Happy Mother’s Day To One Brave Lady

My mother, Marion Brown, being cool on a trip to Connecticut.

I was about an hour away from having a doctor stick a knife into me and splice open my skin when the nerves started getting the better of me.

This was just about three years ago and, in the larger scheme of things, going under the knife for an umbilical hernia was rather minor surgery and I would be home in a matter of hours.

To calm my nerves, though, I only had to think of one person.

My mother.

Marion Brown.

I was closing in on 50 years of age when I had this surgery and came through it was flying colors, I suppose.

But to make sure I don’t sound like a little boy crying for his mommy when he was scared, I decided today – Mother’s Day – is the perfect day to share that story.

The reason I thought of my mother is because more than a decade earlier she bravely faced major surgery – open heart surgery for a valve replacement.

How could I be scared of a three-inch incision next to my belly button when my mother had survived – and thrived – after something much more serious?

But it also made me think of my mother in a different light.

Brave?

Yes, brave.

It dawned on me that my mother had shown many different levels of bravery over the course of her own whole life.

Knowledge of that left me rather staggered and stunned.

My mother was a brave woman.

She was born in Watford, England, and it was just today that I realized that her bravery might have started there and then.

During World War II, her father, my grandfather, was one of 11 brothers who went off to fight for the allied forces in defense of their country, against the epitome of history’s most-evil figure.

God blessed our family as all 11 brothers came home safe and sound.

My mother remembers racing into bomb shelters, or hiding under stairs during the war. She remembers seeing the red skies over London, just 16 miles away, as the city burned from one of the Nazi forces steady bombing runs.

Our children are growing up worried that the cable will go out, or the Internet gets bogged down and streaming videos start to lag.

My mother was hiding in bomb shelters hoping her father would come home from the war.

The times they have a changed.

In the mid-1960s, she and my dad hopped up on a ship and left their entire family behind – save for a sister, my aunt – for a new life in the United States.

That’s bravery, right there.

She knew one person on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but she decided to head off into the great unknown, leaving everything she knew behind.

I left Bangor, Maine, in the fall of 1998, moving three hours south to Dover, N.H., and I had a small (albeit left unsaid) concern about being alone from the only home I had ever known.

My mother wound up having three kids – none of us perfect, each of us testing her in our own vastly different ways.

My mother with her first born.

She loved us all, though, (some more than others, right favorite middle-sister Michelle? Ha) and says she’s proud of where we all have ended up in life.

It is us, though, that should be proud of her.

She made a life for us, making sure we never went without, even if that meant months of government cheese and powdered eggs during our darker times.

She knew nothing about sports, but she would make it a point to go to my games in Little League and in high school. Or, sould be sit there beside me in the living room watching an NCAA college basketball game.

She went through a divorce and made it a point to never bad mouth our father, and when she remarried, she opened her home and her heart to two other children.

She quit smoking (after I moved out of the house, which she claims to be the reason she was able to quit) and along with my step father she became a home owner.

They owned their own business, showing us children first-hand what hard work was all about.

And, after she got all five of us kids out of the house, she started to travel to see many different places she wanted to see.

As proud as she was to be our mother, I sense a deeper pride in becoming the grandmother of our own children.

My mother, left, and step-father along with my son.

I can only hope they brave the future she faced her own so many years ago.

The last year as been tough on my mother as a variety of different maladies and infections have chipped away at her health.

Yet she keeps fighting back, refusing to give in.

There’s that bravery thing again.

She’s even proud (brave?) enough to admit she’s a Donald Trump supporter.

I’m not perfect and this proves that neither is she.

But I remain proud of my mother, one of the bravest woman I know.

And I love her and thank her for everything she’s done for me over the past 51 years and one week.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Stay strong. Stay brave.

Don’t run and hide: Join me on our bully pulpits

President Donald Trump, the man who people are letting divide the country.

President Donald Trump, the man who people are letting divide the country.

I was called a bully the other day.

