My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Golden, yeah, that's what they said...

When you retire you will be living in your golden years.”
That's what I heard often. I even began to believe it.
I've been retired now for five years. The only gold I have seen is that stream from my bladder to the porcelain bowl at midnight. Then at 1:30 AM. And again at 3 AM. With 5 AM rounding out the night.
What the heck! At 5 AM I figure I might as well get up for the day and see if there will be a golden sunrise. For the last few weeks that has been denied due to the cloud cover.
How about the gold of eggs sunny side up? I've got time. There's no rush to shower and hit the road just to sit in traffic. I have plenty of time to drop and egg or two into the frying pan. Listen to that sizzle. I'll slip the spatula under neath to flip… Nope. It stuck to the pan. Scrambled will have to do. The crumbly bits are sort of gold, well pale yellow will have to do.
Perhaps the coffee can be coaxed into a golden glow with a splash of half & half. Dammit! Too much! Tan. These will be my tan years.
I'd go out to enjoy the golden sunshine while the air is cool and the humidity is low but for the warning of my doctor.
Always use the highest SPF sunscreen before going outside. Not to mention a hat placed firmly on your noggin.”
The golden tube of SPF sunscreen is crinkled up to the cap, so no help there. The chance to give my skin the golden glow of a healthy suntan has to be forgotten for fear of cancerous growth on the old epidermis. I do have a golden straw hat. Perhaps that is part of the gold of the “Golden Years.”
The figurative gold of Social Security is not delivered in a huge pot but through electrons passing from the federal government to my bank account. The glitter and weight of gold falls far short of that which I surrendered to the Federal Government from each o my paycheck for the entire time I worked. Even that these new politicians say is an entitlement to which I may not be entitled.
Really, I guess it makes no nevermind since I'm at the age when my representatives can slip part of my “entitlement” to which I am not really entitled according to them into one of their favorite pork projects or simply into their own pocket through their entitlements which they voted into effect for themselves over the years. Perhaps I should be content to know that I have made their years after congress and the Senate lushly golden.
I will continue to search out these golden tones over the next few years that I have left. All that time I will wonder where the rest of the money I gave up for my Social Security will go after I pass on to the Pearly Gates. I have often wondered that but it is one of those questions that has no answer.

I have to go to the grocery store now. I see they have golden delicious apples on sale. I better get the gold where I can.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

From Gillingham to Singapore

February 13th it was snowing.  It was 1946 and the snow was piling up.
"It's time!" my mother shouted.
"No need to get so loud," said my dad's mum. "Alf, go get the car warmed up."
My granddad knew better than stall both because of my mother's pained expression and my grandmother's command.
"I wish Al were here," my mother lamented. Having to deal with my decision to be born and my grandmother was more than mom wanted.
"In't no use wishin' for what can't be," said dad's mum. "He's in Singapore. You know it so get control of yourself."
Dad swears he knew when I was coming into the world from the very first pain my mother experienced. He laid up in his hammock with sympathy pains during the entire ordeal or so his story goes.
"Get word to Al, please," my mother called out after a severe pain.
"Don't you be worrying about Alf. You concentrate on birthin' that boy," said dad's mum.
Granddad came in grabbing mom's coat on the way to the bedroom.
"Here.  Put this on. It's snowin' heavy. We have to go if we're going to go."
He winced at her pain.
Dad doubled over with the pain. His hammock trembled at his tightening up. His mate looked at him with a cocked eyebrow.
"You better go see the doc," he said.
"No, it's Helen. She's having our son."
"You can't possibly know that," said his mate with a smile on his face.
"Oh but I do," he said holding his abdomen.
"You're barmy." And with that he left to let the other shipmates know.
"I don't know if this old thing will make it," said granddad. "I'm going to call Tom."
They helped mom back inside while granddad nipped up the road to the call box.
The snow whistled around him as he trudged back to the house.
"Tom's on his way," he said closing the door and stamping his feet.
