Uncategorized

My Dad Was the Best. Hope Yours Was Too!

Father’s Day is fast approaching, an annual celebration of the paternal and the sad anniversary of my own father passing. While memories of him cross my mind several times a day, at this time of year I find myself digging in my mind for some forgotten memory, thinking perhaps I have some tucked away like a forgotten sweater in a cedar chest, an old favorite that simply has not seen the light of day for many years.

I have used my father as the topic of previous blogs (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/dad-gone-a-quarter-century & https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/my-roots-lead-back-to-november-fifth) and his humor and life lessens dot the landscape of other musings in my posts as well. While my mind is percolating on him as a subject, I will share some more.

My dad (just like my best friend’s father, another amazing man) was an electrician by trade, as was my grandfather. Though he worked on many job sites through the years, some of the more memorable ones included the construction of the Thunderbird Hotel, The IDS Tower, The Registry Hotel and the story I’m about to embark on  from his work on the MSP Airport.

My dad started work early each morning, usually packing a lunch and carrying a thermos of coffee. As a union man he also had “coffee breaks” during the day and while working on the airport runways a silver truck would stop out to his work site that offered hot coffee, sandwiches and pastries for sale. I imagine his first break took place about 8 am. An affable man, my father built a rapport with the truck driver during his daily rounds. When dad became aware that his work at the airport was winding down and his company was preparing to assign him to a new job he hatched a plan.

When the silver truck headed out to my dad’s location, on what was scheduled to be his last day, there sat my dad at a card table (with two chairs) covered with a white table cloth, an electric frying pan had been used to prepare bacon and eggs, he pushed the button down on the toaster and invited the driver to join him for breakfast, right there on the airport runway. Juice was poured and there the two sat and enjoyed a final conversation, the table complete with a milk-glass vase with two red plastic roses (that had come free with a bottle of dish soap). It was a funny and kind gesture of his appreciation. “Memorable”, that is a word that aptly describes my father. I imagine the driver never forgot that special breakfast or the man who prepared it for him.

My dad loved animals and they loved him. Unfortunately, his allergies could make his being around them a less than pleasant experience for him. While growing up we had rabbits, I had a parakeet, we had tropical fish, my brother acquired the rat from his elementary classroom “Milk vs. Soda” nutrition lessen.  We also had the cutest dalmatian puppy who in reality was the worst dog I have ever known. At some point in the late ’70s (sometime after a divorce) my aunt was moving with her youngest from her house to an apartment, a pet-free destination. For many years the family had had a beautiful long haired calico cat that they all loved, named Mama. Despite his allergies (and the fact he was not that fond of cats) my dad was very fond of his high-school classmate and the mother of his nieces and nephews. That is how Mama came to live out her final years with my parents. Meanwhile my uncle moved on, got a new wife, got a new puppy and eventually got another divorce. The Whippet/Collie mix was not going to work with either of their new housing arrangements, so Tara came to live with my folks (and Mama) where she slept on the floor next to my father’s side of the bed. My father loved that dog but when my uncle retired, my dad insisted that Tara move with him to the cabin. My dad was accommodating, compassionate and fair. In both instances it was not that he “wanted” a new responsibility at his house but that he didn’t want to see someone he cared about suffer any more than they already were due to their present circumstances. He gracefully made these situations appear to be nothing and just used his ever-present handkerchief with greater frequency. I bet you’d already forgotten about his allergies, that’s exactly how he wanted it.

My dad wasn’t into gender stereotypes, he grocery shopped, did the laundry, gave his kids baths, read bedtime stories and even took on the role of “room mother” one year when I was in junior high. In many cases, if something needed to be done, he would just do it. He could work a full day, come home and make dinner and still remain engaged in what you were learning in school. When he went to bed we assumed he snored so loudly simply because he was tired, not because Sleep Apnea was just another medical malady stealing time from him. In other cases, if something needed to be done, it simply waited. Taxes were something he loathed doing and I think at some point he delayed filing for five years. Red Owl Grocery sacks filled with receipts and medical bills all waiting to be collated and submitted. He wasn’t avoiding paying taxes, he was delinquent in filing for money owed to him by the IRS. In retrospect I think he knew his time was precious and he would rather spend it occupied with people than with paper.

My dad was strict but you knew what was expected. I vividly remember arriving home five minutes late one summer evening and after listening to what my excuse was he simply said “I didn’t tell you that you couldn’t be early.” So I credit him with the fact that I am slightly early or prompt at nearly every appointment I have, as a general courtesy.

Growing up, my brothers and I didn’t get an allowance but Dad gave us our lunch money weekly and we were allowed to pack our own lunches and use the allotted money however we chose. That taught responsibility, decision making and flexibility. He also allowed me to pack a lunch for my brother and have him pay me a portion of his own lunch money.

My father had more interests than could be explored in a lifetime, he loved concepts, new ideas and possibilities. He was fascinated with black holes and could wrap his mind around things I never could. While his mind was sharp he was not impressed with phonies and would make time to chat with a loner or buy a guy a beer. I remember that he joked loudly to my mother as they were leaving one of her class reunions (perhaps her 20th) “Hurry Dorothy, we have to get the rental car back.” to mock some of the blowhards who had spent the evening trying to one-up each other.  He both literally and figuratively just didn’t have time for that.

Though this blog comes to an end and he is no longer among us, his story is far from over. I like to think that I have fostered in my own children some of his curiosity, his ability to learn something from everyone, his sense of fairness coupled with compassion and an ample dose of his humor. His greatest teachings were never in the form of lectures, they were in his actions, small gestures, mundane tasks that were eventually completed, behind the scenes maneuvers that brightened someones day, lightened someones load or simply made somebody laugh. His legacy lives on in that laughter.

 

 

 

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childhood, Uncategorized

Purple Indians, Red Cow, Golden Friends

Despite truly meaning it, when we say “we should get together” somehow life gets in the way and the weeks turn into years and the years turn to decades and it just doesn’t happen naturally to fall into place. There has to be some effort. Social media has been both a blessing and a curse to relationships. Some feel there isn’t really a need to gather physically because they “know” what is going on with someone based on occasional posts and photographs. Others feeling that perhaps when their own life somehow measures up to the vacations, grandchildren and celebrations of others, then the time will be right and they will feel worthy. Perhaps when they drop some weight, have a better hairstyle or update their wardrobe, that will be a good time to get together. If we wait until our lives are perfect, it simply will never occur.

Facebook has allowed my generation to locate people from our past in addition to seeing what our own kids, family members and social circle did over the weekend or are having for dinner tonight. One can get lost looking at friend lists of other friends and trying to decipher if that thin red-head was once the chubby brunet cheerleader who was hilarious in your English class; same first name, married, living on the west coast. Could be her, maybe not. It’s like winning the lottery when you locate someone from your past and reconnect, catch up and find yourselves much the same. There are the other scenarios when Facebook suggests that you “might know” someone and “Yes, you do” and you have been avoiding them at all costs because they are toxic and don’t need to know you “might” meet at Bunny’s for Wing Night next week.

 

Facebook has replaced Hallmark as the way to send a birthday greeting and makes a better source than a local paper for birth announcements, engagements and marriages, as well as obituaries. The arc of life, all happening in real-time and available via phone or computer. Though one is never truly alone anymore, the constant connectivity seemingly causes people to interact less with those around them. Lack of eye contact when checking out with a cashier, tapping on a desired menu item while simultaneously talking on the phone with someone not present or being part of an entire table updating their statuses but not really “experiencing” the company of those present or engaging in the event they are attending.

