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A letter to Janie in heaven . . .

Dear Janie,

Yesterday was the eighth day of January 2010, a supremely significant Saturday (ah, that alliteration—I cannot resist it). The entire world knows at least one reason why yesterday was significant. Elvis Presley was born on that day in 1944. Had the rock-and-roll star stuck to singing (more alliteration) and kept his distance from fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches he could have celebrated his seventy-sixth birthday yesterday—some say that drugs contributed to his early demise.

Yesterday Debra, our elder daughter—I use the phrase elder daughter because it carries far less emotion than older daughter—celebrated her fifty-seventh birthday. She and our granddaughter and their friend Sandy whiled the day away shopping in Austin at Sam Moon’s mercantile for Chinese-made items, primarily jewelry, and enjoyed a birthday lunch—probably at a McDonald’s outlet—no, not really—I’m certain that they went to a five-star restaurant, assuming that Austin has such.

I called Debbie on her cell phone and submitted her to the birthday song—I’m unsure whether she has recovered from that cacophony of sound. She has breezed past the half-century mark in age and added seven years, and she could easily pass for thirty—alright, she could definitely pass for thirty-five. I believe that her satisfaction with her work in one of San Antonio’s school districts is helping her stay young—that and her plethora—call it a gaggle—of close friends.

I believe that most of the credit for her youthful look can be attributed to the genes bequeathed by her mother, a lady that has always appeared far younger than her years. I would like to believe that I contributed to that youthful look, but I’m honest enough to give full credit to her mother for that.

Janie, if you’ll take a quick look at a certain spot in a certain section of Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery you’ll see a brilliantly white marble marker, newly erected, with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers placed in front of it. The marker is etched with all the pertinent information required by military regulations, and the words Cry not for me, I wait for thee.

I have been unable to comply with the CRY NOT FOR ME admonition, but your statement that I WAIT FOR THEE has stood me in good stead and kept me from unraveling completely. That phrase is in the forefront of the multitude of reasons why I love you, and in the words of Emily Dickinson in her timeless poem, I shall but love you better after death.

The beauty of the flowers will last for several days in the cool weather of this December, but with the summer sun I’ll need to replenish them far more frequently, but I don’t mind—they are from our local HEB market—this is perhaps one of the best bargains that can be found in one of the finest markets in our city—nay, one of the finest in our nation.

Sweetheart, I’ll close for now. I have a photo of your marker taken by my new Sprint 4G phone, but I haven’t figured out how to get it from the phone to my computer. When I do I’ll add it to this letter.

Sleep well in heaven, my darling.

I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.

Mike

Postscript: The marker photo was added today, January 10, 2011.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in death, flowers, funeral, Military

 

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Note to sign painters: Head for West Virginia . . .

Letter to the editor

San Antonio Express-News

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio TX 78297

Your editorial in the Metro Section on Monday, July 19, 2010 entitled, Renaming dorm at UT proper, recounts the changing of Simkins Hall’s name to Creekside Hall, an action taken because of the scholarly research of Tom Russell, a former UT law professor and inquiries by the Austin American-Statesman. In what appears to be a rewrite of history, William Stewart Simkins is now considered a racist because of his association with the Ku Klux Klan, and therefore not worthy of having his name on a student residence named in his honor some 56 years ago, in spite of the fact that he was a longtime popular professor and considered a great legal scholar and teacher.

The article states that, Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.

This letter is not meant to criticize UT for renaming the student hall. It is a matter of no consequence to me, nor should it be to anyone else, including your editorial writers and the 2,000 black students enrolled at UT. The student residence is UT’s property and subject to any name they prefer, for whatever reason. Nor will the renaming affect William Stewart Simkins—he’s been dead since 1929.

However—and this is a big however—it should affect the sovereign state of West Virginia. West Virginia is morally bound to follow in UT’s footsteps. They must follow UT’s lead and rename everything in West Virginia that carries the name of Robert C. Byrd, the late United States senator from West Virginia. The state should also rename everything that carries the name of Erma Byrd, placed there by the senator in honor of his long-time wife.

A member of the Democratic party, Byrd served as a West Virginia senator from 1959 to 2010, and was the longest-serving senator and the longest-serving member in the history of the United States Congress.