"Come in by the fire," said dad's mum. "You'll catch your death."
Mom was lying down her face contorting in another contraction.
"Oh, she'll be fine," said dad's mum. "They're too far apart to become concerned."
Mom let out a groan.
"Is there something I can do?' asked granddad. "A glass of water? Some sherry?"
Mom smiled at him.
"Sherry might help," she said.
"That's right, booze it up," said dad's mum.
"A little won't hurt. It might even ease the pain a bit," said granddad.
"Piffle," said dad's mum.
Mom took the glass offered by granddad. She sipped it and smiled again at granddad. His smile was as warm as the sherry.
"Where's Tom? He should have been here by now," said grandmother pulling the curtain aside to look out the window. large fat flakes flew by in a torrent.
"How's it look?" asked granddad.
"Like we won't make it if Tom don't hurry," she said letting the curtain fall back into place.
She turned as mom groaned again. Her face became stern. She opened her mouth to say something when they heard the beep of a car horn.
"That must be Tom," said granddad. He rushed to open the door. As he did Tom came up the step and into the doorway.
"How's she doing?" he asked.
"Groaning and crying," said dad's mum. "Come on let's get her into the car."
Granddad draped her coat over her. She pulled it tight as they helped her through the snow and into the car.
"Be careful, Tom. We want to get there," said grandmother.
"Don't worry, mum. We'll be fine. Just watch Helen." He put the car in gear and plowed through the snow that had settled in front of him.
It was a a good ways to Gillingham and the nursing home. When they arrived it was still snowing.
Tom stopped the car. Mom pulled the heavy coat tight around herself. She stepped from the car into a barrage of fat wet snowflakes. Granddad held onto her. They walked together through the doors into the care of a waiting sister.
"Wha' 'ave we 'ere?" says she.
"A pregnant woman in labor," said my granddad a little louder than he meant.
"Now, now. No need to get upset. Pregnant women 'ave been coming in 'ere for as long as I can remember," she said smiling at mom. "Come on, Dearie. let's find you a nice warm bed and a cuppa tea. That'll fix you up."
It was sometime in the evening hours of February 14th, 1946, aboard ship outside of Singapore my dad began to grimace in bouts of pain.
"Look boys. Alf's pains are getting closer together. What's it going to be Alf? A boy or a girl?" his mate said with a laugh. The others near his hammock joined in the laughter.
"You laugh," said dad. "But I know my wife is in labour."
The laughter continued while a grimace grew on his face. He let out a loud groan. Perspiration beaded across his face and he collapsed.
His mates gathered around him. His face was white. A smile gradually spread across his lips.
"It's a boy!"
"Can I hold him?" asked my mother.
"Let us get him cleaned up and then we'll bring him right back." The sister took me away.
Mom lay back on the bed. Granddad dabbed at her face with a moist flannel.
"A boy. What's 'is name going to be?" asked the sister.
"Alfred Frederick Croucher, after his father," said my mother.
"That will be the third," said granddad smiling.
"How do we get in touch with Al," asked mom. "He needs to know."
"I've contacted the Red Cross," said Tom. "They said they will get the message to him as quickly as they can."
In Singapore a few hours later.
"A message for Alf," said one of his mates.
"Read it," said my dad.
"You are the father of a son born this day February 14. Congratulations."
"Well I'm buggud..." His mates looked at him in disbelief.
Dad smiled.
"What did I tell you? A son."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leap Year 1944

Yesterday was February 29.  So every four years February becomes doubly important to me. This is the day that it is permitted that a woman may pop the question to her man.  It's not so fashionable these days but it proved quite acceptable to my dad in the year 1944.
His ship was hit by one of the first guided missiles brought into play by those pesky Germans in the last great war.  That fateful day was September 13, 1943. That number 13 played a big role in my dad's life. He was born on a 13th and he died on a 13th.
