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Uncle George’s amazing life was written in my blog in 2013, the year he died.
Part Two is the story of finding a home for Uncle George’s PT boat replica model. This was something both my cousin, Carol Wilson, and I promised our Uncle George in the final years of his life. He was always so humble and would say, “No one will want it. A lot of people have done these models.” We would always say, “No one has done a model to scale 40 inches long with movable guns, and the inside also done precisely to scale with a movable top.” It was unique and had to find the perfect home.
We tried to find it a home, but nothing ever worked out. It was sitting in my cousin’s garage with its plexiglass cover for 8 years. The only time it was publicly shown in the last eight years was at Uncle George’s funeral.
How this PT Boat Model found a home was a very serendipitous event. My cousin and her two friends were on a boat trip on a Lake in Mt. Dora in Florida last spring. Wanda overheard the captain talking to someone and saying that he also gives boat rides on Sandusky Bay off of Port Clinton in the summer. He mentioned the Liberty Aviation museum, and the fact that they had just purchased a full size PT boat. Well, anyone in the family or close to my family hears PT boats, and their ears perk up. Wanda told my cousin, “You need to talk to that captain.”
So of course my cousin talked to the captain and the more he talked the more she knew this was a good lead for the PT model. Well, if you fast forward to my visit in Cleveland last July, the right connection to the museum had still not come to fruition. But Carol looked up the museum directly and contacted the curator. He was indeed interested because of course there is Uncle George’s interview about his PT experience that could be tied into the exhibit on the internet from The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Carol and I had intended to visit the Port Clinton, Marblehead area of Ohio and check out the museum, but now, the visit included transporting the PT Boat and seeing if the museum wanted it. Before we went to the museum, we were still in awe of the fact that we never in a million zillion years would have thought to look for a home for a PT model in an aviation museum.
But as it turned out, this museum is full of now only aviation planes and more, but also many other World War I and II armed services exhibits. http://www.libertyaviationmuseum.
The Liberty Aviation Museum turned out to be an incredible place. There it was, the PT boat they floated to Port Clinton and were fixing up so they could give tours on Sandusky Bay.
The Curator and Assistant took one look at Uncle George’s model and said “we want it.” It was music to our ears. And we posed for a final picture with Uncle George’s PT 167. We both had tears in our eyes as they rolled the model away.
And then they took us on a private tour of the museum.
After the Private Tour it was time to say a final goodbye to Uncle George’s PT 167.
Now came more tears. I kissed the boat goodbye, and Carol and I left the museum. I said out loud to Carol, “Uncle George would be so happy since we followed through on his wishes. His PT model of PT 167 found the perfect home, and they promised us an interesting exhibit.” They were especially interested in adding the Cleveland Plain Dealer video of Uncle George’s own words.
Carol made another trip to the museum with her friends, to take the rest of Uncle George’s memorabilia. His PT hat, books etc. The next time I go to Cleveland, we will have to see what they have done.
As I write this blog, it is always with tears in my eyes on missing the entire Holasek family. They were all incredibly kind, loving, and generous people. The last two Holaseks I need to write about are Edward Holasek, and Theresa Holasek Wellenburg. And then the writing part of honoring the Holasek family will be done, but the rest of us that are still alive, honor all of them each day in our hearts.
My uncle, Joseph Holasek, was a constant gardener. Every decade of his life from young adulthood onward involved a garden. He was my father’s brother closest in age even though they were seven years apart. He is standing on the left next to my father and was born in 1914. He was closest in age to Josephine and his younger brother was Fred, far right. There was another child born between Joseph and Josephine, Florence who died very young.
Joseph worked in the store with my dad as soon as he was of age. But I am sure but don’t have anyone to verify the information, that Uncle Joe had some kind of garden going next to the family store/butcher shop. And from the second picture, you can see is was interested in agriculture for sure.
As I have mentioned before, My grandfather had a dilemma on his hand during the depression. No jobs were to be found, so he made the decision to buy a small farm, and sent Uncle Joe and Aunt Josephine out there to tend the farm year around. It was fairly primitive, but that is really where Uncle Joe’s love of gardening fermented. But when I really studied more writings, it wasn’t just Uncle Joe’s love of gardening that was fermented here. It was his brother, Fred, who also loved growing things, and in the future would want to make it a career. I would imagine a lot of the produce in the summer was taken to the store, and years later he and Aunt Josephine would still work together canning the summer vegetables he grew. Below is a picture at the farm with all the siblings and grandma.
The United States was gearing up for war, and many Americans were drafted. Uncle Joe was the first to be drafted in the family. When this happened in 1941 before Pearl Harbor, the family auctioned off the farm, and then one by one all the sons were drafted. My father, the oldest, enlisted, but was rejected for bad veins.
Uncle Joe was drafted into the army and trained as a cook. He had some really great pictures of those days. He was stationed in Hilo Hawaii after Pearl Harbor.
And then one day he was put on guard patrol. Now that was a serendipitous moment.
A young Hawaiian boy started to talk to him. Now if anyone knows anyone with Holasek blood in them, we like to talk. And we can talk to anyone about anything at anytime or place. And Uncle Joe with his constant smile won over this little boy who invited him home. There he met the Johnston family, mother, father, and two sons. They loved my Uncle Joe. And from then on, they had him over for dinner every Sunday and Mrs. Johnson washed his clothes. They all became life long friends.
The native Hawaiians like the other native Americans were a discounted people and they lived in poverty. They shared what little they had with him while he was there.
Uncle Joe was then sent to Japan to cook with the army.
Uncle Joe was gone for four years. He missed my dad’s wedding, but was sent a letter describing it which I mentioned before.
Uncle Joe never forgot the Johnson’s kindness. As soon as he was able to travel to Hawaii after the war, he visited them. And after the war, he sent them money on a regular basis. He visited many times, and as did my entire family. Even I visited Mrs. Johnson in 1968 and gave her a lei to thank her for her kindness. I still have many letters she wrote to the family over the years.
He also left her sons money in his will, and my generous Uncle George continued to send them money after Uncle Joe died. (By this time there were grandchildren, and they all lived in poverty.) The Holasek generosity had no bounds. . . .
After the war, the family settled into their new jobs, since the store was out of the picture. They still lived on Nursery Ave. and my dad lived on the West Side with his wife and soon to come first born. By this time Aunt Lillian had also married.
Dad, Uncle Joe, and Aunt Theresa went to work for White Motor Company making White Trucks. They were part of the United Auto Workers. Dad kept the supply room for the engineers, and Uncle Joe worked closely with him delivering the supplies. Uncle Joe and Dad got to see each other everyday. They were very close, eating lunch together, and playing cards for about 15 min. of their lunch hour.
This picture was taken in 1953. Notice the calendar in the background.
