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Some thoughts from Alyce . . .

The following comment was made by Alyce, a long-time family friend, on my posting entitled A second letter to Janie in el cielo. Click here to read the letter. In that post I acknowledged that writing letters to those that have left this vale of tears and now exist in another realm strains credulity. Alyce’ comment is intended to express her feelings for loved ones she has lost, and to support my method of corresponding with family members I have lost. In my not-so-humble opinion, the comment is beautifully structured and presented—her thoughts come straight from the heart and her words ring true in every respect.

This  is her comment:

When I was a child and someone that I loved died, it was easier for me to accept. I don’t know why exactly. I remember that I was very young when my grandpa died,. My mom and I walked up to the casket and she showed me grandpa, but it didn’t look like him. He had his teeth in and no coveralls on—it was a suit. I pulled on mom’s dress and asked Who is that? She said It’s grandpa, and I said No.

Since I was so small I didn’t quite understand it, but later that day I had questions and mom always had the sweet answers. After explaining the teeth and the suit she said Grandpa is in heaven now with Jesus and happy, no pain, just enjoying the Lord, and I understood and accepted the answers mom gave me. Yes, I was sad because I would not see grandpa make tops and other things with his knife, but he was happy and I knew that someday I would see him again.

As I got older it became harder for me when someone I loved passed away to be with the Lord, probably because I knew as I got older I would someday pass away and leave the loved ones I have on earth, but knowing God’s promise of seeing them again has always comforted me.

I know after my mom died I went to the cemetery a few times, but then I remembered what my mom told me to remember, that she and daddy were not there, and it took me awhile to get it. When I lived in the Valley I would go and place flowers and clean their stone and the stones of others I knew out there. I knew the second they passed on that their soul was with the Lord. Now when I think of them and want to talk to them I do it while driving down the road, or at home sitting in the recliner or wherever I might be. I will always miss them as long as I am breathing, here in my temporary place, but someday I will see them again.

Everyone mourns in so many different ways, and each way should be respected, whether we think it’s the right way or not. That’s why God made each of us different. Oh, to be a child again and think like a child, not complicated!

I wish we could all be like that.

Always remember that God gives us seven days a week and twenty-four hours in each day, and we must choose how to spend the time that God has given us.

Happy New Year to all and may God bless all.

An afterthought: Alyce is employed in one of the most stressful occupations that exist in any society. She works as a Correction Officer in a state facility in South Texas, in close contact with people that are in prison because they look on life from a different aspect than most people, and Alyce would be the first to admit that without God at her back, she could not continue to endure the daily stress under which she labors.

 

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Mistaken identification—no gold tooth . . .

Long, long ago in 1951 in Japan, a far off land across the sea, a young American corporal, 18 years old, arrived late in the evening to the Transient Quarters at Itazuki, an American air base near the city of Fukuoka on Kyushu, Japan’s most southern island. That young corporal was on an authorized three-day pass for the purpose of resting, relaxing and recuperating from the rigors of singlehandedly fighting a war from Taegue Air Base at Taegue, South Korea, a war that raged between South Korea and North Korea and lasted four years, but was never won by either side—a truce was declared, and that truce exists to this day.

I was assisted in my efforts by the South Korean army and the US Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard units. That assistance was warranted because Communist China’s vast army was assisting North Korea in its effort to take over the entire Korean peninsula.

The hour was late and the lights were already out in the Transient Quarters. I found my way to an empty lower bunk, stuffed my stuff under the bunk, undressed, slipped under the covers and went to sleep. I awoke early the next morning and headed straight for the showers. When my ablutions were completed I returned to my bunk, donned my uniform and prepared to depart for the city for that aforementioned rest, relaxation and recuperation, activities that were considerably more available than in Korea or on the air base.

And then fate crossed me up—I took a cursory glance at the sleeping figure on the top bunk and recognized him immediately. His name was Ord Dunham, a friend I made in basic training, and we completed technical training together at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. We both shipped out of San Francisco on the same Army troop ship early in 1950, a few months before the Korean War began and I hadn’t seen him since that time.

