Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Give Thanks, or not.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, well, except for St Patrick's Day (obviously!!). But since my mom passed away and my aunt went into a nursing home, I have to admit, It's bittersweet. 

Although we all go our separate ways now, when I was growing up, Thanksgiving was always at our house and Christmas was always at the Devinneys. I could probably write a best seller on those two dinners alone! But that's a whole other story!!

By September Harriet would start buying her canned goods and would call my sister and I weekly to give us the tally. Then, a few days before, she would get out the "good dishes." I think she purchased them with green stamps. She would carefully set the table the day before, with Christmas music blaring in the background, to get her in the holiday spirit. The menu was the same year after year. Aunt Babe made the cole slaw and jello. Mary Alice brought the relish tray which my cousin Georgie devoured. Of all 30 or so of us, I think he was the only one who liked olives and radishes. Come to think of it, I think he was the only one who ate the beets also. And the green beans. Maybe he just didn't like the turkey. I'll have to check on that!


As we got a little older, you knew wedding bells were in the air when one of us brought a boyfriend or girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner. The engagement ring was usually expected that Christmas. Our friends would stop by after dinner and we would all sit around the table and play games or just talk until the wee hours of the morning.  

When we kids started having kids, we just kept adding a card table. When there was no more room in the dining room, we just started setting up additional tables in the living room of my mom's tiny house. 

We were young, and we had no idea that when we were crammed around that table holding our hands up high in the air when Aunt Babe screamed "WHO WANTS PUMPKIN PIE?" that they would be some of the best memories of our lives. 

Or just maybe we did. The grandkids and great nieces and nephews still tell me how much they loved sharing holidays meals and were thankful that we did it as many years as we did until logistically, it just couldn't be done anymore. We only had one bathroom!! 

I am so thankful that these two crazy sisters raised their kids to enjoy each other. So much so, that all these years later, we still consider ourselves not just cousins, but friends. 

And for that, on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful to God for the gift of Harriet and Babe!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

*The picture above of my mother and Aunt Babe was taken on Thanksgiving 1974. The only workspace they had to feed thirty people was the kitchen table. Notice the towel rack right on the wall, And the sink with the pipes, my mothers apron,come to think of it, I don't remember having cabinets in the kitchen and can't remember where we kept the every day dishes. (we never had to do the dishes, Thank God!!) The "good" ones were kept in the China mother would kill me if she knew I sent this picture of her dirty kitchen all over the Internet!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Daughter Remembers

A Daughter Remembers
I listen for her still...a phone ringing can
send me winging back
into my memories of her,
and remembered laughter lights my day. 
I look for her familiar places
where the sense of her presence
lingers like a fragrance, and I feel
the warmth of her arms around me again.
Forever, I will be her daughter--
Trusting in her love,
Delighting in her praise--
These beautiful gifts from my mother
live inside my heart...
and I listen for her still 
I always will.

*Verse from a card sent to me by my Aunt Patsy on my first Mothers Day without my mother. So appropriate, as usual. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The a Summer Of '42

It was the summer of '42. One of the neighborhood guys from Lawrenceville, Alan Stutsman worked for the Pirates as the locker room manager and offered my father and his friend Biggie Fisher summer jobs.  My dad never actually told me how he felt getting that job, but if you know him,  you probably have firsthand knowledge of his emotional outbursts along with his passion for sports, so its a safe bet to say he was ecstatic.
At the beginning of every Pirate season he would remind us of that summer of '42. And what a time they had!  He would tell us how Biggie Fisher had a ball signed by every visiting team that year and he wished he had done the same thing because they were now worth a small fortune.
About a year ago, he told me a story I'd never heard before.  My grandfather passed away when his youngest sister was just 5 days old, leaving his mother to raise 7 of them herself. To say they were poor, just doesn't do their childhood justice. But somehow they got by through from the kindness of the nuns from St Frances Hospital and the Fireman from Station #6 next door.  Needless to say, he wasn't showing up for work looking like he stepped out of GQ Magazine. The soles of his shoes were worn through from him and his brother before him and their constant use. (They were used shoes to begin with. Bought at Kaufman's 34th St aka The Goodwill!) He would stuff cardboard to cover the holes in the shoes and tape them up to hold them all together.
After one particular game, he was cleaning up and a Pitcher by the name Luke Hamlin  tossed him a box. He opened it and it was a brand new pair of Florsheim shoes. My dad never owned a pair of new shoes in his entire life!! Luke said something like he bought the wrong size so as not to make him feel bad. But my dad knew the truth. He did something nice for a kid for no other reason but for the kindness in his heart.
What brought this up tonight? Through the kindness of a friend, my father and I will be watching the Pirates play their first post season game in 21 years........from the comfort of a luxury suite. At least ten lifetimes away from the boy with the taped up shoes. He can drink all the coffee he wants for free. He will be in his glory!!! And despite me buying him a few pairs of shoes a year, I'm sure he'll be wearing 20 year old shoes, yelling at me that they still have a few years of life left in them. Just like him!!
And win or lose tomorrow, the Bucco's made one old man very happy because they made it to the post season "while he's still here!"

