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Thursday, September 1, 2022

Roll With the Changes

On August 28, I was married 40 years. Looking back on the past four decades, I feel a bit like a late-night comedian. How long ago were you married? I was married so long ago that I had a band and not a deejay. I was married so long ago, that it was before videographers. I was married so long ago, no one rented limos. I was married so long ago, that Banns of Marriage were posted for three weeks in our church bulletin. I was married so long ago, that I didn’t have a wedding registry. I was married so long ago that if someone had suggested having your wedding at a farm the way people like to do now, people would have thought you were crazy. I was married so long ago that when a bride wore a white dress down the aisle, the gossips pondered whether the bride “was worthy” of that white dress.

Yes, things have changed a lot since 1982. Some things changed and are circling back. When we got married, mortgage rates were hovering around 15% and there was a recession. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re heading for a replay of that economy.

But I’ve changed too and so has my husband. I’m a different person from the 22-year-old bride saying my vows. Not just physically, that is obvious. With each passing decade, I’ve experienced life as a different person. My mom and dad have been married for nearly 64 years, and she’s often said that you are married to different people during your marriage.

Yes, there are stages of life. I’ve been a newlywed, a young mom, a college mom, empty nester, middle-aged, grandmother, etc. I’m considerably different from who I was forty years ago. I’d like to think I’ve improved and learned a lot along the way. When I got married, I never dreamed I’d have twins, live in such a lovely home, deal with the accidental death of my young brother-in-law, become a writer, and be able to travel as much as I’ve had. My husband has journeyed through all these phases of life with me and has gone through changes of his own.

So, if we are ever-changing, how do you make a commitment to love and live with someone until death? I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and as an old married lady, I’d like to share some thoughts. When we were getting married, it was required that we go through marriage classes to get married in our church. During one of those classes, the instructor posed this question: What is the goal of marriage? We had to write down our answers in a notebook and I wrote down. “To be happy.”

I was wrong. The instructor informed us that the goal of marriage is unity. There are times in marriage when you will not be happy, sometimes due to circumstances beyond your control like sickness, misfortune, or death, and even then, you must remain united.

How do you remain united when you are both changing? I believe we’ve been able to live and love for so many years together because at my core and my husband’s, we’ve never changed. We’ve been anchored together through our beliefs, goals, convictions and in general outlook on life. We have always believed in God and have adhered to certain morals, and we’ve believed in each other. We’ve been united at the deepest level no matter what has happened. It is because of our being united that we’ve been able to enjoy the happiness that I though marriage should be when I wrote those words way back when. 

 

This column originally appeared in the September edition of Northern Connection magazine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A Foul Story

 

It was the summer of 1981, and my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, had a college friend from Philadelphia come to town for the Pirates-Phillies game. We had great seats for the night game at Three Rivers, about 20 rows back on the first base side. I was a big baseball fan back then and knew I had to pay attention as we could easily get hit with a line drive foul ball. Sitting in the row in front of us, were several nuns from the convent at St. Benedict Academy, where I had attended high school. I had none of them as teachers, so they didn’t know me. I just recognized their faces.

Garry Maddox of the Phillies came up to bat and fouled off a high fly ball in our direction. I had already stated that if a foul came our way, I was going to duck as I had no chance of snagging a ball with all the tall men sitting around me.

When Maddox’s ball sailed our way, everyone in our section jumped out of their seats to try to catch it while I ducked and covered like I was awaiting a nuclear blast. I heard the thud of the ball hitting something and spring somewhere as people clamored and shouted, “Where did it go?” Fans scrambled around the stands searching for the coveted foul ball.

As I stared at the floor, hands over head, the ball rolled under the nun’s seat in front of me. My first thought was from that little angel, I should let the nuns get it. Then that little devil on my other shoulder said, “the Lord helps those who helps themselves,” and I reached down and scooped up the foul ball. I stood up with the ball in hand like I was the Statue of Liberty holding her torch and said rather sheepishly, “I got it!”

People around me cheered for me, patted me on the back, and men in the stands that I didn’t even know wanted to shake my hand, treating me like I was some kind of hero, like I’d snagged a blistering line drive instead of picking up a ball that had rolled to me.

I was glad I got the ball, but it was from a Philly, so I wasn’t as thrilled as if I’d caught one off a Pirate bat. I stashed the ball in my cedar chest, and over the last 40 some years, I’d take it out every now and then and show it to my kids to impress them that their mom “caught” a foul ball. I’d tell them that it was from Garry Maddox, known as the Secretary of Defense for the Phillies, and on cue my husband would chime in with, “You know what they said about Garry Maddox, ‘Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water, the other one-third by Garry Maddox.’”


