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The Final Frontier   Leave a comment

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They say a journey begins with a single step. How many steps, then, does a person take during a lifetime?

Many, if the journey is full and rich, and one thirsts for adventure, seeking it regardless of where it might lead.

I have the privilege to be acquainted with such a person who rarely, if ever didn’t let anything stop him, forever fulling his adventurous spirit. That person is my Dad.

My father began his journey on May 29, 1929, the middle child of eleven kids, in Harrison, South Dakota. His family consisted of a mother whose family were pioneers dating back to the early 1800s, and his father who left Holland as a boy to strike out in America, plus all those kids. They lived on a prosperous farm until the market crashed and the Dust Bowl took what was left. Instead of heading towards California, this family headed towards upstate New York. After a few fits and starts, Grandpa bought a dairy farm. My grandparents eventually sold the farm but remained in the town until their deaths. Except for two children, all others left to see what the world had in store for them.

Dad went to college during a time when not so many did but the Korean War interfered with those plans. He served as a drill sergeant and travelled all over. Not long after the war’s end, he met my mother, a musician in a popular band. Up on the stage, she sang and played drums. Dad introduced himself. Within eighteen months, they married. Over the course of seven years, three kids showed up. My aunts and uncles started families too. Seemed normal to have thirty-eight first cousins.

Never one to sit still, Dad’s entrepreneurial mind created successful businesses throughout his working years. His active mind and imagination saw opportunity in the oddest of places. Even if the odds seemed risky, Dad tried it anyway. Sure, a few ventures bombed but most paid off handsomely. That gave him the resources to travel. Curious and adventurous, he and Mom travelled the country and the world, making friends everywhere they visited.

Everything interested him, from the heavens above to here on earth, no matter where or what it was. He held public office and made friends with senators, congressmen and politicians. Loved culture and attended the opera, concerts and theatre. Dad’s garden grew amazing flowers and vegetables. His many friends kept my parents entertained throughout the year

If asked, Dad would tell you his biggest source of pride was his family. Not just us, but all of it. Not just a beloved uncle, but a member perching on a long family tree. Our family history extends to the late 1400s, and thanks to Dad, he left it to us to remember who we all are and where we came from (Germany and Holland).

Three years ago, the journey slowed down for Dad. On a winter vacation, he disappeared for seventeen hours. Couldn’t tell you where he went. Back home, he repeated himself over and over again. His gait grew unsteady and his blood sugar went through the roof. Then Mom died. Dad’s journey slowed considerably. Over this past winter, it ground to a halt. He stayed inside mostly, venturing to the doctor, the barber, an occasional meal at several local restaurants.

On January 28, a mild winter day, I took him out for a morning. Got his hair cut, ate lunch at his favorite diner. Saw a few friends and said hi. Dropped him off home. Said I love you and see you next week. Dad replied he loved me and smiled.

Fifteen hours later, he died, in the same exact spot my mother did twenty months ago. His caretaker said his eyes were fixed on a portrait of my mother as he passed over into the final frontier, the unknown that is the afterlife.

Mom loved the stars in the heavens. I’ve no doubt the two of them are holding hands up there now, twinkling their smiles back to their children, their family, their former world.

 Mom & Dad Wedding Photo

xo from your daughter, Gretchen, Mom and Dad!

Posted February 7, 2016 by seleneymoon in Personal Anecdotes, science fiction, Writing

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Mom, Up With The Stars   7 comments

Glamor Mom

So there I was, a little kid, really, laying on my stomach on the living room floor.   That’s how the small set viewed television, at least back then, when TV sets weren’t flat screens but part of the furniture.  This show, Star Trek, was on and Mom was glued to it.  Only a few years later, she’d do the same with Tom Baker’s version of Dr. Who.

Every Saturday afternoon, she’d turn on Channel 17 in the kitchen and watch whatever horror movies they happened to play.  I’d turn on the set in the living room and watch from the couch.  Mom peeked up from the ironing board, giant pot of dinner or pile of something she happened to be tending to at the time, and me, well, I’d be there, glued in stupefied fascination over the ridiculous plots.  I mean, come on.  A giant moth taking over a city?  I never could get used to lips not moving in sync to the voices that never quite seemed to match up to the person speaking them.

Still, countless Saturday afternoons with Mom went by, watching an enormous man tangle with electric wires as his former girlfriend implored him to stop, or yet another man shrunk down shorter than the grass he hid in contemplating the stars.  Why were the victims generally men?  Sure, occasionally you had the disfigured, angry woman out to kill whomever did this to her, but on the whole, it was some luckless fellow falling down a hole, getting sprayed with a mysterious liquid, blasted by X/gamma/nuclear/unknown rays and having his soul wrenched from him as his body contorted/transformed/vaporized into an unrecognizable mass that wreaked havoc in the nearest city…and always a city.

Mom’s fascination with this stuff naturally influenced mine, except I developed a liking to those story lines that involved spaceships, aliens, misguided off-world adventures, and the like.  I still think one of the best vintage sci-fi films is The Day The Earth Stood Still (the one that stars Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie), and so did Mom.  Klaatu had it going on, and I thought he should have taken Patricia Neal with him, maybe the kid, too.  That would have been a good story.  Neither Mom nor I didn’t think much of the remake with Neo, but it did have its merits.

What Mom didn’t find to satisfy her thirst for science fiction adventure, she found up in the evening skies, when she was so inclined to peek at them.  By the time I was in the sixth grade, I spent many an hour glancing up at them and I always told her what I saw, even showing Comet Kohoutek to her (a MAJOR disappointment).  Occasionally a planet might wander by or an eclipse might occur.  Come to think of it, my first total eclipse of the sun was shared with Mom, back in the 1970s.  How amazing that in the afternoon all the lights went on in the street, the birds stopped singing and a few bright stars appeared as the sun played coy with the moon.  We stood outside, afraid to look at it but in the end taking a quick peek during totality, gasping at that miracle of nature.

As years went by, my mother never lost her love for stuff not readily explainable, either via television or the movies.  Once, she and my father even saw what they believed to be several UFOs flying over the coast, where they lived.  That confirmed their belief by hundreds of reports the next day, covered both in the paper and on the morning news.  We watched as the real Enterprise went piggyback on a plane, then as all the space shuttles, SkyLabs, ISS and anything else that left this planet went up and aided the Earth’s population, scientific and otherwise, to explore whatever lie out there and beyond.

On May 24, 2014, my mother went up there in the heavens to become one with the stars.  I’d like to think she currently resides there, since she took so much interest in them.  She had a very peaceful journey, laying down to take a nap from which she never awoke.  There was nothing truly wrong with her, said the doctor, apart from it was her time.  Mom had 85 action-packed years and I’d like to think they were all incredibly interesting ones.  She leaves behind her family, terribly sorry to see her go and missing her every day.

I couldn’t write a single word of this blog until now.  Nothing came to mind.  Then, just like magic, the memories of how I’d laugh and joke with Mom over those vintage Saturday afternoon sci-fi groaners we used to watch together popped into my mind.

I’d like to think Mom put that there.

Bye, Mom!  I’ll see you in the stars…

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