We aren’t there yet. Only one of us wears one hearing aid…but we’re getting there. Thanks, Sean:
Sometime during a move over the past thirty or forty years, my mother, my aunt, or i put some photos in an old box. Over the years, i added to the box and stored them somewhere, intending to put them in chronological order in albums. Today, i found them in the back recesses of a closet. There are more.
These are primarily for family.
i thought the grainy, off-color (is that “sepia”?), ones were fitting for Veteran’s Day. They were taken by one of the three Prichard sisters in 1945. The husbands of two, Aunt Evelyn and Mother were gone. Uncle Pipey was on a mine sweep out of Charleston, South Carolina. By this time, which i am guessing was summer of that year, my father was by now on Luzon in the Philippines.
This is what they missed. That’s service.
The other photo is Sarah with my dog who had me for a human: buddies. i’m thinking around Christmas 1997, but Maureen or Sarah will correct me if i am wrong.
And in another world in another time:
From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:
Fifth Law of Unreliability: To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.
Goofy guy’s admission pertaining to the Fifth Law of Unreliability: i have erred but since computers have come into my life, the errors have exponentially expanded.
It’s that time, and tomorrow morning, i shall walk up my hill, stand under my flag at the peak — i put a light on it so i could keep it up during the night, not because i am lazy — i might be but not for this — but because a number of neighbors have thanked me for being able to see it in the morning and how good it makes them feel. If i raised it according to regulations, it would be at 8:00 a.m., and many would have already gone to work by then.
i shall stand there, look down on the combatants of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, and i will take off my cap and put my hand over my heart (not the cap: the U.S. Flag regulations call for one to take off his cap and put it at his side while putting his right hand over his heart). This will be my salute to all veterans. Later, i plan to go over to the golf course, hoping Jessie Thompson, the Pearl Harbor survivor will be there and i can thank him for his service.
Memorial Day is for honoring those who have died in defense of our country. It has been expanded to honor those veterans who have died after serving. Tomorrow is not a day for mourning, saluting those folks who have left us, or lowering the flag to half mast. Tomorrow is a day for honoring our veterans.
By sheer circumstance and good luck, i am one of those veterans. It wasn’t really a sacrifice for me to serve our country. When i got back in the second time, i gave up my career in sports journalism for the security of my family. i had some close calls, but to me my service on ten ships and two shore duties was not arduous. i remain quietly respectful for those who really put it on the line. i have lost good friends whose lives were cut short because of service. i have number of shipmates who have debilitating injuries and less than good health because of their duty. So my few close calls are insignificant. As i have said often, i loved going to sea.
i hope everyone in this country stops for a moment tomorrow and salutes the veterans who served with honor in defense of our country and our way of life. i hope we put aside our political differences to pay homage to those who have served.
i plan to post one or two more of my Lebanon Democrat columns in the next day or so dealing with this veteran and others. Some of what is included will be repeats from what has been posted before. But i hope it provides the opportunity to think about what our veterans have done.
SAN DIEGO – As the new year ramps up, I am back in the Southwest corner considering why I made the Navy my career.
My father also has wondered why a boy from Middle Tennessee would choose the sea for his livelihood. Others have wondered the same thing.
The sea called me during my midshipman cruise on the U.S.S. Lloyd Thomas (DD 694) in 1963. We steamed from Newport, RI, to Sydney, Nova Scotia; to Bermuda; and back to Newport as part of the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVA 11) battle group.
My last four weeks were in engineering with two watches and normal work requiring 16-hour work days. Having no more sense than now, I went from my last watch to the crew’s movie in the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) hangar – “DASH” was a weapon which did not last long. Sailors called it “CRASH” instead of “DASH.” But its hanger on the 02 level just aft of amidships was perfect for showing movies.
This night, I watched “The Quiet Man” for the first time. As I left the theater and traversed the torpedo deck, I walked to the port side and gazed at the full moon.
The ship was making 15 knots. The moon’s reflection cut a wide, rippling, reflective path straight to me. The boilers roared through the forward stack. The bow wave was white, curling from the side and swishing its whisper as the ship cut through the water. “Darken ship” allowed no lights except those for navigation. At least a billion stars blanketed the black sky.
The sea grabbed me. She came down that path from the full moon, wafted across the bow wave, and reached deep inside. I felt her grab my heart and take it away.
