Confession of a couch potato in Training (Part 1)

I was not always a couch potato. As a child, I did all the things that most children of my time did. My first home was in an apartment building owned by my father’s aunt. It was a large 4 unit building with a HUGE yard that had a large wooded area next to it. This area was magical; it could be a war zone, a fort, a treasure land, a great place for hide and seek, and a sports field. It was anything our imagination made it be. It was a great place to run, climb, and get lost in the adventure.

When I started Kindergarten, a new world opened up. I started to read, do artwork, and sing songs. I still had afternoons and weekends to do outdoor stuff, but the school was great. In the blogs about “my mother the bigot” I talked about how television was also part of my early experience.

My life was playing, learning, and making sure I wouldn’t miss my favorite television shows. As a Kindergarten student, life was great. However, changes were looming in my future.

Seems everywhere I have lived someone comments how if you do not like the current weather, wait a minute. The truth in this statement is that weather changes. Summer does turn into Winter (oh I know there is autumn, but it seems these days our weather pattern eliminates any discernible autumn or spring). All that Pre-Kindergarten Thom had to worry about was keeping dry, now after Kindergarten I had to find time for reading, writing, coloring, and watching television. Let’s face it, warm and dry trumped playing outside that winter. AND, it seemed that activity moved from using my feet to run and play with sitting on my butt reading and watching!

In the winter of 1954 (mid first grade), we moved to Akron, Ohio. It did not take long to find friends, especially when there were a dozen kids my age within a five-house radius. Plus there were woods, a creek, and many areas to explore. With spring, there were baseball fields!

The school in Akron was more interesting than in Stow. By the end of first grade came one of those life-changing events. I tried out for Little League (the “real” program). I had no history with these teams. They let me try out, but it was obvious they had already decided on who was going to play. No organized baseball in the summer of 1955. You may have read in the blogs about my mother; she LOVED baseball, she LOVED the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe won the pennant in 1954 but lost the series to the (New York) Giants. I had a chance in 1955 to see the Indians play the New York Yankees. My father managed to get tickets behind home plate, so it was a fantastic day for me. It was on a workday for him, but he made the sacrifice. Bob Lemon pitched for the Tribe (thankfully Whitey Ford didn’t pitch). The Indians did not hit any home runs but won. I cheered the Indians. And I booed Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra (his catching and his single), booed Mickey Mantle’s single (and cheered his strikeout).

My mother the bigot, 4th installment

Having talked about my mother as a bigot for three installments, perhaps I should define the term. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word bigot was found in writings in the 1590s meaning ‘sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite.’ Five hundred later, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially: a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group). My mother would fit the definition of a bigot.

Andy Warhol said, When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them. So why did my mother change? Perhaps it was because she was older and wiser.

Just after I turned 15, we moved from Ohio. We were moving to the Phoenix, Arizona area. My father worked for Goodyear Aircraft, which had changed its name to Goodyear Aerospace. They were expanding services to their plant near Phoenix. We moved in the summer. When we arrived, it was so hot, my mother refused to get out of the car. Eventually, we spent the night in the car. We then headed for Rialto, California. My mom’s brother lived there, and my father knowing my mother had interviewed with General Dynamics in Pomona and had a position waiting for him there. Since we had visited Rialto the years before, she felt happy there.

These events occurred in the summer of 1963. That fall I asked my mother why she seemed ok with the changes in her life she had made. Her answer shocked me. I should point out that one of the group of people she did not accept were Republicans. She was a lifelong Democrat, who loved our current president at the time, John F. Kennedy. When he won, the anti-Catholic part of her life ended! Her answer to my question was she heard President Kennedy say, You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?” (Note: George Bernard Shaw wrote those words). She told me that to say “Why not,” you had to be open to change and that she had not been open to change in the past. She wanted me to see the world in a different way and live in a why not way!

After I graduated from college and received a grant from the government to work on a master’s degree in Special Education, I thought she would agree that she had done well. After all, in the early 1970’s not many people were into Special Education. She did not think it was for me. I told her sure, but after a few months in school, she was right. After a brief world of laboring in a couple of warehouses, I decided to enter seminary. She seemed more content with this choice.

Mom and dad moved to be near her two grandchildren, and to watch me studying to become a minister. She suffered a series of little strokes a few months after arriving in Oklahoma. Then she suffered a larger stroke in the hospital and died. She never had a chance to hear me preach, but I would like to think that in over 40 years in the ministry I had dreamed things that never were and had lived in a why not way.

My mother the bigot: the times are a changin (part 3)

There is a picture of me around four month’s old sitting in front of a television in my parents’ apartment. My father had served in the U. S. Army, Pacific Division, during World War II. When I was born, he was working for Goodyear in their Blimp division. To supplement the family income, he also worked for a cousin who had a bowling alley and a furniture store. The TV came from the furniture store. My mother loved to watch this modern wonder.