After a temporary patch job the HMS Uganda limped across the Atlantic and into the port of Charleston, SC.  He spent almost a year in this fair city while his ship underwent repairs. He and his mates enjoyed the hospitality of the South while waiting to sail back into the war action.  He began seeing a young lady her on James Island and used to take the city bus out of the city to visit her.
On one of those bus rides all the seats were taken and he grabbed hold of one of the hanging straps to steady himself as he stood in the moving bus. He told me, many years later, that his eye caught sight of a beautiful brunette sitting by the window. An older woman was sitting beside her. He kept glancing her way as she stared out the window. Eventually their eyes met as he glanced over for the umpteenth time. She smiled. He looked away quickly.
At the next stop the woman beside her got up to leave. Dad looked over as she got up and my mother looked at him with a broad grin on her face. He turned away again.
"You know you are welcome to sit her," she said to him.
"Were you speaking to me?"he said bashfully.
"Yes, you can sit here. I won't bite, you know," she said with that smile he found intoxicating.
A smile lit his face as he sat in the adjoining seat. They began to talk while the bus took him closer to the home of his young lady. The telephone pole with the bus stop sign painted on it came up. He rose to leave the bus. To his shock she stood up as well. When their conveyance stopped he was waiting for the door to open so he could leave. She was right behind him.
"I'm not following you," she said. "This happens to be my stop as well."
"Oh," mumbled my dad. "I guess we part ways here then. I will be heading that way." He pointed up the street.
"So am I," she said. "My house is just around that corner."
"May I accompany you?" he asked, smiling.
"You certainly may."
He walked her to her door.
"Well, here we are," she said turning to him.
"Yes, here we are."
"I certainly have appreciated your company," she said hesitating to open the door.
"Um, may I see you again?" Dad said haltingly.
"What about your lady friend you've come to see?"
"It is not what you think."
"Yes? And what do I think?"
"Uh, well... I don't know. I just know I would very much like to see you again." His eyes ducked to the ground then back to hers.
Her smile captivated him once again.
"I would very much like that, too."
They made plans for a future meeting and she finally after a few minutes of silence broke off the entrancement.
"Well, so long, then," she said reaching for the door knob.
"Yes, until we meet again this weekend."
She went inside. He turned to walk back to the road. He stood at the edge of her yard looking at the door. He snapped his lighter shut taking a long drag on his Players. He stood like that with a silly grin on his face for a full five minutes then turned to head back to the bus stop. His girl would have to forget him.
My mother watched him through the curtain. Her face radiated a happiness she had never felt before.
"What are you doing, daughter?" It was my granddad coming from the kitchen. He was surprised by the smile on her face and the sparkle in her eyes.
"I just met the man I'm going to marry." Her statement was emphatic.
"Oh, you've said that before," he said but he noticed a look he had never seen before. He smiled with acceptance his daughter's pronouncement.
"When are you going to bring him to the house to meet with your mother and me?"
"I don't know, poppa, but I will as soon as I can."
Their lives began to intermingle more with each passing date.  The meeting with the parents came up eventually. My granddad liked him immediately. My grandmother, not so much.
"He's a foreigner, Robbie," she said to my granddad after my mother and dad had left for their movie.
"Yes, but a good man. I can tell. Our daughter could not do any better over here. You've seen the boys she has brought around. Nice kids but no one I'd want her to spend her life with."
"He'll want to take her to England when the war is over. What'll we do then."
"Let's not worry about that now. This war is not over. He has to go back to sea and who knows what will happen between now and then. Don't upset yourself so."
My grandmother agreed but the worry never left her.
February arrived and they were still seeing one another. The fourteenth came with all its Valentine ring. Dad offered my mother a wrapped box. She ripped through the wrapping.
"It's a bag," she said.
"Yes, it is. I made it for you," he said a shy smile on his face.
It was blue with a Union Jack on the flap. Inside it was white satin. The beading around the edge was red, white and blue.
"You made it?"
"It's wonderful. Thank you so much."
They kissed.
"You are so welcome," he mumbled in her ear as the hugged.