Yesterday I experienced what is the best of what social media can do, gather people for real social interaction. The only thing that could have made the gathering more like the childhoods we’d all shared would have been convening in the rocket at Linden Hills Park or all arriving by bike and leaving them pedals down on their sides on a grassy spot outside the restaurant (Red Cow) we chose to meet at. My use of technology was having this single picture taken before we ordered, others used their phones as photo albums and one table-mate ignored an incoming call but showed her phone because she was filling someone in on her brother and it happened to be him calling. The two-year age gap meant a couple of the older girls couldn’t place the youngest one, so she pulled up a picture from thirty years ago and got “Oh, I know that girl.” to which she responded “That’s me.” Beyond that, everyone present was truly present!

An initial Facebook invitation to neighborhood girls swelled into an unmanageable number of invitees and then settled back into a table-sized gathering that allowed for multiple simultaneous conversations but conveniently allowed for shared laughter as well. To an outsider (or our waitress for that matter) I imagine we looked like a group of ladies who meet monthly for lunch. The reality being that with six of the eight having been 1980 graduates from nearby Minneapolis Southwest (Purple Indians) we had not all been under the same roof since the Carter administration. We used to bike over to each others house and ring the doorbell to see if someone could play or call their house and hope the line wasn’t busy when we wanted to extend an invitation. With a Facebook invite our friend who has lived in Hawaii for three decades received the same information in real time.

As I pulled up, I saw Laurie arriving. I parked down the street and walked up, giving her time to put our name in for a table. The weather being nice we stood outside as the remaining five arrived and a sixth slid in once we were seated. Laurie and I had played on the badminton team together and she had played volleyball in high school as well as in college. Badminton was a spring sport and we often found ourselves walking home together in weather thirty degrees warmer than the temps of our morning walk. Wet sidewalks and muddy ally-ways, our route included a couple of blocks that had formerly been the path of the streetcar line, a mode of transportation abandoned before our births and replaced with MTC buses that shuttled us to Southdale, our suburban mall or downtown which was a grittier urban destination for us to find everything from magazines at Shinders to department stores, restaurants and where all sorts of options for teenage girls to make bad choices were available. Laurie stood in her overalls and dreadlocks and lamented the fact that she had not seen me since she’d graduated and then she simply said it “We’re old!” and we laughed about it, me realizing only later that I had only been sixteen the last time we had seen each other. When a neighbor girl arrived that I had more recently encountered at funerals over the last several years she hugged me, commented that I’d lost weight and looked great and I glanced over at Laurie and laughed again, “Lost weight, gained weight. All depends when you saw me last.” and the two of them laughed harder having seen each other a few years earlier and a few pounds lighter. Same struggles, different decade.

The majority of us had attended Lake Harriet Elementary school, most starting kindergarten in 1967, I started in 1968 and Doreen, the youngest attendee being a 1969 kindergartner who looked exactly like the little girl Buffy from the show Family Affair (with ringlet pigtails) when she started school. Though the school was physically gone by the time we entered high school, one of our lunch friends currently resides in the home she was raised in, located across the street from the massive brick structure my own grandmother had attended. Her renovated childhood home located diagonally from my block, the other two corners being where responsible sixth-graders stood as school safety patrols and lowered their flags to grant me safe passage on a daily basis.

There we were; infants of the sixties, school kids of the seventies and all having graduated on the cusp of the eighties. High school graduates before most of us had heard the word “aerobic” and at a time when Ayds was a dietary candy to be taken with a hot beverage, a half hour before meals and AIDS was not yet coined as the name for a sexually transmitted plague. We were a new generation of women with Title IV rights. In addition to Typing (later useful for keyboarding), Clothing (sewing) and Foods (cooking) classes we could take Metals, Woods and Electricity classes, once considered the trades classes for boys. Thirty-five years later all of these basic skills classes that provided one with the capacity to sew on a button and press a shirt before a job interview or prepare a nutritional meal on a budget, even classes that taught one how to simply follow directions to complete a basic task in an office or factory setting are gone. A multi-million-dollar renovation and addition to our 75 year-old Alma mater has added dance studios, put a greater emphasis on the arts and offers computer coding, now considered the skill that one might learn while a high school student that could lead to employment beyond graduation. Most of us did not touch a computer before we graduated, ditto for the majority of our teachers.

Teachers; we reminisced about the ones we loved, the ones we feared and the ones that reminded us that we were in fact skipping class when they encountered us in the hallway. There were the ones whose children were our classmates, the ones who coached us, the ones that encouraged us, the ones who prepared us for college, believed in us and were well suited to their careers. There were the ones who seemed miserable, hated their jobs, likely hated us and took pleasure in tormenting our classmates who really didn’t want to be there in the first place. My childhood neighbor shared an amusing anecdote about being a server at a country club and being invited to a coworkers home for drinks after work, only to realize that her coworkers “boyfriend” was actually a despised teacher.

We were a  mixed-bag of women, many of us the youngest (read “least supervised”) of our families. Some of us were involved in student activities, while others cut class frequently, hung out with older kids, pushed the envelope and took part in risky behavior. None of it mattered, then or now to us, we were kids with friendships forged in youth that treated each other kindly. One girl mentioned that she quit ordering yearbooks because of the unkind remarks other classmates wrote in them. When another asked for an example she tossed out “Titless Wonder” as one of the more repeatable torments, when asked who said that I realized he was the same guy that thought it appropriate to opine on my breast size (too big apparently) like some perverse male Goldilocks looking for “just right”. Neither of us realizing his Napoleon complex, his insecurity that he lost four inches whenever  he took off his Hockey Skates. I’m sad to say that he likely continues to take out his “shortcomings” as a Minneapolis Police Officer.

We discussed relationships; long marriages, divorces, remarriages, children, grandchildren, even Godchildren. We discussed death; former classmates, siblings, parents and God forbid those who had endured the loss of children. We inquired about our friends siblings and learned that not only relationships of choice sometimes end but even those of blood are sometimes severed when maintaining the bond is no longer healthy and amputation of a limb  of the family tree is the best option.  We talked about work, travel, moving, pets, concerts, camping and the ache that comes when children grow up, gain their independence, lead their own exciting lives and leave us with an empty space that we might lack the collagen to have close quickly and naturally and the choices we have about how to manually fill those open spaces. Nothing we said was shocking or judged or remotely evaluated. It simply was. We learned of those battling illness, those who we lost due to lifestyle choices, those who regained their footing after epic challenges, the wild youth who embraced sobriety as adults. We championed the triumphs of our peers and used each other to connect the dots and locate where some of our other lost childhood friends had landed. We confused names, described physical attributes and referenced addresses based on the family names of others who lived nearby. When I mentioned Kennesaw Drug and then said “It became Butler Drug” one of the women nodded “Where I got caught shoplifting.” I laughed recalling that my own dalmatian had entered the store one hot summer day and exited with an 8-pak of Snickers that had been on display in baskets along the lower shelves in the candy aisle. Kids and canines of the neighborhood all had some experience linked to the store. I remember my brother’s friend getting caught for stealing Hot Wheels it’s where shampoos and cosmetics we learned about from Teen magazine could be procured or you could sample perfumes. There was a pharmacy in the back and their delivery car was a Volkswagen beetle with a cartoon image of pharmacist “Herbie” on the side, it was across from the Tom Thumb “superette” where you could purchase milk in returnable jugs or purchase cigarettes with a note from your parents. Hell, it was an era where you pretty much could do anything with a note from your parents. One of the attendees took her little sister to Canada (while in high school) on a Greyhound bus and was reminded to “bring a note from your parents next time.” Hell, we could do nearly anything, including leave the country without a note from our parents.

