Archive | November, 2013

My Dad was A Proud Veteran

26 Nov

My Dad was a proud veteran.  He instilled a love of country and duty in my children. And my children loved him.   I know that my son adored my Dad.  But I guess until this past Veteran’s Day I did not realize how great that love was and remains.

My Dad died in 2011, ten days after my son’s 21st birthday.  On his birthday, Dad called.  I did not hear the phone call. But my son called me immediately after to tell me that Grandpa called to wish him a happy birthday and to say he loved him and would always love him.

My Dad was in the hospital.  Very ill.  When he hung up, he turned to my sister and said,  “No more treatments, no more food, and I am not talking to you anymore.”  Those might not be the exact words.  I wasn’t there. I was in Kansas. Dad was in a hospital in New Jersey.  But both my sister and brother agreed that he stopped talking and eating, and refused all treatment.

Did I tell you my Dad was very stubborn?

But in this case, he was right, because he made his own choice.   And he passed away 10 days later.

It was very difficult.  I had plane reservations for that morning.  But it was too late.  The phone call came at 12:30 am.  My brother calling.  I did not want to answer the phone.   But I had to face the reality…losing my Dad nine months after losing my Mom.   My grief was overwhelming.

I flew home to New Jersey, where my brother met me at the airport.  His words were in a way helpful.  “Dad saved us from making very difficult decisions,” he said.  And he was right.  Because we might have fought with him to do the one thing he never wanted…putting in a feeding tube.

Dad was strong willed.

My father was the recipient of both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.  Even though he died on a Saturday, the funeral home was able to contact the military.  At my father’s funeral were two soldiers. At the cemetery they removed the flag covering his casket with great ceremony as they folded it.  While  the commanding soldier delivered the flag to my brother, saying the scripted, but heartfelt, words of the military, the other soldier disappeared.  A few minutes later, I knew why. From a far came the sound of  a soldier playing taps.  I still cry thinking of how proud my Dad was of serving his country.  And how the grateful nation return his respect with the tribute of a bugle.

 

The flag from Dad's funeral.  His favorite Korea Veteran cap.

The flag from Dad’s funeral. His favorite Korea Veteran cap.

We kept the flag in the room where we sat shiva.  It seemed right that it be with us.  As it seemed right that my brother now has the flag.

So what does this have to do with my son?

Well first off, my brother and sister agreed that we would give my son my Dad’s newest tallit as a 21st birthday gift.   My Dad had three tallisim  (prayer shawls).  One from his bar mitzvah, one from his wedding, and then the beautiful one my Mom gave him when he became president of his synagogue.  In Jewish tradition, you bury the tallit with the owner.  But at the funeral home, the director told us, “Keep this one.  Use it for a huppah (wedding canopy)for his grandchildren.  Burying two is enough.“

My son was very quiet when I gave him the tallit. He held it for a while, then stroked the velvet case.  I cried because I could see the emotion in that gesture. Now  he  wears Dad’s tallit when he goes to synagogue.  My sister recently said to me that this Dad’s most personal item….his tallit.  That is true. My Dad was proud to wear his tallit.  Proud to be Jewish. As he was proud to be a veteran.

What does Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day have to do with this story?  So much.  My Dad served as a forward observer/radio man in the Korean War.  As he told my children,  “There were no cell phones then.  Someone had to go in front of the front line to lay the radio wires.  That was me.”

Korean Vet

My Dad explaining the Korean War.

 

So when they built a Korean War Veteran’s Memorial near my home, I helped fund it by buying a inscribed stone in honor of my Dad.   One Thanksgiving, when my parents were visiting,  I took them and my children to the Memorial, where Dad told them all about the war… He started to cry….even after over 55 years, the trauma of Korea still was fresh for him.

After my father died, in October 2011, I started going to the Memorial on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, to say hi to my Dad.  I cannot visit his grave, as he is buried in New Jersey. But this year, I could not go on Veteran’s Day.  I was out of town.  It bothered me that I could not make this important visit.

A few days after we got home, I had lunch with my son and his girlfriend.  I asked if I could take their photo to send to my daughter.  They said yes.  But then my son started making funny faces.

“Why are you doing that?”   I asked annoyed.

“I am channeling Grandpa,” he said.  “He would have done worse.  He would have also made bunny ears.”

I smiled.  But what he said next made me cry.