Now I wish I could tell you that the picture of me before that television set was taken on October 11, 1948 (my 4th month birthday), but I cannot. But I can tell you that I am fairly sure that my mother was watching television that day. She was a BIG fan of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. The Indians were part of the first televised World Series. They won the pennant on that eleventh day of October 1948, 4 games to two. Again, I am not sure, but my guess is that series sealed having a television in my childhood home.

In addition to baseball, she watched all other sports, wrestling, roller derby, football you name it. She loved variety shows. The same year I was born the world saw the debut of one of my mother’s favorite television shows, The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember watching the initial three performances of Elvis Presley (yes, they blocked the lower half of his body). I remember watching the Beatles first performances. After their performance, she pointed her finger at me and announced that my hair should never be THAT long.

In addition to Elvis and the Beatles, there was something else about the Ed Sullivan show. He had African American performers. Not only did they perform, but also much to the horror of many of his audience of the day, he interacted with them.

Wikipedia tells us: “He defied pressure to exclude African American entertainers, and to avoid interacting with them when they did appear. “Sullivan had to fend off his hard-won sponsor, Ford’s Lincoln dealers, after kissing Pearl Bailey on the cheek and daring to shake Nat King Cole’s hand,”…. According to biographer Jerry Bowles, Sullivan once had a Ford executive thrown out of the theater when he suggested that Sullivan stop booking so many black acts. In addition, a dealer in Cleveland (Ohio) told him “we realize that you got to have niggers on your show. But do you have to put your arm around Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson at the end of his dance? Sullivan had to be physically restrained from beating the man to a pulp. Sullivan later raised money to help pay for Robinson’s funeral.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Sullivan]

Thanks to the TV my Dad brought home, my mom’s bigotry was changing even if it was by small steps. I vaguely remember the first time she saw Sammy Davis, Jr. perform on the Sullivan show. The racial words came out of her mouth like water flowing down Niagara Falls. I did not think that she would ever watch the show again. Nevertheless, mom’s attitude changed when Sammy Davis, Jr. converted to Judaism a year later. Somehow, I never heard her say any ethnic slurs against the Jewish people, perhaps because she had many Jewish friends. Oddly enough, Sammy Davis, Jr.’s conversion softened her heart. The racial slurs softened UNTIL three black families moved into our all white town. They lived in our school district. They were going to have their children in my school and that caused her great distress.

By this time, I had seen the error of her ways. I must admit I was afraid when I saw a person of any color than white in front of me. Sure, I had passed many on the street or in stores but here was a real live black person right in front of me in front of me at school. I did not know what to think. One of the girls was in my classroom. She and her dad came to school. Oh my, what might my mother think? The teacher presented the girl and had her father shaking each of our hands. Oh my, I was going to touch a black man. I took a big gulp of air when he put his hand out. I slowly responded and shook his hand. I remember thinking how odd, his hand felt no different from any other I had shaken. His daughter and I became friends to the extent a girl and boy could become friends in fifth grade. After all, she was a girl, and in 5th grade, all the boys knew that the girls had cooties so why would I want to get close to one? My new wife has cooties, but I am willing to sacrifice myself to her cooties.

My mother seemed to accept the black families in our school and community. Perhaps it may have been because they were professionals, doctor, lawyer, and a dentist.

My mother was changing, the times were changin’.

My mother the bigot (part 2)

In my previous post, I told the story of using the term “fish eater” that resulted in my mouth being washed out with soap. Although I never used that term again, at least in the presence of my mother, she certainly used it! Most often, she said it about her nephew’s wife.

My mom had one full blood brother and she was very close to him. Her full brother had only one child, a son, whom she loved. However, he married a woman whose parents were born in Italy. Even worse, her maiden name was the same as the town they came from in Sicily. Apparently, my mother thought Italians were terrible; Sicilians were worse, all of them “fish eaters”.

My mom’s brother because very ill with lung cancer as if I knew what that was. It was only a few months after the soap incident. I remember going to her brother’s house several times a week where my mother helped her sister-in-law, nephew, and his wife takes care of my uncle. After a few months, my uncle was confined to his bed where they all waited for him to die.

During these visits, I saw the first of many slow, lingering cancer deaths. In fact, I was present when he died. I saw my first dead body. It did not seem strange, except there was no more gasping for air and the occasional moaning. After his death, I remember many tears and hugging before his body was removed.

I could not go to the funeral. They told me that I was “not old enough to understand”. I remember saying something like it is not fair, after all I could see him die, but could not go to what they called the funeral. For many years, I wondered what they did at funerals that I could not see little did I know that I would one-day official over many funerals.

After the funeral, the relationship between my mom and her nephew’s wife changed. I no longer heard her use any derogatory word for Catholics. She now praised her niece and, yes, she thought of her as a niece, not her nephew’s wife.

I wondered what had happened, was I seeing something remarkable? Perhaps my mother changed! Although the ground did not shake, there were some mighty changes about to happen over the next few years.