*The job lasted only for that summer. A mere three months later, on Christmas Day, 1942, Alan Stutsman was killed when his plane was shot down somewhere over Germany putting an abrupt end to the Lawrenceville boys "in" with the Pirates.  And by opening day 1943,  my dad was somewhere in Utah getting ready to be shipped to Italy to fight in WWII.  He was 17. I often wonder if they could ever in their wildest dreams have imagined how their lives would change in one mere Pirate off-season. 

Since writing this post, you know that Dad's beloved Pirates won that game! Maybe it had something to do with him saying just one more Hail Mary before the final out(See picture below)!!!  While driving home he told me that was the best time he's had in a long, long time. He was in his glory......and so was I!!! Thank You Bucco's for letting this old man have at least one more perfect day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Forever Young

Today, Friday, June 14 is flag day.  It also would have been Dans 60th Birthday. 60.Years.Old?
I've had many doubts and many questions these past 13 years, but the one thing I'm certain of is that he would have been just as excited for his 60th as he was for his 50th, which unfortunately he didnt live to see. He was the only person I ever knew who was actually excited to be turning 50. We were in the midst of planning the big Five-O party. Unfortunately he came up exactly 90 days short.
I think he loved his birthday for two reasons. One, he knew too many people who weren't afforded the opportunity. And two, he was a big kid at heart. Anyone who knew him, knows that. He was the adult at Christmas who made sure all the kids toys "worked" properly. He played army men with his little brothers well into his teenage years.
But I think my favorite is depicted in this picture.

A little background. We had a pool in our backyard. Every kid within two blocks would be in our backyard every day of the summer. When they would get bored in the pool, Dan would organize them into teams and they would play good guys vs bad guys. If you grew up in Lawrenceville, you know that between every few streets there are series of little alleyways between the streets, alleys and yards. It's like a maize. They would  run through the alleyways and try to catch the bad guys. I took this picture from my back deck. Dan, in his swimming trunks, with one of my kids robocop helmet on.  Trying to squirt a "bad guy." The best part is that he is also wearing his bedroom slippers.
Another time he thought he broke his leg when he slipped running and yelling "charge" with a plastic sword in his hand. We were in the emergency room and the Dr asked if he hurt his leg playing soft ball. I made Dan tell him what he was really doing. I'm sure all in the physicians lounge had a good laugh that evening.I wish I would have found the picture of him using a batman beach towel as his cape. But I think you all get the idea.
They say everyone is a kid at Christmas. Dan was a kid the other 364 days of the year also. I'd be lying if I didn't say it sometimes drove me crazy.

Soooo many things unfinished. I still needed him to help raise our boys. They didn't want mean ol' mom. They needed calm, cool dad.  Who would iron their clothes??? 
Such an unfinished life. Would his hair ever start turning gray? Would he FINALLY have a beer gut? Would he have taken Whole Foods up on their offer?  
Sigh...we'll never know.   

What I do know is that there is 48 peoples whose lives were enhanced because they were able to use various parts of his body. Some may think that strange.   But I find comfort knowing that maybe the cornea from his eye is helping someone to see their grandchilds smile for the first time. His beautiful Irish skin was used to help a burn victim Or his heart valves helped a father of four with serious heart issues and without those valves, he would die.  One of his tendons might have helped someone walk without pain by repairing a torn ACL. And his brain. That perfect perfect brain that held more information in 49 3/4 years than most us could learn in ten lifetimes. The brain that remembered every word to every song ever written but had to remember our addresses and phone numbers in relation to Steelers jersey numbers. In his wallet I actually found a piece of paper that simply said Jack Lambert and Mike Webster. I asked what it was. He said our phone number! (Like I was crazy for not knowing!!)Their Steeler jersey numbers were the last four digits of our phone number.  He always got them confused so that's how he remembered. That brain was used for research. He had all the qualifications for a study that Pitt was doing. They probably looked at it and said WTF???

So if someone corners you tomorrow and starts talking Civil War statistics, tell him happy birthday. He might look at you strange.  But he also may be seeing you through my husbands beautiful bue eyes. The same eyes looking with wide eyed wonder in this picture below. 

