I’m getting pretty dry today as I reread what I have dug into for you. Sorry, as my Canadian friends say. You may or may not find it your cup of tea. That’s certainly no way to promote and encourage you to read this and it runs totally counter to my lifetime in marketing. But, what the heck, just being honest. Today is about voting by mail in Georgia, changes we’ve seen in isolation and a couple of things to share to get your day rolling. 

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Voting by Mail 

For those of you living outside of Georgia you may not know that the secretary of state, due to the virus, mailed every registered voter an application to vote by mail in the upcoming primaries. A gutsy and expensive decision, but one with which I whole-heartedly agree. 

It’s a multiple step process because you must first declare that you want to vote by mail and in which party primary you want to vote. Send that in and you receive the ballot for your chosen party. Fill in and send and you’ve voted in your primary. Then, in October/November, you’ll also receive a ballot by mail to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Now, I have never, ever, ever voted by mail. Ever.

And, I have only missed one presidential election in my life. Ever. I always chose to vote in person even after the rules for voting by mail relaxed from “absentee” ballots to vote by mail for anyone for any reason.  

From what I’m reading, mail-in is the fairest way to hold the election. Oregon has led the way with a 20-year history of mail-in voting. Other states that are highly rural have also seen the positive results of giving more people the easiest route to vote. 

That aside, I’ve always enjoyed the experience of voting in person, and wearing the Georgia Peach “I Voted” sticker all day long to show all I’ve completed my patriotic duty and taken advantage of our most important right as an American. 

My excitement over voting dates back to elementary school. The voting machines would show up at Hillandale Elementary School in Durham ramping up to election day. They sat in the auditorium, each one covered up, tested and readied to capture the votes and set the course of our country’s future. On election day, a stream of adults flowed in all day long to cast their votes generating a lively feeling of excitement and anticipation. And, I wanted to participate. I couldn’t wait. Especially after accompanying my mom, standing inside the booth with her as she pulled the big red-handled mechanical lever to close the curtain, then flipped the small levers voting for her candidates. The array of races were all across the face of the machine. Then, once she had flipped all of the switches and rechecked her votes, she pulled the big lever again that at once opened the curtain and counted her votes inside the mysteriousness of the machine. 

Back then, you had to be 21 in order to vote. I turned 18 during the Vietnam War and it was then that the voting age was reduced to 18. It took an act of Congress pressed by significant antiwar protests across the country which pushed to match the draft age with the voting age. Finally, rationality met reality. If you’re old enough to be drafted, fight and die for your country, you should have the right to cast your vote in the very course of the country. I cast my first ballot in a losing effort to upend Richard Nixon running for his second term. Nixon won reelection in the most lopsided victory up to that point in U.S. history. Of course, Nixon was undone by the Watergate break-in and other malfeasance and resigned in disgrace in 1974, halfway through his second term. 

But I digress. Let me get back to today and the freedom to cast our individual vote. In person, or by mail…until 2018. 

Election 2018 is when then secretary of state and Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp and team, reduced the number of voting machines at our polling place by two thirds, from 12 down to four. All the polls had predicted a higher than normal midterm election. And yet, many polling sites across Georgia were ill-equipped to handle the turnout. Voters had to endure long lines and late waits. Polls were held open to allow all to vote. 

Plus, the downright nerve of the man running the the election process to also run for the highest position in the state government showed Kemp’s stripes even more than his commercials sitting on his porch with a shotgun or standing next to his beat up pickup truck talking about “illegal immigrants” and how he will personally send them all back across the border…but I digress, or regress.

On that election day I had to wait in line for over an hour. Julie waited over two hours when it had never taken more than 15 minutes in prior elections. 

So, I was opting to vote by mail this time, virus or not. I’ll have to miss the excitement but happily skip the waiting…and waiting…and waiting…a roadblock which is an often-used form of voter suppression. The harder you make it…and for many, waiting cuts into their paycheck if they’re hourly wage earners or have children at home or in line with them. 

There’s a lot of argument about the merits, safety and the often discussed opportunity for fraud with the mail-in ballot. 

And, there’s the President saying, out loud and without evidence, that if mail-in voting is allowed across the country, Republicans will never win an election again

I’m watching the building debate closely as we look down the barrel of a hugely important presidential election as well as a slate of both federal, state and local offices in Georgia up for grabs. 

Although investigation after investigation has proven that election fraud is a non-issue, it continues to be the rallying cry for those afraid of high voter turnout and involvement. 

Living in a state that has a history of proven voter suppression under the guise of holding down unproven voter fraud, I worry about the fairness of our election and the accuracy of the end results regardless, that all votes will be cast and counted. Afterall, this is where the secretary of state and 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, Brian Kemp, oversaw the largest mass disenfranchisement in U.S. history. Kemp should have stepped down from his appointed position upon declaring his candidacy for governor. Instead, he maintained his position throughout the election while laying a path of voter suppression.

Losing under those conditions was the genesis in Stacey Abrams creating FairFight Georgia, an organization that promotes fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourages voter participation in elections, and educates voters about elections and their voting rights. It has become a substantial watchdog over elections. I highly recommend that you check out the great work of Stacey and team Fair Fight.

When Social Distancing makes urban feel rural 

Or, enjoying the smallness of life when staying home for safety. Another way of looking at it, said an article in the WAPO, is “comfort in being cocooned, or our routines being limited to a few permissible daily activities, and just having to take care of the people and things in our immediate bubble.”

Actually, have you given thought to what you will be giving up to go back to normal? 

This slow down, bad though it has been and will be for our economy, has been liberating for many. “Some people have really flourished in isolation,” said an emergency doctor who, herself, spent a year in Antarctica studying the long-term effects of isolation. “They learned a language, they made art. For many, it was a rich period of personal growth.” 

As far as how her studies on human behavior in the Great White South relate to our re-entry after a few months of staying at home in the comfort of our homes, well, the things that fell out of our orbit of experiences might have lost some of their appeal. We’ve formed a new normal of what we enjoy. Our “creature self, that which gives us emotion, is wary of changing the routine we’ve learned to like in the last month.” 

The advice from the experts lines up with the gradual return to normal phasing for each of us, not just businesses. “Be easy on yourself. Start your social engagements with familiar people, rather than trying to see all of your friends at once as soon we’re all let back out.”

In other words, take it easy. Don’t stampede. Don’t throw or go to a “We’re back” block party. 

Take a breath today and write down what are good things that you learned, adopted, realized during your and your family’s isolation. What do you want to maintain going forward. What did you like about staying at home? What made you feel good, or even better than before the virus.

