Tag Archives: southwest airlines

Fly the Friendly Skies

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I’m traveling to Houston today by air. Truthfully I have never been much a fan of flying. When I was younger I actually had a big fear of crashing, but after flying all around Iraq in all sorts of military aircraft, and occasionally getting shot at, the issue of crashing is the least of my concerns, notwithstanding the fact that two years after Judy and I had flown back from our tour in Germany on December 28th 1986 on it that the Pan Am 747 Maid of the Seas was blown up over Lockerbie Scotland.

When I was a kid flying was an adventure, it was something special, and the airlines were doing their best to give good customer service, even in coach, because they wanted to eliminate their competition, which was then America’s vast passenger rail system. Truthfully, I loved going across country by train. Yes, it took more time, but it was relaxing and you could see so much of this beautiful country.

But today, air travel for the most part is not to be enjoyed, and much of that is due to the way the airlines, the airports, and airport security treat you. The recent public relations fiascos involving U.S. flagged air carriers which included the outright abuse of customers showed this in all its ugliness. As far as airport security, I cannot tell you how many bad experiences I have had even in uniform. Honestly I don’t mind flying, once I get aboard airlines like Lufthansa, British Air, KLM, or Air France. I dread flying on United, pretty much abhor American, and approach Delta with trepidation.

As far as travel in the continental United States I prefer Southwest Airlines. First, since I have been in the military for almost 36 years I am used to the cattle car experience. I don’t mind not having assigned seating. Likewise, I have never had a bad experience on that airline, the customer service I have had has always been awesome. Two years ago I was flying to Houston for the same purpose that I am today. I was booked on Southwest and flew the first leg from Norfolk to Baltimore. I arrived at Baltimore and went to grab a beer while waiting for my flight to Houston when I discovered that I didn’t have my wallet. Some gentleman bought my beer as I dashed back to the gate. The gate agent sent people back into the aircraft to find my wallet and it wasn’t aboard. They contacted Norfolk as I made my way to the gate when my next flight was to depart. I told the gate agent there what was happening and he already had the answer. My wallet had been found by the Norfolk gate agents and they had already made arrangements to get me back to Norfolk, pick up my wallet and fly to Houston through Orlando, all at no extra cost. That is customer service. They went the extra mile to make things right even though they had done nothing wrong. I will never forget that.

So anyway, until tomorrow, please, if you fly… fly the friendly skies.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under aircraft, Travel

Thoughts on the 2014 National Day of Prayer and a Big Reason to be Thankful

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Friends, I am traveling today and it is indeed the National Day of Prayer and the sinner that I am, I am always in need of prayer. Just to let you know that I do pray contrary to what some may think, I had good reason to pray today. Somehow on the trip I dropped my wallet and when I got to my mid way stop in Baltimore I didn’t have it. Near panic ensued as I looked everywhere I had been in the BWI terminal as well as called back to Norfolk where I departed.I saw my entire life flashing in front of my eyes and wondered if an identity thief was going to take me for everything I have before I could cancel all of my credit cards, not to mention the pain of getting new military ID and drivers license. I felt so incredibly stupid.

Finally after contacting the Staff College it looked like I was going to be heading home and missing the conference that I really needed to attend. A lady sitting near me took pity on me and gave me $20 so I could at least eat. I was grateful. After talking with our travel people I went to the desk agent at the Southwest gate where my Houston flight was to depart from and asked them what to do since I had no identification. They put my name in their computer and found that their gate agents in Norfolk had found the wallet. The young man at the gate worked with everything to not only get me back to Norfolk but, to arrange to get me my wallet and on another flight to get me to Houston late tonight. It was positively amazing. 

But what was really cool was that people who I didn’t know, who I don’t know if they are Christians, or any other religion or in fact if they had any faith at all stepped in to help me. I do not know or care what their political affilation, religion, Alma Mater is, or even if they are Los Angeles Dodgers fans. Someone turned in my wallet in Norfolk rather than making off with it. The airline personnel of Southwest Airlines went  above and beyond the call of duty to help me and to calm me, and yes I did need calming.

Other people, security and TSA at BWI and Norfolk tried to help. Then there was the kind lady who gave me $20. Since I routinely give to panhandlers because I have been poor before her act of kindness was quite touching. What is cool about this experience was that a bunch of good people cared about me. Like I said I don’t know any of them but they were wonderful and I am thankful, not just to God, but to the decent human beings who whatever their motivation were wonderful.

It will be a lot longer travel day than I had planned but my misadventure has shown me that we still have a lot of good and kind people in this country and that is something to celebrate.

Since I needed calming I was able to get me a big beer and now with that in hand waiting for my flight I give you my thoughts on the National Day of Prayer. I actually wrote this article last year, but since most people seem to think that the day is for the right wing political hacks at the “National Day of Prayer Task Force” founded in by Shirley Dobson in 1982, here is the real story. As the late Paul Harvey would have said “the rest of the story.”

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another.  The liberty I contend for is more than toleration.  The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” John Leland

Today was the National Day of Prayer. The event was established by President Harry S Truman in 1952 was designed to mark the common freedom that we have as American citizens.

I am a big fan of religious liberty and critic of those that desire to establish any religion as the official religion of the country and in doing so suppress the rights of others. An attempt was made in the North Carolina State Legislature early this year to establish the right of the state to establish a religion in complete disregard of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of North Carolina. Part of the text of that bill, which was killed in committee stated:

“The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

I do feel that there are those that want to use such occasions as today’s observance of the National Day of Prayer as a means to establish their religion, as the law of the land. However, if we actually look at our history such is not the case and was never the intent of our founders or those that established the National Day of Prayer.

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President Truman’s proclamation stated:

“Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Friday, July 4, 1952, as a National Day of Prayer, on which all of us, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts, may beseech God to grant us wisdom to know the course which we should follow, and strength and patience to pursue that course steadfastly. May we also give thanks to Him for His constant watchfulness over us in every hour of national prosperity and national peril.”

Ronald Reagan eloquently stated the purpose and significance of the National Day of Prayer in his 1983 proclamation which in part read:

It took the tragedy of the Civil War to restore a National Day of Prayer. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

Revived as an annual observance by Congress in 1952, the National Day of Prayer has become a great unifying force for our citizens who come from all the great religions of the world. Prayer unites people. This common expression of reverence heals and brings us together as a Nation and we pray it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.

From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 5, 1983, National Day of Prayer. I call upon every citizen of this great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.

President Reagan’s 1983 and subsequent proclamations stood firmly in the American tradition of Civil Religion and was decidedly non-sectarian.  It acknowledged that our citizens “come from all the great religions of the world” and called on Americans to gather on the day “in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.”

While the American religious tradition is highly Christian and even more so from the Reformed tradition this has always existed in tension with a decidedly secularist philosophy embodied by many of the Founding Fathers who were very careful to recognize the importance of religion but at the same time both sought to protect religious liberty by NOT enacting laws to establish a particular religion nor to entangle the government in the affairs of religion which could in their view be detrimental to true religious liberty.

