Archives For Family

Reunion

July 15, 2018 — 5 Comments

The restaurant was crowded and they added a table to the end of a booth to make room. 

We had arrived the night before. It was our reunion and it had been forty years since we graduated from the high school in the small town where we grew up. 

That town was a factory town. My classmates were the children of the men and women who built the engine magnetos that won the second World War and the electronic parts that helped astronauts land on the moon.

We grew up together in turbulent times. We were too young to understand why our parents cried after learning that President Kennedy had died in Dallas. We were in second grade when Martin Luther King and Bobby were killed. 

Jane Roe won her case against Sheriff Henry Wade when we were in seventh grade. Later that year Nixon went to China. He resigned in disgrace before ninth grade began.

The war in Vietnam began before we were in kindergarten. Seven boys died within weeks of each other during the Tet Offensive and the last Americans left Saigon from the roof of the embassy in the spring before we entered high school. 

We did what children everywhere did. We finished our homework before bedtime and walked or bused to school. We fretted over braces, pimples, bad hair and clothes that didn’t fit. We worried about the SATs and thought about college, careers and someday getting married and raising families.

Tonight we spoke only of the good times we had shared years ago. Frisbee games and prom dates and dancing to slow music. Messages left on yearbook pages, indoor track records and traveling to Florida with the marching band.

We smiled and laughed and did not cry.

The restaurant was empty when we said goodbye. The dishes were cleared and the extra table was pushed back to where it belonged, removing too soon the last sign of a perfect reunion.

From B to D to C to B.

April 28, 2018 — 4 Comments

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After surgery they make you walk. So we walk. 

We’ve been here since Monday, walking and resting and healing in room 11 of Pavilion 4B.

There are three other pavilions on this floor joined by four long corridors. When we walk, we pass all the rooms on 4B and then 4D and 4C before heading back to her room. There is a heavy fire door leading to 4A so we never go that way.

The pavilions are organized by cancer type. 4B is for woman being treated for gynecological cancers. I can’t figure out what is treated on 4C but 4D hits me hard every time we walk there. It is the pavilion for pancreatic cancer, the cancer that killed my father. There are mostly men there, about as old as my father was when he was hospitalized. They walk and rest and heal, just like us.

We walk slow, holding hands, and I remember that when my father was diagnosed I feared that there was nothing that could be done. But his surgery went well and soon he was back home making the best of the extra time he was given.

When Kathy was diagnosed I had the same fear, but again things have gone well.

So today I do not worry about tomorrow. I just walk these halls holding her hand, remembering my father and hoping for the best.

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Good Morning Starshine

March 9, 2015 — 2 Comments

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Anna Elizabeth Hubert was born on August 11, 1914, in Newark, New Jersey and died on August 27, 1956, in Saranac Lake, New York. She was my grandmother. She had two brothers, John and  Edward, and one daughter, Mary Ann, who was my mother.

Anna worked in a hospital and contracted Tuberculosis, which is how she ended up in Saranac Lake where she received treatment at Trudeau’s sanatorium. She was in Saranac Lake on November 18, 1942, when she received a telegram from her husband, Edward McGrath, who was on a layover in England before heading home on the troop transport SS Coamo. His message to her was short but very sweet,

ALL WELL AND SAFE MY THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU FONDEST LOVE DARLING

She was still in Saranac Lake when she learned that his ship had been lost at sea; when Army Chief of Staff General Marshall sent her official condolences; and also on December 15, 1943, when Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote advising her that a Purple Heart had been awarded posthumously to her husband, explaining:

The medal, which you will receive shortly, is of slight intrinsic value, but rich with the tradition for which Americans are so gallantly giving their lives. The Father of our country, whose profile and coat of arms adorn the medal, speaks from across the centuries to the men who fight today for the proud freedom he founded.

And she was still in Saranac Lake on November 23, 1948, when a letter came confirming that my grandfather died when a German U-Boat torpedoed the Coamo.

While my grandmother was dealing with her disease and the loss of her husband, my mother was in Islip Terrace being raised by her grandmother, Katherina Hubert, and her uncles, John and Ed. They also served during the war and John would return home seriously injured, walking with a limp and unable to use his left arm and hand.

My grandmother died before I was born, but John and Ed and their children and grandchildren were an important part of our family. In the late 60’s and early 70’s we spent our summer vacations visiting John and Ed in Islip Terrace. Some of the best times we had during those visits were trips to John’s beach house in Fire Island Pines, which we reached by taking the Sayville Ferry. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, we actually witnessed first hand the conversion of the Pines from a place with a sign that proclaimed “Welcome to Fire Island Pines — A Family Community” into the much more sexually liberated, tolerant and diverse community it is today.

