Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happy Decoration Day

Sooooo, where was I????? I've been missing in action for a while. Sorry about that folks. I'll try harder to write more often. I promise.

As we fire up the grills this Memorial Day weekend, several thoughts are spinning in my head. As usual!

First up, to the men and woman, many of whom were kids, who gave their lives so that assholes like me can enjoy the freedoms to bitch about stupid things on this here blog, I am eternally grateful.

Memorial Day, or as my mother called it, Decoration Day
brings out a whole gamut of memories.

One of my most cherished memories as a kid is going to the cemetery with my grandmother, aunt and mother to "decorate" the graves. In later years, my parents took my kids with them. If I had to miss for some reason, my mother would call and tell me the daily total of graves that they "did." She would go on and on about how tired she was. And in later years, about how thankful she was that my kids were there to help.

I laugh because Harriet was much better at delegating than doing. I can't believe some CEO didn't pick up on that during her life and nab her to head their production lines. I can hear her now. Come on Bud, just do it now. 1,2,3. Boom, boom, boom. And it will be done. Silence for about 20 seconds. Let's go. Come on. Here, this shovel is all ready for you. She would drive you crazy, until you just did it. No matter how tired or busy you were. You just did it. And she would sit there and tell you exactly how to do it. Herself, never breaking a sweat.

Anyway, I am getting off subject. Yesterday, I grudgingly continued that tradition and made the cemetery runs. Decorating graves of relatives that were dead long before I was born.

One of those is my mothers brother who died in 1945. He is buried way back in the corner by the wall in St. Mary's Cemetery in Lawrenceville. When I made my way back to his and his wife's graves yesterday, I read his gravestone. He was discharged from the service on May 28, 1945. 46 years to the day. Strange coincidence.

His grave was decorated only with the flag that the cemetery staff puts on all the veterans graves.

George Jenkins enlisted in 1939. He left Pearl Harbor three days before it was attacked by Japan. My mother used to say that my Gram was so relieved when she heard he missed the attack.

As a kid, I remember going through my Gram's cedar chest and reading his letters home. Most information was blacked out with magic marker. I distinctly remember that. I also remember hearing stories of the various battle's he was involved in. I wish I would have paid better attention.

One of the items in that cedar chest was a huge Japanese flag. My cousin Jeff and I would look at it all the time. It scared the hell out of me because it had blood and bullet holes all over it.
My grandmother said she would tease him and tell him that she was going to wash it for him. And he would reply "Mom, if you only knew what I went through to get that flag."

I wish I had the opportunity to ask him. After he survived the war, he returned to Lawrenceville. Got married, bought a house. And died.

After surviving the war, him and his young wife died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home they purchased as newlyweds. He was home from the war for only 6 months. My mother said my gram was never the same after that.

The least I can do is put a few geraniums and petunia's on him and his wife's grave to thank him for spending the last four years of his life fighting for my freedom.

Geeze, I need to quit complaining.

*When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I took that flag to school for show and tell. We think my teacher never gave it back, because no one saw it after that. That flag would be worth a small fortune today.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


*This is a previous post from Mothers day 2009 (with a few additions)

My mother passed away over eleven years ago. There is not a day that goes by that I don't missed her. "Harrietisms" pop out of mine and The Madonna's mouth a few times a day and they still make us laugh.
I have turned into my mother. I don't mind.

At my mothers funeral, I delivered the eulogy. Her friends asked me, how did you do that? It must have been so hard. To tell you the truth, it was not hard at all. I started writing hastily on a piece of paper around midnight the night before her funeral. They say you should write about what you know. Well, I knew Harriet. Everyone knew Harriet! I started remembering what people said to me when they came up to the casket during the viewing. Of the 1,200 people who signed the book, yes 1,200, their comments were going to be my eulogy.

Here is what I came up with:

Everyone has a Harriet story. Today, I want to mention a few that I heard over the last few days....... At least the ones I can repeat in church.

There are four things my mom loved in this world.
1. Her Husband
2. Her Kids
3. Her Grand kids
4. Layaway
Not necessarily in that order.

She seemed to always make scenes in front of priests---Father, you know what I'm talking about don't you?

My Mother NEVER held a grudge.

She was a "child bride"

I believed that the gray streak in her hair was paint until I was 21.

She had hundreds of good times in Conneaut throughout her life. And who will ever forget the infamous "fall under the car"

She went to weight watchers and stopped after every meeting at Eat'n Park for a strawberry sundae.

She was responsible for getting all the guys at Quincy's Pub to quit swearing and watch The Guiding Light.

I guess now my sister and I have to learn how to wash and hang curtains.

She was the only person I know who believed OJ was innocent.

She was constantly telling my father he was hard of hearing when she couldn't hear herself.

She believed there was nothing like a good night at Zalewski's.

She honestly believed the Devinney boys were angels.

We were all sworn to secrecy about how she looked in a bathing suit.

How many times have we all heard my father yell "Good God Harriet"

She was every ones Aunt Harriet. Now even her great nieces and nephews friends call her Aunt Harriet.

You see, she wasn't just a Green or a Quinlan. She was a Devinney, a McGregor, a Gallagher, and an Olzak. She was a Piezak, a Flannery, a Neuch, and a Slemenda. She was part of everyones family.

I always thought if ones wealth is measured by friends instead of money, mom was a multi-millionaire.

I want to thank everyone here for being such good friends to her.

One of the nicest things I've heard over the past few days came from one of our old neighbors. This woman lived next door to us for about two years when she was 7 years old. She was now in her late 40's. When she read about mom's passing in the newspaper, she came to the funeral home because she just wanted us to know what a difference my mother had made in her life in the few short years they were neighbors. They were neighbors 35 years ago!!!

I want to leave you all today with one last thought. There is no need to worry about missing my mother. All of my life I've been told that my mother will never be dead as long as I'm alive. That surely is the best compliment I've ever been told in my life. If I can be half the person she was, or have half the amount of friends in my life then I'll die a millionaire too.

Harriet Green Quinlan
Dec. 14, 1929 - January 19, 2000

As we say in the Quinlan Family: "Be dood to yo muddel Modwet". (Translation: Be Good To Your Mother Margret) Happy Mothers Day.

*Note: The woman I mentioned above who said my mother made such a difference, we lived next door to them when her little brother was dying of polio. My mother helped her mom while he was sick. Jimmy died when he was 5. My father was a pal bearer.