In fact both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were very careful about proclamations and ensuring that government was not favoring any particular religious body. Jefferson wrote to Reverend Samuel Miller in 1808 that:

Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the time for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it. …civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

Madison who was the author of the Bill of Rights and included religious liberty in the First Amendment in support of Virginia Baptists who were under pressure from those who were determined to make and keep the Episcopal Church as the state religion of the commonwealth. Madison wrote to Edward Livingston in 1822 that:

“There has been another deviation from the strict principle in the Executive Proclamations of fasts & festivals, so far, at least, as they have spoken the language of injunction, or have lost sight of the equality of all religious sects in the eye of the Constitution. Whilst I was honored with the Executive Trust I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory; or rather mere designations of a day, on which all who thought proper might unite in consecrating it to religious purposes, according to their own faith & forms. In this sense, I presume you reserve to the Govt. a right to appoint particular days for religious worship throughout the State, without any penal sanction enforcing the worship.”

President Obama’s 2013 Proclamation for the National Day of Prayer stands in line with the founders as well as that of Presidents Truman and Reagan. It calls Americans to join with him to:

Americans have long turned to prayer both in times of joy and times of sorrow. On their voyage to the New World, the earliest settlers prayed that they would “rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work.” From that day forward, Americans have prayed as a means of uniting, guiding, and healing. In times of hardship and tragedy, and in periods of peace and prosperity, prayer has provided reassurance, sustenance, and affirmation of common purpose.

Prayer brings communities together and can be a wellspring of strength and support. In the aftermath of senseless acts of violence, the prayers of countless Americans signal to grieving families and a suffering community that they are not alone. Their pain is a shared pain, and their hope a shared hope. Regardless of religion or creed, Americans reflect on the sacredness of life and express their sympathy for the wounded, offering comfort and holding up a light in an hour of darkness.

All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly. Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.

On this day, let us remember in our thoughts and prayers all those affected by recent events, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, and the explosion in West, Texas. Let us pray for the police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who put themselves in harm’s way to protect their fellow Americans. Let us also pray for the safety of our brave men and women in uniform and their families who serve and sacrifice for our country. Let us come together to pray for peace and goodwill today and in the days ahead as we work to meet the great challenges of our time.

The Congress, by Public Law 100-307, as amended, has called on the President to issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a “National Day of Prayer.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2, 2013, as a National Day of Prayer. I join the citizens of our Nation in giving thanks, in accordance with our own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and in asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection.

However, no matter how similar President Obama’s proclamation is to those of President Reagan or Truman or for that matter any other President with the exception of President George W Bush, he is attacked by people on the extremely partisan political right World Net Daily columnist Bob Unruh and others for supposedly “cleansing the day of prayer of Christianity.”

The fact that Unruh and others like him routinely engage in this behavior makes me tired. The real fact of the matter is that most of the men who helped establish the freedom of religious faith and practice in this country were decidedly not very Christian and determined not to repeat the tragic mistakes of European nations which had both established state religions or churches and had on numerous occasions entered into bloody warfare to ensure that their religion came out on top.

But for them that is par for the course. Unruh and so many others are such strong advocates for a Christian Theocracy, something that it is perfectly obvious to me that they have no understanding of history, our Constitution or the ideals of our founders. It is a common theme that runs through all that they do. I have written about them many times before so I won’t go into gory detail today. I’d like to but I won’t, if you want to find my articles just search under the term “religious liberty” or look on my Civil Rights or Faith and Life pages.

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Our founders were so opposed to the idea of a State Religion that in one of the first treaties entered into with another nation, the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796 drafted by the future President John Adams noted in Article 11:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

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Jefferson wrote in the Virginia Act for the Establishment of Religious Freedom:

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. 

Madison wrote:

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

John Leland, leader of the Virginia Baptists who were being persecuted by Episcopalians intent on re-establishing themselves as the official State Religion of Virginia became involved in the fight for religious liberty in the newly independent colonies wrote:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another.  The liberty I contend for is more than toleration.  The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

Leland heavily influenced both Madison and Jefferson in crafting the Virginia statement on religious liberty and the First Amendment. Toward the end of his life Madison wrote:

“The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both; that there are causes in the human breast which ensure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of the law; that rival sects, with equal rights, exercise mutual censorships in favor of good morals; that if new sects arise with absurd opinions or over-heated imaginations, the proper remedies lie in time, forbearance, and example; that a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and with a toleration, is no security for and animosity; and, finally, that these opinions are supported by experience, which has shewn that every relaxation of the alliance between law and religion, from the partial example of Holland to the consummation in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, &c., has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory. Prior to the Revolution, the Episcopal Church was established by law in this State. On the Declaration of Independence it was left, with all other sects, to a self-support. And no doubt exists that there is much more of religion among us now than there ever was before the change, and particularly in the sect which enjoyed the legal patronage. This proves rather more than that the law is not necessary to the support of religion” (Letter to Edward Everett, Montpelier, March 18, 1823).

I am all in on religious liberty including the rights of people that are not Christians to practice whatever faith or non-faith that they please. This is the freedom that our founders fought to bring forth in this land.

Today we celebrated the National Day of Prayer and I had the privilege of leading our prayer at our facility. I have included that prayer here:

Loving God, we thank you for the privilege of living in this country where our founders were wise enough to neither establish nor forbid any religious practice. We thank you that as the beneficiaries of the wisdom handed down by these men that we have the liberty to believe and practice our faith in the manner that we see fit and that whether Christian or Jew, Moslem or Wiccan, Buddhist or any other faith represented in our land that we have this freedom. We thank also thank you for the freedoms granted to all, the freedom to believe, practice and even not believe as our conscience dictates and that Congress can enact no law to either establish a state religion nor prevent the free exercise of the beliefs of any citizen. 

For the wisdom and the foresight of these fallible men whose actions redound to us we give you thanks.  We pray this in your Holy Name. Amen. 

So as the time draws near to go to bed and I offer my night prayers for all, I do wish you the peace and freedom that so many Americans have fought and died to maintain.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

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Filed under christian life, civil rights, faith, laws and legislation, News and current events, Religion

A death, a Rain Delay and a Visit from Saint Pete

This is a continuation of the story that I started in “Meeting Jesus and the Team at 7-11: A Baseball Fantasy” and “A Ballgame with Saint Pete: The Confluence of Faith and Baseball.” I have edited this from when I originally posted in last year and reposted it. I wrote the original article on my way to California for my dad’s funeral. When I started the series I did not expect my dad’s death, despite his long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I wrote this article and started another which I will now finish and then continue the story from there. Somehow baseball helps me make sense of the world and adds to my spirituality in ways that I cannot explain to the non-member of the Church of Baseball. I just hope that the series touches people with the grace of God in some way, and that maybe they too will experience the love of God and the wonder of this wonderful game.