How do you want to reset your values? If you’re a business owner or leader, what have we learned that should be made a part of doing business going forward?

And, of course, what have you missed the most and look forward to getting back to doing. 

I can assure you, commuting to work is not one of them!!

 

The business of reopening…from three weeks ago

I’ve been circling articles in the AJC and grabbing links to online stories that I believe relevant and from reliable sources just like I watched investigative reporters do all the years I was in TV. Looking for ideas, context, people of note for sourcing, a small item that could be a large item. Frankly, I got behind in circling back to them to review and possibly include in the blog. 

Today, while waiting in the car for Julie’s eye appointment, I pulled out the small stash. I found one article dated April 26, which is not that long ago really, but lightyears ago with regard to our understanding and progress through the virus. Regular Money Matters columnist Wes Moss in the Sunday Business section caught my eye with his column “Georgia’s reopening can be a model for U.S.” With it having been written over three weeks ago I was intrigued to see if the article still held water. You decide.

Two things that I circled were “Social distancing is working. According to www.covidtracking.com, the five-day rolling average of new cases in Georgia peaked at 969 on April 11, and is now running at approximately 700.” 

Wes puts forward the question, “So, do we really want to back off on a strategy that’s working? No, not completely. But we have reached an inflection point with our economy – one that demands a smart balance between protecting human life and preventing economic catastrophe.” Wes interviews a source who is part of Strategies Research Partners which provides macroeconomic research. This advisory firm stresses the importance of a May restart – instead of a June or July reopening. According to his source, “starting the reopening in May gets us to a minus 30% GDP number for the second quarter. Waiting one more month takes us to minus 60% GDP” and suggests that that 30% spread is the difference between “bending our economy and breaking it. 

During the dark years of 2007 and 2008, we were at minus 8% and minus 4.5%.  

Without a vaccine, we can’t secure ourselves against the virus and the virus is with us for the foreseeable future. And, we cannot afford to delay reopening until we effectively wipe out the virus. Moss’s advice:

  • Continue working from home for all jobs that allow for it. 
  • Businesses must institute practices to protect employees – monitoring for symptoms, testing even those without symptoms given the spread possible by asymptomatic infected individuals.
  • Social distancing is the new normal. PPE of varying degrees, from full on to masks only. 
  • Those businesses that can should stagger their in-office workforce by staggering days employees are expected to come to the workplace. This could cut the number of exposures by half, and keep the traffic down as well.

Moss didn’t get into restarting schools, both grades K-12 and higher education. That’s a very huge and different question but figures into parents going back into the workplace versus home, working with kids. The latest information regarding COVID-19 attacking healthy young people showing up must make this decision even more difficult. Or easy. 

 

Nothing like a pandemic to insight interest in making a will

Another article in my stash dated April 20 was headlined, “Pandemic creates sense of urgency to make a will.” Some lawyers were offering free services to draft wills and advanced directives for first responders. You have to celebrate their willingness to help those taking care of us.

If you have been putting this one off, take advantage of the extra time you have to put your mind at rest. Make a will! Most especially if you have kids or family. Or, if your current will is outdated because the kids have grown or you’ve moved to another state, or federal tax laws have changed since your previous draft, fix it!! 

By happenstance, Julie and I were already in the throws of doing just this before the virus showed up. We’d found, interviewed and met with new counsel since our lawyer had retired. Our drafts were in process at the beginning of the year and by the time we were ready to execute, we went to an almost empty office, put on gloves and signed the various documents including the will, and power of attorney for health and finances. What a relief without the virus hanging over our heads. And even more so, after seeing people struck down with COVID-19 apart from family. The power of attorney for health couldn’t be more important to your family should you fall ill and be separated from them.  

 

If you made it this far, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are a trooper. I hope that you found it interesting and informative. Let me know. Comment below.

 

Stay safe. Stay home. Find yourself. Dream of beaches.

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The ultimate in optimism arrived in my Sunday AJC

 

Tequila Friday Already Day!

Let’s start with today’s cocktail – and how to make THE best version of the Margarita in my estimation. Although many favor the popular frozen version, Julie and I favor serving it up in a chilled martini glass or on the rocks. 

We use the recipe reputed to have come from Margarita Sames, a Dallas socialite, who had been searching for the most refreshing poolside cocktail that she could serve at her home in Acapulco. Actually, there are plenty of people who “claim” the honor of first making and naming the drink which is basically built off of the same support team as The Daisy, which featured brandy instead of tequila. The arguments will continue, still, I like this one because of the taste and the result.

Margarita hosted parties and her recipe is in parts versus actual measurements because it’s easier to make a lot at one time. You can make each part equal 1/2 ounce if you’re making one or make each part 1 ounce and then pour two glasses. Whatever your prefer. 

  • 1 part Cointreau
  •  3 parts WHITE/Silver tequila
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice

Lightly dust the rim of frozen martini glass with regular salt. Or, you can enjoy it over one large piece of bar ice in a rocks glass. Whichever, rub lime around rim to moisten and then coat rim with salt.. Stir in a glass mixing pitcher and pour.  

DO NOT GO ANYWHERE!! 

Speaking of Don’t Go Anywhere

The Riley family has a cabin on Beech Mountain, NC. Which is in Watuga County which has mandated a restriction for visitors to the area. If you go up there, you must self-quarantine for two weeks. That means that you must bring in all that you need in the way of food and supplies. This is enforced until June 5th. Restaurants on the mountain are takeout only. I think we’ll wait a while. 

Book Virus

Speaking of books, there’s something running around on Facebook these days that you’ve probably seen if you’re on the Book. One person issues a challenge to another person to post a photo of their favorite seven books, one photo each day for seven days,no critique or review or story. With each new post, you must challenge another person to do the same. It struck me that this is like a virus. One person infects seven other people, to what end I’m not sure. If those seven do their job, they infect another 49, which now totals 56 people infected by the person who accepted the challenge. 

Julie reminded me that it’s nothing more than a chain letter from the olden days of yore. Those carried the heavy burden of some sort of pox upon your house if you didn’t pass it along. Plus, you had to buy stamps for all of the chain links you mailed out.

 On the plus side, it opens up eyes to books yet unread. On the negative, it just gives Facebook more traction. The cynic in me thinks that it was started to sell more books? 

I got the challenge from an old buddy of mine. It surprised me actually. But I didn’t pick it up for the reasons stated above. 