Because this was a Union job, the workers got a paid two week vacation every year. And the Holasek family learned to love to travel. They started small with car trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, fishing in Maine, Florida, and then they branched out to Hawaii, the West, Northwest Canada, and Europe. They took Tauck tours and came back with family friends they met in the tour group. Carol has the list of all their travels that two weeks every year and the list is two pages long.
Besides travel, this is how the middle class thrived under unions. They could afford to take a vacation, buy a home, live simply, but have food and shelter and a good life.
My goodness, people now just don’t get the benefit of unions. They are maligned and put down because the corporations have to actually take care of the workers with unions. And the powers that be, like the petrol gods, HATE unions and anything to make the middle class strong. (White Motor Company ceased to exist in in the 80’s, but Uncle Joe got paid his pension til his death in 2000. Dad’s wife, Joan, got paid her widow’s benefit 25 years after the company ceased to exist. How is that possible? UNIONS!)
After my mother died, dad and I lived with Aunt Lil and Uncle Jack before moving back to Nursery Ave for one year, but in 1948 the family made the big move to the West side, and the house on Archmere they would call home for 60 years.
What astounded me was the amount of pictures of Uncle Joe with me as a baby. The first three picture are at the Wilson’s.
Then Carol was born 8 months later, and Uncle Joe had two little ones to love. This picture was taken at Archmere.
Here is another picture I loved of Uncle Joe and I sitting in the garden when I lived on Archmere. My dog Skippy is in the picture. Uncle George won Skippy in a card game. He was a runner and unfortunately always had to be on a chain or a leash.
The family had these wonderful dinners with family and friends. In this picture was their friend Zoila.
Another wonderful event after the war was the marriage of Uncle Fred to my Aunt Evelyn Loucka. This event is where my mother’s and father’s family came together. Evelyn was my mother’s first cousin.
I must add that Uncle Joe walked with a brace crutch and had ankle braces because he had a back operation. (And we know how they turn out. It gave him foot drop.) His taking care and lifting Aunt Theresa for her 8 year disability with Parkinson’s took its toll.
And finally we come to Uncle Joe as a constant gardener. Cleveland winters can be brutal, but even then he worked on his garden. He mapped out his garden plans, decided on what seeds to order, made lists of what new was added, and waited until early spring.
At that time, he would till the ground, and start the seedlings in the basement. Of course, he was always weeding, and he made his own compost. That yard on Archmere had soil of gold with his 50 years of composting.
Next was planting season. He planted one vegetable just for me, the peas. And I would patiently wait to eat them right off the vine. Of course, I didn’t have to worry about pesticides poisoning the plants and the ground.
When I was a child living in that house on Archmere, I was always photographed in the garden by the azalea or snow ball bush.
Uncle Joe was also a bee keeper. So not only did he make his own fertilizer, but he had his own bees to help with pollination. He was this all encompassing, extraordinary gardener.
Aunt Lil helped Uncle Joe sometimes with the maintenance of the flowers. When his mobility was even more compromised, he gardened from his chair.
No matter what the year, we always went back to the garden. Fred Holasek , my cousin, and his children loved the garden too, and Fred is quite a gardener himself. He takes after his father, Fred, who was already packed up and ready to go to California to start a life of growing things when his untimely death happened at at 39 probably from war injuries.
Here is a picture of my cousin Fred with Uncle Joe in the garden. They spent hours talking about growing things.
Here is a good picture of Aunt Lil holding her great niece, Josephine during Jonathan and Leslie’s visit. The snowball bush is about 50 years old. And the next picture is of Stacy and me early in the growing season.
Harvest time was special. He mulched his corn for the compost pile. A framed picture on the Holasek table in my hour is Uncle Joe with his pumpkins.
Stacy loved Uncle Joe too. And this is my favorite picture of Uncle George, Uncle Joe, and Stacy in the year 2000.
When one talks about the love of family, Aunt Lil and Carol went above and beyond after Aunt Josephine died. Every Sunday they had the uncles over for Sunday dinner, starting with appetizers and their Manhattans and ending with a wonderful full course meal. Then the leftovers would be packed up to take home. (Aunt Lil and Carol always made a lot of extras so they would have food for a couple of days). After Uncle Ed died, it was continued with Uncle Joe and Uncle George, and then Uncle George alone. By this time, Carol was doing all the work because of Aunt Lil’s mobility problems.
Here is a cautionary tale. Uncle Joe would have continued gardening forever except medicine goofed with him. A simple thyroid blood test would have shown his thyroid was failing. Well, it failed. When that happens, a thyroid controls muscles and guess what? One’s heart is a muscle and he had a heart attack in his sleep. His heart became so compromised that he was sent as an emergency to the Cleveland Clinic.
We were all right there when the doctor said, “We have to slowly give him thyroid hormone so his heart is not overwhelmed.” Well, they did not do it right. The Cleveland Clinic overwhelmed his heart with fluids and thyroid hormone, and threw Uncle Joe into Congestive Heart failure. Now that can be managed, but they also did something that is often done to old people. They let him lie in bed for a week. Anybody with limited mobility in the first place and then weakness will not be able to walk. This is repeated over and over with old people every day.
IF AN ELDERLY FAMILY MEMBER IS IN THE HOSPITAL, MAKE THE DOCTOR ORDER THE NURSES TO WALK THEM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
The next thing the hospital did wrong was discharge him when he was too weak to walk. Carol had a terrible time getting him into the house. It was such a burden and danger placed on her. Once the visiting nurse came, he was back into the hospital, and then had to be transferred to a nursing home. Now since the Holaseks took care of their own like Aunt Theresa, grandma, grandpa etc., they were devastated. Everyone cried and cried.
And for the next six months of Uncle Joe’s life, Uncle George visited with him everyday. Aunt Lil and Carol came most days. He never went a day without a family member there. That was the best they could do. And when summer came, he was always taken outside in the courtyard to be near the flowers, and he always had a smile on his face.
I got to visit him in the fall. Carol and Aunt Lil always kept flowers by his bedside and so I brought him flowers too.
Uncle Joe was very ill by Christmas. I rushed flowers to him as a Christmas Present. He died the last day of 2000. These days people say it is a waste to buy flowers for the funeral home. We said no such thing. It was a fitting tribute to Uncle Joe to have beautiful flowers there. I came to Cleveland and gave his eulogy. Carol and I played music. First In the Garden:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=59yKqBhyrFg and then Aloha Oe
As a writer, these blogs are very difficult to write because just looking at all the pictures makes me cry. But Uncle Joe lead a remarkable, but quiet humble life, devoted to family, and to his garden. And of course, there was his generosity. His money to the great nieces and nephews, was just enough to put a modest deposit on a small starter home for Holly and Will 15 years ago. Holly’s first house was a townhouse with the prettiest garden in the back of the property. Uncle Joe would have been so happy, and they had a garden sign that said, Uncle Joe’s garden.