 

The news the next morning came like a thunderclap, as I was turning off my alarm clock which is located on my cell phone the phone rang to the tune of the Panzerlied which is my default ringer, a good German Army tune for a patently military Padre with an affinity for German military history.  I was not expecting the phone to ring as you might well image and squinted at the display to see just who might be calling me at this hour.  Without my glasses it was hard to see the display but nothing can come from a call this early in the morning. I looked at my watch to make sure that the cell phone time had been correct and that the call was not coming from someone at work seeing if I was running late which this morning despite having been up late the previous night I was not.  I hit the little green button with a phone on the key and put the device to my ever ringing ear, a product of too much noise exposure in Iraq according to my ENT, oh well, that and the loss of speech discrimination that I am experiencing tell me that the diagnosis is likely true.

“Hello” I asked warily wondering just whose voice would announce itself on the other end of the call.

“Hey Steve” announced the voice on the other end, it was my brother Jeff and I could tell that something bad had happened. “It’s Jeff I just got a call from the nursing home and they say that dad is hasn’t got much longer to live.” The voice was measured but full of emotion.

“Crap, okay, go on Jeff” my voice hesitated as Jeff continued to talk.

“Yeah, they called a few minutes ago and said that dad had taken a turn for the worse and that they didn’t expect him to live.” He paused for a second and continued. “I figured that they meant a few days so I asked them and the nurse told me that she didn’t think that he would live another half hour.”

I interrupted “a half hour?”

“Yeah, tell you what I need to get up there quick, I’ll call you from there to let you know what is going on.”

“Thanks Jeff be safe driving up there.” My voice trailed off as Jeff replied.

“I will Stevie.”

“One question, does mom know?”

“No they called me, I’ll let her know when I know something and I’ll call you as soon as I get up there.”

“Love you brother, be safe”

“Love you too” and with that Jeff hung up the phone.

I find it funny that my “little brother” refers to me on occasion as “Stevie” but he is my brother but he has been the more serious and grown up of the two of us since he was about eight years old. Dad used to say that he was eight going on forty back then and he still is the more serious and reserved of the two of us. When I was in high school and college he looked in askance when I went on toilet paper raids with friends and later with Judy around town.

In shock I walked back to the bed where Judy was awake and putting her glasses on. As I climbed back into the bed she asked “what’s wrong?” and reached out to me as I lay down next to her. “It was Jeff; he said that he got a call from the nursing home and that they said that dad was dying.” I looked up at her as she simply said “I didn’t expect that.”

“I didn’t either; Jeff is on the way up now, I don’t know what to think.” She cradled my head in her arms as I lay there stunned from the news.

“We’ve known for a long time that this was going to happen but…” I cut her off.

“But I just didn’t expect it now. I know that he hasn’t been the man that I knew for a long time with the Alzheimer’s but I just didn’t expect it. Kay had said that he was doing about the same, had gained some weight again and the last time I talked to mom and Jeff they said that he looked about the same as he has for a long time, I just figured that he would go on longer.” I paused as I took a deep breath and she said “I know” and held me close.  Seeing that we were up, Molly our vivacious Papillion-Dachshund mix pulled her 15 pounds of red fur and personality over us and wrapped her body around the top of our heads after squeezing herself between us and ensuring that she kissed each one of us.

We lay there for together not saying much as I wondered what was going to happen in the next few minutes. I prayed silently for my dad to have a peaceful death and to be with the Lord even as I searched for answers myself. It had not been that long, just about six month in fact since I had started believing again after my Christmas miracle. That had been a time, after Iraq I was falling apart and only got worse for most of the first two years after my return. I struggled with PTSD, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, severe depression, chronic pain gained a lot of weight and got out of shape but the worst part was feeling cut off from community and even worse cut off from God, the experience of feeling God forsaken shook me and it was not until shortly before Christmas that faith had began to return to my weary soul.  I hugged Judy and pressed up closer to her before realizing that I needed to get a shower realizing that I had just enough time to do this and get dressed before Jeff called back from the nursing home.

“Strange, yesterday I get the greatest news of my career and today this. It’s that damned Yin and Yang, those two have to always show up together why couldn’t I get time just to enjoy the news of the promotion?” It was a rhetorical question of course, I am not one that subscribes everything to God’s will which in my understanding would make God out to be a capricious and even somewhat cruel God, despite what the Calvinists and Augustinians say is part of his will for us. I have a problem with a God that would intentionally screw with his people like that and choose rather to believe that some things in life just happen, the good with the bad and that somehow that God will give us grace to get through the difficult times, even when we see no good reason for the timing of events. “Damned Yin and Yang, especially that Yang always shows up when you don’t want him to.

“I’ve got to get cleaned up and dressed I’ll have to go in to work after I hear from Jeff and rearrange my leave.”

“I guess this means another anniversary apart huh?” Judy looked at me and I simply replied “yeah what’s new?” I had planned to take a good amount of leave around our anniversary this Friday just to be with her, help her around the house and relax through the July 4th weekend but that was now out the window with dad’s death.  Over the 27 years of your marriage we have been apart more than together on this auspicious date that we share with the 1950 invasion of South Korea by the North and the 2009 death of Michael Jackson.  I spent our first anniversary in Landstuhl Army Medical Center back in 1984 and over the years had only been at home for 11 of our anniversaries. I guess being in the military you get used to this in fact with us it is almost a running joke, but this year I didn’t think we would be apart.

“I think that this means that we’re 11 for 27” I dryly said.

“I’ve stopped counting dear I just figure that it’s going to happen.”

“Yeah, me too” I pulled my body which now felt like it weighed a ton off the bed and headed to the shower and Molly looking somewhat offended snuggled closer to Judy.

About the time that I was finished dressing the phone rang again and it was Jeff telling me what I knew he was going to tell me.  I answered the phone resigned to the message that I knew was coming. “Hey Jeff, what’s going on?”

“Stevie, I’m here at the nursing home, I made it just after he died.  It looks like he just passed away in his sleep, he looks at peace.”

“That’s how we hoped it would be no suffering.”

“I know, I just didn’t think that it would happen this fast. I thought they would call us and that he would slip into a coma and take a few days to pass away.”

“Yeah, same here, I just didn’t expect it today, but then who does?”

“Hey Stevie, I call you back I need to go let mom know that he’s gone.” It was 3:25 AM in California.

“Okay, hang in there and good luck with mom, it will hit her hard I’m sure. Talk to you later, love you Jeff.”

“Sure thing…. later.” The phone went silent as Jeff hung up.  I got my gear together gave Judy a kiss goodbye, filled me a water bottle and headed to my car.  After loading my gear in my trusty war wagon festooned with bumper stickers of baseball teams and military units and newly issued Operation Iraqi Freedom license plates personalized with “FLAK88” my favorite artillery piece of World War Two turned the key and nothing. The battery was dead.

