Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Remember

Back in 1962 I was assigned as a Field Engineer to a Navy fighter squadron aboard the then brand new USS Enterprise. In that role I spent several months at sea in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. When we got back we almot immediately went to sea again to participate in the Cuban blockade.

Carrier life is unique and you find yourself becoming part of a family. Navy flyers are a great group and I can remember a number of pilots and Radar Intercept Officers. People like Ensign Brian Homer who got all kinds of odd jobs - like being movie officer. (One time he forget to connect the film to the take-up reel and ended up with a hundred or more feet of film coiled around his feet before he caught the error of his ways. Bruce McCandless who later became an astronaught. Gerry O'Roarke (commanding officer) who wrote at least one good book on F-4 Phantom aircraft history. And there was Tom Sitek, pictured above. Tom was from North Tonawanda, New York and he played all kinds of music on the accordian. He always had a smile for people around him and was one of God's good guys/

Tom was shot down over Viet-Nam - probably never knew the missile was coming. He spent many years as Missing in Action (MIA) but finally around the year 2001 they found his remains in the wreckage of his plane. His name is on the Viet-Nam wall and I got the chance to make a rubbing of his name on the Moving Wall (pictured above)which was in Oscoda in 2005. I sent the rubbing and a bunch of pictures to his daughter who worked so hard to get information about Tom.

Then there is a grave in Holland - one of Joyce's brothers who was killed during World War Two. A few years ago we visited William's grave and if you have never been in one of our National Cemeteries make a point to spend some time there. Even
of you haven't lost ssomeone close, keep in mind that these people died for you and me - and for the freedom of our country and in the service of our nation. Memorial Day is for memories of ultimate sacrifice. We should care.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

At the Side of the Road

A couple of years ago I thought seriously of doing a photo spread for a magazine published by the Bay City news paper. I really enjoyed the magazine because it reflected the area of Michigan in which we live. Unfortunately, the economics of the time laid the magazine to rest but my interest in the potential of a photo spread has not disappeared.

I saw a lot of roadside residence signs in Florida and I see it a lot here in Michigan. When we drive along the shores of Lake Huron many of the homes have signs out front indicating who lives there. But not all signs have names - many of them are symbolic and I've been left wondering about what kind of a family lives there. One sign says 'Changing Latitude' and I've asked myself, 'Where did they live before they changed latitude?'. (We live at an interesting latitude here - almost exactly half way between the Equator and the North Pole And there is sign specifying that alongside the road between here and Alpena to the north.)

There's another sign a little south of town. It's a very large letter 'C'. I know about that house - it's the home of a former pastor in Oscoda (his wife is a local school teacher) and the C represents the first letter of their last name. Another aign along highway 23 says "Fishbones." I know about that one too - the sign is in front of my friendly car salesman's house. Sadly, it used to have a fish skeleton under it but twice the skelton has disappeared. Why would someone rip off a fish skeleton?

Yet another sign is half way south between Oscoda and East Tawas. Heading north it reads 'HA HA'. If you are heading south it reads 'Ah Ah. I don't know why but I always seem to look for that sign on the way home. And I wonder what the sign is really saying.

Then there are signs for resorts all the way along highway 23. This is one of Michigan's treasures - lakeshore fun and frolic and is a great place to be especially if you come from downstate - Bay City, Saginaw, Flint and Detroit. Somes times even Lansing or Midland. And it is a great place to be year round even in winter when there are lot of activities like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. My wife does not share my feelings about winter - she does not like cold and wind even when our lakeshore temperatures are not as bad as cen parts of Mchigan.