Every time I enjoy a fresh organic vegetable, or see a snow ball bush, or roses, or azaleas, or dahlia’s, I think of my Uncle Joe and his beautiful smile and his beautiful gardens. God blessed us all with Uncle Joe. He was an amazing son, brother, and uncle and great uncle and even great great uncle. We all still miss him so much!
As you can see, I turned 70 in February. I had my mother in my life for a few precious weeks, actually 65 days. I just noticed this year that April 22, 1946, falls on a Monday. Mildred Chylik Holasek died on Easter Sunday around 11PM. But probably by the time the doctor arrived it was the next day.
It seems very fitting that I write more about my mother today. Previous writings can be found here: The first one is the love story of my parents which I know because of the letters and the conversations:
The next writing is the story of my mother’s life
And the third essay was written about her death.
Since I have written those first three stories and included all the pictures, having exhausted every family connection, there does not exist a picture of my mother holding me on the day of my Christening. In fact, looking closely at the pictures in my childhood album, there seems to be only two there from my Christening. One with my Godmother, Mrs. Gund.
And another picture with with my grandmother, Theresa Vanek Holasek. My goodness, she was only 63 years old in this picture.
The pictures of my dad and me which I always thought were taken at my Christening, must have been taken right after my mother’s funeral. The date says April 26, 1946.
I know there must be at least one picture somewhere of me and my mother. It would mean everything to me to find it. Is it any wonder why I hoard pictures and they are considered my most prized possession. I have about 80 albums all categorized now, and over 25,000 pictures since I went digital. And yet that one picture alludes me. But at least I remain determined to keep writing my blog to put down for the record my autobiography a little piece at a time, and include the important pictures.
So besides the three previous blogs, related to all the stories are two letters, one written by my mother, and the other written by both my mother and father about 4 days before her death. Having a family that kept everything, especially the letters is a wonderful thing. (Making them her last letters). My mother’s friend gave my dad her letter, and my Uncle Ed kept his letter and gave it to me.
They were writing describing my christening. My mother’s letter was to her best friend Eleanor Gibson who was with her husband in the service in Kansas. She wrote: Marilyn is growing so much. . . . she weighs 9.5 pounds now, (I was 5 pounds 15 ounces at birth) and is beginning to smile. . . she sure is cute! And I was so proud of her last Sunday, Palm Sunday. It was her baptism day. . . . Marilyn looked like a little angel in her long white satin dress. In fact, she had a complete outfit given her by a friend of Bill’s family last December. Long white sweater coat, bonnet, booties, slip, stockings. and Mrs. Gund also gave Marilyn a dainty cross lovelier. This Mrs. Gund is a widow who has charge of the linen room at Hotel Cleveland. (She lived in the Terminal Tower.) Well, she sure took a liking to our babe and was so happy to be the sponsor.
I took a picture of the last part of this letter to show my mother’s beautiful penmanship.
And then my dad wrote to his brother Edward in the navy on Lake Erie: Dear Edward, Well, the big day for Marilyn has passed into history as a great day. To begin with the weather was perfect and sunshiny and warm. . . . Now Marilyn must have inherited some of those traits after her mother, meaning poise, lady like, reserved, quiet, well-mannered and just adorable. . . (I only wish that were true) Maybe Marilyn knew she was in church. . . .Mrs. Gund was the sponsor of Marilyn and was she proud. After services so many wanted to see our little off spring and of course your truly, stuck his chest out and said I’m Pa Pa. Ha Ha. Milly was so proud of her little girl. Then mother and uncles and aunts namely, Joe, Fred, George, Jack, Lil, Terry, Josie and Bob came forward from their pews to say congratulations to us.
Every time I have read those letters in my life, I have cried. I can’t help it. So I did my share of crying today. Except for those 65 days, as long as I have been alive, my mother has been gone. But she left an incredible legacy, ME. And I have yet to write that letter to myself at 70, but that needs to wait till another day. But the rest of the story is her life did not end with me.
And so dear mother, here is your daughter and your grandchildren Holly Lloyd Saunders, and William Stacy Lloyd in February, 2016.
Today is my brother, Jonathan Holasek’s sixtieth birthday. February 13 was my son’s fortieth birthday, and tomorrow will be my seventieth birthday. The letter writing continues.
You will always be viewed as my baby brother no matter what your age. I was almost ten years young when you were born, and in my naivetivity, I asked mom if she could wait another day so you would be born on my birthday. We had different mothers since my mother died soon after I was born, but we had the same wonderful father. And I never viewed you as anything less than my brother. I wanted to document some of my stories about you for a long time.
Your older brother Dennis and you shared the same mother, and he was 13 years old when you were born. So Dennis and you lived in the same house only five years before he went off to college. And when he went to New England, he fell in love with that area of the country and never returned until medical school.
Jonathan, you and I had 8 years in the same home, and when I went to nursing school I came home on the weekends when I could. We spent a lot of time together. You were the cutest kid I had ever seen. Those big brown eyes, the curls, and that smile. You had everyone enthralled just looking at you and we had a very large extended family.
I remember you were kind of late walking, but then when you started, you went from just walking to running and never stopped. I also remember you not saying that many words, and then all of a sudden, I was carrying on long conversations and remember saying you never shut up!
Many of those years consisted of my being a built in baby sitter. I really didn’t mind but it was a lot of responsibility for a kid. And I was bound to fail since you were a runner. I remember the car being all packed and ready to go on vacation and you ran to the garage, and bam hit the pavement. You had to be patched up big time before we even left. This picture is the infamous Florida trip in 1957. Grandma, grandpa, you, mom, dad, Dennis, Aunt Lil, Uncle Jack and Carol went to Florida for two and a half weeks. We went in a two car caravan. Notice you have a saved head. Dad was told get you a haircut and he had your head shaved. You had to wear a hat most of the rest of the trip.
Here are some other pictures when you were young.
Many times when I was watching you even at someone else’s house, things didn’t work out too well. I remember visiting our friend’s farm and you said, “look at that sand pile,” and started climbing. Well I didn’t know it was a manure pile and as you sank down to your neck, I pulled you out and you needed to be hosed down.
Another time you got loose was around Garfield’s grave. You squeezed through the bars and we couldn’t convince you to come out for at least 15 min. Another time you ran to the edge of a dam and I was terrified of you falling off. To this day, I have a fear of drop offs.
Another remnant of watching you that lives with me forever is another visit to the farm, and dad picks up a rifle laid up against the wall. Those irresponsible friends left a loaded rifle with 5 little kids in their family and the gun went off and bullet went right though the ceiling. I didn’t know where you were at the time, and was terrified. A lifelong loathing of guns happened to me right then and there.
When I also cared for you in the summer and mom also threw into the mix the two other boys down the street I was somewhat resentful. That was a different time however and kids ran loose in the neighborhood. I must admit I was not that responsible that summer and didn’t know where you all were some of the time.