Why, you may ask, should the people of West Virginia rename all the places that sport the senator’s name? My answer is because it’s the right thing to do, the honorable thing to do. West Virginia should take the moral path and remove the name Robert C. Byrd from any and all public buildings and areas—parks, streets, highways, bridges, monuments and history books, and from all local, state and federal institutions and offices. While at it they should also remove and rename all the locations and institutions the senator named in honor of Erma Byrd, his late wife. Married for 69 years (1937—2006), one can reasonably assume that she was aware of his association with the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1944, Byrd wrote to segregationist Mississippi Senator Bilbo: I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds. Click here to read the complete Wikipedia article.

Over the coming years, beginning with his first campaign, Senator Byrd did a complete about face—he renounced and denounced the Ku Klux Klan and embraced the black population of the United States, or at least the voting population of West Virginia, and was re-elected to his seat for the next fifty years.

Does that redeem him? Will his record in the U.S. Senate nullify the feelings he expressed in his 1944 letter to Theodore Bilbo, the segregationist Mississippi senator?

Perhaps—and perhaps not.

Listen to the You Tube video below, an interview with Tony Snow in 2007—the senator starts out fine, but manages to step on his pepperoni before the interview ends, so stay with it to the end to hear his apology for his comments. Did he really change his feelings? Remember that  this interview was conducted in 2007 following decades of professing far different feelings toward blacks—a slip of the tongue, perhaps?

In closing, allow me to repeat UT’s reasoning for renaming Simkins Hall:

Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.

I submit to you that the same rationale should be applied by West Virginia residents regarding the plethora of places that are named in Byrd’s honor. Click here to read the 51 places that have been identified, plus nine named to honor his wife, a total of 60 and counting—the authors do not claim that the list is complete and are soliciting any that do not appear on the list.

The following editorial statement should appear in the Charleston Gazette and every other newspaper in West Virgina:

Once the past was uncovered, it is clear that Robert Byrd’s name and the name of his wife are inconsistent with the mission of the various edifices and other locations that bear their names, therefore they must be renamed—the present names are an affront to West Virginia’s population of some 52,000 African Americans.

An important footnote: West Virginia is home to some 52,000 African Americans—that’s 50,000 more than were supposedly affronted by William Stewart Simkins’ name on a residence hall at Austin’s University of Texas campus. I wonder if an effort has ever been mounted to rename even one of the 60 plus places in West Virginia that bear the Byrd name?

A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wider audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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On the question of gay marriage rights . . .

Let’s see if I correctly understand the problem:

Same-sex male couples and same-sex women couples want—no, they demand—the legal right to marry so they will have the same rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples who are married, and opposite-sex couples do not want them to have those rights. Many are willing to allow them civil unions (which confer the same privileges), but few are willing to allow them rights conferred by legal marriage—that is, marriage between a man and a woman. And there are many unmarried non-gay (straight) persons who, although they may support civil unions, are opposed to rights being gained through legal marriages.

That’s a truncated analysis of one of the most divisive situations in our country, but really, isn’t that all there is to it?

Millions of opposite-sex couples live together (cohabit) without benefit of clergy—they choose to do so, and they have the legal right to do so. They also, if they choose, have the legal right to marry in every state, and their marriage is recognized in every state. Millions of same-sex couples also cohabit without benefit of clergy, some willingly but many, perhaps most, do so because they have no other choice. Simply stated the problem is that, in all states, opposite-sex couples who cohabit can marry if they choose. Same-sex couples who cohabit do not, in most states, have the same choice.

This I say to those who oppose legal marriages for same-sex couples:

Why not give them the right to marry? Let them have it. Make it legal throughout the nation. Make it legal in every state, in every county and city to include couples (of any sex or lack thereof) living in apartments and tenement housing (high rise or other wise), condos and communes, hotels and homeless shelters, in flophouses and under bridges, and in every house on every block in every subdivision, from Jim Walter homes to million-dollar mansions—give them the same rights which opposite-sex couples enjoy and have always enjoyed.

The most prevalent argument against same-sex marriages appears to be anticipation that such unions will promote homosexuality. I say, “Stuff and nonsense!” Just as mothers and fathers endeavor to raise their children according to each child’s demonstrated ability and proclivity (or at least this should be the guide for raising them), so will two-mother families and two-father families raise theirs (or at least this should be their guide for raising them). Much of my childhood (what there was of it) was spent exclusively in the company of women, one mother and three sisters. There was no father figure or older brother present, just one mother and three sisters. I managed to survive in that element, and more mothers and/or sisters would not have made any substantial difference.