I went back in the house and let Judy know that I needed to borrow her car and then proceeded to load her car for the trip into work.  On the way I called Derek, our assistant Department Head to let him know what had happened and by 7:15 I was walking in the office door wearing my Tides road jersey and hat. I sat down with Derek for a while as he and I have very similar family situations and both of us were wondering who would be the first to lose their father.  The talk was helpful and Derek prayed for me as our Monsignor, Father Fred.  Fred when he was on active duty had been my first detailer, which in non-Navy parlance would be a personnel manager or assignments manager.  Fred and I have had a wonderful ministry together as Priests and he came into my office, closed the door and spent time with me, finishing with prayer and letting me know that he would offer Mass on my dad’s behalf.  He was followed by Father Roy a Canadian Army Priest in our Clinical Pastor Education Residency who offered his condolences and then let me know that he too would offer Mass for my dad.  I gathered the things that I would need to include my Summer White uniform, or as I love to call them my Faggoty White Uniform as Colonel Nathan R Jessup, Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie A Few Good Men called them.  Once I was packed I was on my way home where Judy awaited me as did my laptop with which I would make my travel arrangements.

I could not believe the prices to fly on short notice and the aggravation that I had in trying to use my frequent flyer miles or get a real person on the line on all airlines except Southwest. Although I was able to talk with the kind folks at Southwest, who by the way are always the most courteous of all the airline customer service agents, at least to me, I went online where I got my ticket on Southwest to Sacramento and made my rental car reservations.  Following all of the time spent making arrangements my neighbor Larry jumped my car which enabled me to go to the auto part store for a battery.

Finally about exhausted and with the temperatures in the high 90s with unbearable humidity Judy and I went and got a beer and light lunch at Biersch before the ball game which I knew that I needed.  It is funny how baseball of all things works to calm me when nothing else will and how even when I experience great loss baseball is there for me. It is much as Walt Whitman once said: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out of doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair those losses, and be a blessing to us.” Baseball is a blessing to me, something that the Deity Herself must have figured when I was conceived to a couple of baseball fans who in addition to raising me right taught me to love this game.

I looked up at the sky and realized that there was a strong possibility that rain would affect the game as I got out of my car at Harbor Park.  When you live in these parts you can tell by the look, feel and smell when a storm is coming and this was one of those days.  I entered the park, as Bill “Spaceman” Lee once said “as one enters a church” paying my respects to the folks that I now know well at the front gate walking up the stairs to the concourse where I was greeted by Will, one of the ushers who helps people as they come up the stairs offering greetings to those that he knows while directing first time visitors in the proper direction.  I let Will know what had happened and he offered his condolences and said that he would pray for my family too.

I made my way across the concourse and looked out at the lush diamond below, the grounds crew was preparing the infield for the game as Rip Tide mugged for fans and the Tides band played on the concourse.  Vendors selling all types of food and drink were busily engaged in their work while Marty the Card dealer talked with a customer.  I stopped trying to figure out what I wanted to do next and decided to get a Tides dog and a beer before going down to my seat. This is a comfort food for me and like Humphrey Bogart said “A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.” Going down to “Rosie’s Grill” on the third base side of the concourse I ordered the dog and the beer, a draft Yuengling Lager and after dousing the dog in mustard and relish I went over to a table and ate the dog there as I stared out at the diamond occasionally looking across the Elizabeth River to the shipyards and dry docks and the Staten Island Ferry that was high and dry in the dry dock directly across from right center field.

My mind wandered thinking about the many times that dad had taken me to ball games and how much that meant to me.  The last game that we saw together was a Stockton Ports game at Banner Island Ballpark back in 2005 or 2006 when the Alzheimer’s was just starting to show up in his daily life and instead of being able to really enjoy the game he nervously paced the concourse behind home plate for much of the game.  That was so unlike him and I knew that he was slipping even though he did not yet recognize it. When I finished the dog I took my beer and my bag with my camera and windbreaker in it down the concourse where I met Chip the usher who greeted me in his usual friendly manner.

“Hey Steve how are you doing? Celebrating the promotion?”

I looked at Chip and sighed. “Chip it’s the damndest thing I thought that I would be celebrating and my brother called this morning to let me know that my dad died.”  Chip looked at me and shook his head.

“Sorry to hear that, he’d been sick for a while?”

“Yeah, the Alzheimer’s didn’t even know who the hell I was the last time that I saw him; at least he went peacefully in his sleep.”

“But still…”

“Yeah, really threw me for a loop, I just didn’t expect it to happen now even though I have expected it for the last two years.”  I paused.

“I’m really sorry Steve; I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers. When are you going out?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

“Okay, I’ll keep you in my prayers my friend.”

“Thanks, I better go down and see Elliott.”

“Catch you later.”

“You bet.”

I walked down the stairs to see Elliott waving at me having already wiped down my seats.  I got down to where he was and he greeted me cheerfully. “Hello Padre, just you tonight?”

“Yeah just me.”

“I hope we don’t get rain tonight”

“Sure looks like we might it feels like rain.”

“Yeah, so how are you doing?”

“Not so good, I won’t be here for a while I got a call from my brother this morning to tell me that dad is dead. I fly out tomorrow.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that Steve.” I knew Elliott like Chip meant what he said.

“Yeah, hard to believe, I thought that God might actually let me enjoy a full day with my promotion.” I paused as Elliot let me continue, a good usher like a good bartender is a good listener.  “But stuff happens, like those Chinese kids Yin and Yang, the good and the bad huh?”

“Yeah, seems that way.” Elliott paused. “How are you doing there?”

“I guess okay, he died in his sleep, we’ve expected this for the last two years, I just didn’t expect it now.” I paused and as before Elliott let me do so without prattling on. “You know I prayed that he would go in his sleep at peace without anymore suffering but now that he has I am just…I don’t know, I didn’t expect it now.”

“Hang in there Padre; I’ve got to get busy before Dave thinks that I’m ignoring others, I’ll talk to you later.” A couple came walking down the steps looking for their seats and Elliott turned to great them. As he did I looked up at the sky, the clouds were building from the west and well, if you have ever lived where thunderstorms are a part of daily life you know what I mean when I say that you can smell the rain in the air or feel the storms building.

I went to my seat and as the grounds crew finished its work and the teams began to take the field I wondered if we would get the game in.  The young woman who would sing the National Anthem came out on the field and the PA announcer announced the Tides as they ran onto the field each accompanied by a young girl softball player about 6-9 years old.  Obviously the “Field of Dreams Team” was a girl’s softball team otherwise they would have been boys.  The young woman sang the Anthem and Chris George the Tides starter went into his final warm ups, just then the rain started and the home plate umpire signaled for the players to come off the field as thundered rumbled and lightening flashed nearby. I looked at my cell phone and looked up the weather channel whose radar show a very big blob of red coming our way. I left my seat and walked up to the concourse and not long after I did the heavens opened and the rains came down.  As I and most of the other fans took cover from the storm a finger tapped me on the shoulder.

“Padre, I knew that I would find you here.”

I looked up and it was Pete.

“I thought that the boss sent you out of town?”

“He did but he let me come back when your dad died.”

“Really, why?”