“I went to the Korean War Memorial on Veterans’ Day,” he said.  “I went there because I wanted to pay my respects and honor his memory,” he told me later.

When I told him that I went twice a year.  And I really appreciate his going for me.  He looked at me astonished and said he did not go for me.  “I never knew you went there to do that every year,” he said.  No he went there just to say hi to his grandfather.

There are no words….but love.

My Dad always said that with each child and grandchild your heart does not divide more, it gets bigger.  My Dad had the biggest heart, something he gave to his grandchildren.

So each year on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, I will continue to honor my father by visiting the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial. I will think of him and of all the veterans who served with pride.

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Cats and Kids

16 Nov

Way before I had children, I had a wonderful loving cat.  A golden tabby, Topaz loved me.  He was gentle and kind.  And filled a need that no one could fill.   It was my mother-in-law, Lee’s, idea for us to get a kitten.  I had infertility issues.  And Topaz helped me get through a very difficult time.  I loved him.

And then we had children.   Although, through the years we always had cats… right now we are on cats 3 and 5….they never quite had the significance of Topaz.  I think because once you have children, you are caught up in so many events and dramas and activities.  You love your pets, but your children come first.  They are so demanding.

Of course we – my husband and I– always had the belief that in a way the cats were much better behaved than our children.   They never yelled at me or complained.  They always gave me love.  They purr, they chirp, they touch noses.

In fact, they never ask for anything but for food, water and love.

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So as the years went on, and some of our beloved cats left this world, we always found another waif to bring home.

Now we are back at the beginning.  The children are gone.  But the cats have stayed.  Cats 3 and 5 provide me so much love and attention.  Perhaps a bit more love and attention than Jay and I need, especially when they takeover ourbed.  Cats on our pillows; cats on our heads; cats on our feet; cats wherever we are.  Now that the weather is getting cold again, the warmth of the cats is much appreciated.  But the ‘on the head’ cat stuff really should end.

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I will admit there is one area that our cats do misbehave…in the kitchen.  Cats on the table and on the counter, I know some people find that disgraceful.  But in reality, even if I do chase them off, they will only go back on when I am not home.  So why make them hypocrites.   This way we all know…the cats like the sunshine on the table.   They like the cool of the counters in the summer.

Our cats greet children on Halloween. 

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They help me read and watch television.   They help me learn to take big steps to get out of the shower. They entertain us.  Whenever a package arrives, the box provides days of activity for our cats.  Which in turns provides hours of entertainment for us.

I think the empty nest syndrome would be so much worse for me if it were not for my cats.  I did realize how silent the house would be without my children.   I did not realize how much I would miss their hugs, their arguments and their presence.   At least with my cats I still have someone to talk to and to hug.  I hope my children realize how lucky they are that I have my cats….

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Joyful, Fun and Insightful blogs

4 Nov

I decided that this November I would start writing again, sharing my opinions and ideas about life.  I did this for nine years as a commentary writer for the Leawood/Blue Valley Neighborhood News section of the Kansas City Star.  And since I have stopped, there have often been times when I said…I should write about that.  But there was no where to publish my essay.  Today, I start anew with my own blog site.

What do I have to offer?   I am a schmoozer and a writer.  I love people.  I love to watch people. I love to talk to people.  I volunteer.  I work.  I parent.  I interact with the world.  And the world as I see it is often happy and funny.   Yes, I have been through difficult times, as have many.  But I always seem to be able to find something happy in the world.  

I do not agree with the “yes, but” people, who always seem to see the negative in what happens.  For me the world is yes, but for the positive.   During a difficult 18 month period when my family suffered the loss of many loved ones, I thought I lost my happiness.  It was a struggle, but I realized life needs to be lived for joy.   And that is how I live.  I look for the joy in the moment and the happiness to share.

Giving makes me happy.   I love buying gifts.  Even though my children are adults,  I find a way to be in the children’s toys and clothes departments….because I adopt a child for the holidays.  Going through the store, finding just the right gifts, brings me joy. Then for moments I can forget any sadness.

So for my blog I will try to show my view on the world…a little slanted…but I hope joyful, fun and insightful.  I named my Blog for memories.  But it will not be memories that are always from the past, instead it will be memories that come each day. Events I want to remember. The photo shows a day I always wish to remember, the last family event when we were altogether.  Before the sadness came.   I love to focus on the happy.

 So Lara…here is my first blog post.  Thank you!Image