Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The greatest generation...

Eighty-four years of life, they've seen everything in that time, the wonderful and the wonderfully horrific; the heroic and the catastrophic; the amazing and the gut-wrenching.  Sixty-four plus years they have spent together.  Its a fact that amazes me each and every day.  Sixty-four years devoted to each other and the family that would bloom from their love: 5 Children, 17 Grandchildren, 11 Great-Grandchildren and spouses to go with those children and grandchildren.

So amazing to me is the journey of my grandparents that its hard to put into words, the depth and the length of their time on this planet together.  Maybe its because they had 35 years to practice before I even showed up but it seemed whatever hard times they ever faced, they handled it with an undying love and dedication to each other.  For most of my life, there was my grandfather, the biggest kid of us all, playing practical jokes, teasing us, making us laugh and scaring us all with the love that was never hardened by what I can only assume wasn't an easy life.  And there was my grandmother scolding him for his boyish ways, playing both mother and wife at the same time.  With a disapproving look and occasionally a smack on the arm for good measure, she'd let him know when she didn't approve of what he had just said or done and he'd stand there with his palms facing the sky and a shrug of his shoulders like a kid who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 

I never have heard what my grandfather went through during World War II.  The only stories I've ever heard are second-hand stories of what happened away from the battlefield.  Of men diving off the ship to escape the oppressive heat of the Pacific, only to come aboard with giant Man of War Jellyfish covering their body.  Jellyfish so big and hard to hold onto that the only way to rid the sailors of these beasts were to peel them off layer by layer with a meat cleaver, all the while the poison from their tentacles sucking the energy from the bodies of the infected sailor.

If these were the stories he felt he could share with his family, I don't know if I could ever imagine what he went through, what he saw, what he did that he has never felt he could talk about.  The weaponry, the savagery of that war would never have been able to be played out on national television like images of Afghanistan and Iraq and Vietnam are shown to the country today.

I have a lot of great memories of my grandfather.  He is a great man and in the absence of a father, he has always been there for me when I needed someone.  He is always supportive of all of his grand children, no matter what we were into.  He always showed us he'd be there for us. 

My greatest memory of my grandfather happened at a time in my life when I could truly appreciate him and the moment while still living in the moment.  In the summer of 2010, my grandfather wanted to enjoy his sisters 80th birthday with her in Long Island.  My mother asked me if I could spend the day with my grandmother while she went with him for the party.  I suggested that we flip it, and I go with him while my mom look after my grandmother.  She agreed that it would probably be better that way and so on a blistering hot July day we drove the 3.5 hours to Long Island for his Sisters 80th Birthday.  It was a surprise that my grandfather would be there and so the crowd at the party gathered around her and she turned to each person to acknowledge them and thank them for being there.  As she turned to my grandfather to acknowledge him, he said in his usual chipper tone "Hello Dear" and it took her a moment to realize who was standing in front of her and as it dawned on her you could see a look of shocked joy cross her face.  That stunned look made the entire trip worthwhile.

It was a miserably hot and steamy July day, and as we all sat outside, sweating, trying to stay cool and I was meeting all these family members I never even knew existed.  They kept telling me what a great thing it was for me to have accompanied him all this way.  I told at least of few of them, that it wasn't a big deal and if anything it was an  honor and pleasure for me to do it, remembering all the times he had done things for me. 

Sometimes in life you do things because you feel obligated to, sometimes you do it because you know its the right thing to do and most times in life you do things because its what you want to do.  This is one of the few times in my life I can remember that all three happened in one event.  The day up to this point will be one I'll never forget but what happened next went beyond anything I could ever comprehend.

When we left the party, we decided to go home via ferry.  When we pulled into the yard waiting for the ferry we pulled up next to an SUV filled with a bunch of guys in their 50s and 60s.  As I looked over at them, they seemed to be a bunch of over-aged party animals on their way back from a booze-filled weekend.  And when one of them came strolling up to the window I wasn't exactly thrilled to see him there.  "Baldis, what's that?" he said referring to my grandfathers license plate.  "Thats me. I'm Baldis," replied my grandfather.  "Oh, I thought you were making fun of bald people because you got a full head of hair" This conversation seemed to be going no where to me but my grandfather, one of the most personable people I have ever met, a skill which I wish he had passed on to me; kept talking with the man.  The man asked us where we were coming from upon hearing that I had accompanied him to his sisters birthday party called me a "good boy" and then he explained that he and his buddies were on their way home from a funeral for a buddy of theirs from Vietnam.