Pete put his hand on my shoulder “Padre the Boss had me come back because he knew that you’d listen to me.” He paused and looked me in the eye. “The boss was going to send Thomas because he wanted to send me on a road trip but when he actually called Carl home he realized that you really didn’t know Thomas, I mean Thomas is a good guy but…” I cut him off.

“But Skip knew that you were right for this.”

“Yeah, Tom’s good but you know me.”

“True.”

“And he likes wine better than beer” Pete chuckled “and even though he’s on the team he’d rather sit down in a nice restaurant and share a nice bottle of Merlot and eat cheese, Skip realized that I was the better choice.”

“Makes sense, Skip knows me pretty well huh?”

“All of us my friend, all of us, heck I remember meeting him for the first time when he called me, changed my name on the spot from Simon to Peter, the Rock.” He chuckled “sometimes I think that he thought the rocks were in my brain housing unit, the time I corrected him and he told me “get behind me Satan” my Lord that was not fun, I felt so foolish, but he didn’t chase me away.”

“Sometimes I feel pretty foolish Pete, I mean look at me, my dad is dead, I fly out to California tomorrow and I am standing in the concourse of a baseball park with rain coming down in buckets.” My sense of frustration and confusion was showing. “I mean Pete, what should I be doing? I really don’t know.” I shook my head and my eyes first moved to the ground and then looked back up at Pete. “I don’t know what to do Pete.”

“I know, and Skip knows, that’s why I’m here and not Tom. The fact is Steve you can’t do this alone, that’s why you’re here tonight; you need to be around this place, your friends and in a sense your dad. Your dad is here at least in spirit.”  Pete paused “Let’s get a beer and sit down out of the rain.” Pete walked me over to a stand on the first base side of the concourse where a vendor was selling Killian’s Irish Red. Pete looked at me and said “I’ll get it so put your wallet back.” Walking up to the stand he said “Sir, two Killian’s, make them large” and laid a twenty dollar bill on the stand. As the man reached to make change Pete said “keep the change my friend, tips might not be too good if this rain keeps coming down.”

The man behind the stand smiled as he finished pouring the second beer, “Thanks there buddy, you have a good night, thanks again” as he put the five dollars of change into his vest pocket.

“Let’s go over here Padre.” Pete led me to one of the tall round metal tables near the stand and put the beer to his lips. “Not bad, of course it isn’t named after Saint Killian, but we can pretend can’t we?”

“Always Pete”

“Cheers my friend, to Carl.”

“To dad” I replied as we lifted our cups.  The rain continued to beat down on the tarp spread across the field; I looked down at the display on my cell phone and noted the large amount of red, yellow and green on the Weather Channel, and I looked at Pete “looks like the rain isn’t going to let up for a while.”

“Well then let’s hang out for a while then.”  We’ve got a little bit of time, besides; you don’t want to get soaked on the way out to your car.”

“True, I am not a big fan of torrential rain.”

“You know that some of the good times early on came with the boss in the rain, well actually in the rain in little boats in raging storms.  I will never forget the time that he came walking across the water, shocked the heck out of me, enough to tell him that I wanted to do it too” Pete took a drink of his beer and laughed “I laugh about it now but when I saw those waves around me and realized that there was no boat under my feet I freaked out.  As I started to flail about and sink Skip walked over to me like he was on pavement reached down, grabbed my arm lifted me up and hauled my ass back in the boat. He then stilled the storm and the rest of the team; even guys like Judas had a laugh.” The rain was now coming down in sheets and with the exception of a couple of ushers and diehards everyone in attendance was on the concourse under cover or under the overhangs on the upper decks and the party deck.

“I’ve been through some storms at sea too”

“But you weren’t foolish enough to jump out of the boat.”

“Patently Pete, patently” I raised my cup “cheers Pete?”

“Cheers Padre” and Pete raised his cup to mine and each of us took another drink.

“So anyway, you wanted to talk to me.”

“Yeah, that.”

“So?”

“Well, last night I mentioned that you were in few a few changes or something like that before I left the park.”

“Okay, go on.”

“Well, that call from Skip, he kind of let me know that he was going to take Carl, your dad home.” Pete paused “And he kind of told me that he was going to send Tom as he had other work for me to do.”

“But that changed, you already told me that.”

“Yeah, yeah anyway, as I was saying, um where was I?”

“Changes and Skip telling you that he was taking my dad home” I paused and looked at Pete.

“Yeah, that let me continue.  You know that Skip liked your dad a lot, and I got to know your dad before you were even born, played some ball together on Guam.  I was on his team, I remember when he slid head first into second and broke his collar bone.”

“You’re kidding?”

“You dad was a young Petty Officer and a heck of a ballplayer, he was a solid hitter, knew where to hit the ball, aggressive on the base paths and good defensively at second base, sometimes all of us on the team would go out for a San Miguel after the game” and then paused for a drink and I took the opportunity to interrupt.

“What were you doing in Guam?”

“Come on Padre, what I’m doing here, Skip keeps us busy, that thing about “the great cloud of witnesses,” well some of us are more like low cloud cover or fog, a bit closer to the action than some of the others.” Pete laughed, “Skip likes us to be involved and I just happened to be in Guam when Carl was, it was totally coincidental.”

“Like the past two days?”

“No not at all, this was one of those God ordained things, you know Skip, when he wants something, well what can I say?”

“So you’re telling me that playing ball with my dad was coincidental and this was God ordained?”

“Yeah, so why can’t it be that way?”

“It just seems too coincidental to me Pete, I mean why this why me why now?” I was still in shock about dad’s death and though I knew that Pete was telling me the truth I didn’t really know how to react or what to say. I looked down at my beer and back up at Pete. “Pete I’m sorry I just don’t know what to say, I’m still in shock and kind of numb.”

There was an awkward silence and Pete reached out to me. “Padre, you needed to be out here tonight, you needed to hear this, it’s been so long with Carl not being himself with Alzheimer’s that you needed to remember that he was once young and enjoyed life, he loved you and your brother and your mom. He wasn’t perfect but there is a lot of him in you. He was proud of you and your brother and your families and I was glad to have known him back then.”

Though there were people all around us chatting and rain coming down mixed with thunder and flashes of lightening.  It had been nearly an hour since the rain began and it didn’t look like it would be letting up anytime soon as water began to puddle in the right field corner and other places in the outfield and warning track.  There was also water building up in my eyes, and I tried to be inconspicuous as I wiped away a tear.

“Padre, its okay, your dad died this morning.  It only happens once to most people and Carl was a good man, he’s getting a chance to hang out with Skip and well a lot of others, he’ll be fine.”

“So Skip really knew dad?”

“Still does, and I know that after Iraq you wondered if God existed and struggled with faith but when Skip said that he was with us and would never leave us or forsake us he meant it. He didn’t say that we wouldn’t have problems but he said that he would be there. Sometimes that’s hard to believe, I know I had a number of times where I doubted more than Tom ever did, thankfully Luke didn’t take the time to report all of those events.”