Finally, look closely at the illustration. It's a work of art which adds to the scenic value of our highway traveling. It opens up questions of who lives there, where they came from, what the family is like, and things like that. Maybe I'm just nosy, but nevertheless, the signs along the road make the trip more pleasant. Now that I think of it, I miss the Burma Shave signs from the thirties
and forties. Anybody remember them?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Use It Or Lose It

Every so often I'll see someone on television or in the paper who has been able to use their gifts far longer than one would expect. I've never stopped marveling at people who, despite old age, continue to run in marathon races, or take to the ski slopes in their seventies and even eighties (and maybe beyond). Former President George H.W. Bush (the elder one who flew a Navy plane in World War Two) was in the news a while back because he took a parachute jump on his birthday and he has a lot of years behind him. If I were to take a parachute jump at my age I would probably not do well -- admittedly I'm well past my physical prime. However, I don't want to dwell on that - but at 82 and a half years of age, there are things I can't do any more. For instance, I don't hit the stairs at two or three steps at a time. I hung up my skis quite a while ago - but that wasn't to be accused of mental instability there are a lot of older people who don't want to be considered over the hill. At the same time, I must admit that in my case it is not a lack of interest but a lack of hills to ski on and the physical stamina and training to use them. I don't run much any more - but I DO like to walk. There's an old fitness trail not far from our condo and Joyce and I walk that when the weather allows (which has not been as much as I'd like this spring). We use the stairs most of the time even if there is a nice elevator at the end of the hall. And I use exercise equipment in the condo fitness room fairly often. I guess I can say I use my physical abilities as best I can.

But I also have tried to use my mind as best I can. I read a lot. I enjoy creating arts and crafts especially embroidery and crewel. Before some one says that sewing is girly stuff, I want to remind you that 'Rosie' Grier, a big hulking football player turned personal guard for President Kennedy was known to do embroidry I also really enjoy crossword puzzles. I/m not a champ at that but I hold my own - probably falling in the intermediate category. I'm not one to do the New York Times hard puzzles - but I don't enjoy the easy easy ones either.

I think that there is something to the old saying, 'use it or lose it'. If you don't continue to use a physical gift, chances are you'll lose it. Same thing with your brain - use it or lose it. That's why I enjoy artsy-craftsy stuff and why I enjoy writing. It keeps me mentally alert and keeps things like demensia and alzheimers disease at bay for as long as possible. I'd like to think that keeping the brain alive and well is one of the most important tasks we have in life. I've seen a lot of people who suffered physical limitations and still had a productive and enjoyable life because they continued to nurture and use their brain. So let me leave this blog with a reminder - that in life one needs to "use it - the brain - or lose it" Life is too short not to.

well, I don't want to be considered over the hill

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Something Amazing

One of the things I like most about the condo we live in is all the opportunities we have to do things we like to do. There's an exercise/fitness room where I go to use machines like a treadmill or a stationary bicycle, or a machine to toughen up my abs. I go there while I wait for the mail to be delivered each morning. There's a wonderful kitchen where one of the ladies bakes cookies. There's no way to hide the smell of fresh cookies so I provide an element of assistance to the residents by following my nose to perform quality control of the cookies. (I was pastoral "quality control manager" at a church one time when they made peanut brittle and would not sell any until I had put my stanp of approval on the latest batch.) (Is that what opened my life door to diabetes?) This week I have to go to the computer room to edit and make a dvd or cd of a video I took last week. There is a theater - complete with surround sound - where we show movies from time to time. There is a library where I help with sorting and stacking a good size variety of reading material. And there's a arts and crafts room as well. (The ladies are making a quilt.)

One of my favorite places is the men's workshop complete with all kinds of power tools and workspace. The picture above came out of the workshop and I never cease to marvel at some of the things Howard Hatch comes up with. It's really hard to sense the size of the cross - probably not more than two feet tall. In it is cut
an abbreviated life of Christ from birth to ascension. He uses tiny drills and saw blades that hardly seem larger than a medium embroidery needle. I'm sure you'll agree with me that Howard has a profound gift. I asked him if he'd make one for me but he said I'd have to wait in line until he does a couple more for their children. At the moment he's not working on crosses - he just finished a combination lock - made out of wood - even to the tumblers in the lock.

One of the tragedies of life is when people retire and then have no idea or interest in creating something. Maybe creating a hole-in-one or breaking a hundred on the golf course would be great. But what I like about Howard's projects is that when he finishes one it's a tangible thing to look at and treasure for a long time to come.
For me it may be video, or art, or writing, or crewel. And the best part is that when one thing is done there's another project down the road. For instance, Howard showed me a whole series of wooden locks he'll be making in the immediate future. People like Howard give the inspiration to do more than just sit around - and that's a good thing.