However, I will, unchallenged and unasked, share the last seven books that I’ve read in the order that I read them. I haven’t read one that I wouldn’t recommend and more than half I would read again. 

  1. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles  A Christmas gift from Clark. I loved it from the first sentence all of the way to the end. The writing was luscious. So easy to feel, picture and understand. The storyline was amazing and it all built to a crescendo ending. Beautiful, wonderful characterizations. If you haven’t, you must. READ. I heard that there was a series in the works. I surely hope so.
  2. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles  After reading “Gentleman” I went begging for more Towles, I could drink up anything that he has written. This was written before “Gentleman” and did not disappoint. Very different storyline but still the best writing I’ve put my eyes and mind in to in a while. 
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr  Thank you ,Julie, for recommending this one to me. I’ve never read a book arranged in such a way. Rather than organized in chapters, it’s more like scenes, little flickers of happening that edge the plot along. Some scenes are half a page long, some are chapter length. And they hop back and forth as the plot follows two main characters whose lives were running in parallel during the lead up to WWII in France and Germany. A young girl goes blind as a child. Her father raises her and teaches her how to think her way through the world without sight. Doerr gets inside the blindness with a prose that is poetic in its feel. There’s so much to be felt without the benefit of sight. A young boy, orphaned with his sister, is struggling to find his place in the world and falls in love with wireless radios.
  4. Janesville An American Story by Amy Goldstein. I found this book as we roamed Powell’s Books in Portland, a must visit every time we go there to visit Clark. The fact that I had never heard of this book before, had no knowledge about Janesville, that I purchased it, read it, and am better informed about the cataclysmic effect of the closing on GM’s first plant, put into operation in 1923, is a tribute to bookstores everywhere. Goldstein’s job as a reporter took her to Janesville, Wisconsin many times during the dark days of the Great Recession. She turned her reporting into this book, following the same families and individuals whom she interviewed over 2008-2013, the roughest patches in the area’s long history. It’s heart wrenching for sure, but it’s also eye-opening in so many ways about the human condition, the country’s condition and the ability to, or not to, change. Goldtsein both humanizes the people of Janesville and its surrounding counties, while ending the book with statistics about employment, retraining efforts, income loss and other facts about the economic toll on people through the Recession.
  5. Shanghai Girls by Lisa Lee  I think the background story here is that Clark gave this book to his mom, an avid reader, who reads or listens to books throughout the day. However, she’s reading on her iPad these days so she can set the font size. After I finished Janesville, she thought I might like a change of pace and suggested that I read this book. She’s a great reference source so I dug in. I recommend this not because it is the most well written, but because it was  unusual for me. It’s a historical fiction novel about two sisters born in Shanghai, daughters of a Chinese couple. Both girls are quite beautiful and become models for illustrators. The story is told by the older, slightly less beautiful daughter. It’s about class, loss of class, sibling love and rivalry, horrors of war as the Japanese attack and overrun Shanghai, and the Chinese  immigration to America.
  6. Don’t be Afraid Gringo The Story of Elvia Alvarado. A Honduran woman speaks from the heart. What an interesting read. I bought it, I think, a year or so ago in a used book store. It was published in 1987. The book found me with its photo and title and the whole narrative of today regarding immigration was on my mind when I picked it up. It turns out it’s not really about immigration but about living a Honduran life in abject poverty, the struggle of peasants (campesinos) against the land owners, USA Military investment, large sugar companies and government corruption. The whole book is the translation of Alvarado’s verbal storytelling over time as recorded by the reporter. 
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison – This is what I’m reading at this very moment. After finishing Book #2, I went look for something more literary.I found it in our house. For years I’ve known that it was an important book and one that I should read. I think the kids read it in high school and that is why it’s in our home “library.” I’m halfway through. It has taken a lot of effort to get into the phrasing, the language and the storyline but I can certainly see why this drew so much attention to Morrison. I am starting to feel the book. Know the characters and understand what they’ve been going through that got them to this point in time. It’s about slavery, the end of slavery, sex abuse and sexual love, finding oneself, ghosts and so much more.

Stay safe. Wear your mask over both your nose and mouth! I hear that toilet paper will be back in supply soon. Cheers!

 

Coronavirus Diary Update

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Your intrepid blogger reporter

Have you noticed that the iPhone Facial ID does not work when you’re all masked up?

Momma Monday

“What a difference a day makes.” Ever since retiring, Monday in our home is the weekly house cleaning day, even if it’s the Monday after Mother’s Day. It’s quite a jolt back into reality for Julie the day after being lavished with love, luxuriating in a long hot bath, receiving loving cards and calls, champagne and a surprise social distancing visit from Blair and Rob, martini at cocktail hour, cedar plank salmon from the grill, a pinot noir from our favorite Willamette Valley winery then…Bam!!! Overnight, it’s Monday morning. A morning of cleaning rags, dusting and scrubbing tools and vacuum cleaners. It’s the day that we eat breakfast to move on, change into work clothes and get at it. Julie takes the upstairs and I take the main floor. Biggest jobs upstairs, of course: three bathrooms including the master bath. Biggest job downstairs: the kitchen. We used to have a cleaning service, or I should say, we went through multiple services, never satisfied with the depth of the job…and then there was the breakage. It was basically “mow and blow,” to use a phrase often describing the yard crews, and occasional carnage. So, it’s on us. Keeps us closer to the finer details in the goings on with and within the house. Keeps us grounded. We can get it all done and finished by lunch. Although after the cleanup, there’s a moratorium on walking too soon on the pristine “mowed” carpet…leaving footprints. 

Georgia COVID-19 cases: Which way is up?

Georgia bungles COVID19 data that misrepresents the progress of cases. The dating of cases and where they appear on a timeline were not in chronological order thereby not showing the true timeline history of the reported cases. “Where does Sunday take place twice a week? And May 2 come before April 26?” 

The state cases are not actually going down as the states presentation charts showed. And yet we’re opening. 

AJC cartoonist, Mike Luckovich, shows exactly what happened.

Screenshot 2020-05-14 10.46.52

Opening Schools

I hear talk from the President about restarting schools since young people aren’t getting infected with the virus to the same degree as adults. Even with the new and very concerning presentation of critical health issues in children possibly linked to COVID-19, that remains true. Kids have been less likely to show symptoms of the virus.

However, and counter to what many believe, kids don’t run the schools. In order for schools to open will require teachers, administrators, building services employees, security guards, crossing guards and bus drivers to go back to work and mix with all of the children – who can carry the virus. 