“Good thing I guess, better than these ballplayers, every error they make get’s published and recorded for posterity.”

“Good thing Padre, good thing, those statisticians would have been great sin counters in the Middle Ages, they would have known exactly the amount that you would need to pay to get your sins forgiven and an indulgence or two…I’m surprised that brother John Tetzel isn’t their patron saint.”

“So the reason that Skip sent me back is that he knew that you needed a bit of a pep talk and know that he really does care about you. He wants you to know that things will work out and to find a way to make sure that people remember your dad before Alzheimer’s took everything from him. Skip thinks that it will be good for them and you too.”

“But what?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Skip didn’t tell me. I guess that he will give you inspiration, he’s good at that you know.”

“Yeah, but until this inspiration comes I don’t know what the hell to do.”

The rain began to let up; I refreshed the Weather Channel and noticed more storms in the area.

“Pete, I have a long day tomorrow, I need to get home and pack, if this game does get going it will be close to midnight before it’s over and I’m still tired from yesterday. I’d better get out before the rain starts coming down again.” I finished the last bit of beer in my cup. “You will talk to me again?”

“Of course, I’ve been assigned your case.”

“Thanks for being here and thanks for the beer too, it tasted good.”

“Sure thing Padre, I’ll see you here again, maybe we’ll even find some way to get a game going, I think I can talk Dave into renting out the park for a day.”

 

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Filed under Baseball, christian life, faith, Religion

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…Reflections on the Islands of Unhappy Travelers

The 80’s group Blondie had a hit called “Island of Lost Souls.”  I love that song; it is kind of quirky and fun.  However, there is a time when you run into a place where the song seems more true than not. Airports are one of those places, they tend to be some of the most angst and anger filled venues known to man, excepting of course Fed-Ex Field where Dan Snyder is doing his best to destroy the Redskins and drive off their fans. However, I digress as I couldn’t care a whit about the Redskins because they are a football team, though I have sympathy for the fans that have been banned from bringing signs into the stadium.  With that exception and maybe the U.S. Capitol building and the set of any Cable Television talk show where politics is being debated the airports have to be pretty close to the top of the hate and discontent list.

I had to travel to Florida in the spring for chaplain conference.  Since I came back from Iraq I do travel a lot less well than I used to and to make matters worse conferences of almost any kind at best come close to pushing me to the edge.  Sleep tends to be difficult for me, especially before I travel on commercial airlines and endure the hell of airports.  The night before I travel, I try to anticipate every contingency, going through my packing list and ensuring I have everything that I need. Then after I go to bed I get up an hour later to make sure that I indeed get everything. Once I am sure that I do I go back and check the multiple alarm clocks that I have set just to make sure I don’t miss my flight.  I know why I do this. Before Iraq I traveled a lot and got good at it.  However in Iraq a did a lot more of this and got into a routine of checking, double checking and even triple checking to make sure that I had everything that I needed.  Over there I knew that if I forgot something, even something simple that it would not be available the places that I was going or places that I might get marooned.  I have carried that experience back with me.  I pack and lay out all my clothes the night before I go to work.  I actually use the same pack that I carried on every mission in Iraq.  It is an excellent piece of gear, made by Blackhawk.

Anyway that day was a hellish travel day. The weather across the east coast was crappy.  My first flight was delayed an hour, my second flight as well. If that was not bad enough the good folks at Delta airlines failed to have people at gates and jet ways when gate changes happened, leaving people to miss flights and nearly miss vacation cruises.  On our connecting flight at Atlanta’s Harts-Jackson Field was delayed, in my case that was a good thing as had it been on time I would have missed it.  While in line waiting for the flight announcements were periodically made, each one either delivering a later flight time or excuse for the delay.  The excuses often were inconsistent.  I began to think that they were lying to us.  Now I’m not saying that an airline would lie, but it seemed to my little pea brain that the excuses conflicted and each new excuse contradicted the last pathetic excuse.  I hate bad liars.  Let’s face it, if you are going to lie be consistent and strive to make it believable, politicians, lawyers and TV evangelists are great at this.  Unfortunately the people lying to us were not very believable.  However it may have been that they actually believed what they were saying which would be as George Costanza once said: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

As I waited that day I surveyed my fellow disgruntled travelers.  I was deep into a PTSD induced ass kinking anxiety attack.  By the time this was going on time I had taken both of my extra meds as well as my 8 AM and 1230 PM doses of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  Normally I’ll wait until dinner for a beer, but I knew that I needed a bit more on that trip.  I try not to self-medicate and over the past year have gotten a lot better in not doing this. However there as something about airports and airline travel that almost inevitably pushes my buttons and so I will do this to take the edge off and keep me somewhat sane until I can get to my destination and hide.

I went to a conference in Orlando in the summer of 2008 shortly after my PTSD diagnosis and that about put me over the edge. If you have PTSD the Gateway to the fricking “Happiest place in the world” is the portal to hell.  Thus only a few months after coming out of a combat zone I discovered that Orlando during the height of the summer pilgrimage to Wally World to see Randy Rodent and Doofey is not a fun experience.

Thanks be to God for her good care during this trip.  She ensured that my doctor had given good drugs and the airport pubs provided good beer not to mention a Chili Dog with mustard.  Thus by the middle of the afternoon I was doing far better than most of my fellow travelers.  It definitely sucked to be them.  It was then that the Blondie song came into my mind.  Atlanta’s airport was not the Island of Lost Souls but the Land of Unhappy Travelers.  I listened to some of the folks around me as they lamented their situation and it sounded like “Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Atlanta had become the vortex of very disgruntled travelers who had missed flights, been bumped from flights or delayed endlessly.  If you don’t believe in the Catholic in the doctrine of Purgatory just try Atlanta on a day like that, which is about 362 days a year.  I looked around, and though barely holding on myself I was able to find some gallows humor in the midst of this agony.  I looked around the people around me and said “Ladies and gentlemen it is my distinct displeasure to welcome you to the land of unhappy travelers.”  I actually got a few laughs.  I then made a comment about the airline, which I had not flown in a couple of years, saying “I’m glad to see that some things stay the same, our airline still has same crappy service that they had a few years ago.”  As we started boarding we boarded by zones as some airlines do.  I personally prefer the first come or first signed in first seated way that Southwest does things, unfortunately the government contract was no longer with Southwest. As they announced “boarding zones one through five,” I commented, “Yep, you guys in zone 92 still have a while to wait.  On each flight we had bad weather, turbulence and on one flight the air condition did not start kicking in until we were getting ready to land.

When I got to my destination I heard stories even worse than mine, all focused around the vortex of doom that swirled around Atlanta.  The only place that I thought it could have gone worse was Washington Dulles, where my experiences have been nearly all bad. I survived but by the time I got to my hotel my ass was kicked. At the end of the day I had survived.  A few beers and a bit of wine with good fellowship with friends made things better.