Anybody that knows me — truly knows me — would laugh at that as much as I did considering over the course of my life I’ve loved and accepted everybody that has come and gone.

My only “fight” was in fourth grade with a kid named Joe Vachon, both of us urged on by our blood-lust filled peers, and we danced around in a circle at recess, and threw one punch each.

Once we connected fists and felt the pain, the fight was over. We were friends again.

Yet here I am, now in my 50s, still friendly and accepting of everybody, and I get called a bully because of one Facebook post.

Here’s what happened: On Monday, I shared a story from CNN on my Facebook page. The CNN headline was, “Trump: Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

It was such a stupid, asinine statement from the guy less than half our country elected President that in the comment section of the post, I opined, “Nobody knew? Well except for the countless presidents who did everything they could to find a way to give everybody in the United States healthcare — and that’s people far smarter than you, sir. When one finally did – even with a few flaws – you were the blowhard who came in saying you were going to blow it all up. Not so easy, is it, “Mr.” President … Go ahead and fix it, if you can, and find a way to make it better. Just quit being an embarrassing human being that is destroying America and start taking steps to fulfill your ultimate promise of making the country better.”

Just a flat-out reaction to a stupid statement with a touch – barely, but it was there – of support at the end.

Later in the day came a comment from a Facebook friend, a man I respect and love on a personal level.

“Keep acting like a school yard Bully John. GOOD BYE.”

I checked. He had un-friended me on Facebook. Again.

The first time this man de-friended me on Facebook, I was upset. This time, not so much. This time I was much more flabbergasted.

Bully?

I wasn’t the one who ordered ICE Agents to storm through neighborhoods in caravans, jumping out, guns drawn and scaring the hell out of children and mothers and grandmothers, in search of illegal immigrants who might or might not have done something wrong.

I wasn’t the one overseeing a country where custom agents accost travels on a domestic San Francisco-to-New York flight, demanding to see people’s paperwork to prove they were Americans who deserved to fly across what was once the land of the free.

I’m not the one shitting all over journalists world-wide who are doing their job, taking the term “Fake news” that was started to combat all the non-reputable websites and blogs who were printing out-right lies against both parties, and turning it on to main stream media like the New York Times, the LA Times, CNN — who were writing and reporting things that our leader didn’t like.

So how am I the bully?

Because I called Donald Trump a blow hard? (He is! There can be no argument about it. Even his supporters would have to admit his characteristics are that of a self-serving blowhard. It’s an adjective that, to me, can’t be argued). Just like I’m fat because I weigh too much.

Because I called him an embarrassment to the United States, because some of the things he has try to pull off (immigration ban, Russia, grabbing pussies, insert many other proofs of not-so-Presidential actions here that the world has laughed at)?

When I post political opinions to my Facebook page, I try to limit myself to one a day. After all, Facebook has become a deluge for hatred and divisiveness in this country, but the positives still outweigh the negatives – barely – in terms of keeping up with old friends.

I’m proud to say that I have not de-friended anybody over any post regarding the election of this president, because I do love the fact that, as Americans, we can support different sides and ideas, and yet still somehow work together for what’s best for our country.

Some people, I guess, can’t handle that type of America – Where we argue and debate and support what we believe in.

They want it their way, the only way, period .. and I guess if you don’t support their way of thinking you’re nothing but a bully.

And that saddens me.

I have friends and family who support Trump and I love them all. I have friends who lean so far to the left, I’m afraid they’re going to fall into the Pacific Ocean, but I love them as people with all my heart.

And, I’m a liberal-leaning independent who sees things differently – Nashist, I call it – and there are times I have defended Trump (not many, but I have) while also laughing at his comically frustrating first 40 days.

Trump the President doesn’t scare me. Not one single iota. Those powerful men he surrounded himself — after his broken promise to drain the swamp – are what scares me.

From what I see, they are the bullies in this world.

But if one man wants to call me a bully for standing up for what I believe in, then I’ll carry that banner proud.

