What You Get for Not Moving

As i recently noted, we continue to reel from our home improvements. About time, you say? Yeh. Thirty-one years this September. When we really, really, really chucked any ideas about relocating or buying down, we started this stuff. Copper re-piping, done. Dry wall repair, done. Paint, done. 13,000 square feet slope reinvented, done. Bath and half-bath re-do? It started with planning today.

And i’m still moving back in my office and cleaning up my garage. Yeh, it’s my garage…for her car and all the stuff of mine she doesn’t want in the house. Love it.

But you know what? Good things can come from upheaval. For example: after clearing out my treasured large bookcase and my office closet and taking everything off the walls, i had to put them back up. It is taking me a while. i keep running into things that demand some reflective dreaming. Like yesterday, i ran across a box originally for a dozen golf balls. Inside were treasures like:

On the left, my cousins, Myrtle and Joann Jewell, c. 1932. Two beautiful women who also happened to be some of the nicest folks around. They and their younger sister Shirley made their parents, Aunt Alice and Uncle Jesse proud.

On the right, their and my uncle George Martin doing what made him happy. He was not only my father’s brother-in-law, they were cronies in everything, and his son Maxwell followed in his footsteps.

For now, i’ll end with this other treasure:

Maureen’s office, Parron-Hall Office Interiors had a party on a ship in the bay, San Diego Bay. It was a great time. i remember how we wowed them with our dancing to old time rock and roll. i moved pretty well back then, but she was marvelous.

And i’m still going through this stuff.

What’s next?



One hundred and four years ago, my mother was born as World War I was entering its final stages. She was born in Lebanon, a small county seat smack dab in the middle of Tennessee, far removed from the war in Europe.

She lived in that little town for just shy of 97 years. She pointed out her eventual husband to her mother from a house porch on North Cumberland Street when he was walking down the street from an afternoon job working with his father. He was eighteen, having lost three years of school because he contracted yellow fever when he was seven. They were in the same sophomore class, 1932-33, at Lebanon High School. In 1938, they were married by her grandfather, Bishop Joseph Webster at the First Methodist Church, inside because the plan for an outdoor wedding was abandoned due to the day long rain deluge. It was her father-in-law’s last public appearance. Hiram Culley Jewell died months later of tuberculosis.

The marriage lasted for just over seventy-five years. He died in August 2013, just forty days or so shy of 99. She followed him nine months later about a month shy of 97. They are gone but i think of them every day and both of them continue to teach me how to behave as i reach that part of the path they have already walked.

i have written volumes about her. Today, i walked up my hill to change the hooks on my flagpole, which had deteriorated over the years.  i accomplished my tasks. As usual, i scanned the view to the west. Navy ships moored at rest in the Naval Station, the Coronado Bridge, Point Loma, and the skyline of San Diego. Then i turned eastward and checked out Mount Miguel. Finally, i looked down on our backyard and noticed the empty chair outside our kitchen door. i often pull it from the patio set to tend to my grill when i have cooking duties.

It dawned on me that was one of the places she loved to sit. When they would come out for their winter sojourn, they stayed in their fifth wheel in an over-50 RV park at the southern end of the Silver Strand but spent the entire day and evening at our home, doing miraculous projects to make the home better.

When the Southwest corner sun would complete its swing across the southern hills and mesas of Mexico, it beamed its warm rays onto our backyard. Often Mother would stop whatever task she had taken on for the day and walk out to that patio and sit in the chair i had placed there. Unaware anyone was watching, she would sit down with the chair facing the sun, 70 degrees, no clouds. She would lean back, raise her head to the sun, close her eyes. And rest.

She was the picture of some one at peace.

i remembered, standing on that hill looking down this morning. Her smile with her eyes closed spoke volumes about contentment.

i think of her love for her husband, children, grandchildren, relatives, and countless number of friends. i’m sure sitting in that sun on what is now an empty chair, she was contemplating her love for them..

i suspect she is enjoying that sun now, loving the warmth, loving all of us.

Happy Birthday, Mother.

No Photos Allowed

Photographs were allowed to be taken.

i did not. To do so, would have put something between me and the event. It was not for capturing the moment. It was the moment.

i wished for so many folks to be with me to share. Maureen, Blythe, Sarah, Sam, you too Jason, and many others. But this one was mine, all mine.