Long before a TV show made a zip code synonymous with Beverly Hills, we were the women of Minneapolis 55410, we walked the same lake paths that Mary Tyler Moore immortalized during the opening credits of her TV show. We attended Story Hour in the iconic Carnegie-era Linden Hills Library, resplendent with leaded glass windows, built-in  benches and story-book tiled fireplace. We played SWAC sports at Linden Hills or Pershing Park and went to the Tastee Treet for cones afterwards  or the DQ (which we could see from our table) which closed in just the past couple of months, close enough to the high school to grab lunch at during the allotted half an hour, IF you were willing to eat while walking.

For over two hours, there was no lull in conversation, not even when the food came. We were noisy! We spoke loudly, we interrupted, interjected but mostly we laughed. We misheard, asked for clarifications, jumped conversations. We heard about wedding plans, impending grandchildren and retirement ideas. We agreed to not wait so long to get together again.

We were girls of the transistor radio era, we had listened to American Top 40 together while swatting mosquitoes. Later we tanned at Lake Harriet or skated to those same songs at the Roller Gardens in St. Louis Park, a suburb which provided many of my friends with their boyfriends. Sometimes they were older boys whose tastes in alcohol, music and muscle cars made them an appealing option.

We started our school careers as girls who wore dresses and being Minnesotans we wore pants under them to and from school during the coldest months. Our teachers were the edgy women  who marshaled in the revolutionary pantsuit which in the 1970’s did not consist of a jacket and pants at all but rather a dress that came with coordinating pants of the same fabric. Basically, these fashion monstrosities were the grown women rebelling by wearing pants under their dresses, just like the girls did on the the playground. We were exposed to lots of rebellion during our youth, with older siblings returning from Vietnam; boys grew their hair out, marijuana smoke wafted in public venues, music lyrics grew more graphic and the girls of Linden Hills mimicked the culture of our youth. Some of us followed the rules and some of us rebelled against rules, teachers, parents and laws.

We sat and talked about nearly everything but politics. A refreshing change of pace from a year of divisiveness. Some joked about their therapy. One is a full-time seminary student, having raised her kids and having finally found time for herself. While talking about the pro’s and cons of getting another dog, another joked that she hated to be cliche but she (a lesbian) owns two cats. While a divorcee with two adult children talked about her and her partner of three years going out for a birthday celebration another woman inquired “did you know in high school?” and before she could respond I jumped in “I don’t think that was really considered an option then.” to which she agreed. They talked about the other girls we grew up with whom they thought were likely lesbians as well. I marveled a bit that the last time I’d encountered these women the word “partner” had the singular connotation of being the person you were paired with for badminton or tennis.

We are no longer the little girls who went to school together, were antagonized by the same boys, who hung out at the same parks and venues.  We are all grown up and became the women we wanted to become. Not the ones that others had supposed us to be or shamed us into pretending we were. We’re the women who not only don’t wear pants under our dresses, we’re the women who don’t have to wear dresses if we don’t choose to, the women who could choose not to comb our hair if we don’t want to. We grew into the best versions of those sassy, silly, sneaky and snarky little girls and regardless of how different we are, we all have each others backs and appreciate each other for our shared beginnings. We have moved, we have traveled but we have in our DNA the water of Lake Harriet, the appreciation of the Indians who settled on the shores of Lake Calhoun and whom the original students of Southwest selected as their mascot and an abiding thankfulness that our parents opted to raise us in Minneapolis 55410. Hope to see you ladies all again soon (Golden Friends)!

 

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Blogging, childhood, sports, Uncategorized

Super Bowl – You Betcha

I hate to say it but were it not for living in a cold climate, I might not even follow pro-football. Yet, as someone who has lived the majority of my life in Minnesota (and a couple of years in Wisconsin) it’s a pastime whose bulk of the season takes place during our coldest, darkest, snow-covered weekends. While I most enjoy watching players doing their jobs in locales where they can see their breath, it does feel like a mini-vacation when a game is played somewhere sunny and warm and tailgating doesn’t require snow-pants and I imagine the fans smell of sunscreen.

Attached you will see the picture of my Superbowl. That’s right, that’s the vessel that typically holds the Tostitos, yesterday it was the bite-sized, sometimes it’s Scoops. If I plan in advance, occasionally it holds ripple chips, a sturdy transport for my homemade onion dip that is best made a day prior to consumption.

I have been a lifelong Vikings’ fan but with one peculiarity among most of my peers. I have a healthy respect for the Green Bay Packers, as I love the loyalty of their fans and have many friends who bleed green and gold. I also admire them for playing outside, the way the Vikings did when I first started watching them.

I’ll be honest, that I remember football being confusing as a kid, I recall watching games on black and white televisions where it was necessary to know if you were cheering for the light jerseys or the dark jerseys. Yet, I began watching football in an era when many fell in love with the Vikings!

The year I started kindergarten is the year the Vikings won their first division title. The following year, they won the title and their first ever play-off game and went on to their first ever Superbowl game which they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23 – 7. By the time I was in third grade the Vikings had won four consecutive division championships, meaning they’d held the title for half of my lifetime! What’s not to love?

The Vikings went on to lose two more Superbowls while I was attending elementary school. Followed by their fourth loss while I was in the eighth grade. It was an era of winters where I proudly wore my purple winter hat with the gold and white pom-pom on it and the Vikings logo patch sewn on up front. I wore it on my walk to school, I wore it when shoveling snow and I wore it while ice skating with friends at Linden Hills Park and on the rink at Lake Harriet. I even wore it in Wisconsin when I snowmobiled. I came to realize over the years that no amount of Vikings-apparel-wearing impacted the outcome of their seasons. My purchase of the Wild Card sweatshirt while working at Winona State during the ’87 season (probably the result of some euphoric pro-sports high after the Twins World Series victory) did not garner a victorious outcome. My most recent sweatshirt purchase for a party when the Vikings played the Saints for a 2009 NFC championship loss didn’t create good karma either. You may recall that last game mentioned as the era where the Saints did not behave like Saints but were incentivized to injure players with a bounty. Some thought it was wonderful they beat the Vikings because New Orleans was still recovering from hurricane Katrina and others thought that rewarding cheating and being poor role models blemished their eventual Superbowl Victory. Choosing to be an optimist, I look at each Vikings apparel purchase not as a means to ensure a win but rather as a wardrobe item that makes getting dressed for several Sundays each year an effortless task.

The Vikings have been having a bit of a dry patch, a spell only four years shy of the length of the Cold War. I’ve looked forward to having a couple of beers and watching the Viking’s play in a Superbowl game. I was thirteen the last they made a Superbowl appearance. Gerald Ford was packing up and preparing to move out of the White House. Fran Tarkenton was nearing the end of his second reign as the team quarterback and was less than a decade from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

This season began as another hopeful one, undefeated in the first five games it seemed like this was “our year” but any true Vikings’ fan knows that it is when a season appears to be going our way, heck even when a game seems to be going our way, the Vikings are able to lose a great lead in the waning minutes like no other. This is especially true when the stakes are high! If there is an opportunity to clutch defeat from what appears to be an obvious victory, the Vikings are notorious for it. Perhaps it builds character, puts the whole thing in perspective of “it’s only a game.”. The Vikings have allowed us to raise our children humble and learn not to take things for granted. The Vikings have taught us how to love family, even when the members disappoint us and we’d like to give up on them. Sometimes in life, if you want to bathe yourself in Gatorade you are going to need to pour it on yourself because even though you gave your best, you simply were outplayed, outsmarted or outscored.