While you were growing up, dad did something for you he never did for me. He taught you how to build things. Here is your first experience building something, a dog house for Checkers, and this started a love of building things which included using your dad’s amazing shop smith and his other tools.
Now Checkers “Your” dog was always a tug of war for us. To get the dog, I had to convince mom a boy needed a dog, but really I wanted that dog. It was the only way to get her. So Checkers was really was our dog. I wrote her story in my book Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables, because our dog got me through some very rough times.
As it happens to all children, once they hit school, the years come rolling by really fast.
This picture shows your age when I graduated from nursing school. You, mom, and dad took Norma and I to Cedar Point and dropped us off. That was our graduation gift and we stayed there three days before it was time to start our working career.
I got married the first time in Cleveland in 1969. You were to young to be a usher, so I made you a junior usher. This was the first time you wore a tuxedo. Here is one of the few pictures with both of my brothers.
We did not graduate from the same high school because you and I are both Baby Boomers. They had to build two more high schools before you graduated. So I graduated from Parma High School (1964) and you graduated from Normandy High school in 1974.
Then you were off to Kenyon College on scholarships and student loans. You were very bright just like your older brother.
This picture was taken in college in 1975.
You had a mind of your own, and gave dad and mom some sleepless nights. The funniest was when you were in college, dad called me up and said he was weeding the tomato plants. He wondered how in the heck you actually volunteered to help with the garden planting that year. But in the middle of those tomatoes were the weirdest looking weeds, and he saw a television special that day, and it was indeed “weed.” I thought dad handled it great. He just told you there were some giant weeds in the garden and he got rid of them.
While you were in college you used your love of building and your love of science and psychology to build a deprivation tank. The local paper ran an article about it.
Little did we know within two years, while you were in college, and while Will was being born, we would lose our father. I was lucky in that respect that I had dad 30 years and you only 20.
Around the time mom went to live in Florida, you went to make your way in New York. That started the second chapter of your life. With your fantastic wife, Leslie, of almost thirty years, and your two beautiful grown daughters, Josephine and Phoebe, and your transition of your career to the healing arts, your great life continues!
Happy 60th Love your big sister, Marilyn
Today is my son, Will Lloyd’s fortieth birthday. In two days, my brother will be sixty, and in three days I will be seventy. Let the letter writing begin.
The best way for me to wish you a Happy Birthday would be in writing and pictures. So here it goes.
As you know, you were born William Stacy Lloyd around 4PM on February 13th, a Friday. Your were named after my father and your dad, and there was great rejoicing. The world became a better place with your birth. We had you Christened at two weeks so your grandfather could attend since he was so ill.
Here are three pictures: One the day of your birth, your Christening picture with your name sake grandfather, and a picture I loved with you and your father.
At the time of your birthday party last week, your wife Kara asked me for some favorite pictures. These are the ones I sent her and a few more
When any child is born, responsible parents do the best they can, and just live their life as a family. And indeed we did. With three older half siblings and seventeen months later a sister, and the age of your parents, there were real almost four generations in one family at the time of your birth.
Your dad was always so proud of his five children!
But that is you original Fredericksburg family. The large extended family in Cleveland we spent a lot of time visiting through the years. And your Uncle Jonathan’s family in New Jersey.
I could be here all day writing and posting pictures of all the fun times we had. The first twenty years filled about fifty photo albums.
And if I started listing all the vacations, the trips to Myrtle Beach, On the QE2, to Florida and Walt Disney World, to Bermuda, to Europe twice this blog would go on forever. And this is just your first 18 years.
Then you went to Randolph Macon College, and your sister attended with you the next year. At the end of the first two decades, your mom had a medical crises going on. It was then that I realized just what kind of man you had become. The support you gave me, and the essay you wrote about my illness while you were in college makes me cry every time I read it
which leads me to the second half of your life.
You met the love of your life in College and Kara and you built a life together from that time forward. So the second 20 years was filled with graduating from Randolph Macon College, and doing jobs in the sales field that not every person can do. Whether it was with the Richmond Times Dispatch early on or medical type of sales, your personality was a perfect combo with your career.
Your father was so proud as was I watching you mature and find your way in the world. We were so overjoyed with your marriage and Holly’s wedding.
Now the last ten years alone would fill another 20 photo albums and 25,000 digital pictures but through it all.
I left out the part of your father’s passing. But you gave him such joy with your family, with your support when he was ill. I know he is looking down and smiling at you and wishing you a Happy Birthday too!
And he is proud of the way you all take care of your mom!
So now I am back to the beginning. Wishing you a Happy Birthday my son. I love you dearly. And I can’t help notice that you look and act very much like your grandfather. He was an honorable, kind, friendly, smart, well loved man, and great father just like you.
There you both are at the same age. I love you Will. My firstborn son! Happy 40th Birthday!!
P.S. Your wife gave you a terrific birthday party! It was so wonderful seeing your old high school and college friends again.
This blog is about the writing of my book Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables. This book has been a year in the making plus the past 26 years. And actually, the one parable on Brutus was written 30 years ago. This Brutus parable was written in the first year of graduate school at Mary Washington College (now The University of Mary Washington), and the other 14 were written in 1989 through an internship at the college. Five new ones were added within this calendar year. For something basically written, how in the world could this process take so long? It is a very complicated answer.
The irony in the title is very reflective of the writing journey which has been so difficult. When the kindle version was being finalized, I noticed something strange. The title of the book was changed. How could this be I thought? I controlled every step of the process and never consented to a name change. The original title which was the same as my graduate project was Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables For Kids of All Ages. But somehow, “For Kids of All Ages” was changed to a sub-title. I just assumed that when the company that was helping me was exchanging emails in July, the staff didn’t want to write out the whole name. But the truth of the matter is they changed the title before the final printing, and I didn’t realize it. And once that happened, it was in cement. So the new title is Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables.
Actually, the title change is not a bad thing. By writing “For Kids of all Ages” I meant from the beginning that this book was not just for kids. In fact, unless I change the settings on the marketing tool, it is not listed as Children’s Literature. I am still contemplating what to do about that one. (I said this in the first version of this blog) It is very apparent that kids need to have a certain level of maturity to understand the deeper themes of the book. On the other hand, the shorter parables can be enjoyed at face value for non readers, hence my dilemma.
However, by writing the first version of this blog, I felt that I had classified my book incorrectly. I spent three days correcting the genre and search engine for Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables, and then had to proceed to rewrite this blog. The genre of my book is now Juvenile-Non Fiction-Animals-Pets. In the industry that is called the BISAC code. The kindle book is listed the same along with a second category of religion–inspirational.
My original decision to put this book under the pet category was that under juvenile, I had to pick an age. And I didn’t want to do that. But what they really want is the reader’s age. So I picked age 7 and 8 and up. But still, younger kids can enjoy being read the shorter parables.
Even though the bisac code is juvenile literature, pet loving adults will appreciate the deeper themes of the book. After all, it is the adults who make the final decision to bring a forever friend into the home, and the actual caretaker of the pet is usually an adult. And adults pay all the vet bills.
