Monday, January 30, 2012

Perhaps Some Old Soldiers Fade Away but Not This One

In his Farewell Address to the Joint Session of Congress on April 19th, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur said the following words: "... I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away." And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty."

I'm going to respectfully disagree with General MacArthur on this one as not all old soldiers just fade away, some old soldiers continue to burn with as bright of a light as they did when they were new soldiers. Old soldiers like former Army Sergeant Charles Cordle - aka Sarge Charlie - who early yesterday morning lost his valiant battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and answered the call to report to heaven and accept his reward for a job well done.

A lot of folks only knew Sarge through his blog but I was one of the lucky ones in that I had the honor of meeting both he and his wife, Miss Bee, in person not just once but several times. When Jamie graduated from the military school that she was attending in Florida in June of 2010, I flew down for the ceremony and then we drove down to West Palm Beach to meet Charlie & Bee before flying home.

Charlie, Me, and Bee

From my blog post from that June 14th, 2010 meeting:
"I believe that Sarge Charlie first started commenting on my blog via the old "Bestest Blog of the Day' and shortly after that, Bee started coming around, too. Charlie has always held a special place in my heart as it turns out that he served in Vietnam at the same time as my father. Matter of fact, if my faulty memory serves me correctly he was also stationed at Da Nang where my Dad was stationed though my Dad was Air Force and Charlie was Army. It didn't matter what branch of the service they were in though, as they were serving in the same place, at the same time, fighting the same enemy and that made them comrades-in-arms.

Unfortunately, both of them being in the same place at the same time also meant that they were both exposed to Agent Orange - the effects of which eventually caused the cancer that killed my father at way too young of an age. Regular readers of Charlie's blog know that he, too, has recently been fighting quite the battle with cancer as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange so when I finally made up my mind that I was definitely going to Florida for Jamie's graduation, I also made it a priority that I get the chance to meet Charlie & Bee in person as I admire them both tremendously: they are both cancer survivors, they are both patriotic Americans, and they share the same sort of love that my parents did - that rare type that you know makes them soulmates and best friends and perfect for each other. The kind of love I wish that I had been able to find but never did."
My youngest daughter and I were treated to a delicious home-cooked meal that evening - which Charlie said was a rare treat indeed as Miss Bee didn't do that much cooking anymore but boy howdy did she put on the dog that evening and it was all delicious!  There was even a home-baked cherry pie to top it all off!

The next morning they picked us up at our hotel and took us out for breakfast at John G's, a place I had often heard about on both of their blogs and which was just as good as they both said it was.  Following breakfast we were given a guided tour around West Palm Beach as Sarge drove and Miss Bee pointed out the various sights along the way.  It was a wonderful visit and I was so glad that I'd had the chance to meet Sarge and Miss Bee in person as they were exactly who they are on their blogs.  A couple of lovebirds who lived in Paradise!

At that time, Sarge was doing his best in his on-going fight against the Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma that invaded his body and even though it made him tired, it sure couldn't dim the twinkle in his eye or the smile on his face!  Old soldiers don't fade away, old soldiers battle on and that's exactly what Charlie was doing - giving it all he had and then some.

Sarge Charlie at Home in West Palm

Last February I got to see Charlie & Bee again when I went on the Blogger's Cruise on the Carnival Glory along with Sandee & Zane, Sandy & Dick, and my cabin-mate Barb.  The picture below was taken in Nassau, Bahamas on February 28th and as you can see, the old Sarge was having himself a fine time even though he tired pretty easily and tended to retreat to his cabin to take a lot of naps.  Still, he was there and having a good time and he even pole-danced a little bit (something he was quite famous for on cruises!) and performed some magic tricks at dinner for us.  The old soldier wasn't fading away then either.

Unfortunately, though, I knew that the time was going to come when the light would eventually fade from Sarge's twinkling eyes and he'd make his final roll call as he was battling a cancer that just couldn't be beat no matter how good his medical treatment was or how unflagging his spirit might be.  Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is an insidious form of cancer that unfortunately will eventually win the war no matter how many battles the old Sarge might have won.  I had watched it suck the life out of my father almost nine years ago and I knew it would do the same to Charlie also.

Last week he knew that his time on the battlefield was ending when he posted last Tuesday that his time on this earth was almost over.  In typical Sarge Charlie fashion though, he thought of Miss Bee first and foremost when he wrote "I am not wanting to make a lot of people sad, but if you got a little extra love to spare, take it over to Miss Bee’s place and give her a big hug."