Learning from being alone

This article in the AJC in the AJC last week suggests that a little (or a lot) of Henry David Thoreau would be a very good read during this time of social distancing and staying at home. I’ve got to do some digging to find my copy of Walden; or, Life in the Woods. It’s probably in the box of college books in the attic. I think the columnist is right. Thoreau learned a lot about who he was by moving away from the town folk into a small cabin, growing his own food and getting one with nature and that special pond in Walden. He was sort of the original transcendentalist and environmentalist. If we must be alone, or mostly alone, why not take advantage of the moment. It will be over and you’ll be back in the rush hour traffic and helter skelter you complained about so often in the “no time for me!” modern life. 

COVID TOES

Have you heard about COVID toes? It’s one of the “New Six” symptoms of COVID-19 infection. It’s weird but true. 

When the coronavirus pandemic first emerged, public health officials told the world to watch out for its telltale symptoms: fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. But as the virus has spread across the globe, researchers have developed a more nuanced picture of how symptoms of infection can manifest themselves, especially in milder cases.

Screenshot 2020-05-14 11.21.00After you get over the grossness of the toe picture, here are the other five:

  • Chills/repeated shaking with the chills.
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Loss of smell/taste

We’re getting a “better understanding of how these symptoms express in the general population and not necessarily in hospitalized patients,” which is whom most of the earlier studies from China looked at. “So it’s a bit of a bigger picture,” says Charitini Stavropoulou, an associate professor in health services research at City, University of London in the U.K., who led an analysis of known symptoms in milder cases as part of a collaboration with Oxford University. [NPR]

Who wants to buy a Car? Uh, Nobody!

Coronavirus has hammered auto sales. Cox Automotive furloughed over 12,000 workers. No one much is driving. And few are feeling comfortable laying out the cash to buy a new or used car.

Top COX execs are taking no base salary for the duration of the pandemic!

By furloughing the employees rather than laying them off, the company continues to pay for the employees healthcare benefits for up to 16 weeks. Way to go COX! A company whose mission has always been employees first. The company is well aware that, even with health care covered, this is a very painful situation for each employee. 

Georgia passed a new state law that employers, not the furloughed employee, must file for unemployment benefits each week. This was an emergency bill passed by the legislature intended on easing the burden on recently unemployed workers out in the cold due to the virus. There’s differing opinions as to whether or not this has sped up the process of getting unemployment money into furloughed employees bank accounts. [AJC.com][Vox]  

Some things won’t go back to the pre-COVID

They call them “Stay Healthy Streets” in Seattle, which closed nearly 20 miles of city streets to make way for more pedestrian traffic…permanently! It’s one of the big changes from the city’s adaptation to the virus – providing more bike and pedestrian friendly streets. [Seattle Times]

Guilty/Not Guilty. That is not the question

Both of our kids were called for Jury duty during the virus, Clark, in Portland, and Blair, in Atlanta. It was a surprise to receive the notice, followed by a much welcomed and hoped for notice that they both were excused. Atlanta will not hold court through the month of May.

Here Kitty Kitty

On a personal level, one of the positive outcomes so far of the stay at home/working from home orders is that Blair’s extremely shy cat, Ramble, has turned a corner. It took a bit for Ramble to get used to Blair and her sig other, Rob, being home all day, every day. Especially Rob. And, believe it or not, this cat, that I think I’ve only seen out in the open in Blair’s small condo twice, is taking a liking to Rob. I’m sure that it doesn’t hurt that he is feeding her. She’s out from under the bed. Mostly. They’re seeing her playing. She’s openly displaying affection! 

It’s going to be a big deal when they go back to work…at work. 

 

That’s it for now. Tomorrow is another day. But wait! It’s not just another day. It’s Tequila Friday Already Day. Stay tune for the best margarita cocktail recipe ever, ever, ever.

Mother’s Day Versus Virus

First, I’m the luckiest man in the world. My mother, at 96 “damn” years old, remains healthy, or as she says, “I’m in good shape for the shape I’m in. It does take a whole lot of work to get me up and going every day.”

She still packs a punch and a great laugh, both of which have endeared her to so many over the years. 

The lockdown at her senior citizens community in Durham has been hard on her. She lives alone. No one can visit. And the residents are practicing social distancing to the nth degree. Many of them lived through H1N1 and norovirus episodes so they get the drill. Knowing that you’re being safe, protecting yourself and your friends by staying apart doesn’t relieve the loneliness that it brings on. It saddens me that anyone has to go through this, but in particular I feel for folks like my mom for whom these final years are so precious. She has great grandchildren she’d love to see and who would love to see her. Her grandchildren have done a great job getting video chats going with Mom, but it requires some assistance with the iPad she uses but clearly can flumox her as she tries to navigate around inside it. 

So, it’s a struggle at times. 

The virus has restricted Julie and me from visiting her much more frequently this year. Visits that mean so much to us and to her.

The same holds true for my brothers and sisters. Even my sister, Ginger, who lives just six miles away from Mom cannot see her. She drops off groceries and other odds and ends at the “Command Center” at the Home that are then delivered to Mom. Other friends and relatives who live outside of the home are now limited to phone calls just like those of us living away. 

 

All that said, Mom has grit. The same grit that she used playing street hockey as a kid with the boys. 

The same grit and determination that she used to ride the train from Durham to San Diego during WWII to be close to her Homer. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in final prep for shipping out to fight the Japanese. It took two days to travel the 2,500 miles. She was one of the few non-uniformed passengers on the train. It was packed with young soldiers moving to the West Coast for deployment. She was the only woman in her car, maybe the only female on the train. “Those boys were so polite to me, so kind and friendly. I don’t know that I could have made it without their help,” she told me. I can’t imagine the courage it took for her to board that train in Durham, leaving her family behind at 20 years old. “I’d never been beyond Catsburg before that trip,” she told me a few years ago. 

The same grit that grounded her throughout Dad’s weeks of training, practicing beach landings, going on exercises for days and weeks at a time while she lived with her aunt and uncle in a small bungalow not far from the base in Oceanside. 

For a while, she worked in a soda shop on base. One day a rough looking, bearded Marine came in and ordered a soda. She hardly looked at him before turning to the fountain to prepare the drink. She turned back to hand him the soda and almost dropped it. She finally had looked at him and saw through the beard and mustache that it was her Homer. He’d grown his beard on maneuvers and wanted to have a little fun seeing if she recognized him before he shaved. No whiskers could cover up the knowing twinkle in his eyes.

