One Year Ago

There were three telephone numbers’ caller ID that would *always* make my cellphone ring, even if the ringer were silenced.  My mom’s home telephone number, the Life-Line emergency notification telephone number and the telephone number used to notify me that “you are called to duty and being deployed–leave now”.

The ring tone for these numbers is special as well.  If you’ve ever heard a US Navy power plant casualty alarm….that’s it.  It’s loud, piercing and annoying.  The best way to describe it is that it sounds like a European police car siren, but faster and with a higher pitch.

It was one year ago today.  A town hall meeting with the company executives had started at 12:30pm and, as asked, we all set our cell phones to silent.  About 20 minutes later, my phone rang with the special ring tone.

Everyone looked at me in irritation.  I knew the ring tone and realized it was one of the important telephone numbers.  I looked in horror at the caller ID.


I bolted from the room and took the call.  Afterwards, I went back to the room’s door, pointed to my boss and motioned him to come to the door.   “My mom just died…….”

It was 12:54pm.






popperTonight I became a part of my memories of my grandfather.

After my mother’s death, when I was cleaning out her house, I found an old cast aluminum skillet with a glass lid.

When I saw it, I smiled.  Seeing it brought back many nearly forgotten childhood memories of my grandfather using this skillet to make popcorn on the stove.

Like I did with my grandmother when she made zimt kuchen, I watched my grandfather when he made popcorn.

I never made popcorn while I was in college.   I didn’t have a pan to make popcorn and it was nearly free at the university–I think a huge bag of popcorn was 10 cents.

Anyway, when I brought this popcorn popper home, I stopped at the store and bought some popping corn.  But I never got around to making popcorn until tonight.

My wife mentioned she was going to the store to get some ‘microwave popcorn’ and I asked her to wait while I tried an experiment.  I got the pan out and did what I remembered my grandfather doing when he made the popcorn

  • Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in the pan and heat it on medium heat.
  • When the oil gets so hot that it looks shiny, add a single kernel of popcorn.
  • Wait for the kernel to pop.  When it pops, wait about 30 more seconds.
  • Put a hand full of popcorn into the pan, put the glass lid on and rapidly move the pan around on the stove so that the kernels move within the pan.
  • When the popping slows to 1 or 2 pops per second, remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the popcorn into a large bowl.
  • Add butter and salt to the popcorn and use your hands to stir the popcorn around so that it gets coated.

My memory must have been good or popcorn is easy to make this way.  I had only a tiny number of un popped kernels and none of the popcorn was scorched.

Thank you, grandfather, for the memories.

Manual Typewriter

I mentioned that I use a manual typewriter for typing the pages going in to “the red notebook”.  Well, here it is; a Hermes 3000 typewriter.  I might be older than the typewriter, but I’m not certain.typewriter

During one “university term paper season” my Smith Corona electric typewriter quit working and the repairman said it would take a couple of weeks to get it fixed.  The school library had at least 100 IBM Selectric typewriters, but they were in such high demand that a 1 hour time limit per session was put in place so that everyone could get a chance to use them.

I didn’t like the idea of waiting three or four hours for one hour of time on the typewriter and I didn’t want to steal time from my girlfriend’s typing sessions by using her typewriter, so I bought this Hermes for something like $10.

The electric typewriter is long gone, but I kept the manual one.

Absent some compelling reason, if you have electricity, skip the electric typewriter and use a computer and printer.

So, I guess it is true that an electric typewriter is more obsolete than a manual one.

Or perhaps it is not a manual typewriter but actually a highly energy efficient portable word processor with an integrated printer and a 100% effective anti-malware system.

Mom’s House

The contractor has finished the renovation of my mom’s house.  Next is putting it up for sale.  The bathroom cabinets, sinks and faucets were replaced, the shower door glass was replaced, the carpet was replaced, the inside and outside of the house was painted and the landscaping was converted to what people mistakenly call desert landscaping (hint…it’s gravel).

I have used the book metaphor for a life before.  “The End” was written in dad’s book nearly 13 years earlier and the same was written in mom’s book back in November.  After the house sells, their  books will receive a short addendum and then will join the books of my grandparents and my fiancee.