With my own children in their twenties, they see pro-football as a tradition of Dad napping on the couch, Mom yelling at the TV and our family dog looking for a handout. As young kids they went along with the annual ritual of the season, lured in by Velveeta-based concoctions and midday pizzas. Once my son became a pescatarian the Hormel Chili-based temptation no longer worked. Instead of viewing regular season games, they would watch the Superbowl for the food, the commercials and halftime show, tolerating the intermittent interruptions of football game. Teams to cheer for were selected by jersey color, a disliked team member to cheer against or varied pop culture reasons such as being married to a hot super model. What do you expect? It’s been four decades since their “home team” has even been in a Superbowl.

Crockpot.jpg

Yesterday my daughter and her roommate came by after work to participate in the American tradition of the Superbowl. The disappointments did not come (for us) from the plays on the field but rather from a lack of Clydesdales and puppies and too many previously seen commercials. The bright spots included both the Justin Timberlake and Melissa McCarthy ads, the Honda CRV celebrities yearbook commercial and the series of amusingly awkward T-Mobile promotions.

The main attraction was actually gathering around the crockpots, a midwestern custom akin to gathering around a campfire. This act is less about warmth and survival and more about salty and savory concoctions that could be made any day of the year but cardiologists recommend against it. Totino’s pizza rolls in the oven at halftime and even the most cynical sports fan has something to celebrate!

The halftime show did not disappoint. It was an energetic spectacular. As a Minnesotan I am keenly aware of our most recent Superbowl legacy. In 1992 we hosted and the halftime show remains an epic embarassment. If you have time and don’t recall the winter wonderland themed showcase that seemed better suited to a 1970’s variety show than a major sporting event, I encourage you to look it up. The opportunity to regain our dignity is upon us, as we are on deck to host the 2018 Superbowl. While it seems inevitable that we will have some sort of tribute to Prince, I’ll be anxious to see who is selected to perform. How amazing might it be to have the Vikings compete with home field advantage? Shoot, I hope that didn’t jinx them.

While the game yesterday was unlike any former Superbowl with a huge comeback and firstever brief overtime, I’m going to say that the final outcome was that my daughter and her roommate were the winners. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the Lombardi trophy they took but they did not leave empty handed. The crockpots were emptied and we sent them home with Rotel-dip, Hormel dip, Italian meatballs in marinara, an unopened bag of Scoops. We Vikings fans may not have a Superbowl title but we have our traditions none the less!

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Blogging, childhood, Politics, Uncategorized

That Added a Whole New Meaning to “Lip Service”

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Merriam – Webster                                                                                                                    Definition of Lip Service: an avowal or advocacy, adherence, or allegiance expressed in words but not backed by deeds – usually used with pay

Our country inaugurated a new president a week ago today. The following day there were Women’s Marches from Washington DC to communities and campuses around the United States and in different locations all over the globe. The following are some of my thoughts and observations.

I found the Pussyhat Project to be a well orchestrated and unifying gesture for the women who chose to attend marches or supported the concept of showing solidarity around the topic of women’s rights, through the creation and wearing of pink hats. I was in no way inspired by the numerous march attendees who opted to individually or in groups dress as enormous vaginas, appearing to be birthing full-grown adults. Though I imagine Hobby Lobby appreciated the high sales of varying shades of pink and lavender fabrics. If you’re feeling like being crafty for a cause I have a friend who’s looking for 300 baby blankets to take with her to Africa this spring and I also have a neighbor who can hook you up with a pillowcase pattern to make fun pillowcases for critically ill hospitalized children. Your local high school theater or show choir could also benefit from your handiwork.

In terms of not wanting to objectify women, I’m unclear as to how dressing like genitalia somehow takes the focus off of that. I will say that it was easy to divide the age of the costumed women by those who opted to crown their costumes with yarn and those who opted for a clean V. Though my own children are now adults, my personal litmus for politics is “will this be awkward to explain to a child?”. Before I had children, I gave little thought to such things but I have in a previous blog told the story of my son questioning why the show he was watching was interrupted and me needing to explain that the President was apologizing to the nation. His questions led to me having to further explain that he had previously lied to the country during a similar appearance. That was followed up by my “white lie” of “he kissed someone who wasn’t his wife”. My son was three in 1998 and I have never regretted not getting into the oral sex infidelities of the Commander in Chief at that time.We did discuss that childhood memory during a conversation from college earlier this week.

While pink hats convey a message which might be easily explained as  simply as “they are part of the same team”. The tawdry costumes sort of defy explanation. Most parents have taught their children to some degree that there are private parts of their body. Having grown adults parade around publicly dressed cartoon-like as those private parts seems to have no real benefit. Clearly these were not the marchers who were there because they were concerned about the environment, as I’m envisioning most of those are headed for landfills. Perhaps some will be sold on eBay “One slightly used Cooter. Best offer.” why not just use the same description from their online dating profile? Then there are also the proud women who think that these marches have the same significance as the marching of the suffragettes and will hang onto it for future generations. Fast-forward to 2110 “Mom, what is this?” and then the thoughtful explanation “That’s your great-grandmothers vagina that she packed in moth balls. She fondly talked about the importance of her work with fellow women at the time.” then the poor kid will be looking around for great-grandfather’s penis costume, because after all if the entire objective is equality, that only makes sense.

I have on occasion while writing my blog posted a bold prediction. My crystal ball is telling me that a college student or group of college students, perhaps even those participating in a Greek Life organization (fraternity/sorority) will be kicked out of school, placed on probation or summoned to the Dean’s Office after wearing the very same costume(s) on Halloween next year. It will be deemed as vulgar, inappropriate, objectifying. They will come back with the explanation that they were supporting women’s rights and likely they will be ridiculed and ostracized by various groups on campus. My crystal ball is getting foggy but some people after seeing fellow students in those costumes may need to seek out a safe place. If anything, the costumes struck me as a distraction from what many sincerely wanted to communicate. If all I have in common with you is shared anatomy, that’s not much to base a movement upon. Especially knowing that people of all genders, orientations, melanin content, faiths, abilities and education don’t necessarily share the same political views. When you are encouraging participation by people wearing hijabs for modesty, it seems downright intentionally offensive.

My political activism began as a 17-year-old high school student who was trained by the Minnesota Secretary of State to register voters. The first campaign I worked on was while in college during a fellow students failed attempt to win a seat on the City Council. During caucuses I typically am either the convener or the secretary for my precinct. I serve as an Assistant Head Election Judge in the county where I live. I get one vote, just like everyone else.

I’ll be the first to admit that this most recent presidential election was unlike any other I have witnessed in my lifetime. While the Bush vs Gore election left us wondering who our president would be for an extended period of time, I think the most shocking election result while I’ve been politically active was the Minnesota Governor’s race where former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s son Skip ran against the party switching St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and they were both defeated by former Navy Seal and All-Star Wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Minnesota is politically fickle, consistently liberal and is the only state who garnered electoral college votes for favorite son, former Vice President Walter Mondale who was soundly defeated by Ronald Reagan.

