600 Days and Counting

If you’ve been paying attention to the presidency counter (and most people tell me it’s the best part of the page) you know that as of today President Bush has exactly 600 days left in office. Or, more to the point, the world has to endure 600 more days of the Bush presidency.

Clearly the most enduring and most shameful legacy of this presidency will be the War in Iraq (and not 9/11 as he wants it to be). Word came yesterday that Cindy Sheehan has thrown in the towel and no longer wishes to be the face of war protest. Truth told, I was never comfortable with her in that role. I didn’t think she was that articluate and she often provided easy fodder for the nut cases on the right, but you can’t deny that she has suffered from this war and she has a place among the Gold Star Mothers. This raises the issue of exactly who is the face of the opposition to the war. The President has been incredibly successful in bullying Congress into approving stopgap war funding measures (while refusing to put the war costs into his annual budget and allowing the deficit to look as large as it is). He has done this by convincing our representatives that voting against war funding means taking food and bullets away from our troops.

And our representatives have rolled over. My senators split on the last funding bill: Barbara Boxer voted against it, but Diane Feinstein and my congressional representative Susan Davis voted for it. It’s hard to believe this but we who oppose the war have to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire. We have to make them call the President’s bluff and somehow convince him that his “splendid little war” is not good for this nation or this world. He can continue to do significant damage in the next 600 days unless we make our voices heard. Write, call, or email your representatives. By the way, the number for the White House is (202) 456-1414.

John Kennedy: 1917-1963

If John Kennedy were still alive he’d be celebrating his 90th birthday today (It’s also the birthday of my friend Pat but she’s not as famous). President Kennedy was killed in Dallas when he was 46 and our memories of him are always going to be when he was a young man. If there are any advantages of martyrdom it’s that he did not have the burden of aging. Of the Kennedy brothers, we’ve only seen Ted (b.1932) age. Joe Jr. (1915-1944) and Bobby (1925-1968) also died before their time.

It's Memorial Day and Business is Good

I say this tongue in cheek because the purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who have died in uniform. As I write this 3455 troops have died in the war in Iraq (this does not count those who have died in Afghanistan, civilian contractors in either country, or native civilians). A few days ago my friend Carol sent me the link to an article in the Seattle Times that’s worth a read. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Arlington Cemetery but when I do I’ll make a point of going to Section 60.

Is Your Dog Incomplete?

I put this under the “chuckling” category but I have to admit I’m roaring with laughter. There was a story in the May 18th edition of our local newspaper the San Diego Union Tribune. It seems that if you have your male dog neutered, his testicles are removed. Until now your dog would spend the rest of his life living with the recognition that the whole world could tell. Now we hear from Robert Dominguez of MCT News Service that your dog can have “testicular implants” (called “neuticles”) and nobody will be the wiser. The manufacturer claims this is will help your dog’s self esteem. They can be made from several materials and come is sizes from petite to XXL.

You know, I try to stay cynical enough to keep up but stories like this remind me that I’ve got work to do.

More Reflections on Those Who Have Gone Before

In addition to Aunt Aldea, there has been another death in the family. Nancy’s father Al lives with us and his cousin Bob Graner died on Sunday, May 13th. Bob lived in Los Angeles (practically under the flight path of the airport). Last week we received a call from Bob’s son Steven who said that Bob was on hospice care and wasn’t expected to live long. Though Bob and Al were cousins, they grew up next door to each other and really thought of themselves as brothers. The day before he died we went up to visit him and it was a good visit; he and Al were able to talk about the old times and remember people and events that they shared 70 years ago. I talked with Rob, one of Bob’s sons, who said that Al was likely the one person Bob was waiting to see. That’s probably true because Bob died 14 hours later. His Mass of Resurrection is this Friday.

Bob was not a young man: he was 88 and had been a widower for a little over 7 years. He was certainly ready to go and reunite with his wife. I wonder about all the stories that are lost with his his death. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and I like to think we have heard much of what Bob had to say. But he had memories of people we never met. I was thinking about that when I was wandering the cemetary after Aunt Aldea’s death. Because of my genealogy research I knew the names of many of the family members buried there, but I never knew them. They are really just names and dates for me and I’m afraid every death makes them more and more remote.

So on Friday let us raise a glass or a prayer for Bob and all the people he is reuniting with in Heaven.

The Page Is Returning

If you’ve been trying to sign onto this page in the last week it’s very possible that you’ve gotten an error message. The person who administers this page had a catastrophic hard disk crash and essentially had to build this page back up from scratch. I saw him last night at church and he looked fairly sleep deprived. Having said this, as I write this the page again isn’t loading correctly.

The one thing we haven’t been able to retrieve is the comments people have left. My apologies, but the function should be operating now so feel free to leave comments and feedback.

Thoughts on Gardner, Family, and Funerals

I’m writing this the evening before I leave Gardner. I’m not sure when or if I’ll be back. As I told my mother I can’t imagine never coming back but at the same time I don’t know of anything that will compel my return.

This was the town my parents were born in and where they spent their childhood. They were barely adults when they left but when I was growing up this was always where we went for vacation. A few years as a pre-teen I would come up for an entire month and when I lived in Boston in the early 1980s this was the weekend/holiday getaway. My grandparents are all gone and all my uncles and aunts here are in their 80s; I’m finding my cousins harder and harder to keep in touch with and I barely know their children. There are no more funerals I’ll feel I need to return for. Simply put I don’t know if this is my last visit here.

It’s an odd sensation: I’ve never seen this town do well economically but I’ve never seen it worse than it is now. It makes me sad because I know the stories of when this was a good place. Nobody I know got rich here but it was a town where a person could work hard and make a good living for himself, where factory wages were enough to own a house and put food on the table for your family. Now the factory that was really the heart of Gardner has been converted to elderly housing. The center of town has more abandoned storefronts than anything else and most of the businesses I remember are gone. There is a feeling of quiet desperation here.

Even though I’ve never lived here, Gardner feels like the place of my roots. I know so much about this place that I feel like I could move in a fit in right away. I used to think about what it would have been like to be a priest at Holy Rosary and it was a good feeling.

But change happens. I’m aware that few members of my family live their whole lives in one place. My paternal grandparents were born in New Brunswick and died in Gardner. My father was born in Gardner and lives in Virginia. I was born in Virginia and now live in San Diego. Each generation has done better than the one before (at least economically) and is more mobile. Perhaps the cost of this is watching the old places die.

Then again, no matter what, I’ll have good memories of Gardner. And if this is the last time I visit, I can take away the satisfaction of knowing that it has been a good place for me.

Aunt Aldea’s Sendoff

This morning we celebrated the Mass of Resurrection for Aunt Aldea. I was blessed to be one of her pallbearers and the lector for the second reading. The mass was at Holy Rosary Church in Gardner, Massachusetts. The pastor, Fr. Andre Dargis, celebrated the mass and he did a wonderful job. He talked about how he used to kid her about how little she ate and how he hopes she is fully enjoying the Banquet Feast of Heaven. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job or having known her better.

I was also pleased to see that her doctor, Dr Michael Mutchler, came to the wake. He cared for her for about 6 years and talked about how much he will mis her. It’s nice to know she was so well cared for during that time.

All in all I think she must be pleased with the sendoff she got. It was an honor to be able to participate.