My mother was a bigot (part 1)

My mother’s influence began the moment I arrived home from the hospital after my birth. She loved baseball, so I would love baseball. She was full of life, so I hope that I am full of life. She taught me how to cook and take risks trying new recipes. The list of her influences is a long list. Fortunately, most of the influences were positive.

However, she was a bigot. For example, I learned negative synonyms for most groups, ethnic, religious, tribal. I once referred to an older boy in the neighborhood who loved to bully the younger boys as a “fish eater”. She used the term, so I figured it was good enough for me.

She went ballistic, “WHO TAUGHT YOU SUCH LANGUAGE, YOUNG MAN.” Tell me, WHO! I made my first truthful error. I said, why you mom. Her response was; “I NEVER use such language!” Then came those dreaded words, “young man march yourself up to the bathroom, I will be right there.” I must admit, I was scared. I did not remember being sent to the bathroom for anything other than the usual events. Was she going to give me a bath?

Soon I heard her shoes stomping towards me. I saw her coming in the mirror. There was a bar of soap in her hand. “OPEN YOUR MOUTH,” echoed in my ears. I was five, what else was there to do but open my mouth. Yuck, the soap tasted terrible as it entered pass my teeth. I had never put soap in my mouth. I was told to keep it there for 5 minutes. To this day, I am not sure, if the soap was because I had used the phrase or because I had accused her of using it.

I remember her telling someone the story of the time when my mom was a young woman, struggling to earn enough to live on as a waitress in Akron, Ohio. One day the famous bandleader, jazz singer, and actor Cab Calloway came into the restaurant and sat down at her station. Seeing that black man, she headed toward her boss, handed him her apron and said, “I am not going to serve that n….., I quit”.

Top 5 reasons not to retire

Having been retired for nearly six months I have “researched” to discover 5 reasons not to retire.  If you would like to add to this list, please do so!

5.  Tired of working

4.  Wanting time to sit and do nothing

3.  To play golf every day (or any activity, fishing, gardening)

2.  To reap what you didn’t sow (living off Social Security alone)

1.   To wear T-Shirts saying:  Retirement:  I worked all my life for this T-Shirt OR Retired, your not and I am! nah nah nah!

 

First Thoughts

As a child I was told that I was special because my parents “picked me!”  This means that I was adopted as a baby.  In the State of Ohio the law stated that you could not be over the age of 40 to adopt a child.  My mother (i.e. the woman who adopted me) was over the age of 40 so she lied!  She shaved several years from her age and the state never checked.

But I  never felt different from my friends having an older mother, because she never seemed older to me.  For example, when I was 12, playing little league baseball, we had a mothers-sons baseball game.  My mother, now in her late 50’s played in that game.  In fact she more than played along side the thirty something mothers, she “starred!”  This was my first real introduction into a lesson that you do not have to act your age.  And you shouldn’t act your age, you should act younger!

After my first wife died after a 40 month struggle with cancer and I was approaching retirement, the lessons my mother taught me became critical to my outlook.  It would have been easy to act old, feel sorry for myself, and keep myself out of the game!

In addition to my mother’s example, a member of another church in town whose wife had died a few years earlier, gave me this advice: enjoy life, consider a second marriage.  He lived that advice.  He and his new bride would go around holding hands, even seen kissing in public.  They were in love and enjoyed their lives together.  Since they were a few years older than myself, I thought why not.  Since I hated the word widower and the concept even more, I decided that I would go online (free site) and see if there was any possibility of finding someone that I could share the future.

I met Liz, an attorney, who lived in another state (some 2 hours from where I lived).  We had our first date, we ate dinner and then she asked if I would like to see her town and that she would drive.  I later told her that I wondered if she was going to turn out to be a mass murderer and I was just another man caught in her web!  Turns out I was caught, be she was not a mass murderer.  That was April 2014.  We went out on a few dates (hard to juggle two schedules, two towns, two states).  In August we went to see Samuel Perry Dinsmoor’s home and art work in Lucas, Kansas.  We saw his famous creation the Garden of Eden.

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On this trip we discovered that we like many things, including the possibility of each other.

On January 1, 2015 I retired.

Fast forward to May 24, 2015 Liz and I were married.  We have a home on a lake, we live near the nature park and center, our lives are filled with many fun, exciting, challenging events.

Over the course of the months ahead, the messages on this blog will encourage you, our readers, to see the possibilities of what life together can bring to us and hopefully give new light to you and your relationships.  We will talk about retirement adventures and working adventures (Liz is still working and will continue for some years ahead).  Thom has become more political, more involved with adventures that he never thought.

When asked recently about returning to the “pulpit,” Thom said it could be a possibility, but there are many things and many other challenges ahead.

We hope that you will enjoy our adventure and we ask that you could share yours.  If you are retired or considering it in the near future and are looking forward to more than just sitting and resting.  Tell us what you are planning or what you have planned.