I waited around for awhile for him to awaken, and passed the time by reading a comic book that was lying at the foot of bunk—well, at least I was looking at the pictures. I believe it was titled “Wings” or something similar, and its cover featured a beautiful girl drifting to earth under a parachute, one of the older type chutes, one of those with the straps between the legs of the parachutist—I will neither bore nor arouse my viewers by describing the girl’s dress or the lack thereof—suffice it to say that the cover was interesting, memorable and to a certain extent, stimulating. I sincerely hope that she made a safe landing.

I grew tired of waiting, knowing that the waiting was cutting into my time for rest, relaxation and recuperation, so I rolled up the comic book and smartly tapped Ord’s nose with it. His eyes snapped open, he raised up and glared at me, and I said, “Hey, boy, aren’t you a long way from home? He said, “Yeah, I guess I am, so what about it?” As he spoke I was treated to a good look at his front teeth, probably because he was smiling—well, actually he wasn’t smiling—it was more like he was snarling. The Ord Dunham I knew had one gold upper front tooth—the man I swatted across the face with a comic book did not have a gold tooth.

I said, in a very low and probably trembling voice, “You’re not Ord Dunham, are you?’ He replied, “No, I’m not, and that’s a hell of a way to wake a man up in the morning!” I did what any sane, intelligent and reasonable person would do and should do in such a situation—I said, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry, really sorry, please forgive me,” and I grabbed my ditty bag and tried to restrain my feet to a casual walk towards the exit door. To others I would probably seem to be skipping, or perhaps speed walking.

I survived my faux pas and extended my three-day pass from three to seven days—why and how that was possible, and why I was never given a second three-day pass while in Korea is explained in an earlier posting—click here for the pertinent detailsI can say truthfully and modestly say that the posting is worth a visit.

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

PeeEss:

To Ord Dunham, the Ord with the gold tooth: If you should happen to read this, please know that I forgive you for having a remarkable look-alike, one that almost got me in a heap of trouble!

And to Ord Dunham, the Ord with no gold tooth, the Ord on the top bunk: If you should happen to read this and remember the incident, please know that I appreciate the fact that you kept your temper in check that day—thanks—I needed that!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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11th Street South and a stolen candy bar . . .

At some point during the time I resided at the house on Eleventh Street South with my family—three older sisters and one older mother—I stole a Payday candy bar. Yep, I casually strolled into Mr. Fuqua’s corner grocery store at the opposite end of my block, cruised around pretending to shop and purloined a full-grown Payday, perhaps the most exotic and tastiest candy bar in existence both then and now, and casually strolled out of the store undetected.

I stuffed the Payday into my pocket while the proprietor was busy with a paying customer and exited the store. Calendar points—days, weeks, months and years have dimmed considerably over time, but I can say with confidence that I was either six or seven years old when I stole the Payday, an age that most would consider a bit early for one to begin a life of crime. I hasten to add that shortly after the theft, on the same day in which I committed the theft, I reluctantly but firmly renounced that life—read on for the details.

I researched the history of Payday candy bars in preparation for this posting and learned that the Payday candy bar and I were born in the same year, an amazing coincidence. We’ve both grown since that time, but in opposite directions—I’m considerably larger—Payday, conversely, is considerably smaller and considerably more expensive—for a brief history of the storied candy bar, click here: Can’t get enough peanuts? Try a PAYDAY Peanut Caramel Bar, with sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts.

As was Macaulay Culkin, the child actor in the Home Alone movies, I was alone at home that day and thus free to roam at will. My roaming took me to the store and started me on a life of crime, albeit short-lived. On that day I became a criminal—small time and insignificant in the overall history of crime in the United States but a criminal nonetheless, a doer of a bad deed—a lawbreaker and a thief.

I’ll fast-forward and confess that after hiding the candy bar, still in its original wrapper, its sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts untouched by fingers, lips, teeth or tongue—at least untouched while in my possession. In retrospect, I felt that if my theft was discovered I could return the item, virginal in every respect and thus avoid prosecution and subsequent incarceration. I probably planned to plead guilty and hope for probation and community service at some place other than grocery stores with extensive candy displays.

I hid my purloined Payday in several places in my house. Each seemed logical at first but doubt soon set in and the hiding place was changed—none was satisfactory. I briefly considered hiding it in our outdoor toilet, but wisely rejected that location. At one point it spent some time beneath a bush in the vacant lot across the street from my house, craftily hidden under dry leaves.