When they began talking about what part of the military they were in, I was suddenly very interested, never having heard my grandfather discuss this topic before.  I knew he was in the navy and stationed in the pacific but that was about the extent of my knowledge.  In this five minute conversation I'd learned more than I'd ever known in 28 years   My grandfather had been a gunner on a transport ship.  These were the ships that carried soldiers and equipment ashore and he was responsible for giving them cover to get ashore.  As the conversation went on, the gentleman looked at me and said "I hope you're proud to be this man's grandson, this is a damn good man."  And as he did this he stuck out his hand to shake my grandfathers hand.  I had always been proud of my grandfather but this kicked it up to a whole higher level.  As the man walked back to his buddies, I thought that was the end of it.  After calling him a "Nice Fella," my grandfather fell silent, looking out the car window at some distant point, maybe at some distant memory and all of sudden there were the other men from the funeral car.  One by one they came up to the window and shook my grandfathers hand and told him they were honored and thanking him for what he had done for his country.

This is a memory that is etched in my brain forever and I hope to one day tell my kids this story and hope that it has even 1/1000th of the effect it had on me.  Here were 5 or 6 men who had gone to Vietnam, seen war first hand, probably seen a part of hell I've never even imagined in my wildest nightmares and came back to a country that wasn't nearly as accepting to them as they had been to the veterans of World War II and despite that, these men had a taste of what my Grandfather had been through and felt the need to express their gratitude for what he and thousands just like him had gone through and done for their country.  It was a moment that touched me at my very soul.  It shocked and amazed me and even as I write it, I can feel my heart beating a little stronger, my hands and knees a little weak, my pride in my grandfather never stronger.

It's funny that this is such a strong memory of my grandfather because it is my grandmother who instilled in me such a pride in my country and my strength of patriotism.  She is the reason that no matter what, I will always be supportive and appreciative of people that put their lives on the line for our country.  She is the reason I feel so strongly about people removing their hats for the national anthem.  She is the reason that just a few weeks ago, I got very upset with my sister-in-law when she was joking around and laughing during the playing of that anthem.

Its funny how so many "big" memories kind of fade from our consciousness and these "little" blips seem to stick with us forever.  I have this vivid image of my grandmother talking about care of the flag one day at the table.  How in her day, the flag was only to be posted on a flag from sunrise to sunset.  How as time went by, it was okay to have a flag posted at night only if it was on a flag pole that was illuminated by a light strong enough to see it in its glory.  I remember her striking the table with her fingers like she was pointing out these rules in some imaginary book in front of her.

She taught me to respect that flag and the thousands of people that have given their lives to protect what it stands for....I think its very appropriate that my grandmother is the person that taught me to understand and respect people like my grandfather...

Friday, March 11, 2011

I miss my dog...

I miss my dog...

Its one of the hardest things in the world for me to return home seeing her with such restrained joy.  She whimpers when I walk through the door, a pained whimper of excitement.  Its a sardonic whimper, she is so excited to see me, she jumps around like a young puppy, instead of the 10 year old dog that she is probably in the twilight of her life, but she also knows that my presence is only a fleeting one, that sooner rather than later I will be gone again.  Her actions are a mix of joy and pain.  She's ecstatic to see me again but at the same time, she knows that I'm neither staying nor is she coming with me.  It has been by far the hardest part of moving out; leaving her behind. 

In every way shape or form Samantha is my dog, since the day we picked her up and the whole ride while she sat on my lap.  She always slept near me, in my bed as a puppy until my restlessness became too much for her and she moved to the floor.  For 10 years, on the floor next to me.  On the nights when I'd be out late or not come home at all, she'd sleep like a worried mother.  On those nights, she'd sleep on the edge of consciousness, every noise, every car door, or engine alerting her to my possible return.  And if I did return that night, she'd be there as I opened the door, to make sure I was ok and in one piece before finally settling into a restful sleep.  She's my dog in that, when she was a puppy I'd come home from work everyday to let her out of her crate and take her out to go to the bathroom.  She's my dog in that, if two of us, her family were to stand on opposites sides of the world and call her, she'd come to me 100 times out of 100.  She's my dog because she's my dog.  I was the one that searched for her, I was the one that found her, I was the one that decided she was the one.  At the time, I really wanted a German Shepherd but I have never once regretted the decision to bring Samantha into my life. 

