Day 65-SIP-Decoration Day

For the past few weeks I ‘ve had a compelling desire to visit my wive’s graves. I said it before and I will say it again today, I don’t see any point in visiting graves, but I did today. At least I can say I did something useful at Barb’s grave. I cleaned her gravestone from the grass that is trying to cover it. While I was there I cleaned my stone as well. At the time, I thought there would never be a reason not to be buried next to her, so I bought my gravestone to match hers. I also thought of it as saving the responsibility from my kids. It took me forty five minutes to complete the job. I stuck an American flag between the stones in honor of Memorial Day, said a final prayer and went to the next grave.

The next graves were that of John T, and Minnie Riley, the parents of my second wife Peggy. They are but a stones throw from Barbara in Holy Sepulcher cemetery while Peggy is nearly thirty miles further southwest. When Peg and I discussed our lives together after we decided to marry, we made special requests to be buried with our first spouses. Looking at things pragmatically, we both knew we would never be married to each other as long as we were to our first spouses, therefore, our forever-life on earth belonged to our first.

I did my thing, first saying a prayer for Peg and then speaking to her directly. When finished I encircled her stone to the other side and did the same for her first husband. I told him to look for me at the gate soon.

Memorial Day always evokes memories from my childhood. It was only a few years after WWII had ended and before Korea started. The country was mourning its losses of husbands, sons, lovers, friends killed in the war. My parents referred to the day as decoration day. It was the time when families went to cemeteries to spend time with their loved ones and to decorate their graves with flowers, wreaths, bouquets. My mother insisted we all go. I don’t think Dad could resist, although I never got the idea that he would. Mom always made him stop at the nursery across the road from the entrance to St. Mary’s Cemetery. She selected a floral pattern for my brother Joe’s grave and then bought the plants to make it.

At Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, where Peggy is buried with her veteran husband, American flags adorn the drive on both sides of the drive leading in. It is very picturesque indeed. I was mildly surprised at the number of people that were there. Most days when I visit her grave I am among only handful of people there. A funeral waited for escort to the burial chapel, and many vets on motorcycles sat on their bikes chatting. All throughout the cemetery between the rows of endless white grave stones were wives, daughters, and grandchildren placing floral bouquets and flags to their loved ones.

Getting into the cemetery on Memorial Day was not easy. Al the cemetery roads were parked with cars and the traffic within was bumper to bumper. Veterans in uniform carrying rifles marched throughout from grave to grave of their comrades lost in war. At the gravesite they would have a ceremony with the color-guard and the rifles giving a salute with volleys of smoky, noisy shots aimed into the sky. Saint Mary’s is a Catholic cemetery so there is a mass for the souls of the departed at 10:00 a.m. in the outdoor grotto. It was always well attended and crowded with standing room only. Not a safe COVID-19 assembly.

Normally, we left home about nine o’clock and we didn’t’t return until after three o’clock, all of us exhausted. Mom and Dad felt better that they had a chance to decorate their firstborn’s grave. Dad had a chance to visit a sister, and all of her kids, and they both visited graves of Hungarian friends from the neighborhood. It was a family oriented day, and I learned to despise it.

My wife Barbare was brought up to revere her dead relatives, She was just as paranoid about visiting graves as my mother. Maybe that is why they got along so well. Barb went to the cemetery often to clean graves and visit with her grandparents, aunts and uncles. She knew I disliked the process, so normally she did graves during the week with the kids. She had her own car, so transportation was never an issue. On the other hand, Peggy’s family was the opposite. Once a person was buried that was the end of the road for visitation except for major events. She and I only visited her husband’s grave a few times, and I only took her to see Barb’s gave once or twice. Each time we wound up looking her parent’s graves which she hadn’t visited for years.

I wonder what will happen to my grave once I am gone. Who will revere my grave enough to visit, and to clean, and to place flowers upon the stone?

On the drive home, I thought it is time for me to visit my parent’s, brother, grandfather, aunts, and graves and clean them up. The last time I did that it was because my young grandson Joey asked me to help him with his genealogy by visiting graves. He was about seven when that happened he is twenty-two now, and working. I’ll ask him if he is interested, if not, I’ll ask my brother if he can break out of his long-term-care house to go with me.