There were no cars on Fire Island because there were no roads. Instead there were only boardwalks and everyone used red Radio Flyer wagons to carry groceries and beach chairs and towels. We were often joined by John’s grandchildren and together the seven of us would fish for eels off the harbor dock or wade into the Great South Bay and shuffle our feet to find clams, which my dad would steam for dinner. I learned to body surf on the Atlantic side of the island and first read about the adventures of Ian Fleming’s James Bond from paperbacks I found on the bookshelves that lined the walls of the beach house.

We were there in the summer of 1968 shortly after the musical “Hair” opened on Broadway and also in the summer of 1969 when Oliver’s rendition of Good Morning Starshine became a hit. Sometime after that a decision was made to play the song over the loud speakers set up around the harbor every morning at 7:00 AM.

John’s house was close to the harbor and that song served as our alarm clock, welcoming us each morning to the start of another amazing day on Fire Island with my mother and her Uncle John.

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Heading home alone

September 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

I left Abby in Obzor at 4:00 PM and drove back to Burgas. I fly home to Baltimore tomorrow.

Over the last eight days we have traveled more than 2,000 miles together from London to the Black Sea. At the start I expected that we would spend this time in long heart felt talks. We didn’t. Those talks belong to an earlier time when I was the only man in her life. I am not that person for her any longer. Instead, we spent most of our trip in quiet reflection as we watched Europe pass by our train windows. She drawing sketches and sharing her experiences with her boyfriend by email and I writing these blog entries.

In earlier trips I was depended upon to make sure everything was in place. On this trip I travel with a partner who did more than her fair share. From finding a conductor to let her on a locked train to retrieve the bag containing my passport I had left behind, to finding great restaurants and an amazing bike tour, Abby’s contributions made the trip better.

When she announced that she had obtained a grant to attend this program I was nervous. This was not like the organized school trips overseas she had taken before and I was frightened of the prospect of her traveling to Bulgaria alone. I realize now that she could have done this without me and has sacrificed some of her independence to let her worrisome father tag along to unnecessarily make sure she made it okay.

We arrived early to the pick up point and waited in a cafe next door. She said goodbye to me there and walked the remaining fifty meters alone. She left soon thereafter already deep in conversation with the people she had just met.

She did not look back.

And we’re off

August 27, 2013 — 1 Comment

From The Start of the Journey:

So why this blog? I guess it all starts with the fact that my daughter, a classics major at the University of Chicago, decided to travel to the coast of the Black Sea this summer to excavate and decipher pottery from Ancient Greece. This rather straight-forward study abroad opportunity led to an invitation to join her on a train trip across Europe on her way to the archeological site.

A close friend recently asked what I planned to do during the long train rides. Would I bring lots of books to read? Take time to visit the cities along the way? Well, writing this blog is what I have decided to do.

At the outset, I must recognize, thank and give credit to Mark Smith from the U.K., better known as The Man in Seat 61. . . for his wonderfully insightful and helpful blog post on How to Travel from London to Sofia and Bulgaria. He has literally shown me the way, step by step.

The above is from my first blog post, published on July 8th. Since then I have been slowly piecing together our trip from Baltimore to London by air; from London to Sophia, Bulgaria by train; from Sophia to Burgas on the Black Sea coast by plane; and finally from Burgas to Obzur by bus, where I will leave Abby as she starts a two week program with the Balkan Heritage Field School.

The program she is attending is a workshop for conservation, restoration and documentation of Ancient Greek potterty and is hosted by the Field School and Apollonia Pontica Excavation Team. During the workshop she will work with authentic Ancient Greek shards and visit the ancient coastal towns of Nesebar (an UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Archaeological Museum in Sozopol.

At this point I have followed Mark Smith’s suggestions and everything is in place, except for one pair of train tickets from Bucharest, Romania to Sophia, but my understanding is that obtaining tickets at the station will not be a problem. The schedule for the buses along the Black Sea coast is also a little confusing. Other than these minor concerns, everything has come together nicely.

We leave shortly on British Airways flight 216 from Dulles to London Heathrow. We are expected to arrive at 6:40 a.m. local and will spend the day sightseeing in London. Dulles is surprisingly quiet this evening and not very crowded; a far cry from my typical airline experience at the Southwest terminal at BWI.

Abby is sitting next to me reading Sea Change, by S. M. Wheeler, a new novel that I supsect she will finish it before the week is over. This is how many of my adventures start with Abby.