Way too soon for any of us, on Sunday morning Miss Bee wrote on her blog that "Heaven has a new angel today" telling us that Sarge had passed away peacefully and on Charlie's blog his final post appeared. Not one to shy away from the simple fact that none of us get out of this alive, Sarge took the time to say good-bye in his own inimitable fashion and once again in the face of his own death he thought of his beloved Miss Bee first when he wrote, "I know Miss Bee is going to be very sad when this is posted, stop by and give her hugs, over the years I learned that hugs are the most comforting thing one person can give to another." Have I mentioned that Sarge Charlie was a very wise man?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the man was a saint - I don't believe that any man is - but Charlie lived his life to the fullest and he lived it his way. The things that he believed in, he believed in passionately; the people that he loved, he loved without reserve. He was one of the most patriotic people I have ever met and he had no qualms in letting people know that nor did he mind letting people know that he was an incurable romantic who was fortunate enough to spend 44 years with the love of his life and the woman who was his soul mate.

No, Sarge Charlie didn't just fade away - Sarge Charlie lived brightly right up to the very end and those of us who knew him, are better for the light that he shared.

Thank you, Sarge, for your service to our country which ultimately ended your life too soon. You fought valiantly and have more than earned your eternal rest - though I get the feeling you are more likely playing poker and performing magic tricks to keep the other angels amused than you are resting on a cloud somewhere! Be at peace, my friend, and don't forget to look up my father sometime!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Training Myself To Take a Brief Glimpse Back

Yesterday I was going through my pictures from the Blogger's Cruise that I took on the Carnival Glory last February and realized that there were quite a few I had yet to actually DO anything with.  I guess that's what happens when you take over 1,200 pictures and then come home and take a lot more on top of those - some are bound to get lost in the shuffle ... or the uploading!

Even though these four that I'm posting today aren't from the actual cruise but from my train ride back to Connecticut after the cruise, I rather liked them so thought I'd share them here today.  As a quick background, when we got back from our cruise, Barb and I drove to Orlando from West Palm Beach (well, Barb drove and I "passenged" as my friend Patti likes to say!) so that I could catch my Amtrak train home as well as visit a bit with Morgen and Eyad before my train left.

After a very nice visit - which was short but better than no visit at all! - the boys drove me over to the Amtrak station in Orlando so that I could begin my journey home.  I was hopeful that I wouldn't have to deal with the same sort of rude passengers that were on-board my Amtrak train heading south and fortunately, I didn't.

Anyhow, here are just a couple of shots from that leg of my trip starting with Orlando and ending at Union Station in Washington D.C. with a stop in Richmond to stretch my legs! I hope you enjoy the views!

Orlando, Florida Amtrak Station
Amtrak Passenger Car
Washington DC's Union Station

Rather makes me wish I was taking a train ride to somewhere this year as in spite of "Ghetto Mom and Her Howling Houligans" on the ride to Jacksonville, I still do love a nice train ride!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Five on Friday - The "Get Your Tissues" Version

I've rather missed participating in Travis' weekly music meme where you simply pick five songs and then share them with folks on Friday - I guess that explains that whole "Five on Friday" part, huh?  I used to participate every week and then I can kind of fell off the bandwagon for one reason or another with the best of intentions to climb back on board every week but alas Fridays would come and Fridays would go and I'd never get my act together enough to come up with five simple songs.

Well, as it happens, whenever my mind is distressed about things I tend to turn to music and lately, with thoughts of my best friend fast-approaching the end of her much-too-short life, my mind has been more than distressed, it's been downright verklempt.  Even though lists the definition of verklempt as "overcome with emotion" it should also say "see country music" as those folks know just how to put into words and music exactly how a body is feeling regardless of the situation.

So, even though it's not the happiest of playlists, it's still a good batch of songs - you just need tissues when you're listening to most of them. I promise to shoot for five happier songs next week - honest!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Last Wednesday I Was in Boston, This Wednesday I'm Just Reminiscening!

Boston Public Garden in the Evening

Wow, time flies when you're working triple doubles! Hard to believe that it's already been a week since Jamie and I went up to spend the night in Boston and took a very chilly walk around Boston Common and the Boston Public Gardens where I took the picture above of the footbridge over the lagoon.  That scene looks a lot different in the spring/summer when the lagoon becomes the site of Boston's famed Swan Boats that paddle back and forth on the lagoon's water as depicted in the painting below that hangs in Parker's Restaurant at the Omni Parker House where Jamie and I spent one very nice evening last Wednesday.

Painting of Boston Public Garden in the Parker Restaurant

Now that I'm done with work for the week I can work on my post for The Distracted Wanderer about the Parker House which is America's oldest continuously operating hotel and truly just as wonderful as I always thought it would be chock full of history and beauty and maybe even a ghost or two! Some of that history includes future President John Fitzgerald Kennedy proposing to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier right there in Parker's Restaurant at table #40 near the Press Room where friends threw his bachelor party and where he made his first speech when just six years old at a party for his grandfather, former Boston Mayor John "Henry Fitz" Fitzgerald.

