Celebrating Fathers

A memoir in which a wonderful relationship between father and son is described, and the loss of the son in Vietnam. Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War.

Fathers, Sons, and Daughters

Approaching Father’s Day, I scan the years that I shared with my father, remembering the handkerchiefs, the ties, the cuff links, the homemade cards, the terrible black walnut cake I proudly presented him with one year,  but the same unanswered questions bubble up. I have no doubt of his goodness, however I still wonder about the inner life of this person I knew for the first thirty-five years of my life. He died young by today’s standards, only sixty-one, as a result of falling from a roof he was shingling. He took risks, one of them being his intolerance for safety harnesses when working on the top of a three-story building. He often commented about the birds he had seen and heard while working high above the ground: sea gulls, mourning doves, mocking birds – even an owl at dusk. Perhaps he began to identify with creatures who could fly and that reduced his need to be safe with a tether. My appreciation for mountain tops may have come from my father’s unabashed fearlessness of high places, but I never went to a mountain with him during his life. I remember only watching him from the ground as he strolled across a building truss, using his arms for balance, looking like a visitor from Ringling Brothers circus rather than the father of four children. Jess Maghan, in his book Forty Sons and Daughters: Finding Father Within, eloquently expresses through vignettes of forty sons and daughters describing their fathers, the contemplations we can have about our parent. In the preface to the book, he says, “Leaning over the coffin, saying my final good-bye, I reached in […]

Father’s Day: Contemplating Fathers and Our Heritage

  As we approach Father’s Day this month,  I’m wondering what I would be if my father had been someone else.  This is the question posed by a magnificent collection of vignettes about fathers, called “Forty Fathers,” a book created by author Jess Meghan and photographer Sam Lindberg. This is not a book about parenting, It is rather about the enduring bond, like a fiber-optic cable, that stretches between father and child, father and adult-child, regardless of how much the father was present or absent from the child’s life.   Each tiny essay with accompanying archival photograph in “Forty Fathers” is a personal recollection, a deeply moving portrait of a son’s or daughter’s heritage. I will present several of these small anthems during this month as we contemplate fatherhood. Here is an excerpt by Cindy Brown Austin, entitled: “He Never Came Empty Handed.”   “I didn’t have a daddy. I had a father. And that was a different species altogether. Daddies wore shoes large enough for you to hide in; they stood in the doorway like unmovable bulwarks when the overflow from the project’s outside insanity flooded its banks and tried to push its way into the household. Having a daddy was greater than having money. Having a daddy meant you were a whole entire person in the world, not a torn scrap of a person, or a remnant from some thrown-away relationship that no longer existed. In the world of my early childhood my father was a shadowy figure, close enough to watch but too far away to make any real impact. My father had a wife who was not my mother. He married this woman, an older lady, in order to remain in the United States. […]

Remembering Gold Star Wives on Memorial Day

Gold Star Wives live in every part of the United States and come from every station in life, but they have one thing in common: Each one lost their spouse in war or from war-related injuries. There are tens of thousands throughout the country and about 8,000  have found their way to membership in the national organizaton by joining local chapters or becoming a member-at-large. The members of the Gold Star Wives (GSW) of America have battled since their formation by two widows in 1947, with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, to assure that spouses and family members of veterans are not forgotten. They have fought for pensions, health insurance, and education benefits. They have pressed for acknowledgment of the costs of war such as the long-term impact of chemical exposure, psychological effects, handicaps and ultimately the recognition that someone they loved made a supreme sacrifice.  The many chapters of GSW across the country and the world carry out numerous volunteer efforts to keep the legacy of the sacrifices of military service alive. Find out who they are in your community and support them in their efforts. As emotioanally difficult as it is to accept membership in this group, they wear gold-colored clothing and a cap at memorial and official events so that they can be recognized. To learn more about the Gold Star Wives, visit www.goldstarwives.org

Looking for Peace on Memorial Day, 2014: PeaceTrees Vietnam

PeaceTreesVietnam, a Seattle-based humanitarian organization, is one of the rare and extraordinary responses to the consequences of war that makes us believe that humans might have a chance to survive on our planet. Since 1995 they have been working with Vietnamese people in the Quang Tri Province of Vietnam (a small area that received more bombs than all of Europe in World War II). They find and defuse unexploded ordinance before innocent adults and children are accidently killed or maimed. When the mines are removed, they plant indigenous trees. They provide land risk education, survivor assistance, civilian diplomacy trips, and a range of other supportive activities. As of 2014, they have: Cleared more than 559 acres of land Removed more than 69,000 items of unexploded ordnance Built more than 100 family homes, 11 libraries, 7 kindergartens, and the Danaan Parry Landmine Education Center Provided mone risk education for more than 85,750 people Planted more than 43,000 indigenous trees Provided assistance to more than 950 landmine survivors Hosted more than 633 participants on more than 45 citizen diplomacy missions to Vietnam Visit them at www.PeaceTreesVietnam.org.