The same grit to let her man go after he had “jumped ship” for one more kiss and hug the night before steaming to the South Pacific into the great unknown of war. 

How she made it through so much not knowing, like so many wives during that time, is beyond me. The sacrifices that she, and the country, made during those times, coupled with growing up through the Great Depression, left a mark on her to this day. 

I will say this for a fact, whatever pain and anguish she suffered during those dark days, when Dad came home and she had him in her arms, she was bound and determined to make a life for them. 

It was that grit that made her prod her Homer to take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college. He had survived the worst of the worst on Iwo Jima and in that fox hole he dreamed of making it back to his “Sha,” as he called her. He envisioned then a life as a plumber, the job he had trained in before the war. They would start a family. Right away. There would be no waiting. 

It was Mom who insisted that they could do whatever it took, sacrifice whatever they must, for him to go to college. She believed in him and knew that he had the smarts and know-how to apply himself for a better life down the road. 

It was one of the many times that Dad listened to Mom over the years. It made their marriage such a wonderful partnership. 

It was that grit that she used to live in a prefab home for married Vets on the campus of NC State College, right next to the railroad tracks. She learned how to cook with a kerosene stove in a tiny little one bedroom house, and sweep floors through which you could see the ground below. She learned the warmth of their love could overcome the cold leaking through the spaces in the windows so wide that snow would blow in and collect on the sill. 

They had their first child living there. A precious little girl who they named after Mom. The family photos from those times are all happy. Which is not to say that anything was easy or that they weren’t tried to the very core of their determination. But they were alive, in love, together and their first of five joys was filling their days.

No matter how Dad’s career moved ahead, Mom always managed the home as if they still lived in Vetville with little to no money. For her entire life, she has continued to get everything out of a bottle, jar or can and offers sharp criticism when she sees one of us being wasteful…of anything.  When she made a batter for a cake, she cleaned that mixing bowl with her spatula and wasted not a drop that could go into the cake pan. 

In their early days, she and Dad set up a budget calculating the amount of money coming in his monthly paycheck and the spending money necessary for food and clothing. He gave her cash upfront with full discretion on how to spend it. She figured out how to make it work, month after month, squeezing every penny, saving green stamps, buying only sale items, ice milk instead of ice cream, shopping for clothes for us at Roses Five & Dime Store. Very rarely did she buy anything for herself that wasn’t related to keeping house and raising kids. 

It was grit and determination that got her through Dad’s international travel to construction projects in Africa, Greenland, and South America. When he traveled to these far off places, the days it took to get there and back made for trips lasting up to three weeks at a time. That left  Mom alone, in charge of five kids with a twelve-year spread from youngest to oldest. How she handled that without going crazy, I just don’t know. Marti certainly helped out as she grew older. Then Lin, then me, as we each got our drivers licenses, we at least relieved Mom of chauffeuring ourselves and the younger kids to after school activities. I know that one of the biggest days of her parenting life was when Page, the baby, got his license and Mom was freed forever from driving kids around.

She balanced that grit by giving her love, laughter and time to her family and friends with a boundless energy. Once the last child was a teenager, she really began to live her life even more fully. She showed us all how to find yourself after the kids have left the nest. She and Dad made a great life of retirement. But she never lost her grit. Ever. You hear it in her voice, pushing back the loneliness of living without her Homer and living during the virus. You hear it in her continued interest in everything that is going on in Durham and the world around her. 

So, here’s to Mom, the former Martha Kerr Glymph, and the forever Martha G. Riley. 

Happy Mothers’ Day Mom. You are one of a kind and I am so lucky to be your son. 

 

“I am so fortunate in so many ways,” she told me. “And the mothers in our family, Julie, Sylvia, Maggie and Ginger, Claire, Kia and Brenda are just wonderful.”     

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Thanks again for reading and I wish all the mothers that I know Happy Mother’s Day! I want to end by sharing a poem I wrote and sent to Mom back in 1985 for Mother’s Day. 

 

Mother’s Day 1985

Mom,

I was thinking about you,

The other day,

And how much we used to talk

To one another about things…

Mostly in the kitchen,

While you were cooking, I’d stir.

Or while you were resting,

Smoking a cigarette,

Drinking your cup of coffee,

We talked about unimportant things,

And things that mattered,

Subjects of the heart,

And convictions of the mind.

I learned a lot about the world;

How you felt about it, our family,

Homer,

And me.

We agreed and disagreed,

But we always cared,

From little boy talk,

To grown-up discussions.

I knew you were my friend…

My first friend – forever.

 

With all of my love,

Steve

 

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Nana with Clarky in Westview, PA

 

Hooray for Homer!

50th Annv Homer-1
Our Dad as a teenager at about the time he met his Martha.

Our dad died five years ago today, May 7, 2015, at 10:45 a.m., two thirds of the way through his 92nd year. His absence continues to leave a hole in our lives. The passage of five years means that we can talk about him mostly without tearing up. Each year we salute him on this day as a marker to his end of life just like we celebrate his beginning on September 7th. 

To celebrate our dad, I asked my family to write up something that they cherish in their memories of him. It could be a frequent saying, what we called “Homerisms,” like, “Oooh, Mahtha, that’d make a bulldog break his chain!” which he would say after tasting something, usually of something sweet, or after stirring crumbled cornbread into a glass of buttermilk.

He also had a quick and inventive wit that took advantage of a moment, something someone said, or just something that happened. It displayed his unique and optimistic view on life. His love of good humored fun, although his wit could also be sharp. He called it, “The Needle.” It was never calculated. It just happened, frankly before he even thought about it. You could be pricked and not realize it for a minute or two. He honed it with his golfing buddies as they constantly threw good natured but sharp barbs at one another during a round to see if they could get a bit of a rise out of their friends.

So we dedicate today’s post to the original Homer Lindell Riley, 1922-2015, recalling these Homerisms.

From Marti, the first born, with her wife, Susan

It was late November, 2000, and Mom and Dad moved to Croasdaile. We had been to Beech Mountain one weekend, and – on the way back to Charlotte, there was an advertisement that there were CHEAP flights to London – less than $250 round trip. We called Mom and Dad on the way home to see if they had “any hairs left”. Told them about the fare, etc., and they said they would love to go. Also checked with Rosemary to see if she wanted to join us, and she was a “go”. We all quickly purchased tickets and were ready to go! I found a three bedroom, 3 bath apartment near Harrods, and we were set.

There are too many memories of this wonderful trip to recite here – like getting Mom out of Harrods’s basement grocery by way of the jewelry dept. Almost had to keep her on a leash!

