Real Men

I saw a story listing 20 things all men should know how to do. On the list was operate a chain saw and it reminded of a story.

We had a medium-sized tree in our yard that needed to come down. I knew my dad had a chainsaw, so I called him to borrow it. He was about 75 years old at the time and legally blind, so I was a bit taken aback when he volunteered to come over and help me.

He asked, “have you ever cut a tree down before?”

“No,” I replied.

Later, I was complaining to Annette about it and she asks, “have you ever operated a chain saw?”

“No,” I replied.

“You’d better let him do it,” she advised.

Anyway, I still need to cross that one off my list.

Mom turns 80

MomA big day. On February 22, Mom turned 80 years old. Wow.

First of all, she looks great. (That’s her on the deck of the Admiral circa 1954.) She’s in great shape due to the luck of good genes and taking good care of herself through the years. I can still see her on the living-room floor when I was a boy with a little wheel on an axle, rolling forward, then up, forward, then up. Even then, she had this kind of, “hey, I don’t know about you, but I’m planning on living for a while,” attitude. We would just say, “hey, I can’t see the television!”

It was raining in the city

It was raining in the city. A hard rain.

No, really, it was raining hard. I was staring out the sixth floor hospital window onto a big, old, dark city. A river bending around us like some monster’s sinew. In the bed, my seventy-eight year old mother currently enjoying her morphine drip. She deserves it; she’s spent Christmas night in the ER of this equally big, old, dark hospital and now, a couple days later, just got out of surgery to have a colostomy bag hooked up. We’re all saying to each other, “she is not going to like that.” Flash forward a couple more days and after eating some dinner, the bag begins to fart. She says, “Oh, I hate this bag.”

It’s Christmastime and I’m watching the Sound of Music with her in the hospital. Then, it’s time to leave and she says, “I’ll finish watching and see if they still fall in love.” They do, I watch it every year. I always make everyone in the room stop and take notice when the scene comes where the Captain is singing Edelwiess and Maria is off stage. Then the moment comes. I say to mom this year, “here it comes…wait for it…there it is! She’s fallen in love with him.” What a woman that Julie Andrews is. She’s on my list, you know.

We all hated the hospital, but kept it to ourselves. You want the best for your mother, right? Well, this wasn’t it. But, it was her hospital. Kinda like her car. I want her to have a better car, but she doesn’t and she won’t. And, after a couple of nights of all night partying by some of the guests, she’d had enough and asked for a private room. Much better. We told her when you go back for your surgery, you may as well just ask for a private room right of the bat.

The first surgery (for the bag) went well. The night before, my dad pulled me aside to whisper, “you’re gonna be with her tomorrow morning, right?” Even now, I’m proud to say, he wanted to make sure I was going to do the right thing.

Tonight, the new year is here. She looked really good tonight. Almost back to normal. She really is in good shape. After the tumor comes out next Friday, a couple of weeks of some slow recuperation and some pain, she’ll be back to this point, but for good.

Yes, it’s been hard seeing her like this; in the hospital and nursing home. But, it makes us ask the hard questions of ourselves. Will we be ready for this? First, will we be ready for our parents’ passing. Then, will we be ready for our own infirmities? Where will we go? Who will take care of us? I’ve very proud of her for taking care of herself through the years. I hope I can live up to that high standard.

The Cruise

I figure I’d better post some pictures at least before my family disowns me.

First, a couple of shots while we’re waiting to embark:

Annette Jim & JudyRich Jim & Judy

A view from the shady deck:

View from the shade

Our dinner table on formal night:

The dinner table

Our Servers:

Our servers

Us later on Formal Night:

Rich & Annete

Ready to power snorkel!

Power Snorkeling

A really big ship that pulled in next to us:

A much larger boat

Us in Cozumel:

In Cozumel

It’s official; we are both born hams. With all the highlights of a Caribbean Cruise what was the best part for us? Why, singing on stage, of course! With a live band backing us up. The crowd roared, I tell you.

Stars of the stage

Oh, yeah, there was some other talent there too:

The talent show gang

Ralph & Sam’s House in Mobile, AL:

Ralph & Sam's house

Girls love a man in uniform

Lois Robert and Alice Emily Sailor and Maria

I was scanning a bunch of pictures for a dvd that I’m making for Mother’s Day and when I came across the one on the left there it reminded of the one on the right.

On the left that’s my Aunt Lois, Uncle Russ and Mom (Alice) about 1942 I’m guessing.

On the right is Emily, bronze sailor and Maria. This is from one of our trips to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum. I just realized that this picture was four years ago when Maria was heading to college and Emily was heading into her senior year of high-school. Now, we just received an invitation to Maria’s college graduation and Em is heading into her last year of college. Yikes!

Report from Monopoly 2007

I promised Jennifer I’d give her a report on how the New Year’s Eve Monopoly game went. Present were the perennials: John, Gene, Jim & Scott. There was yours truly, of course, and one cub. His name is Steven. Steven Tanner, son of Scott. He’s 13 years old and I’m happy to say he was victorious in the first game of the night. With hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place he made quick work of the whole gang. The second game was won by Scott, son of Gene. I was the first out in both games, of course.

Jen suggested I get a stiff drink before the game to possibly adjust my attitude. I did try that, but alas, to no effect. I guess if it’s possible to care less than I already did; that might have happened.