I have loved her in her fury of the winter Atlantic, when she tossed a 500-foot ship around like a cork, ripping off protruding metal like dandelion bristles, and tossing sailors around the ship like matchsticks. Her intense fury blanketed the sea surface with froth.
I have loved her in the doldrums of the South China Sea where not a breath of wind existed, and the sea surface was glass for a week. I saw my first “green flash” then.
In the summer of 1973, steaming in the operating areas off of Newport, Rhode Island, my father saw why I went to sea. My ship, the U.S.S. Luce (DLG 7), was undergoing a major inspection. My Commanding Officer learned of my father visiting and invited him to ride during our underway day.
As a lieutenant, I was the sea detail officer of the deck. My father was by my side as I had the “conn” while the ship stood out of Narragansett Bay. As soon as we reached the operating area, we went to 25 knots for rudder tests, rapidly shifting the rudder to max angles both ways. The commanding officer and I went into a frantic dance, running in opposite directions across the bridge to hang over each wing checking for small craft in the dramatic turns.
After the rudder tests, I took my father into the bowels of the ship to our anti-submarine warfare spaces. My father stood behind me as I directed prosecution of a submarine contact. In the darkened spaces with sonar pings resounding, he watched as we tracked the sub on our fire control screen and simulated firing a torpedo.
After lunch, we set general quarters and ran through engineering drills. Finally, we transited back to Newport.
With mooring complete, the captain gave my father a ship’s plaque. My wife and mother were waiting on the pier when we debarked from the ship’s quarterdeck. As we walked the brow to the pier, my father said to me, “Son, I now understand why you would want to make this a career.”
I did. Somewhere in the latter stages of that career, I met a woman, a native of San Diego, and we got married. After a brief taste of being a Navy officer’s wife, she and I returned to San Diego for my “twilight” tour, the last four years on shore duty.
So now when I walk up our hill to raise and lower the flag, I look out to sea and check to see how many ships are pier side at the Naval Station.
And that, my friends, is why I made the Navy career and live in the Southwest corner, far from my home in Tennessee.
To my family veterans: Thanks. i don’t have photos of numerous others in uniform, but thanks to all.
As for me:
In case you haven’t noticed, i have not been very active on this website for quite a while. To be honest, i have been a bit down about a number of things and just haven’t been ready to do much of anything except enjoy my life, my family, my friends…er, my bad golf as much as i can. After all, i’m working hard on making it to 76, and regardless of how you cut it, that is old.
i have considered just giving up on social media and writing because, regardless of my intent, there are people who find something wrong with it. That, of course, is the way life works. Humans have some bad gene or something that makes them want to find something wrong with others My friend and former POW Dave Carey used to describe such people as those who like “to throw rocks over the wall” with no regard to who might get hurt on the other side. i often have the urge to throw rocks, but try to restrain and find out who those other people are on the other side and where we might find common ground. Several years ago, i vowed not to manage relationships and if there was anyone in my life who required me to manage the relationship, i would not do so. No dislike here. That just is their choice, and if they require me to make the contact, do the queries, whatever, then it just wasn’t meant to be.
About a week ago, i changed my mind about the writing (but not managing relationships). i am really going to finish my book about my XO tour with the beginning of the “Women at Sea” program. i am going to resume frequent posts about my thoughts on now, memories, and previous writings not published here — being old, it is quite possible i will forget i have posted some of these and post repeats — all with the intent of leaving a legacy for my grandson Sam. This is not some chest beating boasting of what i have done. To the contrary, i have made numerous mistakes in my life. i am in a good place because of good decisions and my mistakes. One of my many regrets, as i have mentioned here before, is both of my grandfathers died before i was born. i never knew them and i often wonder what they were like, who they really were. Hopefully, Sam will have all of this stuff here to have some idea who at least one grandfather was. and maybe use my experience to his advantage. That’s it. And that’s enough.
Over the life of this website, i have posted 43 of my 500 “Notes from the Southwest Corner” in The Lebanon Democrat here. The rest will be posted here on a frequent basis, along with many, if not all of my other Democrat column, “Minding Your Own Business,” but under the category, “Pretty Good Management,” which i prefer.
In short: i’m back.
A Significant Weekend
SAN DIEGO – This has been a difficult column to write. Numerous things from my perch in the Southwest corner and far away in Lebanon made my past of weekend (January 18-20), poignant with significant personal events.