To think, I got to dine in the same place as a former President and his wife .. or at least Fiancée! Ah well, no such high-brow antics tonight as I'll be dining here at home but at least it won't be in front of the dispatch console where dinner has been served for the past three nights so I'll take it! And even though there's no Boston Cream Pie either there's still this ...

A Carrot Cupcake

A 14K Carrot Cake Cupcake from Sugar's Bakery & Sweet Shop in East Haven, Connecticut which one of my co-workers brought back for me yesterday.  Who needs pie when you can eat cake?!? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I'll Take That One ... Oh, No Wait ... Maybe That One ... Or Maybe ...

If there is one Virgo trait that I am as guilty of as they come (well, truth be told there's a lot more than one but for the express purpose of this post we'll just say one!) it would be over-thinking things. I am no more capable of just "hit it and quit it" as my friend Mo says than I am of trying to sing the National Anthem at the final game of the World Series!  It just ain't gonna happen!

Case in point is my upcoming trip to Stockton to visit my friend Cyndi who will be spending the remainder of her life hooked up to a ventilator.  I spent virtually hours on-line last night looking over various and assorted options for flights to California.  At first I thought I'd try for a non-stop flight out of Boston's Logan airport to San Francisco but then after looking at the high cost of parking near Logan I thought that I'd try for something closer by instead with better parking rates.  So then I looked at flights out of Hartford and then I looked at flights out of Providence and then I looked at flights into Oakland and flights into Sacramento and then I told myself to "just pick something!!"

Finally I decided on a flight out of Providence via a puddle-jumper to Dulles connecting to a flight on a huge 777 to San Francisco which would get me there around 8:00 in the evening.  My returning flight would be an early morning (6:00 a.m.) flight out of San Francisco to Newark where I would then board another puddle-jumper back to Providence.  The price came in right around $321 which isn't bad for coast-to-coast flying.  I booked the flight directly through Continental and at the end of the booking process was notified that I had up to 24 hours to change or cancel the reservation without penalty.

I figured that I was good to go and went ahead and booked my hotel room with a pretty good deal through Priceline with the plan that I would simply drive over to the airport the night before my flight and basically hang out in the airport and use their free WiFi or what-not rather than pay for a hotel room that I was going to be leaving at 4:00 in the morning anyway.  After all, we all know what a time-suck the internet can be and before I knew it, my flight would be boarding and I could sleep on the way home - if I was lucky!

Well, I was good with that plan right up until about 5:00 this evening when I received an email from Travelocity about new lower prices so naturally I had to go take a look and sure enough, there were a couple of flight options out of Boston again that were about $55 dollars less than the one I had booked last night.  Plus the flight out would get me to San Francisco around 4:30 instead of 8:00 and upon leaving, rather than sit in the airport all night long waiting for an early morning flight, I could actually take a flight out at that same night at 11:30 p.m. which connected through Chicago and got me back to Boston the next morning at 11:30 a.m. rather than at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Hmm, if I was going to be basically sitting in an airport all night anyway, why not just get on a plane and start my journey home?

Then again, there was that whole "it's a lot more expensive to park at Logan" aspect that had deterred me from flying out of Boston to begin with but I finally decided that in the end, the money that I saved on the flight would pretty much pay for the parking and if I really wanted to be cheap about it I could park at the T station in Quincy Center which is $8 a day and take the T out to Logan for $2.  It would be trickier and require more lead time but it would definitely be cheaper.

Finally I once again yelled at myself to "just pick something!!" and ended up canceling my previous reservation with Continental and booking the new one through Travelocity which does NOT give me that 24-hour option of changing my mind.  Which is good because knowing me, I'd over-think it even more and change my mind yet again and I really don't want to do that.  I just want to get on a plane and go visit my friend while I still can.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Greetings from Boston!

Jamie and the Ducklings

Jamie and I are having a fine time visiting Beantown even though it's a little on the cold side (or as Jamie says, "it's freezing!") but there's no snow and the sun is shining so I'm not complaining in the least.  I took this picture of the very popular "Make Way for Ducklings" sculpture in Boston Public Gardens yesterday evening - Jamie thought she'd get behind the last duckling and follow along.  Today we're off for a tour of the Massachusetts State House, Boston Public Library, and maybe a few other places in between before we head back to Connecticut and "real life".  

Monday, January 16, 2012

I'll Be Westward Bound Sooner Rather than Later It Seems

For the past week or so I've had a feeling of dread - like something was just not right in the universe.  Since before Christmas I had been trying off and on to get in touch with my friend Cyndi out in California but hadn't had any success. I'd reach her husband who would let me know that she was sleeping but he'd tell her I called or I'd get their answering machine with the request to leave a message at the tone - which I did.

