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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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Crabs need salt water . . .

A disclaimer: This posting is all about my family and me just as are many, perhaps most, of my postings, a fact pointed out to me in a recent comment by a visitor. In deference to that visitor and to potential viewers, I must repeat the words of one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau:  I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.

If you, the viewer, have little or no interest in America’s history and the lives of other people, you can probably spend your time in some other more productive activity. However, if you are interested in my travels and travails over a considerable number of years and would like to learn a bit about our nation and one of its families in the past century, by all means please read on. This posting and related postings on my blog will take a viewer from 1932, the year of my birth, up to the present time almost 78 years later.

For an interesting and highly informative discussion of that event and those years, click on the following URL to begin at the beginning:

https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/unto-you-this-day-a-child-was-born/

I have lived all those years—well, not quite the 78th year but I feel well and should make it satisfactorily—and I don’t need to make up things to fill these pages. My mind is sound, my memory is excellent and my life has been and still is interesting. Stay with me and trust me, and you’ll be exposed to a lot of do and don’t do situations that you may be able to apply to your own lives. In my writings I subscribe to the first objective of the physician, and that is to do no harm. Stay with me and you’ll be returned to an era with no television, space travel, computers, cell phones, no Internet and no national network of highways, a time when the DOW topped 41 versus today’s DOW of 10,000 and counting, and the average life span of Americans was 64 years versus today’s 78 years and counting.

Haven’t you heard? Those were the good old days!

Some ten years after divorcing her first husband, my mother exchanged marriage vows with her second husband, a coupling that would eventually dissolve in divorce and then remarriage that lasted until his death. I saw my father very briefly on three widely spaced occasions in my first ten years, and a fourth time at his funeral ten years later in 1952. I knew very little about him then, and not much more now, but I will reserve a later posting to discuss, among other events, his marriage to a 16-year girl when he was in his sixties—stay tuned!

My mother’s three marriages—one to my father and two to my stepfather—were fraught with problems. Her first marriage was to an itinerant preacher that by all accounts abused her and her children, both mentally and physically. Her second and third marriages were to the same man, a four-times previously married itinerant carpenter and cabinet maker that combined physical and mental abuse with alcoholism, conditions that caused frequent re-locations of our family, and frequent breakups of the family at the whim of her husband—my stepfather. Her remarriage to him seemed to fare better, at least on the surface, principally because the two children were away from the nest and on their own with no particular attachment to the parents.

 I learned many years later from an older sister that my mother’s marriage to our stepfather was contingent on placing the two of us with relatives—my stepfather was quoted as telling our mother that, I’m marrying you, but I’m not marrying the two kids. We did not know then that our separation from the family after the marriage was supposed to be permanent, although we both wondered why we were taking all our clothing on our summer vacation.

At the end of the school year in 1942 at the tender age of nine years, I was handed over to one of my older sisters, a lovely and understanding lady that had agreed to house, feed,  clothe and school me—in fine, to bring me up to adulthood as one of her family that at the time consisted on one husband and one son, a toddler. Accordingly I, with my small metal trunk and my extremely limited wardrobe was delivered to my sister’s home in Pritchard, a small suburb of Mobile, Alabama. Prichard was a small town then, but population in 2005 was estimated at more than 28,000.

My youngest sister, a firebrand just 18 months older than I, was shuffled off to live with an aunt in rural Alabama, one of my mother’s sisters that lived five miles from Vernon, the county seat of Lamar County. That aunt made the same promise to my mother, that she would accept my sister as one of her own family. My sister was just six months short of being eleven years old.

We were babes in the woods, tossed out to live with relatives rather than with our mother and her new husband, but a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds near summer’s end. Our mother breached her agreement to give up her children and convinced her new husband that she had to have us with her—what weapons or persuasive methods she brought into play will never be known.

A few days before the beginning of the school year in 1942, my sister and I joined our mother and our stepfather in a rented apartment in Long Beach, Mississippi. Our stepfather was employed in Gulfport, Mississippi a few miles distant. My sister and I thought only that we were there because our summer vacations had ended and we were joining the family in order to enroll in school.