Tonight, at 7:54 P.M. PDT, or as mariners are inclined, 0254 GMT, the sun set. i was up at the top of our hill overlooking the Naval Station with its ships moored to the piers and the city of San Diego to the west.

i was there to lower the flag at sunset. The wind had finally tattered the ends. Tomorrow morning, i will raise the new flag. This was something i did every night for quite a while quite a while ago. That’s when i had this lab. His name was Cass, with a registered name of Ike McCaslin, like the young man in Faulkner’s The Bear. Each night at sunset, Cass and i would climb that hill and lower the flag. We would descend and i would fold the flag according to the flag code. The next morning, we would retrace our path for me to raise the flag at 0800, according to military tradition. Cass and i would then walk down the hiking/horse riding trail through some steep hills where he would chase coyotes, jump rattlesnakes, roll possums while i enjoyed my morning workout.

But times changed. Folks in the neighborhood spoke of how they liked seeing my flag in the morning. So i configured some lighting that would allow me to keep the flag up all night according to the flag code. The praise from neighbors made it a good choice. Cass was gone. i no longer trekked up the hill at sunset nor ascended in the morning.

But tonight, i saw a green flash. No kidding. i’ve seen about a half dozen. The first was in 1979, when i was running the flight deck before the evening mess on the USS Tripoli (LHA 7), aboard as a member of the amphibious squadron staff. It was in the doldrums of the South China Sea. i paused my running at the sunset and saw it. i had read a James Jones novel  about such an occurrence, but thought it was imagined. It wasn’t.

I have seen several, about a half dozen, since. There was one in the Pacific, one in the Indian Ocean, one in the Caribbean, and one in the Mediterranean. and a couple right in the place i was tonight. But not like the one tonight. No. Not like the one tonight.

i stood in silence for almost five minutes. It took me away from all that ails us. i saw beauty. i saw nature in her glory. i saw peace.

As with all things, it did not last. The sun set.

But you know what? i shared it. Cass’ ashes are buried beneath that flagpole. There is an inscription on a plaque attached to the base: “To Cass, a good dog gone. 1984-1999. To your and our freedom.”

Yeah, i’m corny. But i felt him. He was there.

And unlike my time in Market Time across from the  Army  piers  Qui Nhon, South  Vietnam, i didn’t  take  a picture.




Some Things Make You Rethink

To be honest, my shortfall in writing posts since we returned from our Tennessee, Atlantat, Asheville trip back to the Southwest corner is not according to Hoyle.

i was going put a super Herculean effort into finishing my book edit to send to my editor. i have at least a half-dozen posts unfinished that i hope to still put here.

Then chaos visited the Southwest corner. The developer who built our home thirty-one years ago chose to put in “quest” piping (PVC) rather than copper to increase his profit margin with no regard for the new homeowners, aka us. In discussing a renovation of one of our bathrooms, Maureen was advised by an expert to change out the quest with copper.

We were lucky. Several places in the piping could have burst at any moment, and since we are on a slab with the piping in the attic and crawl spaces, many not crawlable (and yes, i know “crawlable” is not a word but it works for me), such a burst or leak would have caused some devastating damage and cost…well, a bundle.

It is over, but for more than two weeks, living at our home has been akin to living on a Navy ship during a major overhaul, which i can tell you is not a fun experience having experienced it four times. Back then, i found it interesting and sometimes laughable. This time at my age, i found it depressing.

So i spent my time on home tasks, not writing. After all, the most impacted room in the house was my office and my normal escape space in the garage was the set up area for the re-pipers.

Now, we have the painters coming to paint all the holes in the walls, covered and textured by the re-pipers, not painted. But i turned my focus back to the book. It feels good, But i haven’t posted anything much here.

However, something happened Saturday that gained my attention.

As you should know, i have turned my wife into a baseball fan, specifically a San Diego Padre baseball fan. We watched the Saturday game the Padres played in Washington, D.C. against the Nationals. In between the top and bottom halves of the sixth inning, the world stopped acting normally in Nationals Park. As the Padre manager, Jayce Tingler, was talking to the umpire while our Padres positioned themselves on the field, gun shots were heard throughout the stadium.

Those shots came from outside the stadium in a gunfight between people in two cars (maybe people: i’m not sure what you call people who are that small and stupid), but the shots sounded as if they were inside the stadiums.

Panic ensued. Fans began stampeding toward the exits only to be told by the stadium announcer to remain inside the stadium. The Padres were directed to go to the dugout except for the relievers in the bullpen who were ordered to stay in place.

Then heroes of a different kind stepped up, even though they were baseball heroes, superstars with mega salaries. i’m going from the reports i have from the San Diego media and today’s excellent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune sports section. Therefore, i have no comment about the Nationals players but am sure they reacted admirably.