Working backwards, Sunday was moving day. Our daughter Sarah, after a semester of commuting to San Diego State University from our home, moved into a dormitory for her second semester. I once again experienced the difficult art of letting go.
Her departure was rough on the old man. While many have experienced a child leaving home, my role as the at-home parent, a.k.a mister mom, and at a substantially older age than most parents, made Sarah’s departure particularly emotional.
The day before, Saturday, January 19, I became an old man according to the Beatles. On their “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band,” album, McCartney sang “When I’m 64.” I reached that magic number. Robert E. Lee reached birthday 200.
Friday, the beginning of this significant weekend, the initiating event was sad. My mother, Estelle Jewell, called to inform me Erma Baird passed away.
Mrs. Baird, her husband Charlie, and their daughter, Sharry Baird Hager, have been a part of my life, literally since I was born. Sharry, Henry Harding, and I were baptized on the same Sunday at the Lebanon First Methodist Episcopal Church South on East Main in the late spring of 1944.
Erma is one of my wife’s favorite people in Lebanon.
On one trip to Lebanon, Charlie and Erma came to call while we visited my parents. Mischievously, Erma smiled and said, “I have something for you.” She gave Maureen pictures of a play the Methodist Youth Fellowship produced when I was fourteen. Many friends were co-stars but somehow I had been chosen to play Jesus as a young boy.
Maureen focused on this goofy looking guy at center stage, complete with a page boy wig, knee-length toga, and madras Bermuda shorts showing underneath as he sat spread-legged on a stool. I am not sure Maureen has ever completely recovered from laughing at the photo.
Erma, of course, loved the reaction.
The women of the “greatest” generation, as labeled by Tom Brokaw, were an incredible group of people. Their role through the Depression, World War II, and its aftermath was the synthesis for change. They balanced being a housewife and mother with pioneering equality in the workplace. They were strong; they were supportive; they were always busy.
Erma Baird had all the characteristics of the women of her generation. She was also one of the sweetest, loving women who ever walked the face of the earth. It seemed to me she loved everybody and could always find something good about any person or any situation.
She was that way when I can first remember her in my life, and she was that way when I visited her just before Christmas.
Even though, I am some 2,000 miles from Lebanon, the impact of losing Mrs. Baird hit me hard.
In the middle of all of these significant events, my daughter Blythe informs me my grandson Sam has spoken his first words, “Kitty Cat,” and is obviously connecting the word to the two felines who reside with him. It was a big day for the Jewell household. We are informed of Sam’s “firsts” almost daily, but a baby starting to talk is a giant step.
Years ago, a great deal of this weekend’s events would have washed over me. I would have kept on “chooglin’” along as Creedence Clearwater Revival exhorted me to do.
But late that Sunday evening, I sat before the fading embers in the family room fireplace and reflected: The world continues to change with significant events. Letting go of children, getting older, losing friends who have completed life’s cycle, and welcoming new friends into the cycle is constant. If all of us can deal with the cycle as have Erma and Charlie Baird, my parents, and many, others of that generation in Lebanon, we will be all right.
Note: i would have included the photo here in this edition of the column, but Maureen was adamant i should not.
This is one of the more difficult things i have had to write in some time. i sit at this damnable electronic marvel, strum my fingers across the keyboard not hard enough to print a letter on the screen, and resort to my usual excuse to do absolutely nothing useful playing spider solitaire. It’s that time now. i need to get to it. It’s not easy.
You see, playing golf yesterday, he told me he wouldn’t be playing with us anymore, adding he had cancer. Being me, i thought he was joking after a pretty bad couple of holes. My cart buddy quietly admonished me. There was no joke. Our golfing partner really had cancer. And it didn’t look good.
It’s been a long time since i have been so shocked. As we played, i learned more. Then when we joined our other players in the clubhouse dining area, he told the group of seven the extent of the bad news. It was much worse than i thought.
Harvey Hathaway’s stage four pancreatic cancer has spread to his liver and his stomach. The only possible treatment is chemotherapy. With it, his prognostication for living is somewhere around eight months. Without chemo, the number shrinks to three months. Oh, there have been miracles of cancer patients surviving much longer than predicted, even beating it, and i am praying this will be another miracle story.
But it doesn’t look good.
Harvey is one of the nicest guys i know. He is a retired cop. One job he had was a security guy for Hugh Hefner and quite often his job was to escort and protect the Playboy Bunnies at Hef’s Los Angeles mansion. From Harvey’s account, he never strayed from his job for some dilly dallying and became friends with a number of the bunnies. Harvey is so nice i believe him totally.