Saturday I get to fly again and make my third trip to California to see my folks.  I am already making my list and getting mentally prepared for the trip.  I get to fly though Chicago O’Hare and on the way back LAX and O’Hare.  Thank the Deity Herself that Atlanta is not on the itinerary. I’ll do my best to at least find the humor as I pass through these islands of unhappy travelers, so pray for me a sinner.

Peace,

Padre Steve

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Filed under PTSD, travel

Last Visit with Dad, Beer with Breakfast and Musings on my Visit to Mudville

Me and last last pic

Dad and Me 15 May 2009 in our matching Giants Apparel

I got to the airport I had a better time checking in that my trip out.  I had time to get breakfast in the Home Turf Sports Bar. As readers of this blog know I do not do travel or airports well since I came back from Iraq.  I used to travel quite frequently and while I can do well I have a lot more anxiety in crowds and lines.  Thankfully Sacramento is not too bad today.  Even so I decided to get breakfast.  Had scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries washed down by a couple of pints of Sam Adams Boston Lager. I find that a good beer takes the edge off of the anxiety and taste a lot better than Xanax.  The first time I did this was in between flights going to and from Bahrain at Heathrow in London.  A pint goes very well with breakfast, which over there included eggs, potatoes, toast, tomatoes and rashers of bacon. Despite this when I got into the crowded line I have a decent anxiety attack.  The flight to Chicago is full and there are a lot of less experienced travelers and families with small children on board. Thankfully none of the kid’s has started screaming….at least yet, may the Deity Herself keep the kiddo’s quiet.  The most miserable fights I have been on have been the ones with the screaming kids.  I really don’t like the beer on aircraft since it is always in cans.  Beer doesn’t taste as good out of a can, even decent beer.  I prefer beer on tap or in a bottle.   However this afternoon I decided I could use a beer.  The crowed flight was beginning to get on my nerves, especially the young gentleman sitting in front of me who kept adjusting, readjusting and bouncing in his seat. He had almost caused me to spill my Diet Coke.  I went back to the aft galley and the flight attendant when he saw my military ID gave me a complimentary beer and thanked me for my service to the country. That was pretty cool, and though it was a brand I might not normally drink, it tasted better than any domestic beer I have ever had on a flight.   Way to go Southwest.

I do not know when I will get back to Mudville.  I assume that it will be sooner rather than later given my dad’s condition which is obviously deteriorating fairly quickly now.  At least we have gotten some of the hard things done.  My brother and I have continued to grow close and continue to find just how much alike that we are.  The only thing that we might disagree on is our taste in beer, that however is nothing to fret over.  I love his family, he’s a great dad.  Somehow all of us will get through this time.

A couple of other high lights of the trip were having a pizza, salad and beer over at my nephew Eric’s pizza parlor.  The place is called appropriately enough Eric’s. He bought it from the previous owner who had hired him as a teenager.  Then it was called Rick’s and it is still a local fixture in Mudville. Eric runs a great place and frequently is recognized as having the best pizza in Mudville.  As a pizza expert I can say that it is some of the best I have ever had.  Truthfully I like what I like better, Eric’s crust is a bit more substantial than mine, I like the really thin, light and soft New York crust.  Eric’s is definitely a New York Pizza and incredibly good, if you go to Mudville he’s on El Dorado Street.  Tell him I sent you.  He also serves Newcastle Ale on tap. That is also a major selling point for me. He has good taste in beer.  Whenever I go there we always have a nice talk.  He’s a good family man and business man.  It is hard to believe that I have known him since he was 8 years old.  I had dinner at Arroyo’s Café one night.  For the unenlightened Arroyo’s has some of the best Mexican food around.  If you are in Mudville it is worth the visit.  The portions are good sized, taste good and the prices are very affordable.  Finally I had a great time with my buddy Rob from elementary school and junior high school.  I hadn’t seen him since 1979 or 1980 and it was good to reminisce as well as catch up on things.

Today also marks a milestone.  It was 13 years ago today that I was ordained as a Deacon.  I’ll write about that experience another time.  Like most things in my life it was not an ordinary day or boring event.  I guess the surprising thing is that I survived 13 years as a Deacon and as a Priest.  Once again the Deity Herself continues to protect this miscreant Priest.  From the moment that the Blessed Sacrament was lifted high out of the Paten by a gust of air from an errant ceiling fan before the horrified eyes of the blue haired ladies at the cathedral where I was ordained, my service as a Deacon and Priest has not been ordinary.

I’ll get back late tonight and head over to Gordon Biersch with Judy for dinner and a couple of Marzen’s.  Tomorrow I’ll try to take it easy and rest.  I look forward to Monday night and the Tides game.  It has been over 10 days since I’ve been to a game.  Thankfully the Tides were out of town for most of this time.

Thank all of you again for your kind words, thoughts and prayers over the past week. They have been most encouraging.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, beer, healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, PTSD, travel

The Journey to Mudville

Friends: I wrote this in several parts over the day on my trip. I do thank all those who have expressed sympathy as well as voiced prayers on our behalf. Thank you. Peace, Steve+

There are those times in life where one wonders what the hell is going on.  I sat in my seat between two other gentlemen on the fully booked Southwest Airline flight to Chicago. This was the first stop on my journey home to Mudville, sometimes known as Stockton, California.  The legend is that the poem Casey at the Bat is set in Stockton, and for a couple of years the Stockton Ports were reflagged as the Mudville Nine.  So in a sense I can claim Mudville as part of my baseball lineage.

The journey had begun inauspiciously enough when my cell phone’s alarm clock went off at 0430 to the tune of John Foggarty’s Centerfield.  That’s military time for 4:30 AM, or too frickin’ early… even by my standards.  Now true this is only 15-30 minutes earlier than I normally arise, but I have never been a morning person.  If I had been able to get to sleep at a decent hour this might not have been too bad.  However, I had spent a full day trying to get my shit together on Sunday and did not get to bed until after midnight.  Thankfully my sleep meds worked and I did get to sleep.  When the alarm went off I got my sorry ass up and set the snooze for ten minutes more. Molly the dog glared at me.  Evidently this was too early for her as well.  I finally got up and out of bed, showered and went downstairs to call a cab.  Of course the cab company couldn’t promise a cab before 0600 and since my flight was scheduled for 0645 I knew that this was definitely a no go.  Molly the dog decided that it was now time to come downstairs and demand to be let out so she could do her business.  This being done she collected her payment of a Milk Bone and went back to bed.  After having paid off Molly I loaded my suitcase and backpack into my trusty 2001 Honda CR-V and started off to the airport.  After Iraq I now consider airports as the gateway to hell.