Something that I think has changed within my lifetime is how voters respond to a loss by their candidate. I feel that perhaps we are reaping the results of a generation raised to not compete (not keeping score during childhood games) and unable to graciously concede. There is an art to losing gracefully, it has to be developed.  West St. Paul native Harold Stassen serves as a fine example of a Minnesotan who recognized that one does not have to quit simply because they don’t achieve what they desire. Politically successful as the Governor of Minnesota and the only person to ever hold the title Director of the US Foreign Operations Administration (a post that existed during a portion of the Eisenhower administration) his efforts to win his party’s endorsement as a Presidential candidate failed nine times. From 1944 when my father was in junior high and my mother was in elementary school and every four years all the way up until 1992 when I was a parent myself, he threw his hat in the ring.

As I’ve blogged about before, I am a political junky. I watch the conventions of both major parties. I enjoy the debates. I watch news programs and enjoy reading the paper. I love discussions and will call into question a social media post of a friend if I’m unclear on what their point is. I made a discovery only recently when taking a CareerCode Inventory (a job-focused version of the Holland Code) that identified me with a trait most do not have. A skill of my type is the capacity to “See every side of a story”.  Seeing this in my detailed code description, I realized that my friends aren’t intentionally being obtuse, they actually don’t possess the ability necessary to easily see something from a perspective other than the one they identify with. While fiscally conservative and socially more centrist in a liberal state, I am accustomed to having my opinions vilified. Minnesota prides itself on high voter turnout, I have often said that it’s more important for informed voters to vote. As my own children began voting, I recommended they select a few offices and learn about those candidates and choose based on their values who to support and if they didn’t want to learn about the judges, or school board or council members that was okay. Other than when casting a straw vote during caucuses, or during a primary to determine who is on the ticket, I have never felt an obligation to vote a straight party ticket.

Over the years I have had many friends tell me that they “aren’t interested in politics” as though they are picking an interest like sports or theater. One can live without attending a play or following an athletic franchise. Politics are more like oxygen, they impact your quality of life. While this most recent presidential election pulled some people into political activism, it seems that the aftermath is what has really mobilized people who had perhaps not engaged in politics much before. So an election which most Americans were looking forward to getting over and done with has polarized citizens in the aftermath more than during the campaign itself. If that can be done in a respectful way, that strikes me as a win. Having citizens engage may be something that had been set aside with the increase of more couples both working, a greater number of single parents and perhaps a more mobile citizenry. Perhaps it’s the result of taking Civics classes out of schools and people not fully grasping the concept of a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people…”.

Many of my friends participated in the Women’s March the day following the Trump inauguration. Friends from elementary school showed up in my Facebook feed, some marching with their husbands, others marching with their daughters. Due to the turnouts, most weren’t actually marching at all but were gathered with others, some in the pink hats, others holding signs. There were friends I attended high school and college with. Still more proudly sharing where their college-aged students were marching. A former supervisor of mine posted locations across the country where various members of her family were peacefully participating. My favorite was a college friend who posted a picture of his daughter, a high school senior who organized the “Girl Up Women’s Walk” before school at the American School of Doha that drew 250 participants. I watched portions of the DC event via CNN.

In nearly every post that I saw and every video that I watched the participants appeared to be having a great time. They looked happy, much like people look when attending a music festival or large sporting event. The two exceptions were the arrest of a moronic counter-protester in St. Paul and a video of a Trump supporter having her hair lit on fire at one of the rally locations. Both appeared to be isolated incidents that did not reflect the congenial attitudes of most of the participants.

The messages and reason for participation seemed as varied as the participants. Some stated they were there because they were anti-Trump. Others expressed concern for the environment. Some were asking who the Democrats would have running in 2020, having me hope that EITHER party put forth legislation with some limitation on campaign length, as financially and emotionally these two-year campaigns are not helping the country! There were people concerned about health care, others about LGBTQ issues. Scarlett Johansson and others spoke about Planned Parenthood.

I chose not to go, because despite the name Women’s March there were clearly opinions and values held by many women that were not welcome. I have never thought that an aspect of my anatomy informs my opinions on topics. While I am much more in favor of being “for” something than “anti” something I didn’t feel any real compelling reason to engage on that particular day, in that format. I am someone who has always volunteered, financially supported and contributed to causes and ideals that I believe in. I was pleased to see the freedoms of Americans being exercised, as they are protected. There are many things that I personally oppose, that I have no issue with others being in favor of, that’s what makes America a great country and unlike many others. I think the benefit of such large-scale gathering is that a percentage of those participating may follow-through and engage in supporting causes in their communities. Others admittedly were there simply to get a look at it, or feared they would be missing out on what might be an historic event if they did not attend, or succumbed to the peer pressure of others. Some felt angry and scared and wanted to be enveloped by a group of like-minded individuals. The reasons people chose to participate are as legitimate as the reasons other chose not to.

Many of my friends who participated are educators, nonprofit workers, attorneys and others in positions that are committed to the care of people of all ages and capabilities. Whether through their work, religious activities or simply in their own homes I would estimate that everyone that I personally know who participated or supported the efforts of the Marches is a compassionate person who has legitimate concerns. I would also describe the people I know who avoided the events in the same way.

I found most of the signs to be sincere, clever (“I’m with Her” with arrows pointing in all directions was a popular one) and legible. I will admit the ones that caught my eyes were the ones that can best be described as vulgar, distasteful and some that were just outright confusing. Seriously, if your “menstrual blood is going to flow through the streets” for any cause, you need to see a physician. To put little girls in Hello Kitty costumes and put signs on their backs about not touching their pussies, is about as appropriate as having the same girls dress as pole dancers for Halloween. I’m never in favor of using ones children to further a cause. It’s like putting a tattoo on a child, that’s a personal choice that they should be mature enough to make an informed decision about. One should never make assumptions about their child’s sexuality or political affiliation being the same as their own.

Those are my thoughts. I could have put them on a sign and met up with my friends to share some of them. With social media, there are much easier methods of conveying our messages to people throughout the country and around the world. A luxury the women who fought for our right to vote did not have. One of the great parts of being an American is that we don’t have to agree, with each other, with the president, with our neighbor. We’re not a homogeneous nation. We never have been and it’s doubtful we ever will be. I am mindful that many don’t agree with me and I respect and defend the right of others to peacefully share their message as well. In regards to “Lip Service”, time will be the measure as to if the words are backed by deeds.

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Feeling Stupid After Wisdom Teeth Extraction

nerp-wisdom-teeth-hospital

Teeth are sort of a big deal in my family. My mother had all of hers pulled when she was just 29. The fact she had been a preemie likely was the primary contributing factor as to how her teeth formed. Despite having  received extensive dental care and aggressive treatments by high school (in an attempt to retain her natural teeth) gum disease and decay resulted in the ultimate decision to pull them all. If I ever have nightmares, typically they involve my teeth being broken or falling out. I have awoken many a night over my lifetime to run my tongue over my teeth and am always relieved when my tongue finds no hole.

The only time I have had any of my teeth pulled was when my wisdom teeth were extracted as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore. A Facebook post earlier this year by my nephew Charlie brought the experience rushing back to me. I asked his permission to use his x-ray, showing his pierced septum.  He’s opted with his wisdom teeth to not have them all removed at the same time. While everyone’s wisdom teeth experience is different, I think mine was unique in that I spent two nights in the hospital to do it. When I gave birth to my son and had a rambunctious two-year-old at home, I got just one night of hospitalization.