But the Padre superstars? Fernando Tatis, Jr., the new poster boy of major league baseball who this spring signed an absurd $330 Million contract for 14 years was one of the many young men who stepped up to a next level. After he got to the dugout, not knowing where the shots were being fired, ran down the left field line, grabbed two children and sprinted back to the dugout. After depositing them in the safer confines of the dugout, he repeated the run and brought two more children back to safety. His efforts were duplicated by Jurickson Profar, Wil Myers, and Manny Machado who were also making rescue efforts. The team opened gates from the stands onto the field and ushered as many fans as would fit into the dugout.

Tatis’ quotes in the U-T story, are worth repeating:

“There were little kids…I felt like somebody had to go get them. I felt the safest place was the clubhouse. I was just trying to get the families and get to a safe place.

“…The situation changed immediately.” There was no longer player and fans. I feel like everyone was people, just human beings out there.”

There are other stories of players and their reaction to the crisis, but you can find them, and i won’t repeat them here.

But i gotta tell you, Tatis and the other Padre players have moved up a notch or two in my appreciation of them. Baseball is a game with the media pushing statistical heroes. But Saturday, the Padres had some real heroes on the field.

Note: i told Maureen this morning i wondered what the reaction would have been thirty years ago before mass shootings became a constant in our lives. i don’t know but i suspect it would have been significantly different.


No, not my Aunt Fran, Maureen’s maternal aunt. She was a pistol. And you didn’t want to cross her. But her legends are for a future tale.

About two weeks ago — i’m not sure exactly how the chain of information evolved between my wife and my daughter — i think my daughter told my wife about this Fran. They watched one of streaming series featuring this Fran.

The series is on Netflix. It’s called “Pretend It’s a City.” It is a collaborated project of Fran and Martin Scorsese.

We are halfway through the series. i remain amazed. Her name is Fran Lebowitz. She is New York, and in many ways, she captures my thoughts. More importantly, she makes me laugh.

You don’t have to be from the city to identify.

i’m not writing this to add some of my thoughts to her comments. i’m just recommending you watch someone who is wonderful in a different way.

Thanks, Fran and Martin.

The Gate

This was once the beginning of a long diatribe where fat fingers hit “send” rather than “save.” i pulled it and started again with the intent to describe a complete plumbing repiping, but i got ahead of myself and posted the repiping whine  as an introduction to thoughts on the Padres and the shooting in Washington at the baseball game.

So the gate is now finished; the painters have completed their work; and we are back into putting our home back in order and cleaning. Did i mention cleaning?

Rather than delaying this again, i will post now, today, in an instant, so i might, just might get along with the rest of my life.

Perhaps it is symbolic. i’m not sure. You see, i think “symbolism” in literature is often overblown. Critics; English professors, at least those who try to impress everyone that they know more about literature and poetry than anyone else on earth (and yeh, sometimes they actually know more, at least more than i do); and really off the wall folks who see symbolism in everything have sort of lost it.

When i was in my second semester class of freshman English at Vanderbilt, our professor was a graduate student, a seemingly nice person but not very attractive, and she wore pads on her armpits underneath her blouse — i’m sorry, but that is what i remember about her the most, that and in her class having a contest with some fraternity brothers to see if we could chew leaf tobacco through a class without spitting. She assigned us about a gazillion poems to analyze out of Robert Penn Warren’s and Cleanth Brooks state of the art book on poetry, Understanding Poetry. Her entry questions nearly always demanded we cite certain lines to be symbolic of…something.

We read something by…oh, i don’t know, Emily Dickinson or maybe one of the Romantics, who some later became some of my favorites. i loved the poem. It was beautiful. i liked it the way it was. i didn’t think it needed an interpretation outside of what it said. Foolishly, i wrote to that effect in my paper.

i received a “D.” i still have reservations about symbolism. i also have reservations about armpit pads.

But this gate…well maybe.

You see. i made that gate. Our gardener, landscaper par excellence, Paul Shipley, helped me with squaring the two halves and did the hard work of mounting the two parts to be even, level, and matching. The process almost took a month. i’m still not finished. There are some tweaks and touch up painting. It should be completely finished around the first of next week.

Now, i’m not anywhere close to a handyman. My male relatives from the previous generation, highlighted by my father, were more than handymen. They were craftsmen, knowledgeable  artists in all things around a home: woodworking, plumbing, electricity, motors, cars, boats. Well, pretty much everything that could be fixed. It seems my brother acquired some of those skills from our father. Nearly all of my golfing friends are more handy. They have done projects in their homes that blew me away. Compared to Pete Toennies, Rod Stark, Marty Linville, and Jim Hileman, i am a tinkerer.