Because when I see something that I feel is wrong, I will have the courage to point it out. When I support something or somebody, I’ll proudly stand before anybody who has the guts to listen to me argue my point.

I will not run and hide, head in the sand, from those who have a different opinion than me. Join me in the fight. Tell me why you support what you do. Don’t run away and be scared of the other side.

To the contrary, I will give them their own bully pulpit to try and out-shout me in our arguments.

When we’re tired and hoarse, then we can climb down, embrace and headed to the local bar for a beer.

That’s the kind of America I want.

I fear, though, that it’s gone forever.

Happy Anniversary To Us

• • •

Four years ago — well, four years and one day ago, to be exact — The October Weekend was reborn.

I was sitting around, feeling old, and wanting to write, so I moved off my couch, sat down at my computer chair, and still feeling old, I started to write.

Over the past 1,424 days — well, 1,425 days to be exact — I’ve sat down with “The October Weekend” and spilled my guts about things both personal and random.

The results have produced 169 posts — this one is 170 — and 28,502 people have taken the time to read my words.

Some of you are loyal readers who read everything I post (Thanks Mom, thanks Dad) … Others are regular returnees who are trying to figure out what’s going on in my mind (Is that you, Liz?) … some of you randomly find me through Google or word of mouth … and most of you get bored too easily and perhaps click here to lull yourself to sleep late at night.

Better me than porn, I suppose.

I didn’t know exactly what life “The October Weekend” would take when I started. I haven’t posted nearly as much as I wanted to when I first hit “publish” on my very first post back on Feb. 22, 2013.

But, alas, like a good friend who is always there for me, this space has allowed me to spit out my thoughts on a variety of topics that have popped into my head, touched my heart, or simply pissed me off.

I’ve publicly backed a loser for President — though most of us know the real loser appears to have wound up in office — and reminisced about friends and loved ones from long ago.

I’ve also told stories both sad and motivational about people I don’t know, but whose tales came to my attention, made me want to know more and allowed me to share their story with you.

Just like I was clueless to the future of all this white space when I first sat down four years (and one day) ago, I remain in the dark as I move forward.

When I feel the urge, I’ll sit down and write.

That still is what “The October Weekend” means to me. A place to express my feelings, my emotions, my memories and more.

Feel free to keep enjoying the ride.

The Woman Who Traveled The World

A church in Italy, one of the sights my world-traveling friend's eyes have seen.

A church in Italy, one of the sights my world-traveling friend’s eyes have seen.

We were 16 and in love. As such, young couples don’t tend to weigh risk vs. reward, opting instead to jump feet first into a new adventure and just enjoy the ride.

That’s how we – me and my girlfriend in the spring of 1983 — ended up climbing a fence at the Bangor International Airport, just to take a closer look at the airplanes.

Read that again.

There we were, two precocious 16-year-old kids, climbing over the fence of an international airport.

Needless to say, what was an unwise decision back then would likely be a serious federal offense that would find its way to CNN these days.

The reason I bring this up today is because I just read a Facebook post from her that made me smile and remember. Dancing with ghosts, she calls it.

So dance I shall.

She’s flying to Ethiopia. Hopefully going through the main gate and customs, though.

One of my favorite stories about us is how we both wound up living the same dreams we had back then.

Well except for the one where we’d be together forever, grow old and watch the grand kids drive their parent’s – our children — crazy.

But, what were the odds of that happening, really?

Instead, her mother moved her away at the end of her junior year. I’ve only seen her once since then, shortly after my marriage when she returned to Maine for a visit.

Over the years we’ve talked on the phone a few times, written letters and emails back and forth.

We’ve lost touch and found each other again.

Fate, at the very least, has given us that.

And we realized both of us had kept following our dreams and embraced them with a passion.

Anybody who has known me since third grade knows I’ve always wanted to be a writer. So I write.

She always wanted to see the world and go on adventures, both near and far.