I’ll preface my story by saying that I am the youngest of three and the only daughter in my family. That may be a contributing factor as to why I spent two nights in the Pediatric ward of a hospital in order to have four teeth extracted. Another factor may be that when my eldest brother had his wisdom teeth removed, my mother took him on the city  bus. He had the last appointment of the day and the anesthesia was still wearing off when he was brought to her in the waiting area. She had to work him into his letter jacket while he cried from the after-affects of being put under. A high school kid, taller than his mother, being led to the bus stop for a return trip home was not a scenario my mother would have enjoyed repeating. I imagine perhaps that my father provided transport home in the blue Plymouth station wagon as a courtesy to my other brother when his time came. For whatever reason, when it was my turn it was determined that I would have my four impacted teeth removed at Fairview Southdale hospital.

I was checked into the hospital the evening before the surgery, in order to be prepped and ready early the next day. I shared a room with a girl that was having her extraction done by the same surgeon the following morning prior to my own procedure. She was a model, who had a shoot scheduled two days later. I’ve always been a bit curious how that turned out.

Prior to being taken to pre-op I  was told that my surgery was scheduled for six AM and that once the anesthetic had warn off enough in recovery, I would be brought up to the same room and could have as much to drink as I desired, fluids having been withheld since the previous evening. The procedure ahead of mine must have gone more quickly than anticipated, as I remember waking up to the annoying sound of crying and trying to focus on the clock on the far wall that appeared to be bouncing like a basketball. The clock indicated it was about five minutes prior to the six o’clock hour. I was terribly thirsty and confused and I remember thinking that I needed to get it together, as I was going into surgery in five minutes and also, the annoying crying I heard, that was actually me. I then realized my mouth was so dry because it was stuffed with gauze and little foam tubes. I was being suffocated (so I thought) with a plastic mask. I wasn’t having it, I yanked the mask off and started digging the packing out of my mouth. A nurse sat knitting in a chair a few feet from the left side of my gurney. I remember very intentionally wanting to hit her knitting with the bloody gauze. She rose and tried to calm me, attempting to keep me still. I then realized that my one arm was on a board and still had an IV in it. Then I was drawn to a commotion to my right, a boy, perhaps eight years old who was crying for his mother. I’m pretty sure he’d had his tonsils removed. His crying annoyed me and I looked over at him and drooled blood out the side of my mouth, completely  on purpose, in hopes of shutting him up. It’s bizarre how clearly I remember the details of this event from 1979, perhaps because the behaviors resulting from the sedation were entirely counter to my normally good-natured and nurturing personality. I was irritable, downright mean and despite the clock continuing to bounce I lied that I was ready to return to my room because I was so incredibly thirsty.

With social media so prevalent, it’s not uncommon now to see posts regarding patients coming to after outpatient procedures or Youtube videos of oddly emotional passengers on their way home from appointments. From my era, we just have our stories and mine doesn’t end with the trip back up to Pediatrics. When it came time for my own kids to have their teeth removed, I made sure to schedule them at a time when they could recover leisurely at home. The office had a lovely waiting room but the waiting patients never saw anyone who had already had their teeth pulled depart after their procedure. A rear exit was used and patients were brought down in wheelchairs. My daughter’s extraction took place between Christmas and New Years. Just as the oral surgeon indicated, the swelling and discomfort was the worst on the third day following surgery. My daughter and I were convinced that my son would be hilarious after surgery but the only unique behavior he exhibited was a general annoyance at us asking if he felt okay. He had hardly any swelling and was disgusted by the quantity and strength of the medications he was sent home with.

I had several friends visit me after school that day. The surgeon also came up later and brought me a cup filled with liquid and my teeth (and the skin around them) in it. When I requested to keep my teeth I had assumed I would get them in a small brown envelope like the one my brother had brought his long rooted teeth home in. I was a little disgusted.

I rested off and on, watched TV, ate a liquid diet of hospital offerings and dosed in and out of sedated slumber. I awoke confused and disoriented in a darkened room with illumination coming from the hallway through a partially opened door at my far right. To my left was a large window and a midnight blue sky speckled with stars. I had no recollection of where I was or how I got there. My eyes adjusted to the limited light and at the end of my bed was a figure. I realized it was a nurse and cradled in her arms was a baby. The nurse asked how I felt. What? How do I feel? How would you feel if you were fifteen, never had a boyfriend, had only kissed a boy through an obligatory activity such as Spin the Bottle or some other such “game” and suddenly you’re in the hospital with a newborn baby? I was panicked! I asked “Do my parents know I’m here?” She responded that it was too early for them to be here but they would come later to take me home. By “me” I assumed she meant “us” unless I’d put this baby up for adoption or something. I was pretty sure I was grounded for life. Then I suddenly felt a beautiful aching in my jaw. Wisdom teeth!!! I’d had my wisdom teeth pulled, there was still a metallic blood taste in my mouth. I’ve never experienced anything like this again in my life, a moment where something that seemed so insurmountably wrong resolved itself with that sort of instant clarity. While it was a “situation” that simply wasn’t, the relief that rushed over me was very real!

Later that day my parents did come and pick me up. In the days to follow, I swelled like a chipmunk and then bruised as though I’d been in a fist fight. Yet I felt relieved to have dodged teen parenthood. In retrospect it’s a hilarious story but at fifteen I was too embarrassed to even share the amusing anecdote. There is no good way to say “Mom and Dad, I thought I had a baby. Funny, right?” In an ironic twist, the next door neighbor brought her newborn over to visit during my recuperation. Looking at this picture nearly 38 years later reminds me of what I briefly thought life was going to look like for me. While the nurse took a tiny restless patient on her rounds to offer comfort, I doubt she realized she almost gave a teenage patient cardiac arrest!

nerp-wisdome-teeth-home

 

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Time Passes Even When the Battery is Dead

watches

The photograph at the top of this page tells a story, not the story that watches are intended to tell (the actual time). What this article covers may come across as familiar to those who read my work, it is the skeleton of an October 2015 blog with updates of the past 14 months. Like these watches, despite the passing of time, things look much the same. Though I am writing on my lap-top, I choose to be in the confines of my basement where I have crafted new versions of my resume’ and wordsmithed cover letters for what is now 48 months. Being here feels more like a job and I don’t want to forget what having a full-time job feels like. Each of these watches has the capacity to work, they simply are not working right now. While the watch is certainly more useful when it is working, it is not actually anymore valuable. There is a lessen in that. While I realize my value is not based on my employment status, I have a burning desire to put my skills to good use. I am hoping 2017 to be re-energized with a new battery!

Though some may envy what appears to be “free time” I have to admit that until experiencing it, I had no idea that a job search would be more exhausting than any work I had previously done, including the physical labor of landscaping one summer during college or juggling three jobs early in my marriage. I think that’s because even if you work a twelve hour shift, when you come home you know that you are no longer working. In contrast, when you get up from your computer when unemployed, your mind still knows that your job is to find work and you therefore are not off the clock; not when driving, not while lying in bed, not even when socializing at a party.

Despite beginning to look for my next position immediately upon receiving the news that my job of nearly twenty years was being eliminated, I am still occasionally asked “have you started to look yet?”. The length of my underemployment (I have had some limited work helping out businesses owned by those I know) has others asking “So where are you working now?”.  So this is my opportunity to share that I am still in the hunt. I feel fortunate that I am currently enjoying a part-time gig  selling poinsettias, wreaths and Christmas trees at a local garden center. I am thankful for the human interaction and chance to spread some holiday cheer. The only issue with working part-time while job hunting is that it poses some distraction from the daily cycle of the search.

