In Other Words

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Giving Thanks

The plea was posted on a Facebook page where members post items they wish to sell. I don’t
recall the exact wording, only that the young mom of two, one, a son with chronic kidney
disease, was basically broke. She was in arrears on her rent after spending nearly every last dime
to bring her daughter home from San Diego where she spends time with her father. She had no
money for diapers or groceries or even gas to get to work, and pay day was still two weeks off.
She wasn’t asking for handouts, she wrote. But she made beaded jewelry and was hoping people
might be willing to barter for or buy them. Her name was Sherelle Schreiner. No one I knew.
I remembered a time when I was pretty much penniless. I was 19-years-old, thousands of miles
from home. It was winter in Alaska and my apartment was so cold, ice formed on the inside of
windows.

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Echoes of silent valor

The medals came in early January, about one month after my brother Jerry’s death. He was 64 years young, a passive suicide by alcohol, as I came to think of it. Also in the box, the belt buckle from his River Boat Patrol unit – the Delta Mod Squad – and the plaque presented for Outstanding Service. But the citations I recalled from childhood were gone.

I called his widow Deb in Pennsylvania. They’d been married just short of 10 years, but she knew of only what she’d sent, found tucked away in his dresser drawer. She seemed puzzled that it should matter so much and I, with only vague and uncertain details, didn’t know how to explain.

What I remembered most was when my brother first returned from ‘Nam, still not even of legal age to drink, and how he talked about those medals, imitating in a high singsong voice the Viet Cong who, knowing Jerry’s boat was trapped, teased, ‘Hey Joe, Hey Joe.’”

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A Labor Day Race

As a kid I eyed Labor Day with a mix of anticipation and dread. On one hand, it most assuredly meant a gathering at the house. Steaks on the barbecue, corn on the cob, family, friends, badminton, croquet. On the other, it signaled the end of summer and the start of yet another school year. I was eight that year, and had recently begun counting on my fingers the number of years I had left in the public school system. So yes, I had mixed feelings on that summer weekend.

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Finding Our Story

I was sitting alone at the bar at the Rogue – hubs called off to work – me left to wait. I clicked open the mail on my phone and saw a note that seemed to come from Gill Dennis. Oh good, I thought, something from Gill. And then I saw it wasn’t from Gill, but from Squaw Valley. Gill was dead. I sobbed. Me and my glass of wine in a bar, in a cell free area, tears rolling. I picked up the phone and went looking for Victoria.

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The Super bowl solution

January 2007, I was watching from my standing room only “seat” as the Seahawks were about to lose to the Cowboys in my first playoff game. It was important stuff and I was trying very hard to pay attention to the play on the field — though admittedly this is difficult for me to do as my eyes tend to glaze over rather often. It might be something to do with the fact that they always seem to be stopping for something. A penalty. A commercial. Time out. An owie.

Suddenly, the crowd around us went nuts.

“What happened?” I asked, puzzled because I really was watching.

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A good cover story

I was not yet in the double digits when I experienced my first full solar eclipse. It was a Saturday in March 1970. I was at my girlfriend’s house in central Pennsylvania, waiting and watching with her and her mother, Gloria. Gloria was the worrying kind, anxious about everything — toilet seat germs, lecherous old men and of course, on that day, that we might be blinded by the sun. As I recall, we were equipped with some sort of homemade pinhole viewing device, but even with that, Gloria urged us to stay inside. Less a cause for celebration, it felt more like the potential ending of the world. I wasn’t so sure I liked this idea of night when it was supposed to be day.

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