My mom’s house is now completely cleaned out.  The house is as bare as it was the day my parents moved in.  This time, however, the excitement of the possibilities of an empty house was not there.

During the final check to make sure I didn’t forget anything that will be in the way of the plasterers, painters and carpet layers, I found, in the back corner of a cabinet in my parent’s bedroom, a plastic bag containing a note and some dried flowers.  “2/18/46 Wedding bouquet”, is what the note said.  The flowers are in pretty bad condition, but they obviously were of great importance to my mom because she brought them along on probably two dozen (dad was in the Marine Corps) moves.

Even though they were in very bad shape, I decided to save the flowers.  As I mentioned I was going to save them, my wife gave me “the look”.  When I told her what I was going to do, “the look” stopped and said she would like to go with me.  Next Saturday, early in the morning when the breezes are calm, I’m going to the veteran’s cemetery and place those flowers on mom’s and dad’s grave markers.

Voices From the Past.

I found more memories at mom’s house; a VHS tape labeled Christmas 2002 and an audio cassette tape labeled June 1975.

The VHS tape was of my family opening gifts on Christmas day 2002.  The audio tape was made at the June 1975 reunion of my father’s family.

On the Christmas video tape, my wife had dark brown hair, I had dark hair and only a tiny bald spot, our daughter was four years old and my father, mother and father-in-law were all alive.   It was amazing looking back 15 years.

On the audio tape were the voices of all of my dad’s siblings, all of his siblings’ children and even a few grandchildren of his siblings.  Each person said “Hi” to the family, their name, how they were related and a few words about the family reunion.

As the tapes played, I was surprised that I recognized the voices of the people speaking. I suppose this isn’t unusual for my mom, dad and father-in-law, but  I’m not sure what to think about me instantly recognizing the voices of folks I met only once, more than 40 years ago.

More Memories

I’ve written about my cleaning out my mom’s house.  It has not been easy.  Everything in the house is stuff I remember as a child…and I’m having to get rid of a lot of it.  I’m glad this is not my childhood home.

My friends have been wonderful.  They, and their adult children, have taken a lot of the stuff to blend into their own homes.  Like us, they have gotten rid of a lot of really cheap stuff (pressed wood covered with wood grain paper) and replaced it with the oak, maple, cherry wood furniture from my parents’ house.  I consider them family by choice, so this is a perfect way to take care of my “problem”.

Some things are so sentimental that I must get rid of them.

For instance.  In an old military footlocker was a crocheted afghan.  After I recovered from the  shock of finding it, I showed it to my mother in law.  She said it was obvious someone had put their very best effort into it as there was not a thread loose or out of place.  The afghan was crocheted in 1983 by my elderly neighbor as a wedding present for my fiancee and I.  Plans were changed and the afghan went from being a wedding present to being used during my fiancee’s “journey” through hospice care.


The other thing I found was a slide photograph taken in April, 1983.  In the image, an old lady is standing and leaning against her walker.  She has her hands outstretched and is putting something into the cupped hands of a young man that is standing in front of her.  The young man has a surprised look on his face.  Standing next to the young man is a young woman that looks like she’s about to cry.

The old woman is my then widowed 95 year old grandmother.  I am the young man and the young woman is my brand new fiancee.

It was Easter Sunday, 1983 and the two of us had invited our parents to Easter dinner so we could tell them of our plans to get married.  When things settled down after our announcement, my grandmother got my attention.

Grandmother.  “She doesn’t have a ring.  She needs a ring.”

Me.  “I know.  She was accepted to medical school and we decided to skip the ring and save the money to pay for tuition.”

Grandmother, removing her wedding and engagement rings from her finger and my grandfather’s wedding ring from her thumb.   “She *NEEDS* a ring.  Here.  You need these more than I do.  Please.  Take them.”

I will keep the slide photograph.  It doesn’t take up much room and can easily be stored in a shoe box with other photographs.  My mother in law is going to take the afghan.  As beautiful as it is, there is no way I could look at it every day….plus I don’t want to make my wife compete with a ghost.

Some people say that is a different chapter in my life. It is really more of a different book.  Book 1 and Book 2.  Book 1 has “The End” written in it and most of the time stays on the shelf.  Book 2 is on the coffee table and is read/written in on a daily basis.