Oh, children say they will take care of the pet, but we know what really happens. That is why the story about a boy and his ducks is so timeless. Child wants pet. Child says I will take care of pet. Parent ends up caring for the pet. This plays itself over and over in families around the world.
The compiling of the parables required some editing. After all, times have changed since these stories were written. The biggest example of this is my story. “Being picked on and harassed” in school is one thing, but now everyone knows the name for this, bullying. Some of the parables were virtually untouched like the one about Dude, Rebel, Ricky, and Pete.
The format was kept the same. I love the insights that can be gained from quotes of literature. Some of the most meaningful words come from the Bible and hymns for someone with my background. (Long live Sunday School!) In fact having taught Sunday school to both children and adults for many years, I know these parables would make a great curriculum. Hence they fit into the genre of religion and inspirational.
I also included pet care for kids, the responsibility of pet care, and moral lessons from pets as sub category search engines.
The newer parables are probably too long by my mentor’s standards. My mentor was Dr. Susan Hanna. (I refer to her as the god mother of literature at MWC). She held me to high standards. It took me six weeks to get one parable correct for the literature standard of a parable. The first one I wrote, she said, “Well, you have three parables here.” Then I had two, and six weeks later finally accomplished the task. Dr. Glenn Thomas, an American Studies professor was also a psychologist. He saw to it all the psychology was appropriate. As I mentioned in the acknowledgements, I am eternally grateful for their help.
And then there was the issue of illustrating the cover of the book. Unfortunately, some of the company’s young staffers took the easy way out.
The original cover which I designed and provided the picture and told them exactly what I wanted was awful. It had a silhouette of a rabbit on the book the rabbit was reading. “No”, I said. I specifically said the rabbit needs to be reading my book. The colors of the original title and my name were so off in the first go around. They did get the background and highlighting color correct, but these people were graphic artists. That is their job. Even in the end, I have a constant reminder that I told them my name and title should be bold but equal. Well, I just couldn’t fight it anymore when it didn’t turn out that way.
However, I will explain the origin of the cover. I had to keep the words to a minimum in the book. When I got the family rabbit out before Easter, I decided to humorously put a copy of my doctor’s original book cover, Eat Right for Your Type in the rabbit’s hand, and send the picture to Dr. D’Adamo. I also sent a copy of the picture to Sally Gould, who, 30 seconds before I did, said it would make a great book cover for my pet parable’s book
The rabbit on the cover of the book honors the The Holasek family. The actual rabbit was in the Holasek family grocery store window almost a 100 years ago. It is about 4 feet tall and paper mache. The rabbit always had reading glasses on. I changed the apron to a dress some years ago that my Aunt Evelyn Holasek made for Holly. (Aunt Evelyn was also my mother’s first cousin.) So by using this dress, I honor that side of my family too. Of all the Loucka’s I was closest to my Aunt Evelyn. I never knew my mother, but I caught glimpses of her through my cousin/aunt.
When I look at that cover, I smile just like Grayson did when he first saw it. The rabbit represents a hard-working legal immigrants and their first generation American family that always practiced “The Golden Rule.” Grandpa Holasek fed half his neighborhood on credit during the depression so families would not go hungry. He fed the hobos off the train too. He knew what it was like to be hungry, and he did not condemn the poor and misfortunate. And he encouraged his children to go to church and practice what they learned. This was all passed down to all of us.
Going back to the book design, the photographs in the book give life to all of the pets in Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables. I made the decision very early in the writing of this book to include my amateur photographs since photography has always been a hobby. I wish that I had used a better camera years ago. Carol took the pictures of Ricky and Pete. (The rodents were stock photos). In publishing standards, those 30 pictures classifies a book as a full color book.
But there were some problems with the photographs. The graphic artists had problems matching a picture with the paragraphs in the last 4 pages of the book, constituting a several month horror story. One of the worst excuses I heard with the gerbil and hamster write up next to a picture of a cat and a boy was “we don’t read the text.” But then a staffer, a pet lover saved me.
Anna, who I got by accident as a member of my “team” liked the book previously when I talked to her. She loved pets. She said, “I see clearly what you are upset about.” This time she listened and went into action. ‘I know the head graphic artist,” she said. “I will correct this.” And she did. When the kindle edition was ready to go, I encountered the same problem. She fixed that too. So I am very grateful to her. I practically told her that I would only communicate with her if and when I did this again.
And please note that to write a book labeled full color with photographs raised the price point. I had intended for the book to be released to libraries. But guess what? Then, the book would have had to be a dollar more for the profit to be 3 cents. (That is called third party distribution) That made zero sense. But the pictures make the book and it was a good decision. My hope for this book is maybe an established big name publisher would consider reissuing the book. I have complete rights to Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables, so I have control of what happens to this book in the future. And my grandson and I explored the possibility of turning the book into a screenplay intertwining the life of the pets with my family.
Marketing is a now upon me, and I have zero experience in this field. Good reviews always help market a book.
Along the way, I had help from many different people:
- Marion-Hailey Moss who has written so many books was an inspiration.
- Many of my family members stepped up to help when I needed them throughout the process.
- But Sally Gould was there for me every step of this last year. She helped me edit, and had to listen to the countless hours of my complaining about the self publishing place that made me so stressed out. For a book written by April, it should not have taken til September to get the final edit, cover design, and the pictures in the correct place.
All in all, I am very proud of Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables. It is a giant check off of my bucket list. And I know Stacy is smiling down. I honored him a lot because he always relented when we wanted another pet, and he paid all of the pets upkeep including those vet bills. As he jested, he had to do so many deliveries a year to pay for Sasha’s vet bills. Pure bred animals always have more problems. There is no denying that. And although Sasha was a rescue dog, she was still a pure bred Husky. Sasha had chronic sinus infections, and had to see a dog opthalmologist for corneal ulcers many times, and that specialist was 35 miles away. All families know the feeding and upkeep of any pet is costly.
So, this book is dedicated to Stacy, and Peyton, Carter, Meredith, Jacob and Grayson. It is also dedicated to all the beasts (pets) that were and are part of everyone’s family.
One of the most important messages of the book is the responsibility and care of the animals. I tell the truth of mistakes we made along the way. The pet always pays for those mistakes. Actually, the entire book honors all of these pets that have enriched our lives so much. And the instructor in me used the pets to teach these moral lessons. Except for Lady and Ricky and the gerbil, all of the pets were rescue animals.
So basically this book, Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables was written for all pet lovers. They will understand and appreciate this book. Pet lovers come in all ages including children. “The reader will delight in the challenges and joy of these pets that have enriched my life beyond measure.”
Bless the Beasts: Pet Parables can be found on amazon.com in both paper back and kindle editions.