I have had the unique experience of having six unemployment counselors (technically only four, as twice I have come back to the same person, one ironically after being laid off because of the promising unemployment numbers) all confident in my ability to find work. Each time I meet with one they look at my resume, tell me that my experience and skills are valuable and that I should have no problem finding work. I have taken many interesting classes, attended multiple speakers and learned to navigate various forms of social media. Just yesterday I took the CareerCode test which tells me I am  “Social/Enterprising” which they further define as “The Connector”, I will have a follow-up class next week. This sounds much like my Holland Code which identified me as a SEA, I took that test at some point over the last three years ago.  These are the sorts of inventories I used to administer to those I supervised. While I value and enjoy this sort of exercise, there is not much new insight to what my skills and preferences are. All of the instructors have been very positive and encouraging, telling me that employment should not elude me. Yet here I am still looking at jobs with various communities, nonprofits, institutions and organizations. The one insight that my friends working in HR have confirmed to me is that I am not imagining that my age and ethnicity are not allowing employers to check off certain boxes in my favor. I submitted an application to AARP last month, thinking they might see the value in an enthusiastic and experienced employee. I have not heard back from them.

The Workforce center has undergone dramatic changes during my time job-seeking as well. When I first sought out assistance at the Hennepin South location, it took up the main floor of the building that housed it. Later, a wall was put up that divided the space and it took up just half of the floor. My assumption was budget cuts. More recently the wall has been removed and the space reconfigured allowing for a large lecture space, smaller classroom spaces and computer stations in what once was a hallway. I’m unclear now if it’s a good sign when unemployment services have budget cuts, indicating fewer people need the resources or a bad sign. The once flexible use of the computers has been limited and printing can only be completed at certain times. These issues don’t impact me nearly as much as I imagine they do the young parents who are looking for work and wish to complete these tasks at their convenience, not on some arbitrary timeline that is set by the Workforce Center. It is most annoying when there are four people working, only one client in the place, all computers are available but it’s “not time” to work on resumes.

I have had some interviews, which I enjoyed for the interaction and valued for their potential opportunity. I’ve looked at positions that were the right job in the wrong location, others which I had the experience for but lacked an advanced degree  and still more where I had the desire but not the software training. Still others looked like a fit for my experience but were not a good fit for my temperament. I am of an age where I know that it would be foolish to take on something over my head or that I don’t have a passion for. As an ENFP on the MBT Inventory I am aware of not only my strengths but also the detailed minutia that does not suit me in some opportunities. I seek variety, human interaction, an opportunity to guide collaboration and work that allows me to help others achieve at their optimum capacity.

When I was first out of work a person at the Unemployment Office suggested a class to me that would start in six weeks. My immediate response was “I don’t have six weeks to be out of work.” clearly a naive comment, from someone who had little knowledge or experience regarding the employment landscape. Similar to my friends who have endured illness/injury, the challenges of aging parents or struggles raising children, none of us choose our battles in life and as Winston Churchill so eloquently put it “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”. While unemployment for over four years (two while both children were in college) has been incredibly challenging, I am realistic enough to know what is and is not a crisis. Someday I may reflect on this time with more fondness than I am currently feeling while in the midst of it. My beagle Millie is the only family member hoping I don’t find another job. She thinks I work for her now. The benefits are great but there is no paycheck.

My business cards define me as a “Creative Problem Solver”, a moniker I arrived at after discussing the roles I have played in professional capacities and volunteer positions over the years.  A motivated group of unemployed students in a “branding class” in 2013 suggested  that it best described my varied skill set. When I say a group of unemployed people is “motivated” that is because of those I have encountered on this unintended journey who were not. Last year I encountered a man in his late forties who arrived at an unemployment session dressed more appropriately for a Jimmy Buffet concert; shorts, flip-flops, a crumpled straw hat and even though I was seated on the other side of the room, I believe there was a slight fragrance of coconut wafting across the room from him. In the fickle job-market it is quite possible that he is working now, while I continue to search. That doesn’t mean it’s quitting time, though it is 5 0’clock somewhere!

I need a job with variety in the daily responsibilities. I am creative and would be wasted in a mundane repetitive setting. I have worked for twenty years in property management but it is not the leasing or administrative tasks that I did, it was the designing of a program, the planning of activities, the marketing of the facilities and serving as a liaison to the surrounding community. I worked in student housing for twenty five years and love identifying strengths in people, building teams and developing leaders. I like making things work effectively, whether through developing policy to make expectations clear or sitting down with parties to collaborate on solutions to issues.

I have volunteered since I was a child and thrive working in a helping role with groups and organizations. Most recently I am back at my former high school, sitting on the Foundation board, helping with a year-long 75th anniversary celebration and serving as the chairperson for the newly formed Distinguished Alumni committee. My profile from yesterday’s class came with this quote “I am a part of all that I have met.” -Alfred Tennyson That pretty much sums me up!

I appreciate all that have passed along leads and suggestions over the past few years and I continue to welcome ideas and feedback. I wish I wanted to be a Realtor, or to sell insurance, work in banking or even sell cars, because there have been opportunities in those areas but I simply know those aren’t my callings. I am thankful for those who have told me they believe I could do talk radio, be a stand-up comic or write a book but I need a paycheck sooner than later. I am confident there is something out there for me and I will share with everyone once I have found what that is. Meanwhile I welcome any leads you may have. May 2017 bring health and prosperity to your home.

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My Roots Lead Back to November Fifth

Taking off his work boots at the end of the day

My Dad taking off his work boots at the end of the day

If you look at some calendars on November 5th you will see the notation “Guy Fawkes Day” what you won’t see is “Charles A. Roses’ Birthday”. If it falls on a Tuesday (after the first Monday) the calendar may read “Election Day”. For most the date doesn’t mean much at all. Were it not for one of these November 5th events, you would be reading something else right now, I simply wouldn’t exist. This November 5th is my father’s 85th birthday, though he’s been gone over half of my life (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/dad-gone-a-quarter-century) I feel compelled to do what I do on a regular basis, tell some stories about my dad. One might think that I would eventually run out of tales about my father after so much time has passed but I imagine that if I live to be eighty-five myself I will still be able to gather recollections from the recesses of my mind that highlight his humor, brilliance, general cleverness, patriotism  and huge heart. It wouldn’t take long either to come up with some epic examples of his stubbornness. chuck-rose

Chuck with his older brother Dick

Chuck with his older brother Dick

Growing up I sat to the right of my father at the kitchen table, during holidays in the dining room I was seated immediately to his left. It was during dinner, often while he cut my meat when I was little, that I would stare at his hands. My father’s fingers were twice as wide as my own adult fingers and his nails were large squares. The back of his hand had a fair amount of dark hair and occasionally I would ask him about the scar on the back of his one hand, a white crescent that was visible through the hair. Even though I knew the story, I liked to hear it because it reminded me that he was once a kid. The scar came from when he was in the garage as a child and the latch on the exterior of the doors fell into place, locking him in. After yelling for help and assuming he could not be heard he wound up and punched the glass out of one of the windows. This resulted in somebody hearing him and a permanent scar on the back of his hand. Every time I heard the story I felt sad for the scared little boy, admired his bravery and sort of wondered if maybe his brother hadn’t played a role in the situation.