Happy Birthday My Irish Prince
And Happy Flag Day!

*If you are not already, please consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. 
It may help someone you love. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

I Miss

I miss writing on my blog.
I miss my old life.
I miss my old house.
I miss my husband.
I miss knowing I would spend my entire life with a man who was so handsome, he still took my breath away, even after 20 years and with all his faults!
I miss being kissed.
I miss slow dancing.
I miss comfortable silences.
I miss my mother.
I miss being a good mother.
I miss my mothers advise, which made me a better mother.
I miss Devin.
I miss having to take care of my family.
I miss being content staying home with my family.
I miss my father not living near me.
I miss my porch.
I miss my back yard in the spring.
I miss my back yard in the summer.
I miss my old life.
I miss my old friends.
I miss my sister.
I miss my niece.
I miss my nephews.
I miss my Aunt Babe before she had Alzheimer's.
I miss my Grandmother.
I miss walking up the street and running into 3/4 of my family.
I miss late night escapes to my cousin Tomasina's house.
I miss her kids breaking into my house.
I miss having fun with my Aunt Patsy.
I miss having arts and crafts girls nights when all the girls were little.
I miss Miss Harriet.
I miss driving a Mercedes.
I miss being able to afford a Mercedes.
I miss Gang Picnics at North Park.
I miss hearing my parents and their friends sing.
I miss walking up Lakeview Ave and stopping to have a beer with Bernie Flannery in By the Way.
I miss summers in Conneaut.
I miss being a snack mother.
I miss inviting friends over to the house.
I miss being thin and healthy.
I miss being a wife.
I miss constant activity in my house.
I miss my college friends.
I miss planning get togethers.
I miss entertaining often.
I miss being proud of my life.
I miss enjoying life.
I miss happiness.
I miss contentment.
I miss being hopeful.
I miss looking forward to what life brings me next instead of dreading the day ahead.
I miss the fact that I didn't realize the impact of losing two people in my life (my husband and my mother) would have on the rest of my life. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Her Name Is Ka'Sandra Wade

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents

"33 year old Ka’Sandra Wade – mother, employee, daughter, student and so much more – was murdered by her ex who was also the father of her 11 year old son, Zaire. The situation is complicated and tragic and has generated an outcry from the community to push for better investigation of domestic violence allegations, stronger laws to protect women and more awareness on the part of the community. Too often in similar situations the names we remember are those of the murderers. It is tragic that so many headlines about the murder of Kassandra Perkins at the hands of her boyfriend, NFL player Jevon Belcher didn’t even mention her name. He murdered the mother of his son, then himself – and the headlines focused on his name and his final moments and his teammates. That’s not acceptable."

Domestic violence doesn't discriminate. It is in every race, religion and economic class. Hell, it even crosses political lines!!!! Domestic violence doesn't even care if you are a Democrat or a Republican.

As a society, we have to work harder to end these senseless deaths. We have to work harder to educate the victims. We have to work harder to get them the help they need. We have to work harder to educate the court system. But most of all, after they finally get the courage to leave, we have to work harder to educate the law enforcement community to take the threats they get from the abusers seriously.

Woman stay in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons. It is not up to us to judge. If you have a friend or family member who is victim of domestic violence, just be there for them and offer your help. Especially if they finally get the courage to leave.

I've had at least three friends that were victims of domestic violence. Each one was handled differently. When I found out my childhood friend was being abused, I went and confronted him publicly in front of all of his friends. I threw him up against the wall and told him if he was in the mood to hit a woman, please call me. I'll give him a good fight. I have a brown belt in karate. I shoved him across the room, and told the guys he was with what a real "man" he was. I shouldn't have done that. Unfortunately, he went home and took his anger out on my friend. He beat the crap out of her. I felt terrible. Luckily, she left him shortly after that.

My second friend was a victim only once. When she got out of the house, her and I went to the police and sat in night court all night waiting for a judge to sign a temporary PFA. It took so much courage for her to leave. The police and judge all just rolled their eyes at her as if to say, "yeah, sure you'll leave him. We will see you back here again." She never did go back. She got divorced. And is now remarried to a man that adores her and respects her. If she had stayed, her life would be much different than it is today.

My third friend is on the video below. I'll let her tell her own story. Talk about courage.

Here is a Post Gazette story about Ka'Sandra Wade

Information and resources for victims of domestic violence can be found here.

If you want to hear a gut wrentching story, listen to William
Gay of the Pittsburgh Steelers telling about his mothers murder.  The pain in his voice is heartbreaking