Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Through the generations

I eulogized my Aunt Shirley at her memorial service this weekend. I read to the very last line before I cried, which made her surviving twin cry. But the gathering provided closure, fellowship, and fun. 

Family members brought pictures, some dating back several generations. Can you guess who Little Miss Bossy is with hands on hips? circa 1952

I was thrilled to see this photo of my German, maternal great grandparents.  I learned my grandma's dad was in real estate. Her mom, pictured here, used to go to the beauty shop once a week to get her hair curled, then stop by to see my grandma and her six kids. My mother was a little girl then, and she always wanted to comb her grandma's pretty curls. 

My grandma would reprimand my mother, "No! Now you leave Grandma's hair alone; she just had it styled."  

My great grandma would say, "Oh, no. It's fine. You let her comb my hair." And Mom would comb her curls out. Such love!

That was always a special memory for my mom. I am glad I now have a face to go with the curls and the story.

This is a picture of  Liam's and Alex's great-great-great-great-great grandparents taken in 1942. They passed away before I was born.

My granddaughter, Ashley said, "Wow, they don't look very happy."

No, but they sure look sturdy. So this is the stock I came from on my maternal grandma's side. My mom's paternal grandparents were from Italy. Talk about a mixture of tempers and stubbornness. I can now attribute my wide hips and the genesis of my strong opinions to the Germans and Italians.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The small and tall of it

CBS News reported on the world's tallest man and smallest woman appearing together in Egypt. He is in his late 30s and 8' 3" tall. She is 24.7 inches and 24 years old.

My husband's grandfather used to play cards with the Alton Giant, Robert Wadlow, a local legendary tall man at 8' 11"

There used to be a section in one of our home town newspapers called Our Own Oddities that featured coincidences and weird happenings. Does anyone remember that?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

When does determination become a detriment?

January thaw arrived this week. Today was partly sunny, breezy and about 69 degrees. We went to the river park to walk the short circular trail. There were so many people out walking their dogs. One couple was even walking their cat. Well actually, they turned the cat loose at the edge of the Mississippi River, and the guy said to the young woman, "He'll be fine. Let him do his thing while we eat lunch."

Bill and I watched the tug boats move barges up and down the channel and into shore. Sitting there reflecting on that activity made me think of how many times in my life I've tugged, when I should have pushed, shouldered my way forward, nudged myself to keep going, determined to succeed or MAKE something happen.
 I wondered, when does determination become a detriment? How many times have I tried to make something happen, to no avail? How many times has the very thing I was struggling to achieve or acquire happened regardless of my interventions? I have discovered in my life everything happens when it is supposed to, and if it is supposed to.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Death of a legend

In December 1963 I was a lowly high school freshman, afraid of my own shadow, a timid fourteen year old.

Midterm there was lots of buzz about a new student who had transferred to our school in his senior year. He was a star basketball player bound for the big times.

I had no interaction with this nice, giant of a guy, but I have a vivid memory of passing him on the stairs as I was going to and from the lunchroom. Long-legged and playful, Jo Jo White graduated in 1964 and went on to become a Boston Celtic, represented the U.S. in the Olympics in 1968, and he won numerous awards.

Whenever I saw him on the big screen, I bragged that I saw him in action as he dribbled down the court when the faculty played the students. The game was covered by a local radio station. The fans in the stands went wild, the cheering was deafening.

Jo Jo passed away yesterday at age 71 from pneumonia and dementia related to brain surgery for a benign tumor years ago.

When he was in high school strategy sessions, he often dozed off, and his coach would wake him with a shout, "Joe! Joe!" That is how Joseph Henry White, the seventh and youngest child of a minister became the famous Jo Jo White.

The photo is of an accomplished senior citizen, but in my mind Jo Jo will always be that lanky kid hooping it up, making pretend baskets as he bounded up the school steps to an from classes.   

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I had a dream

Time and Setting 

A shotgun style (straight through) house with four wider-than-usual rooms. October 31st.

Scene 1

Bill and I were sitting across the room from one another in the second room. The house had lots of people at our Halloween festivities. Bill and I were waiting for Trick or Treaters.

Someone shouted, "Lock the door! He's on the porch."

I barreled to the door, and just as I was hitting the lock, Donald Trump greeted me and pushed open the door. He encouraged Barron, who was about eight years old, to go inside and get candy. Bill jumped up to accommodate. I walked away  giving him the LOOK!

DT told Barron he deserved MORE candy than that, so Bill loaded them both up. The kid with candy, and DT with booze. 

DT sat beside Bill on a sofa and kept glancing across the room at me trying to figure out what I was doing. I was frustrated trying to figure out how to take a picture of him on my cell phone to send to the Secret Service to show them he had escaped them, but I kept taking selfies. His head wobbled; he was drunk as a monkey.

Scene 2

Barron, who had been working on a CARS poster, came into the room. DT realized he had to get him home. I was so relieved as he staggered out our door. Bill and I mingled with our guests.

Scene 3

Festivities were going on in our home, and a tall butler in a suit was serving drinks. All of a sudden Donald Trump stumbles back in and sits down thisclose to Bill on the couch. Bill listened to his drunken nonsense until I couldn't take anymore.

Scene 4

I walked into the third room which was a bedroom with a bathroom to the right. A bigger than king size bed took up the entire room. I was heading toward the bathroom when the butler entered holding a  round tray filled with empty glasses. He said, "Wait a minute. Let me set these glasses down." He set them on the bed, then he sat down on the foot of the bed and reached out for me. 
"Come here."

I was in awe when I realized it was Barrack Obama laughing uproariously. I said, "You are such a gentleman, so smart and kind, and proud compared..."

He grabbed me and pulled me toward him. "Tell me, how is Bill handling that fool in the other room?" he laughed from deep within.

"Indulging him, but I'm barely tolerating him."

I woke up laughing hysterically.


Friday, January 12, 2018

One ringy-dingy

Some people refuse to leave a message on an answering machine. I don't have an issue talking to an answering machine recorded message. But I do have an issue with the darned thing talking to me.

I only pick up the home phone if it rings when the baby is napping. I know better, but I do it just to stop the ringing. I usually hang it up right away if I do not recognize the area code.

If my honey is home, he scoops the hand held receiver off its base, presses the ON button and barks, "Yello!"

He repeats himself a time or two, louder and louder, then the caller asks him a question.

He doesn't answer. The caller pauses, then asks if he's heard about such and such product or offer.

Hubby sometimes replies, but mostly waits the caller out, and then the caller states their own name. 

"This is Bob Smith calling from the... Did you know you are eligible for...?"

My big guy tries to get his attention. "Well listen, Mr. Smith..." as Mr. Smith prattles on. 

My big guy gets frustrated and shouts, "Mr. Smith I am not interested in... "

By then, I am more than frustrated, and from the computer room I shout, "You are talking to a recording designed to react to your responses. Hang up!" 

He says he's using their minutes, tying up their lines, and he's going to show them.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Major announcement from Baby Alex, five months old next week...

Liam said, "Did you know there's another baby in Mama's tummy? I'm going to get my sister. And
I am going to take care of her like I do Baby Alex." He really does. If the baby whimpers, he runs right to him to talk to him or soothe him.

I sure hope Alex and the baby don't share the same birth date. Mama thinks it's going to be close. She has doctor's appointment at end of month.

They are tossing around names. I'm just calling it Oopsie. Actually we were at the casino when the text picture of Alex arrived. The picture had to be enlarged so we could read it on my phone. We are so dense. Bill said, "Well he is a heavy little guy, and he is going to be big. But that sure isn't nice to call HIM the big brother. Don't you think they should have given that shirt to Liam?"

I said, "Well he is much bigger than Liam when he was this age, and he does have big feet...OH MY GOSH! They're pregnant again."

I started crying and Bill handed me a twenty dollar bill and said, "Here, wipe your tears." At that moment he hit a $200 jackpot and I hit $50. I called my granddaughter and said, "I am calling this baby Money Bags."

So a lot of adjustments will have to be made, but God doesn't make mistakes. All babies are precious. Praying for a girl. 

Our sweet Liam was playing with his little buddy on toy phones. He said, "Hello?" My daughter said she thought they were going to play Bob the Builder, but when the other child didn't answer, Liam said, "Hello?! I can't believe it's YOU and you're calling me HERE, Paw-Paw Bill. So and so (named names) isn't listening, and baby Alex is crying, and I could sure use some of your magic about now."
Translation: Oreo cookies which Paw-Paw pretends to find behind Liam's ear.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Writer's Dilemma

I wrote this about three years ago before I retired from teaching. Not much has changed, except now the children are my great grands.

Writer’s New Year's Dilemma
by Linda O’Connell

Retirement’s on the horizon, and I need to pitch my book.
But that means I have to promote it and come up with a unique hook.
Some days I want to be a writer and do nothing but compose.
Then, I sit down at the keyboard and what do you suppose?

My thoughts fly out the window, my muse runs out the door.
I sit and mope and flip through blogs to even out the score.
I tell folks that I’m a writer; it does sound really cool, but
the most I’ve written this week is reports, and that’s for school.