 

This past Memorial Day I learned something else about Garry Maddox. The American Thinker had an article written by Will O’Toole, who talked about MLB players who served in Vietnam. Unlike World War II, where most eligible young men, including many MLB players, served their country, the Vietnam War was not like that. Most MLB players didn’t serve their country—but Garry Maddox did. One of nine children, he enlisted at 19 and served in Vietnam until his father suffered several heart attacks and Maddox applied for a hardship discharge to help support his family. He then pursued his MLB career.

I was treated like a hero for picking up a fly foul ball, but until this year, neither I nor my husband knew that Maddox was a Vietnam veteran who selflessly served his country and who should have received more recognition for his heroic sacrifice.

However, you can be sure of one thing and that is the next time I pull out that foul ball and tell the story of how I got it, I’m going to tell people that it was off the bat of Garry Maddox, a great baseball player and an even greater hero.

 

This article originally appeared in the July issue of Northern Connection magazine.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Tales From the Middle Seat

Most people when they fly, avoid sitting the middle seat because you are trapped between the person sitting in the window seat and the person with the aisle seat. Since I am 5’3” and my husband is 6-feet tall, if we fly and the seating is three across, I’m often the passenger in the middle seat, giving him the aisle to stretch out a bit. I still prefer not to sit in the middle seat, but over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate it.

When we went to Hawaii in 1986, we picked up passengers in San Francisco before flying across the Pacific. My window seatmate was an elderly woman, dressed very dignified with white permed hair. As we prepped for takeoff, she touched my hand and then quickly apologized. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m recently widowed, and whenever I flew before, I always held hands with my husband during takeoff. This is my first trip without him.”

I told her no need to apologize, and I learned that her name was Mrs. Maloney, and she was traveling solo to China to visit her son who was working there. We were only married four years then, and I thought her story bittersweet. 

To this day, when we take off, I hold my husband’s hand, and think of Mrs. Maloney.

About 10 years ago, I had the last-minute chance to accompany my husband on business trip to Las Vegas, and since it was impromptu, I had no choice of seat except the last row in the middle. My husband was five rows up on the aisle. This time my window seatmate, was a young Indian man. I don’t know how we got to talking, but we gabbed the four hours back to Pittsburgh. I learned that he was an engineer traveling on business and was deeply worried. He explained that the husbands of all his wife’s friends brought jewelry back for their wives when they traveled, but he was bringing his wife an expensive ceramic cooking knife. “She loves to cook,” he explained, “and I’m a practical man.” In effect, I told him to be himself and never compare yourself to others.

Not all flights have been as rewarding. I’ve sat next to huge men, who take over the arm rest and people who barely acknowledge your existence. Coming back from Alaska last fall, my seatmate by the window was a young teenage girl, who after takeoff, pulled up her hood, pulled her knees up, and wrapped herself in a blanket, like she was a human cocoon. She never moved the whole time from Seattle to Pittsburgh. I envied her bladder capacity.

My last trip is probably my most memorable. We just came back from a short getaway to San Antonio. The plane from Dallas to Pittsburgh was nearly full, and we were three rows from the back. Of course, I was in the middle seat and my husband was on the aisle. The window seat was still open and only a handful of passengers were making their way down the aisle. We were hoping no one would take the window so we could stretch out. Then suddenly a thirty-ish Asian man stopped in the row before us and pointed to the window seat as did his companion who right behind him claimed our window seat.

After saying “thank you” numerous times after creeping past us, my seatmate, looked at me and asked, “You Pittsburgh?” I told him I was going to Pittsburgh, and I asked where he was from. Through halting English and what looked like charades, I learned that he and his friend where from Japan and were working in Mexico and that his friend “Like Pittsburgh.” Which I discovered meant that they were going to the Pirates game. The friend held his phone up to me, saying. “Google tell me to go to Primanti’s.” I said yes, Primanti’s is an iconic restaurant in Pittsburgh, and that they put French fries on everything. My seatmate said something that sounded like “magnowas.” I shook my head that I didn’t understand. After several attempts, he finally raised his palm and traced a large “M” on it. He was speaking the international language of McDonalds! “Yes, like McDonald’s” I said. He tried to imitate my pronunciation of McDonald’s, and it sounded hideous. I hope I don’t sound like that; it sounded like I was retching. We all laughed and as we landed, I could hear his friend, like a little Eliza Doolittle, practicing saying the ‘rain in Spain lies mainly on the plain, repeatedly pronouncing Pre-Man-Tees over and over.

As we made our way down the gangway, we wished them safe travels, and my seatmate asked, “You been Japan?” I said no. He said, “You come. You have fun.”

I told him yes, I would like that, but I thought only if I’m in a middle seat for the flight, and I get to meet interesting people.