I finally returned the Payday candy bar, that concoction of sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts, to its original display shelf in Mr. Fuqua’s corner store, its wrapper a bit wrinkled from its unauthorized and illegal sojourn and covered with my fingerprints but with its innards pristine, ready for sale to and consumption by anyone with the necessary nickel.

I would like to believe that the proprietor of that corner store, a long-time friend of my family, was aware of my criminal act—that he witnessed its departure from and its return to the candy shelf and decided to overlook the incident, to consider it insignificant in the greater scheme of things but resolving to keep a sharp lookout any time I entered the store in the future. If he did reason in that manner, it was a good choice—I never took another item from his establishment—I was tempted, but I never again succumbed to that temptation.

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

Oops, I forgot something—a few years later at some time during the conflagration of World War II, I rescued a turtle, a teeny tiny real live baby turtle with its one-inch-diameter shell sporting a painting of the American flag. I’ll save that story for a future posting, but as a teaser I’ll say that by my action I mercifully released the turtle from its display case in a five-and-ten-cent store, one of a chain that is now defunct. That little guy—or little girl, perhaps—such determination with turtles is quite difficult—lived a long and varied life following his—or her—release, rescued from and no longer subjected to the stares, giggles, anti-turtle comments and unlimited handling by untold numbers of an uncaring public. McLellan Stores were a 20th-century chain of five-and-dime stores in the United States. You can click here to read McLellan’s history.

The first image above shows the size of my turtle—no, that’s not my hand—I didn’t steal three turtles—I stole only one. The second image is a somewhat expensive representation of a turtle, size unknown—it’s available online for anyone with $995 to spare.

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

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Help me, help me! A lass and lipstick moment . . .

Please study this photo and tell me what you see. Is this child a refugee from a war-torn country? From somewhere in Europe during World War II, or perhaps from one of the Balkan countries during a later time of conflict? Bosnia? Kosovo?

Look deeply into this pitiful child’s eyes, at her wrinkled brow, at that pleading look and stance, and try to imagine what horrors she has endured. Does she awake in the dead of night screaming, reliving sights and scenes and sounds from the past? Has she been abused? Is she a victim of ——-? (fill in the blank).

Nope, none of the above. This lovely little girl is not from any war-torn country—she is not a refugee. Those are not blood-stains you see, and the only thing she is a victim of is having gotten into her mother’s cosmetics and applied lipstick, quite liberally—she has lipstick in varying amounts on lips, teeth, chin, cheeks, neck, eyebrows, forehead, arms, hands and tee-shirt, and in her hair.

That pleading look is one of, Look at what someone did to me! How could this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? That pleading look and pitiful pose is actually saying, Help me, help me! If the picture had sound, it would be similar to Vincent Price, half-man and half-fly, trapped in a spiderweb in that old black-and-white movie, The Fly and pleading, Help me, help me!

She’s begging for a clean-up job. My first thought when I saw the damage was to strap her on the hood of my car and run it through the automatic car wash a couple of times, but her mother nixed that. My next suggestion was to remove the lipstick with scouring powder but that was also nixed, and ultimately soap, water and lots of rubbing returned her to something approaching a normal appearance.

This child, this urchin with the oh, so innocent but pleading look and stance is my daughter Cindy, the middle one of three daughters, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. She was somewhere between three and four years old—closer to four, I believe—when I took this picture. She’s standing in the driveway of our home at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, an upscale on-base neighborhood, one that our family hated to leave after just one year there. We left Brooks Air Force Base and traveled just twenty miles or so across town to another assignment at Kelley Air Force Base—our six year stay at that location is a subject for a future posting.

Cindy is all grown up now, married without children and working as—well, her work is so varied that rather than trying to capsule it into one category, I’ll let her tell you in her own words. The following is from Stuff about me on her Word Press blog. Click the link below for her Stuff about me. Click here for her latest postings and get ready to view some really gorgeous photography, some of the finest to be found on the web!

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/about/

Paying the bills: self-employed graphic designer and photographer (mostly print; professional and trade associations, and small businesses—magazines, newsletters, brochures, annual reports, logos, posters)—celebrating 21 years on my own this year—2010!

Family: by far the best Mom and Dad on the planet, two sisters, two great brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, and my sweetie, Michael…wonderful friends who are always there for me…an ode to my Garden Club Weedettes as well, who are always eager and willing to dive into a project with me, dress up for a party, whip up a potluck contribution, or get their hands dirty doing something crafty.

Some other activities—some, but not all: Oil and acrylic painting, photography (portraits, glamour shots, nature, macro, floral/botanical, travel), cement leaf casting, crocheting hats like crazy come winter time (what else can a gardener do when it’s cold out?), needle felting, sewing, murals, faux painting, Polaroid transfers (if it’s something crafty, I’ve probably at least tried it once), biblioholic (any topic, you name it—we probably have at least one book on the subject…don’t even begin to guess how many gardening books I’ve amassed!), animal lover (currently: two cats (ZenaB and Jasper), down to one goldfish (Goldie), and one pleco (Spot); formerly: ferrets (Ginger, Jessie Belle, Missy, Pogo Diablo, Ben, Callie Jo, Silver, Bandit), one white rat (Lucky Fred Chewy Ratatouille), and countless other goldfish (Calico Joe, Dorrie, Nemo, Suebee, Debbi, and Regina). Also handy with power tools and do-it-yourself projects…

Magnificent obsession: Gardening! As the “Head Weed,” I started a garden club in my community over five years ago and I’m surrounded by an amazing group of Weedettes!…and gardening books (reference, how-to, essays by other gardeners)

Always on my radar: Gardens, nurseries, plant sales! In my travels, I always look for the local nurseries and botanical gardens to visit.

And another obsession: BOOKS! I love to read and subjects include nature, science, gardening (I especially love personal essays by gardeners); photography; graphic design; nature and travel writing essays; how-to books on writing, editing, crafts, journaling, cooking, designing, decorating; biographies…sometimes a book just has to be beautifully designed for me to want to possess it! I never met a book I didn’t like (um…scratch that. If it relates to math, I’m outta here). And when I travel, I always look for new bookstores. What could possibly be better than Powell’s Books in Portland, The Tattered Cover in Denver, Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle, or any Half Price Books & Records in the south?

Other diversions: writing poetry, entertaining (all my parties must have a theme, dress code, and guests pose in front of related theme backgrounds for their photos!), animal lover; magazine addict (covering photography, graphic design, Photoshop, Mac, home and garden, travel). I also love to research the things I photograph.

Oh, and just a few more obsessions: Yarn, fabric and craft stores!

Globetrotting: I love to travel (so far: Italian and French Riviera, Rome, Chile (Buenos Aires), Argentina (Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia), Antarctica, Alaska, the islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, St. John, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Barts), southwest U.S. several times over (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah), all the eastern states, Ohio, California (San Diego, Monterrey, Carmel, San Francisco, Napa/Sonoma Valley, Death Valley), Texas (mostly South Texas and Mexico), Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Point Pelee for bird migration, Maine (and all the other New England states), Maryland, West Virginia, New York, Louisiana (lived there when I was in 5th grade), Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Montana, Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Victoria/British Columbia)….love a good road trip…need to do more!

Music: Lifelong John Denver fan, Tingstad and Rumbel, Eva Cassidy, Christine Kane, Katie Melua, Cheryl Wheeler, Janis Ian, Barbara Streisand, Karla Bonoff, James Taylor, Trisha Yearwood, Carly Simon, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Josh Grobin, any acoustic instrumental music (particularly guitar and piano)

In a nutshell, I live to create.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Underage enlistment and other stuff . . .

Underage enlistment

My initial enlistment in the United States Air Force required perjury on the part of three people. The recruiting sergeant, my mother and I all lied about my age. I lacked six months and 12 days before my seventeenth birthday, the mandatory minimum age for enlistment with parental or guardian permission. The recruiting sergeant used ink eradicator on a certified copy of my birth certificate to change my year of birth and my mother perjured herself by signing the required parental consent form, and I was off on a great adventure—all 16 years, 110 pounds and 66 and three-fourths inches of me.

Speaking of height—I was unable to comply with the very first order given by an Air Force officer. Several of us, all new enlistees, were ushered into a room furnished with one desk, one chair and two flags—the U.S. flag and the official U.S. Air Force flag. The NCO that took us to the room told us the captain would be there in a few minutes to administer the oath of enlistment. A bit later the captain came in, said good morning, looked at his watch and said, Stand tall, men. I’ll be right back. I lacked one-fourth of an inch being five feet, seven inches tall, and I was dwarfed by the NBA wanna-bees with whom I was to share the oath of enlistment. Need I say more?