Harvey and i have had a running joke for a couple of years. We often play partners with Marty Marion and Jim Hileman. That means two against two with each hole worth two possible points. Each six holes, we switch partners. Harvey began as a pretty high handicapper but kept improving. When we were partners, he would not play very well, and since playing well is not my usual profile, this never went well and we nearly always lost that six holes. Then Harvey and i would be have different partners. Harvey’s play would greatly improve and mine would go in the opposite direction. The result inevitably would be me losing all three partner matches and Harvey winning two.
i jokingly called it the “Harvey curse” until i about half-way believed it. i brought it up every time we played together. Harvey and i would share a laugh.
“Harvey” is a great name for Harvey. He reminds me of another Harvey, the title character in the movie. Actually, my Harvey seems to be a cross between the pooka, a six foot, three and half inches tall rabbit also named Harvey and the movie Harvey’s running mate, Elwood P. Dowd, the character played by Jimmy Stewart. If you can imagine that combination, you have a real good idea of what i think of Harvey Hathaway. He’s winsome.
He also is, from my perspective, going through this the right way. He is letting people know. He is from a time and has been in a profession where giving up and feeling sorry aren’t part of the agenda. He’s Harvey. He is approaching his situation with dignity. This is what i would expect from Harvey.
After our round and lunch of sliders, i began to drive home. My shock had worn off. i wanted to cry. i wanted to scream. i wanted it to rain so i could do what i did when one of the most wonderful women in the world passed away from breast cancer fifty-six years ago. i was a freshman in college when i learned my best friend’s mother, Virginia Harding had succumbed.
When i came home from Nashville for the funeral, i ran, an abnormal thing for me at the time, from my house to Henry’s where i had spent more time than anywhere else other than our house, about a half-mile. It was raining. i was sprinting at full speed, i screamed with tears running down my face. i hated the world for letting this terrible loss occur. It was fruitless. i knew it. But i needed to deal with it my way.
Well, Harvey isn’t gone yet, and god willing, he could beat this. But driving home, that’s how i felt. How could whatever powers of good that are let this happen to one of the nicest people i have ever met?
i have lived long enough to know that is not how the world works. But this one still stinks.
Oh yes, Harvey and i won our six holes. The curse is broken. Maybe that is a good omen for what is next.
Harv, if you need me, i will be there anytime, anywhere.
Yesterday “Writer’s Almanac” began with this poem. In my case, the directions are a little catawampus, and there are a couple of other statements a bit off their mark for my situation, but it made me think of my two daughters and me, and how i love them even though they are in different stages of leaving me, or perhaps my leaving them. So in my usual fashion, i teared up a bit because i believe — oh how i believe and hope while trying to believe — this is best for them and that we are easing “into a rhythm where the plains of her life (their lives), of mine, drift buoyant, open, rising without words, hours, or habits—new country.” And the tears before reaching culmination turn into a smile of love.
The Way West
by Raphael Kosek
My daughter is driving
across the continent, eating cheddar
in Wisconsin, waking to a cougar’s yellow
rasp, sleeping tentless
in a corn field where a mysterious
insect leaves a sore story of welts
over her face, her neck—
she is off my radar, and it feels like
part of me is floating off the map,
past the flannel of sleep, the safety
of novels—I hear the wind over her phone,
constant. The wind, her voice
informs me, never stops blowing in South Dakota
where the Black Hills are not really black
but green and grey like Cezanne’s mountains.
Her hair glistens with a mid-American
sweat I have never felt, her car
runs into the different hours
of a different night. We have
lost the clock between us, the familiar
gone strange. Prairie, so flat, she says,
you can see the sun for a long time.
I feel something flatten out between us—
and ease into a rhythm where the plains
of her life, of mine, drift
buoyant, open, rising without words,
hours, or habits—
This morning, i received the below in an email from Marty Marion, one of my golfing buddies. i thought all of you friends and family who might still wonder why we stay in the Southwest corner might better understand by reading this. i add Tennessee to where friends or family have moved (#27).
i also add because of the Navy, i saw a pretty good chunk of the world. Based on a score of one to ten, as Bo Derek was once a “10” in beautiful women, most places have more “10” days in terms of weather than San Diego because of a relative comparison to the other days they have. But there is no place in the world has more 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s than San Diego.