One event that was anticipated with great enthusiasm was “high tea” at the venerable Savoy Hotel. Homer donned a sport coat and tie while the “ladies” dressed in their best attire. We sat in the big “tea room”, ordered tea and cucumber sandwiches while becoming immersed in the parade of patrons and their activities. With great sophistication, Homer would point out the “working Girls” mixed in with paying clientele.

When tea arrived, we were a tad disappointed – it was just TEA!!!!! So we mimicked several tables nearby, and ordered a bottle of champagne – actually Homer did. That was much better and we moved on to a 2nd bottle.

When departing for dinner, Homer called for the check. We protested that we would get it knowing what was coming. He insisted, so we acquiesced. The check arrived, and Homer did a magnificent – if not altogether successful job – of hiding his shock at the tab. With his customary aplomb, he handled it – much as he has for family and friends for years.

From Lin, the namesake, Homer Lindell Riley, Jr. 

So many things to remember and love about who he was and how he chose to handle himself.  Always so positive about everything…wish i could be more that way.  I remember caddying for him at Willowhaven which was not a chore at all.  To be in that group of Homer, AD Turrentine, OZ Wrenn and others was fun to watch.  The needles were always sharp and steady but they always enjoyed themselves.  I can only imagine what things were really like at the Teer’s cottage in Myrtle Beach when they all gathered for the Surf Club Tournament.  Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall!!  Or maybe Not!

It always surprised me when meeting people in the construction industry for the first time and they would say, Damn, you gotta be Homer’s son.  Yes sir, and thank you very much!  He knew so many people but not all of their names.  He always introduced himself when greeting people.  “Hi, Homer Riley” and they would say, “Yeah Homer, I know you” and they would talk and when the conversation ended he would turn to me and say, “Why would that person not tell me who he was? I introduced myself, can’t they take a hint?”  

It was special to be involved with him from the business side of things as well as the family.  And he approached issues in the same methodical manner.  Not rush to make poor decisions but to know all the facts and then make a stand. 

We all miss him terribly but we were all very lucky to have had him for 90+ years and the impact he had on our lives was special.  Love you Dad and thank you.

From Maggie, wife to Page, on who Dad could be…

I sat down to write several times and could not stay on track. I’ve heard so many stories, so many times, but I just didn’t feel like I could do the stories or Homer justice.  

He could be the dad that just wanted to pinch your head off when you were a kid. At least that’s what you and he have told me. 

He could be the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” guy when making a midnight requisition to build Martha a little fence at Vetville at NC State College. 

He could be the diablo that sat at the end of the pool letting his daughter-in-law know it was three minutes until the house “no swimsuit” policy would go into effect. 

He also was a guy who could tell his kids he loved them. Homer was a pretty amazing father for someone who lost his own father at such a young age. 

To which Page added, he could also be the guy who would advise that you never leave more than you can make – good advice for putting, or for life decisions.

From Steve, the middle child: Golfing moments with Dad and his ever present “needle.”

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Dad played quite a few of the country’s legendary courses. Here, he’s chipping up to what looks like the 11th green at Augusta National.

Through connections at work in Pittsburgh, I was invited to play Oakmont, the famed course that has hosted the US Open many times. My boss, John Howell, said, “Hey, we need a fourth. Invite your Dad.” So I did and he and Mom drove the nine hours from Durham to Pittsurgh for a week. As the sun rose and mist was lifting in the early morning of our game, John drove us over to the club. We met our host, Rose (I forget her last name), an excellent 12 handicapper at the legendary club famous for being tournament ready every day. 

Somewhere around the fourteenth or fifteenth hole I hit a particularly good drive. As we walked from their tee shots to my ball quite a bit along, Rose remarked, “You really caught that one Steve. Great drive.” I was feeling pretty good about it, after all, it had been a very challenging round in which four putts were accumulating. After Rose’s compliment, Dad didn’t miss a beat and said, “Rose, I believe the boy done out-drove his knowledge.” I glanced at him and he winked at me. Then, I hit my second shot clear over the green. I showed him. Once again, he was right.

Years later, again through work in Atlanta, I was invited to play Eastlake, the home course of Bobby Jones and the host to the PGA Tour Championship. When one of our foursome dropped out I asked if I could invite Dad. Our host graciously agreed. Mom and Dad drove down from Durham to spend a few days. It just so happened that folks at the TV station had set up a Saturday round at Chastain Park Golf Course, a muny in town. About 20 staffers signed up to play. I signed us up for that as well.  

Eastlake is a very exclusive 6 Star set up. Everything is immaculate. You drive up, they take your clubs and point you to the entrance to the clubhouse. You put on your shoes in the members’ locker room amid the personal lockers with PGA tour players’ names on them. You walk down to the range and there is your bag and caddie waiting for you with a pyramid stack of shiney new Titleist balls. Just top drawer all the way. We both played well. The walk was beautiful. We had the course to ourselves. After the round, we sat in the pub, enjoyed a beer and sandwich with our host, a radio sales guy. We drove home and told Mom and Julie all about our day.

The next morning, we got up early, drove down to Chastain Park, parked on the street. Got out, opened the trunk, put on our golf shoes leaning against the car, heaved our clubs out and carted them over to the small clubhouse. On the way, the clubs clanking in his stride, Dad observed, “Damn! What a difference a day makes!” I laughed about that all day, at every turn, from the $35 tab to play, the rickety cart, the barren fairways and sad greens. Balls flying all over the place from other fairways. But, you know what, we had a great time enjoying the day, the people and the game. 

Also, it was the day Eric Robert Rudolf, the Olympic Park Bomber, was finally caught. Word spread fast and all of the golfers who worked in our news department rushed off of the course to the station. 

Dad and I finished our round, loaded up the car and drove home. What a day. And we regaled Mom and Julie again on “what a difference a day makes” as we cooked steaks on the grill and toasted our time together with a glass of wine.  

And, from the last born, R. Page, or Front Page, as Mom called him

This story is “Classic” Homer. It is Dad’s explanation for having a their first child (our oldest sister, Marti) while still in school at NC State College.

A struggling couple with a new born baby living in Vetville (the schools Veterans Village) after WWII, Dad was studying engineering on the GI Bill at the prodding of his young wife, Martha. I remember asking Dad, “What were you thinking, having a baby while still in school with little or no income?”  Homer looked at me and said “Son, you know that train track that splits the NC State campus in half?” And of course I knew having gone there as well.  “Well, that train ran right beside our small trailer there in Vetville.  It came thru every morning at 6 a.m. It was too early to get up, but it was too late to go back to sleep!!”  And that’s how it happened according to Homer.