Unfortunately the feeling persisted that something wasn't right but I was still getting nowhere via telephone so I sent a message to Cyndi's daughter on Facebook who messaged me back this morning to tell me that her mom had been having trouble breathing due to the secretions building up in her throat from the ALS and they'd had to have a tracheotomy done yesterday so that she could be put on a ventilator.  Her daughter assures me that the surgery went well and that Cyndi is now breathing fine but for her to have to be on a ventilator is anything but good.  It means that the damned disease that is robbing her of her life is progressing a lot quicker than was hoped.

I still have a lot of unanswered questions as to Cyndi's prognosis but what I don't have is the willingness to sit back and see how much better or worse things are going to get before I fly out to California to visit her.  To be honest, I don't know how much time she has which means I don't know how much time I have to go out and visit the woman who has been my closest friend since I first met her in a dispatch center at the Stockton Police Department in 1984.

My cousin's wife had this posted on her FB wall this morning which defines to a "t" what my relationship with Cyndi has always been but the sad truth of the matter is, picking up a phone and talking to her is not really an option at this junction being that her disease has robbed us of even that. As selfish as it is of me to feel sorry for myself at all while Cyndi is the one fighting this horrific disease I can't help but feel cheated and angry and truly sorry that I no longer have easy access to a friend who - as clichĂ© as the saying is - knows me better than I know myself.  You can't face the loss of a friend like that without feeling sorry for yourself unless you're a machine and I am definitely not a machine.

Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to speak to Angela, Cyndi's daughter, in the next day or two and then I'll know a little better what's going on.  In the meantime, I'm looking at flights to California and wishing there were more that didn't connect through Denver as changing planes there in the winter is not my idea of a good time but if that's what it takes to go see Cyndi, then that's what it takes.

In the meantime, thoughts and prayers for my dear friend are humbly requested and deeply appreciated.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

If Trees Could Talk, I Can Only Imagine What This One Might Have to Say

While in southern Connecticut last week with Patti, we took a short drive down to Westport and stopped in at the Connecticut 9-11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. I hope you'll be able to stop in over at my post on The Distracted Wanderer to read about it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Look Back at This Time Last Year

My long-time friend Rhonda and I got together for our monthly luncheon date yesterday and naturally talk of the weather was on the menu.  She's missing winter and wondering where it is whereas I'm not missing it at all and figure that we got gobsmacked so badly with winter last year that we're more than deserving of the break!  Besides, it's only January which leaves plenty of time for Old Man Winter to find his way back from wherever he's wandered off to this year ... rumor has it that would be Texas and Alaska, states that have seen MORE than their fair share of snow this season!

Just as a reminder of what it looked like last year at this time I dug into my photo archives and found some pictures that I took on January 11th whilst on a very cold walk down at my favorite railroad trestle near Indian Leap Falls.  I can still distinctly remember how cold my feet and fingers were so I'm good with this year's less-than-winter-like weather!

Railroad trestle spanning the frozen Yantic River
Lower Yantic Falls, January 2011
Snow on the trestle
Indian Leap during a frozen January in 2011.
Railroad trestle over the Yantic River

Besides, if I really want to see snow that badly, New Hampshire isn't that far and I wouldn't have to worry about arguing with the neighbors over their total lack of parking abilities while enjoying it!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Pretty Little Piece of History

This shot was taken exactly three months ago today when I went up to New Hampshire in October with my Mom and Amanda.  During our stay at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa,  I was told that there was a covered bridge not too far away that was named for General John Stark, the hero of the Battle of Bennington whom I had written about in a post for The Distracted Wanderer. Naturally I had to go in search of it and I'm glad I did as isn't it pretty?

Built in 1862, the Paddleford truss design bridge is located in Stark Village and spans the Upper Ammonoosuc River. The bridge almost disappeared twice from its site next to the church - first in the late 1800s when the covered bridge was lifted from it site and carried down the river by a flood. Not willing to lose their bridge to the whims of Mother Nature, a group of determined men used oxen to drag the bridge back to its original site and place it back where it belonged. In the 1950s the bridge was almost lost again when the townspeople voted to replace it with a steel bridge. Following a rather loud outcry by folks who felt that the bridge was too historic to destroy, the decision was overturned and care of the bridge was turned over to the State of New Hampshire which has maintained it ever since as Bridge Number 37 on its list of historic covered bridges.

So there you have it, a pretty little piece of history to start the year with! Oh, and if someone could please tell me why this church has the sort of steeple that it does I'd be most grateful! I saw a few other churches that had the same four points or pikes at the top but I've got no idea why or what they're called.  Can anyone shed some light on the subject?