Radio tuned to ESPN Sports Radio 1310 AM I received the news that my San Francisco Giants had beaten the Evil Dodgers at Chavez Ravine 7-5 in 13 innings, taking two of three from the now Mannyless Dodgers. While the Norfolk Tides had taken 2 of three from the hapless Buffalo Bisons which in the Mets organization had once been the Tides. The Mets as usual have decided to treat their AAA farm team badly and people in Buffalo after years of competitive seasons as a Cleveland Indians affiliate are opening complaining.  With the good news I stopped by my local 7-11 for a 24 ounce coffee with 4 French Vanilla creamers and 3 packets of Splenda and zipped off to I-264.  It was then that things started to get interesting and not in a good way.  I managed to find every stoplight and get behind every timid driver who couldn’t drive anywhere near the speed limit.  I’ve driven the Autobahns of Germany and cut my teeth in L.A. and a lot of people in Hampton Roads can’t drive nails, much less cars. I put my CR-V into warp factor eight, set the cloaking device and dodged in and out of traffic and took the secret wormhole into the airport to avoid even more stoplights.  It is patently a good thing that I know such things as I would shortly discover that I would need every second.

I pulled into the parking garage and saw that there were 26 spaces available on the second deck. I drove onto the deck and discovered that there were not 26 spaces but a big fat zero spaces available. Muttering a few things about the questionable parentage of the idiot who couldn’t count the difference between 26 and zero I drove my CR-V up to the 3rd deck.  The sign here said 16 spaces available…good I thought, certainly they couldn’t screw up two floors.  Damned if I wasn’t screwed again.  Here again the parking space counter of the previously mentioned questionable parentage had miscounted.  Instead of 16 spaces there were…you guessed it, zero, nada, nicht eine, yea even nary a single space available. Now calling to mind the probable oedipal practices of the individual of questionable parentage I moved up to the 4th deck.  Here I found success; albeit at the end of a row far from the terminal, but I had my spot…at least I didn’t have to keep going up.  I looked at my watch and knew I had to run. I did the O.J. (racing through the airport, not killing my wife) and I got down to the ticketing area where I was greeted by the sight of at least 250 people in the Southwest line.   I now only had 50 minutes to my flight departed.  Normally with Southwest this is easy. They are efficient and the line, if they have one at all it tends to move fast.  Today was like something out of the hell known as the Orlando International Airport.  Some group of 100 or so people had bumped everyone else aside. Likewise one of the big TSA baggage X-rays was down, turning this into a nightmare is grumbling people stewed wondering if they would make their flights.  I uttered some more #*@#%! words under my breath and then asked the Deity Herself to give me a break. Thankfully the Deity and the good people at Southwest ensured that line moved fast.  We received some help when the group who had gooned up the line was finished.  Then the agent called for my 0645 flight.  At this point all of now very late passengers stormed the ticket booth like revolutionaries storming the Bastille. Thankfully I had good position based on my position in the line. Expert that I am I weaved through the lesser experienced travelers. I slid into a self serve kiosk that no one else had spotted like Ricky Henderson would slide into second. As I got my boarding pass a pushy woman tried to bump me out of line. I didn’t like it; she was trying to crowd me out of line when I was there first.  Thankfully she was too dense to know that she needed to check her bags despite having a boarding pass in her hand.  The Southwest agent told her to get in a different line and I got my bag checked.  That task completed I did the O.J. and flew up the steps to the TSA checkpoint.  Jumping over a bank of chairs I managed to pass about 50 people only to discover that the nefarious group of 100 was already at the TSA checkpoint.  Once again the pushy lady tried to elbow her way through the line.  Since she obviously was a narcissist with no sense of propriety I cut her off. She looked at me like I was stupid, forgetting that we had had this little discussion just a few minutes before.  I said “ma’am, most of us are on your flight and are ahead of you.” Her jaw dropped and a TSA agent told her to get back echoing my words.   She looked at me and said “Will they hold the flight for me?”  To upset her, having faith in the Deity and Southwest, I lied and said, “Probably not.” Of course I didn’t believe this with so many of us in the same predicament. Yet I kind of enjoyed the look on her face as she moved back to her rightful place at the end of the line. Not the nicest thing to do, but some things need to be done.  I’m sure it was a sin.  As I asked one priest in confession: “Is it still a sin if they deserve it?” He told me: “Yes, but there may be some mitigating circumstances, but that is still a sin.”  Well there’s some more extra innings in Purgatory for me. Thankfully I am an expert traveler now, so when I got to the screening station I flew through it. Looking at my watch I knew that I had to be screwed. I had heard the final boarding call in the TSA line and it was past time for departure.  I raced down the concourse I saw that the Deity had already spoken to the kind folks at Southwest and had them hold the aircraft for all of us…the pushy lady included, proving that the Deity even cares for pushy narcissists. I guess that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.  Somehow I got through this episode without having a PTSD meltdown despite not having either a Xanax or beer to calm down.  Lot’s of deep breathing I guess helped this time.  Had I not made the flight I might have cracked, but the Deity Herself looked after me.

We arrived at Chicago Midway a little bit late, but in plenty of time to make my connecting fight to Sacramento, the alleged capitol of the State of California.  I say alleged because though there is much in the way of a state government in it there is painfully little evidence of effectiveness, despite having the Governator. Getting to Sacramento I picked up my luggage, which thankfully despite the lateness of my check-in got through.  If I had done the same on either Divided Airlines or U.S. Scare I’m sure that the luggage would not have made it on my flight, but would have ended up God knows where.  While waiting for my bag I had an e-mail from my mom about a run in that she had with a lady from hospice.  She was pretty spun up and my brother confirmed this.  I got my rental car, a 2009 Black Nissan Altima and headed down I-5 to Mudville.

When I got to Mudville I stopped by Raley’s to pick up the flowers that I told my mother would be arriving through a special arrangement with the florist.  Since I figured I should play this up for all that it was worth I decided to call and let her know that I had gotten her message.  She immediately launched into what was wrong with the world as I sat in my car in her driveway. I assured her that my brother and I would take care of things and that everything would be okay.  I knocked on the door with my phone in hand still talking to mom.  She told me someone was at the door and I said I would call back. She looked out the blinds which cover a window by the door, and then closed them, and then in disbelief opened them again. She was floored and stared in disbelief as I stood at the door, flowers in hand. I took her to the nursing home to see dad.  Somehow my nephew’s and niece managed to keep the secret the last two weeks. The surprise was total. He was glad to see me and immediately asked where Judy was.  He was disappointed that she was in Virginia. Unfortunately he looks in a lot worse shape than he was last year.  After the visit which included talks with the nursing staff and billing office I took my mom to Chile’s.

Now the hard part really starts.  Have to go up and see my dad.  I’ll be getting mom to the funeral home as well as make arrangements with their church for the memorial service at a date to be determined.  Following this I will be helping my brother with selling my parents old grave plots back to the cemetery in Napa where they lived a few years back. Then I will work on insurance issues between the insurance company and the nursing home.  The insurance company is being stupid right now.  The first 6 months they paid and now despite no change they are claiming that the nursing home is entering the wrong billing codes and say that they have the case “under investigation.”  However, since they have set precedent they should keep paying.  If they don’t start soon my brother and I will have to sue their sorry asses for putting my mom through hell.  If dad was with it he would be pissed.

So now that I am in Mudville I have work to do.  Take care and keep us all in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, healthcare, PTSD, travel