Would anyone like to take a guess at my sexual preferences? Here’s a hint: For more than 56 years I’ve been married to a beautiful woman who has, however reluctantly, borne us three beautiful daughters, and I’m willing to submit to DNA testing on all three. I know—that doesn’t rule out homosexuality, but it is a good start in another direction.

So here it is—this is my proposal for future marriage ceremonies which are conducted to legally unite couples in a legally-sanctioned marriage, whether the couples are same-sex or opposite-sex:

I propose that, in every marriage ceremony, the customary question of “Do you take this . . .?” be modified as described below. This modification must be mandatory both for same-sex and opposite-sex marriage ceremonies—there must not be the slightest hint of discrimination in the ceremony. Require each party to respond to the modified question with a one-word answer (yes or no). Answers such as maybe, I guess so, I reckon, why not, whatever, etc., will not be accepted. If either party (or both parties) responds in the negative, regardless in the manner the negative is voiced, the ceremony must be terminated.

This is the modified ceremony:

Do you, John/Joan, take Tommy/Tammy, to be your lawful wedded husband/wife with the full realization and understanding that after you are married, should either of you or both of you decide to dissolve the marriage through divorce, you will each be subjected to all the provisions, frustrations, condemnations and woes which are inevitable in the divorce process. As a married couple you will inevitably be involved in financial, psychological and sometimes physical dogfights, and a lot of verbal and possibly physical abuse may occur—and also some bad things could happen—I mean, like, you know, some really bad things could happen!

Should either of you decide to dissolve this union and the other agrees to its dissolution, you will have to agree on the division of property, including land, buildings, automobiles, homes and home furnishings. You will have to agree on child custody and visitation rights for any minor child acquired while married, whether acquired through adoption or through childbirth. Property brought to the marriage by either of you, tangible or intangible, may be retained by the spouse who brought the property to the marriage. This provision will also apply to any minor child or minor children brought to the marriage by either spouse (unless adopted after the marriage).

You will have to decide who gets the children, the dog, the goldfish and the bird—in one way or another you both will get the bird. The divorce settlement will be final—it will be permanent—it cannot be changed unless you both agree to the change and that, statistically speaking, ain’t gonna happen.

Do you at this time acknowledge and proclaim full understanding of these provisions?

Please answer truthfully either yes, or no, with the knowledge that a truthful answer is required. An untruthful answer (to be determined by a polygraph test conducted under oath) will cause this ceremony to be declared invalid and it will be terminated. Appropriate monetary penalties will be applied and the ceremony will be rescheduled for a later date (if desired by both parties). Any subsequent marriage ceremony requested by either of you, with the same person or with a different person, will be conducted in the same manner.

In order to verify the truthfulness of their answers, the couple should be comfortably seated and connected to a polygraph machine, and the truthfulness test will be administered by a qualified operator. Their answers should be given under oath, with an appropriate monetary penalty applied in case lies are detected. This will, of course, add additional costs to the wedding, but should prove a boon to retired federal, state and local polygraph experts (the monetary penalty should be sufficient to cover the expert’s expenses plus adequate additional remuneration).

If both the bride and groom, or the bride and bride, or the groom and groom answer truthfully in the affirmative, let the marriage proceed to a successful union, with all the rights appurtenant thereto granted. If the answer is negative, put the ceremony on hold, to be resumed when each participant can, following diligent study of all applicable materials, truthfully affirm full understanding and acceptance of the ramifications involved in a marriage and the possibility—nay, in these times the probability—nay, the statistical actuality—of its subsequent dissolution.

And that’s it. That’s where I stand on the subject of gay marriage, and when the measure arrives in the state legislature in Austin, I will cast my kingly vote for it, and I will urge my subjects to do the same (my vote won’t count, of course, because my wife’s vote will effectively cancel mine).

In the interest of full disclosure I must reveal, for the edification of all my subjects and for viewers from other kingdoms, that my wife and I together constitute an opposite-sex couple and we have never been divorced—not even once. We took our marriage vows on December 13, 1952. On December 12, 2008 we completed our 56th continuous year of marriage. We are now underway to our 57th year, and we look forward to many more.

Also in the interests of full disclosure I must admit that, had we been administered the proposed question under oath, we would have answered with a resounding “Yes!” Our answers would have been judged truthful although neither of us had the slightest knowledge of the ramifications involved in divorce. Simply stated, we would have rejected the possibility that we would ever dissolve the marriage—on that day, in that age and in our thoughts, we would have believed that divorce could never be an option.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2009 in Humor

 

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