Making Health Care Decisions for Aging Parents: The Baby Boomer Dilemma

  “Each generation supposes that the world was simpler for the one before it.”  Eleanor Roosevelt What Mrs. Roosevelt says is true, but life has unquestionably become more complicated for one age group today. People between the ages of forty-five and seventy are often referred to as the “sandwich” generation because of their dual roles as helpers to their own children and grandchildren, and also as caregivers for their aging parents who are living longer. Baby boomers have become, by necessity, important health care decision makers on both ends of the spectrum, from child care to elder care. Sometimes even more responsibility can arrive in the blink of an eye: What do you do if there is a sudden change in your parent’s health status? One minute they seem to be holding their own and the next minute – disaster. My friend Marilyn knew that something had changed dramatically with her mother when she arrived one morning to find mom sitting on the floor in the kitchen. Until that moment, her mother had seemed increasingly frail, but still independent. At age 86 she still ironed her pillowcases and prepared her own meals in the house she had lived in for forty years. That morning life seemed different and scary for both of them. “What happened,” asked Marilyn as she tried to check for broken bones. “I don’t know. Do you know where we are?” Her mother gazed up from the floor with a faraway look. A trip to the emergency room revealed nothing unusual according to lab tests, but Marilyn realized that her mother’s ability to live on her own had changed. This sudden event marked their entry into the tricky passage towards total dependence in which her mother would need a […]

I’m a Lucky Mother

With Mother’s Day coming up soon, I want to express my appreciation for my son, Noah Bean. He has been immensely helpful with my book and has even created an excellent book trailer which will be revealed soon. He is my main muse for writing, always providing support and unconditional regard. I’m a lucky mother! Noah was a shy, quiet kid growing up, but he was also kind, friendly, humorous and an excellent listener. In fact, he listened and observed so well that he could do an instant impersonation of almost anyone (but never in public). He blossomed as an actor in high school and says that acting gave him a voice in front of other people. Many have asked about his next role on television and I’m happy to say that he will be starring in an adaptation of the 1995 science fiction classic, 12 Monkeys. The US cable channel has ordered a 13-part series, including the pilot, produced by Universal Cable Productions and Atlas Entertainment. 12 Monkeys follows the journey of a time traveler from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in the present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will eventually decimate the human race. The pilot episode was filmed on location in Detroit, home to some breathtaking post-apocalyptic looking spaces and scenes. This awe-inspiring series will premiere in January 2015. Along with Noah, it stars Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, and Kirk Acevedo. Noah and Aaron worked together most recently in the TV series, Nikita, on CW network. In June and July, 2014, you can also see Noah onstage as Cassio in San Diego’s Old Globe […]

Recognizing and Responding to PTSD

How best can we meet the challenge of being helpful/supportive to friends, co-workers and employees who may have experienced deep and lasting wounds from traumatic experiences? In fact, old emotional wounds can cause numbness, rage and anxiety and may be invisible to the rest of the world. For example, when 1st Sergeant Louis McShane received his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in 1947 after World War II, he remembers throwing his duffel bag over his shoulder and walking out into sunshine after a handshake and hearing the words: “Go home and get a job.” Fifty years later, after his wife’s death, Louis broke down. He began to speak about the horrors he had heard and seen on the beaches of Normandy where he witnessed comrades impaled by bayonets and others drowning as they tried to swim to shore wearing ninety pounds of gear during the Allied Landing. “I don’t know how I made it back alive,” he repeated. “I always carried a kind of guilt.” For years, Louis kept the burden of what he had seen to himself. His employers, family and even his close friends knew only that he had been in the army and that he was a workaholic when he returned.  No one except Louis knew that he woke most nights in a cold sweat. Working long hours was his way of coping with obsessive thoughts and nightmares. Direct experience with traumatizing events has the potential to evoke a lasting stress reaction. Besides war – motor vehicle accidents, plane crashes, nuclear meltdowns, child and spousal abuse, being a victim […]

Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War

I’m very happy to have my memoir in my hands after its long gestation. It’s available for pre-sale here on my website. Just go to the “Publications and Projects” button above. The official launch date is May 17, 2014 at Bank Square Books in Mystic. Reading and signing from 4 – 6pm. Refreshments to be served and a party to follow.

Daughters of the Atomic Age

My friend Martha from Oak Ridge, Tennessee has started to write about growing up in a town created by the efforts to build the atomic bomb. Oak Ridge was one of the areas dedicated to the Manhattan Project. Overnight, an entire town was built up in which every adult was somehow connected to the develop of, and the building of, the most lethal weapon the world had ever known. Martha’s father was a brilliant young scientist. Her mother was from the small sleepy town of Sugar Tree, TN. Today, Martha is an accomplished singer and songwriter and she is just beginning to tell her story in prose. She has come to the realization that the best you can do is to tell your story and hope that you can inspire and encourage others because of your journey. Here is the beginning of Martha’s story about the events that shaped her life and all of our lives from that time forward. Dogwood Daughter: 3 ANGELS PROJECT Postcards from the Secret City – In Search of my Atomic Childhood Recently, a new book titled The Girls of Atomic City, the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan, was published.  It’s been a best seller, not only here in Oak Ridge, but even landed on the New York Times bestseller list.   Kiernan’s book features interviews with the now very old women who came to the Secret City, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during WWII to work on the Manhattan Project.  Little did they know, at the time, that they were working on an atomic bomb, the bomb that would ultimately be dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, ushering in […]