But then, that gate has been a problem pretty much since we bought this house near thirty-one years ago, breaking every rule about buying a house in the process. The original gate was pretty ugly, but we kept it until we couldn’t stand it anymore. And, oh by the way, it had rotted and was full of termites. Then, a really nice guy named Dan who was doing some other handiwork in our house built a gate. It was solid. It was heavy. It worked. Eventually, Maureen decided it was too massive to suit her, and i recognized it also was beginning to rot.

We began looking for another gate. We saw many and couldn’t decide, but when this one guy who was doing some other yard work for us. He showed Maureen a gate design. She liked it. His gang built it. Nice looking for just shy of two months when it began to sag to the point we just barely open it without a Herculean effort.

So we started looking again. After a fruitless month or so when i stumbled across a metal frame for gates, i thought to myself that i could make us a gate. i showed Maureen a design from some home website, described how i could adapt it to a metal frame, and damn near fell on the floor when she told me she liked it and thought i should try. That was a little over a month ago. i claimed a part of the garage where we usually park one of our cars (mine, of course). i set up tables and put the first half together. Then the second half — ah yes, there are stories of mistakes here. Paul, with a tad of help from me, mounted the gate. i finished up adding hardware and retouching the whole. Some parts probably have six coats.

i think it, with proper maintenance be here for quite a while, at least as long as we need it.

Striking Gold: Thanks, Sean of the South

i gotta say this possibly is my all time favorite from Sean of the South. i post the link to his posts here on my website when one really strikes me as meaningful. i do this because i want my friends who are not subscribers to his posts have the opportunity to read some really good stuff.

This one is not only spot on. It’s something i try to do: remember what wonderful and wise people have said to me in the past, i would like to pass on to others. i am not as good with that kind of recall as Sean.

But these are priceless.


Thanks, Sean. And thanks, Judy Lewis Gray for introducing Sean to me several years ago.

Happy Birthday, daughter Blythe…again.

My daughter Blythe turned 49 today. Actually, she was born at 9:35 eastern time in upstate New York. She remains a beautiful, intelligent, and caring woman. She is also successful and the best mother to grandson Sam there good ever be.

i posted the article below three years ago. i started writing it again yesterday. It sounded familiar. It should have. My new version began “Forty-nine years ago, i was about to have a long day.” The older version began:

It was forty-six years ago today.

Around 2:00 in the afternoon, i had returned from putting out the sports section of The Watertown Daily Times in upstate New York, and i mean UPSTATE New York, still one of my favorite places in the world over three-quarters of a century.

i had a sandwich for lunch and laid down for my usual afternoon nap. After all, i had gotten up around 4:00 and walked to work, getting to my desk before 5:30. It was my routine, i thought the nap was well deserved since on most previous evenings i had been at a sports event, mostly the Watertown Royals semi-pro baseball game.

My wife nudged me gently to wake me up.

“Jim, I broke water,” she announced in an offhand manner, “It’s time to go to the hospital.”

After her water broke, Kathie called the hospital to let them know she was on her way, arranged the apartment for me in her absence and for her return with our new infant. She packed what she would need at the hospital. She was orderly and calm.

The sports editor was catatonic. He threw on some clothes, grabbed her small suitcase, and ushered her down the stairs of the second floor apartment. He didn’t exactly break the land speed record getting to the hospital, but let’s just say he didn’t tarry in traffic.

He drove the blue 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass to the emergency dock. She said something to the effect about his being silly and directed him to park in a regular space about a block away. They walked to the check-in counter. She was checked in and put into a room. He got to stay there for roughly three hours. They kicked him out. It wasn’t like it is today. Perhaps it was predictive of what would happen later.

He had supper out with his good friend and high school teacher Earl Weidemann and returned to the hospital. It was around 6:00. They parked him in the expectant father’s waiting room, a rather dark hole, and he waited there, worried about his wife and excited about what was imminent.

Just after 9:30, his wife gave birth to his daughter. She was beautiful, sporting a goodly amount of black hair. He was in heaven but not allowed to stay long. Her mother looked absolutely gorgeous and oh, oh so happy…perhaps because the worse part was over.

In just under two months, he would leave. The Navy looked like a good move for him to support his wife and new child, and he had chosen to give up sports writing and return to the sea. Unfortunately, it would require him to be away for long periods of time, while this new overwhelmingly force in his life would remain with her mother. His choice for them.