I will digress for a moment in order to prove that this story is true—at least to the extent that I lived in Long Beach, Mississippi in 1942. Sometimes my wife and my daughters take long looks at me and say things such as How can you possible remember so many details after so many years? I therefore use any pertinent documents available to support my memories.

This image is the title page of the New Testament that was given to me following my successful recitation of the Presbyterian catechism after spending an infinite number of hours under Mrs. Toomer’s tutelage. She offered to teach my sister, but that worthy declined—I believe she feared such knowledge might cramp her style.

That little book has followed me around the world and all the way to San Antonio over the past 68 years, and it’s still in one piece, as am I. However, I am not a Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Church of God, Church of Christ, Mormon, Nazarene or a Muslim. I am unassigned and in the pipeline between being an agnostic or a believer in a supreme deity—much, much closer to the latter.

My memories of Long Beach would fill a book—just a small paperback, not a book such as James Mitchner would write. I remember picking up pecans, using an ice pick to puncture holes in the bottoms of cans at Mrs. Toomer’s request so mosquitoes would not breed in them, and I remember being careless and putting the ice pick through the web between my left thumb and forefinger and into the can—no pain, no blood, but still not a smart thing to do. As a matter of fact, I lost interest in mosquito control soon afterward.

I remember a particularly offensive fifth grade teacher that refused to give me an A+ on a spelling test. She called out the list of twenty words and I spelled every one correctly, but a word that followed a word with a tail began with an ess, and my ess touched the drooping tail of the word above it and the teacher counted it as a capital ess and therefore an error.

Was not, was not! I ran barefoot in play for several hours the prior evening in wet grass and awoke the next morning, a school day, with laryngitis. For a full 24 hours I couldn’t speak, not even in a whisper. I could only grunt in protest and offer to show the teacher exactly how the ess came to appear to be a capital ess, but she was not interested in my artwork. The error stood on the only perfect grade I ever made in elementary school in any subject—oh, alright, okay, make that any subject in any school.

I remember walking to the beach with my sister, carrying crab nets and meat for bait, and fishing for crabs from a pier. I remember walking the beach and finding sunglasses, optical glasses, cheap jewelry and cheap necklaces and other paraphernalia lost by people on the beach—nothing of any real value, but interesting to accumulate.

And to my sorrow I remember us catching about a dozen crabs and returning home with them and putting them in a tub of fresh water and they all died. There was nobody there to tell us otherwise, so we learned the hard way, as did the crabs, that crabs must have salt water to exist. Bummer!

I remember the steps leading up to the stores on Main Street in downtown Long Beach, built that way to prevent flooding in bad weather. I don’t believe the steps helped much when Katrina roared through—some ninety percent of the homes and business in Long Beach were destroyed or damaged—the area is still recovering from that event, hoping that casinos will put the city back on the track to prosperity.

And finally, I remember Long Beach, Mississippi as a small town, perhaps one with a population of five thousand or so. The 2000 census showed a population in excess of 17, 000 and I’m reasonably certain that in the past ten years the city has experienced strong growth—minus, of course, people that may have left for other places following Katrina. We probably have some of them in San Antonio.

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

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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An open letter to a Houston burglar . . .

Editor, Houston Post

Houston, Texas

Dear sir,

I was living near the Galleria in February, 1987 when my home, a rented duplex, was burglarized, and I wrote this open letter to a Houston burglar shortly after that happened. I relocated to another city late in February without having submitted it to you for consideration. However, the message is just as timely now as it was then, and in fact will always be applicable in the Houston metropolitan area.

I believe that I speak for most homeowners when I say that we should be allowed to use deadly force to protect our homes. We need to send a message to the criminal elements that prey on us. The television and VCR, the coins and jewelry and microwave and computer equipment and all the other items that afford the burglar a quick return for his efforts mean nothing. It is the potential for tragedy that exists in any burglary situation that should concern us. If this letter makes just one burglar turn aside or convinces just one homeowner to better protect himself against intrusion, then the effort will have been worthwhile.