All is right with the world, though and fun was had by all. A couple of men stayed upstairs to play card games and they were not ashamed. Midnight struck, we all said our Happy New Years, and then went home. Happy New Year to all…

Wife of Godfather

Wife of Godfather

I really have no idea what year this is. It struck me while writing these last two posts that dads “are” and moms “do.” I really have no idea who or what she was, I only know what she did.

When I see this picture I see the woman who taught me how to wear those yellow gloves. I was proud to carefully not let the inside of them get wet. And, there a few steps in front of her, was a small, built-in wall cupboard that had her tools in it. Yes, her tools; a hammer, a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. She has one very much like it in her apartment now.

Also, notice that belt she has on. She was mod. Her favorite “group” was Creedence Clearwater Revival. If you get in her car now the radio will be tuned to the oldies station. Oh, how I wish I knew the woman in this photo.

The Godfather

The Godfather …of the Monopoly board that is.

I ran across this picture while assembling an album for my mother. I’m not sure she would appreciate it as much as I, but hey, it is my blog. And, she is in the picture after all there in the right foreground.

When I look at this picture I see the dad of my fantasies. Cigarette in his left hand, drinking a 7 & 7 and waiting to pounce on the blockbuster deal that would leave him with St. James Place, Tennesse Avenue and New York Avenue; and the subsequent win.

This was a typical scene around our house on Friday nights. The gang of friends and family from church would come over (or we to their house) and usually the grown-ups would play cards and the kids would just hang out with each other. This picture is from a bit later, I’m guessing 1975 or so and I may not have even been there.

The Monopoly Board was a rite of passage for the males in our family. Girls were, how shall I say, discouraged from playing. Personally, I hated the game and I never won. Many times I played just to be a part of the grown-up guys. Drinking and cursing were not acceptable in polite company, but at the board, well to quote my uncle Gene, “God-damit Hutz, break out the good stuff!”

The Foosball Story

While attending the aforementioned party at Amy’s, I found myself standing across a foosball table from my soon-to-be-19-year-old daughter. After slamming a few balls past her poor goalie, she remarked, “what? …how? …when?” I wanted to answer, “you mean give you another example of how I wasted away my youth?” But, instead, I told the story. First, remember, if you’re talking to anyone under the age of 25 or 30, it’s incumbent upon you to remind them that during the summers there was no cable TV, no video games, no computers or internet. Sure, we watched our fair share of regular TV, but that was quite limited in comparison. So… There’s a small store-front on the corner of Bates & Colorado across the street from Woodward Elementary School (where four generations of Hudsons attended) that has seen many different incarnations in its day. In my youth it was a small pinball hall run by a old Greek guy. Inside were a few pinball machines and a few foosball tables. Now, the real game was pinball, and early on, we wouldn’t be caught dead playing foosball. I’ll tell the pinball story another time. After a summer or two though, the team aspect of foosball began to call us.

Russ and I have always been inseparable, but during those summers, especially so. We ended up being a team. He played back, I played front. We got pretty good; spent a lot of quarters, but never good enough to compete at the Electric Palace up at 44 & Hampton. That place was for pinball.

One memorable day stands out among the others during the little store-front era: It was a slow day at the corner, nobody there, just Russ and me. It wasn’t unusual to just sit out on the stoop in front and that’s what we were doing this day. In those days, the 1st District Police station was on Colorado & Holly Hills, so cop cars would go up and down Colorado all day long. This time, one stopped in front, the cop got out and told us that we weren’t allowed to sit out there. Loitering, you know. I was incensed. I remember a strong feeling of violation. This was my neighborhood, my school, my street. I can sit out on my street if I want to! So, we uttered an early form of “whatever,” and went inside.

The next day, same situation. We were sitting outside. The same cop pulls up angrily and starts coming towards us. We get up to go inside as if to say, “We’re inside!” Gus, the old Greek guy, bless his heart, who could barely speak English came over to our little crowd saying, “these good boys, these good boys!” But, to no avail. The police officer was…well, he was downright rude. So, after he threatened us with hard time, we left. We sulked around the house for the rest of the afternoon until my Dad came home. We proceeded to tell him the whole story and the cosmic unfairness of it all. Then, he did something that only in hindsight could I appreciate; he called the police headquarters and asked the cop who yelled at us to stop by the house to talk! (We had taken his name from his badge, you know.) Well, anyway, he didn’t let us talk to him. After a private conversation, Dad came back to tell us what they talked about. “Look boys, they’ve had some trouble with kids at that corner, they can’t tell the good kids from the bad kids by looking at them and he’s asked you politely not to loiter in front of the store. So what are you going to do?”

Whatever…

23 years ago today

Young Couple23 years ago, on a day just like today, in the hot, muggy St. Louis weather, we were married. And since Annette was 22 years old on that day, she has officially been married longer than she’s not been married. Strictly by calendar years, my turn comes next year. I bought an iPod Nano for an Anniversary gift. Since we’ve been working out every day now, we thought we could use one. By the way, this photo is not from the year we were married, but about 1989 or so while we were in Pensacola. Upon gazing at the photo, Emily made the comment “I don’t know those people.”

Today, everybody headed out to Cousin Amy’s house to welcome home her son Eric. He’s been in Iraq and will have to return there soon. Eric is in an Air Force Special Unit, but don’t ask me what he does. As close as I can tell he “goes and gets people and brings them back.” As I sat and watched him rough-house with his small cousins, I couldn’t help but think of a blog post I’d written two years ago. Soldiers put their lives on the line daily. They do this with the unspoken hope that the little ones we see at play today won’t have to. Yet, it is not up to them whether this happens or not. But they go. They go anyway.