The day ended with dad walking her home, then returning to the bus for the trip back to the naval base.
"You know he will be leaving as soon as his ship is finished?" My grandmother met her at the door.
"Yes, I do," answered my mother closing the door. "You have to know that I plan to marry him before he leaves."
"No!" stormed my grandmother. "I forbid it!"
"He is the man I will marry!"
It ended there with my grandmother smoldering at the door. The bedroom door slammed.
The fact that it was leap year was the icing on the cake for my mother.
"It's the one time a woman can ask a man to marry her," she told her friend. "On the 29th I'm going to ask him."
"But he's English, ain't he?"
"So? What's the problem with his being English?" asked my mother.
"You gonna go ta England?"
"When the war is over, maybe."
"So you gettin' married before he goes back to sea?"
"I don't know. We'll figure that our when he says yes."
"How you know he'll say yes."
"Because he has to..." answered my mother.
The 29th arrived. It was another movie date. My mother had been practicing asking in her mind for a long time.
When the movie was over she stopped him on the way out.
"Stand right there for a minute," she said hands on his shoulders as much to steady herself as to stop him moving. She looked at him trying to speak as he pulled a cigarette from a pack and lit it.
"I want to ask you..."
Puzzled, my dad watched her. "Yes?"
"I want to ask..."
"Well go on then..." he pushed her.
"For heaven's sake, dear, ask away."
"I want to ask you to marry me," she said then caught her breath.
"It's leap year as you know and I can ask so I'm asking. Will you marry me?"
He looked at her.
"Yes, I most certainly will." He grinned taking her into his arms.  "I most certainly will, my darling."
It was settled. They would marry.
Over the months my mother was making plans. My grandmother was still smoldering and objecting. No notice was taken by my mother. Her life was on track, war or no war, they were going to have a life together.
My dad was sent to Philadelphia during this time. My mother was devastated. Dad stayed drunk the entire time he was there. I came across pictures long after this episode of his time in that city. His eyes drooped in his alcoholic haze. I asked why the pictures were cut. My mother looked at them with distaste in her eyes.
"Your dad was drunk and he was staying at a family's home. Their daughter wanted him for a son-in-law. I cut her out of every picture."
When dad came back my grandmother had practically ended my mother's dream.
L H was a good friend of my mother's. Actually, he was in love with her. She had been very unhappy while dad was away. L H was worried about her. Asking what he could do to make her happy, she had answered, "Help me elope."
He told her that he just wanted her to be happy.
"Then help us."
He did just that. He took her to the bureau to get a license then set up the appointment for marriage and collected them together for the ride over to the office. He stood as best man and handed dad the ring when it was called for.
Hand in hand the left the office, stars in their eyes. L H looking a touch weary drove them to my grandmother's to tell them the good news.
They pulled up in the front of the house.  There were bags piled on the lawn. My granddad came out to meet them.
"Hello daughter. Hello son. No need going inside. Your mother won't see you. She's packed your bags and left them here so she doesn't have to see you."
Dad's face heated with anger.
"Let me go talk.."
"No, son. It will do no good. Let me help you get the bags in the car."
Dad looked at the house then turned to the baggage on the lawn. He picked it up and tossed it into the car.
As they got into L H's car granddad came close to the window.
"I love you daughter. So does your momma. She's just really hurt right now. It'll get better."
"She.." dad started.
"No need, son.  I understand. For me, I want to welcome you to the family. My daughter couldn't have found a better man anywhere. You two make a good life for yourselves."
L H drove off. Granddad, looking tired and sad, waved as the truck pulled away.
My dad had to scramble to get my mother on a ship in a convoy headed for England.  She sailed on a battleship in a huge convoy leaving New York. Dad reported to his next assignment and sailed to the South China Sea where he spent most of the remainder of the war and then some.
My mother was met when the ship docked by my dad's family.  granddad took to her immediately. My grandmother never truly did.
And so ends my tale of Leap Year 1944, a fortuitous year for my parents and in the end for me.