An open letter to a Houston burglar

You probably don’t read the daily paper but there should be someone close to you that does, someone that knows about your criminal acts—a brother or a sister, your spouse or your sweetheart, your parents or your children or perhaps your friends. Perhaps one of them will give you this message. If you take heed it may save your life, and it might save me from committing a mortal sin.

I recently joined the legions of Houston residents that have been burglarized by you. The police said that mine was one of fifty or sixty homes in the metropolitan area that were hit on that day. I take no comfort in knowing that I was not alone, nor that I am just one of many that suffer the same indignity on any average day in Houston. I am outraged, and I am deeply concerned, both for your safety and mine.

That outrage and concern prompted this letter. For your sake and mine, you need to know how I feel and what my intentions are. Whether you are the one that committed the act or one that has the potential of committing a similar act, I must give you this message.

Don’t do it.

Don’t do it unless you are ready to suffer the consequences. Don’t do it unless you are prepared to be shot. I own a firearm and I know how to use it. I will shoot you or any other of your kind if you enter my home again.

I know that deadly force cannot be justified to defend property, that it can only be justified in the defense of my life or the life of another person. I am prepared to take my chances with a jury. Unless you are prepared to take your chances with me, don’t come back

You were in my kitchen and living room and bathrooms and bedrooms. You were not invited. My home is a sanctuary, just as yours is. I respect your home and your privacy. You violated the sanctity of mine. When I close my door I shut out the world, not just the noise and pollution but the world and its people. Whether the poorest hovel or the finest mansion, my home is inviolate. I will take any action necessary to protect it.

I was against capital punishment until you entered my home. I was for gun control until you entered my home. I am now for capital punishment and against gun control. Burglary of an occupied home should be punishable by death. Not on the second or third or fourth offense but on the first offense. It should make no difference whether daylight or dark, whether armed or unarmed, whether the occupants are at home or away. It should make no difference, because the potential for tragedy is the same.

The punishment should consider the potential as well as the actual consequences of the crime. Many people have died because they surprised you and others like you in the act of burglarizing their home, and many more will die for the same reason. That reason is simple. You are prepared to take any action necessary to ensure your success and your freedom. You are prepared. We are not.

Many of the items you took cannot be replaced, but enough have been replaced to make it worth your while to return. And the items you failed to take because you ran out of time or did not have room for are still here. But this time will be different.

This time I am prepared. I am ready for your return. This will be the only warning you will get. I consider it a fair warning, and certainly more than you gave before you ransacked my home. Don’t expect a command to halt or freeze or raise your hands. You will not hear it. You’ll hear the first shot, and maybe the second shot, and you may even hear the third. They will continue until the hammer clicks on a spent shell. It’s a heavy weapon, a magnum, so all the shots may not be required, but I must guarantee my own survival, and I assure you that I will be as thorough and certain in my task as you were in yours.

I have asked the editors to not print my name, but not because I fear you or want to set a trap for you. I don’t want you to consider this a challenge to see if you can do it again and get away with it. And I don’t want you to know my race or gender or nationality or ethnicity. I could be any one of the many thousands you have victimized in this city. I could be male or female, anglo or latin or black or oriental. We have all suffered at your hands. This way you won’t know which of us to avoid in order to continue your chosen career—that lack of knowledge could save your life.

The only way you can be sure is to stop burglarizing homes. It may not happen for a long time, and it may happen soon. If your next target is my home, it will happen then. Mine is not the only home in Houston defended by someone determined to protect loved ones and property. Mine is simply the only one that has given you fair warning.

Don’t do it. If you do, I will do my utmost best to make it the last home you will ever hit, the last challenge you will ever pick up, and the last breath you will ever take. You will be dead, and you will stay dead.

Believe it. For your sake and for mine, believe it.

 

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