My Aunt Josephine’s birthday is today. March 8 and she would have been 104 years old. Aunt Josephine was my third mother. After my birth mother, and then her death, Aunt Lil took over until after Carol was born. Then dad and I moved again, and Aunt Josephine took over until I was almost nine. But that is getting ahead of myself about this most unique woman.
Josephine Holasek was the third child of Josef and Theresa Holasek. My father was the oldest. And Aunt Theresa was the oldest daughter. In this picture, Aunt Josephine is in the middle. A real beauty by any standards, but she never married because she devoted her life to her family. She like any of the other children in the family helped with the family business, the butcher shop and store. But Aunt Josephine was also responsible for much of the running of the home with Grandma. My grandma had children 20 years apart from oldest to youngest, so she was in the first group. So she had the added responsibility of caring for the younger siblings, and especially Uncle Edward who was born when grandma was 44 years old. Aunt Josephine would have been 17 years old in this picture. When Grandpa bought the Farm in Garrettsville, Ohio this is something I really didn’t comprehend until recently. On studying genealogy, in 1940, Aunt Josephine and Uncle Joe were listed in the 1940 census as living there. In other words, they were shipped off to run the farm, grow crops, and Aunt Josephine ran the house with no indoor plumbing. They did this for at least 5 years. Dad did rig up indoor water from the well for cooking etc. Aunt Lil remembers their many excursions together because Aunt Lil was probably there in the summers, and that is the only time in her life that Aunt Josephine drove a car. This Picture was probably taken at the farm around 1939 or 1940. This picture was taken around that same time because Uncle Joe is still not drafted into the army and they still had the farm at this point. Aunt Josephine is standing next to her aunt and her mother(grandma) is third from the top During the war years, the farm was sold, and everyone was drafted or enlisted in World War II except dad who was rejected from the army for poor circulation. He had the responsibility of keeping the store and butcher shop going along with both aunts and grandma. Aunt Josephine’s responsibilities with me, as I mentioned earlier, started in late 1946. This is a picture of me with Aunt Josephine and Uncle Joe. Within one year, the family would sell everything, and move to the West side near Aunt Lil, Uncle Jack, and Carol. That home on Archmere remained in the family for over 60 years.
When I think back about that period of time in my life, writing about Aunt Josephine, I can barely do it without a tear in my eye. She was absolutely devoted to my well-being. I remember asking her as a young child, “can I call you mother, because your are a mother to me,” and her eyes would twinkle and she would say, “I am your Aunt Josephine. That is what I want you to call me.”
To give you an understanding of Aunt Josephine’s responsibilities of this time in her life, I will go over her daily responsibilities. She was up around 5 AM packing Uncle George’s lunch, feeding him breakfast, and getting him off to work. Next up, was my dad, Aunt Theresa, and Uncle Joe. She would feed them breakfast, pack their lunches and send them off to work at The White Motor Company. Somewhere during all of this, Grandma was fed breakfast, probably with Uncle Ed whose lunch was packed and he was sent off to college on the GI Bill. I was last. She would get me up, feed me breakfast, see that I was dressed and walk me to school for several years about a mile away. Laundry, and managing the house was all on her while I was in school. Grandma would help, but she was older then. They would bake from scratch Bohemian pastry for dinner. It came from raised dough. Then after school, Aunt Josephine would walk the mile and pick me up and we would walk home. Now I know why she enjoyed me watching television. Daddy made the case, and Uncle Ed the TV, and she needed a break while she made dinner. The family dinner was around 5 or 5:30 around the yellow table in the kitchen. We always started with Mrs. Grass’ noodle soup. I did write a blog for a website entitled yellow table, but can’t find it at the moment. There was a lot of laughter and love at that table. It was one of those 1940’s metal yellow table.
After dinner, she would do the dishes. When she was finished, Uncle Ed would come in from college and she would heat up his dinner and feed him. Around 7, Uncle George would come in and she would feed him. By that time, it was bath time and bedtime for me.
There were a lot of people living in that three bedroom house. So my bed was a double with Aunt Josephine. Also in the room were grandma and Aunt Theresa. When I was young, I wet the bed. Oh my goodness, sharing a bed with a bed wetter, and she never ever complained. And then, the next day, she repeated her job all over again.
In the summer, off Dad and I went with Carol to Sunday School, at which time Aunt Josephine did all the cooking and packing for the family picnics we took every Sunday we could. We went back to the part of the Holasek farm near Nelson ledges and had our own picnic spot. Aunt Josephine in her care of me always had me impeccably dressed. All of the Holasek’s I imagine pitched in and bought my clothes. She always did my hair, and saw to it that every need was met. This is such a wonderful candid shot that says everything!
And this picture which is one of my favorites on Put in Bay Island. This picture was with both of my aunts, Theresa and Josephine. I had no idea when I turned 8 when she gave me this birthday party that it would be my last one in The Holasek House. Or this would be my last summer at The Holasek House
Everyone was sitting at that yellow table in the fall of 1954 and daddy said he was getting remarried and he would be taking me with him of course. I started to cry saying, “I don’t want to leave.” Aunt Theresa and Aunt Josephine kept saying, you can’t take her away from us. Uncle George was the calm one and said, let Bill do what he needs and wants to do.
On my last day at William Rainey Harper School, Aunt Josephine walked and withdrew me from school. On our way home was the only time I ever saw her cry except when grandma died the next year. I said to her as a naive little kid, “Aunt Josephine, why are you crying” She of course was too choked up to answer. Aunt Josephine was my caregiver for 8 years. She is so dear to my heart, and her story will be continued with the Holasek Stories to come. I wrote her many letters through the years telling her how much she meant to me. The love we had for each other had no bounds. . .
How is it even possible that I graduated from high school 50 years ago? But the fact is that time marches on, and my class is now close to 70. Having lived in Virginia for 45 years, my friends here cannot comprehend a high school as big as PSH. There were 767 graduates in my class, and the high school held only 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. We were the first year of the baby boomers and there were a lot of us. Our graduation was held in the 10,000 seating of The Public Auditorium. At graduation, I didn’t even know those that walked near me.
For me, PSH was a blessing! A high school a blessing some might ask. WHY? The answer is that I was bullied in junior high school: Hillcrest Junior High. Having moved from Schaaf in the middle of the 8th year, this gangly, teenager with acne and not the perfect teeth stood out like a sore thumb. To add insult to injury, the bullying started at my new church and extended to school from there. It was terrible! Name calling, pulling out chairs in cafeteria, squished egg salad in my Latin book, a horrible nickname, and walking on the other side of the hall like I had ebola was just some of the indignities. At least they didn’t extend after hours like the poor bullied children face today. It was a life changing experience, and the outcome was a story that was in a graduate school project, and will be a book this winter. In this pet parable a girl and her dog walked to a church cemetery everyday to pray and cry because her life was miserable. In that parable, the moral was, “Spell it forward or backward, God is still man’s best friend.”