My dear friend, Yvette, served in Iraq, just one of the places in the world her eyes have seen.

My dear friend, Yvette, served in Iraq, just one of the places in the world her eyes have seen.

And I love the fact that she’s gotten to do just that.

I don’t know how many different countries she’s visited in her life, but it’s been a bunch. And she’s currently living in Germany, where she continues to help our troops through her job

Buried in my box of memories are postcards and pictures of some of the places she has gone, sent over the years when we were in touch with each other.

She served her country in Iraq – God bless for her for that because she’s my ultimate hero in that sense – and has vacationed in far-away exotic places my eyes can only dream about.

She has skied her way down mountains and soaked herself in tropical waters with gorgeous sunsets.

She has lived that part of her life as she always wanted.

And today she’s off on another adventure, seeing another part of her world, making another small part of her dream come true.

Safe travels, my friend.

And never forget the final words written on the card in 1990!

To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before

Photo courtesy of askideas.com

Photo courtesy of askideas.com

You are all so welcome.

Today, the day of Cupid, you are not with me … so that is my Valentine’s Day gift to you.

On the day when love allegedly conquers all, I offer you up eternal happiness, away from me and the few things I bring to the table.

Humor. Friendship. Understanding.

Yeah, that’s about it.

I’m alone on yet another’s Valentine’s Day and I’m perfectly fine with that.

I’ve made my bed and I get to sleep in it … alone, spread out, hogging my own sheets and pillows.

It’s nice.

Even when it’s not.

I may not believe in love anymore, but it’s not like I don’t think about it.

My 50 years are scattered with a plethora of failed romances, broken hearts, destroyed relationships. It’s also dotted with missed chances, lost smiles, and even more broken hearts.

And for that I am sorry. Truly sorry.

As such, I’ve waved the white flag on chasing/pining for/having a significant other.

It’s been more than 10 years.

And I’d say 99.9 percent of the time I don’t miss it.

I do what I want, when I went, how I want and I answer to nobody but myself.

I’d buy myself chocolates, but I weigh enough as it is and I don’t want to create any expectations for myself.

A romantic dinner, alone … A bottle of wine, alone … Suddenly tipsy, I take myself home … alone.

Well, you get the idea.

Valentine’s Day is not for me.

But it’s not that I don’t believe in love.

I do.

I think.

At least, I did.

I look back over these last 50 years and, for the most part, I do cherish the times I was in love and the happy memories that were made during those segments of my life.

It doesn’t matter that, technically, each and every one failed … often leading to tears, heartbreak, heartache.

The tears dry, the heartbreak mends, the heartache fades over time.

So now that I’m — as I’m wont to say, in “The October Weekend” of my life — I can look back over a lifetime of loves and appreciate each of them for what they really wore.

Complete failures.

Wait, I mean, opportunities to grow.

My first kiss was in fourth grade and it was nothing more than pure peer pressure.

I remember the girl, I remember the place, but I barely remember the kiss.

Sorry, no Winnie Cooper “Wonder Years” moment here.

Just the facts, ma’am … who, what and where.

The next relationship I remember was my eighth grade year.

Hormones raging, mind spinning, hearts pounding and getting to second base was more important off the baseball field than on it. Talk about confusion.

High school was where love really introduced itself and all it had to offer, the great and the bad.

Puppy love with the girl who sat in front of me in Mr. Dexter’s Civics class my sophomore year.

First love a year later with a girl from another school.

The funny thing about those two is that both moved away from me in the middle of our relationships. That’s heartbreak, right there … When you first start to innocently believe in forever and get dealt with the crushing forces of reality.

The next six years were a flurry of relationships … some I look back fondly on, some are names I couldn’t recall with a gun to my head … lasting anywhere from one night to a few months.

I think it’s fair to say that I really and truly did love some of those people during that time.

And some of those people still tug at my heart. You quite likely know who you are, if you are in that category.

A marriage soon followed. Seven years. A house, a child, a future.

She deserved better.