But oh boy, was she loved. She and her mother stayed with her mother’s parents, Colonel Lynch and Nannie Bettie in Paris, Texas but spent significant time in Tennessee. Both families adored her. Still do. One of his favorite photos of her was while he was in the Mediterranean. Her uncle, Uncle Snooks, who loved all children, seemed to have a special place for Blythe. Even though they all loved her, it was real close to the most lonely four months of his life.

When he returned, they began the Navy life in Newport, Rhode Island. Then, they moved across country to Long Beach. Then south to San Diego. Then to Texas A&M. It was a glorious time for him because he was with her even though the marriage was floundering, and he was lost at the thought of not being with her.

The family moving stopped there, and he moved on. He left with wonderful memories. He knew her mother loved her more than anything on earth and that was enough. It had to be enough.

So she grew up well. He spent as much time as he could with her, nearly all of his thirty days a year of annually allotted leave time. Her mother was good about letting her travel to places to be with him and with his parents. She spent a lot of summer time in Lebanon, Tennessee, having fun.

It was as good as it could be except for Christmas. After he went to extra effort to be with her and her mother for two Christmases, he realized her mother would be lost without her for Christmas, that he was a third (or fourth or fifth) wheel on Christmas. So he gave it up. Christmas was never as good for him as it had been with her.

But she grew up well, and he did spend time with her. She was happy. And she could make him smile with just a photo of her.

There are many photos of them together. He may post more later just so he can revisit good memories again.

Life moved on. He met a woman who was a wonderful match for him, and she thought so too. A miracle he thought. She loved his daughter.

And then she became Maureen’s daughter.

It was a wonderful thing. Then she had a sister. They are wonderful together. It makes him happier than anything in the world when they show their happiness together. He has been known to have tears well up when he sees them together.

While she was in San Diego, she met this sailor and fell in love. It took a while, but they married and have one of the better marriages around.





Finally, finally, they produced a son: Samuel James Jewell Gander with his two middle names honoring his great grandfather. The old man, by now, Sam’s grandfather is so proud of Sam, his buttons damn near burst when he talks about him. If there is one thing in his life the old man would change, it would be to spend as much time as he could with Sam.

But the world and factors one can’t control often keep us from having what we want. And so it is.

She has a wonderful job now. She has a good husband. She takes care of her mother and her mother takes care of the three of them, especially Sam. It is as it should be, or as close as it can get. For his daughter, he accepts that as enough.

And oh boy, at forty-six (today), she is an incredible woman with an incredible son.

And he loves her still.

Happy Birthday, Blythe.

Note: Unfortunately, her mother Kathie, who loved Blythe and Sam more than life itself, passed away last year after fighting a courageous battle with health for a long, long time. She was a wonderful woman and a wonderful mother and grandmother. We miss her.


Today, just after midday, Morice O. Mumby, Commander, USNR, retired, was interred in the Miramar National Cemetery. It was a military service, impressing those who are not used to our way of doing things. Vanda, his wife, asked me to speak. i was pleased to be so honored and the speech was easy until i gave it. Right now, there are about a gazillion things i would like to say about Spud and about helping Vanda navigate the maze of the Veteran’s Administration requirements of the next of kin while they are bereaving their loss of a loved one. But that can wait.  This is what i said at Spud’s service today:

When my father passed away, the men of his generation unanimously told me he was a “good man.”

This is about the highest compliment a man could give another.

Spud was a good man.

We were neighbors. We lived across the street from each other for thirty years. We, our spouses, and other neighbors, shared our homes for cocktail hours and supper and celebrated major events together. Spud frequently gave me a bottle of his homemade port, which was as good as any port i ever tasted.

Spud and I were both Navy commanders. He was proud of his service. He should have been. He flew helicopters in Vietnam, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean. Other than telling sea stories about others, Spud never bragged about his own achievements. It is fitting he will be interred today right after Independence Day. He helped us keep that independence.

Spud and Vanda were together. He told me she was his “little spitfire.” They hunted together. They worked their garden together. They watched the grunions run together. They dug clams together. They raised quail together. They were beautiful together, a perfect match.

Spud played golf with me until injuries and ailments kept him from playing. He became a part of our Friday Morning Golf legends.

But for me, most of all, i will remember our waving at each other when we retrieved our newspapers, met at the mailbox, or caught each other at chores in our front yards. We would meet each other in the middle of the street. We critiqued all of the world, including our homes and our yards. We would tell tales, sea stories, jokes: all of the things men share with each other.

And it was enough to let me know Spud really was a good man.

When i feel sadness coming on because Spud has left us, i will remember how Spud would want me to react…and i will smile for knowing him.

Rest In Peace, Buddy.