So I welcomed this huge high school. My strategy was get lost in the shuffle and so I did. I kept a low profile, had a few close friends and that was it. I belonged to the future nurses club and biology club. In such a big high school, the only people I actually saw were the H’s in homeroom, and the college prep kids in class, and my friends. The bullying came to an abrupt halt, and I was relieved.
Boys for the most part ignored me completely. I was not shy, but it seems like I was very successful in fading into the woodwork. Because I was a late bloomer, I only went out on a date in high school several times with an old family friend. I did not get to attend any of the big dances or any of the proms. As my life unfolded, there didn’t seem to be a good chance to attend a reunion until the 30th.
I thought then, what if I see my tormentor. What would I say to him? And having come into my own by that time in my life, I wouldn’t let it go. I thought the same thing this time. What if I saw him again? And some of the torturer girls too? Well, he did not attend either reunion, and I didn’t recognize any tormentor girls at either reunion so all was well. I think I would have said to them, I hope that your own children didn’t torment kids too and your grandchildren either. I know I have already told my grandchildren how bad it is to be on the receiving end of bullying. I had a feature in the local paper about the subject.
The only real torture I experienced in high school was gym class. Apparently, the establishment just didn’t get it that some of us were not the athletic type. And frankly, the gym leaders did their best for the establishment, but it was not a pleasant experience. In fact as a senior, to get a C in gym, students had to climb half way up a rope. Now, I was not going to let stupid gym class drag down my average, but I was too weak to climb a rope. I had to improvise. When the teacher wasn’t looking, I had a friend, get down on her knee so I could stand on it, and she could give me a boost. Mission accomplished.
I have to say that it gave me a little pleasure to see some of those gym leaders and cheer leaders with a few extra pounds by the 30th reunion. I don’t think any of them realized how much a person like me hated gym class.
For the most part, this high school gave us a good education. There were some deficits. High school chemistry was my nemesis. Never good in math, I just didn’t get it. However, the teacher gave standarized tests, and one could get a C by just guessing. Well, that was fine for getting through high school with three C’s gym, algebra II and chemistry, but awful when I got to college chemistry in nursing school. Oh boy, the instructor freaked because three of us did not know how to balance an equation and had to be tutored to catch up to the beginning of college chemistry.
My elective in high school served me well: typing. I actually took it twice. Who would know that everyone would use typing everyday of their life when computers came into our lives.
The high school put in a new class in our senior year which was a correlation between art, music, and literature. That was definitely the beginning of my love of the liberal arts. I took a detour with my career in nursing, and was glad to end up with a degree and then an advanced degree in the liberal arts to teach various subjects in a community college.
However, nursing in combination with liberal arts helped me immensely with my writing about medical subjects. To this day, if you google Steve Jobs and Marilyn Lloyd, it takes you straight to my blog. I write a lot about integrative medicine which has kept me alive for 18 years.
Like our yearbook pointed out, the big thing that happened during our senior year was the assassination of President Kennedy. Each one of us would have been in a class that day. I was a biology lab assistant that time in the afternoon. That memory is seared into our neurons.
All this background, and I am just getting to the 50th Reunion. My cousin went with me, a Rhodes graduate, for moral support. I was sitting with a small circle of friends. Ironically, my husband could not attend the 30th reunion with me, and I asked Dan Wagner to dance. He was brought to this reunion by Lowell my friend, so we got to dance again. I missed having a chance to catch up on people’s bios and the pictures taken of everyone.
After all was said and done, I think my fading into the wood work in high school worked too well, because not that many people at this reunion even knew me except for some of the H’s. Somehow, the last one had more people I knew. Ellen was there, and I hope to meet up with her in Virginia sometime.
I know that no one recognized me with long hair for sure. It was good to at least get to thank one Vietnam hero. I was surprised to learn that no one in our class died over there, because certainly 58,000 of our generation did.
A big thanks to everyone who did the organizing. The food was great. Next time they might need an elevator to get people more comfortably in the room. Which leads me to the dancing.
With ankle and feet arthrits, dancing is difficult, but then the DJ played “That Ol’ Time Rock and Roll”. I was going to dance if I couldn’t walk the next day, but it was fast, so I had to hold onto the support beam to do it. I told my children I did a pole dance at my reunion. I wish my cousin had gotten a picture of that.
It occurred to me after I was going over all the details of the reunion, that the reunion was like a “Happy Days” reunion. A “Fonz” type was sitting at our table : one of the cool kids with a fast car and that curly front hair do in high school. The Richie type, the well loved kids were there, as well as the well represented Joanie’s, Potsie’s and Ralphs. A sixties high school was definitely for the most part, “Happy Days.”
So thank you classmates for the memories. I thank all of those people that were kind to a wall flower type in high school, people like Marty Wolf, James Noble, and James Horvath. The girls were too numerous to mention. It is always sad to look at that growing memorial list. But to those of us who attended, it seemed to be a good time had by all. I told my family all about the reunion and my step grandson said it best: “Oma, it doesn’t matter that you kept that low profile in high school, and not that many people knew you. It was what you did with the last 50 years that counts!” That put it all into perspective. Til, the next time. . . .
Through God’s guidance and grace, forty years ago today, Stacy and I stood on top of Lee’s Hill on Lee Dr. And pledged our love forever. We wrote the ceremony ourselves. And we chose Lee’s Hill because it was near our home, and for our love of history. We asked Reverand Davies, and a minister/therapist, Kenneth Johnson to perform the ceremony.
I had 3 weeks to plan the wedding, and only members of the family were invited (those that chose to come) and the office friends. My dad and mom, Aunt Theresa, Aunt Lil, and Carol came from Cleveland. The day before, Stacy enjoyed showing them around town, and giving them a jeep ride in his used Toyota jeep that got him to the hospital in the winter. We chose August 23, because it was Aunt Lil and Uncle Jack’s Anniversary and I admired them so. And that year it was a Friday and about 95 degrees up there. He wanted his boys to stand by him and they did. Philip was 15, and Scott was around 20, a student at VMI.
Stacy was so proud of that white linen suit, and he fit into it many times after the wedding. Here are some family pics. The first thing Stacy did after the kiss, when the ceremony was over was light up his pipe.
After the ceremony, the reception was at The Lebanese restaurant downtown at the time, and we all sat on pillows.
We started our married life with travel. I told Stacy after the stress of the previous two years, we needed a really nice honeymoon. So, we went to San Francisco where I came down with a GI bug and was so sick we had to delay the trip to Hawaii a day. Then we spent a week in Hawaii, and ended up in Las Vegas where I sprained my ankle. Life as we know doesn’t always run smoothly.
Through the last 40 years, I hiked up many times to Lee’s Hill, but it has become harder and harder. So this time, I asked Will to make sure I got up and down safely. Will, Peyton, Carter, and Meredith came over, and I showed them the wedding pictures, and explained how we were going to walk to Lee’s Hill where General Lee watched the Battle of Fredericksburg. And explained that is where Opa and I got married a long time ago. I knew once the kids got up there, their fascination would be the cannons, and rightly so. But they humored Oma and posed for pictures.