Samantha is my first ever dog.  We had a dog when I was very little but I don't have any memories of her to really remember her at all.   With Samantha, I know everything, I was there for everything.  From bringing her home to being spayed to the surgery to get her cyst removed to the one time she took off and scared me into thinking I might never see her again.  I was there for all the times, she's done something completely goofy to have me in stitches laughing so hard.  The time she sniffed at the bottle of vodka, and her response, her poor head shaking, trying to get that burning sensation out of her nose. The fact that from that day forward she never again tried to sniff at a bottle, no matter how sweet it might smell.  Or the time my brother decided to wall off her little sanctuary with a piece of cardboard.  Whenever she'd get scared or overly excited or just didn't know what was going on, she'd run under the end table, it became her defacto doghouse and she'd hang out in there until everything was settled.  The only problem being that when she got scared she'd sprint in there without really thinking about it.  So on this particular occasion with the hiding space blocked off she goes sprinting head first into the cardboard and bounces off to the hysterics of all who are watching.  She shakes it off and comes back to us with her tail wagging and not thinking anything less of us for playing a trick on her.

And that is Samantha's greatest trait.  She's the sweetest, most gentle and loyal dog I have ever been around.  When I've been at my worst she has always been at her best.  Her love and loyalty never wavering when I was in one of my dark places and couldn't be bothered with her.  The times I was downright mean in telling her to get away from me or physically pushing her away from me when she only trying to be there for me.  To tell me that no matter what she loved me and she'd always stay by my side no matter what I had done or where I was mentally.  Sometimes she was the only solace I took in the world.  Before my nieces came along, she was one of the few things I could look at and just feel at peace with the world, her innocence, her undying love and devotion.  It was one of the few things I put any faith in at times.  And I know throughout that time, I wasn't always the nicest person to her. But I always realized she was there for me.  And I am eternally grateful that she has been such a major part of my life.  I am sure I will have more dogs in the future, but never will take the place she has in my heart.

I love Roxie and Sassy, my two new adopted dogs and the reason I couldn't bring Samantha with me when I moved out.  Roxie and Sammy are about the same age and Roxie is very territorial and she has earned that.  She's an older dog and she's earned the right to be grouchy about where she lives and who lives with her.  I don't fault her at all for that, Her and Sassy are pretty sweet dogs and still have that edge of mischief in them that keeps things entertaining and sometimes even annoying.  I don't think either of these dogs will ever lose that edge to them.  They seem to have too much fun finding whatever trouble they can.  I love these dogs not like an adoptive parent but like they are my own but still I can't help saying and feeling that I miss my dog...

Monday, February 21, 2011

To Blog...

A blog, an online journal, a diary, a place to let our conscious and sometimes our subconscious minds flow out onto a computer screen.  Some people are really precise and write with purpose about a specific topic and some people just flow along with the stream of their consciousness.  I think I am somewhere in between the two...  Here we write about whats bothering us, whats going on in our lives, our dreams, our nightmares, our fantasies and our fears.  Some write about one specific part of their life and some write about anything and everything.  Again I hope to be someone that coves a lot of those topics.

So on with the show...What to write about in my first blog...my new job? my dog? the type of man i think i am?  my family? the love of my life?  All good topics and all will make for good entries into this blog but I think I will start with my new job...

Starting tomorrow I will be throwing my hat into the business arena.  I have tried my luck at the education field and found it wasn't the place for me to be so I'm taking this new step in my life and I hope it works out.  Marketing, I get the concept of it, I just hope that I have a knack for it.  The lady that is my boss seems to think I'll be able to do it well and she is being very accommodating with my schedule so all I can do is go in their and give it my best and hope that it all works out for the best. 

More than anything I just want to settle into a career as opposed to having a job.  I want something that I can be proud of and that I can provide for myself and my family.  For too long I have allowed others to provide for me and because of my own pride I refused to go out and get a job that I thought was below me.  I thought I deserved a certain type of job and I wasn't willing to settle for anything but that.  And it has paid off in that I finally do have a job with a successful company and I am really looking forward to the opportunity to prove myself in this field.  I also look at the last couple years of my life and how heavily I have relied on other people to carry part if not all of my burden and that mostly fell and continues to fall directly on the shoulders of my mother. 

What an amazing woman she is, and she understood the effect of sending in application after application and resume after resume was having on me and she would gently massage my ego and let me know it was OK and to just hang in there and it would all work out when she really should have been saying "Go flip burgers at McDonald's" or "Go be a cashier at Stop and Shop"  and every time she wanted to say that she would, but it'd be more of a suggestion "Hey did you ever think about getting a job at Stop & Shop while you're sending out resumes?"  I should have but I was too embarrassed to do that.  My foolish pride; when working for a living, doing whatever you can to make an honest dollar is not something to be embarrassed about. 

So tomorrow starts a new chapter in my life...Hopefully its the start of a long chapter in my life, I didn't like it in the education field and I can't make a living on the playing field, but maybe the business marketing field is where I finally find my niche in the working world.