Day 54-SIP-Talk To Me

Today, the thought occurred to me what will I title my posts after COVID-19 is dead? Then the opposite thought came to mind, what if COVID-19 is never gone? Will I still be using a day count to express the stay in place era? All of this is me trying to avoid the future. Why do we fear the future? Because we don’t know what it holds. I was trained to list my greatest fear and below that form two columns. In the first list all the things that can happen to me if the fear is realized. In the second column answer what is the worst thing that can happen to you if that fear comes to pass? The idea, is that if we analyze our fears they won’t be as scary as they were when we didn’t know what the outcome could be. In the case of COVID-19 the worst thing I fear is death. What is the worst thing that can happen if I die? What can be worse than dying of COVID-19, dying of old age. Dying is dying and it is something I have to accept whether I like it or not. At my age dying is imminent. I don’t spend my days thinking about dying, so why would I be afraid of dying from COVID-19? As my mother always told me, you have to die from something.

Yesterday, Mother’s Day frittered away in total waste. The only great activity I managed was a Zoom meeting with all of my kids and grandkids. Surprise, surprise all of them appeared before me except one who is in an essential job and had to work. Poor kid, he is a chef in a nursing home and well, we old folks love to eat.

This was the first time I used the Zoom service with my clan. It was nice to gather and all talk at once and try to make something out of the conversation, then everyone realizes that we are just making noise and then we all stop simultaneously, and then there is deathly silence. Eventually, one of us would reinitiate a conversation and the whole thing got cooking once again. In the beginning my second grand daughter was not there, she was sleeping since she works nights at her hospital. Later she joined us as she prepped for work. She is also an essential worker, a nurse. Her mother the same, but she had a day off, her father the same, but he is now working from his house. My oldest son is also considered essential since he is an engineer in a company that makes laboratory equipment to analyze stuff. He has to go into the factory everyday.

One of the funniest parts of the meeting was the show the dogs put on. Once a family sat on a couch they were joined by pets who felt they were being left out. Number three grandson gave us a cello concert and was accompanied by the bellow of his pet beagle. We all laughed. The beagle continued to howl until the concert ended.

We lasted this way for 90 minutes and then I decided it was time to call it quits, but not before getting agreement from all that this will be a good thing to do again on a regular basis. I will set up the meetings and send the notices with the links to join.

My son-in-law sent me a text with a picture of my daughter and grand daughter placing a rose on the grave of my first wife. Nice, I thought, even I don’t do that. Every time I go to the cemetery to visit the girls I ask myself just what do I accomplish by coming here? I visit, I trim the grass around her stone, I pray, and I speak to her as if we were sitting together at home. I have a habit of talking to her every day as if we were side by side. In fact, I do that daily with both wives. Sometimes, we talk individually, and sometimes we are a trio. Weird? I don’t need the cemetery to make that happen. I make it happen where the hell ever I happen to be when the conversation begins. The thing I hate the most about these talks is that I am the only one speaking. In life these ladies were quite loquacious. I had so many years of it that I have become accustomed to hearing a woman speaking to me and now that I am alone the silence often drives me nuts.

I have to end this now because it is time to talk with Barb and Peg.

‘If you can hear me, Larry Gligstein, please send a text to 555-703-7193

Apologize for Our Arrogance?

Our European arrogance
in alphabetical order

1. The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne , France … A total of 2289

2. The American Cemetery at Ardennes , Belgium … A total of 5329
3. The American Cemetery at Brittany, France … A total of 4410
4. Brookwood , England – American Cemetery … A total of 468
5. Cambridge , England … A total of 3812
6. Epinal , France – American Cemetery … A total of 5525
7. Flanders Field , Belgium … A total of 368
8. Florence , Italy … A total of 4402
9. Henri-Chapelle , Belgium … A total of 7992
10. Lorraine , France … A total of 10,489
11. Luxembourg , Luxembourg … A total of 5076
12. Meuse-Argonne… A total of 14246
13. Netherlands , Netherlands … A total of 8301
14. Normandy , France … A total of 9387
15. Oise-Aisne , France … A total of 6012
16. Rhone , France … A total of 861
17. Sicily , Italy … A total of 7861
18. Somme , France … A total of 1844
19. St. Mihiel , France … A total of 4153
20. Suresnes , France … A total of 1541

Apologize to no one.
Remind those of our sacrifice and don’t
confuse arrogance with leadership.
The count is 104,366
dead, brave Americans.