The boys at that point were throwing rocks and it was time to leave, but I so appreciated Will going up there with me several weeks ago.
I did the reflecting of those events of 40 years ago after my time on the hill. Stacy and I were very well matched. We had the same values, we were raised by practically the same age parents, (my grandfather and father had their first child at 39), and we loved doing the same things. Our life together was a life of children, their activities, and many pets. Our home was well lived in because of that fact.
We loved intellectual pursuits, and would have deep conversations. We enjoyed going to the beach, and travel of any kind. We regularly went to the movies, almost once a week when he retired. But most of all we respected each other’s space, and didn’t interfere.
Stacy gave his all to his work, and his public service, but when at home, that was our time with him. I cherished every minute! All we both wanted was for the person we loved to be happy, and that was our secret to a good marriage. Because in making someone else’s life the best it could be, the benefits are 100 fold. Jack Nicolson’s character in the movie, Somethings Gotta Give, said in response to the love still felt for him by the Dianne Keaton character, even though he gave her a really hard time, “If it’s true, (you still love me) my life just got made.” For Stacy and I that just about sums it all up. Our life and love were made! I miss him everyday. But it brings me a lot of joy to remember just how much I was loved, and how much Stacy was loved in return. Anyone that really knew us could see this and feel this. It was the greatest gift to give to our children. Love like that gets a marriage through not just the good times, but the roughest of times as well. And that type of love lasts for an eternity.
An earlier blog tells a different slant to the story. https://copingmhl.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/happy-anniversary-my-love/ Here are some pictures of our 30th Anniversary with Will, Kara, Holly, and Jeff, going on the cruise on our beloved river, The Rappahannock.
Every year when my cousin, visits, we take some kind of trip. This year we chose the Virginia mountain area, because there were items from my “bucket list” there, and I was invited to a celebration in the area, and as timing turned out, we left early to attend the funeral of Granny Ward, my son-in-law, Jeff’s grandmother.
Our first stop was The Natural Bridge of Virginia. I already saw this bridge when Matthew (Grandson) graduated from VMI. We stayed there with Scott and his family in 2005. Not only had Carol never see the Natural bridge, but also she had never seen VMI, so that was the first stop. Both Scott and Matthew graduated from there, and I had been there many times.
We had to sit quite a while waiting for dark, but something quite extraordinary happened. A young couple sat in front of us with 4 children, and they intrigued me, so we began to chat. (Anyone knows I can make a friend out of a stranger) and this was no exception. They were from Australia and their children were ages 3 months, 2, 3, and 5. They were planning on being in the country three months and were touring by RV. In Australia both mothers and fathers get maternity leave and it was 3 months. They had already been to Disney World and were headed to Niagara Falls. It was absolutely fascinating asking questions about life in Australia, since my Uncle George loved it there.
Of course free health care is a given, as is money from the government to everybody, because Australia saves for emergencies. The last economic downturn, every family got $2000 to boost the economy, or $25,000 if you bought a house. The cost of living is high in Sidney my new friends said.
The next day we headed to Buena Vista to Granny Ward’s funeral. Her grandson, Frank, gave a beautiful eulogy, in her Methodist Church. http://www.roanoke.com/obituaries/ward-elizabeth-keiser/article_dccb2acd-8711-5754-ba2b-6bb607b06550.html
After the funeral, our destination was Waynesboro where we would spend the night after attending a Memorial Celebration of Fritz “Duke” Zeller. (I knew him from many years ago when he ran for Congress and Stacy and I got to meet Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner at the Plantation house on Northside Dr.) His partner, Stu, and I had become friends after his death. The celebration was a wonderful thank you to all their friends that helped when Duke was ill.
Getting to Afton where the celebration occurred was of course mountain driving, and the first of many episodes on this trip. I hate drop offs and windy roads. Oh boy, at this point we didn’t know what loomed. (I cannot understand why I have always enjoyed roller coasters, but driving with a drop off freaks me totally out. I am not prone to panic attacks, but I swear I had several on this trip.)
From Waynesboro, we headed toward The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs. I thought it would be that simple trip that occurred last year going to the Greenbrier. Well, it was 15 to 20 miles of the worst windy, drop off-road I ever driven. I was a complete stressed out person on arrival. And I kept asking “is there anyway out of here that is not mountain driving”? Answer, of course, was “no”. It was a bucket list check, but I will never be seeing that place again.
We spent three days there, and I enjoyed the unusual swimming in body temperature spring water in the huge indoor pool.
The last picture is Carol with The Casino restaurant in the background. It is really the golf center, because Virginia doesn’t have real casinos.
Our next stop was Appomattox, Virginia. I always wanted to see where the Civil War ended, and where my hero, Joshua Chamberlain, saluted the troops. So that drive was in the mountains to get out of The Homestead, but over other mountains to get to Lynchburg. Well, I am so thankful I am still here to write this. Some horrible, irresponsible driver passed me and the person behind me on a curve, across the double yellow line, with no guard rails and a drop off, and a car was coming up the mountain in that same lane. I slammed on the brakes and that horrible driver squeaked in front of me, and all 5 cars, did not crash and go off the mountain. After that experience, no more mountain driving for me. The following is a map of how the little town of Appomattox looked at the time, a replica of The McLean House, and the salute by Chamberlain to the Southern troops as they laid down their arms and then went home. http://www.nps.gov/apco/index.htm
We spent the night at a delightful combination of a bed and breakfast and hotel called Acorn Hill Lodge in Lynchburg. It was family built and managed, and a terrific place to stay either a night or long term if business takes you to Lynchburg. http://www.acornhilllodge.net
Our last stop was a visit to Poplar Forrest, Thomas Jefferson’s second home and retreat in Forest, Virginia. It is a work in progress of renovating the inside. Jefferson’s hexagon house was beautiful, but from the history standpoint, they sort of glossed over the truth of this house greatly. It contributed to his overspending and ending up in bankruptcy. When I asked about Sally Hemmings visiting there, since her other brother lived there, I found the answer to be somewhat evasive. I would recommend the book, “The Twilight at Monticello,” which really is a good read of Jefferson’s whole life, but especially his later years. It was that book that intrigued me to see Poplar Forest. http://www.poplarforest.org
When we finally arrived home, I was grateful for a fun, safe trip and flat land! (And three things crossed off my bucket list) Carol and I finished our traveling the next weekend visiting with Holly and Will and their families and attending a soccer and T ball game.
Carol, my beloved cousin and I spent two weeks together. We certainly did reminisce a lot about all the family members that are no longer with us, and all the family stories. It was a wonderful time. And right after dinner, on our last night together appeared this rainbow in the sky. What a wonderful end to our adventure.