My father was a bit of a prodigy on the piano as a child and though he didn’t play often while I was growing up it was delightful when he stood at the piano and banged out a jazz piece. My husband recalls him at the wedding where we met stepping over to a piano and hammering out a tune. It was like riding a bicycle for him, it just flowed naturally and never left him. His mother’s cousin who was born just a few years before my father and graduated high school with his brother shared with me recently that her family would occasionally be awoken in the morning to my father playing a tune. Sometimes upon completion of his paper route he would let himself in (in an era when people in Minneapolis didn’t lock their doors at night) and offer up an early morning recital. He was also a gifted drummer who would occasionally intentionally break a drum head during band in high school. “Why?” you might ask. The band director would then offer up the keys to his car and allow him and a classmate to drive to a music store to pick up a new one. I was sad when the Uptown Bar closed, as it was just down the street on Hennepin Avenue from where my parents (and grandparents) attended school at West High. The proximity meant that my father would stop in after school sometimes and play warm-ups with the jazz musicians that were passing through town in the 1940’s. It was there or The Rainbow that we would go together for a beer after meeting in Uptown for a haircut while I was in college.

On trip with parents before Korea

He instilled an appreciation of music in all of his children, even when our tastes did not always align. Music played most evenings while we ate dinner and when my brother Bob was a senior in high school, that meant his favorite Rod Stewart Album nearly every night. While other homes had stereo, we had Quadraphonics. We listened to 45’s, LPs and old 78 rpm records. When a favored orchestra performance was broadcast live on  a local radio station he would often record it on his reel to reel and replay it later. With no air-conditioning in the the house and his music playing loudly in the summertime there would be the occasional quizzical look of a passerby who overheard the station break from months earlier predicting below zero temps or several inches of snow. When the Minnesota Orchestra opened a new concert venue in the early 1970’s he purchased a pair of season tickets to Orchestra Hall and I loved the nights I got to dress up and attend with him and then go out after the show for a late dinner. It was pretty heady stuff for an elementary student on a school night. He not only enjoyed listening to music, he loved to dance to it and since my mother didn’t much enjoy dancing I relished in the opportunity to join him, whether in a ballroom or neighbor’s living room. The only real luxury item I ever recall my father purchasing for himself was a pair of red patent leather shoes with a red suede accent, they were beautiful.

At the cabin 1959

At the cabin 1959

Other than his time in the Army during the Korean War (he didn’t talk about it much but enough to let me know not to refer to it as a “conflict”) and a stint in Milwaukee while he went to engineering school, worked at a camera store and started his family, the major portion of his life was spent in Minneapolis. His ancestors were among the early tradesman that built Minneapolis and as a foreman of the electricians on the IDS building (downtown) he himself participated in the changing skyline of the city he called home. His sons had memberships at the YMCA he had gone to as a kid. He took pleasure in his children enjoying the lakes he’d sailed in his youth and the independence he had experienced via streetcar was accessible to us via bus. While certainly Minneapolis has changed much since my father’s youth, it was not an entirely innocent place. He had gangsters for neighbors and once witnessed a shootout on the way to the store for his mother, a tale that got him in trouble for lying until she read about it in the Minneapolis Star the next day. News traveled differently in those days and during WWII much of it came from the newsreels shown prior to movies at the local theater or via the radio. He typically attended the movies each Saturday and as a flexible gymnast found humor in tumbling down the stairs from the balcony. He had a lot of freedom as a kid, taking the streetcar all the way out to lake Minnetonka to visit his grandmother and he also had a lot of responsibility, including going to some of his grandmother’s rental properties to stoke the buildings furnace on his way to school in the morning.

Dad sailing as a kid

Dad sailing as a kid

My father was what years later would be described as an “early adopter”, he was the first one in his family to purchase a TV set, a new invention that he was enthralled with. During my growing up years he paid little attention to the situation comedies or dramas that filled the airwaves but opted to watch when National Geographic or Jacques Cousteau had a “special” which is a somewhat colloquial term for not “regularly scheduled programming”. On the occasions later in life when he was home recovering after a hospitalization he would tease my mother regarding her soap operas. “Is that the same phone conversation she was having after my surgery three years ago?” he would inquire. We were the first people I knew that owned  a calculator, a Texas Instruments gadget that was an inch thick and I would later describe to my own children as an invention that could “add, subtract, multiply AND divide!”. It was a $100.00 investment in a new technology. We likely owned the first microwave on the block as well. It was a huge heavy model that simply had a single knob for the timer. He loved inventions, studied how things worked and were he to have had better health and a longer life would likely have his name on a number of patents that he was working on.

Christmas breakfast

Christmas breakfast a Rose family tradition

My father did not like to feel taken advantage of and many of my favorite stories are of times he stood his ground. It’s a quality of his that I am often reminded of when dealing with issues of fairness. I never feel alone when I stand my ground, it often feels like he is right there with me backing me up or chuckling at my determination. A favorite example of this was after a purchase of a refrigerator from Sears. It was delivered to our house on Pleasant Avenue while he was at work and my mother was home. He arrived home to realize that the refrigerator was a lesser model than the one he had ordered and paid for. He called Sears to explain their error and wanted the situation rectified. When they told him it would be a couple of days, that simply was not good enough for him. He asked “Well how long will it keep the food fresh without electricity?” They told him not to unplug it. He claimed he did not have enough extension cords to keep it plugged in, as he had moved it to the back alley for convenient pick-up. Sears had the correct model to our home that evening, at which time my father unplugged the refrigerator and removed the perishable items. He could justify his white lie by having been lied to first. They shouldn’t have told him they could not get the refrigerator to him that night when quite obviously they could and ultimately did.

Playing charades at a Job Daughters event (Electrician)

Playing charades at a Job’s Daughters event (Electrician)

I am fortunate to have friends from my youth who will occasionally mention to my kids that their grandfather was a really nice guy. Typically they’ll say how funny he was but often they reflect on how kind he was and that unlike many of their friends parents he actually took interest in them. My oldest brother remembers him as strict, acknowledging that with me he was considerably more lenient. He had high expectations and he was not a man I wanted to disappoint. He was generous with his time and knowledge and showed a lot of compassion. I remember when our neighbor with young kids got laid off work that I babysat, so my parents could take them to dinner. I recall that when my cousin arrived from New Orleans with a paper sack of possessions and pregnant that my father took her in. After his own father died, his stepmother became someone else he watched over, much like he’d done with his favorite aunt years earlier. Smart, good, kind, funny and compassionate, tempered with stubborn and of strong opinion isn’t a bad legacy to leave.

rose-family-1963

Rose Family 1963

My father never really had any birthday wishes that he shared with us and typically would tell us that he had everything he needed. He did however like to tease that his birthday was a big event. If he saw a delivery truck anytime after mid-October he would suggest “we should get home, November 5th is right around the corner and they may need a signature for delivery.” Living in the flight pattern of the MSP airport he would often look up in the fall and claim “If it’s something big, they may be airlifting it in.” He would joke about November 5th when we passed the Cadillac dealership as well. When I was little I remembered my mother’s birthday was in the month of March but “November fifth” was etched in my memory as my father’s birth date from a very young age. It’s a day I will always fondly celebrate. If you knew Chuck or simply resonate with a father who packed a lot of wisdom and some excellent parenting into a truncated life, I encourage you to raise a glass on Saturday and toast to him as well!

My parents with their best friends Jan & Bill Newland

My parents with their best friends Jan & Bill Newland

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