Because a failed marriage soon followed.

I won’t lie. The next few years after that were an alcoholic-induced and drug-created haze, divided up amongst some poor choices and least proudest moments.

Even with the scattering of good “opportunities” I couldn’t take advantage of anything to pull myself out. I was far too lost down the rabbit hole.

One – an absolute angel, from a least expected place – was put in front of me to save my life, and she did.

I’m certain of it.

But it wasn’t meant to be, either.

None of them were.

Depending on which edict you follow, there is one true love for everybody out there. Have I met mine? Did I blow that opportunity? Or is fate playing a cruel game?

I don’t know. I think I met her and lost her. But that’s just me.

So, having been burned, and having self-destructed a few relationships myself, I wrote them off for all of time.

I was done chasing. I was done with the game.

I was 40 years old.

Game, set, match.

Only I wasn’t the winner. I was just done playing.

And I haven’t played in over a decade since.

So it’s Valentine’s Day, 2017.

If we once loved, you and I, then look around you. If somebody else is there and your heart sings, then you’re welcome. I was just a stepping stone to today’s bliss.

If you are like me, alone, on this Valentine’s Day, I at least hope you can look back and find some positives from yesterday’s relationships and hold them close. Even with me.

We’re born into this world ready to be loved and certainly deserving of it.

Sometimes, though, life – and love — just doesn’t work out.

I’m OK with that.

At least 99.9 percent of the time.

 

It’s Simple New England Math: 51+12=5

New England Patriots' Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

New England Patriots’ Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots defeated the Falcons 34-28. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

I woke up at four in the morning and my bladder, on automatic pilot, told me what it was time to do.

On the journey back to my bed, though, it dawned on me.

It wasn’t a dream. Last night really happened.

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., son of Gaylynn and Tom Sr., husband of Gisele, father of John, Vivian and Benjamin, and beloved quarterback of the New England Patriots had done the impossible in Super Bowl 51.

Trailing the Atlanta Falcons by a 28-3 score late in the third quarter, Brady once again led the Patriots to victory.

It was amazing. It was stunning. It was beautiful.

But, really, it was almost beyond description.

How many people must Superman save before it becomes mundane? It doesn’t. After all, he’s Superman.

When you see the greatest of all time perform precision surgery, you don’t go out for popcorn. You sit back. You watch. You enjoy.

And when you’re in The October Weekend of your life you might even let a tear escape down your cheek, knowing you may never witness such a moment again.

Brady is both one of the most beloved and most hated figures in football history. So is Bill Belichick. So is Robert Kraft. So are the New England Patriots.

People will claim the Patriots cheat. People will call Brady a cheater.

Those of us in New England, though, know every single professional team out there is working an angle, trying to gain an edge.

Deflated balls? Brady gets suspended for four games two years after it happens. Carolina and Minnesota had similar situations and nothing happened. Nothing.

Tape-gate? The St. Louis Cardinals baseball club used computer hackers to gain entry into another team’s computer system. (Russia? Election? Sound familiar?) Where was the country-wide outrage there?

People love a winner.

Winners? People detest them with a passion.

And that’s what Brady and the New England Patriots are.

The Patriots have played in nine of the 51 Super Bowls. They have won five Super Bowl titles — with Brady quarterbacking all five.

New York Giants fans hang their hat on the fact that Eli Manning and their team have beaten the Pats twice in Super Bowl games. Of course, all the rungs are filled with New England’s championship rings, so what else are they going to do?

Lose two in order to win five? I’d take that any day of the week. Most fans would.

So we are champions once again. Save for Belichick and Brady, it’s a whole new cast of characters kissing the trophy.

That’s the magic of New England, its coach, its quarterback.

So when they’re down 28-3 and you know it’s over, it’s really not.

I thought it was.

I was ready to congratulate Matt Ryan, the former Boston College quarterback who married a Maine girl and went to Atlanta, on his well-deserved Super Bowl championship.