For those that have never had the pleasure of being sworn into the United States Air Force, here is the complete text of the oath I took:

US AIR FORCE OATH OF ENLISTMENT

I, (state your name), swear to sign away 4 years of my life to the UNITED STATES AIR FORCE because I know I couldn’t hack it in the Army, because the Marines frighten me, and because I am afraid of water over waist-deep. I swear to sit behind a desk. I also swear not to do any form of real exercise, but promise to defend our bike-riding test as a valid form of exercise. I promise to walk around calling everyone by their first name because I find it amusing to annoy the other services. I will have a better quality of life than those around me and will, at all times, be sure to make them aware of that fact. After completion of Basic Training I will be a lean, mean, donut-eating, Lazy-Boy sitting, civilian-wearing-blue-clothes, a Chair-borne Ranger. I will believe I am superior to all others and will make an effort to clean the knife before stabbing the next person in the back. I will annoy those around me, and will go home early every day. So Help Me God!

Hey, I’m just kidding! That oath came from the internet—you can check it and other hilarious pseudo military service oaths out here. That site is well worth a visit—trust me, you’ll like it!

The real oath of enlistment, the one that is administered by all services except the National Guard follows—this oath differs from the National Guard only because it includes the name of the state of enlistment. Click here for a history of the real oath of enlistment.

In the Armed Forces EXCEPT the National Guard (Army or Air)

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

The months and days between enlistment and the attainment of the required age of 17 were considered minority time, and had the law governing minority time in service not been changed, it would not have been counted in determining the time required for retirement from the military. The law was changed, I believe, in the 1950s through congressional action—my minority time was counted in my total service for retirement purposes.

Re: Minority time:

A funny thing happened to me on the way to retirement from the U.S. Air Force. About a month after I began basic training, our training NCO told one of the trainees to break formation following breakfast and report to the commanding officer. He then took a long look at me and said, You might as well go with himyou’re not seventeen either.

The two of us were ushered into the commander’s office and told to be seated. In addition to the commander, a military chaplain was present. The chaplain told my fellow trainee that his mother had contacted him, saying that her son was underage and she missed him and wanted him back home with her. Following that information, the commander told the trainee that it was his choice—he could be released from his oath of enlistment and be separated from the Air Force immediately without prejudice, or if he chose, he could continue his training and his enlistment.

When my fellow trainee elected to remain in service against his mother’s wishes, the commander told me that nobody believed that I was 17 years old, but that he would give me  the same option. I could continue my training, or I could choose to be released from the military without prejudice. He didn’t bother to ask me if I was underage, and I didn’t admit that I was—he probably figured I would lie if he asked me. I guess the commander and I were well ahead of the curve on the don’t ask, don’t tell option—mind you, this pertained to age only.

And the rest is history—I elected to remain in service. I managed to successfully complete basic training and I continued to reenlist over a period of 22 years plus before retiring. My retirement was based purely on years completed—no percentage for disability—no lower back pain, no loss of hearing, no bad feet, 20-20 eyesight, good teeth, etc.

I mention the absence of disabilities because some retirees feign medical problems in an effort to retire with a disability percentage—yes, Virginia, it’s true, some do—it’s only a few perhaps, but still some do try to fake it. Any percentage of disability will reduce taxes on their retirement pay and give them a leg up for employment in federal service—a disability of just five percent qualifies one for employment preferences and a reduction in federal taxes—a slight reduction, perhaps, but still a reduction. In many cases the full amount of retired pay is exempted from federal tax.

A bit of advice for future retirees—only the claim of lower back pain has even a slight chance to fool the medics. If one holds one’s ground, a disability may be given, probably the minimum five percent. Don’t even consider trying to fool the machines used to determine loss of hearing—it can’t be done. I’m not speaking from personal experience—had I known the ins and outs of faking medical problems I may have made the attempt, but I learned all this only after I completed my retirement physical. The doctor told me that my case was unusual—I took that as a compliment.

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

Pee Ess: I subsequently retired from a second career as a United States federal law enforcement officer after 26 years of spotless service, and still with no disability percentage, not even five percent—damn it!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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