Homerisms – One man’s take on things in general

Dad was playing golf one weekend with his favorite foursome of Jeep Wrenn, Nelson Strawbridge and Uncle Grover. Uncle Grover, Mom’s younger brother, was a man of short stature, much shorter than Dad and the others in the foursome. He had a great laugh and was like a cuddly bear. 

These guys always played for a little money. Not much money, but just enough to put a game on and add to the fun of the round. Like many golfers, you’d think they were playing high stakes by how seriously they took the game.

On this particular day, Grover was paired with Nelson. On something like the tenth hole, halfway into the round, Grover’s first putt came up short of the hole and certainly wasn’t a tap in to tie the hole with Dad and Jeep. Nelson said, “That’s good in my book,” angling for the concession. Dad replied, “Sure. If it’s inside the leather it’s good by me.” Nelson started to measure using his putter. Dad stopped him right there. “It has to be inside the leather on Grover’s putter, not yours.” And, of course, with Grover being shorter, the distance from the end of the putter head to the leather was a few inches shorter than Nelson’s. 

There was a moment where Nelson and Grover looked at each other, then at Homer to see if he was serious. Dad held his face. Nelson said, “I’ve never heard that rule before.” Dad replied, “Oh, it’s in the rulebook. The Book of Riley.” 

Then they laughed, Dad conceded Grover’s putt to tie the hole and they walked off to the next tee with Grover mumbling something about Dad making shit up. 

 

On Saturday’s, Dad would go into the office in the morning and work for four hours. He’d then ask his secretary that if Mr. Teer Senior came looking for him, tell Mr. Teer that he had left to survey a job. The job was at Willowhaven Country Club where he had a standing game on Saturday morning.

I was at his bedside in the hospital after he had his knees replaced. He was 85 years old and this surgery put his optimism of life and living on full display. It also showed how much pain he was in and how it was holding him back from a full life. As I was leaving to go home for dinner we were saying our goodbyes. He motioned to me to come a little closer. He reached up in a beckoning way. I bent over and he pulled me down, pulling my head right next to his. It was so touching and I was deeply moved. I whispered in his ear, “I love you, Dad.” 

There was an awkward moment. “That’s sweet,” he replied. “I love you too, sport…Hey, when you come back, will you bring me a toddy?”

Also related to the knee replacement surgery, when asked by a friend if he had both knees replaced at the same time, he answered, “No. First they did the left knee, then they did the right knee…” He’d pause with great enjoyment before finishing, “but they did the surgery all in one day.”

 

Hey Dad, where did you get that…insert whatever? His reply: “At the GROW-sir-eee store,” drawing out the word “grocery” for full effect.  

 

Mom and Dad moved into Croasdaile Village during the Summer of 1999. They were part of the original crew of residents and became like the welcoming committee for new residents. At some point, a lot of folks had begun driving golf carts around the property instead of cars and the administrators rearranged the parking at “The Big House” where Mom, Dad and most everyone living there went for dinner. The new parking layout reserved preferential parking for a limited number of golf carts. Soon after the parking modifications, Dad drove Mom up for dinner in their SUV. Finding no spots for cars available, he parked in one of the golf cart spots. A security guard politely addressed Dad and said, “Mr. Riley, that the spot is marked for golf carts only.” Dad quipped, “Well, I know that. I always carry my clubs in my car!”

 

When Arthur and Alice Axberg were moving in next door, Dad saw his soon to be new neighbor standing on the back deck and surveying the area. Dad shouted from his yard, “Are you the Axberg’s?” Arthur, a little startled, looked at Dad and answered, “Yes we are.” 

“Well, good. You’re my neighbor and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!”

Arthur loved telling that story. He said that he knew right away that what he’d heard about Homer Riley was true and they were going to have a great friendship. 

 

Nello L Teer Company, the Durham-based construction outfit that Dad worked for his whole career, did a lot of road building jobs in West Virginia. One winter he got a call from the superintendent on a new job. They were in the early stages of clearing the land and had a lot of wood, most of which they would push together in large piles and burn. He hated to see it go to waste as the weather was turning cold and asked Dad if it would be okay for them to cut some into firewood and put it on the side of the existing road for local folks. Dad liked the idea and immediately approved. The super said he would put a “Free Firewood” sign on it. 

A week later, Dad and the superintendent were talking about how the job was going and Dad asked about the firewood. “Oh, no one has taken any of it.” Dad thought for a second and said, “Change the sign from ‘Free Firewood’ to ‘Firewood – $25 a pickup load’ and see what happens.”  

The next time they talked the superintendent said it was all gone. Vanished almost immediately overnight. Dad said that the moral of that story is that folks were too proud to take something for free. But they were fine with stealing it. 

 

When many from our childhood neighborhood at the corner of Indian Trail and Hillandale Roads were gathered together for the sad occasion of the sudden death of one of the boys from the neighborhood, Dad lightened the mood. He surveyed the crowd and asked in a loud voice, “So how many of you knuckleheads peed in my pool when you were kids?” Almost all of the now middle-aged neighborhood “kids” raised their hands, men and women, and they started sharing their memories of the neighborhood, their friend, Butch, and the Riley pool. It was classic Homer.

 

Dad told me that he came home from boot camp with his orders to ship out to San Diego, California. He wanted to see his fiance’ one more time. “As I approached the Glymph house on Englewood Avenue there was a crowd gathered outside. I wondered who was getting married and found out…it was me!

 

There’s no doubt that this world isn’t as funny as it was when Dad lived in it. Mom’s done a good job of her own over the years with her version of Marthaisms. They knew each other for all but twelve years of their lives. They had so much fun together, but certainly faced many difficulties, their share of sadness, and tribulations. That’s life. Dad summed it up like he summed up so many complicated problems, cleanly and succinctly. “It’s been a great ride.” 

 

Thanks for reading this and celebrating the life of our father. He was truly one of a kind. As Julie said this morning, “I knew Homer longer than I knew my own father. He was such a comfort to me. So strong. Loving. Supportive. And, of course, funny. I loved him so much. He was such a figure, so beloved by everyone who knew him, I couldn’t believe that he died. Even at 92.” 

Dad, we will never stop loving you, thinking of you and remembering the joy and happiness that you brought into our lives, along with your spirit of never giving up on any one of us, or anything to which you set your mind to accomplish.