Then Brady hit James White to the left for 5 yard touchdown. (28-9).

The defense stood tall and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 33-yard field goal (28-12) early in the fourth quarter.

I kept watching and suddenly Brady connected with Danny Amendola for a 6-yard touchdown. The Patriots then converted the two-point conversion (28-20) and suddenly it was a ball game.

As you watched Atlanta’s defense, it was tired. The Falcons had lost their legs.

If you looked in their eyes, they looked a little bit shell-shocked.

Brady? His eyes told a different story. He had been here before.

He got the ball back and led the Patriots to the game-tying drive. White for the touchdown, Amendola on the two-point conversion.

The game was tied 28-28 and for the first time in 51 games the Super Bowl was headed to overtime.

“Heads,” was the Patriots’ coin-flip call by Matt Slater.

“I always call heads,” said Slater, the son of Hall of Fame lineman Jackie Slater. “It’s a Slater family tradition.”

Winning is a Patriots tradition.

Heads it was.

Game over — 34-28.

It was one of the greatest Super Bowl games in history. And Brady (43-for-62, Super Bowl record 466 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) was as good as he’s ever been in the second half.

No, it wasn’t a dream. Yet it was.

It was a nightmare first half.

We watched Lady Gaga shine, went to the bathroom and returned for the second half.

And all our dreams came true.

Tom Brady, No. 1 with five Super Bowl titles to his credit.

Tom Brady, No. 1 with five Super Bowl titles to his credit.

A Hundred Pennies For Your Thoughts: The Story of the Dollar Bill

100 pennies for your thoughts on the story behind this dollar bill.

100 pennies for your thoughts on the story behind this dollar bill.

Everything, I suppose, has a back story to it. Some interesting, some mundane, some likely just run-of-the-mill.

People and things. Bruises and Broken hearts. Monumental nights and special days.

Even a simple dollar bill can have a story behind it. Of course, I’m going beyond the historic implications of George Washington on the front with the U.S. Seal on the back along with the pyramid and one eye, and the Mason teachings that leads us to a special National Treasure. That story has been done, thank you very much Nicholas Cage.

On Wednesday morning I came across such a dollar bill, one attached with a story I wish I could tell.

By all ways and means, it’s your typical $1 bill. It’s worth 100 pennies. Ten dimes. Four quarters. You get the point.

It was printed in 2001, a Series E bill from the Bank of Richmond, Virginia. It carries with it the serial number E32450315.

It’s 15 years old, but feels newer … likely because it sat protected for a long time, a dollar bill with a special meaning to somebody out there.

I can’t help but wonder why.

This is where the story comes into play.

Hand written on front, in black magic marker, is “2003 … To Poppa … Love, Sara + Kim … XOXO.”

Who are Sara and Kim? Who is Poppa? And why in 2003 did they feel obligated to give him a $1 bill.

It could be anything, really.

• Two sisters who opened a business with their father’s help and the day they made their first $1, they gave it to him as a heartfelt thank you.

• Two grandchildren giving their grandfather a $1 bill because one of his teeth fell out at the dinner table, and they wanted him to feel better since the Tooth Fairy doesn’t visit grown ups.

• Or, maybe it was two Oakland Raiders fans, paying back a bet to their retired father, living in Florida, the year the Tampa Bay Bucaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII, 48-21.

Like I said, it could be anything in the world, but it has a story. I know it. I feel it.

I spent the better part of my morning thinking about this dollar bill. I Googled the words printed on the front, hoping to strike lighting in a bottle. I hopped on Wheresgeorge.com and punched in the serial number hoping against hope to find where the dollar bill came from.

Perhaps the only way to find out is to write a blog post, and stick it in on Facebook and Twitter and hope it goes viral until somebody sees it and says, “Hey, I know that dollar bill.”

Then the real story could be told.

But I am a glass is half empty realist who knows I’ll never know the full story behind this particular dollar bill.

In my head, I’ll just have to write my own story and be satisfied.