I recently published a book, but it’s really not MY story.
I surprised myself the other day and wrote a tome that’s rather gory.
Fiction is not my forte, and killing grandma’s not too slick.
I asked a friend to look it over and she responded, “Woman, you are sick!”

I heard Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate. His words inspired me to write.
I planted butt in a chair, and I sat there half the night.
I had a great idea, and then it left my head,
I told myself, "You want to be a writer, but you’re a wanna be instead."

I went to bed and pondered; I thought about my day.
I ought to stick to teaching, at least it’s steady pay.
No point of view at school or metered rhyming verse.
Just demanding little kids, which some days is even worse.

At Halloween I read of goblins, skeletons, and witches.
One kid shocked me silent and gave me involuntary twitches.
I said, “You and I have a skeleton, and we are not alone; animals... ”
Little Johnny interrupted, “Teacher, my penis has a bone.”

I’m a writer who is wordless, a teacher who was speechless
I just want to cruise the globe and lie on sunny beaches.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Icicles and Popsicles

I received an acceptance from Sasee on a story I wrote about the beach. It will be published next month. The beach is my happy place. I need only to think about the crashing waves, sights, sounds and smells and I swear I can lower my blood pressure.

Can you imagine snow on the beaches of South Carolina? Businesses closed due to poor road conditions and SNOW in SC, FL, GA?

In Boston the Atlantic Ocean is overflowing into the city.

In Alaska it is 50 degrees.

In New Hampshire where our friend lives they have 18 inches of snow.

Meanwhile in St. Louis there are children going to school in unheated buildings, with no flushing toilets or drinking water due to water main breaks.

This has been a wild and crazy winter. I will take summer day with a Popsicle any day!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Company affair and a force to be reckoned with

We seldom answer the home phone. Bill just picked up and heard a recorded message from someone at his old utility company: "Due to severe cold, and resulting water main breaks in your area, you may suffer water outages today."

He headed immediately to the shower. I coaxed him to hurry.

I don't know about you, but I despise winter. This bitter cold is making my skin dry; the static electricity is causing shocking effects on the cat. I think she thinks we don't like her.

Speaking of liking someone. My Aunt Shirley suffered from heart failure. She passed away on Christmas Day, three months before her 82nd birthday. She was a tiny force to be reckoned with, and EVERYBODY liked her. She made each of her nieces and nephews feel special, and just about everyone she met took a liking to her. She had perfectly styled white hair, an osteoporosis bent back, painted on eye brows and she wore lipstick. Shirley took care of herself; she dolled up.
                                          Twins Dorothy and Shirley on their 81st birthday

Shirley worked at Six Flags in Eureka, MO for more than 25, maybe 28 years. Regardless of weather extremes, hot or cold, she worked, didn't take breaks and stayed after hours, often on her feet for many hours every weekend and some Wednesdays.

Last evening, Six Flags held their first ever memorial service on the premises for my aunt. Her coworkers spoke fondly of her, recalled fun things about her, and her boss, a young woman, perhaps 40 years old, made us all laugh.

"That little four-foot-something, white-haired old woman scared the crap out of me when I assumed my position as THE boss. She told ME how it was going to be. She would not take a break, she would confiscate tickets if someone was fraudulently using a pass. And by golly, she was the best guard on the premises, although she was really only a ticket taker. Those young punks who thought they could pull one over on a little old lady learned quickly NOT to go through her line. She'd grab the pass from their hands, eyeball them and say, "This is NOT you. Go! Get out of here!" And she'd keep their pass. We even saw her chase down a giant of a man and send him packing."

Aunt Shirley was spunky according to some; feisty, others said; funny claimed her friends who knew if they got her to laughing they were in for it. She had a unique high pitch laugh that left her gasping and squealing. It was contagious. She was playful and fun, and she showered her nieces and nephews with her courtesy tickets, which she had to earn, so WE could enjoy Six Flags entertainment and especially the Holiday in the Park Christmas Lights and Nativity show.

She will be missed by so many, and to prove that point, her boss said, "Six Flags season passes can be used at any 6 Flags Amusement Park.  People from around the country and even the world, and I do mean the world, came through Shirley's line especially to see her, year after year. Then they wrote to tell us how wonderful she was."  One laudatory testimonial was read at her memorial. Her boss said they had stacks of them.

Shirley was young at heart. My aunt left an imprint and positive vibe on people of all ages. She was loved by many and will be missed  by all. She really was one-of-a-kind. She is survived by her twin sister who recently lost her husband, and nieces and nephews who loved Aunt Shirley dearly.