And we have to watch an
American elected leader who
apologizes to Europe and the
Middle East that our country is “arrogant”!

Americans, forward it!
Non-patriotic, delete it!
Most of the protected don’t understand it.

A Great Piece of Advice for Life

    One of my best friends and work associate sent me this piece is by  Pulitzer Prize winning editorial author Michael Gartner.  I want to meet him and thank him for this eloquently written story about his parents.

This is a piece by Michael Gartner, president of NBC News; in 1997, he won a Pulitzer Prize. It is well worth reading, even if it looks too long for you to read right now, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed. Please take a few minutes to absorb the meaning of this
 story, and then go hug someone…..Here goes…

      My father never drove a car. Well, that’s not quite right. I should  say I never saw him drive a car.
 He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

     “In those days,” he told me when he was in his 90’s, “to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life  and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it.” At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:
      “Oh, bullshit!” she said. “He hit a horse.”
      “Well,” my father said, “there was that, too.”
        So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars — the Kollingses next door had a green 1941 Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford — but we had none. My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines, would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the  streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three  blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.

     My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we’d ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. “No one in the family drives,” my mother would explain, and that was that. But, sometimes, my father would say, “But as soon as one of you boys
 turns 16, we’ll get one.” It was as if he wasn’t sure which one of uswould turn 16 first.
 But, sure enough , my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts  department at a Chevy dealership downtown.
It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded  with everything, and, since my parents didn’t drive, it more or less  became my brother’s car.

      Having a car but not being able to drive didn’t bother my father, but  it didn’t make sense to my mother. So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her  to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my  two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father’s  idea.

     “Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?” I remember him  saying more than once.
     For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps — though they seldom left the city limits — and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.
      Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn’t seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of
 marriage. (Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)  He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin’s Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the  back until he saw which of the parish’s two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a  2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.
 If it was the assistant pastor, he’d take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests “Father Fast” and “Father Slow.”
     After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he’d sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I’d stop by, he’d explain:

      “The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored.”
      If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the  bags out — and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, “Do you want to know the secret of a long life?”
      “I guess so,” I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre

     “No left turns,” he said.

     “What?” I asked.

      “No left turns,” he repeated. “Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic.
As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn.”

      “What?” I said again.

      “No left turns,” he said. “Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that’s a lot safer. So we always make three rights.”

      “You’re kidding!” I said, and I turned to my mother for support.

     “No,” she said, “your father is right. We make three rights. It
works.” But then she added: “Except when your father loses count…” I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.

      “Loses count?” I asked.

      “Yes,” my father admitted, “that sometimes happens. But it’s not a  problem. You just make seven rights, and you’re okay again.”

      I couldn’t resist. “Do you ever go for 11?” I asked.

     “No,” he said ” If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it  a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can’t be put  off another day or another week.”

      My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her  car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90. She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102. They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought  a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom — the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)

      He continued to walk daily — he had me get him a treadmill when he  was 101 because he was afraid he’d fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising — and he was of sound mind and sound body
 until the moment he died.

      One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging  conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news. A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, “You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred.” At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, “You know, I’m probably not going  to live much longer.”
      “You’re probably right,” I said.

      “Why would you say that?” He countered, somewhat irritated.

     “Because you’re 102 years old,” I said…

      “Yes,” he said, “you’re right.” He stayed in bed all the next day. That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.  He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us  look gloomy, he said: “I would like to make an announcement: No one in this room is dead yet”

     An hour or so later, he spoke his last words: “I want you to know,” he said, clearly and lucidly, “that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have.”
     A short time later, he died. I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I’ve wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long. I can’t figure out if it was because he walked through life, or because he quit taking left turns. ”

 Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So — love the people who treat you right. Forget about the ones who don’t. Believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it and if it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy; they just promised it would most likely be worth it.”



 Thanks for sending this story. It brought tears to my eyes.


Grumpa Joe