If you’d like to read more about Homer, here are a few links:

  • Iwo Jima and Remembering Hutch  Dad’s chronicle of the day he and his Marine division landed on Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945, the loss of his best friend, Hutch, and how posting Dad’s letter on my blog revealed the connection between our family and our great friends, the Lockharts, here in Atlanta.  
  • The Odyssey of Homer – a eulogy
  • The first Father’s Day without him

 

 

May 6, 2020 Coronavirus Diary

 Okay, I accidentally gave you guys a break in the updates. I’m sure that you missed me. I was going to release one on May Day, especially because it happened on Tequila Friday. Alas, the tequila struck a little early and lasted a little late. 

Then, I was aiming for Cinco de Mayo de Coronavirus. Yet again, there was the need to salute the day with tequila and I missed that self-imposed deadline too. What the heck is going on?! 

Well, I haven’t just been laying around. I’ve been working on a post for Thursday which is a special day for our family. It’s the day that our dad passed away, now five years ago. I hope that you have a chance to read it tomorrow morning. 

Now, to catch up on the virus…

“Everyone feels missing from our lives right now.”

Meaningful words from a former colleague and still friend of mine who tried to put our aloneness right now into words. We spoke yesterday, just connecting and catching up. Like almost all of the Channel 2 staffers, she has been working from home since March. So has her husband. And, so have her two kids. In order to make it work for everyone, they divided up the house into four quadrants to give each other space to do their “homework.” It’s quite the zoo and no one is happier than the dog. He’s never alone.

Changing how you see your Doctor

I took advantage of Julie’s tele-health appointment yesterday with our long time GP to horn in as they were wrapping up to ask him some questions about COVID-19. Here’s what I learned from him:

The virus is still out there. Do not take it for granted. 

  • At their offices, they are doing everything they can to keep the number of people down inside the office at any given time. No COVID or potentially COVID patients come in to the office. If a non-COVID patient needs to come in, they must use the mobile check in, alert the office that they have arrived and are in their car in the parking lot. They will wait in their car to be called when they can be seen. No one sits around in the office. They’ve eliminated check out.
  • Prior to COVID-19, Tele-health did not take off for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that doctors historically are slow to adopt new ways of doing business. Ironic in that their world of medicine is the most modern of sciences. But there are four other very good reasons: 
    1. Medicare doesn’t reimburse doctors for it, so the doctors don’t get paid for their tele-health time with Medicare patients. This, he says, is being reconsidered by Medicare officials.
    2. In his practice, like most, doctors are required to see a certain number of patients face-to-face each day. For those doctors who did adopt tele-health practices, they generally did that before or after their very full day at the office. Most weren’t interested in extending their already long day. 
    3. The internet setup requires a security protected HIPPA compliant platform, which costs money. That’s what our doctor uses and just prior to the scheduled meeting, the office emails the patient a secure link. The government has issued a waiver on this due to the virus but there are still requirements that must be met. 
  • Interestingly, doctors feel more accountable to being on time for tele-health appointments, so if you do schedule one, it’s likely to be right on the time scheduled versus our long waits in the office…reading those old magazines. 
  • It takes 72 full compliments of PPE (face shield, N95 mask, gloves and gown per COVID patients per day. 72!! With an average time in the hospital being two weeks, that’s just over 1,000 sets of PPE per COVID patient. 
  • By rule, for medical use, N95 masks are to be discarded after 8 hours. However,  a new powdered treatment extending the life of N95s for seven days has been approved. He told me that, for personal use, I can wear mine until the smell overcomes me.
  • The swab COVID tests are rated 50-80% sensitive. A negative response (thank goodness) does NOT mean that you aren’t or haven’t been infected (oh crap!) If you’ve had symptoms, irrespective of a negative result, you should assume positive.
  • The current antibody test will tell if you’ve been exposed or had the disease. It’s 100% sensitive. But it can be a false positive too and and it is too early to say if you are or are not immune going forward. Best to assume that you are not and protect yourself and others.
  • Medical practices and hospitals are businesses that pretty much operate on a zero sum annual reset. Every year they restart from zero. They don’t really have the financial war chest capacity to purchase a large store of emergency needs like PPE and incubators and just hold on to them for a pandemic.
  • He’s lucky in that his practice partnered with a large Atlanta-based practice years ago. He and all of the rest of the staff are getting paid during this time in which they are seeing much, much fewer patients every day, thus bringing in much less revenue. He believes that many smaller, private practices will go under because they don’t have the wherewithal to withstand this extended shutdown. The practice of medicine has always seen the future of its business as necessary and steady.

It’s beyond irony that it is a health crisis that could put many healthcare providers out of business.  

My brother sent this link to me. It’s a State by state tracking of COVID-19

 

More time to listen while doing

As I’ve been working in the yard, I’ve been able to listen to more podcasts while digging or watering or even mowing (I have a reel mower, no engine, so it’s very quiet). And there are a plethora of newfound podcasts available spurred on by COVID-19. Even if they aren’t directly about the virus in theme, the time to create and produce them is the direct result of Coronavirus time. Creators have more time to create. And listeners have more time to, well, listen. I listened to one the other day about making cinnamon toast, the way the storyteller’s mother made it, and the joy in the taste of her past, and the memory of her mother was worth the calories. 

Another was by a Brit who works for the NYT. He told of the joy of both making and enjoying a good spot of tea. Frankly, they actually were interesting. I love cinnamon toast and I do like a good cup of tea. 

One particular episode that I highly recommend is on the podcast 99% Invisible, and it is called, “Masking for a Friend.” It is a fascinating background on how the idea to wear face masks to stave off spreading infection actually came into play, who was the brilliant person to make the connection to do so in the first place, and where it was first put into practice. 

And lastly, in a time of isolation, it doesn’t hurt to hear about it from one who embraces it. This episode, called “Alone at Sea,” is from the NYT’s podcast, The Daily, as part of its Sunday Read. It’s the contemporary tale of a 71 year old Polish man who has kayaked across the Atlantic three times. It’s an amazing story about why he would rush towards being the smallest speck on a seemingly endless ocean. 

My former colleague at Channel 2 sent me this article, NYT on Trump and the quick history of voter suppression I actually beg you to read it. It paints the big picture of the long history of “fixing” elections, usually by the those claiming to be protecting the election from voter fraud. 

And with all of that, and as the temperature goes down, I hope that you’ll see my post tomorrow and read it. It’s called “Homerisms.”

So, stay safe, stay home and stay warm!