Example: It is November 2. Last night our low slightly dipped in the 40’s. When we arose, we had to wear a long sleeve garment around the house but didn’t need to turn on the heat. This afternoon, it will be in the mid-70’s. And it is cool enough at night for a fire in the fireplace. Give or take five degrees, this daily pattern will continue for the next four months.
YOU KNOW YOU’RE FROM SAN DIEGO WHEN…
You can correctly pronounce Tierrasanta, La Jolla, Rancho Penesquitos, San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Jamul, and El Cajon, and know where they are.
2. There are four distinct seasons: Summer, Not Quite Summer, Almost Summer, and “Oh, Hey look its summer again”.
3. Your house is worth more than some small countries.
4. You know what MB, OB, and PB stand for.
5. Every street name is either in Spanish or Spanish related, and
you’re surprised when other areas don’t have this.
6. You see weather forecasts for four different climate zones in the
same county and aren’t remotely surprised.
7. You remember going to “The Cross” on Mt. Helix for Easter services.
8. You’ve tailgated at Qualcomm Stadium, and for bonus points, also tailgated when it was Jack Murphy Stadium.
9. You know that “charge!” doesn’t refer to a credit card.
10. You remember going downtown via Federal Blvd. before Hwy 94 was built.
11. You remember when Hwy 94 was 2 lanes in each direction.
12. You still call it the Del Mar Fair.
13. You say “I’m going to the track” and people know what you’re talking about.
14. You remember when Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and Spring Valley were “in the sticks.”
15. You understand what May-gray and June-gloom means.
16. There’s a North County, South County, and an East County but no Central County.
17. You know what “the merge” is and will plan your entire day around not being on it during rush hour.
18. You know the difference between Clairmont Mesa, Kearny Mesa, and Mira Mesa.
19. You’ve gone to Sea World on a warm day and sat in the first few rows at the Shamu Show to get cooled off.
20. You’ve been delayed at the Border Checkpoints on the 5, the 8 and the 15.
21. Your house doesn’t have or need air conditioning unless you live in the East County.
22. No matter what the weather is, there is always someone walking around in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops.
23. You’ve been to the desert, the mountains, and the beach all in one day.
24. You know that Santee and Lakeside is where the “cowboys” live.
25. You hate tourists and their bad driving. (But you don’t know how to drive in the rain.)
26. You’ve gone to the Zoo just to hang out.
27. You have family or friends that have moved to Arizona, Nevada, Utah Texas, or Colorado.
28. You know what the “Santa Anas” are and that they have nothing to do with the city of Santa Ana.
29. You know what “real Mexican food” tastes like.
30. You remember when “Mission Valley” was cow pastures (Oh…to have bought land then!)
31. You remember when Lemon Grove had “the cows.”
32. 60 degrees is ice cold.
Have a beautiful, sunny San Diego Day!
It was a long time ago. i remembered when i ran across these photos in a golf ball box. They came from my two aunts and my mother during a significant phase of my life. i am posting them here primarily for my grandson Sam Gander. It was a long time ago.
The above was when i departed for my third class midshipman NROTC cruise in the summer of ’63. It was a life changer in many ways although i did not realize it at the time. The uniform, in my opinion, service dress khaki’s, remains the sharpest looking military uniform ever. The Marine’s uniforms are impressive but this one was so classic, so not overstated. It’s gone but it remains my favorite.
Granny, aka Katherine Webster Prichard, was an incredible woman, a survivor, one of the hardest workers on the planet who never gave up. She loved and cared for her family, her friends, and her charges as a “house mother” at Castle Heights. This was taken at my Aunt Bettye Kate and Uncle Snooks Hall’s house in1964.
It was 1969, August. i was a big fan of docksiders with no socks. Thought it was cool, but man those high-water pants with those shoes were not a good look.
Once again in my aunt and uncle’s house. This time it was August 1969. i was a one-year wonder LTJG on my first ship, USS Hawkins.
This was labeled by my Aunt Evelyn as 1969, but i didn’t make lieutenant until 1971. Summer whites were great uniforms but those white shoes were tough to keep white.
Paris, Texas. May 1971. a pre-wedding photo.It didn’t turn out well, but i loved her and my brother and sister always supported me. Blythe remains a beautiful daughter and my grandson Sam makes it worthwhile.
From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy: