Archive for April, 2016

My Father: A Study in Selflessness

Posted: April 21, 2016 in death, Family
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A Memoir

(The transcript of the eulogy I gave at my father’s memorial service)

My father once apologized to me and said, “The shoemaker’s kids go barefoot and the baker’s family goes hungry.” He was commenting on his 27 years as an Air Force chaplain, when his duty frequently took him away in the middle of the night to comfort a family which had just lost its father, or to tell a wife her husband wouldn’t be coming home from the other side of the world.

There was a time when his duties required his absence from my birthday—for seven years in a row. At the time, I hated him for it, and it took me years to get over that anger. Now, what little hostility I still feel is directed more properly at the US military establishment, which never seemed to have learned the truth of Milton’s words, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

My mother personified those words. He was absent from the family once for 15 months: his duties took him to Turkey for that time. My mother became for a time a single mother attempting to raise three children. Thank God for grandparents and aunts!

I understand that after her passing, Dad spent hours weeping over her grave, apologizing for what he saw as the hell that his job put her through.

He grew up in a hard time: the Great Depression. A time when roles were fixed, and people “knew their place.” On the other hand, I grew up in the ‘60s, and lived through the Nixon years. Dad was a lifelong Republican; if anything, if you need labels, I’m an anarchist. After Viet Nam and various other wars and “incursions,” I take everything my government tells me with a grain of salt. Don’t agree with me? That’s your right, and I’m not going to argue the point with you. Besides, you don’t scare me—I grew up in the ‘60s….

….which also entitles me to say, at the age of 65, “I may be old, but I saw the best bands!”

But regardless of anything a psychiatrist might say about my relationship with my parents (“Oedipus, Schmoedipus! I love, ya, Ma!”), the fact remains that they were my parents, and I loved them. And the best thing that has happened to me in a very long time happened last week, when I telephoned my father and we resolved our differences and effected a true reconciliation. For that, I am extremely grateful. Our last words to each other were “I love you.”

My father was greatly esteemed in his communities, both the Air Force and the church. I can offer no better proof of this than two stories.

Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. was the first African America to reach the rank of general (4-stars). When he died, at his widow’s request, my father performed his funeral.

When Dad finally retired from the Air Force, and he and Mom were traveling around the country looking for work, he was unable to find a parish in the Pacific Northwest, which is where they wanted to settle. Finally, after they had settled in Lak Jackson, Texas, he learned that the reason no one would hire him was that the bishop of Texas had called all the other bishops and told them not to hire him, because “He’s mine!”

I know my father was disappointed that none of us followed him into the ministry. While I can’t speak for my brothers, I know that in my case it was because the shoes he left were simply too big to fill.

Obladi, Oblada Life goes on

Posted: April 15, 2016 in death, Diet

I guess my father’s death hit me harder than I first realized. It’s been over six weeks and I’m still having trouble with it. Since returning home from the funeral, I’ve been grocery shopping twice, and other than that, the only times I’ve left my apartment is to see my therapist or to go to my Friday morning job. Oh, right: I puppy-sat Fyona last week.

But except for rarely venturing outside, I think I’m behaving (mostly) rationally: I’m eating properly, baking bread when I need it, and have become more serious about my diet. No, not a weight-loss diet, but rather diet in the sense of what I regularly eat,

I’ve become a vegetarian. Again

I was a vegetarian for a couple of years back in the ‘70s, and for some unknown reason gave it up. But while I was manning (would it be more accurate to say “womanning”?) the Gay Alliance table at the Nazareth College Health Fair a couple of weeks ago, I chatted with the women at the KickStart Rochester table. I had earlier decided, for economic reasons, to cut out meat from my diet, and I hit them up for information. They were vegan, but I’m not ready to make that drastic a step yet; I like my dairy products too much to want to give them up just yet.

Coffee Without Creamer?

My mother-in-law stops on the way to work every morning for a cup of coffee. She’s done this for years, and always orders the same thing: a large coffee, with two sweeteners and two flavored creamers. One morning she was running late, and when she got her coffee, she drove off without realizing that they had messed up her order and left out the creamer. She didn’t have time to go back and have then fix their mistake, so she drank it as it was.

She liked it! She decided that from then on, she was going to drink it without creamer.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that by simply eliminating the artificial creamer from her coffee, she lost 4 pounds in one month. Compare that with the sign by the elevator at Strong Memorial Hospital, which says that by walking up a single flight of stairs instead of using the elevator will cause you to lose 5.4 pounds—in a year,

My creamer ran out last week, and I’m not replacing it. I’ve already stopped using Splenda® and started using Stevia®. Both of them cost about the same, but I only need to use half the amount of Stevia®. Instead of creamer, I’m using skim milk. One ingredient instead of 20 or 30 chemical ingredients.

But since I’ve given up flavored creamer, I remembered that I don’t particularly care that much for coffee! So I’ve gone back to tea. And since brewing a decent cup of tea is a bit time-consuming, that cuts back on how much I drink.

I also have to watch the time. For example, it’s 9:00 pm as I write this. I’d dearly love a cup of tea—I haven’t had one all day—but I know if I have a cup this late at night, I’ll have to stay up at least another hour while the tea makes its way through my system so I can download it before bed.

And my sleep has been terrible lately, and that’s given me migraines.

So the tea will have to wait until morning.

And I shall close this entry on that note and say, in the words of the great Samuel Pepys, “And so to bed.”

Thanks for stopping by,

Robyn